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Officials celebrate new Women’s Business Center in New London

August 8, 2018

New London — The Women’s Business Development Council has held events and programs in a lot of Connecticut communities, but CEO Fran Pastore said she has never had the kind of reception she’s had in New London.

Support was evident on Wednesday afternoon, when dozens of elected officials and business leaders — both local and from across the state — packed into the sweltering offices of the new Women’s Business Center on the fourth floor of 300 State St.

“This has been a multi-, multi-, multiyear effort to expand the Women’s Business Development Council to southeastern Connecticut,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. Citing wind turbines, submarines and new restaurants, he said “this is an area that is really primed to take advantage of this.”

The WBDC announced in April that it would be opening a Women’s Business Center in New London, and it held an event that served as a soft launch on July 10 at the New London Public Library.

WBDC has since hired Laura Stetler to manage the New London office. Come fall, the center will offer a full slate of workshops, counseling services and long-term training to women and men at every stage of business development.

Wednesday was the grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. This is the third Women’s Business Center in the state, adding to ones in Stamford and Derby.

“It is inspiring to see the progress but also to see how much more progress there has to be,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said on Wednesday.

Small Business Association Regional Administrator Wendell Davis said that it took our society way too long to make sure everyone has access to the American dream, and that the SBA exists to help more people with this access.

“I know this location is perfectly placed to reach these underserved communities, to reach these inspiring entrepreneurs,” he said.

Along with New London being a prime location for a Women’s Business Center, Pastore expressed to The Day that this is the right time.

“The feeling in the community, it’s palpable,” she said. “It’s palpable. People are so ready and hungry for what we offer.”

One person who already has taken advantage of the offerings is Katie Fogg, who has had one meeting with a business coach. A Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts graduate, Fogg has had a studio at 300 State St. for nine years, and she feels the arrival of the Women’s Business Center has come at the perfect time.

It came right as she was looking to take the next step in her career. It came right as she was looking to expand from having a reputation in New London and the shoreline to having an international presence.

Fogg’s work — graduate-level work from her time at the New York Academy of Art, plein-air paintings of downtown New London and portraits from her recent show — hangs on the walls of the new Women’s Business Center offices.

Fogg donated a portion of the proceeds from her recent show to Safe Futures, and she wants to partner with other nonprofits in the future.

She said that the WBDC gives her an “I got this” attitude, and that “it’s nice to be surrounded by empowered women. That feeds your energy.”

Also present at the ceremony were New London Mayor Michael Passero, Connecticut Port Authority Chairman Scott Bates, SBA Connecticut District Director Anne Hunt, Citizens Bank Connecticut President Lisa Maass, and many state senators and representatives.

e.moser@theday.com

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