History & Milestones
The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce was officially established through a merger of the several local chambers of commerce and business groups in the region. The roots of the Chamber stretch back to the early 1900s with the formation of the Leominster and Fitchburg Chambers of Commerce.
After a nationwide search, David McKeehan, former Vice President of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce is selected to serve as the first President of the newly formed organization. Local Attorney Elliott Zide served as the first Chair of the Board and the Chamber maintained offices in both Fitchburg and Leominster for the first two years. The merger has proven to be a testament to the concept of “a regional approach to problem-solving.” The resulting regional business organization has taken a prominent position in economic development, government affairs and the implementation of creative solutions for promoting the success of small businesses.
The Chamber launches its longest running event, the Good Morning North Central breakfast series. Over the years, high profile speakers have included Governors, Senators, prominent business and civic leaders, authors and celebrities.
The Chamber establishes the North Central Chamber Foundation as a 501(c)3 non-profit affiliate focused on assisting in the betterment of the region through charitable activities. Funds raised by the Chamber Foundation are utilized primarily for education/workforce development initiatives. Since its founding the Chamber’s foundation has awarded over $1 million so far in scholarships.
The “Commitment for Success” initiative was inaugurated by the Chamber, raising $1.25 Million from area businesses, to enable regional economic development and government affairs programming.
The Chamber publishes the first Guide to North Central Massachusetts as an annual tourism publication to promote the region to visitors. The first guide is black and white and has a limited distribution. Today, the guide is full color, printed seasonally and distributed widely throughout New England and as far away as Canada.
The Chamber establishes the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation as its formal economic development arm and initiated a fixed asset financing program (SBA 504) for area small businesses.
The Chamber developed a workforce training program, coordinating efforts of Mount Wachusett Community College, Monty Tech, and the local machinists’ union, to prepare 100 machinists for the Fitchburg General Electric plant.
The Chamber launches its Community Leadership Institute to help shape leaders in the region.
Over 230 business and community leaders have graduated from the program since its inception.
In an effort to be more accessible to its growing membership from throughout the region, the Chamber moves to a new location on Erdman Way in Leominster, easily accessible to Route 2.
The Chamber started the Twin-Cities First Night event, organizing dozens of venues, transportation, and entertainment to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Leominster and Fitchburg. This community-based program, involving hundreds of volunteers, ran annually for almost a decade.
The North Central Massachusetts Chamber secured another $1 Million from area businesses for economic development programming and launched the “Blueprint for the 90s”– a community and business-based planning effort that served as a roadmap for driving economic development efforts over the last twenty five years and led to the creation of many of the economic assets that have helped to shape the regions’ economy.
The Chamber holds the first of several MassPlastics Trade Shows to showcase area companies and demonstrate the region’s history and strength in the plastics industry. These highly successful events grew to 100,000 square feet of exhibition space and were the only manufacturing-specific trade shows held by any local chamber of commerce in the country.
The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation establishes its first micro-loan program to assist start-up businesses, which is capitalized through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and matching funds from the Chamber. Since its inception, the NCMDC has gone on to lend out over $6.3 million dollars, which has been leveraged by $24 million in bank capital and has resulted in nearly 1,000 new jobs. The average loan is just $25,000.
The Chamber leads a regional effort to support redevelopment of Fort Devens, including active participation in the creation of a redevelopment plan and supporting passage of a $200 million bond to implement the plan.
The Chamber establishes the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association as its formal tourism affiliate. JATA, doing business as Visit North Central Massachusetts today, developed and implemented a regional marketing plan to attract visitors and groups to the region. Since its humble beginnings, the organization has grown the economic impact of tourism from virtually nothing to over $144 million dollars in direct spending from visitors.
After ten years of lobbying by the Chamber, the MassHighway Department constructs The Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on the site of a burned-out Howard Johnson’s Restaurant along Route 2 in Lancaster. The Center’s opening was a product of the Chamber’s economic development master plan launched in 1991 and has become a model for visitor information centers. Approximately 165,000 people visit the center each year.
Anita Raboin, Former President of Appleseed Personnel Services is elected as the first woman Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
The Chamber establishes the Executive Women’s Network, today called the Women’s Leadership Connection, to foster success for local women in business.
The Chamber paves the way for the Route 12 Improvement Project. This transportation infrastructure project has been credited with improving the route 12 corridor in Fitchburg and Leominster.
The state officially designates Route 2, from I-495 west through the Town of Orange, as “The Johnny Appleseed Trail”.
The Chamber breaks ground on its new 6,000 square foot building in Fitchburg, near the Leominster line, to serve as its headquarters and as a regional center to support the business community.
The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation is designated as a Community Development Financial Institution by the U.S. Treasury.
The Chamber’s tourism arm, the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association, receives official designation from the state as the Regional Tourism Council for North Central Massachusetts. This designation creates a formal partnership with the state’s tourism office and enables the region to receive its share of matching tourism grants.
The Chamber hosts three familiarization trips to China. Over 200 local businessmen and women participate in the program to establish a better understanding of the country’s growing influence in the world’s economy and explore potential business relationships.
The Chamber supports efforts by the City of Leominster to recruit AIS to the region and advocates for tax incentives for the project. The project helps create hundreds of new jobs and millions in new tax revenue for the city and state.
The Chamber partners with Fidelity Bank to launch the first Economic Forecast Breakfast which highlights the economic outlook for North Central Massachusetts.
Recognizing the importance of a locally focused community college system and concerned about the impact to local businesses and the region, the Chamber leads a statewide coalition of business groups to oppose efforts by the state to usurp control and centralize the state’s fifteen community colleges.
The Chamber’s economic development arm, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, receives state designation as the official Regional Economic Development Organization for North Central Massachusetts.
The Chamber works with local and state officials to help attract Great Wolf Resorts to the region and advocates for tax incentives for the project. The project helps create over 500 jobs for the region and generates millions in new tax revenue for the city and state.
To help local manufacturers reduce their energy costs, the Chamber’s economic development arm creates an innovative program to provide Net-Metering Credits from a local solar field. The initiative has produced 6,154,746 KwH of Net Metering Credits to the participating manufacturers in the program, with a collective savings of over $1,124,649.
After a nationwide search, Roy Nascimento is selected to succeed David McKeehan as the President of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber’s economic development affiliate, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, is approved as a micro-loan provider by the U.S Small Business Administration and receives a $500,000 low-interest loan as much needed capital to continue to grow its lending programs.
The Chamber’s economic development affiliate, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, is approved as a micro-loan intermediary by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and establishes its fourth micro-loan fund with an additional infusion of $500,000 in capital.
The Chamber introduces a new logo, symbolizing its continued growth and transformation while being respectful of its history.
The Chamber’s economic development affiliate signs an innovative agreement with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide start-up businesses in the Worcester area with micro-lending resources.
The North Central Massachusetts Chamber is named a finalist for the National Chamber of the Year Award, the first chamber of commerce in Massachusetts or New England to have ever been named a finalist for this prestigious honor.
The Chamber secures $300,000 in pledges from local businesses to establish the Economic Advancement Fund with the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation. The new fund provides resources to expand economic development efforts and continue to advance the North Central economy.
The Chamber’s economic development affiliate signs agreements with the Assabet Valley, North Quabbin and the Greater Gardner Chambers of Commerce to extend its micro-lending resources to start-up businesses in their communities.
The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation is designated as a Community Advantage Lender by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is awarded 4-star Accreditation from the accrediting board of the United States Chamber of Commerce for its sound policies, effective organizational procedures, and positive impact on the community. Of the approximately 7,000 chambers in the United States, only 204 have earned the recognition as an accredited chamber of commerce.
The Chamber’s economic development arm partners with Fidelity Bank and the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce to establish its fifth micro-loan fund, called the Colonial Bank Loan Fund. This new loan fund is capitalized with a $300,000 contribution from Fidelity bank.
The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association rebrands to become Visit North Central Massachusetts, being more encompassing of our wonderful North Central Mass region.
The Chamber and the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation publish a report entitled “Build North Central: Promoting the Industrial Heart of Massachusetts” with recommendations to support the region’s manufacturing industry and fuel economic advancement throughout the region.
The Chamber celebrates its 35th Anniversary of “Building Businesses, Building Communities”!