Mayor is salesman for his city
Rob Pero says it's time to let the local business community know that New London supports them and is working to help them build revenues and bolster their profits.
Pero, the city's Republican mayor, points to a number of business-friendly initiatives enacted in the city, including an alliance with the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, to promote business.
"We're letting people know we're out there, and we want to be helpful to the business community," says Pero.
Pero says an economic forum in early June focusing on procurement practices at some of the leading area employers brought a strong attendance to the event, which was hosted by the regional chamber and sponsored by the Suisman Shapiro law firm on Union Plaza in downtown New London. In addition, a business after hours event - free to all the attendees - was hosted by the law firm and a Thyme to Cook of North Stonington - and, says Pero, a good time was had by all.
Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, welcomes the opportunity to work with the city to promote its business interests.
"It's refreshing," says Sheridan of officials' interest in promoting business in the Whaling City. "It's worthy of some note," he adds.
The procurement forum, say Pero and Sheridan, showed New London companies interested in selling to large firms ranging from Pfizer Inc. to the Mohegan Sun how to do business with them, and who to contact.
Sheridan says there is now a link on his chamber's website at www.chamberect.com that includes the steps local firms can take to market their goods and services.
"We had a good turnout," he says of the procurement forum on June 9 in New London. "All the participants, and there were about 50 or 60 of them, felt it was worthwhile," says Sheridan. The city asked the chamber, as part of its new contract with the group, to organize the procurement event. "It was basically a 'how to do business' with some of our larger companies in this region," says Sheridan. "We had Dominion, the city school system, the Coast Guard Academy, Pfizer, and others who participated."
Says Sheridan, "It's really the beginning of developing a relationship with some of our larger, and our smaller, companies around here."
Pero says that New London considers the Waterford-based regional chamber to be one of its partners in furthering the city's business community. He also says other groups, such as the New London Main Street downtown advocacy organization, are considered partners in the city's effort to bolster business, and business interests, in New London.
Among other New London-focused business initiatives the chamber is working on are increasing local college students use of vendors and businesses in New London and a thank-you celebration for the Coast Guard Academy's 100th anniversary.
"It's the beginning of rebuilding relationships that are much needed," says Sheridan of this emerging public-private partnership between the city of New London and the region's largest business organization, which has a membership of about 1,700.
Pero says that one of the keys to the success of the downtown, and the city at large, is a sound business community. The more opportunities to help small-, medium- and large-sized firms in the city grow, the better it is for the city's economy and its residents.
New London, both Sheridan and Pero point out, has a strong history of being a center of commerce dating back to its whaling ship days. But over the decades, the movement toward suburban growth, combined with economic downturns such as this state's most recent Great Recession, has hurt urban-based centers of commerce. But there are many examples of downtown renaissances of cities large and small, and Pero says he's optimistic about business prospects for his city.
Pero admits that because of financial constraints and budget cutbacks, some of the more business-specific agencies in New London, such as development and planning, have been cut back or eliminated, so the city's leaders have had to be more creative in devising ways to advocate for the business community.
"We're trying to get relationships together that he haven't had on a daily basis, to start those up again" through these new public-private partnerships, the mayor says.
"We just had (Electric Boat) announce that they're coming to New London, and we really have to welcome them in a more formalized way," says Pero.
Sheridan says the procurement forum earlier this month was a great start for this new public-private partnership, and he was pleased by the large turnout, especially given the poor weather conditions on that day. "One of the things that happened after that seminar," says Sheridan, "was a business after hours hosted by Suisman, Shapiro and A Thyme to Cook. It was kind of the icing on the cake, a way to say thank you to the local business community, and that really stuck with the businesses."
Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.