Westborough Economic Development Coordinator discusses COVID-19 recovery program

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough’s Local Rapid Recovery program is aiming to help downtown businesses bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough Economic Development Coordinator Zach Boughner presented on the Westborough Economic Development Committee’s (EDC) Local Rapid Recovery Program (LRRP) at a meeting of the town’s Select Board on Oct. 12.

Boughner said that he, town staff and the firm Hagerty Consulting had conducted a comprehensive review of town documents and data points and interviewed many people to inform the Westborough Recovery Program. As a result, they planned ten projects that Boughner said would hopefully support the revitalization and economic recovery of Westborough’s downtown after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Boughner said that the projects are living projects, allowing community members able to engage and let the EDC know what is and is not working.

“The intent is to come up with ten projects, high-level road maps for implementation for areas of economic need, specifically for our downtown business area, and then to inform the design of those projects and iterate on those projects,” Boughner said.

Boughner added that the ten projects match well with Westborough’s recently-passed master plan. He said that at least eight of those projects are explicitly called for in the master plan process.

The projects are divided into three phases, with four projects scheduled for the first phase. 

One aims to create an outdoor dining strategy and toolkit to enable more outdoor dining for the summer of 2022. Boughner said the project would have a very minimal cost, mostly for staff time.

“The spirit of this policy is to create opportunities for outdoor dining and outdoor selling for our downtown businesses which don’t have access to their own parking lot, which is currently the only way to do outdoor dining or selling in Westborough,” Boughner said. 

Another phase one project will create a shared marketing program for the downtown area. Boughner said that this strategy would help make Westborough’s downtown more of a consumer destination through the use of things like shared rewards programs for downtown businesses. He added that individuals from a number of downtown businesses had expressed the need for this type of program. The estimated budget for it was listed as $4,500.

Boughner said a third phase one project will develop an outreach and support plan for woman and minority-owned businesses. Boughner said that this plan, which has an estimated budget of $30,000, would require diversity and inclusion consultants to help determine how to best help businesses that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We would need some technical assistance and expertise to try and really surface what kind of help and why, and where we can play a role in supporting those businesses which are a growing segment of our business community,” Boughner said.

The final phase one project would create an online business directory, which Boughner described as a new commercial strategy that could help bring back economic activity to the downtown. It had an estimated budget of $25,000.

Select Board member Shelby Marshall said she was very excited about the work that had been done on the Local Rapid Recovery Program. 

“It’s very exciting, necessary and important, and I love the connectivity to shifting Westborough to kind of being that consumer destination,” Marshall said.

The Local Rapid Recovery Program is a state program that matches participating communities with plan facilitators who conduct analyses of the impact of COVID-19, and who help develop projects for the revitalization of downtown areas and businesses.