Located just 40 miles from New York City, Stamford Connecticut has earned the nickname “Little Manhattan” for its exciting business opportunities, vibrant arts and entertainment scene, and ongoing building boom.
A major business hub, Stamford is known for its thriving financial services and communications industries. In total, the city is home to four fortune 500 companies, nine fortune 1000 companies, and thirteen Courant 100 Companies. The business mecca has one of the largest concentrations of corporations in the United States and boasts a number of well-known organizations including NBC Sports, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Pitney Bowes, Tosco, Royal Bank of Scotland, Gardner Group, and Starwood Hotel.
When Business in Focus profiled Stamford last July, the city was in the midst of a $6 billion construction bonanza. This year, we spoke with Mayor David Martin and Director of Economic Development Thomas Madden again to hear the latest developments.
“The building boom continues and we’ve got even more projects slated,” Mr. Madden reports. Equally important, new businesses keep flooding into the city and existing businesses are expanding. One of the quickest growing sectors is the IT industry—particularly cyber security and digital marketing—which is needed to support Stamford’s large financial services and communications industries. For example, BlackStratus, a leading provider of cloud-based security information and event management (SIEM) software solutions, is one of Stamford’s newest arrivals.
Other incoming businesses come from a wide variety of sectors. Public Broadcasting favorite This Old House is moving from Boston to Stamford. A new ice cream manufacturer and a new brewery are also setting up shop in the city. Traditional Energy, an energy management and procurement advisor, is opening a new headquarters in Stamford that will employ 175 people. Synchrony Financial, the Stamford-based spinoff of General Electric and GE Capital, has upped its workforce to 750 people—and continues to grow. Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, is relocating approximately 600 employees to the city’s South End. Indeed.com has leased an additional 100,000 square feet of office space and created 300 new jobs. Charter Communications is likely to bring in more employees as well. “With the takeover of Time Warner they are moving people out of New York City up to here,” says Mr. Madden.
Stamford’s location and quality of life attract these businesses and employees, particularly those relocating from New York City. “We offer a lot of the same amenities as the City, but at a cost that is much more affordable,” Mr. Madden points out. “[Our] apartment and office space square footage costs are so much cheaper than New York City.” As a result, Stamford has a residential occupancy rate of approximately 94 percent throughout the city, and an even higher rate in the South End. “That is what is causing a lot of this boom in terms of the residential construction,” Mr. Madden explains. With housing in such demand, “they just keep building.”
So many people have moved to Stamford that the community has accrued the “critical mass,” needed to become a destination in its own right that is able to fully support a thriving arts, entertainment, and foodie scene. “The Downtown Special Services District and Harbor Point in the South End have both focused on how to make their particular areas an enjoyable place where people want to be, where they want to live,” Mr. Martin explains. These districts are particularly appealing to young people. “The Millennials are coming to Stamford,” Mr. Martin adds. “There has been a focus in both of those places [to] make this a place where Millennials want to be. There is energy in our Downtown. There is energy in our South End. People want to live in those locations.”
A number of residential housing projects are under construction to keep pace with the new arrivals, while others are seeking approval or are still in the proposal stage. Largely concentrated in the city’s South End and Downtown, these new developments continue to improve Stamford’s walkability and access to entertainment and outdoor recreation.
Located right beside downtown, the Mill River Park & Greenway offers plenty of open green space. “Our Mill River Project is really coming along,” Mr. Madden remarks. The city continues to expand its greenway, which will eventually wind all the way from the Mill River Park to the South End’s lively boardwalk. An old fashioned, wooden carousal is currently being installed in the park and a new center will be built there next year. The Andrew & Michael Whittingham Discovery Center will feature environmental studies spaces equipped with state of the art technology as well as a rooftop area offering panoramic views of the surrounding park.
Stamford’s Downtown already has over 120 restaurants—and more are coming. “Now there are restaurants popping up in the South End,” says Mr. Martin. “And we’ve got a great food truck vibe,” Mr. Madden adds. “We’ve got food trucks all over the place.”
The next step is to create an “innovation district” that encompasses the South End, Downtown, and the new hospital. “[We are] creating an area that is entrepreneurially focused and has the resources for startup companies,” Mr. Madden explains.
Taking part in the CT Gig Project is one step of this process. The statewide initiative involves a coalition of municipalities, state officials, and other interested parties committed to bringing high-speed, low-cost Internet to every resident and business in Connecticut. “We are one of the three lead cities on that for the state,” says Mr. Madden. “We are working with the state on that, as well as with some private vendors, to bring that to fruition.” As a major business hub, Stamford already boasts extensive internet access, “but this would add a little bit more competition and help with the innovation district and provide high speed internet at a much more affordable cost to the consumer.”
The local library is also heavily involved in promoting innovation. “Our library has a great virtual reality and Makerspace there,” Mr. Madden reports. “We have really been pushing integration of virtual reality into the library and also giving classes to the kids throughout the city.” The community also supports innovation through the Stamford Innovation Center (SIC). Located in the heart of downtown, SIC supports a diverse community of small business owners, freelancers, innovators, and entrepreneurs by providing a range of resources including classes, events, and workspace.
Stamford is known for its business opportunities, but the city also offers plenty of opportunities for tourists. The community has recently upped its marketing efforts to be sure to reach more potential visitors. Just a 50-minute train ride from Manhattan, the campaign highlights the fact that the city is an ideal day trip for New Yorkers.
Stamford’s exciting growth is forecast to continue, and the community is well prepared for the ongoing expansion. “Our workforce has been growing,” says Mr. Madden. “When you look at our median age of 36 years, we are five years younger than the rest of Connecticut. When you look at the education level, we far exceed the rest of Connecticut in terms of the percentage of university education and degrees that we have here.”
Mr. Martin adds, “Both in the South End and the Downtown, there remain high density development opportunities.” Newly approved projects include RBS Mill River Block A and B, which will have a total of 311 units; Gateway Harbor Point, which will include 250,000 square feet of residential/retail space and 500,000 square feet of office space; and Davenport Landing, with 115 waterside units. Many more development projects are in the proposal stages and expected to seek approval soon.
“This growth could continue for some time,” Mr. Martin summarizes. “If we make the economic climate work, and keep all the pieces fitting together, there could be continued opportunity in many areas.”