Three businesses seeking to be the winner of the Bridgewater’s Best Idea competition and the $250,000 prize have been named after nearly a month of consideration by town staff.
The finalists include Bridgewater Coffee Co., Rockingham Cooperative and Connections Early Learning Center, which is expected to open in August.
“We were impressed by the applicants’ different methods of measuring benefit,” Town Manager Jay Litten said. “Connections ELC sees benefit in filling the basic human needs of child care and education. Rockingham Cooperative finds benefit in sprucing up a landmark and creating a marketplace for local wares. Bridgewater Coffee would argue that providing different types of services to residents is a strong benefit.”
The finalists were selected based on three criteria: readiness, feasibility and potential benefit to residents.
The potential benefit to residents will make up 40% of the criteria. Applicants had to explain how their idea will benefit residents through the provision of services, improvement of property or generation of economic benefits, according to the rules.
The town received 16 submissions by the Sept. 30 deadline. Of the 16 submissions, nine came from existing businesses seeking to expand.
Town staff was charged with selecting the three finalists to move forward in the competition.
Litten said every application “brought something to the table,” but the finalists’ vision were “quite strong” and well supplemented by the feasibility and readiness criteria.
If selected the winner, Bridgewater Coffee Co. plans to expand its seating area, upgrade its appliances and install a drive-thru location at its shop in the Martin Center.
The kitchen will be upgraded to allow for expanded breakfast and lunch menus, according to a Bridgewater Buzz blog post. The post also stated the improvements would “increase the offerings available to Bridgewater citizens.”
Rockingham Cooperative has plans to renovate the exterior of its building off Depot Street, as well as refresh the interior of the store. Upgrades include a dedicated outdoor space for local goods, a section inside the store for the consignment of locally produced goods and an e-commerce platform for local products.
The third finalist is the up and coming Connections Early Learning Center, which seeks to meet the town’s child care and early education needs. Litten said staff believes the center will be located in the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, but the curriculum will not promote a specific religion, faith or creed.
The center will operate as a full day care and educational program for children from infancy to 5 years old. Elementary school-age children will be able to attend before and after school, as well as during the summer.
In a blog post, the center is described as offering tuition based on a family’s income and need, and a fair wage will be offered to staff.
On Nov. 18, the finalists will give an in-person presentation to a panel of judges, which consists of three Town Council members and two Industrial Development Authority members.
Council members Steven Schofield, Jim Tongue and Fontaine Canada have been appointed to serve on the panel of judges, Litten said. The two IDA members will be Stephanie Curtis and Wes Griffin.
The presentations will be open to the public and held at the Sipe Center.
Litten said that although the other 13 submissions were not selected as finalists, he would like to find a way to bring all the ideas to fruition.