Town of Mansfield officials are seeking an implementation grant to create a space in Storrs Center that would provide resources for entrepreneurs.
Mansfield Town council members passed a motion at their meeting Monday night supporting the grant application and the space’s establishment. The motion also allows Mayor Paul Shapiro to send a letter to the grant funder, CTNext, approving the space’s development and the grant application.
The space would be known as the “Northeast Connecticut Innovation Hub” and exist in Storrs Center’s Nash Zimmer Transportation Center, sharing space with the Mansfield Library Express commuter lounge. Its aim would be to provide helpful information to entrepreneurs throughout Northeastern Connecticut, Director of Planning and Development Linda Painter said.
“The proposal you have in front of you is to basically create a one-stop shop. If you want to start a new business but don’t know how to get started, or want to know who’s doing what research at UConn, this would be the place to go,” Painter said.
On the grant application, Mansfield officials proposed the transportation center space due to its proximity to resources like the University of Connecticut and public transportation, according to Painter.
According to Town Manager Matthew Hart, the town would not charge rent for the space during the Innovation Hub’s first three years of existence.
Councilor Ben Shaiken said that the space’s development would complement the economic development already underway in certain areas of Mansfield and aid new businesses in town.
“I think this is exactly what we need in Mansfield,” Shaiken said. “Especially with the imminence of more economic development in the northern end of town, the Four Corners area with the sewer, this is a welcome addition.”
The grant, if earned, will go toward renovating the space with features such as an office for the Innovation Hub’s coordinator, projectors and workspace outlets, Painter said. It will also contribute to funding personnel, creating a website and marketing.
Councilor Antonia Moran said that she appreciated the Innovation Hub’s potential to bring Mansfield together with nearby communities.
“I’m really pleased to see the regionalism of [the Innovation Hub],” Moran said. “One of the problems we’ve had is people in surrounding towns saying Mansfield soaks up all the resources. This is a chance for our resources—UConn, Eastern [Connecticut State University]—to be shared with our surrounding communities.”
Leslie McDonough, an employee of the Mansfield Public Library, said that the library looks forward to sharing the space with the Innovation Hub, if the grant is awarded.
“We see [the Innovation Hub] as an extension of library services,” McDonough said. “We think of it as a way to improve the space we have and provide better service. We’re very pleased with the possibilities.”
Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.