New London In Pursuit Of A Strong Economic Future
New Haven Independent, February 27, 2020
By Chris Gilson, CCM Communications Writer
Though it is one of the State’s smallest municipalities, New London has big plans for the future and the right diversity to make it happen.
Felix Reyes, the director of Economic Development & Planning for New London came on the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ “The Municipal Voice” program on WNHH Radio to talk about the path ahead.
It starts with choosing the right developments for the city according to Reyes. With more brownfields than greenfields, adaptive reuse have been popular and successful, but “not every development is a good development.”
“We always take a step back and give thorough due diligence — do we have enough water, do we have enough sewer, how will this affect our schools.”
Reyes is always planning for the future, what he wants is a viable city not just for himself, his children, but his children’s children as well. Right now one of the key aspects is an accurate count in the Census.
“The Community Development Office, Human Resources, they’re doing a tremendous job,” Reyes said, “working with the churches, the non-profits, and getting people comfortable. It’s like anything else, when you’re in a diverse community, you’re always going to get some hesitation from your residents.”
Reyes suspects that New London’s population is slightly larger than the cited number, saying it’s all about the education. He says the economic impact of this is a few thousand dollars for every person, but also in his planning efforts.
“We have to provide people with safe, healthy housing options. That has an economic impact.”
Many services for suburbs back to top
People also come to New London for a lot of services, but they struggle, as do many larger cities, with funding of programs like the Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes. Planning & Zoning is behind what can be done, but the funding has to be there to implement it.
Part of the plan is to become a true hub for the area. With rail, boats, highway, and even a small airport in the mix, New London wants to up its marketability. One way it’s doing that is by touting its position as the center point of New York and Boston.
Eversource and Orsted are opening offices in downtown New London, perhaps to talk about the future of sustainable energy in the area. After initial bids fell apart New London is still very interested in building up that sector, and with the state investing $157 million into the pier, it’s a no-brainer.
The one caveat Reyes offers is that “the only way New London benefits is if those jobs go to New Londoners.”
Reyes says there’s a lot of synergy happening, in the parks, in the arts community, and beyond. And it’s going to take investment from all parties to create the sustainable future for the city that he envisions for his children’s children.
New London is “extremely diverse, so when you have that type of background in a building, ideas are shared, and those ideas are turned into action plans,” he said, “everyone sacrifices a little bit for the well-being of the city.”