Mayor's economic development fund to be eliminated

Published on Tuesday, 28 November 2017 20:57
Written by Lorenzo Burgio

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL - In an effort to increase transparency, the city’s business development grant process was consolidated and the mayor’s economic development fund eliminated.

The funds, formerly in the mayor’s economic development account, will now be handled by the Bristol Development Authority.

The development authority unanimously voted Nov. 27 to put the grant review and distribution process under the purview of the development authority with the addition of the comptroller and assessor.

There are currently six different business development grants and funds, said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu: The mayor’s economic development fund, the manufacturing equipment fund, facade improvement grant, downtown grant, StartUp Bristol grant and a proposed small business grant.

“We kind of don’t have a structured sort of well-thought out process on how these grants are approved, because certain programs are approved by one group of folks, or one committee, and then other programs are approved by other committees,” said Justin Malley, executive director of the development authority. “It gets onerous for staff and it’s difficult for companies that are applying.”

“There are lots of different moving pieces, which I think become cumbersome,” Zoppo-Sassu said in the meeting. “But also from a transparency and accountability standpoint, I think people like to know where the shell game is and where the money is coming from.”

The newly structured grant process will consolidate all the grants and have the development authority handle the funds so that “oversight” would “emanate from there,” Zoppo-Sassu said.

Doing so allows the development authority to offer new or existing businesses a “menu of options” when they reach out for assistance, Malley said.

Under the new process, grants for existing and new businesses will be discussed at each of the development authority’s meetings and included in the agenda, he explained. Then when the development authority needs to discuss private financial information about that company, he said it will convene into executive session.

The grants will still be approved by the Joint Board of the Board of Finance and City Council, Zoppo-Sassu added.

Part of reorganizing the grant process, she continued, means that the Mayor’s Economic Development Fund will be eliminated and the funds will now be handled by the development authority.

The mayor’s fund has $1.2 million in it, which is the largest sum of money out of all six grants, Zoppo-Sassu said.

She said that the fund has been handled by the mayor’s office.

However that now the money will now be moved from that fund to the development authority for economic development grants in order to increase transparency.

Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-973-5088 or by email at lburgio@bristolpress.com. Follow Lorenzo Burgio on Twitter @burgioBP.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General Business on Tuesday, 28 November 2017 20:57. Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2017 20:59.