Officials praise Valley economic district

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Federal designation for an 18-town Naugatuck Valley Corridor district will open the way for federal dollars to assist in economic development initiatives and infrastructure investments in the area.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration in August approved the Naugatuck Valley Corridor Economic Development District’s request for designation as an economic development district.

Town elected officials in the district and representatives from the Shelton Economic Development Corporation announced the news early morning Oct. 22 at Oxford Town Hall. About 30 people attended, including representatives from the Waterbury Development Corp. and regional planning organizations.

The district includes Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethlehem, Cheshire, Derby, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Newtown, Oxford, Prospect, Seymour, Shelton, Southbury, Thomaston, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodbury.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO Ronald Pugliese said this partnership will help bring money for economic development to all the municipalities involved.

“We have a very large country and getting the attention of the federal government is difficult,” Pugliese said. “This area is now on the radar screen for the federal government. There’s a better chance of economic development dollars from the federal government, very large corporations and community centers.”

Pugliese, who has served as the president of the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce and Waterbury’s director of economic development, said this district will boost the economic development in all 18 towns. 

“Economic development will benefit all the participants, including Naugatuck. Some will come to Naugatuck, some will go to other towns,” Pugliese said. “I think it’s a good thing because were going to act as a much larger community rather than just one town. We’re all working together.”

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield echoed Pugliese’s remarks.

“It’s a home run for the whole Valley area,” Chatfield said. “Just like any other region, you do better as a group.”

Chatfield said that attracting more businesses, as opposed to more residents, benefits everyone in the town.

“Economic development doesn’t fill up schools. Economic development helps pay for schools. It creates jobs,” Chatfield said.

In his monthly letter, Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith said the district coupled with the town’s location in the Enterprise Corridor is a major boon for economic growth. The district allows the town to offer added incentives to companies seeking to locate in town, he said in the letter.

“2014 will see the full potential of the district, reaping benefits for both new and existing businesses,” Smith said in the letter.

Both Chatfield and Pugliese said they only see positive aspects coming out of the new district.

“The benefits would far outweigh any potential drawbacks, and I don’t see any drawbacks,” Pugliese said.