June 22, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: The right guy
By Jeff Rapsis

The appointment of a new president and executive director to lead the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce comes as good news for the city. The office has been vacant for the past four months following the departure of Chris Hodgdon for another job, and that’s a long time for such an important role to go unfilled.

But news that the appointment is Chris Williams, who most recently served as vice president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, is especially welcome. Williams sounds like exactly the right guy for the job, and that makes the wait worthwhile.

Why is Williams a good fit for Nashua? Is it because he managed Bernie Streeter’s 2003 reelection campaign? Not really, though that must have given him a good idea of what he was getting into.

No—Williams is a good choice because he’s already been observing the city’s issues from not so far away in Manchester, and has a good grasp of key projects that could transform Nashua in the coming decades.

What projects? One example: completing the Broad Street Parkway, which would link downtown more directly with the F.E. Everett Turnpike and also open up the city’s underutilized millyard to further redevelopment.

From his perch in Manchester, Williams has also worked on bringing passenger rail back to Nashua and the rest of the Merrimack Valley. This is another critical project, not just because it might take a few cars off the road today, but because it will create the infrastructure for tomorrow’s economic development in Nashua and the region.

Both of these transportation projects are important for long-term economic growth. Therefore, it’s crucial that the Chamber of Commerce be involved. For such projects to win a broad coalition of support, they need to be pitched not in terms of immediate payback, but it terms of the greater economic good over the long term.

Gone are the days when a few local industrialists could get together and decide a community’s economic future. Regulations prevent it. Corporations are now controlled by distant entities focused on short-term results. Funding is always tough to come by.

That’s where an organization such as the Chamber comes in. Sure, the day-to-day focus is on what’s good for its members. But ideally, that focus wouldn’t be too far from the long-term interests of the community, too.

Plus, these days it takes a great deal of networking and consensus building to get anything accomplished, especially in New Hampshire. Even when a city employs an economic development specialist, it takes a sustained effort from many corners for big-picture projects to move forward. The Broad Street Parkway and passenger rail are good examples—both have crept along at a glacial pace. A good chamber of commerce can coordinate all the diverse sources of support and help move these projects forward.

And so, in that sense, we’re lucky to have Chris Williams sign on in Nashua. He already has a good working knowledge of important local issues. But he also understands how the chamber can be a powerful advocate for what’s best for its members and also what’s best for the community as a whole.

So let’s all welcome Chris to the Gate City in his new job. With all that’s happened in recent years, the potential is there for a vibrant community. And with Williams on board, there’s no reason the Chamber of Commerce shouldn’t continue to be a full partner in all that’s happening.


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