By Marjorie Nesin
---- — City officials are looking to a newly hired development director to bridge the gap between Gloucester and the local development group that oversaw the creation of Gloucester’s industrial parks, while also drawing new businesses into the city.
The city hired Manchester resident Thomas Daniel to fill the position for a Director of the Community Development Department, freeing Harbor Planner Sarah Garcia from an overflow of director tasks, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Tuesday, and taking a step toward focusing on job growth as the city slipped to a January unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, its highest in nearly two years and 36 percent higher than the state’s jobless rate of 7.4.
These figures arrive at a time when city officials say calls from people interested in planting businesses here are flooding in.
“Before we would have inquiries maybe once every couple months, and now Tom Daniel has a pipeline of six or seven businesses,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Tuesday. “We’re looking to be efficient and we wanted to build our capacity in economic development without just adding staff, so we looked for a combination of experience that could build the economic capacity and do the broader job of community development director.”
Daniel came to Gloucester in February after serving as Salem’s economic development manager. Daniel is certified as a certified housing development and economic development finance professional by the National Development Council. Daniel attended the University of Minnesota and holds a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.
Kirk said creating this position, which was included in the current fiscal year’s budget and carries an annual salary of $89,600, allows Garcia to fully focus on harbor development and reorganizes the system in a way that streamlines everything economic development related to Daniel, who can then direct inquiries to the correct city officials.
”It’s streamlining the businesses’ experience in trying to do business with the city and also, by teaming up, showcases all of the properties in the city,” Kirk said.
Daniel said Tuesday he is already enjoying working with Gloucester’s existing businesses and those interested in locating here.
”I’m thrilled to be working professionally in a community I care about personally,” he said.
Daniel has set his focus on seeking out state and local resources and creating opportunities for community residents to find jobs, while opening a door to new opportunities for people at every level of education.
”In terms of economic development, there tends to be three legs to the stool,” Daniel said. “One is real estate, one is finance and one is people, so it’s about working on all three of these.”
Also setting his sites on those three legs is the city-based Economic Development and Industrialization Corporation’s new executive director Thomas Gillett, who replaced the retiring former director in January.
The development organization’s chair, Becky Bernie, commended Gillett’s work and said Gillett, who has lived in Gloucester for years, will work with the city to more so than the organization has done in the past. According to Bernie, the city’s goals and the organization’s missions have begun to line up recently, as the organization has finished filling Blackburn Industrial Park with business and is looking toward reusing existing space.
Gillett, she said, is working on a citywide inventory of vacant, business-usable space. The hope, Bernie said, is to usher in businesses that will, in turn, create jobs for residents.
”The whole push is through business, but we’re approaching it from a very different angle than offering a lot and seeing who will come,” Bernie said. “Rather we’re seeing who will come, then finding a place for them. We’re sort of changing the focus.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.