Birthplace of American Liberty

Town of Lexington

Afterward, a crowd cheers and children armed with toy muskets race across the green. A boisterous parade follows. The year is 2014 – not 1775 – and the town of Lexington is reenacting one of the world’s most famous battles – the one that started the war for American independence. Every year on Patriot’s Day (a much loved Massachusetts state holiday) the community erupts in a lively display of Revolutionary fervor.

Lexington, Massachusetts is renowned for its role in the Revolution and the quaint New England town has preserved its historical treasures remarkably well. Buckman Tavern’s front door still proudly displays a bullet hole from the skirmish that launched the war. Paul Revere’s destination, the Hancock/Clark house, has been lovingly restored. Colonial homes with American flags and neatly manicured lawns line Lexington’s streets. Its Old Burying Ground is dotted with gravestones dating all the way back to 1690. The scenic Battle Road Trail, which follows the route taken by the British Regulars on their march from Boston to Concord, runs through the town. Concord, site of the famous North Bridge and Minute Man National Park, is just minutes away.

What is less known about Lexington is the fact that this picturesque colonial town is also a prime business location. Just 11 miles west of Boston, the community is home to leading edge technology and bio-pharmaceuticals industries as well as a thriving downtown. “Our key industry is life science,” says Economic Development Director Melisa Tintocalis. “As a smaller suburb right outside of the Boston Cambridge area, we have been successful in creating a mini cluster [of life science companies]. We now have about 27 businesses with almost 3,000 jobs associated with life sciences. When you look at the broader Boston metro area, that’s a very strong presence of life sciences.”

Hanscom Air Force Base is also an important part of the local economy. “It is a strong economic driver because there are 10,000 people who live and work there,” Ms. Tintocalis explains. “They generate a lot of activity.” The base also contributes to the community’s science and tech sectors. “Just under ten percent of their administrative work relates back to MIT Lincoln Laboratory, which is also located here.” The laboratory’s research areas include air and missile defense, space surveillance technology, tactical systems, biological and chemical defense, homeland protection, communications, cyber security, and information sciences. “Those guys are working on some of the Department of Defense’s toughest problems and creating solutions.”

MIT Lincoln Laboratory employs around 3,500 people, and this pool of talent is drawing even more people and organizations to the area. “When you have that kind of concentrated creativity you are going to have an outgrowth of it,” Ms. Tintocalis points out. For instance, aerospace giant Boeing has a branch in Lexington.

Lexington works hard to attract and keep organizations like MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Boeing. “For businesses considering locating here, the town has an expedited permitting process and a development review team to get people through the permitting process a lot quicker,” Ms. Tintocalis says. “We try to remove the obstacles and help facilitate the development.” With a population under 38,000, “your needs can be addressed in a much more personal manner. It is like going from a Home Depot to your local hardware store. There is that personal, one on one connection.” For example, “if there is an issue with the water or sewers, you can have the number to the head of our DPW and get that fixed right away.”

Lexington is also more willing to accept new development than many surrounding municipalities, Ms. Tintocalis says. A large portion of the town’s land is zoned residential, but “there is a surprising stronghold of commercial development on the periphery.” This balance has been key to Lexington’s success. “We have that quality of life, that suburban lifestyle, but we also have the stronger tax base from the commercial component.”

She adds that, “Some of the [surrounding] communities still think economic development is a dirty word. The political will of this community is much more open to seeing positive growth [if it is] still within reason and still within designated zones.” This carefully manicured, well-to-do community will not be welcoming any big box stores anytime soon, but the residents do support a conservative amount of beneficial corporate development. Small, independently run businesses also have an opportunity to flourish in Lexington. We are trying to support small scale businesses that are situated in the town center,” Ms. Tintocalis says. “We are trying to keep that eclectic and diverse.”

The community’s current investments are most focused on the Hartwell Avenue commercial corridor, home to many of Lexington’s science and tech companies. “It is our largest commercial district,” Ms. Tintocalis shares. “We have invested in sidewalks and landscaping, close to a million dollars in new infrastructure. We want to attract new private investment or redevelopment.”

Hartwell enjoys excellent access to major roadways and public transportation, making it an ideal location for a range of businesses. And Lexington is working to make transportation even easier. “We have tried to augment the highway infrastructure by making more connections to public transit,” Ms. Tintocalis reports. “We recognize that the talent and the labor force that companies need and want are trending toward the suburban-urban. They want to be connected to public transit, so making sure we have those options is one thing that we have been trying to focus on.”

Education is also important to the community. Internationally ranked colleges and universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Wellesley are just minutes away. And with a median family income of nearly $160,000, Lexington’s generous tax base funds an excellent public school system. In fact, the Lexington school district enjoys top rankings both nationally and in the state of Massachusetts. For instance, The Boston Globe recently named Lexington # 1 on its ranking of Massachusetts’ top school systems. US News and World Report ranked Lexington High School the 11th best high school in the state and number 269 in the entire nation for 2014. “Our schools continue to draw people to the town,” says Ms. Tintocalis.

Lexington’s unique heritage and Colonial charm also continue to attract new residents and businesses. “We have some built-in marketing because of the history. Our strong American revolutionary history is a really unique driver in terms of economic development. A lot of places are looking for something to bring people to town. We have that by default given the geography and the events that transpired in history here.”

Lexington is careful to maintain its small town charm, so the community has tended to try and keep a low profile. But, she adds, “That is starting to change. There has been more investment in some of the historical buildings. They’ve been renovated, tax money has been put into them. We have stepped up some of the tourism [and now have] the liberty ride that runs through Lexington and Concord.” The town also maintains a leading role in the region’s reenactments and historical events.

Lexington’s participation in historical events shows more than a love of history; it also demonstrates an active and close knit community. “It speaks to a larger community involvement and the civic ethos of the town,” Ms. Tintocalis says. Reenactments like the one on Battle Green are mostly put together by volunteers “who are committed to sharing the story,” she explains. And Lexington certainly has a story to share. Dubbed the Birthplace of American Liberty for hosting the Revolution’s first skirmish, the colonial community has grown to become a key science and tech player while still maintaining its old-fashioned charm.

June 4, 2020, 11:08 PM EDT