OLD LYME -- The Economic Development Commission has launched a survey to find out residents’ and business owners’ thoughts and ideas about development in Old Lyme.
“This is an opportunity for the EDC -- we’re asking the public for their input and this is one of the strategies we’ve been talking about since I’ve been on the EDC,” said EDC Co-chair Justin Fuller at the commission’s meeting at Town Hall Wednesday afternoon. “It’s one thing to come in here and talk about what we think and what we hear from people and it’s another to try to engage the real pulse of the town and the status quo.”
The commission developed the survey with the help of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), a nonprofit public-private organization that provides economic development services to municipalities. In May, the town’s Board of Finance unanimously approved about $52,000 to hire CERC to do develop a town-wide study, which voters approved as part of the May 20 referendum on the 2019-2020 budget.
In addition to the survey, the commission is scheduling two SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) workshops for business owners. As part of its contract, which concludes on June 30, 2020, CERC will also follow up the survey and SWOT with a feasibility study that will include regional analysis of worker transportation patterns, population trends, as well as an analysis of what types of business are best suited for Old Lyme.
The online survey has already exceeded the 10 percent mark -- considered a statistical representation -- with 285 respondents so far, and that’s before sending out informational postcards, said EDC Co-Chair Howard Margules at Wednesday’s meeting.
“We said that when we talked about this initially, that we’d mail out 1,500 postcards and we’ve already hit 20 percent without doing the mailing. I think we’re going to hit 30 or 40 percent,” said Margules.
Fuller said that transparency is one of the commission’s guiding principles during the process of gathering information.
“The key message that I want to get out is that we have these three things going on -- the survey, the SWOT and the feasibility study -- and they all work together and they’re all being done openly and publicly and all the data is going to be out there for everyone to see,” he said.
CERC will produce a document that summarizes the survey and SWOT data, including comments, which will be available to the public. Based on CERC’s data analysis, the EDC will recommend an economic development strategy to the Board of Selectmen.
The data could be surprising, Fuller said.
“We have no preconceived notion of what that’s going to look like. It could be we recommend that we just keep doing what we’re doing or it could be very broad that we need to invest heavily in an area of town, be it Halls Road or Hartford Avenue or whatever it might be. I don’t know what that’s going to look like because I don’t know what the data is going to be,” he said.
A year from now, the EDC will likely have a plan of action, and Fuller said he hoped the town will continue to finance assistance from CERC.
“This time next year will be exciting because these projects will be done. We’ll hopefully have already drafted something and sent it to the selectmen’s office,” he said. “We hope we show the town, the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen that this is a worthwhile investment and hopefully we continue to have someone from CERC help the EDC implement the recommendations.”