NEW BRITAIN - Representatives from New Britain, Berlin and Farmington are teaming up with leaders in the private sector to investigate ways to make the area a place of innovation.
New Britain is one of 12 communities in Connecticut that was awarded planning grants in October from CTNext for the organization’s “Innovation Places” program. New Britain - in conjunction with Berlin and Farmington - was awarded a $40,000 grant to conduct a strategic planning process aimed to better understand conditions, risks and opportunities these communities face economically, and develop plans to increase innovation in the area.
While New Britain, Berlin and Farmington came together for this particular grant application, Robin Sharp, executive director of the YWCA of New Britain, said that it’s important to connect the region with other Innovation Places in the state.
“The main overall goal is to get businesses and entrepreneurs to want to come to Connecticut, build their business here and employ people here,” Sharp told the Herald. “We can’t do that by looking at 169 different municipalities.”
With the planning grant money, the tri-town group hired consultants to help with the planning and structure of a “master plan” for the area. The group is also currently surveying residents and students - as well as business owners and nonprofits - in the three towns to identify economic issues and opportunities in the area. As of Feb. 17, more than 400 responses were collected from the residents/students survey while 35 responses were collected for the businesses/nonprofits survey.
The results of these surveys, along with findings of ten focus groups - which each focused on individual sectors of the economy like healthcare, banking and finance, etc. - will be tied into the tri-town group’s master plan and application for the implementation grant.
Rick Mullins, Director of Central Connecticut State University’s Institute of Technology and Business Development, said data and accuracy was of the utmost importance in this process.
“Without data, it’s only an opinion,” Mullins told the Herald. “We’re getting data. We’re getting real time data and we’re getting local data.”
This is all only phase one of the Innovation Places program, though. The work being done right now is in preparation for the application for the implementation grant. For now, the group of officials, leaders from the private sector and consultants will continue to formulate a strategic plan for the area, send it to CTNext by March 1 and wait for feedback from the organization that will come March 15.
The due date for the “master plan” and implementation grant application are both due April 1. Grant winners will be announced in June.
Regardless of if the tri-town group is awarded the grant, changes should be expected in the area.
“We’ve (the group of officials and business owners) all said that we’re going to continue these efforts regardless of if we get the continuation of funding for this grant,” said Tim Stewart, President of the New Britain Chamber of Commerce. “So we’ll all stay connected at some point, and there’s a lot of things that we could do without any real additional funding - just communication and breaking down some barriers that have existed for many years.”
The surveys are still open and take about five minutes to complete. If you are a resident or student and wish to participate in the survey, go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/GT3PY8Q . For business owners or people who work at a nonprofit, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/WC6DWJN .
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at .