A Great Start for Economic Development Under the Baker/Polito Administration

BakerGovernor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito just filed the administration’s Economic Development bill with $1 billion to be invested over the next five years into economic development, housing and job training across the Commonwealth.

A core principal of this legislation is to take various existing programs and make enhancements to them so that they become more widely used, more effective, recapitalized, and more user-friendly:

  • MassWorks ($500 million proposed capital authorization): Reauthorizes a capital grant program that provides municipalities and other public entities with public infrastructure grants to support economic development and job creation.
  • Brownfields Redevelopment Fund ($75 million proposed capital authorization): Moves funding for the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Fund to the capital program, providing a reliable long-term funding stream for a fund that is the Commonwealth’s primary tool for facilitating the redevelopment of contaminated properties.
  • Housing-Related Tax Increment Financing: Supports housing production in town centers by reforming a seldom-used local-only smart growth tax incentive program, removing onerous regulations, and allowing communities to set their own affordability requirements.
  • Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) Reform: Supports the development of market-rate housing in Gateway Cities by allowing credits to support new construction, and by raising the formula that sets housing development incentives.
  • I-Cubed Reform: Reforms the I-Cubed infrastructure program by removing unnecessary program requirements (such as eliminating the per-municipality cap on the number of projects that may participate and raising the aggregate limit of funds from the I-cubed program that may be used in any one municipality from 31% to 50%) building flexibility into the program, and aligning program requirements with the demonstrated project pipeline.
  • Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) Reforms: Builds accountability in the state’s primary job-creation incentive program by strengthening the link between the issuance of tax credits, and job creation that would not otherwise occur; adds flexibility to the incentive program by eliminating obsolete formula-driven incentive categories, and by creating a new Extraordinary Development Opportunity designation.

In addition, the bill creates two important provisions:

  • Site Readiness Fund ($25 million proposed capital authorization): Advances regional job creation by creating a new fund for site assembly and pre-development activities (including site assessment and cleanup) that support regionally significant commercial or industrial development opportunities.
  • “Starter Home” Zoning: Incentivizes the creation of smaller, denser, and more affordable single-family homes by creating a new starter home option under the Chapter 40R smart growth housing program. These projects will also allow the municipality to be eligible for school reimbursements under Chapter 40S.
  • Parking Management Districts: Aligns local parking policies with broader economic development priorities by enabling municipalities to opt into creating demand-based parking fees, and allowing parking fees to support capital improvements in designated districts, like downtowns.

In addition, there are new programs with a Massachusetts Innovation Initiative, Workforce Development, and Economic Competitiveness.

We are very supportive of the bill, which contains many of NAIOP’s priorities. This legislation will be one of NAIOP’s top priorities for the remainder of the legislative session.

Casinos Coming to Massachusetts – An Inside Look at What the Future May Bring

NAIOP just had its gaming program: Casinos Coming to Massachusetts: Spinning the Wheel – What this New Industry Means for the Commonwealth. The event attracted a large crowd and generated significant media coverage. It was the first program of its kind since the casino legislation was signed into law and it was the first public speaking opportunity for Steve Crosby, the Chairman-Designate of the newly established Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

During his presentation, Steve indicated that there were eight guiding principles that came out of the legislation:

  1. The public must have confidence in the selection and oversight process.
  2. There will not be a local referendum until there is a signed agreement with the casino operator/developer and the municipal leadership.
  3. Financial stability of the development must be proven.
  4. Lottery revenues need to be maintained.
  5. Job growth and economic development should be maximized.
  6. Small businesses and local tourism in the surrounding areas need to be protected.
  7. Revenues must be generated for the Commonwealth.
  8. Any potential negative consequences should be mitigated.

Steve sees this as a great opportunity to leverage what might be a $2-4 billion private investment into the Commonwealth for the public good. He also hopes that the individual project designs will enhance the culture, social values, and history of the local areas.

Finally, he pointed out that the Commission was just created. Four other members still need to be selected and an executive director needs to be hired before they can even begin establishing regulations and rules, or issue requests for proposals. He guessed that it would take 12-18 months to accomplish all of that with another 6-9 months, at the earliest, before an initial decision on a specific project could be made. The exception to that might be the one slot parlor, which could be on a faster track.

So, casinos are coming, but just not this year!

View event photos.

MassINC Has Some Serious Fun – Menino Stars as The Godfather

MassINC recently celebrated its 15th anniversary at the Kennedy Library with an evening of political humor (intentional humor, that is!) billed as “Serious Fun.”

I am a board member of this public policy think tank and I am very proud of the work that this organization has done through its research and its highly respected CommonWealth magazine. MassINC was built around the conviction that better outcomes would be achieved if policy makers and opinion leaders were armed with credible data and analysis about key issues surrounding quality of life in Massachusetts.

As the State House News Service described it, “The event was everything the Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast once was.” Leading political figures from yesterday and today all let their hair down and joked around at themselves and their peers.

You must watch the opening video parodying “The Godfather” with Mayor Menino.

MassINC President Greg Torres said it well,“We thought a lot about the tone of the political discourse these days. And we thought, maybe it was time to just take a break.Maybe it was time to step back and have a little fun at the expense of ourselves and everybody else in town.”

Congratulations to the MassINC team and its 15 years of success.  Massachusetts is a better place to live and work thanks to you!