|By Paula Canning|
HOLYOKE Holyoke may be the new home for a Connecticut-based, $9 billion mortgage company that could bring an estimated 600 to 1,200 jobs to the city, according to Mayor Michael Sullivan
Sullivan said that the company, Mortgage Lenders Network USA, which is based out of Middletown, Conn., is considering various sites in Holyoke as well as properties in two other Connecticut communities for its new location.
Sullivan said that, while he was surprised that the company would announce that they had narrowed down their search because the information "doesn't reflect a fully evolved plan," the city is "very excited about the possibility."
"We're excited that [Mortgage Lenders] recognizes us as a city moving in a positive direction," he said.
The company has expressed a great deal of interest in the property once home to Parson's Paper company, because its close proximity to Interstates 90 and 91 would afford the company easy access to Worcester, Albany and Hartford.
Conversations about bringing the company to the city began about 18 months ago, Sullivan said, and have since then evolved into "intense conversations" over the past few months.
According to Sullivan, the root of the company's interest most likely lies in a number of factors that render the city attractive to business, such as technological capabilities, the city's ability to not only distribute but produce electricity, as well as the community's growing interest in telecommunications.
He also cited the city's decrease in crime as reflected in recently released statistics, as well as the city's advances in work force development due to the active role of organizations such as the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.
At the state level, Sullivan said that the city has had the support of Senator Michael Knapik (R Westfield) and State Representative Michael Kane (D- Holyoke), who have both helped to inform the company that "the state is willing to do what they can," to support bringing the company to the city.
In addition to the jobs that it could bring for city residents, Sullivan noted that the company's move to the city would mean good news for surrounding communities.
"As many as 65 percent of those who work in Holyoke live beyond its borders," Sullivan said, explaining that this translates to an estimated 300 new job opportunities for those who live outside of the city.
"We certainly would want to get as many Holyoker's as possible to have those jobs, but it also is something positive for the region," he said.
According to Sullivan, Mortgage Lenders Network's interest in the city is part of a string of potential development opportunities that can be largely accredited to the efforts of Director of Economic Development Jeff Hayden and Principal Planner Jeff Burkott, who have attracted interest in buying city properties from a number of parties from such cities as Boston, Providence, and New Haven.
"They're really out there looking outside of the area in New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut trying to find opportunities that we could facilitate here in our community," Sullivan.
He also said that while the city is constantly looking to bring industry in, it also works hard to retain the existing businesses in the city.
He said "a week doesn't go by" that he doesn't hear about states such a Georgia and Florida trying to lure Holyoke companies to re-locate their business to these areas.
"The city is very sensitive to the issue," he said. "We know we have to take a stand to keep these businesses in the city."