Ganim Hopes Gill Breathes New Life Into Economic Development

Gill, Ganim
Ganim introduces Gill as new development chief.

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.



  1. As I said before, Tom Gill is a good guy. But he is not the leader Bridgeport needs. His skill set as Economic Development Director 40 years ago is of no value in today’s Development environment.
    We need a leader who will offer bold innovative proposals. We need a leader who will see through failed floundering plans. We need a leader who will shelve the self-serving proposals of the BRBC and seek out new ideas that will push Bridgeport forward into 21st century.
    Joe Ganim couldn’t even try to promise that this is what Tom will do. He is merely a caretaker of the old plans that never worked and not an innovator of new and exciting plans for the future.
    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results. This is insane.

  2. And to Doug Davidoff, I am not being negative. I am not wishing the city fails again. But I am saying make companies and individuals who have been awarded development rights act in accordance to the plan or strip them of those rights. Demand performance or demand them to relinquish all rights.
    Get tough and get results. For the past 20 – 30 years the taxpayers have been fed BS and we have suffered.
    It was during G1 the city seized the properties in Downtown North and we are still waiting for real development Downtown.
    The developers of Steel Point have consistently missed deadlines. And what does the city do? Rip up the old LDA and write new ones that are more and more developer friendly. Lessen the requirements; stretch out the deadlines and what do you get?
    A Bass Pro, a coffee shop and a Tex Mex fast food joint. Who in their right mind would find this acceptable?
    But it all took root in Ganim 1.
    We need new.
    We need challenging.
    We need excitement.
    But when I look at Tom Gill with a banking and leasing background I do not see that. I see same old same old.

  3. Innovation is good but invention is better.
    Mayor Ganim might not be dedicated to lowering taxes but I am dedicated to Bridgeport’s economic development. So far, I have established digital office space in Boston, where I am promoting Bridgeport and Trumbull as destinations for companies, talent and satellite offices. Nimble and quick, I’ve even given a Boston link to a recent Bridgeport entry looking to expand in Boston. If you don’t believe me, check the blogroll here:

    As my handle suggests, I have local plans, too.

  4. I find it strangely interesting that included in that picture is the new Police Chief’s brother, Max Perez, who once held a Real Estate license, and holds an “inactive” HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTOR license.

  5. Everyone is making valid arguments, but the fact is Tom Gill has the job. By all accounts he is a good man; so let’s give him 90 days or so to see what he does before we determine he is unfit to do the job.

  6. Gill: “Joe, I already did this once, and look how well the city turned out.”
    Joe: “Chill Gill, that kid Kooris did all the hard work for you. The pipeline is chock-full of projects. Starting at this very moment, the only thing you need to do is say “yessir” and shake my hand for the photographers. Easy Breezy. Hell, look at all the things Bill did that I get to take credit for. Cake buddy, cake.”
    Gill: “Yessir.”
    Joe: “Exactly, now smile.”

  7. Perhaps Max Perez is a City employee in OPED using skills acquired in earlier endeavors.
    Perhaps Tom Gill will use attitudes and skills developed and practiced in past banking and leasing activities to prospect for, and nurture both new and old relationships towards the larger goal of City economic development, specifically by growing the Taxable Grand List that sagged so significantly in the Finch years.

    While filing some paperwork this week I came across “Principal Taxpayers as of March 1, 2014” from a city publication listing total 2013 Net Grand List at $6,986,671,000. Top of the listing was US Bank National Association/Wheelabrator (Trustee) showing an Assessed Value of $310,699,301 that represents a land/building valuation in excess of $440,000,000 at the time. Wheelabrator has been in court fighting its valuations each year, or earlier cases on appeal, including to the Supreme Court of CT. City taxpayers have been paying for legal expense with no explanation from City Hall on reasons for pursuing this course of action when City experts were unable in court to defend the valuation.
    Behold our most recent presentation in 2016 that indicates a different value based on 2015 assessment one assumes based on revaluation of 2015 of $153,984,140. What a haircut. Where will we find the lost $150 Million of assessed value for the Grand List for starters?
    What are the financial results to today’s taxpayers of such taxing folly? How do we get more OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT process for taxpayers? Now O&G wants to move its “crushing” plant for debris next door to Wheelabrator? Waterfront development? Time will tell.

  8. Was Joe still in high school, living large in Easton when Tom Gill was first named Development Director?
    Was Tom Gill Development Director when James Demitracis brought his Staten Island Ferry boat to town? Or maybe when it took sail in the middle of the night?
    How come Joe didn’t mention all the great development projects Tom was responsible for when he previously held the office? Because there were none?

  9. This is probably the most important position for any mayor because there must be growth in the City and increase the tax roll. This is what controls the taxes and the budget. Is Mr. Gill the right person? Well I don’t know but I hope he is because after Bill Finch’s low growth rate we need to grow our economy to lower our taxes.

  10. It is very frustrating to see Bridgeport approaching redevelopment in a no-rhyme-or-reason, beggars-can’t-be-choosers fashion.

    We have a patchwork of haphazardly accumulated, ill-considered projects, most in the form of tax liability, no-job projects (such as fossil-fuel power plants that detract from the overall tax base as well as our quality of life, or fuel-cell plants/solar arrays which are low valuation/no-job facilities that crowd-out potential lucrative development).

    Our failure to seek out and pursue high valuation, permanent-jobs-intensive development while we continue to fawn over tax liability prospects (Stamford workforce housing) and tax base devaluing/no-job projects (fossil-fuel/regional-waste-disposal power plants) is truly distressing.

    And the whole deception of Steal Point is really quite maddening to reasonable observers.

    It is almost as if Bridgeport’s new motto is “pardon us for living; we know we really aren’t worthy.”

    In regard to our fossil-fuel power-plant-based grand list; I would have OIB readers consider the thoughts expressed in this op-ed link from the Connecticut Mirror:

    I don’t know Tom Gill, but I would hope he would seek to convene a public meeting soliciting ideas for Bridgeport redevelopment. And I certainly hope Mr. Gill will do some basic calculations to determine how much more development Bridgeport needs to regain municipal fiscal and socioeconomic health and that he will realize that, being a small city with high unemployment, we need lots and lots of high-value/jobs-intensive development (not no-job, tax-base-devaluing/tax-base-restricting power plants).

    John Mandanici would have never had Mr. Gill open up Bridgeport’s doors to the hodgepodge of polluting, tax base devaluing, no-job development we have seen in recent years. John Mandanici would have sought out the best for Bridgeport and its people. It would be very gratifying to feel “only the best for Bridgeport” attitude coming out of City Hall again.

  11. Jeff, Tom’s a nice guy, we worked together when Mandy was Mayor, unfortunately, he doesn’t realize yet how bad it is now, and what he’s getting into.

  12. I do not know Mr. Gill, but as a result of the ridiculously high mil rate in Bridgeport, he’s going to need a miracle to attract new businesses. I wish him good luck because he’s going to need it.


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