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Cahill: 'Big whale' not answer

Visit focuses on state's dealings with local biz

Clockwise from left, Mark Carron takes part in a discussion with state Treasurer and Independent gubernatorial candidate Timothy Cahill, center, Big Bunny Plaza property owner Mark Palmerino, Town Councilor Denise Clemence and Cahill Press Secretary Juli Sweeney. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
July 18, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Local activists are using the furor over the move of the Registry of Motor Vehicles from, and ultimately back to, Southbridge as a rallying cry for changes in how the state deals with small business.

Decrying the fact the registry bailed out of a five-year lease at the Big Bunny as "economic stupidity" because of its larger effect on businesses in the area, William Vernon, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said "the Commonwealth is hurting itself," and citizens sometimes need "to protect it from itself."

"This situation certainly called out for attention," he told a small audience at the former RMV site Friday. "Small business is under attack. [Although the state talks about promoting it], talking about it and walking the walk are two different things."

He was referring to last August's Registry move from Big Bunny Plaza to Charlton, which left landlord Mark Palmerino holding the bag for $300,000 in renovation costs the registry had demanded of him.

The registry recently agreed to a deal whereby it will return to Southbridge — to the Casaubon Senior Center, not Big Bunny — for two years of free rent, then gradually paying more over the course of 10 years. The senior center is slated to move to the Armory in August, and the registry to move in two months later.

Vernon urged the state to change its practices so that future decisions like this include an analysis of how it will affect local businesses as well as the state's own bottom line. He, Palmerino and others noted the Registry's departure left several nearby businesses struggling.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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