Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, February 2014

The stretch of Route 3 from Route 128 in Burlington to Lowell has long been a popular place for companies to establish themselves or relocate. In recent years, leaders from the five communities – including Bedford, Billerica and Chelmsford – have worked to establish a stronger identity for the region, while also promoting a greater role for public transportation.

One result of the collaboration was the introduction of a brand name – Middlesex3 – and a website (www.middlesex3.com). A logo, developed by students at Shawsheen Regional Technical High School, depicts the number 3 and a swath of highway superimposed over a map of the area.

The logo was introduced in 2012, but the work of establishing a regional identity began a few years earlier, according to Bedford Town Manager Richard Reed.

“We felt that we had a lot of assets along the corridor and we wanted to find a way to brand and market it,” Reed said.

He noted that people looking to start or relocate a business in a suburban area tend to be less concerned about which municipality they locate in than about the attributes of the region as a whole. And while only one community will collect taxes from a company, he said, neighboring towns also benefit from a new employer.

“Businesses growing in a community next door means jobs for the people who live here; it means spin-off activity through support services to larger businesses,” Reed said.

The five communities are home to nearly 220,000 people. But Reed pointed out that a sizable number of the people who work in the Route 3 corridor do not live there.

Among the companies to arrive recently is E-Ink, a digital-signage company that now occupies a 140,000 square-foot facility in Billerica’s Technology Park, just off Route 3. E-Ink’s previous office was in Cambridge, where many of the employees did not own cars. Working through the Middlesex3 coalition, E-Ink and other companies helped to fund a shuttle service to Technology Park from three MBTA subway stops: Alewife in Cambridge and North Station and JFK/UMass in Boston.

The number of companies that are dues-paying members of the Middlesex3 coalition has doubled in the past year, from 20 to 40.

“By pooling resources and working directly with the municipalities and the two major education institutions – UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College – there are an array of initiatives that we can do in partnership to help the region,” Reed said. “The companies as a whole are recognizing that. They want to be part of something that is a cooperative effort to improve the region.”

For more information, contact Richard Reed at (781) 275-1111.