Why I Love Hartford – By Chris Swift

Why I love Hartford, a city on the move

By Chris Swift

I didn’t grow up in Hartford, but I love this city.

When I became CEO, I made it a priority to meet with community leaders, continuing a tradition of civic engagement among The Hartford’s executives and employees that has linked our company to the city, its nonprofit organizations and the business community for more than 200 years. Our city is dealing with its fair share of struggles and complex challenges that will take time to address. But, at the same time, I’m filled with optimism because of the progress all around us.

We’re experiencing a pivotal moment in the city’s history. Downtown, Parkville, Coltsville and other neighborhoods are showing signs of revitalization. Robust crowds attend Yard Goats games in the new Dunkin’ Donuts Park; the downtown UConn campus bustles with students; developers added more than 1,500 rental units in recent years; and unique small businesses are sprouting up and thriving across the city.

It’s an exciting time for insurance in Hartford, too. The Hartford InsurTech Hub and InsurTech Accelerator have connected entrepreneurial, innovative startups with well-established companies offering resources and support. This collaboration keeps the Insurance Capital on the leading edge during a disruptive, but exciting, time for the industry.

Hartford’s palpable economic momentum enriches a city that has so much to offer. From venerable institutions, such as The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Mark Twain House & Museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, to newer attractions, like the Connecticut Science Center, Front Street and the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford’s vibrant cultural scene reflects our city’s dynamism and diversity.

We are seeing “green shoots” of growth across our community. Now, our focus must be on maintaining our momentum — and The Hartford is committed to doing our part. This year, we teamed up with Aetna and Travelers to provide the city with an initial $10 million in funding to be used as part of a comprehensive and sustainable plan to address the city’s financial challenges. Our contribution is among the many ways that our company and its employees offer their time, talent and donations, including thousands of hours spent volunteering with organizations that make a positive difference in the lives of our Hartford neighbors.

Just as we are dedicated to serving the community, so, too, are many stakeholders. An economic revival, however, will require everyone’s efforts. Get involved by volunteering for, or donating to, the nonprofits that are driving positive outcomes for the people they serve. A prime example is the Boys & Girls Clubs, which originated in Hartford and gave rise to a nationwide organization serving 5 million children annually across the U.S. But while the clubs are nationwide, they are not yet citywide. Nearly one third of Hartford’s kids live and attend school in the South End but do not have access to the vital after-school services provided by a Boys & Girls Clubs. This is why The Hartford is pledging $1 million to build a new club in the South End, which will serve more than 1,500 children — and why I am so proud to chair the campaign.

Boys & Girls Clubs offer academic, nutritional and civic programs that help children at every stage of development, from early childhood education to college and career preparation and support. The clubs help primary school students with homework, guide teenagers as they transition to adulthood and mentor high school students facing choices about college and career. After-school programs and healthy dinners enable parents to work and know their children are in a safe, nurturing place.

We are working hard to bring a new Boys & Girls Club to the South End because it will serve Hartford’s next generation of workers, parents, teachers and leaders. These young people will continue the work we’re doing today to make Hartford a vibrant place to live, work and play. They can make possible the promising future that’s within our city’s grasp — and we must do all we can to support them.

Christopher Swift is chairman and CEO of The Hartford.


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