Eric Norenberg, who took over the position as Milford City Manager on January 4, 2016, says he is excited about the future of Milford and that he is looking forward to being a part of its growth. Mr. Norenberg, who came to Milford from Ohio, spent 20 years working for the City of Mesa, Arizona, before returning to his home state, where he worked for eight years. Mr. Norenberg said that he and his wife decided it was time for a change when he learned that Milford was looking for a new city manager.
“My wife has always wanted to live near the ocean,” Mr. Norenberg said. “As you can imagine, Ohio can be cold, wet and dreary, so having the extra days of sunshine here near the coast was a bonus. I also felt that Milford was a great opportunity for me with its natural resources, great community and expected growth.”
Mr. Norenberg said that the biggest challenge he felt Milford faced over the next few years was the new Bayhealth campus planned for the southeast section of the city. He said there was a significant amount of work to be done to prepare for the new hospital, including utility and other infrastructure work.
“The city needs to be sure that we are ready to support the new campus,” Mr. Norenberg said. “We also want to be good partners with Bayhealth in determining what happens to the current campus on Clarke Avenue. It is in a beautiful old neighborhood and we want to be sure that what replaces the hospital complements the neighborhood along with serving the needs of Bayhealth and the community.”
Economic development is another area where Mr. Norenberg sees some challenges over the next year. One of the ways that the city is working toward better economic development planning is by updating the Comprehensive Plan. He said that some of the work had been done, but that he felt it was important to engage the community in shaping where Milford needed to go over the next 20 years. He said that Rob Peirce, City Planner, had done some preliminary work on the Comprehensive Plan, but that the city may need to seek a consultant in order to do the update properly.
One of the areas that Mr. Norenberg feels will grow in the next few years is the southeast section of the city. He said that updates to the Southeast Master Plan, even though the current plan was only a few years old, was very important. Mr. Norenberg said that updating the plan will ensure that growth in that section of the city will also benefit other locations throughout the area as well.
“The new hospital will bring significant employment to the area,” Mr. Norenberg said. “There will be need for nearby housing and we expect to see offices growing in the area surrounding the hospital. However, it will be an easy commute to get to the new campus, so it is apparent that all neighborhoods will benefit.”
Mr. Norenberg said that the downtown area is the core of any community and he was looking forward to partnering with businesses, residents, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Milford Inc. to begin implementation of the Downtown Milford Master Plan recently released by Muldrow & Associates. Mr. Norenberg said that the downtown area provides shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities for residents and visitors.
“Trends throughout the United States are to make communities more walkable and bike-able,” Mr. Norenberg said. “I think Milford has the potential to be very pedestrian friendly. Although I have not been here for long, it seems as if the weather here is conducive for outdoor activity almost year round. Milford has grown in different stages, like many small towns do, over the years. It is time now to fill in the gaps and make the city a little more cohesive.” Mr. Norenberg said he would like to see more specialty shops and restaurants downtown, but he also sees a need to retain the businesses that are already in the city.
After the recession, one of the trends discovered by many experts was that growing existing businesses was critical to an area’s economic development, Mr. Norenberg said. He said that towns did not find success by only attracting new businesses as strategies must be put in place that will keep them in an area. He said that he sees Milford as poised to grow both residentially and industrially.
Infrastructure was another challenge Mr. Norenberg expected to face in the future. He said that water, electric and wastewater management were all critical to the city’s success. He also felt that providing residents and businesses with the infrastructure they needed to succeed was also critical, especially for the Bayhealth project. However, he also felt that smaller parts of infrastructure should not be ignored.
“What I have heard from residents and council already is that we need to upgrade some of our existing infrastructure,” Mr. Norenberg said. “One of these areas is sidewalks. If we want to make Milford a walkable community, sidewalks need to be in good repair. Over the next few months, I am working on a plan to help residents get their sidewalks repaired as well as a maintenance plan that will keep them in good shape.”
Mr. Norenberg said he is ready to begin the process of moving Milford forward and looks forward to working with Council to help the city grow.