DEVENS — MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors hosted its annual community meeting Oct. 10, where members of the community expressed long-term concerns for the management of Devens.
MassDevelopment Executive Vice President George Ramirez and President and CEO Marty Jones spoke about the improvements at Devens over the past year.
Ramirez talked about the rising job opportunities at several new businesses:
* New England Studios, for example, has built four sound stages. “When fully employed, they will employ 100 to 120 people per stage,” he said.
* Biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb invested in a $250 million expansion and expects to fill 350 more jobs.
* O’Reilly Auto Parts has chosen Devens as a location and plans to hire 80 full-time and 40 part-time employees in the next two years.
* Sustainable development group Saint Gobain signed a long-term lease of 200,000 square feet in the former Evergreen Solar building and expects to add 90 full-time jobs by 2015.
Jones said Devens has added 400 jobs over the past year, which makes the total number of people working in Devens, not including the military, 3,600.
“That’s a whole lot of jobs,” Ramirez said. “It’s been a blockbuster year.”
Jones also mentioned that the average salary in Devens is $77,000 a year, higher than the state average of about $56,000.
Ramirez said the Grant Road housing development will provide 120 more units of housing. A five-year police contract for Devens has been made with the state police.
“We’re really busy here and true to our mission,” Ramirez said of MassDevelopment. “We work very hard, and If I don’t say it enough, I just want to say it’s through all of your efforts that we’re able to be this successful.”
The board opened up discussion to the members of the community.
“I want to thank MassDevelopment for positioning us in the top tier of sustainable development not only nationally but internationally,” DEC Director Peter Lowitt said.
Joint Boards Vice Chairman and Devens resident Tom Kinch stressed the deadline for disposition in 2033.
“We just have a couple of points of caution as we move forward,” he said. “As we grow, we have got to be aware of the impact on our schools. We’ve got to be aware of some of the facilities that we lack. We don’t have a church. We don’t have a cemetery. We don’t have professional offices for doctors.
“We don’t need them right now, basically because were small,” Kinch said, “but somewhere along the line there has to be some thought given to the strategy for us going forward. The question is more, what is going to happen in 2033 if MassDevelopment wants to stay here?
“We, as residents, are happy,” said Kinch, “but sometime between now and 2033, something is going to change and that puts a little bit of a damper on the community in the way it is developing. The law says that disposition will happen in 2033, and I wish we knew what that was so we could plan accordingly.”
The MassDevelopment board listened and went on to the next comment.
Devens Educational Advisory Committee Chair Maureen Babcock provided an update about Devens’ partnership with Harvard Schools.
“We survey residents both with and without children and the satisfaction ratings have been very high,” she said. “Eight-nine percent of respondents want partnership with Harvard to continue.”
Devens Economic Analysis Team Chairman Victor Normand also asked questions regarding the future of Devens.
“Is MassDevelopment focused on the planned completion day of 2033, or have you considered an accelerated exit strategy to end your involvement in the redevelopment of Devens?” he asked.
“I think it’s fair to say, in our mind, that 2033 is the date we need to have a plan,” Jones said. “Right now we are not able to say a time that we will be done. It may be earlier.”
“I think it’s important for the future government, whatever that may be,” Normand said.
“It’s a very good question,” MassDevelopment board member Patricia McGovern said, “but I think it’s very premature. … While it’s very thoughtful, there’s still a lot to do. I don’t think we’re there yet.”
“You’re ahead of us and that’s good, you should be,” she added.