Chamber Updates Summer 2024

Chamber Summer 2024 Updates

MANUFACTURING COUNCIL: In March. we launched the Manufacturing Council of North Central Massachusetts to enhance the Chamber’s support of the manufacturing industry and the regional economy. The council operates as a special interest group within the Chamber and is open to members and non-members working or interested in learning more about the manufacturing industry. Members will have the opportunity to network with peers, participate in tours of manufacturing facilities to learn best practices, attend quarterly meetings featuring experts in the industry, gain exclusive access to policy leaders, and collectively advocate for the industry. The first meeting of the council was held in March at Burkart-Phelan, Inc in Shirley. Christine Nolan, director of the Mass Center for Advanced Manufacturing was the featured speaker at the March meeting. A tour of Burkart-Phelan, Inc. was also included as part of the program. The next quarterly program is scheduled for June 3 and will feature a legislative briefing geared towards manufacturers. Members interested in participating should contact Valerie Bruno at 978.353.7600 ext. 235 or via email at vbruno@northcentralmass.com.

NEW LOANS: The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the Chamber’s economic development arm, has approved and closed 13 loans for a total of $594,500 for the year to date through April. The majority of the loans were micro-loans made through our traditional lending programs and focused on supporting start-up and existing small businesses in need of capital. These loans leveraged $50,095 of private borrower funds and from our banking partners. The RBIF loan was the largest loan at $250,000 (See next section for details). The NCMDC has another $1,405,000 in leads/deals in its pipeline and another $200,000 in loans approved, but not yet closed. We currently have a total of 96 loans in our loan portfolio with a total principal balance of $3,027,337.92.

REGIONAL BUSINESS INVESTMENT FUND: The loan granted through the Regional Business Investment Fund (RBIF) for $250,000 was made to a developer and owner of a three-story mixed use building in Downtown Gardner. The funding provided under the RBIF will be used to fit up commercial space in the building for use as a restaurant. The developer is also converting the top floors into 14 units of housing. This loan is leveraged with an additional $1.9 million in financing from a traditional lender.

LATINX OUTREACH: As part of our effort to reach the LatinX community, we have strengthened our ties with organizations such as LABO (Latin American Business Organization) and Amplify Latin X. We participated in the Annual LABO Expo at the DCU Center on Saturday, April 27 as an exhibitor and will be attending Amplify LatinX’s annual Latino Summit on May 21 as guests. On a local level, the Chamber/NCMDC sponsored an event hosted by Fitchburg based nonprofit organization “Centro Celeste” on April 20. Centro Celeste is a Uruguayan Non-Profit organization aimed to advance the dense Uruguayan population of North Central Massachusetts.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: Our economic development team continues to provide guidance and support to existing and start-up businesses. For year to date, our team has provided 1,067 hours of technical assistance. We also continue to connect our clients to partners such as NewVue Communities, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the Center for Women and Enterprise (CWE) for services such as business plans, projections, marketing plans, growth and others subjects. In addition, we also continue to connect with professionals who can provide technical assistance beyond the scope of what we can do directly, including services for marketing, public relations, website/media design, bookkeeping and legal.

ONLINE TRAINING: In the Spring, we launched Initiate Prosperity, an on-line technical assistance program. Initiate is a proven online technical assistance tool with over 300 resources to include interactive tools, templates, videos and guides, also provided in Spanish. To date, we have had 13 small businesses that have signed to take advantage of the platform. Access to the platform is complementary for Chamber members and NCMDC clients to use. Email our team at chamber@northcentralmass.com to request access to the online platform.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SCHOLARSHIP GRANTS: The NCMDC continues to offer scholarship mini-grants between $500 – $5,000 to our borrowers to assist with technical assistance. These Scholarship Grants can be used to pay for services such as training on social media platforms, understanding bookkeeping and QuickBooks, learning to create a strategic marketing plan, and more training opportunities provided by our trusted consultants. Since January, we have approved one new grant to a small business for software management training.

Chamber Summer 2024 Updates - Entrpreneuer Awards Reception

Christina DiRusso, vice president of commercial lending at bankHometown, was recognized with the NCMDC’s Banker of the Year Award in recognition of her active involvement and support of the NCMDC.

ENTREPRENEUR AWARDS RECEPTION AND RESOURCE SHOWCASE: We hosted our inaugural Entrepreneur Awards Reception and Resource Showcase event on March 28 at the DoubleTree Hotel. The event brought together NCMDC loan clients, entrepreneurs, community leaders, chamber members and resource partners for an evening of celebration and networking. From lending institutions to professional service providers, attendees had access to many resources and expertise to help them overcome challenges and achieve their entrepreneurial goals. The evening culminated with an awards presentation, where several NCMDC loan clients were recognized for their remarkable achievements and contributions. NewVue Communities was acknowledged as our Community Partner of the Year and Christina DiRusso was recognized as the 2024 Banker of the Year. The reception proved a valuable opportunity for attendees to build new connections, find solutions for their businesses, and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels economic growth. Thank you to the sponsors that helped support this new event.

WELCOME SIGNS: As part of our community development efforts, we once again were able to sponsor the construction of a number of welcome signs in member communities. Signs were recently completed in Lunenburg and Pepperell, and we are looking to continue this initiative in several more communities in the coming months.

Chamber Summer 2024 Updates - Career & Hiring Event

Hundreds of college students, high school students and a diverse mix of job seekers from throughout the region were able to connect with employers and resource providers about employment and career opportunities at last year’s Work North Central; Career & Hiring Event

CAREER & HIRING EVENT: We have tentatively scheduled the Work North Central Career & Hiring Event for October 9, 2024 at the Mount Wachusett Community College Campus in Gardner. We are expanding the annual hiring event to include more career exploration. We are hoping to include more schools this year and other organizations that focus on supporting individuals with employments, including supported employment agencies, veterans’ groups and others. Members interested in participating should contact Valerie Bruno at 978.353.7600 ext. 235 or via email at vbruno@northcentralmass.com to learn more or to reserve space at the event.

JOBS BOARD: Nearly 300 jobs are currently listed on our WorkNorthCentral.com online jobs board and over 12,000 jobs have been posted since we launched the online resource. The jobs board continues to be one of the most visited sections of our website. We also continue to post the jobs on a Work North Central Facebook page that we have established. Postings are complimentary for members. Contact us if you would like more information. Members can visit WorkNorthCentral.com to post their opportunities or email them to Sabbra Reyes at sreyes@northcentralmass.com and she will post them for you.

SOLAR: From its inception in August 2014 through March 2024 the solar field on Pleasant St. has produced 13,610,346 kWh of Net Metering Credits to the manufacturers participating in the program. The collective savings to participants totals $2,806,006.

CHAMBER GIFT CARDS: We currently have 34 members merchants that are participating in the Gift Local eGift Card program. Since January 1, we have sold 52 gift cards valued at $2,180. During the same timeframe, 29 cards valued at $909.72 were redeemed at participating small businesses. Members interested in participating in the Gift Card program should contact Maureen Babcock for more information at 978.353.7600 ext. 222 or email mbabcock@northcentralmass.com. There is no charge to participate and accept the Gift Cards.

MEMBER DISCOUNTS: Members interested in participating in the member to member discount program should contact Maureen Babcock at mbabcock@northcentralmass.com. This program is designed to encourage members to buy from other members to save money, increase visibility and promote new business for their company. We ask that any discounts offered be exclusive, or nearly so, to the member-to-member program.