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.