Man with a Plan
An Interview with Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn
Lane Glenn has always been an optimist. In fact, long before he became president of Northern Essex Community College in 2011, he served as president of his local chapter of Optimist International. His innate ability to believe that anything is possible has resulted in the expansion of NECC and spilled over into the student body, staff and community at-large. Today, after playing a crucial role in the launch of The Lawrence Partnership, he can be described as the guiding force in the initiative to revitalize the city of Lawrence—and his optimism seems to have no limit. mvm recently sat down with Glenn to hear more about the story and the spirit behind The Lawrence Partnership.
How do you describe The Lawrence Partnership?
There have been great things happening in the city of Lawrence for some time, and an abundance of organizations doing good things — from the education sector to the private sector to the nonprofit sector. The Lawrence Partnership brings those people together in one room for the specific cause of economic development and finding out how we can grow business, create jobs and attract consumers to help the city prosper. Our mission is ideas, investment and action. We are a “doing” group.
How did the partnership come about?
Through a lot of collaboration — something Lawrence is very good at. Two years ago, former state Sen. Barry Finegold, Lupoli Companies CEO Sal Lupoli and I invited a couple dozen business and community leaders in the city to lunch at the New Balance plant. We had a great conversation about the strengths in the city, and a vision for future economic development that would involve as many people and organizations as possible. We looked to other successful models, like The Lowell Plan and The Salem Partnership, which have both been around for more than 25 years and have accomplished some amazing things for their communities.
What was the response when you approached other influential leaders to participate in The Lawrence Partnership?
In that meeting, and in the months that followed, one after another, the banks, mill and property developers, small and large businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and elected leaders stepped forward and made a commitment to that vision for Lawrence’s economic future. No one said “no.” From the very start, there has been excitement and ideas flying around. That tells us there is a great interest and a high degree of faith. We all want to use the influence and ideas we have to drive better business. There’s fertile ground here, and a willingness to collaborate. This is a group that means business. They show up and they do things.
The partnership has hired Derek Mitchell to take the reins as executive director. What does a leader like Mitchell mean for the cause?
Derek is amazing. He has been a community organizer, a nonprofit leader, and an investor and entrepreneur himself. He has international experience, and for the last several years has devoted himself to economic opportunity and development in Gateway Cities like Lowell and Lawrence. We are very excited to have Derek on board as the partnership’s first executive director.
Each of the projects in development has been selected as a priority project, but is there one you’re most eager to see come to fruition?
They are all important for different reasons, and each of them represents what we are all about: ideas, investment and action. Anyone who has been in and around Lawrence for very long remembers when Essex Street was the main shopping and entertainment district in this part of the Merrimack Valley — and we are eager to see how we can build on that history and the strengths of new businesses with our façade improvement program. Of course, getting there will require investment, so the venture loan fund our banking partners are putting together will be important. And from my perspective as president of Northern Essex Community College, I am particularly interested in our proposed partnership with the city on a new regional public safety center downtown — something that will make the city safer, create jobs, and bring thousands of new people to a vibrant new downtown.
For more information about The Lawrence Partnership, visit their website at LawrencePartnership.org.
Top photo by Adrien Bisson.