Letter to DECD on HB 5383 Regarding State Support for Economic Development District Designation

6/3/2010

Commissioner Joan McDonald
Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development
505 Hudson Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

Dear Commissioner McDonald,

I am writing to you today representing the CT Economic Development Association (CEDAS), which is the largest trade group of economic development professionals in CT. The letter is in regards to HB 5383; “An Act Concerning Regional Economic Development.” I am writing to request a reduction or change in the threshold required for DECD support of Economic Development Districts (EDDs) as outlined in your 5/17/2010 memo.

We agree that this is a landmark piece of legislation that could result in a more thoughtful approach in considering projects that have a regional impact. Everyone agrees that we need the framework for this approach and this bill gets us closer to what the federal EDA has in mind for EDDs.

Challenge Identified

The challenge will be for regions in CT to meet the proposed requirement for an EDD to have a minimum of twenty communities to receive DECD support. CERC’s most recent CEDS regional map shows that only the MetroHartford region has 20 communities in their CEDS region. Although there are some regions where there are ongoing CEDS activities and where there could be 20 communities involved (source DECD), the reality is that it could take a great deal of time and expense for communities to leave their current COG/RPA regions to join with others, while potentially incurring costs in doing so.  This slows down progress for these communities, rather than help them succeed.

Most communities already belong to and pay dues to local COGs for many planning and financial benefits but also to think and act as a region. These memberships have long been established through local governments and supported by a plethora of local economic and planning agencies. Those who belong to a COG may also belong to other regions because of other programs (i.e. Workforce) that are important to them. Understanding that the Criteria for receiving DECD support for EDDs was intended on getting more communities involved, it could unfairly penalize communities that already have well established, EDA approved, Community Economic Development Strategies (CEDS).

The following chart compares the CERC CEDS map data to the most recent DECD Briefing Report for CEDS in Connecticut:

  CERC DECD (CEDS Status 2010)
Litchfield/NW CT Region 10 Communities 20 Communities (Planning)
Coastal Region (SW) 14 Communities 14 Communities (Submitted)
Naugatuck Valley Region 18 Communities 18 Communities (Planning)
South Central (RGP) 15 Communities 15 Communities (Approved)
MetroHartford CROG 29 Communities 31 Communities (Approved)
NE CT Partnership 19 Communities 22 Communities (Approved)
SeCTer (SE) 18 Communities 19 Communities (Planning)
Central CT Alliance 7 Communities 7 Communities (Planning)

According to the DECD numbers, only three CEDS are approved; Metro Hartford, South Central and NE Partnership. However South Central CT wouldn’t be eligible for EDD support under the proposed guidelines. Some regions could never expand because they are land locked, preventing them from including adjacent communities into their CEDS region. This could diminish the value of those regions in the broader state economy.

Proposed Solution

We would like to see a system that empowers all communities to think as economic regions as they define them. The number of communities in a region is less important than the economic markets and population centers that comprise them. Many communities understand their local and regional economies and should be rewarded for their efforts to take positive steps to improve them.

A simple recommendation to resolve the identified challenge is to reduce the minimum size of EDD districts required for DECD support of a EDD to 10 communities or to redefine eligibility differently (i.e. Population Centers, CEDS Tenure or Status). This way, current regions can move forward immediately and take advantage of what the HB 5383 has to offer so they can develop the local regional economy throughout CT. The reduction of the number of communities in EDD Districts would also align the State’s goals for regional economic development strategies with those intended by the federal EDA, who does not mandate region sizes.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss this and other relevant issues with you further to provide the input of the many economic development professionals throughout CT that have much to offer from their years of experience in the field. Thanks for listening and we would hope to continue the conversation.

Best Regards,

Dale Kroop
President

Cc: Brenda Sisco: OPM
Eric Coleman: P&D Committee 
Brendan Sharkey: P&D Committee
Leonard Fasano: P&D Committee
William Aman: P&D Committee


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