By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2021 Issue
Recognized for its scenic coastline, parks, forests and much more, New England is also financially formidable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the value of exports from New England totaled $51.3 billion in 2020. Computer and electronic product manufacturing is the largest export industry in New England. And although the total value fell 10.6 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, New England still accounted for 5.3 percent of the U.S. total in 2020—with Massachusetts alone accounting for 3.1 percent. The region ranked behind Texas, California, Oregon and Florida in computer and electronic product manufacturing exports.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine also accounted for 3.7 percent of U.S. transportation equipment manufacturing exports.
New England’s unemployment rate is falling, its housing market is growing and the region is starting to regain its pre-pandemic inner beauty, financially speaking.
NORWALK: A NEW ENGLAND CHARM ON CONNECTICUT’S GOLD COAST
Norwalk, Connecticut is a thriving city on the move, and a vibrant coastal community rich in history. Defined by its diverse districts that house charming residential neighborhoods, beachfronts and flourishing businesses, Norwalk continues to shine as a popular Fairfield County destination to live, work and play.
Affectionately referred to as “Oyster Town” due to its deeply rooted history as a fishing harbor and waterway, Norwalk embraces its seaside prominence, instilling a strong and sustainable coastal environment and preserving Norwalk’s maritime heritage. The Norwalk Seaport Association and Maritime Aquarium, both integral components of the renaissance of South Norwalk (SoNo), are a driving force behind the city’s robust tourism industry. Popular Norwalk attractions include Sheffield Island Lighthouse and ferry rides; Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, a national registered historic landmark; Mill Hill Historic Park and Norwalk Historical Society; Stepping Stones Museum for Children, dedicated to early childhood education; historic Wall Street Theater; plus numerous nature hiking trails and year-round events that highlight Norwalk’s active art, entertainment, outdoor lifestyle, boating and dining scene.
Through the progressive and active approach of Norwalk’s Economic and Community Development team, the city remains steadfast in its ongoing mission to enhance the quality of life for all residents, businesses and visitors through a balanced and managed approach to growth, improvements and technical support.
Visit Norwalk, providing service to Norwalk’s expanding small-business community, is the first business model of its kind in Fairfield County to offer free marketing, social media and public relations assistance to restaurants, retailers, arts and entertainment venues, attractions and lifestyle businesses, with a cohesive and collaborative program designed to educate and support local business owners with their marketing endeavors.
Urban renewal efforts throughout the city have never been healthier. New construction and the restoration of historic buildings are on the rise. Given Norwalk’s access to MetroNorth, the city has seen tremendous transit-oriented growth in the urban center of South Norwalk. These new developments trend well with Norwalk’s flourishing restaurant scene, breweries and creative economy. Additionally, Building and Land Technology recently enhanced Norwalk’s Route 7 Corridor with the development of North 7, a sprawling mixed-use community with stunning modern amenities and sensibility.
Renewal and urban redevelopment plans are also underway for the Wall Street and West Avenue neighborhoods that have seen tremendous growth and change over the last decade, including 1,000 new apartments and 78,000 square feet of commercial space. Its neighborhood anchor institutions, including Norwalk Hospital, King Industries, Norwalk Public Library, Factory Underground and the Wall Street Theater, continue to foster an identity around art, science, technology, culture and health and wellness. New parking, zoning, construction and infrastructure are at the forefront of the city’s revitalization strategy for this historic neighborhood.
The City of Norwalk also has three federally designated Opportunity Zones and an Enterprise Zone to spur investment and redevelopment within its urban core. The Opportunity and Enterprise Zones overlap with the SoNo and Historic Downtown (Wall Street and West Avenue) neighborhoods.
Both businesses and property owners located within the three Opportunity Zones can benefit by garnering additional investor pools designated for these geographies. Investors can defer taxes on any prior capital gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund. These funds can be used to invest in real estate or businesses within the Opportunity Zones.
All real property in the Enterprise Zone that is improved is eligible to have its real estate assessment fixed for a period of seven years from the time of the improvement, according to the schedule at right:
% of Increase Deferred
Manufacturing businesses are also eligible for exemptions throughout the City of Norwalk, not just in the specific Enterprise Zone geography, which exempts them from sales tax and some state taxes. Equipment and machinery personal property is tax-exempt in the City of Norwalk.
Norwalk welcomes you to join its beautiful and evolving community. For more information, please contact Sabrina Church, Director of Business Development & Tourism, City of Norwalk, at (203) 854-7948 or (203) 939-2202, or email [email protected] Please also visit norwalkct.org and visitnorwalk.org to learn more.
AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL—THE TOWN OF BERLIN, CT
Berlin sits at the geographic center of Connecticut with its brand new commuter rail station that links Hartford, Springfield and New Haven with a direct connection to New York City. Berlin is a residential and industrial hub of activity that has seen continuous growth in the areas of retail, residential, construction and manufacturing of medical devices and aerospace components. The majority of businesses in town are family-owned-and-run, making for a strong and vital bond to the community.
Since May of 2020, the community has held more than 30 ribbon cuttings or ground breakings celebrating new and growing businesses. This has included four new restaurants and a brewery.
A $750 million investment of State and Federal funding was made available for CT Rail, which provides 15 stops per day at the Berlin Station in the Kensington Village. Kensington Village is part of the Connecticut Main Street Program.
“We are the geographic center of Connecticut, almost equidistant between New York City and Boston and located on interstates 84, 91, 691 and access to 95 on Route 9,” says Christopher Edge, Economic Development Director for the Town of Berlin.
One of the first entrepreneurs in Town in the 1800s was a manufacturer of tin. They would make tin items of all kinds and then would go house to house selling tin products. They were known as the Yankee Peddler, which was an early incarnation of the door to door salesman.
The town now has over 20,000 residents and is unique because it is a tight-knit community, and they truly believe in Berlin pride. This pertains to local sports teams, but also goes way beyond that. This community pulls itself together if one of its own is in need.
Two mixed-use developments are now underway, totaling 150 market rate apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space. The private developers on these projects are investing over $30 million during COVID into Steele Center @ Farmington Ave and Turnpike Ridge.
Firms in construction and the trades—including HVAC, plumbing and electrical—are additional areas of success. One example is Fortunato Construction, a family-owned, second-generation construction firm and developer that works closely with national retailers.
Berlin has a sizable presence in three other industries: utilities, telecommunications and hardware. The town is home to all of Connecticut’s corporate and technical support for Eversource Energy, one of the largest electric and gas providers in the Northeast. Its location also boasts the Western New England Headquarters of Comcast. In addition, ASSA ABLOY, a Swedish-owned hardware manufacturer, makes locks, hinges and handles here, with close to 400 employees.
Work is underway on three smaller industrial parcels with varying acres of useable land. The first is a 30 acre site prime for distribution, which has frontage on Route 5/15 and could potentially fit up to 200,000 square feet of space. The second contains 25 usable acres and would be a great home for manufacturing as well as other complementary firms. The final one will be a 15-acre heavy industrial site located on a freight rail line.
Companies are growing consistently in Berlin as manufacturers strive for long-term relationships. Being able to locate and grow here is vital because your employee base is local, suppliers are local and all major highways come through Berlin.
A few projects show how the Town and private businesses have partnered to bring progress to Berlin. The first is Forrest Machine, an aerospace component manufacturer who constructed a 55,000-square-foot facility. The second is National Sign, a company doubling their space through a 22,000-square-foot expansion, bringing a new operation and jobs to Berlin.
The Town of Berlin put together a five-year tax abatement for National Sign, and a seven-year abatement for Forrest.
“It’s important because we are making a long-term commitment to them. The longest previous tax abatement was three years. In turn, both firms are making a long-term commitment to us. Their success is tied to ours,” says Edge. Forrest Machine and National Sign are great examples of success, as they provide great career opportunities and are locally owned.
Edge sees part of his role as helping students learn about the current work environment in order to find a good job and, in turn, help Berlin companies find great employees. Making that connection between academia and business is very important, so students graduate with the skills they need and the local economy thrives. It gives the employer an opportunity to show off what they do and to give back to the community.
Five to seven years from now, Edge envisions a completely different Kensington Village, which is the area near the Berlin Train Station. There are now two locally owned coffee shops, a brewery, new restaurants and 76 apartments coming in 2022 and 2023 for professionals who work in Hartford and New Haven. The Village is becoming more destination-oriented—a place where people want to live, work and explore.
“We will continue to solidify Berlin as a manufacturing hub, an amazing place to raise a family and where entrepreneurship is aided and encouraged,” says Edge.
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 12,200 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 it is easy to become Quonset’s newest company. Quonset’s “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. The 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. Quonset’s 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 square feet. 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 start-ups, small businesses and professional service companies in the Gateway Office Complex. With the four existing office buildings fully leased, the fifth building is now accepting new tenants. 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: Quonset’s 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. The Business Park is also minutes from major highways such as I-95; manages the Port of Davisville, Rhode Island’s only public port; and is adjacent to Amtrak’s New England Connector.
Transportation: Quonset’s location places 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. Quonset 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 they need to access new markets.
Superb Public Amenities: To attract the best talent, it’s essential to be a place where people want to work. The Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, four public beaches, a bike path, a daycare facility and a free express bus shuttle service that connects to Providence in partnership with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. The Gateway Plaza also includes shopping options like Dave’s Marketplace grocery store and Kohls. These amenities create an environment for success for employees and are a benefit to Quonset’s neighbors, as well.
Cleaner and Greener: Access to the Port of Davisville has made Quonset a magnet for clean energy development. The park has hosted the construction of some of the nation’s most ambitious wind energy projects, including the nation’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island. Quonset Business Park looks forward to serving as a hub for the growing industry. The Quonset Development Corporation’s offices are also run 100 percent on clean energy generated by solar power.
Quonset Business Park is the premium location for businesses of all sizes and stages of development. The top-notch facilities, centralized location and institutional support not only gives businesses at Quonset an edge in the competitive Northeastern markets but also the resources they need to grow. For more information about starting your next venture at Quonset, visit www.quonset.com.
TORRINGTON, CT: AN INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISE
Torrington is the urban center of Litchfield County and a longstanding contributor to Connecticut’s economic engine. Its industrial roots were put down in the early 19th century when Frederick Wolcott’s woolen mill attracted a large workforce—soon followed by brass mills and eventually a vast array of metal products, including needles, brass, ice skates, hardware, bicycles and tacks. Torrington was among the very first makers and enterprising entrepreneurs.
Torrington never abandoned its industrial heritage, yet has fully embraced the transition to a service-oriented economy. Today, it is home to a diverse range of businesses in the manufacturing, technology and healthcare sectors, and continues to invite innovation and growth.
Torrington is the perfect place for both large and small firms looking for a viable location and a skilled labor force within a community that offers an exceptional quality of life.
Due to the city’s industrial heritage there are a number of buildings, including historic tax-eligible mills, within walking distance of downtown. Some of these buildings are contaminated “brownfields”, while others remain vacant because of the perception of contamination. The buildings are ripe for redevelopment and provide a perfect setting for small businesses, live-work arrangements, incubators and small-scale manufacturing.
While the City takes pride in preserving and reusing its historical buildings, Torrington embraces growth as well. Vacant, industrial land is available for you to construct a building that meets your specific needs.
The City’s Planning & Zoning Commission is innovative. Recently, they modified the zoning regulations to allow small-scale manufacturing in several areas of the city, including the Downtown District. The definition of small-scale manufacturers used in the regulations is broad, but includes those producing goods in textile, hardware, wood, metal, 3-D printing and food. This also includes distilleries and local food production and packaging. This Commission supports business growth and development and encourages high quality development throughout the City.
In addition to working with businesses to obtain Federal and state grants, the City has helped owners transform properties into valuable assets through Opportunity Zone benefits, Enterprise Corridor Zone benefits and local tax abatements.
As the commercial and institutional center of Litchfield County, Torrington’s partnerships with the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, the Northwest Hills Council of Governments and the Northwest CT Economic Development Corporation have proven invaluable. These regional and state assets bolster its capacity to support your business plan.
Torrington has the unique advantage of being halfway between New York City and Boston (a short 2.5 hour trip to either city) with easy access to Routes 8 and 84. The Naugatuck Railroad provides Western Connecticut Rail service between Torrington and Waterbury, and easily connects with the national rail network. Torrington is just 33 miles from Bradley International Airport.
If you have not visited Torrington’s downtown—you must. Many of the buildings have been preserved as a result of a thriving arts and culture initiative. This includes the renowned Nutmeg Conservatory of dance, the 1700-seat Warner theatre built in 1931 by the Warner Brothers and Five Points Gallery. Five Points’ space also includes the Artist Launchpad Initiative, a pilot Incubator program supporting emerging artists through affordable studio space and mentorship. Torrington’s reputation as a cultural mecca is attracting galleries and artists from all over, who are seeking value-priced studio space within a walkable downtown and almost immediate access to trails and parks—all without giving up the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded artists and makers.
Torrington fosters a cooperative and business-friendly climate that will help you make the right move. Whether relocating or expanding, let city officials help you eliminate the guesswork so you can focus on success.
Torrington’s Economic Development Director and City Planner have a strong working relationship and play integral roles in Mayor Elinor Carbone’s economic initiatives to grow and sustain the local economy. Their doors are always open, and you will find every city department willing to help, whether you have just begun searching for a new site or need a specific permit to keep your existing business on course.
To learn more, contact Rista Malanca, City of Torrington’s Economic Development Director, at [email protected] or (860) 496-5920.
STAMFORD LEADS THE CONNECTICUT COMEBACK
The City of Stamford continues to lead Connecticut with over $6 billion in new residential and commercial development surrounding its downtown and waterfront districts. This ongoing development supports the rapidly growing and diverse residential, commercial, industrial and retail business base of the City. Among the most prominent reasons companies are choosing Stamford as their home is the accessibility to the city’s growing pool of young talent within the 25-35 age range, an affordable high quality of life—including good schools, a broad array of public services, attractive parks and recreational activities—and a safe residential environment. Stamford is the optimal choice for individuals who wish to live and work in the Fairfield County and New York Metropolitan Area.
As the State’s primary engine for economic growth and its largest business center, Stamford is a pre-eminent location for corporate headquarters. The companies within the City consists of employers across a multitude of diverse industries, including R&D, investment banking, insurance and reinsurance, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, consumer products, digital media and information technology. Recently, several new companies have moved their headquarters to Stamford. Beiersdorf Inc., the U.S. affiliate of Global skin care company Beiersdorf AG, is relocating its U.S. offices from Wilton, and has signed a 27,942-square-foot lease at Stamford Plaza. Additionally, professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has signed a lease for 19,450 square feet at the same office complex. ITT moved from Westchester County, NY to a new 24,000-square-foot world headquarters located at 100 Washington Boulevard in Stamford, bringing 57 jobs. Webster Bank has also moved its headquarters to Stamford, and has leased 25,000 square feet in the downtown BLT Financial Centre at 200 Elm St. Digital Currency Group, a venture capital firm specializing in the Bitcoin and Blockchain technology sectors, signed an lease to occupy 45,800 square feet across the entire 4th floor at 290 Harbor Drive. Point Pickup Technologies, overseeing same-day delivery by 250,000 drivers for packages shipped to homes and businesses, leased 16,976 square feet in the South End. Diageo, a British multinational beverage company, opened their new satellite office in Stamford bringing 150 jobs to the city. Other groups that have moved to, or expanded, within the city over the last five years include Charter Communications, Henkel, Grant Thornton, PartnerRe, Synchrony Financial, ITV America, Indeed.com, Rhone Apparel and Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.
One of the newest industries which has helped to help grow Stamford’s versatile economy has been the influx of television and film production companies. More than 20 production companies shoot high quality television and films and other programming on location in the City, and have applauded the City’s varied and diverse neighborhoods, which enable a plethora of different scenes to be shot in close proximity. In addition, the City’s commitment to an efficient permitting process makes shooting in Stamford fast and hassle free. Formerly a Canal Street warehouse, The Village is a creative co-working office and meeting space with state-of the-art production facilities that includes nearly 1,000 feet of walkable marina.
“Digital drives everything in entertainment, including the creator economy,” said Brent Montgomery, CEO of Wheelhouse Entertainment, which he founded in 2018 with Jimmy Kimmel. “At Wheelhouse, we hope that Stamford and The Village will be right in the middle of it.”
Under the leadership of Mayor David Martin, the City continues to maintain its pro-business attitude, while simultaneously focusing on practicing fiscal responsibility to preserve the city’s AAA bond rating. Stamford currently offers the most available tax incentives and credits in Connecticut, including Enterprise Zone, Entertainment District, Urban Jobs, Film Production and Digital Media and Insurance Reinvestment. The City also has five opportunity zones where you can invest in companies, real estate projects or energy generation. Mayor Martin has taken the steps required for all site plan applications to be expedited and has set a 140 day approval process expectancy from site plan submission to zoning approval, as well as a less than 30 day building permit approval process.
The City of Stamford has partnered with The Stamford Partnership and The Ferguson Library to develop the TechFWD training program. TechFWD is a free, online, live training program that helps the workforce learn the digital skills needed to thrive in today’s world. The program is aimed at addressing the needs of Stamford’s socially and economically diverse population and assists them in developing the skills necessary to gain access to upgraded job and income opportunities.
The continued influx of individuals moving to Stamford provides a strong backbone for new residential development in Stamford Downtown and the South End’s Harbor Point. Since 2010, the City has experienced a housing boom with over 10,000 new apartments completed, transforming the Stamford Downtown and South End to vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods. The Stamford City Center, the retail centerpiece for the City and region, has about 1,000,000 square feet of retail space. Mill River Park, located in the heart of Stamford Downtown, is a 31-acre park and three-mile greenway to Stamford Harbor. Stamford Downtown, Mill River Park and Harbor Point offer premier attractions such as “movies under the stars”, outdoor yoga and exercise classes; outdoor concert series such as Alive @ 5 and Wednesday Nite Live; distinguished restaurants; and access to numerous waterfront activities. This combination of high quality of life and superior living space for persons of all ages allows for the city to function as an affordable and working alternative to NYC or nearby towns known for their high market costs of real estate.
If you would like to learn more about opportunities to start or relocate your business in Stamford, please contact Thomas Madden, Director of Economic Development, at [email protected], or give him a call at (203) 585-9611. You can also visit www.choosestamford.com.
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