Association hopes new brochure will help spur economic development

Many in Southborough – town officials and residents alike – argue that attracting business and industry is a key ingredient in the town’s economic stew. Now a new brochure published by the Economic Development Team hopes to convince businesses and nonprofits that Southborough is a great place to set up shop.

Check out a copy of the brochure here (or pick up a hard copy at the Town House), and read this press release for more information on why the guide was created and what Southborough has to offer businesses.

To build a positive business environment for the success of businesses and ultimately the success of the community and in an effort to attract business and newcomers to Southborough, the Economic Development Team with the unanimous support of the Board of Selectmen (Chairman, Bill Boland; Vice Chairman, John Rooney and Dan Kolenda) has kicked off its economic development initiative by publishing a Business, Nonprofit and Community Guide.

The Guide is designed to provide insight as to why residents, companies and nonprofits prefer to live, work and establish their businesses here. The Guide provides a profile of the organizations that have contributed greatly to the Town’s history and growth. It also reflects why Southborough was ranked 31st in the nation by “CNN Money’s 100 Best Places to Live” in 2009.

The Guide depicts that the Town is a prime location and serves as an important cross road for New England, business and residents. Greater Southborough is a source of highly educated workers, is conveniently located close to Boston, and is an epicenter for commerce.

John Rooney, a member of Southborough’s Board of Selectmen, recently congratulated and thanked the Economic Development Team for its efforts. According to Rooney, “It is important for us to ensure all newcomers continue to be greeted warmly and new businesses are welcomed.” Rooney also stated, “The Town recently voted to continue its single tax rate to keep Southborough competitive in attracting business and that our town will continue to strive to provide predictable and efficient regulatory processes that are committed to respecting developers.”

Chris Robbins, a member of the Economic Development Team that helped produce the Guide, agrees: “It is critical we sustain and grow our business community in order to ensure the economic diversity and vitality of our Town. The Business and Nonprofit organizations provide important jobs and generate approximately 20% of Southborough’s tax revenues. These revenues help to lessen the tax burden of our residents and help to ensure that the core services of our town are maintained.”

A wide variety of dynamic and innovative companies have chosen Southborough as a location to do business. They include several hundred small companies in addition to approximately thirty mid- to large-employers and organizations. The range of companies is diverse and spans several Dun & Bradstreet industry classifications. Southborough is the proud home to Wegmans New England Divisional Office, NSTAR Electric & Gas Corporation’s Regional Operations Center, Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating Center, Lowe’s New England Regional office, Harvard Medical School’s Research Center, the New England Center for Children, Massachusetts Dental Society, Southborough Medical Group, and UMass Memorial, as well as other well-known and respected companies and nonprofit organizations.

About the Economic Development Team
The Economic Development Team (EDT) is an independent Association charged with promoting and developing the industrial/business/commercial resources of the Town. The EDT accomplishes its charge through the creation of various marketing initiatives; providing ongoing feedback on ways to refine internal Town structures and by-laws to better support economic development efforts; serving as an initial review board and advocate for providing State and local economic incentives to new and expanding businesses in Town; and providing assistance to businesses and residents dealing with zoning issues, building permits or providing introductions to key business and community leaders.

Key to its efforts is to work closely with the Town’s leadership and residents to help the Town to reduce residential taxes and sustain the core services of the community by attracting, retaining, developing and expanding our business tax base.

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Very Concerned
10 years ago

Does this language concern anyone else:

“The Economic Development Team (EDT) is an independent Association charged with promoting and developing the industrial/business/commercial resources of the Town. The EDT accomplishes its charge through the creation of various marketing initiatives; providing ongoing feedback on ways to refine internal Town structures and by-laws to better support economic development efforts; serving as an initial review board and advocate for providing State and local economic incentives to new and expanding businesses in Town; and providing assistance to businesses and residents dealing with zoning issues, building permits or providing introductions to key business and community leaders.”

By “independent” they mean not elected, appointed by an elected official or operating under any of the laws of a government body. Are their meetings opened to the public? Are they documented by minutes? Can anyone join? Yet it seems they are planning on having significant influence on Town government. How is this legal or even possible?

I have seen the “brochure” in question and it is full of advertisements for the members’ businesses. How are these advertisements placed? Is space in this “brochure,” which is being touted as a warm welcome to new residents, made available to ALL town businesses and concerns? Meanwhile, it is listed as a resource on the Town website and the home page of the Recreation Department. The icing on the cake is that a town employee, our town planner, appears to be listed as working for/with this “independent assocation.” Is he doing this on his own free time? Is the “independent association” paying him or are the taxpayers of Southborough? The text above says they are “charged with. . . .” Charged by whom? This looks like a huge conflict of interest to me and nothing more than a lobby working through the back door to influence how our town is governed and to guarantee their own financial interest, such as preserving the single tax rate.

I see absolutely nothing about this group that appears to assure transparency or that the Town’s best interests are its top priority. I see a group of business owners advancing their personal financial interests and using town resources and political influence to do so.

Also Concerned
10 years ago

Seems innocent enough … a group of local businessmen getting together to help the town with the challenging financial problems faced during these tough economic times. Yet it is not as simple as that. There is a large measure of self-interest involved here, less concern for the public good and more the individual bank account.
So I am also concerned about the accepted status of this lobbying group by the Selectmen as having a role in Town Government. Yes the selectmen should work with this group of concerned businessmen, but the EDT should be treated like any other group of residents that have a special interest and not given the keys to the town house.
These are tough economic times but that doesn’t mean we should accept a group of businessmen to take over the responsibilities that town government should be in charge of.
The EDT may serve a useful purpose but they are a lobby and should be treated as such. While town officials should be working with the interests of the business community, this self-selected group should not be given the authority being afforded them by the Selectmen and Planning Board.
Are other lobby groups given the Town Planner’s time to work for them at the taxpayer’s expense?
Most concerning is that this group seems to be afforded the authority and role of an official town entity but without having been appointed or having to abide by open meeting laws. Our duly elected boards and appointed committees and commissions are governed by state law and have to post meetings, take minutes and adhere to rules governing conduct, conflict of interest and ethics. No such restraints are placed on this group. They are self-appointed and self-governed. There can be no public scrutiny of their inside workings. Yet their manifesto is posted on the front page of the town’s web site.
The EDT should be treated like the lobbyist that they are and not an official part of town government. For the benefit of all the townspeople, the Selectmen and Planning Board need to rethink and reconfigure their official relationship with this lobby.

C. Nicholas Ellis
10 years ago

I don’t see language in their that represents anything that either of you are charging them with, at all. Perhaps I’m just dense? In any case, before we go throwing stones about perhaps it would be best to do a little more research into just who and what they are? Simply a thought.

Also Concerned
10 years ago

Not charging the EDT with anything. Just pointing out that they are a special interest group and should be treated as such. In reading their official document, which until recently had a link on the home page of the town’s web site, it is obvious that many of the actions they are undertaking are suited to an official town entity.
If the Selectmen feel there is a need for this type of input, then the Selectmen could appoint a committee that would have to abide by the same rules, regulations and state law as required of all town entities. As a private group the EDT has no obligation to meet any of these standards. There is nothing wrong with that. What is concerning is that their documents are being distributed by town government, and a town employee is listed as their contact person. The EDT have been given the resources and access that should be reserved for official town organizations.

C. Nicholas Ellis
10 years ago
Reply to  Also Concerned

Appreciate the link. While I’m inclined to agree that they seem to share similarities to a lobbying group, I still fail to connect the dots where they are acting as an official entity of the town. Perhaps you could clarify that point? I simply don’t see anything that implies they are acting as an official entity of the town, other than using the Town’s website to promote their goals (which, to me, is little different than asking the Town Clerk if they can hang a posted on the doors of the Town Hall; in other words, I don’t see the harm, nor the “official unofficial support” you’re alluding to). I equally don’t see where they are a group of businesses working together – it seems to be a group of individuals (who may or may not own or operate businesses) they collectively formed this team – note that they do not call themselves a committee – in order to promote business within the town. Again, it strikes me as little different than a group of high school students banding together to promote Green Living within the town, by working with town officials, businesses, residents, etc. to achieve their goals. While it is lobbying, I see nothing insidious about their intentions or their actions.

It just strikes me as lunging at shadows, and I’m trying to understand your viewpoints better in case I’m misinterpreting, or in case you are. No harm intended.

Echoing your Concerns
10 years ago

Some in town felt members of the group, were self serving, (and successful) in lobbying with recent changes and appointments to a town board.

If only residents were given the same voice and access.

Your concerns are valid.

C. Nicholas Ellis
10 years ago

Not to be splitting hairs here (I have no involvement with the EDT, and had never heard of them before Susan posted this), but is there any proof to your accusations, or is it merely conjecture? You’ll have to pardon me as I’m in the dark with regard to whatever you’re referring to, and I don’t tend to take someone’s opinions as fact without proof behind it – especially regarding potentially incendiary remarks. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, without question. I just like to know where the line is between opinion and fact. Call me finicky. Again, I’m not trying to pick fights with anyone, just trying to educate myself.

Echoing your Concerns
10 years ago

They are actually quite open about it. Follow the link above and under their own “Purpose and Goal” mission statements, it is clearly stated.

Al Hamilton
10 years ago

I am struggling to find anything sinister or wrong here. Quite the opposite. The group is clearly a private organization. There is nothing inappropriate about our elected leaders coordinating their activities with private organizations. SOLF is a private organization that has worked with the BOS and the Planning board for years. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts sometimes do projects with the town and they are private organizations. SOS is heavily integrated into the schools and they are a private organization.

Yes, the individuals involved may have vested interests in the economic development of the town. So what. They are probably far better qualified represent Southborough as a place to do business than an official town committee. Many business people are loath to interact with the government any more than they absolutely have to.

The fact is that we need economic development to help us pay for the government we have including our schools. I don’t think there is anything wrong her, in fact I applaud the Selectmen for reaching out to the business community to try and improve Southborough’s somewhat tarnished image as a place to do business.

If you object to this initiative and allocation of resources then your recourse is at the ballot box or on the floor of Town meeting.

C. Nicholas Ellis
10 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Echoing Al’s statements, I’ve read their Purpose & Goals statement four times now and I cannot find anything improper either. I’ve tried to see it from the “Concerned” people’s viewpoint, but I just can’t wrap my head around it – difference of opinion is all. To each their own.

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