‘Haverhill’ Promo Website Helped Newburyport Business

The original Haverhill Means Business website from 2004.

A Newburyport Web developer said “Haverhill Means Business” was good for economic development…in Newburyport.

In a comment posted to WHAV’s website, “Chris” complained about a WHAV news story (see “MVPC Seeks $115K More from Taxpayers for Website Promotion”) about the Haverhill-based Merrimack Valley Planning Commission seeking another $115,000 from the state.

“Ten years ago our company, based in Newburyport, worked with the Greater Haverhill Chamber and Merrimack Valley Planning Commission on the development of the site. Both organizations were excellent to work with and their leaders very open and engaging,” said Chris.

As the original news story reported, a $100,000 grant for development of, what was then, HaverhillMeansBusiness.com, was exhausted before the site could be launched. The commission, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and city of Haverhill appealed to Haverhill-based COCO+CO. to finish the site.

“Even though it was not invited to bid on the original project, COCO+CO. stepped up, constructed the public portions of the website and donated more than $2,000 of its own money,” recalled Tim Coco, president of COCO+CO. Coco is also the volunteer president and general manager of WHAV.

Joseph J. Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday it was his idea to expand the website to the entire Merrimack Valley. Today, the site is known as Merrimack Valley Means Business.

Another ‘Haverhill’ Website Developed Out of Town and Out of State

Andrew_Herlihy_230px

Andrew Herlihy, Haverhill’s community development division director.

Another Haverhill promotion project, CreativeHaverhill.org, was awarded to a Newton, N.H. firm several years ago. Ironically, Creative Haverhill was supposed to promote Haverhill-based Web and other creative businesses.

After a secret bid process, Creative Haverhill’s website was funded by some of Haverhill’s federal Community Development Block grants. The site was ultimately scrapped and replaced (see “Chamber Replaces Secretly Bid ‘Creative Haverhill’ Website”). An official associated with the project said the city struggled to find a higher-priced vendor to justify the bid award to the N.H. firm. There has been no response to last summer's requests for bid documents from Andrew Herlihy, Haverhill’s community development division director.

Creative Haverhill was also part of a coalition involving the city of Haverhill and Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. The person in charge of the bid process, city purchasing agent Robert DeFusco, stepped down in July.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Monday he was unaware of the site’s history when he was solicited to offer a quotation for a commission press release.

Shortly after the website launch in 2004, the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce further rewarded the commission its “Small Business of the Month” designation even though the commission is a quasi-public government agency. The agency is funded by state aid deducted from the communities of Amesbury, Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover and Salisbury.

12 thoughts on “‘Haverhill’ Promo Website Helped Newburyport Business

  1. Tim,

    Thank you for taking the time to write. I sincerely appreciate the apology. Haverhill is a great town and I certainly want the best for it. Obviously, I don’t have full knowledge of this entire situation, but my comments were simply a reflection of what understanding I did have.

    Again, thank you for your graciousness..

    No hard feelings.

    Jon

  2. Really?

    I’m not associated with any business group. I’m just a guy whose dad, an former reporter and editor for the Boston Globe, taught him to use critical thinking when looking at any issue. However to query and doubt the motives of those who not only read the articles, but take the time to write and express legitimate questions and thoughts, (regardless of what they might be) is pretty crass and condescending and totally out of line. I would hope for better from WHAV. As a new reader in the last few weeks, I was actually thinking about making a contribution, as well as considering trying to maybe do some volunteer work. Well… not anymore.

    The issue is not the readers. But if you’re intentionally trying to drive people away from this site, please continue this line of thinking.

    • Dear Mr. Campbell,

      I apologize to you. You were caught in my inappropriately broad brush. I overlooked your full name yesterday and realize you have offered constructive and useful commentary on these pages and have no motives concerning this matter.

      My role in this story has been as a provider of institutional memory and, to some extent, as a “whistleblower.” WHAV articles are subject to intensive peer review, but my comments here were not.

      The response you saw came after what appeared a sustained revisionist history attempt by the Newburyport Web developer and his or her supporters. It is my personal opinion only—and I relate this as objectively as I can under the circumstances—there is little accountability once a state grant finds its way into private hands. A request for bids should be openly advertised and competitive proposals sought. This has not been the case in any Haverhill-related, government-sponsored website. Instead, as can be shown, friends and loosely related relatives have benefitted.

      The two web projects mentioned were specifically designed to boost Haverhill businesses, but no openly competitive bids from Haverhill businesses were solicited. It wasn’t just COCO+CO. that was excluded. Other Haverhill web developers were also excluded. Despite this, most of us who are excluded still step up time and again to clean up the mess at our own expense.

      Why should outsiders have confidence in local businesses when our leaders demonstrate they do not?

      Tim Coco

  3. So ultimately you’re saying that a business or business group be restricted from hiring any company that it believes provides the best value for its’ dollar, solely because it’s not based in the same community. Respectfully, that’s not
    a realistic, tenable position. Nor is it really news.

    • The point, I believe, is that when it’s a Haverhill business website, Haverhill businesses ought not to be excluded from a bid invitation. By the same token, when it’s folded into a MV business site, MV businesses ought not to be excluded from a bid invitation. I know that’s not the issue in this case; I’m just extending the thought. Generally, any site most probably could be developed more economically if we outsource it to the Philippines, India, or South Korea. But the issue is whether a local community business ought to be at least given the opportunity to bid.

    • The original news “hook,” as they say, is that one or more agencies received a $100,000 state grant to build a website, but spent the money on something else. Now, one of the consortium members asks to be trusted with another $115,000. Not sure which of the groups Jacquelyn and Jonathan are associated, but as Shakespeare wrote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

  4. If I read your articles correctly the website was to promote businesses in the Merrimack Valley… not specifically Haverhill. So seeing as Newburyport is a part of the Merrimack Valley I don’t see what your grounds for complaining is? Unless you feel it should be to promote COCO+CO. business specifically.
    But maybe that is just a coincidence that the business that was slighted and the editor of this site are the same.

    • Jacquelyn, that is, simply, not a true statement. Haverhill Means Business was specifically a pro-Haverhill business website. It included Haverhill’s tax, water, gas and electric rates, etc. The directory included only Haverhill businesses. Later, yes, when Joe Bevilacqua intervened, an additional site was created for the Merrimack Valley. Eventually, everything folded into Merrimack Valley Means Business. As convenient as it might be, history cannot be rewritten.

  5. I wonder if someone can explain why there is a Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, a Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, a Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, a Creative Haverhill organization, as well as Haverhill’s own community development division. (and what else?) It is not hard to imagine that there is the potential for overlapping agendas and duplication of effort by all of these agencies. Is there not a more efficient way to “run a business”?

    (BTW, your last paragraph in this story is a duplicate of another previous to it)