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Launching a Renewed Focus on Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities
Above: Launch of the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts State House
Social and economic disparities continue to plague Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities. These cities, once vibrant urban economic centers, have fallen victim to the decline in traditional manufacturing and erosion of blue-collar jobs.
Now, 15% of the Commonwealth’s population (1 million people) call Gateway Cities home—and yet, these cities account for 30% of Massachusetts residents living in poverty, 22% of the state’s immigrants, 50% of the state’s incarcerated youth, and 71% of the students attending failing schools.
But Gateway Cities have long histories, diverse populations, and significant assets that can be retooled for future prosperity.
That’s why today, MassINC launched the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. “Gateway Cities are working hard to reinvent themselves amidst a shifting economy that has left them behind,” said Greg Torres, President of MassINC, a Massachusetts-based nonpartisan think-tank. “The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute provides the focus, resources and network-building capacity needed to give lift to the transformation these cities are undertaking.”
ICIC is proud to be one of the first members to sign on to the Innovation Institute. Gateway Cities are, by their very nature, inner city economies (defined by a poverty rate of 20% or higher).
MassINC will house the research and policy of the Innovation Institute while Gateway City “fellows” will be on the ground collaborating with business, civic and academic leaders to find practical solutions for reinvigorating these economies.
There was clearly enthusiasm from the 100+ leaders at today’s launch. It was a who’s who of the state’s public policy community—from Lt. Governor Tim Murray and State Treasurer Steven Grossman to State Senator Ben Downing (Pittsfield) and Mayor Lisa Wong (Fitchburg)—all Gateway Cities representatives.
Lt. Governor Murray explained that we need to change the perception of Gateway Cities; we need to do a better job showcasing the success stories in these communities to the Boston media to highlight that these are cities of opportunity. Senator Downing reiterated this by saying that one of the primary tasks of the Innovation Institute will be an optimistic convener, bringing together great minds to discuss the strategies and tools needed to revitalize these cities.
New Bedford Mayor Jonathan Mitchell highlighted the assets in Gateway Cities. Massachusetts’ eleven Gateway Cities have 21 colleges and universities and 29 hospitals, for instance. With a little assistance, investment and guidance from the state, Mayor Mitchell stressed that private investment will follow.
The leaders at today’s launch made it clear that the growing divide between the Boston region and its Gateway Cities holds back growth of the entire Commonwealth, not just those living in the Gateway Cities. Today launched a new era in addressing this disparity, of which ICIC is excited to be a part.
Much needed initiative and it is great to see that ICIC has quickly joined to support it. Lack of capacity has always been a formible challenge for the state’s Gateway cities both technical expertise and resources to address challenges and promote opportunities to carry out sustainable strategies for sustained growth. Hopefully, this effort can become a model fo success in promoting alliances and partnerships among cities with common needs and promise.
By John R. Zakian, CEcD on 11/05/2012
BY Amanda Maher on October 17th, 2012
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