A regional marketing and development initiative that highlights priority development projects and provides quick links to key municipal officials, zoning information, and community organizations.

Business Incentives, Districts, and Community Designations

Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone)west-mill

Through the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program offers federal contracting assistance to qualified small businesses that obtain HUBZone certification by employing staff who live in a HUBZone. The company must also maintain a “principal office” in one of these specifically designated areas. In the Merrimack Valley region, much of Lawrence and part of Haverhill qualify.

Economic Target Areas (ETAs)

20150803_133202-1Through the Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP), the communities of Amesbury, Andover, Georgetown, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, and Salisbury are designated Economic Target Areas (ETAs) by the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD), the state’s primary economic development and business assistance agency. This is a tax incentive program designed to foster job creation and stimulate business growth throughout the Commonwealth.  Participating companies may receive state and local tax incentives in exchange for job creation, manufacturing job retention and private investment commitments which qualify them for special economic incentive programs.


Economically Distressed Areas (EDAs)

LowerMillyard2_Amesbury_Jul2014Closely aligned with ETAs are Economically Distressed Areas (EDAs). EDAs are areas that are currently an ETA or that would otherwise qualify to be an ETA. An EDA designation qualifies a community for possible brownfields redevelopment assistance. The communities of Amesbury, Andover, Georgetown, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, and Salisbury are designated EDAs. For more information about brownfields redevelopment assistance from the state, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Priority Development Sites (PDS)   [MGL Chapter 43D]

A Priority Development Site (PDS) is a privately or publicly owned property that is:

  1. Commercially or industrially zoned or mixed use;
  2. Eligible under applicable zoning provisions, including special permits or other discretionary permits, for the development or redevelopment of a building at least 50,000 square feet of gross floor area in new or existing buildings or structures; and
  3. Approved by the local governing authority and state Interagency Permitting Board.

Once established, the community must render permitting decisions within 180 days. Several parcels or projects may be included within a single priority development site.

For more information, please visit the  Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED).  Currently, sites in the Merrimack Valley region that have 43D approvals are at the following locations according to EOHED:

43d georgetown siteGeorgetown:   National Avenue; Route 199/I-95

Amesbury:   Golden Triangle (area between I-95, I-495 and Route 110)

Haverhill:   60 Hilldale Avenue

North Andover:   Osgood Landing, 1600 Osgood Street

Andover:   South Street, 1 Riverside Drive, 2 Technology Drive, 40 Shattuck Road, 300 Minuteman Road, 300 Brickstone Square, 160 Dascomb Road, 300 Federal Street, and 800 Federal Street

Lawrence:   280-350 Merrimack Street (Riverwalk Properties)


BioReady Communities in the Merrimack Valley

BioReady-Communities-Map-may-2015Massachusetts offers incentives through MassBio for communities with Platinum, Silver, Gold and Bronze ratings.     MassBio has developed BioReady® ratings for municipalities who submit details on their zoning practices and infrastructure capacity. The focus with these ratings is to help biotechnology companies find the most favorable destinations in the state and to enable the state and its communities to effectively tell their stories to the biotechnology industry. BioReady®-rated cities and towns have made a commitment to the life sciences industry. There are currently 79 BioReady® Communities across the Commonwealth.

Here are the communities within the Merrimack Valley and their BioReady Ratings:

Platinum:  Andover, Haverhill and North Andover
A Platinum rating means that the community has GoldCriteria plus rating; the municipal Board of Health has adopted the National Institute of Health guidelines on rDNA activity as part of its regulations; the municipality has a building, or buildings, that are already permitted for biotech uses and have 20,000 square feet or more of available space or biotech uses; OR municipality has a shovel-ready pre-permitted land site with completed MEPA review and municipal water and sewer capacity to meet additional demand.

Silver:  Newburyport
Silver rating means the community features Bronze Criteria; allows biotech laboratory and manufacturing uses by right; has identified buildings and/or land sites for biotechnology uses in municipal plans;  convenes site plan review meetings, bringing together all pertinent departments, to provide an overview of the local approvals process for significant commercial and industrial projects; and has land sites and/or buildings included in MassEcon BioSites inventory.

Bronze: Lawrence
A Bronze rating means the municipality has municipal water and sewer available in commercial and industrial areas; zoning that allows for biotech laboratory and manufacturing uses by special permit; and an identified point of contact in town/city hall to assist biotech projects.

Priority Development Area Designations

cover sheet priority strategy_Page_001Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are areas within a city or town that are capable of supporting additional development, or are candidates for redevelopment, but may require additional financial, regulatory, or infrastructure support. These areas are generally characterized by having a wide array of uses allowed by zoning, good transportation access, the availability of infrastructure including: water, sewer, broadband and utilities, active and available public utilities, and an absence of environmental constraints. In addition, many of these areas have undergone extensive area-wide or neighborhood planning processes and may have detailed recommendations for future actions.

Sites in the Merrimack Valley were reviewed to determine PDAs of state, regional and local significance that include EOHED’s criteria for areas with the best potential for new growth:

1. Downtowns and village centers;

2. Locations with potential for transit oriented development;

3. Areas which support the reuse of a previously developed site; and

4. Areas which present the potential for multi-family housing.

Instead of being identified as specific projects, PDAs represent locations in municipalities where growth and investments will be directed.  They often include a mixture of housing, retail, office, and sometimes industrial uses. Redevelopment of under-utilized or abandoned properties, and adaptive re-use of existing buildings.   The development vision for these sites should include a rational mix of housing versus commercial space, with particular attention paid to the inclusion of affordable housing and housing for families. Areas designated under state programs such as Chapter 43D (expedited permitting), Chapter 40R (smart growth zones) can be examples of PDAs. Included in these designations will be the local recommendations for the types of uses appropriate or envisioned for these sites should they be developed. The state, regional and local PDAs in the Merrimack Valley region can be found on MVPC’s website.


Growth Districts Initiative (MGL Chapter 43E)

gdi-havh-downtownHaverhill and Lawrence are designated Growth District Communities through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED). Under its Growth Districts Initiative, EOHED partners with municipalities “that have identified one or more areas within their communities as being appropriate locations for significant new growth, whether commercial, residential, or mixed-use. Within those identified growth districts, EOHED works with the community and property owners to make the district truly development ready with respect to local permitting, state permitting, site preparation (including brownfields remediation), infrastructure improvements, and marketing.


Gateway Cities

Gateway Cities are midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies around the state. The state’s vision for Gateway Cities is that they actively participate in, and contribute to, the Commonwealth’s overall economic success by taking advantage of their distinctive ability to be desirable locations for innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesses where people choose to live. Haverhill, Lawrence, and Methuen are designated Gateway Cities in the Merrimack Valley region, which qualifies them for certain programs and initiatives.