Lawmakers call for statewide eco-development vision

Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao speaks Monday, May 20, 2024 during an event at the State House celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (SHNS)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Two Democrats with a chance to put their stamp on Gov. Maura Healey’s $3.5 billion plan to revitalize the state’s business climate want the benefits to extend to beyond the Boston metropolitan area.

The two chairmen of the Legislature’s Liaison Committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Lowell and Rep. Mike Finn of West Springfield, lobbied administration officials Monday to make the funding proposed in the bill s flows north, south and west outside the urban core.

Kennedy said he believes the life sciences industry is “almost maxed out” in Boston and Cambridge, which have become major hubs thanks in large part to more than a decade of public investment that the Healey’s bill aims to continue.

“But there is space in places like Lowell, and I’m sure in other gateway cities — you know, Brockton and Worcester come to mind,” Kennedy said. “I’m sure there are others where they would welcome the life sciences industries. I think anything we can do to try to promote that would be a good thing for the whole Commonwealth.

Healey Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao responded that while Boston and Cambridge lead the pack for the life sciences industry, Worcester also has a major footprint that is larger than much larger cities like Dallas.

“Not only are we in Worcester, but we also have many life sciences companies building plants in Marlborough, Westboro and Bedford, across the state,” she said. “So the model here is: we want to make sure that we get all the amazing patents and other things out of our labs, but then as we grow them, we make sure that we grow all of that throughout our region. »

Healey’s bill would reauthorize the state’s life sciences initiative with $1 billion for another decade. The program was launched under Governor Deval Patrick and was later expanded by Governor Charlie Baker, with state funds helping the industry become a cornerstone of Massachusetts.

Another part of Healey’s economic development agenda is a similar $1 billion investment over 10 years in climate technology, an industry Healey wants to help thrive in Massachusetts.

Finn told administration officials that Kennedy’s question “opened a door that I think was important for me to talk about,” and recalled discussing the bill with his staff during their drive from western Massachusetts to Beacon Hill.

“This bill seems to provide a lot of economic opportunity for this part of the state, and I say that because I’m from the other part of the state,” Finn said.

After observing that Western Massachusetts has a “significantly higher” unemployment rate than the state average, Finn asked, “As part of these authorizations, as part of the bold proposals that you’re all putting forward, What can you offer a representative from Western Massachusetts? State that is concerned about the economic opportunity that does not exist in its district?

Hao responded that Massachusetts has the highest per capita income of any state, which “we should be proud of,” and also the third highest income inequality of any state, which is “not something something we should be proud of.” The income gap between eastern and western Massachusetts, she said, is in some cases as high as $50,000.

The governor’s economic development bill would fill that gap by focusing its investments “where they will have the greatest impact,” Hao said. She detailed an idea in the bill to support “tech hubs” outside of Boston, such as deploying public funds to encourage research and development on quantum technologies in Springfield.

“We can’t succeed if Boston and Cambridge don’t succeed. We need to make sure they stay strong,” she said. “But we can’t succeed if Boston and Cambridge are the only ones succeeding. We need every region to adapt to this rising tide.

The broad legislation (H 4459) also extends to many other sectors. The bond authorizations represent about $2.8 billion of the bill’s bottom line, about $1.75 billion of which would renew existing bond authorizations, according to Hao.

The rest of the bill includes about $750 million for “specific, targeted tax law changes that provide incentives to help businesses stay here,” Hao said.

“We live in an interesting place. The world is becoming complicated, the pace of technological change is accelerating and accelerating, and many other states are trying to catch up,” Hao said. “Now is not the time for us to let it go We have so many strengths in our state – we have great, wonderful legislators, we have such smart people, we have people who care deeply about our community. This is our time. to make the right investments that we know will bear fruit.

The Legislature’s Economic Development Committee proposed a redraft of the bill last week, nearly three months after Healey filed it.

Kennedy expects his panel to move much more quickly.

“We will send it to Ways and Means by the end of this week,” he said.