City’s Compact is Valuable Step

Strength in Urban Numbers
New Bedford Standard-Times Editorial

At long last, Massachusetts’ former mill cities are uniting to advance their common interests.
Eight months ago, we endorsed a call by think tank Mass Inc. for the state’s “gateway” cities — so named for employing new immigrants in the factories of the Industrial Revolution — to forge a coalition.
The recommendation was born out of a study Mass Inc. conducted in partnership with the Brookings Institution. The results painted a stark picture of 11 urban economies.
Since 1970, the gateway cities lost more than 3 percent of their job base, while Greater Boston gained 51 percent, an enviable 467,000 jobs.
As traditional points of entry for immigrant mill workers, cities like New Bedford and Fall River were less equipped than Greater Boston to supply a highly educated work force. They suffered anemic outside investment in knowledge-driven sectors such as science, technology, health, education and research.
Now they’re ready to make a comeback, and the surest way to do it is through cooperation. To that end, the cities have formed the Gateways Compact for Community and Economic Development.
With a combined population of nearly 1 million, the cities in the coalition will have far more leverage as a group than any of them could alone.
While the cities will always compete with one another on business development deals, they can benefit collectively from lobbying state officials to support a new urban economic agenda.
As part of that agenda, they plan to advance a unified strategy to deal with deficiencies not only in the labor force, but in housing, infrastructure and environmental issues. They can jointly market opportunities for growth in the gateway cities and work together to share information about best practices.
Leaders of the coalition’s 11 cities — Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester — have taken a valuable step toward cooperation.
Now they must dedicate substantial staff time to making the work of the coalition meaningful.
Strength in numbers comes only through the investment of effort and resources those numbers bring.
May 28, 2008
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