Strafford EDD: The year in review
It’s a wrap on the first year of full funding for the Strafford Economic Development District (Strafford EDD) through EDA’s short-term planning grant program. 2017 saw a wide variety of planning processes, reports, trainings, and technical assistance related to economic development. The Strafford EDD itself will soon reach the milestone of its third year; Strafford Regional Planning Commission was designated an Economic Development District in January 2015. The vision that guides the district and its work is set out in the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which calls on the Strafford EDD to:
“Engage in collaborative networks to sustain and grow the region’s economic vitality and median income through business development, job creation, enhancement of the tax base, educational excellence, and cultural and civic diversity, all within a historic place rich in recreational opportunity and natural beauty.”
The Strafford EDD staff completed its work throughout 2017 with this vision—and the other goals specified in the CEDS—firmly in mind.
New contract leads to new staff
Strafford EDD applied for EDA funding in March 2016, was awarded a short-term planning assistance grant that October, and rang in the new year with the implementation of the grant and the hiring of James Burdin as SRPC’s first economic development planner in January 2017. James came here by way of Ohio, where he worked for the City of Columbus as a zoning planner in the Department of Building and Zoning Services. He holds a master’s in city and regional planning and a master’s in social studies education, both from The Ohio State University.
CEDS Process and Committee
One of James’s first projects as economic development planner was to reconvene the CEDS Committee, which had been on hiatus between March 2016 and February 2017. One of the committee’s primary responsibilities is to assist with the annual update of the CEDS, which it did through participation in two meetings, one in February and the other in April.
During this time James teamed with Colin Lentz, SRPC’s regional transportation planner, who was soliciting transportation projects for the Ten Year Plan. Projects related to economic development were included in the “CEDS 2016 Annual Update” that James produced. The document was adopted by the full Commission at the Strafford EDD/SRPC Annual Meeting on June 22, 2017.
Another very exciting project completed through Strafford EDD was the launch of MapGeo. MapGeo is an online GIS viewer that hosts a variety of data related to land use, zoning, natural resources, transportation, and socioeconomic indicators for the SRPC region. Farmington, Lee, Northwood, and Rollinsford also joined in the project, sharing their property card information.
With MapGeo, users can browse current projects in different transportation plans, such as the Ten Year Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, and Long-Range Plan; inspect FEMA floodplain boundaries in their neighborhood; and compare different zoning districts across the region. MapGeo users can also combine data layers, add labels, and draw figures before printing or sharing the results as a customized PDF map.
Any of the 18 communities in the Strafford region can join MapGeo, which SRPC keeps up to date with the latest geographical data. Contact GIS planner Rachael Mack at email@example.com or at 603-994-3500 for more information.
Brownfields Assessment Grant
SRPC received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant in 2015 in the form of a $400,000 award. The grant specified $200,000 available for assessing petroleum-related sites and $200,000 to assess sites contaminated with other hazardous materials. A site is typically eligible for the program if its current or future use is complicated by the presence or possible presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.
At the onset of the project, Stafford EDD recognized the connection the EPA Brownfields program had to economic development, and identified the program as an effort of the EDD. The project, originally led by SRPC Alumni Matt Sullivan and Liz Durfee, is now managed by James Burdin.
In 2017 Strafford EDD and its environmental consultant, Credere Associates, finished seven phase I assessments of historical buildings to determine the likelihood of contamination and gauge the need for further assessment. Five properties were found to require phase II work (sampling) and remedial planning or cleanup. Phase II assessments were completed in 2017.
In addition, Strafford EDD applied for an additional assessment grant in the fall of 2017. If awarded the grant, Strafford EDD will continue supporting the redevelopment of the region’s brownfields during 2018 and beyond.
To stay up to date on the latest Brownfields program details and information, James attended the Brownfields 2017 conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., in December. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International City/Council Management Association cosponsored the event, which they said is “the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing formerly utilized commercial and industrial properties.”
The conference included several education sessions and mobile workshops and highlighted brownfields-related efforts in Pittsburgh.
Strafford EDD also offered technical assistance to many groups throughout the year. This work was funded by EDA and by other sources such as contracts and matching funds.
Barrington Master Plan
In October 2017 the Town of Barrington, with support from James, began work on the economic development chapter of its master plan by forming an economic development subcommittee. The subcommittee completed a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis in December to guide the drafting of the chapter over the next few months. James will also prepare a data analysis that will be included in the chapter as well. The economic development subcommittee next meets this month.
Northwood Economic Development Committee
James began work as Northwood’s contract town planner in March 2017. He also provides economic development support to the town by working with its Economic Development Committee. In 2017, the committee focused on updating the town business directory and preparing to establish a new Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district. New Hampshire law allows municipalities that set up TIF districts to capture all new property taxes generated by new development in those districts and use the money to finance infrastructure improvements and their operation and maintenance.
Explore Moose Mountains
Communications and outreach specialist Shayna Sylvia assisted the grassroots Explore Moose Mountains initiative throughout 2017. She attended bi-monthly coordination and planning meetings and helped the group launch its website. Shayna created business listings for the website and prepared promotional materials for the group. Explore Moose Mountains plans to hold a launch event for the website in 2018, which will give the group a chance to share with stakeholders and visitors to the region the work it has been doing.
2017 was a big year for Strafford EDD, the first year it was fully funded. Strafford EDD staffers are now hard at work preparing a partnership planning grant application to fund the EDD on a three-year cycle.
Work products on the schedule for 2018 are essential to the EDD and include a new CEDS, which will be the first time the original comprehensive 2011–2016 document has been updated outside of the annual updates. 2018 will also see Strafford EDD recruiting new members for the CEDS committee and conducting outreach on economic development in the region. In addition, Strafford EDD will continue to provide technical assistance to communities, update MapGeo, finalize the current Brownfields program, and provide support to the region’s communities, businesses, and non-profits that need economic development assistance.