ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE GETS TO WORK: 20 Building Projects Happening In Town RIGHT NOW

WILMINGTON, MA — It may have been a long time in the making, but members of the town’s new Economic Development Committee have hit the ground running, with two productive summer meetings now under their belts.

Background

In April 2018, Selectman Greg Bendel asked his colleagues to consider creating a committee dedicated to spurring economic development in Wilmington.

“However it’s assembled, and whatever it’s called, this group would look at the best economic development practices of our neighboring communities, and also what tools we can avail ourselves to, such as the North Suburban Planning Council,” said Bendel. 

Selectmen were supportive of the idea, in particular Selectman Mike Champoux, who had long been a proponent of such a group.

“The Town hasn’t been in the business of attracting specific businesses, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but maybe we could be a little bit; maybe that’s an activity that the Economic Development Committee could be a part of, working in collaboration with some of the other regional associations and Chamber of Commerce to construct a way to communicate the awesomeness of Wilmington to the greater business community, help full some of our vacancies, and help improve the quality of life for residents,” said Selectman Champoux. “The Committee would be [identify and recommend] ways in which the town can be more proactive in economic development…. It’s about a marketing message – we all know how awesome our town is, we just need to get the word out.”

In January 2019, Selectmen unanimously approved the creation of an Economic Development Committee.

“The Economic Development Committee will be an advisory committee making recommendations to the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager,” explained Town Manager Jeff Hull.

Hull outlined the committee’s five major purposes:

  1. Gain an understanding of what economic development means to residents, the degree to which residents are seeking more businesses or expansion of existing business, and the types of businesses residents would like to see in Wilmington.
  2. Gain an understanding of Wilmington’s strengths and vulnerabilities as a host community to businesses currently operating, businesses considering Wilmington as a potential place to relocate, and for individuals seeking to start a business.
  3. Facilitate communication with members of the Wilmington/Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce and other business in Wilmington and the area to understand their short and long term plans, opportunities and challenges.
  4. Create an informational tool that presents Wilmington “in a nut shell,” providing statistics about the population, demographics workforce, and the attributes that make Wilmington the place to conduct business.
  5. Serve as an educational forum for committee members and the public by hosting guest speakers to cover different elements of economic development.

In March 2019, the Town Manager made his appointments to the committee — Mike Champoux (now a former Selectman, local businessman), Patrick Giroux (works for a commercial real estate firm), Lilia Maselli (runs a small business — Dandi-Lyons Ice Cream in North Reading — with her husband and works as an executive assistant at Analog Devices), Nancy Vallee (Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce), and Planning Director Valerie Gingrich. Selectman Greg Bendel was named the Board of Selectmen’s designee.

In April 2019, Selectmen made their appointment — Selectman Mike McCoy appointed former Selectwoman Suzanne Sullivan; Selectman Greg Bendel appointed retired U.S. Army Major Robert Olveira; Selectman Jonathan Eaton appointed Carol Boisvert, a long-time resident and HR Director for Heilind Electronics in town; and Selectman Kevin Caira appointed Dan Gibbons, a businessman and owner of Benjamin Moore Hardware Store at the Wilmington Plaza. In May 2019, the committee’s membership was finalized once newly elected Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony appointed Tom Card, a business owner and former business analyst, to the committee. Selectmen emphasized that 10 of the 11 committee members were Wilmington residents.

In June 2019, the Committee held its first meeting. Mike Champoux was elected Chair; Tom Card was elected Vice Chair; and Lilia Maselli was elected Secretary. The Committee spent the bulk of its meeting holding initial discussions surrounding its mission and goals.

The Committee recently held its second meeting on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, for which the Wilmington Apple was in attendance.

Mission Statement

The Committee approved its mission statement after much wordsmithing. The final version reads as follows:

“The Wilmington Economic Development Committee’s (WEDC) mission is to be the proactive arm of the Town of Wilmington to the business community. We seek to collaborate with residents, property owners and businesses to help promote an atmosphere conducive to smart economic growth, by thoughtfully identifying and targeting key business sectors that compliment the fabric our community, are beneficial to the residents, and create jobs.

The Wilmington Economic Development Committee (WEDC) will serve as an advisory board and liaison between businesses and municipal government providing recommendations for planning and permitting processes that best serve the business and resident communities, while being consistent with the town’s master plan and being respectful of environmental and traffic considerations.”

Committee Description Summary

The Committee made great strides in finalizing a summary of how it will operate. Members determined that all 11 members will having voting privileges, including Planning Director Valerie Gingrich, who was first thought to be a non-voting member. The Committee, like some of the other committees in town, including the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility and Facilities Master Plan Committee, is not subject to term limits. If a member was to step off, a replacement would be selected either by the Selectmen or the Town Manager, depending on who made the original appointment. Selectman Greg Bendel emphasized that the Committee has no budget, and that it is an advisory committee to the Selectmen and Town Manager, with no real authority. The Committee will vote on its description as its next meeting.

Committee Website & Email Address

The Committee established a page on the town’s website where the public can review meeting minutes and agendas, plus any other documents produced. A list of committee members and future meeting dates are also posted. A committee email account was also established — wedc@wilmingtonma.gov — to provide an avenue for the public to contact the group, ask questions, and offer suggestions.

Database Of Vacant Properties

The Committee divided up the town geographically and located dozens of vacant commercial spaces in between meetings. Committee member Nancy Vallee, of the Wilmington-Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce, is spearheading the effort to merge the individual lists into a master database, which will be used as a future tool in the committee’s work. Vallee is also consulting lists available to her through her office and lists from various Town Departments, including the Planning Department and Assessors Office.

Letters To Owners/Leasing Agents Of High Profile Vacancies

With the support of the committee, Patrick Giroux is drafting a letter that will be customized and sent to owners and/or leasing agents of high profile vacant commercial spaces in town, such as SRS Real Estate Partners, the commercial real estate firm actively trying to sublease both the vacant Rite Aid and Walgreens buildings on Main Street.

Snapshot Of Wilmington’s Current Economic Development Projects

Wilmington Planning Director Valerie Gingrich gave the committee an overview of some of the town’s current major economic development projects:

Projects In Construction:

Projects Recently Given Permits:

  • Construction of 4 new warehouses at 36-38 Upton Drive
  • Construction of a commercial flex building (19,900 sf) at 100 Research Drive

Projects Currently Going Through The Permitting Process:

Gingrich also noted her department is trying to streamline the permitting process for business owners.

“Once they file, we have a Community Development Technical Review Team, where representatives from the applicable town departments get together and offer preliminary comments on the development before they go to in front of the Planning Board,” explained Gingrich. “This way, developers get a heads up on what types of things may come up and they can get talked out in advance. Those meetings are really helpful for developers.”

Gingrich pointed out that the Planning Board, through Town Meeting votes, have made several business-friendly zoning changes over the past couple of years.

“We changed the Research & Development Use by making it a right in the Highway Industrial District, places like Ballardvale Street and Fordham Road, so there’s now less obstacles with permitting,” said Gingrich. “We finally implemented a multi-family mixed use district at Perry’s Corner at Lowell Street and Woburn Street, something the Master Plan called for 20 years ago.”

Gingrich also touted her department’s involvement with the town’s current transportation projects, which go hand-in-hand with economic development. She noted Wilmington’s two bridge projects — the Butters Row bridge replacement and the Route 38 reconstruction project up to the Miceli bridge — are on the state’s construction lists and progress is being made. Meanwhile, the traffic improvement project to the Woburn Street/Lowell Street intersection continues to move up in the MassDOT queue.

Packed Agenda For Next Meeting

The Committee will next meet on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 in Room 9 of Town Hall. At that time, the Committee will discuss regional members and resources potentially available to them, including the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and North Suburban Planning Council (NSPC). State Representative Dave Robertson may attend the meeting to speak with the Committee about various state resources and how he can help. The Committee will also conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) flip chart exercise as it relates to the business climate in town, plus begin developing a marketing campaign to attract desirable businesses to town.

Meetings are open to the public. Feedback is welcome. No resident chose to attend the Committee’s first two meetings.

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