SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 24, 2014

Column: Reflecting on the Brimbal Avenue development plans

I have served on the ECDC for more than 10 years. Through this term my understanding of its mission has been to promote economic development and a strong economic base in Beverly, providing diverse employment opportunities embracing an expanding and reliable source of income for our labor force. This mission is viewed in decidedly proactive terms, often transcending both regulatory and political prescription in order to advance a strategy that will fulfill Beverly’s Master Plan as delineated in its present zoning bylaws. During this period there have been three central issues which have dominated the ECDC agenda:

The development of the Beverly waterfront;

The revitalization of Beverly’s Cabot and Rantoul Street corridor; and

The planned development of the Route 128 commercial/industrial district.

The relative emphases accorded to these priorities has inevitably reflected the current and anticipated status of Beverly’s economic health.

A demographic and economic profile of Beverly’s population and economic condition over the past 20 years reflects a period of little growth but a profound change in the character of its population and economic base. For example:

Total population remains essentially unchanged at 39,000 to 40,000 people;

An aging population;

A decline in population under 18 years of age and a corresponding expansion of the population over 65;

A continuing decline in household size;

An employment base of 21,280 jobs in 1990 and 21,731 jobs in 2013;

Labor force of 20,193 in 1990 and 20,441 in 2013;

A manufacturing base employing only 6.8 percent of the labor force;

A current labor force comprised largely of professional, educational, health and governmental services with government employment at 10.3 percent of the labor force;

An unemployment rate spiking to 7.5 percent in 2009 and currently reported at 6 percent, nearly triple the rate of unemployment at the turn of the century.

One thing is very clear: we experienced a very serious recession in the early 1990s, and a significant recovery in the late 1990s through 2001. This recovery was due in large measure to the job growth attributed to Cummings Properties and Electric Insurance Company, more than compensating for an otherwise adverse job trend. The trends from 2001 to 2008 have been marked by the globalization and deregulation of our national and regional economies, producing a period of regional economic uncertainty.

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