LAWRENCE — The president and Chief Executive Officer of the Boston Federal Bank met with the mayor, superintendent and local business owners yesterday, to hear how the city is planning to use the $700,000 it received last month from the Working Families Initiative.
“You had very good ideas and we’re very pleased with the leadership you have, but this is non-political, non-partisan,” said Eric Rosengren, adding that the purpose of the grant to help mid-size cities be more successful.
“This is an opportunity to tell the other side of Lawrence,” he said.
Lawrence was one of six cities across the state to receive a grant through the Working Cities Challenge, designed to help revitalize the municipal economies. Lawrence was awarded $700,000, the most of any city chosen. The money will help start the Lawrence Working Families Initiative, which brings together Lawrence Public Schools and community partners to address the direct connection between families’ economic challenges and student success.
Officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston came to Lawrence to meet with community partners involved with the Initiative.
At the breakfast meeting at Union Crossing, 50 Canal St., Rosengren, Mayor Daniel Rivera and Superintendent Jeff Riley, were joined by representatives from New Balance, Soletria Renewables, CopyLab, Merrimack Valley Credit Union, Lawrence General Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, TechPrint, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union, Northern Essex Community College, Neighborhood Legal Services, other business leaders and social service agencies.
“Cities like ours are critical in the resurgence and we feel we are in the cutting edge,” Rivera said. “Our biggest asset is our workforce.”
Greater Lawrence Technical School Superintendent John Lavoie agreed.
“One of the challenges we had was improving the academics, now we feel we have to go in the other direction, shifting to the vocational part,” Lavoie said.
He said there is a big demand from companies for students skilled in metal fabrication and bio-technology. The school stopped its machine shop program but will reinstate it in September after companies have been looking for people with training in that field.
Members of the group also toured the Wetherbee School — an Acceleration Academy; Gem Group at 9 International Way and Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. The day ended at Lawrence Community Works with a discussion between LCW staff and Lawrence Public School’s Family Engagement Director on strategies targeting parents and changes in school policy and practices.
Prabal Chakrabarti, vice president, Community Development, Regional and Community Outreach for the Boston Reserve Bank was impressed by those attending the meeting.
“What the jury found in your proposal wasn’t just a collection of programs, but a look at how to improve the system,” Chakrabarti said.
“What is so exciting is that you have all the ingredients to make it happen, you’re making that commitment, getting involved and with your involvement, this is going to succeed,” Chakrabarti said.