"There should be an emphasis on the marriage of nature and culture, and a strategy to produce more of these assets moving forward"
What is GrowSMART?
GrowSMART is a regional economic growth strategy for the RiverCOG region. Beginning in June 2015, and wrapping up by December, the project will define what is desirable and feasible for each town and the collective region.
It is our belief that a regional collaboration is stronger than seventeen separate initiatives. The purpose of this project is not to duplicate efforts of municipal Economic Development Commissions and Chambers of Commerce, or eliminate the unique identity of each community. Rather, we are attempting to capitalize on existing distinctive assets and develop a regional vision for future growth.
We want to develop a “bird’s-eye view” of capabilities and deficiencies throughout the region, that when put together, provide a stronger framework for growth:
The region has a strong asset base and unrealized potential that could be unlocked through a deliberate, inclusive, and in-depth visioning process. With numerous and diverse geographic characteristics, businesses and industry, tourism destinations, educational institutions, and a world-class workforce, we felt it was time to develop a sustainable template for economic growth and prosperity.
GrowSMART is comprised of three components: research, strategy development, and implementation.
RESEARCH: The first component will involve data collection, discussion groups, workshops, and visits to regional employers. This phase will identify priorities and assist in crafting a vision for future growth.
STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT: Priorities identified in the research phase will help develop a "strawman" strategy for use in the second phase. Workshops will be held to gather feedback on the proposed strategy, as well as identify key themes and action steps for a growth plan.
IMPLEMENTATION: By December 2015, the region will have a template for sustainable economic growth. This phase of the project is not funded by CT OPM, and will rely upon RiverCOG and municipalities to implement the regional strategy after the project has wrapped up.
The GrowSMART project encompasses all 17 towns in the RiverCOG region including Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.
GrowSMART is led by the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG) as well as project consultants Ninigret Partners (NP) and Fitzgerald and Halliday (FHI). NP and FHI will assist with research and analysis, hosting focus group sessions and workshops, and developing an implementable approach to economic growth.
RiverCOG will also rely on a steering committee, the RiverCOG Economic Growth Strategy Committee (REGSC) for guidance throughout the project. The Committee is made up of 17 members collectively representing area businesses, chambers of commerce, workforce, universities, and municipalities.
Middletown Business Owner
Old Saybrook EDC Coordinator
CT OPM Tourism
NAACP Middlesex Chapter
Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis
Estuary Transit District
Clinton & Essex Town Planner
Middletown EDC Specialist
Essex EDC Coordinator
RiverCOG Board Liasons
First Selectwoman, Portland
First Selectwoman, Durham
First Selectwoman, Old Lyme
RiverCOG Project Staff
Agriculture & Housing Planner