Castle seeking focus on community development

Cary Ashby • Sep 4, 2017 at 3:15 PM

Chris Castle is changing his focus and energy from economic development to community development.

“I will do freelance work for several local businesses,” said the Norwalk resident, whose last day at Norwalk Economic Development Corp. was Friday.

Castle was asked why he decided to leave NEDC. He was hired as the assistant director in March 2015.

“It’s hard to have your own voice when you’re seen as a representative of a larger organization,” he said. “I do love the organization. I loved my time there. I respect what NEDC does for the city.”

As a member of city council who represents the fourth ward, Castle said there were “multiple debates” over the last 2 1/2 years in which he had to be mindful of his role at NEDC.

“The organization can’t take a position (on issues),” he added. “I feel I can better serve the city if I can take a position.”

In June, Castle and council member Samantha Wilhelm started the Maple City Minute. The local podcast features interviews with local elected and appointed officials, musical guests as well as community and business leaders. The website is themaplecity.com. As of Friday, the Maple City Minute Facebook page had 2,765 “likes.”

“We’ve had about 20 segments,” Castle said. “I’m excited to put more time into the Maple City Minute. … Moving forward, we will be releasing more segments more often because I will have more time to do it.”

In addition to the podcast and his freelance work, Castle can devote more time to being a state-appointed board member of Mental Health & Addiction Services. NEDC Director Heather Horowitz, his former boss, said Castle is passionate about the issues of drug abuse and poverty.

Castle also works with Getting Ahead, which is administered by the Norwalk Area United Fund.

“Its mission is to instruct and inform people in poverty so that they can acquire the skills necessary to better themselves and their families,” he said.

Working with Horowitz at NEDC, Castle wrote press releases, edited and shot business-related videos, built the NEDC website, designed various logos, performed graphic design work and compiled request for information forms for interested businesses, known in economic development circles as “attraction leads.”

“I was always the go-to guy for utility questions,” said Castle, who worked with the Norwalk city officials, FirstEnergy, Columbia Gas and fiber providers to explain utility capacities.

Also at NEDC, Castle started and created the city of Norwalk app. 

“We’ve had a lot more users than I expected,” he said.

Horowitz praised the work Castle did for NEDC.

“What I really love about him is is willingness to learn and to adapt. He was able to change his focus and become an expert in whatever assignment I gave him,” she said. “He did it to his fullest capacity.”

Horowitz said she and Castle are “technology-forward people,” so a project such as the footage obtained by the NEDC drone has been an asset in attracting businesses to the Norwalk area.

“We learned a lot from each other,” Horowitz added. “He’s done a great job at branding and marketing.”

NEDC plans to fill the position of assistant director soon.

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