From left to right: Raymond Giovanni, president of the economic development commission; Kenneth M. Kellogg, first coach; and Richard P. Schultz, town planner. Photo by Phil Hall.

Among the towns in Fairfield County, Monroe is often overlooked in discussions of the area’s active business centers. Even Wikipedia is dismissive, referring to the city as being “widely regarded as a dormitory community of New York, New Haven and Bridgeport”.

This year, however, Monroe has seen a flood of new businesses come to this so-called “bedroom community”. Pennsylvania-based furniture and toy maker Milton & Goose announced in May it was relocating production to Monroe, while over the summer a trio of coastal-based companies – Galbo Provisions of Southport, along with Bridgeport’s Zwally Haulig and R. Stone Co. – have announced they are heading to Route 8 for a new headquarters in Monroe. These measures followed the 2020 pandemic which saw 50 new businesses open locally.

While Greenwich and Stamford may compete for office tenants, Monroe First Selectman Kenneth M. Kellogg explained that his locality is targeting a different type of corporate resident.

“The only thing that a lot of cities lack is that we have an industrial zone available – and quite a few larger areas,” he said. “We have an incredible amount of opportunity here and we are making a huge improvement with federal and state grants on Pepper Street, which is the road that goes right into the industrial area. It’s in the middle of construction now, but when it’s done, it will be a whole new artery to the area.

Richard D. Schultz, the town planner for Monroe, also noted that the town differs from other municipalities in Fairfield County on a key issue.

“What sets Monroe apart is that Monroe in principle allows warehouse space,” he said. “There was an existing inventory that allowed businesses to move in, like this furniture company. And now we’re starting to have new builds, which adds flexibility. Really, it was a good marketing plan for this community.

Since taking office in 2017, Republican Kellogg – who is seeking re-election for a third term in November – has given the Monroe Planning and Zoning Commission credit for ensuring business growth in a manageable progression, praising its members for having applied “a careful consideration of where we should have commercial zones, business zones and industrial zones while taking into account our main arteries.

With this approach, he added, commercial development does not encroach on residential areas and local lands and resources are not overexploited.

“But on the other hand,” Kellogg said, “the other side of responsible growth is to continue to broaden our trade tax base and lengthen our big list. We want to see that growth on the business side, because that will lighten up. the tax burden of our residents. ”

Schultz pointed to the Main Street Design District and the Special Development District which were adopted in August to promote flexibility in development.

“This is a new zoning tool that we are using,” said Schultz, adding that “the commission is open to new ideas reflecting the needs of the market. We have a great group of volunteers who manage the land use of the commissions and councils, and they know the direction we need to take.

Part of the growth Kellogg wants to attract involves moving the company’s headquarters to Monroe. But according to Raymond Giovanni, chairman of the city’s economic development commission, Monroe is working at a disadvantage.

“We are aware of the diversity of what we are trying to find, with different locations for different purposes that would be suitable for a septic tank,” he said. “One of our downsides is that we are not in the sewers, so we have to be aware of that.”

Among the growing industries that Kellogg is eager to attract are the medical services sector – he noted that a second emergency care facility recently opened in town – as well as restaurants, which are among the companies that de many residents are looking forward to seeing in the near future. .

“The restaurants work very well here and they are very popular,” he said, noting that several recently expanded their physical spaces after regulatory changes in April that allowed alfresco dining. “But people like the variety and I think a more family style mix would do the trick.”

The city government has also been busy trying to create a more business-friendly environment to attract new businesses. In July, the city beta-tested an online authorization feature that exceeded expectations, allowing it to be fully operational in September.

Last December, the city responded to changing demands in the commercial and real estate markets by launching mixed-use zoning for the first time in Monroe’s history – something Kellogg noted had been planned for a decade.

He acknowledged that housing is a work in progress for Monroe, admitting that there was “a need for a little more diversity in our housing stock – and we are trying to do it responsibly so as not to weigh it down. the burden on taxpayers in terms of services.