STRATEGIC PLANNING: The boards of the Chamber, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation and Visit North Central Massachusetts met in the Spring to begin working on the chamber’s next strategic plan. They reviewed the great progress made on our current strategic plan and discussed a variety of topics that are crucial to supporting our members and keeping our region a vibrant place to live, work and visit. We would love to hear from you. What can the Chamber and our affiliate organizations do over the next three years to support your organizations and the communities of North Central Massachusetts? Please send us your ideas and share your successes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAND BANK: The Chamber has commissioned a planning study to help us flesh out the Land Bank concept that was recommended in the One North Central economic development plan. The land bank concept was recommended as a tool to help spur more real estate development in the region. It would provide the region a method to identify and acquire land for economic development, market the property, and sell/lease the land when a prospect is identified. The study will commence this Summer and should be completed by the Fall.
VISITOR CENTER: Our Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center in Lancaster has completed some renovations and upgrades to help improve the experience and better showcase the region to the more than 165,000 visitors that stop there each year. Renovations include new floors, rustic paneling on the walls, new rugs and new office furniture thanks to a generous donation from AIS. Handicap doors, new security cameras, a dog walking station, a water refilling station and new signage were also added. Matching funds to help support the project came from a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and from the City of Leominster.
NEW LOANS: The Chamber’s economic development arm – the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation – has closed 15 micro-loans for a total of $561,500 since October 1, 2021. The loans were made to a mix of existing and start-up businesses and ranged from $6,000 to $150,000. There are another four loans totaling $458,500 that have been approved but have not closed yet.
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: During the last quarter, our team provided over 300 hours of direct technical assistance to small businesses. We also hosted several workshops and seminars geared towards supporting small businesses, including a webinar in Spanish on marketing, a workshop on digital marketing and a session on business planning and cost control. We also hosted a special client reception to thank our loan clients and connect them with resource partners.
FAÇADE AND POP-UP SHOP GRANTS: The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation is partnering with ReImagine North of Main in Fitchburg and the City of Leominster to help fund façade improvements for a number of small businesses in both Cities and a pop-up shop program in Fitchburg. The project is funded through a state grant the development corporation received.
WELCOME SIGNS: The Chamber is sponsoring the construction of welcome signs at key entrances in the Cities of Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster. The signs are intended to provide a positive first impression to visitors, potential investors and future residents, as well as boost civic pride. The new signs were designed to look like traditional New England style community welcome signs, except they are made of composite for their durability and longevity. Each sign is carved with the city’s seal and painted to match the official colors of the community. We are working with the three cities to identify key gateways for the signs. We have selected Leominster based company Add-A-Sign to design and construct them.
DIGITAL MARKETING: Traffic to our websites is averaging approximately 12,232 unique page views each month for FY2022. This represents a 2.3% increase over the prior year. We continue to be very active on social media, populating our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter platforms with our content. Our social media platforms have a combined 21,836 total followers. In CY2021, our social media platforms garnered an average of 217,000 impressions monthly and a total of nearly 2.4 million impressions for the year. That represents a 20% increase over the previous year.
JOBS BOARD: The Chamber continues to promote the WorkNorthCentral.com online jobs board as a resource to connect employers and job seekers in North Central Massachusetts. The jobs board has had over 8,000 jobs posted and more than 76,000 views since being launched. We encourage members to post any employment opportunities they offer on the jobs board or send them to us and we will post them for you.
ENERGY SAVINGS: From its inception in August 2014 through April 2022 the solar field on Pleasant St. has produced 10,960,426 kWh of Net Metering Credits to the manufacturers participating in the program. Total value of these credits is $2,404,344 and the collective savings to participants totals $2,043,692.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: Developing the pipeline of talent for our members and communities to compete continues to be a priority for the Chamber. As referenced in our last edition of this newsletter, the Chamber has commissioned a workforce study to assess and recommend ways to enhance the labor pool in the region. We are expecting the study to be completed this Summer and hope it will be a resource to help develop strategies to deal with the workforce challenges faced by employers. In addition, we continue to partner with Mount Wachusett Community College and the Spanish American Center on the national Equitable Credentialing Initiative that our region was selected for through the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the American Association of Community Colleges.