Commission gets down to business

BEACON FALLS — For one group of volunteers, getting businesses to come to town is its business.

The Economic Development Commission works to establish a strong business base in town.

Jeremy Rodorigo, who has been a member of the commission the last few years and is currently its chairman, said the commission has been looking into what the future of the town could be and how the town can be open to businesses.

“We wanted to think about what kind of businesses would work in town, given the makeup of the town and the attributes we have. We’re really taking a hard look at what do we want for industry,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said part of what helps the commission be successful is not falling into the trap of promoting the town as the best town for every business, but rather knowing which types of businesses fit with the town.

“We are not all things to all people, but between our tax rate, our location and the properties we have available we have a lot of very positive attributes,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said the Murtha Industrial Park is nearly filled. The town still has spots available in its Pines Bridge Industrial Park and along North Main Street and South Main Street, including the recently vacant Beacon Falls Market.

To help the commission do its work, the 2014-15 budget includes $10,000 in new funds to hire a professional to work with the commission and boost economic development.

The person would be employed on a part-time basis during this upcoming fiscal year, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said. If the town finds the right person and there is growth in the business sector, he said, the town could put more money into the position.

“I am very hopeful that that is going to bring a little extra expertise into the group, somebody who has a great deal of experience dealing with municipal government and related fields, that understands the needs of business and has actual practical experience in bringing stuff like that into town,” Bielik said.

Board of Finance Chairman Joe Dowdell echoed Bielik’s statements, saying that the commission, as with most boards and commissions in town, is run by volunteers.

“We need to hire professionals to do this work, who know what they’re doing more than we, the volunteers, know what we’re doing,” Dowdell said. “We have to get business downtown. By putting the $10,000 in the budget it’s a step in the right direction. The more business we get the lower the taxes will be in town.”

The commission will discuss the hiring process during its next meeting, Rodorigo said.

Although the town is looking to bring in professional help, Bielik is pleased with the work of the commission.

“I think the work that Jeremy and his group is doing is fantastic, I think we are heading in the right direction, and we just need to keep the momentum going,” Bielik said.

For Rodorigo, the commission is about more than just bringing businesses into town. It is making businesses feel as though they are part of the community right from the beginning.

“When you are starting or expanding a business and taking big sums of money and investing it, you want to go to a place that wants you to succeed. A place that not only says they want you to succeed, but demonstrates that they want to succeed,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said the commission works with the business and town to make the move into Beacon Falls as smooth as possible for the business.

“You get the feeling that we are part of the process to help you succeed, not an obstacle. We’re not a hoop you have to jump through, but a partner,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said when businesses feel like part of the community they are more willing to help out.

Rodorigo said Thule, which has a distribution center in the Pines Bridge Industrial Park, contacted him recently to see if it could put up signs around town because it wanted to hire Beacon Falls residents. The company ended up hiring three residents, Rodorigo said.

“If businesses succeed in Beacon Falls, Beacon Falls succeeds. That’s why we want economic development,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said the commission also wants to hear from residents.

“I want to reach out to people of Beacon Falls to say come to EDC meetings and share your ideas,” Rodorigo said. “I would love for people to come to meetings if they have time and share their thoughts.”

Rodorigo said some people may work for a company that is either looking to expand or move, and they could help the commission get in contact with the business. Or, people may just have an idea that could be implemented in the town.

“We had a guy that came and suggested a farmers’ market. We have a farmers’ market now,” Rodorigo said.

Rodorigo said his long-term vision for the town includes an active town center filled with stores and restaurants.

“I would like it to have a very vibrant and robust downtown where there is a lot of foot traffic,” Rodorigo said. “In addition, I would like to see our industrial parks full of businesses that employ a lot of Beacon Falls residents.”

Rodorigo hopes that bringing businesses to the town can achieve his goal while on the commission.

“I’d like to bring the mill rate down by five mills,” Rodorigo said.

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