hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

May 7, 2009

Haverhill basks in 'bio-ready' label

By Joni Quinn

Biotechnology companies need not look to Cambridge — or even Andover — for new homes for their businesses.

That is the message Mayor James Fiorentini and Greater Haverhill Chamber President James Jajuga are spreading after the city received a "platinum" rating from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. It is the organization's top rating, meaning a community is ready to welcome biotech businesses.

"We intend to use this rating to help market our city to biotechnology firms," Fiorentini said.

In giving Haverhill the highest rating — shared with only 43 other comunities in the state — the council noted the city's well-educated work force, educational system, new high school science labs, business climate, governement efficiency and expedited permitting, low tax rate and quality of life.

"Not only did we work hard for this rating, but several key indicators were cited that we are very proud of," Fiorentini said.

Biotech firms want to be in attractive locales where they are welcomed, supported and where their employees want to live, shop and eat, he said.

"We have all that here in Haverhill," Fiorentini said.

Jajuga said the bio-ready label helps Haverhill in two ways. In the short term, it is affirmation that Haverhill is open for business and ready to work with different business sectors to bring good jobs and additional tax revenue to the city, he said.

In the long term, it means the city becomes one of the top communities in the state, he said.

"Getting this platinum award means we not only met every criteria but we are at the top of communities' abilities for a number of things. First we have accessibility, affordability, the work force, and city government and business leaders in general willing to work together for the betterment of the city of Haverhill, which will be beneficial for entire region," Jajuga said.

"This distinction will go a long way in our effort to recruit new high-paying and cutting-edge jobs to the city," Fiorentini said.

The ratings will be sent to 60,000 biotechnology firms and executives throughout the world to help market the platinum communities in Massachusetts as a good place for biotech companies to locate, grow and expand.

"Some of the emerging biotech companies who are on the verge of wonderful discoveries will look at building new building across this commonwealth and they look at which cities are ready, willing and able to receive them and Haverhill is definitely one of them," Jajuga said.

The city also intends to use this award to market its new industrial park on upper Hilldale Avenue as a great place for biotech companies, Fiorentini said.

This week, the city received $1.85 million from the state to extend water and sewer service through an industrial park on upper Hilldale Avenue to the New Hampshire line.

"We are heading in the right direction. This is what people want, to go out and do our best to attract and accommodate new businesses. Even though the world economy is tough right now there are a lot of great things happening. We can't lull ourself into despair. We need to forge ahead and plan for our future and plan for the growth that is going to come," Jajuga said.

Also receiving the platinum ranking were Andover and North Andover, making the Merrimack Valley a regional biotech center, said Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"There is a major presence already in this region and this award further establishes the region for future development. This is also an opportunity for these communities to work together," Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua said this distinction also shows biotech companies there is a world outside of Cambridge and that there is a regional presence here, which sends a positive message.

"Andover and North Andover have been first in line and have established a great presence and this is a great opportunity for Haverhill to be a part of it," Bevilacqua said.