After year of change, seCTer seeks reinvention and better self-marketing

Norwich — As it reflects on reorganization and growth during 2017, the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region is looking ahead with an eye on reinvention and better marketing the organization's work.

This was one of the messages offered at seCTer's annual meeting, in which Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler was the keynote speaker. Both he and seCTer Executive Director Nancy Cowser focused on one word: diversification.

"SeCTer does a lot of great work, but we haven't been tooting our own horn, and we haven't been out enough talking about what we do," Cowser said. She added, "In tooting our own horn, we're tooting the region's horn."

Some of seCTer's roles include helping with site-finding, facilitating access to incentives and compiling data.

The meeting was held Wednesday morning at the Holiday Inn Norwich and featured discussion of seCTer's 2017 annual report.

In the past year, seCTer has tripled its loan program, created a new finance committee, completed its first-ever strategic plan, gotten its Comprehensive and Economic Development Strategy approved, and achieved its first surplus since 2010, according to board Chairman Chuck Seeman.

SeCTer ran a surplus of nearly $26,000 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, after a loss of nearly $69,000 the previous year.

The organization loaned out $2 million more this year than last, said Annie Chambers, director of loan programs. Looking ahead, she said seCTer is looking at becoming a certified Community Development Financial Institute through the Department of the Treasury.

Lisa Wood, director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, said that PTAC in 2017 did 2,213 hours of counseling with Connecticut small businesses and connected businesses to more than $144 million in local, state and federal government contracts.

Another change for seCTer in 2017 is that Cowser began as executive director in January.

She said one of the questions in creating the Comprehensive and Economic Development Strategy, which took eight months to get approved, was, "How can we best work together for the benefit of all of us to take advantage of this unique growth period in our region?"

Cowser cited the growth in Electric Boat hiring, and the plan for a third casino in East Windsor.

Addressing the breakfast attendees, Butler said a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior would be filed on Wednesday, regarding the tribal partnership's ability to open the East Windsor casino. The state and the two tribes filed the lawsuit later in the day.

Commenting on the need to "mitigate damage" caused by the approaching opening of a casino in Springfield, Mass., Butler said that "what's going on in East Windsor is really just to stabilize the market. It's not going to grow the market."

Butler touched on new plans for Foxwoods, such as the zip line and indoor go-kart track.

Thayne Hutchins, treasurer of the Mohegan Tribal Council, commented that even operations elsewhere, such as its South Korea development, affect jobs in southeastern Connecticut because they bring corporate division jobs here.

e.moser@theday.com

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