The executives who run Candela had several reasons to pick Marlborough for their global headquarters: ample office space, good highway access, the company’s long local history.
There’s also that roughly $800,000 package of state and local tax incentives.
The Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved $500,000 in state tax credits on Wednesday for Candela, a maker of cosmetic lasers, to help offset its relocation costs. City officials previously agreed to kick in property tax breaks valued at nearly $280,000.
In return, Candela plans to add 100 new jobs in Marlborough by mid-2022 and retain another 200 local jobs. It wasn’t the biggest corporate handout doled out Wednesday — that prize goes to the $1.8 million award to help persuade uniform and linen supplier Unitex to open a new facility, with 360 full-time jobs, in Lawrence. But the gift was still consequential — it helps cement Candela’s presence here.
That wasn’t always guaranteed. Candela was struggling financially when an Israeli company, Syneron, scooped it up in 2010. Geoff Crouse, Candela’s current chief executive, says Syneron considered moving the HQ to Israel but eventually opted to maintain dual headquarters offices on both sides of the Atlantic. Later, the company considered turning its Irvine, Calif., office into its main corporate home. But Crouse says those plans never materialized.
Then an affiliate of private equity firm Apax Partners acquired the business — known as Syneron Candela at the time — in 2017 for nearly $400 million. The new owners doubled down on Massachusetts. The two corporate offices were merged into one at Candela’s longtime home in Wayland. And the Syneron name was just dropped, in favor of the 50-year-old Massachusetts brand.
The move to Marlborough, expected later this summer, ties things together. Candela is bursting at the seams in Wayland, with the additional back-office staff there, post-consolidation. The new Marlborough space, in a long-vacant building, offers more breathing room. (Most people are leaving Wayland, but Crouse says the manufacturing work will stay behind.)
Marlborough can add Candela to a long list of wins. Big corporate names have been piling into the city in recent years: TJX Cos., Boston Scientific, GE Healthcare, Whole Foods, Allegro Microsystems, Quest Diagnostics. They helped fill much of the space that HP and Fidelity Investments left behind in the city. Local tax breaks play a big role: Meredith Harris, head of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp., says the city currently has 13 active property tax abatements in place for its corporate community.
Crouse admits it would be tough to move out of Massachusetts, considering the talents of its engineers and other local workers and the company’s close ties to Mass. General researchers and doctors. But Crouse also says the tax credits are necessary to support Candela’s significant financial investment in the Marlborough project; the 900-person company generates about $400 million a year in revenue.
These state incentives could be getting more scrutiny on Beacon Hill. Senator Jamie Eldridge says he plans to file legislation in the coming weeks that would impose new limits on state-funded corporate handouts. Eldridge has pushed similar proposals in previous legislative sessions. (Ironically, Candela’s new home is in Eldridge’s Senate district.) Eldridge concedes the Candela award is relatively modest. But he would prefer that state money used for corporate tax credits instead be spent on transportation and workforce training.
Any reforms at the State House would take place long after Candela gets settled into its new digs. As long as the state continues to offer assistance, it’s hard to blame thriving companies for knocking on the door and asking for a little help with their growth.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.