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Fairfield County Five sees signs of success in efforts to draw NYC firms here

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The F5’s Sept. 13 event was held on the rooftop of Stamford-based Indeed.com’s midtown building in New York City. Photo by Chantel Yague.

The latest New York City trek by the Fairfield County Five — the regional marketing initiative consisting of the mayors or first selectmen and the economic development heads of Fairfield, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport — on Sept. 13 was a solid success, with several city-based firms expected to tour the county in the coming months.

“We have about 15 companies lined up to take a familiarization tour of our area,” said Thomas Madden, director of economic development in Stamford and one of the architects of the F5. The firms will be looking at different office spaces available within the five municipalities, as well as meeting with area venture capital, various service firms, “and the support system we have here,” he added.

“A lot of people showed up out of curiosity,” said Mark Barnhart, Fairfield’s director of Community and Economic Development. “They wanted to learn more about what the county has to offer … it was a good start.”

As previously reported, the F5’s mission is to combine its resources to lure companies from New York City to the area — either through opening satellite offices or relocating wholesale.

Madden estimated the crowd at the F5’s Sept. 13 event on the rooftop of Stamford-based Indeed.com’s midtown building at about 100, outpacing its inaugural get-together last Nov. 2, which drew about 60. As opposed to that event, which was more general in nature, the latest confab was targeted at tech firms.

“We had a good mix of some established companies along with tech startups,” Madden said. “We had one company of about 350 people looking to set up more offices, and they’d been looking only at Westchester County. They hadn’t really considered Stamford, but now they’re coming up for a tour.”

“Each one of these we do, we learn something more about these types of things,” Barnhart said, adding that he thought future events would also focus on tech. “We’re interested in looking at fintech, biotech,” he said. “We feel we have strengths in the knowledge-based industries and the creative fields.”

The F5 is supported by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which Commissioner Catherine Smith was a part of at last year’s event. Smith was unable to attend the latest meeting, but Madden noted that Antonio Roberto, managing director, strategic investments at Connecticut Innovations, the state’s strategic venture capital arm, was present.

Others in attendance included Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei, Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Stamford Mayor David Martin. “This is a complete team effort for our entire community,” Madden said.

“The message was simple,” he continued. “How Connecticut can invest in your company and invest in you. We have the support services that can help you grow. And I think a lot of them responded to the idea of ‘Why be a little fish in a big pond when you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond?’”

Barnhart also enthused about the setting of the Sept. 13 meeting. 

“Our first meeting took place during the lunch hour, but by doing this one after hours, it just flowed better. It allowed for individual conversations about their business requirements and how we can address them.”

As for when the next F5 event in New York City could take place, Madden said that current plans call for one each spring and each fall.

“There are more than a few people who’d like to see us do this every quarter,” he said. “But these things take a lot of planning and effort.”

“The idea is to get people to come up here,” Barnhart said. “Creating more awareness in the marketplace of what we have is good, but the true measure will be getting people out of the city and coming here to take a look.”

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