The shuffling in the works for Gloucester's Community Development Department — or should we now say "departments," with an emphasis on the "s" — is long overdue.
It's seemed clear through the city's empty efforts to land a developer for its I-4, C-2 waterfront property that Gloucester has not effectively reached out to convince companies of what the city has to offer, or worked to facilitate any such move. Most efforts to attract more visitors has largely been left to local merchants, the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and other business groups since Mayor Carolyn Kirk trimmed the tourism budget in 2009 amid one of the perennial fiscal crises.
But does Gloucester really need an economic development director, a community development director, a harbor planning director, a marketing and event project manager, grant development manager, senior planner, and — wait, one more — visitor center coordinator?
Some of those positions, of course, are restructured posts that are already in place. Indeed, Sarah Garcia, who has served as Kirk's development director since 2008, is already spinning into a new post as harbor planning director. And not all of these jobs are, or will be, covered by city taxpayers; the harbor planning job is paid by a state Seaport Advisory Council grant.
But the restructuring will cost local taxpayers an added $170,000 this coming fiscal year, if the mayor's budget gains approval. And more of the changes would be phased in for fiscal 2014, Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan said last week.
Does Gloucester need to make a stronger investment in economic development? You bet.
But it's important for the mayor and other city officials to project how this investment — and this number of development managers — will bring a net economic gain. And it's important to have some assurance that these department and project managers will somehow be able to work on the same page without duplicating efforts or, turning toward turf wars over whether, for example, a company might better locate in an industrial park or on the harbor.
Gloucester needs economic growth. It shouldn't need this level of government expansion to get it.