The Town of Beacon Falls hired CERC in October of 2017 to act as a general economic development consultant. Through this agreement, one CERC staff member was on-site at Town Hall ten hours each week and acted as the on-the-ground economic developer. This presented the challenge of working in a small town that had never before had a formal economic development function, as there were many doors to be opened with a bit of time and effort.
CERC staff first prioritized getting all town employees and land use boards and commissions on the same page in terms of understanding the role of the land use regulatory process in economic development. This made a significant difference in the attitudes and understanding of those involved both internally and externally. CERC staff attended land use board and commission meetings to introduce the work that would be done through the economic development function and to speak about the importance of communication and consistency among the different groups. CERC also put together a document outlining the land use regulatory process to be distributed to prospective new and expanding businesses as well as to the boards and commissions. The document was helpful both internally and externally because it clearly laid out all the steps so there was no confusion about the process and its requirements.
Another one of CERC’s priorities was to begin developing relationships between the Town and key local and regional economic development players. Staff set up meetings and attended events with local property owners, developers, commercial realtors, the regional chamber of commerce, and the regional council of governments. By conveying the message to these groups that Beacon Falls was serious about economic development and would provide top-quality service to any interested new and expanding businesses, they would begin to spread the word to these prospective clients. Connecticut has a very tight-knit economic development network, and tapping into it is extremely important as the Town looks to grow its economic base.
One final priority at the outset was the development of a tax incentive policy. CERC staff evaluated the policies of different municipalities in Connecticut and worked with Town staff to create one that would provide the optimal combination of incentive schedules and other benefits to promote the type of business expansion and creation that Beacon Falls wanted. The policy is set to go to a public meeting in early 2018 so that the public can vote it into action.
While there is much left to do in Beacon Falls, the work that CERC started in 2017 will undoubtedly set the town on the right path for 2018. Economic development is so important for small towns like Beacon Falls that rely heavily on the residential components of their grand lists, and CERC’s on-site general economic development consultant option is ideal. The on-site timeframe of ten hours per week is sufficient to address the needs of a small town, and, so far, Beacon Falls is very happy with its return on investment.