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MEDC Chairman Arthur Bergeron Interviewed in WBJ

Shop Talk: Q&A with Arthurn Bergeron, Mirick O’Connell
Worcester Business Journal – June 6, 2010 — The last several months have seen some big changes for the Town of Marlborough’s quasi-public economic development arm. First, the organization changed its name from Marlborough 2010 to Marlborough Economic Development Corp. Next, the organization hired Marilyn Whalley as a new part-time executive director and appointed local attorney Arthur Bergeron as its new board chair. Here, Bergeron talks about his goals for MEDC as well as his decision to join the Worcester-based law firm of Mirick O’Connell after more than 30 years of practicing on his own.

How did you get involved with Marlborough Economic Development Corp?

I was one of the founding members. I was asked by (former Marlborough Mayor) Mike Hogan to get involved. He really persuaded several of us that a quasi-government entity focused on economic development was crucial to the success of the community. He always said that there are certain things that governments don’t understand and that the private sector can’t do, so you really need an entity with the credibility to do those things.

What are your goals as chairman?

The challenge I think going forward is to develop a political constituency among average residential voters who appreciate the fact that the only way our very good tax rate is going to stay very good is if we continue to expand the assessed non-residential tax base. One of the things that we want to have done by this fall is a study that looks over the next 10 years to see by how much the non-residential tax rate needs to grow in order for residential taxes to stay stable during that period.

There are plenty of communities who would look at Marlborough and say, ‘Gee, you guys have it good. What do you need to worry about?’ What do you say to that?

Everybody’s goals are the same. Everybody wants a great place to live for as little as possible in taxes. That’s the goal whether you are in Newton or Fitchburg or Leominster. It’s the same issue.

Oftentimes, companies that are based in a suburb off a highway can be very disconnected from the community. Is that the case in Marlborough?

It is the case, and not just with the larger companies, but practically every company on the west side of Interstate 495. At least the larger players have skin in the game. They own their own land, so they’re very interested in what the tax rate is because they’re paying the taxes. For the corporate tenants paying rent to absentee landlords, they don’t care. They’re paying, I am sure, the exact same thing in Marlborough as they would be paying in Westborough. So, those folks — who are in many ways key to our future — have no reason to be interested in what’s happening in Marlborough.

So how do you get them interested?

I think you want to start off by introducing them to each other because they also have no reason to be interested in who lives in the next office park. You’ve got corporations with a couple hundred employees that are just renting space and that could move at any time. They need to know who their neighbors are. They need to know that their employees are really wanted in Marlborough. To that end, the MEDC is going to kick off this fall with an innovation summit in September. The premise of the event is to get together the many innovative companies that are already in Marlborough and help develop some connections between them and the community at large.

You made a big career move earlier this year by joining Mirick O’Connell after more than 30 years of practicing law on your own. What do you like about being part of a larger organization?

It allows you to just do the things that you like doing. I really like land use and elder law. I was always less interested in the corporate pieces of the practice and now there are people at the firm who do nothing but that. Instead of saying, ‘I’ll figure it out,’ or having to refer out to somebody I really don’t know, now I can say, ‘I know a guy. He’s right down the hall.’

You’ve lived in Marlborough your entire life. What’s been the biggest change you’ve observed?

I grew up in a poor community. I grew up in a community that had been nothing but shoe shops. Housing was very affordable because nobody had any money. I remember my senior year in high school standing on the 495 bridge, which had just been finished, and saying, ‘I’m leaving this town and never coming back because there is no opportunity.’ That’s what’s changed. There is a lot of opportunity now. There is a lot of wealth.

This story originally appeared here