By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
David Griggs moved to the Hartford Region from Greater Minneapolis Saint-Paul to join the MetroHartford Alliance as President and CEO a little more than two years ago. Since then, he’s listened and learned about Hartford and its community, discovered all kinds of things to do in the region, and reinforced his commitment to share the positive story of Hartford.
What brought you to Hartford?
DAVID GRIGGS: The opportunity to represent a region with great strengths and potential and the opportunity to tell Hartford’s story was what drew me here.
What impact are you making in the Hartford Region through the MHA?
DAVID: The hope is that we create a better Hartford and a more resilient economy, so when economic downturns happen—and they will happen—the Hartford Region can recover faster and stronger than it has in the past.
The other impact is on the people. The best way to improve somebody’s life is to help them find a better job. And, to provide our community with better jobs, we need to constantly help our companies evolve, bring in new companies to diversify our market, and create new opportunities for the people and skills in our region to continue to grow and expand.
How have you become a part of Hartford and how has Hartford become a part of you?
DAVID: It’s an interesting journey when you move a third of the way across our country. Everything changes, from the basic weather and geography to more subtle things like accents and societal norms and customs. Even holidays can change from one part of the country to the next. So, becoming part of Hartford and understanding what really drives the people here has taken some time.
Hartford has become a part of me even more so with the COVID-19 pandemic. My family has been discovering new things in our region. For example, we go tubing on the Farmington River on a regular basis—and we wonder why it took us two years to try it! It’s all a part of learning more about the place you’re in and becoming part of your community.
What makes Hartford unique?
DAVID: When you look at Hartford’s geography, we’ve got hills and valleys and access to beaches and rivers, which is one thing that makes us unique.
Also, when you look at the number of large, globally known companies that reside in this relatively small region of 1.2 million people, it’s truly amazing. Companies like Otis Elevator, Travelers, Stanley Black & Decker, The Hartford, Aetna, and Pratt & Whitney are all right here. Very few regions in America have that kind of concentration. That’s what makes us unique.
You could do a 20-minute hike through downtown Hartford and pass the headquarters of global leaders in the insurance industry without thinking a thing about it because they’ve always just been there. It’s not until you point out: Do you know how unique that is?
We’ve always looked at the close by cities of New York and Boston as challenges for Hartford, but there are absolutely opportunities for Hartford. And that’s unique. How many communities have two global centers within a two-hour drive from their downtown?
How do we tell the Hartford story?
DAVID: I’ve been working on this since I got here. It starts with recognizing that we’re all a part of one region, which I think we’re beginning to recognize. The stress and strain of COVID-19 forcing us to rely on one another even more hopefully will be a good outcome of the pandemic. It will help us realize we need each other—Rocky Hill needs Hartford, Simsbury needs Hartford, and Simsbury needs Rocky Hill. We’re all part of one region.
The Hartford story isn’t really out there. We need to get out and tell our story in a positive way and inspire our residents to do so, too. The MetroHartford Alliance is 21 people. We can’t do the kind of messaging and marketing this region needs on a global scale. But our residents can.
All the people who choose to live here have the opportunity to tell their stories. We just have to empower them to share them and to point out what make us unique. Because everybody’s story is different and everybody’s reason why they’re here is different.
We can help by providing the first one or two sentences about what makes us unique: Hartford is the Insurance Capital of the World. Hartford is a leader in the aerospace industry. Hartford has revolutionized these industries for centuries. Then, we encourage our community members to share what they personally like about being here.
For me, I had a choice where I was going to live, and one of the reasons I moved here is because the school systems are incredible.
The problem with storytelling is, a lot of communities are so focused on trying to fix the things that don’t work, often those are the only things we know about that community. We need to start our stories with what we love about our region—instead of focusing on our problems. There isn’t a community in America that doesn’t have issues. So, let’s start from that level playing field and tell the world about what makes Hartford great.