News Articles


They Deserve A Break Today

 

By Bob Tremblay / Daily News Staff
Monday, October 3, 2005

 

When dealing with government programs, cutting through bureaucratic red tape can require shears so big that Paul Bunyan would have trouble handling them.

 

Move over, Mr. Bunyan, here comes Lynn Tokarczyk. During her 10-year career helping businesses deal with myriad rules and regulations, the Bellingham resident has sliced and diced through enough red tape to wrap around the State House and tie a bow on it.

 

As president of Business Development Strategies Inc. in Medway and in her jobs with the Massachusetts Office of Business and Development and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, Tokarczyk has helped more than 300 companies throughout Massachusetts take advantage of government incentive programs and attracted more than $3 billion in new private investment to the state.

 

"I take pride in helping make business expansions become a reality in Massachusetts," says Tokarczyk.

 

Her firm accomplishes this task by working with businesses and state and local authorities to help companies access state investment tax credits, municipal property tax relief in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), work-force training grants and other benefits.

 

These advantages are all available through the state's Economic Development Incentive Program. Since its inception in 1993, an estimated $1 billion of private investment has been generated with the assistance of these incentives. The problem is many businesses don't know about them and, if they did, they might not know how to go about obtaining them or would spend too much time trying, according to Tokarczyk. That's where her company comes in.

 

"Many companies at first are skeptical," says Tokarczyk. "They say, 'Are you actually telling me we can get a tax break from our real estate tax bill from the town?' They need selectmen and Town Meeting approval for that and they can't envision having any of that being approved. They're intimidated by state and local government. They don't know how to navigate the political process."

 

Business Development Strategies instead does the steering with Tokarczyk at the helm. Familiar with both business and government, the Natick native has the ideal background for the job. Before founding her consulting firm, she worked at Stacy's Fashions in Natick for 10 years, starting at the age of 16 as a night manager. She eventually became a training manager for the company's 20 stores, working there through high school and college.

 

After graduating from Natick High School and Lasell College in Newton with a degree in retail management, Tokarczyk started her own company in 1987. "After working 80 hours a week in retail, I said, 'You know what, if I'm going to work this hard, I'm going to open up my own retail store.'" The result was Sincerely, Lynn Inc., an upscale women's apparel shop in Wayland.

 

"That's where I obtained my sales and negotiating skills, traveling all over the country to buy clothes," says Tokarczyk.

 

Business was fine until the arrival of discount stores on Rte. 9 and the recession in the 1990s, she says. "When we started, my customers never looked at prices and the average sale was $1,500," she says, "but then all the discounters came in and the recession hit. After that, the same customer who spent $1,500 in the late '80s was now complaining about something that cost $25."

 

Tokarczyk eschewed going into the discount market herself. "That was not my philosophy," she says. Business colleagues then suggested she pursue a career in government. She had put together a business herself, they pointed out. She could help other entrepreneurs do the same.

 

So Tokarczyk applied to the state Office of Business Development in 1994. Of the dozen applicants for the job of project manager, she was one the few who had run her own business. Michael Hogan, the office's executive director at the time and a former mayor of Marlborough, hired her. Tokarczyk worked in the agency's Worcester office, serving central Massachusetts including all of MetroWest. Hudson's Paul Cellucci, who was then governor, later promoted her to regional director, where she oversaw 80 communities. She also served as one of his spokeswomen on business development across the state.

 

"During that time, we built up a team, brought the business community together and provided the economic development tools for businesses," says Tokarczyk. "I had a great passion for working with the business community, assisting large and small companies in the region... educating them about these tools."

 

One of the more important projects Tokarczyk worked on was the addition of the Exit 23C interchange on Interstate 495 in Marlborough. "I was the liaison between the business community and all the state and local officials to get that project done," she says. "It helped businesses expand in the area and it was completed on time."

 

In 2000, Tokarczyk received a call from the Boston-based accounting firm of Ernst & Young. "They said they were going to make me an offer I couldn't refuse," she says. And she didn't, coming aboard to manage the company's government incentives practice. "I was doing the same thing I was doing for the state," she says. Only this time, the clients, many of them Fortune 500 companies, were paying for her assistance.

 

"Companies I had helped working with the state followed me to Ernst & Young because I was one of their trusted business advisers," Tokarczyk says.

 

Hired as a manager, Tokarczyk within a year was promoted to senior manager.

 

By 2003, the Office of Business Development had seen its staff reduced significantly. "That opened a huge door for me," says Tokarczyk. "There was a gap in assisting the business community. The timing was perfect. If I wanted to pursue my career with Ernst & Young, it was either getting my tax law degree or becoming an accountant and neither made my heart beat fast. I'm an economic and business development specialist."

 

So Tokarczyk started Business Development Strategies two years ago. The company's services include access to financing, brownfield programs, corporate real estate solutions, infrastructure streamlining, introduction to state and local officials, municipal real estate tax relief, real estate site selection, state investment tax credits, state and municipal permit streamlining and work-force training grants.

 

The company has worked with 25 clients on a variety of projects. Some seek assistance more than once and many have longtime associations with Tokarczyk. "We've been able to generate these clients through trust," she says. "We've also worked closely with municipalities and trust is important for them, too."

 

Government incentives provide a win-win-win situation, according to Tokarczyk. "It's a three-way partnership with the business, the state and the community. We're providing financial value to the company by reducing the cost of doing business in Massachusetts while the state and the community benefit from new jobs and new tax revenue.... We also help municipalities deal with all the paperwork involved."

 

The process needs to be completed in a timely fashion, says Tokarczyk. They're making business decisions and time is money," she says. "They can't wait six months. They need to make their decisions within a reasonable amount of time. I just worked with one company -- if Massachusetts wasn't going to be the site, it was going to be Connecticut. As part of their due diligence, these companies are looking at options. Plan B could be out of state, and we're losing all those jobs and new revenue."

 

One company that Business Development Strategies helped keep in the Bay State is Barry Controls, a Boston-based manufacturer of shock and vibration systems for the aerospace, defense and industrial markets. "They considered moving out of state," says Tokarczyk. The company also looked at an abandoned building on South Street in Hopkinton.

 

"They were very interested in accessing incentives, but Hopkinton at that time was not an economic target area so Barry could not receive the maximum incentives," says Tokarczyk. "So we worked closely with state and local officials to change that."

 

As a result, Barry Controls expects to be move into its new headquarters in Hopkinton by the end of the year. A $7 million investment in the abandoned building will be offset by an estimated $300,000 the firm was able to secure in state tax credits, a state 10 percent abandoned building tax deduction and tax increment financing through the town, according to Tokarczyk, whose team managed and negotiated the process. The project will save 200 jobs in the state and create 30 new jobs while Hopkinton gets to operate on the same fiscal playing field as its neighbors. "The town was interested in becoming an economic target area in order to attract companies and nurture existing companies," she says.

 

Barry Controls was impressed. "Lynn Tokarczyk is a very dogmatic professional," says company president Daniel Yurovich. "She and her team stay right on top of each and every issue, walking the company they are working with through each and every step of the process. Lynn, with her professional network, is capable of bringing to bear major firepower for her client companies.

 

"Lynn was a pleasure to work with. She made the very difficult and often time-consuming job of filling out the numerous forms, working with the officials seamless. Lynn did all the work, and both the town of Hopkinton and (Barry) accepted the results."

 

Revenues at Business Development Strategies have grown 50 percent each year, according to Tokarczyk. Clients typically pay an hourly or a performance-based fee. She wouldn't reveal what the hourly fee is.

The company has already built an impressive track record. It has gone before Town Meeting 25 times on behalf of clients and in all 25 cases the projects have been approved.

 

"Because of my background with state and local government we're able to pull in the necessary resources," says Tokarczyk, who is a member of the Framingham-based MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, the Franklin-based United Chamber of Commerce, the Norwood-based Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Westborough-based 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership. She is also on the advisory board of the MetroWest Economic Research Center in Framingham.

"We can pick up the phone and coordinate a meeting immediately and streamline the process.... Only a few of my competitors in my company's size range have worked in state government. That's what sets us apart."

© 2005 MetroWest Daily News