By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Westborough intends to leverage the state’s “Local Rapid Recovery Plan” to make it easier for downtown businesses to bounce back from the effects of COVID-19, Economic Development Coordinator Zach Boughner said April 1.
That goal and others were highlighted in a presentation by Boughner during an Economic Development Committee meeting.
This plan is part of a broader effort by Gov. Charlie Baker to help strengthen local economies following the shock of the still ongoing pandemic.
Business surveys get underway
This month Westborough is working with Hagerty Consulting on the first step in this process – data collecting.
Boughner said that he and EDC members Allen Edinberg and Pete Allen have started “face-to-face door knocking to drum up knowledge” and distribute a business survey within a designated downtown business area.
The survey answers will speak to specific needs businesses have in the wake of the pandemic.
Allen said that he has received mostly positive feedback from business owners about participating in the survey.
“They feel it is an easy ask and are glad to be asked,” he explained.
Hagerty consultants are also “on the ground,” collecting data and making site visits, Boughner said.
A report on the findings is expected at the end of April.
Town eyes projects, recovery initiatives
The second phase of this Rapid Recovery Plan involves identifying specific projects or initiatives the town can consider to help recover. A recommendation on initiatives would take place in mid to late June, Boughner said.
By the end of July, there should be a draft plan that recommends about five projects that reflect Westborough’s recovery needs.
Town officials want to make sure stakeholders are supportive and then “put a bow on it and wrap it up,” added Boughner.
Westborough considers other recovery measures
Coming out of COVID-19, the EDC wants to not only help the business community recover. It wants to expand that community.
Specifically, through more outreach, the EDC plans to update and maintain its business directory and web site, boost marketing, advance grant programs and distribute newsletters and other promotional materials.
Along those same lines, board members are considering reviving Westborough’s Ambassador Program. That past effort sought to cultivate inroads with area businesses as “ambassadors” interfaced with local owners.
These days, though, EDC members said that it is difficult to get business leaders to engage without a “value proposition,” offered in return.
“They don’t have time for general chit chat,” said EDC member Jim Robbins. “We have to come armed with reasons why they should give us their time and [say] what we can do to give them a competitive advantage to help their business grow.”
Edinberg also talked about taking a more regional approach in order to potentially find businesses in the Greater Boston area that may want to relocate or expand into Westborough.
The EDC is also hoping to diversify its membership to involve a better mix of staff and community members.