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.”

seCTer has recently received a new allocation of $2 million from the US Economic Development Administration for its Equity Revolving Loan Fund.

Loans up to $500,000 are available and are intended to help those who face challenges securing traditional financing. Businesses owned by veterans, women, minorities, and those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community are given priority consideration during the Equity Loan Fund application review process.

Loan funds issued through this program can be used for a wide variety of needs. Board members and seCTer partners are urged to refer business owners to this program by sharing contact information for seCTer’s Joseph Violette, Business Retention and Expansion Specialist, who can be reached at 860-437-4659 ext. 7 or jviolette@secter.org

A wide variety of small businesses from across Eastern CT will be able to expand and remain resilient in the face of unforeseen challenges with the help of $145,512 recently awarded through the seCTerRise program.

This most recent distribution to nine businesses comes after an initial round of grants earlier in the year to four businesses totaling $77,290 for a total of $222,802 distributed in 2023.

Comfort Catering, a popular, woman-owned, Norwich-based business, is using its grant to purchase an additional freezer and refrigerator, two warmers, and holding transport boxes to be able to take on more business rather than turning business away. Adding this equipment also will reduce expenses for rental items.

Toesty Sheets, a local internet phenomenon from East Haddam that produces top sheets that feature  fitted corners at the foot of the bed to keep the sheets in place, will use the seCTerRise grant to broaden its reach into the market. Additional styles will be produced to fit RV beds, college dorm beds, and split kings, as well as more colors.

Whisk Together Catering has been using commercial kitchens across the region to accommodate events wherever needed. With seCTerRise funding – and help from Norwich Community Development in finding a suitable location — chef Roman will be able to rent and equip a commercial kitchen of her own.

Epicure Brewing, an independent craft brewery and taproom in the heart of the historic Norwich Harbor district, will use its grant for digital advertising and new equipment that will allow a transition into canned packaging.

Flavours of Life, a premier retail gift store in downtown New London featuring quality products from certified fair-trade organizations, will replace outdated point-of-sale equipment with new technology, providing better customer experience and improved accounting and inventory data.

Fringe Modern & Vintage, a thrift shop for men and women in Clinton, will use its seCTerRise grant to purchase new display equipment and changing room equipment as well as signage and mannequins for the storefront.

GEM Electrolysis and Esthetics in Old Mystic will purchase new equipment intended to provide a better experience for customers and technicians, which should lead to increased retention of both and more potential for growth.

Jessica Tuesdays, an award-winning, destination restaurant key to downtown Putnam’s revitalization, turned to seCTer to fund a new commercial exhaust and fire suppression hood for its kitchen to meet new federal and state regulations. seCTerRise funding will offset the significant cost of this equipment, which posed a major financial threat to this Putnam icon.      

Trade Labels of Stonington, which produces nutrition labels for bulk containers used in supermarkets and independent grocers across the country, will now be able to expand into a wider area of the market with new software allowing customer labels markets of small natural food stores and co-ops to drive additional growth.

To learn more about this program, visit seCTerRise or contact seCTer at 860-437-4659. seCTerRise is funded by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.