January 28, 2010 – Michael Hogan, chairman of the board of directors for Marlborough 2010, will admit the economic growth committee has not been as successful as he and the rest of the board have wanted it to be.
A recession-laden economy has slowed new growth not just in Marlborough but around the country since the group was founded in 2007. But with 2010 comes a new name for the organization and what Hogan called a refocused effort to highlight this city’s current businesses and attract new ones.
Marlborough 2010 held its annual meeting Wednesday morning at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Marlborough and voted to change the organization’s working name to the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
With three new staff members and a five-point list of goals, Hogan said he looks forward to the upcoming year and beyond.
“We think we’ve put into place a number of initiatives to help us get to where we want to be,” Hogan said.
Chief among them is a tripling of the organization’s staff.
In January Marilyn Whalley signed on as the group’s part-time executive director. She took over from Tom Wellen, who served as executive director for a 10-month period. A marketing/outreach coordinator and a downtown coordinator/administrative assistance position were also added.
While Hogan said he wishes even more businesses had been attracted to the city in 2007, he’s proud of what the group has accomplished.
The organization helped secure a $10 million jobs grant from the state for a new wastewater treatment plant in the city. Creganna Medical Devices and Sepracor both expanded in the city during the group’s tenure and the organization sponsored the Taste of Downtown restaurant event for two years.
The organization’s $25,000 in public funding has been leveraged to attract more than four times that amount from private investments and grants annually, he said.
Beyond 2010, however, it will be important for the organization to reach out to businesses in Marlborough and ensure they are included in discussions about how to improve the city, said Whalley, the new executive director.
She outlined the group’s goals for the year which include marketing, outreach, business services, furthering city partnerships and providing workforce training opportunities.
“The name of the game in the next year is retention,” said Whalley, who joined the organization after spending five years as the community and economic development director in Wareham.
Marlborough Economic Development Corp. board also hopes the results of a one-year study conducted by four graduate students from Tufts University’s Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning department will help define future goals.
The students studied four communities in the state including Amesbury, Hudson, Leominster and Waltham and compared them to Marlborough. They presented findings and recommendations at Wednesday’s meeting.
Some positive characteristics identified in the study included having a dedicated downtown coordinator position, having city-sponsored community events to draw people to the downtown area and having numerous clearly marked signs and banners around the city to create a sense of place.
The organization is also looking to revamp the city’s web site and create a newsletter.
The city has a sign and façade program to help fund $75,000 worth of business improvements and the it already has five expedited permitting sites that guarantee a decision on a proposed development within 90 days.
Still, Stevens said additional downtown events and better utilization of signs and banners could be done.
“These are simple things that can make a big difference,” Stevens said.
Hogan said he agrees new signage and making it easier to park in the downtown could help bring employees who work in Marlborough into the downtown area.
As for attracting new, large commercial and industrial clients to the area, Hogan said focusing on businesses already in the city should be the starting point.
“The best way to recruit new businesses is to help the current ones grow,” he said.
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