Newport leaders embracing Sunshine InitiativeBy DAMIEN FISHER
Union Leader Correspondent
September 23. 2018 10:05PM
NEWPORT — Local leaders will meet with state and federal representatives today as part of Newport’s Sunshine Initiative to strengthen the town and grow it economically.
The initiative was started this year by Jay Lucas, a Newport native who now runs a consulting firm in New York.
“It’s all about revitalizing Newport,” Lucas said. “I’m a Newport guy.”
Lucas grew up in a house off Newport’s iconic town common, next to the Richards Free Library. After a recent visit back to his hometown, Lucas saw the once vibrant town struggling and decided to do something about it.
Starting with a dozen people, the Newport Sunshine Initiative has blossomed to include 150 to 175 people active in making changes to the town. The biggest program going is the digital training program for high school students, and others. Lucas has three digital firms in New York willing to train people up on digital skills for web creation and other trades, he said.
The trainees will be able to live in Newport throughout their training, and they should be able to find work online and continue to live in Newport with good paying digital jobs.
“We want to give the town an economic boost,” he said.
Other projects include developing a mill building into apartments and a restaurant, opening a brew pub, partnerships with local employers to create internships and other training positions, as well as developing a bus service to link Newport with the Upper Valley region of Hanover and Lebanon.
Lucas also plans to hire an economic liaison to work with industry and the school system to get Newport students ready to work. About two-thirds of Newport High School graduates do not go on to college, so job readiness is a vital necessity, he said.
The group is set to meet Monday with representatives from U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, River Valley Community College, New Hampshire’s Stay-Work-Play, and many other organizations.
Lucas said this will help Newport people connect with organizations that can help develop the plans for Newport’s revitalization.
“Making that human connection is really important,” he said.
Lucas wants to have a list of action items after Monday’s meeting to be able to make progress on the many projects the Sunshine Initiative is starting.