State Resource Network can help Central Mass. innovate


February 29, 2016 : Worcester Business Journal, by Anne Haynes

Yesterday's innovations shaped today's Gateway Cities. The commonwealth's legacy as the birthplace of America's industrial revolution still resonates, but after years of disinvestment, this same legacy presents us with a series of shared and unique economic challenges for our Gateway Cities. The Cities' future requires a new phase of innovative thinking that led to an explosion of manufacturing and jobs, but with a 2016 spin: collaboration, commitment and customization.

Whether through Community Compact agreements, Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Districts or other local champions and resources dedicated to strengthen our communities, Massachusetts is dedicated to providing cutting-edge tools to help our communities accelerate their economic vitality.

To double down on the commonwealth's deep commitment to our Gateway Cities, MassDevelopment and the National Resource Network – a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development technical assistance program that delivers innovative solutions to cities facing economic challenges – recently announced the launch of the nation's first State Resource Network.

This pilot partnership will provide up to 10 cities facing economic challenges with comprehensive and cross-cutting assistance designed to increase their competitiveness. The 16 eligible cities are Brockton, Everett, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere, Springfield and Worcester.

The State Resource Network will be supported by up to $1.2 million in federal, state and local funds – including $375,000 from MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative, making Massachusetts the first to provide direct funding to the effort.

Through this partnership, Massachusetts is once again a national leader. The Massachusetts State Resource Network will employ an approach that has delivered positive results across the country. Cities like Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and Kansas City, Kan. have worked with NRN to identify strategies and initiatives to improve their economies.

As the director of transformative development at MassDevelopment, and after our first year of TDI, I know that our cities face varied and distinct issues. That is why the State Resource Network will work with each city and its community partners to develop a customized approach to address economic development and influencing issues such as education, public safety and workforce development. Eligible communities may consider an array of projects like downtown revitalization, community development, infrastructure investment or even multi-year budget planning.

In keeping with the TDI core principles of partnership and engagement, delivering this additional technical assistance will foster a collaborative approach that emphasizes working with critical anchor institutions, including local foundations, municipal governments and corporate partners. This effort is about a community partnering with national experts and networks and expanding the toolkit to find the solutions that work for that particular city.

Just as the industrial revolution put cities like Leominster and Worcester on the map, our State Resource Network has the potential to amplify our efforts. Our Gateway Cities have supported workers and families for decades; it's now time for them to get the resources they need, and secure the prosperous futures that they deserve.

Anne Haynes is MassDevelopment's director of Transformative Development.