Economic Development Committee lauds progress

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Westborough – Since the Economic Development Committee (EDC) was formed just over two years ago, there have been some significant, positive changes in how the town interacts with its business sector. Not the least of these, committee members said at their Feb. 1 meeting, is the nearly 1,700 new jobs and hundreds of retained jobs that have resulted.

The EDC was formed after a Special Town Meeting vote in 2008, in part to help promote business development within the town. Since its formation, the group’s “major wins” as Board of Selectman Chair Rod Jané said, include: the new BJ’s Corporate Headquarters (along with its 1,200 new jobs); eClinical Works (450 retained jobs, 150 new ones), Ameridose, and Coughlin Electric. The committee is also working closely with other several other major companies in an effort to convince them that Westborough is the place in which they should consider locating their businesses.

Part of the committee’s mission has been to have the town become an “Economic Target Area” (ETA). This, according to a document from the group, “allows the town to provide tax increment financings to job creation projects that create incremental taxable value to the town.”

The town now also has a new industrial zoning classification that makes certain provisions for commercial businesses located at the east end of Route 9. And they have worked in partnership with the Conservation Committee to develop new wetlands protections and stormwater management while also being mindful of the needs of commercial development.

The single tax rate has also been very favorable to the town as well, Jané said, especially concerning small businesses.

“We are only one of the few communities in this area who have this [a single tax rate],” he said. “I know Marlborough and Worcester have significant splits.

“It is so impressive hearing of all the work you have accomplished so far,“ Corinne Rosseel, a financial services representative from TD Bank, told the committee.

“It’s dramatic,” said Barbara Clifford, the president of the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce. “I have not seen anything like [the committee] in any other town… It’s going to yield great results.”

The committee also discussed the progress being made on efforts to achieve both Gold and Platinum Level BioReady statuses, which would then allow them to attract a certain type of industry to Westborough.

Towns must first meet criteria established by the nonprofit group MassBio to achieve gold or platinum level. Once they do, they are cited on the MassBio website as being “BioReady.”

According to Town Planner Jim Robbins, Westborough is already at a Gold Level and is close to achieving Platinum level as well. Level 4 companies, such as those that work with hazardous materials or are involved in such things as recombinant DNA therapy, must be located in communities that have the Platinum designation.

Board of Health (BOH) Director Paul McNulty told the committee that it is the BOH that has the authorization to approve or disapprove a permit allowing a potential Level 4 business to locate in Westborough. This would only be done, he added, after ensuring all National Institute of Health guidelines were followed.

EDC members stressed that just because Westborough was aiming to get a Platinum level designation, it did not necessarily mean they actively seek out Level 4 businesses. “It is just a means,” EDC member Lester Hensley said, “of showing our intention to get the most visible listing on the MassBio website.”