Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) and Timothy P. Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded the Chamber a $40,900 grant for economic development planning.

“Growing our economy in Worcester has been a top priority for me in Congress. I am proud to advocate for our region and this grant will help us to establish a strong 21st Century economic development plan for Southern Worcester County,” Congressman McGovern said. “This grant will help the Chamber to unify our region’s top priorities in a single plan and help us work together to support our businesses, create new jobs, and grow our economy. I look forward to participating in the planning process and continuing to work with our business leaders to support these important economic development efforts that will benefit families and communities across the region.”

The $40,900 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) grant will focus on a 42-community region of Southern Worcester County where a federally-recognized comprehensive strategy does not already exist. It is expected that the planning process will run for 12 months beginning in January 2016 and will include data and statistical research, best practices analysis, and an extensive community engagement process.

When complete, the plan will support new job creation, a stronger commercial tax base for municipalities, better business climate for the region, and ultimately, increases to median incomes for families. The plan will inventory and identify synergies between all existing economic development efforts, identify gaps and solutions, and establish an implementation plan that includes measureable outcomes.

“The Chamber is proud to be leading this effort between businesses and the public sector and non-profits” Timothy P. Murray said. “It makes sense since there is so much overlap with our existing work in the region, such as our leadership on university partnerships and talent attraction and retention, creating a food hub and supporting the agricultural economy, and improving our business climate to support innovation clusters, entrepreneurship and manufacturing.”

Beginning in the 1950s, manufacturing and agricultural facilities began to close causing steady and significant job losses in the Southern Worcester County Region. The healthcare and professional and scientific sectors have grown steadily in recent years providing employment opportunities to the highest skill workers, however the manufacturing, distribution and wholesale trade sectors continue to decline and offer shrinking employment opportunities for the lower skilled workers in the region. As a result, the income gap has continued to widen and the regional economy has suffered.

“We need to work harder to close that gap and make sure that people at all skill levels have opportunities to secure jobs and provide for their families,” said McGovern.

Murray added, “A rising tide lifts all boats and that’s exactly what we plan to do for Worcester County.”

In the spirit of regional collaboration, the Chamber will partner with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Agency (CMRPC) to leverage their data and research expertise and planning knowledge, and to support community engagement. “We’re looking forward to working with the Chamber and our many municipal partners to develop a strong roadmap for the region,” said Janet Pierce, Executive Director of the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Agency. “Supporting economic development is a key priority for CMRPC and we’re glad to have an active role in this process,” she said.

For more information on the US EDA or the CEDS Program, please click here. When the planning process begins, the Chamber will make additional information about public engagement available on this website.

October 7, 2015