HAVERHILL — It’s all about creating jobs in Massachusetts and growing the economy — and the Merrimack Valley is helping that happen.
So said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, as he appeared yesterday before a room packed with politicians, local officials and business leaders at the Phoenician restaurant.
DeLeo said improving the economy and giving Massachusetts residents more job choices top his Statehouse agenda.
“It’s appropriate that cities in the Merrimack Valley have nicknames like the Shoe City and the Mill City, because I believe advanced manufacturing is the key to the commonwealth’s future,” DeLeo said, referring to Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell.
The speaker made his remarks at a Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
DeLeo talked about the importance of training residents can receive in places such as Northern Essex Community College, which has its main campus in Haverhill and a satellite campus in Lawrence.
He highlighted the legislature’s recent efforts to bolster the state’s colleges with more money and new programs.
“Community colleges can have an even greater role in economic development and job creation,” DeLeo said, acknowledging the efforts of Northern Essex President Lane Glenn.
Sal Lupoli, owner of Lupoli Companies and chairman of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce board, introduced DeLeo. Lupoli credited DeLeo and the legislature’s support of economic development programs with helping him convert the Riverwalk property in Lawrence from a mostly abandoned sprawl of land and buildings in 2004 to a thriving complex today. It consists of more than 200 businesses, including retail, manufacturing, medical, educational and restaurants.
Joseph Bevilacqua, the chamber’s longtime executive director, said the Riverwalk project, which has also benefited from more than $200 million in private investment, will have created almost 3,000 jobs when it is completed. Four of five phases are done, Bevilacqua said.
“This project is the model for Merrimack Valley Chamber economic development,” said Bevilacqua, adding that a business leader from Detroit recently contacted him to ask if Lupoli would consider doing a development in that economically depressed city.