Bridgeport: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Manufacturing and trade, long mainstays in the Bridgeport economy, are being increasingly supplemented by the service-producing industries, particularly personal, business, and health services, as Bridgeport seeks to diversify. The defense industry, for many years a vital part of the city's economy, was hard hit by layoffs in the early 1990s. But wholesale and retail trade thrive thanks to the city's strategic location as a deep-sea port, a crossroads of interstate highways, and a hub of railroad lines, and the city is now the one of largest financial centers in New England. While not within Bridgeport itself there are a dozen Fortune 500 companies in Fairfield County, including General Electric, Pitney Bowes Inc., and Xerox Corporation.

Creating new employment opportunities for local workers has been a focal point for community leaders. In particular, the Bridgeport Economic Resource Center (BERC) has secured about 1,260 jobs since 2000, many in small start-up businesses like restaurants and shops. Law enforcement monies have held steady to contribute to a consistent reduction in the crime rate; meanwhile, dangerous housing projects continue to be identified and torn down in order to be replaced by better facilities. An amenity such as the new hockey arena, the Arena at Harbor Yard, draws visitors to town with college basketball, minor-league hockey, and concert events. The renovation of the waterfront and other local developments have helped to lure homebuyers wanting to escape the expensive housing market in lower Fairfield County, where median prices are substantially higher than in Bridgeport.

Items and goods produced: transportation equipment, women's underwear, electrical supplies, machinery and machine tools, fabricated metals

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Bridgeport Office of Planning and Economic Development offers a tax incentive development program involving real estate property tax incentives for development projects of $3 million or more. The Bridgeport Economic Resource Center (BERC) helps businesses to identify and access a wide array of business development programs. A partial listing of available incentives includes: Corporate Income & Property Tax exemptions, Corporate Sales Tax exemptions, State and Federal Enterprise Zone Benefits, Utility Benefits, and Brownfields Tax Credits.

Local banks in partnership with a variety of federal, state, and local government programs provide funds for a loan pool geared toward small and mid-sized businesses. Typical loan amounts are $500,000 or less. The Bridgeport Regional Business Council is the designated Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for Bridgeport, serving start-up and small businesses. SBDCs offer technical and management assistance, counseling, education, training programs, and loan packaging.

State programs

The Connecticut Development Authority works to expand Connecticut's business base. Among its many services are: partnering with private-sector organizations to guarantee or participate in loans for businesses that may be unable to meet credit underwriting standards; providing access to lower-cost fixed asset financing through Small Business Administration 504 Debentures and tax-exempt Industrial Revenue Bonds; offering financial incentives to companies that enhance the skills of their employees; and encouraging investment in the state's urban commercial infrastructure.

Bridgeport is part of the U.S. government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program for redevelopment of abandoned industrial sites, commonly referred to as "brownfields," as part of the overall agenda to attract private investors. Operated by Connecticut Brownfields Redevelopment Authority (CBRA), bonds are sold that provide businesses and developers incentive funds for investment in the designated property. Tax increment financing is available for Brownfields redevelopment.

Connecticut's financial and tax incentives also include grants and tax abatements for firms locating in State Enterprise Zones (for which Bridgeport qualifies; it is also a Foreign Trade Zone as operated by the Bridgeport Port Authority).

Job training programs

Employment training grants, both on- and off-site, and on-the-job training assistance are available through the Connecticut Department of Labor. Community and technical colleges across the state offer job and specialized skill training. The Bridgeport Economic Resource Center (BERC) works with companies to implement Workforce Development Programs and has assisted 43 businesses and trained 275 employees since the initiative's inception.

Development Projects

A virtual plethora of development within Bridgeport is either in progress or on the way with the backing of the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation (BEDCO). Among these improvements are the $7.4 million Seaview Avenue Industrial Park expansion, $40 million to shift businesses to the Steel Point location, and $9 million for updating historic Seaside Park. In 2002 the Derecktor Shipyards, a repair facility, was constructed at a cost of $2.5 million; the facility occupies 45,000-square-feet and created about 90 new jobs. Downtown is bustling with the City Trust Build-ing's conversion into 120 condo units; the redevelopment of 16 vacant structures into 150,000 square feet of commercial land and 250 residential housing units; and 60,000 square feet of modernized space for a combination of retail, residential, and commercial availability. The 1998 opening of the $19 million Harbor Yard ballpark was enhanced by the 2001 debut of the 10,000-seat hockey/basketball home, the Arena of Harbor Yard. Still under consideration is a proposal for a new state-of-the-art $50 million intermodal transit center to handle assembly of trains, buses, ferries, and highway access in one downtown location.

Economic Development Information: Office of Planning and Economic Development, City Hall Annex, 999 Broad St., Bridgeport, CT 06604; telephone (203)576-7221; fax (203)332-5611; email Bridgeport Economic Resource Center, 10 Middle St., Bridgeport, CT 06604-4223; telephone (203)335-1108; fax (203)335-1297; email

Commercial Shipping

Bridgeport Harbor is one of three deep-water ports in the state. Its Cilco Terminal is one of New England's busiest deep draft ports; facilities include COMEX, bonded warehousing, and wet and dry storage. Most of the imports processed are perishable goods, and Bridgeport's is the second largest banana port on the East Coast, enabled by its 80,000-square-foot modern refrigerated warehouse. In 2002 the Bridgeport Port Authority used a $2.5 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to build a 45,000-square-foot assembly facility, the Derecktor Shipyards, a major repair facility and critical to the port's users. Conrail operates a major freight yard nearby. Greater Bridgeport is on the main travel corridor from New York to New England.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Bridgeport boasts a skilled labor force with a relatively high education level; approximately 41 percent of the labor force are college graduates. While population began its decline in the 1980s and continued through 2005, population figures are projected to increase by the year 2020 (to more than 151,000 residents). In 2005 more than 227,000 workers were part of the metropolitan community's workforce. With the town's proximity to larger cities like New York and Boston, more than 25 million people reside and work within a 100-mile radius of Bridgeport.

The city is focusing its efforts on expanding its manufacturing base into the international marketplace, relying on its excellent port facilities and transportation network. Growth in this area is projected primarily for small businesses.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Bridgeport metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 409,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 14,400

manufacturing: 41,800

trade, transportation, and utilities: 74,900

information: 12,100

financial activities: 41,700

professional and business services: 69,600

educational and health services: 59,500

leisure and hospitality: 32,500

other services: 16,800

government: 46,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $20.77

Unemployment rate: 4.7% (February 2005)

Bridgeport: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Peoples Bank 3,443
St. Vincent Medical Center 1,800
Bridgeport Hospital 1,700
City of Bridgeport 1,493
Lacey Manufacturing Company, Inc. 400
University of Bridgeport 200
Derecktor Shipyard 150

Cost of Living

In the 1980s, property taxes in Bridgeport rose rapidly and budget deficits were commonplace. But by the late 1990s, the city administration of Mayor Ganim was receiving national acclaim for balancing budgets and cutting taxes, including instituting the first back-to-back tax cut in the city's modern history, worth $2.6 million to taxpayers. Housing prices were significantly lower than in the southern part of Fairfield County.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Bridgeport area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $614,691

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 153.2 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 3.0% to 5.0%

State sales tax rate: 6.0% (some items are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: 38.99 mills per $1,000 of actual value (2004)

Economic Information: State of Connecticut, Labor Department, 200 Folly Brook Blvd., Wethersfield, CT 06109-1114; telephone (860)263-6000