NEW BRITAIN – City residents filed into the Center for Excellence Thursday evening to make their voices heard regarding the city’s Martin Luther King Corridors Initiative.
“You have a choice New Britain, either you can fall apart like so many cities have or you can rise together,” announced the Rev. Carl McCluster, steering committee member and host of the meeting. “You can rise together and go forward to the state and to the other agencies and say we are a united community and we want to move New Britain forward.”
Earlier this year, the city was selected to take part in the initiative created in response to adverse conditions in neighborhoods with streets named after Dr. King. The program focuses on spurring economic development, education, housing and workforce development in these areas.
At a local level, this means the city will receive funding to redevelop areas in close proximity to Martin Luther King Drive.
The Department of Banking, the Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Department of Labor have set aside money from their overall budgets to fund the initiative in addition to several sponsors. Faith, Restoration, Empowerment and Economic Development Outreach Ministries was selected to implement the program.
Residents in attendance broke off into groups to give their input regarding different focuses of the initiative.
Democratic mayoral candidate Chris Porcher said he would like to see economic development in the area of the Martin Luther King monument.
“Business owners just need that extra push or extra help to bring their business to the next level,” said Porcher. “Aesthetics can change your business. If the place looks run down, people won’t want to do business there.”
Local business owner and independent mayoral candidate Deivone Tanksley, said he would like to see a department store come to the area.
“Once Wal-Mart left us years ago, it’s been really inconvenient for people to travel outside…Not only will it be convenient for people to shop and get affordable things, but it will also create a lot of jobs,” said Tanksley.
Francina Sloan came prepared to share her idea on how to spur economic development.
“I thought we would be better served to have something that would get people to come here like a movie theatre or some restaurants,” she said.
Other Ideas presented during the meeting included job creation through tourism, conversion of brown field properties, manufacturing training programs and a new school.
"We are grateful that the Community Economic Development Fund, who manages more than $36 million in funds from more than 20 Connecticut banks, DECD, the Small Business Administration and other resources has $9 million that they are ready to lend to start-up, existing and growing businesses right away,” McCluster said following the meeting. “That money is available right now. More will be made available as the MLK Initiative moves forward.”
For more information, visit faithandresults.com/mlknewbritain
Michelle France can be reached at 860-801-5087 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story will be updated.