MERIDEN — Business recruitment specialist Dave Cooley opened the city’s new business center Monday.
His first client, Richard Pennyman, a Meriden native working in the hotel industry, was interested in possibly opening a restaurant in the downtown transit-oriented district.
”I’m in the early stages of gathering information,” Pennyman said. “Meriden is turning around. When you look at Wallingford and Middletown, it’s really built up because people have a variety of dining and entertainment available.”
Pennyman was referred to the Making Meriden Business Center at 5 Colony St. by a landlord who suggested he could get more information about possible locations and resources. Cooley offered him a tour of potential properties and information about resources.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Cooley said. “I’d like to help small businesses and growing businesses in the TOD (transit-oriented district).”
Cooley, a business development specialist, has worked with teams from the University of Hartford to develop successful strategies overseas. A Meriden native, Cooley had a long sales and marketing career, and helped build a global company.
“There are a number of tools in the toolbox and part of David’s job is to connect the dots,” said Sean Moore, president of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce, a partner in the Making Meriden Center.
Other partners include the Meriden Economic Development Corp., or Medco; Connecticut Main Street Inc.; and the city’s economic development office. Medco provided $50,000 in seed money. Liberty Bank, Eversource and others also made donations. Silver City Properties helped provide leasing assistance.
The center was launched to address the next phase of downtown redevelopment. The completion of the park and the new train station, and the abundance of vacant commercial space led to the need for a one-stop center for existing business owners and potential newcomers. Cooley and Lisa Biesak, of Connecticut Main Street, introduce clients to programs such as Meriden Match, IT Zone incentives, and programs from the Small Business Development Center, and more.
The center’s first step is a survey of existing downtown businesses. Cooley is also planning a small and growing business boot camp and a job fair.
“The bones are in place, I hope to inject a little soul,” Cooley said.