Corporate community should support Coast Guard museum

It is discouraging that 2017, characterized as a crucial year to get fundraising rolling for the planned National Coast Guard Museum in New London, is not off to a good start. The characterization that the year was an important one to build momentum was not made by us, but by Dick Grahn, CEO of the Coast Guard Museum Association, when he met with the editorial board in January.

Grahn said the museum association had set the target of raising $13 million this year toward the project that will eventually cost in the neighborhood of $100 million. But when Day Staff Writer Julia Bergman checked back with Grahn recently, she learned the association had brought in only about $500,000 during the first half of the year. Bergman’s story appeared Sunday.

Back in January, Grahn also expressed optimism that by spring would come the announcement of a major donation from a Fortune 100 company. Spring has come and mostly gone — summer begins Wednesday — with no announcement. Grahn said the association is still working on it.

No one expected this to be easy. At some point, however, the association must demonstrate support from the corporate community and large individual donors. It is particularly important for Coast Guard veterans who have had great success in the private sector to set an example. While every donation is important, big donations are how projects of this magnitude get done. Continued delays in fundraising progress will only help give voice to naysayers or encourage competition for the placement of this jewel.

About $34 million is committed to the project, but $5 million is from a federal allotment and $20 million a state pledge to build a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to the waterfront location. Private donations will make up the major source of funding and as of now that figure stands at around $9 million.

New London, home of the Coast Guard Academy, is the right place for the museum. Its location on the waterfront would be a boon to downtown redevelopment, generating the increased foot traffic critical to attracting investor dollars in rehabbing and filling storefronts.

The corporate community needs to step forward. The Coast Guard’s self-stated mission “is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests.”

Those “interests” need to come forth and express some gratitude by helping give the Coast Guard a proper place to recall its storied and inspirational history.

Grahn said the association continues to put the management structure in place to attract large gifts. Seeing it finish the year strong in terms of fundraising would be a welcomed development.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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