Innovation Destination Hartford asked Justin Malley, Director of the Bristol Development Authority, about StartUP Bristol and his efforts to enhance economic development in Bristol and attract new startups to the City.
IDH: According to Krust Pizza Bar Co-Owner Rich Garcia, you are “really passionate about Bristol and excited to get businesses in the city.” Why do you think it’s important to encourage startup growth in the city of Bristol?
MALLEY: Bristol’s economic landscape is known for many positive attributes: our high-tech manufacturing sector is very strong and has been for generations, obviously ESPN is terrific, Bristol Hospital is doing well, our retail sector along State Route 6 is firing on all cylinders, and more.
However, Bristol could not be considered a “hot bed” for startup activity. I believe that early-stage companies—from biotech startups to trendy eateries—may not immediately consider Bristol when they are looking to establish themselves. StartUP Bristol was one way for the City to break into the “startup world.” We have a ways to go, but hopefully we’re off to a good start.
IDH: How did you come up with the concept for StartUP Bristol?
MALLEY: Noting my thoughts above, we were looking for ways to encourage more young businesses with growth potential to consider Bristol. I am aware of universities, CTNext, and other communities that have run similar programs. I did not see the need to reinvent the wheel. The trick with our program is that for a company to receive a grant award, it must locate in Bristol. After all, we’re using taxpayer money to fund this program, so I am not interested in paying a company to locate in another town! Luckily, I work for terrific, forward-thinking policymakers that agreed that the idea was worth pursuing.
IDH: How does the business plan competition work—can any startup apply?
MALLEY: Any startup company having been in business for three years or less was eligible to apply. Startups interested in applying for the StartUP Bristol business competition may be currently operating in Bristol or operating outside of Bristol but willing to relocate to Bristol. We also accept startups in early-concept stage with no formal operations that are committed to locating in Bristol.
IDH: Will there be another StartUP Bristol business plan competition? If so, when?
MALLEY: There is going to be a second year competition. It will likely be rolled out this summer.
IDH: Tell us about the StartUP Bristol Task Force. What types of entrepreneurs are involved?
MALLEY: We’re so proud of the Task Force. Most are entrepreneurs who either started a business in Bristol or lived in Bristol and started a business elsewhere. We have everything from a women’s formalwear designer and retailer to someone who helped launched a successful Internet business that helps mechanics find auto parts. One member is involved in the healthcare/medical sciences field and also helps run a successful eatery in an adjacent community. Most of our members have grappled with many of the same issues, challenges, etc. that newer entrepreneurs face.
IDH: In addition to StartUP Bristol, what other efforts are being made to enhance the city’s economic growth?
MALLEY: Gosh, we are doing quite a bit. We offer a Mayor’s Economic Development Grant Program that provides grants for new construction or significant building improvements to certain types of businesses that are relocating to Bristol or expanding in Bristol.
New job creation is a heavy component of the program. We also currently offer a Facade Improvement program for businesses and building owners located in the downtown and “West End” neighborhoods. This program provides grants for certain building facade improvements that help improve the look of a building. Also, we offer a separate grant program for manufacturers that helps them purchase costly manufacturing equipment that allows them to hire more employees and expand.
In addition to the grant programs, the City offers tax abatement opportunities through our Enterprise Zone, Urban Jobs Program (primarily for manufacturers), and other programs.
Learn more about StartUP Bristol.