By Scott Merzbach
Commercial spinoffs and startup companies associated with the University of Massachusetts, advocacy from the Amherst Business Improvement District and engaged and well-educated residents can be the foundation for the town’s future economy.
“This all translates into a strong market for goods and services,” said Lori Tanner, senior economic development policy analyst for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.
At an economic development forum Thursday morning at Town Hall, which drew about 30 residents, business owners and town officials, Tanner said that downtown Amherst could accommodate five or six new retail stores, as well as businesses that focus on educational support products and agricultural products.
But at the same time, she said, complicated zoning has stymied the opportunities to develop mixed-use buildings for offices and retail, and creation of laboratory space in other buildings, and Amherst continues to face challenges from losing a significant part of the population for the summer months.
Tanner said there are several other concerns, including no local business support organization to help startups, an Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce working with no staff and continued high property taxes.
She also pointed to the Kayon Accelerator, which was created in late 2016 to develop local startup companies in Amherst and keep them in town, not succeeding.
“It was probably not its time,” Tanner said.
Other problems Tanner identified include insufficient marketing budgets, lack of evening activities, other than dining, and perceived lack of parking.