As we ring in the new year, the Fairfield Economic Development Commission looks back on a very productive 2018 which included the launch of a new business-oriented website, the initiation of a buy local campaign and Fairfield being named by the Yankee Institute as Connecticut’s “most business friendly town,” among many highlights.

Roughly a year ago, the EDC completed work on a long-range economic development plan aimed at supporting the town’s existing business base, creating opportunities for new business investment and growing the commercial component of the town’s grand list. One of the action steps identified in the plan was to update the Fairfield EDC’s website as part of a broader marketing campaign to attract new business investment.

Launched in June, the new mobile responsive website, choosefairfieldct.com, provides key statistics about Fairfield, as well as video testimonials from local business leaders discussing the quality and depth of the talent pool, relationships to local universities and what it means to operate a business in Fairfield. In the months since, volunteers and staff working with the Commission helped identify a target list of companies in the NYC-metro area and craft an initial marketing pitch to these businesses.

Recognizing that business attraction efforts can best be accomplished at scale, the Fairfield EDC continues to work collaboratively with its counterparts in the neighboring communities of Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Westport as part of the Fairfield County 5 initiative. This past year, the group held its latest business outreach event in the city with an after-hours networking “meet and greet” targeting tech-oriented start-ups. At the event, the 100+ guests had an opportunity to mingle with venture capitalists, angel investors, growth services groups and IP consultants while sampling beverages from Connecticut craft breweries and learning more about what Connecticut has to offer. Town leaders and staff from the five towns continue to meet regularly, and look forward to working with the incoming administration in Hartford to build upon these efforts.

Several projects that are central to the commission’s efforts to grow the tax base attained significant milestones this year. In the fall, Benchmark Senior Living celebrated the opening of Sturges Ridge of Fairfield, an 88-unit assisted living residential community. Two more such facilities — being developed by Maplewood and Sunrise Senior Living in the Southport and Stratfield sections of Fairfield, respectively — are rapidly nearing completion. Meanwhile, in the area surrounding Fairfield Metro, the Trademark II development is advancing, after garnering approval from the Town Planning & Zoning Commission this past year. Collectively, these four projects represent a capital investment of nearly $100 million, while providing additional housing opportunities, including for those requiring specialized care.

While efforts to attract new business investment are important, the commissions’ focus remains on the roughly 3,000 businesses that presently call Fairfield home. In the fall, the commission unveiled a new, town-wide “Buy Local” campaign aimed at building public awareness around the importance of supporting local businesses, not just during the all-important holiday shopping season, but throughout the year. The commission continues to devote resources to its business retention efforts, meeting regularly with business leaders to better understand how it can help provide an environment in which companies can flourish and grow.

All of these efforts culminated in Fairfield being recognized as the most business friendly community in the State by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a non-profit think tank based in Hartford. Analyzing reams of data and replicating the methodology used by other organizations to evaluate economic performance among states, the Yankee Institute cited Fairfield’s economic vitality and transportation infrastructure — along with its two universities — as key strengths.

While the commission reflects with pride on what it accomplished this past year, it also recognizes that there remains much work to be done. The EDC looks forward to working with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and the community at large on an even more prosperous 2019.

Mark Barnhart is the Director of Community & Economic Development for the Town of Fairfield, and is the Treasurer of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS).