April 23, 2018

Marlborough chamber CEO to retire

File photo
Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Susanne Morreale Leeber.

The longtime head of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce is retiring at the end of August, the chamber announced this month.

Susanne Morreale Leeber joined the chamber in January 1987 as the membership director and has served as the president and CEO since 1991.

When she came aboard, there were only 165 member organizations and dozens of empty commercial spaces after Digital Equipment Corp. began selling off its many properties in Marlborough.

Now, there are 470 members and the area is home to some of the largest biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the Northeast. The chamber, Leeber said, is in the best position it has been in in the last 20 years.

"So, it is time," she said. "I have family across the United States and my grandchildren are growing up. I'd love to go visit more often."

The chamber has gone above and beyond to serve members and connect businesses to resources, said Leeber. That service includes hosting at least one event every single week, which range in size from a business talk to a golf tournament.

"I have worked diligently to create a culture in this chamber to be welcoming, helpful and to service every chamber member we have," she said. "There is something that our members, no matter what size, can choose to attend to really serve their purposes."

Under Leeber, the chamber played an integral role in bringing Fidelity Investments to Marlborough and getting the Solomon Pond Mall project approved in the early 1990s.

She worked with Providence Bruins owner Larue Renfroe to see the approval of the New England Sports Center, an eight-rink ice-skating and hockey facility on 22 acres in Marlborough.

Construction on the facility began in 1994, an subsequent additions were completed as recently as December.

Thanks to Leeber's work alongside then State Sen. Paul Cellucci, exit 23C on I-495 was built in 2000.

Off of that exit are some of the city's largest companies, including GE Healthcare, medical imaging device giant Hologic and corporate offices of TJX Cos.

Medical device giant Boston Scientific also found its home in Marlborough in 2012 after moving from its former headquarters in Natick. Now, the company operates four buildings on a 119-acre campus in the city.

The city has become a small biotech hub, including other large publicly traded companies like Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Quest Diagnostics, RXi Pharmaceuticals and Oxford Immunotec.

"It was exciting to land those big companies," she said, recalling that Fidelity Investments was among the first of the large ones to come to the city.

More recently, the chamber worked with developers of the Apex Center, a 475,000-square-foot hub of entertainment, dining and hotels off of Route 20 in Marlborough.

All of the businesses in the center are members of the chamber.

"It's exploding," Leeber said of the development.

Currently, the chamber is working with Quinsigamond Community College and Framingham State University to open satellite campuses in the city to help boost the talent pipeline for the cluster of large companies in the city.

The chamber's board of directors has initiated a search process that drew more than 80 applicants. Candidates are currently being screened.

Going forward, Leeber said she wants her successor to bring more public transportation to the city. Currently, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority operates a fixed-route bus route, stopping at six locations in the city.

"I'd love to see a public transportation system," Morreale said. "I don't know how far off that will be, but I think that would be a boon, especially to future employees who don't have vehicles."

The lifelong business advocate is still planning to work with nonprofit organizations.

"That's where my heart lands usually," she sad. "I enjoy helping out."

To celebrate her 30 years of work, the chamber is hosting a retirement party at the Best Western Royal Plaza in Marlborough on May 10.

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