By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt will ask the City Council tonight to approve the creation of a new position devoted to attracting and maintaining businesses in Peabody.
“I want the city to be business-friendly,” the mayor said in an interview. “This is something I talked about when I campaigned.”
Currently, Bettencourt explained, businesses seeking permits must make the rounds to various city departments for approval. That often includes the building inspector, health director, fire and police departments, and the city clerk.
“The permitting process in the city can be cumbersome,” he said.
The mayor sees the new arrangement providing “one-stop shopping,” with the new liaison helping to guide businesspeople through the governmental maze. “This would be the person they would go to.”
The business liaison would earn from $45,500 to $58,500 a year, according to Bettencourt, but “it will have no impact on the budget.” The individual chosen would become part of the Community Development Department, taking a position that became vacant over the summer due to a resignation. “It’s a budget-neutral move.”
Council President Jim Liacos reacted enthusiastically to the idea, applauding it as a wise investment. If the business liaison can bring one taxpaying business to the city, he said, “that person pays for his or her position. I think it’s great.”
“I don’t know financially what the impact will be,” said Councilor Tom Gould, a businessman himself — he runs Treadwell’s Ice Cream on Margin Street. “But I think it’s a great thing. The one thing we need in this community is more business.”
Attracting new business, particularly in the downtown, has long been a city goal. Moreover, the city is nicely situated among several major highways, making it an attractive business location.
The responsibilities of the business liaison were outlined in a memo to the council. The new employee would be expected to establish “a streamlined permitting system so as to provide seamless, ‘one-stop shopping’ for all business looking to grow/expand/relocate within the city.”
The focus of the liaison’s concern would be the downtown, as well as Centennial Park and Route 1. The person taking the job would also be expected to work with government agencies on the local, state and federal level. Additionally, the mayor envisions an effort that enlists the support of the Peabody and North Shore chambers of commerce.
Requirements for applicants include a master’s degree in a field like business or planning, as well as five years of experience working in local government, preferably in the field of community development.