Mayor: Nashua is economic engine of NHBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 19. 2014 7:20PM
NASHUA — Mayor Donnalee Lozeau described the Gate City as the economic engine of New Hampshire, saying Wednesday there are several new and exciting businesses moving into Nashua.
Among those businesses is Geophysical Survey Systems of Salem, a leading manufacturer of ground penetrating radar equipment that is expected to relocate to Nashua’s Simon Street later this year.
LA Fitness is constructing a new facility along Amherst Street, and Waveguide is in the process of retrofitting the former U.S. postal facility into its new headquarters and the home of its sister company, New Hampshire Optical Systems.
Meanwhile, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has purchased property on Concord Street that will be used for administrative offices and, eventually, a dormitory.
“A lot of new businesses are coming in,” Lozeau told the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, the day after she delivered her annual State of the City address.
Lozeau joked that she often tells Gov. Maggie Hassan that Nashua holds the weight of New Hampshire on its shoulders.
“Businesses here are growing and thriving. … We are the economic engine of this state,” said the mayor.
Lozeau acknowledged that taxes have been raised but said there are alternatives to higher taxes, such as cost-cutting budget initiatives, employee benefit cuts and department budget decreases.
While many communities have dealt with significant layoffs, Lozeau said, it is important to note that Nashua has not had to pink slip any city workers, and that taxes have not gone up more than 3 percent annually.
“Good news is not often passed along,” she said. “There is a lot of good news here in the city.”
For the first time since taking office, Lozeau opted to answer questions from chamber members rather than read her State of the City address verbatim.
Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said it is beneficial to pause every once in a while to hear from the city’s leadership team. He welcomed the idea of a discussion with the mayor, which he said allows for a conversation between Lozeau and the business community.
Lozeau said it is hard to believe that seven years have passed since she took office. While the time has flown, she admits that this past year has been the most difficult, and included interesting and diverse challenges.
The ongoing downtown improvement project has attracted some negative attention throughout the past year, especially when more than a dozen mature trees were cut down.
“I am not a tree murderer, contrary to what you hear,” she told the crowd, stressing that many of the urban trees were beyond their life expectancy and creating hazardous conditions underground.
In one instance, she said, about 480 power lines were running through a single tree’s roots. Lozeau emphasized that new trees will be added with root guards to prevent this problem in the future and that additional green space will be included in the overall design along Main Street.
She mentioned the idea of starting a “share the road” campaign with local bike enthusiasts and is hopeful that a bike map will be created to show residents different bike paths in the area and how they connect.
Lozeau also addressed concerns about panhandlers in the downtown area.
“They are harmless, but it doesn’t feel that way,” she said.
While other cities may be considering legislation to arrest panhandlers, Lozeau said, she is encouraging a different type of approach.
“The goal really is to solve the problem, not make it worse,” said the mayor, adding the city needs to be working with panhandlers to assist with possible mental illnesses, addiction or whatever other problems may exist.
The city’s rebranding campaign has also been under fire in recent weeks, but Lozeau said any major project is bound to have its challenges and hurdles. The end result, however, is still the same, she said, stressing she is pleased with the city’s new motto — Dare To Begin.
“Let us be a community that dares to know each other and dares to make a difference,” she said.