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Towns Now Face Challenge Of Keeping New Yorkers In Connecticut

City of Danbury

During the pandemic, many New Yorkers decided to call Connecticut home. Now that some restrictions are easing, towns and cities here are starting to make efforts to keep these new residents in the state.

Francis Pickering, executive director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, sees why parts of the state became so desirable.

“You have areas of southwestern Connecticut which are largely suburban, that have a lot of urban amenities,” said Pickering. “They have upscale grocery stores and fitness studios and gyms and yoga centers.”

And while it’s obvious why New Yorkers picked nearby Connecticut communities to wait out the pandemic, Pickering now says the challenge is to persuade the influx of new residents to stay in Connecticut as COVID restrictions ease.

“Connecticut has the opportunity to market itself as somewhere that is safe and stable,” said Pickering.

He said the economy here is good, but a big need is world-class Wi-Fi in every town so people can continue to work remotely. 

“If we want to retain these people, their property tax payments, their spending at Connecticut businesses and their potential income tax this year, we have to do everything possible to let them work from home,” said Pickering. 

P.J. Prunty of the Danbury Chamber of Commerce says an estimated 1,800 new residents came to his city in the last year. He’s been working with Pickering and a consulting firm to think about their needs. He says a lot relies on showing them what the city has to offer.

“Taking more of a proactive [approach] like reaching out to them and offering free yoga classes, a free cup of coffee if they come and visit and finding some out-of-the-box ways to engage these new residents,” said Prunty.

And as travel begins to resume, Prunty says physical connectivity may become just as important as virtual links. 

“Looking at infrastructure and looking at the best way to capitalize on that is something the city of Danbury has been looking at, even prior to COVID, as an important aspect to make sure we can make it a commuter-friendly city,” said Prunty. 

Plans had been in the works before the pandemic to bring a train station to downtown Danbury. Prunty hopes that can become a reality sooner rather than later.

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