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Marlborough downtown on ‘brink’ of revitalization

Marlborough downtown on ‘brink’ of revitalization

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – The city’s upward economic momentum continued in 2017, with more than 40 companies moving to or expanding in Marlborough, bringing 450 new jobs.

And those numbers don’t include the business brought to the city from the sprawling Apex Center of New England on Rte. 20.

Holographix, Babcock Power, Atlas Travel and Jentek Sensors were among the companies that opted to call Marlborough home, maintaining the city’s overall commercial vacancy rate at 10 percent, according to the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation’s 2017 annual report.

The vacancy rate has dropped steadily from 22 percent to 10 percent during the past six years due to an influx of companies. The rate also dipped to 15 percent, down from 17 percent last year. Six years ago, 34 percent of the city’s office space was dormant.

“We are also proud of our continued growth of Marlborough as a destination for top employers,” Mayor Arthur Vigeant wrote in the report.

The new Apex Center brought more than 20 new businesses and 1,600 jobs.

“With two new hotels, many new restaurants and entertainment options for families, employees and visitors alike, the Apex Center will provide the top-level amenities employers and residents are looking for,” said Vigeant.

The city’s unemployment stands at 2.6 percent – a number city officials hope will continue to fall. The unemployment level was 5.7 percent in 2012. The state’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percent, while the national level stands at 4.1 percent.

Meredith Harris, MEDC executive director, highlighted the organization’s efforts to attract small businesses to the city through its Economic Toolbox Program. The toolbox offers gap financing, tax reimbursements, rental assistance, beautification grants and amenities funding to help get small businesses off the ground.

“We focused a lot of attention on developing the toolbox,” Harris said.

Alida Orzechowski, co-founder of Walden Woods Brewing, utilized the toolbox to secure funds for equipment and rent costs while they met license requirements. The brewery is expected to open in the coming weeks.

“When Walden Woods Brewing first became a reality, one of the things we really wanted to avoid as a small business was incurring a huge amount of debt right from the get go, but nor did we want to give up our independence and ownership in exchange for controlling financial backers,” said Orzechowski. “As weeks of looking for affordable brewing space dragged on into months we started to feel that perhaps we’d have to give up on one of those two principles and then we were put in touch with MEDC.”

The initiative is a key tool to making downtown Marlborough a destination for businesses – a priority of city officials for years. Ten small businesses – including Walden Woods Brewing, O’Hearns Tavern, Fox Ballroom and Lost Shoe Brewery (all downtown business) – have used the toolbox to help open.

“We’re starting to see some movement downtown,” said Harris. “I think we’re on the brink of a revitalization downtown.”

Harris highlighted the MEDC’s efforts to market the city through a promotional video and the recently revamped Visit-Marlborough.com website.

Peering forward to 2018, MEDC will continue to work to develop the city’s downtown, French Hill and Rte. 20 East corridor, said Harris.

To view the full report visit http://marlboroughedc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/MEDC-Annual-Report-2017.pdf.

This article by Jeff Malachowski originally appeared here.