A mere thirty miles from Manhattan is Connecticut’s now second-largest city, Stamford. Despite its growth, the city ranks as one of the safest places in the state and indeed, the entire country, and there is plenty to do, from wandering picturesque trails to experiencing the vibrant nightlife.
Stamford is a whirlwind of business activity. The World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. headquarters in Stamford is moving to the former building of financial services group UBS by 2021. The expansion will allow the massive company to merge all of its offices and studios into one location and is a very worthy use for the vacant building since the local branch of UBS Investment Bank downsized and moved across the street.
The city has attracted other entertainment and digital media groups including CBS Sports which opened a 2,500-square-foot production studio in Stamford in October 2018. The beverage company Diageo is relocating from Norwalk to Stamford in the spring of 2020, and the accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers just announced a major expansion into the city for its tax division headquarters.
Now that the Gigabit Wi-Fi network is running and free high-speed internet is available throughout the Stamford Transportation Center and the downtown parks, the city is just finishing up the final details of its autonomous vehicle zone. Chosen by the state of Connecticut as one of the test spaces for autonomous vehicles, the city has worked in partnership with both the state and the University of Connecticut Stamford Campus on the pilot program, and it will likely be the first to have shuttles running. The city expects to have micro shuttles around the transportation center by the third quarter of 2020.
Since its designation as an ‘Innovation Place’ by CTNext, Connecticut’s source of venture capital, Stamford has put the two-million-dollar grant it was awarded to great use in its innovation district, a five-square-mile region located downtown that is home to many inventive and imaginative entrepreneurial endeavors.
One of the companies in the district is a drone manufacturer that is developing a system to deliver commercial packages using drones. “We are trying to set up the first interstate commerce highway for delivering packages from here to New York. It is basically a big long rectangle, and how it’s going to work is that the drones book time in certain heights in space to fly packages across. We’re going to call it the Drone Interstate Highway 1,” says Stamford Director of Economic Development Thomas Madden.
The city of Stamford was granted five opportunity zones to encourage investment in its high growth and economically depressed areas. The opportunity zones are incentives established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that encourage private capital investment in low-income areas.
A growing number of developments and commercial leases in the area include the American football league XFL that is operated by the WWE and NBC and also Charter Communications that is in the process of building a 750,000-square-foot world headquarters in Stamford. Biotechnology companies such as Springworks Therapeutics and Sema4 have become more prevalent in the city. Both of these have relocated from New York City.
Several residential projects are underway to keep up with the growing population as Stamford has the most rapidly increasing population in the state. “Under the new American Community Survey, when it comes out next month, we will officially be the second-largest city in Connecticut, and I suspect, over the next few years, we’ll start to nip at the largest city Bridgeport very quickly,” says Madden.
The developer of Harbor Point, Building Land and Technology (BLT) is finishing the construction of a set of residential buildings with 435 units, and it is about to start on a 360-unit sister building located in front. Atlantic Station Apartments is in phase two of a 325-unit building, and The Smyth apartment building located across the street from City Hall will soon begin the first phase of another 414 units. The Stamford Urby residential housing project of 648 units across eleven connected buildings downtown should be completed this year.
A company that recently relocated to Stamford from California discussed with Madden how the city is comparable to Burbank because of the extensive digital media and television production infrastructure. “A lot of people are moving here because, after the financial industry moved out, we have these huge fiber optic pipes that were left behind from all the high-speed traders, and the digital media is loving it because now they can stream huge amounts of data out of Stamford,” explains Madden.
The streaming and broadcasting capabilities resulted in the presence of digital media and entertainment companies such as WWE, Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network, A&E Network, and NBC Sports Group. All of the Olympics footage broadcast by NBC Sports comes directly through Stamford.
Stamford Health is the largest employer in the region with 3,600 employees, just above the numbers for the City of Stamford. With 2,000 employees, Charter Communications is the third largest employer. Continuing down the list is Indeed.com with 1,700 people; Gartner with 1,600; NBC with 1,075; and Deloitte with just under 1,000. WWE currently has 700 employees, and it has plans to expand to 1,000 after it moves into the former UBS building.
Within a thirty-mile radius of Stamford, there are 1.9 million people to draw on for its workforce, and the city focuses on improving its transportation services to ease the commute. It regularly has discussions with the new governor and the new department of transportation commissioner about potential investments in transportation, particularly for its train station and the tracks that lead the way to New York City.
Each day, the intermodal Stamford Transportation Center sees hundreds of commuter trains and buses, and contrary to popular belief, the majority of the commuters are not travelling into New York for work. Stamford is a net inbound station, which means that there are more people coming into Stamford than there are commuting to other surrounding cities.
And people are coming for recreation and school as well as work. The bike share program in Stamford has been successful, and there are already plans to expand. The program works through an app after the user has signed up and agreed to the terms, and from there, they may simply choose a bike to unlock with a code from the app and return the bike to its home when the ride is over. The first three hours of riding are free, and following that, the cost is only one dollar an hour up to a total of twenty-one dollars per ride.
Day tourism in Stamford is common as a result of its efficient transportation system. People travel to attend its many unique events including the Thanksgiving Day Balloon Parade and its various food truck festivals. Live concert events Alive@Five and Wednesday Nite Live feature national headliners, and the city of Stamford also hosts the Spartan Race, 5k runs, half marathons, and urban races, which are giant scavenger hunts that incorporate fun mental and physical challenges.
The University of Connecticut-Stamford Campus (UConn Stamford) is experiencing an unprecedented rise in undergraduate enrollment numbers. As a result, it has enlarged its campus dormitories and is in the process of planning further expansion to reach as many students as possible and cater to the growing workforce demands in the area. The academic programs have diversified to attract and retain more students and to help keep them excited about education. It offers fifteen bachelor’s degree majors. The newest four that have been added are communications, journalism, allied health, and biological sciences.
“As we grow, we’re always making sure we have enough schools. We’re hoping that with the new president coming here for UConn in August that we’ll see a lot of development from the UConn side into Stamford itself,” says Madden.
Stamford’s population is approximately 126,000; the median age of its residents is thirty-six, and nearly half of the adult residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, making this one of the most highly educated populations in the country.
Not only is the city a thriving place for businesses with numerous opportunities for startups as well as expansion, but it is also a wonderful place to live with the perfect balance of entertainment, education, and quality of life. Stamford is proud to be regularly named as one of Livability website’s ‘Top 100 Best Places to Live.’