By Mark E. Vogler, April 15, 2010. HAVERHILL — Gov. Deval Patrick singled out businessman Salvatore Lupoli as “a powerful force” who is helping his administration achieve its main goal of creating new jobs.

“He’s been a wonderful partner of ours,” Patrick said in an interview last night after helping the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce honor Lupoli during its annual dinner.

Lupoli, president of Riverwalk Properties and Salvatore’s restaurant, received this year’s Ralph B. Wilkinson Good Citizenship Award during a banquet that drew more than 500 people at DiBurro’s Function Hall.

“What he’s done on the Riverwalk has had such a positive impact on the area. He’s a shrewd businessman and he has a great outlook for Lawrence,” the governor said.

The chamber has given the Wilkinson Award annually since 1954, recognizing people who have made significant contributions to the lives of Merrimack Valley residents.

“No one has had as much success in developing the great mills as this individual,” said Attorney George Stella — last year’s Wilkinson Award recipient — in introducing Lupoli.

When Lupoli bought the Riverwalk Properties in May 2003, the complex housed less than 35 businesses that accounted for fewer than 300 jobs.

By the end of 2007, Riverwalk Properties had more than 200 companies as tenants with more than 2,000 people working. The second phase of the Riverwalk involves the development of 1.5 million square feet.

Completion of the latest Riverwalk project will boost the occupancy of the complex to 3 million square feet, providing jobs to 4,500 people, Stella noted.

“He is the Donald Trump of the pizza business,” Stella said, referring to Lupoli’s best known position as leader of a company that has become the largest manufacturer of fresh pizza in New England.

Lupoli called receiving the award “an honor,” but insisted he gets too much credit for the hard work of his parents, Jeanette and the late Nicholas Lupoli, and his six brothers.

“It’s really a family operation,” Lupoli said. “I am who I am as the result of my family,” he said.

Lupoli said he took great satisfaction in converting “economic blight into economic revitalization” while creating 2,000 jobs.

“I hope to create thousands of jobs to come,” Lupoli told the crowd.

After receiving the award, Lupoli dedicated it to his late father, “my late older brother James and “the late, great Judge Stella.”

Michael T. Stella Jr., who served more than a decade as a Lawrence District Court judge, died in February after losing a battle to cancer. He received the Wilkinson Award in 1998 and was the younger brother of George Stella.

During his speech last night, the governor offered rave reviews for the Merrimack Valley economic front.

“It’s clear for me the Merrimack Valley is headed for a great future,” Patrick told the crowd.

In particular, he praised the work of Nexamp Inc., a North Andover company that landed the largest solar installation contract the state has ever awarded, a $20-million deal to put up solar panels at 12 municipal water and sewer treatment plants around the state.

This will mean 100 new jobs this year and more in future years, the governor said. At last night’s dinner, the chamber also awarded its Community Spirit Award to Joan Stygles Hull of Merrimack Valley Hospice for more than three decades of Home Health and Hospice Care administration.

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