- Category: Continually Creative
- Published on Friday, December 26, 2014
- Written by Rick Feldman
- Hits: 99
We’re completing another year at INCOMMN, and a year’s worth of newsletters (Daniel Lieberman has been amazing!), and we want to review our recent accomplishments and challenges, and contemplate what comes next. The right context do this review and contemplation is the regional context; that is, after all, INCOMMN’s main interest: collaboration building to achieve a resilient, sustainable regional economic community.
In the past year, I completed two regional economic studies that figure in to our review. The first was a deep-dive into broadband connectivity and its economic value in Western Massachusetts. The second, more recent one, was a very targeted look into commercial film production in the region. A couple of things stand out from these studies.
First, by way of background, each study was built on very close analysis of the region’s economic fabric: what sectors produce, and how much they sell, and to whom; what sectors they purchase from; and how many people are employed in each sector, how much do their households receive in income, and how much—and on what—do they spend. The picture that emerges describes these various interactions and transactions, allowing us to gain greater precision in understanding the region’s economy.
Here are some key points we learn from all this:
- The Valley core—the cities and towns along the Connecticut River—carries the region. If Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, South Hadley, Northampton, Deerfield, and Greenfield prosper, the entire region benefits: incomes increase, new ventures are sustained, agriculture expands, manufacturing expands, jobs are created.
- The more suburban and rural places support that core growth when people and small enterprises can locate further west and into the Hilltowns. When these towns cannot sustain their households, then everyone becomes that much more dependent on the Valley core, and that core simply cannot support both its own population and commerce and that of the rest of the region.
- To ensure that the more rural areas sustain local households and businesses, they absolutely need greatly improved and maintained advanced telecommunications, and they need closer economic ties to the core. Film production, hospitality, agriculture, tourism and small production enterprises establish and sustain those economic ties.
- Currently, the main regional ties are founded on education, health services, real estate and financial services. That’s great, but insufficient and not sustainable for the long term.
- Entrepreneurship—and we’re all witnessing the rapid growth of new enterprises, both commercial and social impact ventures—helps strengthen the regional fabric, and amplifies the need to do more. Local investment is necessary, as are more partnering, more collaboration among individual enterprises (especially true in manufacturing), and long term venture viability. There’s been a lot of wonderful activity in this arena (and INCOMMN is a key player), but the full measure of its economic value has not yet been felt.
The eco-system that is emerging in the region to address these needs has gained strength: it’s starting to accomplish significant results. More businesses and social ventures are starting, and they both create jobs and create demand for products and services from other businesses in the region. Many more graduates from the Universities, smaller colleges, and the very excellent community colleges are staying in the region rather than feeling compelled to leave in search of jobs and opportunities. Investment is starting to increase. Services in support of all this—the Community Development Corporations, Common Capital, local banks, Valley Venture Mentors, SPARK, INCOMMN, CISA—are active and robust.
And the trains are running again, physically tying the Valley core together and the entire region to the entire east coast. This level of transportation is a huge development, and will be felt in in the long-term. It may never be a hugely profitable piece of the transportation network, but it is an enormous investment in the sustainable economic health of the region.
My INCOMMN partners and I, and our colleagues, are thrilled with these prospects and developments, and we’re excited by the continuing challenges and opportunities. We will continue to do all we can to foster and encourage growth and collaboration building among social venture and commercial enterprise start-ups. Also, we will call upon our policy makers to build on these opportunities. Although we now operate within a global economy and global environment, we’re ever more aware of the need for resilient local and regional economies and healthy environments: we learned through this last recession that investing in local and regional collaboration and enterprise will get us through many global challenges.
- Category: Continually Creative
- Published on Thursday, December 25, 2014
- Written by Rick Feldman
- Hits: 87
If you haven’t visited and enjoyed the Holyoke Public Library, we recommend you do! Several area libraries—South Hadley, Chicopee, and Holyoke—have undergone significant design and construction phases in the past few years, as more and more libraries embrace their roles as community centers. Study and meeting spaces, exhibit spaces, and community rooms are as important now as the holdings on hand. Add to this the regional library system that allows people to access library resources and materials over the Internet, and we see the rebirth of the public library as a cornerstone of community building.
The Holyoke Public Library is a shining example of well-designed, usable space that’s welcoming, functional, and beautiful. Currently, HPL hosts a brilliant exhibit of sustainable architecture designs that were completed as part of an international competition. The designs of fifty-one college and university design students from around New England and Canada are on display, showing various possibilities for four sites in Holyoke. Each design seeks a Net Zero Energy (NZE) and Zero Carbon Emissions (ZCE) solution to residential and commercial development. This work was completed through the 2013-2014 NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, headquartered in Greenfield, MA) Student Design Competition. Sponsors were NESEA, City of Holyoke, Holyoke Public Library, Barr Foundation, and the National Grid Foundation.
The Library itself is a model of what’s possible in renewing our urban environments, and the exhibit showcases the possibilities in extraordinary designs and details. It’s important to realize that urban environments are not static; there's a lot that can be done to meet current and future needs and interests. These designs envision a beautiful and livable cityscape that’s achievable, and desirable. There are many people to thank for this showcase: we’ll name one who has had a special impact on regional sustainable development: thank you to Joe Bosworth, a friend and colleague.
- Category: News
- Published on Friday, December 12, 2014
- Written by Rick Feldman
- Hits: 172
Too often all
Of our country is contained
In one place: caught
In Newtown, Connecticut
In the World Trade Center
We've lived months in New Orleans
And our souls scarred and reflected
In the mirror of Selma;
Hopes and dreams evaporated
One day in Dallas,
Another day in Memphis.
Each place capturing the country to tell us
A little more about ourselves.
All the United States has lived this week
Stuck in Ferguson.
With the Selma blues.
When I was a child in the harsh projects
I found my friend Ronnie bloody
By four white boys who turned
On me next;
In those days, America was
Not any one place: it was cities
And highways and wide midwest, and our alleys
Were unseen or ignored.
Philadelphia was not the whole country;
Ronnie was invisible.
Only a decade had passed I yelled
Out my back door shamed
And terrified By never ending hate...
The places started to capture us, define us,
Nights and days,
In all seasons, families crying,
And I cry now for all our county's promises squandered
In the maze of Ferguson,
Tonight's home Of our national shame.
I thought that by now we'd leave
These bound'ried places;
I was certain
When I was younger
That we'd have gotten out of small places.
Perhaps we need to stay awhile in Ferguson,
To find ourselves, and learn.
To admit That the promise of America
Will be delayed until
We can prevent another death by race.
R. benAvrum/R.J. Feldman November 2014