Anyone familiar with the area just off Exit 32 has noticed the vast changes over the past months as the new Cornerstone Square development nears completion after years of planning and construction.
But despite the new buildings, the development has remained as a forgotten backdrop for the subject of local business during this election year.
While some of the political signs adorning the edge of the development on Boston Road have made way for new grass and New England-style stone walls, motorists can still see the various placards for Republicans like Congressional challenger Jon Golnik placed by Cornerstone developer Robert Walker.
For years, the future of the project remained uncertain, and Walker sees candidates like Golnik as a cure to possible uncertainty that he has faced with Cornerstone and the uncertainty he believes other small business owners have faced during the Great Recession.
“Business needs certainty, and that’s something Jon understands,” said Walker. “Businesses need to get all their equipment and plans together, and if we (as developers) can’t tell them what they need due to uncertainty, they will have to wait until government decides, delaying getting America getting back to work.”
In addition to the approximately 100 construction jobs on the project and the American companies likely aided in some small party by the fact that Walker has mandated all his contractors use materials developed in the United States, he estimates Cornerstone Square will bring 300 new jobs to the local economy, at places like Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Market Basket.
Just down 495 in Chelmsford, Triton Systems CEO Ross Haghighat is familiar with Cornerstone. He’s also created hundreds of jobs here in Massachusetts, as well as in three other states and several other countries as part of the eight companies he’s helped build over the past 30 years.
Although both Haghighat and Walker have seen success in their careers in the private sector, the two share different views on what is needed to help stimulate business.
No doubt (Cornerstone is) providing an important and necessary short term boost to the local economy in terms of construction jobs and a reasonable level of long term employment in service sector,” he said. “What is much more relevant, in my opinion, is whether as a country, we wish to embrace economic boost where low wage, part time, service jobs paying close to minimum wage should be the end goal, or do we instead see the globe as our market and leverage Massachusetts' inherent strengths in higher education, skilled workers and innovation to lay foundation to build sustainable long term, high paying middle class jobs.”
For Haghighat, that belief in building infrastructure is why he is supporting incumbent Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who he cites as being critical to Massachusetts becoming the largest recipient of federal Small Business Innovation Research funding per capita in the nation.
“She knows that while government cannot solve every problem we face, it can be a partner with entrepreneurs and innovates to help usher in new advances in science and technology and innovate competitive products worldwide,” he said.
In less than a month, area voters will go to the polls to decide whether Tsongas or Golnik will represent them in Congress, although the debate over what’s needed to help grow the economy will likely continue well into the future.
When it comes to kick starting the economy, do you agree with Walker or Haghighat? Tell us in the comments.