‘From the Capitol’ – Economic Development in Stratford

May 3, 2012

During the past year, our community of Stratford has seen many promising developments. While the nation’s economy slowly improves, we must consider how the local economy has benefitted from several important decisions from both public and private standpoints. I am certainly optimistic that Stratford is turning a corner on some long-standing challenges and that we may soon see real improvements in the local economy and our overall quality of life. In this week’s column, I would like to highlight some of the reasons to be optimistic about our town’s future, including opportunities for increased economic development and improved transportation planning.

Across our state, many communities have former manufacturing and industrial sites that long ago provided jobs and produced goods that were sold throughout the nation and world. If not redeveloped over the years, these sites often remain in a state of limbo largely to the detriment of surrounding neighborhoods. Known as brownfields, these are defined by Connecticut General Statutes as “any abandoned or underutilized site where redevelopment, reuse or expansion has not occurred due to the presence or potential presence of pollution in the buildings, soil or groundwater that requires investigation or remediation before or in conjunction with the restoration, redevelopment, reuse and expansion of the property.”

In Stratford, one of these sites is the former U.S. Baird property located at 1526-1700 Stratford Avenue. Operating for about 150 years, the machinery company shuttered its Stratford plant and has been in the process of searching for a new buyer. A promising new business called Two Roads Brewing Company is seeking to fill this space, investing up to $18 million in private funding to build a brewery and create about 70 new jobs. To help in these efforts, Stratford was awarded a $500,000 brownfield grant by the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to help clean up the site and prepare it for further development. The revitalization project will cost a total of $574,000 for a hazardous building materials (HBM) inspection report, remediation and abatement of the polluted material. In the current economy, this is an exciting prospect.

Last fall, Stratford was also awarded funding to improve its transportation system. The state Department of Transportation approved a $250,000 grant to be used for a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plan for economic development near the Stratford train station on the Metro North New Haven Rail Line. These plans typically focus on a core development surrounding a transit station, including rail or bus service, with high-density development that becomes less and less dense as one moves farther away from the train station center. By encouraging greater use of public transport in economic development our community will better link with the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Under the leadership of Mayor John Harkins, Stratford has much to be optimistic about, from economic development and job creation to improved transportation planning. It is clear that our community is on the cusp of becoming a reliable location for investment, business growth, and more job creation. While either of these examples may not indicate a wider revival, together they are encouraging signs for more jobs and opportunity for families in our town. It is my hope that you will join me in supporting these initiatives as we make plans to create jobs in town for a better future.