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February 23. 2013 1:25AM

Windham may join effort to get proactive in economic development of town, region

WINDHAM - Local planning officials are taking a gander at a new regional program aimed at encouraging growth and economic development by making the process run smoother for land owners and potential developers.

During Wednesday's planning board meeting, officials from the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC) shared an informative presentation on the new ReadySetGo program.

ReadySetGo is the first program of its kind in the region, according to SNHPC chief planner Jack Munn. The program operates on an optional basis, and it's always up to the discretion of towns whether they wish to participate or opt out, Munn said.

Working closely with Access Greater Manchester, a regional alliance of towns moving toward further growth and economic development. SNHPC officials are also partnering with nheconomy.com, Fair Point Communications, Centrix Bank, Public Service of New Hampshire and the state Commercial and Industrial Board of Realtors to further business development.

Currently, the region encompasses Auburn, Bedford, Candia, Chester, Deerfield, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Londonderry, Manchester, New Boston, Raymond, Weare and Windham.

"This is a program that helps recognize certified sites ... and promotes collaboration between applicants and municipalities," Munn said.

By listing local certified sites on national websites, program officials will work with companies and businesses seeking to relocate to the Granite State. Munn said the program's name, ReadySetGo, really says it all since the main goal is to market sites and buildings that have already gone through the local approval process.

"Essentially, these sites will be ready for development when someone wants to use them," Munn said. "The benefits are that this helps towns in the program gain greater exposure as new businesses and companies are drawn to our communities. This, in turn, leads to the creation of jobs and a growing tax base."

SNHPC said a certified site can be either land or an existing building on a parcel of land of an acre or more. Permitted uses could be industrial, office space, mixed use or a combination of those.

Munn told Windham planning officials that if they were interested in pursuing the program further, a public hearing would be recommended to get a better idea of how residents feel about things. SNHPC will post the program's new website over the coming weeks, officials said, and the site will include links to national certified site listings.

David Preece, executive director for SNHPC, said the program was developed in hopes that communities in the region will become more proactive in seeking economic development opportunities.

"If you know what type of development you'd like in your community and decide where you'd like to see it occur, that's a much better approach than waiting to see what comes your way," Preece said. "With this program you can bring in companies that would be the most appropriate match for the town of Windham."

SNHPC is reaching out to planning officials in other towns. Sheldon Wolff, a local property owner and Realtor, said he has high hopes for the new program.

"It sounds very proactive for property owners as it gives them the availability to sell on their own terms," he said.

Windham planning staff said they would discuss the option further during an upcoming meeting.



aguilmet@newstote.com



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