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December 6, 2018

North Central chamber wants to grow economic impact to $150M

Courtesy | The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce has laid out clear ambitions for the coming years when it comes to economic impact, visitors and other metrics to gauge how well its helping the region's businesses.

The chamber's $131 million annual value in economic impact from regional marketing efforts, it says, will rise to $150 million by 2021. That would represent a jump of 22 percent.

Most ambitious of all may be the chamber's hopes for its micro-lending program. It offered roughly $300,000 this year, but hopes to get that up to $1 million within three years.

Roy Nascimento, the chamber's president and CEO, said Wednesday the chamber has hired a full-time worker for underwriting and loan programs and has increased the maximum amount for the micro-lending program to $150,000. The average loan is just $20,000, he said, leaving lots of potential recipients if the chamber were to reach its $1 million goal.

As for trips to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors' Center in Lancaster, the chamber hopes to see a 25-percent increase to 200,000 annual visitors.

The estimated economic impact of tourism has spiked in North Central Massachusetts, Nascimento said, on the backs of attractions like Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton. The chamber has estimated tourism's impact at $144 million last year, up tenfold from 2004.

"It speaks to the value of tourism," he said. "Tourism is economic development."

The 12-employee chamber hopes to increase its annual member retention from 80 percent to 86 percent, and bring in an additional 150 members each year. That would mark a 44-percent jump from today's level.

Nascimento, who has led the chamber for four years, said the office's new goals give it something to strive for.

"We wanted to have some good goals to work towards," he said. "In some cases, they may be stretch goals." 

The chamber said it also hopes to formalize affiliate relationships with smaller chambers of commerce in the region, including the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce in Shirley and the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce in Athol.

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce represents 17 communities from Groton and Harvard to Ashburnham and Princeton.

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