Bristol entertains Economic Development position


The Town of Bristol does in fact need an economic development "go-to" person.

After exhausting all options, Councilor Ed Stuart told fellow council members during their meeting Wednesday night that indeed, "there is a need for one person."

"I have to agree at the conclusion of last year, I feel that communication in this town, with so many projects going on, so many ideas and collaboration with everyone, we need to come up with an economic development director," Councilor Stuart said.

Last August, Community Development Director Diane Williamson, along with Town Administrator Tony Teixeira, presented the council with an economic development plan that called for the hiring of a consultant. At the time, the town had a $21,000 budget surplus, and Ms. Williamson advocated that the money be spent on hiring a consultant to round-up all of Bristol's economic development resources — the Bristol Merchants Association, Explore Bristol, Economic Development Commission, Mosaico – to determine the town’s future economic development needs. By working together, with all the players in one room, the town can put in place a strategic plan for economic development, Ms. Williamson had said.

The consultant would then recommend to the town a framework for an economic development director's position, if one was needed.

However, Mr. Stuart's stance was to refer economic development tasks to the towns' Economic Development Commission, a volunteer committee comprised of residents and business owners, and overseen by Ms. Williamson.

"We need a go-to person for all the entities," Mr. Stuart said. "This would be a perfect fit, on many levels, for the future of the town and its economic vitality."

The other councilors agreed. As the town enters into its budget cycle, the council asked Mr. Teixeira to look into the possibility of creating an economic development director position, and at what capacity that position would be. The town previously had an economic development liaison, which was a part-time position.


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Guy Guyverson

The statement was made that "we need to come up with an economic development director".

First, the town needs to define the term "economic development". It seems that too many people are pushing their pet projects, which ultimately cost the tax payers money, in the name of economic development, when it is not clear what the definition is. Is it based on job creation, Return On Investment, state or federal tax credits? The town needs to define this! How can we create another funded potentially full time position for something that is not defined?

If the term is defined, where can the average, non business owning, tax payer of Bristol find this information?

The town then needs to consider how a potential ED position is going to manage the EDC vs the Explore Bristol initiative, which both seem to not have a clear direction or distinction between the two other than that they both seek "economic development" which as I just mentioned is not clearly defined.

If we can not define the term for what seems to be driving the direction of the town over the past few years, how can we determine what is needed to get there?

Are we better off with hiring consultants vs. a position, or do we need to better define the roles or potentially reign in others and where do existing postions such as TA, TC and Ms. Williamson fit in?

We need to think about the entire town, not just business owners, when it comes to the future of this great town. I do not think we will be ultimately be successful until we define "Economic Development"

I am sure East Providence had budget surplus at one time too....

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.