MANCHESTER, NH — More than 100 people turned out Wednesday night for the opening of Mayor Joyce Craig’s campaign office at 264 Mammoth Road.
The mayor briefly addressed the crowd, outlining the progress the city has made in education, economic development and the opioid crisis in the 1½ years she’s been in office.
She said the city has moved forward, not because of her, but because of the collaboration with businesses and non-profits that allowed the city to “tackle some serious challenges.”
She gave credit to Manchester Proud, a group of business leaders who have raised $500,000 to hire a consulting firm to map out a strategic plan for the city’s schools, based on community feedback, because they decided public education was critical to the city’s future success.
“So I am so grateful for what they are doing,” she said.
Additionally, she said the school district also received a $10.3 million grant over the next seven years to help seventh- and eighth-grade students get an understanding of what college is all about and what courses to take to prepare for college and for the workforce.
“We’re preparing our students now for the success in the future and that’s really a fantastic thing,” she said to loud applause.
When she first took office, Craig said she visited businesses across the city, and one of those was Velcro where she learned they were having a hard time finding a talented workforce. So together they came up with an idea for Velcro University based at Manchester West High School. Velcro’s employees go to the school and teach a quality curriculum, both hard and soft skills, and the students, she said, have the opportunity for a paid summer internship or a permanent position when they graduate.
“So it’s a win-win,” she said. “It’s so successful that we are implementing Eversource Academy at Central in the fall.”
On the economic development front, Craig pointed to hotels going up in the city, BAE bringing 800 high-paying jobs to Manchester and residential housing on Elm Street.
She said for the first time since the opiate epidemic began, 2018 saw a decline in overdose deaths. She said it is known that people who suffer from substance abuse disorder oftentimes suffer from mental illness and homelessness.
Manchester, she said, is a compassionate community but instead of giving the homeless money and food, which helps them continue to live on the street, she said the city wants to get them into shelters where they can be safe and get the help they need.
“Shelters are being opened during the day and we’re helping with renovations so people feel safe,” she said.
The mayor said it is a serious issue that the city has been contending with for years and not one that is going to be solved overnight.