Fisherman Starts Anew

October 24th, 2013 by

Scott Nolan started fishing more than 25 years ago. Setting out from various Cape Cod and MA ports, he focused initially on sea clams, and then scallops. After a decade out of the business, Nolan came to the CDP in the Fall of last year with interest in a Micro Loan to support the retro-fit of a dragger to go sea clamming. According to Nolan, "It was a big project".  Sea clamming involves particular equipment, all of which needed to be outfitted on his newly purchased boat, the Goody Hallet. With business support and financing from the CDP and affordable rate quota from the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, Nolan is now one of the few local small boats out on the water in this particular fishery. As he said, "We have a little niche."  He also commented, "Things are going quite well right now and we're catching a lot."  When she's not out sea clamming, you can find the 80' Goody Hallet in Provincetown Harbor. Read more about Scott in this article in the Commercial Fisheries News.   

Reprinted with permission of authoring organization Community Development Partnership, a MACDC member, and Scott Nolan.

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MACDC & MKI Welcome Natalia Vasquez

September 23rd, 2013 by

MACDC and the Mel King Institute welcome Natalia Vasquez as this year’s New Sector Alliance RISE Americorps Fellow.  Natalia, as the Program Coordinator for the MACDC’s Mel King Institute, will organize the Mel King Institute trainings, support communications and collaborate with CDCs on resident summits.

Natalia previously worked as an Institute for Global Leadership Fellow with Kopernik, an international development start-up in Indonesia, where she supported communications, research, and field projects.  Long interested in the social sector, Natalia has interned with the US Department of Energy, the Nature Conservancy, the Population Media Center, and the World Ocean Council.  She holds a BA in International Relations and Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies from Tufts University.  Natalia also enjoys surfing, painting, dancing and traveling.

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Quaboag Valley CDC helping a small business to recover and grow after tornado.

August 28th, 2013 by

Tibbetts Optical is a 17 year old retail optical shop owned and operated by Brenda Tibbetts, a sole proprietor, for the past two and a half years. She's grown the business from gross sales of $101,055 in 2011 to $130,714 in 2012.  It is now a very attractive retail storefront business in downtown Monson.  Brenda is an active participant in the downtown merchants group.   

Brenda Tibbetts has 15 years of experience as an optician and a passion for “helping others feel good about their eyewear."  She was a manager at Lens Crafters for 10 years and also has two years experience teaching opticians. In late 2010, she purchased an existing practice in Monson that had been in operation for 15 years. Shortly after opening the business, the June 2011 tornado destroyed much of downtown Monson and blew the roof off Brenda’s store. Much of the refurbishing work, equipment, and inventory purchases were financed with two low interest rate credit cards.  However, the credit cards now carry rates as high as 20%.

Adding to the credit card burden, Brenda’s spouse, Raymond, who has his own drywall contracting company, recently injured his back.  This required surgery that will keep him out of work for more than 6 months.

A request for bank financing within the last year was declined due to the business’s high debt to income ratio and length of time in business.

Brenda asked QVCDC for assistance in preparing for another approach to a bank. QVCDC staff, augmented by consulting help from a Certified Public Accountant, completed a financial review and identified several steps Brenda could take to improve her financial position and record keeping. As a result, Brenda made significant changes in order to reduce expenses.  She made improvements to her accounting system and corrected previous errors. She learned what inventory moves and which is more profitable.

With help from Quaboag Valley CDC, Brenda identified that her main competition comes from a business in Palmer, and that she has some competition from WalMart in Ware.  Accordingly, she’s repositioned her business to feature her consultative selling skills, better selection of merchandise and fast and accurate service because she cuts many of her own lenses.

Due to her extensive industry contacts in western and central Massachusetts, Brenda receives many referrals to her shop from colleagues. She has demonstrated her ability to persevere through setbacks, and has the willingness and capacity to become more strategic in her business operations.

The assistance and improved finances helped Brenda obtain the capital for needed equipment.

QVCDC’s next steps with this client are to help her use the more accurate financial information to put together a financing package to refinance her high rate credit card debt.

By Gail Farnsworth French, Quaboag Valley CDC

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Art Matters: The Roles of Arts and Artists in Redeveloping Roxbury – Gentrifiers or Community Developers?

May 1st, 2013 by

On May 18 of this year, over 1,000 people travelled to an abandoned industrial site in Roxbury’s Dudley Square on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to attend a day-long mural festival sponsored by The event was part of Nuestra Comunidad’s strategy to redevelop an 8 acre vacant bus yard into a creative village, aimed at drawing new tenants, homeowners, shoppers and others to the housing and stores to be built there, and opening opportunities for local small businesses including artists. Seen from a longer-term perspective, the mural festival was the latest success of a well-established cultural economic development strategy crafted and implemented by local development organizations, cultural agencies, local artists and the City of Boston’s planning agency. CLICK HERE to read more.

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MACDC Staffer Travels Abroad to Advance Learning

April 1st, 2013 by

This past February, Shirronda Almeida, MACDC's Director Membership Initiatives, participated in an eight day Learning Exchange Program to Haifa, Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council. A cohort of ten local nonprofit professionals participated in the program. The program continues in May when ten Israeli professionals travel to Boston. Key to the program is understanding and learning more about leadership best practices within a global context. To learn more CLICK HERE.

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Are You a Data Geek or a Data Poet?

February 2nd, 2012 by

By: Julianna Tschirhart
Program Coordinator, The Mel King Institute for Community Building

I have a confession to make: I am a data geek. I have been known to kill time by looking at the American Fact Finder website, exploring various zip codes in the New York Times Interactive Census Map, or planning hypothetical journeys on Google Maps. I find something fascinating about the link between numbers and geography, and it was comforting to know that I was in good company at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Data Day last Friday, Jan. 27th.

Data Day is an annual conference co-sponsored by MAPC, the Boston Indicators Project at The Boston Foundation, and Northeastern University. The conference objective is to “help organizations and municipalities expand their capacity to use technology and data in innovative ways to advance their community and organizational goals” (About Data Day). The conference topic this year was “Using Data to Drive Community Change,” and over the course of the day, it became clear to me that data are powerful tools to wield in our fight to build equitable communities. In a combination of panels and workshop-sessions, I learned of the various initiatives of participating sponsors to make data more accessible, easy-to-use, and impactful in an effort to achieve a more equitable Greater Boston and nation.

One example is the MetroBoston DataCommon, a partner program of MAPC and the Boston Indicators Project, which offers a platform to analyze data and make maps on a novice to expert level. Users can check out preexisting visuals in the Regional Map Gallery on topics from public safety to education, or create their own maps by selecting preexisting data sets or importing their own. Adding to this democratization of data for the public, MetroBoston DataCommon gives users the option to edit or add to the maps made by others. Allowing your visualization to be public enhances the collaborative nature of the data exchange promoted by the website.

Using data to tell the stories of our communities was a prominent theme at Data Day. “Numbers are narrative” remarked John Davidow, Executive Editor of WBUR during the morning panel on the connection between data and storytelling. Data used skillfully can lure in listeners, give evidence to support claims on social justice issues, and help connect people to one another. In conjunction with the democratic media available at all our fingertips—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. —data become even more influential tools for community builders. With data and grassroots storytelling, people can create a buzz and get legislators and other important players to take note of their issues.

The world of journalism and community organizing is changing. Advances in technology are allowing us access to the data we need to achieve equity in our communities. When we have the capability to translate reliable data into a narrative, we can create a movement. Rather than be content to look at data as a data geek, simply in awe of the numbers, I urge everyone to take advantage of the data available to us and become ‘data poets’—utilizing numbers to tell your community’s unique story and bring about change!

For more on data and community organizing, consider the upcoming Mel King Institute training, Making Use of Local Census Data.

Follow the Mel King Institute on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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