Economic growth could mean new business park for city

City wants to attract manufacturing training center for existing, or future,

Eagle Tribune | By Peter Francis
October 14, 2016

HAVERHILL — If all goes according to plan, the city may soon have to find a place for a new business park.

So said Economic Development Director William Pillsbury Tuesday night following a presentation on how best to build upon the city’s three existing parks by Council President John Michitson and Councilor Andy Vargas. Michitson and Vargas want to see the city lure another major project to one of those parks on par with the Harbor Place development on Merrimack Street.

Pillsbury told the council that his department — no longer a one-man shop thanks to consultants hired by money set aside in the city’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year — is actively working on bringing three prospective businesses into the Hilldale Avenue park and two more at the Broadway industrial park.

He also said there is “ongoing prospect activity” in the Ward Hill Business Park, and an unnamed existing company is interested in offering some of their space to growing companies that may be ready to begin manufacturing products.

“They’re saying ‘we’ve got space for you, we want to help mentor you’,” said Pillsbury. “It has the potential to be a catalytic event for manufacturers and we’re hopeful about working with that company.”

Pillsbury, who also serves as the city’s Planning Director, said Haverhill has seen the second highest employment growth rate among the state’s “gateway cities” behind Chelsea, a small industrial city just north of Boston. The city’s commercial tax base has increased by 4 percent since 2008 to 16 percent, while its unemployment rate has dropped by 6 percent since 2010 to 4 percent.

Earlier in the meeting, Michitson said while the city’s commercial tax base has grown, its industrial tax base is still not where it needs to be. He said an advanced manufacturing training center is the sort of development which could work with educational institutions in the city, such as UMass Lowell’s new satellite campus, located inside Harbor Place.

Years of small-scale industrial growth have created the need to attract a bigger development, he said, and went on to say the city needs more than stringing together small businesses in its parks — it needs a strategy for those parks going forward.

“If we become known as the place that develops the workforce, I think that will be a big draw,” Michitson said.

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