To the editor:
Amesbury is at a critical crossroads with the upcoming election and fundamental differences exist between the candidates regarding the way precious tax dollars are spent and levied. But one of the few areas where all candidates seem to agree is the critical importance of broadening our tax base by increasing commercial/industrial tax revenue to reduce the burden on our over-burdened residential taxpayers.
In the interest of trying to entice businesses to move to Amesbury, the city has done a good job over the years with providing valuable commercial space for economic development, including the Bailey’s Pond/Terrasphere project, the Route 110-150 truck stop and the Golden Triangle. The problem is, today, these parcels remain essentially vacant. Even brand-new structures in high traffic areas like the building that went up with the new CVS on Main Street remain vacant. The fact of the matter is that Amesbury is awash in vacant commercial property.
The mayoral debate of Oct. 9 brought out what I believe to be critically important fundamental differences between the two candidates in this regard. Both candidates were asked to comment on how they would encourage business development. The mayor responded first by highlighting how he would make sure that all the various department heads would sit down with the business owners to ensure a smooth incorporation into our town. Ken Gray, on the other hand, spoke about how vital it is to actively identify who may be inclined to move to the area, and to actively seek them out. The mayor’s approach is a typical reactive stance that depends largely on businesses discovering us. Ken Gray’s strategy, on the other hand, is a proactive approach that has us discovering and courting them. The added advantage with Mr. Gray is that he is an engineer, inventor, business creator and owner, with customers that span the globe. Ken speaks the language of business, he understands their needs, what attracts them to cities ... and more importantly, what repels them.
The naive attitude of “if you build it, they will come” has proven over and over again to be a fallacy. In fact, the annual new growth of Amesbury’s tax base has been in a free fall over the past six years, going from $50,778,000 in 2007 to a paltry $14,162,000 in 2013 (city bond prospectus, city assessor, and FY2014 city budget). The preponderance of vacant commercial properties is proof positive, and it’s the residential taxpayers and school system who’ve been left holding the bag. This must stop.
While it’s clear we need to attract business to Amesbury to reduce our tax burden, it’s equally clear that a proactive approach by a high tech and business savvy mayor is vastly superior to an entrenched five-term politician sitting around waiting for businesses to discover us.
That’s why I support Ken Gray for mayor of Amesbury.