Not every Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce event draws the attention of local media outlets due to newsworthy announcements—but that was the case for the first Breakfast Club of 2022. 

Like every other Breakfast Club, the March edition gave attendees the chance to network with other professionals, celebrate several member businesses and organizations for their milestones, and hear from a dignified keynote speaker, all while enjoying their morning coffee and breakfast.

This time around, though, those early morning bites were served with a side of breaking news: two organizations in Worcester would be receiving millions of dollars in capital funds from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center’s (MLSC) Research Infrastructure program—a program through which MLSC invests in innovative infrastructure across Massachusetts that’s in high demand from both academic and industry scientists.

Serving as the event’s keynote speaker, Kenneth Turner, new president & CEO of the MLSC, announced $28.3 million was being awarded to 10 projects across the Commonwealth—including projects at Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) and UMass Chan Medical School. MBI received $3 million toward expansion of their ScaleUp Center, which provides incubator space for life sciences companies. UMass Chan received just over $2 million for a project enabling nanoscale imaging of viruses of pandemic potential. 

Given the burgeoning nature of the life sciences industry and Massachusetts’ position as a global leader in its innovation, the Chamber had invited Mr. Turner to deliver a timely address on the sector’s economical impact, what the MLSC and other partners are doing to support its growth, and how Worcester and Central Mass play a role in that success.

“There’s so much energy, there’s so much excitement, there’s so much vibrancy going on in the life sciences community across the state. But there’s no better example of it than right here in Worcester,” Mr. Turner said, indicating how the state’s second-largest city is faring compared to Boston and Cambridge. 

Despite living in Boston and only being in this new role for a little over a year, Mr. Turner said he’d already been out to Worcester for tours and meetings five times.

Mr. Turner also discussed how critical the life sciences industry is in Massachusetts for job creation, citing a prediction which estimates 21- to 24-million square feet of lab and office space coming online in the next three years, meaning approximately 40,000 new jobs are coming to Central Mass.

“What that says to me is that we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “My No. 1 focus is going to be three things: jobs, jobs, and jobs. More importantly, I want to make sure that those jobs are not completely confined and localized to the Cambridge and Boston metro area.” 

Presented by sponsors AllWays Health Partners and Fidelity Bank, along with supporting sponsor MBI and coffee sponsor College of the Holy Cross, March’s Breakfast Club saluted seven Chamber members for significant milestones. 

The Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center was recognized for their 50th anniversary, while six other Chamber members were saluted as new leaders of their respective organizations. Those taking on new leadership positions were: Aimee Peacock, president of FLEXcon—making her the first woman to hold the position since the company’s founding in 1956; Jim Ayres, president & CEO of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation; Kevin Breen, headmaster at Worcester Academy; Noreen Johnson Smith, president & CEO of the EcoTarium; Pete Lancette, CEO of Fairlawn Rehab Hospital; and Vincent Rougeau, president at College of the Holy Cross—making him the first lay and first Black person to ever serve in the role. 

Maria Fernandes-Dominique, director of public affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, made her debut as Chief Greeter. In her remarks, she pointed out it had been almost two years to the exact day since the Chamber hosted a Breakfast Club in this same venue; it was March 5, 2020 that a couple hundred people gathered in the College of the Holy Cross’ Hogan Campus Center—a mere two weeks later, the world effectively shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Held quarterly, The Breakfast Club typically draws about 200 professionals; the next will be held at Assumption University on June 2. Register here. 


Dominique Goyette-Connerty is the Director of Communications at the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached by email here.

This story was originally published in the May 2022 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.