Region’s role as offshore wind energy hub continues to grow        

seCTer’s role in the regional offshore wind energy industry continues to expand. In January, leaders in the CT Department of Economic and Community Development asked seCTer to serve as the incubator for the Connecticut Wind Collaborative.

The CWC is part of Connecticut’s Offshore Wind Strategic Roadmap, which calls for the new nonprofit to work collaboratively with business, industry, academia, across state agencies, and alongside stakeholders in neighboring states to advance the regional supply chain and workforce necessary to meet the growing demand for offshore wind energy.

In addition to promoting offshore wind activities across the state and executing priorities identified by the Roadmap, the Wind Collaborative will work with neighboring states to establish a regional offshore wind industry cluster.

seCTer’s current role is to serve as fiduciary and to provide administrative support and office space as necessary as outlined in a Shared Services Agreement. seCTer Executive Director Paul Whitescarver serves as Secretary of the CWC Board of Directors, and Paul Lavoie, CT Chief Manufacturing Officer, is Chairman. Kate Aufhauser, Gov. Ned Lamont’s Strategic Advisor for Economic Development, and Andrew Lavigne, Manager of the state’s Clean Economy Program at the DECD, will serve as co-vice chairs.

In the spirit of the Wind Collaborative’s commitment to multi-state cooperation, the board includes William Cox, Vice President of Business Development and Investment at Rhode Island Commerce. A Nominating Committee is now working to recommend 10 additional Board members from across industry, academia, and government. The search for a full-time Executive Director is underway, and requirements for the position can be viewed here

“Our role in supporting the launch of the Connecticut Wind Collaborative follows seCTer’s success in the first round of the federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant program that secured funding to support the offshore wind industry across the region,” Whitescarver said. “The Wind Collaborative is a non-profit agency intended to ensure that Connecticut remains a leader in bringing this new American industry to the region in a collaborative way that benefits New England workers and families.”   

seCTer received significant media coverage during the announcement, including in The Day, and several trade publications, including offshoreWIND.biz, eco Magazine and several others.

Last October, Gov. Ned Lamont, and the Governors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, announced a New England offshore wind multi-state coordination memorandum of understanding – the first of its kind in the nation. This MOU creates a pathway for a coordinated selection of offshore wind projects as each state solicits wind energy generation through their respective state procurements. Under the plan, the states agreed to coordinate their solicitations for proposals from offshore wind farm developers. Although each state will run its own procurements, the agreement is intended to allow developers to save money by bidding larger projects across three states and reaching a broader market. Responses to all three states’ solicitations are due March 27.

Seed funding for the Wind Collaborative includes $577,500 received from the joint venture of Ørsted and Eversource, as part of their supply chain and workforce development commitments tied to their Revolution Wind project. Revolution Wind, to be located 32 miles southeast of the Connecticut shoreline, is Connecticut’s first offshore wind farm and is scheduled to begin delivering power to the grid by the end of 2025. Revolution Wind will include up to 65 turbines and provide 304mw of energy to the state. Another 400mw will power homes in Rhode Island. 

Wind turbine components will be assembled at and shipped from State Pier in the Port of New London, where work recently wrapped up on the 12 turbines of South Fork Wind, which is already providing power to the New York grid for homes on Long Island.

“The Connecticut Wind Collaborative will have an important role in helping to guide the development of an offshore wind economy in our state,” said Gov. Lamont. “Right now, throughout the United States, the offshore wind industry is seeking locations to grow and expand, and Connecticut has the opportunity to add hundreds of new good-paying jobs in this sector. We must work to ensure that Connecticut builds an offshore wind ecosystem that boosts local economies and spurs investment while also providing consumers with a source of clean, reliable, and affordable power.”

”We are very excited to launch the Connecticut Wind Collaborative. The Wind Collaborative will bring stakeholders across the region together to support the growing U.S. offshore wind industry,” said Chairperson Paul Lavoie, who also serves as Connecticut’s Chief Manufacturing Officer. “Offshore wind is an important component of Governor Lamont’s drive toward renewable energy sources to combat climate change. The Wind Collaborative is going to be the catalyst for growth in offshore wind by putting Connecticut at the epicenter of a regional coordinated effort. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stand up a new industry in Connecticut and the region and the Wind Collaborative will be at the forefront of that effort.”

 “Connecticut has established itself as a leader in the offshore wind industry, thanks to its foresight, its commitment to the fight against climate change, and its willingness to invest in the local jobs and infrastructure needed to grow this new American industry,” said Nicole Verdi, Head of Government & Policy, New England, Ørsted. “Ørsted is proud to support the Connecticut Wind Collaborative as we work together to grow the industry across the region, drive economic development and job creation, and meet clean energy goals.”

“Connecticut’s Offshore Wind Strategic Roadmap emphasizes collaboration and how crucial it is to accelerate the equitable and sustainable growth of the region’s clean energy future,” said Ray Collins, Manager of Government Affairs, Eversource. “At Eversource, we firmly believe collaboration is critical to ensuring a cleaner, healthier future for everyone, and we are excited to support the Connecticut Wind Collaborative’s mission in the coming years as we bring more clean, renewable offshore wind energy to New England’s electric grid.”

New approach addresses needs at different stages of business growth

In an effort to increase the effectiveness of grant funding for small business growth, job creation and the “import of money” to this region, the seCTerRise program is being divided into two categories: a $10,000 grant and a $25,000 grant. Businesses that meet metrics such as, but not limited to, number of years in business, annual revenue, and number of employees may apply for one of two of the grants. Applications will be accepted for the two funding opportunities as of March 1st, 2024.

“This revision to the program reflects seCTer’s broad scope of activities across the business spectrum,” said Executive Director Paul Whitescarver. “We are the primary support mechanism for both, start-ups and established businesses and this better reflects the support we provide through the various stages of business development.”

seCTerRise is a competitive grant program, funded through the Department of Economic and Community Development, designed to help businesses grow. Several seCTerRise grants up to $10,000 will continue to be available to newer, smaller businesses, while a smaller number of grants up to $25,000 will be available to established businesses that have greater potential to bring in outside revenue to the region. In both cases, funds must be used to expand the business within a defined project scope.

The seCTerRise small business grant funding is available to businesses that have operated for at least one year and have annual revenue of $1.5 million or less. Funding may be used to purchase equipment, inventory, or professional services. Any inventory purchased with grant funds must be directly related to the grant project.  

The seCTerRise established business grant funding is available to businesses that have operated for approximately four years, have at least five full-time employees, and have annual revenue between $1.5 million and $5 million. Funding may be used to purchase equipment or professional services, but not
inventory.

Applications for both programs need to show how the grant project will help expand the business and include a clear budget and timeline for the project. Job creation or skill training are also key factors for consideration.

Owners of established businesses will be required to show a pattern of growth, and whether there is product or process innovation or research and development associated with the project.

50% of seCTerRise awards will be made to businesses that are minority, veteran, disabled, or women-owned, or businesses located in a distressed municipality. Visit seCTerRise – seCTer for all eligibility and location requirements.

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy will be more easily available

As the federally designated economic development agency for southeastern Connecticut, seCTer is required to produce the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) report.

The most recent CEDS was released this past summer and a digital version is available for broader and more convenient distribution and use by municipalities, businesses, and the public at large. This digital version is provided by the StateBook platform, and provides interactive capabilities.    

As described by the US Economic Development Administration, a CEDS report should be developed “with broad-based community participation and result in a document that is readily accessible to regional stakeholders. Potential partners for developing a CEDS could include government agencies, private sector interests, education providers, non-profits, community and labor groups, workforce boards, utilities, etc. Stakeholders should be able to use it as a guide to understanding the regional economy and to take action to improve it.”

A CEDS report consists of four main elements:  summary background; SWOT analysis;  strategic direction/action plan, evaluation framework.

The StateBook platform allows users to compare locations to identify the most strategic opportunities for investment, confirm project viability, and mitigate risk across disparate data sources, multiple geography levels, and over time.

This platform will allow our staff to more fully utilize CEDS data by filtering information to more efficiently compare locations and create custom reports using maps, microsites, and comparison platforms.

seCTer is about to launch its Resilience Assessment, a tool to help businesses identify potential challenges and begin formulating plans to address challenges before they arise.

The assessment identifies a broad range of potential issues, from cyclical economic downturns to  national and international political affairs, disruptions in specific industries nationally and internationally,   climate change, and challenges on a regional basis such as the loss of a major employer or a military base closure.

A survey to be completed by business owners is included in the assessment and will serve dual purposes: helping seCTer identify trends in regional business concerns; helping businesses consider potential issues they may not have previously considered.

Survey questions range from basic demographic information about the company’s owners and employees to commuting methods (public transit, walking, biking, driving), whether the facility is owned or rented and its elevation, site vulnerability to weather events, workforce challenges, insurance coverage and financial resources to weather a disruption, and the existence of a disaster preparedness plan.

Business owners who participate in seCTer grant and loan programs are urged to complete the survey as part of the qualifying process.

The assessment is scheduled to be released later this fall.

Nearly 500 attendees participated in the two-day Northeast Regional Matchmaker 2023 Business Training and Resource Fair in August to make connections with government procurement managers and government prime contractors in hopes of landing contracts from the federal to local level.

Hosted by CT APEX Accelerator (formerly PTAC) at the Mystic Marriott, it was the first such event in Connecticut and nearly doubled the attendance of the previous Matchmaker held in Rhode Island prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. CT APEX is an affiliate of seCTer.

“We were thrilled with the response on both sides of the table – local, state and federal government procurement specialists and businesses of all sizes seeking to expand into new opportunities,” said Marisol Herrera, State Director of CT APEX Accelerator.

Business owners were able to meet individually with these buyers from several government agencies in 10-minute “pitch sessions” during which they were able to market their goods or services. The event also included information sessions about requirements for a broad range of government contract work and a cybersecurity training and information session for small to medium-sized businesses and those in the federal manufacturing supply chain.

Throughout the event, attendees also had the opportunity to meet with regional APEX Accelerators from across New England and New York as well as representatives from the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, Women’s Business Development Center, regional SBAs, universities, and other organizations.

“The Matchmaker was especially helpful for businesses owned by veterans, minorities, women, Native Americans, the members of the LGBTQ community, as well as those operating in distressed communities and Historically Underutilized Business Zones since there is a strong preference to award contracts to businesses in these categories,” Herrera said.

In addition to CT APEX, sponsors included seCTer, CT Department of Administrative Services, SBA, Northeast Regional Council of the Department of Defense, and the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial & Women’s Business Center.

Business resiliency efforts have increased significantly with the implementation earlier this year of the seCTerRise growth funding program.

In just a matter of months, 19 area businesses have been able to strengthen their operations through the expansion or renovation of facilities, additional staffing, increased services or product lines, and other forms of growth. The seCTerRise program provides each qualifying applicant up to $20,000 in grant funding.

seCTer screens applicants, disperses funds, and monitors use of the grant money, which is provided by the state Department of Economic and Community Development through its business resiliency and sustainability efforts aimed at eastern Connecticut.

This latest round of seCTerRise funding will benefit the following six small businesses:

First Impressions Learning Academy of Ledyard offers early childhood education from infant to 5, with a capacity of 55. In addition to providing learning experiences from problem-solving to critical thinking and social/emotional wellness, their goal is to be the community hub and safe place for the empowerment of children and families. The grant will be used to train and onboard new employees.

Ice & Fire Chen of Norwich is a cornerstone in the Norwich community, recognized for its outstanding Chinese cuisine, excellent service, and friendly staff. Ice & Fire Asian Cuisine is known for its modern interpretation of classic dishes and its insistence on only using high-quality fresh ingredients. The grant will be used to update kitchen and storage equipment.

Lashes by Lee of New London is a minority and women-owned full-service salon and academy. In addition to offering full salon services, they are approved by the State to teach and license in the beauty industry in both English and Spanish. Grant funds will be used to renovate the basement of the salon into an education studio with space to accept more students and offer a broader curriculum.

Luque Realty of New London opened in 2020 after Carlos Luque gained experience during eight years of work in other agencies providing real estate brokerage services to home buyers, sellers, and renters. Grant funding will be used to purchase realtor licensing courses to help hire agents for the agency and purchase CRM software to further grow the agency.

Sweet Grass Creamery of Preston is a micro-dairy and creamery producing milk, yogurt, and cheese on site from their herd of 30 Jersey cows. They are unique in that they own and manage the entire process from managing the herd, growing their feed (hay and corn) and processing the dairy products right on the farm. Grant funds will be used to purchase a bale wrapper, which will aid in the feeding of the herd.

The Ditty Bag of Mysticis a zero-waste market and café with a mission to help customers reduce their plastic use and carbon footprint by providing bulk foods, plastic-free products, and locally grown and sourced products. Their mission is catching on and they need to expand. Their seCTerRise grant will be used to purchase additional shelving and display features, hire part-time staff, increase marketing and consumer education, and purchase additional inventory.

Offshore wind turbine blades, nacelles, and towers have been arriving at State Pier in the Port of New London over the past few months in preparation for partial assembly at the facility. The components will be shipped later this year to the South Fork Wind Farm site 35 miles east of Montauk Point, Long Island, where the 12 completed turbines will produce enough energy to power 70,000 homes.

We learned earlier this month / in July that the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) gained approval from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, state Department of Economic and Community Development, and United States Economic Development Adminstration.

A CEDS is a strategy-driven plan for regional economic development that, ideally, is focused on place-based, regionally driven economic development and planning which takes into consideration a region’s attributes, strengths, opportunities, threats, and weaknesses.

This strategic planning tool must be updated every five years in order for agencies such as ours to qualify for federal Economic Development Agency (EDA) funding through the Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance programs.

RT Brown, who has served as seCTer’s Reginal Competitiveness Officer since 2021 and is now Director of Economic Development Strategies and Business Services, worked closely with seCTer’s Economic Development Committee and integrated multiple author contributions and public comments. 

“The CEDS is at the core of everything we do and guides our decisions and long-range planning for the economic health and resiliency of the region,” Brown said.

Each CEDS must include the concept of economic resilience, which can be defined as “the ability of regions to anticipate, withstand, and bounce back from any type of shock, disruption, or stress that it may experience,” according to the EDA.

In addition to developing a long-range economic development strategy, the process of producing a CEDS allows a broad base of stakeholders to collaborate on that strategy and vision. Individuals, organizations, local governments, institutions of learning, and private industry are provided opportunities to engage in a meaningful conversation and debate about what capacity-building efforts would best serve economic development in the region.

“Having our CEDS approved is important not just from a funding perspective, but from the perspective of creating a shared, regional view of where our economy is now and where it can go in both the short-term and long-term,” said seCTer Executive Director Paul Whitescarver. “Additionally, it provides us with recommended tactics for attracting new businesses and expanding existing businesses to keep them strong and resilient.”

Since January, seCTer has approved $1,969,000 in loans to seven businesses from Stonington to Moosup and Old Saybrook that provide a wide variety of goods and services including seafood, metal fabrication, craft beer, HVAC equipment, hobby supplies, home heating oil delivery, survival training, and personal training/fitness.   

These include five Boost Loans funded by the Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund, which provides working capital primarily to women-owned and minority-owned businesses and those located in low-income areas. Two of the loans are internal seCTer loans. We have closed five of the seven loans, totaling $1,394,000.

APEX Accelerator, formerly CT PTAC, is hosting the state’s first U.S. Department of Defense Northeast Regional Matchmaker Business Training and Resource Fair Aug. 9-10 at the Mystic Marriott.

This event will allow businesses in New England and New York interested in providing products or services to federal, state, and local government agencies the opportunity to meet purchasing managers in one-on-one sessions. Representatives from government agencies and prime contractors who award billions of dollars in work each year will be available to answer questions.

Information about requirements for government contract work also will be provided, as well as training in cybersecurity.

More information is available at Matchmaker 2023

“This event is open to all businesses and will help develop relationships with government buyers and large prime contractors,” said event organizer Marisol Herrera, State Director of CT APEX Accelerator. “APEX Accelerators serve as a resource for small businesses by supporting their ability and readiness to participate in the government procurement marketplace.”

The Connecticut office of the U.S. Small Business Administration is also supporting this event, and Connecticut District Director Catherine Marx is urging small businesses to attend and learn about the opportunities available. “The SBA is committed to opening the doors of procurement so more small businesses can grow and thrive by doing business with the federal government, the world’s largest customer who buys all types of products and services – in both large and small quantities,” Marx said. “This matchmaker and resource fair is an exciting opportunity for New England small businesses to expand through government contracting and networking with federal and state agencies.”