By Amy Porter
After one week on the job as the Gateway HIlltowns Economic Development Director, Jeanne LeClair is setting her priorities. Her first goal is to set up a website which will contain a calendar linking to activities in the six towns who have hired her through a Community Compact grant. She said the website at gatewayhilltowns.org is just getting up and running.
“It’s part of the tourism push,” LeClair said. She will also be working on identifying available properties in the six towns of Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery and Russell, and developing a business welcome packet.
Most of the goals LeClair is working on were outlined in the Economic Development Strategy recently completed by Elan Design & Planning, and sponsored by the Hilltown Collaborative and Mass Development through a previous Community Compact grant.
LeClair said she will be organizing the priorities identified in the plan and putting them into chronological order. “Officially I’m here for 12 months. In that time, my priorities are limited,” she said, adding that she’d love to stay beyond that. Part of the goal of the Hilltown Collaborative is to have the towns share the cost of the position in their budgets next year.
LeClair, who received her master’s in public policy from Brandeis University after completing her undergraduate degree at Boston College, said she loves rural America. She grew up on a farm in rural Missouri near a town with a population of 500 on the Mississippi River.
“I love getting outside,” LeClair said, citing kayaking and hiking among her passions. After getting her master’s degree, she started looking for a position in local government, small town, small business, local politics, community development. Having married a “Boston boy,” LeClair, who lives in Haverhill, looked for a job in Massachusetts.
She saw the ad for an economic development coordinator for the hilltowns on the Massachusetts Municipal Association website and applied. She calls it her “dream job.”