Former First Selectman Mitch Goldblatt, Selectman Peach Reid and Frank Pifko from the United Illuminating Company interviewed Grimmer for the job of building several aspects of economic development in Orange.
“That was 14.5 years ago. They saw something in me and I got the job,” Grimmer said. “For this I am grateful.”
Grimmer became the town’s first full time executive director in September 2001.
The job, he said is building the town through business recruitment and retention. “I’m fortunate to have been able to do things beyond that, including introducing the first Orange Business Expo 14 years ago and the Orange Life Magazine, now in its sixth year.”
The Orange Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) is a not for profit organization to support the town’s economic development efforts.
Many other communities have their own economic development office and need to pay staff, maintain the office and provide healthcare. Orange is fortunate to have the EDC acting as the support to the town. The town provides the OEDC with $60,000 of it’s (approximate $200,000) yearly operating budget, then it’s up to the OEDC to get the additional resources by fundraising. A significant portion of income is obtained through ad sales for the Orange Life Magazine and the business expo generates a good income, according to Grimmer. The magazine and expo also promote town businesses and highlight the good work of people of Orange.
Grimmer said through his position, he’s been able to work with amazing companies like UI and participate in bringing some great companies to town.
One of his best memories of his tenure is seeing the completion of the Edison Road extension, which was on the books in the Orange Industrial Plan since 1963. Grimmer spent a good part of an 8 year period piling up both state and federal grants and slowly but surely the extended road created business opportunities.
“Before Aurora Products moved here, they wanted to know if the road would actually be extended,” Grimmer said. “I assured them it would, and now the company is on its third expansion since coming to town.”
Grimmer said the town has benefited from the teamwork of the OEDC. “I have some awesome leaders: First Selectman Jim Zeoli; Alan Fischer, always steady at the wheel; and Armand Cantafio who I can always bounce ideas off of.” he said. “The critical element to my success here is the tremendous leaders I’ve had behind me.”
The Farmer’s Market is not an OEDC activity, but in this case, Zeoli expressed interest in having one in Orange and Grimmer said, “I’ll do it.” He confessed that he always stepped up because it was important to participate in community and business activities.
The key to his longevity at the OEDC was that the Board of Directors gave him the rope to go out and participate in community organizations and activities like the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Orange.
“It made my job more enjoyable because of the personal contacts I’ve made over the years,” he said.
Zeoli said losing Grimmer is happy and sad. “We became good friends and he does an outstanding job for the town. It’s unfortunate that he’s leaving after 15 years, but I fully understand. This is an advancement for him and a step up. He’s going back to where he started. I wish him good luck.”
“It’s going to be hard to replace him,” Zeoli said. “People don’t realize how much he does: The Artisan Festival, Rotary Lobsterfest and Rose Sale,The Business Expo and the Chamber of Commerce. He’s the driving force behind the Farmers Market and he excels in reaching out to property owners.”
Zeoli said Grimmer has town information embedded in his brain. “When you ask him something, he knows the answer in minutes.” — Orange Live can attest to this. When we asked how long Edison Road was in the works, he seamlessly turned to a crowded bookshelf and took out a small folder from 60 years ago.
Zeoli said it will be a huge challenge to replace him after 15 years of experience on the job. “He’s leaving a huge void, but for his personal career, it’s a step up and in these tough economic times every step up makes life easier.”
As far as leaving Orange, Grimmer said he feels good that he did his best here and noted that he is leaving a lot of friends behind.
A New Opportunity
Grimmer’s last day with the OEDC is April 29. Until then it’s business as usual with him working feverishly on getting the May issue of Orange Life ready and preparing for the Orange Expo.
On May 2 he is starting his new career as the Shelton Economic Development Commission President and COO of the organization.
[NOTE: On May 2 he will become the vice president of the Shelton Economic Development Commission, then, on Aug. 3 will replace the retiring James Ryan as President.]
The job description is different from what he did in Orange — there will not be a “Shelton Life” Magazine. His focus will be on grants administration, revitalization and Brownfield Remediation along the river front.
Grimmer, 50, is a Shelton resident and began working in the Shelton Community Development office as an intern in 1987 while attending Penn State University — so he really is “going home.”
The town of Orange has some huge shoes to fill in finding a replacement for Grimmer, but the search will go on and a notice will be posted in the near future.
Orange Live wishes Paul the best of luck and a lot of happiness in his new venture. Orange’s loss is Shelton’s gain. Let’s hope his replacement can continue putting out a quality Orange Life Magazine — the BEST hard copy news resource in the town of Orange.