Councilors Ask Mayor to Pursue Pilot Innovation Center

MassChallenge CEO John Harthorne.


Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill city councilors give kudos and aired concerns about a plan by council President John A. Michitson and others to launch a pilot center to “establish Haverhill as a manufacturing center for the innovation economy.”

Following a presentation from Michitson during Tuesday night’s meeting, councilors voted unanimously, by consensus, to request Mayor James J. Fiorentini meet with John Harthorne, CEO of business startup accelerator MassChallenge, Boston, to “explore opportunities.” This includes Michitson’s proposal to bring a MassChallenge satellite innovation center downtown. The motion for the mayor’s intervention was made by council Vice-President Robert H. Scatamacchia and seconded by councilor Melinda Barrett. Michitson told councilors the plan is also being provided to the Greater Haverhill Foundation to be incorporated into their economic development planning. He also said in addition to an innovation center to complement a UMass Lowell satellite campus at Harbor Place, the downtown needs to become what he called a “cool place” to attract younger workers.

“What we’re finding out is that to attract young workers we have to make the downtown ‘cool.’ A very ‘cool’ place. My kids don’t even like me saying that, it’s just not right for their father to say that. And we’ll need to link the downtown to business parks. The other thing we need to work on, as part of this, is to catalog all the workforce training capabilities that we have at all levels in Haverhill. So now UMass Lowell is extending our workforce training capabilities right here in Haverhill, along with Northern Essex, Whittier Vo-Tech and even Haverhill High School,” Michitson said.

Councilor Colin F. LePage was among those complimenting Michitson for his leadership on the proposal. He said recent meetings on economic development demonstrated Michitson has worked hard on the plan which is “not something, unfortunately, can happen overnight.”

“You’ve been laying the groundwork and working hard with everyone and, hopefully, I believe it’s coming to fruition as I saw meeting with the other folks up in Ward Hill and then down here, at Pentucket Bank. Again I applaud you and I am wholeheartedly agreeing with having the mayor meet with those folks. I think we are really at the crux of things happening, as far as businesses go in bringing them back to Haverhill so they can help support all the other endeavors we have in the city,” LePage said.

Councilor William H. Ryan noted the mayor’s team, including Economic Development Director William Pillsbury Jr., have “bent over backwards” on attracting new jobs to the city with tax credits and other incentives. However, he raised concern local businesses which become bigger would be lured away, even outside the country.

“All is for naught when you’ve got all of the law favoring companies to go out of the country with the jobs, to go to Mexico and to go to China and to go to India, or what have you, to make these products. I’d like to see the city send a very strong message to the congressional delegation to ‘get off the pot’ down there in Washington and start to turn around the jobs leaving this country by the millions. And we’re in very difficult trouble because our youth can’t find jobs unless you want to work in fast food, or in a Walmart or Target,” Ryan said.

One approach calls for local partnerships with research and development arms of startup businesses in the Boston-Cambridge area as well as along the route 128 corridor, leading to manufacturing jobs in several key areas of the city. They include undeveloped or underutilized areas of business/industrial parks on upper Hilldale Avenue, as well as Computer Drive and Research Drive off route 97. Other “example opportunities” include developing a startup/small business center incubator in the Burgess building on Essex Street.

4 thoughts on “Councilors Ask Mayor to Pursue Pilot Innovation Center

  1. “All is for naught when you’ve got all of the law favoring companies to go out of the country with the jobs, to go to Mexico and to go to China and to go to India, or what have you, to make these products. I’d like to see the city send a very strong message to the congressional delegation to ‘get off the pot’ down there in Washington and start to turn around the jobs leaving this country by the millions. And we’re in very difficult trouble because our youth can’t find jobs unless you want to work in fast food, or in a Walmart or Target,” Ryan said.

    I wonder how many decades it took for Ryan to reach this conclusion?

    Our very own, Ed “from Maryland” Markey voted for NAFTA, which was ostensibly the beginning of the end of non-government subsidized manufacturing in this country, let alone our high corporate tax rates. Throw in H-1B Visa recipients (maxed out every year) and illegal invaders cheap labor, The American People simply cannot compete without the economic heroin that government (aka taxpayers) give businesses, which of course never trickles down to the worker. The quid pro quo of Beacon Hill politics don’t make Massachusetts a business friendly environment either, which recently released Census data confirms in this lawless state and country.

    Washington isn’t going to change this paradigm of economic rape short of The American People standing outside pols homes with pitchforks (or guns) with the real threat of fear from The People. As it stands today, our government, Republican and Democrats alike, are wielding enormous power at the behest of the few, to the detriment of the many in the name of crony capitalism.

    The government should fear its People, not the other way around.

  2. What were they serving in the punch before this meeting??? I don’t even know where to begin regarding the lunacy of what is being reported here.

    The total failure of Melinda Barrett to do the right thing on behalf of the people that voted for her seems like an appropriate place to start. Melinda, who knows better than you how the intrusive city tax policies have negatively impacted downtown business owners? Yet you say nothing!! Why is it that in private you will describe how the parking tax has driven away your customers and devastated your business, but in public you are silent and an advocate of mayor Taxman? Why aren’t you publicly discussing the revenge the Taxman has enacted on your fellow business owners downtown when they dared challenge the policies he’s instituted??? This happens all the time in this city. People run for office thinking they can bring positive change, they get elected, and when they run into the dirty, slimy politics coming out of the corner office they go into a shell and do thing. Melinda, it’s really time for a gut check. Either you make up your mind you’re going to fight and do the right thing for the people who voted for you, or get out. Because this time Melinda, knowing what you know, you’re actually participating in a fraud with unsuspecting business owners. That’s not right. You have to ask yourself…if you knew then what you know now about how this Taxman mayor was going to target your business to fund his inept administration would you open your business downtown? Privately, you’ve already answered that question.

    John, I know you mean well, but c’mon. Young people are the answer to growing a vibrant downtown? You’re a nice guy, and I’m not trying to be rude, but the answer to economic vitality is going to be driven by feedback of your high school age children on what being cool is? Need I remind you that the kids who look at downtown as a cool place to go do so to skateboard at the parking garage. And you know what happens to them…they’re kicked out.
    John, you’re a businessman, why aren’t you acting like one? Projects and proposals and ideas show effort, but if you were serious you’d approach this like it should be approached. By hiring an independent, unbiased corporation that specializes in economic feasibility studies. Your effort is to be commended, especially when the Economic Development Director the city pays to come up with ideas like this delivers nothing, but economic development should not be a subjective process driven by unproven ideas. Does the city even have a Master Plan?

    One last question John….how in the world are you going to explain to potential business owner coming to the city how just last week you, and your fellow councilors, voted to take private property by eminent domain solely for the purpose of the city selling it to a developer?

    Bill Ryan….it’s time Bill, really, it’s time. When is the last time any of Haverhill’s congressional delegates have stepped foot in the city? The last time Tsongas was here was to drive out of the new parking garage in The Taxman’s convertible for a photo-op and brag about how public taxpayer funds were used to build it and then create a revenue source for the incompetent mayor. But she’ll be back…That Hunking School photo op is right up her alley.
    Bill, when is the last time you fought the mayor on ANYTHING??? You’re past the expiration date of your energy level and enthusiasm to fight the fight Bill. For those of us in the city paying attention, let me suggest…hang up the spikes Bill…it’s long overdue.

    • The last time Niki “The Liar” Tsongas stepped foot in Haverhill to meet with the unwashed masses was when she did her “CONgress on your corner”.

      I went, asked her about her vote. Proved to her that her vote (insider trading) regarding the laws in this country don’t matter for the political elite classes, and that was the last time she did that. Only do the serfdom classes, you & me, do the laws apply. Now we get pre-screened telephone call-ins so she no longer actually has to meet any of The People in person and never answer for her votes, especially when she doesn’t even read the Bills she votes on.

    • Well said Jack. Bill Ryan has woken up from his decades long slumber to find out NAFTA exists. He’s only 20 years late, just like everything else. Haverhill is still in it’s decades long slumber. There is no soul here any longer. People do not support much of what is going on. They care about themselves and can you blames them ? They are struggling to make ends meet. The mayor hasn’t a clue as to developing solid industry relationships to lure companies here. Just ask Verizon how they feel and you will know why they are not here in the city. Ask that company who proposed a state of the art, first in the nation, food waste to energy plant. The mayor cost them $500k. Do you think they will ever come back ? How about all the empty space that fills our industrial parks ? Pillsbury can’t do it alone and the mayor does a wonderful job of scaring people away using his thug extortion tactics. Just ask the last movie company !

      Now, Haverhill is becoming a sanctuary city. People are flocking here and flooding the school system for SPED programs . But sshhhhh, that’s the dirty little secret they won’t tell you about. Pay no attention to the rising school budget or the rising Hale debt or the landfill debt or the coming waste water crisis. Enjoy your water bills as they are now. But get ready for a great surprise !! Just remember though, that while you were sleeping at the ballot box, electing some of these idiots, they have been negligent regarding your city’s financial demise.