A group of Hartford visionaries is making an effort to revitalize Hartford with a grassroots movement called Restart The HART.
Nicole Baccaro, Manager at the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program (UConn TIP), told Innovation Destination Hartford about how the idea began.
Upward Hartford Founder & CEO Shana Schlossberg encouraged Nicole to get involved and take a stand about things.
A couple of days later, Nicole received an email from a group of millennials who wanted to come together to spark a movement for Hartford. They were asking her to join. Without hesitation, Nicole agreed.
Soon after, “The Ambassadors” were formed and the group created a clear and polished mission statement: Proudly reclaiming Hartford for the modern generation. The group officially launched at a Hartford Yard Goats game on July 4.
PROUDLY RECLAIMING HARTFORD
Since then, the Restart The HART movement has been gaining its footing. “The whole idea is still very new,” admits Nicole.
Getting people involved hasn’t been a challenge.
“A lot of people have either grown up in the Hartford area or they live and work here now. Like me, they want Hartford to become a city where we can work, play, and live. They don’t want to feel like they have to move away,” she says.
“Many people involved with Restart The HART feel the exact same way. We’re working to flip the script and take away the negative stigma about Hartford—people who think there’s nothing to do or those who focus on what Hartford doesn’t have,” Nicole explains.
“Instead, we’re showcasing the region and things that are happening here in Hartford—whether it’s checking in at a Hartford Yard Goats game, sharing information about the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival, or posting about our Lime Bike experiences,” she adds. “We want Hartford to be known as a place where things are happening. We’re showing that Hartford is a place where there’s going to be growth. Younger people are living here—and enjoying it—and they don’t want to leave.”
THE MOMENTUM GROWS
So far, the Restart The HART movement includes about 25 people.
“Every time we share about an upcoming Restart The Hart meeting, more and more people say they’re really interested and ask to join,” Nicole points out. “Of course! That’s the whole point!”
At its last meeting, the group began working on developing committees focused on partnerships, events, fundraising, and social media.
Jess Morin, Owner of JMo Digital Marketing Solutions, does the Instagram posts for Restart The HART and is working on the website.
“Restart The HART aims to rebrand Hartford as an all-inclusive city to live, work, and play for the ‘modern generation,’ which includes the 22-to-37-year-old millennial group, as well as the younger crowd soon to graduate college or early in their careers,” explains Jess.
“We want to educate this group about all Hartford has to offer,” she adds. “It’s time to really shine a spotlight on Hartford’s potential as a modern ‘mini metro.’”
Bare Life President and CEO Ali Lazowski agrees. She describes Restart The Hart as “a group of dedicated millennials who live in Hartford and the surrounding towns and want to be a unifying resource for the modern generation.”
Ali emphasizes the group’s mission, “To display all the exciting events Hartford has to offer—and eventually create some fun ones ourselves to showcase Hartford as a modern city for millennials.”
Melissa Sirois, a Senior Associate in Pratt & Whitney’s Military Engines organization, says she was “excited by the opportunity to work alongside like-minded young people who are invested in making tangible improvements in our capital city, starting with how it is perceived.”
She adds, “I believe those of us who live, work, and play locally—and see Hartford’s potential—have a responsibility to contribute to its upward trajectory by being vocal about all that the city has to offer and, ultimately, establishing a sense of pride in the city—regardless of the naysayers.”
Melissa says becoming involved with Restart The Hart enables her to do just that. And, she adds, “I like that it gives me a sense of purpose and service beyond what I am able to contribute in my day job.”
Melissa is quick to explain why Hartford is the ideal place for folks in Connecticut to live, work, and play.
“Hartford is centrally located and offers no shortage of history, culture, shopping, dining, sporting events, music, entrepreneurship, corporate investments, small businesses, beautiful architecture…. The list goes on,” she says.
“Many incredible things happening here in Hartford on any given day,” she adds. “The problem has been a lack of communication—and, when the communication has been there, it’s often taken on a negative connotation. The Restart The Hart movement was founded on the notion that we must accept responsibility for changing the tone of the conversation and making it clear that Hartford is a place to be proud of.”
Another challenge has been showcasing Hartford as Hartford.
“The Restart The HART team has talked a lot about people’s propensity to compare Hartford to Boston and New York, since it’s a central location between the two,” explains Melissa. “One of our goals is to highlight the unique selling points that contribute to Hartford’s overall brand and make it its own distinct city. This movement is important in establishing Hartford as Hartford, not a mini version of Boston, New York, or any other well-known city.”
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Social media has been key to spreading the word about Restart The Hart. “The Yard Goats have been a huge help, too,” notes Nicole. “They’ve been running a lot of our promotional videos during the games.”
Restart the HART is also working on collaborating with other Hartford-area organizations, including the MetroHartford Alliance, Hartford Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs (HYPE), Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW), reSET, CT Small Business Party, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and Upward Hartford
The group is also looking to build strong relationships with large corporations, colleges/universities, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and cultural influencers (musicians, artists, etc.) in the Hartford area.
“We want all types of Hartford-area people, organizations, and businesses to help promote the movement,” says Nicole. “They can help us get our name and mission out there by tagging #restartthehart in their social media posts.”
“This is a really crucial time for Hartford and for a movement like this to gain momentum,” Melissa emphasizes. “If Hartford is branded and treated as a place where ideas are nurtured, and people can flourish, it has limitless potential to be better than it has been and, frankly, better than most thought it could be. If there was ever a time to make a positive change, that time is now.”
Find out more about Restart The HART
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GET INVOLVED: Attend the next Meetup August 30 at Upward Hartford