NEWINGTON â€“ Close to 70 people took in a breakfast cooked by Newington High Schoolâ€™s Culinary Academy, along with the State of the Town last Thursday.
The Newington Chamber of Commerceâ€™s annual event took place in the NHS Event Center, where Mayor Roy Zartarian and Town Manager Tanya Lane discussed growth and progress, a train station, and where Newington stands in the grand scheme of things.
New Chamber Executive Director Pete Forcellina welcomed Chamber members, residents and elected officials, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and introduced the speakers. He provided a brief update on new business in town and recent activity at the Chamber, which has welcomed 18 new members since he took over the post in late October.
Zartarianâ€™s address focused on economic development and the Grand List, which rose less than one percent in 2018.
â€śDespite the less than stellar bottom line performance there is a bright spot there,â€ť he pointed out. â€śWe saw a six percent rise in personal property taxes. What that tells us is businesses are investing in upgrades or additions to their equipment. Theyâ€™re here for the long run.â€ť
A photograph of Corsicana Bedding in the Alumni Road business park came up and the mayor informed his listeners that the Texas-based manufacturer had quadrupled its production since opening right around this time last year. Additionally, CNC machine tool distributor Yamazen opened a 14,000-square-foot facility on Holland Drive last spring.
â€śItâ€™s really a feather in Newingtonâ€™s cap to have their Northeast Technical Center here,â€ť Zartarian noted.
A $12 million to $13 million addition to the grand list is coming, but it wonâ€™t be visible to the public. Eversource is adding an underground transmission line on Cherry Hill Road, he explained.
The last year also saw the opening of Modern Wine & Spirits, Artichoke Basille Pizza, Trek Bicycle, Batteries & Bulbs, Pro Health Physicians Pediatrics, Dillyâ€™s CafĂ© and other new businesses.
â€śNewington is going to potâ€ť Zartarian joked about the new medical marijuana dispensary on the turnpike, representing one of just nine licenses awarded by the state last year.
His humor continued with a reference to Montana Nights Axe Throwing, which opened one of the first recreational axe-throwing facilities in the state on Fenn Road over the summer.
â€śOur council periodically talks about having a team-building session there,â€ť he said.
The town manager addressed future plans, as well as the positive and negative to Newingtonâ€™s current state of affairs. She asked residents to not believe what they hear from uninformed citizens alluding to inaccurate claims made on social media. Rants on the Facebook page â€śWhatâ€™s Happening in Newingtonâ€ť were aired at meetings of the Town Council over the past year, as elected officials addressed falsities being spread over internet discussion threads.
â€śWe do a good job of providing services that citizens desire and despite the naysayers weâ€™ve managed our assets well,â€ť Lane pointed out. â€śWe consistently operate within our budget even when faced with unforeseen state mandates and diesel fuel leaks.â€ť
Lane also took the opportunity to discuss the possibility of a Hartford Line train station and an adjacent village with shops and restaurants becoming a destination for people across the state and beyond.
â€śI canâ€™t emphasize enough what an opportunity a new train station would be for Newington. Our legislative delegation is doing what they can, but as a community we all need to get behind this.â€ť
Growth and progress are the remedy to a stagnant economy, Lane told the crowd.
â€śWe need to be vigilant as to how our town stacks up against the towns around us,â€ť she said. â€śLeadership needs to keep asking, why would people decide to live, work or start a business in Newington â€“ and address the questions with courageous answers.â€ť
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.