Naugatuck partners with Waterbury to form regional development agency

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials approved partnering with Waterbury on a new development agency that will focus on regional economic development projects.

“Working together is the way of the future and the best way to move forward in the current Connecticut climate,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved a resolution, 8-0, Aug. 6 authorizing the borough to participate in the Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corp. The Waterbury Board of Aldermen supported the plan in May.

The nonprofit Naugatuck Valley Development Corp., which had once served as Waterbury’s development agency and brings more than $2 million in assets to the table, will rebrand as the NVRDC. The NVRDC will be able to apply for state and federal grants, and handle money and oversee projects for its client municipalities.

The NVRDC is starting with Naugatuck and Waterbury, and other towns can join later.

For the borough, the partnership provides more leverage to seek funds for regional projects at a time when the state is strapped for cash and leans more favorably to a regional approach to development. For Waterbury, the partnership is meant to help push smart regional development.

“The Naugatuck-Waterbury partnership has already proven to be very successful,” said Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary in reference to a joint venture between the two municipalities to develop land at the end of Great Hill Road that straddles the Naugatuck-Waterbury line into an industrial park.

Hess and O’Leary approached the state together to secure $2.8 million in state funds to help develop the land. The municipalities have agreed to share resulting tax revenue.

“We were welcomed with open arms because we were there together as two municipalities working together,” Hess said.

Hess pointed to a planned transit-oriented development on parcels A and B — the Naugatuck Event Center and adjacent vacant lot — and the planned “Port of Naugatuck” — a proposed intermodal transportation hub to ship goods on land on Elm Street — as two projects that the NVRDC could leverage funds for that have significant regional benefits.

“We’ve got a lot going on here. We’re working together — working as a team — and it just makes sense,” Hess said.

Both Naugatuck and Waterbury will maintain their independent economic development agencies, and projects won’t move forward without the approval of the legislative bodies of each municipality.

“I think it (the NVRDC) has some very positive opportunities and hopefully it’ll work out,” said Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO Ronald Pugliese in a phone interview.

The Waterbury Development Corp. staff will also work for the new NVRDC. The only new expense will be the hiring of a CEO for the new agency. The NVDC will subsidize the expense, at least in the first year, from its reserves.