More than 60 people from New Milford recently attended a presentation, “Fundamentals of Economic Development: From Transactional to Transformative,” with the Connecticut Economic Resource Center.

Town representatives from several commissions and committees, business owners, commercial lenders, brokers and interested citizens attended the program held at Makery Coworking on Bank Street.

Organized by the New Milford Economic Development Commission, the municipal training by CERC has already been held in 80 communities across Connecticut and was tailored to the town, with data comparing New Milford to the state, county and neighboring towns, obtained largely from ctdata.org.

“Compared to other area towns, New Milford is faring better than most,” said EDC member Michael Gold, owner of GeronNursing and Respite Care.

New Milford’s unemployment rate, hovering at just under 4 percent, is lower than the county and state averages, a statistical relationship that has held for ten years.

“But economic development doesn't stop there,” Gold said. “We need more small and medium size businesses to help us continue to grow and, more importantly, to thrive."

New Milford Town Engineer Dan Stanton attended the event. “I especially like the message of encouraging what you already have to do better, and zone what generates revenue,” he said.

In major employment industries, New Milford led the region in retail trade, representing 19 percent of the workforce, followed closely by restaurant and medical services, confirming it as the area hub to shop, eat and receive healthcare.

CERC was “very impressive; their statistics and sense of vision, a real wake-up call,” said resident Julie Bailey. “Their message about development superb: transformational vs transactional… a message the whole town ought to hear.”

One of those encouraging statistics was in the area of an educated workforce.

A higher percentage of the population of the town of New Milford holds a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree than the U.S. average, county or even the state, with nearly half the town having some post-high school education.

Developing an educated workforce that matches the future needs of industry is, according to Bob Santy, president of CERC, in his final summary of the night, one of the two most important areas for economic development in our state; the other being transportation.

The next steps include a capacity assessment to prioritize different economic development programs and pinpoint areas for improvement, as well as the launch of the new website at www.ExploreNewMilford.com.

Anne McClelland, small business owner of The First Bite, provided catering for the event.