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Friday, December 15 News

From the Chamber / Can’t just sit around and see what happens

Connecticut seems to be in a tailspin. Whether it is real or perceived, either way people are skeptical about the future. While Westport is doing well, it would be hard to believe we could withstand a total state breakdown if that should occur. We are not an island. We are part of a greater whole, that of the state and of Fairfield County.

Simply standing down here in Westport and screaming at Hartford won’t change much, but engaging our fellow citizens and coming up with creative solutions is the answer. Collaboration, understanding and teamwork are key things to focus on. Two initiatives I have been involved with will be beneficial moving forward.

The first is the Fairfield Five, which First Selectman Jim Marpe asked the chamber to work with the town on. It is a multitown collaboration with Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield and us to promote Fairfield County as a place to set up business and live. The goal is not to promote any one of us, but all of us. We had a great start last month at our first presentation attended by 50 interested parties in New York City with the hopes of luring companies to our shores. On-site tours will be happening this month and another show and tours will take place in the spring. As this concept gets traction, I am confident we will see results.

The second is an initiative started by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in 2015 called Project B.E.S.T, Bringing Every Stakeholder Together. I attended then, last year and will be again this week. The meeting, which is part of CCM’s annual confab, does exactly what it’s called and brings a wide range of experts, elected officials and other interested parties to brainstorm for a day about how to make Connecticut a better place. Areas of discussion are broken down into four overall topics: Fiscal and Regulatory Issues, Effective and Efficient Services, Workforce Development and Quality of Life. The moderated sessions allow for a finalization of ideas which have and will be the basis for change at the state and municipal levels.

The bottom line is we can’t just sit and wait to see what happens around us, but instead we must be active and vigilant and work to improve our situation, while at the same time keeping Westport unique. Together we can embrace new concepts that will keep our state and county vibrant and attractive to businesses and residents alike.

Matthew Mandell is executive director and president of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

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