MassDevelopment

Grants awarded at WorcLab offer ‘inspiration and hope’ for 31 organizations in Springfield, Worcester and across the state

January 9, 2020 : MassLive.com, by Michael Bonner


Thirty-one envelopes stacked on a podium could almost be overlooked within a large conference room on the fourth floor on Portland Street in Worcester. Their importance, though, wasn’t lost on the dozens that packed inside the space.

Each of them carried hope or dreams in the form of funding for the dozens that packed into the space Thursday morning.

“It brings inspiration and hope, because there’s growth within the community,” said Ana Marie Morales of Make It Springfield.

Within the envelopes contained $1.9 million worth of grants that were meant for entrepreneurs and creative spaces across the state.

For Make It Springfield, the $125,000 grant will allow the organization to relocate to the Springfield Innovation Center and build out that space where opportunities for the community will be endless. They range from writing workshops, bicycle repair shops and art classes.

MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss introduced each grant recipient. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito stood by her and congratulated each organization with applause and a smile.

“I really, really love these spaces because it makes it personal,” Polito said. “You come together. You work together you share your ideas. And when you do that, you make friendships and you get to know their families and you stay connected. I think that’s a real asset.”

No better space embodied that idea than the room where Liss and Polito awarded the grants. The conference room on the fourth floor of 44 Portland St. was designed and outfitted with televisions and speakers with the help of MassDevelopment Grants.

A few feet away 3D printers hummed, prototypes were on display and community members presented the work they’ve achieved within WorcLab.

“It is amazing what has happened with this building,” Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus Jr. said. “Worcester is going through a renaissance. And this is the epicenter of that renaissance. This building is bubbling with creativity and energy and it’s spilling out of this building block by block.”

It’s a feat municipalities across the state want to mimic. Organizations from cities as large as Boston and as small as Belchertown came to Worcester to celebrate the grants.

“It’s going to be huge for a little town like Belchertown, this creates a huge opportunity to grow,” President of the Belchertown Cultural Alliance April Jasak-Bangs said. “As a community space but also to drive economic development in town, which we need.”

The Belchertown Cultural Alliance will use the $10,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study looking at creating a maker’s space and community kitchen.

Some of the grant recipients mirrored the Belchertown Cultural Alliance still in the designing phases.

Others like Larry Genovesi, the executive director of WorcLab, said the grant awarded Thursday will be put to immediate use in updating spaces. The $25,000 grant for WorcLab will furnish and update the co-working space.

“I want to applaud everyone who is running incubators,” Genovesi said. “I know first hand how difficult that job is, but we’re building a better state, a better country, and a better life for a lot of people.”