Consultant considered first step for economic development

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BEACON FALLS — The town is turning to a consultant to get its house in order before hiring an economic development coordinator.

The Board of Selectmen on Monday unanimously voted to hire Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC) on the recommendation of the Economic Development Commission. CERC is a nonprofit corporation and public-private partnership that provides research, marketing and economic development services.

Under the agreement, CERC will assign an economic development consultant, Sadie Colcord, to the town on a part-time basis. Colcord will work about eight to 10 hours a week over the next three to four months. The town will pay $60 an hour for the service.

In the proposal, CERC stated it will develop a strategic economic development plan for the town, review zoning regulations and permitting processes, and develop and implement a marketing plan, including tourism opportunities.

In its proposal, CERC wrote that its consultant will get to know the business community, make connections with the commercial real estate industry professionals, follow projects through, and become a trusted adviser in the community.

Economic Development Commission Vice Chairman Jeremy Rodorigo said hiring CERC will allow the town to get all the information in order before hiring an economic development coordinator.

“Hopefully, with the work they have done, it puts us in a better position to hire someone,” Rodorigo said.

The town budgeted $35,000 this year for the economic development coordinator position, but officials haven’t started the process of hiring someone yet. The money to pay CERC will come from the $35,000 for the position, according to officials.

Selectman Michael Krenesky said the town hasn’t moved forward with filling the coordinator position because there are issues the town needs to correct first.

“It is quite clear it is the direction we, as a town, need to go in before we dive deep into selecting an individual economic development coordinator,” Krenesky said about hiring CERC. “I think they will set a whole lot of things in the right direction.”

Under the proposal, Colcord would also organize networking events for business leaders and town officials, establish a list of available commercial and industrial properties with CERC’s SiteFinder website, and identify areas for additional commercial development.

CERC’s proposal also includes grant writing, developing partnerships with state and federal legislative delegations and tracking economic data.

The town recently hired a separate grant writer, Tom Sobolinski, to seek grants to fund capital projects and other town needs. Sobolinski has a one-year contract at a rate of $75 an hour. He has already started compiling a list of possible grants the town could apply for and weighing which would be most beneficial to pursue, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

The CERC consultant will concentrate on redefining perceptions of Main Street and work to increase occupancy in the industrial parks.

“Many of the storefronts are empty or rundown. The walking path that parallels the businesses along Main Street offers an opportunity to redevelop the area with the types of businesses that make residents proud and visitors eager to return,” CERC wrote in its proposal.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.