The Seventh Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Summit and Awards

The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Summit & Awards—held each year between the November elections and the Thanksgiving holiday—has become a tradition for those who believe wholeheartedly in the power of our small to midsize regional cities. On November 20th, we returned to the DCU Center in Worcester for the seventh annual event.

Our morning summit began with a call to action from Christopher Coes, Smart Growth America’s Vice President of Land Use and Development (watch here). His interactive presentation touched on major transportation challenges communities throughout the country face and strategies to address them with transit-oriented development (TOD).

To unpack these ideas further, Dr. Tracy Corley, MassINC’s TOD Fellow, led three panel conversations. The first focused on mobility (watch here). Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Executive Director of the 128 Business Council and a MassDOT board member, described how communities can create better access to public transit through partnerships. Steve Kadish, chair of the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, talked about the long-term challenges Massachusetts faces and efforts to respond with urgency today. Matt Ciborowski, Senior Planner at Arup, stressed the need to instill youth with a deeper understanding of mobility and what it means for the communities we create.

The second panel took on the issue of development (watch here). Wendy Estrella, a private developer and real estate attorney from Lawrence, emphasized the ways in which small, local developers with personal connections to communities can do TOD in a more inclusive and equitable manner. BlueHub Capital’s Michelle Volpe described the need to provide developers working on complex TOD projects with a variety of financial tools. Mickey Northcutt, CEO of North Shore Community Development Coalition, shared the creative ways they’ve approached TOD in Salem’s El Punto neighborhood.

The morning summit wrapped up with a conversation about how mobility and development generate growth (watch here). LISC Boston’s Executive Director Karen Kelleher described a range of strategies to provide low- and moderate-income residents with more economic opportunity through TOD. Himanshu Bhatnagar, CEO of HB Software Solutions talked about the latent entrepreneurial energy in Gateway Cities, describing how he built a business of intelligent transportation systems that helped grow 400 small businesses. Ramón Borges-Méndez, a Clark University Professor, pointed to the struggles many traditional economic development strategies have had delivering benefits to underrepresented Gateway City residents.

After a lively Q&A session (watch here), attendees moved over to the ballroom for the awards luncheon. Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities gave a dynamic keynote address, highlighting the benefits of good TOD with examples from around the globe. He urged us to develop cities that work for children at age 8 and adults at age 80. By designing to this standard, we will have healthy communities where everyone can thrive.

The luncheon continued with the awards presentation, beginning with the new Mayor Bill Carpenter Award for Excellence in Gateway City Leadership. We screened a short video (watch here) recognizing the beloved Brockton mayor’s many contributions to his city and the Gateway Cities cause writ-large.

Senator Harriette Chandler (watch here) and Trinity Financial each received the Champion Award for their work on behalf of Gateway Cities statewide. Ten individuals and organizations were presented with the Gateway City Innovation Award for efforts in their home communities. They included Brockton’s Rob May, Fall River’s Alexandra’s Boutique, Fitchburg’s Tricia Pistone, New Bedford’s Love the Ave, Lawrence’s El Taller, Lowell’s Himanshu Bhatnagar, Salem’s North Shore Community Development Coalition, Springfield’s Valley Venture Mentors, and Worcester’s IGWorcesterMA and Davis Publications.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made the seventh annual event one of our most memorable. We extend a special thank you to the speakers and presenters, and all of the corporate sponsors for their invaluable support. We have a survey (click here to take) that we kindly ask you to complete, your honest responses will help us improve our strategies and content for future events like this one. We look forward to building on the momentum and continuing our collaborative efforts in 2020!

The Sixth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

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!

The Fifth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

Recognizing individuals and organizations whose passion and energy have made a lasting and outsized contribution to the vitality of their communities

Leaders from across the Commonwealth gathered in Lawrence for the Fifth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards & Summit last month.

Mark Davy kicked off the celebration by showcasing the inventive placemaking projects he has led around the globe. Full video of Mark’s presentation is included to the right. For those who weren’t able to join us, the talk is worth watching this weekend, whether you are deeply involved in creative placemaking or you approach Gateway City revitalization from other vantage points.

Following Mark’s presentation, Gateway City leaders took to the stage to react to Mark’s keynote and share lessons from their placemaking experience here in Massachusetts. Al Wilson, founder and director of Beyond Walls, Gloria Hall, founder of Art in the Park, Worcester, and Meri Jenkins of the Mass Cultural Council spoke about the impact of public art. Shelley Cardoos, owner of Hippo and South Coast Director of EforAll, and Gustavo Quiroga of Graffito conversed on the transformative effect of first-floor retail and enterprise. Sarah Eustice of Main Street Hospitality, Abel Vargas from the City of Lawrence, and Zomawa Arenas of Flowetik discussed how we nurture, embrace, and brand a community’s identity. Stay tuned for links in a future email to full video of these dynamic conversations.

With this great build-up, we launched into the awards luncheon Mayor Dan Rivera and Secretary Jay Ash offered warm welcoming remarks. Arthur Jemison, a long-time Gateway City thought-leader now serving the City of Detroit, delivered a captivating address. And then we honored the recipients of the Gateway Cities Champion Award: Congresswoman Tsongas for her unwavering commitment to the city of Lowell; Bob Rivers, CEO and Chairman of Eastern Bank, for forward-thinking corporate leadership on behalf of Gateway City enterprise and community development; and our own John Schneider, for providing the seeds of the Gateway Cities movement during his time here at MassINC.

Eight groups received 2017 Gateway City Innovation Awards: Beyond Walls; Art in the Park, Worcester; The Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative; The Revolving Test Kitchen; Fitchburg Pride; The Fuller Craft Museum and Greater Brockton Young Professionals; Main Street Hospitality; and Nueva Esperanza Inc.

If you want to feel good this weekend, definitely take a moment to watch our short video tribute (on the right) to their work.

Thank you to former Mayor Lisa Wong for emceeing the awards luncheon, Lupoli Companies for helping us to host the event at their beautiful Riverwalk property, and all of our event sponsors for their continued support!

The Fourth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

IMG_9458A warm thank you to all of the Gateway City leaders who travelled to Springfield last week for the fourth annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit. As always, your spirit and optimism were infectious. We especially want to recognize this year’s award winners.

For those who were unable to join us, please take a moment to watch the videos below and hear about the powerful work being done directly from the leaders themselves. Also check out Workforce Development Transformation Case Studies: Three Examples of Systems Change through Collaborative Gateway City Leadership, new research released at the event profiling innovative solutions to shared challenges. 

We’re especially grateful to the City of Springfield for hosting us this year. Despite the rain and clouds, Springfield provided a beautiful backdrop that optimized the hope, opportunity, and collaborative energy unique to our Gateway Cities. Those who stayed for the Transformative Development Initiative walking tour got an up-close look at how Springfield’s leaders are thinking anew to overcome obstacles and unlock the city’s exceptional promise.

TDi tour

Finally, one last big thank you to MassMutual and all of the sponsors who made this gathering possible. 


Click here to read the report we unveiled at the event. These case studies show that Gateway City leaders are undaunted. They rise each day and doggedly search for creative solutions to help workers hone new skills and grow regional economies.

We are grateful to the change-agents who allowed us to capture their efforts.  They warmly welcomed us into their world, candidly explained the considerable obstacles they face, and openly offered advice to others on how they might get a start on responding to common challenges.

 Thank you again to all of our sponsors and all of those who joined us in Worcester for the celebration. We value your partnership and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016.

The Third Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

IMG_0152“Those who tell the stories rule, the world” goes the proverb. Gateway City leaders know firsthand that there’s still a lot of truth in this old wisdom. Too often, the performance and potential of Gateway Cities are defined by those on the outside who have little understanding of the struggle. When we make policy based on these impressions alone, there’s no question that we underinvest in the promise of our Gateway Cities.


For years, we have worked together to shift the narrative, and yet at times it seems like we are still havea great distance to go. Just this week, the Boston Globe reported on efforts to promote reinvestment in Gateway Cities without a single line acknowledging that there is a real rationale for stimulating the urban centers that drive our regional economies. This kind of coverage reminds us of why it’s so important for Gateway Cities to band together to tell their story.

And that’s exactly what we did this week in Worcester at the Third Annual Gateway City Innovation Awards. The event placed a bright light on the bold and dedicated leaders commanding the fight on the ground in our Gateway Cities. For each of the honorees, we screened a short video that captured the voices of dozens of Gateway City leaders behind the work. After the awards were presented, the change agents leading these initiatives joined us onstage to talk about universal lessons on what it takes to generate and sustain success. The exchange was moderated by Tim McGourthy, the Executive Director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and a longtime proponent for Gateway Cities coming together to change the narrative.


We were fortunate that Governor Baker was able to be with us to hear these stories firsthand, and share his thoughts on how the state can support more of this good work. The Governor is no stranger to Gateway Cities. In his travels, he has visited them again and again. He knows their leaders and clearly has a deep appreciation for their valiant work. Nick Donohue, President & CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and a steady partner in our Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, offered a closing call to action, encouraging all of the Gateway City leaders to keep pushing forward together, harder.

Click here to read the report we unveiled at the event. It summarizes lessons learned from four case studies of successful Gateway City initiatives. Thank you again to all of our sponsors and all of those who joined us in Worcester for the celebration. We value your partnership and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016.

The Second Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

For a complete recap and video of the 2014 Awards & Summit, click here

The 2014 award winners are advancing educational excellence in their communities by working collaboratively to build new learning models that take advantage of unique Gateway City educational opportunities:

Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative – The Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative is a strategic, community-wide effort to ensure that all children are proficient readers by the end of grade three. With leadership from Mayor Alex Morse and Superintendent Sergio Paez, civic leaders have built a citywide early literacy taskforce and developed a far-reaching early literacy blueprint. The initiative is working now to implement this strategy with program development, marketing, and evaluation.

Mount Wachusett Community College/Fitchburg High School GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federally funded initiative provided by Mount Wachusett Community College to Fitchburg Public Schools. GEAR UP offers academic support and early college awareness activities to help Fitchburg students successfully pursue post-secondary degrees. This ambitious partnership is unique in that it is designed to reach every student in Fitchburg in the classes of 2016 and 2017. The program has been able to achieve this scale through the dedication of an exceptionally committed GEAR UP team.

Greater Lawrence Advanced Manufacturing Academy – Together with Northern Essex Community College, Greater Lawrence Vocational Technical High School is building an advanced manufacturing academy. The academy has secured a $1.2 million state grant and more than $500,000 in donations from area companies to purchase advanced equipment. With leadership from Superintendent John Lavoie and NECC President Lane Glenn, the two institutions are creating a program that will allow GLTS students to dual enroll at the community college and earn credit toward an associate’s degree in advanced manufacturing. The academy will also provide training opportunities for adult learners.

Revere High Advisory Program – As part of an ambitious overhaul in 2011, Revere High School created an advisory program that assigns each student a faculty member to serve as an advisor for all four years. The student meets with their advisor three times per week at the start of the school day for twenty-five minutes. Advisors build strong relationships with students and families, allowing them to support both the academic and social-emotional growth of their students. The advisory program, developed with leadership from principal Dr. Lourenço Garcia and former Guidance Director Maureen Lenihan, was instrumental in Revere High receiving the exceptional distinction as the sole Gold Award national High School from the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University this past spring.

Worcester Arts Magnet School – Founded in 1992, Worcester Arts Magnet School (WAMS) leverages the city’s cultural community and an arts-learning curriculum to help children reach their intellectual, social, and creative potential. WAMS’s founding principal, Margaret Vendetti, and current principal Susan O’Neil, have been critical to the school’s sustained success. Year after year, the Worcester Arts Magnet School draws families from across the community, providing a model for economically integrated urban education.

The First Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

(For a full recap of the 2013 Awards Ceremony, click here.)

The 2013 awards celebrate achievements by individuals and organizations working to promote Transformative Development in Gateway Cities:

Curt Spalding: Mr. Spalding is the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 1, which spans the six New England states. He has been a valued partner in redevelopment projects in virtually every Gateway City in the Commonwealth. A notable example of his tenacity is the transformation of Chelsea’s highly contaminated former Lawrence Metals site, which will become a new 152-room Holiday Inn when complete. The complex project has involved coordination between the EPA, MassDEP, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the City of Chelsea, MassDevelopment, and the site’s private developer.

Marc Dohan: Marc Dohan is the Executive Director of the Twin Cities Community Development Corporation. Under Mr. Dohan’s leadership, the TCCDC has been a powerful agent for neighborhood stabilization. Most recently, working in Fitchburg’s Elm Street neighborhood, the organization has built and rehabbed over 60 units of housing. Acquiring properties that were either in foreclosure or receivership and working with residents to create neighborhood assets and increase home ownership, Mr. Dohan and TCCDC have played a pivotal role transforming a vulnerable neighborhood.

O’Connell Companies: Holyoke-based O’Connell Companies is renowned for their work on large and technically complex projects. As the first private developer to invest in WPI’s Gateway Park, they have joined a small class of firms with the vision and risk tolerance to execute on truly transformative projects. The O’Connell Companies addition of 92,000 square feet of commercial space complements public and institutional investments in the area. Together, these coordinated projects are changing a once-blighted area near Lincoln Square into a growing mixed-use district.

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox: The mission of the Sandbox is to boost the economic and social well-being of greater Lowell and Lawrence by advancing entrepreneurship and innovation. The Sandbox fosters entrepreneurship among diverse populations of residents and workers in the Merrimack Valley including high school and college students, adults, and non-English speakers. The Sandbox runs dozens of programs including workshops, pitch contests, entrepreneur meetups, themed mixers, and twice annual accelerator programs. Through these programs, the Sandbox leverages hundreds of volunteers from the business, non profit, government, and educational communities to serve as mentors, teachers, sponsors, and judges.

Mary Waldron: As the Executive Director of Brockton 21st Century Corporation, Ms. Waldron played a pivotal role facilitating two major downtown redevelopment projects: the transformation of the Knight building into the Station Lofts by Capstone Communities and the rebuilding of the Enterprise Block by Trinity Financial. Both projects are within walking distance of the Brockton commuter rail station. Capstone’s adaptive reuse of an old industrial building (where the catcher’s mitt was invented) was Brockton’s first use of the historic tax credit.

Armando Feliciano and Jay Minkarah: Armando Feliciano is a longtime Springfield community leader and Chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority. After the 2011 tornado destroyed Mr. Feliciano’s home, he strove not only to rebuild his own property, but to also foster a collaborative partnership between the SRA and DevelopSpringfield, a newly formed public-private economic development organization. As the first CEO of DevelopSpringfield, Jay Minkarah has devoted enormous energy to this joint effort. The opportunity their collaboration has produced is embodied in the Rebuild Springfield Plan – an ambitious, forward-thinking blueprint for the city’s future that the SRA and DevelopSpringfield are now working together to implement.


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