Building Back Better on Main Street

Gateway Cities Journal

Building Back Better on Main Street

Building Back Better on Main Street

Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, the three largest downtowns in the state, all have a Business Improvement District (BID), where property owners finance operations dedicated to beautifying and activating the streets, marketing and assisting local businesses, and expanding their customer base.

Unfortunately, most Gateway City business districts, especially those serving communities of color, don’t have anywhere near this kind of revenue-generating capacity, which is why most lack district management organizations. With modest public matching funds from the state, far more communities could marshal the resources required to launch and sustain these entities. In November, the legislature heard testimony on a bill filed by Sen. Eric Lesser and Rep. Antonio Cabral that provides a creative mechanism to do just that.

505/S. 270 devotes a small portion of sales tax revenue collected when people make purchases online to district improvement organizations. This provision is part of a larger bill intended to help entrepreneurs of color start and grow companies in Massachusetts.

Unprecedented efforts to connect people of color with much-needed capital and business advisory services have created new opportunities for Gateway City businesses and they have responded, starting a rich array of new enterprises. These local companies represent vibrant green shoots for a strong and equitable recovery in regions across the state.

Those working to further this momentum received some good news this week. The legislature’s final ARPA spending bill increases small business development funding to $75 million, significantly more than the $50 million in the Senate bill and higher even than the $60 million allocation in the House version. Creating a sustainable funding mechanism for organizations that can play vital roles in strengthening commercial areas for the long-term is exactly the kind of forward-thinking policy needed to leverage one-time APRA investments in small business development.

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