Pandemic doesn’t slow economic development effort


By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. President Ronald Pugliese, center, talks with Matt Fortney, left, and Fred Dlugokecki during the NEDC’s annual meeting Oct. 21 at the Naugatuck Event Center. -ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. President Ronald Pugliese often gets asked how does someone do economic development.

“I really don’t know,” said Pugliese, as he addressed the audience during the NEDC’s annual meeting Oct. 21 at the Naugatuck Event Center. “But, what I do, and I what I tell people, is the best way to do it is to put people together.”

The COVID-19 pandemic made that more challenging as virtual meetings took the place of in-person events. Virtual get-togethers can’t replace the experience of meeting people and discussing business in person, Pugliese said.

“That is the best way to bring people together,” he said.

The NEDC is a quasi-public agency that oversees economic development efforts in the borough. Despite the challenges brought on the pandemic, Pugliese highlighted progress made over the past year or so on the economic development front — namely at the Naugatuck Industrial Park off of Route 68.

Pugliese said he was talking with a business, which he declined to name, in the industrial park the morning of the meeting about expanding. He said the company wants to move part of its operations from Shelton to Naugatuck.  The project, he said, is expected to start in 2022.

“That means something to the town of Naugatuck,” he said.

Pugliese added a new company is coming into the industrial park next year and he’s working to bring another company from Hamden to the park. He didn’t name either company.

Outside of the industrial park, Pugliese pointed to Drew Marine, a chemicals and industrial services company, opening its corporate headquarters in 2020 at 333 Church St.

Pugliese continued that construction of a new senior assisted living facility on North Main Street is expected to start in the spring. Senior Living Development, LLC, a Fairfield-based commercial real estate company, plans to build a 60,700-square-foot, five-story facility on North Main Street. The start of the project was delayed due to the pandemic and a shortage of supplies, Pugliese said.

Development of the former Peter Paul site, which is owned by The Hershey Company, on New Haven Road continues to elude officials.

“The Hershey property has been very difficult to deal with,” Pugliese said.

Frito Lay showed interest in the land in the past. R+L Carriers, a global freight shipping company, earlier this year signed an agreement to buy the land to build a new service center. But, the deal has stalled over environmental issues on the site and getting an environmental report from Hershey, Pugliese said.

Pugliese said there is another company, which he didn’t name, interested in the land, as well.

“But, like the others we have dealt with, the environmental cleanup must get done and it has to be done by Hershey,” he said.

Pugliese said he’s hopeful the environmental issues will be dealt with and a deal will get done next year.

“I am still very positive that that might happen at some time in 2022,” he said.