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Author: Christine Schilke

V.1.4 Business Clusters

V.1.4 Business Clusters

Action

Identify and support business clusters in the district. Promote and attract complementary clusters.

Why

To ensure Main Street success you must know your assets, gaps and opportunities. Does the community want to grow that cluster? Is there a unique business niche that the city/town can be proud of and use as part of their branding or marketing strategies? Or does the community want to focus on attracting new types of businesses to create more diversity? Knowing what business clusters are in the district, and supporting and promoting those clusters, helps to create a resilient business community.

How

There are a number of ways to collect information about the businesses in your district. Check local real estate apps, your local town Assessor’s and Land Use offices for recent studies or current lists. Taking a walking tour and conducting a survey are great ways to gather and track information if data isn’t already collected. Watch the “How to Collect, Maintain, and Leverage Your Main Street Inventories” webinar and review the Main Street Inventory Quick Reference for guidance on how to conduct this inventory. Then utilize distribution lists, social media, user-friendly GIS maps and other advertising platforms to communicate about (and celebrate!) those business clusters. 

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Meet Our 2024 Cohort

Meet Our 2024 Cohort

2024 Main Street Accelerator Cohort

Teams from six Connecticut communities were chosen for the inaugural class of CMSC’s new Main Street Accelerator program – a virtual, 6-month program where participants learn and practice the nationally proven Four Point Main Street Approach and apply it to a specific challenge their community is facing. 

The teams and their projects represent a diverse array of Connecticut towns and cities:

  • East Side NRZ

    Representatives from the NRZ and the City will create an accessible document that provides actionable solutions for businesses to revitalize their storefronts.

    Team members:

    • Tatiana E. Urena, President, East Side NRZ
    • Kellie Taylor, VP, East Side NRZ
    • Jonathan Delgado, Econ Dev, City Bridgeport
  • Georgetown Village Restoration, Inc.

    GVR team members will examine how to increase exposure and foot traffic in Georgetown to help support businesses and the community.

    Team members:

    • Kate Perry, Secretary, Redding EDC
    • Lisa Devine, VP, GVR
    • Nic Palazzo, President, GVR
  • Downtown Windsor

    A local business owner and Windsor’s First Town Downtown director will reimagine the ground floor VFW ballroom into a beer hall-type facility.

    Team members:

    • Annisa Teich, Founder, The Small Business Collective
    • Ken Fredette, Exec Dir, First Town Downtown
  • Town of Haddam

    Municipal economic development commissioners, the town’s selectwoman, and local business owners will work together to improve signage, mapping, and the overall visual appeal between the town’s two village centers.

    Team members:

    • Kate Anderson, Selectwoman
    • Curtis Browne, EDC Member
    • Mike Karam, EDC Member
    • Bridget Marshall, Oh Fudge and More
    • Courtney Emshwiller-Swokla, HK Health and Fitness
  • Norwich Community Development Corporation

    Planners and local development organizations will collaborate on how to change the perception of downtown Norwich by enticing tourists through cooperative marketing and events with local groups.

    Team members:

    • Bobbie Braboy, Director Global City Norwich
    • Kevin Brown, President, Norwich Community Dev Corp
    • Lucas Kaiser, Community Dev. Specialist, Norwich Community Dev Corp
    • Dan Daniska, City Planning and Zoning
    • Nicole Haggerty, Planner, Southeastern CT Council of Gov.
  • Town of Thomaston

    Municipal officials and downtown volunteers will work collaboratively to create a strong network of downtown businesses and begin revitalizing Downtown Thomaston’s historic and visual assets.

    Team members:

    • Stacey Sefcik, Land Use Administrator, Thomaston
    • Susan Holway, Secretary, Thomaston EDC
    • Lissa Jennings, Member, Thomaston EDC
    • Alissa Monteleone, Member, Thomaston EDC
    • Mary Lacilla, Member, Thomaston Beautification Committee

Learn about the Accelerator program

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Everything Old is New Again: How the Windsor Historical Society is making the town’s past modern & accessible

Everything Old is New Again:

How the Windsor Historical Society is making the town’s history modern & accessible

CMSC recently talked to Doug Shipman, Windsor Historical Society’s Executive Director to learn how they’re engaging Windsor’s diverse residents, partnering with the downtown, and going viral on Facebook.

As a New England state, Connecticut has a long history, and as home to the first English settlement, Windsor lays claim as Connecticut’s first town, and correspondingly the state’s first downtown. So it’s not surprising that like other Connecticut towns, Windsor has a Historical Society to preserve and share the stories of its past. What is surprising is how proactively this historical society is working to bridge its history with its present, making a point to tell everyone’s stories – not just offer the traditional perspectives – in addition to spotlighting the town’s current diverse demographics. They’re also refreshingly open to embracing new technologies and working with a myriad of partners to reach new audiences.  


Celebrating All Residents & Their Stories

Windsor Historical Society (WHS) was established in 1921 to prepare for Windsor’s 300-year anniversary in 1933. At the time, the Historical Society was focused on preserving its colonial past, buying their first building – the current Strong-Howard House – within their first four years. That focus on preserving colonial era history would remain until only very recently. Doug Shipman, WHS Executive Director, notes that as the town edges towards its 400-year anniversary, they’ve been changing their focus to be more representative of the town’s current demographics and to celebrate and share the histories of all of Windsor’s residents.

While Windsor was ninety-eight percent white in 1921, it’s now forty-eight percent white, fifty-two percent people of color. In fact, Doug notes it’s one of the most diverse towns in CT. To help reflect this, the WHS had a nine-foot tall map of the town made that they bring to public events. They then took pictures of residents and added them to the map where the person lives. To date, over one thousand residents can now see themselves pictured on the map with friends and neighbors. To Doug, this exercise has dual achievements: it helps people see that they’re all a part of the Windsor community and also lets them know the WHS is there for them. “It’s kind of our way of bringing a little bit of the Historical Society into the downtown and people seeing, ‘hey, the Historical Society is kind of a cool, modern, history-is-fun kind of place, not this stodgy old brown furniture thing.”


Collaboration Over Competition

In addition to engaging residents and visitors directly, Doug is also quick to credit collaboration as one of the keys to their success. The Historical Society makes an effort to partner with downtown businesses and organizations like CMSC member First Town Downtown to amplify each other’s events and work. WHS has also been involved in the town’s tourism efforts for a long time, with WHS and other arts and culture organizations playing a large role in the overall nature and quality of the community. The Historical Society was one of the founders of the Windsor Arts and Museums Association (WAMA), a collection of seven museums and attraction sites people can visit, including art museums, the CT Valley Tobacco museum, a vintage radio museum, Loomis Chaffee Mercy Gallery, Oliver Ellsworth Homestead (the third U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice and framer of the Constitution), and the Windsor Freedom Trail sites.

His approach is optimistic and pragmatic. “I endeavor to say yes to partnering with others. I try to avoid the idea of scarcity, but rather collaborate on funding,” Doug says, noting that they can do more by working together. He talks excitedly about UConn Department of History Professor Fionna Vernal who’s been working with WHS, South Windsor’s Wood Memorial Library and Bloomfield’s Wintonbury Historical Society to get grant funding for an online oral history collecting platform called Their Story.

He adds that this is a great example of why it’s important to collaborate, not compete. Each of the three organizations has a particular strength that they focus on. When someone is looking for something WHS doesn’t offer, they’re happy to recommend their colleagues, and they do the same in return for WHS.


Using New Approaches

Beyond partnering with local and regional organizations, WHS is open to using new technology to further engage audiences. Doug muses how people used to think they had to physically get people through their doors because they feared if you put something online no one would come. Now it’s the opposite. To meet this new mindset, they offer a lot of information online – Black histories and oral histories, even the last seventy-five years of Windsor High School yearbooks.  They also partnered with First Town Downtown and the Chamber of Commerce to create a virtual walking tour that bridges attractions separated by the town’s geography. With their proximity to Bradley Airport, the walking tour also occasionally attracts travelers who may have long layovers and want to get out of the airport for a little while.

Doug notes that their staff does a great job of posting to Facebook, with the archivist, curator, community history specialist, and the office manager taking turns so it’s not overwhelming for any one of them. And it’s working – several of their photos have gone viral, with tens of thousands of people seeing their images. Doug loves it. “It’s great because a lot of people see themselves in it and share it and that’s what we want, people relating to their history.” He adds, “That’s their memory. They’re trying to make a connection between what we’re doing, the history we’re presenting and their memory, and that’s how people learn and have an emotional attachment to history and become fans and love history, because of that personal connection.”

To learn more about the Windsor Historical Society or view their upcoming events, visit their website.


About CT Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.

CMSC is supported by its Founding Sponsors, the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and Eversource Energy. CMSC is also supported by its Growth Sponsors, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org.

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Press Release: 6 Communities Chosen for Inaugural Main Street Accelerator

6 Communities Chosen for CT Main Street Center’s Inaugural Main Street Accelerator

New program applies downtown development & leadership training to local challenges

For Immediate Release – December 1, 2023

(Hartford, CT) – Teams from six Connecticut communities were chosen for the inaugural class of Connecticut Main Street Center’s new Main Street Accelerator program – a virtual, 6-month program where participants learn and practice the nationally proven Four Point Main Street Approach and apply it to a specific challenge their community is facing.

The teams and their projects represent a diverse array of Connecticut towns and cities:

  • Georgetown Village Restoration, Inc. (GVR) – GVR team members will examine how to increase exposure and foot traffic in Georgetown to help support businesses and the community.
  • Town of Thomaston – Municipal officials and downtown volunteers will work collaboratively to create a strong network of downtown businesses and begin revitalizing Downtown Thomaston’s historic and visual assets.
  • East Side NRZ, Bridgeport – Representatives from the NRZ and the City will create an accessible document that provides actionable solutions for businesses to revitalize their storefronts.
  • Downtown Windsor – A local business owner and Windsor’s First Town Downtown director will reimagine the ground floor VFW ballroom into a beer hall-type facility.
  • Town of Haddam – Municipal economic development commissioners, the town’s selectwoman, and local business owners will work together to improve signage, mapping, and the overall visual appeal between the town’s two village centers.
  • Norwich Community Development Corporation – Planners and local development organizations will collaborate on how to change the perception of downtown Norwich by enticing tourists through cooperative marketing and events with local groups.

Kristen Lopez, CMSC’s Education & Training Director, created the Main Street Accelerator program based on the needs she and Carl Rosa, Field Services Director, saw among CMSC member communities. “We saw a gap in the market, where communities want to invest in their downtown but struggle with having the time to convene stakeholders to make real progress. The Accelerator program provides the framework for learning about downtown best practices while simultaneously working together to solve a challenge. Our hope is that through the program, the team develops new skills and having learned the process, can then go back and replicate it with other challenges their community faces,” said Ms. Lopez.

Ms. Lopez is delighted to see the wide diversity of program applicants in terms of their size, location, particular challenge, and team members. “Their applications represented a terrific cross-section of the kinds of initiatives that comprise healthy downtowns. From repurposing under-utilized spaces, to improving a downtown’s appearance to collaborating with small businesses – these are very common issues downtowns grapple with. Seeing the enthusiasm the participants have for their downtowns is invigorating. I’m ready to get started!”

“I am thrilled by the creation and launch of this new program, which represents how CMSC continues to be responsive to challenges faced in supporting main street vibrancy. We all know downtowns thrive on collaboration, proactive action, and dedicated management,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC’s Executive Director. “What makes Main Street Accelerator unique is that not only are participants learning the Four Point Approach, but they’re applying it to a very specific initiative. It gives people who may not be Main Street managers a way to learn the methodology and see its value firsthand.”

Applicants were asked to identify a team of at least three people who could directly impact their identified challenge. Beginning in January, team members will attend a six-month curriculum of virtual classes featuring guest speakers and content provided by organizations such as Sustainable CT and Preservation Connecticut, coaching calls, and group assignments. In addition to learning strategic approaches for downtown development and Main Street management, Main Street Accelerator participants will apply what they learn to their specific challenge. Those who successfully complete the course may also qualify for seed funding from CMSC to undertake their identified project. CMSC also designed the program so that the local initiatives can complement State grant funding programs.

Before the cohort officially launches in January, the participants will enjoy an in-person kick-off luncheon in downtown Wallingford on December 7th. Successful graduates of the program will also be celebrated with a project showcase at CMSC’s annual Awards of Excellence event in June 2024.

Find more information on the Main Street Accelerator program on CMSC’s website

###

Media Contact
Christine Schilke
Communications & Strategy Director
860-280.2356
christine@ctmainstreet.org


About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.

CMSC is supported by its Founding Sponsors, the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and Eversource Energy. CMSC is also supported by its Growth Sponsors, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org

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REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP): Website and Social Media Development

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP): Website and Social Media Development

Connecticut’s Countryside, the four towns of Bolton, Coventry, Mansfield and Tolland, have initiated a Request for Proposals process to identify a qualified consultant to further implement Connecticut’s Countryside Marketing Implementation Plan prepared with DKA (Dornenburg Kallenbach Advertising). The Consultant can be an individual or part of an agency or team.

The stage is set for further marketing of Connecticut’s Countryside. Additional work is needed to promote the brand in order to meet the objectives of the Action Plan to increase visitors to the region, support our current businesses, and bring in new businesses to Connecticut’s Countryside.

The requested project is expected to include: providing further content and editing for the website, first year maintenance of the website with a plan for on-going maintenance; and development of a social media plan. The Consultant will work with Connecticut’s Countryside staff team and provide deliverables to Connecticut Countryside’s Steering Committee at key milestones. A specific plan for working with the staff team and Steering Committee will be laid out in the kick off meeting with the staff team.

For more information, view the full RFP

Submissions due by Thursday, December 14th to Cynthia van Zelm, Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc.

 

Vancord

Vancord

Protecting what matters most

Discover firsthand why our clients consider Vancord the best Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs) in New England and experience the peace of mind that comes with protecting your organization against digital threats. We offer comprehensive end-to-end solutions that align with the unique security challenges businesses face in this region.

Our team of experts are backed by cutting-edge technologies to ensure access to the highest level of security management, continuous monitoring, threat intelligence, and incident response.

Services

Services include: Strategic Planning, Information Technology and Cybersecurity

Visit their website

Contact

Suzanne Pare
500 Boston Post Road
Milford, CT 06460
spare@vancord.com

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Penn Globe

Penn Globe

Lighting for the Greater Good

Since 1877, Penn Globe has been America’s premier outdoor lighting company.

Today, we have the privilege to continue to work with the best customers, our cities, towns, colleges and universities each of whom entrust Penn Globe with their vision. 

We are dedicated to honoring our history while we focus on  future lighting innovations.

Services

Services include: Lighting design + Manufacturing

Visit their website

Contact

Marcia LaFemina
300 Shaw Road
North Branford, Ct 06471
(203) 484-7749
lafeminam@pennglobe.com

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Pullman & Comley, LLC

Pullman & Comley, LLC

Pulling Together, Succeeding Together

For more than 100 years, Pullman & Comley has earned a reputation as a leading provider of legal services, serving clients throughout Connecticut, the Northeast, and internationally.

Services

Services include: legal services in downtown revitalization, community & economic development, mixed-use development, Tax Increment Financing, and more

Visit their website

Contact

Michael J. Andreana, Attorney
850 Main Street, 8th Floor
Bridgeport, CT 06601
203.330.2235
mandreana@pullcom.com

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Sullivan & LeShane, Inc.

Sullivan & LeShane, Inc.

We Make Things Happen.

For more than 35 years, Sullivan & LeShane, Inc. has earned the reputation as Connecticut’s most respected and recognized government relations firm. We have earned our stature by constantly cultivating and strengthening relationships, committing to strategic thinking, creative problem solving and by making our clients’ success our top priority. We succeed because we understand the people, the process, the politics and the perceptions surrounding each challenge and project.

Services

Services include: government affairs services for Community & Economic Development, Mixed-use Development, Strategic Planning, Advocacy & Public Policy

Visit their website

Contact

Ryan Bingham
287 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06103
860.601.0221
Rbingham@ctlobby.com

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Sagers & Associates LLC

Sagers & Associates LLC

assess. strategize. implement

Our goal is to help you increase your revenue potential and reduce your cost of doing business through operational and technology change.

Sagers & Associates has developed an integrated approach to help you strategize and execute organizational, process and technology transformation, to meet the demands of your new world.

Services

Services include: Economic development & equity in Greater Hartford

Visit their website

Contact

Dave Sagers, Owner
178 Four Mile Road
West Hartford, CT 06107
860.965.7124
dsagers@sagersassociates.com

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P.O. Box 270, Hartford, CT 06141 | 860.280.2337