By Martin Renzhofer
Coming up on her fifth year as Bedford’s first Economic Development Director, Alyssa Sandoval is pleased with the progress in not only attracting new businesses to the community but also in the re-investment of established commerce – large and small.
What began as a part-time job, working three days a week, gradually expanded and will officially become full-time July 1. Unofficially, Sandoval has been putting in full-time effort serving as a liaison to businesses locating to Bedford.
“I feel really good about what I’ve been able to accomplish, creating an office from scratch,” she said. “Part of that has been finding all about Bedford, what kind of businesses were here. The first year was a lot of outreach. There hadn’t been a lot of effort to reach out [to local businesses].”
The effort is paying off. For example, earlier this year, Bedford was one of 20 communities in Massachusetts to earn a $15,000 Downtown Revitalization Award, which was presented by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Janelle Chan.
The goal is to use the money for improving storefronts and energizing Bedford’s city center through new events. Sandoval sees a re-energized town center as well as bringing more attention to the Bedford Town Common.
“We have a very nice town common,” she said. “It could be better utilized. We’re meeting with businesses one on one to see if we can do better.
“We have a few initiatives going on or starting soon.”
A California native, Sandoval earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley and a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University.
Job opportunities brought Sandoval, previously a City Planner for Pleasanton, a town in the California Bay Area, and her husband, a professor of English and creative writing, to the Boston area. The family of four, including two daughters, decided to make Massachusetts their home.
Though there are some similarities between the Bay Area of northern California and Boston – high tech industries and education among them – there were some adjustments, including a new wardrobe.
“The weather is not similar, Sandoval said with a laugh. “I’ve invested in outerwear.”
Sandoval’s goals, in the beginning, included the encouragement of new and existing business development, improving the business district, and fostering a more vibrant and diversified commercial sector.
She also spent the first year helping create a guide for permitting the creation of small businesses.
“There were a lot of licenses and permits required,” Sandoval said. “There’s been a lot of positive feedback, which has been really helpful.
“It’s been two-pronged with large industry and small businesses. Those two needs are very different.”
Sandoval said there has been a lot of reinvestment, especially along Crosby Drive and at a business park in need of renovation and out of date. New restaurants on Great Road are also part of the plan.
The Bedford Planning Board passed new zoning targets to attract more amenities. New residents will also arrive in Bedford along with new businesses.
One of the planned projects is a food truck festival scheduled for June 22, featuring crafted food and beers.
“In general, it’s been very positive,” Sandoval said. “It doesn’t happen over time. It’s still a process.”
Correction, 04/26/2019: Sandoval attended the University of California, Berkeley as an undergraduate, not Ithaca College.