BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is pitching a new economic development proposal that he says would boost investment in the state’s older, financially strapped Gateway cities, but observers say the plan’s funding falls short of expectations.
With only months left in office, Patrick has proposed a multi-year, $100 million economic plan that focuses attention on the state’s economically challenged cities by providing more money for large-scale redevelopment projects, market-rate housing and cleaning up old manufacturing sites.
Regional economic officials said they are encouraged by the governor’s proposal but said the funding levels for so-called Gateway cities like Salem, Peabody, Lawrence and Haverhill are lackluster. They hope state lawmakers will pump more money into Patrick’s development plan.
“The elements of the governor’s package are positive, but the funding levels are anemic,” said David Tibbetts, president of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council. “I hope that the House and Senate give careful consideration to what the governor has proposed, especially for the Gateway cities programs, but are more generous with the funding levels.”
Patrick’s proposal would create a new $11 million fund for major redevelopment projects specifically in the Gateway cities, to be overseen by MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency. The governor’s proposal also would boost funds for MassDevelopment’s Housing Development Incentive Program from $5 million to $10 million.
“At these levels we might have sufficient funding to plan for compelling transformative projects, but we could never build them,” said Ben Forman, executive director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, an independent think tank.
MassINC has called for a state infusion of more than $1.7 billion over the next decade to stimulate growth in the state’s 26 Gateway cities. A recent study by the group suggested the funding would create $3.4 billion in new development and create about 80,000 jobs.