N. Stonington plans to hire part-time economic development specialist

North Stonington - The Economic Development Commission will present its budget to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, requesting for the first time that the town invest in a part-time economic development specialist.

The $41,000 proposal reflects a sharp increase. The commission is operating this year on a $6,272 budget, or about 0.01 percent of the total government operating budget.

Though Town Planner Juliet Leeming said the Board of Finance has asked in years past if the EDC needed additional funding, she said they wanted to first complete an action plan, which - along with plans from the Affordable Housing Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission - makes up part of the town's new Plan of Conservation and Development.

The plans will act as a guideline for a specialist and keep him or her on the same page as the volunteers.

"Now's the time to bring in another staff person," Leeming said.

The specialist would work about 18 to 20 hours a week with a salary of up to $30,000, working to market the town as a business-friendly place and complementing the work commission members can do only after work hours.

The rest of the budget would be comprised of advertising, marketing and printing and professional services, as well as the purchase of a new laptop. Leeming said the specialist's office would likely be located in Holly Green Plaza on Route 2, though she would like for him or her to spend time at Town Hall as well.

Leeming, town officials and commission members all understand the limitations of such a hire. Though the Plan of Conservation and Development shows ambitious new businesses and housing rendered to life, there are plenty of changes the specialist would implement in the short-term - things Leeming and the commission members don't have time for, like regular visits to local businesses, the creation of a newsletter and a website redesign.

The aim is for a ripple effect, Leeming said, not an overnight change.

Leeming said residents and officials alike are realizing more and more the need for investment in order to achieve long-term results.

"There seems to be support for it," she said.

If the budget is approved, a specialist could be on board as soon as July.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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