Dear Newly Elected Mayor Gysberts and City Council:
First, let me say congratulations on your victory in Tuesday’s election.
During the campaign, all the candidates talked about jobs and revitalization. Now comes the hard part: turning those ideas into reality.
Hagerstown is a great place to work and live, and so with the worst of the economic slump behind us, the business community looks forward to helping you leverage everything our community has to offer. At times, we might disagree on some of the specifics, but we share the big-picture goal.
Here are some thoughts about how we can work together:
• Goals: Tell us where you want to go, and we will help you get there. The Chamber of Commerce has nearly 600 member businesses. Chances are, within our membership, you will find the people and the resources to do just about anything.
• Initiatives: The city contributed to the rebuilding of the Central Library, despite having no financial responsibility to do so. Let us know what other specific projects the city would like to back. We will help you map out a strategy and find the resources.
• Priorities: Tell us what you think is important. Help the business community better understand the city’s needs and in what order you want to tackle them. The more we know, the better we can help you.
• Land banking: As the city considers purchasing properties critical to redevelopment, bring the Chamber into the conversation. City ownership of market-rate real estate risks creating tension with the very investors we all hope to encourage. It might be the right move in some cases, but the City should only be the landlord of last resort.
• City staff: The city has a strong staff of talented professionals with great working relationships in the business community. They are looking to you for a broad vision and overall direction. Give them the strategy, and they will figure out the tactics. Their success is your success.
• Lobbying coalition: Continue your strong support of the Community Coalition and its work lobbying for Washington County in Annapolis. Over the past eight years, with the city’s help, the Community Coalition has worked with our state delegation to not only secure millions of dollars of investment in our community but also to fend off attacks aimed at Hagers-town. USMH, gaming revenue, the new library, central booking and Edgewood Drive are just a few of the projects for which we owe a debt of gratitude to the coalition’s lobbying effort.
• Downtown stadium: Lastly, the Chamber encourages you to support the multi-use stadium in downtown Hagerstown. If you have questions, we will help find the answers. If you are concerned about input, we will help create the right forum. We are confident, though, that when you evaluate the options, you will agree that the city has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the downtown.
Again, congratulations on your election victory. We will look to you for vision and political leadership, and you can look to us for help in executing your plans. Working together, we can all look forward to a great four years.
Brien Poffenberger is president of the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce.