Location, location, location. Nowhere does the old real estate adage apply more than in Fairfield, Connecticut…
“We are not only close to New York, Boston, and Washington DC by rail, but we have five international airports within an hour of us,” says First Selectman Michael C. Tetreau. “This corridor provides more resources and tools that you need to grow your business than any other place in the country.”
Leading universities are just one of these many resources. Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University are located in town, while Yale University is just a short drive away – not to mention the rest of the Ivy League universities scattered throughout the North East. Such a well-educated region provides – and attracts – top-notch employees. “Quality people for your business, skilled labor, advanced degrees, well educated talent – we have all that,” Mr. Tetreau points out. Mark S. Barnhart, Director of Economic Development, agrees. “There is a very deep talent pool in Fairfield,” he says. “We have a very highly educated, highly productive workforce. Over 60 percent of our residents have four year advanced degrees, which is far above the norm for the region, the state, and the country as a whole.”
Fairfield’s dynamic location is no secret; businesses have been thriving here for years. “People want to come here, entrepreneurs want to come here,” says Chamber of Commerce President Beverly A. Balaz. “Businesses are happy to have this address.” Fairfield is a favorite location for international investors as well as those based within the state or region. “The area is particularly strong in terms of attracting foreign direct investment,” Mr. Tetreau shares. “This is a major area of opportunity, given the proximity to the New York metro area.” Europeans are especially well situated to take advantage of all that Fairfield has to offer. “I would argue that, if you look across the country, there are fewer towns that are closer to Europe due to the number of international airports here and the ease of access getting out there; the number of flights, length of the flights, availability of flights.”
A strong economy and growing population both illustrate Fairfield’s success. “We are just coming off the lowest tax increase in the last 15 years,” Mr. Tetreau points out. “We have a AAA credit rating, the highest possible credit rating from Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s, and we are one of the top five fastest growing communities in the state of Connecticut over the last five years according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Put all this together and it shows that people are coming here and businesses are staying here.”
Fairfield’s low unemployment rate and low vacancy rate also showcase the town’s pro-business environment. “Fairfield has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 4.7 percent,” Mr. Tetreau reports. “The vacancy rate for commercial space is in the 5 to 8 percent range, compared to the 20 to 25 percent range for other communities in Fairfield County. One of the things that businesses are looking for is an overall stable environment and I think the low unemployment rate and low vacancy rate point to that. The low vacancy rate is also an indicator that companies appreciate the value that Fairfield offers.”
Fairfield enjoys a diverse economy, but the town of 59,000 is particularly well suited to industries that require a reserve of highly educated, skilled workers. “We have a talent pool to support industries in the areas of aerospace, biomedical, precision manufacturing, and life sciences,” Mr. Barnhart reports. Government incentives have helped draw these industries in, as has the close proximity of top universities. “The state as a whole has made a major investment to attract employers to the area, but institutions of higher learning like Yale, which is just up the road, are also [attracting business].”
Fairfield has long boasted a thriving financial services industry, in part because of its close proximity to New York City. “This area is really strong in financial services,” Mr. Tetreau remarks. “You are an hour to the biggest financial market in the world.” The medical industry also provides substantial employment, as do the local universities. “Sacred Heart and Fairfield University are major employers in town,” says Mr. Barnhart. “We have worked closely with them to help grow the local economy.” In addition, the area is home to many Fortune 500 companies and well-known brands, including Bigelow Tea, which maintains a processing facility in town in addition to its home offices.
Excellent rail access makes commuting in and out of Fairfield a snap. “We’ve got three train stations,” Mr. Tetreau reports. “We’ve got more train access on the busiest commuter line in the nation than virtually any other town.” The community’s newest station, Fairfield Metro, is situated on a 35-acre site that has been approved for more than a million square feet of office and ancillary retail space along with a 160-room hotel and conferencing center. Since the station opened in 2011 the surrounding area, which has been re-zoned to accommodate transit-oriented uses, continues to attract new businesses, from retail and restaurants to offices. “We see investment and development opportunities throughout that whole area,” Mr. Barnhart says.
Fairfield boasts a high quality of life to match its business opportunities. “This is a very desirable place both to live and to do business,” Mr. Barnhart insists. “We are recognized as one of the top places to live in the United States.” Mr. Tetreau adds, “We have an amazing number of amenities. We have the coast, open space, parks and recreational opportunities, a quality school system, we are an arts and culture destination, and we have become the place in the state of Connecticut for dining out.”
Fairfield’s reputation as the state’s newest dining destination is a natural fit; the town lies within an area that has already become a dining mecca. “We are in a region that is recognized as having the second most restaurants per capita in the country,” Mr. Barnhart reports. “So there is a lot of variety here for the most discriminating palate, from family friendly pub fare all the way up to the very high end dining opportunities.”
The town boasts five miles of shoreline along the Long Island Sound, providing plenty of beachfront property and a range of water sports for residents to enjoy, from sailing to swimming. Fairfield’s vibrant downtown is the heart of the community. “Because it is an older, historic community, it really had a chance to evolve and grow up organically,” Mr. Barnhart explains. “It is really blessed with a very compact and walkable downtown. It is a very dynamic place.” In addition to an eclectic range of restaurants and retail opportunities, downtown is home to the Fairfield Theatre Company, a nonprofit center for the arts and culture that has become a major venue for performing artists on the New York to Boston circuit.
In addition, opportunities for children and students within Fairfield are astounding. “We have been to the Little League World Series, we have been to the Pop Warner Super Bowl, our cheerleading teams have won the National Championship, and we have won state titles in girls softball, lacrosse, soccer,” Mr. Tetreau reports. “Not to mention the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras, Fairfield County Children’s Choir, and the newly established Chamber Orchestra of Fairfield. We have options on top of options for youth growing up today that match any town in the country.” Fairfield’s children also enjoy an award winning school district. “If you are looking for a community for your employees to live in that has an award winning school system and unbelievable amenities, we’ve got all that,” Mr. Tetreau summarizes.
A strong sense of community tops it all off. “Fairfield is very rich in community spirit,” Ms. Balaz remarks. “This town cares about everybody from A to Z, young and old… The entire town embraces its residents and its students and those who work here.” When Hurricane Sandy roared through town three years ago, the community’s caring attitude truly shone. “We were one of the hardest hit communities in Connecticut,” Mr. Tetreau remembers. “The community spirit really came to the forefront in the aftermath of that tragedy. It is tremendous that people are looking to get involved, to help out and to participate. There is a strong community spirit that abounds in Fairfield.”
Fully recovered from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, Fairfield is now busy welcoming new businesses alongside longtime residents. “Our low vacancy rate downtown is an indicator that companies already realize that Fairfield is the place to be,” Mr. Tetreau points out. From large companies like Bigelow Tea to tech startups and new restaurants, business owners of all stripes recognize that this Connecticut town has the location, amenities, and workforce for lasting success.