Concord mayor invites ‘communitywide’ economic development brainstorm in State of the City

  • City Manager Tom Aspell delivers his portion of the State of the City address Thursday morning at a chamber of commerce event hosted at the Holiday Inn in Concord. NICK REID—Monitor staff

  • City Manager Tom Aspell (center) and Mayor Jim Bouley (right) answer questions after their State of the City address Thursday morning at the Holiday Inn in Concord, as chamber of commerce President Tim Sink looks on. NICK REID—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/13/2017 11:46:10 PM

In the year after Concord wrapped up its long-planned revitalization of Main Street, Mayor Jim Bouley hopes to spur a similar communitywide effort designed to attract private business investments.

The scale of the brainstorm won’t be quite as large as the 70 meetings on the Main Street Project, but nevertheless Bouley said the initiative will hinge on public input about how the city should prosper in the future.

“That, I really think, has to be a communitywide effort,” the mayor said in his State of the City address Thursday to a crowd hosted by the chamber of commerce. “I’m going to hopefully see many of your faces participating in those meetings and discussions, because if we don’t have buy-in from the community, I think we’re going to fail miserably.”

There’s a new position at city hall this year – economic development director – charged with leading the local economy forward. It’ll be filled starting next month by Suzi Pegg, who will come to the city from a role marketing the Pittsburgh region to global businesses.

Bouley noted that the city council has set aside roughly $500,000 to support economic development efforts. He said he hopes Pegg will meet with local businesses and property owners to understand their needs and combine that with her own expertise.

Then she can begin forming economic development and marketing plans with the help of the public on some soul-searching questions.

“Really, we’re going to need your participation on: What do we want to look like? How do we want to grow? What do you see yourself as?” Bouley said.

When opportunities present themselves, the mayor said multiple “strike teams” focused on certain industries and formed by the Economic Development Advisory Committee will be ready to spring into action.

“If we identify a business within the community or outside the community that we want to come here or help grow, we’ll have individuals on these strike forces to be able to go out and support their needs,” he said.

Bouley reflected on recent successes, such as the new look and accessibility of Main Street spurring housing development nearby, and perennial challenges, such as the high percentage of tax-exempt properties in the city.

One of those persistent tests for the city has been to find a place to bring its homeless residents in from the cold each winter. The solution next year won’t look like the last-minute arrangements Bouley has been able to organize the past two years, he said, since St. Peter’s Church won’t be available.

More than 180 volunteers spent at least one night at the shelter this past year, helping to provide a safe place for a total of 3,100 bed-nights. When the shelter saw a need for families with children, it began to accept those populations, too, he said.

Bouley said it’ll take a comparable community effort – including significant fundraising – if the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness will be ready to step in and fill the gap before next winter with a permanent solution.

“I think we did a good thing, but we have a lot more to do,” Bouley said. “The goal is not to not have to put a Band-Aid every year like we’ve been doing.”

Bouley offered his thanks to the various groups that helped make the shelter happen, and Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink turned the praise back on the mayor.

“Thank you for your efforts in your regard,” Sink said. “You’ve been pulling rabbits out of the hat for many years. We appreciate that.”

Bouley replied: “There’s no more rabbits, folks.”

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)




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