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May 26, 2021

Lamont, business leaders encourage post-COVID return to normalcy, return to offices

Sean Teehan Gov. Ned Lamont standing next to Rohan Freeman, founder and president of Hartford-based civil engineering firm Freeman Companies.

Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut business leaders on Wednesday touted the state's continuing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and cajoled businesses and residents to resume pre-pandemic activity, including returning to the office.

"I have spent the last year plus saying, 'stay safe, stay home,' and today I'm telling you, get out of the damn house, come enjoy Hartford, get on a plane, visit a restaurant!" Lamont said during a press conference at the Connecticut Convention Center, the site of a vaccine clinic.  "I need people going back, I need you enjoying your favorite restaurant, I need you to help out."

Lamont's comments came a week after the state lifted almost all restrictions and mandates related to COVID-19, at an event where business leaders expressed optimism and opportunity.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees Bradley International Airport, touted newly added routes, including six added last week. Dillon said the airport now has more destinations than before the pandemic, and passenger traffic is steadily recovering, down about 40% from 2019 levels.

Connecticut's hospitality industry is starting to see an uptick, said Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association. The hard-hit sector is seeing some green shoots, with some hotels across the state fully booked for Memorial Day weekend.

Chris DiPentima, CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said CBIA's 100 employees will be back in the office June 1, and stressed the importance of employers getting their workforce back into offices.

""Getting folks back into the office, getting our residents back into the cities, shopping, enjoying each other's time… is critical, "DiPentima said. "We think it's critical, not just because we're important to the community, we know it's critical because collaborating in-person is so very instrumental to innovation."

Additionally, Rohan Freeman, founder and president of Hartford-based civil engineering firm Freeman Companies, said his Hartford workforce of about 50 employees will be returning to their offices June 1.

"Psychologically, we need to get back to work," Freeman said. "Economically we need to get workers back in the city spending their time and dollars helping to revitalize restaurants, shops, services and neighborhoods."

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