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Article Published March 28, 2018
Garrett Sheehan: Improving the Business Climate
Morgan Hines

Garrett Sheehan says the transition to his new role as president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce has been fairly easy because he gets to focus on what he loves to talk about every day: the economic development of Connecticut.

Garrett, 39, grew up in Middlefield and now lives in West Hartford with his wife and two young children. Before starting with the chamber, he worked in economic development for United Illuminating and Eversource

Garrett didn’t start out in economic development, though—he started as a television news reporter after graduating from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. He also has degrees from UConn in law and an MBA from Auburn University as well as a professional designation as a certified economic developer from the International Economic Development Council. He was working in TV in Mississippi and Alabama and says he sort of fell into economic development originally.

“When I was down there that was when I really started getting involved in economic development,” says Garrett. “I was kind of learning about the industry, how communities compete for jobs, that’s when I first broke into economic development.”

Garrett says that due to textile industries moving overseas, the communities in the South had to become very outgoing and forward to attract jobs and investors in what quickly became a very competitive environment, The Northeast, he says, had had a different experience.

“Economic development in the Northeast has always been successful,” says Garrett. “It hasn’t been something we have had to work at as much as other states.”

Now, he says the situation has changed and we are in a time where we as a state really need to fight for jobs.

Leading the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce was an appealing proposition.

“It’s a great region, I love New Haven and the entire region especially from my time working at UI,” says Garrett. “That was probably one of the best professional choices of my life; what made it great was the region. And from an economic development standpoint I think [the region] has a really strong selling point: location, quality of workforce, institutions of higher education here, and business space we have here.”

The job also ties together much of what he enjoys doing professionally.

“It encapsulated a lot of the things that I really enjoy,” Garrett says. “I enjoy doing economic development, I enjoy talking about policies to make Connecticut a better place to be. I’m from Connecticut I want to be a part of the solutions to make Connecticut a great place to be.

“It’s fun to get inside and see all the different types of businesses that we have, why they’re successful and find ways to try to help them out even more,” Garrett adds.

He says his biggest goal is to build upon and continue the impact that the chamber has had since its founding in 1794.

He says he has and will continue to spend time advocating for issues that will have a positive effect on the economic development of the area. For example, he recently testified at the state Capitol for the removal of limit on the runway length at Tweed Airport in New Haven that he says would benefit the local business climate and give residents a chance to take flights without having to travel to airports farther away.

“In general it’s things [like that] that help us improve our business climate. The state is in difficult fiscal condition right now and that doesn’t help,” says Garrett.

His job won’t be without challenges. He says he’s up for the task, and that the biggest opportunity is simply sharing the chamber’s message.

“Our region has had so much success and has so much to be proud of, it’s important for the chamber to tell that story,” Garrett says. “But we also have challenges that hold our region back from its full potential. We always need to be working on improving our business climate; we need to make sure that policymakers are hearing this message.”