Pillsbury: More Industry is Great, But Where to Put It?

Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

While several Haverhill city councilors lamented a decline in the city’s industrial base, the administration said the city is running out of places to put new businesses.

City Council President John A. Michitson, Vice President Melinda E. Barrett and City Councilor Andy Vargas called for attracting a training center and better marketing of the city. However, Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury said if there is a problem, the solution is much more basic.

“We could have the greatest marketing program in the universe and be able to generate a lot of great leads, but we have to have properties to put them in,” Pillsbury said.

Relinquishing the chair, Michitson launched a presentation showing the share of Haverhill property taxes being paid by manufacturers has been in decline five years.

“Because we’re not the draw yet that we want to be. I mean that’s really the bottom line.”

Pillsbury countered Haverhill has the second highest employment growth rate among gateway cities. He said some business problems are outside of the city’s control such as a company’s access to capital. Within the larger commercial/industrial base, he said, growth has expanded from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent today.

Besides identifying new industrial park locations, Pillsbury said, another solution he is pursuing is having existing businesses share their spaces and mentor up and coming companies. He said a routine visit by Mayor James J. Fiorentini has identified a local business with available space and expertise to help startups move from concept to actual manufacturing. He said he is also working with three prospects for the Hilldale Avenue industrial park and two others for the Broadway industrial park.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua, who years ago held Pillsbury’s job, quoted General Electric’s Jeffrey R. Immelt. “What business needs is what business needs,” he said. Bevilacqua explained, in some cases, Haverhill doesn’t have the particular type of building or land a business may be seeking.

“In some cases we simply don’t have the land or the building that the business needs and that’s a reality, unfortunately. Some of the best economic development products, that I’m aware of, have happened because there happened to be a building or a land site available,” Bevilacqua said. But I think what Bill is doing, in terms of having the inventory available, is critical because we’ll be able to show people exactly what is available and what the options are for expansion, or subtraction, of a site that may be too large or too small.”

Pillsbury said his department is working on a “pitch book” to attract industry, identifying the city’s unique offerings, preparing print and electronic marketing materials and developing an interactive website showing prospects how to navigate through City Hall permitting processes.

7 thoughts on “Pillsbury: More Industry is Great, But Where to Put It?

  1. If Haverhill keeps building low income 40B housing that exists solely on the taxpayers back it will never attract businesses that employ middle income employees that want to actually live here.
    Allowing large parcels to be developed into hundreds of low income rentals instead of keep these open to business development is wrong. Relying on service industry jobs downtown like waitresses, waiters and staff to support your tax base while charging for parking and adding taxes to customers bills is the death nail to anyone that tries to make a go of a small business.

  2. Jack I disagree with your Chamber statement. The Chamber always appears as a group or a business spokesperson fighting for tax relief at the annual tax classification meeting only to be denied relief and just having more tax burden placed on Haverhills shrinking businesses.
    Haverhill needs to work with what it has but it needs to maybe step back and let new eyes see it that many who have been here for decades cant or wont see.


    • Hi Rich,
      I agree…the Chamber shows up to lobby during the tax classification meetings, but what are the actively doing during the rest of the year? Did you see ANY response from the Chamber when intrusive parking and meals taxes were being incorporated downtown? Did they rally their members to put pressure on city officials? Did they write editorials here or in the Eagle Tribune? I know the Chamber and it’s leadership well…and can tell you they did literally nothing. I even asked direct questions to several of them “why aren’t you screaming from the rooftops?” …and all I got was a blank stare. They’re all nice people, but The Chamber is really a social club….it’s not a business advocacy organization.

      • Hi Jack,
        I just wanted to respond on behalf of the Chamber. We have an active Government Affairs committee that has spent the last year meeting with city departments, the Mayor, municipal organizations, elected officials and business leaders to discuss the issues that affect them, and will advocate for the businesses when the membership deems necessary. As to the parking issue, chamber staff (and several members) attended the meetings, and the Chamber did do a door-to-door survey of the downtown businesses to get their input into the parking situation. To our surprise, parking was not as big an issue as we were anticipating it to be (to the business owners, at least). We provided our report to both the Mayor and to the Council President John Michitson. Please feel free to give us a call here at the Chamber if you have anything you’d like to discuss. Just like you, we want what’s best for the businesses and community.

      • Jack yes the chamber fought the taxes. At the time there was a group of owners who fought it as well to no avail. The mayor usd the “no money for schools and fire protection” against them.

  3. “Pillsbury countered Haverhill has the second highest employment growth rate among gateway cities.”
    According to the Massachusetts Department of Labor Statistics the job growth rate is coming from jobs in State of Massachusetts agencies located in Haverhill, and also from the City of Haverhill itself. There is very little private sector job growth in Haverhill. Private sector jobs loses are stable only as a result of mayor taxman giving sizeable tax breaks to companies to stay in the city. Otherwise, they’d be gone too.

    What is the attraction to any business to move to the City of Haverhill, other than getting a tax incentive to do so?
    There’s a corrupt and incompetent, tax and spend liberal mayor and a do nothing city council that completely ignores the needs of businesses in the city. Just look at the news from just the past year of what business owners have to endure by being located in the city of Haverhill.

    –There currently is an organized group of downtown business owners fighting intrusive parking and meals taxes. The mayor responds to them by holding public meetings and not even informing them he’s doing so because he wants no opposition to his tax and spend agenda.
    –There is also an organized group of business owners in the Ward Hill Industrial park who complain about the city ignoring their needs and the mayor responds by further ignoring them.
    –The city tried to take private property of a business located downtown by eminent domain for the sole purpose of selling it to a developer for a profit.
    –A Lafayette Square business owner was going to be fined for the type of sign he had by the city council only to find out the owner had contacted the city DPW multiple times for assistance with tree growth only to be ignored repeatedly.
    –The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce that does absolutely nothing to advocate for and protect business owners in the city from the intrusive, targeted tax policies of the incompetent mayor.