By Jaime Craven
Our region will continue to see a healthy economic development thanks to the ongoing Middlesex 3 Coalition projects, Executive Director Stephanie Cronin reported at the July 11 Selectmen’s meeting. Selectman Michael Rosenberg expressed delight over the way the Coalition has “flourished under [Cronin’s] leadership.” The Coalition encompasses nine communities, including Bedford, and about 50 member companies in the Middlesex area.
Transportation was the object of most focus during the meeting. Currently, the Coalition supplies shuttle services in the mornings and afternoons so that residents of Cambridge, Lowell, and other cities may commute to their out-of-town workplaces, even in the event of a business location change. This stability benefits current employees, potential applicants, and employers alike.To paraphrase the Coalition’s member companies, Cronin said, “We’re not going to lose a single employee.”
Because the service is paid for by the companies, the executive director named the cost of the shuttles themselves – with each one averaging at $150,000 – as an obstacle in convincing companies to join the Coalition. However, this price becomes more feasible when split among as few as three members. She also reported that State Representative Kenneth Gordon is working to insert funding for the shuttle service in an economic development bill. Going forward, the Coalition hopes to extend the shuttle schedules to include the evening, so that workers will be able to return home as late as 10pm.
Though transportation takes up 85-90% of the Coalition’s time, according to Cronin, the three other primary “target areas” are infrastructure, workforce development, and the promotion of the Route 3 Corridor. Cronin listed several of the Coalition’s goals for these areas, including making the region more “permit-friendly” for businesses, and pulling trainees from local universities, high schools, and career centers.When Cronin’s report was done, all four of the selectmen present expressed satisfaction with the Coalition’s ongoing success.
Other topics of the meeting included the Middlesex Turnpike Project’s request for additional funding for easements, and the repairing of five deteriorated manhole shelves that were recently discovered by the Town’s contractor, Heitkamp. According to public works engineer Adrienne St. John, the cost of the manhole repairs is slightly lower than what is typical, as Heitkamp has already mobilized in Bedford. The Selectmen approved the motion to add these repairs to the existing Heitkamp contract.