Dead or alive?
Is the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council dead?
“The organization is essentially defunct,” City Manager Bernie Lynch said to the City Council Tuesday night. “It has been for a period of time.”
Lynch, who is an ex-officio member of the council’s board, made his comments during a discussion of a controversial letter the council sent in 2010 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of the crest-gate system proposed for the Pawtucket Dam.
On Friday morning, Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council President David Tibbetts said his group is very much alive.
“This is Dave Tibbetts from the decidedly not-defunct Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council,” Tibbetts said to begin a conversation with a Sun reporter.
In a separate interview with another Sun writer, Kendall Wallace, The Sun’s chairman of the board and council co-founder and current co-chair, also made that perfectly clear. Wallace further noted the council is preparing for its annual meeting on May 11 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center and it recently got a funding boost.
Tibbetts assumed comments at the council meeting about his group must have been made by Pawtucketville residents opposed to the crest-gate system at the dam.
When told it was Lynch who called his group defunct, Tibbetts said: “It is appalling Bernie said that because Bernie should have got an email reminder this week for the annual meeting in May at UMass Lowell’s Inn and Conference.”
“I guess we will be reaching out to the city manager and letting him know we are not defunct.”
When told of Tibbetts’ comment, Lynch said the council hasn’t met in several years and its executive director, former Westford town manager Robert Halpin, resigned a couple years ago.
“I just assumed it was defunct, or perhaps dormant,” Lynch said. “It’s good to hear the council is back in business.”
Tibbetts later acknowledged that he was using an email address for Lynch that hasn’t been used in about four years.
Tibbetts said the group’s 24-member executive committee typically meets four times a year and its full board, made up of a number of municipal managers and elected officials, meets two-to-three times annually. Along with Wallace, the council’s other co-chair is Lawrence lawyer Vincent Manzi Jr.
This past September, the group held a meeting at the ICC focused on arts and culture. State Sen. Eileen Donoghue was the keynote speaker, and L.Z. Nunn, the then-head of COOL, also spoke.
The economic development council serves 24 cities and towns and promotes collaboration among public and private sector leaders.
It has been a strong backer of the I-93 Interchange at Lowell Junction, where the towns of Andover, Wilmington and Tewksbury intersect. Brian Martin, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’s district director, made a presentation on the project at a recent council meeting.
The council, as the state-recognized regional economic development agency, also works to help businesses expand in the Merrimack Valley or work with companies to move here, said Tibbetts.
Tibbetts said the council did lose their state funding in 2008 during the economic downturn, as did other regional economic development agencies. But last November the council was awarded an $85,000 grant from the Mass. Office of Business Development.
The council keeps a lean staff. The other employee is an Steve St. Arnault, an economic development consultant, and its annual budget is $157,000. Halpin, its former executive director, leads a chamber of commerce in the Metro-West region. Recently, Halpin unsuccessfully sought the Burlington town manager’s job, as Robert Mercier, a Tyngsboro resident, is retiring.
Thanks to City Hall Reporter Lyle Moran for assistance on this entry.
Don’t miss The Sunday Column for more information about the economic development council’s controversial letter to FERC.Explore posts in the same categories: The Column