As you know, voters approved an ordinance establishing an Economic Development Commission in New Fairfield earlier this year. Many residents have expressed concern about empty storefronts in the center of Town and I share that concern. State statute provides for the establishment of such commissions for the promotion and development of the economic resources of municipalities. The Commission is charged with conducting research into the economic conditions and trends in the municipality, and makes recommendations to the Board of Selectmen regarding actions to improve economic conditions. Economic Development Commissions have proven successful in many of the 140 towns that have established them. I believe that this is the first step towards better supporting current businesses in New Fairfield, determining what types of businesses are a good fit for the Town and identifying how we may attract new businesses. The Commission has an advisory role and does not have the authority to expand the business/commercial zone nor to determine what type of businesses may choose to open in New Fairfield.
The Commission is comprised of seven very enthusiastic residents with expertise in business, media, marketing, law, real estate, commercial banking and finance. The Commission held its first meeting in April, discussing the role of the Commission and outlining their first steps toward gathering information from local business owners, commercial property owners, residents and developers to better understand the economic climate in New Fairfield. The plan includes conducting public opinion surveys, investigating the conditions affecting current businesses and commerce in Town, and planning active steps to encourage businesses to locate in town.
Over the past month, the EDC has focused on developing two surveys, one for residents and another for business and commercial property owners. The survey for residents will ask questions about what types of businesses you would like to see in town and what services and products you travel outside of New Fairfield to purchase. The commercial survey will address issues such as foot traffic, customer trends and infrastructure needs. These surveys are very important to understanding how we can improve the economic climate in New Fairfield, successfully support our existing businesses and attract new businesses to fill our vacant storefronts. The Commission plans to finalize and publish the surveys after their July meeting. The surveys will be available to residents on the Town website, Facebook page, at Town Hall, the Senior Center and Library beginning in late July.
I have also initiated a Business Advisory Council, an open bimonthly forum for business owners to discuss their concerns with the First Selectman. At our first meeting we discussed ways that the Town could support businesses by improving the permitting system and sponsoring more community events in the center of town. We also discussed the possibility of creating a business owners group so that business owners could network on a regular basis. I have also met with commercial property owners to better understand their challenges and plans for future tenants. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 203-312-5600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman