NCDC, pub owner honored for contributions to downtown Norwich revival

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Norwich — In the summer that will mark the 30th anniversary of the annual July 4 Norwich Harbor downtown fireworks festival, downtown business owner Paul Siefert had big words to say about the city’s urban center.

“I moved here in 1980,” the owner of Billy Wilson’s Ageing Still said Thursday evening at an event to honor his contributions to downtown Norwich. “This is as optimistic as I’ve ever been about downtown Norwich."

Siefert, who purchased Billy Wilson’s at 57 Broadway in 2009, and the Norwich Community Development Corp. were selected by the Norwich Events Organization for the annual Ron Aliano Memorial Service Award for their distinguished service in the development of the city. Both were honored during a gala at the Marina at American Wharf on Thursday, the major fundraiser event for the fireworks festival.

The award honors an individual and a Norwich business dedicated to public service and professionalism and is named for Aliano, who founded American Ambulance, developed the marina and other local businesses, supported local events and volunteered on numerous local boards and commissions.

Aliano, who died in 2009, founded the fireworks festival in 1988 and underwrote it financially for many years.

The annual July 4 fireworks festival at Norwich Harbor will be held this year on July 6, with a rain date of July 8. Dozens of local businesses and individuals donated prizes for a silent auction as part of Thursday’s three-hour gala in the crowded marina festival tent.

NCDC President Robert Mills said the award for his agency really belongs to the entire Norwich community for fostering an improved atmosphere for downtown development, including city government, to Norwich Public Utilities and the many new business entrepreneurs and developers investing in downtown.

“It takes so many people to do this job,” Mills said.

Mills said close to $14 million in development is either just concluded or underway in downtown Norwich right now. That includes NCDC’s own plan to double the size of its Foundry 66 business shared workspace facility at 66 Franklin St. in the former Norwich Bulletin building.

NCDC opened Foundry 66 in October 2017 and it now houses more than 26 small or start-up businesses. Foundry 66 will expand into the second floor of the building this summer, optimistically at the end of July, Mills said.

NCDC, the city’s economic development agency, was founded in 1963 and has overseen many major development projects throughout the city, starting with the creation of the industrial park, now known as the Stanley Israelite Business Park for the instrumental NCDC founding member.

Norwich Events Organization started in 2017 and currently manages the Norwich St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival, the Norwich Harbor July 4 fireworks festival, the St. Patrick’s Gala, the Ron Aliano Service Awards, the Oktoberfest Pub Crawl, SantaCon and this year there will be an '80s Prom Pub Crawl in August.

c.bessette@theday.com

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