Voket Takes Charge As Director Of Economic And Community Development
On November 21, members of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) met at Newtown Community Center for the purpose of accommodating a large turnout such as the one present during its October meeting.
No such crowd appeared, however, in contrast with the events of the previous month, in which the EDC meeting was halted due to excessive attendance of the public interested in hearing updates on the 6 Commerce Road development proposal. Instead, the commission proceeded through its business smoothly with minimal to no fanfare or interruption from the public.
While there was no news on the controversial subject of potential development at 6 Commerce Road, the November EDC meeting was not without its highlights. The commission did review a novel personnel matter that will likely have a significant impact on the Department of Economic & Community Development: the introduction of newly appointed director of Economic and Community Development Director John Voket.
As director, Voket will be working closely with the members of the EDC, who are tasked with advising him, as well as the Town in general, in matters related to responsible economic development.
Voket is the former Editor of this newspaper. Having assumed his new role only weeks earlier, he presented a lengthy report to the commission detailing in precise terms each of the actions he had already taken during his assumption of the directorial role, which had remained unfilled for several months prior.
He recalled to the commission that he found the directorial inbox practically overflowing with unread correspondence, and that one of his first priorities was to bring order to this chaos. According to him, he was able to accomplish the task of distilling the influx down to a manageable number of key individuals with whom the director should be in contact.
“Out of around 1,400, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 priority agencies or contacts that I felt I needed to become acquainted with,” he recounted.
In addition to the necessary labor of administration, Voket also shared how he has engaged local businesses in a direct and personal way. He informed the commission that he has been keeping meticulously up to date with the changes in the local economic landscape and the emergence of new commercial development.
“I visited several new businesses and organized ribbon cuttings. Two are coming this week,” he said in reference to the recent openings of Cosmic Coffee House on South Main Street and Blue Rock Storage on Commerce Road, which took place November 29.
In addition to reaching out to the entrepreneurial community, Voket explained how he has also been prioritizing community-oriented action directed towards the needs of economically vulnerable members of the public.
“I attended a Fair Rent Commission meeting,” he said. “That commission, which was mandated to be created by July 1st, has seen heavy engagement in my opinion. We’ve already got two appeals that are in process, and a third one — and possibly a fourth.”
According to Voket, he and colleague Kimberly Chiappetta, Economic & Community Development and Fairfield Hills coordinator, have been making significant efforts to educate and train themselves further “to help bring new rent commissioners up to speed on the processes of this quite important and powerful commission.”
He also mentioned his outreach to state-level counterpart officials including Anthony Anthony, the chief marketing officer at the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, as well as Department of Labor officials at the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board meeting.
During that meeting, he learned that the members of the board “love the municipal center facility, and feel that it could be a fantastic, centrally-located site for western Connecticut ‘job speed dating’ types of meetings for bringing in three or four local companies that need to hire. The state and regional board would do all the marketing, and bring all the people to Newtown.”
He was optimistic that an initiative such as this “would hopefully bring more traffic to our stores and restaurants. They are planning on doing those quarterly in 2024.”
Finally, he also informed the members of the commission that he had already begun producing Developing News, a novel newsletter focused on providing an informative point of contact between the Department of Economic & Community Development and the business community as well as members of the interested public. A significant expansion of the department’s social media presence was also mentioned as one of the imminent items on his agenda.
Members of the public interested in the economic future and well-being of Newtown should follow Newtown, CT Economic and Community Development on Facebook at facebook.com/newtownctedc/. To subscribe to Developing News, email Voket directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Owen Tanzer can be reached at email@example.com.