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Leaders sing city’s praises at annual Lowell Plan breakfast

By Chris Lisinski

clisinski@lowellsun.com

LOWELL — Business leaders, community organizers and politicians celebrated the city’s vibrant character and dedication to civic engagement in an annual breakfast hosted Thursday by The Lowell Plan.

Close to 300 people, including representatives from The Sun, gathered in a ballroom at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference center for the event, which was open only to members of The Lowell Plan. A series of speakers shared their experiences and successes in a variety of fields, from managing the Lowell National Historical Park to entrepreneurship.

Katie Stebbins, vice president of economic development for the University of Massachusetts system, praised Lowell for being at the “forefront” of smart development while she delivered the keynote address.

“Lowell is an incredibly exciting place,” she said. “I started as a city planner out of UMass Amherst in late 1998 in Springfield. We all looked to Lowell as the benchmark. Everybody looked to Lowell. Everybody knows what The Lowell Plan is. Everyone wants to be Lowell.”

Stebbins offered several suggestions during her address to help chart a course for economic growth and civic engagement moving forward. One key point

Please see LOWELL PLAN/4

Keynote speaker Katie Stebbins at Thursday’s Lowell Plan breakfast.

SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI


Leaders praise city at annual breakfast

LOWELL PLAN/ From Page 3 was to promote grassroots involvement in projects because “the new economic development” is no longer based solely on brick-andmortar businesses, she said.

She also encouraged leaders to be willing to consider unconventional ideas.

“Be prepared to say yes,” she said. “Sometimes we should come out of our comfort zone.”

The Lowell Plan invited two recent alumni of its “Public Matters” leadership program to speak.

Christine Bruins, Lowell National Historical Park’s planning and grant program manager, praised the city’s commitment to balancing economic development with historical preservation — two areas she said “are not mutually exclusive.” “Periods of economic vibrancy in Lowell didn’t happen by chance,” she said. “There were plans in place and advocates advocating for those plans to be

successful.” The park was also represented by Superintendent Celeste Bernardo, who spoke about its successes and future plans ahead of its 40th birthday next June. The other Public Matters alum to speak was Joey Banh, who is program manager for the organization Entrepreneurship for All Lowell-Lawrence and also co-owns the restaurant Sizzling Kitchen. Banh delivered his remarks praising the city’s diversity in a style of spoken- word poetry, as he said, “in the spirit of Jack Keroauc.”

“Dip your spoon into our melting pot,” he said. “You can have a taste or a whole bowl so long as you put something back.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.

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