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November 21. 2012 12:09AM

After resignation, Manchester to decide fate of economic chief job

MANCHESTER - The city no longer has an economic development chief, and the aldermen have not resolved whether it needs one.

In the meantime, the board voted 10-3 Tuesday to "temporarily" place the staff of the economic development office under the supervision of the mayor.

Backing a motion made by Alderman Pat Long, a majority of the aldermen determined that there was an immediate need to have a person leading the department since the abrupt resignation of Jay Minkarah. He has told city officials he's taken a position with the city of Springfield, Mass.

"I'm still waiting for someone to tell me the last time an economic development director had brought a project to the city," Mayor Ted Gatsas said. "All I'm hearing from the business community is the need for direction for a developer to get through the process. There needs to be a conduit between the board and the developer."

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has expressed strong support for keeping the position, in order to have a person dedicated to bringing jobs and businesses to Manchester from around the region.

Alderman Dan O'Neil was adamantly opposed to eliminating the chief.

"We need to have an economic development director," he said. "It sends an absolutely poor message to the business community, if someone looking to come to Manchester Googles us and finds our economic development position resigned and the position wasn't filled."

Several aldermen agreed that the duties of the economic development office need to be better defined. Gatsas said he would provide the current position description to the aldermen. The future status of the position was referred to the committees on administration and economic development.

Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur backed bringing the economic development office under the umbrella of the mayor's office.

"I've always felt that that's part of the mayor's job, as a cheerleader to the city. This mayor goes out business to business. He has his ear to the ground," he said.

Alderman Patrick Arnold said he believed the economic development office did play an important role, and he said the resignation of Minkarah could provide an opportunity.

"I don't think we have long-term vision for the city in terms of economic development," he said.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.

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