Two years ago Hanson Bechat moved his business, Neighborhood Parcel, a shipping and document shredding firm, from Tewksbury to Lowell.
At first he was apprehensive. He had faced frustration in the past as a business owner.
“I got used to the answer always being “no” before the question was asked,” he said.
“But when we asked for help from the city of Lowell, we got it. We were shocked.”
“I am very pleased with the level of support the city provides for businesses,” Bechat, who also runs the networking group Boston North Business Association, participated in Wednesday’s Small Business Resource Fair in recognition of Small Business Week at Cross Point.
This year the city expanded its Small Business Week event to include its regional partners in the Middlesex 3 Coalition. Made up of the five communities along the Route 3 corridor (Burlington, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford and Lowell), the group is working together to build a long-term vision for the economic development of the region.
“Lowell cannot survive on its own, it is part of a region,” said City Manager Bernie Lynch, adding the expansion of Route 3 has opened up more business opportunities along that corridor.
Both Lynch and Mayor Patrick Murphy spoke of the importance of small and medium-sized businesses to a local economy.
In the 19th century the city’s entire economic development strategy centered on the textile industry; in the 20th century it was Wang Laboratories. The city struggled for years following the crash of both industries.
Murphy said the city and region needs a mix of small and medium-sized businesses to survive and thrive.
“The city of Lowell recognizes the role small and medium sized businesses play,” Murphy said, adding support for those businesses has been championed by Lynch and Economic Development Director Theresa Park who “has done a great job as our economic development coordinator.”
As part of the event, Scott Fallavollita, of United Tool and Die of Wilmington, was named the Small business Administration’s Massachusetts person of the year.
Fallavollita bought the business in 2007 and turned it around with assistance from a SBA loan and a training grant from the state. Today he employs 16 workers and boasts $2.1 million in sales annually.
He also gives back to the community in a number of ways, including employing inmates from the Billerica House of Correction as part of their work release program.
“I took advantage of all of the tools made available,” Fallavollita said. “I’m a big believer in those programs. I think they make a difference and I hope they continue being funded.”
Participating the in Resource Fair were several banks, UMass Lowell, the City of Lowell, the Career Center of Lowell, the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, the Middlesex 3 member towns and others.
In the spring of 2014 he will launch Green Bikes Lowell (www.greenbikesoflowell.com), an affordable bike sharing business.
The bikes are GPS-enabled and track your route, how many calories you burned, how much carbon you reduced and how much money you saved versus driving. Bikes can be booked using a web browser, mobile application, or the keypad interface on the bike.
ElKamouny said he will be employing youths from UTEC and Youth Build, teaching them not only how to fix and maintain bikes, but also the administrative tasks that go with running a business.
The event’s keynote speaker was Bobbie Carlton of Carlton PR and Marketing, who started Innovation Nights LLC, a monthly free networking event that over the last four years has launched more that 500 new products, with 394 of those companies still in business.