Viewpoint: The mysterious EDA revealed


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Unless you wake before 7:30 a.m. and haul your sleepy self down to Peterborough Town Hall the fourth Tuesday of each month, you probably don’t know what that mysterious entity known as the “EDA” does. You might realize that EDA stands for Economic Development Authority. However, as Chair George Sterling likes to say, “We do no development and we have no authority.” Nevertheless, we’ve done a heckuva lot this past year.

For instance, have you caught a movie at Peterborough Community Theatre lately and been wowed by the awesome video of our town during the previews? That was a project initiated by the EDA. Have you seen the clear plastic mailboxes with green “Why Move to Peterborough?” brochures on the kiosks and beside store doorways? Those are from the EDA. And we’ve given the brochures to employers trying to attract workforce to town and to Realtors and mortgage lenders selling homes here. We put together a complementary website at www.peterboroughworks.org and an EDA Facebook page we promote to potential new residents as well. And below is our just-released Common Pathway map.

We invited officials from various universities to town: SNHU, Antioch, KSC, NCC and others. Our presentations emphasized the high value placed on education here, and the lack of nearby training facilities for area manufacturers and other employers. Fingers crossed, it looks like we’ll soon see a commitment by Nashua Community College to open a campus here to serve the Contoocook Valley and northern Massachusetts area. And we’re still working with Franklin Pierce and other area universities to integrate their students and alumnae into our workforce.

You probably could guess that attracting workers and young families are top priorities for area employers. EDA members helped the Master Plan economic development committee interview 24 of them recently. We’ll be continuing interviews until we reach all 300 of them. And we’re convening a discussion on workforce issues with area employers all the way from Hillsborough to Jaffrey.

Did you attend the Welcome Team Meet and Greet last November or February? The EDA helped support these events and hosts the Welcome Team website. As people move to town, we add them to our list of home businesses and telecommuters. We’re still working on how best to engage this group into town in ways that build “stickiness.”

We’ve helped the Chamber of Commerce train area businesses in marketing themselves on the state’s VisitNH.gov website. And we supported the Chamber’s effort to list a Monadnock Scenic Byway route that will promote tourism.

But not every effort has succeeded. The toughest tasks we’ve tackled are improving broadband/cell access and increasing moderately priced housing. You might not realize, at first glance, how intertwined these are. You see, when you have an area where only 60 percent has access to good internet speeds, it raises housing prices on the homes that “have.” It leaves the “have-nots” in towns like Greenfield and Harrisville and in the outlying areas of other towns, with housing that most young people won’t buy, regardless the price.

We’re meeting June 5 with seven other towns and area legislators to consider a regional approach to the telecommunications problem. Meanwhile, if you voted, you may have helped to pass the overlay zone intended to ease housing construction. We’ll be monitoring how this works out. We’ll also be reviewing the Housing chapter that a Master Plan subcommittee is drafting now.

Watching the results of such policy changes is important. It helps the EDA meet our last goal: Retain the Monadnock aesthetic. After all, what good is economic development if we destroy the reason we live here in the first place?

One last mystery, though, is who makes the work of the EDA happen? The answer could be you. Some members of the EDA attend the monthly meeting. But committees are where most work of the EDA is done. If you have marketing, business or other relevant experience and would like to help out, we welcome you. We need you! Come join the mysterious teams gathering in the Town Hall, to build a vibrant community. If you want to join or give us feedback, write to ocd@peterboroughnh.gov. For committee meetings, we won’t even ask you show up at the crack of dawn!

Jeanne Dietsch is chair of the Peterborough EDA’s Strategic Planning and Broadband Committees.