MASS-TECH PROJECT: The Chamber’s economic development arm – The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation – has received a small grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to help strengthen the environment for start-ups in the region. This project builds off of the work of the One North Central Regional Economic Development Plan, which prioritizes efforts to grow the region from within through small business support programs and initiatives. The Chamber has formed a small advisory committee of members and hired economic development consulting firm RKG Associates to assist with the project. The project scope will entail reviewing the current entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region including inventorying existing practitioners, policies, programs and resources available to start-up and early stage companies, and looking at what gaps exist in the region.
GIFT CARD PROGRAM: The Chamber has revamped the Gift Local Gift Card program to make it easier for members to process the gift cards, and for the public to redeem them. We transitioned over the Summer to a new technology platform called Yiftee that is very user friendly and allows the new gift cards to be issued electronically and processed as a Mastercard. To accept the new e-Gift Cards a participating merchant just needs to accept Mastercard and process it via a key-entry. There will no longer be any need for a separate web terminal for processing, dual entries into the terminal and POS system, or any costly POS integration. Most importantly when consumers use the gift card, dollars stay local and benefit our shops and restaurants and our communities. We are planning an advertising campaign starting in the Fall running through the holidays to promote the new e-Gift Local Gift Cards. Because it is an opt-in program, members interested in being able to accept the gift cards need to contact the Chamber to receive an activation card to participate. Visit Giftlocal.net for more information or contact the Chamber.
CHAMBER FOUNDATION: The Chamber Board approved a contribution of $9,600 to the North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation. The contribution represents the proceeds from the Chamber’s Scholars Breakfast in the Spring and will help to strengthen the foundation’s scholarship and education efforts. The Foundation is the Chamber’s charitable affiliate. Thank you to all the members that supported the foundation!
NEW LOANS: The Chamber’s economic development arm – the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation – has closed 25 micro-loans for a total of $1,277,500 since October 1, 2021. The loans were made to a mix of existing and start-up businesses and ranged from $7,500 to $206,000. There are another three loans totaling $300,500 that have been approved but have not yet closed.
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: During the last quarter, our team provided over 310 hours of direct technical assistance to small businesses. Our 2-day in-person Quickbooks seminar was a big success, with sold-out attendance. We also connected several of our borrowers and small business clients to professionals for technical assistance, such as bookkeeping, marketing, website design and legal services.
JOBS BOARD: The Chamber continues to offer 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 8,600 jobs posted and more than 80,000 views by job seekers since being launched. As a reminder, the jobs board is free for members to utilize. We encourage members to post any employment opportunities they offer or send them to us and we will post them for you.
EQUITABLE CREDENTIAL ATTAINMENT PROJECT: A North Central Massachusetts team comprised of the Chamber, Mount Wachusett Community College and the Spanish American Center have been meeting monthly as part of the Equitable Credential Attainment initiative offered through the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). North Central Massachusetts was one of seven regions selected in the Spring from throughout the country to participate in this 18-month competitive program. This initiative is focused on growing credential and degree program participation among minority workers with the goal of helping to place these workers in well-paying jobs with career advancement. Our team has already seen some early successes in building partnerships and engaging the Latinx community around micro-credentialing in the health care and manufacturing industries.
WORKFORCE STUDY: In related news, the UMass Donahue has completed the workforce study commissioned by the Chamber to assess and recommend ways to enhance the labor pool in the region. The results will be unveiled at the September edition of the Chamber’s Good Morning North Central Massachusetts breakfast program and shared online. We hope the study will be a useful resource to help develop new strategies and advocate for solutions to the workforce challenges faced by employers.
ENERGY PROGRAM: From its inception in August 2014 through July 2022 the solar field on Pleasant St. has produced 11,473,106 KwH of Net Metering Credits to the manufacturers participating in the program. Total value of these credits is $2,551,981.14 and the collective savings to participants totals $2,169,184.
DIGITAL MARKETING: Traffic to our websites averaged approximately 12,122 unique page views each month in FY2022 which ended in June. In FY22 we also garnered over 2.3 million google impressions. 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 23,139 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.