Westborough EDC will work with masterplan subgroups on initiatives
By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing writer
Westborough – The Economic Development Committee will be sharing ideas with groups working on the city’s master plan rather than trying to accomplish a long list of goals on their own.
EDC member Allen Edinberg, who is also a Selectman, gave a presentation at a March 4 meeting on how the board can fulfill its mission of retaining, attracting and meeting companies as well as advising the Board of Directors of Selectmen.
He categorized a long list of priorities into four areas: downtown, outreach, programs and advice.
Many of the ideas focused on ways to reach out to the community about a revitalization effort, such as newsletters, timely updates, special events, marketing and galas.
Edinberg said closer contact is needed with business decision makers, small business owners and major affinity groups.
Additionally, he referred to a presentation made by representatives of Hudson at the EDC conference. last meeting on 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 providing tax incentive finance (TIFS), partnering with banks for lending programs, and pursuing grants to small businesses were also mentioned, as was support for regulatory changes to promote responsible business development.
City Manager Kristi Williams noted that these topics and more should be reduced to three to five items to try to accomplish in a year. She added that she and other staff would discuss how the work would be divided between city employees and the council itself.
EDC member and city planner Jim Robbins said much of what his group wants to accomplish aligns with the efforts of the Land Use and Regulatory Subcommittee 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 work on separate tracks. They must be folded together.
Robbins added that some of the ideas can be implemented without having to change the statutes and using the frameworks already in place.
Because the board members decided that the word “objective” was too strong. Edinberg suggested that the ideas be referred to as “initiatives under consideration” or “concepts to be pursued”.
Williams noted that the committee should consider expanding its membership to include more residents and members of the business community rather than city staff. This extension could be on the mandate of the October city meeting, she said.
Alexander warns of rushing to establish BID
In the remaining cases, the Committee considered the aforementioned presentation of Hudson BID. EDC member Todd Alexander said before the city embarks on establishing one in Westborough, more research is needed. He said that at Amherst he and his tenants saw it as “just another tax”, with little benefit attached to it.
Edinberg said business owners should embrace the idea and make a list of projects they would like to accomplish that have visible benefits. Other members noted that representatives from Hudson stressed the importance of community support.
New economic development coordinator
The committee was also introduced to Zach Boughner, who will become economic development coordinator in a few weeks.
Boughner received a Bachelor of Arts 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.