The first Government Affairs Meeting of 2023 was held on Tuesday, January 10. The Chamber’s new CEO Steve Buckley, led the meeting discussion and gave a special update on Gloucester’s Downtown Management Organization Steering committee, which kicked off earlier this month. The Steering Committee is tasked with providing input and recommendations on a potential new organization that would work to enhance and manage Downtown Gloucester and its business community. This planning comes from a Technical Assistance Grant the City received to determine what model would work best for a Downtown Management Organization.
The Council also discussed details for their annual Economic Outlook Breakfast and Spring Caucus. Both of these events are important areas of the Chamber’s mission and community advocacy work. During the meeting, several members pointed out the MBTA multi family zoning that impacts all five greater Cape Ann communities. It was recommended that the Chamber keep a close eye on which communities will undergo re-zoning in order to comply with this new state regulation. If a municipality does not comply, they will no longer be eligible for funds from MassWorks, Local Capital Projects Funds, or the Housing Choice Initiative.
Later, Community Relations Director, Olivia Perez-O’Dess, gave an overview of the various updates within the five Greater Cape Ann Communities. Part of Olivia’s role is to attend municipal meetings and report back to Chamber leadership and the Council on areas the Chamber should be aware of. Highlights from Olivia’s community report from the late December early January time period:
- The Town of Essex is in the early planning stages of two new grant programs, a placemaking and off-season event. The off-season event will likely take place the weekend of May 19-21. Businesses are encouraged to share their event ideas to the Town. The Town’s placemaking plan will be finalized in May/June and will focus on improving pocket parks along the Causeway and areas by Town Hall.
- The City of Gloucester is applying for more grants that will positively impact the business community. Their existing grant funded pop-up program is being extended to March. Additionally, 26 businesses have successfully installed new signage, awnings, and sign related lighting as part of a grant award the city received in 2022.
- Manchester-by-the-Sea is looking for a Mass Works grant for infrastructure of the sewer line in the Limited Commercial District (LCD). This will help with the development of cell signals on the new corporate campus.
- Manchester’s Downtown Improvement Committee (DIC) shared the findings from their 2022 downtown parking study, which took place in on May 25 & July 16. One of the key findings was parking occupancy is consistently below 85% benchmark which shows adequate parking supply. A final parking study report will be available to view early 2023, including detailed recommendations for better utilization. One of the recommendations is the establishment of a shared parking agreement with the larger businesses, better defined parking spots and better promotion/utilization of the business parking program.
- In addition to Essex, Manchester has also received an off-season event grant. Taking place in March, The Town will build a temporary ice rink located in Masconomo Park.
The Government Affairs Council leads the Chamber’s focus on economic development and public policy, one of our key platforms. This Council meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 7:30 to 9 AM, and participation is open to any Chamber member with an interest in being engaged with our state and local government and helping foster a vibrant Cape Ann economy. Currently, those who are part of our monthly meetings include representatives from greater Cape Ann’s industrial, tourism, government, real estate, legal, non-profit and services sectors. To learn more or join in these meetings, please contact Steve Buckley, Olivia Perez – O’Dess or Bernie Romanowski. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14.
Staff, Government Affairs Council
and Director of Community Relations
Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce