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Route 3 communities join to promote area to businesses

A newly formed partnership among five area communities to promote and enhance their shared Route 3 corridor is about to make its formal debut.

With support from the state, Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, and Lowell this past spring adopted the brand name Middlesex 3 for their shared region, and created a nonprofit to spearhead the collaboration.

The Middlesex 3 Coalition, intended as a public-private partnership, has since created a website and formed a 10-member board of directors that includes the chief executives of the five communities, three business people, and representatives from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Middlesex Community College.


This Tuesday the coalition will hold an official kickoff meeting at the 600 Technology Park Drive office building in Billerica. Gregory Bialecki, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, will be among the speakers at the event, which begins with registration and a breakfast at 8 a.m.

“It’s intended to highlight what the Middlesex 3 Coalition is about and also to attract membership,” said Billerica town manager John C. Curran.

“A lot of the businesses and real estate agents in the region have been invited to attend.”

“I think there is a lot of potential in this region.” Curran said. “The thing that we as communities have to recognize is that businesses don’t necessarily say they want to locate in a community. They locate there because of the assets the region provides.”

Among those assets highlighted by the coalition on its website are its location within 15 miles of both downtown Boston and Nashua and a transportation network that includes access to four major highways, public transit, and Hanscom Field.a full-service, general aviation airport.

The website also touts the region’s relatively low-cost real estate, its educated workforce, its diverse industry mix, its colleges,  and such cultural and recreational amenities as the Tsongas Center and Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

“We love our parochial views in New England, that towns can stand on their own. But at times, we do need to stand together,” said Burlington town administrator John Petrin.


“In this case, we are branding together to promote . . . the Middlesex 3 region. It’s a great step forward.”

Bedford town administrator Richard Reid said that the coalition also gives businesses an opportunity to talk with local governments about their needs and “for us to talk to the state about what is important to the region.”

Reid, chairman of the coalition board, said improving the business climate and enhancing the region as a place to live are interrelated goals.

“Our view is that businesses want to be here if the quality of life is good for their employees,” he said.

Bialecki said the coalition represents a collaborative growth strategy that the state is encouraging.

By collaborating as a region, Bialecki said, the Middlesex 3 communities can bolster their prospects for securing state grants.

And “working this way is going to make them more attractive to businesses. It’s allowed them to put a better foot forward,’’ he said.

Bialecki said the state decided a regional initiative made sense in the area because the five communities share common infrastructure, have a history of collaborating, and are all “business-friendly.” And the widening of Route 3 and other highway improvements have prepared the region to absorb more growth, he said.

While there are existing regional collaborations, Bialecki said the model offered by Middlesex 3 — that of a relatively small number of communities with much in common — is one the state hopes to replicate.­

Already, it has begun to do so with three communities along Interstate 495: Boxborough, Littleton, and Westford.


Chelmsford town manager Paul Cohen said his town is excited to be part of Middlesex 3.

“We have a great quality of life and some strong employers in this region and we just think we are poised to step up to an even greater level,” he said.

Adam Baacke, Lowell’s assistant city manager, said the initiative “recognizes that the economy of today does not really respect municipal boundaries, . . . This is a great illustration of how communities can get together and work toward common purposes that ultimately benefit all of them.”

Robert Buckley, a senior partner in the Burlington office of the law firm Riemer & Braunstein, one of the business members on the board, said Middlesex 3 is being well-received in the business community.

“People like the idea that they can hear what is going on,” he said.

“These people are making significant economic decisions, and they want to hear what is going on in the region and have access to the decisionmakers in terms of what their thoughts are.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.