UConn Expands Presence in Hartford, Stamford

UConn is on the move this week, literally as well as figuratively.  Wednesday will see the ribbon cutting for the new Hartford campus, which is relocating from its suburban campus in West Hartford after nearly five decades away from the Capital City.  And in Stamford, students will be moving into student housing beginning this weekend, the first time that has been possible. In Hartford, the university intends to “interweave top-tier academic programs with the vitality and unique educational and service opportunities offered by Connecticut’s capital city.”  The campus – at a cost of $140 million - is anchored by the historic former Hartford Times building as part of a neighborhood campus that includes nearby cultural institutions and state and city government offices, including Hartford Public Library, which will house 12,000 square feet of UConn classrooms, a library collection, and study areas.

The campus will be the home for the university’s Department of Public Policy, Urban and Community Studies Program, Cooperative Extension System, and the Connecticut State Historian.  A new Barnes & Noble bookstore is also coming downtown as part of the new campus.

UConn is also touting the demographics of the student population:  47 percent minority students, and a 13:1 student-faculty ratio.  It anticipates 1,347 undergraduates and 1,602 graduate students downtown, at the undergraduate campus, School of Social Work and business school, which has been downtown for more than a decade.  A year ago, the Board of Trustees voted to extend the Graduate Business Learning Center’s (GBLC) lease at 100 Constitution Plaza, and to add two additional floors to the existing space, allocating a total of six floors of classroom, meeting and office space.

The UConn School of Social Work is moving from West Hartford down the block from the new undergraduate building, to 38 Prospect Street, directly across from the Wadsworth Atheneum.  And, it was announced earlier this month, regular bus service between Storrs and Hartford is getting underway, free of charge to students. There will also be a shuttle bus running a loop downtown, and although there is no designated student parking, officials say the number of available spaces in nearby lots should be more than sufficient.

Meanwhile, at UConn’s Stamford campus, the inaugural move-in weekend is scheduled for August 26th and 27th, as the campus offers student housing for the first time. The student dorm, at 900 Washington Boulevard, is 2 blocks south of the UConn Stamford campus and halfway between the main campus building and the Stamford Transportation Center.

The building is six stories tall and will have 116 apartment units. the school's website explains. The maximum occupancy of the building is approximately 350 students, but because some of the bedrooms will be single occupancy, the target occupancy is 290 students. Plans call for 100 designated parking spaces for students will be available for a small additional charge.

The residence hall also includes an 80-person meeting room, administrative offices and a lobby on the first floor. Each floor has a study lounge, and the second floor has a large community center in which students can congregate and have events. The University will manage Stamford housing as in Storrs, with an on-site Resident Director and on-floor Resident Assistants.

The current UConn Stamford academic campus, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Broad Street in downtown Stamford, opened in 1998, although courses had previously been offered in the city. The facility also provides current UConn students, faculty and staff access the on-site Fitness Center free of charge.

In addition to the main campus in Storrs, UConn also has a presence in Waterbury and Avery Point, as well as the School of Law in Hartford’s west end and the Health Center in Farmington.  The former UConn Torrington campus closed a year ago, due to “declining interest among students, falling enrollment, a limited faculty, and changing regional demographics,” according to school officials.

CT to Offer Digital Media Education to Create Employment Pathway

Connecticut’s push to strengthen its digital media workforce continues this summer, with the second year of the Digital Media CT (DMCT) summer training program, developed in partnership by the Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media and the University of Connecticut. The program is aimed at high school juniors and seniors, current college students, college graduates with majors in communications/film/television, veterans, and professionals who want to explore digital media. The four-week and two-week programs, which both begin on July 9, are designed for individuals with a demonstrated interest in digital media who want to develop the basic skills necessary to potentially seek work in the industry or augment their current skill set.

DMCT students will explore the industry’s many facets learning about media production for web, film, television, games, communications and marketing, and receive specialized skills and hands-on experience needed to pursue careers in the digital media industry. Tracks include 3D Animation, Game Design, Motion Graphics Design, Social Media Management and Web Design.brand

All DMCT classes will be hosted at the University of Connecticut Stamford Campus and taught by UConn's Digital Media & Design faculty and complemented with lectures from local/regional professionals and industry experts. This approach is designed to “provide students with the valuable and unique opportunity to build relationships with accomplished practitioners in respective fields.”

The training will be presented in classroom format and will provide a comprehensive introductory overview of the digital media industry, disciplines, and processes. Each of the various sections of the program will feature daily introductory seminars focused on digital art and technology. Both day and evening programs are offered to accommodate current students and those with a flexible day schedule, as well as working professionals.

stamfordxpert guest lecturers from Connecticut companies will speak regarding subjects and crafts not included in the general curriculum.  Officials indicate that upon successful completion of the DMCT, trainees will have completed a portfolio worthy project consistent with their selected track and representative of their work and learning. They will also receive a certificate of completion from the Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media for their selected track.

The cost for the four-week session, 9:30 – 4:30 daily, is $500; the intensive two-week, Monday-Friday, evening session is $250.

CTThe state’s Office of Film, Television and Digital Media supports and enhances Connecticut’s film, television and digital media industry. The film office is the statewide contact for motion picture, television and digital media production and serves as liaison between production companies, state agencies, municipalities, production facilities, local crew and vendors. The Office also administers the tax credit programs designed to incentivize the development of the industry here in Connecticut.

The Associated Press recently reported that Connecticut’s tax credit program provided $91.5 million in tax credits to 36 production companies that spent an estimated $348 million in fiscal year 2015 in the state on qualified digital and TV productions. The credit covers up to 30 percent of what's spent in Connecticut, ranging from salaries to rental equipment, according to the AP report.  The news story also indicated that the state’s job training emphasis in recent years has shifted from film-related jobs to television and digital media.

"We still have films that are shooting here, but really the lion's share of the production activity in the state is split between television and digital media. It's sort of our niche. That's sort of where we hunt," said George Norfleet, director of the Office of Film, Television and Digital Media, told the AP.

Blue Sky Studios, the digital animation studio in Greenwich, relocated to Connecticut from Westchester County, N.Y. in 2009, and Connecticut is home to ESPN, World Wrestling Entertainment, NBC Sports and NBCUniversal, which tapes Maury and the Jerry Springer Show at the Stamford Media Production Center in downtown Stamford.

More information is available from DMCT courses info@DigitalMediaCT.com or 860-270-8198.

Hartford, Stamford Among Nation's Most Congested Highways

A new study by the American Highway Users Alliance identifies America’s 50 worst bottlenecks and finds that the very worst bottleneck, as measured by hours of delay, is in Chicago, IL. Los Angeles, CA owns the next six of the top 10.  While Connecticut’s highways did not reach the top 50, two bottlenecks did receive honorable – or dishonorable – mention. The I-84 section in Hartford between Trumbull Street and Park Street, and the I-95 section in Stamford between Fairfield Avenue and Elm Street, both made the list of 43 “Other Zones of Congestion” in the U.S. -thereby earning status as among the nation's 100 most congested traffic tie-ups.  According to the data, the average length of the back-up in Hartford is 1.4 miles; in Stamford 1.3 miles.  The average total annual delay at the Hartford bottleneck is 705,000 hours; in Stamford 494,000 hours of lost productivity.84-west-closed-backup-6-28-11

Speaking at the American Highway Users Alliance press conference where the report was released, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “This report furthers the unassailable truth that America is stuck in traffic. The good news is that this problem is solvable, and Congress can be part of the solution. As a long-term surface transportation bill moves through conference, I urge our elected leaders to provide the funding growth and policies that are necessary to improve commutes, to raise the bar for safety, and to keep the country moving in the 21st century.”

Hartford and Stamford were among 43 “zones of congestion” around the country that were noted in the report in addition to the top 50.  The report indicated that “although congested, the worst segments of highway do not have the same severe delays/mile as the nationally ranked bottlenecks.”  They are, the report points out, in many cases “the most congested in their states.”report

I-84 in Hartford may be receiving a re-make over the next decade.  The Department of Transportation is in the midst of determining the preferred option among three possibilities - to replace the I-84 raised viaduct or replace it with a ground-level highway or dig a tunnel.  The various options have been presented in a series of public meetings in recent months, and a decision is anticipated early next year.

into_graphic_profile02The work, which has yet to be funded, is likely to include moving or eliminating some exits and entrances – and possibly adding others in new locations - to improve traffic flow.  Cost estimates range from $4 billion to $12 billion, depending on the option selected. Upcoming public meetings are to be held in East Hartford on Dec. 2 and Hartford on Dec. 10.

In the top-ranked Chicago traffic bottleneck highlighted in the report, the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) between the Circle Interchange (I-290) and Edens junction (I-94), was found to extend 12 miles, costing motorists 16.9 million hours’ worth of time, equivalent to $418 million in 2014. More than 6.3 million gallons of fuel is wasted on I-90 while cars idle or crawl in traffic.i84

Besides identifying and ranking the nation’s 50 worst traffic bottlenecks, the study, Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015, examines the top 30 chokepoints closely and details many of the major benefits that will accrue to society by fixing them. In addition to improving mobility and quality of life for motorists, the report indicated that fixing the top 30 bottlenecks alone would, over 20 years:

  • Save $39 billion due to lost time,
  • Save 830 million gallons of fuel,
  • Reduce over 17 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), and
  • Prevent 211,000 vehicle crashes

“These findings are critically important and mean that our nation will derive huge benefits from fixing the worst gridlock in our nation’s highway system: benefits that go way beyond improving mobility for highway users,” states Greg Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance.

Amongst the top 10 was New York City with the 8th and 9th worst bottleneck at the notorious Lincoln Tunnel and on I-95 from Manhattan across the Bronx. Metropolitan New York also had the 18th, 19th, 21st, 31st, 33rd, 37th, and 42nd – ranked chokepoints.

As for the bottlenecks themselves, the study’s top 50 list includes trouble spots in the following Metropolitan Areas: 12 in Los Angeles, 9 in and around New York City, 3 in Chicago, 3 near Washington DC, 3 in Houston, 3 in Boston, 3 in Dallas, 3 in Miami, 2 in Atlanta, 2 in Philadelphia, and 2 in San Francisco/Oakland.

The report notes that bottlenecks can be fixed and points to specific chokepoints that have been addressed and, as a result, were not included in the rankings. Projects cited include the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement on I-495 in the Washington, DC area, the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee, and the Katy Freeway reconstruction in Houston.

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.



Innovative Efforts Receive Spotlight at Inaugural Ceremony Highlighting Energy Efficiency, Conservation

The Stamford 2030 District’s inaugural Change Makers Awards were presented this month, honoring projects and organizations excelling in four distinct areas: innovation in energy, water, transportation and sustainable technology. The awards ceremony captured some of the most innovative local project involving energy efficiency improvements, water retention methods and the promotion of safe multi-modal transportation. The award winners were:

  • 400 Atlantic St. (The Landis Group) for Innovation in Energy;
  • The Mill River Park and Greenway (Mill River Park Collaborative) for Innovation in Water;
  • The Sharrow Network (city of Stamford and People Friendly Stamford) for Innovation in Transportation;
  • Living Wall Project (JM Wright Technical School) for Innovation in Sustainability; and an honorable mention to 9 W. Broad St. Property LLC (Forstone) for its work with the C-PACE program.2030-award-header_edit-800x231

The Stamford 2030 District is a collaborative, nationally recognized, but local community of high performance buildings in downtown Stamford that aims to dramatically reduce energy and water consumption and reduce emissions from transportation, while increasing competitiveness in the business environment and owners' returns on investment.

”We launched this program in October last year and it’s been amazing to see the commitment from the local community to start implementing changes," said Megan Saunders, Stamford 2030 executive director. "We went from zero to 34 members and have benchmarked six million square feet of their buildings. I’m excited to see what we’re able to collectively accomplish in the next year.”

The awards reception featured a keynote address by Brian Geller, founder of the first 2030 District and currently senior vice president, corporate sustainability, Citibank.  The evening also featured a tribute to the Stamford 2030 District’s first year of accomplishments and a sneak peek at next year’s plans.  Stamford 2030 is a collaboration between Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Business Council of Fairfield County and a coalition of professional and community organizations.

stamford 2030“I would like to congratulate all of the members of Stamford 2030 for joining together to make vital changes for our community," said Stamford Mayor David Martin. "The partners in Stamford 2030 have really stepped up for the success and sustainability of our city and the surrounding area. And they are not alone. For our part, the city is committed to improving storm resiliency and moving forward with the Energy Improvement District. We believe these efforts are tied to our economic development and ability to attract people to Stamford while conserving important natural resources, all necessary for sustained growth and prosperity.”

The Stamford 2030 District is an interdisciplinary public-private-nonprofit collaborative working to create a groundbreaking high performance building district in downtown Stamford. With the Architecture 2030 Challenge providing property performance targets, the Stamford 2030 District seeks to prove that high performing buildings are the most profitable buildings in Stamford. District Members will do this by developing realistic, measurable, and innovative strategies to assist district property owners, managers, and tenants in meeting aggressive goals that keep properties and businesses competitive while operating buildings more efficiently, reducing costs, and reducing the environmental impacts of facility construction, operation, and maintenance.

2030 Districts are also operating in the cities of Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Denver, San Antonio, San Francisco, Dallas, Toronto and Albuquerque.




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, www.bridgeportbettereveryday.com, 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 www.norwalkct.org/survey



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 10.report 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.”

More US Cities Seek to Join Stamford in Commitment to Energy, Water Usage Reductions in Commercial Buildings

Efforts are underway this year for seven additional cities, from Albuquerque to Ann Arbor, to follow Stamford and seven others across the nation, in making a long-term commitment to reduce energy and water consumption in commercial buildings and reduce emissions from transportation, while increasing competitiveness in the business environment and owners' returns on investment. The “2030 District” initiative began with Seattle in 2011, grew by two cities in 2012, to four in 2013, and then to eight in 2014 when Stamford joined Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, and San Francisco as a 2030 District.  Now working towards the designation, in addition to Albuquerque and Ann Arbor, are Detroit, San Antonio, Ithaca, Toronto and Portland.Stamford---Website

Across the United States and Canada, 2030 Districts are forming with greater frequency to meet incremental energy, water and vehicle emissions reduction targets for existing buildings and new construction called for by Architecture 2030 in the 2030 Challenge for Planning.  Districts are generally private/public partnerships that commit to dramatic reductions in water consumption and energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as adaptation and resiliency actions that address projected climatic impacts.

The Stamford 2030 District – launched this past  November - is an interdisciplinary public-private-nonprofit collaborative working to create a groundbreaking high performance building district in downtown Stamford.  Leading the way in the Stamford 2030 District are the Business Council of Fairfield County and Connecticut Fund for the Environment. As Stamford is a coastal city, its 2030 District will also implement a proactive vision to ensure resiliency against projected sea-level rise and storm surge.

The Stamford 2030 District – the first in New England - began with 23 founding members, including 11 property owners and 12 prominent professional and community stakeholders committed to meeting the 2030 Districts goals and targets. High performance buildings have proven track records of simultaneously increasing business and property profitability, reducing environmental impacts, and improving occupant health.Stamford

Now in the process of assessing the District’s current building performance levels, one-on-one assistance is provided to property owners and managers in benchmarking their buildings.  In addition, a first-time webinar will be held this week, on Wednesday, February 18, with several founding members highlighting best practices and procedures:

  • Jay Black of SL Green Realty/Reckson Properties will offer industry perspective through his experience with benchmarking buildings in both NY and CT.
  • WegoWise will present an overview of their web-based software that is able to benchmark a portfolio and provide deeper analytics into a buildings’ energy performance to find savings opportunities.
  • Steven Winter and Associates will demonstrate how to take benchmarking a step further with tools such as building energy audits to help identify opportunities within the building.
  • New Neighborhoods, Inc. will serve as a case study project in Stamford that has contracted with WegoWise for their benchmarking and will share their experience.

Officials indicate that District Members develop realistic, measurable, and innovative strategies to assist district property owners, managers, and tenants in meeting aggressive goals that keep properties and businesses competitive while operating buildings more efficiently, reducing costs, and reducing the environmental impacts of facility construction, operation, and maintenance.

Stamford2030boundary“These collective efforts will establish the Stamford 2030 District as an example of a financially viable, sustainability focused, multi-sector driven effort that maximizes profitability and prosperity for all involved. Through collaboration of diverse stakeholders, leveraging existing and developing new incentives and financing mechanisms, and creating and sharing joint resources, the Stamford 2030 District will prove the business case for healthy and high performing buildings.”

Property owners and managers are voluntarily committing their properties to Stamford 2030 District goals; they are not required to achieve the District goals through legislative mandates or as individuals.

“Stamford is already a business leader in Connecticut. The Stamford 2030 District will make the city a sustainability leader nationwide,” said Megan Saunders, Executive Director of the Stamford 2030 District. With over 170 million square feet of commercial building space (including 6 million thus far in Stamford), 2030 Districts are rapidly emerging as a new model for urban sustainability, officials indicate.

The Stamford 2030 District provides members a roadmap and the support they need to own, manage, and develop high performance buildings by leveraging Community and Professional Stakeholders, market resources, and by creating new tools, partnerships, and opportunities to overcome current market barriers. This type of collaborative action is not only a strategic undertaking to keep Stamford competitive in the year 2030, but also represents a major investment in Stamford's future and reflects the collaborative nature of our region.

Municipal Equality Index Finds CT Above Average for LGBT Residents

Connecticut cities continue to rank above-average when compared with municipalities across the country in the level of equality provided to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents.  Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Storrs (Mansfield) were the five Connecticut municipalities included by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, in an assessment of LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation. index report

The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in Connecticut, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.

The average score for the five municipalities in Connecticut was 74 out of 100 points, comfortably above the national average of 59.  The individual scores in Connecticut, largely unchanged from a year ago, were New Haven: 100, Hartford: 92, Stamford: 62, Storrs (Mansfield): 59, and Bridgeport: 57.  The scores earned by Hartford and Bridgeport dropped slightly from a year ago, and New Haven scored at 100 for the second consecutive year.  Because of changes in the legal landscape from year to year, the MEI report has revised the scoring assessment criteria, which has impacted scores in some municipalities.

Cities are rated on a scale of 0-100, based on the city’s laws, policies, benefits, and services. Key findings contained in the 70-page MEI report, issued in partnershiphrc-logo with the Equality Federation, provide “a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality in municipalities of varying sizes, and from every state in the nation,” the report noted.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:

  • Non-discrimination laws
  • Relationship recognition
  • Municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees
  • Inclusiveness of city services
  • Law enforcement
  • Municipal leadership on matters of equality

The cities researched for the 2014 MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the four largest cities in every state, the city home to each state’s largest public university, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.

The report found that “momentum for municipal equality is not a coastal trend or mega-urban phenomenon – it is something cities of all sizes in all parts of the country are doing because the people in those cities demand equality of treatment for all.”  Cities had an opportunity to review the draft scorecard and offer feedback prior to publication.

Equality and Economic Development

The report also indicates that “a growing body of research has shown that cities that have vibrant gay and lesbian communities have higher levels of income, life satisfaction, housing values, and emotional attachment to their community as well as higher concentrations of high-tech business. The Fortune 500 has long recognized that top talent is attracted to inclusiveness. In fact, the private sector has been using fair workplaces as a tool to recruit and retain top talent.”

The report adds that “Businesses will increasingly have to evaluate the legal landscape offered by a potential new location in its calculation of where to expand operations.”  Connecticut’s state laws – such as marriage equity and non-discrimination protections – provide a hospitable environment for its cities to employ equitable practices, officials said, but municipalities also have the capacity to take the lead, in Connecticut and elsewhere.  In ten states, cities fare well despite restricbusinesstive state laws.

“From Mississippi to Idaho, mid-size cities and small towns have become the single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality--changing countless lives for the better,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks for their treatment of LGBT citizens has more than tripled. Simply put, in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law, and it’s time our state and federal laws caught up.”

According to the report, the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Western regions of the United States – where marriage equality states have predominated – tend to do better than the national average when it comes to municipal equality. The reported pointed out, however, that every region has at least one 100-point city, such as New Haven. For example, in the Southeast, Florida boasts three 100-point scores, and Atlanta repeats its perfect score again in 2014; in the Southwest, Austin repeats its perfect score; and in the Plains, Iowa City joins two perfect scores in Missouri with St. Louis and Kansas City.

Thirty-eight cities earned perfect 100-point scores, up from 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. New Haven earned a 100-point score, helping to set a standard of LGBT inclusiveness with exemplary policies ranging from non-discrimination laws and equal employee benefits, to cutting edge city services.

Among the report’s striking findings:  A dramatic increase in the number of cities offering transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, and the fact that 32 million people have better protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity at the local level then they do from state law. The full report is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.

CT stat

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.