Springfield Allies with Ten Fellow Gateway Cities

Posted on Monday, May 19 2008 by Heather Brandon

Boston's Old State HouseSpringfield was represented at an event today in Boston, at the Old State House (pictured) and hosted by MassINC, signaling a new allegiance of cities across the state.

At the gathering, also attended by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, 11 municipal representatives in Massachusetts signed a Gateway Cities Compact (see below). The agreement is said to provide a foundation to “redefine economic development” in the state with a greater emphasis on urban population centers.

Murray also announced at the event a “new initiative relative to brownfields redevelopment” for municipalities (see release below).

Fall River’s Herald News has a report today, by Grant Welker, with some further information about the compact-signing this morning and what led to it.

From the article:

The group of gateway cities—so named for their traditionally high immigrant populations—have signed a compact seeking the state’s attention as they get caught behind the economic trend away from industrial jobs to more knowledge-based positions. Other cities in the group [besides Fall River] include Brockton, Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Urban Initiative, headed by former Fall River mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. [he resigned as mayor last October], began working with gateway city leaders last December to discuss challenges and opportunities the cities share. [Read another article about Lambert's activities in his new academic role here, which describes a conference he led co-sponsored by the bipartisan, statewide networking group ONE Massachusetts.] The partnership hopes to convince the state that cities outside greater Boston are deserving of aid, Lambert said. …

A study released last year by think tanks MassINC and the Brookings Institution showed that since 1970, gateway cities lost 3 percent of their job base, while greater Boston saw a 51 percent bump in new jobs. The cities make up 15 percent of the state’s population, but are home to 30 percent of all Massachusetts residents living under the poverty line, the study also found. The MassINC/Brookings study also noted gateway cities’ potential for middle-class housing, smart growth developments, and a growing and diverse work force. These cities, the report said, are falling further behind the rest of the state in job creation, income and educational attainment. …“These cities bear the burden of a lot of responsibility of the commonwealth,” Lambert said, “but without a lot of attention from the commonwealth.”

In Worcester, City Manager Michael O’Brien put the compact agreement before the city council, asking them to enable him to authorize it on the city’s behalf at the event in Boston today. He told reporter Nick Kotsopoulos of the Telegram & Gazette that he has been working with executives from the other gateway cities during the past year to craft the document. In a May 6 article (hat tip: Bill Randell’s blog post), O’Brien was quoted:

“Without a comprehensive, targeted and aggressive action plan and a coordination push at all levels to drive sustainable development in our Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities, we fall short of maximizing all opportunities in this competitive global marketplace,” Mr. O’Brien wrote in a report that goes before City Council tonight. “We worked closely together with our sister cities, for we believe there is strength in common cause, shared vision and, of course, numbers,” he added. “Our intent is to pursue this agenda from the grass roots and with the leadership and partnership of Beacon Hill. Time is of the essence.” …

“Too often, Worcester loses out on companies not only courted by North Carolina, Texas or California, but by greenfield opportunities in neighboring Massachusetts communities that offer the same set of incentives and lower-cost development sites,” Mr. O’Brien said. “The Gateway Cities look to work with the commonwealth to refine the current development toolbox and to expand incentives for its urban centers to increase our competitiveness. …This plan builds off the compact and will require actions and efforts of all the Gateway Cities to secure the necessary policy and program changes.”

Where do Springfield officials stand with respect to this effort? Are the city council or the mayor fully up to speed about what it might entail? What about other gateway cities west of Worcester? Update: Mayor Domenic Sarno’s office issued a release midday today regarding these events; that release is below. The Republican reported late today that mayoral chief of staff Denise Jordan, aide Darryl Moss, and director for economic development Brian Connors were all present on behalf of the city.

An email to O’Brien requesting a copy of the compact did not elicit a response. However, after the passage of O’Brien’s request by Worcester City Council, the document became available online, and its text is available at the bottom of this post, following today’s press releases.

Below is the brownfields support initiative press release.

Lieutenant Governor Murray says interagency initiative
can help communities clean up and redevelop contaminated properties

BOSTON – Monday, May 19, 2008 – Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced today a new initiative to help communities clean up contaminated sites and prepare them for redevelopment. New Brownfields Support Teams made up of staff from multiple state agencies will target sites that have yet to be developed since the Brownfields Act was passed in 1998, the Lieutenant Governor said.

“Despite many accomplishments, there are still many potentially viable Brownfield sites that have stalled due to market conditions, extent of environmental contamination, and the lack of local expertise to deal with the complex issues that arise with troublesome sites,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “This second generation of sites needs extra attention to find a clear pathway to cleanup and redevelopment. The Brownfields Support Team initiative will provide the attention needed to get the job done.”

The Brownfields Support Team initiative will bring together the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (HED), and MassDevelopment to help municipalities solve the problems that impede the redevelopment of contaminated properties. Other state and federal agencies will be brought into these teams depending on the needs of specific projects. These could include the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Revenue, and federal EPA and HUD.

Brownfields Support Teams will work with communities to identify site- and project-specific issues that are hindering redevelopment of key properties. Support provided by the Brownfields Support Teams may include expedited site inspections, reviews, and approvals by MassDEP; technical assistance on expedited permitting from HED; funding for assessment and cleanup from MassDevelopment; and coordination with the Attorney General’s Office on liability issues.

The Lieutenant Governor made the announcement at a Gateway Cities Compact signing event hosted by MassINC. These so-called Gateway Cities – former mill cities that continue to provide first homes and first jobs for new immigrants – have a high concentration of sites contaminated by old industrial uses that pose serious challenges for redevelopment. The new Brownfields Support Teams will concentrate initial efforts on contaminated properties located in Gateway Communities and Gateway Regions where MassDEP is providing technical assistance; Growth Districts and 43D streamlined-permitting projects identified by HED; and areas prioritized for municipal assistance by MassDevelopment. The first five sites for the pilot initiative will be announced within the next few weeks.

Mayor Sarno signs on to the plan aimed at economic revitalization

BOSTON – United in their desire for economic renewal, the chief executives of 11 Massachusetts cities today signed a proclamation forming an Alliance to address the challenges and opportunities inherent in their aging economies. Named “the Gateways Compact for Community and Economic Development,” the partnership hopes to draw investment to communities outside of Boston while providing benefits such as housing, infrastructure and workers to all of Massachusetts.

“For cities like ours, which share a common industrial past and a desire to make new economic connections, the Gateways Compact offers a shared vision for sustainable economic development,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who signed the petition along with Mayors and Chief Executives from Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield and Worcester. The signing ceremony held today at 10:30 a.m. at the Old State House in Boston was sponsored by MassINC and the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, partners in enabling the Alliance. Sarno signed on to the proclamation during a meeting in his office with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray last week.

Murray, who is the former Mayor of Worcester, praised the Gateways Compact, saying that the shared circumstances of these cities and their potential for renewal requires a collaborative and concentrated effort.

“Govenor Patrick and I enthusiastically recognize the Gateways City Compact and the value that these communities have to our overall economy. The action items that the group has identified today are important to the Patrick administration and we look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration in the form of increased investment, more jobs, and a better quality of life across the board.”

The partnership on local economic revitalization stems from recommendations outlined in last year’s MassINC/Brookings Institute report “Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities: Lessons learned and an agenda for Renewal” which studied the economic status and potential of 11 traditional mill communities outside of Greater Boston. Named the “Gateway Cities” for their historic role in attracting foreign workers, these communities were found to suffer significant job and investment losses from the decline in manufacturing over the last three decades while gaining little traction in Massachusetts’ thriving but limited “knowledge economy.”

According to MassINC’s report, since 1970, the 11 Gateway Cities studied lost more than 11,000 jobs or 3 percent of their job base, while Greater Boston’s gain of 467,000 jobs reflected a growth of 51 percent. Gateway Cities are home to 30 percent of all Massachusetts residents living under the poverty line, even though they account for only 15 percent of the state’s population. Education attainment levels remain low with just 16.5 percent of Gateway city residents possessing a four-year college degree.

The report’s recommendations also offered a promising challenge to these urban areas and the state to use these economic conditions as advantages, recognizing that Gateway cities offer potential assets in terms of middle class housing, infrastructure to pursue smart growth, and a growing, diverse work force. The report recommended seeking partnerships, like the one with the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, and with each other, to bring numbers, focus and momentum to their efforts.

Through the Alliance, Gateway leaders hope to combine strategies in areas such as education, real estate investment, work force development, and transportation that bring industry and residents back into these communities. In addition to creating a formal structure that collaborates regularly, the compact includes (among others) the following initiatives:

Work with the Governor, the Legislature and state officials for a new comprehensive urban economic development vision for Massachusetts;

Provide the Commonwealth with innovative strategies to address the state’s housing, infrastructure, environmental and labor force challenges;

Market the many opportunities in the Gateway cities for economic growth;

Share and embrace best practices in areas such as public safety, education and work force development, economic development and city management.

“It is both unprecedented and incredibly pragmatic for these leaders to be coming together with a common agenda for economic reconnection,” said Ed Lambert, Executive Director of the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative. “By combining strategies and experiences on issues that are so consistent among these communities, the potential for real results in this area becomes that much greater.”

“We commend the leaders of the Gateway cities for their creative, collaborative and pro-active approach to reinventing themselves in light of their economic struggles, said John Schneider, Executive Vice President of MassINC. “The innovation and energy evidenced by the Compact are indicative of what is great and promising about these historic communities.”

+ + +

The Gateway Cities Compact for Community and Economic Development

Whereas since its founding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has built economic success and an enviable quality of life by capitalizing on its unique assets and human capital, and

Whereas the Commonwealth has enjoyed one of the most successful economic transitions to a knowledge-based economy anywhere int he world over the last two decades, and

Whereas that success has attracted increased investment within the Greater Boston core but also higher costs for both businesses and residents, resulting in progressively more viable competition from lower-cost regions of the nation and the world, and

Whereas the Commonwealth’s historic Gateway Cities, as identified in the MassINC/The Brookings Institution report of February 2007, provide myriad opportunities to further the Commonwealth’s national and international competitiveness, and

Whereas the Gateway Cities offer unrealized assets to the Commonwealth, including middle-class housing, infrastructure to accommodate smart growth principles, and an expanding, energized, and diverse labor force, and

Whereas, the Commonwealth’s policy focus must alter to recognize the economic growth and financial and social potential within the Gateway Cities, and

Whereas the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must initiate a major new state-local partnership with the Gateway Cities to advance the economic vitality of both the Commonwealth and the Gateway Cities;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved that we, the undersigned chief executives of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities (Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester) hereby agree to form an association of municipalities to pursue common interests supporting the community and the economic revitalization of our historic cities for the purposes of contributing to the general economic well-being of the Commonwealth.

We call on this association to be built on a community of interests among the Gateway Cities and a framework of collective action developed to meet the following criteria:

  • Initiate a cooperative effort to forge a common agenda with specific public policy action items to help the Commonwealth and the Gateway Cities better compete for residents, jobs, and economic growth;
  • Work with the Governor, the Legislature, and state officials for a new comprehensive urban economic development vision for Massachusetts;
  • Provide the Commonwealth with innovative strategies to address the state’s housing, infrastructure, environmental, and labor force challenges;
  • Support the community and economic development efforts of the Gateway Cities;
  • Market, promote, and facilitate the many opportunities in Gateway Cities for economic growth;
  • Strengthen the Gateway Cities’ role as anchors for regional economic development;
  • Forge a robust partnership among federal government, state government, local government, private enterprise, foundation, and colleges and universities to identify and support opportunities to overcome obstacles to community and economic development, including working with neighboring communities to promote an urban agenda; and,
  • Share and embrace best practices in community and economic development, public safety, education and work force development, civic engagement, and city management.

We, the undersigned, commit to collaborate with the Commonwealth, our local elected representatives, and each other to establish and accomplish specific goals consistent with the framework outlined above, and pledge to remain unified in our commitment to a new urban agenda for the Commonwealth and our own municipalities.

Signatures [of the representatives of]

Fall River
New Bedford

16 Responses to “Springfield Allies with Ten Fellow Gateway Cities”

  1. NoPolitician

    This is seriously good news — a group of Massachusetts cities getting together, noting that their populations are poorer than most, their resources are fewer than most, and that other local communities are directly competing against them in ways that result in sprawl.

    It seems that at last, the problem has been solidly identified. The next step is working towards solving it, particularly using public policy.

    For those who complained about Longhill Gardens being converted into low-income housing, this group is one that would listen. Public policy currently provides incentives to create low-income housing from older housing that is in need of rehab. There is little market demand for such housing because it is easier to put up housing on an empty lot. The only time demand materializes is when market prices get so high that developers can make a profit on them.

    Imagine if the federal and state incentives instead gave money to people looking to convert old farms into low-income housing? Or even gave more incentives based on the cost of housing in a community so that land would cost a developer as much in a expensive area than a poor area. This state would look a lot different.

    Everything in this state has been focused on Boston for so long. There was an article in the Sunday Globe talking about people moving from this state. It mentioned a couple who moved from Boston to Knightdale, NC, so they could build a 2,000 s.f. house for $171,000. The couple attended Westfield State college, and lived near Boston, one working as an accountant, the other working at a college.

    Their quote was “There was no way we could ever do that in Massachusetts”. But $171k for a 2,000 s.f. house? We have that here. What don’t we have? The job opportunities that Raleigh has. Or maybe we do, but we aren’t marketing ourselves properly. Maybe this state has to stop thinking of itself as “Boston plus its suburbs” and instead promote its gateway cities as places for businesses to exist, so that when a business in the Boston area says “geez, this is getting too expensive”, they can move somewhere in state.

  2. Belmont

    Interesting the press release comes out of Boston and the event happens in Boston of all places.

    I guess that shows part of the problem, that’s where all the power is.

  3. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    The release from Sarno’s office is totally canned, so not only is the “power base” an issue but, in my opinion, so is the degree of engagement. Look at the release regarding the Pittsfield mayor’s participation. The quote attributed to Sarno near the top of the release is the exact same quote attributed to Pittsfield’s James Ruberto. Who really uttered these words that are being placed verbatim in the mouths of two separate mayors? My guess: neither of them. Thus, some puppetry work, and wow what a turnoff that is.

  4. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    Rambling Van Dog in Holyoke has posted on this topic from that city’s perspective, including an excerpted email from Mayor Mike Sullivan. The email mentions that former Mayor Lambert paid a visit to Holyoke recently, “discussing and touring [its] assets and opportunities.”

    Also, the Republican has an article about the compact-signing in today’s paper.

    In another article about the event coming out of New Bedford, for the Standard-Times, reporter David Kibbe quoted State Rep. Robert Koczera, “I’m high on this initiative. It could be the basis of an urban alliance of legislators. Often, we are fighting for the very same things on a regional level separately, but the needs are the same.”

    Further, Kibbe quoted State Rep. Antonio Cabral as mentioning that “a Gateway Cities legislative caucus will emerge out of Monday’s announcement.” He said, “[I'm] thinking bringing all of the local folks, the mayors in particular, the economic development folks from the cities together and exchanging ideas and strategizing together, I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

    The Berkshire Eagle has some (hopefully original) quotes from Pittsfield Mayor Ruberto in an article in today’s paper. From the piece:

    Ruberto said Pittsfield could benefit significantly from lifting the state cap on historic tax credits, enhancing the incremental tax financing program, marketing and the expansion of other state-funded housing programs that help cities attract new business and residents.

    Although the city has a lot of affordable housing, the mayor said the challenge is replenishing the stock of “quality affordable housing” in former working-class neighborhoods that have deteriorated over the years.

    He said Patrick and Murray have both have made an effort to reach out to cities, particularly those in the western part of the state, to start a dialogue about how state and local government can work together.

  5. John Schneider http://Gateways

    First, let me say that this is good coverage of the event. However, I wanted to clear up a few things. I work for MassINC and was co-author of the report. The Old State House was chosen as the location of the ceremony as a symbol of the American Revolution and as a place where we knew we would be able to attract the legislative delegations from the Gateway cities who will be important to engage in this cause. And yes, the power is in Boston, and that’s part of the problem and why we helped form this initiative. We have traveled to all the Gateway cities over the last year, including Springfield and Holyoke, to discuss the report and meet with community leaders. We have also held a series of “summit” meetings with economic development offcials from Gateway Cities in Worcester and Brockton. I grew up in Pittsfield, have family from Worcester, lived in Haverhill, and own a home in Lowell — all Gateway cities. I know these places and want to see them proposer. Yes, some of what happend Monday was staged. That always happens with these kind of events. But Mayor Sarno and Mayor Sullivan are committed to this effort and Mayor Sullivan served on the advisory committee that helped write the original report.

    We have a lot of work to do and it won’t be easy. But MassINC, UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, and Brookings are committed to this effort. Thanks.

  6. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    Thanks for visiting and adding your comments, Mr. Schneider. It is great to know that these events are going on and to hear more information from behind the scenes.

    Please consider engaging bloggers in the various cities concerned to generate more public awareness, solicit input, and build a framework of grassroots support and feedback so the public can play a role as the initiative unfolds. The current media environment does not necessarily give much play to these topics, and it can result in a sense of being blocked out. If there is any kind of public outreach aspect to what is coming it would probably yield some good results.

  7. John Schneider http://Gateways

    Heather — will do. Please send along any suggestions.

  8. Nancy Urbschat

    Heather, et al.
    I attended events in Springfield and Hartford when the Gateway Cities report was released. The work of MassInc and the Brookings Institute has the kind of gravitas needed to get the attention of the legislators. For I believe it is the legislators who have perpetuated a Commonwealth with cities who have and those who have not. I’ll give you two examples. For every 5¢ of sales tax collected, a penny goes to public transportation – the MBTA. The remaining transit authorities receive none of these pennies.
    Then there is the matter of Additional Assistance to cities and towns. If you review the distribution to Boston versus Springfield, the aid translates into $278 per Boston resident and $12 for everyone living in Springfield. Granted I’m citing numbers from two years ago but I’m guessing 2008 numbers aren’t that different. The legislators defend the difference because poor Gateway cities like Springfield and Holyoke get much larger shares of Chapter 70 money. Of course the legislators didn’t have anything to do with the need to make sure kids had access to a good education, no matter where they lived. That was the work of the Supreme Judicial Court.

  9. Spfld Volunteer

    Nancy the information you provide is very revealing. I also find it interesting that is you combine the populations of the 11 Gateway Cities you come up with a population of about 970,000. If you threw Chicopee into the mix (which I’m not sure why Chicopee is not included) the number is well over 1 million people. This population is much bigger than Bostons population of about 590,000. It seems to me that if these cities are serious about change, they should have the power in the legislature to make changes.

  10. Belmont

    But what about all the legislators that represent suburban districts?

    I guess the argument can be made the suburbs don’t want most development to begin with, so maybe they’d go along with it, but if we are just talking state aid you can bet the suburbs won’t like cities getting more – even if it is rational.

  11. NoPolitician

    Belmont, I think that is the very way the problem needs to be framed.

    What do suburban residents seem to hate the most? New development (residential and commercial), reduction in open space, loss of “character” of their towns.

    So instead of selling this as taking something away from suburban areas, we need to frame it as helping them out. We need to equalize demand between urban areas and suburban areas. Once demand is equalized, intense development pressure will wane in those towns.

    Concentrating development and helping urban centers will also create more opportunities for everyone. If I was a suburban resident who owned a business, I’d certainly be in favor of increasing opportunities for a large urban population near me, because that is a large potential customer base. If I was a suburban resident commuting 30+ miles to CT or beyond, I’d welcome more opportunities closer to home.

    A rising tide lifts all boats.

  12. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    Somehow the mayor of Brockton, James Harrington, managed to say the exact same thing in reflecting on the Gateway Cities Compact this week as Mayors Sarno and Ruberto. From today’s Enterprise:

    “For cities like Brockton, which share a strong industrial past and a desire to make new economic connections, the Gateways Compact offers a shared vision for sustainable economic development,” Harrington said.

    An article in yesterday’s Eagle-Tribune, based in North Andover, attributed the quote instead to Mayor Mike Sullivan, presumably the mayor of Holyoke, although the sentence continued to say that Sullivan signed the pact alongside the mayors of the other gateway cities including the mayor of Holyoke.

    I appreciate the fact that “cities like ours” was replaced with “cities like Brockton” In the Enterprise article. A little custom-tailoring there. In addition, the piece, by Elaine Allegrini, managed to include a quote from a local economic development non-profit director who could say something unique about Brockton itself, along with some relevant news:

    “We’re 97 percent developed (land) but have probably a good 65-78 percent of our buildings that could be used to bring better jobs,” said Mary Waldron, executive director of the 21st Century Corp., the private, non-profit agency established to promote economic development in Brockton. “We’re going to be aggressive after the Boston group and we’re also looking for those here who want to further reinvest themselves in the city.”

    Since the MassINC/Brookings Institute report was published last year, T.F. Kinnealey & Co., a family-owned meat packing and supply company, has committed to moving its headquarters from Boston to Brockton. The company is investing $10 million in the move to 1100 Pearl St. that will bring 100 jobs to the city and add another 10 jobs over the next 15 years.

  13. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    In a post about his visit to yesterday’s Springfield Finance Control Board meeting, blogger Tom Devine included a snippet of video, capturing both a quick pan of the sparse audience in attendance as well as presenters on behalf of MassINC apparently there to discuss an economic development strategy. Sheila McElwaine is working on the transcript of the proceedings, which will hopefully shed more light on how the proposed gateway cities strategy can potentially help Springfield in particular. Devine labeled the discussion dull.

    In the video below, City Council President Bud Williams can be heard speaking, while CDO David Panagore and control board executive director Stephen Lisausakas make an introduction for the speakers. Next, John Schneider of MassINC is heard introducing himself.

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    [...] the first phase of the development of a growth strategy. This comes right on the heels of the signing of the Gateway Cities Compact involving the same two [...]

  15. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    Ed Lambert has written an op-ed piece for today’s Standard-Times in New Bedford, touting the Gateway Cities Alliance. He describes it in part by using what he calls an African proverb about how many spiders spinning a web can “tie up a lion,” which in this metaphor is apparently state funds and support. Or, as Lambert puts it, “the lion’s share of new economic growth, which has thus far been elusive to [the eleven cities concerned].”

  16. Urban Compass | Blog Archive | Reconciling Urban Development, Top-Down and Bottom-Up http://urbancompass.net/?p=1504

    [...] report released by MassINC and the Brookings Institution about the state’s eleven so-called gateway cities, “Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities: Lessons Learned and an Agenda for [...]

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