Old Lyme Economic Development Commission Voices Disappointment with CERC Analysis

Downtown Old Lyme (Credit: 2020 Google)


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OLD LYME — At its Wednesday night meeting, members of the Economic Development Commission voiced disappointment in the analytical report drafted by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center of last summer’s town-wide survey and requested a more in-depth and organized summary of the data.

“What we have so far is what anybody could do, but what we hired CERC and the PhDs to do is to connect the data. What I see here I could have done on my own,” complained Commission Co-Chair Justin Fuller..

“When we look at the executive summary of the survey, my feeling is CERC has it correct, but they really didn’t highlight the key points,” said Co-Chair Howard Margules.

In August, the commission conducted an online, town-wide survey to measure residents’ and business owners’ thoughts and attitudes about Old Lyme’s economy. In the May 20 referendum, voters approved $52,000 to hire CERC to help the commission develop the townwide survey. Part of CERC’s contract included a summary of the survey and the town’s two SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) workshops, as well as a feasibility study analyzing population trends, workers’ transportation patterns and a retail analysis of the types of businesses that could succeed in Old Lyme.

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[embeddoc url=”https://ctexaminer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SWOT-recap-meeting-2.pdf” download=”all”]

For the survey, CERC purchased 5,488 addresses using Accudata Integrated Marketing, Inc., which used data linked to the U.S. Post Office to choose 1,500 random addresses in Old Lyme — without names — of residents, business owners and P.O. box holders, who each received a postcard with a link to the survey, according to Fuller. As of October 2,683 residents and 110 businesses answered the survey. The commission also advertised using two town announcements, Facebook, and stories in The Day, Lymeline and CT Examiner.

“My problem is that I thought the report did a fantastic job with taking the data, each individual question and putting it into a graph and a narrative summary of what the chart says … But what I felt was missing was that analysis that compares question to question,” said Fuller. “For example, 79% of people said they want to see something happen on Halls Road. What were the demographics of that 79%? I thought the research and analysis was going to look for some correlations in the data because it isn’t hard to do — you’ve got the excel spreadsheet — you’ve got everything formatted and all you have to do is run the statistical analysis.”

Margules said he divided the CERC report into categories that included development, Halls Road, Hartford Avenue, Sound View, as well as responses about town government and business owners’ views.

“I will redo this and send it out to the committee and then we’ll send it to CERC … and I think they should restructure this … and then we’ll take it and if we still think it doesn’t fit exactly what we need, we’ll modify it again and come with a final,” he said.

Once the finished report is sent to the town’s boards and commissions, the EDC will set up meetings to talk about the potential impacts of the report findings.

Fuller said the key findings need to be well-written and objectively analyzed.

“I don’t want them to be our interpretation or CERC’s interpretation, I want it to be data-driven,” he said.

Richard LoPresti, a CERC consultant who has been working with the town, said CERC’s feasibility study, which is still in process, will show the correlations between the survey and specific needs for housing, retail, and other factors.

“The demographic community and retail analyses are complete, housing and industry are well underway. A next step to discuss the findings with you, the stakeholders, to see how data fits… and see what economic development opportunities or scenarios the town wants to consider,” he said.

CERC’s focus has been redirected toward retaining businesses in the state, as directed by Gov. Lamont, which means the agency’s municipal assistance will not be available for future projects.