By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Economic and workforce development dominated the discussion during the 2014
Held at the Chipanee Golf Club, the annual breakfast brought town and city officials together to share with chamber members how the communities they serve continue to grow and to strengthen both economic and workforce development. Capital Workforce Partners served as the premier sponsor of the event, and other sponsors included Bristol Hospital, Covanta Energy, ESPN, Farmington Bank, Renaissance Downtowns, and Webster Bank.
Capital Workforce Partners focuses on two customer bases: people looking for work as well as companies working for talent. Thomas Phillips, the CEO of Capital Workforce Partners.
“We work with many chambers throughout our region to make sure they remember about the different services we provide,” said Phillips, who currently serves on the Central Connecticut Chambers’ Board of Directors and on Bristol’s technical advisory council, which promotes alternative career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
During his event, Phillips noted how over the last several years, Capital Workforce Partners has started to examine how to create a future workforce that will ensure companies in the region have the talent they need. Currently, the company has worked with a number of towns and cities throughout the region, including eight of them so far.
“We are working right now to visit all 37 towns, meeting with their town councils, city councils, mayors and others to begin to understand what…their needs are, what we can help them with,” said Phillips, adding that Capital Workforce has also committed itself to the future workforce as it has accepted job applications from high school students in Brisol.
Jim Albert said the chamber has committed to workforce development as a top priority, mentioning the current launch of the technical advisory council, which consists of representatives from different companies such as ESPN and other companies, including Yarde Metals, and D’Amato Construction, among others.
“Workforce development is a key piece of our strategies in our future,” said Jim Albert, CEO of the Chamber, noting how resurgence has occurred in the manufacturing field. “One of our top priorities is developing the next generation workforce in our region.”
During the breakfast, mayors Ken Cockayne, Thomas Dunn (of Wolcott), and David Merchant (of Plymouth) discussed how the communities they serve are currently working toward economic and workforce development. Mayor Cockayne not only recognized the manufacturing companies that contribute to the city of Bristol, but also acknowledged the contributions of small businesses, such as Barley Vine and ESPN, the largest taxpayer in Bristol.
Cockayne also addressed the unemployment rate in Bristol while recognizing the city’s high credit rating of AA, which is just two steps away from the highest rating of AAA.
“Bristol’s most recent unemployment rate is 7.2 percent—still above the national level…and Connecticut’s 6.9 percent [unemployment rate],” said Cockayne, recognizing that the revitalization of the downtown area continues to be a focus of economic development in Bristol. “Yet despite these numbers…I am pleased to state that our tax collection rate is at 98.75 percent, which is impressive for a city with a higher than average unemployment rate.”
Mayor David Merchant of Plymouth said economic development has served as one of his key priorities. Merchant said three new businesses opened in town this year, and the town has plans to refurbish Main Street. Merchant added another accomplishment of his town has been the decrease in the mill rate, which has not occurred in the past five years.
“We do have some plans in, and I think by the end of the year you’re going to see some nice improvements there,” said Merchant.
During his address at the chamber event, Merchant said he looks forward to the near future of the town’s business park, which will have two buildings under construction, which should be in line by the end of the summer. Two more buildings have yet to be constructed by the end of this year, said Merchant.
“I’m really excited about our industrial park,” said Merchant, noting other projects in town, including a dam project and a water wheel project. “That’s going to be a great addition to the Grand List.”
Rose Ponte, the economic development director of Farmington, also noted the town’s success in economic and business development, noting its highest credit rating of AAA. Ponte said 73 percent of Farmington’s Grand List stems from the residential tax base, and 27 percent from the commercial tax base. She also noted that Farmington has the second lowest mill rate of the 35 towns in the metro-Hartford region and the lowest mill rate of its seven surrounding towns.
“We have received a certificate of excellence in financial reporting for 24 consecutive years,” said Ponte.
Ponte said Farmington will implement new technology initiatives and will continue to look at green initiatives, which the town has already begun. She mentioned different initiatives for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, including an upgrade to the sewer treatment plant, which will go to referendum this November and a new turf field to be installed this fall. Farmington also is working collaboratively with Hartford to develop an 86-acre property into a bioscience facility (which is owned by Hartford).
“We’re excited as we move forward to this year,” said Ponte, adding that three main capital improvement areas Farmington will focus on includes equipment, infrastructure, and maintenance improvements.