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MEDC report: "An economic boom is happening”

MAIN STREET JOURNAL – Marlborough Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) issued its 2014 annual report earlier this month, outlining the various initiatives through which the organization has been helping to facilitate commercial growth, develop the downtown district, and enhance Marlborough’s image as a business-friendly destination.

“An economic boom is happening before our very eyes in the City of Marlborough,” commented MEDC Executive Director Tim Cummings. “Just three years ago, we were staring at the abyss left behind by the departure of Fidelity and HP. Today, we face a much brighter future.”

Also this month, MEDC’s board of directors elected the five new members: Lauren Baker – Boston Bio­medical Associates; Brian Bouvier – Bouvier Pharmacy; Molly Brodeur – Al Brodeur’s Auto Body; Doug Kehlhem – MassEcon; and Attorney Douglas Rowe – Marlborough Regional Chamber of Com­merce.

Among the positive data presented in the annual report: More than twenty companies either moved to or expanded in Marlborough in 2014; Property tax revenue from new commercial construction and/or expansion has averaged just under $2.3M per year the past four years, jumping from $1.9M in 2013 to $2.5M last year; Local options room revenue has more than doubled in the past five years, growing from $1.0M in 2010 to $2.1M in 2014; And perhaps most significant of all, the office vacancy rate in Marlborough, which spiked to 34% in 2012, has been nearly cut in half since then, down to 18% last year.

“MEDC has worked very hard to promote the numerous benefits Marlborough offers to developers and businesses,” said Cum­mings. “It is very rewarding to see that our efforts are paying off for the city, as well as its businesses and residents.”

Shown in picture, an aerial view of The Campus off of Simarano Drive, looking east, with Sligo Tower visible on the horizon. Directly behind The Campus, construction is ongoing at Marlborough Hills where a major transformation is underway. This is one of the pictures included in the image library being used by MEDC to promote Marlborough.

Among the major developments last year, GE Healthcare announced plans to move its United States headquarters to Marlborough, right next door to Quest Diagnostic’s brand new regional hub lab. Together the two companies have revived the seemingly doomed office park at 200 Forrest Street.

The 109-acre site, featuring a single 657,000-square-foot building, generated $1.2M in taxes for the city in 2010. That same year, Hewlett-Packard vacated the building, leaving a big hole to fill in one of Marlborough’s prime commercial locations. Since then, MEDC led the effort to rezone the site for mixed-use development and the parcel has been renamed Marlborough Hills.

In addition to the moves of GE Healthcare and Quest, a 164-room Hilton Garden Inn and a 350-unit AvalonBay residential community are now under construction there. An additional 75,000 square feet of retail space is expected to be built in the future. According to Cummings, “Once the development is completed, a conservative projection estimates that it will generate about $2.4 million in tax revenue. This would be a one hundred percent increase over the income the site yielded in 2010.”

In another major development spearheaded by MEDC last year, the City Council approved a downtown rezoning proposal, effectively creating a new fifty-acre Marlborough Village mixed-use zoning district. The key zoning changes include redefined allowable uses for new developments, relaxed parking requirements for new projects, and revised design standards for new buildings. By reducing development obstacles, it is hoped that this move will lead to new growth in the downtown district in the not too distant future.

Also last year, in an effort to take advantage of the many visitors attracted to the area by the New England Sports Center, MEDC staffed a concierge desk at the facility during twenty-two major events, with the staff distributing over 4,500 dining guides and directing more than 2,000 visitors to local eateries.

In an effort to raise awareness about Marlborough as a desirable location for business, MEDC launched an advertising campaign, “Think Marlborough.” The campaign specifically targets site selectors and key company decision makers, and continues to run in a number of print and online publications.

A separate initiative intended to help Marlborough stand out was the Marlborough Image Library project. MEDC commissioned a photographer to compile a collection of high-quality images that professionally represent and showcase Marlborough, as well as its businesses, communities, activities and offerings. MEDC and the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau are now using the portfolio for promotional and marketing purposes.

MEDC has a 2015 budget of $513.9K that includes $163K in salaries for two full time and four part time employees. The funding comes from an increase in the local options room tax revenue that was approved by the City Council in 2010.

Currently, Massachusetts levies a 5.7% room occupancy tax, and allows up to an additional six percent to be levied by cities and towns. In Marlborough, the total tax had been 9.7% back in 2010, with four percent collected by the city. The proposal approved by the council that year increased the tax to 11.7% with six percent allocated to Marlborough.

The city had averaged about $1.1M per year in revenue from the hotel tax at the old 9.7% rate. The extra two percent was expected to generate an additional half million dollars or so and the new money was primarily targeted to fund MEDC. However, the growth has exceeded expectations with $2.1M generated last year including about $700K made possible by the two percent increase approved in 2010.

The following board members are returning to serve the MEDC for another term: Sem Aykanian, Arthur Bergeron, Chris Berglund, Walter Bonin, Ellen Carlucci, David Ferris, Rick Grady, Robert Kays, Kevin Malloy, Robert McCabe, David K. McCay, Greg Mitrakas, Michael Murphy, William Pezzoni, City Council President Patricia Pope, Joe Santos, Richard Tomanek, Wes Tuttle, Mayor Arthur Vigeant, Dave Walton.

To view the complete 2014 MEDC annual report, (click here).

This article by Jim Ash originally appeared here.