You see, there was a time when Newburyport was very broke. Of course, everyone’s mind goes back to John Lagoulis’ tales of the 20’ and 30’s but the City also went broke in the early 60’s. The TV factory on Warren Street closed leaving some 3,000 employees out of work and shortly thereafter the Leather & Shoe factories ceased adding hundreds more. And the city found itself without a commercial base as workers had no money to use the Downtown services.
To understand how frightening that was, can you imagine if Anna Jaques Hospital, our largest employer decided to close up? Stabs of fear would ripple through our community. I thought of that as I read in the Newburyport Current that the hospital had just dodged a bullet in the latest round of mergers in the region. It would be devastating and on so many levels!
So you can understand that if you went through that, you would swear to do everything in your power to avoid seeing a repeat of that. Now you can get a hint of what goes through the mind of a ____ _____. It’s all about getting manufacturing back and most of all, getting lots of jobs returned to the City.
Unfortunately, our city is no longer setup to depend on manufacturing. Unlike similar cities nearby, the NRA/HUD development downtown transformed us into a heritage tourism economy. No longer assembly lines filled with minimally trained workers; the whole setup is to exploit in a good way, our historic assets. The strict exterior restrictions that NRA held until 2005 created a ripple affect that has spread throughout the entire City. (Which is why the LHD is everybody’s business.) Our dilapidated neighborhoods have been recharged by newcomers who came here seeking a higher quality of life rather than a seat at the conveyer belt.* Better real estate values has spurred better neighborhoods, better schools and one of the lowest crime rates in the region. Our tax resource is largely from this boost from heritage tourism NOT from manufacturing. Our jobs are often in Boston, Portsmouth, around the 95/495 area and many from telecommuting. In other words, it is less important as to where the job is as to where do you pay taxes.
Therefore, if we boost heritage tourism by promoting more advertising, more history, more visitors (of which statistically 14% tend to come back and live here.) and more recognition of the importance of protecting our historic assets; more money pours into the city. And more money pouring into the city will mean hundreds of tradesmen maintaining, servicing and upgrading our historic buildings.
On the reverse side, we should not be listening to a bunch of old timers who are still living in the past and who think the old economy is still in place. You’ve heard them. Probably heard them just today! Why can’t we focus on the industrial park – that’s where the money is! We need to focus on getting jobs in town! (Assuming if a job is in town it will be taken by a local resident who will pay taxes here.) Why are we wasting our time on a bunch of old buildings? We need more new construction! (Assuming the temporary construction workers drag their feet and milk the new buildings for all their worth.) Let’s replace these old buildings with new that fulfill the building codes! (Assuming Newburyport wants to transform itself into looking like the Sullivan Building and a smaller version of Peabody.)
Our city will not make money listening to false prophets who run on old memories (No dispersion intended on John Lagoulis and Joe Callahan.) and old failed economic systems. The facts point to eco-tourism and heritage tourism as our ticket to the future and historic preservation as the means to secure that ticket.
STOP LISTENING TO BAD ECONOMIC ADVICE!
PS. Stay tuned to Money, Money, Money, Part III.
* If you think I am a snob then shut up – I’ve worked for years in manufacturing in front of a conveyer belt!