Enfield Registers Growth Across Several Sectors
Courtney Hendricson thinks of herself as a matchmaker.
Although it’s an unusual way to describe the job of a town official, she is doing all she can to strengthen and facilitate the growth of Enfield’s key industries by introducing people to each other and keeping them informed about opportunities via networking events and social-media platforms.
“Some of our key industries are really strong, and others are burgeoning, but we’re taking a very proactive approach to growth, and I have relationships with builders, developers, site selectors, property owners, and brokers,” said the assistant town manager of development services. “It’s my job to connect them and let them know what is happening in town.”
Retail business is among the community’s key industries, and it is home to 3,000 stores. “Enfield is a regional retail destination, and many people spend their Saturdays here,” Hendricson said, pointing to the presence of industry giants such as Sears, Home Depot, and Costco, as well as a plethora of other stores and eateries found in the mall, shopping centers, and business corridors easily accessible off Interstate 91.
She added that the retail corridor — which starts immediately after vehicles exit from 91, runs along Elm Street, and connects to Freshwater Boulevard — continues to grow.
“Starbucks and the Vitamin Shoppe opened in late August in a renovated building on Elm Street that used to be an Arby’s restaurant, Asian Grille and OMI Grocery are opening this month on Enfield Street, and a new, 14,500-square-foot Goodwill store is under construction on Palomba Drive,” Hendricson said. “Hannoush Jewelers put up a new building on Elm Street, expanding from a much smaller space in the Stop & Shop Plaza, and Chick-fil-A built a pad site and opened in the parking lot of an existing shopping center on Hazard Avenue.
“We rarely have vacancies in our retail corridors, and when they occur, the space is filled very quickly,” she continued, adding that the town is working with a food franchiser who hopes to move into the former Rockville Bank building, which sits on 1.1 acres and has been empty for several years.
One of the town’s many retailers, Vitamin Shoppe Manager Sean Vaccarella, views Enfield as an ideal location.
“We’re really excited to be here; the economy is thriving in terms of retail, and there are acres of stores in Enfield,” he said. “We’re looking to penetrate the market and develop a footprint here.”
Advanced manufacturing is another thriving industry, and a pipeline of employees is continually being created, thanks to the strong program at Asnuntuck College.
“They’re known as the leader in Connecticut for this type of education. In fact, the governor took their model and replicated it in other community colleges across the state. Enfield students are exposed to the program in middle school, and every grade from that point on has a program for interested young people,” Hendricson said. “The advanced-manufacturing industry here is robust. ”
The third key industry in town is logistics and distribution. “We’re very strong in this area,” she told BusinessWest. “Advanced Auto Distribution Center moved to Enfield after completing a major renovation of a former 400,000-square-foot Lego warehouse and brought more than 200 jobs here in the last year, and Brooks Brothers Distribution Center is in Enfield and is thriving in our industrial park.”
Hallmark Cards Distribution Center plans to close next June, but town officials are working to connect Hallmark’s commercial real-estate team with interested brokers. “It’s critical to fill all of our buildings to their best use, and we are very proactive in this area,” Hendricson said.
The town is also looking for an interested manufacturer or tenant to occupy a 235,000-square-foot building on 19 acres at 35 Manning Road. “It’s zoned industrial and is part of the commercial real estate that is available,” she told BusinessWest.
Meanwhile, growth is occurring in residential real estate, and revitalization efforts continue in the Thompsonville section of town.
For this, the next installment in BusinessWest’s Community Spotlight series, we look at the many forms of progress being recorded in this community just south of the Massachusetts state line.
While existing, traditional sectors of the economy are thriving in Enfield, town officials want to build even more diversity into the equation.
For example, while there are some biomedical-related companies in Enfield, officials want to increase their number.
“The industry is growing, and we’re trying to cultivate it here. Johnson Memorial Hospital has a campus in Enfield, and we have companies that are thriving,” Hendricson said, mentioning Davita Enfield Dialysis on Palomba Drive as an example. New zoning was created about 18 months ago within a few industrial sites to spur growth and facilitate the use of properties for biomedical manufacturing, which include Metro Park North on Route 5, a 135-acre site that could be subdivided.
Town officials are encouraged by the decision by Cirtec Medical Systems, LLC to move from East Longmeadow into a new, 35,000-square-foot plant in Enfield. It will have a 5,000-square-foot clean room and a 6,000-square-foot, controlled-environment assembly space, in addition to a machine shop and laboratory. The company provides outsourced services for the medical-device industry that are used in stroke recovery and heart-disease treatment.
“The move will bring 100 jobs to Enfield, and they have told us they plan to add another 50,” Hendricson said. “We’ve made a concerted effort in the past year to do more outreach to spur additional economic growth. We have also strengthened our revitalization efforts in Thompsonville, and continue to foster an environment that provides new ways to unite our business community.”
To that end, the city’s Economic Development Commission held its first Business Development Summit on Sept. 23, and the 150 available slots were filled quickly.
“It highlighted all of our key industries, and people came from both the Greater Hartford and Springfield areas,” Hendricson said, adding that there were breakout sessions with panels composed of experts who discussed the town’s main industries: advanced manufacturing, logistics and distribution, healthcare and the environment, and the future of retail.
“These are areas where we are really strong, and our goal was to showcase them,” she told BusinessWest, adding that each participant received a booklet with photos and detailed information about every available commercial property in town. “The properties range from 600 to 235,000 square feet; from small, rentable spaces downtown and in Thompsonville to an available building in our retail corridor that was a car dealership. We worked hard on the summit in hopes that, by bringing players to the table together, they could make deals.”
She added that copies of the booklet, which contain photos and detailed information about available property, were given out last year during a breakfast for commercial real-estate developers.
Hendricson also records quarterly video news clips called “V-News,” which can be seen on YouTube and keep viewers up to date on economic development.
She just finished her third video, and a link to each broadcast is e-mailed to more than 3,000 of what she refers to as “key players,” who range from commercial and residential real-estate developers to businesses and CEOs of leading companies.
Efforts have also been made to streamline the town’s permitting process and make sure it is consistent and predictable. To that end, Enfield recently purchased new, customer-friendly software that is being customized and will allow people to apply for a permit online, 24 hours a day, then check its status.
“It’s exciting. We’re really trying to serve developers and businesses and figure out what we need to do to get people to invest and grow their companies,” she explained.
Growth is also being recorded in residential real estate. A 340-unit, luxury apartment community called Mayfield Place is under construction, and will contain 10 two-story buildings.
“There is a real demand for this type of housing. Bigelow Commons is completely filled, and these units are likely to appeal to professionals,” Henricson said, referring to the former carpet mill that was renovated and converted to apartments.
In addition, revitalization efforts continue in Thompsonville, which include infrastructure improvements. “We’ve been very proactive; we have formed partnerships with building owners and continue to work with state officials to make sure a new transit center there becomes a reality,” she went on, explaining that the vision for Thompsonville is to turn it into a vibrant, walkable village centered around the transit center, as a commuter rail line between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield is slated to begin operating next year.
Town officials urge business owners and investors to visit www.thinkenfield.com, a site established a year ago devoted entirely to news and opportunities related to economic development.
“It contains demographics on all of our commercial properties,” said Hendricson. “There is also a calendar of current events and information about revitalization work being done.”
In addition, Enfield offers space for business classes and meetings free of charge, and employees in its information-technology department help new businesses with tasks ranging from creating Excel spreadsheets to establishing websites.
“We continue to show investors and developers the potential of Enfield,” she went on. “The town is on the move, and we are making things happen. There is room to grow and open a business here.”
Enfield at a glance
Year Incorporated: 1683 in Massachusetts; annexed to Connecticut in 1749
Population: 44,654 (2010)
Area: 34.2 square miles
Residential Tax Rate: $29.89 (plus fire district tax)
Commercial Tax Rate: $29.89 (plus fire district tax)
Median Household Income: $68,356
Type of government: Town Council; Town Manager
Largest Employers: MassMutual; Hallmark Cards Distribution Center; the Lego Group
* Latest information available