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October 27. 2013 11:45PM

Aldermen to discuss plan for economic development office

MANCHESTER — City aldermen are scheduled to hear a report Tuesday night on plans to create a group that will draft a new five-year plan for the Manchester Economic Development Office.

Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen gets underway at 7:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

The idea behind the proposal is to create a blueprint for William Craig, the city's new economic development director, to follow moving forward. Craig, a former policy director for Gov. Maggie Hassan, was appointed to the position earlier this month.

"I think Mr. Craig is going to be an asset to us for an awfully long time," said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Craig's father, former House Minority Leader Jim Craig of Manchester, was recently named state labor commissioner by Hassan.

New post

William Craig started in the director's position earlier this month at an annual salary of $67,890.40, according to the mayor's office.

Craig takes the reins after a series of events that saw the city's Economic Development Office brought under the auspices of the mayor's office in May, only to have aldermen reverse that decision in September, saying they wanted to avoid politicizing the office.

Gatsas had argued repeatedly that his office was suited to oversee the goals of job creation and bringing business to Manchester, while questioning the usefulness and expense of keeping economic development chief as a staff position. Those opinions drew concerns from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and other members of the business community, and the aldermen decided to keep the staff position.

Drafting a plan

The proposal to be discussed Tuesday night lays out a framework for residents, city officials and business owners to work together to draft a five-year plan. The group would consist of: four city residents, one each from Wards 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12; Craig; representatives from the Manchester Development Corporation, the city's Chamber of Commerce and Intown Manchester; and a staffer from the city's Planning and Community Development department.The aldermen are scheduled to hear a report recommending that a proposal from Studio 550 to paint traffic signal boxes in the downtown area with local works of art be approved for five such boxes, located at the intersections of Bridge and Elm streets, Concord and Elm, Hanover and Elm, Merrimack and Elm, and Granite and Elm.

Dubbed the "Think Outside the Box" program, the idea is to beautify signal boxes that often end up being targeted by graffiti artists, turning them into metallic canvasses to celebrate local artists. Sponsors contribute $500 a year, which covers a stipend for the artist, materials and upkeep for the sponsored utility box, and a plaque bearing the name of the sponsor.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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