For Tom Gill, it’s déjà vu all over again. Needing consistency in a key revenue-generating department, Mayor Joe Ganim on Monday brought back Gill to once again lead the Office of Planning and Economic Development, a position Gill had for about six years during the tenure of Democratic Mayor John Mandanici, 1975-81. Gill returns to the role in a much different city demographically, structurally and politically.
When Gill was development chief 40 years ago, the city enjoyed a more proportionally potent grand list of taxable property, a stronger middle class, public safety officers resided in the city, albeit battling a regional trend of once-powerful manufacturing giants such as the sprawling Bridgeport Brass closing shop or relocating out of the city. The city was a regional banking center led by People’s, CityTrust and Mechanics & Farmers. The New England economic meltdown of the early 1990s changed that. CityTrust and M&F are toast. People’s United Bank headquarters is still Downtown, but its leadership is largely disengaged from city center and neighborhoods with philanthropic efforts way down.
For Gill it’s a different city. The regulatory process of dealing with state and federal dollars to enhance projects has also changed. During his initial tenure, there was no ballpark or arena, very few residents lived Downtown, now there’s an uptick in young professionals residing there, in several new housing developments, attracted by the lower rental costs than lower Fairfield County communities.
Demographically the city is now predominantly black and brown. Residents want jobs and tax stability.
“I am looking forward to the economic growth Tom will bring to the city,” said Ganim. “We have known each other for decades and Tom has a genuine love for his city. I am certain his experience in the public and private sector will bring a unique perspective to development in Bridgeport. I greatly appreciate the input we received from the regional business community and statewide economic development officials while choosing Tom Gill for this position. He is the right man for the job and will greatly benefit our community.”
“I am passionate about Bridgeport; this is where I am from,” said Gill. “We have over 40 active projects that we plan to layout. These projects mean job creation, an increase in tax base and an increase in quality of life.”
Gill most recently worked as chief operating officer of the Downtown-based Black Rock Capital, a commercial equipment finance company.
Gill brings to the table institutional knowledge of the city and numerous business community relationships for a position that requires savvy to attract state and federal dollars and serve as a daily catalyst to stimulate private investment to grow the tax base. He’s not a pol.
In April, David Kooris, the development chief hired by former Mayor Bill Finch, left the city to accept a development position in state government managing a federally funded project addressing shoreline infrastructure improvements including Bridgeport. Ed Lavernoich, the executive director of the quasi-public Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation, agreed to fill in for three months, pending a search for a permanent replacement.
Gill was appointed development chief by Mandanici in 1976. He remained on the job into 1982. Mandanici was defeated by Republican Lenny Paoletta in November 1981. Paoletta appointed Tom Corso to the position. Gill had a background in banking prior to his appointment by Mandanici as development chief.
According to Gill’s bio on the Black Rock Capital website, he served as president and chief financial officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Fairfield First Bank & Trust Company from 1986 until the establishment of Black Rock Capital in 1994. In addition to his responsibilities in the overall administration and regulation of the bank, Gill coordinated the re-capitalization of the bank with a private investment group. The bank failed in 1996, after Gill left, according to the Connecticut Department of banking.
Prior to the founding of the Fairfield First Bank & Trust Company, Gill was a First Vice President of the Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. with responsibility for all lending and branch operations in the Stamford area.
Gill has a B.A. in economics from the University of Bridgeport and a graduate degree in banking from the University of Wisconsin.