Corridor Nine Chamber holds economic development meeting

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By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor

Westborough – Local town government officials and leaders from the business community gathered for a meeting at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce offices Feb. 28 to discuss the region's economic status. Things are slowly improving, they noted, but there are still issues of concern that could hamper a full economic recovery.

Northborough Town Administrator John Coderre said that Northborough Crossing, which opened in October 2011, had been instrumental in helping to keep the town's taxes down. That was important, he added, as the town could no longer rely on as much state and federal aid as it had received in the past.

Northborough officials were also pleased with a proposed new project that will replace an aging World War II surplus tower near the town's police station with a new cell tower, he said. As part of the deal, the town will also receive all new police and fire equipment. The project will be worth over $1 million over the next 20 years, he said.

Southborough Town Planner Eric Denoncourt, said Southborough had not had as much new development as any of the surrounding towns over the past few years. But, he added, several residents had recently established a new Economic Development Committee in an effort to highlight what the town has to offer and to assist new businesses seeking to locate in Southborough.

Westborough Town Planner Jim Robbins said 4,200 new jobs had been created in that town over the past year.

“We were the number-one leading town in the commonwealth in creating jobs,” he said.

Bonnie Sullivan, a member of the Westborough Economic Development Committee, added that the town was now also an “Economic Target Area” and bio-ready community.

Two local banking officials, Rick Bennett, the president and CEO of Marlborough Savings Bank and Mike Crawford, the executive vice president and COO of Commerce Bank, shared their perspectives on the region's economic recovery.

“Jobs are still a big issue and interest rates are too,” Bennett said.

The volatility in Iran, especially as it relates to the rising price of oil, and the struggling European economy, were also concerns, he added.

“Government regulations are also a major issue,” Bennett noted. “It slows banks down in how they do business.”

Crawford agreed with that assessment.

“Banks do want to lend money,” he said. “They need to lend money in order to make money. But all the regulations and compliance mandates can create problems in letting us do that.”