Connecticut's Best School Districts 2020: New Rankings Released

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A new ranking of Connecticut's best school districts has been released. See the top school districts here.

CONNECTICUT — Data compiler Niche has ranked Connecticut's best school districts for the 2019-2020 school year. The rankings were released Monday as part of the website's 2020 K-12 rankings.

Each Connecticut district received a letter grade in the following categories: Academics; Diversity; Teachers; College Prep; Clubs & Activities; Health & Safety; Administration; Sports; Food; and Resources & Facilities.

National rankings (for those in the top 100 in America) are in parenthesis.

The top-ranked school district in Connecticut is Westport. Niche gave Westport an A or an A+ in all categories except for diversity (C). Last year, New Canaan was number 1. (See last year's list as a comparison: Connecticut's Best School Districts: New Rankings Released)

Here is the full list of the top school districts in CT, as ranked by Niche.com:



Verizon and Sacred Heart University Create “Innovation Hub,” a Collaborative Open Space for Small Business, Students and Staff

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Verizon and Sacred Heart University have collaborated on a new open work space, called “Innovation Hub. Right at the heard of the SHU campus, the “Innovation Hub” is a beautiful space open to anybody looking for a convenient place to work.

According to their new website, “the center is full of great places to brainstorm, spitball, and just get things done. It is the nexus of small business, entrepreneurial students, academic staff, and forward-thinking organizations working side-by-side to develop and grow their relationships, projects, and businesses.”

Pricing is fair and flexible and space include “Hotdesks,” Team Rooms, Concierge, Dedicated Desks, Conference Rooms and Events. Visitors can also schedule a visit to visit the new facility.

Click below to learn more about the “Innovation Hub.”

Sacred Heart University co-working space partners business community and talent pool

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Sacred Heart University is trying to enhance the way students gain real-world experience.

The Fairfield university is preparing to unveil its innovation co-working space within its West Campus at 3135 Easton Turnpike.

Officials say the initiative, which should open in the next few weeks, will create new opportunities for aspiring professionals and local businesses.

“It’s easy to give a student a textbook or school work,” said Tolga Kaya, associate professor, computer science and engineering. “Rather than doing that, we’re giving students a real project with a company where the students can actually work on a real problem and try to solve that problem in a week-long, semester-long or even a yearlong project.”

Kaya also serves as a liaison for SHU in its partnership with Verizon, which is sponsoring the 8,000-square-foot innovation lab on the second floor of the West building. The first floor was the focus of redevelopment efforts last summer.

Following GE’s 2016 departure for Boston, Sacred Heart purchased the three-building campus for $31.5 million. The 66-acre property, once home to the global company, opened at the start of the 2018 fall semester as a modern hub for a series of departments.

SHU announced at the tail end of 2018 that it would be partnering with Verizon to make the co-working space happen. The telecommunications company has five other “5G Innovation labs” nationwide, according to David Rotbard of Verizon’s Global Real Estate and Workplace Strategy and Experience segment.

“We’re trying to facilitate growing this innovation community here on campus with the university,” Rotbard said.

SHU’s facility will join Verizon’s labs in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Palo Alto, Calif. It will also be the company’s first space on a college campus, according to Rotbard.

The floor will offer private office space, hot desks, meeting and conference room space, events, recruiting services, marketing services and programming services to students and local entrepreneurs, corporations and other organizations.

Members will have fee-based access to the university’s labs and facilities that include computer, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, engineering/design, gaming, finance and motion-capture labs, as well as a makerspace and production studios.

For SHU, the innovation space serves, in part, as a talent development hub for students and leverages the experience of faculty and programs in the business community.

“You’ve got 30 students who are two years into their marketing degree. … Why can’t they put together a marketing plan for a local business here in Fairfield and work on that as a program and present it?” Rotbard said, adding businesses, Verizon included, will also benefit from access to SHU’s talent pool for projects.

Originally appeared in the CT. Post by Jordan Grice

2 Fairfield Restaurants Named Among Best In The World For Wine

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The restaurants are recipients of Wine Spectator's 2019 Restaurant Awards.

FAIRFIELD, CT — Two Fairfield area restaurants are recipients of Wine Spectator's 2019 Restaurant Awards. The awards honor the world's best restaurants for wine.

Among the recipients are Barcelona Wine Bar at 4180 Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield and Artisan at 275 Old Post Road in Southport. Barcelona Wine Bar has held the Best of Award of Excellence since 2017, while Artisan received the Award of Excellence for the first time this year. With 510 wine selections, Barcelona's strength is its Spanish wine, according to the magazine.

Launched in 1981, the Restaurant Awards are judged on three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award, with 2,447; 1,244; and 100 winners this year in each respective category. The awards program recognized dining destinations from all 50 states and 79 countries.

Read the original article by Anna Bybee-Schier on Patch

Regional Accounting Firm Expands & Leases Waterfront Office Space in Fairfield, CT

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FAIRFIELD, CT – JULY 9, 2019 – Beers, Hamerman, Cohen and Burger, P.C. has signed a long term lease for 6,500 SF of office space at One Post Road in Fairfield, CT, announced Jon Angel, President of Angel Commercial, L.L.C., a commercial real estate firm based in Southport, CT.  They have relocated from 2228 Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield, CT.

Beers, Hamerman, Cohen & Burger, PC is a full-service Certified Public Accounting and Business Consulting Firm who have been in business for over 55 years. With offices in New Haven and Fairfield, CT, they have experienced steady growth with over 45 employees to date.

One Post Road is a 30,400 SF waterfront office building that features a boardwalk overlooking Ash Creek and water views from all three stories. It is less than one mile from I-95 (Exit 23) and the Fairfield Metro Train Station.

"Waterfront office space is a rare commodity in Fairfield, CT,” states Angel who represented both parties in this transaction.

Angel Commercial, L.L.C. is a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm that specializes in the acquisition, disposition, and leasing of office, industrial, retail, multi-family, development, and investment properties on a local and national level. Visit Angel Commercial, L.L.C. on the web at www.angelcommercial.com.

Fairfield’s Coveted AAA Rating Reaffirmed – Bond and Note Sales Successful

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First Selectman Mike Tetreau is pleased to announce that the Town recently completed a bond sale of $15,710,000 at 2.5% and a ban sale of $11,420,000 at 1.3%.

First Selectman Tetreau also announced that the nation’s top rating agencies—Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and S&P Global Ratings—have all reaffirmed the Town’s AAA rating and stable outlook status. The AAA rating is the highest possible rating given out by these agencies.

Key highlights of the Rating Agencies’ assessments on Fairfield include: 

  • “Given Fairfield's strong economy and our view of management, we expect continued strong budgetary performance.” – S&P 

  • “Very strong management, with strong financial policies and practices.” – S&P 

  • “Fairfield’s credit strengths include strong financial performance, solid conservative budgeting, long-term capital planning and long-term liability management.” – Moody’s 

  • “Careful expenditure management combined with moderate tax rate increases and conservative financial forecasting has led to growth in reserves following the recession.” – Fitch 

  • “Superior inherent budget flexibility. History of strong operating performance and budget controls.” – Fitch 

First Selectman Tetreau further stated, “Thanks to the Town’s fiscal prudence and sound financial management, Fairfield is one of only four Connecticut towns to earn the AAA rating from each of the nation’s top three rating agencies. I am also very pleased with the highly successful outcome of the bond and note sales. The low interest rates achieved allow the Town to fund essential projects at these low rates saving Fairfield taxpayers a significant amount of money over the long-term.”

Chief Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer said, “Town employees work diligently to manage the Town’s operations and finances to allow the Town to optimize our debt insurance results. I would like to thank all our employees for their hard work which makes these favorable results possible.”

Matthew Spoerndle, Senior Managing Director at Phoenix Advisors, LLC, said, “The combination of the Town’s strong AAA bond ratings, coupled with the fact that interest rates have declined significantly since October led to better than expected results. This was a great outcome for the Town!”

Photo Above (left to right):: Eric Russell of Pullman & Comley, LLC, Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau, Frank Cleary of Pullman & Comley, Fairfield CFO Robert Mayer, Riley Green of Phoenix Advisors, LLC, Town Comptroller Caitlin Bosse and Matthew Spoerndle, Senior Managing Director at Phoenix Advisors, LLC.

The Charles F. Dolan School of Business Rises Again in National Rankings

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Graduate business programs climb annual U.S. News & World Report list of Best in Nation. 

The Charles F. Dolan School of Business graduate programs have again been named among the best in the nation according to the 2019 “Best Graduate Schools” ranking from U.S. News and World Report.

Graduate finance, marketing, and accounting are ranked #1 in the state and in the Top 20 in the U.S. The part-time MBA program is #2 in the state and jumped into the Top 100 in the nation.

Rankings were determined, in part, by voting from peer institutions, and were based on factors such as faculty resources, research activity and awarded grants, and student selectivity:

  • Best Grad Business Specialty Program: Part-Time MBA #89 (vs. #101 last year), second in the state

  • Best Grad Business Specialty Program: Accounting #20 (vs. #21 last year), only school in Connecticut in the Top 20

  • Best Grad Business Specialty Program: Marketing #14 (vs. #15 last year), only school in Connecticut in the Top 20

  • Best Grad Business Specialty Program: Finance #19, only school in Connecticut in the Top 20

Fairfield Dolan’s Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program was ranked among the Top 10 in the nation, and best in Connecticut, according to College Choice's 2019 “50 Best Big Data Degrees” ranking. 

Fairfield Named a Top Safe Community in Connecticut

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First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Police Chief Chris Lyddy are pleased to announce that the Town of Fairfield has been named a top safe community in Connecticut. SafeWise, an online safety resource that helps families and communities make informed decisions, recently issued its annual 20 Safest Communities in Connecticut Report for 2019 with Fairfield placing seventh. 

Police Chief Chris Lyddy stated, “The safety and security of Fairfield remains our highest priority. Our effectiveness is directly related to the close partnerships we have forged with our residents, businesses, and community organizations.”

According to Safewise, the most up-to-date (2017) FBI crime report statistics and population data is used for this report. Safewise's methodolgy is based on the number of reported violent crimes in each community. If there was a tie, Safewise also factored in the number of property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). To level the playing field, Safewise calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each community to make it easier to directly compare the likelihood of these crimes occurring in communities with vastly different populations.

According to the Report, some of the Key Findings include:

  • 85% of this year’s safest communities are on the list for the second year (this includes Fairfield); and 

  • Connecticut’s crime rates are lower than the national averages, with 2.55 violent crime incidents per 1,000 people and 19.53 property crime incidents. Nationwide rates are 4.49 for violent crime and 27.11 for property crime; and 

  • Being robbed is the top violent crime worry, and safest city reporting supports that—only three cities had zero incidents, and the reports ranged from one to 25, with a total of 146 being reported among all cities, which makes it the second-most common violent crime after aggravated assault (166).

In addition to ranking the State’s safest towns, SafeWise also conducted a nationwide “State of Safety” survey to find out what people are actually worried about when it comes to safety. Key findings among Connecticut’s residents include: 16% of CT’s State of Safety respondents had a personal experience with digital security in the past year which is eight percentage points below the national average of 24% and having someone access sensitive information is the primary digital security fear, with 73% naming it their top concern. Those correlations and other useful findings were added to SafeWise’s report. 

First Selectman Tetreau said, “We are very proud to receive this high honor. Keeping the public safe is our top priority. I would like to give a special thanks to our dedicated police, fire, and telecommunicators as well as the EMTs and volunteer residents who work tirelessly to protect and serve our community.”

Stamford software company to move to Fairfield

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Stamford-based Q88 LLC is moving to Fairfield.

The software provider is moving its Connecticut headquarters from Stamford to 1501 Kings Highway East. Q88 signed a long-term, multiyear lease for a 7,800-square-foot building near the Fairfield Metro Station, doubling its space in the process.

“The reason we are moving is to meet our future goals of expansion,” said a Q88 spokesperson.

The company declined to comment any further on the transaction Q88 has been around since 2001, offering software solutions to clients in the global shipping industry. The company also has offices in London, Athens and Singapore, and caters to a client base of more than 11,000 users and 10,000 vessels.

According to a news release from Westport-based brokerage HK Group, the company chose the building due to its immediate proximity to public transit and its look.

“The building is fully reconstructed with the modern industrial look that many companies — modern and young companies — are looking for,” said Franco Fellah, executive vice president at HK Group, which represented landlord Powerscourt Westover LLC during the transaction. Q88 will occupy the entire building.

Powerscourt bought the building in 2017 for $765,000 and renovated it. At the time, it was a 3,800-square-foot blighted building near the train station. Tom McLaughlin, owner of Powerscourt, transformed the vacant brick structure into a two-story modern, glass office building, about double the size of the original building.

The commercial real estate company owns the building at 1525 Kings Highway East and had been leasing the site next door since 2011 to use its 28-space parking lot.

Q88 is projected to move sometime during this summer; town officials said they are looking forward to the addition to the commercial base.

“We’re pleased anytime a new business moves into Fairfield,” said Mark Barnhart, director of economic development. “We’re certainly happy that Q88 stayed within Fairfield County and the region instead of moving out of state. We understand this is a competitive marketplace and we’re excited to have them apart of the Fairfield business community.”

Q88’s new headquarters is located in an area that has seen ongoing activity and interest from developers over the past couple years with the introduction of the Fairfield Trademark Apartments and more.

The second phase of the Fairfield Trademark construction has already begun even closer to the train station and is expected to bring a trove of apartments to the town.

“It’s really an emerging area and a very active local market,” Barnhart said

Fairfield Celebrates Achievement as Top-Ranked “Sustainable CT” Community: Record of Activities Garnered Most Points Among 169 Towns

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First Selectman Mike Tetreau and the Sustainable Fairfield Task Force (SFTF) are pleased to announce that the Town of Fairfield held a special ceremony to celebrate its recent recognition as a top-ranked “Sustainable CT” municipality and to also highlight the many successful sustainable initiatives that have been put in place to build upon the health and resilience of the Fairfield community and natural environment.

The ceremony, led by First Selectman Tetreau and SFTF members Mary Hogue and Bob Wall, honored the numerous town officials, town departments and volunteer bodies who collaborated on Fairfield’s winning application last October for a “Silver certification” under the “Sustainable CT” initiative which awards certifications to Connecticut communities that voluntarily meet high standards in a broad range of sustainability accomplishments. Over 40 people attended the ceremony that was held on January 18th at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

Fairfield was one of just five communities statewide to receive the Silver certification, the highest designation that can be achieved based on points awarded for specific sustainability actions. 

Sustainability “Deeply Woven” into Town Planning: 

“For years, community sustainability and environmental preservation have been deeply woven into our Town’s long-term planning, yielding highly tangible results, including significant annual Town cost savings from use of renewable energy,” remarked First Selectman Tetreau at the ceremony. He continued, “We’re immensely pleased that these efforts have given us outstanding state-wide recognition – an honor that will only encourage us to redouble our efforts to keep Fairfield at the forefront of our State’s healthiest and most thriving communities.”

Other speakers at the event were Mark Barnhart, Director of Community and Economic Development who spoke about local economic impacts; Julie DeMarco, Director of Human Services who discussed initiatives helping senior and disabled residents; Kyran Dunn, Deputy Fire Chief who focused on climate vulnerability; and Bill Pollack, Fairfield Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee member who highlighted transportation diversity.

Fairfield’s application for Sustainable CT certification was compiled by SFTF members Mary Hogue and Bob Wall. Technical support for the application was provided by United Illuminating and University of Connecticut students under the direction of Dr. Amy E. Thompson.

Ms. Hogue said, “Town-wide collaboration and cooperation has been the secret to Fairfield’s success in designing and executing our sustainability initiatives. Bringing so many different parties to the table has made for a truly creative and goals-centered planning process and has also created many opportunities for contributions by individuals who might not have participated before in Town planning. In Fairfield, sustainability planning is genuinely top-down and bottom-up, which will continue to ensure that our efforts are responsive to the Town’s most urgent sustainability concerns.”

Activities Town-Wide Drive Fairfield’s Sustainability:

Fairfield’s successful Sustainable CT application details a broad spectrum of activities now underway, Town-wide, to enhance community quality and viability in areas ranging from clean energy and transportation to diverse housing, health of the local economy and vibrant arts and culture.

Among the accomplishments cited:

  • Building awareness of Fairfield’s rich history, cultural and recreation resources, and vibrant business centers, including the Town’s readily walkable downtown; and

  • Assessing the potential Town-wide impacts of climate change; and

  • Facilitating the greater use of home solar energy systems Town-wide via the Solarize Fairfield campaigns; supporting efforts by local businesses and nonprofits to tap state financing for energy efficiency improvements, and increasing use of renewable energy, including solar, in Town buildings; and 

  • Enhancing the preservation of the Town’s green spaces and beaches, and maintaining efforts to safeguard the health of Fairfield’s key waterways and watershed areas, including Mill River, Rooster River and Sasco Brook; and 

  • Sustaining and expanding Fairfield’s vital “tree canopy” and guarding against invasive species (plant, insect and aquatic); and 

  • Supporting the viability and use of local food sources, including community gardens; and 

  • Implementing “complete streets” policies to ensure and maintain Town roadways that offer safe and comfortable access for all users; promoting public transportation and greater use of electric vehicles, by both the Town and its residents; and 

  • Supporting recycling and composting by both the Town and residents, and encouraging smoke-free and tobacco-free public spaces; and 
    Assessing Fairfield’s housing needs, including the need for affordable housing; and

  • Maintaining a robust communications infrastructure to keep Town residents informed and engaged regarding Town news and developments. 

Many of Fairfield’s ongoing and planned sustainability projects are reflected in the Town’s Master Sustainability Plan which is now under development and details specific initiatives for safeguarding Fairfield’s natural and built environments, natural resources, and quality of life.

About the Sustainable Fairfield Task Force: 

The Sustainable Fairfield Task Force (SFTF), formerly the Clean Energy Task Force, provides support for Town practices and projects that can help Fairfield manage its growth to safeguard the health of its environment, ensure the reliability and economical use of its natural resources, and preserve the quality of life of its residents – today and for the future.   

For more information, please contact Sustainable Fairfield Task Force member Mary Hogue at 203-256-9802.

Sacred Heart U. Gets Into the Coworking Business

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Sacred Heart University has entered the coworking movement.

The Fairfield-based university has signed an agreement with Verizon and Alley, which operates coworking spaces nationwide. The new “Alley Powered by Verizon” space,  on SHU’s West Campus – the former General Electric headquarters at 3135 Easton Turnpike –  will be that partnership’s first Connecticut venture and its first to be on a college campus.

“We’ve been interested in testing out the concept in an academic setting,” said Nick LiVigne, Verizon Global Real Estate manager workplace strategy and coworking lead. “We felt that Sacred Heart’s technology, engineering and computer sciences curriculum seemed like a natural fit.”

The 11,000-square-foot space will offer various levels of memberships and services that include private office space, hot desks – where multiple workers use a single workstation during different times – meeting and conference room space, as well as recruiting, marketing and programming services.

SHU will provide the fully furnished and equipped turnkey facility and a dedicated project coordinator to help identify, activate and create engagement between the innovation community and the university’s faculty, staff, administration and student body.

SHU also will establish a student concierge service that members can use as a resource for making connections with various university programs, internships, recruiting, events, speaker sessions, office hours and mentoring. Members will also have fee-based access to the labs and facilities that include computer, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, engineering/design, gaming, finance and motion-capture labs, as well as a makerspace and production studios.

Alley, which is headquartered in New York City, will oversee marketing and advertising to develop a community of members, manage member experience and help coordinate events and programs.

“This is something we have been talking about with our advisory board for about a year,” SHU provost Rupendra Paliwal said. “We wanted to address the question of how we could provide more opportunities for our students to interact with entrepreneurs, which is something our students have expressed an interest in.

“The university is always looking to create a learning environment and a learning experience for our students that can help prepare them for their professional life,” Paliwal added. “Something like this helps to keep our academics pertinent and relevant to what’s happening in the business world.”

Set to open in late 2019, the facility “is exactly the kind of innovative and entrepreneurial platform that Connecticut desperately needs,” SHU President John J. Petillo said. “The symbiotic relationship between business and technology is critical for incubation, economic growth and job creation. With our partners Verizon and Alley, and the many small and large businesses and organizations that choose to align with our innovation center, we will introduce a new creative working model and rich opportunities for fostering talent, ideas and business growth.”

“This is a major boost to Fairfield’s economic development efforts to bring more jobs and businesses to our town,” remarked Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau, who said the initiative “certainly goes a long way to helping replace the loss of GE in our community.” That company exited Fairfield in 2016 in favor of Boston.

Verizon and Alley have together built innovation hubs in New York, Cambridge, Washington, Palo Alto and Los Angeles. According to LiVigne, the coworking spaces allow Verizon to tap into local startup and innovation networks, build relationships with potential partners and open new doors for ideas and technology.

The new center at Sacred Heart will further Verizon’s commitment to cultivate strong relationships with academic institutions with emerging technology curricula, LiVigne said. While Alley has a presence on other college campuses, LiVigne said Verizon would be closely monitoring the SHU facility to help determine whether it will be further involved with academia. “We’re always open to growth,” he said. “Anything is on the table for us.”

“Sacred Heart has long been committed to innovation and creative thinking, making it a natural fit for attracting and building a successful startup community,” said Alley CEO Jason Saltzman. “Fairfield County has several corporations and businesses that stand to benefit from the work that will be done here, not to mention its ideal location between New York City and Boston.

“We’re helping to create a startup mindset and environment that will provide members much-needed access to corporate resources typically unavailable to small businesses, from key relationship introductions to cutting-edge technology,” Saltzman said.

Paliwal said the university’s West Campus, which includes its new School of Computing – focused on computer engineering, computer gaming and cybersecurity, as well as developing programs in STEM fields like health and life sciences, science and technology – made it a natural choice for the new facility.

“This will not only benefit our students,” he said, “but also entrepreneurs who can access our lab, students and faculty to create and build prototypes for their ideas. This space will allow a wide range of people to become a part of a growing ecosystem.”

Insurance Group Buys Fairfield Office Building

Fairfield building at 45 Sherman Street sold to the Doyle Insurance group for over $1 million.

Fairfield building at 45 Sherman Street sold to the Doyle Insurance group for over $1 million.

Fairfield-based Doyle Insurance has gone from tenants to property owners.

The insurance group purchased a two-story office building at 45 Sherman St. for $1,375,000, according to a press release from Fairfield-based real estate firm, Angel Commercial LLC, which represented the buyers.

The Doyle Insurance Group provides personalized insurance services for its clients, offering an array of property and liability insurance solutions.

The company will move from its 10 Sasco Hill Road location less than a mile away to the new office just off the Post Road. The office is also within walking distance of the Fairfield train station.

“Changing from a tenant to a property owner demonstrates the firm's commitment to being part of Fairfield’s vibrant business community,” said John Angel, president of Angel Commercial, in a press release.

The space offers more than 4,500 square feet along with a 1,217-square-foot cottage that also has an office room and residential features. Both the main building and the carriage building have been renovated in the past two years.

The insurance company is expected to occupy the front building following further modifications to the site, while it’s uncertain what they will use the carriage building for.

“It’s a spectacular area,” said Bruce Wettenstein of Westport-based Vidal/Wettenstein which was the listing broker for the sellers, Valor Investments LLC.

The previous owner operated a financial services business, according to Wettenstein.

“If you want to be in Fairfield and you want to be within walking distance to all the retail spots and Metro-North, it’s the right location,” he added.

Yankee Institute: Fairfield Named Top CT Town for Business Friendliness

Connecticut is often ranked low in terms of its business environment, but according to a new study from Yankee Institute, some towns manage to stand out from the rest.

The authors of Connecticut’s Top Ten Business-Friendly Towns collected and measured data from Connecticut’s 50 largest municipalities based on community allure, economic vitality, tax burden and transportation infrastructure and found that while the state may be in dire economic straits, some towns are still able to foster a competitive business environment.

The Town of Fairfield took top honors as the most business-friendly town or city in the state, followed by Greenwich, Westport, Ridgefield and Simsbury.

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Although the top four business-friendly towns were located in Fairfield County, towns like Shelton, South Windsor and Glastonbury also made the top ten list.

“I think this shows there are bright spots in Connecticut, that our state still has the ability – particularly at the municipal level – to really be economically vibrant, competitive, and friendly to businesses,” said Yankee Institute Manager of External Affairs and co-author of the study Isabel Blank.

The study comes on the heels of a previous study on municipal finances entitled Warning Signs: Assessing Municipal Fiscal Health in Connecticut, which scored municipal finances and found a significant portion of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities were facing fiscal problems, including eight which were labeled as being in “severe distress.”

The data in Warning Signs was collected and analyzed by Marc Joffe of the Reason Foundation. A municipality which scored below 70 was deemed to be “marginal,” while a score below 50 is considered in severe financial distress.

The average fiscal score for a town ranked in the top ten for business friendliness was 71, compared to the average score of 56 for a bottom ten municipality.

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Fitch: Population, economic numbers point to Fairfield County outpacing rest of state

Fairfield County gained more than 2,500 residents in net migration from New York City from 2011 to 2015, including 1,038 from Bronx County.

Fairfield County gained more than 2,500 residents in net migration from New York City from 2011 to 2015, including 1,038 from Bronx County.

Following is an article from the Fairfield Citizen:

Connecticut may be losing population, but Fairfield County is gaining residents and much of that is coming from nearby New York City.

A recent study by Fitch Ratings of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Fairfield County gained more than 2,500 residents in net migration from New York City from 2011 to 2015, including 1,038 from Bronx County. Fairfield County had positive net migration from each of the five New York City counties during that time span.

Overall, Connecticut gains a significant number of residents moving in from New York state each year, peaking with a 12,136 net migration in 2015.

The study also showed that Connecticut has lost population every year from 2013 and 2016. Fairfield County, however, has gained population each year, and had 949,921 residents in 2017, up from 942,865 in 2013. Hartford County, by comparison, saw its population fall from 899,765 in 2013 to 895,388 in 2017.

Joseph Fontana, an associate director in Fitch Ratings’ corporates group, was the lead analyst for the study. He said Fairfield County’s strengths, such as high personal income, wage growth and disposable income, should continue to make it a desirable destination for New Yorkers looking to relocate.

“There are strong underlying economic trends that will support growth in Fairfield County going forward,” he said.

Fairfield County’s low property taxes, relative to New York City and adjacent Westchester County, is another draw.

“That’s a factor,” Fontana said. “People want to be in an area where they can avoid taxes as much as they can, especially with the new tax laws and their limited ability to deduct state and local taxes from federal taxes.

“Residential real estate (in Fairfield County) has been pretty good,” he said. “There has been strong growth in wages and median household income. That’s really driving the residential real estate market in Fairfield County.”

The southwestern part of the state has outpaced the rest of the state in other economic measures as well. The Danbury labor market area has the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.7 percent. The Bridgeport-Stamford labor market area has an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which absorbs towns with high rates, such as Bridgeport (6.4), Ansonia (6.2), Stratford (5.6) and Derby (5.5).

Millennial march

A growing number of millennials are fleeing the big cities in search of the traditional American dream of homeownership in the suburbs, the Fitch research shows. Older millennials who had previously shunned the suburbs in favor of the work-live-play aspect of the cities, are now seeking homes in the suburbs.

“Millennials are trying to strike a balance between commuting and affordability; and being away from the city, but not too far,” Fontana said. “The white-picket fence is a necessity to them, too, especially as their families grow. The dream of owning a home is not dead for millennials and Fairfield County has the comforts of a suburb, but with New York City proximity.”

Fairfield County also offers good schools, upscale shopping and a lower cost of living, compared to New York City, he said.

Jim Fagan, Cushman & Wakefield’s managing principal for the Connecticut and Westchester markets, has seen a similar trend. He said there is a large demographic of people between the life stages of graduating from college and starting a family. That population flocked to city apartments during that stage.

“That process is starting to mature. They moved into apartments 10 years ago and the birthrate was low for years, but now they are starting families,” Fagan said. “These families can’t afford to live in the city. If you’re in Manhattan and you have a few kids, you’re dead broke.

“Connecticut and Westchester are made for families,” he said. “There’s access to Long Island Sound, fantastic schools and all the amenities of a suburb close to New York City.”

Fagan said as the millennials move to Fairfield County the commercial real estate market will continue to improve. Fitch numbers show that Fairfield County has a vacancy rate of 23.6 percent, up dramatically from the 13.9 percent vacancy rate in 2007. It has climbed steadily over the years as the country recovers from the 2008 recession, corporations rethink their space requirements and technology reduces the need for many employees to have an office.

Fagan sees companies following their talented millennial workers out to the suburbs and taking space in office buildings throughout Fairfield County, particularly along major transportation lines.

Fontana said Fairfield County often represents a “flight to affordability” for companies looking to escape the high rents of New York City. Conversely, he said, many companies looked to New York City following 2008 as a place they believed to be a recession-proof area.

While slightly elevated from pre-recession years, New York City continues to enjoy a low vacancy rate of 8.3 percent. The city’s vacancy rate hit a post-recession high of 11.6 percent in 2009. The rate was 5.7 percent in 2007, according to numbers provided by Fitch.

Recession recovery

The recovery from the recession has been stronger and faster in Fairfield County in comparison to the rest of the state. A look at population numbers show that every county in the state has lost population since 2013, except Fairfield. In addition to Hartford, Litchfield and New London counties have lost significant population.

It’s a good thing for the state that Fairfield County continues to gain population as it pays more than one-quarter of the state’s taxes, with a hefty amount of that coming from Greenwich. A strong Fairfield County economy is essential in keeping that money flowing north.

Fontana said the economic indicators appear strong in Fairfield County and he sees the momentum continuing in a positive direction.

“It’s a function of where we are in the cycle. We are nine or 10 years out from the start of the recession and things are positive,” Fontana said. “I see continued positive growth. A deceleration will come, though, but that’s normal.”

Fairfield University top regional school in Northeast, says U.S. News

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Fairfield University is the top regional university in the Northeast, according to the latest national college rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

The school – which ranked third last year in the region – also tied for fourth-best undergraduate teaching in the Northeast with Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Providence College; State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo finished first. Fairfield University also tied for fifth-most innovative school in the region with Champlain College, Vermont and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia; Southern New Hampshire University was first. Furthermore, Fairfield University came in 21st in the publication’s “Best Value Schools” in the region, with Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., topping that list.

Fellow Fairfield-based school Sacred Heart University tied with five other schools for 35thbest in the Northeast; tied with the same five institutions for 17th best college for veterans; placed 64th in best value; and placed 274th for its business programs.

The University of Bridgeport and Western Connecticut State in Danbury both placed in a large 142nd-187th rank in the “Best in the Northeast” rankings. Bridgeport was also included in the 190th-206th cohort of schools with doctorates in engineering.

Colleges and universities included in the Regional Colleges ranking offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master’s degree programs and are divided and ranked in four geographical groups: North, South, Midwest and West.

Princeton University in New Jersey was named the best national university, followed by Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tied for third place were Yale in New Haven; Columbia University in New York City; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge; and the University of Chicago. Also making that list were the University of Connecticut (63rd) and the University of Hartford (194th).

Sacred Heart University debuts undergraduate program in hospitality, resort and tourism management

Photo: Centerbrook Architects and Planners

Photo: Centerbrook Architects and Planners

From Westfair Online:

Sacred Heart University (SHU) is kicking off its fall semester with a new undergraduate program that offers a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, resort and tourism management.

John Chalykoff, dean of the university’s Jack Welch College of Business, said that the new program puts students in the right place at the right time. “This is an expanding industry where there will be great demand to fill jobs,” he said, noting that the hospitality and tourism industry is the second-largest employer in the U.S. after the federal government.

 “The hospitality industry is a $7 trillion industry worldwide. There is a lot of demand and a variety of opportunities in hospitality, which is why we developed this program.”

The first class for the program consists of 20 students who have a choice of three specializations: hotel, resort and club management; tourism management; and revenue, pricing, and data analytics management. Each specialization will involve a business core curriculum with students required to complete nine courses.

SHU is promoting this program by highlighting the potential career opportunities awaiting students. Citing statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, SHU noted that job opportunities within hotel, resorts and lodging operations management are expected to experience an 8 percent growth through 2024, while operations research analytics are expected to see 30 percent growth during the same period. A 5 percent growth over the next six years is predicted in the food and beverage operations management side of the industry, while meeting and planning management is forecast to see 10 percent growth in this period.

“The most lucrative careers, at least upon graduation, are in the analytics side of the industry, but there are all kinds of jobs for all kinds of interests throughout the hospitality industry,” Chalykoff said. “And there are many that provide additional perks, such as the opportunity to travel.”

Courses will be conducted at SHU’s West Campus (the former General Electric headquarters), and internships will be available at the university’s 150-acre Great River Golf Course in Milford, which is home to the full-service restaurant Monty’s River Grille and the 3,000-square-foot Golf Pro Shop. The program will also have internship opportunities through SHU’s campus in Dingle, Ireland.

“There will be two required internships,” Chalykoff said. “We are currently working with a variety of companies to set up internship opportunities for students in the program.”

Other classes connected to this major include Management of Human Resources, Dynamics of Information Technology and Revenue Management and Pricing. Chalykoff acknowledged that hospitality and tourism frequently suffer when the economy goes into a tailspin, and the new program will take into consideration ways to keep business vibrant in the event of another recession.

“The required analytics course largely focuses on supply and demand and what actions to take in a slow or heated economy,” he said.

While SHU has no plans to expand this endeavor into a graduate program, he said the school would be watching the new undergraduate program to determine if this will be the next academic step. “If there is demand, absolutely,” he said.

Population, economic numbers point to Fairfield County outpacing rest of state

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From The Fairfield Citizen:

Connecticut may be losing population, but Fairfield County is gaining residents and much of that is coming from nearby New York City.

A recent study by Fitch Ratings of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Fairfield County gained more than 2,500 residents in net migration from New York City from 2011 to 2015, including 1,038 from Bronx County. Fairfield County had positive net migration from each of the five New York City counties during that time span.

Overall, Connecticut gains a significant number of residents moving in from New York state each year, peaking with a 12,136 net migration in 2015.

The study also showed that Connecticut has lost population every year from 2013 and 2016. Fairfield County, however, has gained population each year, and had 949,921 residents in 2017, up from 942,865 in 2013. Hartford County, by comparison, saw its population fall from 899,765 in 2013 to 895,388 in 2017.

Joseph Fontana, an associate director in Fitch Ratings’ corporates group, was the lead analyst for the study. He said Fairfield County’s strengths, such as high personal income, wage growth and disposable income, should continue to make it a desirable destination for New Yorkers looking to relocate.

“There are strong underlying economic trends that will support growth in Fairfield County going forward,” he said.

Fairfield County’s low property taxes, relative to New York City and adjacent Westchester County, is another draw.“That’s a factor,” Fontana said. “People want to be in an area where they can avoid taxes as much as they can, especially with the new tax laws and their limited ability to deduct state and local taxes from federal taxes.

“Residential real estate (in Fairfield County) has been pretty good,” he said. “There has been strong growth in wages and median household income. That’s really driving the residential real estate market in Fairfield County.”

The southwestern part of the state has outpaced the rest of the state in other economic measures as well. The Danbury labor market area has the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.7 percent. The Bridgeport-Stamford labor market area has an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which absorbs towns with high rates, such as Bridgeport (6.4), Ansonia (6.2), Stratford (5.6) and Derby (5.5).

Millennial March

A growing number of millennials are fleeing the big cities in search of the traditional American dream of homeownership in the suburbs, the Fitch research shows. Older millennials who had previously shunned the suburbs in favor of the work-live-play aspect of the cities, are now seeking homes in the suburbs.

“Millennials are trying to strike a balance between commuting and affordability; and being away from the city, but not too far,” Fontana said. “The white-picket fence is a necessity to them, too, especially as their families grow. The dream of owning a home is not dead for millennials and Fairfield County has the comforts of a suburb, but with New York City proximity.”

Fairfield County also offers good schools, upscale shopping and a lower cost of living, compared to New York City, he said.

Jim Fagan, Cushman & Wakefield’s managing principal for the Connecticut and Westchester markets, has seen a similar trend. He said there is a large demographic of people between the life stages of graduating from college and starting a family. That population flocked to city apartments during that stage.

“That process is starting to mature. They moved into apartments 10 years ago and the birthrate was low for years, but now they are starting families,” Fagan said. “These families can’t afford to live in the city. If you’re in Manhattan and you have a few kids, you’re dead broke.

“Connecticut and Westchester are made for families,” he said. “There’s access to Long Island Sound, fantastic schools and all the amenities of a suburb close to New York City.”

Fagan said as the millennials move to Fairfield County the commercial real estate market will continue to improve. Fitch numbers show that Fairfield County has a vacancy rate of 23.6 percent, up dramatically from the 13.9 percent vacancy rate in 2007. It has climbed steadily over the years as the country recovers from the 2008 recession, corporations rethink their space requirements and technology reduces the need for many employees to have an office.

Fagan sees companies following their talented millennial workers out to the suburbs and taking space in office buildings throughout Fairfield County, particularly along major transportation lines.

Fontana said Fairfield County often represents a “flight to affordability” for companies looking to escape the high rents of New York City. Conversely, he said, many companies looked to New York City following 2008 as a place they believed to be a recession-proof area.

While slightly elevated from pre-recession years, New York City continues to enjoy a low vacancy rate of 8.3 percent. The city’s vacancy rate hit a post-recession high of 11.6 percent in 2009. The rate was 5.7 percent in 2007, according to numbers provided by Fitch.

Recession Recovery

The recovery from the recession has been stronger and faster in Fairfield County in comparison to the rest of the state. A look at population numbers show that every county in the state has lost population since 2013, except Fairfield. In addition to Hartford, Litchfield and New London counties have lost significant population.

It’s a good thing for the state that Fairfield County continues to gain population as it pays more than one-quarter of the state’s taxes, with a hefty amount of that coming from Greenwich. A strong Fairfield County economy is essential in keeping that money flowing north.

Fontana said the economic indicators appear strong in Fairfield County and he sees the momentum continuing in a positive direction.

“It’s a function of where we are in the cycle. We are nine or 10 years out from the start of the recession and things are positive,” Fontana said. “I see continued positive growth. A deceleration will come, though, but that’s normal.”

Fairfield Ranks 11th Among Nation’s Top 50 Safest College Towns

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First Selectman Mike Tetreau is pleased to announce that Fairfield has been ranked as one of the nation’s 50 Safest College Towns in America. Fairfield ranked #11 in 2018, up from #24 in 2017. Fairfield is only one of three Connecticut municipalities that meets the safe college towns’ criteria. West Hartford ranked #13 and Willimantic ranked #41.

First Selectman Tetreau said, “This high honor is a great testament to the exceptional job our Police Department performs day in and day out. It is also a wonderful way to recognize our two outstanding universities and their dedicated campus security, which, together with Fairfield’s finest, keep students safe and parents reassured.” 

Findings and Methodology 
In anticipation of the new fall semester starting for college students, SafeWise, a community-focused security organization, recently issued its third annual Safest College Towns findings. One of the key findings is that Fairfield and six other top 30 safest college towns are repeats from last year. According to SafeWise, “Today students (and parents) are looking for colleges that deliver academic excellence with a side of safety.” 

The safest college towns of 2018 were identified by SafeWise safety experts who analyzed the FBI’s most recent crime statistics to calculate the total number of crimes committed in America’s towns and cities with at least one accredited, academic institution of higher learning. To deem a college town “safe,” SafeWise zeroed in on violent crimes per 1,000 people for each city. From there, analysts weighed those numbers in relation to population numbers and other important factors. Finally, SafeWise identified relevant safety, security, and community outreach programs that help make each Safest College Town safe.

Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara stated, “All the men and women of the Fairfield Police department, including our civilian staff and 911 telecommunicators, some of whom are parents ourselves, understand that when sending their students off to college a big concern is their safety. We are proud to be recognized as a safe college town. We are also proud of the partnerships we have with the public safety units at both universities. It is through these partnerships and dedication that we all make Fairfield a safe town for members of the University communities.”

Fairfield Ranked #11

According to its findings, SafeWise noted that “Fairfield has reason to celebrate its safe streets—this (town) jumped 13 spaces to rank number 11 this year.” Sacred Heart University, one of the town’s major universities, serves over 8,000 students with five violent offenses on campus in 2016.

“The safety of the members of the Sacred Heart community and our guests is always our top priority. We are excited that our safety policies and procedures, along with our strong partnerships with the Fairfield police and fire departments, have contributed to the town’s high safety ranking,” said Jack Fernandez, Director of Public Safety at Sacred Heart University. 

SafeWise also highlighted that, “Fairfield University’s excellent safety record adds to the sense of security in this college town and speaks well of both campus safety officers and the overall campus community.” 

Director of Public Safety at Fairfield University Todd Pelazza stated, “One of our top priorities at Fairfield University is the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff and we are thankful for the strong partnership with the town of Fairfield, and the members of the police and fire departments.”

Fairfield University Ranked Once Again Among Best Schools in the Country by Princeton Review and Money Magazine

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Money Magazine’s annual ranking places Fairfield among Top 100 Private Universities in the nation and Top 10 Most Transformative Universities. 

 Princeton Review again recognized Fairfield as a top-tier school and named Fairfield among the Top 10 schools for Best Quality of Life, Top 20 for Happiest Students, and among the Best in the Northeastern Region for Colleges That Pay You Back.

FAIRFIELD, Conn., (August 15, 2018) – Fairfield University has again been named among the best schools in the country in two major annual lists from Time’s Money Magazine and The Princeton Review.

Money Magazine’s annual “Best Colleges for Your Money” ranking places Fairfield among the Top 100 private universities in the country. 

Fairfield’s top 10 ranking for Most Transformative Colleges, which is “when a college helps students do far better than would be expected from their academic and economic backgrounds,” recognizes the institution’s commitment to holistic formation and places it as the highest ranking Jesuit university in that category.

“Princeton Review and Money Magazine continue to recognize Fairfield’s commitment to modern excellence as a values-based, student-centric, outcomes-focused institution,” said president of Fairfield University Mark R. Nemec, PhD. “Fairfield is continuing its strong rise as one of the leading private institutions in the U.S.”

Additionally, Fairfield is again among The Princeton Review’s annual “Best 384 Colleges,” as well as in the Top 10 schools – and the only Connecticut school in the Top 10 -- where students are considered to have the “Best Quality of Life.” The University is found in the Top 20 schools -- and the top school in Connecticut in the Top 20 -- to have the “Happiest Students,” as well as among the Best Northeastern schools and the best Colleges That Pay You Back.

In choosing the schools who make the Colleges That Pay You Back list, The Princeton Review used data collected from fall 2016 through fall 2017 from their institutional and student surveys and from PayScale.com on alumni career and salary statistics. Essentially, according to their methodology, “students who attend these schools don't have to mortgage their futures to pay for their degrees—and we believe they will graduate with great career prospects.”

According to Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Editor-in-Chief, the top 384 schools are picked primarily on “outstanding academics” and are highly recommended by the publication. The best regional schools, in which Fairfield is among the best in the Northeastern region, are also considered as those that are “academically outstanding.” Strong institutional and student survey data determined the rankings for Colleges That Pay You Back, which include academic rigor, affordability, and career outcomes for graduates.

SHU to offer undergraduate degree program in cybersecurity

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Sacred Heart University’s School of Computer Science & Engineering has created a bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity that will debut with the fall semester.

According to the school, the program’s core courses will focus on cybersecurity concepts and skills, including incident response and risk management, web development in UNIX, intrusion detection and network forensics, malware analysis and reverse engineering. The curriculum conforms to the latest recommendations from the Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education in its recent version of Cybersecurity Curricula 2017 – Curriculum Guidelines for Post-Secondary Degree Programs in Cybersecurity.

“Students wanting to join the cyber workforce to protect our critical information, systems and infrastructure against cyberattacks will find this new cybersecurity program at Sacred Heart to be a rewarding and challenging experience,” said Sajal Bhatia, assistant professor and director of SHU’s master’s in cybersecurity program. “The program will focus on hands-on learning, with the help of traditional, lecture-based teaching.”