After recently hiring a company to help recruit retailers to Derry, councilors favor a plan to hire an economic development coordinator.
Although they didn’t take a vote, councilors supported a plan proposed by Town Administrator David Caron at the Jan. 3 meeting to hire an in-house full-time economic development coordinator.
Caron said the move is vitally important for economic development in town.
“As we all know through the charter the town administrator is responsible for hiring employees, Caron said. “Except in this case I think it’s critical that the town reaches consensus on a direction on economic development.” He added, “Since before I became associated with the town, it was made very clear to me that one of the town’s primary goals was to stimulate is economic development. Part of that strategy is to identify, and secure the necessary resources to help us achieve that goal.”
To help offset the Derry’s tax rate, which is one of the highest in the state, councilors have been exploring ways to generate tax revenue and help develop the local economy.
While the town likely will not become another Salem or Manchester, both with large retail sectors, councilors voted unanimously at their Dec. 20 meeting to hire Buxton Marketing for retail development services. The agreement calls for the town to pay $50,000 for the first year, with the option to hire Buxton for the remaining two-years of the contract. The agreement also offers the possibility of engaging Buxton to develop a hotel feasibility study at a one-time cost of $10,000. All 2017 costs will be funded from the FY 2017 economic development budget, according to officials.
The next step in the plan is to hire an economic development coordinator, Caron said.
In the meeting, he said the town could choose to hire an in-house employee or a contracted entity, which could be either full-service firm or an individual.
In exploring options, Caron said he looked at all of the models and conferred with a number of economic development practitioners, with experience in New Hampshire and throughout the country. He said the feedback he received is clear.
“Our best chance for success is to hire an entity that can establish an ongoing relationship with our business community to serve as a resource regarding business financing, state and local tax incentive programs,” Caron said, adding, “Someone who is able to speak very clearly and consistently and to provide a sustainable presence for economic development for the town of Derry.”
Based upon his research and after reviewing the proposal from the Economic Development Advisory Committee for securing outside services, Caron said he recommended hiring “an in-house full-time economic development coordinator from our existing resources.”
Caron, who started work as the town administrator last month, said plans call for having someone in place in the position in March, which should be about the same time the Buxton Corporation has completed its preliminary retail analytics.
Caron said, that this “would allow us to move forward on the retail sector, and we’ll begin to move forward on the commercial, industrial sector, downtown redevelopment and redevelopment throughout the community.”
Buxton successfully helped Rochester to attract retail and commercial businesses to the community and increase tax revenue, according to officials. Rochester is comparable in size to Derry, with a population of approximately 30,000 people.
The EDAC members have spent a lot of time reviewing the plan and have endorsed the Buxton proposal.
As for the economic development coordinator position, councilors said they supported the plan Caron outline, while praising the way he explained the proposal.
“I would be in support of a full-time person,” said Councilor Jim Morgan, who is on the EDAC. “I would like to see somebody in an office. I would like to see somebody dedicated to this and working with Buxton hand-in-hand, on a daily basis. I think it’s vital to develop the remaining parcels that we have and do it right.”
Councilor Joshua Bourdon said of Caron’s outline of the plan, “I appreciate the manner in which you’ve laid out all of the information; I think it’s clear and concise.”
As he looked through the job description, Bourdon said, “It becomes more and more evident to me that a full-time position is definitely warranted.”
Bourdon added that he had noticed that one of the responsibilities of the economic development coordinator would be for identifying grant writing op- portunities. When he asked Caron if the person hired for the job could also write grants, Caron answered by saying, “It depends on the priority that we have before us at that point.”
Councilor Richard Tripp praised the job description Caron wrote, as compared to an earlier version from last year, before Caron was hired.
“I think the job description, RFP (Request For Proposal) is probably a lot better than we wrote last year,” Tripp said, adding, “Because it gives the people applying a fairly good idea of what it is they are going to be doing, which is probably the reason they would be interested in coming here.”
Councilor David Fischer said, “I think experience has taught us that settling for someone is not the route to go. When you find the right person, it’s the only thing that matters.”
The council didn’t need to take a vote but only provide input on the item, Caron said.
“Since it’s my responsibility, it’s not really a motion or consensus; it’s just input,” Caron said.
Council Chairman Brian Chirichiello concluded discussion on the item by saying councilors seemed in general to favor going forward with the plan.