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11th Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards & Summit

November 14, 2023 @ 9:30 am - 2:00 pm

This year’s summit will focus on how Gateway Cities can play a leading role in shaping a transition to clean energy technologies. Join us for a day of discussion, reflection, and recognition as we honor those who have gone above and beyond to advance the clean energy discussion in Gateway Cities.

Register in advance to be a part of our long-awaited return to gathering in person. This year, tickets will be free of charge to remove access barriers for those who wish to join us. If you’re able to, we’d greatly appreciate your support for our Gateway Cities research and convenings in the form of an optional donation (see ticket page for more information).



9:30 AM

Breakfast & Registration

  • Performance by Cypha in da Burg

10:00 AM


  • Mayor Stephen DiNatale | City of Fitchburg
  • Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll

10:15 AM

Panel I: Building Decarbonization

  • Katherine Moses (Moderator) | Sustainability Director, City of Lowell
  • Jon Rudzinski | Owner, Rees-Larkin Development
  • Mary Wambui | Asset Manager, POUA
  • Sara Ross | Co-Founder, UndauntedK12

11:05 AM


11:15 AM

Panel II: Transportation

  • Jonathan Guzman (Moderator) | External Affairs Manager, Groundwork Lawrence
  • Jackson Moore-Otto | Project Manager, Regional Rail, Transit Matters
  • Mary Ellen DeFrias | Administrator, Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority
  • Sean Tully | Manager, Electric Mobility, Eversource

12:05 PM


12:45 PM

Awards Ceremony Welcome

  • Dr. Richard S. Lapidus |President, Fitchburg State University

12:53 PM

Policy Campaign Updates

  • Emily Ruddock | Executive Director, MASSCreative

1:00 PM

Keynote Speaker

  • Dr. Luis Aguirre-Torres | Director of Financing Solutions, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

1:25 PM

Presentation of the Mayor Bill Carpenter Award for Excellence in Gateway City Leadership

  • Mayor James F. Fiorentini | City of Haverhill

1:33 PM

Presentation of the Gateway Cities Champion Awards

  • Mary Wambui | Asset Manager, POUA and Co-chair, Massachusetts Energy Equity Working Group, Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC)

Lowellian Mary Wambui has distinguished herself as a champion for Gateway Cities in the transition to clean energy, through her exceptional service in various roles. As the asset manager for the Planning Office of Urban Affairs, she is responsible for a large affordable housing portfolio. She has significantly reduced energy use in these properties through extensive retrofits. She also serves on the commonwealth’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and co-chairs the council’s Energy Equity Working Group. With Mary’s leadership, the group has pushed for changes to ensure that the Mass Save program is better positioned to reach underserved households in Gateway Cities across the state. As a member of Lowell’s Sustainability Committee, she has also been a driving force behind her home community’s cutting-edge efforts.

  • Regional Transit Authority Advocates Coalition (RTAAC)

Launched in 2018, RTAAC includes over 80 community groups, human services providers, public health and transportation advocates, and local leaders. They come together to provide a strong, unified voice for RTA communities outside of the metro Boston area. This year, RTAAC and their allies w0n a $56 million increase in state funding for regional transit agencies, which will lead to significant public transportation improvements in 18 of the 26 Gateway Cities. With RTAAC’s leadership, we will see long-awaited improvement to public transportation in Gateway Cities that should have major benefits for public health, economic well-being, and family financial security.

1:40 PM

Presentation of The Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

  • Bristol Community College National Offshore Wind Institute

Bristol Community College’s National Offshore Wind Institute (NOWI) is a state-of-the-art training facility, that has cutting-edge technology to offer all required training and certifications for the offshore wind industry. NOWI is equipped with industry-leading simulators, including a helicopter underwater egress training (HUET) simulator and virtual reality technology, to ensure that workers are prepared for any situation. The institute has also partnered with Maersk Training, a globally recognized training provider with over 40 years of experience and accreditation from relevant industry bodies. NOWI is located in downtown New Bedford. The city’s port is home to two major marine terminals: the Foss Marine Terminal and the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which provide access to some of the best infrastructure in the country for assembling and deploying offshore wind turbines.

  • Lowell Community First Partnership

The Community First Partnership was created by the sponsors of Mass Save to increase participation in energy efficiency programs in environmental justice communities. Although the initial program design by Mass Save included funding for a part-time energy advocate, the city of Lowell strongly believed that to successfully engage the community, a full-time staff member would be needed. The City of Lowell hired this full-time Energy Advocate, Victor Vargas, in October 2022.

In addition to implementing traditional outreach strategies, such as community events and community-wide mailings, the city saw a need for deeper support to those who have not traditionally participated in energy efficiency or other energy-burden mitigating programs. They partially met this need through the creation of open office hours, which allow residents and local small businesses with energy challenges to receive one-on-one assistance, including interpretation support for Spanish speakers. At open office hours, residents can receive utility bill checkups to screen for other supportive services like the city’s Community Choice Aggregation program, utility discount rate program, and fuel assistance. Through the Community First Partnership, Lowell has also supported and partnered with community-based organizations and educational institutions to leverage their expertise to enhance program outcomes. In the first year, various outreach efforts through the Community First Partnership have resulted in 806 referrals to Mass Save, 102 to Community Choice Aggregation, 65 to National Grid’s discount rate program, and 33 to fuel Assistance. By offering comprehensive support and services to our community, Lowell is taking the first steps to provide for a more just and equitable energy transition.

  • Moran Square Redevelopment

Rees-Larkin Development’s Moran Square Apartments transform a former downtown fire station and the adjacent Harper Building, both dating back to the late 19th century, into 16 apartments. These historic structures are knitted together with a new five-story building on an adjacent parcel for a combined 44 units of new mixed-income housing. While meeting historic preservation standards, the project will reach “passive house” efficiency levels, reducing energy consumption by 50 percent. With rooftop solar, the building will produce zero net emissions. The project revitalizes a key section of downtown Fitchburg, creates much needed housing, and demonstrates that projects achieving the highest levels of energy efficiency are possible in Gateway Cities.

  • NewVue Communities Environmental Stewards Program

The Environmental Stewards program at NewVue has trained over 30 community residents as environmental stewards, bringing together environmentalists who have been active since the 1960s with a new generation of leaders. The Stewards have planted hundreds of trees in Leominster and Fitchburg through the Greening the Gateway Cities program. They’ve also secured a state grant for the Nashua River watershed, and created the North Central Climate Change Coalition, which has hosted public forums to bring the region together around local efforts to address climate change.

  • Western Massachusetts E-Contractor Academy

In partnership with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, the Emerald Cities Collaborative recently launched the Western Massachusetts E-Contractor Academy. The collaborative effort will provide minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) with training and technical assistance to help them access business opportunities in energy efficiency and clean energy projects funded by utility, state and federal investments. The academy connects MWBEs to professional services firms that can provide support with business capacity development, certification, and public procurement, aimed towards getting more MWBEs working on clean energy projects.

  • Worcester HEART Partnership

In January 2022, the Environmental and Climate Justice (E&CJ) Committee of the Worcester NAACP launched the Worcester HEART. Partnership to improve the health, safety, and energy efficiency of the city’s triple-deckers, while also creating employment opportunities for local residents in the building trades. In addition to the NAACP, HEART partner organizations include Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC), Sustainable Comfort, Resonant Energy, the Worcester Community Action Council, Mothers Out Front Worcester, Neighbor to Neighbor Worcester, and the Building Electrification Accelerator.

The Partnership’s first project was a feasibility study focused on six triple-deckers owned by MSCDC, examining the challenges of and opportunities for repairing, retrofitting, and electrifying Worcester’s historic triple-deckers. Partners inventoried energy conservation measures; analyzed the solar energy potential of the properties; conected with tenants; organized bilingual events; and examined the local workforce landscape, highlighting partnerships to build training and employment pipelines and on-ramps to prepare workers to retrofit old buildings and convert fossil-fueled heating systems to heat pump heating and cooling systems. In September 2023, they shared lessons learned at a community event that featured a display of 24 posters in Spanish and English and interactive installations prompting residents to tell their own housing stories. The posters were moved to City Hall, and the installations will be shared at community events co-organized with community partners.

1:55 PM

Closing Remarks & Call to Action

  • Joe Kriesberg | CEO, MassINC

2:00 PM

Optional Post-Event Tour to the Fitchburg Arts Community Project (transportation provided)


Please consider making a donation. The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards and Summit brings together the Gateway Cities community to mark our achievements and recommit to the promise and potential of the year ahead.

Support like yours sustains MassINC’s continued investment in Gateway Cities and keeps the focus on the issues that matter most to their futures. While registration for the event is free, your generosity is deeply appreciated!


Fitchburg State University Recreation Center
130 North St
Fitchburg, MA 01420 United States