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Economic Development Commission Discusses Business Development, Vacant Spaces



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The Economic Development Commission (EDC) discussed preferences for the kinds of businesses to bring to town, as well as the town’s current inventory of businesses and empty buildings at its meeting on Tuesday, August 16.

EDC Chair Wes Thompson stated that different companies make different contributions to the town, such as taxes, jobs, or bringing people into town. Thompson said he has done research in the past regarding businesses and the taxes they pay. He asked commission members to consider the types of businesses they would like to see in town, while also considering what brings in revenue and if the business is a destination that energizes the economic base.

Thompson requested commission members ask friends and family what sorts of businesses they would like to see in Newtown, as he is planning to discuss the feedback they receive at the EDC’s next meeting, which is scheduled for September 21.

According to Deputy Director of Economic and Community Development Christal Preszler, that question was asked in a branding survey.

One common response, Preszler said, was that people wanted to see “independently owned niche stores,” as they “offer atmosphere and an experience.”

Thompson said that the EDC should not dismiss “small niche retail” establishments “because these businesses bring people to town.”

There are many things to consider when deciding what businesses to draw to town, Thompson said.

For instance, one member mentioned that they would like to see a Whole Foods grocery store come to town. The problem the town faces in attracting a business like that is not many spaces can support a business of that size, and those that can often contain another grocery store. Thompson said that many grocery stores seek contracts in their leases to prevent other grocery stores from opening in the same commercial complex.

Commission members sometimes attend Newtown Board of Realtors meetings to speak with local realtors representing diverse groups of clients, and have the opportunity to “stand up and show what’s available and what the residents want,” said Thompson.

Thompson said it is important to seek out new and unique businesses that do not scavenge business from existing places in town. As an example, he cited Newtown’s luck in attracting Country Camper, as that was a “great find and a great thing to put on that property.”

“We were competing against other towns to bring them in,” Thompson said. “Our job was to convince them to come here instead of going to a different town.”

Residents’ Input Sought

Thompson told The Newtown Bee on September 1 that he wanted to hear from residents in town about the businesses they’d like to see come to town. Suggestions may be sent to him at wbt@prodigy.net.

The Bee is also assisting and has posed the question on Facebook: facebook.com/thenewtownbee/posts/10158956337072702. Responses there may be used for future coverage, and may also be considered by the Newtown Economic Development Commission in its decision-making process.

While three retail commercial buildings are for sale in town, none of the businesses in those buildings are currently for sale. EDC member Nick Roussas stated that the owner of the Burrito Shack “had to put up a sign saying that his business was not for sale.”

Thompson said that a strip mall to be built on Route 34 is “moving forward.” Curtis Corporate Park also has some empty space.

“We’re always concerned about business spaces that are empty and available,” said Thompson. “I encourage commission members to keep their eyeballs on the town, to see if things are vacant or moving out.”

It is important for the commission to understand why the town lost a business as well as what they can do to help fill the space again, Thompson stated. Thompson said the commission looking out was important, as they aren’t always informed by realtors about what may be moving into or out of spaces in town.

“What we can do is try and help,” said Thompson.

Thompson informed the commission that Tier One was bought out by Arch Medical, a high-precision manufacturing company that has 18 facilities around the country.

Members discussed the new businesses in Sandy Hook Center, which include Uncle Matt’s Bakery & Café, Gino’s Parlor restaurant, and Dolce Italian Ice and Gelato.

Commission member Valerie Fallon told the commission that she had “recently learned a number of restaurants are not opening for lunch until Thursdays.”

“This appears to be due to an employee shortage,” said Fallon.

Preszler stated she has found it is common for restaurants to not open for lunch until Thursday.

Also mentioned was the closing of Panificio Navona. According to Preszler, it is honoring gift cards. As far as Preszler knows, the business is closing and not relocating. A business that is relocating is Lucas Local, which is moving to Southbury. However, the owner will open a new restaurant at the former Newtown location called The Quarter.

Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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