Lowell: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Lowell is a diversified industrial city. Service is a major sector of the local economy with more than a quarter of total employment. Manufacturing, trade, transportation, and government are other key sectors. Tourism is an economic mainstay, with the downtown area welcoming about 500,000 visitors annually.

Lowell is succeeding in transforming its economic base. This effort has included the renovation of many of the city's historic textile mills, many of which now contain affordable, attractive office space. Lowell boasts an impressive roster of businesses that include Coca-Cola, M/A Com, Raytheon, NYNEX, and Textron, alongside long-established firms such as Colonial Gas, Joan Fabrics Corporation, and the Lowell Sun Publishing Company. Small businesses abound in Lowell as well, supported by the city's business environment which includes two full-service hotels and three bedand-breakfasts.

Current plans for Lowell suggest the downtown area may become a trendy, affordable bedroom community for daily commuters to Boston, just 25 miles away. Downtown improvements are also expected to attract Boston businesses seeking low-cost, high-quality satellite offices.

Items and goods produced: textiles, yarns and threads, textile machinery, knitwear, wire and cable, plastics, computer hardware and software, electronic publishing and printing

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

Organizations helping business in Lowell include the Lowell Plan, Inc., the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation, and the City of Lowell's Division of Planning and Development. Businesses moving to Lowell's designated Renewal Community can receive employee wage credits and tax deductions. The Lowell Small Business Assistance Center offers $5,000 grants to profitable, expanding business with income of $50,000 or less; it also provides entrepreneurial support such as planning, education and technical assistance. Preservation grants and incentives are available for projects in the Lowell Historic District and Lowell National Park. The Technical Assistance Program provides grants to retailers in the downtown area; funds may be used in a variety of areas including marketing, e-commerce, merchandising, legal, accounting, and design. The Downtown Venture Fund Program offers low-interest loans to specialty retailers and restaurants.

State programs

The Massachusetts Office of Business Development administers the Economic Development Incentive Program, which fosters business growth and job creation in specific locations. Incentives include state tax credits, an abandoned building deduction for renovating unused space, investment tax credits, and special property tax assessments. MassDevelopment provides financing for new facilities, job creation, equipment, and land purchases. Its many offerings include term working capital loans for businesses affected by adverse market conditions, below market rate financing for equipment purchases between $50,000 and $500,000, real estate loans up to $3 million, and loans for specialized equipment in the technology industry. MassDevelopment may also guarantee private loans. The Economic Stabilization Trust lends working capital to small and medium manufacturing companies when traditional financing is unavailable. The Massachusetts Business Resource Team matches businesses with specific needs to the appropriate state program.

Job training programs

The state Workforce Training Fund provides resources for Massachusetts employers to train or retrain new and existing workers. Its offerings include the Express Program, which grants up to $15,000 to small companies and labor organizations; the General Program which administers grants up to $1 million; and the Hiring Incentive Training Program which covers up to $2,000 in training costs for new employees. UMass-Lowell takes part in the city's economic development strategy by actively providing technical assistance to local start-up companies in need of engineering support. Middlesex Community College offers career training and skill upgrading during the day, evenings and weekends, and online; on-site job training is also available.

Development Projects

Projects underway as of 2005 include the Route 3 lane expansion, an ongoing urban renewal initiative in the Jack-son/Middlesex/Appleton area of downtown, $7.72 million worth of improvements to the Lowell Canal, and safety upgrades at various intersections. A portion of the Boott Cotton Mills will be converted into condominium housing with 41 phase one units scheduled for completion in September 2005. Reconstruction of Moulton Square took place in 2003 and 2004, including replacement and installation of playground equipment, improved pedestrian crossings, slowed traffic, and beautification. Lowell General Hospital opened its new Endoscopy Center in 2003.

Economic Development Information: Economic Development Department, Lowell City Hall, JFK Civic Center, 50 Arcand Drive, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)970-4252; fax (978)446-7014. The Lowell Plan, Inc., 11 Kearney Square, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)459-9899; fax (978)454-7637. Massachusetts Office of Business Development, 600 Suffolk St., Fourth Floor, Lowell, MA 01854; telephone (978)970-1193; fax (978)970-1570

Commercial Shipping

The Boston & Maine Railroad, with tracks throughout the U.S. Northeast and the Canadian Maritime provinces, can also ship freight elsewhere in the United States by using a series of connector routes. The Boston & Maine runs through Lowell, which is also served by several trucking fleets.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Lowell is considered the quintessential "working class" town. Far from its textile heritage, Lowell's workforce has diversified into education, software development, health care, research, and electronics. A rich multi-ethnic community contributes increasingly to small business growth; entrepreneurship is expected to be significant to Lowell's economy in the years to come. Employment in manufacturing continues to decline.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Lowell metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 117,000

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 7,200

manufacturing: 20,200

trade, transportation and utilities: 21,700

information: 5,800

financial activities: 4,300

professional and business services: 15,700

educational and health services: 12,600

leisure and hospitality: 9,800

other services: 23,100

government: 15,900

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.89 (statewide)

Unemployment rate: 5.0% (February 2005)

Lowell: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
M/A COM, Inc. 1,650
Saints Memorial Medical Center 1,334
Lowell General Hospital 1,320
UMass-Lowell 1,055
Middlesex Community College 950
Verizon 600
Demoulas Supermarkets 500
Community Teamwork Inc. 500
Joan Fabrics 463
Lowell Sun Publishing 350

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Lowell area.

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Median House Price: Not reported

State income tax rate: 5.3% on earned income; 12% on capital gains

State sales tax rate: 5.0% on most items; exemptions include food, heating fuel and prescription drugs

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $10.18 per $1,000 of 100% of assessed value, residential; $20.20 per $1,000 of 100% of assessed value, commercial

Economic Information: Division of Planning and Development, Lowell City Hall, JFK Civic Center, 50 Arcand Drive, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)970-4252; fax (978)446-7014. Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce, 144 Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)459-8154; fax (978)452-4145