September 17, 2015

MassEcon hears pitches from a mix of MetroWest businesses

MassEcon Chairman Fred Mulligan at a pre-luncheon reception for Economic Impact Award winners in 2013.

How do you measure the economic impact of a business?

Judges of MassEcon's Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Awards will make that determination after hearing pitches from 21 finalist companies from across the state Wednesday night, a final phase of the annual contest that recognizes companies that are making their mark on the Massachusetts economy.

GE Healthcare, Jack's Abby among contenders

As finalists from the Central region, four MetroWest-area companies made pitches to a panel of judges at last night's event, hosted by the law firm Nutter McLennen & Fish LLP in Boston. If judges were to determine winners by size and revenue, GE Healthcare and Life Sciences division, a new arrival in Marlborough, would be a shoo-in next to other local finalists, including SimpliVity, a young information technology company based in Westborough, and SanDisk, a California-based company specializing in digital storage that recently moved Massachusetts operations from Westford to Marlborough. And Jack's Abby, a Framingham brewery that's set to expand by the end of the month in a new downtown location, is in an entirely different league.

Not just a numbers game

"It's not purely a numbers game," said MassEcon Executive Director Susan Houston, of the criteria for determining winners from each region in the gold, silver and bronze category. The MetroWest companies each have a solid shot at receiving one of those, as just one other company, Great Wolf Lodge of Fitchburg, is a finalist from the Central region.

The contest is now in its twelfth year. MassEcon, a nonprofit organization that focuses on business development, founded it to increase the visibility of appreciation for what companies contribute to the Bay State economy, according to Houston.

"Massachusetts and New England have been fairly reserved about celebrating what we have (in terms of business presence)," Houston said. "We see it as part of a business retention strategy."

While the biggest companies might not necessarily place first, employment growth and investment in facilities will be heavily considered, according to Houston. But she said all finalists are "the cream of the crop." They were nominated for participation and vetted through site visits by regional teams of judges ahead of last night's pitch session.

"There's a difference in terms of the economic impact but they're each unique as well," Houston said.

For example, Jack's Abby may not approach its fellow finalists in size but the impact it's having on downtown Framingham is hard to overlook.

Framingham officials nominated Jack's Abby for the contest, according to Sam Hendler, who co-owns the brewery with his two brothers. The brewery is relocating from another downtown location to a building formerly occupied by the former Dennison Manufacturing Co., and expanding its business to include a restaurant as well as the brewery. The restaurant is set to open by the end of the month.

"We're just excited to be part of it. It feels crazy to be even in the same sentence as GE," Hendler said.

Winners of the Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Awards will be announced the week of Sept. 28, and honored at an awards luncheon in November.


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