Bold Initiative: Ash Hails New Economic Development Law

City Manager Jay Ash look on as Gov. Deval Patrick talks about the new economic development law.An initiative to enhance the state’s economic development prospects was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick earlier this month, and City Manager Jay Ash said it is a law that is absolutely on the right track.

The act provides new tools and training to ensure the Massachusetts workforce meets the needs of employers, invests in Gateway Cities to promote development and provides incentives to create jobs throughout the state, including in Chelsea.

“It’s a bold initiative and it will have a dramatic impact on our economy, our communities and, most importantly, our residents,” boasted Ash, who was a central player behind the scenes in envisioning and lobbying for the package to become law. Recognizing his role in seeing the initiative through the process, Ash was an invitee to the State House bill signing ceremony.

The “Act to Promote Economic Growth in the Commonwealth” seeks, among numerous provisions, to bolster the economic revitalization of Gateway Cities like Chelsea with $15 million for the Gateway Cities Transformative Development Fund.  It also encourages the reuse of brownfields in economically distressed areas of Massachusetts with $10 million in funding.

“These are significant provisions that are really targeted to the Chelsea’s of the state, places that were roaring contributors to the Industrial Revolution and the great economy that sprung up from then, but whose fortunes have been less bright as manufacturing has moved south and overseas, and whose present economies need help in overcoming blighted buildings, contaminated properties, poor infrastructure and the retraining needs of their workforces,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico, who Ash referred to as his “go to guy” to get the bill through the legislative process.

Ash, who serves as co-chair of the Gateway Cities collaboration led by MassINC, was a champion of the transformative development fund.

“There are one or two projects in every Gateway City that have the chance to transform the character and catapult the vitality of the community, but they are unable to do so because of gaps in financing.  For example, here in Chelsea, we’re envisioning a major market rate housing development in the downtown that could transform Broadway in the way so many have been anxious to see happen for so long.  This fund now being established means that all of our Gateway Cities, including we here Chelsea, have a source of funding that could help make those transformative projects happen,” projected Ash.

“This comprehensive bill will help ensure that residents, businesses and communities are able to compete and excel in a dynamic economy,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “We’ve made substantial gains in strengthening our economy and must now focus on broadening the circle of prosperity beyond Greater Boston to all regions of the Commonwealth. This bill does just that while preparing future leaders through provisions like MassCAN, a computer science education partnership, and the Talent Pipeline Initiative.”

In addition to those initiatives referenced by Speaker DeLeo, the Act includes $12 million for the middle skills job training grant fund to support advanced manufacturing, mechanical and technical skills at vocational-technical schools and community colleges. Also, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund will receive $1.5 million to prepare Massachusetts residents for new jobs in high-demand occupations, helping close the middle-skills gap and creating a seamless pathway to employment.

“We’re looking at traditional employment, but also areas where future employment will be,” said Representative Dan Ryan. “For example, the new act includes a number of initiatives to expand the Commonwealth’s world class innovation economy, including $2 million for a Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund to promote the use of big data, open data and analytics, and $2 million for the Innovation Institute Fund at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC). We need to support jobs and job growth across existing and emerging sectors in order to remain economically sound, and we’re doing just that.”

A separate provision increases the Housing Development Incentive Program’s (HDIP) annual cap from $5 million to $10 million over the next four years, and allows larger developments to qualify by eliminating the 50-market-rate unit per project cap. The expansion of the HDIP will provide residents of Gateway Cities with increased access to market-rate as well as affordable housing.

“Chelsea had an HDIP project in the first round of the program, in the Box District, and that success shows us that so much more can be done to support the creation of both market-rate and affordable housing here and around the state,” said Representative RoseLee Vincent.

Ash said that the expansion of HDIP was also a priority of his, and that it could help create other successful housing developments in areas where investment has been tough to seed.  That, along with numerous other provisions of the act have Ash excited about its local and statewide implementation.

“I remain so grateful to Gov. Patrick and his entire administration for their tremendously successful efforts at promoting prosperity in Massachusetts and providing meaningful tools and support here in Chelsea for us to join in that prosperity.  Kudos, too, to our legislative delegation and their leadership, as they too have seized upon the opportunities to revitalize communities and put more people back to work in better paying jobs. We’ve been doing both, revitalizing community and putting people back to work, and our lift has just got significantly lighter because of the great tools the governor and our legislative leaders have had the foresight to enact,” concluded Ash.

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