Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary announced a new initiative in Waterbury that will use volunteer half-way house residents to clear an abandoned park, and in return, interested residents will be offered free tutoring and an opportunity to enroll in an underutilized manufacturing training program run by the city.
By John Murray
Many people in Waterbury believe manufacturing is dead and is no longer a viable means of economic development in the city. Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is not one of them.
During a sweep across Waterbury yesterday afternoon in his SUV, O'Leary provided the Observer with a quick peek at an overgrown 38-acre parcel of land in the East End of the city known as Scott Road Park, and how he plans to link the project to an underutilized manufacturing training facility run by Waterbury Adult Education.
If you've never heard of Scott Road Park, that's not surprising. The city invested a large chunk of money in the 1970s to build tennis courts, a massive parking lot and install lighting. Then, abruptly, 30 years ago the city walked away from the project and let Mother Nature take over.
O'Leary has taken several issues in the city and woven a tapestry. With a rampant number of residents living in half-way houses in Waterbury unable to get a job, O'Leary has teamed up with WorkForce Connections to use volunteer half-way house residents to help clear Scott Road Park and will provide free tutoring to individuals who are interested in boning up on their math and english skills.
Anyone showing an aptitude for hard work and improving themselves will then be considered for possible referral into the manufacturing training program. O'Leary announced the initiative during a recent press conference in City Hall. (Photograph is of O'Leary speaking at the press conference)
During a tour of the manufacturing facility yesterday O'Leary spoke of the underutilization of the program, and vowed to pump new blood into it. Some of the machines are old, but they are the ones still being operated in manufacturing around Waterbury, and these companies are desperate for trained workers.
Additionally, O'Leary has been named the vice-chairman of the Manufacturing sub-committee of the U.S. Conference for Mayors, and is flying to Salt lake City on Thursday for a three day meeting on manufacturing.
While manufacturing may never again rival the significance that the brass industry had on Waterbury, O'Leary said he is determined to explore every economic opportunity to build the city's Grand List, and that includes clearing abandoned parks, educating half-way house residents, utilizing a manufacturing training facility, and tying it all together in the name of progress.