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Marlboro's pro-business stance pays off

TELEGRAM & GAZETTE – Marlboro wants to be known as a business-friendly city, and the recent influx of major companies suggests at least some business executives agree.

In the past few years, the city had landed some big names, with commitments by TJX Cos. Inc. and Quest Diagnostics to fill buildings left vacant by departing companies, and Boston Scientific’s decision to relocate its headquarters from Natick.

Those three companies will fill nearly a million square feet of office space, Mayor Arthur Vigeant said.

City leaders say they have sought to make Marlboro inviting through expedited permitting and, in some cases, tax incentives. They also tout the city’s location in Central Massachusetts with easy access to major highways, and its strong workforce.

Local officials, including city councilors and representatives from the city’s Economic Development Corp., have collaborated with each other and state officials to reach out to businesses. Officials are willing to meet with any company considering a move, said Mr. Vigeant, who is running for election to a second term this fall.

“We work hand-in-hand with the companies,” he said.

The city adopted the state’s optional local hotel room tax, and dedicated the extra revenue exclusively for economic development, he said.

Building on recent successes, Mr. Vigeant said he is planning to travel to New York next month to give a presentation to a national site selection group in an attempt to lure out-of-state companies.

Tim Cummings, the EDC’s executive director, said many suburban communities have empty space to fill, like Marlboro, making the search for new tenants competitive.

But the mayor and City Council made luring tenants to fill that space a top priority, he said.

The progress is the result of many factors, said Mr. Cummings, who has led the EDC for more than a year.

“We have our unique strength, which is our incredible access” to the interstate highways, he said. “We have a good strong foundation in human capital, with a strongly educated workforce.”

Quest Diagnostics, a Madison, N.J., diagnostic testing company, is retrofitting an old Hewlett-Packard building into a state-of-the-art laboratory and is planning to open the facility in early 2015, company spokeswoman Wendy Bost said.

In 2011, the company acquired Athena Diagnostics, which operates a clinical laboratory in Worcester, with a focus on providing rare and neurological disease diagnostic services for physicians.

Earlier this year, Quest announced its acquisition of two laboratory businesses of UMass Memorial Medical Center. It is planning to relocate 1,000 employees from Worcester and Cambridge to the new facility in Marlboro, and add another 250 staff members, according to Ms. Bost.

“What we needed was a location that is central in Massachusetts, that had a good business environment, good access to potential employees, but also could be a good place for existing employees at these other locations to go, and Marlboro was a great selection,” she said.

TJX bought two buildings on Puritan Way in Marlboro to house office operations and help the retail company accommodate future growth. It plans to move there in the late summer or early fall, according to Doreen Thompson, a company spokeswoman.

“Our home office location at 770 Cochituate Road in Framingham, together with Marlboro, will provide TJX with two major campuses operating in close proximity to one another,” she said in a statement. “The quality of life for TJX associates was a major consideration in choosing the Marlboro location.”

Boston Scientific just held a groundbreaking ceremony for what will become its global headquarters.

The city has used tax increment financing agreements — deals that temporarily exempt companies from at least some of their property tax obligations — to help win over companies.

The city reached TIF deals with Quest and TJX, and is working under an earlier agreement with Boston Scientific. Mr. Cummings said the city uses TIF deals only when they are in the best interests of the city’s taxpayers.

Mr. Vigeant said he has made a point of talking with business people and learning more about their needs. He said he was struck by business leaders’ desire for more amenities to benefit their employees, such as convenient stores, restaurants and bike paths.

The city is taking steps to encourage the opening of more of those service businesses, to foster a good environment for employees, he said.

While Mr. Cummings said the city has benefited in improvements in the national economy, “We have positioned ourselves to be actually a catalyst, to take advantage of the turnaround.”

This story originally appeared here.