Greater Lowell

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Greater Lowell is the name given to the city of Lowell, Massachusetts and its suburbs, mostly in Northern Middlesex County, Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley.

The neighboring towns of Dracut, Tewksbury, Billerica, Chelmsford, and Tyngsborough, Massachusetts are invariably included in the definition of Greater Lowell. For example, the Lowell Regional Transit Authority provides public bus service throughout this area.

For other purposes the towns of Dunstable, Westford, Groton, Pepperell, Carlisle, and Wilmington in Massachusetts, together with Pelham, and Southern Hudson in New Hampshire, may also be included in Greater Lowell.

The New England city and town area Division Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford consists of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Westford, and Pelham.[1] Using this definition, in 2011, Lowell was ranked the sixth "Geekiest" city in America, according to Forbes magazine.[2]

The region has a population of 250,000 to 520,000 residents based on 2006 and 2007 census estimates, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of towns. In the core towns colored dark blue and red the population is 250,643. If the light blue towns are included as well, the total becomes 361,577. If you were to also include towns in the Lowell Sun circulation area not included already (Acton, Andover, Ayer, Bedford, Burlington, Concord, Harvard, Littleton, Shirley, Townsend, and Windham, NH), the total population of the area becomes 518,470 slightly over 100,000 of which live in the city of Lowell itself.

Suburban sprawl and serious economic hardships have reduced the role Lowell plays in its suburbs over the decades. The entire region is often considered a component of the much larger Greater Boston area, as Lowell is only 25 miles from downtown Boston. Suburban office parks, shopping malls, and the severe decline of heavy industry in New England have pulled the economic focus away from the once great industrial and commercial base in Lowell itself. Additionally, the population of Lowell is what it was in 1900, although the suburban population is now much higher.

While Lowell may not be the economic center it once was, Lowell is still a cultural and institutional center for the region. It is home to, for example, the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell and the Lowell National Historical Park, which preserves the region's legacy as an early textile manufacturing center. The University of Massachusetts Lowell and a campus of Middlesex Community College are located in the city as well, as are Lowell General Hospital and Saints Medical Center, the regional hospitals.

Lowell is home to both the Superior and a District Court for Northern Middlesex County and is technically a county seat, although Massachusetts counties are largely historical in function. Culturally, many residents of Greater Lowell have deep roots in the city itself, tend to be more blue collar, and speak with an urban Boston accent. Politically, Greater Lowell is notably one of the more conservative regions of the Commonwealth, credited to the region's strong resistance to taxes.[3][4]


Unemployment rate of Greater Lowell (blue) compared to that of Massachusetts (red) from 1990 through 2011. Note that the data for Massachusetts is seasonally adjusted, while that for Greater Lowell is not; that is why the former line is smoother than the latter.
Employment by sector in Greater Lowell in 2010

The economy of Greater Lowell is closely tied to that of Greater Boston. Outside of the services, health, and retail sectors, major employers are in high technology and defense, with a still-shrinking manufacturing sector.

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