Recently, CERC was asked to conduct a detailed assessment of economic development progress in the South Central Region. Utilizing various methodologies, including literature reviews of regional and municipal strategic plans and plans of conservation and development, analyses of various national economic development models, interviews with key regional leaders and a survey administered to municipal development personnel, CERC found that there was widespread agreement on the goals to be pursued across the region. In addition, CERC identified several strategies and action steps that the various stakeholders should consider at this juncture in order to achieve those goals.
CERC found that South Central Connecticut is a region in transition when it comes to leadership and economic development plan implementation. Indeed, while existing plans such as the Regional Economic Xcelleration (REX) Development Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) are thoughtful and comprehensive, there is a current need for a more detailed regional implementation plan that includes ordered priorities, identified leaders and clearly articulated accountability and success measures. In addition, those measures must be endorsed by all relevant community stakeholders.
The REX CEDS contains several key economic development goals that also surfaced in the course of CERC’s research: to improve regional transportation infrastructure, such as Tweed New Haven Airport and the New Haven/NYC rail line; to concentrate town center development with “infill” projects; to repurpose historic structures and brownfields; to offer options such as pedestrian and bicycle friendly accessibility; to focus on transit-oriented development; to pursue utility, tourism, coastal resiliency, and bioscience projects; and to maintain the character, quality and sustainability of each community’s environment. Overall, the common goals were found to be well aligned with the state’s Principles of Smart Growth as adopted in Section 1 of P.A. 09-230.
CERC’s specific recommendations regarding how to attack the articulated goals were grouped under several main headings. Generally, CERC found that the Region needs to: recommit to a regional approach, convene stakeholders to agree on a few top priorities, restore civic infrastructure and utilize liaison staff, establish a regional real estate development corporation, leverage expertise in the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and other regional organizations and establish an effective communication strategy that incorporates success measures and accountability.
This CERC assessment provided the South Central Region with a roadmap to guide future short and long-term actions that other regions or municipalities in Connecticut would find to be a valuable investment.