Middlesex 3 Coalition Seeks Development of Regional Identity

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

On October 2, Bedford Town Manager and Middlesex 3 Coalition President Rick Reed delivered opening remarks at an extremely well-attended Coalition kick-off meeting.

The Middlesex 3 Coalition is a non-profit public/private partnership that helps businesses that locate in Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford and Lowell with transportation and infrastructure improvements; workforce training programs and employment development initiatives;advocacy on behalf of the region to state and federal legislators; connecting business leaders with municipal and financial contacts;streamlining permitting processes; and identifying development sites for business growth.

Reed began his presentation by describing the vision of the Middlesex 3 Coalition. Its goals are to:

  • strengthen and grow economic development in the region;
  • create and retain jobs;
  • increase and diversify the tax base; and
  • improve the quality of life in the five coalition towns.

The intent of the kick-off meeting was not only to introduce area leaders and the media to Middlesex 3, but also to broaden and deepen the variety of stakeholders interested in advancing the initiative. Participants from all sectors are welcome to join the Coalition, but Reed particularly invited additional members from the medical and non-profit sectors.

The first speakers, representatives from UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College, spoke about the importance of educating and training the workforce in order to attract successful business development.

UMass Vice Chancellor Jackie Moloney noted that the federal government is firmly committed to supporting regional partnerships like the Middlesex 3 and that “future success depends on our capacity to leverage the great resources that we all bring to the table.”

A panel discussion about the significance of the Middlesex 3 concept followed.  The participants of the panel included:

  • State Secretary Greg Bialecki, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
  • John Heller, VP in charge of Logistics and Real Estate Services for Keurig/Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a company that recently located in Burlington.
  • Dean Lamothe, Director of Finance for E Ink Corp, makers of crystals used in e-readers and other “smart surface” applications. E Ink is moving from four buildings in Cambridge to a single state-of-the-art facility in Billerica.
  • John Weiss, Adjunct Professor of Development and Land Use at Boston University, who spent much of his career with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency in Silicon Valley. Weiss also acted as moderator for the panel discussion.

Thinking about the Middlesex Turnpike and Route 3 corridor as a region, rather than as one town versus another, was an overriding concept that emerged from the panel discussion. Secretary Bialecki reminded the audience that although Boston attracts businesses because of its wealth of talent from Harvard and MIT, those schools happen to be in Cambridge, not Boston.

“The Governor and I are particularly pleased that [the Middlesex 3 regional effort] has taken hold here and gone farther than anywhere else in the state,” Bialecki said. “This region, these five communities, just in terms of their natural assets, is in an absolutely marvelous position to showcase what Massachusetts has to offer. . . .We will continue to pay attention to this region.”

Weiss related the history of Silicon Valley, using it as a model for how regional branding can make an area more identifiable than any one the component towns. The proximity of Stanford University and other fine schools, the diverse cultural opportunities, the many sports teams, multiple newspapers, all contribute to making the concept of “Silicone Valley” a collaborative effort.

Bialecki added that in Silicon Valley there is a difference in the culture that is instructive. “What I would love to see come out of this effort, is really a sense that if any one of us here—whether it’s [a] business,a property owner, etc.—is successful, that it’s great for everybody. Anytime any company in Silicon Valley has a successful IPO, everybody pats themselves on the back—even the competitors—because they know that if anyone has a successful IPO in the Valley, it makes the Valley look good and makes more money and talent want to be there.”

Heller and Lamothe also spoke about the ways in which the towns of Burlington and Billerica worked with them to expedite the permitting process, bringing all the Boards together in one place so that the various steps took far less time collectively than they would haveif a separate process were required for each town.

Lamothe described the need for improved public transportation to the region, especially for a transplanted business such as E Ink that wants to retain all its current employees who rely on public transportation to commute to the company’s present location in Cambridge.

Reed also announced two upcoming Middlesex 3 events. The first is to be held on November 27th, from 8 to 11 am at UMass Lowell’s Alumni Hall, will focus on the advancement of the biotech industry in the Middlesex 3 area. The second is scheduled for January at a date to be announced and will highlight manufacturing in the region.

More information about the Middlesex 3 initiative is available at www.middlesex3.com.

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