An address by Republican City Council candidate Derek Czenczelewski to the GOP's town committee this week:
At our last Republican Town Committee meeting we discussed the idea of a clustered approach towards business, in particular the technology sector. The idea, brought to our attention by Ed Krawiecki, is very intriguing. To summarize what “clustering” entails, it basically creates a job cluster of associated or related industry. When businesses cluster, everyone tends to win. Prices are adjusted to be the most competitive in the area, the best products are created and the cluster becomes known for the type of industry or service it provides. In our case, we would be utilizing ESPN’s name and reputation for communications and technology to attract other, related companies. This doesn’t mean we would become the “Sports Media Mecca” of the world, but rather a hotspot for IT and technology-related business.
Following the meeting I began to do a host of research on the technology sector, including IT companies in the state. I started out by asking individuals in the sector where the best talent is, both in state and in the region. The overwhelming majority told me that the best talent is coming from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that talent is staying in Massachusetts. The northeast contains one of the largest hot spots for IT, and Connecticut is a player in this industry. With nearly 800 IT companies calling Connecticut home, we currently rank number 21 for states with the most IT companies. However, Bristol isn’t even in the top 10 among Connecticut cities despite being the home of ESPN. Of our neighbors, Connecticut ranks 5th, behind New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. According to MSNBC’s list of the “most expensive states for business,” New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts rank in the top 10. We have a great opportunity to attract these businesses from our neighbors by offering a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately, our state ranks 4th on that very list. We need to work with the state government to make doing business here in Connecticut a more attractive option. It’s the only way we will be able to create a high tech cluster here in Bristol. High tech industry will bring the best and the brightest to the city, and will further help us build up our local economy, reducing our tax burden.
I’ve heard a lot of excuses for why Bristol doesn’t have a thriving downtown yet as well, how we are too poor, too small, and too isolated. These excuses are used for basically everything that is questioned about Bristol. But this list of excuses is just that, a list of excuses. With Route 72 nearing completion, Bristol is nearly out of excuses. For instance, 5 of the top 10 IT cities in the state are actually smaller than Bristol, so we certainly aren’t too small. Cities like New Britain, whose median household income is significantly lower than Bristol’s, was named Connecticut’s 2008 Most Business Friendly City, so we aren’t too poor. People suggest that Bristol couldn’t sustain a downtown like Blue Back Square, yet Canton, with a population nearly 7 times smaller than Bristol’s, and possibly even more difficult to access, has The Shoppes at Farmington Valley. These shops, or similar ones, would do tremendous business here in Bristol. We have no excuses left to give as to why we can’t be more than what we are! We are the only ones holding ourselves back.
I understand why some have become so disillusioned. Suffering major blows like the loss of Yarde Metals, New Departure and falling short in our attempt at landing WFSB have caused this. The long, drawn out process that has become our downtown has continued this theme. However, we have every qualification to be a thriving city capable of sustaining many new ventures: a strong median household income, a top 10 population and with the completion of Route 72, easier access.
There has been an effort given to try to make our city a better place, but I just feel that these efforts have been too little, and are quickly approaching “too late” status as well. The BDA’s recent decision to find developers utilizing an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) instead of the RFP (Request for Proposals) they had initially used is a start. However, we should be doing our own part to find qualified developers. Why wait for firms to come to us, when we could be finding our ideal candidate? It’s not overly difficult to get a firm’s portfolio to see what they have accomplished and if they would be capable. We know what we want in downtown: a mixed-use development aimed at bringing young professionals (like myself) and others from around town, downtown. We need to take a more concerted effort to make the change we seek.
I’m not going to stand here criticizing our efforts thus far without putting my hat in the ring. I’m not scared to put my name next to our numerous development projects, nor am I afraid of making hard decisions. I highly suggest to our elected officials and the Board of Finance to start working on next year’s budget now, if they haven’t already begun to do so. I don’t have all the answers to our problems, but I do have a different viewpoint. It’s true that I’m young, but I also represent the very demographic so many of you that I’ve spoken with wish to keep in town, and want in local government. If this is what you truly want, if positive change and a new beginning for downtown is what you want; if new business, low taxes and new blood is what you want, then I will represent your views and do my best to make this a reality for my hometown.
Derek A. Czenczelewski
(Running for 3rd District City Council)
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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