Economic development effort picking up steam

The Goldenrod Corporation on Lancaster Drive in Beacon Falls. The company is interested in a tax abatement program the town recently approved. The program is part of an ongoing effort to improve economic development in town. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — A new tax incentive ordinance for businesses is one part of an ongoing effort to increase economic development that officials say has taken leaps forward with the hiring of an economic development coordinator.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the incentive program, which offers tax abatements to businesses that invest in commercial buildings in town, is something the town wanted to do for some time but was unable to complete without the help of Sadie Colcord, the town’s economic development coordinator.

“That kind of thing is something we have talked about for a while but had never really gotten traction on moving forward because it is a lot of research and comparison with other towns. We said, ‘This would be a great thing if we actually had the time to do it.’ Now we have the resource that is able to do it,” Bielik said.

Colcord is a municipal services associate with Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), a nonprofit corporation and public-private partnership that provides research, marketing and economic development services.

In October, the Board of Selectman hired CERC as the town’s economic development consultant. Under the contract, Colcord works up to 10 hours a week for Beacon Falls and is paid $60 an hour. The town budgeted $35,000 this year for the economic development coordinator position.

Prior to hiring CERC, the town had the Economic Development Commission, a volunteer board, in place but didn’t have a position dedicated to economic development.

When Colcord started about six months ago, she said she began by ensuring all the boards, commissions and town employees were on the same page when it came to being successful with economic development.

The first step, Colcord said, was to streamline the town’s land use regulatory process, including creating a document that listed everything a business needed to do to get the necessary permits.

“It is basically a checklist of every step you have to take so that there is no confusion when you are coming into the town. It is very clear and laid out for you with what you have to do. So, rather than going to a meeting and finding out you were supposed to go to a different meeting and wasting your time, this just lays it out,” Colcord said.

The goal of streamlining the process is to reduce the time it takes to get all the needed permits from three months to one month, Colcord said.

“That’s big for businesses that are coming,” Colcord said.

The second step was the tax incentive ordinance, which was approved at a town meeting on Monday night.

“That was a big priority from the start,” Colcord said.

The tax incentive program has already drawn interest from at least one business in town — a manufacturing company on Lancaster Drive.

Stephen Pretto, the chief financial officer of Goldenrod Corporation, said the company is considering expanding under the new incentive.

“It will certainly help us expand our operations in Beacon Falls,” Pretto said. “We will look to employ additional people in the local area.”

That is the exact type of sentiment Colcord and Bielik are hoping to hear from businesses.

“We hear about manufacturing jobs in the state that are going unfilled because we don’t have qualified manpower,” Bielik said. “There is a talent pool that is available here. If we can locate jobs in proximity to that, that is a win-win for everybody. It keeps our people at home. It grows our manufacturing base. Everybody wins.”

Now that Beacon Falls has an incentive program, Colcord plans to turn her attention to marketing available commercial properties in town.

Colcord said she will take an inventory of all the properties and gather information on utilities and site plans. Then, starting in the spring, the town will distribute marketing materials, such as brochures and flyers for the properties, she said.

“Some of the sites in town aren’t listed on major commercial real estate websites, so a lot of people don’t even know certain sites are available. The town taking initiative to market these properties will be key to growing the grand list and bringing more businesses in,” Colcord said.

Economic Development Commission Vice Chairman Jeremy Rodorigo said the commission is pleased with the work Colcord has been doing.

“Sadie has been fantastic in getting our house in order, compiling data, looking at what needs to be done, and looking at where Beacon Falls is in terms of market place,” Rodorigo said. “Everyone who needs to know what’s going on is always kept in the loop.”

Rodorigo said the commission pushed for the town to hire an economic development coordinator. Now that the town has one, the commission wants to ensure the position remains filled, he said.

“Our goal is to continue to have this position funded, so we don’t have to rely on commission members who are volunteers and don’t have a lot of time. This is someone who is dedicated to working for Beacon Falls and the growth of its economy,” Rodorigo said.

With a tax incentive program in place, Rodorigo said the commission believes Beacon Falls will begin to see some significant growth.

“I think that the tax incentive program will put some horse power behind Sadie going out there and filling up our industrial park and getting existing businesses to grow,” Rodorigo said.

There are still some hurdles the town has to clear, Bielik said.

“The challenge is pretty straight forward. We are competing against 168 other towns in the state. We are small by comparison, not just in population but in footprint,” Bielik said.

In order to succeed, the town needs to rely on its strengths, including its proximity to Route 8 and Interstate 84, and the fact that it already has established industrial parks, Bielik said.

While the town has attractive aspects to businesses, Bielik said it needs someone who is able to get the word out.

“Those kind of things make us attractive. The question is how do we broadcast that. How do we let the world know we are open for business? It’s letting people know why Beacon Falls is the place they need to come to. And that is why we have the experts,” Bielik said.