As we move into 2018, the Economic Development Commission and I are looking at the opportunities that present themselves in Berlin. The most exciting thing is the town-owned parcel of land on Farmington Avenue for which we have received five submissions from developers to construct a mixed-use development.
By the time you read this, interviews will have taken place with the hope of a recommendation to the Berlin Town Council for which firm the town will work with.
The redevelopment of this land will help to spur interest in the train station area and bring in additional development into the area. By the summer of 2018, the CT Rail line will be running with at least 15 trains per day in each of the northbound and southbound direction. Though we, sadly, no longer have our historic train station, we hope to be able to find a way to remember that great structure and its history.
We plan to hold a few events this year which will help to bring people and businesses together, including our holiday gathering in late January, an event in March where we will help businesses understand the newly-modified tax codes, a commercial real estate event in April, an event in May to discuss what is involved and how to deal with Business Succession Planning, and our Annual Awards Event in May. The rest of 2018 will also be filled with new initiatives including Shop Small efforts and finding ways to bring cycling and the arts into the forefront in Berlin. Additionally, we will be sending out a survey electronically to find out what other topics businesses are interested in to plan events later in 2018.
We continue to partner with Berlin High School, its leadership and businesses to better connect with and help each other. In March, we will have two events in cooperation with Junior Achievement: March 14 – Personal Branding, and March 21 – a Career Inspiration Panel of Speakers. The consumer and technical education departments are also working with us to bring businesses into the school to help with the next generation of workers as well as with the tools and curriculum each discipline and teacher uses.
In my role, I work with commercial property owners throughout our great town with the intent of bringing businesses into their buildings, but that is only part of the process.
There are those properties which are more challenging where we have been working on and would like to see progress in 2018. A few of these include the former Arby’s on Farmington Avenue (which has a lease currently in place with Arby’s), the former travel agency building on Mill Street, 80 Massirio Drive (which was previously for industrial use but is zoned commercial), the Industrial Surplus property on the Berlin Turnpike as well as other Farmington Avenue buildings that are vacant such as the former Mary’s Bakery. In addition, we hope to see additional development on the Berlin Turnpike in the vicinity of the new Acura dealership. Lastly, I will be working to get a large parcel of industrial land subdivided into smaller lots where our growing manufacturing sector and service sectors can build new facilities.
In 2018, we wish to focus on bringing new manufacturing firms, food options, retail and services to Berlin. This is not as easy as picking up the phone and saying “Come to Berlin.” Business decisions are made with location in mind, but the economics, traffic count and demographics play a large part. As we are in the geographic center of Connecticut, we can boast our location, but this only means we are in a great spot, not that all kinds of firms will choose to locate here. I, myself, would love to see the well-known firms in adjacent communities open an additional location in Berlin. But, on occasion, our town is a location they would not consider at this time, our demographics do not fit their business model, or the right spot is not available, feasible or affordable here.
This past year was a great one, with new developments on Webster Square Road, the Berlin Turnpike, Christian Lane, Deming Road and business growth in town and we expect additional success in 2018!
If you have connections to businesses which might have an interest in Berlin, have questions on new businesses that have recently come to Berlin or are “targeting” businesses to come to town, I would be happy to speak to individuals, groups or businesses.
If you do wish to connect with me, I can be reached at 860-828-7005 or firstname.lastname@example.org and welcome your feedback. We hold our Economic Development Commission meetings the first Monday of each month in Town Hall and they are open to the public.
May 2018 treat you and your families well.
-- Chris Edge is director of economic development in Berlin.