As a lifelong Worcester resident, John Merrill is buoyant about the scope of the city’s recent economic revitalization.
“In my whole lifetime, I have never seen as much momentum as there is now,” said Merrill, the 55-year-old president of Fidelity Bank in Leominster.
Merrill has played a major role pushing those redevelopment efforts forward.
As vice chair of the Worcester Business Development Corp., Merrill brought together six community banks that provided $14 million in senior debt financing toward the redevelopment of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette building. In January, Quinsigamond Community College signed a 10-year lease at the building, with nearly 2,000 students arriving this fall.
“With all of its colleges, downtown Worcester should have a real college town feel to it, but it really doesn’t,” Merrill said. “But that’s starting to change.”
The community bank financing was a key piece of the puzzle for the $37-million project, which also received new market tax credits and a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The financing was very complicated and I was able to put together a group of community banks that had a vested interest in the development of the downtown,” Merrill said.
As treasurer of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Merrill helped recruit former Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray to take over as CEO in May 2013. Murray’s political clout has raised the chamber’s profile, Merrill said.
“Tim has the resources to be the point person for recruiting businesses to the area and retaining businesses, working with the colleges and being a very strong advocate for our existing companies,” he said.
A Westfield State University graduate, Merrill began his career with Shawmut Bank before becoming regional president for Fleet Bank in 1990. For a decade, he was Fleet’s senior officer in central Massachusetts, overseeing community and charitable efforts and managing a half-billion-dollar commercial loan portfolio. In 2002, Merrill joined Sovereign Bank as commercial market president and eventually was named an executive vice president overseeing Sovereign’s business banking operations from Maryland to New Hampshire.
Merrill joined Leominster-based Fidelity Bank in 2010. As president and chief operating officer, he oversees all customer-facing business lines. Since then, the bank’s commercial loan portfolio has grown by 45 percent.
Merrill’s community involvement includes work with the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, Worcester Regional Municipal Reserve Board and Saint Vincent Hospital Board of Trustees.
In 2007, Merrill was recognized for his contributions to the Worcester community as the recipient of the Aubrey Reid Award for distinguished community leadership.