Going metro: Communities unite to push economic development

Thirteen Manchester area communities are joining together in what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind effort to market the region to businesses.

A joint effort of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, the initiative is aimed at putting together a regional approach to promoting economic development on a regional level. A key to the effort is that each of the participating communities has agreed to look at economic development as a regional, collaborative effort rather than an individual community effort – something that chamber and DRED officials said can often be self-defeating for the area.

The communities taking part are Manchester, Auburn, Bedford, Candia, Chester, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Londonderry, Merrimack, New Boston, Raymond and Weare.

“We can no longer afford to view ourselves as individual, isolated communities in the region,” said Diane Terragni, chair of the committee that developed the initiative.

Terragni said such issues as recruitment of new businesses, the expansion of Interstate 93, construction of an airport access road and groundwater withdrawals are issues that affect more than one community in the area, and in many cases affects them all. “These issues can only be effectively addressed if the affected communities work together to find common solutions,” she said.

In other words, said Russ Marcoux, town administrator of Derry and one of the participating communities, “We will be assisting each other’s efforts to make economic development happen.”

Key to the marketing effort is a move to “brand” the region as “The Metro Center.”

Another aspect of the initiative is a common Web site that will link the participating communities.

The idea is to offer a “proactive” approach to economic development, with a focus on “marketing the assets of each of our neighbors,“ said Chris Williams, vice president for economic development and advocacy at the chamber.

Williams said that the participating communities realize the benefits of joining together in such an effort because they see the strong economic connections among them. For example, a larger company relocating to one of the communities in the region can bring benefits to the others, since the new employees may choose to live or shop there.

In essence, The Metro Center initiative boils down to a simple aphorism, put forth by Craig Wheeler, town planner for Raymond: “Think regionally, act locally.”

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