Yarmouth urged to hire business development specialist

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YARMOUTH — The  Town Council has received a recommendation to allocate $100,000 for a community development director to spur economic development.

The report was authored by the Economic Development Formation Study Committee, a volunteer group that was charged with drafting a structure for economic development in the town. It began meeting in October. 

The committee proposed a three-year commitment. After that, the community development director’s position would “sunset,” and the council would determine whether to extend it for the future.

The initial $100,000 commitment would cover one year of salary, benefits and resources. The committee suggested a start date of September 2014.

The report presented to the council on March 6 also recommended the formation of a volunteer advisory board to provide strategic direction and overall support.

Most of the council responded warmly to the recommendation and endorsed the concept of an economic development staffer, but no one was ready to promise funding in the workshop.

Chairman Steve Woods asked the committee to present a more detailed report in April, when the council is at the height of its budget work and can better determine funding availability. Specifically, he asked for a budget breakdown, other potential budget thresholds, and a reporting structure.

Councilor Leslie Hyde was one of several individuals who said Yarmouth’s lack of an economic development professional puts it at a competitive disadvantage compared to neighboring communities that are better able to recruit tax-paying businesses.

“We need to figure out a way to get in the game,” Hyde said.

Councilor Pat Thompson said it’s important to look at the position as an investment and not an expense.

“It’s going to take money to make this town something other than a bedroom community,” Thompson said. She later added that, “One astute person who can network the system is what it’s going to take.”

The Economic Development Formation Study Committee interviewed town councilors, town managers and planning departments in 10 Maine towns as part of its research. Its report said the community development director’s first-year responsibilities should include producing and promoting documents, information kits and a website for business attraction.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@brendantwist.