BILLERICA — E Ink Corp. was making a big move. After about 15 years in Cambridge, the technology company was relocating to Billerica.
While management anticipated several benefits from shipping up north, they were also worried about losing employees who didn’t want to commute out of the city.
“Our concern was that some of the employees who came right out of college, who love the city, who love being able to bike and walk everywhere, would leave us,” said Dean LaMothe, director of finance for E Ink, which develops electronic paper that is used in the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.
“So we took on the task of offering them a means to get to the office other than by driving a car,” he added. “Transportation is a growing need for companies, and we needed to figure out how to accommodate our employees.”
And to the rescue came the Middlesex 3 Coalition, a collaboration of public and private leaders in Billerica, Lowell, Chelmsford, Bedford and Burlington. The coalition introduced E Ink to TransAction Corporate Shuttles Inc., and now E Ink has a short-term solution to its transportation problem.
E Ink is only one of countless employers that have moved from the Boston-area to Greater Lowell, bringing with them transitional issues, according to the Middlesex 3 Coalition, whose goal is to “promote the competitive advantages of the region and advance the economic vitality of the corridor.”
Based on the success of E Ink, Middlesex 3 is hoping to bounce off that momentum and help other Route 3 companies with similar situations, as well as attract more employers to the area. “Middlesex 3′s idea is that the area can be more attractive for businesses if there are programs like the shuttle service available for companies,” said Stephanie Cronin, who helps lead the Middlesex 3 Coalition from Billerica Town Hall, where she is also the town’s economic development coordinator. Companies are relocating up here for cheaper land and space, but one issue has always been transportation,” she added. “This (solution with E Ink) was a perfect example of the region working together to solve a problem, and we’re looking forward to helping other companies.”
LaMothe emphasized how Middlesex 3 is doing a great job at bringing awareness to the economic vitality of the Route 3 corridor and providing a forum for area companies. “I’m definitely aware of more companies coming into the Middlesex 3 area, like Keurig and iRobot,” he said. “It’s a great revenue source for each of these towns, and then with the coalition bringing the companies together, everyone benefits.” LaMothe said that E Ink moved to Billerica for various reasons: Company officials wanted to expand, and 1000 Technology Park provided much more space; Billerica was only 15 miles from its Cambridge location, so it was relatively close; and a lower lease rate was the “icing on the cake,” he said. The widening of Route 3 from two to three lanes did not play a factor in E Ink’s move, but it “came along with the package,” LaMothe said. He said that many employees, including ones who take the shuttle service, are now traveling a reverse commute, which is an added benefit. “And they start the workday when they get on the shuttle because it has Wi-Fi. It’s great,” LaMothe said. “The group of employees have business conversations before they get into the office.”
E Ink launched the service in August and is opening participation up to companies who want to use the shuttles and share the costs. There are three trips from 6:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and then three trips from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The shuttles connect Technology Park in Billerica with three MBTA stations: Alewife, North Station and JFK.
The cost and vehicle size is based on ridership and community participation. TransAction Corporate Shuttles has vehicles that accommodate 15 to 33 passengers. “So our short-term plan is to partner with other companies nearby to make it more cost-effective,” LaMothe said. “Long-term we’ll look into government-funded resources to implement a program for the region, so we don’t have to depend on individual companies. “It’s a growing need for companies, and if we reduce single-driver cars out there, it can be the start of something very powerful in this region,” he added. The shuttle program also includes access to the emergency-ride-home program, if the employee becomes sick or has an emergency that requires them to get home quickly. “It’s a great safety net for the employees, and it makes them much more comfortable that we offer that emergency program,” said Cindy Frené, president of TransAction, which is based in Woburn. Cronin, of the Middlesex 3 Coalition, said the group is promoting the shuttle service and additional options for other companies to jump on board. She said Parexel International, a clinical research organization, recently worked with the Lowell Regional Transit Authority to expand bus service into its new location at Federal Street in Billerica. Also, EMD Serono, a pharmaceutical and chemical company, has worked with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to expand bus service into its Middlesex Turnpike location in Billerica.
The Middlesex 3 Coalition’s goal is to “strengthen and grow economic development, create and retain jobs, increase and diversify the tax base, and improve the quality of life in the Middlesex 3 communities.” The coalition assists with infrastructure and transportation projects, introduces members to business, municipal and financial contacts, helps with grants and training programs, and is a direct line to legislators.
For more information on Middlesex 3, visit www.Middlesex3.com or call 978-808-5281.
For more information on TransAction Corporate Shuttles, call 781-895-1100.
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