Doing Business In: Granby
Get the Word Out: This Town Is Open for BusinessThe town of Granby has never been very successful at promoting itself. But that is about to change.
Emre Evren, who chairs Granby’s Planning Board and Master Plan Committee, said town officials have developed a new master plan that will focus on economic development.
It has been carefully crafted, using data collected from a number of sources. They include a self-assessment, a survey completed by residents of the town, and a list of Granby’s strengths, which were recently outlined in a report compiled by the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. The new plan is scheduled to be completed this fall and will be presented to town residents thereafter.
Following one of the master plan’s recommendations, an economic-development committee will be formed, and it will take a proactive approach. “We are eager to send the message out that Granby is a great town for any type of business,” Evren said. “In the past, we haven’t promoted the availability of land and locations that are available and haven’t successfully told people we are open to new business. But the economic-development committee will drive relationships and promote the town to suitable investors.”
Evren cited strengths outlined in the Northeastern report as solid proof that Granby is a town that investors or business owners should consider. An important one is the uniform tax rate. “We were told our average tax rate is lower than most of the communities that participated in Northeastern’s survey. And the average square foot of manufacturing space is much cheaper here than in most other locations in the immediate area,” Evren said. “The report also stated that Granby has great access to a technically skilled and educated labor force. Plus, our housing market is affordable, and our public schools are well-performing, which is a concern for some business owners.”
Granby’s location is also a key to business success. Route 202 passes directly through the town, and the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 91 are only about seven miles away. “People think we are in a remote location. But we are not,” Evren said. “We believe one advantage we have is that many neighboring residents drive through Granby. We are bordered by South Hadley, Chicopee, Belchertown, Ludlow, and Amherst, and we are only 15 minutes from Amherst Center.”
Town officials are also working to streamline the permitting process. “We want to clear any unnecessary hurdles that new businesses may encounter, and are looking for ways to make the process more efficient,” Evren said. “We are taking a proactive approach to zoning and rezoning in certain areas to make them more attractive or suitable for businesses so we can meet our economic development goals.”
Evren said the emerging vision includes a livelier business district, which stretches along Route 202, from the South Hadley town line past the center known as Five Corners. Town officials would like to see more retail shops and restaurants open in that area. “Residents told us they would like to see more places in town where they could shop or eat.”
Food for Thought
Earleen Kenyon and her sister, Cindy Mugnier, have proof that residents will support restaurants. They purchased a truck stop/eatery known as Manny’s Place about a year ago and renamed it the Earlee Mug. Although they had never owned a restaurant before, they have done very well.
“We took a leap of faith when we bought it. But this is a good place to own a business,” Mugnier said. “The community gets behind you, and the town officials are very easy to work with. This is a rural community, and there is a real sense of community here. People have been here for multiple generations.”
The eatery is located between two farms, and both of them have been very helpful, letting Mugnier and Kenyon know when fruits and vegetables are at their peak.
“Pleasantbrook Farm and Feed has gone so far as to help us when we had problems with our cash register and other technology,” said Mugnier. “You get a real sense that everyone is pleased that you are here, that they want you to be successful and will do what they can to help that happen.”
Kenyon agrees. “The townspeople support local businesses,” she said, adding that she and Mugnier benefit from their location, which is directly across from Dufresne Park, which hosts events that range from baseball and soccer games to canine agility and horse shows. “Plus, we are right on Route 202, which is a busy road; everything is just pleasant here.”
Scott Merrill is vice president of Dressell’s Service Station. His family has owned the business since the 1960s, and he says Granby is a small but tightly knit community where people get to know one another.
“It has a nice country feeling and is a nice spot to live in. There is also quite a bit of land available,” he said. “There is room to grow and room to build — plenty of opportunity here. Plus, the taxes are lower than in surrounding communities.”
New Areas of Growth
Granby is home to large expanses of agricultural land and open space, since a portion of the Mount Holyoke Range State Park lies within its borders.
“Part of our endeavor is to keep a lot of open space,” Evren said. “We are trying to balance our agricultural/open space land with other types of economic development. Our premise is that new businesses should be consistent with Granby’s traditional New England town feel and fit in that overall mosaic, because we are a suburban town with a lot of rural characteristics which we don’t want to lose.”
Still, results from the town survey showed that the majority of residents are in favor of commercial and industrial development as long as new businesses don’t pollute the air or water.
To that end, the town is working on a green-communities initiative that could qualify Granby for state grants if it meets a number of requirements, which include designating an area for green-energy research and development or green manufacturing. “This would interest our residents based on our master plan survey results. We would like to see economic development, but it needs to be cognizant of the community’s environmental concerns,” Evren said.
Five Corners, located about a mile from the South Hadley line on Route 202, contains the majority of the town’s businesses. A corridor zoned for business extends several miles down the road, ending about a half-mile before the town common.
“This is the area that will be our primary target for new business,” Evren said. “There is vacant land available in that area.”
Five Corners offers connections to sewer and water hookups, which are not available in all parts of Granby. “But the town may be open to extending those services to new businesses along the corridor,” Evren said. “There is nothing concrete in place, but there has been conversation around it.”
Another area that holds promise for growth is New Ludlow Road. The town is currently working to install a sewer line extension there. “It will require some zoning changes, but there is a lot of possibility in the area,” said Evren, adding, “it could be an ideal location for an industrial or office park or light industrial development.
“The right new business could thrive in this town, because people are receptive and committed to local businesses,” he said. “Granby is a small town in terms of population. But we have a lot of land that would be suitable for businesses. We want people to come and take a look at what we have to offer. We believe they will like what they find here.”