Secretary Hao Meets with Gateway City Leaders

The Gateway Cities Journal

Last week, MassINC hosted a wide-ranging virtual conversation with Yvonne Hao, the Secretary of Economic Development, together with mayors and senior staff from Gateway Cities across the state. Given the critical importance of sustaining the very positive collaborative working relationship that Gateway City leaders established with the Patrick Administration and built upon through the Baker Administration, we felt it would be helpful to share shorthand notes from this discussion with all our readers.

General Approach to Economic Development:

Secretary Hao explained the reorganization of the Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED) into three “pillars”:

  • Economic Foundations, led by Undersecretary Ashley Stolba
  • Economic Strategies, led by Undersecretary Sarah Stanton
  • Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, led by Undersecretary Layla D’Emilia

Early Victories:

  • Focused in the short term on modernizing the agency’s technology systems and making programs more accessible to small businesses, especially family-owned businesses and those for whom English may not be a first language;
  • Launched MassTalent to connect employers with job seekers in the middle-skills groups (such as high school diploma but no college degree);
  • Hired new full-time staff to focus on small family-run businesses, as well as on agriculture;
  • Completed the administration’s first One Stop for Growth application round and is collecting feedback to improve the process for municipalities; and
  • Continued the interagency group started under Gov. Baker (i.e. the “Get Stuff Done” meeting) to focus on large complicated projects and foster interagency collaboration—a passion of Lt. Governor Driscoll’s given her experience as a mayor in Salem.

Goals for Gateway Cities:

  • Wants to make sure that many of the companies based in the Boston/Cambridge/128 belt target other regions of the state for expansions and manufacturing jobs, especially Gateway Cities. Sectors of opportunity include: biomanufacturing; advanced manufacturing like defense and aerospace; healthcare; and climate technology.
  • Aims to make it easier to get into the trades and start a trades-based business.
  • Agrees that other states have been more aggressive about marketing key underutilized properties for redevelopment and that Massachusetts can do more. This should be coordinated through the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) since they are in touch with businesses looking to expand and they can quarterback communications with other agencies, such as MassDevelopment, Mass Growth Capital, and the Mass Clean Energy Center.

Gateway City Priorities:

MassINC staff presented two issues identified as high priorities by economic development leaders and officials in Gateway Cities.

  1. “Downtown Vitality Fund”: This proposal, filed in a bill by the Gateway City Legislative Caucus, would dedicate 5% of online sales tax revenue to strengthen local commercial areas through state matching grants to new district management entities as well as sustaining existing ones. District management entities include business improvement districts (BIDs), cultural districts, or other local economic development partnerships.
  2. “Future-Forward Parking Structures”: About 40% of downtowns in Gateway Cities continue to be dedicated to automobile use, mostly surface parking. Municipalities want to consolidate parking to create more infill development and support the growth of vibrant, walkable downtowns. They also want to make EV infrastructure accessible to their residents. Garages are expensive to build; cities need a state partner to support this transformation.

The Secretary expressed an interest in further discussing both ideas and indicated her willingness to have regular conversations with the Gateway City officials and economic development leaders. In the near-term, there will be many opportunities for local leaders to continue the discussion with Sec. Hao as she hosts listening sessions across the state, seeking out ideas for the administration’s quadrennial economic development plan.


The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute strengthens connections across communities and helps Gateway City leaders advance a shared policy agenda. Click here to sign up for the biweekly Gateway Cities Journal to receive updates on current policy issues impacting Gateway Cities across the state.

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