Selectmen Candidates Speak Out on Economic Development
Sears, Sullivan and Biewener share their thoughts on how to spur growth in Tewksbury.
One doesn't have to have a degree in economics to understand that the only true way to keep residential property taxes under control is to broaden the tax base and encourage commercial economic growth.
But a quick drive down Route 38 reveals numerous vacant buildings and storefronts, a sign that growth has been stagnant, at best, in recent years.
We asked the three candidates for the Board of Selectmen for their views on stimulating economic growth in Tewksbury.
"When I moved here in 1999, business was thriving," said challenger Jim Biewener. "But you look now and the Purity Supreme building is still empty and the building behind Piccadilly Pub is half full. (Tewksbury) hasn't been very business-friendly."
Biewener said he supports the concept and objectives of the Economic Development Committee but said he wants to make sure that it is comprised of the "right people."
"I don't know what the makeup of the committee is right now but I'd like to see it re-tooled," said Biewener, who said he would like to see people with strong backgrounds in real estate, Small Business Administration programs and community banking on the committee.
Biewener also said he does not want to see Tewksbury adopt the Hotel and Restaurant surtax.
"I think any time you increase taxes, people are going to go elsewhere," he said.
Challenger Ed Sullivan agreed that Tewksbury has not created the type of climate to attract job-producing businesses.
"They haven't welcomed any types of R&D and commercial businesses with open arms," said Sullivan. "They scared Demoulas off and it went over to Andover. The problem is, people are always saying, ;not in my backyard.'"
Sullivan said there will always be small businesses popping up in town because of Route 38 but that it will take more aggressive and creative approach in attracting larger employers.
"The mom and pop stores don't generate traffic. They're there because the traffic is already there," said Sullivan. "We have some areas where we could have some R&D type businesses. Bankers aren't going to come in and invest in a ghost town.
"We have to welcome these businesses with open arms," he said, pointing to Wilmington as an example of a community with a business-friendly approach. "Without that (commercial) tax base, the tax burden has to fall on someone."
Incumbent Doug Sears says he would like the town to hire consultants, who job it would be recruit businesses to Tewksbury. Sears said the positions would more than pay for themselves through the additional tax revenue generated.
"We need someone who is going to go out and beat the bushes and get paid for brining in business," said Sears, who agreed with his opponents that the community has not been business-friendly.
"We're got kind of a 'pro pizza shop' but 'anti-Gillette,' kind of attitude," said Sears, explaining that he believes pressure from residents discouraged Gillette and Demoulas from doing business in Tewksbury.
"We've got to change our mindset from what it was 10 years ago," he said. "Along those lines, we have to be more like Wilmington.
Voters go to the polls on Saturday, April 2.