By Dominique Cantelme
From the July/August 2020 Issue
The New England region—consisting of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont—in the northeast corner of the USA, offers immense diversity. Each state has its own history and culture with scenic beauty, ranging from rivers and lakes, towering forests, mountains, farmland and countryside to rocky coastlines and sandy beaches.
New England is bounded to the north by Canada, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by Long Island Sound and to the west by New York state. A center of industrial manufacturing and a supplier of natural resource products, including granite and lobster, about half of the region’s exports consist of industrial and commercial machinery, such as computers and electrical equipment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the value of exports from New England totaled $56.6 billion in 2019. The six New England states accounted for 5.6 percent of the U.S total of computer and electronic product manufacturing exports, with Massachusetts alone accounting for 3.2 percent. The region also accounted for 3.5 percent of U.S. transportation equipment manufacturing exports.
While each state in New England has its own unique benefits and qualities geographically, culturally, economically, etc.—six strong they create something extra beautiful.
CONNECTICUT LEADS RECOVERY WITH SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
New Milford, CT is a prime example of the advantages of locating your business in a suburban area. This community has fostered a great balance for businesses and residents leading to a healthy and sustainable environment championed by the state of Connecticut and their SustainableCT program. This holistic application of planning and development has proven to be most resilient during this era of COVID-19 and has many benefits as we all try to find an acceptable pathway to continue operations and expand capacity in light of global changes.
The local business environment in New Milford is a balance between development zones and miles of wild trails and waterfront. Once primarily agricultural, now the community enjoys a robust commercial corridor and advanced manufacturing in several industrial districts. A cluster of health and wellness companies are flourishing in the Downtown Village Center around the historic Bank Street Theater, which still shows first-run movies. The nearby Town Green boasts a very popular Farmer’s Market that draws people from Westchester County, New York and all over the Western Connecticut region. The generations of farm families and the agricultural newcomers have all increased production to make sure there is plenty of organic and wholesome foods to purchase and to be donated to those in need, from dairy, to vegetables, to organic meats and freshly baked bread. The Town’s Victory Garden Program is helping many with advice and free plants, and instructional videos by various people.
Outdoor recreation is very important to the community culture, with an abundance of public open space, hiking and biking trails, lakefront beaches and marinas, riverfront parks for launching kayaks or canoes, and amenities like playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and the fashionable “cornhole” tournaments at the community center. Miles of scenic roads can be enjoyed by bicyclists or equestrian devotees, or take a Sunday drive along the Barn Quilt Trail and enjoy the rolling countryside. If this sounds like an idyllic New England town to visit, imagine your luck if you could live and work here.
Even before COVID-19, New Milford was the hometown of choice for many people working for MetroNYC businesses and commuting or second homeowners. The residential and commercial real estate markets are now buzzing with more people making the call to relocate work as well as family out of the dense, urban core. This gives New Milford a strong workforce advantage, and the town has just ranked #17 in CT of towns with the highest percentage of Bachelor’s Degrees. With Yale University as one of our neighbors, this is quite an achievement. The community also draws entrepreneurs and has abundant co-working and startup spaces for all industry types. Current industry sectors with significant employment are Health Care/Medical, Advanced Manufacturing, Renewable Energy (did I forget to mention the hydroelectric plant and the solar installations?) and of course, Retail & Services, which support all of the great amenities.
How does a community like New Milford stay affordable for new residents and new development to occur? Just this month, New Milford increased the Town’s bond rating to AA+ by Standard & Poor’s. This demonstrates the wise financial planning and asset management by the Town Council and volunteer boards and commissions, as well as the expert professional staff and employees. The Plan of Conservation and Development guides the healthy balance of development and open space, with more residential and agricultural development to the North, and more commercial and industrial development to the South closer to I-84, a major New England highway from Massachusetts into MetroNYC. Land for development is reasonably priced, and the Town is developing an additional industrial park anchored by a 67-acre former brownfield site. The sewer and water utilized have available excess capacity to grow the community. High-speed broadband is also widespread throughout the region. As of January 2020, New Milford had 421 housing units in development—multi-family and single family. Building permit activity for the first six months of 2020 is nearly double the 2019 levels, and 2019 was 300 percent greater than 2018. That level of investment and new construction, along with the increased bond rating, are major indicators of the strength of the local economy.
One of the top business advantages of a New Milford location is proximity to all of the assets of the region. With MetroNYC a short ride by car, limo, bus or train, access to the abundant resources and supply chains services Western Connecticut as well. Financing for new ventures or construction is readily accessible, as are supply chain networks.
The talent pipeline is very strong, as multiple colleges and universities surround the community and the influx of skilled workforce from other urban areas. The New Milford professional staff will deliver a smooth and timely review and approval process, and the development pipeline has not missed a beat. The online application process was already in place and the meetings have gone virtual.
QUONSET BUSINESS PARK: SMALL STATE, BIG IMPACT
Since its creation in 2005, Quonset Development Corporation has created an environment for businesses to succeed. Once home to a naval base, the park has been transformed into the leading engine of economic development in Rhode Island that supports over 200 companies and 12,000 jobs. The Park has been a leader in job creation and economic growth in the state, attracting over $2 billion in private investment. The Park is also home to 17 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island. So what is it about Quonset that creates a climate for success?
Growth Mindset: The remaining available land at Quonset can accommodate up to 3.6 million square feet of new construction, and we make it easy to make you our newest company. Our site readiness program makes pre-permitted and pre-engineered parcels available that allow businesses to get shovels in the ground within 90 days of site control.
World Class Infrastructure: Quonset’s greatest strength has always been in the variety of facilities and world-class infrastructure available to companies. Our industrial spaces have the capacity to support large, high-tech, operations like Electric Boat and Toray Plastics, while the Commerce Park section accommodates some of the state’s most successful corporations like Ocean State Job Lot. Our state-of-the-art Flex Industrial Campus gives new and expanding companies room to grow in a move-in ready and affordable space, adaptable to the needs of their business. This includes flexible manufacturing, or warehouse space between 10,000 and 40,000 s/f. These are equipped with office spaces, restroom facilities and high bay space for manufacturing, assembly or warehouse use, with ceilings up to 24 feet.
Quonset also offers modern, customizable, state-of-the-art office space for startups, small businesses and professional service companies in the Gateway Office Complex. With the four existing office buildings fully leased, construction of the fifth building is now underway and scheduled to be completed by year’s end. The Gateway Offices provide companies with affordable rates and the option of flexible shorter-term leases. Each facility includes wireless high-speed Internet, a shared kitchen and break areas (including an outdoor courtyard), a conference room, an abundance of natural light and multiple restrooms.
Location: Our location in North Kingstown, Rhode Island places businesses in the heart of the Northeast, giving them broad access to the East Coast’s largest customer markets. Situated halfway between Boston and New York, companies can have a stake in both of the region’s densest population centers. We are also minutes from major highways, such as I-95; manage the Port of Davisville, Rhode Island’s only public port at the Park; and are adjacent to Amtrak’s New England Connector.
Transportation: Quonset’s location places our companies at the heart of major shipping and travel routes in the region. The onsite Port of Davisville provides public access to a world-class port facility. The park also affords access to 14 miles of freight rail lines through the Park and both RI Rte. 4 and I-95 highways. With additional proximity to three airports—T.F. Green (RI), Logan International (MA) and Bradley International (CT)—and train routes like the MBTA and Amtrak, businesses and employees alike have the options to access new markets.
RHODE ISLAND: A DEEP TALENT POOL
Cities in Rhode Island are unique in that they can attract a deep talent pool, with commuter accessibility that allows for employees from surrounding areas. Building this community starts at the local level as well, and talent development begins before college.
Currently, Rhode Island leads the nation in expanding career and technical education opportunities—its P-TECH program allows students to graduate from high school with a diploma and an industry-approved associate degree, and it remains the only state in the U.S. with computer science education in every K-12 public school.
Universities: When it comes to higher education, Rhode Island is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the country, and through these institutions, the state benefits from a strong alumni network and sense of community. Rhode Island has 12 accredited universities, with an enrollment of approximately 85,000 students. Companies in Rhode Island can capture the attention of these students early, through internships and on-campus recruiting. By building a strong presence on campus, companies then have the ability to form partnerships with academic entities and continue to strengthen the community—and their bottom lines.
Access and Connectivity: Rhode Island also offers strong government support of businesses, with a robust network of chambers of commerce and a healthy pipeline of private-public partnerships. America’s biggest and most populated cities are over-saturated with companies, thus making it harder to get governmental attention and create those oftentimes one-on-one relationships. Through the close-knit community of the businesses in Rhode Island, companies can expect different ways to stay connected and continue to build out their networks. Beyond support—or lack thereof in many cities—there is also an often burdensome cost associated with commercial real estate in these major markets. In Providence, however, one can potentially find a class A office space for $25 per square foot—versus other cities within a 100-mile radius where it could easily be doubled, ranging from $50 to $85 per square foot.
Quality of life: Another perk for companies moving into Rhode Island is a sought after quality of life for employees. Many of the state’s cities and towns offer amenities similar to those in a big city—a robust shopping and dining experience with around 3,000 restaurants; commuter accessibility through rail, air and highway; and a tight-knit community culture. This all comes without the hefty real estate prices found in neighboring states. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $900 in Rhode Island, where the average rent for a one-bedroom can be $1,800 in comparable cities. Commutes into nearby cities have also been trending upward over the last decade, with one-way average commutes clocking in at over a half-hour and the number of commuters traveling over an hour to get to work in these cities increasing as well. In turn, Rhode Island sees a lower average commute time (under 25 minutes), meaning employees spend less time in the car and have more time and mental energy to accomplish their work and lead fulfilling lives outside of the office.
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