MetroWest Chamber panel focuses on collaboration in region’s growth

By Brian Benson – Daily News Staff

The MetroWest Daily News

NATICK – As they envision the future of the Golden Triangle area by Massachusetts Turnpike exit 13, Natick and Framingham officials say they don’t want the town line to also divide the vision.

Instead, planners in the two communities are working together to figure out what the future of the area should be, said Natick’s Jamie Errickson and Framingham’s Art Robert, who are their towns’ community and economic development directors.

“There’s quite a bit of utilized and under-utilized parcels, plus the retail market is really changing (with the growth of online shopping),” Errickson said at a MetroWest Chamber of Commerce economic development forum Thursday.

Errickson said the exit 13 area is in dire need of traffic improvements, but planners want to first understand the vision for the area.

“Developing that joint vision is critical,” Robert said.

Errickson and Robert were part of a panel at Thursday’s event at the Verve Crowne Plaza. Speakers talked about the importance of collaboration, tax incentives and being responsive to businesses’ interest in local communities.

Chamber President and CEO Paul Joseph said officials need to do more marketing of the region. They should focus on true business growth in MetroWest rather than businesses simply relocating from one local town to another, Joseph said.

Lynn Tokarczyk, a government incentives consultant with Business Development Strategies, said a variety of state and local tax incentives can be a key factor in businesses deciding where to locate.

“In this global economy, these companies don’t have to be here,” she said. “They can be anywhere.”

In Milford, municipal tax increment financing helped Consigli Construction expand its headquarters, company representative Vance Freymann said.

Consigli expanded from its origins as a masonry company founded in 1905 to a construction company tackling projects as far away as Washington, D.C. But, while the company has expanded around the Northeast, it has also maintained its presence in MetroWest, including tackling MathWorks’ expansion onto the former Boston Scientific property in Natick, Freymann said.

“The biggest project in our history is right here in MetroWest,” he said.

Tokarczyk said before a company takes part in incentives, it needs to have a site in mind.

Douglas Kehlhem, senior director at MassEcon, said his organization has developed a list of Massachusetts properties – including ones in Framingham, Marlborough, Milford, Northborough and Westborough – that are ready to be occupied or developed.

On the local level, Errickson said Natick has done a good job developing a mix of businesses, but needs to form an overall vision for economic development. That should come into focus through development of a targeted economic plan that Town Meeting has funded.

Robert said Framingham has worked to create a streamlined, predictable permitting process and reduced the time it takes for the Planning Board to review projects.

It also has modified zoning to foster transit-oriented development downtown that would appeal to young professionals and empty-nesters, Robert said.

“Our challenge at this point is to turn that opportunity, which I think is broadly recognized, into actual investment,” Robert said.