Three Connecticut Cities Among Nation’s Top 300 Fastest Growing Economies

Bridgeport is not only Connecticut’s largest city by population, it is the city which has expanded – in socioeconomic terms – more than any other in the state between 2008 and 2014, according to an analysis released by WalletHub. Bridgeport ranked at number 230 nationally, one of three Connecticut communities – all in Fairfield County – that reached the top 300 across the country.  The others are Stamford, ranked at number 265, and Norwalk, at number 293.Bridgeport_CT

In 2014, the U.S. recorded its lowest population gain since the Great Depression. Growth stood at .73 percent, largely in contrast with the 5 percent of the 1990s, a period of prosperity, WalletHub pointed out.  Demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution attributed the decline to the economic downturn. Not only did the crisis deter job-seeking migrants from flocking to the U.S., but it also discouraged couples from having children, he noted. Meanwhile, population numbers shifted across states, creating short- and long-term effects on local economies, WalletHub indicated.

In order to identify the cities that have expanded most rapidly in socioeconomic terms between 2008 and 2014, WalletHub compared 515 U.S. cities of varying sizes across 10 key metrics, ranging from population growth to unemployment rate decrease.

The other Connecticut cities that ranked on the overall list of cities were New Britain (344), Danbury (355), Hartford (374), New Haven (425), and Waterbury (504).

Eleven of the twelve top-ranked cities – regardless of size - were all in Texas, led by Odessa, Frisco, Midland, Mission College Station, and Killeen.  When the list was broken down by city population, Connecticut did not have a top-100 city in economic growth.wh-best-badges-150x1503

On the list of small cities, Norwalk ranked at 109, New Britain at number 129 and Danbury at number 132.  Among mid-size cities, Bridgeport was ranked at number 110, Stamford ranked at number 123, Hartford was at number 187 and New Haven and Waterbury were at 212 and 239 respectively.  Midsize cities are those with between 100,000 and 300,000 people; small cities have fewer than 100,000 people.

Large cities with the most growth were Austin, Miami, Fort Worth, Denver and Corpus Christi.  At the bottom of the large city list were Mesa, St. Louis, Tucson, Cleveland and Detroit.  Leading the list of mid-size cities were five Texas communities; on the list of small cities Texas had four of the five top-ranked communities exhibiting the most growth.

The factors considered included socio-demographic landscape (population growth, working-age population growth, and poverty rate decrease), and jobs and economic environment (median household income growth, unemployment rate decrease, job growth, ratio of full-time to part-time jobs, and growth of regional GNP per capita).

mapJoan Fitzgerald, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, told WalletHub: “It is not an accident that many of the fastest growing cities have thriving high tech and biotech sectors along with financial services and usually a strong health care sector.  But another priority has to be balance.  In many cities, manufacturing loses out over other uses.”

Added Boston University Professor of Economics Kevin Lang: “it is not so much that population growth encourages employment as that employment opportunities encourage population growth.  Of course, this, in turn, creates further employment opportunities.”

Last month, the  Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford metro area ranked second nationally among the top ten best places for female entrepreneurs, in an analysis by  Nerdwallet, a personal finance information service geared toward helping consumers make informed financial decisions.  That ranking analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey of business owners and data from the Small Business Administration to come up with the national rankings. The top ranked city for female entrepreneurs was Boulder.  Joining Norwalk-Stamford-Bridgeport in the top five were Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Santa Cruz -Watsonville, and Santa Rosa.  Researchers found that seven of the top 10 metro areas for female business owners -- based on business climate, local economic health and financing opportunities -- are in California or Colorado.

The data sources used in the WalletHub analysis included the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis.



Norwalk Joins Stamford, Bridgeport in Rebranding Efforts to Attract Business

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling and Economic Development Director Elizabeth Stocker have selected South Norwalk-based branding and design firm, Zunda Group, to develop a strategic marketing plan that will include a brand implementation program.. With this week's announcement, Norwalk becomes the third major municipality in Fairfield County to turn to a rebranding initiative to boost business prospects and spark interest among potential developers. Bridgeport and Stamford have similar efforts either underway or in the planning stages.rebranding

Mayor Rilling said that “Norwalk recognizes the power of presenting the city with a strong brand image” and is moving forward as part of his recently released economic development action plan, which aims to capitalize on the city’s assets, attract and sustain new business, develop its workforce, and to continually improve its quality of life.

Rilling stated that “essential to the plan’s success is the city’s ability to communicate and build local pride around an ownable brand position that brings to life Norwalk’s unique personality and benefits.   Norwalk has an eye on the future and the new brand will elevate its position as a destination to live, work and play.”  The new branding and marketing communication is targeted to launch in early 2016.

Norwalk doesn’t need to look far to see other municipal branding efforts underway. map

Thomas Madden, Stamford’s economic development director, told the Fairfield County Business Journal this summer that the city Office of Economic Development is working on a multiphase plan to make Stamford more attractive to businesses in a nationally competitive market. Initiatives include conducting research on Stamford’s economic landscape, outreach, rebranding and improving digital resources, the business paper reported.

“It puts us on par with a lot of the economic development corporations to make sure we have the right information out there to make businesses look at Stamford,” Madden said, noting that it is the first time this type of project has been undertaken in Stamford. Planning began about a year ago, and the nonprofit Stamford Partnership, a civic organization, is leading the effort with Stamford-based brand development company Daymon Worldwide handling the marketing.

Daymon is to conduct surveys and focus groups in Stamford and in the tristate area exploring people’s views on Stamford. The data will guide which industries Stamford should focus on and provide guidance to the city’s Office of Economic Development regarding information about income level, incentives, taxes and transportation that can be highlighted in brochures to distribute to businesses considering Stamford as a location. It is anticipated that Stamford will begin using a new logo and launch a marketing campaign as part of the initiative.mq1

In Bridgeport, the administration of incumbent Mayor Bill Finch is already working with a pair of companies -- Mandate Media of Oregon and Gum Spirits of Maine – on an advertising campaign launched late last year, “Better Every Day.”  Mandate has created an economic development website,, along with a digital and web-based marketing strategy for the city.  Ads have been seen not only locally but in statewide media, such as the website CT Capitol Report.  Gum Spirits was to develop radio and television spots focused on local success stories and revitalization efforts, according to plans for the initiative, and a series of videos are currently posted on the website.

According to the website, which touts the Park City as a “great place” to live, “Bridgeport is a city on the way up. We've got a lot of work to do, but we're investing in the future, making our city a place where our kids and grandkids will choose to live, work and raise their families. We're improving the city by building schools, re-opening parks, making downtown more vibrant, and developing the waterfront.”  The website is separate and distinct from the official Bridgeport government website, which features a range of city services traditionally highlighted on municipal sites.

In Norwalk, Zunda Group is owned and managed by longtime Norwalk business leaders Charles Zunda and Gary Seve Esposito. In announcing the selection, the city stressed that the firm “has enjoyed a 35 year history of building and positioning strong, relevant brands.”  Zunda Group has proven success with Connecticut based brands like Newman’s Own, start-up brands like Chobani, and global brands such as Dove, city officials pointed out.  The local Norwalk community is invited to share their feedback about Norwalk by completing a voluntary public survey that is available from September 8 through September 22 at

Three CT Metro Regions Reach Top 50 in USA for Well-Being of Residents

The well-being of residents in three of Connecticut’s metropolitan areas are among the nation’s top 50, ranking at #36, #37 and #48 in a national survey of community well-being that evaluated the top 100 metro regions in the country. The 2014 Community Well-Being Rankings are the latest annual surveys by the polling company Gallup and the consulting firm Healthways. Reaching the top 50 from Connecticut were the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region (#36), West Hartford-Hartford-East Hartford (#37), and New Haven-Milford (#48), based on U.S. Census tract data. wbi_logo

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, surveyed residents to get a sense of their social, physical and financial health, as well as their sense of purpose and connections to their community -- all factors that contribute greatly to worker productivity, societal health costs and the economic competitiveness of a place, according to the polling firms as reported by Governing Magazine.

The 2014 rankings are based on 55-question surveys of about 176,000 people across all 50 states. The score for each community included metrics affecting overall well-being and five elements of well-being:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

mapThe Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region ranked #5 in physical health, #43 in financial health, #58 in community ties, #63 in sense of purpose and #88 in social health.

The Hartford - West Hartford – East Hartford region ranked #18 in financial health, #20 in physical health, #30 in social health, #61 in sense of purpose and #62 in community ties.

The New Haven-Milford region ranked #6 in physical health, #47 in sense of purpose, #48 in social ties, #50 in financial ties, and #91 in community ties.

The South, Southwest and West Coast dominated the top 30, with Boston the only Northeast city, reaching that high.  California, North Carolina, Texas all have two communities in the top cover

Leading the list was Florida’s North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton area, which performed especially well in financial and physical health. Honolulu, Raleigh, California’s Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura area and El Paso, Texas, rounded out the top five.

El Paso was the only community to take the top ranking in two categories: sense of purpose and physical health.  That was also the only category to see a Connecticut metropolitan area reach the top 10. Elsewhere in New England, Providence-Warwick ranked #70.

The survey found that residents of high well-being communities exercise more frequently -- an important aspect of physical well-being -- but they are also more likely to report that someone close to them encourages them to be healthy, a critical component of social well-being. They are much less likely to be obese, they have fewer significant chronic health conditions, and they feel safe where they live. Those who feel safe where they live are, in turn, more likely to have access to a safe place to exercise and access to fresh produce, which are important community characteristics that are linked to lower levels of obesity.

Each community, defined as a metropolitan statistical area under the U.S. Census Bureau, received a rank in each category according to the strength of the responses from their residents and an overall rank as well.

Residents of the top well-being locations in the U.S. are “more likely to be thriving across each of the five critical elements of well-being, thus capitalizing on the synergistic benefits of each element acting in concert with one another,” the survey analysis indicated. “This may reflect what is perhaps the most important factor separating the nation's high well-being communities from those with lower well-being: a holistic view of well-being.”

Norwalk Among 15 Finalists for City Livability Awards; Energy Program Highlighted

The City of Norwalk and Mayor Harry Rilling have been chosen as one of fifteen finalists for the U.S. Conference of Mayors City Livability Awards in the national division of cities with populations under 100,000.  The awards recognize mayoral leadership for developing and implementing programs that improve the quality of life in America’s cities. The program is characterized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors as “the most competitive award program” sponsored by the organization, and honors mayors and city governments for developing innovations that enhance the quality of life in urban areas.        livibity

In its application, the City of Norwalk recognized the work of the Mayor’s Energy and Environment Task Force, chaired by Council member John Kydes, according to city officials.  Mayor Rilling created the Task Force in February 2014 to promote environmentally responsible use of energy and natural resources among citizens and businesses in Norwalk, and to offer them green energy alternatives.

As a finalist, The City of Norwalk has been invited to submit a second application to the judges for the final round of decisions, which will take place in late spring.  A first-place city and four runners-up will be announced at the organization’s annual meeting in June.

The other cities reaching the second round are Aguadilla, PR; Camuy, PR; Carmel, IN; Davie, FL; Hattiesburg, MS; Norcross, GA; Orland Park, IL; Pontiac, MI; Renton, WA; Rochester Hills, MI; Sumter, SC; Sunrise, FL; Warren, OH; and Westland, MI. NorwalkSeal

Last year, New Orleans, LA Mayor Mitch Landrieu and West Sacramento, CA Mayor Chris Cabaldon were awarded first place honors – for cities above and below 100,000 population respectively -  in the 2014 City Livability Awards, from a pool of over 200 applicants. Honorable mention for cities with populations of less than 100,000 was given to Beverly Hills (CA), Braintree (MA), Roanoke (VA) Tamarac (FL) and York (PA).

Mayor Bill Finch and the City of Bridgeport were recognized with an Outstanding Achievement Award among cities with populations over 100,000 in 2012, for the city’s Brownfields Remediation and Redevelopment Program – the City’s focus on reclaiming dormant brownfields to spur redevelopment.  That same year, Hartford and Mayor Pedro Segarra also earned an Outstanding Achievement Award.

Established in 1979, the City Livability Awards are given annually to ten mayors and their cities--a first-place award and four Outstanding Achievement Awards for cities under 100,000 population, and a first-place and four Outstanding Achievement Awards for cities of 100,000 or more inhabitants.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Norwalk is First in Connecticut to Approve Concussion Program for All Youth Sports

Norwalk has become the  first community in Connecticut to approve a city-wide concussion program for all youth sports, according to city officials.  The Norwalk Common Council, on the recommendation of its Recreation & Parks Committee, approved the new concussion guidelines this week, modeled after The Concussion Aware and Prepared Program (CAPP). Officials said the guidelines will apply to organized youth sports programs using Norwalk recreation facilities. The guidelines are intended to “plug the loophole that exists” in the current Connecticut Concussion Law which protects only public middle and high school athletes who play for school-sponsored teams, officials said.concussion

“It is important that our children are protected and that parents and coaches have the information they need to keep them safe,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. “Norwalk is proud to be a leader in providing these updated guidelines for all leagues who play on our public fields. We aim to make youth sports as safe as possible."

Last month, Connecticut’s Task Force on Youth Athletics and Concussions, staffed by the State Commission on Children, reported the results of their mandated study of  "occurrences of concussions in youth athletics” and issued recommendations for possible legislative initiatives.  The 21-member Task Force noted that “there exists within the State of Connecticut the need for guidelines in the arena of non-scholastic youth athletics,” indicating that private clubs and public recreation teams are examples of “non-scholastic” youth athletics.concussion_tf

The Norwalk Guidelines apply to any youth up to age 19 who participates in any organized sporting or athletic event or activity either conducted by the City of Norwalk or permitted to take place on any property or facility owned by the City of Norwalk. Activities including practices, training, performances, scrimmage, games and other organized competitions involving athletic activities such as sports and dance. With a population of just over 85,000, Norwalk is Connecticut’s sixth largest city, and has the third largest population in Fairfield County.

Former Norwalk Junior Lacrosse and RCA Soccer Coach, Katherine Snedaker, now Executive Director of the non-profit, , and advocacy organization Sports which developed The Concussion Aware & Prepared Program, said, “our mission with these new guidelines is to help youth sports leagues update their policies with best practices, and increase safety for our kids while lowering personal liability for our coaches and city.”  The Concussion Aware and Prepared Program, which uses free online materials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is designed to provide up-to-date information regarding concussions for youth coaches and their staffs, parents and youth players and is available in English and Spanish.

photo-150x150“Hopefully this program will be a model for the rest of state,’’ Snedaker said. “Parents will now know their young children will have some of the same protections that benefit public middle and high school athletes.”  In Norwalk, the newly approved guidelines had received support for the Norwalk Youth Football and Cheer, Norwalk Junior Soccer Association, Norwalk Cal Ripkin Baseball, Norwalk Little League and Norwalk Junior Lacrosse, according to the SportsCAPP website.

The Sports CAPP program recommends five components that should be included in every concussion program. They are:

The new guidelines for school programs in Connecticut approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in January, will go into effect July 1, 2015, requiring that:

  • Prior to taking part in athletic activities high school athletes and their parents or guardians will be required to read materials, watch videos, or attend in-person training regarding the school district’s concussion plan.
  • Parents and guardians must sign an informed consent form that includes a summary of the district’s concussion plan.
  • Coaches must complete training to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and learn how to get appropriate medical treatment for students.

The new State Department of Education “Concussion Education Plan and Guidelines for Connecticut Schools” indicates that “concussions can cause a wide range of functional short- or long-term changes affecting thinking (memory and reasoning); sensation (touch, taste and smell); language (communication , expression and understanding); or emotions (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).”  It points out that “athletes should rest their bodies and brains until they are no longer experiencing any symptoms of concussion.  Physical and cognitive exertion, such as homework, playing video games, texting, using a computer or watching TV may worsen symptoms.”

Under the state guidelines for schools, coaches must immediately remove any student participating in athletic activity who exhibits symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion or who is diagnosed with a concussion. Parents or legal guardians must be notified as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after such removal. Before a student can return to any team activities, a licensed health care professional trained in evaluating concussions must provide written clearance.

Aging Bridges, Considerable Disrepair Are Significant Challenge in CT, Nationwide

It was in 1983 that three people died in Connecticut when a section of the Mianus River Bridge on Interstate-95 collapsed into the water below, and unsuspecting drivers drove off the end of the road in the middle of the Greenwich night. That tragedy launched a multi-million dollar infrastructure investment program in Connecticut, but now, three decades later, the age and condition of the state’s bridges is front and center again, as a poorly functioning, 118-year-old railroad bridge has disrupted commuter service on the nation’s busiest rail corridor by repeatedly refusing to close. Mianus River Bridge I95

The extent of the nation’s bridge-related challenge is daunting, and yet represents only a portion of the overall infrastructure needs. Less than a year ago, a study released by the American Society of Civil Engineers determined that:

  • over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions
  • one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient,
  • the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years.

The report also pointed out that “it is of growing concern that the bridges in our nation’s metropolitan areas, which are an indispensable link for both millions of commuters and freight on a daily basis, are decaying more rapidly than our rural bridges.”

bridgesCTOnce every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Report Card). The most recent report was issued in 2013.

Connecticut, according to the data, has 406 of the state’s 4,208 bridges classified as structurally deficient and another 1,070 are considered to be functionally obsolete. The report also noted that Connecticut has 21,407 public road miles, and 73 percent of the state’s major roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition.

By county, the 406 structurally deficient bridges were: 106 in Fairfield County, 71 in Hartford County, 58 in New Haven County, 45 in New London County and Litchfield County, 27 in Middlesex County, 24 in Windham County and 14 in Tolland County. In addition, the report indicated that Connecticut had 1,023 functionally obsolete bridges in the state.

Structurally deficient bridges “require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. These bridges, according to the report, “must be inspected at least every year since critical load-carrying elements were found to be in poor condition due to deterioration or damage.” Functionally obsolete bridges are those that “no longer meet the current standards that are used today. Examples are narrow lanes or low load-carrying capacity.” fairfield bridges

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that to eliminate the nation’s bridge deficient backlog by 2028, an investment of $20.5 billion annually would be needed, according to the report, while only $12.8 billion is being spent currently. The report stated that “the challenge for federal, state, and local governments is to increase bridge investments by $8 billion annually to address the identified $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States.”

The report indicated that 22 states have a higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges than the national average, while five states have more than 20% of their bridges defined as structurally deficient. Pennsylvania tops the list with 24.4%, while Iowa and Oklahoma are not far behind, each having just over 21% of their bridges classified as structurally deficient.

Overall, the nation’s grade for the condition of its bridges was C+, which was described as “mediocre” and in need of attention. “Some elements exhibit significant deficiencies in conditions and functionality, with increasing vulnerability to risk.” The 32-member Advisory Committee did not include any engineers from Connecticut, but did include two from Massachusetts and one from Maine, among the New England states.

Time magazine reported this week that the I-95 bridge over Delaware’s Christina River was quickly closed to all traffic on May 29, after “an engineer who happened to be working nearby noticed two of the span’s support pillars tilting.“ Officials hope to have the structure stabilized and reopened by Labor Day. The bridge had routinely handled about 90,000 vehicles per day.

The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour on August 1, 2007, plunging dozens of cars and their occupants into the river, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The bridge was Minnesota's fifth busiest, carrying 140,000 vehicles daily.asce-logo

The American Society of Civil Engineers, founded in 1852, is the country’s oldest national civil engineering organization. It represents more than 140,000 civil engineers in private practice, government, industry, and academia who are dedicated to advancing the science and profession of civil engineering. The first Report Card for America’s Infrastructure was issued in 1988.

New Haven Ranks as Best Connecticut City for Jobs

The Best Cities for Jobs in America? They’re generally not in Connecticut, according to a new national analysis, but a number of the states' leading metropolitan areas are moving up the list compared with their counterparts across the country. The New Haven, Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, and Norwich-New London metropolitan areas all edged up the list compared with their rankings a year ago. Danbury dropped slightly. Hartford-East Hartford-West Hartford’s ranking was virtually unchanged.

The rankings of the nation’s cities was developed by the website newgeography, and published this week.

Among 92 Medium Sibestcities2014zed Cities that were ranked, New Haven ranked #42 (up from #65 last year) and Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamfordnew haven ranked at #58 (up from #85 last year) and saw the 10th largest advance among the medium sized cities.

Danbury ranked #122 (down from #111 last year) and Norwich-New London at #231 (up from #233 last year) among 240 Small Sized Cities that were analyzed.

In the rankings of the nation’s Large Sized Cities, the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford region ranked #48, nearly identical to last year’s ranking of #47. The top rated cities included San Jose, San Francisco, Austin, Raleigh, Houston, Nashville, New York City, Orlando, Dallas and Denver.

This year's rankings use five measures of growth to rank all 398 metro areas for which full data sets were available from the past 10 years.

  • "Large" areas include those with a current nonfarm employment base of at least 450,000 jobs.
  • "Midsize" areas range from 150,000 to 450,000 jobs.
  • "Small" areas have as many as 150,000 jobs. This year’s rankings reflect the current size of each MSAs employment.

Among all 398 cities, New Haven and Danbury were the highest ranked from Connecticut, at #207 and #208 respectively. New Haven jumped 50 places in the overall ranking compared with last year; Danbury dropped 11 slots from a year ago.

The top-ranked city overall was Bismarck, North Dakota, which ranked first out of the 398 metro areas considered in the annual roundup of The Best Cities For Jobs. A metro area of 120,000 located in the country’s fastest-growing state and near the vast Bakken oil fields, the number of jobs in Bismarck is up 3 percent over the last year and 32.4 percent since 2002. Only one MSA—Modesto, CA—changed size categories moving from “Small” to “Midsized.”

The methodology for the 2014 rankings, according to newgeography, largely corresponds to that used in previous years, which emphasizes the robustness of a region's growth both recently and over time, with a minor addition to mitigate the volatility that the Great Recession has introduced into the time series. The rankings use five measures of growth to rank all 398 metro areas for which full data sets were available from the past 10 years.

The goal of the rankings methodology, according to the publication, is to capture a snapshot of the present and prospective employment outlook in each MSA and allow the reader to have a better sense of employment climate in each.

Included are all of the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports monthly employment data. They are derived from three-month rolling averages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics "state and area" unadjusted employment data reported from November 2002 to January 2014.

Seven Communities Earn Grants to Strengthen Downtowns

Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC), the downtown revitalization and economic development non-profit, has selected seven organizations and municipalities to receive a total of $70,000 in  Preservation of Place grants this year.

The 2014 grants will be used to provide Connecticut communities in Bridgeport, Canton, Essex, New London, Norwalk, the Northwest corner, and Willimantic with targeted resources to increase their capacity to plan for preservation and revitalization initiatives in their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

The PreserCT Main Street LOGOvation of Place grant program provides a source of funding for new initiatives that can be integrated into, and leverage, comprehensive Main Street preservation and revitalization programs. The funds are meant to be flexible to meet individual community need.

"Historic preservation and the revitalization of our Main Streets create jobs, bring vacant buildings back on the tax rolls and add value and vitality to adjacent buildings and neighborhoods," said John Simone, CMSC President & CEO. "This year's winners are taking steps to implement these types of positive changes by proactively planning for the growth and improvement of their downtowns."

The selected organizations or initiatives will receive between $5,000 and $14,500 in Preservation of Place grant funds:

  • ·         Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District, for the creation of a plan that will use open spaces to facilitate creating placemaking in downtown Bridgeport
  • ·         Town of Canton, for the development of Collinsville Village Zoning Regulations;
  • ·         Town of Essex, for a Centerbrook Visioning & Action Plan;
  • ·         New London Main Street, for an organizational and leadership development and capacity-building plan,
  • ·         Norwalk 2.0, for the Freese Park Artist Village Plan;
  • ·         Northwest CT Regional Planning Collaborative, for Active Main Street: Enlivening Village Center Public Spaces;preservation of place
  • ·         Thread City Development, Inc. (Willimantic), for an organizational and leadership development plan.

"The diversity of locations, from the Northwest Corner of Connecticut to New London, matched with the diversity of projects, from creative placemaking in urban open spaces to organizational and leadership development that will improve the management function in downtown, will allow each community to respond to their greatest current need, actively creating their direction of growth," Simone said.

Since 2008, CMSC has awarded $376,130 through the Preservation new londonof Place grant program to twenty Connecticut communities, leveraging $842,727 in local Main Street initiatives. The program receives support from the State Historic Preservation Office with funds from the Community Investment Act.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Above National Average in Sustaining Startups, Study Finds

A new report assessing trends in start-up companies in 40 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. over the past two decades has found that the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk corridor has performed well compared with similar regions in weathering, and rebounding from, the national economic downturn’s impact on the level of start-ups.

The report by the Kauffman Foundation, “The Most Entrepreneurial Metropolitan Area?,” was recently presented to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Entrepreneurship, the first such confestart uprence of municipal leaders devoted solely to exploring entrepreneurship.

In reviewing Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with a population of between 500,000 and one million people, the report found that the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk MSA placed “toward the top of the group, consistently above the year-to-year changes.”  In addition, the data indicate that Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk “did not fall as far during the (economic) downturn, so it appears to have fared slightly better.”

The paper compared the trends in the 40 metropolitan areas with high numbers of start-up businesses to the significant national downwkauffman-details-logoard trend in overall new firm formation starting after 2006.  Nationally, the trend reversed and started to recover in 2011. No metropolitan area escaped this downward trend, but there are differences among regions in the timing of the downturn and subsequent recovery.

In counting the number of times that the annual percentage change in start-up density for each of the MSA’s, within the same size class, five of the MSA’s – including Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk – were “above average 12 times thorough the period” reviewed. The others to attain that “level of consistency” were Tulsa, OK; Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA; Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR; and Knoxville, TN.


The report also found that the largest MSAs – those with populations greater than 1 million – fared slightly better through the recession and have experienced slightly stronger recoveries, though none has returned to pre-downturn levels.

The report compared MSAs with relatively larger populations and high startup densities from among the nation’s 366 MSAs.  The MSAs were divided into four groups for purposes of comparison, those with greater than 1 million population, those with 500,001 to 1 million, those between 250,000 and 500,000, and those smaller than 250,000.

The federal government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provides official definitions for MSAs in the United States:  densely populated areas with close economic ties.

Connecticut Well Represented in National Mental Health Dialogue

Keeping a commitment made in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders last December, President Barack Obama launched a national mental health dialogue at the White House Monday aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of mental health, and Connecticut organizations are involved in the efforts from the outset.

Among the initiatives announced during the day-long conference was a new national website,, and a series of public meetings to be held around the country under the “Creating Community Solutions” rubric.  Two of those community conversations will be in Connectwhite hosueicut – in Hartford and Norwalk – and one of the six national organizations coordinating the initiative has its headquarters in East Hartford.

The Center for Civic Engagement at the Hartford Public Library will organize the Hartford event as part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health. In response to unprecedented need for civic engagement, Hartford Public Library created the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). The CCE aims to create a community change process, foster development of a community vision, contribute to a stronger, more successful community, and establish a civic engagement model.

The dialogue in Norwalk will be co-sponsored by the Fairfield County Community Foundation and the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board.  The Fairfield County Community Foundation promotes philanthropy to build and sustain a vital and prosperous community where all have the opportunCCSity to participate and thrive.  The Southwest Regional Mental Health Board is dedicated to ensure a quality system of comprehensive, recovery oriented mental health and addiction services that enhances the quality of life and well being of all residents of Southwest Connecticut.

The Creating Community Solutions initiative will allow participants to learn about mental health issues - from each other and from research - and to develop plans to improve mental health in their own communities, according to officials.   The national dialogue is to include young people who have experienced mental health problems, members of the faith community, foundations, and school and business leaders.

Among the six national “deliberative democracy” organizations involved in developing the Creating Community Solutions program is East Hartford-based Everyday Democracy, according to federal officials.  Everyday Democracy helps people organize, have dialogues, and take action on issues they care about, so that they can create communities that work for everyone. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to the creation of a strong, equitable democracy that values everyone's voice and participation.    Details about Everyday Democracy's role in the initiative and how partner communities and organizations can get involved will be available on the organization’s website in the coming dEDLOGOays.

Details regarding the date, location and registration information for the Hartford and Norwalk sessions will be available on a new website, at  The site is part of the national mental health website, which was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Thus far, community dialogues have been scheduled in New Mexico, California, Alabama, and Arizona, and an additional 29 sites – including the two in Connecticut – are making plans.   A Facebook page,, has also been launched.

Materials to support the conversations are being developed and will shortly be available for download, including an Information Brief, Organizing Guide and Discussion Guide.  In addition to Everyday Democracy, the organizations working together to design and implement Creating Community Solutions are America Speaks, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, National Issues Forums, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

In addition, a number of national associations are asking their members or affiliates to organize local events. These groups include the United Way, American Bar Association, National League of Cities, YWCA, National School Public Relations Association, 4-H, Grassroots Grantmakers, Alliance for Children and Families, National Physicians Alliance, Association for Rural and Small Libraries, and the International Association for Public Participation, among others.