March 15, 2018

Devens development leader heading to Framingham

Grant Welker
Devens marked its 100th anniversary last year. Its top official, Thatcher Kezer, will become the chief operating officer in Framingham next month.

The de-facto town manager for Devens is headed to Framingham to be the city's top appointed executive.

Thatcher Kezer, who has been the senior vice president for MassDevelopment in Devens since 2015, will become Framingham's chief operating officer on April 2. Mayor Yvonne Spicer announced the appointment on March 7.

Kezer will oversee departmental operations in Framingham, which created the chief executive officer position when it switched from a town form of government to a city last fall. He is a former mayor in Amesbury, the city where he still lives.

Kezer has overseen operations in Devens for MassDevelopment, formally the Massachusetts Economic Development & Finance Agency, an arm of the state managing the former military base. Devens isn't technically a town, and is part of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.

Fort Devens closed in 1996, and since then has turned into an economic hub for the area. Devens includes a Bristol-Myers Squibb biologics development and clinical trial manufacturing site that has more than 700 workers; Quiet Logistics, an online ordering and fulfillment company, and Integra, a maker of biopharmaceutical products.

Kezer's tenure in Devens includes a new bus route started last year with the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. The route brings workers to and from Fitchburg and Leominster and Devens, where there is a growing job base, particularly for manufacturing work. The route has more than 115 riders a week, Kezer said.

"That was a crucial link for the employers," he said.

Kezer credited much of Devens' success to work done by MassDevelopment and the Devens Enterprise Commission, which also oversees the former base. Voters in Ayer, Harvard and Shirley voted to rezone a large undeveloped parcel in Devens to help attract large biopharmaceutical or life science companies, and the commission has a streamlined approvals process giving companies permitting far quicker than they may get in other communities where an applicant may have to go before a range of boards and committees.

"That's been the underlying success of Devens," Kezer said of the fast-approval process.


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