January 8, 2018

Economic growth is a community-driven process

Meredith Harris

On any given day, we might be helping a local business owner open his second location, negotiating the number of jobs a new company will bring to Marlborough, or working with the Department of Public Works on its latest downtown beautification project. If it's Monday night, we're attending the City Council meeting. If it's Tuesday night, we're at the Urban Affairs Subcommittee meeting. The rest of our weekdays and weekends are usually chock full of commitments ranging from speaking on a regional panel about Marlborough's bid to host the new Amazon headquarters to picking up garbage along the Assabet River as part of Project Clean Sweep.

Economic development is not a profession. It is a process, an amalgamation of various activities, which, together, focus on a singular goal: the betterment of a community. This is what we at the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. do, day in and day out.

We are often asked what metrics we use to evaluate our work. For starters, we look at your property tax bill because stabilizing Marlborough's residential tax rate is our core mission. If you own a home in Marlborough, you can think of your tax bill as our report card. By helping businesses to open, move or expand here, we are facilitating the growth of commercial tax revenue for the city, thereby reducing revenue needed from residents.

The arrival of large employers, like GE Healthcare Life Sciences, Quest Diagnostics, and TJX Cos., has resulted in a steady decline of Marlborough's residential tax bill. Marlborough now has one of the lowest average single-family tax bills, compared to surrounding communities, which seldom offer the same level of municipal services.

The tax revenue generated by new business openings has allowed Marlborough to offer new and improved services. Over the past few years, tax dollars have paid for major improvements, including revitalizing Memorial Beach, renovating Ward Park, building a new senior center, constructing two new turf fields, and reconstructing miles of city streets. Marlborough has invested more in its schools, equipping classrooms with cutting-edge technologies. With the influx of employers, local students have access to internships and jobs at world-class companies.

Speaking of jobs, we know that's the one thing communities want more of. So, we make it our job to help bring jobs to the community. In the last five years, new company move-ins and business expansions have helped create 6,000 jobs in Marlborough; the city's unemployment rate has dropped by half and now hovers below 3 percent.

It is these and other aspects of our work stimulating growth and prosperity for the areas and people we serve. It is how we, economic developers, uplift communities.

Meredith Harris is the executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.


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