April 30, 2018
Central Mass. In Brief

Marlborough chamber CEO retiring after 31 years

Photo | Contributed
Susanne Morreale Leeber, retiring president and CEO of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce

The longtime head of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce is retiring at the end of August.

Susanne Morreale Leeber joined the chamber in January 1987 as the membership director and has served as the president and CEO since 1991.

When she came aboard, there were only 165 member organizations and dozens of empty commercial spaces after Digital Equipment Corp. began selling off its many properties in Marlborough.

Now, there are 470 members, and the area is home to some of the largest biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the Northeast. The chamber, Leeber said, is in the best position it has been in over the last 20 years.

"So, it is time," she said. "I have family across the United States, and my grandchildren are growing up."

More than 80 applicants have applied to the chamber's board of directors to fill the vacant CEO position. Candidates are currently being screened, ahead of Leeber's August departure.

Booming Marlborough

Under Leeber, the chamber played an integral role in bringing Fidelity Investments to Marlborough and getting the Solomon Pond Mall project approved in the early 1990s.

She worked with Providence Bruins owner Larue Renfroe to see the approval of the New England Sports Center, an eight-rink ice-skating and hockey facility on 22 acres in Marlborough.

Construction on the facility began in 1994, and subsequent additions were completed as recently as December.

Thanks to Leeber's work alongside then State Sen. Paul Salucci, exit 23C on I-495 was built in 2000.

Off of that exit are some of the city's largest companies, including GE Healthcare, medical imaging device giant Hologic and corporate offices of retailer TJX Cos.

Medical device giant Boston Scientific found its home in Marlborough in 2012 after moving from its former headquarters in Natick. The company operates four buildings on a 119-acre campus.

The city has become a biotech hub, including other large publicly traded companies like Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Quest Diagnostics, RXi Pharmaceuticals and Oxford Immunotec.

"It was exciting to land those big companies," she said, recalling that Fidelity Investments was among the first of the large ones to come to the city.

More recently, the chamber worked with developers of the Apex Center, a 475,000-square-foot hub of entertainment, dining and hotels off of Route 20 in Marlborough. All of the businesses in the center are members of the chamber.

"It's exploding," Leeber said of the development.

Currently, the chamber is working with Quinsigamond Community College and Framingham State University to open satellite campuses in the city to help boost the talent pipeline for the cluster of large companies in the city.

Challenges for successor

Going forward, Leeber said she wants her successor to bring more public transportation to the city. Currently, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority operates a fixed-route bus route, stopping at six locations in the city.

"I'd love to see a public transportation system," Leeber said. "I don't know how far off that will be, but I think that would be a boon, especially to future employees who don't have vehicles."

The lifelong business advocate is still planning to work with nonprofits.

"That's where my heart lands usually," she sad. "I enjoy helping out."

To celebrate her 30 years of work, the chamber will host a retirement party on May 10 at the Best Western Royal Plaza in Marlborough.

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