By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Although the impact of the state budget remains uncertain for six Central Connecticut communities, progress in economic development and infrastructure is certain.
Last Thursday, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce held the State of the City and Towns Breakfast at Chippanee Country Club where local leaders gave an update on the current economy of Bristol, Plainville, Farmington, Burlington, Bloomfield, and Plymouth. All of these communities have affiliate chambers within the Central Connecticut Chamber, which is the second largest chamber statewide.
With ESPN as its largest taxpayer, Bristol continues to be a leader in manufacturing. Last year, the city saw expansion in the Southeast Bristol Business Park where GMN USA continues operate its new 30,000 square-foot facility. The first lot of the business park also is the home of Uniprop AM, LLC, which recently celebrated a grand opening of its 127,000 square foot storage/distribution center for Connecticut Portable Storage, the Connecticut/Western Massachusetts PODS franchise.
“Since 2013, we have approved 20 economic development grants worth more than $1.4 million to help businesses grow in Bristol,” said Cockayne.
While Bristol saw job growth with the arrival of Faneuil, Inc.’s new call center on Valley Street, more job growth is expected as a result of Bristol Hospital’s planned medical office building at Centre Square. The 60,000-square-foot building will house sub-specialty practices of the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group and a dedicated space for laboratory, and physical and occupational therapy services.
“This project lays the groundwork needed to jump start future development in our downtown,” said Cockayne, adding that the first roadway and streetscape will be constructed on the 15-acre site.
Another project in the works is the first phase renovation of the former Memorial Boulevard School theater project, which the City Council voted to accept last week. The Memorial Boulevard Building Committee and the Memorial Boulevard Cultural Center’s Board of Directors continue to working together with the architect and construction manager for the project, which has an estimated cost of $13 million, said Cockayne.
“Our historic Memorial Boulevard experienced a resurgence of excitement,” said Cockayne.
Besides improving blight and crime rates, Bristol has seen financial growth with a AA bond rating from Moody’s in addition to a AAA bond rating from Fitch Ratings.
“The rating agency has said that Bristol has a strong, local economy,” said Cockayne, adding the city will continue to have a ‘watchful eye” on the state budget.
The town of Farmington also reported a strong financial status with the lowest mill rate and a bond rating of AAA.
Besides infrastructure projects like the Rails to Trails and the water pollution control facility upgrade, the town of Farmington continues to thrive in its medical corridor on Farmington Avenue.
“Two new medical office buildings are under construction,” said Farmington Town Manager Kathy Eagen.
Meanwhile, Bloomfield and Burlington continue to see activity in business expansions and new restaurants within the past year, which also has marked a time of both challenges and successes for the town of Plainville.
Although the passing of longtime legislator, State Rep. Betty Boukus and water quality complaints were among Plainville’s challenges, Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese reported many accolades in areas like volunteerism, road improvements and other infrastructure projects.
“During the past year, we’ve had successes, challenges and unique situations that help define us as a little town with great opportunity,” said Pugliese.
Noting how the real estate value for dropped in his town, Plymouth Mayor David Merchant also said the state budget has been a big concern this year, especially if municipalities end up contributing one-third of the $1.2 billion annual cost of teacher pensions as proposed in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s FY 18 budget.
Merchant noted the need for regionalization, especially for small towns like Plymouth.
“Little towns need to help each other out—we need to combine services,” said Merchant, adding how the town’s mill rate increased substantially.