In the spring of 2016 Ashland Town Meeting approved adding a full-time economic development director to the Town's municipal staff. This position, and the economic development department is fully funded by the local meals tax which was established in 2015.
The role of the Economic Development Director:
- Serves as economic development liaison to local, state and federal agencies and groups that offer programs that enhance municipal economic development;
- Serve as a resource to support and assist local businesses to grow and thrive in the community;
- Provides assistance and support to local businesses when they interact with Town departments;
- Provide assistance with permitting and licensing departments and to serve as coordinating point of contact for all government departments;
- Collaborate with State and Federal agencies;
- Collaborate with developers/RE brokers to assist with identifying suitable retail/office or industrial space;
- Coordinates and communicates activities of various business and economic development groups in Town;
- Work with local workforce development agency to connect businesses with workforce opportunities;
- Provides direction to the communications and events coordinator position;
- Works with Town departments to streamline permitting or make changes to the regulatory environment if they are acting as barriers to appropriate business development;
- Maintains a real estate and business database;
- Partners with Ashland Business Association by serving as a member of the Board of Directors;
- Works closely with the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce on public policy committee and on local events and marketing opportunities;
- Serves as Executive Committee member and Board of Director for the Metrowest/495 Partnership.
- Researches economic trends and targets appropriate industries and land uses.
Results of Economic Development Incentive Programs to date:
Part of the Economic Development mission is placing a spotlight on the people and companies who are investing back into the Town of Ashland and, in turn, contributing to our local economy. The Business Incentive Program was created in 2018 to be used as a tool to incentivize business to choose Ashland and to encourage existing businesses to invest in their properties for the greater good of the community.
- The business incentive program continues to show success. Funds from the local meals tax were used to create this incentive program in FY19. To date the program has distributed $230,808.18 total in grant funding to Ashland businesses.
- Businesses that have received funding include: Wine Empire, Dulce d Leche, Julie's Z Breads, Ryan Insurance, Erica's Restaurant, The Groundskeeper, 2Mauro's Café, Diversity Early Learning Center, Mazi Kitchen & Bar, BioSurfaces, Inc., Doragon Collective, Madras Market, Main Street Wine & Spirits, Zen Family Dental, Blush Bouquets
Results of Grant Funding through Local, Sate and Federal Funding
Support for the business community is always on the forefront of the Economic Development Department. A major role of the director is to be aware of funding when it becomes available, apply and help administer the funds to businesses in need.
- In 2019 Ashland served as the lead community for the DHCD/HUD Microenterprise grant totaling $4,950,000 which served 23 communities throughout the commonwealth over the duration of FY21 and will include half of FY22. To date 16 Ashland businesses have received $10,000-$25,000 each in grant funding. Ashland was awarded a total amount of $280,500.
- Served as lead community with Natick and Framingham for the MOBD Pilot Program Grant in the amount of $250,000 (max amount offered). 37 business received marketing assistance from marketing teams to grow their business, averaging $6,000 per business worth of work.
During Difficult Times
2019 and 2020 have been challenging times due to the pandemic. We saw many businesses struggle, some pivot to keep up with the restrictions and happily we saw almost all survive. Ashland is a strong community and will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come. During this time the Economic Development department got creative, here is a snapshot of what happened.
- Created new marketing tools for Ashland businesses to bridge gap with residents: Ashland Deals and Steals and a new facebook page called Ashland Biz Buzz were created
- Created the Ashland dining guide and shop local guide found on website.
- Collaboratively worked with Ashland Social Services and Town Manager office to create 3R Program, Resident, Restaurant Relief Program during the pandemic to support restaurants financially and feed those in need.
- Created communications protocol during pandemic times. Created a Covid webpage, increases communications through video, email newsletters and social media.
- Continued annual events such as CultureFest, Light up Ashland and Illuminate Downtown Ashland by pivoting to virtual events during the pandemic. Added a new event: Up Ashland to encourage community engagement and support.
- Welcomed 5 new businesses to town: Mama’s Bakery, Ashland Nutrition, Leiby’s Flowers, MAZI Kitchen and Bar Restaurant and BigFoot Pizza during the pandemic.