By Anne O'Connor
DEVENS -- When Marty Jones took the helm of the quasi-governmental agency that manages Devens, she was totally shocked to see what was out beyond Route 128.
"It was a hidden jewel," the departing president and CEO of MassDevelopment said. "I didn't know anything about Devens other than the sign on Route 2."
The first time she drove past the road to the golf course in 2011, she saw a full parking lot for a hotel and a second hotel under construction.
The past six years has seen more businesses and housing for Devens.
The community has been a test bed for economic growth, she said. MassDevelopment has a broad mission of stimulating economic growth across the commonwealth.
The closed Army base was the first community with expedited permitting, which she called one-stop shopping for developers.
The fast-track process is no longer as unique as it was 20 years ago. The developer-friendly permitting continues to be a reason that Devens is so competitive in attracting business to the region, she said.
The importance of industry in the central part of the state was remarkable to the Winchester resident.
"Like a lot of people, I didn't understand how much manufacturing is still in Massachusetts," Jones said. Developing policies to support manufacturing is part of MassDevelopment's tasks.
Under her watch Devens has seen growth in medical device manufacturing and in researching and testing of bio-pharmaceuticals. Nypro moved in and Bristol-Meyers Squibb expanded its campus.
Mount Wachusett Community College, with a campus in Devens, "aligns with the manufacturing policy work we've been doing," she said.
Housing is a big part of growth and seeing sustainable housing built in Devens is very rewarding, Jones said. When she arrived, two net-zero developments, Transformations and Battle Green, were underway. Emerson Green is developing more sustainable homes.
Devens is the largest community and only base closure that MassDevelopment is involved with, she said. The agency plays a similar role, basically serving as a master developer, for smaller projects in closed state complexes in North Hampton, Taunton and Belchertown.
Jones came to the six-year contract, where she made $228,094 her last year, from private real estate development. She was president of Corcoran Jennison in Boston where she worked on development deals and financing. Before that, she worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Her skill sets from both positions were key to MassDevelopment, she said.
Since the board voted in April not to extend her contract, Jones has been working on the budget and business plan in shape for next year. There have been "no policy differences or change of direction," she said.
Devens, with a $2.5 billion impact on the economy yearly, still has growing to do. "There's lots of land let to develop," Jones said.
The team at Devens has done a great job with connecting with the surrounding communities, she said. The regional dispatch center and zoning changes approved by Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, all with a footprint in Devens, are "fantastic ways of communities working together."
The summer will bring time in "Vermont and going to the beach and reading a lot of novels and clearing my head," Jones said. She will also be thinking about the next interesting thing she can tackle.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.