By Michelle Murdock, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Marlborough Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is the state-chartered economic development arm of the city of Marlborough. Originally established in 2007 and operating under the name “Marlborough 2010,” the organization underwent a name change in 2010 as well as an increase in staff. The current executive director, Tim Cummings, joined MEDC in January of 2012 and the organization continues to focus on its mission “to stabilize the residential tax base by increasing Marlborough’s commercial tax revenue” with the goal of guaranteeing the future stability of the city and allowing for higher quality of life for all Marlborough residents.
MEDC’s success is due in part to its status as a public-private partnership.
“We are incorporated as a separate structure outside the governance of city hall, so you could look at it as though the city is our client,” said Cummings. “Our Board of Directors is made up of both private sector individuals and public sector stakeholders, and it is because of this collaboration and unique governance structure that we have some great redevelopment powers we would otherwise be precluded from if we were a purely public entity.”
Originally membership in MEDC was open to anybody that was interested, with minimum dues of $350, but that changed in 2011 with the establishment of an economic development fund – a special revenue account in the city treasury funded by a portion of the total local room occupancy tax. According to Cummings, the Board of Directors has always been limited to 25 members by law and has stayed that way since.
“We are no longer membership-based, but we continue to work closely with a variety of stakeholders in the community and the region at large – including businesses, residents, elected officials, economic development agencies and the commonwealth,” said Cummings.
And while the organization hasn’t grown in terms of membership, it has increased the number of services for the business community and residents of Marlborough. Examples include an annual job fair, resume workshops, LinkedIn workshops, retail visioning, the downtown working group, ServSafe workshops, and CPR workshops.
“We have also implemented an aggressive marketing/branding campaign to get people outside of the city to ‘Think Marlborough’ – whether it be to move their business or to start a family here,” said Cummings.
Recent important MEDC achievements cited by Cummings include the creation of Marlborough’s 2011 Master Plan, assisting in bringing GE Healthcare to the city, assisting in the fall of the vacancy rate from a high of 35 percent to 18 percent in just two years and the establishment of the Marlborough Village zoning district in December of 2014.
According to the MEDC 2014 Annual Report, at least half a dozen new companies entered the Marlborough market and about a dozen existing businesses expanded locally in 2014, creating close to 1,800 new jobs and approximately $2.5 million of new growth for the city.
In his message on MEDC’s website homepage, Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant said: “MEDC has been a driving force in establishing our city as one of the premier communities to open and grow your business. Our mission continues to focus on working with and supporting our existing commercial tenants as their businesses expand, whilst bringing new companies into our city from all economic sectors.”
Contributing to MEDC’s recent success were changes implemented by Cummings when he took over as executive director which included implementing best practices in economic development, building strategic partnerships with economic development agencies, a more aggressive business retention and attraction program, and working with the mayor’s office directly to align Marlborough’s proactive marketing plan with regional and commonwealth initiatives.
In 2014, Cummings was named to the Worcester Business Journal’s list of up-and-coming leaders in the Central Massachusetts business scene: 40 Under Forty. A story in the Boston Business Journal quoted Cummings as saying, “My office is only as successful as the city leadership, coming together to work in unison. No individual in my type of position wants to work where there’s too much controversy or too much differing opinion. Smaller communities that can’t come together and work cooperatively can’t reap the benefits.”
What’s next for MEDC? “Continue doing what we’ve been doing!” said Cummings.