, Gloucester, MA

March 22, 2013

Editorial: City's economic push can't outrun budget realities

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — It was in 2009 that Mayor Carolyn Kirk first cut city financing of a tourism department amid another budget and spending crisis.

Now, four years later, the mayor and the city have come full cycle, with the addition of two economic development officials. While the step is a significant one — especially in a time when Gloucester is confronted with a two-year high in its unemployment rate — it’s important that the city not expand its operations to a point at which any economic gains are offset by jumps in the city’s budget and property taxes to cover a growing bureaucracy.

The addition of Manchester resident Thomas Daniel as the city’s new director of a new community development department is good for Gloucester. The city has desperately needed someone to work both with potential incoming businesses casting their eyes toward Gloucester, and — equally important — with existing local businesses looking to grow. Kirk noted Daniel, whose job is pegged at an annual salary of $89,000, and included for part of the year in the current fiscal 2013 budget, already is working with a “pipeline” of six or seven businesses. That’s good news, and it’s clear that, as a former economic development manager in Salem, he has the business contacts the city has seemingly lacked and needs.

His addition also allows Sarah Garcia to focus squarely on harbor development — and that’s significant if city officials, as they should, are looking at potential changes and options to the state’s Designated Port Area mandates. Plus, his role should go hand in hand with that of the city-based Economic Development and Industrialization Corporation’s new executive director, Thomas Gillett, who took the reins of that agency in January.

But when Kirk first advanced plans for an expanded economic development department last year, it was to include an economic development director, a community development director, a harbor planning director, a marketing and event project manager, grant development manager, senior planner, and a coordinator for the visitor center. Those plans included funding some of those posts in fiscal 2013 and some for the next fiscal year, which is in the budgeting process now and begins July 1.

Yes, the city needs an increased focus on economic development. It has a good start, with the City Council’s approval last week of the planned new 101-room Beauport Gloucester hotel. But economic growth and development need not — in fact, cannot — spur a significantly expanded city government structure as well.

The addition of Daniel and the shifting of Garcia’s duties should be what the city needs.