'Think tank' to swing into action

Blue-chip panel created to foster economic development

For a lot of years, New Milford residents have lamented the community has no banquet facility to host a nice wedding, a business convention or even a charity breakfast.

The town also has few amenities-filled hotels suitable to entertain visiting entrepreneurs or tourists... not to mention the town's industrial albatross, the former Century Brass mill, still sitting idle.

Soon that all might just change.

The town's economic development supervisor, Vin Nolan, joined Mayor Pat Murphy and Economic Development Commission chairman Frank Wargo to announce the launch of the town's new Economic Development Corporation.

The non-profit corporation will be headed by leaders in the banking, manufacturing, utility and small business industry, as well as local entrepreneurs, civic and government leaders.

In the fall, the Town Council voted to create this independent entity aimed at reinforcing current economic development efforts by enabling companies to get expert advice on development and also aiding with financial backing, be it through public and private grants or revolving loan funds.

Mayor Murphy said the corporation is another economic "tool in the toolbox.''

The state approved the incorporation in October.

Since then, Mr. Nolan has been working with the Economic Development Commission and the mayor to select a Board of Directors who will lead the organization.

To start, the corporation will have 16 leaders, including a local bank president, a manufacturer, a restaurant owner, the mayor and three Town Council members, one of them representing the Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Nolan is the acting chairman and chief executive officer for the corporation. The corporation could have up to 30 directors.

"It's a grand slam,'' Mr. Wargo said of the impressive group of leaders selected for the corporation.

Mr. Wargo commended Mr. Nolan for spending almost a year laying the groundwork for this corporation.

He believes the corporation will help enliven New Milford's economy with developments long wanting yet were shelved after becoming mired in either political or financial hurdles.

"Vin's been the driving force, and he has contacts all over the state," Mr. Wargo said. "When this starts, we will be in a good position to see this take off."

A first meeting is expected to be scheduled within the next few weeks.

Mr. Nolan and Mayor Murphy both noted these are all well-connected town leaders who should bring a vitality to the town's on-going economic development efforts.

They believe the panel can offer what town agencies and leaders cannot: money.

The first grant the corporation would be able to manage is a $50,000 state grant intended to help businesses with facade improvements, Mr. Nolan said.

The corporation would be able to negotiate private land deals, leverage private dollars, as well as public grants, to assist existing and new endeavors, as well as recruit business and industry executives eager to develop projects in this region, he said.

Town leaders can even appoint the corporation to serve as its agent if there were to be a project that would involve town property, such as the Still Meadow land just off Route 7 or the former Century Brass mill on Aspetuck Ridge Road.

"It's an instant think tank,'' Mayor Murphy said.

As vested community members, Mr. Wargo and the others agree these leaders bring more than expertise to the table. They want New Milford to grow and prosper, they said, and will have the wherewithal to determine whether a venture is suitable for this community and where it would be most welcome.

Mayor Murphy emphasized the corporation would rely on the town's Plan of Conservation and Development as a location guide with projects still needing to meet the town's land-use regulations.

Mr. Wargo said he believes, in time, this corporation would leave a significant "handprint'' on development.

"The best part about the Economic Development Corporation is what we don't know,'' Mr. Wargo said. "These guys not only know the questions to ask, they have the answers.''