Bristol, CT – Communities across Connecticut have been busy organizing, holding public meetings and preparing applications for a chance to take part in the most significant job creation and innovation program in Connecticut’s history. However, due to a lack of local legislative support and leadership, Bristol finds itself once again on the outside looking in.
State Senate candidate Mike Nicastro hosted the second in a series of strategic sessions addressing economic growth and the first planning meeting in hopes of inserting Bristol into the Innovation Places Program. Nicastro was joined by State Senator John Fonfara – the co-author of the Innovation Places Program, local business owners and higher education officials.
Innovation Places, a business development unit under Connecticut Innovations, is designed to attract high growth companies, bring jobs, redevelopment and investments to communities throughout the state.
Passed this year by the General Assembly, this program designates funds to focus on entrepreneurship and economic development. “As Senate Bill 1 (SB1 now referred to as Innovation Places) was being developed, I was called upon by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) to testify on the how this legislation should be structured and managed” said Nicastro who serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). He continued, “After testifying, I immediately linked up with leadership resources at CCSU, Tunxis Community College, Charter Oak State College as well as members of the state senate to assist in the further development of the bill. Innovation Places is one of the outcomes of that collaboration.”
To date, 16 communities across the state are preparing their applications and holding public meetings on how to best position their region or community to become an “Innovation Place.” Bristol has yet to find itself in the conversation.
“If elected, Mike Nicastro would be the only legislator that is an entrepreneur and has a deep understanding of this field, said Sen. Fonfara.” “In order for Connecticut to have an atmosphere that fosters innovative growth and attracts entrepreneurs we have to change the culture in Connecticut. We need leaders who understand the dynamics of what goes into an Innovation District. Bristol has all the ingredients necessary to be a strong leader in innovation and entrepreneurship and to take the next step we need to come together and continue the conversation.”
Having Bristol named an innovation place would create the environment necessary for innovators, entrepreneurs and new and current Bristol businesses, non-profits and the municipality to thrive.”
“The fact that no Bristol-area group has come together on the Innovation Places program represents a failure on the part of local state senate leadership. This is a bill originated in the senate and without question it’s a definite missed opportunity” said Nicastro. He continued, “If Henri Martin spent less time spreading gloom & doom or disowning his responsibility and he paid attention to what was going on in the senate, then maybe Bristol could be an active participant. Applying could create a source of funds for the effort to reuse Memorial Boulevard School or another city property should a proposal to move City Hall or the Board of Education to MBS came to fruition. This is a missed opportunity and it was completely avoidable.”
“Part of our downtown strategy could include programs offered by CTNEXT,” said City Councilmen Dave Preleski. “These are the types of programs that are essential to stimulating local enterprise and investments. Collectively we need to focus on the dynamic programing offered to the city and use them to assist the strategies that are already in place for downtown Bristol.”
The new state initiative helps key places in the state become magnets for talent, supporting entrepreneurship in higher education, focusing more on growth-stage companies. It weaves together entrepreneurship support and relationship-building with physical planning and development.
While Bristol will likely miss the September 12th deadline for groups to submit a “planning grant application” to receive up to $50k to continue exploring the program’s potential in a community, there are still options that can be explored.
The conversation focused on how Bristol may instead apply for an implementation grant by November 1st. If then invited to apply, the community’s planning process can move forward toward the final application/proposal deadline of April 1st.
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