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.
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, email@example.com, 203-207-0063 or Susan Westa, CT Main Street Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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:
The Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG) is a planned 44-mile long regional greenway and trail that will extend from Torrington in the north to Derby in the south, passing through eleven communities. In Spring of 2015 the Naugatuck River Greenway Steering Committee, with members from each of the eleven NRG communities, and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments approached the University of Connecticut to assist to better understand potential economic impacts of the proposed trail as well as best practices for helping local communities capitalize on the trail when it is completed. To date, a literature review regarding trail impact studies and background on the NRG has been completed and partners have co-designed the economic impact analysis and trail user survey that will be assessed this fall. Read the newly public literature review here.
Former Bristol Babcock complex in Waterbury, photo by John McDonald
Hugh Bailey, urban planner, columnist for the Connecticut Post, and member of UConn class of 1999, will be speaking on the issue of the post-industrial challenges posed by the numerous abandoned buildings in Connecticut’s urban areas. His presentation, “Ruins Reborn: Revitalizing Post-industrial Cities”, scheduled for 10/28 from 12:30 to 2:00 pm at the Waterbury campus of the University of Connecticut, promises to tackle this issue in a fashion which would integrate historical preservation and community economic development. I am looking forward to hearing Mr. Bailey speak. The harsh realities of the post-industrial decline hit Connecticut’s cities in the 1970s. Many communities have never fully recovered. The legacies of our reliance on heavy industry have included fiscal insolvency and environmental degradation. While underutilized, polluted buildings and land abound, it is important to remember that the scale of the problems we currently face are lesser than they once were.
I was born in Waterbury in 1973. My first inkling of the post-industrial decline came with my father’s layoff in 1980. Food stamps soon supplemented our meagre income. We bounced back somewhat during the Reagan years, but another recession was around the corner. I left high school in the thick of it, with no concrete plans for my future. I became a college student only recently, after a lengthy odyssey that included Job Corps, an apprenticeship, and many low-paying service jobs. My memories of post-industrial Waterbury are vivid and my experiences in this landscape shaped my environmental attitudes, in this case meaning my enduring orientations to the physical environment. I remember riding in my parent’s minivan along Silver Street, en route to the Naugatuck Valley Mall on Wolcott Street. I looked out the window in awe at the derelict Scovill Brass buildings. This massive complex covered nearly 200 acres. I remember some ten years later, walking down East Main Street, still in the shadow of the Scovill buildings.
Waterbury’s landscape has already been greatly altered. The Brass Mill Center currently occupies the former Scovill site. True to my blue-collar roots, I worked as an apprentice electrician, wiring a few of the stores in the new mall which was completed in 1996. Other industrial sites in Waterbury have since been demolished. There are similar instances throughout the Naugatuck Valley. Naugatuck has also been transformed as the former U.S. Rubber complex has largely been razed. Those familiar with the region’s industrial heyday are no doubt surprised to see how much of the built environment has been changed. Mr. Bailey advocates a different sort of approach than widespread demolition, which sometimes results in polluted lots sitting vacant for years, or conversion to retail space, which would further dissipate the area’s limited consumer base. In his article, which has been published in UConn Magazine, Mr. Bailey discusses other ways to deal with the problems posed by abandoned factory buildings.
One of Mr. Bailey’s suggestions is to link the proposed Naugatuck River Greenway with factory complexes restored as industrial heritage sites. As Mr. Bailey reports, this strategy has worked well in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, one of Europe’s most heavily industrialized areas. Mr. Bailey also discusses instances where factory complexes have been converted into successful mixed-use developments. Mr. Bailey believes that these type of developments can help post-industrial cities regain their lost identity by connecting their rich past to their uncertain future. In this sense, these cities can be reborn, as the title of Mr. Bailey’s lecture suggests.
From my experience assisting with the economic impact study of the Naugatuck River Greenway, I understand that these sort of projects can be costly and may not provide the type of economic boost Naugatuck Valley municipalities are looking for. They are long-term solutions to a pervasive problem whose benefits will accrue over time and ultimately create stronger communities. The Naugatuck Valley cities and towns must be made aware of such concepts as amenity value, preservation value, and social capital; intangibles that are often difficult to quantify. That may prove to be as big of a challenge as restoring factory buildings that have been abandoned, in some instances, for nearly 40 years.
– John McDonald, Extension Intern