UPDATE ON POST-COLUMBIA GAS RECOVERY INITIATIVES

FROM THE MERRIMACK VALLEY SMALL BUSINESS RESILIENCY AND INNOVATION FUND


Since last September’s gas disaster a series of initiatives has been implemented to support the hundreds of local business owners working to re-open or, in many cases, sustain or grow their businesses following a significant setback.


As the steering committee of the Merrimack Valley Small Business Resiliency and Innovation Fund, we’re proud to work with the nonprofits, volunteers and government entities that are bringing those important programs to fruition. By making transformative investments in the business communities across Andover, North Andover and Lawrence the Fund is implementing an economic development strategy aimed at long-term prosperity of the region.


As the Lawrence Partnership promised in March, we are providing regular updates on the progress of these business relief efforts. These are beyond the separate claims filed directly with Columbia.


Current activity includes:


Continuing to provide important technical assistance:

  • Mill Cities Community Investments will be offering bookkeeping classes in English and Spanish to business owners from Andover, Lawrence and North Andover, along with $1,000 to each of those participating business owners to set up or improve their bookkeeping systems.

  • More than 100 businesses have benefited from marketing support, including 35 participating in social media workshops and receiving $250 in credit to be used for Facebook and Instagram campaigns. The campaigns are aimed specifically at helping individual businesses expand their reach and connect with new customers.

  • In total, there have been 12 business workshops completed or are in progress, providing more than $48k in incentives. There are eight more sessions planned with an additional $50k in incentives. The sessions are delivered in English and Spanish.

  • More than $463,000 has been committed to 17 businesses in Emergency Loans.

Conducting research and economic development planning:

Mt. Auburn Associates, Boston based economic development consultants, is actively developing recommendations for building a strong and resilient business recovery and support ecosystem based on input from local stakeholders, an understanding of our regional context and national best practices. The firm has been conducting research of other areas around the country that have experienced economic and business disruption due to natural or man-made disasters.


Mt. Auburn has issued an initial assessment and plan outline. Some of the data and findings that emerged include:

  • The vast majority of businesses in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover have fewer than 20 employees

  • There has been 2% growth among self-employed jobs in the three communities since 2010, and 8% growth in city of Lawrence

  • The region has seen a 23% growth in the gig economy since 2010, accounting for 3,600 jobs

  • Studies of regions such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Greater Austin (Texas) provide strong evidence that the ability to link innovation assets – people, institutions, capital and infrastructure – is decisive in generating robust, localized ecosystem that turbo-charge a region’s economy

  • The benefits of the small businesses in the three communities are varied, highlighted by:

  • Locally owned retail businesses are serving as an entry point for aspiring entrepreneurs and entry-level jobs and skill development for youth

  • Minority and immigrant businesses narrow the income and wealth gap and creates a pathway to well-being for those facing barriers to traditional employment

  • Businesses in high growth and cluster sectors build a competitive advantage and provides new, higher skilled jobs

  • Clusters, a group of similar or related local businesses, help the creation of new ideas in networks of cooperating companies and institutions and enable small businesses to take advantage of new opportunities in the global economy.

  • Full recommendations, with supporting evidence, is expected to be delivered in June

Reaching consumers through an area marketing campaign:

  • After interviewing local business owners, nonprofit partners and government officials Boston marketing agency CTP is in the creative development phase of a regional marketing campaign. The campaign will increase awareness of the hundreds of shops, restaurants and services in the three communities, while encouraging local consumer spending.

  • The initial phase of the campaign will launch in late May and run through July.

  • In addition to the broad advertising campaign that will be visible in online, print and broadcast outlets, there will be elements that all local businesses will be able to take and leverage for their own individual use.

  • The campaign is expected to also employ in-store incentives, consumer events, social media and influencer marketing to elevate awareness and spur buying activity.

Municipal leaders supporting local business with assistance funds:

  • As part of municipal discretionary funds Andover, Lawrence and North Andover are applying $2 million each to assist the impacted business communities. The municipal leaders are carefully planning the distribution of the funds to make a lasting impact.


To keep you updated about business support initiatives we have developed mvopenforbusiness.org. Please visit for the latest information about services being offered.