NAUGATUCK — Mayor Robert Mezzo told a group of local business leaders that the borough needs to consider creating another industrial park.
The current industrial park, which is split into two sections off Prospect Street, has 50 lots, none of which are vacant, according to officials.
“It’s a good problem to have and there haven’t been any firm proposals to create another industrial park, but it’s something that many people, including myself, have talked about,” Mezzo said after bringing up the topic Dec. 3 at the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce’s annual mayoral luncheon at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant. “I think we really need to increase that discussion because despite popular perception, we don’t have a problem attracting businesses. The struggle has been finding space to accommodate companies.”
Naugatuck’s industrial park generates about $1.8 million a year in tax revenue and hundreds of people work there in industries ranging from information technology to bottle and can recycling.
The problem with creating a new park, Mezzo said, is finding a good location, even though the property doesn’t have to be nearly the size of the current park, which is about 200 acres.
One area that at first glance seems logical is the old Peter Paul Hershey property at 880 New Haven Road, Route 63. But that property is currently out of the ballpark for the borough. The Hershey Corp. is reportedly looking in the area of $6 million to $7 million for the 36-acre lot.
“Until Hershey makes a decision not to price themselves out of the market, that property is not likely to move, and the ball is in their court,” Mezzo said.
Jay Carlson, chairman of the quasi-public Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, said it was shortsighted of the borough’s land use boards in 2008 to change the Peter Paul Hershey land designation from industrial to commercial. The candy maker thought it had a buyer, but a deal fell through, Carlson said. His argument was that putting industry on that land would have brought higher paying jobs and more tax revenue.
While Naugatuck has no interest in purchasing the Hershey property at this point, Mezzo noted there have been conversations for decades with the City of Waterbury regarding creating new industry sites on land along South Main Street in the city, adjacent to the Naugatuck Industrial Park.
“In many cases, that would have to be driven by the city because even though the most developable portions of that land are located in Naugatuck, they are owned by the city,” he said.
Other areas the borough could look at include a 46-acre plot at 669 New Haven Road behind J&M Automotive. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses declined to buy that land from Lineweber Bros. Construction in 2007 for $2 million.
Burgess Bob Neth, who was in favor of that proposal, said smaller, incubator industrial spaces — those between 2,000 square feet and 4,000 square feet — would probably be sought after by area companies.
Ron Pugliese, NEDC chief executive officer, said more industrial space could certainly benefit the community.
“I’ve said so many times that one of the biggest problems I face is we do not have enough inventory,” he said. “People say all the time they love coming to Naugatuck, they like the availability to the highway and accessibility to downtown, but I don’t have enough inventory to show them.”