PREVEY – Traffic, Parking, Mentoring, Marketing And Long Term Growth
Today we post the answer to our Mayoral question from challenger Paul Prevey. The question was as follows.
“Salem has drawn a lot of new residents and restaurants to its downtown over the last ten or more years and continues to do so. Do you have thoughts on what can be done to attract small to medium sized professional, non-food or hospitality related businesses to Salem?”
I would focus on ensuring that our downtown is in the best possible position to support more small businesses. It is critical that large scale development does not interfere with consumers and workers ability to access and park downtown. Traffic and parking has turned into the number one issue for businesses and is now the determining factor in whether or not residents and visitors will go downtown. I would speak with the leaders of other communities who, like Salem have thriving downtowns. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, but we do need to work together as a region. All of these communities, including Salem, offer unique and wonderful experiences just minutes away from Boston. They also share many of the challenges and obstacles that Salem does as well. As Mayor, I would make it clear to the Salem Chamber and small business owners that Salem is committed to addressing traffic and parking now and in the future. Sharing ideas that work in other communities like Beverly, Newburyport, and Gloucester help to create a road map of success by making shoring up confidence in businesses looking to make long-term investment in business growth. These businesses poised to make such long-term investments should view the city as a committed partner. With that goal in mind, the City can also provide additional support and guidance in the permitting process so it becomes an easy and seamless part of doing business in Salem.
I would work to grow the Chamber of Commerce and make it more inclusive. Although the Chamber is an autonomous, private non-profit, it can play a pivotal role by acting as a liaison and partner between the City and small businesses. In that regard it can also help to facilitate and recommend action that needs to be taken on both parts to improve Salem as a destination for small business. I would encourage businesses to be vocal about situations that are hindering growth or deterring other businesses from locating to Salem. Conversely it’s important that these same businesses, help to identify areas that have helped in making their business successful in the City. Communication is key when it comes to improving the downtown for our small businesses; The City cannot address what it does not know needs improvement.
I agree that Salem has a thriving hospitality and food service industry in its downtown and can always benefit from a more diverse business community. If we are interested in attracting certain types of businesses, then it’s important to start working with the Northshore and Salem Chamber to do two things. The first would be to start a mentoring program for those businesses already eyeing Salem as a destination. This would be a program that would allow experienced business owners to share their knowledge and help a new business owner to navigate the red tape involved in starting a new business here. “Doing Business In Salem” is a great guide, but for the first-time business owner it can be overwhelming and may not be applicable to their own circumstances. Having a mentor in a similar line of work would help the new business owner to cut through the red tape and feel confident in their decisions. The second thing I would do is have Salem’s Community Development Team reach out to the Salem and Northshore Chambers to network with unique businesses that could help diversify our community. Unique or cutting-edge businesses could prove very helpful to inspire other businesses who are looking to expand into new areas of growth and productivity.
Lastly I would work closely with our state delegation, Senator Lovely and Representative Tucker to insure that Salem businesses are taking full advantages of all the state programs that are available. Salem is a community in a unique socio-economic position to qualify for grants and other incentives that could be instrumental in improving our downtown. TIF programs are great at bringing in technology, healthcare, and industries not dependent on tourism. Looking at ways to market the City through those opportunities would provide an attractive environment. Such efforts would help to sustain many businesses that see a huge decrease in business when tourists leave for the season. As Mayor, I would make sure that none of those opportunities are left on the table.