Economic Development Commission achieves two goals

The four-year-old Economic Development Commission has achieved two of its 2014 strategic recommendations, according to a status report prepared by the Board of Selectmen. The board discussed the report at its June 18 meeting.

The two objectives the commission met were to create and maintain a dedicated economic development website and to deploy ongoing market outreach programs to a target area.

The website has been completed, although there is no traffic count to indicate how often it is visited. Sarah Gioffre of the first selectwoman’s office has taken over updating the site and it may be rolled into the town’s website as a distinct page as is redesigned.

The marketing materials developed include a video promoting Wilton as a residential town, a video promoting Wilton as a place for business, and a presentation on 40 things to love about Wilton, distributed to real estate agents.

The recommendations not completed include establishing a rapid-response team to address the urgent needs of new and existing businesses. The team does not exist but one-on-one assistance by town employees, primarily Planning Director Bob Nerney, seems to be working effectively, according to the report.

Another unmet recommendation is to launch a nurturing program for Wilton town leaders to open lines of communication, build relationships, foster retention and cultivate expansion of existing businesses. Although this program does not exist, the EDC did develop relationships during filming the promotional videos. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said at the meeting she has developed some relationships and participates in Wilton Chamber of Commerce events for new businesses, such as ribbon-cuttings.

The third unmet recommendation is to create a long-term, strategic blueprint for Wilton’s commercial corridor and town center. This has not been done and there are questions about whether this role belongs to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Plan of Conservation and Development, and whether EDC members can be found with the necessary knowledge and background for this effort.

At the meeting, Vanderslice said as they move forward the economic commissioners indicated they would like to understand the selectmen’s priorities.

As part of their discussion, the selectmen noted several priorities:

  • Foster a climate of economic development in town

  • Establish a marketing program. While the materials mentioned above have been created, targeting has not been done.

  • Investigate collaborating with Wilton Library on seminars and other business-related events.

  • Explore a regional approach to economic development.

  • Explore incentive plans for businesses.

Developing a plan to improve the vibrancy of downtown has resulted in concerts and other events in Wilton Center and Schenck’s Island, Vanderslice said.

“We haven’t said the word tourism,” said Selectman Deborah McFadden, who said hiking and biking for fall foliage would appeal to out-of-towners. “We should incorporate the word tourism as well,” she said.