MANCHESTER, N.H. – Just a few months ago the City of Manchester’s Economic Development Department had no employees. Now it’s welcoming its second one.
Recently, the city welcomed New Hampshire Fisher Cats Vice President of Business Development Erik Lesniak to become the new business liaison for the City of Manchester’s Economic Development Department, joining new director Jodie Nazaka after her hire as the department’s director.
Lesniak had worked for the Fisher Cats throughout their entire existence in New Hampshire, moving up with the franchise from its prior stop in Connecticut. Over those years, he met hundreds of business owners across New Hampshire, particularly in Manchester. Even though Lesniak’s old job is similar to his to where he is now even though it was located in the entertainment industry rather than the public sector, Nazaka believes the personal connections Lesniak made with the Fisher Cats make him a perfect fit for his new role, which basically boils down to talking with local business owners and seeing what their businesses need to grow and prosper.
“I’ve known Eric through the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and some of the events run by the city and when I heard he was interested in the position, it was a no-brainer,” said Nazaka.
“I mean, his connection to the community, not only the public itself, but the business community, is spectacular. He was able to start on Day One and hit the ground running due to those connections. He’s been an added asset to this department and the entire city,” she said.
“This is a truly unique opportunity to be directly involved in the success of something major like the city itself and be on the forefront of building its vibrancy over the next five or ten years,” said Lesniak.
Still, Lesniak hasn’t met every single business owner in the city, something he wants to rectify if possible.
“What really excites me is that there are a lot of great business owners in the city, with many I know and many I don’t know, and there’s a great opportunity to get out there and build even deeper relationships or establish new ones out there,” he said. “I think it’s exciting that I can just walk down the street on the East Side or go to the West Side or the South Side and go visit somewhere and say ‘Hey, how are you doing? Our office is open, here’s what we do, anything you need, let us know.’”
Nazaka described herself and Lesniak as “walking billboards” for the city’s business community while also serving to support local businesses navigate local, state and federal government requirements and opportunities, with Lesniak now focusing as the department’s “boots on the ground” while Nazaka focuses on higher-level strategy.
It remains unclear whether or not the department will survive after 2026, after which the American Rescue Plan Act funding currently sustaining the department will run out and dedicated funding from the city’s general fund will be needed.
However, Nazaka and Lesniak feel confident that the worth of the department can be established in that time frame, with Nazaka believing Lesniak will be the first of several new employees to help foster Manchester’s business community.
“The end game is to grow Manchester and continue to add to a vibrance that we have as well as drawing more people and businesses to be a part of it,” said Lesniak.