At Tuesday night’s, Feb. 16th meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the members heard an update on the progress of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) and also reviewed the proposed budget and plan for the commission for FY ’16-17.
Commission vice chair Vivian Lee-Shiue began by reviewing the EDC’s accomplishments to date in the current fiscal year.
- launched the Economic Development Commission’s website just after the start of the fiscal year, in July 2015.
- held an Economic Development Forum in October 2015.
- initiated discussions with branding consultants. “The Commission has talked about engaging consultants to look at the overall Wilton Town brand, and provide some recommendations on different ways that we can package the town as a whole and decide how we want to structure the strategy of the economic development
- identified a Wilton resident who is an expert in analytics, and who has volunteered to assist with an EDC survey of some businesses and residents; the survey will target mid- to large-sized businesses and residents that have recently moved in an out of Wilton
- created a Facebook page for the EDC
- formalized an attendance policy for the commission. “In the past we’ve had challenges with attendance so we’ve made it formal,” Lee Shiue said.
Following the accomplishments, Lee-Shiue also explained the EDC’s goals for the remainder of FY ’15-’16.
- initiating conversations with the Wilton Chamber of Commerce to determine areas in which the two entities can strategically partner
- looking at training for the EDC and other commissions in town, in conjunction with the CERC (CT Economic Resource Center) and CEDAS (CT Economic Development Association). This training would be provided free to the town with participation of at least 20 commissioners.
- conduct the survey and engage two Wilton High School senior interns to help with the execution of that work
- work with a branding consultant and have a report by the end of the fiscal year
- planning another Economic Forum for May or June; Lee-Shiue said the commission would like to conduct such resident forums every six months
- updating the website, including some data inconsistencies as well as adding an “About Wilton” section, and cleaning up the content
Lee-Shiue also reported on the makeup of the commission itself: with nine current members (three democrats, six republicans), the EDC is chaired by Peter Gaboriault and recently re-elected new officers—Lee Shiue as vice chair and Jennie Wong as secretary and treasurer.
Goals for 2016-2017
The EDC hopes to use fiscal year 2016-2017 as the means to propel more action. In her preamble to presenting the EDC budget for next year, Lee-Shiue told the selectmen that the EDC wants to engage a planning consultant, in addition to the branding consultant. She did acknowledge talking to Wilton’s Town Planner Bob Nerney to ensure that the EDC is “not stepping on any toes, or duplicating efforts.”
What the EDC hopes to achieve with a planning consultant is to execute any recommendations made by the branding consultant for strategy and image for the town.
The first phase would be marketing and branding. Lee-Shiue explained that the work would be to get at the heart of the question, “What do you want Wilton to be known as when people hear your name? It’s providing Wilton with more of an identity for outsiders to understand what we would provide to them, to new business and residents potentially coming to town, and for existing residents to have as well.”
The second phase would be the execution. They would take the recommendations of the branding consultants, in conjunction with the EDC’s original strategic plan and make an action plan.
“It’s not only restricted to land use planning, it could also be certain incentives or certain grants or types of business programs we could put together,” Lee-Shiue said, who added that some reserve from the current fiscal year will be reserved to start some of the work, with the bulk of the study will be covered by next year’s budget.”
In addition, the EDC wants to revisit the strategic plan it put together in 2014. Lee-Shiue said of that plan, the first two objectives were the only ones completed, and they want to now readdress the remaining three, as well as possibly add more. She noted the plan is on the commission’s website.
The EDC is also hoping to explore available grants, but to do so they will need to engage professional grant writers. “There are available grant opportunities, we just don’t have the expertise and the bandwidth to write the grants ourselves,” Lee-Shiue said.
Should the strategic objectives advance far enough, the commission would look toward engaging summer interns at the university level, identifying candidates at schools with urban planning and development programs, including Columbia, Yale and NYU.
Selectman Dick Dubow suggested that the EDC needs to work in conjunction with the Planning & Zoning commission.
Lee-Shiue said to date that it’s been one of the challenges the EDC has, mainly because there is no representative from P&Z on the EDC. “I have been in conversation with Bob [Nerney] to say we have to figure out a way to stay as closely tied as we can with any recommendations or studies that would be coming out,” adding that any member of P&Z or the Planning department is welcome to attend EDC meetings and that she hopes members of the EDC will do the same with regard to P&Z meetings, when appropriate.
*Editor’s note: Following the publication of the article, Lee-Shiue contacted GMW.com to clarify her statement at the meeting. She said she inadvertently did not add that Keith Rodgerson is a voting member of both the EDC and P&Z. There is not, however, an official liaison (such as Bob Nerney or other appointed liaison) on the EDC from P&Z.
“No work, consultants or execution will be done without checking with other commissions,” she said.
Dubow suggested that Nerney should take a more active role with the EDC, taking “a literal seat at the table.” He also wanted to underscore that the EDC has had the directive to make sure whatever strategy they plan aligns with the town’s existing Plan of Conservation and Development, in order to maintain the balance between economic development and the character of the town.
Dubow and fellow selectman Lori Bufano agreed that working closely with P&Z was crucial, given that that commission would be doing another Plan of Conservation and Development within the next 1-2 years.