Ansonia Waits On Economic Master Plan

FILEAnsonia officials say the unveiling of an economic development master plan originally set for months ago will likely coincide with the hiring of a new economic development director — in June at the earliest.

Background

Last September the Board of Aldermen voted to spend up to $25,000 to hire Bartram and Cochran, a Hartford-based consulting firm, to research and create a plan for economic growth in the city.

Ansonia, once a thriving factory town, has been trying to find sensible uses for its now mostly empty stock of downtown industrial properties.

There have been successes, such as the Big Y and Target developments on West and Main streets.

And a number of restaurants have opened along Main Street — something the city desperately wants to see continue.

Bartram and Cochran’s Richard Stoltz held a series of public meetings to get input from business owners and residents about what types of economic development the city wants.

The firm submitted a draft report and a steering committee began meeting to revise it, said Tara Kolakowski, a member of the steering committee and government liaison in the mayor’s office, as well as the city’s acting personnel director.

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The committee has been reviewing the draft report — recommending ways to market the city, develop a clear path of development, and attract new businesses — since as early as January.

The transition from planning to implementation has taken longer than expected, Kolakowski said.

‘99 Percent There’

The economic development report is being finalized, said Bart Flaherty, steering committee member and chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“It’s 99 percent there,” Flaherty said.

In addition to Kolakowski and Flaherty, the steering committee also includes Economic Development Commission Chairman Vinnie Scarlata, Corporation Counsel Kevin Blake and Aldermen John Marini and Charles Stowe.

The group is In the process of “tweaking” the report, Kolakowski said, and coming up with a “brand” for the city that aims to attract new businesses, residents and developers.

The branding idea Stoltz presented previously — “The Spirit of Yankee Ingenuity” — just didn’t hit the mark for some officials.

Article continues after a video of Stoltz, talking about the new brand.

“We need something more,” Kolakowski said. “Once you create a brand, you spend a lot of dollars promoting it.”

The steering committee has been having roundtable and email discussions on branding ideas.

“We’ve had great input,” she said.

Committee members want the branding completed before Mayor James Della Volpe unveils the report to the public, she said.

And that ties in with hiring a new economic development director, Kolakowski said, because the most important part of a study is the implementation and specifically, a plan of action.

Bartram’s study did in fact include an action plan, she said, but city officials want an economic development director on board who can take the plan and run with it.

Wanted: Economic Development Director

“We’re looking forward to having an economic development director on board,” said Della Volpe, who coordinated the master plan steering committee and is putting together an interview committee.

“We’re looking forward to the city attracting new businesses,” he added. “I’m excited about it.”

The position of economic development director has been vacant for more than a year and a half, since the death of Claude Perry in September 2011.

Officials have been discussing hiring a new director for more than a year.

The city advertised for the position and has received more than 40 resumes from as far away as Utah, Texas and Florida and as close as Ansonia, Kolakowski said.

The applicants range from those with a lot of experience to those just starting out in the field.

Hiring was set to take place “ideally” on June 1, she said, but realistically won’t take place until later in June or in July.

Then, there will be a “roll-out” of the hiring of the new director together with the master plan.

“This new strategic plan together with a full-time director provide the engine and the fuel we need to move us forward,” Economic Development Commission Chairman Vinnie Scarlata said. “Economic development is a vital part of the city’s commercial and financial health. There’s only such much a volunteer commission can accomplish.”

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