Planners’ Gateway City Dream Job: MassDevelopment TDI Fellow
March 28, 2022 : Massachusetts Planning Magazine, by Noah Koretz
MassDevelopment is bullish on Gateway Cities. Defined by the Massachusetts legislature as small to mid-sized cities that anchor regional economies around the state, Gateway Cities are home to one-of-a-kind businesses, institutions, and communities, with an abundance of unmatched cultural capital. That’s why in February, we were proud to join the Baker-Polito Administration as it announced a historic expansion of the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), our program for Gateway Cities designed to accelerate economic growth within focused districts in downtowns or neighborhood commercial centers. Now, we are looking to hire and deploy about a dozen professionals with experience in urban planning, development, and small business initiatives to help us carry out this work.
The Transformative Development Initiative works with cross-sector partnerships in targeted commercial districts in Gateway Cities in order to engage community members, implement local economic development initiatives, and spur further public and private investment. The program concentrates economic development activities, resources, and investments within designated neighborhood areas, known as “TDI districts,” for a term of three years.
Announced in February, the program’s latest expansion included the selection of 13 TDI districts in Attleboro, Barnstable (Hyannis), Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Revere, Springfield, Taunton, and Worcester. All districts will be awarded “TDI fellows”—MassDevelopment employees who will provide on-the-ground economic development expertise and collaborative leadership in these cities for three years—and will have access to a range of tools to help accelerate development, including technical assistance, grants to support local market development and arts and cultural infrastructure, collaborative workshops, resources, events, and more.
This expansion more than doubled the size of the Transformative Development Initiative, which currently operates districts in five Gateway Cities, and represented a $23.7 million investment in Gateway Cities over three years. As Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors, explained in his remarks last month: “That’s because it works.”
“By developing coalitions of local public, private, and nonprofit partners to make progress toward shared neighborhood goals, MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative has become a proven model for accelerating economic development in Gateway Cities across Massachusetts,” said Secretary Mike Kennealy. “This collaborative, street-level approach engages community members to advance small businesses, activate public spaces, rethink vacant properties, and more.”
Since 2015, MassDevelopment has invested $20 million in TDI districts through tools such as technical assistance, real estate investments, grant programs, and fellows — that investment has directly influenced over $100.2 million in public and private investments in the districts, and assisted an additional $219.9 million.
Why has the Transformative Development Initiative been so impactful? From day one, the secret sauce of the program has been the TDI fellows: full-time MassDevelopment employees hired specifically to serve as the main organizers for place-based economic development in Gateway Cities for the duration of their designation as a TDI district, leading and facilitating the day-today work of the local partnership and helping direct where agency investments go.
Our current TDI fellow for the City of Fitchburg, Francisco Torres, described the role, saying, “On any given day, we’re tasked with working with a variety of stakeholders, TDI Fellow cont’d including residents, property owners, and artists, to identify solutions essential in creating vibrant and attractive places. Those seeking to work independently in an environment where the target changes frequently, based on the needs of the community, should consider a role as a TDI fellow. The reward: visually seeing the impact I have made.”
In addition to spearheading economic development within a city, TDI fellows engage as a cohort in group team building, trips and learning journeys, and other leadership and professional development opportunities, bringing best practices back to their district to further economic growth.
As the Transformative Development Initiative builds on past experience to bring new resources, expertise, and energy to 13 Gateway Cities, we will be hiring a new cohort of TDI fellows to work in these communities.
And—as someone who served in the inaugural cohort of TDI fellows, working from 2015 to 2018 in the City of Haverhill before becoming director of the program—I couldn’t be more excited to welcome and guide a new group of professionals to create real impact in communities across the state.
If you are interested in applying to be a TDI fellow, please visit https://bit.ly/35xzMRs to sign up for updates. We hope to begin the hiring process in April.