Local business leaders gathered at Juniper Systems on Wednesday as the Westford Business Association held its second annual “Town Managers’ Breakfast” event.
Last year’s event, also held at Juniper, brought Westford Town Manager Jodi Ross alongside local government administrators along the Route 110 corridor, Westford’s main business district. This year’s event instead invited neighboring town leaders closer to the Route 40 corridor, Westford’s secondary business area.
Introduced by Westford Business Association President Dan Bush, Tyngsborough Town Administrator Curt Bellavance and Groton Town Manager Mark Haddad joined Ross in a trio of presentations describing the contrasting business climates in their respective towns.
While the presentation by Ross was almost entirely positive, Bellavance and Haddad provided two distinct updates that were both more neutral in tone.
Haddad noted challenges to business faced by Groton due to its lack of access to major interstate highways, as well as the fact that just over 90 percent of the town is zoned residentially and 45 percent of the town is protected space. However, he also noted efforts by the town to rejuvenate the Groton-Dunstable School District in addition to a policy directive that streamlines permitting processes.
The issue of permitting also was mentioned in the other two presentations as well. For Westford, a complicated permitting process was one of the few weaknesses noted in the town’s EDSAT analysis. Bellavance also talked efforts in his town to simplify permitting, but for Tyngsborough, the key takeaway from their EDSAT was to improve the town’s self-promotional efforts.
On that front, Bellavance told the audience about various events occurring in the town’s village center as well as building greater awareness of opportunities near Route 3. However, his presentation focused on two other key areas.
First, he cited his town’s new sewerage efforts along Westford Road and Middlesex Road near the Nashua border. He also noted 14 additional alcohol licenses awarded to the town from the state that are expected to help the town’s restaurants, particularly near the state line where restaurants can take advantage of the fact that Massachusetts has a lower meals tax than New Hampshire.
In contrast to the other two towns, Ross’ presentation didn’t focus on challenges or potential as much as did on recent and ongoing affirmations of the town’s economic situation, beginning with a listing of awards given to the town from groups such as valuepenguin.com, ADT Security, AAA of Southern New England, Circle Health and the Boston Globe.
However, Ross did provide some insight to significant proposed land developments such as Orchard Square, a small commercial complex that will replace the long defunct shell of what once was the Tiki Lau restaurant on Littleton Road, and Ebi Masalehdan’s proposed restaurant on the former Drew Gardens Property.
Ross also noted a proposed Styrofoam ban coming before voters at Town Meeting in April as well as a possible medical marijuana dispensary that filed for a location in Westford just last week.
Following the presentations, a question and answer period was provided by the Lowell Sun’s Tom Zuppa, who posed questions to each of the town leaders in addition to fielding questions from the audience.
This marked Zuppa’s second year moderating the event, and afterward he was pleased with the discourse and insight that it provided.
“Great event. When you have three different managers from contiguous communities, you get a chance to hear what they’re working on,” he said. “For example, the typical boring sidewalks and taxes and budget type things, but a lot of exciting things in every community from development to gardens in schools. It’s really great to hear everything going on in every community.”