Dartmouth addresses economic development strategy

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Using Community Compact grant funds, Dartmouth recently completed an Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool study with the Dukakis Center at Northeastern University.
The town was looking to “build upon economic development assets and promote collaboration between public officials and business leaders,” said Town Planner John Hansen.
Town Administrator David Cressman said the town likes “to benchmark Dartmouth against other communities, and we like to explore data.” He said the Community Compact grant offered “a good way to meld them together.”
Hansen said the study covers everything that a company would consider when deciding whether to come to a certain town, including labor statistics, education, quality of life, tax rates and infrastructure.
Various town departments collaborated on answering the questions in the survey before submitting it for analysis by the Dukakis Center. The tool compares Dartmouth to every town that has used the Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool and comes up with comparable statistics that identify weaknesses, or “deal-breakers,” and strengths, or “dealmakers.”
“There are certain things Dartmouth does very well,” Cressman said. “We have a fairly efficient permitting process, low taxes relative to other communities, and rents for business facilities are on the low side. We have sites for development, a good school system, and a group of skilled and educated workers.”
The deal-breakers will help the town formulate a strategy for moving forward. The study suggests forging a relationship with the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce and expanding the town website, which received high marks in the study. The study identified Dartmouth’s somewhat remote access to the city of Boston and major airports as weaknesses.
“Of course we can’t relocate the town,” Hansen said, “but we can look at public transit options.”
“The Select Board and planning and finance boards were thrilled that we had taken this initiative and shared the results with the community,” Cressman said. “And I think it has sparked interest in doing more development in the town.”
The next steps include building a marketing strategy to better work with current local businesses and bring in new businesses. In order to promote the “dealmakers” and fix the “deal-breakers,” the town is working on getting feedback from all local businesses about why they came to Dartmouth and the challenges they face due to location, Hansen said.
The study and resulting communications “opens up collaboration among various business organizations,” Hansen said.