The Western Connecticut Economic Development Alliance hired CERC and Garnet Consulting Services, Inc. to prepare a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the ten-community Housatonic Valley Region, which includes the towns of Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, and Sherman, and the city of Danbury.
A CEDS is a type of regional planning process that involves private, public and institutional sector interests in the creation of a 5-year blueprint for a variety of actions in support of economic development.
The CEDS is comprehensive, as its name implies, but here are just three key findings that indicate how the research can inform the future of the region:
- While the region is not the home to many financial services firms, the population includes a large number of financial industry employees who commute to work outside the region. This provides a unique opportunity for the region to capitalize on its skilled workforce and recruit financial service firms to the area.
- The region is the home to many strong cultural institutions and an iconic American Composer, Charles Ives. Other regions around the world have capitalized on their associations with great artists by creating festivals celebrating their lives and accomplishments. There is a tremendous opportunity to increase tourism to the region by building on the Ives Legacy.
- Other regions around the country have embraced the regional approach to economic development, and provide models of how this can be done most effectively. The Western Connecticut region should build capacity to market itself as an economic region through new collaborative organizations. Economic development rarely occurs for free. Too many other communities and regions are competing for a limited amount of business investment. In order to have a chance at attracting any of that investment, the Western Connecticut Region ¨C in particular its municipalities, but also its businesses ¨C must invest in its economic development program, including an organization dedicated to implementing the CEDS. The return on investment will not occur without the investment itself.
The goals of the region include:
- Economic Development Tools and Resources
Assure that the Western Connecticut Region and its communities have a full©\service economic development program with the necessary tools and programs to support effective economic development efforts.
Assure that the existing and future businesses of the Western Connecticut region have access to the workforce skills and training programs required for profitable business operations in the global economy of the future. Assure that the region¡¯s workforce has access to high quality jobs and the programs and services necessary to keep their skills current.
- Economic Expansion and Diversification
Carry out an aggressive set of business attraction, retention, expansion, creation, and transition programs and services to strengthen the Western Connecticut Region¡¯s existing sectors and clusters and grow new ones.
- Creating Great Places
Continue and strengthen community and regional efforts to make the Western Connecticut Region a highly desirable place to live, work, play, and run a business.
The report was submitted to the federal Economic Development Administration and the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in 2013 and approved.