Hal Kurfehs

As a commercial real estate broker in Western Connecticut for over 26 years, it’s easy for Hal Kurfehs to identify the needs and wants of businesses in Greater Danbury, and to evaluate how the area compares to nearby regions. His assessment? “We are an oasis,” Kurfehs said, referring to Western Connecticut as compared to the rest of the state. “The region is very, very strong.” There are diverse real estate opportunities in Western Connecticut, where office, retail, industrial and entertainment spaces are plentiful and comparatively affordable. There is also land located nearby the region’s primary transportation corridor, I-84. Kurfehs names Danbury, recently named one of the top small cities in the nation, as undergoing an impressive revitalization in its downtown. Hotel Zero Degrees, an upscale property, recently broke ground. New tenants in a 375-unit apartment and condominium development, Kennedy Flats, are expected to demand services more often seen in high-end urban areas. In nearby Brookfield, the new 4-corners area has attracted new businesses, with apartments to follow. One reason why developers are attracted to Western Connecticut is affordability. Commercial office real estate prices average between $20 and $24 per square foot, according to Kurfehs. Compare that to lower Fairfield County, where lease rates can reach as high as $95 per square foot, and it’s easy to see why businesses move north. Connecticut residents discovered the attributes of Western Connecticut long ago. Western Connecticut’s population is growing, unlike other areas in the state, because they are drawn to the region’s high quality of life. Excellent public schools, lower residential real estate costs, incredible natural resources and outdoor recreation options, diverse employment opportunities, convenient access to retail and services, and a charming New England atmosphere all play a part in attracting the region’s highly educated workforce. Developers also appreciate that doing business in Western Connecticut is easier than in neighboring regions, including New York and New Jersey. “Developers from New Jersey and New York can’t quite grasp that they can do a deal in 6 to 9 months, and a year at worst,” Kurfehs noted. “At home, it’s a couple of years before they can get approvals.” Kurfehs credits sectors such as advanced manufacturing with bringing technological innovation and a desirable mix of experienced and trainable talent to Greater Danbury. Western Connecticut has also earned a reputation as being the most business-friendly region in the state. “I’m pretty bullish in general on the state of the commercial real estate economy,” Kurfehs said. “Western Connecticut is a great place to live and work.”

Memry Corporation

Have you ever worn braces or a watch? Perhaps you’ve spoken on a cell phone, or swung a golf club. Maybe you’ve watched a magician bend a spoon, or suffered through a root canal. If so, then chances are you’ve relied on nitinol — and possibly the expertise of the professionals at Bethel’s advanced manufacturing firm Memry Corporation. Nitinol at Memry Corporation Welcome to Memry Corporation, a formulator and processor of nitinol, a super alloy with extraordinarily diverse applications. The nitinol produced by Memry serves businesses in the medical device, aerospace, automotive and defense markets. Difficult to manufacture, nitinol demonstrates extraordinary shape memory and elasticity properties. Combine titanium and nickel under the right conditions and you’ll get nitinol, a versatile alloy that retains its shape and strength even when heated at high temperatures. With an elasticity rating as much as 30 times more than comparable metals, it’s no surprise that this bright, silvery alloy is useful in several industries. Memry Corporation develops nitinol and other super elastic and shape memory alloys for the purpose of manufacturing components and finishes. Wire stents, heart devices, catheters, bone staples, micro-coils, ingots, wires, tubes, sheets, strips — if there is a need for a strong and flexible material, nitinol from Memry may play a role. A 2014 Expansion Nicola Di Bartolemeo-memry corporation CEO Memry Corporation CEO Nicola Di Bartolemeo A growing demand for components led the Bethel corporation to contract with Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development to expand its facility and operations. Connecticut loaned Memry $2.75 million at 2 percent interest over 10 years as part of the Manufacturing Assistance Act. Should Memry add 76 new jobs while retaining its existing 153 employees at its Bethel location by November 2017, the state will forgive half of the loan. Memry expects the cost of the project will reach about $8 million. In addition to the new employees, Memry will purchase new machinery and other equipment to fill an additional 15,000 square feet in the Berkshire Corporate Park, and most of the components will address needs in the medical device field. The existing space is about 37,000 square feet. “This expansion is a strategic investment to maintain our leadership [and] address the needs of the medical device industry,” Memry Corporation CEO Nicola Di Bartolemeo told the Danbury News Times. Memry expects to hire professionals with a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, toolmakers and machine operators. Di Bartolemeo noted “the location enables us to attract a skilled labor force and provides a good quality of life for our employees.”

Equale & Cirone, LLP

“Danbury is an interesting, close knit community,” Tony Cirone, Managing Partner of Equale & Cirone, says. “There is a tremendous amount of wealth and earned success. We are tops in the state in terms of economic resilience, and our businesses are very committed to hiring professionals from our market.” With a deep talent pool comprised of young and experienced workers, an outstanding quality of life, and a modestly priced housing environment when compared to lower Fairfield and Westchester counties, it’s no wonder Tony Cirone finds professional and personal fulfillment in the Greater Danbury region. Equale & Cirone partners with the career development office of Western Connecticut State University each year to find “motivated, dedicated and devoted” interns, many of whom have become full-time employees. In the 20-person accounting firm, which services small-to-medium businesses and high net worth individuals, 6 employees are WestConn graduates. “We find WestConn graduates want to learn,” Cirone says. “They’re also concerned about work-life balance and want to dedicate themselves to their families.” His employees grew up in the Greater Danbury region in towns such as Danbury, Newtown, Brookfield, New Fairfield, Bethel and New Milford. Cirone, who grew up in Brookfield, is also a WestConn grad. Cirone finds that the students and professionals he speaks with desire professional and personal opportunities for growth — and the Greater Danbury region, with its rural setting ideally placed just outside one of the biggest cities in the world, provides it. “Many of our employees are local people who grew up here and want to stay in the area,” Cirone adds. Finding seasoned talent with Big 4 experience is competitive but not difficult, given the region’s close proximity to Manhattan, Stamford and Hartford. “The demand for talent is higher now than it was,” Cirone observes, noting that local businesses are very committed to using professionals from the regional market. “In our business, relationships matter. And staying close to home is good.”

Westonite of the Week: Dawn Egan | Patch

It isn’t often that one can use the term “pillar of the community” and get away with it without seeing smirks or hearing snide comments. But in Weston, former Citizen of the Year Dawn Egan has earned this well-deserved reputation. There isn’t a community organization that she hasn’t touched with her hard work, commitment to service and excellence, and unwavering belief that we can all do our part to make our corner of the world better. These organizations include the PTOs (3-year president), the Weston Women’s League (2-year president), the Hang Your Hat Foundation (co-founder, along with her husband), the Weston Warm Up Fund (chairman, 8 years), the Weston Community Service Coalition (committee member), and the Weston Boosters Club (president). The list doesn’t end there. Patch is running out of space. Serving others “was always an expectation in my home,” Egan told Patch. “I lost my mom as a toddler and my dad was an Italian truck driver who has the biggest heart of anyone I know.” “It was expected of me to go door-to-door to make sure everyone [in our apartment complex] was fine,” she wrote to Patch. “I just did what someone, especially our seniors, needed of me." “It was truly part of our household,” she added. Egan has passed this commitment to service along to her children. Her son Johnny, a student at , has been delivering wood for the Weston Warm Up fund for three years. “Nothing is as important to me as the Weston Warm Up Fund,” Egan said. “I see first-hand the pressure we take off families in need.” The Weston Warm Up Fund fundraises every year by selling firewood, the proceeds of which are used to defray local residents’ heating costs. Egan is also active in the Weston Boosters and indicated that the club has several upcoming “challenges,” including the replacement of the turf field. The boosters is also contributing toward the loan for the Booster Barn. Egan commented, “[we need to] ensure that we fund programs for all sporting programs in our school, not just the sports that use these facilities.” Of course, the Boosters also contribute heavily toward school athletic programs that aren’t completely funded by the schools’ athletics budget. Egan is well-positioned to point out the immediate needs of our population. “What makes our town so incredibly special is the ability to make a difference and to have real and direct input, no matter if it is on a town board, or as a PTO parent or as a child’s coach,” she said. “My family is so blessed to live here,” she noted. “I am grateful for the education and support this town provides me.” And we’re grateful right back.

Westonite of the Week: Mark Harper | Patch

Animal Control officer Mark Harper knows a thing or two about Weston. "I've dedicated my entire life to this town," Harper said in an interview with Patch. Indeed, Harper's contributions are considerable. He's a 40-year life member of the Fire Department, volunteered for EMS for 25 years (he's retired), and gave 4 years to the Weston Historical Society, among other things. He also ran the Weston Bicentennial celebration. "That was a great event," he reminisced. "It was a year long, with a play, parade, a big dance...a lot of great things." "I love the community," he added. "I was raised here, raised my own kids here, have friends here. "The town has been good to me and provided me with a lot of years of good living," he said. "I figured the best thing for me to do is to give my life to the town...but old timers can tell you I can raise some hell if I have to," he laughed. "The town knows that I'll pitch in no matter what it is," he said.