By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Economic Development Committee will share ideas with groups working on the town’s master plan rather than try to accomplish a long list of goals on its own.
EDC member Allen Edinberg, who is also a Selectman, made a presentation at a March 4 meeting on how the board can fulfill its mission—which includes retaining, attracting and meeting with businesses as well as advising the Board of Selectmen.
He categorized a lengthy list of priorities into four areas: downtown, outreach, programs and advising.
Several of the ideas focused on ways to reach the community about a revitalization effort such as through newsletters, timely updates, special events, marketing and galas.
Edinberg said that greater contact is needed with corporate decision makers, small business owners and key affinity groups.
In addition, he referred back to a presentation by Hudson officials at the EDC’s last meeting about Business Improvement Districts (BID) as a possibility for Westborough.
He also highlighted ways to foster business development such as valet parking, pop up restaurants and outdoor dining.
Financial measures such as offering Tax Incentive Finance (TIFS), partnering with banks for loan programs and pursuing small business grants were also mentioned, as was supporting bylaw changes to promote responsible business development.
Town Manager Kristi Williams noted that those topics and many others should be narrowed down to three to five items to try to accomplish in a year. She added that she and other staff members would discuss how the work would be divided between town employees and the Board itself.
EDC member and Town Planner Jim Robbins said that a lot of what his group want to accomplish dovetails with the Land Use and Regulatory Subcommittee’s efforts as the master plan is updated.
“There are a lot of important things here that can be supported by the master plan,” Robbins said. I don’t think the two efforts can run on separate tracks. They have to be folded together.”
Robbins added that some of the ideas can be carried out without having to change any bylaws and by using the frameworks already in place.
Because board members decided the word “goal,” was too strong. Edinberg suggested that the ideas be characterized as “initiatives under consideration” or “concepts to be pursued.”
Williams noted that the committee should look at expanding its membership to include more residents and members of the business community rather than largely municipal staff. That expansion could be placed on the October Town Meeting warrant, she said.
Alexander cautions against rush to establish BID
In other business, the committee reviewed the aforementioned Hudson BID presentation. EDC member Todd Alexander said that before the town dives into establishing one in Westborough, more research is needed. He said that in Amherst, he and his tenants regard it as “just another tax,” without much benefit attached to it.
Edinberg said that business owners would have to embrace the idea and come up with a list of projects that they’d like done that have visible benefits. Other members noted that the Hudson representatives emphasized the importance of community support.
New economic development coordinator
The committee was also introduced to Zach Boughner, who will begin as economic development coordinator in a few weeks.
Boughner received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and computer science from Columbia University and most recently worked as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company.
The next meeting is Thursday, April 1 at 3:30 p.m.