2013-11-29 / Community

Strategic planning enters final stages

Project’s goal is to pinpoint Kennebunk’s economic priorities
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — “What are Kennebunk’s key benchmarks important for economic development?” Mat Eddy asked seven residents present at a public forum at town hall Thursday.

Eddy, who is the town’s economic development director, has been sifting through social and fiscal trends in Kennebunk throughout the past decade, part of the ongoing Strategic Economic Development Analysis Project (S.E.D.A.P.), which Eddy began facilitating in early fall.

The objective of the S.E.D.A.P., said Eddy in September, is to determine priorities at different local levels, beginning with individual residents’ priorities.

The eventual goal of the analysis is to solidify those priorities into an applicable strategic plan for Kennebunk, similar to a market and branding study.

Nearing its final phases, Eddy presented recent findings on fiscal and social benchmarks at the Nov. 21 meeting. A benchmark, said Eddy, is a “standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.”

Examples such as retail trade, unemployment rates, higher education degree attainment and personal income were examined.

Community benchmarks on which Eddy reported were mostly derivatives of the development of TIF districts: areas and patterns of expenditures, new businesses, employee patterns, building permits and infrastructure investment.

Eddy and his team tallied the number of jobs added in each of Kennebunk’s TIF districts since 2004 (Route 1, Alfred Road/Utility Quarter, Lower Village) and found that 508 employees were added after TIF expansions were completed.

In 2004 the combined TIF districts were assessed at $37,159,200, which has swelled significantly to $134,625,700— what it is today.

Other areas also showed a boom in numbers.

In 2004, 31 commercial building permits were issued at an estimated value of $3,480,800. In 2012 that number rose considerably to 237 to an estimated value of $46,144,062.

The total number of residential and commercial building permits given in 2004 was just shy of 600, with an estimated value of $31,800,105. In 2012 that number rose only slightly, to 639, but the value increased to $70,818,646.

“For every $1,000 invested, we created almost $11,000 in new value,” Eddy said.

“It seems like the implicit argument is that the job growth is a direct result of the TIF,” said resident John Costin. “I just think we should be cautious about coming to the conclusion that the job growth is because of the TIF, in terms of causality. We put those (TIF districts) there because we anticipated growth, anyway,” Costin said.

Eddy then vetted other suggestions of noteworthy benchmark measures.

Issues such as water quality, diversity of jobs, retail niches and land preservation were discussed.

“The purpose is to form a survey asking what residents really want, and if we get it, will they come?”

After the meeting, Eddy clarified more concrete goals. “I’m going to go into a workshop with the board of Selectmen on Dec. 3,” Eddy said. “I’ll put more detail in the draft that we have so far. I might identify some time periods to give people a beginning.

“Our guiding force: we want to do benchmarks, but we want to make sure they’re easy to calculate,” Eddy said. “We’ve been feeling a sense of accomplishments in these forums. Last night there was question of causality, but causality doesn’t really matter. What matters is, when we do these actions, what happens? What can we predict in the future? What do we want to accomplish with these investments?’”

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