We applaud Gov. Chris Sununu’s nomination of Great Bay Community College President Will Arvelo to serve as New Hampshire’s next director of the Division of Economic Development.
The nomination requires the approval of the Executive Council, but we can’t imagine any circumstance that would result in anything other than a unanimous vote in favor of Arvelo’s appointment.
Arvelo has been a great president at GBCC for the past 11 years.
After arriving in July 2007, Arvelo successfully moved GBCC from its Stratham campus to the former Air Force hospital at Pease, creating a modern campus right in the heart of the Seacoast and many of its major employers.
From this central location Arvelo and his able team forged strong relationships with area businesses, training local students to fill high paying jobs at local hospitals, Sig Sauer, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Lonza, Medtronics, Amadeus (formerly Newmarket International) and many others.
Arvelo, working with a team from the Community College System and Gov. John Lynch was able to attract Albany Engineered Composites and Safran Aerospace Composites to the state, which triggered the construction of the Advanced Technology & Academic Center on Milton Road in Rochester. There students are trained and many are hired to work in advanced composite manufacturing. At the ribbon cutting for the Rochester campus then-Gov. Maggie Hassan described it as a key contributor to bringing a greater number of aerospace industries to the area.
On the academic front, University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston, at an event at GBCC in his honor last Friday, heaped praise on Arvelo for strengthening the relationship between the two-year and four-year institutions of higher learning. Arvelo played a key role in the creation of an articulation agreements between the community colleges, the university system and many other universities across the country, allowing students to transfer the vast majority of their community college credits to the university. At a time when the cost of a college education is skyrocketing, this represents a real economic benefit to students and their families as well as a pathway to continued higher education.
Arvelo also strengthened Great Bay’s Dual Enrollment Program with local high schools, allowing students to take college courses while still in high school and receive college credits that can be applied to both high school and college records, allowing promising students to get a jump on their college educations.
The year 2015 saw the opening of a new $5 million Student Success Center, allowing the school to expand its athletic, academic and social programming.
All these accomplishments give us complete confidence in Arvelo’s ability to help make sure New Hampshire has a well-trained workforce, builds and maintains strong relationships with existing businesses and attracts new industries to the state. But accomplishments alone are not what make Arvelo such a special person.
What distinguishes Will Arvelo from anyone else who might have taken on this new important role is his character.
He was born into humble circumstances in Puerto Rico, got his public schooling in New York’s Spanish Harlem, worked hard and was the first in his family to graduate from college. Arvelo’s modest beginnings give him a deep empathy for his students, for his professional colleagues and for all the community members he encounters. As you watch him in a room full of students, you can’t help notice he knows them by name and asks questions not just about their studies but also about their families. He is really interested in them as people and they can sense it’s genuine.
The greater Seacoast community also recognizes that commitment. In 2012, the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce named him its Citizen of the Year and if there’s a community gathering of any significance you can count on Arvelo being there and making contributions.
Sununu shook things up a bit this year when he reorganized the former horribly named DRED (Division of Resources and Economic Development) to create the new Department of Business and Economic Affairs. Under the reorganization, there is a division of economic development, which Arvelo will head, and a Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which will focus on parks, recreation, forestry, culture and tourism. This reorganization makes sense but, as in all endeavors, the key is to put the right people in the right jobs doing the right things.
In announcing Arvelo’s nomination, Sununu said: “From his steadfast leadership at Great Bay Community College to his impressive community resume, there is no better choice to lead New Hampshire’s Division of Economic Development than Will Arvelo.”
We thoroughly agree with this assessment and wholeheartedly recommend Arvelo to the Executive Council. We know the more they look, the more they’ll like this nominee.