Bysiewicz hears compliments and concerns in Milford

MILFORD — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz got a firsthand look at what is working and an earful on what needs to be done during a downtown tour of small businesses this week.

Among the sites Bysiewicz state Rep. Kathy Kennedy, R-Milford, and Mayor Ben Blake visited were The Corner Restaurant, which Yelp ranked as the 19th best brunch spot in the country; Milford Photo and Advisra, a real estate consulting and appraisal firm.

The walk Wednesday was one of many Bysiewicz has done in small downtowns. Jimmy Tickey, her senior adviser, said the stops have included Fairfield, Greenwich, Norwalk and Meriden.

“What we’re doing is talking to small business owners to see how we can help them and to gauge what is working and what isn’t,” said Tickey, who also sits on Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and previously managed U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s campaigns.

At Advisra, Albert “Bud” Franke and his wife, Tina, engaged Bysiewicz on the importance of keeping taxes down. The couple moved their business from New Haven to Milford four years ago.

“This gave us more room, parking is easier and there are people constantly walking the downtown,” Albert Franke said. He said many transient boaters dock behind the library and walk the downtown. Both he and Blake referenced a recent New York Times article claiming Milford was a “popular” day-cation spot off the Metro-North train line.

“We have a lot going for us,” Blake said.

The mayor said 465 new businesses moved to the city in the past year, upping the Grand List to $6.7 billion, and that the beaches, the downtown restaurants, the railroad station, the parks with splash pads and dog runs have made the city a place millennials want to live.

“You can’t keep houses on the shelf that are priced between $275,000 and $375,000 here,” Franke said. But he said those priced in the $500,000 to $700,000 range take much longer to sell.

He said one of the reasons for that is the federal tax law that caps property tax deductions at $10,000.

Bysiewicz said it was “great to see small businesses grow and thrive” in downtown Milford. “Now we need to replicate this elsewhere.”

She said eliminating the $250 Business Entity Tax assessed every two years on LLC’s may have cost the state revenue, but the tax “sent a bad message to small businesses and those wanting to start one. Businesses had to pay that tax every year whether they made money or not.”

She said a focus of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration is on transportation-oriented development. Several downtowns like Ansonia, Bridgeport, Derby, Milford, New Haven, Seymour and Shelton are within walking distances of a train station and bus routes.

The Frankes said they were impressed to see a state politician stop by and seeking input. But they told Bysiewicz people are still leaving because of the high state taxes.

“Milford has been a success story compared to many of its neighbors,” Franke said. “I hope Hartford doesn’t penalize it because of its success ... It (the state) can’t tax itself into prosperity.”