Column: Local Economic Development a Top Priority
Small businesses are routinely referred to as the backbone of our economy for good reason. They are the economic engines of our communities’ Main Streets. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Massachusetts is home to 615,775 small businesses, which employ more than 1.4 million workers, about half of the state’s private workforce. Small businesses make up 97.8% of all employers in the state.
Because the vitality of small businesses in the Commonwealth is so integral to our overall economic health, bolstering local economic growth and development has always been one of my highest priorities. Among my legislative agenda for the new legislative session are three priority bills that I have filed to facilitate economic growth on our Main Streets and revitalize our downtowns.
An Act Relative to Promoting Local Economic Development would create a program to provide funding or other opportunities, such as technical assistance, to municipalities or regions that maximize opportunities for economic development planning and growth by meeting a series of criteria. These criteria would include a self-assessment of economic potential and the identification of unique strengths and assets. This bill borrows the conceptual structure of the Green Communities program, which provides funding opportunities for municipalities that reduce and improve their use of energy, and would be administered through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
An Act Relative to Marketing Prioritized Development Sites would require the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) to create and maintain a statewide searchable database of developable land and vacant sites, with listings submitted at no cost by local officials. This database would create a more comprehensive online marketing portal than currently exists for all locally prioritized sites across the state, giving each city and town the equal opportunity to submit prioritized development sites for inclusion.
An Act Establishing the Office of Massachusetts Main Streets would create an office within state government to operate as the principal agency for promoting and protecting the downtown and commercial districts of our cities and towns. The Office of Massachusetts Main Streets would provide informational, marketing, and technical assistance, as well as coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to further enhance our downtown and commercial districts.
A vitally important role for state government is to be a supportive partner for municipal governments and the business community as we work to strengthen our local economies and create jobs. In concert with one another, these bills would enhance the ability of our cities and towns to take advantage of all opportunities to economically grow and thrive through increased resources and more comprehensive planning, as well as provide support and guidance for entrepreneurs and small businesses in our communities.
I welcome your feedback on how we can better support our Main Streets and foster growth in our local economies. Please visit my website at www.SenatorJasonLewis.com to share your thoughts, or contact my State House office anytime at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or at (617) 722-1206.