MAIN STREET JOURNAL – Marlborough Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) held its annual meeting last month and issued its annual report that outlines various initiatives through which the organization has been working to grow the city’s economy.
Areas of major emphasis for MEDC have included efforts to attract new companies to Marlborough, initiatives to support the growth of local businesses, and outreach activities to build the city’s image regionally and nationally.
“When it comes to economic development, Marlborough has continued to surpass expectations,” said MEDC Executive Director Tim Cummings. “As the Boston Business Journal once put it, the city is seeing a beautiful commercial real estate revival, and I am proud to say that the MEDC is at the forefront of these developments. We are bringing in businesses and making it easier for the local players to grow, all of which is creating tremendous movement in the local real estate and job markets.”
According to data presented in MEDC’s annual report, the overall vacancy rate dropped from 14% to 12% last year while the unemployment rate fell from 4.2% to 3.7%. In both cases, there has been a steady decline since 2012 when the vacancy rate was 22% and unemployment was 5.7% in Marlborough.
Revenue dollars also continued positive trends last year. Tax revenue generated by new commercial construction was up from $2.5M in 2014 to $4.0M in 2015, while revenue from local option hotel room taxes was up slightly from $2.1M to $2.2M.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen companies moved to, or expanded, in Marlborough last year. Major moves included GE Healthcare Life Sciences relocating its United States headquarters to Marlborough and bringing five hundred new and existing employees. In addition, Hologic moved its global headquarters to the city while bringing one-hundred-fifty employees and projecting to double its local workforce over the next two years.
Cummings said that MEDC’s most important project of 2015 was the launch of a financial incentives program to support small business growth through financing, tax credits, rental assistance and beautification grants.
The financing program aims to help business owners who might not otherwise have access to capital funding. Rental assistance, tax credits, and tax reimbursements are now available for businesses seeking to relocate to, or open, in the downtown district. Storefront beautification grants are available to new, existing, and relocating businesses seeking to renovate or restore commercial building exterior facades.
“Looking ahead, we will be focusing more of our attention on supporting the small businesses through our new Economic Development Toolbox and we certainly hope to see many business owners and entrepreneurs taking advantage of it,” said Cummings.
Another new initiative in 2015 was inspired through public feedback calling for a performing arts center downtown. MEDC began a preliminary review of possible sites, which included the Walker Building and the former Senior Center. Whether the Walker Building could be suitable as a performing arts center may be unclear at this point but MEDC does view that city landmark as a possible focal point for downtown growth. According to the annual report, “If renovated and re-purposed, the 60,000 square feet (Walker Building) could act as an economic engine, spurring commercial activity in the new Downtown Village zoning district.”
On tap for the coming year, in addition to filling vacant space and attracting innovative companies, MEDC plans to develop a marketing strategy for the downtown area in order to attract new business and developers with an eye towards expanding entertainment, dining and retail options. Additionally, the organization will be working to boost transportation accessibility and sports tourism.
In general business conducted during the annual meeting, the MEDC board elected four new members – City Councilor Joseph Delano, representing the City of Marlborough; Robert Gustafson, representing the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce; Andrea Pion of DAVIS Companies; and Sheila Hennessy from the Solomon Pond Mall.
The following board members are returning to serve MEDC for another term – Richard Tomanek, Arthur Bergeron, William Pezzoni, Arthur Vigeant, Dave Walton, Michael Murphy, Rick Grady, Robert McCabe, Walter Bonin, Kevin Malloy, Ellen Carlucci, Wes Tuttle, Chris Berglund, David McCay, Anthony Kotarski, Greg Mitrakas, Joe Santos, Molly Brodeur-Nesbitt, Brian Bouvier, Doug Kelhelm, and Lauren Baker.
This article by Jim Ash originally appeared here.