By Rick Sobey
BILLERICA -- The nation's capital and most of the country can learn a lot from Billerica's financial success, according to former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
Calling Washington "broken" and a "mess," Brown told local officials and business people during his visit on Thursday that Billerica is a model for the country to follow, during his 25-minute speech at Billerica Alliance's annual meeting.
"A lot of communities should look at Billerica and recognize they're doing things right," Brown said at the Billerica Courtyard Marriott. "They're providing business incentives to get businesses here, and they're keeping them here.
"They have a good stable government," said the Republican former congressman. "I have fond, fond memories campaigning here. These are good people, hard-working people who want to get a good value for their dollar. ... Washington should really take a lesson from Billerica."
Brown was the guest speaker at Billerica Alliance's annual meeting. All attendees received a copy of Brown's book, Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances. He has generated plenty of headlines concerning his next political move, if there is one. But as usual, he was coy yesterday when pressed on the matter.
Instead, he talked about a few excerpts from the book, including when he was arrested at age 12 for stealing music records and how he learned from the judge to "try do the right thing every day."
"I'm trying to go out and challenge the knuckleheads in Washington to do it better because right now it's broken," said Brown, who admitted that he misses being in Washington.
"We're in deep trouble, deep trouble," he stressed. "What do we do after we pass a continuing resolution and raise the debt ceiling? How do we pay back $17 trillion?"
He emphasized that Billerica business leaders need to stay unified and involved with legislation. They need to let elected leaders know the policies are not helping and challenge the leaders to improve policies, Brown said.
"When they raise taxes, people will go to New Hampshire," he said. "They will buy refrigerators, dishwashers and cars in New Hampshire if we don't try to strike that competitive balance.
"You need to make sure they're looking out for your interests as citizens in Massachusetts and as business owners and leaders in the state."
Other attendees included state Rep. Marc Lombardo, Deputy Police Chief Roy Frost and Town Manager John Curran.
"We're actively and aggressively courting businesses to come here, and I encourage you to ask any of your colleagues to come here," Curran said. "This is the place to be.
"Billerica is attracting life-sciences and emerging-technology companies, and it's brought quality, specialized jobs that are not going away anytime soon," he added. "We're very cutting-edge in Billerica and continue to expand our tax base."
The Billerica Alliance is a nonprofit business and community-support organization that works to connect the community, according to Executive Director Caroline Catlender. She said the group had a phenomenal year, with more than 10 percent growth in membership, a new logo and soon-to-be website where companies can post jobs and announcements.
The nonprofit agency holds workshops for business growth, social media and public speaking. The alliance also has a "women in business" luncheon series and is looking for state and federal grant opportunities.
"He was a great speaker, a genuine down-to-earth guy," Catlender said. "It's good to listen to someone who has a similar or different perspective, and it'll be tough to top him next year."
Brown, who started his speech with a joke about a stranger calling him Gov. Mitt Romney and also saying he would beat President Barack Obama in basketball, was noncommittal about what lies ahead. When asked by The Sun what his political future holds, Brown said, "It'll take care of itself. I'm not sure yet."
"I'm going to continue to go around the country," he added. "I'm heading to Japan tomorrow for 11 days and am looking forward to that. I'll tell you more as the year goes on."
Brown, who lost to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren last November, is now working for a private law firm and as a paid commentator for Fox News. He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for office in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and even as a presidential candidate. He told supporters at the Iowa State Fair in August that he is "exploring a possible run" for president in 2016. But he said in a radio interview in August that he had no plans to run for governor of Massachusetts.
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