Norwalk looking to restart economic engine

Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch appeared quite pleased Wednesday with the results from a series of meetings with community leaders. Lesch said the meetings, which were called "innovation forums," started out as only one, but turned into four total get-togethers. "The program is called Restarting Our Engines," she said. "It involved hours of people's time. The basic concept was, what can we do to restart our economic engine for the community. What can we do to spur growth in current companies?"
Scott Seitz2
Jun 25, 2010

Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch appeared quite pleased Wednesday with the results from a series of meetings with community leaders.

Lesch said the meetings, which were called "innovation forums," started out as only one, but turned into four total get-togethers.

"The program is called Restarting Our Engines," she said. "It involved hours of people's time. The basic concept was, what can we do to restart our economic engine for the community. What can we do to spur growth in current companies?"

The forums loosely centered around The Ron Kitchens book "Community Capitalism: Lessons from Kalamazoo."

"So much good dialogue came from these meetings," Lesch said. "This was a group of very smart people, with vast experience in business who gave good guidance to economic development."

Lesch said throughout the forums, four elements kept repeating themselves.

"The first was we have an excellent economic development team," she said. "But it needs promoted. We need to get the word out they are there to help."

Lesch said business retention was the second theme.

"Business retention is key," she said. "That's where most of your growth is going to come from.

"The third is partnership," she said. "We need to seek out businesses that will have a long-term commitment to Norwalk and bring a long-term economic benefit."

Lesch said the fourth element was the continued push to develop the NASA Plumbrook airstrip.

Lesch added the forums also produced five top-priority goals.

"The first is entrepreneurship," she said.

The second goal is utilities.

"Strengthen our competitive advantage by providing strong and affordable utility infrastructure with adequate utilities for future growth," the report stated.

"Teach to grade 14," the mayor said was the third goal, adding make education in English, math and technology to a grade 14 level (associates degree) affordable and accessible for all interested employees, employers and the unemployed.

The fourth goal was to strengthen this area's resource network, while the fifth was expanding on the transportation options in the area to attract a more diverse business base.

"Our next step, now, is to sort through all this," the mayor said. "We need to take a hard look at things like tax incentives, if we want to compete.

"We need to take people's sense of entrepreneurship and nurture that," she added. "There are a lot of good things. We need to focus first on these five goals and make them our priority."