News Articles

Clinton turns the page, looks to lure Scholastic to town

By Patrick Brodrick, Staff Writer - Clinton News

April 5, 2007

It might not be midtown Manhattan or the Chicago Loop, but with two national corporations expressing an interest in Clinton over the last two weeks, the town could be on its way to becoming a major business hub in Worcester County.

On April 4, selectmen voted to enter into Tax Increment Financing (TIF) negotiations with Scholastic, the book manufacturing and publishing company that has been organizing book fairs for children in elementary and middle schools for the last 25 years. On March 28, the Clinton Board of Selectmen voted to allow Nestle, the world-renown chocolate factory, to begin preliminary testing on the Wekepeke Reservoir to determine if the former Clinton water source meets the requirements to be used in the company’s line of spring water products.

During the Wednesday night meeting, Andy Spencer, general manager for Scholastic Book Fair’s New England region, explained his company’s plans to the board.

According to Spencer, Scholastic is looking to relocate from Marlborough to Clinton, where it will occupy about 60,000 square feet of vacant warehouse space located on 100 Adams Road. Spencer estimates Scholastic will be investing about $1.2 million — $250,000 in tenement improvements and $950,000 in machinery and equipment — in the project. He also said 35 full-time employees will be making the transition to Clinton and 10 new full-time positions would also be added to the staff. Scholastic has more than 60 locations across the country and each year its book fairs sell about 122 million books to more than 43 million children around the world.

“We searched for another location in Marlborough but we couldn’t find anything,” Spencer told selectmen. “We cast a wider net and we found that Clinton had a piece of property that met our immediate needs. As well as coming into the community, we are looking to bring a positive economic impact to Clinton.”

Community and Economic Director Don Lowe has been working closely with Scholastic to help them find a suitable location in Clinton. Lowe said Scholastic would be operating a “pick-pack-and-ship” operation out of the warehouse, which would supply schools throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and southern parts of New Hampshire and Vermont with books.

“One of the really nice things about this, and I think the neighbors will really appreciate this, is the plan entails very little truck traffic,” Lowe said. “What happens is they get some major shipments over a span of a few days and then that is what goes out over the course of the school year.”

Because Scholastic will be taking up 17 percent of the Adams Road warehouse and because of the triple net lease, which would include all expenses associated with property, Lowe said Scholastic qualifies for Tax Increment Financing. Lowe, along with Town Counsel Dennis Sargent and Town Administrator Michael Ward, will be negotiating the TIF with Scholastic.

“With any TIF, the percentage of the property tax abatement is only on the improvements to the property, and only the improvements that affect the assessed value of the property,” Lowe explained. “The exciting thing is we have done four TIFs in the history of the town, and right now we are looking at bringing two forward at Town Meeting this year, so it shows that businesses want to invest here.”

Spencer told selectmen that in addition to the economic impact the town could see if Scholastic Book Fairs relocates to Clinton, the company also takes pride in its high level of community involvement. Throughout the year, Scholastic opens its facilities to the community to allow parents to buy books for their kids for drastically discounted prices — anywhere from 30 to 80 percent off. Spencer also said Scholastic looks to work with local school districts to enhance their libraries.

Lynn Tokarczyk, president of Business Development Strategies, Inc., will be working with the town and Scholastic Book Fairs when TIF negotiations begin, said she’s been impressed with the business friendly atmosphere she encountered in Clinton.

“Don really rolled out the red carpet for us,” Tokarczyk said. “We are looking to put this project on the fast track, and we are hoping to have a TIF proposal submitted by early next week. We want to negotiate the TIF sometime in April and, hopefully, come to some sort of agreement so that it can be on the warrant at the Town Meeting in June.”

It is Scholastic’s goal to be up and running in Clinton before the start of the next school year.

Selectmen voted 4 to 0 to enter into Tax Increment Financing negotiations with Scholastic.

“It looks like Scholastic could bring a lot to the community,” Selectman Anthony Fiorentino said. “It looks like a good match for the town and the company. I like what I’m hearing about getting books in kids hands and I think this is a going to be a good fit for Clinton.”