The Gateway Cities Journal
News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities


Another Watershed Moment


Gov. Patrick and other state leaders were on the West Coast this week, courting biotech companies at the industry's annual trade convention, when they had to turn their attention back home to fend off the Pioneer Institute's critique of the administration's Life Sciences Initiative. The study Pioneer released on Monday concluded the initiative has produced less than 1,500 net new jobs-1,000 fewer than a recent Northeastern report had estimated.


Pointing out this discrepancy-which likely stems from Northeastern using job estimates running only through 2011-seems fair. But Pioneer's major recommendation, creating a new Super R&D Tax Credit, looks a bit out of sync.


While the kind of tax credit Pioneer proposes would certainly increase R&D expenditures in the Commonwealth, there is no reason to believe it would make for smart economic development spending. States that put R&D tax credits in place with the intention of fueling job growth by drawing employers from other states end up paying a hefty price per job, especially when the credit is inefficiently structured to broadly benefit all industries, regardless of the state's competitive strengths. Pioneer's proposal would likely lead to further erosion of our corporate tax base, which has steadily declined as more and more tax breaks have been introduced.


If we held the Life Sciences Initiative to a similar cost-benefit standard, the result so far wouldn't look too strong. But it's early days to calculate return on investment. What we can say is that by design the Life Science Initiative looks like model economic development policy with the potential to be a watershed moment for the industry. Rather than betting on winners and losers, it supports a large growing cluster where the Commonwealth has clear competitive strengths.


In advocating for a Gateway City Transformative Development program, we have often held up the Life Sciences Initiative as an example of how the state should structure economic development spending to get maximum impact from limited resources.


The initiative signaled that the state is committed to the long-term growth of the industry. A transformative development fund would send a similar message to developers: that the state is serious about driving private investment into Gateway Cities to spur regional economic development. The life sciences bill created the Life Sciences Center and endowed it with a variety of tools, which gives the center flexibility to address needs that private companies competing in the sector can't solve independently. In the Transformative Development version, MassDevelopment would play this role, marrying capital in the new fund with its current resources and capacity.


With the economic development bill the Senate released today, Transformative Development moves one step closer to becoming actual state policy. While the resources the bill provides are modest in contrast to the Life Sciences Initiative, it's absolutely the right approach. The defining question for the future of our Gateway Cities will be, did the state use its dollars wisely? With the policy being made this summer, my prediction is that two decades from now we will be able to look back at this legislation as another watershed moment.


Benjamin Forman





The Fall River Herald News editorializes in favor of a Gateway City transformative development fund.


After nearly a decade of delay, rumors are again swirling around a skybridge project in Worcester's DCU Finance District.


New Bedford plans to use new technology to help revive the Port of New Bedford and create a sustainable and thriving fishing port. The Globe marks the arrival of the schooner Charles Morgan with a look at progress New Bedford has made downtown and future prospects for the port.


Three years after the Watuppa Heights housing project was demolished in Fall River, city leaders seek to establish a new redevelopment plan.


Holyoke receives a new "Greening the Gateway Cities" grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and the Environment to improve the downtown streetscape.


The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded Fall River a series of grants that will help provide housing and workforce training as the community continues to grow. Salem also benefited from HUD grants, receiving just under $2 million to help fund housing, healthcare, and development needs.


The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission will begin to implement an economic development plan to encourage smart growth around the new Wachusett commuter rail station in Fitchburg, which is expected to be completed next year.




Bristol Community College highlights the strengths of public higher education to high school students as part of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education's "Go Public" campaign.


Quinsigamond Community College makes an investment to open a new Healthcare and Workforce Development Training Center in order to help advance their health and science curriculums.


Chelsea Public Schools have seen a rise in the number of immigrant students in their schools over the past six months, causing added pressures on school leaders to accommodate the influx.




Salem became one of 25 municipalities nationwide to be awarded a perfect score on a 2014 equality index for LGBT-inclusivity.  Mayor Driscoll has put a strong emphasis on making Salem a more inclusive community over the past year. 




Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno reacts to the Supreme Judicial Court's decision to allow the 2011 Casino Law to appear on the fall ballot, leaving its fate in the hands of the voters.


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission holds a public hearing at Revere High School on Mogehan Sun's bid to build a casino at Suffolk Downs.




In a new study, Alan Mallach writes about the economic consequences of increasing income polarization in older industrial cities.


Buffalo becomes the latest city to move toward a form-based code.


Governing offers a portrait of economic gardeners.


SSTI blogs about how states are trying to take advantage of the resurgence of domestic manufacturing.



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