Economic Development Council created

Jun 30, 2020 by

Published in the June 30, 2020 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The Town Council last week voted to create a nine-member Economic Development Council to work with and support a future Economic and Community Development Director, after Town Meeting recently voted to fund that position. The Town Council will take the summer to solicit members to serve on the Economic Development Council.

The formation of an Economic Development Council had been a contentious issue for the Town Council, with a proposal developed by Councilor Edward Dombroski appearing on several recent meeting agendas. The matter was tabled at those earlier meetings as councilors expressed concerns about forming such a panel prior to the creation of an Economic and Community Development Director position.

The latter had also been contentious, with some councilors wanting to hold off on creating the position until later as a cost-saving measure due to COVID-19-related revenue shortfalls.

But after Dombroski met with councilors Julie Smith-Galvin and Jonathan Chines, the three of them came back with the revamped proposal that the Town Council passed last week.

The new proposal identified the purpose of the Economic Development Council, which is to “create a dynamic working group with the goal of stakeholder representation to strategically and comprehensively address both short and long-term opportunities and needs of current and prospective Wakefield businesses, non-profit organizations and the Town’s local economy, overall.”

The ideal composition of the EDC was left deliberately broad in the proposal, “in an effort to capture diverse experience and backgrounds and ensure a well-balanced representation of interests. The appointments will ultimately be driven by the pool of applicants. The Town Council seeks to pursue robust outreach efforts to encourage as many individuals from different backgrounds and disciplines as possible.”

The expected focus of the Economic Development Council is also deliberately broad, but general guiding principles from the Town Council will help direct the work of the EDC. The Town Council recognized the importance of affording the EDC reasonable autonomy to collectively identify priorities, based upon the collective backgrounds, experiences and core competencies of its members.

The expected long-term focus of the EDC is expected to broadly encompass, but not be limited to, the following areas:

• Developing policy and programmatic recommendations to present to the Town Council designed to strengthen the local economy and support current and prospective businesses.

• Developing and proposing programs that foster expansion and growth opportunities for existing businesses and organizations.

• Conducting multi-faceted analysis of both the current opportunities or impediments (i.e., infrastructure, zoning, bylaws, taxation, etc.) the town presents and developing solutions-based approaches to highlighting or overcoming them.

• Devising ways to address employee concerns related to child care, labor force participation and transit.

* Focusing on creating incentives to promote Wakefield’s competitive position based on capabilities, assets and history.

• Identifying strategies for sustained business competitiveness.

• Developing proposals to streamline business engagements with the Town (“ease of doing business”) considerations.

• “Mentoring” prospective new businesses to help them navigate the process of getting established and connecting with existing businesses in Wakefield.

• Developing a strategic approach to identifying and targeting emerging market sectors/opportunities, and identifying efforts to attract those prospective businesses.

• Identifying direct opportunities for EDC members or affiliates to target contacts or connections within their respective professional networks

• Advising the Economic and Community Development Director on conducting a competitive community assessment and/or reviewing surveys and studying market analyses and trends to offer guidance.

• Identifying market sectors and opportunities to support the establishment or growth of minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

• Identifying gaps in the retailers, restaurants, and services currently available in Wakefield and develop proactive strategies to help close those gaps.

• Developing marketing and promotional initiatives for Wakefield as a more business- friendly community and regional commerce destination.

• Assist with seeking out and supporting efforts for securing Federal and state funding opportunities (grants, loans, etc.) and other forms of support for the town and local businesses.

The Town Council has supported the creation of an Economic and Community Development Director position with an expansive list of responsibilities. That role is seen as an integral part of a broader economic development strategy to strengthen Wakefield’s economy and make the town more competitive going forward.

The EDC is expected to enable a synergistic relationship, supporting the functions of that Economic and Community Development Director. The expectation is for this EDC, comprised of leaders, thinkers, and advocates from various disciplines, to be a collaborative partner and valuable resource to the work and initiatives of the Economic and Community Development Director.

This Economic Development Council will be a nine-member body appointed by the Town Council from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. Terms shall be for three years, with terms initially staggered at inception to ensure continuity going forward. It is the Town Council’s expectation that the EDC will include individuals with experience in the following areas:

• Business leaders/owners – both who are residents with businesses in or outside of Wakefield or who are stakeholders through their roles in Wakefield businesses.

• Individuals with business development, executive management and/or marketing experience.

• Commercial/residential real estate and lending representatives.

• Commercial property owners.

• Individuals who lend expertise from the perspective of labor force, childcare and transit considerations.

• Individuals who can offer a consumer perspective as relates to the Wakefield or broader local economy.

• Individuals with experience in developing and promoting minority-owned, woman-owned and/or veteran-owned businesses.

• Individuals with experience leading or working with nonprofit organizations in Wakefield.

• Any other relevant community stakeholders whose background, experience and expertise will help to advance the work of this council.

There will also be one or two Town Councilors annually assigned by the Town Council Chair as liaisons to the EDC, as well as representatives from town administration as needed to participate in the EDC’s meetings on an advisory basis.

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