Fitchburg wins $400G Federal Reserve grant

By Alana Melanson
Sentinel and Enterprise

BOSTON — Fitchburg is one of six cities to win funding in the Working Cities Challenge, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announced Wednesday.

Fitchburg will receive a $400,000 three-year implementation award for its proposed eCarenomics Initiative. The grant was one piece of a total $1.8 million award given to the six cities Wednesday for proposed projects that aim to build on cross-sector collaboration and strengthen civic leadership. Twenty cities had applied to participate in the challenge.

The eCarenomics Initiative is “an effort to develop shared metrics for neighborhood health and well-being with the goal of making the North of Main neighborhood a place where residents choose to live, work and invest,” according to a statement issued Wednesday.

“Working collaboratively with the Federal Reserve will help Fitchburg implement our shared vision of success and inclusion for the downtown and university areas,” said Mayor Lisa Wong. “We are excited that our hard work on finding solutions at the systems-change level is being recognized and supported by a multi-year grant.”

Other communities to receive grant funding in the challenge for their proposed projects include: Lawrence, $700,000; Holyoke, $250,000; Chelsea, $225,000; Somerville, $100,000; and Salem, $100,000.

“The variety of the people in the room represents the essence of the Working Cities Challenge that we gather today to celebrate — working with a diverse set of partners to achieve a common goal,” said Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren. “The work really begins today. I congratulate all of the Working Cities for the progress they have made to date and wish them much success with their ambitious proposals.”

“The value of this innovative program goes beyond the relatively modest amount of award money,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a statement. “All participating cities are benefiting from technical assistance from the Fed and other organizations, advice from peers in other communities, and exposure to a growing network of community development leaders across Massachusetts.”

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas was delighted to see that the two top winners of the challenge came from the Third District.

“These top prizes shine a spotlight on the exceptional work each city is doing to improve the lives of its citizens,” she said in a statement. “It also grants Lawrence and Fitchburg the financial support to continue cultivating positive change within their neighborhoods.”

Fitchburg has partnered with about 25 different entities across a number of sectors for the initiative, including the Montachusett Opportunity Council, Fitchburg State University, the Twin Cities Community Development Corp., the Fitchburg Art Museum, the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg & Leominster, the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, Workers’ Credit Union and many others, according to MOC Associate Director Tricia Pistone.

She said the goal was to put together an initiative that could make a difference in the Elm Street area and college neighborhood by making system changes through collective impact to improve the lives of low-income residents and stimulate the local economy. Pistone said that means bringing together members of the community in a meaningful and engaging process and using data to enact change. She pointed to the Fun n’ FITchburg initiative to lower childhood obesity rates and the Twin Cities CDC’s work in the Elm Street area neighborhood as instances in which collective impact has been used to make significant change in the city.

“We are looking at the North of Main neighborhood, but really trying to look at how we can highlight the assets of the neighborhood and the community and create what will inevitably be a report card and a process that can be duplicated not just in other neighborhoods but in other cities,” she said.

“This is just the beginning,” Pistone added. “We would love to bring in even more partners and residents into the process.”