HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Yard Goats don’t play until Tuesday night, but the ballpark became the meeting place for Harford’s business leaders who were eager to hear what Gov. Ned Lamont had to say.

The first in-person event for Hartford’s business community since the start of the coronavirus pandemic was also sort of like an informal state of the state.

“You guys are the best champions for the state that we got,” Lamont said Tuesday morning at the Yard Goats’ stadium.

The governor is stepping up to the plate with a question for Hartford’s business community.

“How do I get people back to work?” Lamont asked business leaders. “The first time in my 67 years, the world’s on its head just a little bit. I’ve got relatively high unemployment compared to our peers, say 100,000 out there collecting unemployment, but I have 70,000 jobs that we’re not filling.”

MetroHartford Alliance hosted its first in-person gathering since early 2020 for greater Hartford’s business community.

“The opportunity to network, to meet with your peers is extremely important,” MetroHartford Alliance’s President and CEO David Griggs said. “For the Alliance, it has been the number one thing that our investors look to us to do.”

It’s a small step to welcome businesses back to an area that’s still struggling to stay afloat amid closing restaurants and high unemployment.

Webster Bank, a key sponsor of Tuesday’s event, managed to keep branches open, find new ways to deliver banking products, and support charities, but staying open was key.

“You can run your business and keep it going remotely, but what you lose is mentorship for younger employees,” Webster Bank’s President and CEO John Ciulla said. “You lose collaboration, new idea generation. My goal is to make sure we don’t take a misstep as to health outcome, but I do want to get people back together, working together.”

Lamont touted Connecticut’s high vaccination rates, open schools, and low infection rates but continued to seek input on getting people back to work.

The governor also told the business community that the office is one of the safest places for people to be.