MetroCOG Drafts Regional Economic Development Strategy
By Rachel Rusnek
On September 15th the Metropolitan Council of Governments (MetroCOG), a regional planning organization serving Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull, hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the proposed draft Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region.
Executive Director, Matt Fulda and Deputy Director, Patrick Carleton presented the draft Strategy to a small audience over Zoom. The CEDS, a plan for regional economic development, is required by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for the region to be designated as an economic development district and become eligible for federal development grants. The strategy, updated every five years, includes an assessment of each municipality, and the region as a whole, and evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, trends, identifies existing or potential capital improvement projects and lays out a strategy for complementary and coordinated economic growth. The assessment and report were developed in conjunction with RKG Associates, a Boston economic planning consultancy.
Identified weaknesses include:
- the lack of a unified vision for the region,
- lack of cooperation between municipalities,
- and public perception.
The proximity to major markets, transportation and skilled workforce represented top strengths for the region.
A notable finding of the assessment is that the strongest job growth has been in those positions requiring minimal education. Since 2010 the growth of jobs requiring a high school diploma or less has grown by 16,700, while jobs requiring bachelor’s and post graduate degrees have declined by 9,300.
The analysis of Stratford identifies that compared to peers, we have considerable open/vacant land, amounting to approximately 2,747 acres. Within this available space, a substantial portion includes the abandoned Army Engine Plant.
The CEDS pinpoints the Army Engine Plant as the most substantial development opportunity in the region. Meanwhile, the towns’ primary growth in recent years has been in the development of warehouses, distribution, and self-storage facilities. The assessment notes “While the town has a strong manufacturing base, this segment of the industrial marketplace has not been served by recent development…”.
The CEDS lays out six priorities for the region which include:
- Organization and Coordination
- Business Retention and Expansion
- Business Recruitment and Attraction
- Existing Asset Development
- Economic Development Toolkit
- Outreach, Communication, and Marketing
A few strategies identified to implement these recommendations include the development of a Public Private Partnership to increase private sector engagement, involving MetroCOG citizens in community outreach and implementation projects, issuing an annual business survey, developing industry groups and creating a business recruitment effort.
The research and assessment on the opportunities for the region, and specifically for Stratford, contained within the report are worthwhile, and give a glimpse into the state of our current economic standing and future opportunities.
Review the report and appendix at the MetroCOG site (https://ctmetro.org/regional-planning/economic-development/).