NEW: Worcester Chamber Establishes Fund for Economic Development
Thursday, July 11, 2013
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce has officially established the Worcester Economic Development Advancement Fund as a mechanism to support the Chamber's efforts in pursuing strategic, regional economic development initiatives focused around the themes of recruitment, retention, and incubation.
The Chamber had conducted a recent survey of of its members and local business leaders, and respondents asked the Chamber to take a greater leadership role in promoting economic development efforts and assets in the region.
The Fund, which was rolled out to area business leaders and college administrators on Monday, June 24, at an early morning event held at MCHPS University, will be funded by contributions from area businesses and foundations.
An initial commitment from The Hanover Insurance Group was announced by Frederick Eppinger, the company's president and CEO. Mr. Eppinger kicked off the event with a challenge grant of $100,000 over two years. In his announcement, he cited an opportunity to take the Chamber and its economic development efforts to the next level by building on the momentum already underway in the City of Worcester and the region.
Additional community leaders who spoke on behalf of the fund were Patrick Hughes, President and CEO at Fallon Community Health Plan; Michael O'Brien, Worcester City Manager; Joseph Petty, Mayor for the City of Worcester; and Tim Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. About 35 invitees were in attendance.
The Chamber's President and CEO Tim Murray stated that he is "encouraged and gratified by the enthusiasm exhibited by the region's leadership in pursuing new strategic, regional economic development initiatives that are focused around the themes of recruitment, retention, and incubation." The Chamber will lead these initiatives with like-minded partners, institutions, and members.
The economic development efforts of the Chamber will be part of a comprehensive approach with partners such as the Worcester Business Development Corporation, who develops real estate to create pad ready sites and commercial space, Destination Worcester who is focused on showcasing Worcester to meeting and convention planners and visitors throughout New England, and others such as Mass Biomedical Initiatives, and the City of Worcester.
"The new initiatives under development will have specific economic development goals and objectives as well as sustainability plans and metrics to measure their impact," Murray said.
The chair of the Chamber's board of directors, Richard P. Burke, of Fallon Community Health Plan is leading the effort with John F. Merrill of Fidelity Bank. Both emphasize the importance of strategic partnerships to fulfill the Chamber's economic development mission. Mr. Burke stresses that, "Tim will have the full support of the executive committee and the entire board who will be actively involved in the development and evaluation of these initiatives."
The response from the business community has been positive with commitments thus far totaling $300,000. In addition to The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., companies who have pledged their support are: Bank of America, Benefit Development Group, Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Columbia Tech, Commerce Bank, Consigli Construction Company, Fidelity Bank, Gilbane Building Co., Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Polar Beverages. The committee's goal is to raise $1.2 million over the next few months.
Initial plans include identifying companies in sectors of the economy that play to the region's strengths with focused recruitment efforts to specific industry sectors as well as the developer community. The fund will also be used for targeted industries such as strengthening workforce development efforts for important industry sectors aimed at retaining college graduates in the area and facilitating more commercialization of the research taking place on the region's college campuses.
In the past month, the Chamber has seen a significant increase in the number of new businesses joining the organization with many initiating contact and asking to become a member. Several have sited increased activity by the Chamber and a new level of enthusiasm as factors in their decision to join.
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