Governor Should Have Focus on Business, Moving Massachusetts Forward

An open letter to the Governor-Elect Maura Healey and Lt. Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll

Now that the votes have been counted, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce extends our congratulations to Governor-Elect Maura Healey and Lt. Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll. We would also like to express our gratitude to outgoing Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito for their many years of service to Massachusetts.

Looking ahead, we extend our sincere offer to collaborate with you and your administration in building a stronger Massachusetts. Supporting economic development efforts, encouraging innovation and fostering growth and change is critical to moving Massachusetts forward. Together with you, we want to help create a vibrant and prosperous state that residents can be proud of, people want to visit, and businesses succeed.

To this end, the Chamber presents eight strategic recommendations for consideration. We believe they will assist the new Healey/Driscoll administration in achieving economic success that will translate to an improved business climate and a higher quality of life for all.

Create an Environment for Business Growth and Investment: The foundation of your housing and economic development strategies must include streamlining the permit and regulatory processes in the state. Massachusetts needs to be a place that is easy to do business, and these strategies will be critical to attract and retain businesses.

Be our Brand Ambassador: Massachusetts boasts many wonderful attributes ranging from a skilled and highly educated workforce and wonderful cultural institutions, to a rich history in manufacturing and innovation. By serving as Governor, you now become our chief booster and brand ambassador! We encourage you to embrace this responsibility by investing marketing dollars in tourism and economic development. With this investment, you’ll bring more commerce to our state and better position us to compete with other states that are hungry to attract our visitors, tax revenue, jobs, businesses and residents. Here in North Central Massachusetts, we’ve identified tourism as a priority industry and we are particularly interested in seeing more investment in regional marketing.

Expand Investment in Education: The quality and accessibility of public education is critical to the health and prosperity of our state and regional economy. The state needs to leverage the unprecedented levels of new state and federal funding in the pipeline as well as engage with educational and business partners to ensure our educational system prepares our youth to succeed—and our state and communities to be competitive. This means providing adequate funding of schools, greater accountability for more measurable results, smaller class sizes, and increased efforts on early education as well as industry pathways and early college opportunities.

Support Existing Businesses: Attracting new businesses to Massachusetts is important, but we know most job growth and investment comes from our existing businesses. By making it a priority to help our existing businesses, they will stay here, grow here and keep jobs here. The manufacturers in North Central Massachusetts have been the backbone of our economy for many years. They represent the third largest industry in the region, and serve as a steppingstone into the middle class for many workers by offering higher pay and enhanced benefits. Our small businesses are also vital contributors to the economy as they bring new opportunity and growth. You must be an advocate and an enabler for these businesses—and we can help you by coordinating an open dialogue about their needs and how the state can help them grow and prosper.

Encourage More Housing: As a state with some of the highest housing costs in the country and an aging population, it is critical to support and sustain affordable and available housing as we work to attract and retain younger workers. While North Central Massachusetts offers relative affordability when compared to other parts of the state, our region still faces challenges related to housing and must work hard to keep pace with demand. We need a greater variety of housing — multifamily, single-family homes on compact lots, rental units—at a greater variety of prices to appeal to a wide variety of budgets and family preferences.

Reduce Barriers to Employment: We are facing a major labor crisis in Massachusetts and if we don’t resolve it, this issue is only projected to worsen and threaten our state’s ability to grow and compete in the future. We need to draw those workers who have left or who are not fully participating in the workforce back into the job market, and attract and retain our future workers. We encourage you to consider strategies to help to pull hidden and future workers into the labor force by including more and better childcare choices, implementing new worker transit, creating innovative training and credentialing programs, and fostering relationships with local community colleges, businesses, prisons, non-profits and other groups.

Enhance the Infrastructure: There is a strong linkage between infrastructure investment and a strong economy, and we are in a unique position to enhance it. By improving our roads, highways, bridges, rail lines, broadband and airports, we will experience increased economic activity, enhanced competitiveness and additional jobs. With new federal transportation and ARPA funds available, the state can invest in big and ambitious infrastructure projects to power our economy for years to come.

Recognize the Importance of Regional Equity. We believe the state as a whole can only succeed when its communities and regions are provided with the same opportunities. Since each region has their own unique economic strengths, assets and challenges, a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work. We encourage you to pursue a regional strategy that acknowledges the different challenges and needs across our great Commonwealth to maintain our dynamic and diverse economy. A regional equity lens should also be applied to every aspect of your work so every community can achieve their full potential. We also encourage you to increase investment dollars outside of Greater Boston in general and towards North Central Massachusetts with a focus on infrastructure, education and workforce development, housing, tourism and economic development initiatives.

We encourage you to adopt an economic growth agenda that can result in positive impacts for residents, businesses and our state for many years to come. We look forward to continuing the dialogue and action that will allow this great state to achieve its full potential and strengthen its place as a leader in our nation.

Roy Nascimento, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce