GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 26, 2012

State panel OKs tax breaks to spur development

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — Trip Advisor is moving to an old industrial park along Route 128, Quest Diagnostics is consolidating its Worcester and Cambridge sites in a new Marlborough facility, and W.B. Mason is expanding its historic Brockton headquarters.

Those companies are making their moves with local and sometimes state tax incentives, accompanied by promises to invest in the properties and grow jobs.

Last week, the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council, meeting in the state transportation building, approved tax breaks for 30 redevelopment projects in 15 cities and towns. A total of $29.3 million in local tax incentives were granted with the agreement that the companies and property owners would invest a total of $416.5 million.

The state also contributed $6.7 million to 17 of the projects, through the Economic Development Incentive Program.

The tax incentives approved last week included agreements that the companies they benefit would create 1,341 jobs and retain 4,099 jobs.

All of the projects received local approval before appearing before the council. Two Lexington residents disagreed with their town’s plans to offer Vista Print a 13-year property tax discount with a $1.2 million value in exchange for the company’s expansion nearby its current site in town. The project is not receiving state tax breaks.

“Many of us in Lexington were astonished to learn this property is a blighted area,” said Lexington resident Ephraim Weiss, who described the property as a wooded area sitting next to conservation land, and nearby the interchange of Routes 2 and 128. He said, “The area seems to be economically healthy. It’s been developing quite well.”

Massachusetts Office of Business Development Regional Director Peter Milano had a different assessment of the site’s potential, and confirmed to the council that nearby businesses had also received tax relief.

“The site does have a substantial amount of ledge, making it expensive to redevelop,” Milano said. He said, “It’s ledge. It’s rock. There are obstacles to redeveloping this site.”

In Brockton, homegrown office supplies giant W.B. Mason is planning to expand into dilapidated areas of its headquarters building.

“The relationship they have with the town of Brockton goes back a very long time. William Betts Mason founded the business in Brockton in 1898, setting up shop in the very building that they occupy today,” said MOBD Regional Director Rich Pellagrini, who said the company had a “fourfold revenue increase since 2001.”

Tax incentives have eased the expansion of Ken’s Foods, a salad dressing manufacturer, and a $77.8 million Quest Diagnostics lab development, both in Marlborough. The medical diagnostic company’s new siting in a now-vacant building will involve moving 957 workers from Worcester and Cambridge.

“This project is critically important to the city of Marlborough,” said Rep. Steven Levy (R-Marlborough), who supported both projects, about the Quest Diagnostics plan. He said, “We welcome these type of jobs. We welcome Quest to Marlborough.”