Amesbury is a small city tucked into the northeast corner of the state, but it’s becoming a big player in the economic development of this region.
The latest – and biggest – part of that picture came this year with groundbreaking for Maples Crossing, the multi-rink hockey complex planned for South Hunt Road. That $70 million project that will bring scores of jobs, millions in tax revenue and probably tens of thousands of visitors for hockey games, tournaments, skating competitions and, eventually, a hotel on the site.
Nearby, Kearsarge Energy’s solar array at South Martin and South Hunt roads is expected to be generating 4.5 megawatts of electricity by the end of the year. That’s on top of the 6 megawatt Citizens’ Energy facility that’s up and running, making Amesbury a major producer of clean electricity from solar cells.
And a vote by residents this year approved a new Amesbury elementary school, which will put one facet of the Amesbury schools well into the 21st century in terms of educational space, technology and school security. The tax revenue from Maples Crossing will help pay for that $60 million school in the coming decades.
These projects — and this progress — are happening under the watch of Mayor Ken Gray. Early in his time in office Gray worked for the revitalization of the Hampton Inn, which is now a plus for the city in an area that needs the hotel rooms for growing demands from tourism and businesses. And when it comes to businesses, the owner of CI Works credits Gray for creating the kind of environment that attracts companies like CI Works, and the hundreds of jobs they can bring.
It’s also worth noting that, after three decades of inaction and delays, the cleanup of the abandoned Microfab Superfund site got underway this year.
In addition, as the public learned more in the past two years about the tremendous pollution that flows into the Merrimack River from outdated or overloaded sewage treatment plants upriver, residents throughout the Merrimack Valley have called on state lawmakers and our members of Congress to seek funding, set up notification systems and raise awareness of this continuing problem. Gray was at the forefront among local officials who pushed for quicker notification and more accountability by the treatment plant operators to taxpayers who were demanding to know when and where these combined sewer overflows were happening.
Gray’s challenger, Kassandra Gove, has been an excellent emissary for the city of Amesbury and its businesses, most notably taking the city to the finals of a national contest that could have won Amesbury a major promotional campaign.
The city finished out the money, but not for lack of trying by Gove, who rallied residents and businesses and helped bring very positive visibility for Amesbury.
But in this year’s mayoral race, experience and accomplishments — and an eye on the future — count for a lot. Gray has those and has shown he can work with the City Council to lure new businesses to town, bringing in tax revenue and good jobs.
Amesbury has its problems, like every community. The turnover of downtown businesses is a constant concern, as the city works to get the visibility that might bring in more tourism, seasonal visitors and aficionados of art and restaurants — two things that have taken root downtown.
The rising cost of housing and health insurance which impact residents throughout eastern Massachusetts leave many people struggling just to get by. Gray has said he’s well aware of the challenges Amesbury residents face, and he sees economic development, and the tax revenue and jobs it creates as major elements to raise all boats, so to speak.
Gray’s leadership has benefited the residents of Amesbury. Ken Gray deserves another two years as the city’s mayor.