Time For Hartford To Invest In Stratford [Stratford Star]

March 9, 2012

Editorial as it appeared in the Stratford Star on March 8, 2012

Hartford has a chance to invest in the future of two enterprises in Stratford, and with them in the long-term economic health of southwestern Connecticut.

Legislators and municipal leaders from Stratford visited the state Capitol twice in recent weeks, seeking money and support for efforts to revive the Shakespeare Theatre and to transform the dormant U.S. Baird property into a brewery.

Stratford’s delegation to the General Assembly has put forth a bill seeking $1 million in bonding for improvements to the Shakespeare Theatre. Sen. Kevin Kelly specified that the word “improvements” was chosen because the plans to have events there appear already well under way.

Councilman Matt Catalano and Economic Development Commission Chairman Neil Sherman both provided testimony in favor of the bond, citing benefits of increased tourism not only in Stratford but throughout the area.

The same can be said of the proposed Two Roads Brewing at the former U.S. Baird site.

Kelly and Mayor John A. Harkins testified in support of a bill that would allow breweries to operate in the same manner in which wineries and brew pubs operate. It’s common sense to approve the bill, and shows yet another way that legislation from Hartford, some of it nonsensical or obsolete, hinders private enterprise in Connecticut.

Stratford’s legislators also supported a proposal for a brownfield bond to assist in cleanup of the U.S. Baird parcel to pave the way for Two Roads Brewing.

On a local level, Stratford leaders have worked to get both the theater and the brewery up and running. Now it’s time for Hartford to step to the plate.

A headline on a state political blog this weekend referred to “$1 million for vacant, dilapidated theater.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who has been inside the Shakespeare Theatre can attest.

But that’s the image Stratford must change. It cannot be viewed as a whole by the rest of the state as “dilapidated,” known for a dark theater and former industrial sites now quarantined because of contamination.

That can change, and efforts are under way locally to change it. These new efforts to breathe life into the economy need the state’s support.

Hartford has long viewed southwestern Connecticut as an ATM, the source of money for projects in other areas. The legislature now must invest in the future of two projects in Stratford, and thus the town, the area and Connecticut.