Need a Last Minute Gift?

Need a Last Minute Gift? We want to remind folks this Holiday Season that the Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center is a great place to shop for local products. The Johnny Appleseed Visitors; Center carries jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup, fudge, chocolates, sparkling cider and that local icon of American kitsch – the plastic flamingo!  He comes in 5 different colors and makes a great Yankee swap gift.  You will also find a wide selection of books highlighting the history of the region, plus good-quality logo merchandise and souvenir items for your stockings.  The visitors’ center also offers a holiday gift wrapping service for only $2 per item. The Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center is open daily, except for Christmas. Normal business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except for Christmas Eve.  The visitors’ center closes at 3:00 p.m. on December 24th. All proceeds support the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association.

The Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center is located at 1000 Rte. 2 Westbound, between exit 34 & 35, in Lancaster, MA. For more information, please call 978-534-2829 or visit www.appleseed.org.

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce welcomed Help For Our Community

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce welcomed Help For Our Community as a new member in November.

Help For Our Community is a Fitchburg-based non-profit organization that serves the homeless and other disadvantaged populations in 14 North Central Mass communities with a variety of emergency-based programs.

2016 will be the 16th year that HFOC has been cooking and delivering hot meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, anticipating the demand for more than 750 meals this holiday season.  Throughout the year, HFOC also gathers supplies for school back-packs for foster children, kits of necessities for homeless families, and a monthly diaper pantry for struggling moms.  The Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner fire departments rely on HFOC when a family may be in need in the event of a house fire.  They are called in to gather information on the individuals to help provide clothing, toiletries, gift cards for grocery stores, and small household items.  All of the resources come from community members who are able to secure items and pass them along through HFOC’s efforts.

People in need may not know where to turn, and HFOC is able to direct them to services in place, in order to maximize the impact of other local organizations such as Meals on Wheels, the VA, and senior centers.  But HFOC is often asked to “fill the gaps” in existing programs.  Many people have come to rely on their work, so HFOC is constantly in need of volunteers, financial support, and donations of important supplies.

While HFOC hopes to open a donation center in future, monetary donations can be made at Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) branches at 350 John Fitch Highway in Fitchburg or 1123 Central Street in Leominster.  To donate food or other goods, please call director Tami Arguelles on (978) 846-6426.  More information is available on their Facebook page.

Tourism Industry Continues to Thrive in North Central

By, Suzanne Farias Chair of the Board Johnny Appleseed Trail Association

As the third largest industry in Massachusetts, it’s no doubt that tourism has a major impact on the economy.  In North Central Massachusetts, tourism has had a profound economic impact – and throughout the last year, tourism related revenue has continued to grow.

Tourism can be looked at in many different lights: family vacations, sports and recreation, corporate travel, group tours– all things we actively see here in North Central. These travelers spend money at gas stations, restaurants, shops and stay overnight at our local hotels. Local room tax revenue is a valuable resource for municipalities. Over the last few years, North Central Massachusetts has seen tremendous growth in room tax revenue – validating that North Central Massachusetts is growing as a popular destination.

Communities use the room tax revenue to help fund parts of their budget, as well as re-investing those dollars in tourism marketing. The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association – an affiliate of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce – is a state recognized regional tourism council. Through investments by business owners, regional attractions and local and state government, the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association works to aggressively promote and market North Central Massachusetts as a tourism destination.

The addition of Great Wolf Lodge has been a boon to Fitchburg. The hotel, water park and conference spaces are an asset to Fitchburg’s growth and economic development. With that hotel online, room tax revenue spiked for Fitchburg in fiscal year 2015 to $937,000. That growth continued in fiscal year 2016, with an 8% increase bringing revenue to over one million dollars. Fitchburg continues to lead the region’s tourism economy with the help of Great Wolf.

In Leominster, room tax revenue growth is more aggressive than ever before. By maintaining a competitive environment for lodging and conference space, Leominster saw an unprecedented 27.5% growth in tourism revenue for fiscal year 2016. Gardner has also seen steady growth in their room tax revenue – climbing 12.4% over the previous year.

The tourism industry is not only alive and well in North Central Massachusetts – it’s thriving. In order to continue that growth, we need to continue to work regionally and collaboratively to promote North Central Massachusetts, continue investments in tourism marketing, and maintain competitive tax rates that attract travelers of all kind.

 Suzanne Farias is the general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster and serves as the Chair of the Board for the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association.

Member Spotlight: J.U.M.P.

JUMP – or “Just Understand My Potential” is youth outdoor educational organization that connects youth with the outdoors and teaches skills that can not only be used in nature – but in life.

Founded by Bill Spacciapoli – an avid outdoorsman – in 2010, JUMP uses mountain skills such as hiking and backpacking as an outlet for kids ages 11 and above to enjoy and appreciate nature, while teaching valuable life skills like accountability and cooperation.

JUMP counselors have led more than 400 participants on 50 trips in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and in central Massachusetts, including Fall and Spring day hikes to give kids a taste of the program; Summer weekend trips and short winter programs with an annual cross-country ski day at Windblown Cross-Country Ski Area in New Ipswich, New Hampshire.

Training sessions help participants learn and practice mountain skills in comfortable surroundings close to home, so there are no consequences to getting things wrong the first time -or the first few times.

While founded as a non-profit serving disadvantaged populations, growth plans include offering fee-based programs for schools and similar groups.  Partners and donors include the Appalachian Mountain Club and Chamber members such as the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg & Leominster and Rollstone Bank & Trust.

“We teach hiking and backpacking as ‘cooperative sports.’ That means that we cultivate fitness, skills, understandings, and values, just as those who coach competitive sports do. But mountain travel is not a game. The object is not to defeat some identically motivated opponent, but to thrive in an exciting and demanding environment. The rewards are adventure, accomplishment, great memories,

the joy of high places” said Bill Spacciapoli.

JUMP seeks Chamber members well-networked in the community to join their advisory board; help with specific functions such as marketing, bookkeeping, and social media; and of course volunteer leaders to manage a group of kids for a day hike.  To volunteer or donate, please call Bill on (978) 621-7286, or email director@jumpinc.org.

Reserve Your Spot in the Official Guide to North Central Massachusetts

An ad in the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Guide is the best marketing decision you will make all year. This publication is the only one reaching visitors and long-time community members on a year-round basis. The publication is distributed at over 350 locations across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Canada. Work is underway now for the Spring edition. Contact Diane Burnette via email at burnette@appleseed.org or call 978-534-2829 to reserve your spot today. Space is limited.

Chamber Welcomes Fitchburg State University Intern:

daveinternThe North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is pleased to welcome David Ginisi as an intern at the Chamber’s headquarters this semester. Ginisi is currently a senior at the Fitchburg State University majoring in communications with a concentration in professional communications.  His interest in public relations and marketing drew him to the Chamber for his internship.

David is a native of Worcester and graduated from Holy Name High School.  He is a member of the dean’s list at Fitchburg State University and also volunteers at Special Olympics.  As part of his internship, David is learning a variety of aspects of the Chamber and its affiliates. He has been gaining hands on learning experience by assisting with drafting press releases, helping to organize special events and supporting the launch of the Chamber’s new Gift Local Initiative.

“We are excited to welcome David as part of our team this semester,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President & CEO of the Chamber.  “He is a bright and ambitious student who will benefit from his time working with our members and supporting the advancement of North Central Massachusetts. I have no doubt that he will make a positive contribution to our organization.”

David was connected to the Chamber through Fitchburg State University’s Internship program, which allows students to explore a career field and gain relevant work experience, apply academic learning to real world situations, and build critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and professional skills. Please contact the Chamber at 978-353-7600 ext. 244 for more information.

TOURISM INTEREST SOARS AS FESTIVAL GOERS HEAD TO WACHUSETT MOUNTAIN

Wachusett Mountain kicked off their Fall festival season with four of their biggest festivals, Farm Fresh Fest, Kidsfest, BBQfest and Applefest. We were able to exhibit at three of the major events, Kidsfest, BBQfest and Applefest in these past few weeks. While attendees spent their weekends enjoying the sights, sounds, beauty and pageantry of these events, we were able to tap into those joyous feelings and passed on wealth of information on the regional attractions that are featured in North Central Mass.  All three festivals were the perfect way for families to spend quality time together all while supporting our local small business vendors and learning about the region’s ideal areas to visit with their families.

The 26th Annual Kidsfest was the getaway that all kids dream about. It was two full days of music, food, and family fun. Live shows, walk-around entertainment, magic shows, clowns, and Mount Wachusett’s scenic summit SkyRide were at the epicenter of this eventful weekend. Parents got to enjoy great food and product sampling by our local small business vendors.

The 7th Annual BBQfest featured some of the area’s best BBQ vendors. Highlights of this year’s event include the Oysterfest, which featured oysters on the half shell, clam chowder and shrimp, along with an oyster shucking competition. The People’s Choice Awards featured Chili on Saturday and Pulled Pork on Sunday. Then the ever-famous Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair (including more than 75 vendors), and Beer Tent were present throughout the weekend.  Dozens of small business vendors were in attendance and gained great notoriety from the public.

The 33rd Annual Applefest, one of the region’s most popular festivals, featured over 75 Craft Fair & Farmers’ Market Booths, family entertainment, scenic foliage skyrides to the Summit, mountainside barbecue, pony rides, clowns, wall climbing, jugglers and magicians for the kids. Applefest also featured an Oktoberfest Celebration complete with authentic German cuisine, a multitude of tasty beers in the Beer Garden and live music and entertainment.

Hundreds of families living outside our region are now looking forward to what North Central has to offer from here on out. Attendees left these weekend events, happy, tired, full and in many cases excited to seek out new places of adventure and fun here in North Central Massachusetts.

New Gift Card Program – Sign up to participate!

gift local cardThis November, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce will be rolling out a new regional gift card program to encourage shopping local and to support our regional economy. Dollars from gift cards sold can only be spent with local businesses participating in the program. Similar programs launched by other chambers and merchants groups have been successful in generating new sales for participating businesses and bringing significant new dollars into their local economies.

This is your chance to have your business included on the list of participating places that accept these gift cards. Redeeming the gift cards is easy and participating businesses will be featured in the advertising campaign this holiday season to promote the gift cards. Nearly twenty local restaurants, shops, farms, attractions and other businesses have already signed up to participate! Don’t miss this opportunity to be included. Click Here for details on how the program works or contact the chamber at 978.353.7600 ext. 234.  Ready to sign up? Click Here for a merchant sign-up form.

 

 

Did You Know…Health Insurance

DID YOU KNOW . . .
That the North Central Massachusetts Chamber offers Health Insurance for our members?

The Chamber partners with most major carriers in Massachusetts allowing for multiple plans with varying deductibles and coinsurance levels, including:
• Fallon
• Blue Cross / Blue Shield
• Tufts
• Harvard Pilgrim
• Neighborhood Health Plan
• dental coverage from Ameritas, Delta, and Altus

and we’ve just added health plans from Health New England, which is expanding in our region.

Chamber Insurance programs offer excellent coverage at a reasonable cost for individuals and small businesses, who often find it challenging to find good benefits they can afford in traditional insurance markets.

Think of the Chamber as a “shopping service” to help you find the right health insurance for your business. But we’re also a trusted advisor to help you choose the right options. Confused about facility and provider networks? The trade-offs between co-payments and deductibles? Let us help you figure it out.

You don’t have to wait until annual Open Enrollment next spring – contact the Chamber today to discuss your needs and to find the best plan for your budget.

Please contact Jeff Ardis, Member Services Manager, on (978) 353-7600 x234, or at JArdis@NorthCentralMass.com, for more information.

You can help grow your Chamber!

You can help grow your Chamber!

Our annual Membership Drive is coming up on September 27 & 28. It will be a fun, competitive telethon to recruit new Chamber members, and we hope we can count on your help!  New members build a larger network for ideas, referrals, products, and services, which benefits everyone.  Last year we recruited more than 100 new members during our campaign!

There are two ways you can help:

1)      VOLUNTEER

We need enthusiastic callers who enjoy engaging people, asking questions, and sharing their positive experiences with our Chamber of Commerce!  All we ask is a few hours of your time in the morning or afternoon of one day or the other.  We’ll coach you on how to be successful and even feed you lunch.

2)      DONATE

A motivated volunteer is a happy and successful volunteer!  We are collecting a range of items (bottles of wine, sports tickets, gift cards, etc.) to offer as volunteer incentive prizes as the new memberships come rolling in.  Anything you can donate to represent your business will be much appreciated.

For more information, please contact Jeff Ardis, Member Services Manager, on 978.353.7600 x234.