Kevin Murphy and Jacquie Moloney
The city of Lowell and UMass Lowell are expanding on the conventional college town model with a joint economic-development strategy that is already yielding significant benefits for the community.
Working together, the city and university administrations are promoting proximity to a nationally ranked public research university and its workforce development capabilities as a differentiating factor when recruiting new companies to Lowell. The benefit of that proximity is reinforced by a strong and cohesive partnership between the city and university on everything from grant writing to public safety to marketing. The message received by the business community is that the city and university are strong partners that care about creating a business-friendly environment in Lowell.
In the past year, six businesses -- Markley Group, Kronos, Somerset Industries, Metrigraphics, Jabra, and Scheidt & Bachmann -- announced relocations to Lowell while crediting the city-university relationship and the intellectual capital available through the university.
In exchange for financial incentives from the city, these companies are required to partner with Lowell's educational institutions on workforce development.
For example, when the Markley Group announced that it would invest $200 million and create 100 jobs at the former Prince pasta factory, it pledged to fill at least 25 percent of the positions with Lowell residents and UMass Lowell graduates.
Kronos, which is relocating to Cross Point in Lowell, already enjoys a workforce development relationship with UMass Lowell. The company maintains a consistent recruiting presence on campus, hires co-op students and has established a summer intern program specifically designed for the university.
By developing a workforce pipeline between the university and these companies, UMass Lowell students graduate better prepared for the very jobs available in the city. This strategy builds Lowell's vibrant economy by growing the community of young professionals working and living in the city, a benefit to all businesses.
In addition to recruiting new companies, the city and the university are cultivating Lowell's entrepreneurial economy by coordinating efforts to promote the university's incubator spaces and laboratory resources to startups.
In a recent visit to Lowell, Travis McCready, CEO of the Mass Life Sciences Center, told a crowd of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to take advantage of the unique working relationship between the city and university, saying early-stage companies would be making a mistake by not starting their businesses here.
It's clear that the business community is attracted to an environment where local government and a nationally ranked public research university are working jointly on economic and workforce development. We look forward to building on this successful model and strengthening our partnership.
Kevin Murphy is Lowell's city manager; Jacquie Moloney is UMass Lowell's chancellor.