Vertex, Heartland Moves Call Attention To Boston-Cambridge Rivalry
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how we can all benefit.”
The Vertex move represents a win for the state and not just a city, says Kimberly Haberlin, director of communications for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development. “Despite offers from competitor states, the company made the decision to build an $800 million facility—a private development that will provide a shot in the arm for the local construction industry at a critical time—and hire 500 more workers while maintaining their current workforce here at home in Massachusetts. That is a clear victory, and one we should be very proud of,” she says.
So where does all this leave Cambridge? The city has some big innovation mainstays (call them MIT and Harvard), that give it a natural advantage, but that doesn’t mean it can get lazy, Rowe says. “The truth is that Cambridge has been so successful historically, and Boston has had such great needs, that Boston’s administration has been much more proactive about attracting companies than Cambridge’s has,” he says. “I think this is a natural consequence of Cambridge’s success. This said, Massachusetts is losing market share in the sectors where we are strongest, and none of us can afford to sit on our laurels.”
Part of maintaining that edge means adding more commercial space, which Rowe says can be done without trampling down residential areas, by cutting down on new parking spaces and “improving other, non-car forms of transportation.” Increasing Cambridge commercial space could mean building out the more untouched area of the city from Northpoint to University Park, he says.
Cambridge also needs the supporting infrastructure and amenities to encourage companies to stay, the Kendall Square Association’s McCready said in an e-mail. “Kendall Square still has work to do to improve its product, particularly increased retail services & amenities and a comprehensive transportation strategy for the district,” he says. “The KSA, its members and the City of Cambridge are collaborating on both.”
Boston’s innovation district has added 29 new businesses and 1100 new jobs since January of 2010, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The industries the neighborhood houses span the legal, financial services and insurance, marketing and advertising, retail, architecture and design, software, life sciences, and cleantech spaces.
“What’s happening in the Cambridges and Route 128s is geographic location and collaboration by proximity, but not collaboration by design,” says Michael Turillo Jr., vice chairman of Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations, a firm focused on public-private collaborations that’s offering $25,000 for a startup to expand or relocate in Boston’s waterfront area, as part of a competition called the Innovation District Welcome Home Challenge. “In the innovation district, the whole impetus behind it is collaboration by design,” says Turillo. “The innovation district is not only creating housing situations for those business, but providing infrastructure and support deliberately and consciously to stimulate and enable true collaboration.”
Ultimately, it’s about creating an environment for businesses to house employees once they have the money to hire them, Elsbree says, “so when the markets come back and when people need to grow, they will be ready.”