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Manchester economics: Mayor rocks boat, people shaken

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas can rock a boat simply by standing up in it. With his questioning of the position of city economic development director, he seems to have started a tsunami. Good for him.

Despite objections to the contrary, the mayor isn't saying the city doesn't need a hand in economic development.

He is saying that perhaps there is a better way to do it than to spend more than $200,000 a year, half of which was for the salary of a single person whose duties included collecting rent on commercial antennas attached to city property.

In one form or another, Manchester has had a publicly funded economic development office for well more than a half-century.

So it is understandable that equally venerable groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Amoskeag Industries might look askance at the suggestion that things could be done better if done differently.

"Change is difficult and scary,'' Mayor Gatsas told them last week. "But I can tell you change is better than staying with the status quo.''

Perhaps that is not always so. But when the status quo has barely budged since the old Manchester Industrial Council was formed after World War II, change is certainly worth a second look.

The mayor has been speaking with other cities in New Hampshire to see what each is doing. The aldermanic committees on economic development and administration should do likewise.

A strong and vibrant economy is shaped by a community that keeps planning and zoning requirements sensible and simple.

That may be as important a key to success as anything the city can do.

Eric Church
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