The purpose of the Connecticut Local Economic Development Organization Survey is to understand who is involved in economic development activities in Connecticut and how economic development strategies are conducted at the local level over time. This information may be used by municipalities, local elected officials, and resource providers to support economic development programs that are most effective and relevant to communities across the state. The survey was assessed as a Qualtrics online questionnaire in February, 2018 with a response period of three weeks. A link to access the questionnaire was disseminated through the Connecticut Economic Development Association and Connecticut Conference of Municipalities list serves as well as the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association and personal distribution lists of coordinating partners. The survey included 28 questions regarding the structure and organization of economic development functions, investments made in economic development, economic development programs and strategies and how are they evaluated, and demographic information about economic development staff. A copy of the survey tool is available upon request and as an appendix to this report. This project was reviewed by the University of Connecticut IRB and was determined to not qualify as human subjects research under 45CFR46.102. Significant findings are highlight in bold in the text below.
CT Trail Census Receives Grant
Our Connecticut Trail Census program recently received $206,049.50 in grant funding from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Trails & Greenways Program and the Connecticut Greenways Council. UConn Extension’s Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program implemented as a pilot from 2016-2018 on 16 multi-use (bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian) trail sites across the state.
Volunteer teams of economic development staff, innovators, business and community leaders from Hartford, New Haven Stamford and New London/Groton wrapped up the pilot year of the First Impressions Innovate! program this fall. As a part of this partnership with CTNext, UConn Extension faculty Laura Brown and Miriah Kelly provided education and facilitation among communities chosen as “Innovation Places” (New Haven, Hartford, New London-Groton) and Stamford to understand best practices in creating entrepreneurial ecosystems at the community level, establish meaningful evaluation, monitoring and assessment approaches, and engage peer learning between entrepreneurial innovation related programs and communities through the First Impressions Innovate! – a “boots on the ground” audit that allows communities to understand their entrepreneurial assets. UConn’s work impacted over 40 community leaders involved in the program steering committees (city officials, planners and economic developers, representatives of major employers, directors of incubators and accelerators) with an investment of 13.9 million dollars (50 state funds and 50% leveraged at the community level) in place and capacity based programming in the four designated communities. Read the Executive Summaries from each of the communities here.
Below: Debrief luncheons involving the teams from the First Impressions Innovate Communities.
We’re excited to announce this year’s CEDAS Academy Webinar Series: Reuse, Recycle, Rejuvenate!
In these slim budget times, the three webinars in our series ask: how can our communities make best use of the physical infrastructure we already have?
- March 28, 2018: Brownfields from Start to Finish
- July: Reurbanization of Manufacturing
- September: Adaptive Reuse
In each webinar you’ll hear examples from around the Nutmeg State to inspire and help you avoid pitfalls from an economic developers perspective, get a taste of best practices and community successes from other practitioners and community leaders, and access local resources relevant to your community.
CEDAS Academy is a web-based educational learning series developed by CEDAS in partnership with the University of Connecticut-Extension Program in Community & Economic Development.
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.