House vote sends Valley development measure to Lamont

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — State lawmakers have approved legislation that could allow the Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corp. to leverage state dollars to help finance large-scale economic development projects.

A unanimous House vote on June 4 sent legislation to Gov. Ned Lamont that will establish a $10 million grant fund that will be open to regional economic development corporations that meet eligibility criteria. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1020 in 35-0 vote on May 20.

The legislation had the backing of the mayors of Naugatuck and Waterbury, with support from the small cities of Derby, Ansonia, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and civic and business leader from the Naugatuck Valley.

Naugatuck, Waterbury and the newly formed Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corp. are looking to use $5 million funding from NVRDC and Waterbury Development Corp. to leverage state matching funds to provide gap financing for large-scale economic development projects in the Valley region.

The legislation directs the state Department of Economic and Community Development to establish a pilot grant program to offer up to $10 million in matching grants to regional development corporations for supporting programs and projects in distressed municipalities through June 2026.

“We talk about regionalization all the time in this building, and this bill is a prime example of that,” said state Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-105th, whose district represents all or part of Beacon Falls, Derby and Seymour. “This pilot program encourages distressed municipalities to work together toward that common goal, which is development opportunities.”

To qualify, a quasi-public regional development corporation would need at least four partnering municipalities, including one distressed municipality. The DECD commissioner may allow a corporation that represents less than four municipalities to participate in the program at his or her discretion.

The DECD may award up to $10 million in total grants to participating corporations but no more than $5 million for any single grant. No new grant applications can be accepted after June 30, 2026.

In evaluating applications, the DECD must consider the following factors:

  • The applicant’s description of the proposed economic development program.
  • The applicant’s resources and record of implementing economic development programs in its region.
  • The proposed program’s or project’s potential impact on the workforce in the applicant’s region.

The NVRDC is a retooled version of the former Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. At this time, only Naugatuck and Waterbury are members of the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp., but the towns of Beacon Falls, Ansonia and Derby have expressed interest in participating.

By state law, the DECD each year must designate 25 distressed municipalities based on a combination of economic, education, demographic and housing criteria. The designated towns and cities are eligible for targeted state assistance. The latest list of distressed municipalities includes Waterbury, Ansonia, Derby, Torrington and Winsted.