While Mayor Joe Ganim’s April 4 speech before the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce was billed as “The Mayor’s Annual Address to the Business Community,” it was a little difficult not to hear themes from Ganim’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor. And even Ganim acknowledged the crossover, drawing a laugh from his audience while noting that his father had commented about hearing numerous State of the City speeches and expressing eagerness to start hearing a State of the State presentation.
“Knowing the fiscal challenges that faced our state and many municipalities over the past year, I think it is important to talk about putting the state of our city into context,” Ganim said, pointing to a $17 million cut in aid to Bridgeport from the last state budget. Yet despite a significant loss of state funding, Ganim credited the city with standing out when other Connecticut municipalities struggled.
“Ratings agencies downgraded the state and several municipalities in the face of this fiscal instability,” he continued. “And if not for a $550 million bailout, the City of Hartford would surely be on the path to bankruptcy. Here in Bridgeport, due to prudent fiscal planning coupled with, at times, bold and decisive action taken by members of the administration and the city council, the City of Bridgeport continues to weather this storm.”
Ganim ran through a list of ongoing and upcoming construction projects taking place in Bridgeport, highlighting the McLevy Square development, the redevelopment of the Majestic and Poli Palace theaters, and the thermal loop installation within the city’s downtown in which underground pipes would carry otherwise wasted heat to buildings which need it. He scored a round of audience applause in previewing scheduled new construction on the long-closed Congress Street Bridge connecting the downtown and east side neighborhoods.
The mayor also singled out two ongoing projects that are visible from I-95: The Cherry Street Lofts mixed-used property, which he praised as being a much-needed improvement from the “blighted eyesore” that long occupied that space, and the Steelepointe Harbor development. “There is steel coming out of the ground,” he said about the latter endeavor. “They don’t hear us talking about progress — they’re seeing steel come up.”
Ganim also emphasized the presence of out-of-state companies involved ongoing Bridgeport-based projects, including PSE&G’s $550 million 480 MW natural gas power plant, which Ganim defined as “the single largest private investment in Bridgeport’s recent history.” He also cited Live Nation’s role in the transformation of the former Harbor Yard baseball stadium into a new amphitheater for concerts and events, as well as MGM Resorts International’s proposal to open a casino resort along the Bridgeport waterfront. “While a number of major businesses have announced they are leaving the state, here in Bridgeport others are moving in and are bringing with them millions of dollars in investment and jobs,” he said.
On the MGM Resorts project, Ganim urged his audience to lobby their state legislators to “to pass legislation authorizing an open, transparent bidding process for this job creator this session.”
However, Ganim did not use his speech as a forum for self-congratulatory accolades. He praised the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce membership for being active participants in the city’s economy. Still, he laced the praise with broad hints that this example could also fit on a statewide canvas.
“Because of you,” he told the audience, “there is over $2.5 billion worth of proposed economic development projects in the City of Bridgeport, many of which are new construction scheduled to start this year. These job-creating projects are exactly the kind of transformational change that we need downtown, all over our city and, boldly, I might say, all over Connecticut to bring jobs and economic growth. If these projects were happening all over Connecticut, I believe that our entire state economy would be changed dramatically for the better.”