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Economic development top priority for Dawson administration

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Increasing economic development is a top priority for municipalities throughout the Commonwealth as city governments struggle to balance the books due to increased costs and decreasing state and federal aid.

In an interview with Reminder Publications, Mayor Susan Dawson explained that economic development has been a top priority for her since taking office in January. She noted that such developments would create greater job opportunities for residents and increased tax revenue for the town.

Last month, the town was awarded a technical assistance grant of $69,150 from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Chapter 43D Program to fund an Economic Development Study.

"A comprehensive study of Agawam's economy is long overdue," Dawson said. "The study will not only identify areas where growth should occur but will also evaluate and interpret a host of factors to tell us what type of growth would be the best for our community. I see the Economic Development study as the first step in this administration's economic development strategy."

Deborah Dachos, director of planning and community development explained that this study, which will be completed in about one year, will review development opportunities through 10 different components such as concentration of business and services, labor market factors and access to customers and markets.

"The critical problem facing the community is that there is very little commercial and industrial property available," Dachos said. She noted that the town has up-to-date housing, transportation and open space studies but not a "comprehensive economic development study."

Dawson said the study will also help to identify potential users for underutilized commercial and industrial properties or aid in the expansion of existing businesses in town.

The study will be conducted by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and will serve as an update to the town's Development Handbook.

"Agawam, unlike a lot of other communities statewide, has continued to grow through the ups and downs of the economy because of low taxes and good infrastructure," Dachos said. "We have the potential to keep growing."