Mayor calls for greater & broader investment in annual Motorcycle Week

LACONIA — The growing public debate about the future of Motorcycle Week took a fresh twist this week when Mayor Ed Engler, speaking at the City Council meeting, scolded those — the state and the city as well as business and property owners — who treat the rally as a source of revenue or income without significantly investing to ensure its success.

The mayor made his remarks amid the shadow cast over the event by shrinking attendance and falling returns. This year The total average daily traffic volume counted at the 10 locations during the nine days of the rally was 117,208 vehicles compared to 156,894 in 2014, a decrease of 25 percent. Traffic volume declined by between 8 percent and 46 percent at all 10 locations. This year the city closed the books on Motorcycle Week with red ink as expenses rose 16 percent to $149,163 and revenues fell 10 percent to $146,851. This was the first loss posted since 2007 when the revenues collected and expenses incurred by the city were removed from the general fund budget and treated as a special revenue fund.

Meanwhile, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA), the organization that promotes the rally, has been riven by dissension. In the last year two charter members — Laconia Harley-Davidson and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway — along with the Weirs Action Committee left the association, leaving six members — the city of Laconia, town of Meredith, Naswa Resort, Faro Italian Grille, Half Moon Enterprises and Hot Leathers.

Noting the decision of the Keene City Council to abandon the Pumpkin Festival, which the city had hosted for 24 years, Engler said "their loss is our gain" then remarked "we don't want to look back and think we made the same mistake with Motorcycle Week. I hope we don't follow Keene's example."

Engler referred to the defections from LMWA, explaining that there were differences over how to market the event. "Okay," he remarked, "then find another way to support Motorcycle Week." He acknowledged that Laconia Harley-Davidson "invests substantially in promoting the rally," but said "they're one of the exceptions. What is unacceptable," he continued, "is to take money from Motorcycle Week and the people it draws and put nothing back into it. That's unacceptable!"

Later Engler said "I'm not giving anybody a pass. The city is as guilty as anybody. We're mad this year because we didn't make any money." Only three of the major landowners at The Weirs — Faro Italian Grille, Half Moon Enterprises and Naswa Resort — are dues paying members of the association and/or sponsors of the rally. Others may be Rally Patrons contributing just $200 a year. "They could become sponsors or find some way to contribute something significant financially." For example, the mayor said that the Weirs Action Committee, which reaps significant returns from a parking concession on city property during the rally, left the LMWA when the dues were increased from $2,000 to $5,000 a year to address a deficit.

Engler said that he had not considered reorganizing the promotion and management of Motorcycle Week while conceding that "more coordination by the city, state or whoever" would be helpful. He said that the city will continue to work through the LMWA, but suggested "it may be possible for different groups to work toward the same goal on parallel paths." He noted that in Sturgis, South Dakota, the city stages and manages the nation's largest rally, a model that was rejected in Laconia some years ago.

Greater Laconia area called 21st richest small city in USA

LACONIA — This week Bloomberg Business released a list of the wealthiest small towns in the United States, on which Laconia placed 21st. But, the city's high ranking is not what it appears at first glance.

The list is drawn from 536 "micropolitan statistical areas" designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB defines a micropolitan statistical area as one or more adjacent counties or county equivalents with at least one "urban core area" with a population of at least 10,000 but not more than 50,000 together with "adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties." In other words, the Laconia micropolitan area consists of the city and eleven towns of Belknap County.

Bloomberg Business applied and scored four criteria to derive its ranking — the median household income, share of households with incomes of $200,000 or more, median home value and the share of homes value at $1-million or more. Each factor was weighed equally and scored on a scale of 0 to 100. The data was drawn from the 2013 American Community Survey prepared by the United States Census Bureau.

In Belknap County, called "Laconia" by Bloomberg, the estimated median household income is $58,654, 3.2 percent of households earn incomes of at least $200,000, the median home value is $219,900 and 2.1 percent of homes are valued at $1-million or more.

In Laconia itself the numbers are significantly lower. The estimated median household income is $47,757, 19 percent below that of the county. In the city 133 of 7,112 households, or 1.9 percent of the total, earn $200,000 or more. The median home value in the city is $187,000, 15 percent less than in the county. And 61 of 7,112 occupied housing units, or 0.9 percent of the total, are valued at $1 million or more.

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LRGHealthcare taps Indiana man as its new CEO

LACONIA — The Board of Trustees of LRGHealthcare on Monday evening announced the appointment of Seth C. R. Warren, a third-generation hospital administrator and son of of a registered nurse, as president and chief executive officer.

On October 5, Warren will replace Chuck Van Sluyter, who has been serving as interim CEO. 

Van Sluyter replaced Tom Clairmont, who abruptly retired a year ago, after working for the company for 43 years and serving as CEO for the last quarter century of that career.

Scott Clarenbach, who chairs the board, said in a prepared statement that "Seth was the chosen candidate for his mix of previous experience, his honest, hard working style, inclusiveness, and moral compass which will all be a great fit for our organization." He noted that Warren was selected after a nationwide search and review of candidate by a search committee of providers, stakeholders and trustees of the hospital company.

Warren has spent the last 16 years of his career with the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Inc. (SSFHS), or Francisan Alliance, a Catholic health care system headquartered in Mishawaka, Indiana consisting of 13 hospitals and numerous clinics, with 18,000 employees. He joined SSFHS in 1998 as director of operations, served as executive director of St. Francis Hospital in Mooresville, Indiana and as chief operating officer and president St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point Indiana. In 2006 BusINess Magazine chose Warren among the top 20 executives under 40 in northwest Indiana.

In February, 2008 Warren was named president of St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields, Illinois, a 400-bed teaching hospital, and chief executive officer of the Franciscan Alliance for the south suburban Chicago region. Sr. M. Aline Schultz, vice-president of corporate communications for SSFHS, told "The Times of Northwest Indiana" that the hospital needed "a turnaround specialists, a position Warren was uniquely qualified to fill."

St. James Hospital had posted losses of $113 million during the decade before Warren arrived. "Our financial picture was bleak," he told "The Times." "We had to consider whether to provide services at all." Warren described the situation as "a perfect storm" of rising numbers of uninsured patients, lingering amounts of bad debt and sporadic reimbursement for Medicaid patients. In 2008, 45 percent of the patients at St. James Hospital were enrolled din Medicare and another 15 percent in Medicaid.

Under Warren's leadership patient satisfaction rose from single digits to between 70 percent and 75 percent and annual losses were more than halved by 2010. However, in 2013, SSFHS announced a buyer was being sought for the hospital and Warren left the firm to start his own business, HQ Consulting.

A native of Moorestown, New Jersey, Warren earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Richmond in 1989 and a Master's degree in business administration from Syracuse University 10 years later. He joined the CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, New Jersey as a compensation coordinator in 1990 and served in the same position at the St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, California from 1992 to 1995 before spending three years with The Hunter Group, an executive search firm headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.

Clarenback also lauded the contribution of Van Sluyter. He described Van Sluyter as "a great steward to reshape our health system by making the necessary internal and external changes to our organization."

During the the year the board of trustees prepared a three-year strategic plan, which Warren will inherit when he begins work in October.