Engaging Greater Boston in the state’s strategies for economic development

By Karyn Polito and Mike Kennealy

Massachusetts’s economy is firing on all cylinders. While the commonwealth has always been an economic force, recent years have brought unprecedented success. Our state’s longstanding strength in education has helped create a vibrant ecosystem for high tech industries, where pioneering companies and world class universities drive innovation and create fulfilling and well-paying jobs.

The Massachusetts workforce remains among the most skilled in the nation, preparing Bay Staters to sustain the upward trajectory in the jobs of today and tomorrow. With more than 190,000 jobs added in the last four years, more people are working in Massachusetts than ever before and unemployment is below three percent for the first time since 2000.

The economy is booming and cutting-edge companies continue to approach the Baker-Polito administration about expanding in the commonwealth, hoping to share in our abundance of talent and opportunity.

However, despite this recent success, our administration recognizes that not all residents have shared in the benefits equally. Since taking office, we have been committed to extending economic opportunities from the Berkshires to the Cape, and we look forward to building on these continued efforts in our second term, beginning with statewide regional economic development engagement sessions that launched last week and will continue next week in Boston.

Gov. Charlie Baker often talks about “doing more of what works,” and this has been a guiding principle in our efforts to spur development across the commonwealth. One of these tools getting the job done is the aptly named MassWorks program, which awards grants to municipalities for infrastructure projects that support housing and job growth. The program’s flexibility, reliance on collaboration with local leaders, and effectiveness in combining vital improvements with stimulating development exemplify our efforts to get the most out of government.

The flexibility of tools like MassWorks has allowed our administration to respond promptly to community needs and opportunities. Our administration has been proud to award over $27 million in MassWorks funding to communities throughout Boston since 2015 to support projects that enable continued growth in our capital city.

In Dorchester, the administration made a $1.2 million infrastructure award that enabled the redevelopment of South Bay Shopping Center, leveraging $200 million in private investment to build 475 housing units and 130,000 square feet of restaurant, retail, and commercial space.

In April of this year, Gov. Baker announced $6.5 million for three Boston projects, including $2.25 million for infrastructure upgrades that support Indigo Block, a transit-oriented development that will create 80 affordable units and 9 market rate condos near the Uphams Corner Station on the Fairmount/Indigo line. The award will also help link existing neighborhoods with additional sidewalks and paving.

Since 2015, we have awarded $357 million to 176 shovel-ready projects in 129 communities, improved crumbling infrastructure, and delivered over 29,000 jobs, 11,000 housing units, and 2 million square feet of commercial and retail space.

And with the 2019 MassWorks grant round now open, we look forward to reviewing proposals for high impact projects that will continue to transform communities across the Commonwealth.

While our administration is proud of the work we have done to strengthen and grow our economy, we are also constantly seeking new ideas and input. In 2015, we kicked off a series of regional listening sessions, where local leaders shared concerns and solutions that were critical to our first economic development plan. We engaged 67 lawmakers, more than 100 municipal leaders and 1,000 stakeholders at 14 public sessions across the state, resulting in the ‘Opportunities for All’ plan that laid the groundwork for the progress made during our first term to promote economic growth and equity statewide.

Now in our second term, we will build on that foundation with a new economic development blueprint, guided by a robust and inclusive process. The governor recently announced the new Economic Development Planning Council, which will provide input and oversight in the process. The council is made up of leaders from across the state who will lend their expertise, voices, and time to the process. This is an accomplished and diverse group of leaders, and we are proud to serve as co-chairs of this council.

We are embarking on in-depth regional engagement sessions to connect with residents, businesses, and community leaders on what is working and how we can enhance our partnership in key areas that will support continued local economic growth.

Last week we held one of these sessions at Roxbury Community College with more than 100 residents from throughout Greater Boston who are committing their talent and time to this effort.

The people of Massachusetts have a long, proud history of innovation, and this administration has always believed in empowering communities to lead the way forward with our support. We look forward to meeting and learning from you as we develop an inclusive economic agenda for our second term, and we are eager to roll up our sleeves and continue to partner with local leaders to take our commonwealth to greater heights.
Session information: 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Tues., May 28, Roxbury Community College, Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont St, Roxbury Crossing.

Karyn Polito is Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Mike Kennealy is the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.