Babson Students Examine Needham’s Economic Outlook

Needham Town Hall

A team of Babson College students spent the Spring semester creating an economic scorecard and business inventory database for the Town of Needham.

The scorecard can be used to measure the town’s economic performance.

Through the Babson Management Consulting Field Experience (MCFE) program, the students developed the first inventory of Needham’s more than 1,800 businesses. Nearly half of those businesses are in the service sector. “Now there is measurable data to benchmark going forward,” said Project Leader Dan Edlebeck MBA’20.

A Rewarding Experience

“We were very fortunate to have the Town of Needham as a client,” Edlebeck said. “We have had such a tremendous, wonderful experience. We are really grateful for the support from the town. It’s been really rewarding.”

The sense of reward was met by a sense of commitment from the Town of Needham team, whose members Edlebeck says were “incredibly responsive,” even through changes taking place as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. The pandemic moved the project online and scattered team members around the world.

“We were able to work remotely and be effective,” said Edlebeck. As project leader, he managed the team of undergraduate students—Jason Cong ’21, Mengyu Liu ’22, Yvette Gu ’22, and Yiming Wang ’22—throughout the hybrid experience. “That has a lot to say about the students and their commitment to the project. They were able to communicate and be supportive of each other.”

Students worked with numerous members of local government and business leaders. The Needham Select Board held a joint meeting with the Needham Council of Economic Advisors to receive the final report.

COVID-19 Impact

“This was extremely professional work,” said Moe Handel, Needham Select Board chair. “I am always impressed with the professionalism of Babson students when they do work for the town. It’s always been valuable. This project happened at a very transformative time in the history of the Town given the pandemic and where we were in our business cycle. This will be a great base going forward for future work. I for one am very grateful.”

Since the work occurred before and during the COVID-19 outbreak, the inventory produced by the report will likely be impacted by the current economic downturn. As a result, the team suggested an annual update of the data.

“I’d be very curious to see the scorecard updated a year from now and maybe two years from now,” said John Bulian, Needham Select Board member. “Economically, the world in Needham and beyond is going to be changing as we continue to move through the pandemic. As the Town’s elected leaders, we must collectively try to figure out along with local, regional, state, and federal how to move forward and what moving forward looks like. Everything has been turned upside down.”

A Valuable Memory

“The team believes the Town of Needham has a strong track record of economic success and is well-positioned to achieve a more competitive position in the future,” reads the final report.

“Thank you all for the wonderful semester,” said Liu during the final presentation. “This experience will become a valuable memory in our lives and we will remember this forever.”

Town officials echoed the sentiment.

“I am very proud of the work that you have done. I always learned at Babson that ‘team’ is the No. 1 thing to start any project and this was a wonderful collaboration between your team and the Town of Needham,” said Matthew Borrelli ’98, Needham Select Board vice chair.

“I would also like to just really thank Babson,” said Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzgerald. “In the last several years, the Town has been working to strengthen its ties to Babson. We have been doing that in a lot of different ways. This is a great example of how our community partners can really add value to the Town and I hope that we can help Babson as well.”

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