The Economic Development Committee held its monthly meeting Nov. 1 in the building on Oak Street. One of the most notable highlights from the meeting was news that the Town of Westborough may get control over the Westborough State Hospital property.
Committee member and town selectman Ian Johnson updated the committee on the progress of the subcommittee to determine the fate of the state hospital. According to Johnson, the subcommittee recently conducted a successful first meeting with the state to discuss options for the best method to hand over control of the development of the property to Westborough. “This was a positive meeting because they made it clear that they want to work with us to make the outcome work for Westborough,” stated Johnson.
Town Manager Jim Malloy, also appointed to the subcommittee, added that until now, the state had always auctioned the land, so this is their first agreement negotiation regarding this matter. Johnson said that the state is seeking a plan aiming to give Westborough unrestricted control of the property. “We will be able to determine the future of the property without needing permission from the state,” he said. According to Johnson, the next meeting between the state and the subcommittee will be in December.
In other Economic Development Committee meeting news, members discussed the transition of businesses in Westborough. “There’s always going to be an ebb and flow in retail businesses. Even with the loss of Fidelity jobs, Westborough has so far achieved a net gain of more than 2,000 jobs,” noted member Lester Hensley. Malloy noted that the retailers moving from Westborough are national chains, but local businesses hiring local residents continue to move into Westborough. Member Bonnie Sullivan commented that the Metro West region must work together to attract new Life Science companies, rather than competing against one another, and spoke of organizing a meeting with neighboring economic committees.
Richard Bennett, President and CEO of , was the guest speaker at the meeting. Marlborough Savings Bank, in business for 151 years, moved into Westborough three years ago. Bennett spoke of the challenges facing the bank and industry, including shrinking margins and shifting technology. “In five years, I won’t be surprised if debit cards are no longer used, but rather every transaction is done using phones,” noted Bennett.
His presence gave committee members the opportunity to question him regarding the standards for commercial loan qualification. Bennett stated that the bank’s most common loans are real estate, but there are a limited number of restaurant loans in the bank’s portfolio. “We try to look at each business holistically and look at the big picture when looking at loan applications,” said Bennett. Most real estate loans are currently for refurbishing properties and structures, rather than new construction, Bennett added. Committee members discussed the Marlborough Savings Bank as a financial resource for which to direct businesses interested in Westborough.