A tight budget year for economic development

A tight budget year means the Wilton Economic Development Commission must cut back on its outreach to the community, affecting activities like the holiday bonfire.

In keeping with a request to keep a low budget this year, it asked for $18,000, which is $17,000, or 48.57%, less than the current year’s allowance of $35,000.

With the reduction in our budget, we feel we need to redirect all of our now-limited budget toward building business activity and residential inflow in Wilton, and need to eliminate the budget directed at goodwill community outreach events,” said Vivian Lee-Shiue, chairman of the commission.

Lee-Shiue said these events were not really economic development-related, but they did help to build the impression that Wilton is a nice place to raise a family.

The full scope of the commission’s outreach has not been fully defined, but normally includes activities like the twice-yearly informational forums, holiday bonfire, crystal palace contest, cultural heritage project, and a potential large-scale event in the spring or summer.

While these events are not out of the question, they would require private donations and volunteer efforts to pull off going forward, Lee-Shiue said. To date, many of these activities have been funded through various donations.

“Those were low-cost but were obviously not free. We had reserved a certain amount of our budget for outreach with the hopes of doing something fun late in the fiscal year, but then gave it back to the town,” Lee-Shiue said.

“These events were really for residents and friends of Wilton and were intended to generate some sense of community and goodwill. However, because they don’t directly draw new residents or businesses to town, they were peripheral to our core mission. As we now have limited resources and budget, we will no longer have the capacity to focus our efforts on these community-type events,” she said.

The Wilton Chamber of Commerce indicated that budget cuts will be a hindrance.

“Budget cuts will obviously be a hindrance and a challenge to be able to produce as much as they might seek to provide,” said Debra Hanson, executive director of the Chamber.

The Chamber has worked closely with the Economic Development Commission and supports its efforts to promote the business community and the town of Wilton.

“Whatever they are able to do is always in the best interests of our community and their activities are meant to enhance events that are offered and provide ideas for new ones,” Hanson said.