Posted on http://www.ctpost.com
Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Published: 09:33 p.m., Monday, January 10, 2011
STAMFORD — A group of city officials and Fairfield County movers and shakers used a visit from freshly minted U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Monday as an opportunity to pitch a new business “hub” they envision based in Old Town Hall.
Blumenthal toured the newly renovated space and listened as Kevin Segalla, president of Connecticut Film Center, and Patricia Meagher, of Dakota Ventures, described their idea for the building’s perfect tenant: The Stamford Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship. The innovation center, still in the planning stages and never publicized to date, would serve as a space where startup company tenants could connect with angel investors while thriving off a community environment, they said.
Meagher, a venture partner with Dakota Ventures, would serve as the center’s president, with Segalla as chairman and Bill Gordon, an investor and president of the biotech company Tetragenetics, as vice chairman.
The idea came to fruition in conjunction with the Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission and the city’s economic development department, whose representatives also attended the meeting.
Meagher said Stamford is an ideal place for such a center, which would attempt to act as an “incubator” for new businesses, mimicking the foment of business startup hot spots such as Silicon Valley and New York. As an example, Meagher cited Astia, a business community committed to accelerating the funding and growth of women-led companies. Of those companies that work with Astia, 60 percent get startup funding within a year, Meagher said.
“We have Greenwich, we have New Haven. Stamford is what’s missing,” Meagher said. “It’s all about surrounding these entrepreneurs with a community and an ecosystem.”
The meeting was an appropriate kick-off for Blumenthal as he launched a two-week listening tour of the state with the stated purpose to solicit ideas from small business owners, community leaders and other residents about creating jobs and rebuilding the economy. Blumenthal announced the tour less than a week after taking the oath of office Wednesday. After Monday’s visit to Stamford, he plans to make stops in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Danbury among other locations.
Blumenthal said he was enthusiastic about the Stamford Innovation Center idea.
The meeting took place in an airy front room in the former public facility, under a mural of the colonial-era Sen. Abraham Davenport speaking under candlelight during the “dark day in Connecticut” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy referred to in his inauguration speech last week.
“I’ve known this building for a long time, for several decades, at least from the time that it was a government and public hub,” Blumenthal said. “This new use is very exciting as a place for entrepreneurs to take root and grow and take flight eventually. This kind of incubator and hub is very of the moment. It’s not only necessary because it’s very essential as a place where jobs can be created, but also as a place for entrepreneurs to grow.”
The center’s planners said the missing element is a last “bit” of funding to push Old Town Hall’s long-term renovation project to completion. After millions of dollars of investment from the city and other sources, the building has been restored, but about “ten percent” of the work to make the innovation center a reality remains: elements such as data lines, air conditioning and electrical work, Meagher said.
“The reality is we live in an area with more investment dollars perhaps than any other place in the world, and yet they are not investing here in Connecticut,” Segalla said. “It’s only natural that we create the vehicle for investment here in Connecticut.”
Staff Writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-964-2240.
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