Business leaders: ARP plan will help Manchester’s economy recover and grow

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O P I N I O N

THE SOAPBOX

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The $43 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding allocated to the City of Manchester represents a unique and rare opportunity for the city to accelerate its short-term recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while also potentially positioning the city for long-term prosperity. Recently, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen took a positive first step in this process by giving initial approval to a comprehensive plan to allocate the first installment of the city’s ARP funding.

The comprehensive plan, based in part on input from community members and key stakeholders, addresses several key priorities including affordable housing, community health initiatives and homeless outreach, and aid to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. As business leaders who want to see Manchester bounce back stronger from the impacts of the pandemic, we are encouraged that the proposed plan allocates funds both strategically and in a targeted manner to key areas of opportunity and investment. 

We are particularly encouraged that the plan targets funding towards areas that will return economic value in both the near and long term. Examples of this are investments that will generate or support job growth, stimulate economic activity and expansion, and strengthen the City’s ability to attract and retain its workforce. Some of the priorities we specifically highlighted to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and are pleased to see included in the proposed plan include:

Re-establishing a Manchester Economic Development Office – As the largest city in Northern New England, investing in economic development staff and resources sends an important and positive message about the City’s business climate and will support the recovery and growth of our economy coming out of the pandemic.

Offer Targeted Small Business Grants to Support Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency – The Small Business Resiliency Grant program offered by the city during the pandemic is a great success story and replicating that program with ARP funding will continue to support small business recovery across the city. These grants can be used for future business planning and capacity building or to recover investments made on COVID-19 prevention and mitigation would provide businesses with critical support during an important period of recovery and rebuilding.

Branding/Promotion Strategy Modernization & Supporting Manchester Boston Regional Airport – the airport is a key economic driver of the City and State and a gateway for tens of thousands of visitors to support local businesses. Manchester can seize immediate opportunities in the post-pandemic air service development competition by making smart investments aimed at incentivizing carriers to expand or initiate service in this market. Using ARP funds to support city-wide and airport driven marketing and promotion efforts to attract new or expanded air service options is a smart investment as expanded air service brings in millions in economic activity to the local economy.

Support workforce attraction and retention through incentives for the development of affordable and accessible housing businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, are struggling to hire workers. Strengthening the City’s workforce is a key opportunity to support both short-term business recovery and long-term economic vitality. More accessible and affordable housing options is one critical strategy the city can pursue to grow its workforce.

Identify key infrastructure, mobility, and placemaking projects from City’s longrange planning documents that qualify for ARP funding – ARP funds can provide a rare opportunity to advance projects that often take years to advance to completion. To the extent that funding guidelines allow, placemaking, mobility, and infrastructure improvements like sidewalks, Millyard/downtown walkability, modern signage, and riverfront improvements are investments that warrant consideration and will return economic and quality of life value. The City’s new Master Plan and other community-driven planning documents include a variety of potential ideas and projects to consider.

By taking a long-term investment-minded approach to deploying ARP funding, the City of Manchester can help ensure not only a quick recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic but also that strategic opportunities to enhance the long-term economic vitality of the community are realized and achieved.

Our thanks for the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen for moving the proposed plan to allocate ARP funds forward and the Chamber and business community encourages the Board to give final approval to this plan as soon as possible so these funds can begin to put into action and help our community recover and our economy to grow. 

Michael Skelton

President & CEO

Greater Manchester Chamber


These business leaders signed on to a previously submitted letter of support to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to note their specific support for these recommendations:

  • Nathan Saller, Bellwether Community Credit Union
  • Arthur Sullivan, Brady Sullivan Properties
  • Dick Anagnost, Anagnost Companies
  • Chris Norwood, NAI Norwood Group
  • Mike Harrington, Harrington and Company
  • Paul Mailhot, ARMI
  • Mike Decelle, UNH Manchester
  • Josh Wright, Wells Fargo
  • Bill Brewster, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
  • Liz Hitchcock, Orbit Group
  • Cathy Schmidt, Mclane Middleton
  • Ron Covey, St. Mary’s Bank
  • Preston Hunter, Eckman Construction
  • Pete Lachance, Altair Group
  • Genella McDonald, Stibler Associates
  • Alex Horton, Café La Reine
  • Joe Raczka, York IE
  • Trinnie Houghton, Sojourn Partners
  • Kris McCracken, Amoskeag Health
  • Donna Gamache, Eversource Energy
  • Scott Spradling, The Spradling Group
  • Keri Laman, Tidewater Catering
  • Travis York, GYK Antler
  • John Kacavas, Dartmouth Hitchcock-Health
  • Matt Cookson, Cookson Communications
  • Nick Soggu, Silvertech
  • Jack Middleton, Mclane Middleton
  • EJ Powers, Montagne Communications