Nov. 16, 2023 – We loved seeing the Merrimack Valley innovation ecosystem come together for our panel event Connecting with Economic Development Opportunities for Hardware Startups! A small crowd joined us at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub to network and take in the panel discussion.
Mark Michalski, our Eastern MA manufacturing expert in residence, kicked off the event by introducing the speakers and panelists who would be sharing regional resources and economic development tips for innovators.
The first speaker was Alexandria Eberhardt, president and CEO of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. She said “The Greater Haverhill Chamber is heavily focused on inclusive economic development. I work locally in Haverhill and southern New Hampshire, and at a state-wide level on ecosystem-building…We want to make Massachusetts the best place to be an entrepreneur.”
State Rep. Vanna Howard spoke next, saying “Lowell, my home, and the greater Merrimack Valley did so much during the Industrial Revolution. As the mills in Lowell closed, it was devastating to the economy and community. The bustling downtown became empty. There is still much work to be done to fully revitalize the regional economy of Merrimack Valley, but as I stand before you all, I’m more hopeful than ever.”
State Sen. Pavel Payano said “This region’s history is not just about innovation, but the struggles and contributions of its workers. The economic development of the industrial revolution came with its costs. Now, the Lawrence population is rebounding.” He talked about using the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative to revitalize Lawrence.
Next, we saw a panel discussion with:
- Middlesex 3 Coalition Executive Director Stephanie Cronin
- Lowell Plan and Lowell Development & Financial Corporation Executive Director Allison Lamey
- Enterprise Bank Commercial Loan Officer/Senior Vice President Jonathan Machado
- UMass Lowell Center for Women & Work Advisory Board Member and U.S. Department of the Treasury Senior Economist Geetha Rao Ramani
Lamey said “If you contact one of us [innovation ecosystem members] for help and we don’t provide a service, we’re probably regularly talking to other organizations that do. It’s a really well-networked region.
Cronin said “Your community may have an economic development person. Get to know them — they can connect you to so many resources.”
In reference to consulting with a loan officer for your startup, Machado said “It’s never too early. You want to know who’s going to advocate for you. When we have those meetings, what eases our apprehension is when people show up obviously prepared, with a clear plan in place.”
Ramani said “The Emerging Technology Fund for post-R&D, pre-revenue startups is one of our most asked-about resources. It can be in a wide range of sectors where startups are driving innovation and it can provide up to $4 million in venture debt financing.”
Our panelists shared some useful resources for startups and innovative companies in the Merrimack Valley area. Take a look:
- MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency and land bank, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. Its bond financing programs offer a cost-effective way for companies to finance capital projects, new equipment purchases and facility expansions. It also provides loans and guarantees to help grow your operations and development assistance for early-stage projects.
- MassDevelopment’s Emerging Technology Fund is designed to help innovative companies by making loans for expansion, working capital or equipment purchases.
- The LDFC Incubator Loan Fund will be of interest to FORGE affiliates. This low-interest loan is for technology and life science startup businesses looking to expand in Lowell. It prioritizes businesses who intend to create jobs. Funds can be used for working capital, lease-hold improvements, purchasing equipment, etc.
After the panel, attendees snacked on pastries and mingled, making new connections. The Merrimack Valley innovation ecosystem is growing and thriving, and we love to watch it as it’s happening!