LITCHFIELD >> Local elected officials and residents gathered for a discussion of economic development in the region Monday evening, as the Northwest Hills Council of Governments held the annual “NWCT Economic Development Summit” in the Litchfield Community Center.
The tagline for the event was “Think Regionally, Act Locally: Jobs & Vibrant Main Streets.” A series of successful and ongoing examples of economic development in the region were discussed, including the recent Gilmore Girls Festival held in Washington; the opening of the Berkshire Country Store in Norfolk; a teaching effort that enabled business owners to receive a loan, then pay it off, as they bought the True Value hardware store in Winsted; recent recognition for KidsPlay Children’s Museum and Arethusa Farms; the NWCONNect initiative, designed to foster the possibility of fiber optic internet connections in the region; the planned food hub; and a planned Entrepreneurial Center at Northwestern Connecticut Community College.
The food hub, according to Bill Burgess, executive director of Partners for Sustainable Healthy Communities, is to be located in Torrington, and serve the area within 50 miles of the city. About $300,000 has been put into the project in the last two-and-a-half years, Burgess said, with another grant from the state Department of Agriculture recently obtained.
“It’s a real regional business,” said Burgess. “The strategic aim is simply grow the agricultural economy in Northwest Connecticut.”
The Entrepreneurial Center, according to Jane Williams, Continuing Education Coordinator with the college, will tutor prospective and fledgling business owners, including start-ups.
Prospective business or start-up owners will be counseled as they work through their idea, Williams said, with boot-camp and support group sessions, and more advanced curriculum for existing business owners is also planned.
A ribbon-cutting at the college is planned for March 15, Williams said, with a potential satellite location in Torrington as well.
Two panel discussions — one on best practices for economic development committees and marketing for tourism, the other on incorporating housing, the arts, and agriculture into economic development strategies were held.
Jocelyn Ayer, Community and Economic Development Director for the council, was scheduled to discuss challenges to regional economic development during the event as well, according to the agenda.
The inaugural Economic Development Summit was held last year in Morris.