One of the reasons I ran for City Council, and one of the reasons I’m running for Lt. Governor, is because I saw how the new economy wasn’t benefiting everyone equally. The team at Bostinno — a news website covering Boston’s startup scene — asked me to write an op-ed on some of those thoughts.
I wanted to make sure the community here saw it, too. I cross-posted it below the jump.
According to a report recently released by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, “The state’s tech sector is growing fast, but a shortage of qualified workers is preventing Massachusetts from becoming the capital of the nation’s innovation economy.”
Our education system and workforce training programs haven’t kept up with the fast pace of our new economy, and if we don’t take great strides to catch up we’ll lose our place as a national and global competitor in the tech sector.
As part of my work as a board member of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, one of our state’s economic development agencies, I’ve criss-crossed the Commonwealth as we’ve worked to lay fiber and expand digital access to Western Mass and The Cape.
The key to our success as a tech mecca hinges on our ability to expand our innovation economy beyond Boston and Cambridge, and past I-95. We need to pop the bubble. Massachusetts has no shortage of talent and by closing the opportunity gap we expand the economy for families across the Commonwealth.
The question: How?
A crucial component of expanding our innovation economy is, as an earlier Boston Globe feature suggests, making strategic investments in the right educational and vocational training programs that will make it possible for everyone in Massachusetts to share in the benefits of the new economy. We must ensure that every child has a head start on achieving their full potential by investing in universal pre-k and j-k programs. We must empower our students to become familiar and engaged with STEM fields by strengthening STEM education both in the classroom and during after school programs. We must continue investing in community colleges and workforce development programs to ensure that everyone who receives a publicly funded education is learning state-of-the-art skills that make them an asset not only in the economy we we have now, but the economy we will build for the future.
Most importantly, we need to connect our fledgling industries with the skilled workers that will allow their business to grow and thrive by serving as a bridge to connect communities with stakeholders. With the right investments in education and infrastructure, there can be a place for everyone in the economy of the future, whether they have a four-year degree or a two-year certificate.
As a former venture capitalist, an entrepreneur and an elected official, I’ve spent my career working to bridge this gap. I know that we can build beyond the Boston bubble by incentivizing the growth of the innovation economy and instituting targeted economic development incentives that will entice startups and tech companies to grow in new places.
I’ve used this tactic on the City Council by incentivizing the creation of low-cost startup incubator space in all new development in Kendall Square to ensure that new businesses won’t be priced out of the square and forced to take their business outside of the Commonwealth. I’m working to spread Internet access to kids in public housing and fostering an environment where entrepreneurs, non-profits and the residents they serve have common ground to interact to solve shared challenges within their community.
These types of targeted economic development incentives won’t only spark growth in the Gateway Cities – they’ll also allow our new companies and industries to succeed as they benefit from the untapped talent pool that exists across Massachusetts.
The key to the growth of our state’s tech economy lies in working together as a Commonwealth and linking together instead of sequestering our startups in certain cities. A few years ago, when a large company pondered making a move from Cambridge to Boston, officials from both cities fought tooth and nail to attract the company. When we compete with our neighbors, we lessen our ability to remain a viable competitor with other tech clusters across the country and around the world. In an effort to enhance regional collaboration, I partnered with Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson and former Boston City Councilor Mike Ross to hold historic joint hearings of Boston and Cambridge about talent retention and economic clusters. I know that if we expand these collaborative efforts statewide, our tech sector and our citizens will be stronger than ever before.
To be clear, these goals will only come to fruition if we invest in the basic infrastructure that will tie us all together – roads and rail, bridges and broadband – and the educational infrastructure that will allow our next generation to thrive.