In October, David McBride assumed leadership of Thames River Innovation Place (TRIP) as Executive Director. A native of Lisbon and a lifelong southeastern Connecticut resident, David is eager to lead economic development efforts in the Thames River region and shared his thoughts on the Innovation Places program and his goals for TRIP:
You joined the TRIP team as Executive Director in October. What prompted you to join?
I am very interested in the economic development entrepreneurial movement. I’ve been reading a lot about the Thames River Innovation Place program, and I see it as an opportunity to really assist in the economic development in southeastern Connecticut.
In the time that you’ve been on board, what is your vision for the Thames River Innovation Place program?
The long-term objective is to grow Thames River Innovation Place beyond the projects that we currently have under way and to continue to expand upon other economic and community development initiatives. We would like to see more individuals start their own companies, in pharmaceuticals, biosciences, electrical, food and beverage, recreation, entertainment, etc. With all of the changes in technology and resulting efficiencies, there are many opportunities now for people to start their own businesses and prosper. So, I want to help change the atmosphere and culture in southeastern Connecticut and provide opportunities for them to create companies and employ themselves.
What do you see as the immediate priorities for Thames River?
One of our immediate goals is the food and beverage Cultivator Kitchen project, which will show that we can successfully cultivate local restaurant entrepreneurs. More broadly, we’re working to initiate some new company startups. We have a couple of programs, Ignite specifically, that are helping to foster innovative ideas and ultimately start companies. We’re hosting various events to reach entrepreneurs and show them how to start and grow their own companies. We’re working to develop a much-needed toolbox for entrepreneurs, giving them help with things like legal business formation, managing financials, developing advertising and marketing plans, properly utilizing information technology – all of the things that they need to start a prospering business. A lot of people have great ideas, but they just need the mechanics of how to move forward.
Why do you think TRIP was selected to become an Innovation Place?
The programs we proposed and are executing in this region are very viable and will have an impact in the region and the state. All of these plans will provide some substance to economic and community development. And we have hardworking people who want to make sure these projects move forward and come to fruition.
How will taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck from your region?
State taxpayers will see tangible benefits as we use these public funds in addition to matching funds to develop the downtown areas of Groton and New London and make sure storefronts can become occupied with new businesses. Some of the additional programs, whether it’s Ignite, Community Concierge or the Cultivator Kitchen, will be using the dollars to provide training, mentorship and business development skills. Those funds, combined with matching dollars, will create new companies and jobs that will give a direct economic boost to the region.
What would you like to see the region accomplish through the Innovation Places Initiative?
I believe the Thames River Innovation Place Initiative should ultimately extend beyond the Groton–New London area to include Norwich. I’d like to see us continue to advance various projects every year that grow jobs and companies and ultimately dramatically expand the entrepreneurial culture in the region. We’re doing some research on potentially developing an incubator and accelerator program in southeastern Connecticut, which is something the area needs. We are also beginning to collaborate with local high schools and colleges to expand and enhance business and the entrepreneurial curriculums that will lead to long-term economic development benefits. I’d also like to explore how crowdfunding initiatives could jump-start economic development and provide more capital, which is always the biggest issue that many individuals starting new business face.
What do you think will be the key to success?
I believe a critical success factor for TRIP, as well as for CTNext and Connecticut’s economic development initiatives overall, is generating the proper PR and marketing that promotes the positive things that are occurring in the region and throughout the state, and not just for our initial projects but overall. In Connecticut, it seems so many are quick to read and react to negative comments. We need more of a positive PR push that showcases Connecticut as the place that more people should want to live, work and play.