Friday, May 17, 2002
Economic Development Forum looks at area's growth and future
Almost half of the state's population is contained in the greater Boston area, with growth and development rates soaring in the Route 495 and west sector, where population grew 11 percent between the last two census dates and only five percent in the state as a whole. A substantial group of state officials, community selectmen, planners and representatives of the business community met to consider the economic effects and characteristics of this growth on May 9 at an Economic Development Forum, co-sponsored by MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) and the MetroWest subdistricts of the greater Boston area. The meeting was held at Clock Tower Place in Maynard, itself a bubbling example of successful collaboration between local government and the local business community.
Jack Troast, director of policy for the state department of economic development (and soon-to-be a Carlisle resident), one of the forum's main speakers, talked about the economic factors driving the region's prosperity and growth. One factor is an increasing reliance on "knowledge workers," persons with advanced education, skills and training. Another is the development of industrial clusters that rely on networked entrepreneurship, such as bio-tech and info-tech industries. Global trade and commercial opportunities have been enhanced by the rapid assimilation of Internet marketing. Another factor in the economic development of the region has been the growing importance of "place;" also a consequence of Internet usage. When people can pick and choose where they live and work, and when they can often work from home, the character of the place where they work is more important.
Housing and public
Peter Abair, associate director of the department of housing and community development, addressed the number of ways in which the state tries to assist community development. Executive Order 418 makes planning grants of up to $30,000 available for community planning; the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative and Urban Renewal programs also provide funds for development. Community development corporations offer block grants for development, as they did in Chelsea and in Pittsfield, which had a shortage of downtown office space. Funds were provided to restore an old 5&10 building and convert it to office space.
Business looks at growth
The president and CEO of the Assabet Valley Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Cressy, stressed the need for high-speed Internet capability as a factor in supporting new businesses, as did several other speakers. A need for qualified employees with skills and knowledge to do high-tech jobs was another important factor in economic development. Her advice to the MAGIC and MetroWest group was: "Don't forget to include the business community in the dialogue" about economic development. The economic development director of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce Lynn Sand said 85% of job growth will come from existing businesses in the community, so that using existing resources rather than seeking to attract new business is more apt to pay off.
The final speaker at the forum was Ashland Selectman David Teller, who spoke of converting an old superfund site into the town's Transit Village district, a 200-acre parcel behind the Town Hall, 30 acres of which had to be cleaned up because they were contaminated. Their T station was put on a capped, brown field. The project was done in phases. For a cost to the town of $43,250, the town predicts a $2,000,000 return. Teller said his town faces many of the same challenges as other towns in the MAGIC circle: they are expecting 900 new students over the next few years, with three new additions to the schools projected, and there is no place to put them.
Carlisle was represented at the meeting by Tom Lane of the planning board.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito