LACONIA — "She is everywhere," said Alan Robichaud, who last year retired from the Granite United Way after a long career of community service, as he introduced Debby Frawley Drake, who received the Norm Marsh Leadership Award from the Belknap Economic Development Council (BEDC) at its annual meeting at Lakes Region Community College last evening.
A retiring member of the Board of Directors, Drake has been a stalwart supporter and dedicated member of the organization for much of its 23 year history. Meanwhile, as Robichaud stressed, she always found time and energy to share her talents with the Holy Trinity School, Laconia Area Community Land Trust , Hands Across the Table, Laconia Historical and Museum Society and Lakes Region United Way while remaining engaged in virtual every aspect of civic life.
Robichaud called her "an incredible connector," who has marshaled people and resources to pursue any number of initiatives to better her community. At BEDC, he said, she has been a mainstay of the "200 by 2020 Initiative", the workforce development undertaken in partnership with the Granite United Way and Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
Accepting the award to a standing ovation, Drake said simply "I've enjoyed everything I've done to help BEDC" then drew a round of laughter by adding "just don't ask me to be on a committee."
The outgoing chairman of BEDC, Henry Lipman of LRGHealthcare announced that this year the organization intends to assume a "new role as a catalyst, partner, investor and/or owner in property development." What he described as "a new strategic initiative" would aim to transfer ownership of underused and distressed properties in order to put them to higher and better use. He acknowledged that it may be necessary to pay a premium in anticipation that once redeveloped under new ownership the value of the property will appreciate significantly.
Lipman said that the initiative would contribute to both the growth of the local economy and the expansion of the local property tax base.
Randy Eifert of the Cross Insurance Agency, the incoming chairman, said that BEDC will also undertake a public relations and marketing campaign designed to strengthen the presence of the organization in the region. In particular, he emphasized the importance of winning support among elected officials, enrolling more incorporators and attracting more investors/members.
Treasurer Sean Sullivan of Denoncourt, Waldron & Sullivan, reported that in 2014 the BEDC went from red to black, turning an operating loss of $7,600 into net income of $27,000 with income of $282,000 and expenses of $255,000. He said that BEDC added four loans to its portfolio earning additional interest income of $6,5000 and has total assets of $2.5 million.