August 7, 2017

Why Hartford is a good place for young professionals

Matthew Necci
Peter Meggers

Much has been written about whether Hartford can be an attractive destination for those choosing where to begin their careers. Much has also been written about the purported rise and fall of the "Insurance Capital" and its inability to be a major league city. So, how can local companies attract top talent to bring their family and career to Hartford? Look around — Hartford has plenty to celebrate and sell.

Yes, we've heard it many times before, but few places on earth have access to more world-class metropolitan, entertainment and outdoor activities than Hartford. Want to have lunch in Manhattan and go to a show? Drive two hours and be home for dinner. Want to visit America's revolutionary past? Drive an hour and a half, stay for a game, and be home to tuck in the kids. Perhaps a day at the beach? See you in 50 minutes.

We don't adequately sell our access to these destinations, but more importantly, we don't sell our own community enough. Greater Hartford is the official home, or at least spiritual one, to almost 10 Fortune 500 companies. And contrary to the thoughts of many, a single industry isn't the source of all these companies. Our corporate giants play in the insurance world, but they're also from the worlds of technology and utilities. Best stated, Hartford is home to some of the most innovative and dynamic employers in the nation.

Outside the office, and brilliantly displayed by the city's iQuilt plan, how many places have access to the cultural assets we have, which are all within walking distance? Spend a day at the 175-year-old Wadsworth Atheneum and follow up with a show at The Bushnell, a venue that rivals any theater you will find on Broadway. Need a day outdoors? Remember all the negative press about Dunkin' Donuts Park less than a year ago? Well, Hartford's ballpark is now considered best in class and the Yard Goats regularly sell it out. Maybe you forgot about the concerts on Mortensen Riverfront Plaza or the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival in Bushnell Park, which, by the way, attracts tens of thousands of spectators from across New England.

As far as housing, we're growing in that area as well with increased investment in downtown apartment development. If city-living isn't for you, consider the impressive suburbs minutes away. Not many cities have communities like Glastonbury, Manchester, West Hartford or Wethersfield that let you be downtown in 20 minutes for work, dinner or a UConn game. Hartford's proximity to everything a professional needs to prosper is advantageous for attracting and retaining top talent.

We also have a strong talent pool at our fingertips. Hartford's young professional community is thriving due to organizations like MetroHartford Alliance's HYPE, United Way's Emerging Leaders, and Hartford Hospital's Young Leaders Advisory Council. Numerous colleges are located downtown or within a stone's throw of the city.

And that doesn't even speak to the fact that Yale, annually rated one of the world's top universities, is a 35-minute drive away, and UConn, a "Public Ivy" and one of the nation's top public universities, is 35 minutes in the other direction.

What's more exciting for Hartford is UConn's investment into the market with the development of its campus at the old Hartford Times building. This new campus is already serving as an inspiration for further public and private investment before students have even arrived. Contrary to the opinions of a few, talent is the last thing we are lacking as a community.

We can no longer dwell on what Hartford isn't. Instead, as employers, we must celebrate and promote what it is — an energetic community where young to mid-level professionals can thrive and make names for themselves.

Anyone can go to Boston, New York or Washington D.C. and try to make an impact on their communities. Some might even be successful. But in reality, most will be another "drop in the bucket" in cities too large and established to truly become a part of the community fabric. Whether you are a rising talent in the professional services community, a young entrepreneur, or a leader in the nonprofit world, Hartford provides you access to the resources you need to make your mark as a community leader.

As professionals, employers, and community members, it is incumbent on us all to take ownership of not only helping the city get back on its feet, but to also become advocates for everything Hartford has to offer.

Matthew Necci and Peter Meggers are attorneys at the Hartford office of Halloran & Sage LLP. Both reside in Greater Hartford.

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