By Kenneth R. Gosselin
The Hartford Courant.
A century ago, before there were high-powered consultants and planners, there were individuals in Hartford with ideas and vision that shaped the city’s future.
Now, the city wants to tap into the same kind of creative juices again.
On Wednesday, with the benefit of $1 million in federal funding, city officials launched Hartford’s version of the federal “Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative,” or SC2 for short, a competition that requires teams to form and develop detailed economic development strategies that will attract and retain entrepreneurs and young companies that want to grow in the city.
“This is about what is going to make us move forward in the next 10, 25, 50, 100 years,” said Thomas E. Deller, Hartford’s development director.
Hartford was one of three U.S. cities to qualify for funding under the Obama Administration’s SC2 program, designed to help cities spur economic growth that leads to job creation. The two other cities — Greensboro, N.C. and Las Vegas — chose to focus on specific projects or hire a consulting firm.
But Hartford took a different tack: Why not generate as many ideas as possible?
The kick-off of the competition was held in the South Armory of Hartford’s Colt factory complex, which Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra said was appropriate since, during its heyday, the factory was a hub of innovation for the gun-making industry.
Like the city, Colt suffered setbacks: challenges in mass-producing firearms and, famously, a devastating fire.
But they fought back, Segarra said, “they remained strong.”
He said the challenge for Hartford is much the same: “This is going to take a lot of thinking and ingenuity.’
Today, the Colt complex is undergoing a conversion to apartments and commercial space. Some of the commercial space is being leased by smaller companies, just the kind Hartford hopes to attract long term, Segarra said.
The $1 million in funding received by the city will go to prizes for the top proposals submitted in the competition and the cost of administering the program.
Teams must be formed and deemed as qualified by the city by the registration deadline of July 24. The teams must then submit their proposals by Sept. 22.
The top three proposals will receive cash prizes of $60,000 (first place), $30,000 (second place), and $10,000 (third place).
The top proposals and other selected finalists will then advance to a second round, further developing the proposals into detailed plans with strategies for carrying them out.
The top winner will be chosen by a selection committee in May 2015. Prizes for top finalists are: $500,000 (first place), $100,000 (second place), $75,000 (third place), $50,000 (fourth and fifth place) and $25,000 (sixth place).
Once the competition is completed, all the ideas become the property of the city to pursue.
Jack Antonich, now a consultant to the Connecticut Technology Council, attended Wednesday’s kick-off event and said he intends to form a team to enter the competition.
Antonich, with four decades of experience in the computer and technology industry, said the competition was certainly unusual: “I’ve never come across something like it.”
He declined to say what specific expertise he would recruit for his team — he didn’t want to tip his hand — but he indicated it would cut broadly across the community.
It is very likely, Antonich said, that any strategies would involve communities that surround Hartford.
And the biggest challenge?
“Getting all the stakeholders to agree on a common goal,” Antonich said.
For more information on the competition or to register, visit www.SC2Hartford.com.