A Day at the ATV Festival
Letter to the Editor

September 4, 2014

By Norman Charest
The Berlin Reporter

To the Editor:
This past weekend, I spent time at the ATV Festival, as many area residents did. I believe that my past experience as Berlin’s Economic Development Director make me look at the event from an economic perspective, rather than an entertainment venue.

Back in 2009 and during the Bertrand administration, I presented to the mayor and council an outdoor recreation proposal that I called 21/21. (A Mature City in the 21st Century.) At that time, the proposal was adopted by the mayor and council, and a proclamation was passed by the administrative body of the city.

21/21 stated that the city was in a unique position to bring to Berlin a significant economic development effort based on outdoor recreation which would create jobs and a new economy. At that time, several developers were also looking at Berlin as a possible site for a variety of projects, from hotels to a water park to a company wishing to build a factory that would produce concrete kayak courses for resorts and water parks.

As we all know, the biomass project took over the politics, the minds and the future direction of economic development in Berlin.

As I walked around at Jericho Mountain State Park this weekend, I was brought back to the vision of 21/21 and where the city could once again become a significant center of commerce that it once was. What I saw at the Festival were hundreds of people of all ages that I would say were having fun, and that had money in their pockets that they wanted to spend.

Since I didn’t bring my ATV, I walked around and I asked questions such as ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Are you having fun?’ ‘Will you be back?’ and most imporantly, ‘How can we make this experience better?’ As you might imagine, the answers varied widely, but what was written all over their answers was economic development and job creation.

So I ask you, residents and taxpayers of Berlin, what is your city government doing to promote a new economy now that the pulp and paper economy is just about gone, and that the biomass plant gave us its 35-plus jobs? Now what? What is the plan moving forward? Where’s the next generation going to work?  Developments don’t happen spontaneously!

The ATV Festival should remind us that we don’t have to accept being victims of our lot or of our isolation; we just need a bit of imagination and hard work. I believe the residents and taxpayers of Berlin need to demand that their local government wake up to our home grown opportunities and facilitate the development of a new 21st Century economy.

The people I spoke to at the Festival love it here, and loved the Festival. They wished that they could have stayed here for their whole stay, and they also suggested that we have more activities their families could enjoy. I would think that the city would realize that these participants at the Festival are willing to come back on a regular basis, not just once a year.

Will Berlin respond to this opportunity? In my opinion, only if the residents become involved and insist that City Hall step up to the challenge, start investing in the city and capture the unique opportunity.

In closing, kudos to the Chamber of Commerce, the ATV Club and the New Hampshire Trails Bureau — their planning and hard work paid off.

Normand Charest


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