UTEC, Merrimack Valley Black and Brown Voices Receive Grants to Support Economic Growth

UTEC CEO Gregg Croteau addressed members of Haverhill's City Council on May 14, 2019. (WHAV News fie photograph)

UTEC, which operates in Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill, and North Andover-based Merrimack Valley Black and Brown Voices are among 62 organizations across the state receiving inaugural grants to support programs in communities that have “historically faced disproportionate challenges to economic growth.”

Recipients of the state Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program were named Thursday by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy during an event at UTEC with Executive Director Gregg Croteau. The competitive, one-year grants are targeted to “locations that have experienced high rates of incarceration and widespread poverty, or are in communities comprised of traditionally disadvantaged and underrepresented populations.”

“As the inaugural round of grant recipients demonstrates, the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program is a powerful source of assistance to address a wide range of needs with specific solutions developed by community leaders, coalitions, and established organizations that are known to, and live among, the people and neighborhoods they serve,” said Polito.

UTEC received $500,000 for its Lowell Circling Home project for youth returning to Lowell from incarceration with the goal to reduce recidivism and incarceration.

Merrimack Valley Black and Brown Voices was awarded $55,000 for its Business Advancement project to help black and brown entrepreneurs and youth living in North Andover gain financial literacy skills, start or grow their business and thrive in community.

One of its plans is to work with the Town of North Andover to secure outdoor and indoor spaces for monthly Winter/Spring 2022 Black and Brown Owned Business Markets. Last summer, the group said people were harassed at its downtown Haverhill market. Organizers told police “three openly armed men” were placing racist stickers on cars during the event. The group said the action forced it to delay a similar North Andover event in.

Lawrence Family Development’ s Gang Resistance Intervention Team was also awarded $260,000. The organization sponsors drop-in basketball to target high risk boys and girls living in Lawrence.

Lowell Community Loan Fund is also using $500,000 to advance the work of Mill Cities Community Investments, EparaTodos Lawrence, TLE Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and community-based social services partners. The coalition expects to train, educate, support and finance more than 100 entrepreneurs and remove the barriers. Organizers say small business ownership and its wealth creation potential have the power to help close the wealth gap and disparities.

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