Other Participants


The Holyoke SPARK Initiative

Holyoke received a $250,000 three-year implementation award for its SPARK (Stimulating Potential, Accessing Resource Knowledge) Initiative which aims to link the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center and Holyoke’s innovation economy strategy to its residents; namely, the city’s Latino population. The initiative is being led by the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation, and is further supported by partners across multiple sectors within the public, private, and nonprofit realm.

The SPARK initiative will develop a system that supports immigrant entrepreneurs by coordinating a pipeline for entrepreneurs and streamlining an existing “grab bag” of economic development services. The initiative seeks to raise the percentage of Latino-owned businesses from its current 9 percent share to at least 25 percent in 10 years.

map of massachusetts showing holyoke


Initiative Partners

City of Holyoke, the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council,
Juntos Collaborative, the Holyoke Innovation District, CareerPoint,
and Holyoke Public Library

Learn about Holyoke

A 57-foot drop in the Connecticut River was the source of Holyoke's initial prosperity. An investor group that had developed the water-powered mills of Lowell during the 1830s sought to replicate their success by constructing a dam and a series of canals on the Connecticut River in the 1840s. The inexpensive energy from that project eventually powered the paper mills and factories that helped Holyoke to thrive for more than a century thereafter and gave the city its "Paper City" nickname. During the second half of the 20th century, the paper mills and many other manufacturing facilities moved elsewhere or closed their gates altogether.

photo of holyoke

Census data show that the city's population peaked at 60,203 and declined more or less steadily to 39,880 in 2010. The 2010 census shows:

Holyoke MA
Persons under 18 years 26.4% 21.7%
Persons 65 years and over 14.2% 13.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.8% 0.3%
Asian alone 1.1% 5.3%
Black or African-American alone 4.7% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 48.4% 9.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1% 0.0%
Two or more races 3.9% 2.6%
White alone 66.0% 80.4%
White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) 46.8% 76.1%

“Holyoke, a manufacturing city lying between the Connecticut River and Mount Tom, is built around the numerous power canals that cut across the city. Entered from the north, it is modern, well-groomed, and prosperous. … The manufacturing center, lying along the power canals, has been unusually active during the depression. The absence of drab slum quarters usually associated with mills towns is notable.”

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

photo of holyokephoto of holyokephoto of holyoke

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011, 5.4% of Holyoke residents are foreign-born, compared with 14.7% statewide.

  • 4.4% born in Africa,
  • 14.9% born in Asia,
  • 42.1% born in Europe,
  • 31.2% born in Latin America,
  • 7.4% born in Northern America
  • 0.0% born in Oceania

People of Latino or Hispanic ancestry make up 48.4% of the city’s overall population, and more than 20% of the city’s residents are American citizens born in Puerto Rico.

The American Community Survey also shows that:

  • The homeownership rate is 41.0%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • Holyoke’s median home value is $189,400, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Median household income is $33,915, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 74.4% of Holyoke residents 25 and over have graduated high school, compared with 88.9% statewide.
  • 16.1% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • Holyoke has the largest per capita settlement of Puerto Ricans in the United States outside the Island of Puerto Rico.
  • 31.3% of Holyoke residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of holyoke

Compare a range of demographic data for Holyoke’s low- and moderate-income populations. 
Use the tool

in-depth data dashboard pdfs

Check out detailed stats on income, employment, education, health, and more provided by Clark University researchers for the Working Cities Challenge.

photo of holyoke

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, as of June 2013, 11.7% of Holyoke residents were unemployed, compared with 7.4% statewide. Clark University researchers report that Holyoke’s five largest employers are:

  • City of Holyoke
  • Holyoke Medical Center, Inc.
  • Sisters of Providence Care Centers, Inc.
  • ISO New England, Inc.
  • Holyoke Community College

There are a number of promising economic and community development initiatives that are either in the works or recently completed:

  • The waterpower resource that once ran the machinery in Holyoke’s paper mills has helped the city attract the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. The center is operated by “five of the most research-intensive universities in Massachusetts”—Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts—in partnership with Cisco, EMC, and state government.
  • “Connect, Construct, Create” is the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority’s plan for revitalizing the city’s core “by capitalizing on the City’s unique characteristics, connecting people and places; constructing public infrastructure and a diverse stock of commercial, residential and industrial buildings; and creating a more vibrant and prosperous Center City.” A key component is the Canalwalk proposal, which “will serve as a new pedestrian and bicycle transportation network. The project will connect major attractions within the City’s Arts & Innovation District.
  • Restoration of passenger rail service is underway, and Amtrak trains are scheduled to begin serving Holyoke in 2014. A new station in downtown Holyoke is part of the project.
  • A $14.5 million expansion and renovation of the Holyoke Public Library is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.
  • Veteran’s Park in downtown Holyoke is undergoing a $1.4 million facelift, with money made available through “Gateway Cities” funding.
  • Holyoke Community College continues to serve as a valuable resource, providing education and training to thousands of area residents.