SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 28, 2014

Funding sought for Gateway cities

Proposal designed to stimulate growth in Salem, Peabody, but advocates say it's not enough

(Continued)

“The longer we put off these critical investments, the longer regional economies outside of Greater Boston will sputter,” Forman said. “And without these economies contributing sustainably to the state’s coffers, we will continue to face structural imbalances.”

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford, seeks more than $125 million for the new redevelopment fund and would expand state incentive programs and tax credits for large-scale redevelopment projects in the Gateway cities.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo also is working on an economic development plan that could be introduced before the end of the legislative session this summer.

Patrick’s plan, which would be paid for through a combination of capital budget and general fund expenditures, also seeks to boost training to help students and workers get jobs in advanced manufacturing and IT and provide more grants to high-tech firms to hire interns. Industry officials say the move would help promote growth in the budding life sciences cluster on the North Shore.

“There is a huge demand for skilled workers with hands-on experience,” said Martha Farmer, CEO of North Shore Innoventures, an incubator for about 45 life sciences firms and bio-tech companies at Cummings Center in Beverly. “And the schools are really eager to place their students in internships because that is obviously the path to a job.”

Farmer said she hopes lawmakers would put funding for bio-tech incubators into Patrick’s economic proposal. She said the governor’s $1 billion bond bill — which provided more than $100 million a year for life sciences startups — in 2007 was a major boost to the North Shore bio-tech cluster.

“The impact of that bill was massive,” she said. “It attracted private investment and grants three times that amount.”

William Howard, director of the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development, said he is encouraged by the governor’s calls for the creation of a “middle skills” job training grant fund for careers in advanced manufacturing and information technology. He said schools like the soon-to-open Essex Technical High School district in Danvers would benefit from the new program.

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