Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch offered an upbeat assessment of the city recently — “We’re creating jobs; we’re growing businesses” — before a full-house crowd of 300 at the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and Bridgeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Annual Address to the Business Community at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn & Conference Center on Main Street.
Paul Timpanelli, president and CEO of the regional business council, said this was his 26th mayor’s address. He said the city’s progress across the last three to four years “has placed us at a milestone moment in its history.”
“For the business community, it’s an opportunity to hear from the mayor and to hear him define the city’s progress,” Timpanelli said. “As the business community goes, so goes the city.”
Finch drew sustained applause at four points during the address, including when he said, “After decades of broken promises, construction is finally happening at Steel Point. Starbucks, Bass Pro Shops and Chipotle are all slated to open this fall.”
Maureen Hanley-Bellitto, senior vice president and commercial team leader for United Bank in Westport, introduced Finch by citing Steel Point progress, with a knowing “Can you believe it’s finally happening?” that drew knowing applause in return. The project has been hailed as a game-changer with the potential to remake a 52-acre peninsula as a residential/retail mixed-use development.
“It will create thousands of jobs while adding tens of millions of dollars to our tax rolls,” Finch said of Steel Point’s Steelpointe Harbor development.
Besides that development, a joint effort of the city and partner Bridgeport Landing Development LLC, Finch cited the city’s improving downtown, saying, “It is home to hundreds of new apartments, several new businesses and a wealth of companies that are choosing to move back to the heart of our city.”
Among returnees is architectural firm Fletcher-Thompson, which left the city in 2002. “But after seeing the progress being made here,” Finch said, “Fletcher-Thomspon decided to come back, bringing with it 60 new jobs.”
Finch is co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Task Force and he referenced climate change several times, saying, “It’s something mayors and their cities are taking leadership on for the sake of future generations.” He praised the city’s West Side-based Eco-Technology Park, “now home to dozens of green businesses, such as Tri-State Biodiesel,” now under construction.
Linking a sustainable future and job creation, Finch said efforts at the Eco-Technology Park have resulted in hundreds of new jobs and “about $10 million in annual income.”
Finch’s address closed with a standing ovation when he said, “Together we’ve accomplished a lot. And there is so much more to come. Together we’re making it happen. Let’s keep it going.”
Sponsors included United Bank; law firm Pullman & Comley, whose member John Stafstrom Jr. offered the event’s closing remarks; Antinozzi Associates Architecture & Interiors; accounting, tax and consulting firm BlumShapiro; The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Co.; Emera Energy; and D & G Industries, Inc.