Through the work of MassInc, with support from municipal and state officials, Massachusetts is beginning to recognize the vital role that Gateway Cities like Lowell play in the health of the Commonwealth. Perhaps even more importantly, these mid-sized cities have the potential to serve as drivers of economic development for the state in the coming decades. As large segments of the Millennial and Baby Boom generations migrate to urban locations, leading businesses are increasingly focusing their growth in the places where they can find highly talented Millennial workers. The increasing allure of urban places has caused many developers in southern and western states to attempt to recreate traditional downtowns and walkable neighborhoods where none historically existed. Massachusetts however enjoys truly authentic historic urban places throughout the Commonwealth in its Gateway Cities, which provide the state with a significant potential comparative advantage.
However, two major challenges hinder the state’s ability to unlock the true potential of its Gateway Cities as economic engines. First, education policies must be reformed to address the systemic socio-economic conditions which artificially and, in many cases, undeservedly diminish the reputation of public schools in the Gateway Cities. Second, state action is needed to combat market conditions in the Gateway Cities that complicate and in many cases prevent major economic development projects that could radically transform those markets from attaining viability.
MassInc has recently released a report documenting both the opportunities for and challenges to implementing truly transformative real estate development projects in the Gateway Cities. The report also serves as a call to action, identifying specific steps that should be taken to help stimulate the significant economic development potential in the Gateway Cities through carefully targeted investments and technical assistance. MassInc has also launched a Gateway Cities education reform initiative.
Lowell stands to benefit greatly from these efforts and has actively supported and informed this work. City Manager Lynch and Assistant City Manager Adam Baacke, along with Mayors Caulfield, Milinazzo, and Murphy have all been engaged with MassInc’s Gateway Cities initiatives. Lowell’s state delegation has also signed on to cosponsor House Bill 3318, the legislation that has been proposed to begin to implement the Gateway Cities Transformative Investments Program. We look forward to working with them toward passing this important legislation which can help advance the Hamilton Canal District, ongoing Downtown revitalization, neighborhood stabilization, and the reinvention of the Tanner Street corridor.