Senator Richard Blumenthal paid a visit to New London on Wednesday afternoon, hearing concerns from a group of Hispanic students and promising to take home some scones from a new bakery on State Street.
Blumenthal spoke with members of the Hispanic Alliance and toured a handful of local businesses after a brief private meeting with Mayor Daryl Finizio. The stop in New London and visit to Finizio aimed to discuss economic development and job creation possibilities in the city.
At his first stop, Blumenthal asked a number of Hispanic high school and college students what would make them decide to stay in New London or the region. The students responded that they feared cuts to education are harming valuable services and said more support is needed to retain them.
“I’ve noticed recently that we’ve fallen behind and our Waterford schools aren’t as good as we hoped we’d be,” said Adrian Melendez-Cooper, a junior at Waterford High School.
Adrian’s brother, Claudio Melendez-Cooper, said he thinks too much emphasis is being placed on studying for standardized tests.
“Being good on a test will only get you so far, while skills will last you for a lifetime,” said Claudio, a freshman at the University of Connecticut.
Javier Martino, a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, agreed. He said that he has found that directly interacting with people is the best way to gain experience for a career. Martino also said he believes these opportunities are one of the more vulnerable aspects of education.
“I feel like the electives are getting cut first, and they should definitely be cut last,” he said.
Ana Cruz said internships offer a valuable opportunity for students to test out a career to see if it is what they want to do. A freshman at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, Cruz is studying to be a labor and delivery nurse.
“That’s why I want to do the internship, to get a taste of it and see if I even like it,” she said.
Blumenthal said he was also concerned about whether there is enough skill training available for young people. He said he recently offered an amendment to an education bill to provide internships and apprenticeships for existing and future job opportunities.
“A lot of manufacturers and small businesses tell me, ‘We have the jobs, but we don’t have the people with the skills to fill them,’” said Blumenthal.
During the tour of downtown businesses, Blumenthal said he has supported , a large employer in the region, by advocating the construction of two nuclear submarines each year. However, he said small businesses—including contractors and subcontractors used in submarine construction—offer some of the best opportunities to young job-seekers. He said the federal government can help support these employers through incentives such as tax credits and expanding payroll tax deductions.
“Quite honestly, I think we have a tremendous opportunity not only here in New London but in Washington to help communities like New London,” said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal said he was also encouraged by Finizio’s proposal for green technology and smart growth businesses at Fort Trumbull. Finizio said he has been in discussions with the on the issue and hopes to have an announcement within several weeks.
“It’s a way to attract people into New London, and it’s a very marketable idea,” he said.
Blumenthal visited , , , and during the tour.