Greater Boston, Massachusetts Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Boston (MAPC) released their Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) in 2015, which aims to direct economic development throughout the region until 2020. While the Strategy describes dozens of action items to increase economic resilience, one of the priorities is to address the impacts that climate change will have on Boston’s economy, especially on vulnerable, under-represented communities. The Strategy establishes several goals to increase the City’s economic resilience in the face of climate change and support these frontline communities, including for income inequality within the region to decrease, and that the Metro Area grow a strong supply of skilled and educated workers. In order to achieve these goals, the CEDS recommends several economic development and climate resilience actions to be implemented by policymakers, business owners, local colleges, and more.

The following relevant Goals are further outlined in the report with numerous supporting strategies and actions:

Reduction of income inequality and other inequalities in the Boston region

MAPC notes that the Boston-metro area ranks as one of the worst areas in the nation in terms of income inequality. This is especially true in the regional urban center and inner core of the city, which is only exacerbated by the housing crisis in the region. Reducing this inequality is a main goal of the CEDS, in part because studies have increasingly shown that the more equitable an economy is, the more likely it will remain stable, and the more resilient it will be.

To reduce this inequality and increase economic resilience, it is recommended that access to higher-quality education be expanded throughout the region. The Legislature can accomplish this through increasing funding for preschools that are known to be of better quality, for example. Ensuring that all residents - especially those that are vulnerable, unemployed, and under-served within the community – have the ability to earn a sufficient income will reduce inequality as well.  

Growing a strong supply of skilled and educated workers of all ages

By creating a large supply of skilled workers, not only will unemployment decrease, but businesses will also be encouraged to relocate and expand in the Boston-metro region. To accomplish this goal, the CEDS recommends to increase funding to workforce training programs. One action item suggests that the Legislature establish a revenue stream for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and/or the Massachusetts High-Demand Scholarship. The first provides unemployed individuals with training to meet the needs of current demands within the workforce, while the latter awards scholarships to students going to higher-education institutions to major in high-demand fields. Community colleges can also continue to play an important role in workforce development through collaborating with workforce development agencies in the area, and offering on-the-job training and classes.

Growing a skilled workforce also requires supporting low income, vulnerable populations. To do so, CEDS suggests that the state “continue to fund financial education and training centers, particularly those that have integrated services,” like assistance with filing income taxes and financial advice. Non-profits that work to offer help to low-income individuals should begin to better collaborate with each other to integrate their services at one place, so it’s easier for individuals to find a “one-stop-shop.” For example, CONNECT in Boston is a network of six non-profits that “offer traditional workforce development and employment support in coordination with asset development and housing services.” 

Diversify the region’s industries

Industry diversification helps to increase economic resilience in an area. To diversify the Greater-Boston area’s industry, MAPC encourages growth in the clean energy and clean technology sectors. It will continue to participate in and assist in convening “environmental, labor and community organizations, including community colleges, union apprenticeship programs, grassroots organizations and nonprofit organizations to hold conversations and coordinate efforts that focus on green-collar jobs and clean economic development.” This will help recruit workers to the area, ensure that there are low- and middle-skill economy jobs, and place individuals in careers with livable wages.

The Strategy also stresses the fact that clean energy groups need to continue to facilitate coordination with workforce development agencies. When interviewed, many employers in the industry stated that they found it difficult to find qualified clean energy employees. Agencies and organizations can implement training programs to prepare individuals with the kills necessary to enter the industry. To support these types of collaborations and programs, MAPC suggests that the state and the private sector continue to further invest in clean energy. 

The City to become better prepared to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change

MAPC recommends for the state and region as a whole to implement the action steps necessary to reduce vulnerabilities to the anticipated impacts of climate change, as it will have “tremendous and varied impacts on the regional economy.” Action steps include:

  • for state agencies to release bond funds that support climate adaptation plans and their implementation
  • municipalities to identify an effective budget structure, which will allow them to better apply for state and national funding efforts
  • to connect individuals and communities to create Resilience Networks
  • to create hazard mitigation and emergency preparedness plans

The CEDS also suggests that the appropriate agency to alter building codes or regulations in a way that will allow for properties to continue their primary functions before, after, and even during a weather event. For example, requiring that key systems - such as HVAC, communications, or electrical equipment – be located on higher floors, especially in areas prone to flooding, will help to avoid power or service outages. Special improvement districts - which assist in financing mechanisms like flood barriers, bioswales, and other adaptation projects – can be created in certain areas to encourage development in more environmentally stable areas. To fund these types of projects or incentives, agencies can explore “creative financing structures such as value capture and municipal incentives.”


Publication Date: January 2015

Related Organizations:

  • Boston, Massachusetts Metropolitan Area Planning Council

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  • Case study
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