The Central Connecticut Innovation Places Consortium asked CERC to prepare a grant application for the Innovation Places Grant, a CTNext grant that offers regions approximately $1 million per year over five years to enhance innovation and support entrepreneurism in their region. The City of New Britain and the Towns of Berlin and Farmington, along with several anchor institutions including Central Connecticut State University and Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, received an Innovation Places planning grant to gather input, analyze data, and prepare their final grant application between late 2016 and April 2017. The group decided on several focus areas including: healthcare and advanced manufacturing that support the team’s overall goal of attracting innovation, workforce and entrepreneurs to the region.
Activities that CERC participated in while preparing and completing the grant application include:
- 12 in-depth focus groups with specific industry sectors including healthcare/biotech, advanced manufacturing, public safety, arts & entertainment
- Strategic planning with the project team to solidify ideas
- Gathering research and analyzing demographic and labor data for the region
- Obtaining community and project team feedback on the application draft
Strategic Planning with the Project Team: Development of Strategic Action Steps for the Innovation Places Grant
Based on the findings from the focus groups and the industry analysis, CERC assisted the consortium in developing a specific, strategic approach for the grant funding. CERC helped articulate a cohesive set of achievable goals that build on the region’s strengths, take advantage of opportunities and address regional problems.
The consortium plans to use downtown New Britain as the hub and Berlin and Farmington as connected spokes to retain millennial talent and grow the region by attracting entrepreneurial ventures. Connections with the high schools and colleges in the region strengthen the team as they incorporate training and curriculum that directly benefit the needs of the workforce in this region. Private sector partners include Jackson Labs, Stanley Black & Decker and Thunderbird, among many others.
Drafting the Grant Application
Based on the feedback and information gathered over the planning grant timeframe, CERC developed a grant application draft for the project team’s review. There are (5) major projects that comprise the grant proposal:
Core Technology and Incubation Center – Building an Entrepreneurial Center at Central Connecticut State University in downtown New Britain with a data and Energy Center and a Stage 2 Incubator, the first of its kind in the State, to complement the Stage 1 Incubator that currently exists there.
Development of an Innovation Zone – Creating an Innovation Zone that allows the type of uses associated with entrepreneurs and offers tax benefits to those that locate in the zone within the three communities.
Housing Pilot with Incentives for Student Loan forgiveness – Developing a housing student loan forgiveness plan in the Innovation Zone. For those that live in the Innovation Zone for 3-5 years, approximately 10% of their student loans are forgiven.
Enhance Transportation Initiatives – Strengthening the Fastrak routes within the three communities; Starting a trolley to run between the colleges and universities and major employers in the region.
Cradle to Career Pipeline – Growing jobs in Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, Bioscience and Banking/Finance by connecting the high schools and colleges with employers to better train for workforce needs.
Obtaining Community and Project Team Feedback on the Application Draft and Completing the Grant Application for Submittal
CERC refined the plan based on feedback from the client and stakeholders and, once a final plan was agreed on, prepared full documentation for submittal. The Central Connecticut Innovation Places Consortium was chosen as a finalist for this grant and is awaiting final decision from the CTNext team. CERC staff continues to be available to respond to any requests for additional information from CTNext and attends meetings at which the Innovation Places Grant is considered and/or voted on.