Residents, Business Professionals Sought For Regional Economic Focus Groups

Residents and business professionals with ideas about how Newtown and the region can attract and retain various economic development projects are being sought to participate in four focus groups being organized for June 18 and June 20.

As part of the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the Western Connecticut Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) is participating in a series of public outreach meetings. These include issue-based meetings, focus groups, and a survey to a cross section of businesses in the region.

All of these are part of an ongoing work program by WCEDA members, which includes two Newtown Economic Development officials and a consultant team comprising Garnet Consulting Service, Inc and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC). Newtown’s Director of Economic and Community Development Elizabeth Stocker and Economic Development Assistant Betsy Paynter are members of the panel.

Four focus groups on various sectors of the economy and on issues of importance to the region will take place at the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce on June 18 and June 20.

These four focus groups will be composed of businesses and organizations active in the specific sectors and will include retail and downtown services, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and affordable housing. Anyone interested in participating in one of these sessions may contact Leslie Cosgrove via e-mail at lcosgrove@snet.net.

A group looking at retail and downtown services convenes Tuesday, June 18, at 8:30 am, while a group examining life sciences is set to meet that same day at 10:30 am. A group looking at advanced manufacturing convenes June 18 at 1:30 pm, and a group examining affordable housing is set to meet Thursday, June 20, at 1:30 pm.

WCEDA Chair Harold Kurfehs stated in a release that the process of putting a CEDS together results in the creation of a stronger regional economic development team and provides the action plan for moving forward.

“Key to the process of creating a meaningful CEDS is the public outreach process to seek information regarding the current economy, future economy, resources available for meeting challenges and capitalizing on opportunities, issues impacting economic development in the region, what individual communities see as their current situation and potential, and how municipalities in the region can better work together,” he stated.

According to Mr Kurfehs, an important part of crafting an economic development strategy is creating a multifaceted public outreach and input process. In particular with this CEDS, the intended outreach process is based on collaboration with the staff of the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO) and a broadly representative CEDS Committee, as well as the public input process.

A partnership of public and private sector citizens was formed in 2010 to search for ways to enhance economic development initiatives throughout the Greater Danbury-New Milford area. This regional group, the Western Connecticut Economic Development Alliance, is focused on strengthening public and private sector efforts to expand the economy of Western Connecticut.

The WCEDA, which is serving as the CEDS Committee, is made up of members from both public and private sectors and has oversight for the creation of the CEDS and a regional economic development agenda. WCEDA has created a Coordinating Committee headed by Michael Boyle, president of Base Technologies and chair of the Bethel Economic Development Commission.

Mr Boyle believes the CEDS will guide the region’s economic development efforts over the next five years and input from the region’s business community, residents, and other interested stakeholders is an essential part of creating the plan.

“We intend to work with all the region’s Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Commissions to gain maximum input,” Mr Boyle said. “The business survey included as part of this process will help the consulting team gain a clearer understanding of the major strengths and weaknesses of the Western Connecticut Region as a place to operate a business, as well as helping to identify the primary opportunities for economic growth.”

Funding for creating the CEDS and Action Agenda is provided by the US Economic Development Administration, the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials, participating municipalities, and through a strong response from the private sector.

Interested residents can visit the WCEDA website at for further information.


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