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Candidate’s ideas to revitalize city’s economy, grow its tax base

  • Greenfield Mayoral candidate Roxann Wedegartner. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 10/21/2019 8:28:30 AM

Throughout the mayoral campaign I have tied my 22 years of municipal experience and leadership as chair of both the Greenfield School Committee and the Greenfield Planning Board together as the basis for becoming an effective leader of our city. Education and economic development are two critical aspects of what makes our town work — one represents a significant investment in our future, and the other one helps us grow our tax base and help offset rising costs for town services and maintaining our infrastructure.

The population of Franklin County is aging, so attracting new families and businesses to Greenfield and encouraging our youth to stay here and raise their families are essential to our viability as the economic and education destination of the county. We can only do that if we grow our economy and keep improving our schools. I have plans to do both.

On the economic development front, the goal of my economic development program is to make Greenfield better known as an advantageous place to do business. Here are two of the ways I believe we can achieve this.

I will, along with our Economic Development Department, create a highly focused marketing program to promote Greenfield as an ideal business location at the crossroads of Route 2 and I-91 in order to attract businesses we know work here: precision manufacturing; the creative economy, which currently represents 9.2 percent of our economy; call centers and data storage, small tech businesses, and farms and food production and distribution. Up to now, marketing of Greenfield’s potential for economic diversity has been non-existent. We need to promote our extraordinary internet broadband access, our growing rail service, our relative affordability, and our access to the resources of our higher education institutions.

I will also amend or create better zoning regulations so it is attractive and easier for entrepreneurs to locate here, perhaps using many of our abandoned and underutilized properties. Specifically, adopting Adaptive Reuse Overlay Districts in certain commercial areas of town will make redevelopment of these properties more attractive by allowing mixed use buildings where commerce, retail and housing can exist together.

To foster our growing creative economy and make Greenfield the creative economy capital of Western Massachusetts, I will create an Arts Overlay District in the downtown area to establish a mixed-use area with art-related businesses, live/work units, and traditional residences integrated together, yet maintaining the residential character of the area. Many of these businesses are ideally suited to locations within newly renovated abandoned and underutilized buildings. Arts-related industries like performing arts, literary arts and publishing, visual arts, or food production and sales already employ a significant number of people and will create the foot traffic needed to make our downtown a vibrant commercial destination. This plan actually helps traditional retail.

On the education front, as mayor and a voting member of the School Committee, I will work to ensure we have a curriculum that aligns with the industries doing well in our region, and I will work to craft a school budget that reflects the values of providing our students with the education necessary to be successful in their lives and chosen careers, and to be actively engaged citizens in our community.

Currently, our precision manufacturing and software development companies provide jobs that offer some of the highest salaries in our area. But they demand a skilled workforce that may not be keeping pace with the need. To align our education system with our economic development goals, I propose we hire a curriculum director for Greenfield Public Schools, something we don’t have now, who will focus on providing courses that create interest in and build skills among our students for the business sectors in our region.

These are just some of my ideas for combining education and economic development to revitalize our economy, connect that economy with our students, and grow our tax base. I can’t wait to get started as your mayor.

I’m asking for your vote on Nov. 5.

Roxann Wedegarner is a candidate for Greenfield mayor.

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