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Federal grant to help finish final stretch of Jackson Road reconstruction project


DEVENS — The last stretch of the Jackson Road reconstruction project will receive a helping hand from the federal government, as the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced a $1.85 million grant to the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency on Tuesday.

Standing before a small crowd of local officials and representatives in Devens, Matt Erskine, the EDA’s assistant secretary for economic development, said the road improvements will enable Bristol Myers Squibb and Nypro to expand their operations.

The fourth phase of the Jackson Road project includes the reconstruction of 4,000 linear feet of road, the upgrade of pre-World War II utilities and transformation of one-way stretches of road into two-way stretches. It is projected to take about 27 months to complete, rounding out the end of a $17 million reconstruction project for Jackson Road.

Erskine said that the investment builds on the partnership between EDA and Devens, which began in 1996 when the agency helped the former army post cope with the base realignment and closure that shut Fort Devens down.

“The investment we celebrate today is an investment that’s critical to the continued success here in Devens and the regional economy,” he said.

The co-investment for the final phase is projected to bring 460 jobs and $307 million in private investment to the area. The money is also expected to attract private investment from an automotive-distribution business and the recently opened New England Studios.

Mike Meyers, director of studio facilities, said the new facility has made a $40 million private investment in the area, “and it will continue to grow as we grow.”

Although their first movie, Tumbledown, had about a $4 million to $5 million budget, they have signed more than 300 contracts with various local people, Meyers said.

“That’s just incidental and indicative of how the growth in this business just escalates throughout the entire community,” he said.

Arthur Jemison, deputy undersecretary for the state’s department of housing, tied the road improvements in with Gov. Deval Patrick’s goal of adding 10,000 multi-family units throughout the state every year. He highlighted the importance of MassDevelopment’s latest plan to build 120 housing units in Devens, which could house potential employees.

“The workforce needs to be attracted to this area,” he said.

Erskine stressed investment not just in roads and bridges, but also in the digital area.

“Our global competitors are investing in critical infrastructure,” he said. “And they aren’t playing for second place.”

Melissa Fetterhoff, president of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is proud to be partners with MassDevelopment.

“Expansion brings jobs, which is definitely one of the things that the community is asking for,” she said.

The Devens announcement was the second stop of the EDA’s tour in Massachusetts, as earlier in the day the EDA gave a $1 million grant in Worcester to establish the Worcester Technology and Idea Exchange. Erskine was also scheduled to make an investment stop in New Bedford, finishing a trip in which the federal agency will have bestowed nearly $3 million in Massachusetts.

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