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New Groton economic development leader calls for unity

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published January 14. 2014 4:00AM
Photo courtesy of George Mathanool
George Mathanool is the new chairman of Groton's Economic Development Commission. "The EDC needs to have a better sense of the grass roots of business - what the temperature is and what they need to help nurture them," he says. "It's not business as usual anymore."
Retired banker says group needs to be 'really aggressive' in helping businesses

Groton - George Mathanool, named last week as the new chairman of the town's Economic Development Commission, said his first task will be to bring some clarity to the maze of organizations working to improve the business climate here.

Mathanool said the Town Council, Representative Town Meeting, Groton Business Association and the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce are among the groups trying to attract and nurture businesses.

"I think we need to be all inclusive (and) cohesive so we have a coherent message," Mathanool said. "We need to all be singing from the same hymn book."

Mathanool, a native of Singapore who worked in international banking for a number of years, said he wants the commission to spend the next few months crafting a vision of the town's economic future. To do so, he said, it's important to reach out to both existing businesses and those who might think about relocating here.

"The EDC needs to have a better sense of the grass roots of business - what the temperature is and what they need to help nurture them," he said. "It's not business as usual anymore. We need to be really aggressive."

Councilor Robert Frink called Mathanool a problem-solver who gets things done. He said he believes Mathanool can act as Groton's economic development ambassador by knitting together various groups to develop a sense of how each fits together to make a stronger whole.

"He can walk the talk, too," Frink said. "He mixes very well with executive types."

Mathanool, who lives in the Eastern Point section, is a director at Vumont Ventures and Global Millennium Trust, private-equity international ventures involved in digital security and online payments.

He previously served as general representative in the Far East for Indentrus LLC, a company owned by a consortium of international banks including Barclays, Deutche Bank and Bank of America. He served as a "tech evangelist," according to his resume, helping promote the concept of online banking among major financial institutions.

Since retiring from his banking career and relocating to Groton a few years ago to be near family, Mathanool has been active in both town and state affairs, currently serving as commissioner of the Connecticut Asian and Pacific American Affairs Commission. He also had discussions with the state Department of Economic and Community Development about a proposal made by a group he led called Catalyze that was seeking to develop a plan to attract established businesses to reuse office and lab space available on the campus of Pfizer Inc. off Eastern Point Road.

"We need to bring in businesses that otherwise might move to New York or Boston to nest in Groton," Mathanool said. "The EDC has a role in spurring growth and jobs on the local level."

Mathanool added that he wants to forge a closer relationship with Pfizer, a company that, despite its recent downsizings, has employed generations of local residents.

"They have been magnanimous throughout their tenure here," he said. "We need to extend our hand in friendship and partnership and see what we can do for them."

Mathanool, who succeeds Lian Obrey as EDC chief, said he believes the town and city must consider incentive packages to get companies to relocate to the area. To attract new businesses to Groton, he added, the town must work on streamlining the processes required for new developments.

Among the town's greatest assets, he added, is the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut. And, though Pfizer is in the midst of taking down its massive former research headquarters known as Building 118, Mathanool noted that several other buildings owned by the company are for sale or lease and said he hopes to capitalize on these assets.

"A lot of businesses don't have a clear understanding of where Groton is and the potential of Groton," he said. "We are the evangelists for the town of Groton."

Mathanool said both he and economic development specialist Kristin Havrilla Clarke are available to talk about new opportunities. He can be reached by phone at (860) 281-1661; she at kclarke@groton-ct.gov.

l.howard@theday.com

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