Thames River Innovation Place secures second-year funding

Thames River Innovation Place, a collection of New London- and Groton-based projects designed to spur entrepreneurship, announced last week that it has secured about $620,000 in funding for it's second year, which runs from July 2018 through June 2019.

That includes $494,197 from CTNext, a public-private network aimed at boosting entrepreneurs, and a $125,000 matching grant TRIP will get from CTNext if it acquires the federal Economic Development Administration grant it is seeking.

The EDA grant is to launch the Maritime Entrepreneurial Collaborative, which would involve the creation of a summertime accelerator geared toward graduate students interested in the maritime sector, a mentor advisory network for students, a research library and an angel investing network.

TRIP applied for the grant at the end of August and got 14 letters of support, including from officials at the University of Connecticut, Project Oceanology, Mystic Aquarium, SeCTer and the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

The Maritime Entrepreneurial Collaborative will be in addition to four projects that TRIP is continuing from its first year into its second: the Naval and Maritime Consortium, Community Concierge, Ignite, and Thames River Reconnection.

The Naval and Maritime Consortium has been renamed from the Connecticut Undersea Supply Chain Consortium, while Thames River Reconnection has been renamed from Placemaking Redevelopment Initiatives & Plans.

The fifth project funded through CTNext in the first year, Cultivator Kitchen, is not getting funding this year because it has become self-sustaining as the restaurant and test kitchen RD86.

TRIP plans to add another new initiative this year: the Tourism Ambassador Program. TRIP Executive Director David McBride said this will involve a certification program for people working in the tourism industry, like at casinos or hotels.

"It should elevate tourism and not necessarily customer service but service regarding area knowledge," he said.

The Naval and Maritime Consortium will be holding a launch on Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. at the Branford House, on the UConn Avery Point campus. Program manager Ali Halvordson said year-two will involve running networking events and seminars for members.

For Thames River Reconnection, TRIP recently contracted with Ninigret Partners to prepare redevelopment analysis plans for Hodges Square in New London and the Thames/Bridge Street area in the City of Groton.

McBride said the goal is to get "quick hits" of recommendations – such as zoning changes, tax abatements or loan forgiveness – from Ninigret in the next few months.

"What we don't want is another study on the wall, another study in the filing cabinet," he said.

Ignite will continue programs like its small-business workshops and networking series, while Community Concierge will continue events aimed at connecting newcomers to the region to the area's offerings.

Ignite is hosting a sold-out "Marine Makerfaire" in partnership with Project Oceanology and Spark Makerspace on Saturday, and it is launching a Google Developers Group. Community Concierge, run through the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, launched a relocation guide this summer and recently released a video.

"We have a lot of aspirations for TRIP," said George Mathanool, a CTNext board member and Groton resident. "We are looking forward to seeing how they evolve. I believe they are pulling in some good talents to come together and build up something that may be very, very instrumental for diversification in eastern Connecticut."

e.moser@theday.com

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