Collaborative Shared Economic Development Services Project

Recipient: Northwest Hills Council of Governments
Partners: Goman+York; One Eleven Group; State of CT (OPM); Ruth Skovron; Towns of Canaan/Falls Village, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury/Lakeville, and Sharon

Opportunities & Challenges

  • In the beautiful and unspoiled Northwest Corner of the state, towns have learned that, in order to be successful they must think and work regionally. Under the backdrop of a region that is economically challenged, with a large migration of people under the age of 50 because of the lack of jobs and the need for quality rental housing, municipal leadership and regional planners proposed a unique approach to economic development.
  • In 2015, the NW Hills Council of Governments (COG) successfully applied for a two-year Regional Performance Incentive Grant from the State of CT Office of Policy & Management. The NW Hills COG hired Goman+York to provide shared economic development services to implement village center initiatives in eight small towns. Focused on supporting existing businesses, creating jobs and filling vacant commercial spaces. All activities were designed to increase economic activity in the region while retaining the small town historic main street character of each town.

Highlights

  • Goman+York, in consultation with local business groups, carried out at least two priority economic development projects in each of the eight participating towns – requiring very specific guidance and support with each local volunteer economic development group.
  • One Eleven Group provided tourism marketing services, including original content for the discovernwct.com website, and new approaches to social media featuring tweeting and blogs with first-person accounts of authentic experiences.

Funding

  • Total project budget of $265,000 for two years (breakdown: $16,500 per town, per year)
  • State of CT OPM Regional Performance Incentive Grant of $249,000 for period of January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016. Matched locally by $16,000 ($2,000 from each of the eight participating towns).

The Return on Investment

  • In Cornwall, the consultants worked with local volunteers to hold an economic development summit, provided assistance to local businesses, and assisted the town with a water and sewer study for West Cornwall.
  • In North Canaan, the consultants worked with volunteers to hold three visioning and strategy development workshops. As a result a new EDC was formed, with a subcommittee structure in place, including a volunteer business visitation program, and beautification and marketing committees. Instead of 4 volunteers, they now have 30. They are now working on recruiting a hotel at the site of Falls Village Inn. The town also received a $497,000 Main Street Investment Fund grant for Village Center sidewalk improvement, again with the assistance of the consultant.
  • In Norfolk, the community expressed overwhelming desire for a Corner Store in a key location in the heart of the Village Center. A group of affluent citizens formed an organization to buy the property and lease it to a young entrepreneur, Ryan Craig, whose vision was the same as theirs. The consultant provided organizational development, lease arrangements, zoning expertise, community outreach prep, and real estate advice. Berkshire Country Store opened in December 2016.