Aim High for Inclusive Growth, Brew a Stone Soup Strategy, Swing for the Fences in the Next Legislative Session

Recapping the 2018 Gateway Cities Innovation Awards & Summit

Last week, leaders from throughout the Commonwealth gathered in New Bedford at the Whaling Museum for the Sixth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards & Summit. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito opened the proceedings with an address celebrating the progress of the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities continued importance of collaboration to meeting the unique needs and opportunities of our regional cities. New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell followed, proudly highlighting our host city’s many accomplishments, but noting with urgency the work that remains to secure his city’s future.

Alan Berube, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, delivered the summit’s keynote. His presentation focused on the important role older cities continue to play in the US economy, and how the prospects for inclusive growth are tied to the fate of these industrial centers.

Two panels responded to Alan’s address. Mass Economics Founding Principal Teresa Lynch led the first conversation, which focused on the strategies Gateway Cities deploy to generate inclusive growth. Fall River native Chris Rezendes, Managing Director of Spherical/Analytics, described how Gateway Cities can find a niche in an innovation economy that’s based on not being Boston or San Francisco. Rather, these economies comprise real people and businesses, where new products and services can be developed in environments (like marine industries) where they’ll actually be used. Derek Santos, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, described how the city has collaboratively developed a vision and persisted in the pursuit of that vision through the ups and downs of business cycles. The key to success, he noted, is not being afraid to try and fail, so long as your approach is consistent with a larger strategy. Lauren Liss, President and CEO of MassDevelopment discussed how her agency is helping communities craft economic development plans with the Transformative Development Initiative.

The second panel got down into the weeds with a discussion, led by MassINC’s own Aimee Ward Weeden, on how communities can implement strategies with limited resources. Getting into the most compelling takeaway of Berube’s address—that the older industrial cities generating inclusive growth are those with the most effective public higher education and workforce development systems — the conversation mostly centered around efforts to develop a pipeline of skilled workers.

Ira Moskowitz, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Programs at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), noted the unique opportunity his agency has to support these efforts through the M2I2 initiative. Laura Douglas, President of Bristol Community College, called for a “stone soup” approach; with advanced industries requiring expensive training facilities and instructors with unique skills, government at the federal, state, and local level must step up and join the private sector to pool the resources needed to prepare workers for new careers. Dr. Andrea Wagner, Senior Vice President of Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, emphasized how acute this need is from the private sector’s perspective.

Over lunch, Dr. Robert Johnson, Chancellor of UMass Dartmouth, revisited this theme with a rallying call to all of the assembled Gateway City leaders. He urged them to “rise up” to meet these challenges. Dr. Johnson’s remarks set the stage for honoring two fearless Gateway City leaders who have demonstrated how meet the challenges head on: Rep. Antonio Cabral, founder of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus, and Anne Haynes, the Commonwealth’s first Director of Transformative Development.

Ben Forman, Director of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, spoke briefly about plans for the upcoming legislative session, including unique opportunities to grow Gateway City economies through Transit-Oriented Development and major improvements to commuter rail service. He also drew attention to the upcoming debate over Chapter 70 K-12 education funding, and how critical it is for the state to meet its obligation to support low-income students and ensure that additional resources spawn innovations that improve learning and instruction in our inclusive urban districts.

With all the speeches out of the way, we finally got down to the business at hand: the presentation of the 2018 Gateway Cities Innovation Awards to Kinefac Corporation, Lawrence High School, Merrow Manufacturing, New Bedford Regeneration Project, ROOT, SouthCoast Development Partnership, SPARK/EforAll Holyoke, Spherical/Analytics, and Springfield Technical Community College.

To see photos from the event, click here.

Thank you to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for helping us host the event at their beautiful facility, and all of our event sponsors for their continued support!

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