In 2012, I became mayor of a city formed in the 1600s that grew into an industrial powerhouse by the late 1800s. Economic reinvention has been a constant need in our history, and it was dire after the 2008 downturn when our office vacancy rate hit 34 percent.
Aggressive economic development helped attract Boston Scientific, Quest Diagnostics and the TJX Cos. to fill commercial space left by Hewlett Packard and Fidelity Investments. They netted us 1.2 million square feet in absorption and future move-ins in 2012, surpassing every city and town outside Boston.
Our tax incentive financing and streamlined permitting have been cited by several business leaders as instrumental in deciding to choose or stay in Marlborough. But we are committed to grow more.
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council just recognized the city of Marlborough as a leading incubator of mature life science companies and it plans a life sciences open house later this year. That followed our first foray to Bio International, in Chicago, where our Economic Development Director Tim Cummings told companies about our $18 per square foot lease rates â€” compared to $55 in East Cambridge â€” not to mention our easy access to skilled workers and major highways.
And I joined a state economic development team in New York, where top national commercial site selectors decided after the presentation to come up for a tour.
As we stabilized the residential tax rate and saw unemployment drop from 8.1 percent in January 2010 to 5.1 in November 2012, we have breathed easier. Now we welcome the construction jobs, the enduring ones from new development and the resulting business for dry cleaners, restaurants and hair salons.
We tried to help by streamlining permits, which Brian A. Gagne, an executive vice president at RAM Cos., credited in signing a life science tenant.
â€œIf it were not for the quick turnaround in permitting, I would have lost out on a great business,â€ Gagne said.
We also supported a zoning change for the mixed-use development Forest Park that Atlantic Management is creating on the former Hewlett Packard site with luxury apartments, a hotel, retail shops and office space.
Shaping our destiny with our own effort, we hope to bring an array of new companies to our city offering real value and support.
Arthur Vigeant is mayor of Marlborough.