Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Some clouds
50°
Some clouds
Hi 54° | Lo 35°

New economic development director sees bright future for Northampton

  • Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Terry Masterson, who is the new economic development coordinator for Northampton, stands where an Amtrak station is slated to be built Wednesday, Jan. 23.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

NORTHAMPTON — Terry Masterson, Northampton’s new economic development coordinator, says he is optimistic about the direction in which the community is moving. “There are a lot of exciting development projects currently in the works and that really bodes well for the city’s future,” Masterson said. “With the economy improving, we want to be sure that the city is well-positioned to move forward.”

Hired in November, Masterson is the first economic development director to work with the city’s Economic Development Advisory Commission, which formed last May.

Suzanne Beck, director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, is a member of that commission. “The critical piece in Terry’s job is communication and developing relationships between the business community, property owners, stakeholders and the city,” Beck said. “That helps to bring together ideas of what kind of community we want to build, what we want that to look like and how to achieve that vision.”

To that end, Masterson has wasted no time settling into his new position.

“I am very pleased with Terry. He has really immersed himself into the city,” Mayor David J. Narkewicz said. “By reaching out to all corners of the community he is getting a firsthand understanding of key issues and how to develop a clear strategy to move forward.”

Masterson, 54, has been in economic development for over 20 years. His most recent post was executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency in Cayuga County, N.Y. Prior to that, he worked in economic development in Westchester County, N.Y., from 1989 to 2010. Masterson also served as deputy mayor for Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., from 1987 to 1993.

“I think maintaining a dynamic downtown feeds quality of life, which strengthens the housing market and brings new talent into the workforce,” Masterson said. “It is a circle of one economic force supporting another.” One economic factor that Narkewicz would like to see improve is the balance between the commercial and residential tax bases. “We had been stuck at about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial,” he said.

“Right now it is more like 79 to 21,” Narkewicz said. “I think that a good short-term goal would be closer to 75 to 25.”

Masterson points to building projects under way on King Street, proposals to construct two new hotels and the long-term plans to turn the Three County Fairgrounds into a year-round exhibition facility as evidence that the city is moving in the right direction.

King Street revitalization

“We are working hard to keep up the vibrancy of King Street by working closely with developers and property owners,” Masterson said.

The long-vacant former supermarket at 327 King St. is being transformed into a 62,000-square-foot office building, one-third of which will house Pioneer Valley Family Medicine. The new complex, “Northampton Crossing,” also includes a recently opened branch of Greenfield Savings Bank.

The 90,000-square-foot Kollmorgen building that once stood at 347 King St. has been demolished to make room for two new car dealerships, and construction is also under way for a new branch of the PeoplesBank at the corner of King and Barrett streets. “These are all very positive projects for the city. These kind of businesses are exactly what that area is zoned for,” Masterson said.

Manufacturing

According to Masterson, Northampton has 2.1 million square feet of industrial space, with L3 KEO (formerly Kollmorgen), Coca-Cola, Packaging Corp. of America and Chartpak being the city’s largest manufacturers. “Manufacturing takes up 7 percent of the workforce here, I think that is a pretty good number,” he said. He added that Northampton has 40 percent employment in health care services and education.

L3 KEO, which employs 377 people, has relocated to a new 140,000-square-foot facility at Village Hill. “Being able to retain an employer like Kollmorgen is certainly very good for Northampton,” Masterson said.

Hospitality

Plans for two new hotels are also in the works. A 112-room Fairfield Inn on Conz Street is set to break ground. The hotel will be owned by Mansour Ghalibaf, owner of the Hotel Northampton.

Masterson says a second hotel is also in the preliminary stages. “A boutique hotelier has asked for a historic tax credit to open a 44-room boutique hotel at Village Hill. The hotel would “maintain and preserve the historic features of the existing building,” he said.

Regional presence

Masterson notes that plans to turn the fairgrounds into a year-round exhibition facility for agricultural and cultural shows include building a new 80,000-square-foot exhibition facility and renovating existing buildings. The expanded facility is expected to be a regional attraction with the potential of generating $50 million in commerce.

Transportation

The city anticipates the opening of passenger rail service in Northampton by early 2014. The rail service through the Pioneer Valley and beyond includes improvements to railroad tracks.

“Eventually, there will be a 45-foot raised platform right next to Union Station,” Masterson said. “The revitalization of Amtrak coming through Northampton to Boston will likely bring new energy into the city,” he said.

Commitment to sustainability

Masterson says the key to achieving a thriving city with a high quality of life depends on sustainable development that balances manufacturing and business with environmental concerns.

“When people think of development, they automatically think of asphalt and parking lots, but my job is trying to find sustainable development that fits the city,” he said.

“One of the nice things about Northampton, is that there is a tremendous commitment to green energy and recycling in the city,” he said.

Masterson says he is working closely with the city’s energy and sustainability officer, Christopher Mason.

“I am currently working with Chris on creating a position of Energy Concierge, where a business can come into town and find out all of the energy and green incentives there are available,” Masterson said. “We are also working on a zero-waste initiative for solid waste which is a very exciting goal for environmental protection.”

Having access to a variety of cultural events, hiking, biking and being able to walk to work are some of things Masterson has been enjoying about living in Northampton.

“Northampton’s reputation is very well known and highly regarded, That is one of the factors that drew me here,” he said.

Legacy Comments1

Would love to see Education worked into the mix as an important factor in Economic Development issues in Northampton. The quality of Northampton Public Schools can make or break a family's interest in relocating here or to Amherst or South Hadley, affecting housing values, tax collections, etc. Let's give Education a seat at the table here, and on the Mayor's Economic Development Advisory Council, and recognize our local schools' value in this holistic approach to the city's economic health. Is the Chamber doing anything to promote alliances between local schools and their members? It would surely benefit many if our students and schools were seen as an asset, rather than a budget line item.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.