Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury.
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.