Big thanks to the communities of Enfield, Windsor, Danbury, Meriden, North Branford and Coventry for participating in the 2017 First Impressions program! You can find an article about Danbury’s program here http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Downtown-Danbury-seeks-to-make-a-good-first-12201657.php and links to the executive summary reports here: http://communities.extension.uconn.edu/firstimpressions/community-reports/
Becky Pejinsky interned with UConn Extension programs in Community & Economic Development in Fall 2015. As a result of her work with the Connecticut Trail Census project, she produced this summary webinar of some best practices for working with volunteers, including best practices in recruitment, management, and training. In developing content for the webinar she interviewed four leaders of successful volunteer data collection programs in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Vermont. Here are some key tips: 1) recruit volunteers locally and use word of mouth 2) make volunteers stand out by using vests or hats 3) utilize a variety of training tools including face to face meetings that allow people to practice skills as well as on demand webinars and videos 4) have training close to the date when you start the program 5) reward volunteers and treat them like family.
As a partnership between the Connecticut Main Street Center, UConn Extension and the University of Wisconsin Extension six communities and several state agencies attended a workshop on December 2, 2016 to learn how to conduct a downtown market analysis. Nationally known downtown expert and Community Business Development Specialist Bill Ryan and UConn Extension Educator Laura Brown co-presented the morning agenda which included an overview of ways to use existing data to better understand downtown trade areas and market potential. John Simone, from the CT Main Street Center led a discussion in the afternoon about what data might be needed to benchmark success and demonstrate how downtowns are changing statewide. Based on an evaluation of the 14 participants many felt the most effective part of the workshop was learning about new online tools like the Downtown Market Analysis Toolbox, Canva & On The Map. If you weren’t there, you can explore the tools presented in the workshop here:
- Dec 2 Downtown Benchmarking Workshop slides (PDF)
- Downtown Market Analysis Toolbox http://fyi.uwex.edu/downtown-market-analysis/
- Innovative Downtown Business Database
- On The Map
Workforce development is one of the foundations of successful local and regional economic development strategies. Local, new and emerging businesses need a well-trained and accessible labor force. In light of recent industry location decisions in the state, more than ever, communities are recognizing the importance of talent in keeping and attracting business in a global economy. Attend this webinar to learn more about the key factors affecting Connecticut’s workforce and examples of how communities are innovating to build on existing assets.
Attend this webinar to learn:
- What’s happening in Connecticut’s labor market
- Collaborative and innovative strategies for workforce development
- How workforce development can grow collaboration and support businesses in your region
- Overview of the Workforce in Connecticut – Patrick Flaherty, Assistant Director of Research, Connecticut Department of Labor Office of Research and Information Connecticut Department of Labor
- Eastern Connecticut Workforce Pipeline Mark Hill Chief Operating Officer Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, Inc.
- Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, Inc Bridgeport Adrienne Farrar Houel, President & CEO The Green Team; Park City Green; Next Chapter Books
This is a free webinar co-sponsored by the Connecticut Economic Development Association and UConn as part of the “CEDAS Academy” Economic Strategy Series.. The audience will be economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, planners, community development professionals, and community leaders.
First Impressions Community Exchange Program “great reminder of what matters”
As a new holiday season approaches, most of us know how hard it is to take time off from our commitments and busy schedules to do something new. But recent research by organizational psychologists and neurologists finds that having new experiences – new sounds, sights, or smells – changes our perspective, sparks creativity and even builds new neural pathways in our brains. A new program called the First Impressions Community Exchange aims to bring these benefits to communities across the state by providing a “fresh set of eyes” on community challenges. The program, sponsored by the University of Connecticut-Extension in partnership with the Connecticut Main Street Center, is a structured community assessment designed to help communities learn about their strengths and shortcomings through the eyes of first-time visitors. Participation in the program requires a volunteer commitment and a $200 application fee. Applications are being accepted through December 15, 2016 for communities interested in participating in an exchange in the Spring of 2016.
How It Works
Once communities are accepted they are matched with a similar community or neighborhood in terms of size, location, amenities or natural features. Both communities agree to recruit volunteer teams of 4-8 people, participate in training, conduct unannounced visits and report on their findings within a timeline of 3-4 months. Participants become “secret shoppers” for the day and follow procedures to document their visit using a guidebook and uploading photos and comments. The guidebook ensures that evaluations and reports are thorough and uniform and requires minimal training. Reports from the program are often used as part of broader community assessment or planning processes to inform community policy and action.
Hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada have implemented the First Impressions Program since it was developed by the University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension in the early 1990s. The program was introduced in Connecticut in 2015 and four communities – Canton, Putnam, Windsor Locks and Portland – have participated in pilot exchanges. As a result of the program, communities often gain a new perspective on their own assets, learn about small changes that can make a big difference, or replicate development projects that other communities have used successfully. According to one Connecticut team member it was “…a great reminder of what matters; of the opportunity for enhancing what we have. I’m reminded that one town shouldn’t try to be like another in all cases. Each town has its unique assets.”
Communities interested in participating can learn more and download the short application form at http://communities.extension.uconn.edu/firstimpressions/. For more information contact Laura Brown UConn Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-207-0063 or Susan Westa, CT Main Street Center, email@example.com, 860-280-2032.
More information about the first Impressions Program including community reports, can be found at http://communities.extension.uconn.edu/firstimpressions/
About UConn Extension
Over 100 UConn Extension specialists work in communities across Connecticut as educators, problem solvers, catalysts, collaborators and stewards. To many Connecticut residents they are the face of UConn. Our eight regional Extension Centers, the Sea Grant program at Avery Point, the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, the Home and Garden Education Center and the UConn Extension office in Storrs all collaborate to fulfill our land grant university’s third mission of outreach and public engagement.
UConn Extension’s off campus classrooms include: high-tech greenhouses, coastal estuaries, elementary school gardens, community centers for high risk teens and municipal town halls. We use an interdisciplinary approach and take knowledge directly to the public. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families and offers opportunities to improve the decision-making capacity of community leaders.
About Connecticut Main Street Center
CMSC’s mission is to be the catalyst that ignites Connecticut’s Main Streets as the cornerstone of thriving communities. CMSC is dedicated to community and economic development within the context of historic preservation, and is committed to bringing Connecticut’s commercial districts back to life socially and economically.
CMSC is supported by its Founding Sponsors, the CT Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and Eversource Energy. CMSC is also supported by its Growth Sponsors, UIL Holdings Corp. and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org.
Thursday December 15, 2016 11 am- 12 pm
Farming Opportunities: Food Systems Strategies for Economic Development
From farming to fishing, processing, distribution, restaurants and agritourism, food and agriculture play an important role in Connecticut’s economy. Interest is growing among consumers to connect with regional farmers and producers and communities are trying out new strategies to facilitate this. Attend this webinar to learn more about the various aspects of food systems that overlap with economic development and examples of community and business efforts to build a more connected sustainable food supply chain.
Attend this webinar to learn:
- Connections between food and agricultural systems and economic development efforts
- Collaborative regional efforts to build efficient food distribution and aggregation systems
- How food producers support the local food economy
- Who’s involved and resources available for food based economic development strategies
- What does food have to do with economic development? Laura Brown – CEcD, Community & Economic Development Educator, UConn- Extension
- Northwest Connecticut Food Hub Feasibility Study Jocelyn Ayer – Community & Economic Development Director, NW Hills Council of Governments
- Ocean Farming and Economic Development – Emily Stengel- Deputy Director, Greenwave
About Our Speakers
Jocelyn Ayer is the Community & Economic Development Director for the Northwest Hills Council of Governments which serves 21 town in CT’s northwest corner. She is currently working with a team to help launch a Food Hub in NWCT in 2017 to support farmers and access to local food. She has a Master’s degree in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of her first jobs was pulling weeds on a farm in Vershire, Vermont.
Emily Stengel is the Deputy Director of GreenWave, where she leads and supports programming and operations, overseeing internal operations, implementation of programming, and fundraising strategy and execution. She brings to GreenWave a background in sustainable food systems, working for several years at a B-Corp catering company in NYC dedicated to supporting the regional farm and food economy, and more recently, working on a research team focused on workforce development in agricultural communities. Emily has an MS in Community Development and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont.
This is a free webinar co-sponsored by the Connecticut Economic Development Association and UConn. The audience will be economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, planners, community development professionals, and community leaders.
Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity visit several “makerspaces” and “makerlabs” in both Wisconsin and Connecticut and have been eyeing this growing movement from the sidelines. Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the new Spark Makerspace in New London as well as some downtown highlights including the funky freewheeling performance art venue, Hygienic Art and Fiddleheads Natural Food Coop. My tour was organized by colleagues Hannah Gant of Spark, Anna Perch from New London Main Street and Tammy Daugherty from the Office of Development and Planning. The galleries, murals, theaters and coffee shops tucked into New London’s charming main street district are evidence of a long lived and growing creative culture here.
Maker spaces seem to have their origins in the cooperative hacker movement in the 1990’s in Europe primarily for computer programmers to share information and ideas. Over the years maker spaces evolved from these origins to include spaces or organizations that share tools and technology such as 3-D printers, software, craft or hardware supplies, tools, as well as resources and and infrastructure like meeting and work spaces. Also called “techlabs” or fablabs” these spaces are governed by their own set of rules but, according to www.makerspaces.com, “…at the core, they are all places for making, collaborating, learning and sharing.” Maker spaces have been promoted as a strategy for entrepreneurship to reduce the costs of startup, product development and design. As centers of research, innovation and creativity, many libraries have even joined this movement to offer permanent or temporary maker labs for children and adults.
During my visit to Spark in New London I was greeted by three lively young men who were busy renovating the former El n Gee nightclub into a community run workshop. A brightly lit room was filled with wood working equipment and tools, much of which had been donated or procured from basement clean-outs and yard sales. While the learning center is open to the general public, members pay monthly dues and may access a wood shop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen-printing equipment, shared office space, and retail space. Spark acquired the space in October 2015 and hopes to open in the Spring of 2016.
Spark is not the only makers space in Connecticut and I hope to have the opportunity to see how other spaces are building a creative culture in Connecticut’s communities! Read a 2013 article on the rise of the Maker Space movement by Hartford Courant’s Matt Pilon or check out whiteboardct which also maintains a list of co-working space, incubators, and maker spaces. Here are links to other Connecticut maker spaces (don’t see your link here? Let me know!)
- Spark Maker Space – New London, CT http://www.spark.coop/ “Spark Makerspace is a community run workshop and learning center open to the general public. Members pay monthly dues and get access to a full woodshop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen printing equipment, shared office space, retail space and much more.”
- CT Hacker Space – Watertown, CT http://www.cthackerspace.com/- CT “Hackerspace is a DIY and Technology oriented group located in the US State of Connecticut . Our Mission is to provide a physical location where community members interested in technology can gather to collaborate on projects both physical and conceptual.”
- MakeHartford – Hartford, CT http://www.makehartford.com/ “It’s a gym for geeks and creative people. Instead of free weights and dumbbells we have 3d printers, CNC machines, and a wood/metal shop to build and create in. MakeHartford is Hartford, CT’s first maker space, i.e. community of artists, technologists, and entrepreneurs for hands-on innovation.”
- MakeHaven – New Haven, CT http://www.makehaven.org/ “MakeHaven works to educate the community through interest-driven projects and hands-on skill building experiences in mechanics, electronics, crafts, art, design, programming, cooking, biology, chemistry, fabrication, metalworking and woodworking.”
- Westport Library Makerspace – Westport, CT “The MakerSpace opened July 2012 as a place for people to connect, invent and create. It’s a great way to use your Library, in addition to finding books and movies, working, viewing art, meeting friends and attending programs. Stop by and learn about the 3D printer, which prints physical objects from digital files. People of all ages have come to watch demonstrations of the printer, and to learn how to design and print their own creations! See the calendars below for all of the Maker events.”
- Danbury Hackerspace – Danbury, CT http://danburyhackerspace.com/- “The Danbury Hackerspace @ the Innovation Center is a hackerspace and co-working facility at 158 Main Street, connected to the Danbury Library. The City of Danbury has graciously provided the space to help launch the hackerspace and build a community of entrepreneurs, makers, craftspeople, & artists. We are now open for membership.”
Last week partners in the Naugatuck Valley gathered at NVision2020 in Waterbury to discuss asset based strategies for regional development with a focus on transportation infrastructure. The event was appropriately hosted at the beautifully renovated Palace Theater in downtown Waterbury– a true gem!
CT Post article about the event by Hugh Bailey
“Just as few regions prospered as much as the Naugatuck Valley at the height of industry, few were as damaged when the factories left town.
But previous eras left behind the kind of downtowns that companies are once again seeking in the new economy, local leaders said on Thursday, while acknowledging that persuading businesses to come won’t be easy.
“Compact, walkable, vibrant town centers rose around industry,” said Mark Nielsen, director of planning at theNaugatuck Valley Council of Governments. With those kind of communities again in demand, he said, the region has plenty to offer to companies and younger workers.
The conference Thursday was organized by NVCOG and featured an array of state and local leaders who described how the economy has changed and what towns can do to get ahead. Though the Valley is marked in many ways by its past, in terms of closed factories, depopulated Main streets and an aging populace, its towns are poised for growth, speakers said.
“Amenities are primary to attracting talent,” said Laura Brown, a planner with the University of Connecticut’s extension program. “In the new economy, we have to embrace what we already have, and the waterfronts, the downtowns and the people are what we have.”
You are invited to the 2015 Martel Lecture by Peter Levine titled “Leadership for Civic Renewal: Reinvigorating America’s Civic Life” on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 4 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium at Dodd Center- UCONN Stors.
Peter Levine is the Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. You can find out more about him here: