Lawrence Partnership hosts launch party

Group shares plans for regional public safety building, revitalized storefronts

Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:30 am

By Lauren DiTullio

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. Partners of the Lawrence Partnership are called as they are recognized for being a part of the new partnership during the newly formed Lawrence Partnership launch party held at the Everett Mills Event Space in Lawrence on Friday.

LAWRENCE — Anyone with $10 in their pocket can choose to spend it in Lawrence, and it will stay in Lawrence.

Whether it's encouraging those small choices on the part of Lawrence residents or pulling together significant financial contributions from prominent investors, the newly formed Lawrence Partnership will bring together an array of resources in the city with the aim of making it a better place.

The tagline "ideas, investment, action" represents what the 36 members of the Lawrence Partnership's board of directors have to bring to the table. Politicians and officials, business owners, non-profit directors, media professionals, educators and others represent a cross section of both the public and private sector. At the organization's official launch on Thursday, many members of the board spoke, and a "shared vision" for Lawrence was the theme of the day.

"The only reason we can accomplish great things is that we all believe in them," Salvatore Lupoli, founder and CEO of Lupoli companies and vice chairman of the board, said.

The partnership is modeled after the Lowell Plan and the Salem Partnership, both of which drew new development to economically troubled towns. One of the first steps for the group will be a new facade program to make businesses "more inviting," Lupoli said. Mayor Daniel Rivera said prior to the event that he feels the immediate goals of the partnership are also some of the most important. A new police station and regional public safety training center is in the works. The group also plans to support the revitalization of the Buckley Garage to provide safe parking for those who would work, eat and shop in the city.

The board also plans to work with four banks to create a Lawrence Venture Fund, which would allow small and medium sized businesses to borrow money even if they would not be considered credit worthy for a bank loan.

"Good things can happen in Lawrence. We can have six Level One schools. We can have large customers come to our city and employ more people. We can talk about economic development without a chip on our shoulder," Rivera said.

Eastern Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Rivers, who serves on the board as an officer at-large, announced board members have already contributed $90,000 toward the group's goal of $250,000 to bring those projects and others to fruition.

Still, speakers at the event emphasized that a collaborative and positive mindset is as important as money when it comes to getting things done. Groundwork Lawrence executive director Heather McMann introduced the #Spend10 challenge, which encourages people to spend their money at small, local businesses and share their experience on social media.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas praised the Lawrence Partnership as a way to foster economic development while improving the city's view of itself.

"I'm not here to tell you how to do it. It has to come out of who you are, and you are well on your way," she said.

Northern Essex Community College president and Lawrence Partnership chair Lane Glenn said he hoped the launch event, attended by about 200 people, would spark an interest among small businesses and encourage owners to share their ideas.

"We want to say, 'Come and join us!'" he said. "This is about collaboration, and all of us being greater than the sum of our parts."

Attendees were given cards to fill out at the launch, which was also a luncheon. Speakers encouraged them to write down ways they would be interested in volunteering or contributing financially, or any ideas they might have to further the Partnership's goal of bettering Lawrence.

Regional publisher for North of Boston Media Group and Eagle-Tribune publisher Karen Andreas is an officer at-large of the board of directors.

"The vision of the Lawrence Parternship is about ideas, investment and action. We want everyone with an interest in the success of Lawrence to share their ideas. We know you have them," Glenn said.