CERC Upbeat About Growth in Meriden


By Mary Ellen Godin , Record-Journal staff

The city sends more commuters to Hartford than New Haven, so trying to group it in the New Haven labor market area is short-sighted and doesn't reflect Meriden's full resources, according to a new study released Tuesday.

In its report "Communities Connecting to Compete," the Connecticut Economic Resource Center Inc. found that Meriden belongs to seven labor market areas, from Hartford to Middletown, Waterbury, Bristol and Branford, among others.

Representatives from CERC shared their findings with Meriden leaders to show them their city is on a path to growth, if given the right push.

"If we want to fix growth in Connecticut, we have to fix what is not growing," said Jeffrey Blodgett, vice president of research for CERC. "Connecticut has divided the state into all different regions that don't reflect reality. We have to encourage folks to think outside the labor market areas."

CERC identified 24 urban areas to study growth or lack of growth and identify patterns common to all. What it discovered was that population in the urban areas began losing ground in the 1970s, as both people and jobs moved to the suburbs.

It also looked at key institutional assets, such as a regional newspaper, hospital service areas and museums. Older communities typically have these assets.

But after manufacturing in the state dried up, the old factories were unsuitable for the new economy. Only recently did state and federal governments invest in cleaning up the silver, brass and rubber factories of the state to reuse them.

"These cities will not fix themselves," Blodgett said.

In their research, representatives of CERC found plenty about Meriden to bubble to the top of the "Urban 24."

The city has a transit-oriented background, said Robert Santy, CERC president and chief executive officer. Fortunately, that benefit is higher on the governor's list of priorities than it had been in the past.

Meriden also has a comprehensive downtown project that exceeds cosmetic fixes and lays a foundation for a multi-modal transportation center and mixed-use residential/commercial and office space on the former Hub site.

"The Hub project is one of those projects statewide that captures people's imagination," Santy said. "In the Regional Growth Partnership, this project was identified as one of seven strategies in the state. That prioritization should impact state bonding."

According to Santy, the state earned a C- in infrastructure from the Institute for the 21st Century. One reason is a lack of transparency in the way Connecticut conducts its bonding process.

"How does the state do its bonding? Are we strategic in the expenditure of these funds? A lot of what we're worried about is the overall and not the components."

For instance, on the Hub project alone, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Environmental Protection are involved in some capacity. Instead of working together, the project gets bottlenecked in agency bureaucracy.

Housing costs are another Meriden advantage, Blodgett said. The city has a large percentage of homes under $400,000, making it more attractive than other areas, where workers can't afford to live. It is also centrally located and has affordable rental rates.

City Economic Development Director Peggy Brennan suggested a summit of representatives from all "Urban 24" cities to help craft a strategic plan.

"Our planning has been budget to budget; nobody is looking down the horizon," Brennan said.

"It's good to see a report on mid-size cities," said City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior. "It's nice to see Meriden highlighted and that we're in a position to grow. But we have a lack of connection to many regions that gives us a separation of resources. How are we to bring together the neighboring towns like Cheshire and Middletown? That's what we would like to see."

CERC will host a series of talks with state leaders about its findings, including a presentation to the General Assembly's Commerce Committee on Feb. 19.

(203) 317-2255

State Economic Strategic Plan Testimony
« previous
Lawmakers Want More Chefs for State Pork
next »
Member Login Login