READING — Four years ago, the Town of Reading created a seven-year Economic Development Action Plan designed to help grow the community’s economic footprint. As part of those efforts, the town created the economic development director position to ensure the plan was carried out effectively.
Nearly halfway through the plan’s duration, the town has come a long way. Now newly hired economic development director Erin Schaeffer is hoping to carry the process over the finish line.
Schaeffer officially started on June 17, becoming the town’s second economic development director since the position’s creation. She succeeds Andrew Corona, who served roughly two and a half years in the position before stepping down after his wife took a new job in another city.
“It’s great, we have an excellent team, and the town is really collaborative, which I appreciate,” Schaeffer said of her first few weeks on the job. “I think that makes it much easier for developers and businesses to be able to interact with the town when the town is all on the same page and open and transparent.”
Schaeffer previously served about a year as the principal planner for the Town of Danvers, and prior to that spent four years as the staff planner for the City of Salem. In that position she worked with the Zoning Board of Appeals and helped manage capital improvement projects.
Originally from Los Angeles, Schaeffer earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science and architecture from Mount Holyoke College and then her master’s in regional planning from UMass Amherst.
Since taking over in Reading, she said her first order of business has been getting up to speed with the town’s current projects, while also making sure the town’s economic development website is updated.
Beyond that, a top priority will be implementing the Downtown District Management Initiative, a project supported by a grant from the Mass Department of Housing and Community Development to help create a downtown district management organization.
She will also work to see through several projects that are already underway in the downtown area, including the Postmark Building, 20-24 Gould Street, 467 Main Street and The Met at Reading Station.
“A lot of excellent planning work has been done, Andrew was going through the process of permitting when he left, and a lot of those projects are under construction currently,” Schaeffer said. “So I’ve been working with the development team to potentially attract tenants for those buildings, and that’s not a one man show at all.”
In the long-term, Schaeffer will be responsible for coordinating and implementing the town’s economic development priorities, and she will serve as the primary point of contact for business development inquiries. In addition to the downtown area, other places identified as priority development areas include South Main Street, the New Crossing Road area and 1 General Way.
There will be other jobs and responsibilities as well, but ultimately it all boils down to one simple goal — helping Reading maximize its economic potential.
“I’m really excited to be working in Reading,” she said. “The town is really collaborative internally and externally and that will continue to help align us to success.”