The business picture in Shelton is a mixed one, according to Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce President Bill Purcell.
“Some businesses are struggling, some maintaining and some seeing reasonable growth,” Purcell said.
As head of the Valley’s Chamber, Purcell jokes that he is the guy with the giant scissors but he also keeps his finger on the pulse of Shelton’s business climate and discussed some of the recent changes with The Herald.There is still reasonable growth and reason for 22,000 people to come to work in Shelton.
R.D. Scinto Inc. recently opened an office building at 50 Waterview Drive, retail space is going in on Bridgeport Avenue, there are approved plans for development on River Road as well as steady progress in downtown Shelton, Purcell said.
But the Shelton business community has experienced its struggles. Health Net moved out of its Shelton offices over an 18-month period that ended in March, according to Purcell. That meant the loss of about 1,200 jobs. W.E. Bassett, the Shelton-based seller of personal grooming tools, announced in March that it would be closing its Connecticut operation as it is being sold to Pacific World Corp. Purcell estimates that will lead to 120 people losing their jobs.
“Losing W.E. Bassett was a setback psychologically because it was such a venerable and well-respected business — here for 65 years,” Purcell said. “But, in some ways, the beat goes on.”
Shelton has no shortage of global leaders in business, including Perkin Elmer, Bic, Hubbell and GexPro. Sikorsky’s presence with its engineering division and Aerospace Service Division has grown. The company is temporarily using space once occupied by Health Net and has space on Platt Road.
R.D. Scinto built a new two-story office building at 50 Waterview Drive, which Purcell said is a sign of Shelton’s vibrancy.
“There has been very little new construction of Class A office space in the state,” Purcell said.
Bridgeport Avenue corridor
The five-story office space at 4 Research Drive is under new ownership and 6 Armstrong Park was sold last month to a Boston-based developer that plans to make significant improvements, Purcell said.
Some Shelton businesses have moved to new spaces and expanded, including the Valley Chamber, which moved from Bridgeport Avenue to 10 Progress Drive. Lex Products , a manufacturer of electrical power distribution and control systems, expanded from Progress Drive to new space on Forest Parkway. California Closets has also moved from another Shelton location at 2 Progress Drive.
DSA Companies are working on new construction of commercial and retail space near Ruby Tuesday’s on Bridgeport Avenue.
Shelton will now be home to a West Haven anti-virus developer, NanoViricides Inc. The company has announced plans to convert an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing building on Controls Drive into a laboratory, office and pilot production facility, according to Purcell.
Developer Howard Saffan of Bishop Management — the company that owns the Sports Center of Connecticut — has a few proposals for development on River Road.
He has plans to renovate an 11,800-square-foot industrial building at 762 River Road and turn it into a multi-tenant retail building, and the Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission has approved his proposal to construct a 58,000-square-foot, five-story medical office tower that will overlook the Housatonic River.
The hospitality industry has been down, according to Purcell, but that hasn’t stopped companies from investing. New Castle hotels recently opened the new Hampton Inn, complete with a waterslide, and renovated the Hilton Garden.
The former Hotel Serra of 830 Bridgeport Avenue is not part of the Hyatt company and was renamed The Hyatt House.
Bridgeport Avenue’s Courtyard by the Marriott is also undergoing major renovations, according to Purcell.
“They continue to invest and reinvest because they know the fundamentals are all strong here,” he said of the local hospitality industry.
“Everyone is excited about AvalonBay,” Purcell said of the construction of 250-unit apartment complex on Canal Street. “It’s a great start to creating an 18-hour life to the city center.”
He gave credit to the mayor and Jim Ryan of the Shelton Economic Development Corporation with pushing downtown projects forward and the small business people in the downtown area, like Stockbridge, Liquid Lunch and new businesses like Verace Restaurant and Bar 140. He also said the building of the Derby-Shelton Rotary Club’s pavilion near the Riverwalk will also help make the downtown area a gathering place.
He noted that Huntington center and White Hills were also vibrant contributors to Shelton’s economy.
Purcell credited Mayor Mark Lauretti, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Shelton Economic Development Corporation with some of the successes of business and growth in Shelton.
“Fundamentally, the richness of this area is really extraordinary,” Purcell said. “We’re optimistic about the long term — we still are a center for global leaders and foundation for the Valley’s economy.
“There is still a certain cachet to this address.”