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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    A downtown welcome to the Chamber of Commerce

    Tony Sheridan had a long-held vision for a way to help entrepreneurs build a solid foundation for their businesses, bolster the local economy and return New London to its position as a proud focal point for the region.

    On Thursday, that vision was realized and more than 200 business and community leaders joined Sheridan, who is executive director and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, at the grand opening celebration of its Thames River Innovation Center on Eugene O’Neill Drive.

    We want to now officially join all those well-wishers. We, too, welcome the chamber to its new headquarters, and we join in the excitement for its new innovation center. Both are located in refurbished space in a pivotal downtown location at the city’s gateway. We share in the optimism that the new energy and programming the chamber and innovation center bring are more pieces of tangible evidence of a revitalized New London.

    The road to Thursday’s opening included navigating some potholes, however. Sheridan and his team began planning in 2019, but the pandemic put a temporary, if lengthy, stop to their work. Before finally deciding on the former Merrill Lynch building at 92 Eugene O’Neill Drive, chamber officials also perused and considered a total of eight city properties as possible sites for the new innovation center and relocated chamber offices. The chamber was located for many years in an office building just north of the Crystal Mall on Route 85 in Waterford.

    Financing also was a key and the innovation center came to fruition through a $1.4 million state investment matched by private capital.

    While the innovation center is not the first co-working business incubator in the region, one main driver in Sheridan’s vision for it stands apart. An immigrant himself who came to the U.S. from Ireland decades ago, Sheridan kept a sharp focus on establishing a place aimed at assisting newer immigrants and members of minority communities build a strong foundation for business success. Given the diversity of New London’s population, this center will truly serve the local community.

    The center also features all the so-called bells and whistles, ranging from basic to breakout. It has a variety of co-working spaces and private office and meeting spaces. Amenities include a conference room, kitchen, printing services, a relaxation room, internet and a Wi-Fi-equipped patio. Programs such as an 8-week Entrepreneur Academy are planned. The 8,300-square-foot space also is close to city offices, downtown businesses and services, ferry and train terminals, the rebuilt State Pier and the future home of the National Coast Guard Museum.

    “I always felt New London was a unique city,” Sheridan told a reporter for The Day while discussing the new center in July. “I graduated from Connecticut College and met my wife here. We are a regional chamber, but New London, a regional transportation hub, is where we belong.”

    Also in talking to The Day about the new center, Mayor Michael Passero said: “It’s further evidence of New London as the cultural, business and urban center of the region and the city’s recognized role as a leader.”

    We wholeheartedly agree. May the new innovation center be the fuel for the successful establishment of many new city businesses.

    The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, retired executive editor Tim Cotter and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

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