Chamber Updates

SMALL BUSINESS ENERGY RELIEF GRANT PROGRAM: The Chamber is offering one-time energy grants of $1,000 to small businesses to help to off-set high energy prices and financial obstacles. Thank you to National Grid for contributing $100,000 to the Chamber to help make this grant program possible. Since launching the grant in July, we have already awarded $49,000 in grants to 49 small businesses. There are still grants available, so we encourage members to reach out to us to see if they are eligible. We are prioritizing chamber members for the grants.

STAFF DEVELOPMENT: In August, Travis Condon, the Chamber’s Public Affairs Manager, and Kat Deal, the Chamber’s Programs & Events Manager, completed their second year of the US Chamber’s Northeast Institute for Organization Management (IOM). IOM is a four-year national professional development program geared towards chamber of commerce and association professionals. Participants complete a week-long intensive session each year taught by university professors, industry experts, and leading practitioners in the chamber industry. Courses included advocacy, media training, membership, finance, legal issues, human resources to name just a few. They also had an opportunity to reconnect with other Chamber and Association professionals from all over the country.

ACCE CONVENTION: Chamber President & CEO Roy Nascimento was invited to present at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives National Convention in Salt Lake City in August. He spoke at two sessions titled “Data-Driven Workforce & Economic Growth Strategies” and “Overcoming Barriers to Upskilling Workers” where he shared our experiences and efforts with chamber and economic development leaders from throughout the country.

NASCIMENTO ELECTED TO ACCE FOUNDATION: In related news, Chamber President & CEO Roy Nascimento was elected recently to serve on the board of directors for the ACCE Foundation, a 501(c)3 that supports the work of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. ACCE’s Foundation was established to fund programming, peer-to-peer learning, and leadership development for chamber professionals seeking to create positive change by addressing the issues that challenge the long-term economic health and quality of life in our country’s cities and towns. Directors bring their knowledge and expertise to help the ACCE Foundation understand industry trends and the needs of members working in the priority areas of the Foundation. Those include education and talent; diversity, equity and inclusion; and economic and community development.

NEW LOANS: The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the Chamber’s economic development arm, has approved and closed on a total of twenty-three small business loans totaling $1,145,000 to date for FY23. The smallest loan was just $5,000 while the largest was $216,000. Our loans helped to leverage an additional $1,066,579 in capital from banks, public entities and from the borrowers. The majority of the loans helped fund start-up businesses as well as some existing small businesses that were expanding. Two of the loans were made under our new Regional Business Investment Fund and are helping with real estate development projects in two of our communities that have been prioritized for economic development. These loans resulted in the creation of 63 new jobs and the retention of 35 jobs.

MINI-GRANTS: The NCMDC continues to offer mini-grants between $500 – $5,000 to our borrowers to assist with technical assistance. For FY2023, we have approved a total of ten mini-grants totaling $35,288.93 for bookkeeping, marketing, signage and other professional assistance. Prioritization is given to existing loan clients but we will consider other small businesses in North Central Massachusetts with a demonstrated need.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: Our economic development team has provided a total of 2052 hours of direct technical assistance to existing and start-up businesses in the region. During the last quarter, our team also worked with the Massachusetts Export Center to help several businesses with questions around certificates of origin. In addition, the Small Business Development Center at Clark University has resumed holding office hours at the Chamber to help support start-ups and expanding small businesses in the region.

NORTH CENTRAL COMPACT: In June, the members of the Compact met again to continue to explore collaborative strategies to the workforce challenges in the region. The North Central Talent Compact is a collective impact coalition convened by the Chamber and other major stakeholders to address the complex talent and workforce challenges facing the region. The group consists of a group of prominent business, education, workforce and community leaders who are committed to collective action and leadership. An outgrowth of the Compact meeting is an expanded Career and Hiring Event in October, with more schools participating and bringing students to connect with employers to learn about available careers.

WEBSITE: The Chamber has started a project to redesign the Chamber website to make it a more dynamic and valuable resource for our members and communities. As part of the process, we plan to consolidate our Chamber website – – and our economic development website – – to make it easier to manage and avoid duplication. We also recently completed a homepage redesign of our tourism website – We are excited about the project and look forward to launching the redesigned site in the coming months!

ONLINE TRAINING: In conjunction with the Chamber website redesign project, we are also launching a new online training platform called Initiate. Initiate is a comprehensive online training resource that will be integrated with our redesigned website and offers several modules around starting a business, marketing, operations, bookkeeping and more that many small businesses need.

LATINX OUTREACH: The Chamber and NCMDC continue to prioritize efforts to engage more with Latinx business owners/entrepreneurs and connect them with financial resources, programs and business networks. Latinos are the largest minority group in the region and increasingly playing a larger role in our economy. We are currently in the process of interviewing candidates for the bi-lingual Community Business Advisor role to help with these efforts.

PODCAST: We continue to trend upwards with our Inside North Central podcast series. Over the last year we have had 2,549 plays on the major podcast services, which reflects a 300% increase over the previous year. Our podcasts are currently available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, and Google. Thank you to all the members who have participated in interviews and/or listened to the new Podcast series.

SOLAR: From its inception in August 2014 through July 2023 the solar field on Pleasant St. has produced 12,843,986 kWh of Net Metering Credits to the manufacturers participating in the program. Total value of these credits is $3,015,926 and the collective savings to participants totals $2,563,537. As one of the participants, the Chamber has received $241,274 in energy savings to-date.

CHAMBER GIFT CARDS: In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, we encourage member merchants interested in accepting the new revamped Gift Local E-Gift Cards to contact the Chamber. We are approaching the one-year anniversary since the transition to the new platform for processing the gift cards. Feedback from participating members and gift card recipients has been positive so far. There is no charge to participate and the new cards are easy to process via the Mastercard network, however participating merchants must run an activation card from the Chamber in order to be able to accept the cards.