Report: Devens’ Traits Spawn Over 3,000 Jobs
June 12, 2012 : The Lowell Sun, by Hiroko Sato
DEVENS – Forty-nine days.
That’s all it took for Bristol-Myers Squibb to obtain the necessary permits in 2006 when the pharmaceutical giant decided to construct its 1.5 million square-foot manufacturing facility off Jackson Road in Devens, bringing 1,000 jobs there.
The 4,400-acre former Army post community is known for its speedy permitting process, according to Marty Jones, CEO of MassDevelopment, the state’s quasi-public economic-development agency tasked with redeveloping Devens. The close proximity to Route 2 and Interstate 495 is also a big draw for companies looking for a place to relocate. In fact, the easy access to the major roadways was a key factor for Quiet Logistics, a warehouse-management company, in deciding to locate its 20,000-square-foot distribution center on Saratoga Avenue in May of last year, the company has said.
And, these and other favorable features have added up to generate more than 3,000 jobs within the community, according to an economic report on Devens from the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute.
“This is a reinforcement of what we have been doing,” Jones said of the report, adding that she hopes the analysis will help the agency further promote Devens.
MassDevelopment and the Donahue Institute released “Profile and Economic Contributions: Businesses and organizations located in Devens, Massachusetts” this morning. The report looks at the number and types of jobs available within Devens, average wages for each business sector, the spending by the corporations, organizations and their employees and their impact on the state economy.
According to the report, there were 95 employers in Devens in 2010, providing jobs for 3,208 people. The economic activities in Devens also supported 2,618 additional jobs elsewhere in Massachusetts through secondary spending effects, the report says. The corporations and organizations that exist in Devens spent a total of $1.06 billion in 2010, which supported additional spending of $393 million in supply chains across Massachusetts. Overall, spending by firms and organizations in Devens has contributed $1.45 billion to the state economy, according to the report.
While the analysis is based on data from 2010, the Donahue Institute removed Evergreen Solar – which closed its 450,000-square-foot solar-panel manufacturing plant in March 2011, laying off 800 workers – from the statistics before releasing the report, said Rebecca Loveland, senior research manager for the Donahue Institute, who wrote the report. The report also excludes military employment because those jobs do not reflect Devens’ economic-development efforts, Loveland said. The report includes some public-sector jobs, such as the Federal Medical Center that provides 500 jobs, the Shriver Job Corps that employs 125 people and Mount Wachusett Community College/Devens Learning Center that has 60 employees.
“It’s a conservative look,” Loveland said of the economic statistics. “It represents the efforts that MassDevelopment put in to develop this as an economic-development site.”
While the report shows Devens’ economic landscapes for 2010, it is not clear how the figures stack up against to those in the past. The economic report released today is the first of its kind, and there are few comprehensive statistics from earlier years to compare the latest numbers against, Jones said Monday.
Jones believes, however, Devens is on the right track to fulfill its goal to recover 7,000 to 8,000 jobs lost in the Army fort closure in 1996. Devens’ 8.5 million “buildable” square feet are nearly all zoned for industrial or commercial use, and 4.5 million square feet have been developed so far.
“We are half-way there in terms of capacity,” Jones said.
The diverse mix of jobs available in Devens also makes the former fort unique, Jones said. Of the 3,208 jobs, 2,137, or 67 percent, belong to the private sector with governmental jobs providing 619 jobs, or 19 percent of the total, and nonprofits 452 jobs, or 14 percent. Of the 95 employers, 16 were manufacturing businesses and another 16 were “professional, scientific and technical services,” each representing 16.8 percent of the total employment in Devens. That represents a much higher concentration of manufacturing jobs than the statewide average of 3.4 percent, Loveland said. Statewide, “professional, scientific and technical services” jobs make up 13.2 percent of all employment.
“I see some clustering going on here,” Loveland said.
Loveland said manufacturers prefer locating close to other manufacturers for potential cost savings on delivery of commonly used materials and other resources.
Full-time jobs in Devens pay an average of $68,794 a year, higher than the state average of $57,799, despite the lower cost of living in the region compared to that of the Boston area, Loveland said. She noted that large corporations, particularly high-tech firms, have been looking to locate their facilities farther outside of the congested Boston Metropolitan area, and the Devens development appears to be keeping with the trend.
“This is an unusual economic base even for the town that plans really well,” Loveland said of Devens.
MassDevelopment has a 20-year tax-increment-financing contract with Bristol-Myers Squibb and a similar incentive extended to MagneMotion on Barnum Road. But such incentives are more of an exception, as most companies have moved to Devens for easy access to transportation and other physical attributes of Devens and not to obtain financial incentives, Jones said. MassDevelopment, which owns most of the undeveloped land in Devens, said land-sale and purchase agreements with businesses are often designed to allow the agency to buy back the properties when the land remains vacant beyond a certain period of time.
The availability of industrial land, already developed utility infrastructure and access to relatively affordable housing also make Devens attractive to companies, Jones said.
The Donahue Institute is expected to release another economic study that will include military jobs in about a month, Loveland said.
© Copyright 2012 The Lowell Sun.