LOWELL — Ali Carter’s introduction to her job as the new economic development director was felt during Mayor Sokhary Chau’s roundtable discussion.
The mini-sessions are designed to introduce business owners to city services, as well as provide additional support for the impacts associated with the pandemic. Carter has only been in her new role for a week, and is still learning all of her roles and responsibilities, but has managed to provide much needed resources and support to many of the participants.
“Business owners from the first generation — Asian Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Caribbeans and African Americans — came to City Hall to meet with the leader,” Carter recalled. “We want business owners to know that you’re here, that you’re welcome and that we’re here to help.”
Putting himself out there and having an open door policy are core values for Carter. He prides his work, and that of his department, on its accessibility and depth of expertise, which includes multilingual Spanish and Portuguese-speaking staff. The department also contracts through the Cambodian Welfare Association for Khmer translation services.
“My main job is to help the city be a good place to do business,” Carter said. “But my day-to-day job is to do that by providing customer service to people looking to open a business in the city, and guiding them to where they need to go to get their license.” permits and licenses. I can help them evaluate their process, and think about what might be successful and how we can get them to that place. “
It’s a big step up from his previous role as economic development coordinator for the city of Arlington, a position he held for nearly six years. Not only is Lowell three times the size of Arlington, it is designated as a “gateway city” by Massachusetts General Law.
As defined in the code, gateway cities are large urban centers that host regional economies that face “social and economic challenges” and hold “numerous intangible assets.” carried out.” For generations, communities like Lowell have been home to industries that have offered residents good jobs and a “gateway” to the American Dream.
The Legislature designates the Commonwealth’s 26 Gateway Cities as: Attleboro, Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester.
“Because Lowell is a gateway city, and because of the way the state supports that economic development, there are all kinds of programs and services available to businesses here,” Carter said.
This state-sponsored environment includes a rich organizational structure throughout Lowell’s environment, which provides economic, technical and social opportunities for entrepreneurship.
“There’s a whole range of support here, from Community Teamwork with their technical assistance and microloans, to Lowell Development Financial Corporation with their microloans,” Carter noted. .
His job is to take advantage of these valuable and diverse assets and help provide them to business foundations or potential business owners, a process Carter describes as “a secret service for the entrepreneur.”
“In the city, we also provide forgivable loans for opening or expanding businesses here,” Carter explained. “There are a lot of resources, so it’s been a rewarding experience for me to be involved.
Carter was an accidental director of economics. He graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and from Northeastern University with a Master of Arts in History, and spent 10 years working in a museum.
“When you work in the nonprofit museum world, you have to raise money,” Carter said. “I spent a lot of time talking to small business owners, and I realized that the business district is not the same as the museum in terms of funding. Additionally, many cities and towns in the Commonwealth already have historic preservation districts behind their creations, so the combination of these two disciplines was very appealing to me. “
He brings his business history to Lowell, which he describes as a city with “good bones” considering that cobblestone streets, red brick mill buildings or canals that run cars – and city planners – can’t. . will be built today. These unique elements make Carter think that Lowell is growing.
“Lowell is an old town that was built on a pedestrian scale that we can take advantage of. There’s something real and authentic about this town,” Carter said. “It has a hand-crafted feel, which a perfect fit for the arts and crafts movement that now occupies some of these spaces such as Western Avenue Studios.”
On his immediate to-do list, however, he finds a conflict between Lowell’s Rapid Recovery Plan and the American Rescue Act Plan.
“Both plans have line items for branding, marketing enhancements and small program and financial support,” Cater said. “Developing those plans and making them work is my job now.”
In the long term, he is thinking about ways to increase taxes for the city, which has been hit during the COVID-19.
And every day, its doors are open to aspiring and existing business owners who want to access the services, programs and support that their department has to offer.
“We prefer that people make appointments so we can give them the time they need,” Carter said. “We are here to help.