NEWBURYPORT — State Treasurer Steven Grossman yesterday praised the city and its many small businesses, saying that Newburyport is “a role model of what a community can do.”
Grossman spoke at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and noted that the community reflects a strong local economy and an active, engaged local population.
He said that the community’s local banks have been an asset in recent years, when large multinational institutions were first struggling to survive and reluctant to lend.
“The big banks cut lending by $1 billion in Massachusetts in 2008 and 2009,” said Grossman, who was elected in 2010. “But strong local banks in this community made loans available, and the delinquency rate has been very low.”
Among banks he was referring to were the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, the Institution for Savings and The Provident Bank.
Grossman, a career business executive and an active Democrat, is the former president of Grossman Marketing Group, a family-owned marketing company based in Somerville.
From 1997 to 1999, he was chair of the Democratic National Committee. Earlier in the ’90s, he was chair of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Grossman’s topic at the Chamber was “Strengthening Small Business, the Backbone of the Massachusetts Economy.”
Following the Chamber breakfast, Grossman participated in a ribbon-cutting of a new small business, the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt shop in Market Square.
He said the store was opened with the aid of a $500,000 loan leveraged through the state treasury’s Small Business Banking Partnership.
This is a program created by his administration that moves treasury cash reserve funds typically held by large national financial institutions and deposits them in amounts of up to $10 million in Massachusetts banks.
These banks sign agreements to lend to small credit-worthy local businesses. In the case of Orange Leaf, the lender was the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, he said.
Grossman said that state statistics show that unemployment in Newburyport fell from 6 percent to 4.7 percent in the past several years.
“The degree of progress in this community is very encouraging,” he said. “I read that this has been the best summer ever. This community has a good feeling about it; I sense it every time I am here.”
Grossman said he has one concern for Massachusetts in coming years: educating the next generation of occupational talent.
He noted that about 80 percent of graduates of state universities and community colleges stay in Massachusetts.
He urged local business professionals to get involved with nearby state-supported colleges to inform academic leaders about their hiring needs.
“We need to develop a system that serves local enterprises and industries,” said Grossman. “If you have needs in your businesses, let educators know so that programs can be created that can be used in the local job market.”
Grossman praised state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, who was in attendance, for being instrumental in creating a state program that enables nonprofit institutions to offer retirement benefits to employees.
He also singled out City Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives, who recently won the Democratic nomination for state Senate.
“Katy worked in my campaign for governor (2001-2002),” said Grossman. “She is very capable, and was like a member of our family in the way she understood what we were doing and how to be effective within the campaign.
“I have no doubt she will emerge as a state senator.”