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

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

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

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

UTEC received $500,000 for its Lowell Circling Home project for youth returning to Lowell after being incarcerated with the goal of reducing recidivism and incarceration.

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

One of his plans is to work with the City of North Andover to secure outdoor and indoor spaces for the monthly Black and Maroon-owned Winter/Spring 2022 shopping markets. Last summer, the group said people were harassed at its market in Haverhill town centre. Organizers told police that “three openly armed men” placed racist stickers on cars during the event. The group said the action forced them to delay a similar event in North Andover.

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

The 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 social service partners. The coalition plans to train, educate, support and fund over 100 entrepreneurs and remove barriers. Organizers say small business ownership and its potential to create wealth has the power to help bridge the wealth gap and disparities.