By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – At its Feb. 6 meeting, the Westborough Economic Development Committee (EDC) agreed to participate in a survey sponsored by the Metrowest Chamber of Commerce that will help identify the town's strengths and weaknesses.
Bonnie Biocchi, the president and CEO of the Metrowest Chamber, and Nancy Lee, a consultant from the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, met with the EDC to explain how the survey would work.
Biocchi said that the Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool (EDSAT) is a process that allows municipalities to do a self-assessment and identify areas that need improvement. It was first developed by the Dukakis Center as a way to help older, industrial cities.
After receiving a Regional Economic Development Grant, the chamber targeted three towns – Framingham, Natick and Westborough – to be part of a local survey.
Lee explained that to do the survey, each town would set up a day in which “stakeholders,” (i.e., local officials and business leaders) would meet to discuss ideas and strategies. As a group, they would then take an electronic survey of approximately 250 questions. The questions were developed based on input from location experts who are members of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and CoreNet Global, she said.
The EDSAT survey addresses 10 critical areas related to economic development. They include: access to customers/markets, concentration of businesses and services, cost of land, labor, municipal process, quality of life (community), quality of life (site amenities), business incentives, tax rates and access to information.
After the municipalities finish the survey, the Dukakis Center will send them a report that indicates how they rank in relation to other municipalities who have also completed the EDSAT. They would also receive a report of prioritized potential “deal-breakers” that can help identify areas of improvement related to attracting businesses to their community.
There is no charge to participate in the survey, Biocchi said, but a municipality did need to be a member of the Metrowest Chamber. As Westborough was not yet a member, the EDC voted at its Feb. 6 meeting to join.
“Eventually, it would be great to have a regional approach,” Biocchi noted, “so that local communities can work together collaboratively.”
That was important, she added, as more companies, particularly those in the biotech sector, seeking lower costs consider relocating west of Boston into the Metrowest/495 area.
No date has yet been set for the survey.