Economic development groups remain intact

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BEACON FALLS — Beacon Falls is about as far from a bustling metropolis as it gets, but the small town presently has three different groups working toward the same elusive goal: economic development.

The bodies include the Merchant’s Association, Citizens for Tomorrow’s Downtown (CFTD, a private, ad hoc committee), and the Economic Development Commission (EDC, a municipal organization).

The triumvirate met casually Monday evening to discuss the possibility of merging the merchant group and the CFTD, given the latter’s dormancy of late.

EDC commissioner Ed Korzon noted that the CFTD may have “peaked out.”

“We ran the course, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

CFTD Chairman Rick Cherhoniak echoed these sentiments, saying the group had played a role in the initial phase of development in downtown—and that phase is over.

CFTD Treasurer Jim Woodward was even at the point of discussing the transfer of approximately $10,000, the balance of the CFTD’s funds, and its inventory to the Merchant’s Association, the more active group.

But Merchant’s Association President Bob Bradley and First Selectman Sue Cable quickly dissuaded the EDC and CFTD leadership from this course.

Bradley noted that the two groups “complement each other”—the CFTD has always been concerned about the “aesthetics of downtown,” while the Merchant’s Association is trying to “drive business to business.”

“Our focus is to concentrate on business and remind folks, ‘Hey, this is where your kids sell Girl Scout cookies, but come back every now and then; we need you,’” he said. “We need to keep repeating, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’”

“You’ve got a benefit to a group based on development and beautification and another in charge of business,” Cable told the EDC. “I truly believe you need both groups … they’re your arms.”

The groups discussed the possibilities of intensive planning sessions, public forums, marketing and advertising, and new leadership—“new blood,” as Cherhoniak put it—for the CFTD.

Bill Purcell, President of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, indicated “the continuity of leadership coupled with new leadership is a winning formula.”

He invoked classical poet John Donne to stress the importance of a regional business approach: “No man is an island, no city is an island, no town is an island,” he said. “We have to think more regionally and more broadly.

“The best is yet to come,” he added. “This recession will end. You’re smart to ask yourselves, ‘Where can we best position ourselves for this next wave [of business]?’”

The groups agreed to meet again in March to lay out concrete economic development goals and strategies—though Bradley implored all to think pragmatically and not succumb to “analysis paralysis.”

Cable indicated the March meeting would be a “huge, town-wide charrette” and said the Board of Selectmen would assign specific goals for each group to address in the interim so they’d each have something to “present instructively.”

“We’re going to showcase the little town of Beacon Falls and show people it’s really a jewel,” she said.