Belfast economic development keeps conservation in mind

Dec 06, 2012

“What are you doing to make Belfast a healthy, sustainable community with open space and protected wildlands for wildlife and humans, while developing business opportunities and creating jobs for economic sustainability?”

This was the question Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition asked Thomas Kittredge, Belfast’s Economic Development Director. His answer was to balance economic development with what makes Belfast unique — its quality of life. Thomas is working to attract three types of business to Belfast — new economy businesses, knowledge-based workers and entrepreneurs.

These types of businesses are not looking for amenities Belfast does not have, like certain locations, transportation or large facilities. Rather, these are owned and managed by people who make quality of life a major consideration when choosing a location. This one factor, quality of life, is our main attraction for bringing tourists, new residents and new businesses to this area.

“New economy businesses” are internet-based and technology-based, such as “new media” businesses, which use information technologies to distribute the work of artists, musicians and film makers.

“Knowledge-based workers” are people whose main capital is knowledge — scientists, lawyers, engineers, physicians, architects and software engineers. They are able to choose an employer irrespective of location, and can choose for quality of life.

“Entrepreneurs” benefit from interacting with other idea people, and are smaller start-up operations that don’t usually require large investments in equipment and facilities. Kittredge cited Pica Designs, G.OLogic, AthenaHealth, French and Webb Custom Boat Builders, and Front Street Shipyard as examples of the types of businesses he is working to attract.

To keep our quality of life attractive, Kittredge says Belfast’s vision for development must keep conservation, open space and environment in balance with business development. To promote this, Belfast has been implementing a Brownfields Assessment Program, funded by a grant from the EPA, and for which the city is now applying for a second grant.

For owners, developers, or prospective purchasers of commercial and industrial properties that have redevelopment potential, but are currently vacant or underutilized due to known or perceived contamination by petroleum or other hazardous materials, the city can provide an environmental assessment and clean-up plan at no charge, and can assist with securing funding for remediation of the brownfields.

Another project in the works is the newly designed Belfast Harbor Walk, a pedestrian path to be built from the Boathouse to the Armistice Foot Bridge. Half of the $1.6 million cost has been raised, and the work will start in March or April, with a finish date late in the year. Kittredge praises the City Council and Planning Office for this visionary plan, which enhances Belfast’s amenities and quality of life.

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