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Courting A Development Chief

November 13th, 2015 · 14 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning, News and Events

The Bridgeport business community didn’t exactly bust open wallets to finance Joe Ganim’s election, most of the campaign loot went to outgoing Mayor Bill Finch and Ganim’s chief general election opponent Mary-Jane Foster, but now business leaders want to help Ganim identify a replacement assuming current development chief David Kooris is shown the door.

When Bill Finch became mayor in 2007, he dismissed professional development director Nancy Hadley who had served under John Fabrizi and moved the needle on several Downtown development projects such as the mix-use Bijou Square. When Finch let Hadley go he told opponents to the move that politicians didn’t like her. It seemed to many a very good reason to keep her. Don Eversley replaced Hadley and after several years he was shifted over to the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation under the umbrella of the business community replaced by professional development planner Kooris. Eversley did not last long in that job either as the agency had apparently run out of funds.

When Ganim became mayor in November of 1991 he tapped Mike Freimuth who had experience working in the city’s planning office and corridors of the city’s business community. The Webster Bank Arena and ballpark at Harbor Yard came together during Freimuth’s tenure. Freimuth is currently chief of the Hartford region development authority.

Serving as Bridgeport’s development director is a demanding job loaded with all sorts of challenges to create a vision for a cramped 16 square miles. Whether Kooris stays in the short term or someone else in the long term, the Steel Point redevelopment on the East Side is up and running with Starbucks and Chipotle recently open, followed by the grand opening of the anchor tenant Bass Pro Shops–Finch’s development legacy–next Wednesday. The ferry terminal Downtown is in the process of relocating to a short distance from the heart of Steel Point that could become a magnet for a Long Island market. Extending Steel Point’s economic impact beyond the immediate area, neighborhood revitalization, addressing the food desert in the East End, completing a second train station for the city, building relationships with state and federal officials are all challenges on the horizon.

CT Post business reporter Hugh Bailey has more on this subject:

When Bridgeport Mayor-elect Joe Ganim takes office Dec. 1, local business leaders say they hope he puts an immediate emphasis on job creation, which means wasting no time in finding an economic development director.

Though Ganim has yet to speak publicly about that job or other appointed positions, local officials say the role requires a particular set of skills, and that getting off to a good start is vital to building trust.

The Bridgeport Regional Business Council last week extended an offer to help with the selection process, something it has done for every opening since the 1980s. “It is our hope that we can begin immediately to assist your efforts to build a coalition around your agenda to create added economic development, continue down the road to fiscal stability, and devise and implement a good governance agenda,” BRBC President Paul Timpanelli wrote in a letter to Ganim.

Full story here.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Walsh

    If the BRBC has been actively involved in helping to select the Development Chief since the 1980s, their track record speaks for itself and I would say thanks but no thanks.
    If you have some recommendations please forward them but any additional input is not necessary.
    The city should then make the Development Director the highest-paid city employee and demand he produce. And please do not do this as an excuse as to why we need to give the mayor and everyone else a raise.
    Get someone with real experience in urban development and no recycling, i.e. Freimuth, Lavernoich, etc. No promotions from within. And no one from the BRBC.

  • Steven Auerbach

    There are some positions that may be worth saving for consistency. If the BRBC was involved with the hiring process then they agreed on David Kooris. Kooris has been shown to see projects through and did the Finch Administration a good turn. The predecessor to Kooris, Donald Eversley, was an absolute waste. Ed Lavernoich is a seasoned professional!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Whoever takes the development chair will be well served to remember tax abatements are not gifts to the well-heeled. Finch did a few good things for the city; creating jobs for Bridgeport residents was not one of them. Any abatement from now on must come with strings attached. A high percentage of jobs set aside for city residents, for one thing, financial and material investment in the community for another.

  • Jimfox

    Just remember Joe, those same fluckers from the BRBC were stepping on your dick!

  • Frank Venna

    Get Pimpanelli’s input and go with a total opposite of whom he suggests.

  • Jeff Kohut

    I think the Connecticut Post interview comment (below) by Bridgeport businessperson Beverly Dacey covers the bases in regard to Bridgeport’s development needs and is a good indicator of the qualities and priorities that an effective economic development director will need in recreating municipal/socioeconomic viability in Bridgeport. (I hope she is on the Ganim transition team and will be involved in the search for a new economic development director. The last sentence of her comment says it all.)

    “We need someone who understands that great sensitivity in creating relationships with the city departments. They all have to be working in concert,” said Beverlee Dacey, president of Amodex, which manufactures a stain-removal product.

    Amodex recently expanded into a new location on State Street, and Dacey said the move from the company’s Hancock Avenue location was a difficult one.

    “We encountered more headaches and unnecessary delays,” she said. “That affect people’s perception, and those delays cost money.”

    Dacey serves on an advisory board with the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund, and said the city needs to take advantage of resources available from the state and city governments.

    “There are a lot that funding opportunities to get you where you need to go,” she said.

    Dacey said she wants to see more emphasis on manufacturing in the city, including at the Cherry Street complex of abandoned factories next to Interstate 95 that is now slated to be turned into housing.

    “People need jobs before they need housing,” she said.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Well, we thank Beverlee Dacey for her input. Housing, a charter school and grocery store will improve the neighborhood and perception of the city from I-95. Clearly Jeff, you are not a contender for the Economic Development Department. How brilliant, let’s turn a derelict obsolete manufacturing building into manufacturing space because manufacturers are knocking on our doors and the Finch administration did not answer? Jeff, stop it already! Your vision for the city is obsolete.

  • Ron Mackey

    Here is a article from almost a year ago from Paul Timpanelli the president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, and shows why they shouldn’t be involve because of their terrible record of bringing jobs to Bridgeport, just look at the list below with no real jobs.

    Paul Timpanelli: Bridgeport’s progress is real, and growing

    Published 9:18 pm, Friday, December 5, 2014

    As a result of what we have accomplished, others have recognized the opportunity and new added private investment has occurred. These successes will add substantially to the many ways that the city of Bridgeport is successfully reinventing and repositioning itself, including, after 25 years in the making, the long-awaited development of the Steel Point peninsula with Bass Pro Shops having broken ground and Starbucks and Chipotle Grill coming to Bridgeport.

    Many singles, many doubles, and a couple of home runs. Exactly what it takes to win the game.

    Our work at the eco-technology park is an integral part of a successful economic game plan. Stay tuned, remain focused, and don’t lose sight of the big picture. Bridgeport is a cleaner, greener and more desirable place in many ways.

    Paul Timpanelli is president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.

    www .ctpost.com/news/article/Paul-Timpanelli-Bridgeport-s-progress-is-real-5938755.php

    • Steven Auerbach

      Well, we thank Beverlee Dacey for her input. Housing, a charter school and grocery store will improve the neighborhood and perception of the city from I-95. Clearly Jeff, you are not a contender for the Economic Development Department. How brilliant, let’s turn a derelict obsolete manufacturing building into manufacturing space because manufacturers are knocking on our doors and the Finch administration did not answer? Jeff, stop it already! Your vision for the city is obsolete.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Ron, that was an excellent article. I know you are not a fan of Paul Timpanelli or Bill Finch. You diminish Timpanelli’s knowledge, clout and cheerleading ability. First, after next week you will change your opinion of Bass Pro. It will be Bridgeport’s biggest success story in 50 years. The Ferry will be landing there. Ganim will enjoy many successes there during his terms as Mayor. Mayor Finch was responsible for the ground breaking at Steelpointe. It will be about Steelpointe for the next 20 years.
      David Kooris is also a key component in the successful launch of Steelpointe. As for Paul Timpanelli, he has held his position in high esteem from most leaders in the business community. Although comments from the peanut gallery are always important, Timpanelli is held in high esteem among his peers. Ganim never expected to have their support during the election. But as the Mayor, he absolutely needs the support of the BRBC. They are involved in many Bridgeport projects including Downtown North. Ganim is going to be the recipient of so many ongoing projects and that should help outsiders perceive Bridgeport in a positive light. With so many projects in the works it certainly is not necessary to continue bashing Finch, Kooris and Timpanelli. It is strange that since the election there has been no commentary on Foster, Torres and Coviello. Like there was no general election.

      • John Marshall Lee

        “It will be Bridgeport’s biggest success story in 50 years. The Ferry will be landing there.” Steve, you are a relentless cheerleader no matter the team, we have observed.

        What would be the standards that will launch Steelpointe into this select category, aside from THE FERRY LANDING THERE? Will economics be part of that story? You never seem to say and that is important to those taxpayers who were moved from that acreage and whose taxes were lost to the City for many years, to all the taxpayers who have subsidized operating budgets until those 70 acres contribute to the City beyond meeting repayment of developments and infrastructure costs in the main. How will a visit to Bass Pro spill over into revenue sources for the City in the coming four years? Isn’t such necessary to call it a twice a century success? Time will tell.

  • John Marshall Lee

    “It is our hope that we can begin immediately to assist your efforts to build a coalition around your agenda to create added economic development, continue down the road to fiscal stability, and devise and implement a good governance agenda.” That’s a quote from Paul Timpanelli. I could not have said it better myself, although if you think of it I have been barking about these subjects for years. “Added economic development” and real evidence of same by showing an enhanced Net Taxable Grand List that might hint at the amount of property that once was owned privately and paid taxes where today it is City owned and paying none and is just expensive. It might also show the extent of the abatement payments over years in contrast to regular taxation and the reasons the CC approved this action.
    And speaking of fiscal stability, you would want to see the trends in all accounts, budgets and long term obligations since Pension Plan A could come unfunded before the next Mayoral election forcing the City to absorb an extra and new expense equal to 10% of City tax revenues. Wheelabrator effect? Public Schools? Police expense?
    Why would Paul Timpanelli write about a “good governance agenda?” As long as Bill Finch was in office, checks and balances and Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest governance were not important but now they are? If not that, Paul, then what do you mean? No name calling from this quarter as you know, just what are you looking toward specifically? Do you want the new Mayor to follow in Mayor Finch’s steps, or reach for something more friendly to taxpayers and other citizens? Time will tell.

  • Ron Mackey

    Trust but verify, and when you do that about Paul Timpanelli during the two terms Bill Finch was mayor is reason enough his service is no longer needed. Bob Walsh and JML’s comments are right on target and Paul Timpanelli is the past and Bridgeport must move forward without him. Just look at all the time and energy that was wasted by Timpanelli and his organization chasing Donald Trump and Steve Wynn about putting a casino in Bridgeport. When Steve Wynn came to Bridgeport he said he could draw large numbers of people to his casino but he couldn’t draw them to downtown Bridgeport and that was the problem Bridgeport had to solve. Timpanelli and his organization wasted all that time not looking at other businesses to come to Bridgeport, instead they were looking for that one big deal to solve all of Bridgeport’s problems. Trust but verify should be the motto for Bridgeport, starting with Joe Ganim, the city council, our state delegation and anyone the City has business with, trust but verify. Time will tell (JML).

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