Howard Orr is born and bred Suffield and instead of watching his hometown grow and change without him, Orr spent two decades as the chairman of the Town of Suffield’s Economic Development Commission.
Recently, he learned that for his efforts, he has earned the Volunteer of the Year award for the Northeastern Economic Developers Association.
“It’s a big surprise,” said Orr this week. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment... I would encourage others to volunteer and take time for the causes they think are important.”
The “Volunteer of the Year” Award recognizes an individual who serves without pay to promote effective economic development.
“I love Suffield and want to see it improve and see it maintain farmland and keep rural,” said Orr.
Still, he believes it’s important for the town to welcome new business.
Part of his philosophy is a bit of “if you build it the they will come.”
When Orr began volunteering with the EDC, Suffield had land but not the infrastructure to attract businesses. Since that time the Mach One Industrial Park was developed as a joint venture between the Town and State of Connecticut which cost $4.3 million and opened-up 33 acres of land for development.
Building the water tower down by the airport and installing infrastructure such as roads and utilities “lays the groundwork” for bringing new business and tax revenue into the town, he explained.
Orr also worked with the town’s “hurdles” to development which include the many commissions, procedures and paperwork. This led to shrinking timelines between idea and development.
“Howard brings to the table years of experience as a small business owner so he knows their needs,” said Patrick McMahon, Suffield’s director of Economic and Community Development, who nominated Orr for the award.
“He has a great network throughout the state which helps in the development of leads,” McMahon added. “He is a knowledgeable and personable guy and is very well respected in Suffield and in the region. He understands what needs to be done to increase economic development opportunities in the community.”
Along with bringing new business and tax base into Suffield, Orr maintains: “you have to take care of the businesses in existence.”
Orr is proud of the million dollar efforts to beautify the town center and assist business owners in town with loans and other methods for making the center more pedestrian friendly.
“We need to make the center more walkable, so people want to spend time there and businesses want to bring their business there,” he explained.
Orr grew up in the Suffield area, graduated from Suffield High School , and attended college in Springfield , MO , where he earned a degree in economics and business administration. He is President of KTI, Inc. (electron beam welding) of East Windsor.
Orr currently serves on over 30 non-profit boards and commissions. He also serves as a Director of the Emergency Aid Association, Trustee First Church of Christ Congregational and Friends of Hilltop Farm among other local organizations.
NEDA’s Awards for Program of the Year, Project of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year will be officially presented at its Annual Conference on Monday, October 29 at the Marriott Downtown in Hartford , CT.