As Connecticut communities look to rebound from an economy that has, in many ways, slowed for the better part of a year, Julie Nash, Economic Development Director for the city of Milford, is among those looking forward to “seeing what’s coming next and being in the forefront of making those policy decisions.”
Surprisingly, it’s been “a pretty decent economic story,” through the pandemic, as new businesses have started amidst the restrictive protocols and safety precautions. Milford, for example, had more business starts in 2020 than in any year for the decade prior, Nash explained, appearing this month on the Connecticut-based podcast Win the Future. “Who would have thought that would happen?”
Milford, with a downtown, MetroNorth rail line, and harbor within sight of each other, is poised to continue taking advantage of the mix. Transit oriented development, for example, is slated for an expansion later this year as new apartments come on line, which “will help our business development,” at a time when more people, particularly from New York, are moving to Connecticut.
Nash notes, however, that changes in where people work, and how they get there (if they even need to leave their homes) “it will be interesting to see” what happens with the home-commute-work dynamic.
“I do think that the 9 to 5 at a desk is dead,” Nash commented. “The pandemic pushed us right over the edge,” to increased use of digital communication during the workday, she observed.
Local retailers, Nash suggested, will need to stand out from online competitors by providing “unique experiences” for shoppers, and she has already seen evidence that those changes are happening, spurred by the pandemic, as a means of reconnecting with customers.
There may also be existing office space being turned into housing, as less office space is needed by businesses of every variety, and shared work spaces, such as District in New Haven, may prove to be even more attractive in the coming years as people continue to work from home, but need office-style space at times.
Nash believes that there are great opportunities ahead – for her community, and Connecticut. People, she observes, are “starting those businesses that they’ve always dreamed about, and decided just to take a leap.” She often hears “It’s a chance in a lifetime chance, and I’m going to jump on it.”