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Updated: May 13, 2024 Shop Talk

Q&A: Marlborough firm helps communities spend their ARPA money

A woman with a white pompadour, blue blouse, and black jacket and pants stands next to a woman with blonde hair, glasses, pink jacket, and a black shirt and pants. Photo | Courtesy of Capital Strategic Solutions Nichol Figueiredo (left), CEO, and Jennifer Thompson, chief development officer, founded Capital Strategic Solutions.

You may not have heard of Capital Strategic Solutions, but you have seen the company’s work in the roads, water treatment facilities, and other improvement projects in towns throughout Worcester County. Nichol Figueiredo, CEO, and Jennifer Thompson, chief development officer, founded CSS in 2014 after decades of working in municipal government. After working together in the then-town government of Framingham, the duo opened CSS to consult and help other communities find the resources they need to thrive. What began as a kitchen table idea has grown into a certified women-owned business enterprise, which serves most of New England and is expanding into Florida and New Mexico.

A bio box on Nichol Figueiredo and Jennifer Thompson
Nichol Figueiredo and Jennifer Thompson bio box

How does Capital Strategic Solutions serve local communities?

Figueiredo: Our purpose is to build stronger communities. Our team has worked in municipal government for years, and we consider ourselves a small municipal workforce on wheels. We go in, and we help communities with projects, initiatives, programs, and funding solutions. We are basically soup-to-nuts with anything they need assistance with. Our team gets towns and cities on the right track.

How did the coronavirus pandemic shape your company?

Figueiredo: What we saw during the pandemic was anyone who could retire, did, especially in municipal government. Communities saw their senior staff members retire while they had this influx of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Thompson: In the middle of the pandemic, all the federal funding was coming down to help cities and towns, for things like buying masks and testing supplies. This money started streaming to the cities and towns really fast, but they didn't have any additional staff to manage it. In the smaller and mid-range towns, they barely had enough staff to do their regular jobs, and this funding was a whole other level of responsibility with rules that kept changing and strict reporting requirements.

I said to Nicole, “Maybe that's a service we should offer: To help towns with the federal funding, make sure it is getting reported correctly, and help communities pick projects.”

We took a bid on the City of Lynn, which we were not sure we would get because we were such a small firm, but we won because of our previous job experience in Framingham. We were hired to help Lynn allocate the $75 million in ARPA funds. Then we started getting a lot more cities and towns wanting help.

What has been your favorite community project thus far?

Figueiredo: I would have to say the City of Lynn ARPA project. It was very important to Mayor Jared Nicholson and the city council that the community members decide where they wanted the ARPA funds spent, which led to a very intense community engagement process.

We walked all over the city, we talked to the community, we had neighborhood meetings in every district, we held Zoom meetings, we went to Lynn City Hall, and we went to the senior center. We literally went door to door and talked to the businesses about what their needs were. It was a very successful community-driven project. I will always be proud of the work we've done with Mayor Nicholson and his administration.

Thompson: Mine would be the Town of Townsend, which was one of the first towns we had with CSS. Their officials wanted to be very deliberate and community-oriented with their ARPA money, but they were going through such a huge transition as they tried to find a new town administrator and town accountant while managing all this money. We helped them through that process, and it was such a wonderful experience.

What makes you two ideal for this type of work?

Thompson: We have very different, but complementary, skill sets. We're both very driven, we both take such pride in our work, we're both customer-focused, and we support each other. We have each other's backs 1,000,000%, so there's a trust between the two of us you don't always have in business relationships.

Figueiredo: We have a mutual respect. We’re closer than business partners. We’re family.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Sloane M. Perron.

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