President Dudley kicked off his 2016 Regional Visits with a trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to learn about the economic gains and persistent wealth gaps across Fairfield County—where Bridgeport is located—as well as the challenges the city itself is facing.
While Fairfield is one of the nation’s most affluent counties, it is also one of the most divergent in income. Median household income in Stamford is 65 percent higher than the national average, but in Bridgeport the median income is 22 percent lower. There are some encouraging signs in Bridgeport, however, including new development along the waterfront at Steelpointe Harbor and Main Street, an upturn in population since 2000 and an above average labor force participation rate.
President Dudley began the day with a speech on the national and regional economy at the University of Bridgeport. In his remarks, he noted that while Fairfield County lags the nation in job growth, the economy has recovered at a steady pace since 2010. He highlighted the potential upside for local residents of a thriving New York City economy and emphasized the importance of sustained efforts to get the long-term unemployed back to work, stating that “more needs to be done to improve the labor market.”
Following the speech, President Dudley visited the WorkPlace—a workforce development organization—to learn about the Platform to Employment (P2E) program, a five-week preparatory program aimed at helping the long-term unemployed get back to work. He engaged in a discussion with several current and past members of the P2E program to hear about their challenges securing employment and how the program was helping them build skills and confidence. Finally, President Dudley toured a mobile classroom at the American Job Center, a joint effort among state, regional and local organizations to ensure a seamless delivery of workforce programs and services.
Next, during a lunch conversation with business leaders, President Dudley learned about business challenges facing the region, as well as the impact from declining employment in manufacturing and finance. To wrap up the day’s events, he met with leaders from three organizations for a conversation about the state of affordable housing in Bridgeport and state-wide. The leaders spoke about the challenges facing low- to moderate-income residents, including the availability of affordable housing stock as well as income inequality and gentrification.