EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 7, 2014

New president to push business agenda

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Newly-elected City Council President John Michiston said he will aggressively push his own economic development and job-creation agenda in the coming year.

“Economic forces are demanding that we revamp our current economic development capability,” Michitson told an overflow crowd at yesterday’s inauguration of new government officials. “I intend to make that happen.”

Michitson, an electrical engineer by trade, was elected president by his fellow councilors at the inauguration ceremony, as is Haverhill’s custom.

He resigned the council presidency in October 2012 after taking a new position at the Bedford-based MITRE Corporation that involved a heavy travel schedule, including leaving the country from time to time. The demands of that position have since lessened, he said.

Michitson recently led a competition for new companies that was designed to show that Haverhill welcomes new and small businesses as well as manufacturing companies. He also helped create a business incubator in the Burgess Business Center downtown, which is currently home to 32 small businesses.

In his speech, Michitson said the city needs more incentives to attract companies to the city’s business parks and to help small, one- and two-person companies.

“The global economy is changing dramatically,” said Michitson, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against James Fiorentini four years ago. “Large companies are developing partnerships for distribution, warehousing, and assembly to bring manufacturing back to the Unites States.”

In closing, Michitson called for the city to host a conference early in February to “organize the development of a comprehensive plan” designed to attract companies, add jobs and boost the city’s commercial and industrial tax base. He said the plan should be modeled after a similar comprehensive economic plan created by the city of Somerville.

Michitson said residents, local and regional governmental officials, and business and education leaders would be invited to the conference. The fruit of the conference, he said, would then be handed off to an independent steering committee to continue the effort. Financial support from the private sector would then be sought to hire a consultant to develop a master plan, based on direction from the steering committee, Michitson said.

“I hope this brief overview of what could be in Haverhill’s future is as exciting to you as it is to me,” Michitson told the audience. “That it imparts energy and excitement and makes clear my commitment to work toward achieving these goals.”

Councilor Robert Scatamacchia, who finished second in the Nov. 5 election to Michitson, was elected vice president of the council at yesterday’s ceremony. Scatamacchia has led the council since Michitson resigned the presidency 14 months ago.

In his brief speech, Scatamacchia said he would work to continue what he called “the downtown renaissance.”

“Those of us here 30 years ago remember a downtown with empty factory buildings and almost no retail,” Scatamacchia said.

As council president, Scatamacchia said he tried to foster an environment of civility and teamwork among councilors.

“The last two years there has been no politicking or headline grabbing or personal vendettas,” Scatamacchia said.

The new council’s first regular meeting of 2014 is tonight. All eight incumbents are back, except new-comer Melinda Barrett, who finished third in the election. She replaces veteran councilor Michael Hart, who did not seek re-election.