Autumn glow

AN AUTUMN SUNSET over Burlington’s United Church of Christ, Congregational on Lexington Street, as seen from Simonds Park on a recent evening. (joebrownphotos.com)

BURLINGTON - Executive Director of the Middlesex 3 Coalition Stephanie Cronin recently discussed the overall scope and initiatives of the organization to the Board of Selectmen.

The Middlesex 3 Coalition is a regional partnership focused on economic development in the communities located along the Rt. 3 corridor, which include Burlington, Billerica, Bedford, Chelmsford, Lowell, Lexington, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford.

Cronin wanted to update the selectmen on what the organization has been and will be doing. She touched on the brief history of Middlesex 3, which was created three years ago when town and city managers from Burlington, Billerica, Chelmsford, Bedford, and Lowell wanted to “do something more” to promote the Rt. 3 corridor.

After then-Secretary of State Greg Bialecki championed the Middlesex 3 Coalition soon after its inception, the group quickly gained steam and is now comprised of a 12-member Board of Directors which includes municipal, educational, and business leaders. Some of the business leaders involved are Lahey Health, Riemer & Braunstein, and The Gutierrez Company.

“Middlesex 3 is a member-based organization, so all of the fundraising comes from its members,” explained Cronin. “Our mission is to strengthen and grow economic development in the region and to create and retain jobs, increase and diversify the tax base, and improve the quality of life in the Middlesex 3 communities.”

She added, “Our role is to address business concerns that are difficult for one community to handle.”

The target areas

Transportation - One of the most notable programs and initiatives headed by Middlesex 3 revolves around its pursuit of transportation and traffic improvements. The group recently received unanimous approval from all its members to support a Community Innovational Challenge (CIC) state grant request that will ensure all the Middlesex 3 communities, including and especially Burlington, stay committed to transportation and traffic improvements. The CIC grant is part of an annual program with the state, focused on looking at possible transportation improvements to communities along Rt. 3.

Cronin talked about the Middlesex 3 Coalition recently launching its Transportation Management Association (“M3 TMA”), which seeks to address transportation issues in the Middlesex 3 communities.The organization will be structured as a public/private partnership with local businesses and communities collaborating to decrease traffic congestion, improve air quality, and increase transportation options in the region.

This transportation initiative will consist of a local shuttle bus service that will help area employers and their employees get around the region more easily and efficiently.

“We want to get the employees of businesses in the area from the Massachusetts Transportation ports (i.e. - Alewife and Anderson) out to where they have to be without the use of a car,” said Town Administrator John Petrin, who is a member of Middlesex 3. “There are companies wiling to come to the table and work with us.”

The organization will offer direct services to business partners that encourage employees to choose alternatives to driving alone to work, including launching a new shuttle bus for local businesses that will provide all the needs of a commuter coming into and exiting work. The initiative is still in its early stages, but the group is discussing a way to provide emergency shuttle service for those utilizing the service.

“We are advocating for better transportation linkages between employees and existing businesses,” said Cronin, noting over $200,000 in funds have been received from Lahey, with another CIC grant in the works that will all go towards the transportation initiatives.

Promoting the Rt. 3 corridor - A primary theme of Middlesex 3 is to continue to put a ton of emphasis on promoting the Rt. 3 corridor and its existing businesses. The objective is to promote the area enough and prepare it in a way that companies from out-of-state will want to expand into Massachusetts and locate on the Rt. 3 corridor. In an effort to promote Middlesex 3, they have been constantly providing public forums for all to attend so citizens can get a chance to learn about the organization. Some of these forums cover topics like advanced engineering, robotics, housing and economic development, and business and networking.

Educational and workforce development improvements - Middlesex 3 is coordinating with regional institutions, outreaching to business and community groups, and they are looking to promote industry-specific workforce training grants.

Utility improvements - Cronin informed the board that Middlesex 3 is in the midst of discussing how to streamline the permitting of utility improvements by developing proper coordination of future plans between municipalities and utilities.

Infrastructure and real estate development - Middlesex 3 is also discussing ways to figure out the best practices among the different planning departments in the organization. As a part of this, the group is creating forums for small businesses to evolve with the Middlesex 3 initiatives.

Selectman Christopher Hartling echoed the rest of the board’s sentiments in praising Cronin and Middlesex 3 for all of the initiatives that they have undertaken, while still paying close attention to the needs of small businesses.

“It is nice to know we have an organization like Middlesex 3 that has transportation so high on its list of priorities,” praised Hartling. “I met with a business owner whose concern, in regards to growing and developing businesses, revolved around transportation. I just want you to know you are an asset.”

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