October 29, 2011 – Members of the business and biotechnology communities said they’re optimistic about the city’s economic future at a conference yesterday, stressing its centralized location and eagerness to please as major selling points.
“This area is a ripe place for (biotech) companies,” Robert Coughlin, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, told a full room of businesspeople and city officials at the Holiday Inn.
Coughlin was the keynote speaker at the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation’s second Innovation Summit, which was started last year to get city politicians and businesses talking about how to stimulate economic growth.
As the corporation and Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce has routinely stressed, Coughlin said Marlborough’s proximity to so many major roads gives it an advantage over other cities and towns.
He said there are 400 biotech and pharmaceutical companies within a 30-mile radius of the city, many of which could fit well in Marlborough if the city continues its pro-business efforts.
Coughlin said his company – which is a professional association of more than 600 biotechnology companies and universities dedicated to advancing cutting-edge research – has given Marlborough high marks in the community rankings it gives to its members looking to relocate.
Coughlin said the city’s local ordinances and bylaws are by and large favorable to biotech companies, and its local boards do a good job of not extending permitting processes unnecessarily.
“With these companies it’s all about speed, not getting tied up in government,” he said.
Kathy Singh, a controller at Advanced Cell Technology, a company that conducts embryonic stem cell research in Marlborough, agreed.
She said the city turned around an important permit for the company in two days so that it could safety store some stem cells that were thawing out and in peril of going bad.
“Try doing that in Cambridge,” she said, referencing her company’s past headquarters.
Singh was one of a number of biotech business workers who said getting out of Boston improved the quality of their lives. Less commuting time means more time with their families, they said, as well as increased morale among colleagues.
One challenge, they said, was recruiting young talent to an area less “hip” than Boston with inferior public transportation.
Corporation Executive Director George Ciccone said after the meeting that he was encouraged by the words of those in the biotech industry, noting that there were very few negatives mentioned.
“That doesn’t mean our work is done,” however, as he said the corporation plans on attacking one of the issues raised – a lack of laboratory space – by working with building owners.
Although the city has about 2 million square feet of vacant office space, virtually none of it is outfitted for laboratories, he said. To make the area more attractive to the industry, Ciccone said the corporation plans on introducing building owners to architects who excel at outfitting office space for laboratory work.
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