Wilton will become the epicenter of a series of focus groups planned by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments to hear from business owners and stakeholders in the region about the strengths and weaknesses they see in the region’s economy.

“They are particularly interested in the barriers businesses in the region face. What is holding businesses back? What can be improved to help businesses?” said Elizabeth Esposito, associate planner for the WestCOG.

Wilton is the central location for the 18-town WestCOG and has a brand-new community center, so it was the obvious choice, Esposito said.

Feedback from the focus group series will be used in the creation of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, known as a CEDS. Once complete, the CEDS will facilitate continued economic development in the region for the next five years, Esposito said. Input from the business community is key to the creation of this plan.

All the meetings are free, but require registration though https://goo.gl/forms/Nt40cIU0OLQq3l1B2.

The Wilton-based meetings are:

Real Estate

Wednesday, Feb. 15, noon, Comstock Community Center.

Moderator: Harold Kurfehs, vice president, Coldwell Banker Commercial.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by commercial brokers and developers in the region. Permitting processes, marketing, resources, and amenities will be some of the many topics discussed.

Advanced Manufacturing

Monday, Feb. 27, 11:30 a.m, Comstock Community Center.

Moderator: Elizabeth Stocker, director of economic development, city of Norwalk.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the advanced manufacturing industry in the region. Workforce, training, and resources will be some of the many topics discussed.

Healthcare Tech

Wednesday, March 22, noon, Comstock Community Center.

Moderator: Valeria Bisceglia, business adviser, Connecticut Small Business Development Center.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the emerging health care tech industry in the region. Workforce, resources, training, and growth will be some of the many topics discussed.

Creative Economy

Thursday, March 23, noon, Comstock Community Center.

Moderators: Jackie Lightfield, executive director of Stamford Partnership; Lisa Scails, executive director of Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the creative sector in the region, including digital media, creative arts, graphic design, marketing, sports/entertainment production, etc. Barriers, growth, supply chain, and distribution will be some of the many topics discussed.

Other meetings are:

Small Business I

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7:30 a.m., Sacred Heart University, Stamford.

Moderator: Tom Long, vice president of communications and development, The WorkPlace.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by small businesses (fewer than 25 employees) in the region. Permitting processes, workforce, resources, and growth will be some of the many topics discussed.

Small Business II

Tuesday, March 7, 8:30 a.m., Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce.

Moderators: Harold Kurfehs, vice president, Coldwell Banker Commercial; Lisa Scails, executive director of Cultural Alliance of Western CT.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by small businesses (fewer than 25 employees) in the region. Permitting processes, workforce, resources, and growth will be some of the many topics discussed.

FinTech

Tuesday, March 14, noon, Sacred Heart University, Stamford.

Moderator: Thomas Madden, director of economic development, city of Stamford.

This focus group will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the emerging FinTech industry in the region. Workforce, resources, training, and growth will be some of the many topics discussed.

The mayors and first selectmen of the WestCOG communities are looking forward to the responses and including them in the planning process, Esposito said.

WestCOG serves Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Sherman, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

Business owners who cannot make it to one of the focus groups may submit feedback through a survey available at http://ccrpa.org/limesurvey/index.php/153245?lang=en.

A version in Spanish can be accessed at http://ccrpa.org/limesurvey/index.php/153245?lang=es