Proposed economics commission change goes to voters Monday night
Allowing the Economic Development Commission to collect and spend private money to promote Ridgefield and events in town — like Summerfest, the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival, or the Holiday Stroll — is the goal of ordinance changes heading to voters.
“You need a little money to get a little money,” commission chairman Arnold Light told the selectmen.
A town meeting on the proposed changes to the ordinance creating the Economic Development Commission is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.
The wording proposed for adoption is:
“The commission may market, with consent, both nonprofit and for-profit organizations and business with funds contributed by organizations, groups, businesses and individuals. The commission may manage funds from private entities for the purpose of economic development.”
The proposed changes also include adding the words “and community” to the commission’s name each time it appears in the ordinance, to make official the name change adopted a few years ago — making it Ridgefield’s Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC).
Commission member John Devine appeared with chairman Light at the late June selectmen’s meeting that agreed to send voters the ordinance change allowing the commission to supplement its budget from the town — $13,500 this year, after $5,000 last year — by collecting and spending donated money to promote the town and events in town.
Devine told the selectmen he gotten a lot of response to online promotions he had done, such as one designed to let residents of nearby towns know about Ridgefield’s Memorial Day Parade.
“Over 4,000 clicked to get that information — where to go, what time it is,” he said.
He’d placed a $50 ad for last year’s Ridgefield Independent Film Festival — the 2018 festival is Oct. 18 to 21 — and festival chairman Geoffrey Morris said it had gotten responses.
“Geoff sold seven more tickets, for $75 each,” Devine said.
He targets advertising to the surrounding area — to reach people who might not know what’s happening in Ridgefield, but are close enough to visit easily.
“I do eight zip codes,” he said.
He’s found the advertising works well “three or four days before the event,” Devine said.
The commission is also very excited about its website — www.ridgefielddevelopment.com — which was set up by former commission member Bob DeFalco in 2016 for $5,000, while similar websites often cost in the range of $15,000 ot $20,000, Devine said.
“The ECDC site is the official town sign where residents and visitors can find information on all town events,” Devine told The Press.
“The Calendars and Events button has all meetings. The Community Events calendar is coordinated in cooperation with the Arts Council and has all upcoming events. All non-profit organizations events calendars are included: Aldrich, Prospector, Playhouse, etc. The ECDC gathers all of the information and updates all calendars with the exception of the town government calendar.
“The Arts and Entertainment button has links to the numerous organizations that provide our community with such a unique point of difference that attracts a large number of visitors to 06877 to grow our economy,” he said, referencing the town’s postal zip code. “Driving the economy with a focus on Arts and Culture is the number one priority of the ECDC.
“Buttons for ‘Where to Shop,’ ‘Where to Dine’ and ‘Where to Park’ provide important information for residents and visitors — all on one website. Businesses are provided this support free of charge. No membership required,” he said.
“Every business, organization and non-profit organization is listed with information and links if they have websites.”
In addition to promoting the town, its organizations and events to people looking to shop, dine, go to a show, the ECDC website attempts to attract businesses to move to or open in town.
“A 24-7 answering service notifies the commission chair of all business inquiries for same day response (visitors also call the service for event information),” he said. “All commercial retail and office spaces are allowed to list their vacancies on the site free of charge.”
There are also links to assist businesses seeking permits from the town through the web.
“Permits and applications are online for submission and review by planning and zoning. Fees can now be paid on-line which makes doing business in Ridgefield easier and simpler,” Devine said.
“Links are provided to all state agencies that offer business devilment programs.”