PawSox – An Important Conversation That Will Benefit Worcester

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce fully supports the recent efforts of Mayor Joe Petty, City Manager Augustus, and a majority of the City Council to explore the feasibility of bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester for a variety of reasons.

First, as City Manager Augustus and Mayor Petty have both stated, these efforts are not simply about bringing professional baseball and a ballpark to Worcester. More importantly, this conversation will serve as a catalyst about the reuse of a substantial portion of the 22 plus acre Wyman Gordan site that has laid dormant for nearly three decades producing little in taxes or jobs.

Wisely, this area was included in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Urban Revitalization Plan, which was adopted by the Worcester City Council, and allows for the use of eminent domain to acquire these long standing vacant properties. The Chamber strongly supported the creation of the Urban Revitalization Plan as well.

This conversation with the PawSox is beneficial because it explores how a baseball park can be a driver for new private sector investment on the underutilized parcels of property around a new ballpark on most of the Wyman Gordon site and other underutilized properties in the area. In doing so, we can build on the momentum that has been growing in the Canal District over the past dozen years. Most recently this momentum has manifested itself with the newly completed $18 million Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, which features two new hockey rinks, and 40,000 square feet of retail space, and new businesses openings like Lock 50, Queens Cup Bakery, and Kummerspeck Restaurant and butcher shop, just to name a few.

Secondly, this conversation and process is also about developing a plan that will knit together the Canal District, Vernon Hill, Green Island, Main South, and lower Chandler and Madison Street neighborhoods in a positive and strategic way. This would add density; include mixed use commercial, retail, and industrial uses that create jobs for the residents of these abutting neighborhoods, and expand the City’s tax base. A similar planning process was utilized by the City in the early stages of the now substantially completed City Square project in downtown Worcester.

The Red Sox brand is known internationally, and having a Triple AAA baseball team in Worcester would undoubtedly have many benefits. These benefits include 70 home baseball games, a ballpark that could be used for concerts and other sporting events year round. Tens of thousands of new visitors from across New England, and the country, would come to Worcester to watch baseball and the Red Sox’s future stars. These fans would be visiting many of our local businesses during the spring and summer months. Additionally, the Pawtucket Red Sox Managing Partner, Larry Lucchino, and his team, led by the nationally recognized architect, Janet Marie Smith, have a proven track record of building or rehabilitating baseball parks, like Fenway Park. They have done so in a manner that compliments the urban landscape of the surrounding neighborhoods and have attracted significant, new private sector investment in the immediate area around the ballpark. Camden Yards in Baltimore and Fenway Park are two tangible examples of their work. Additionally, new Triple AAA baseball ballparks, designed appropriately, have helped facilitate private sector investment in cities like Durham, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Indiana, Nashville, Tennessee, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The other positive is that the success of this conversation and process does not hinge solely on whether the PawSox choose to relocate to Worcester. As we witnessed with the City Square project, Gateway Park, and the South Worcester Industrial Park, as pad ready development sites are created, local and outside investors and companies come forward overtime to build on these sites. If the PawSox stay in Rhode Island, a smaller multi-use ballpark could be utilized for the Bravehearts, local colleges, high schools, youth groups, and concerts as well. Additionally, a plan for a mixed use development on the current vacant and underutilized properties in the urban revitalization area property could go forward as well to the benefit of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Chamber will continue to actively participate in this process, knowing that no matter the outcome with the PawSox, Worcester’s future is bright, and we are confident that a plan that makes our neighborhoods and city stronger will be the result.

A Reflection over Labor Day Weekend: Labor law

obituary of Daniel F Murray in blog on labor lawOn July 5th, 1916, my great grandfather Dan Murray died at Worcester City Hospital as a result of a broken neck that he sustained repairing a trolley as an employee of the Worcester Consolidated Railway Company. He was 46 years old. The Worcester Evening Gazette reported about his death on the front page of their July 8th edition, and his obituary appeared in the Worcester Telegram the same day. The work accident occurred in the trolley garage on Market Street in Worcester. Market Street is no longer in existence and the MCPHS University dorm and academic space near Lincoln Square stands where the trolley garage was once located. The Worcester Consolidated Railway Company is today known as the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, as buses replaced the trolley in later years. He was a member of the Street Railway Employees Union which today is known as the Amalgamated Transit Union.

He was survived by his wife and two young children. One of those two children was my grandfather, Daniel F. Murray Jr. who was 8 years old at the time of his father’s death. His funeral mass was held out of St. Bridget’s Church in Millbury and his pall-bearers included his co-workers and fellow union members.

At the time of his death, labor law was underdeveloped and workers compensation and social security did not exist. My great grandmother went to work full time at a local textile mill after her husband’s death. She would also die a premature death caused in part because of her working conditions.

Unfortunately, the story of my great grandfather’s death was not uncommon at the time as the United States was rapidly becoming an industrialized nation. The Labor movement led the fight along with forward-thinking business and government leaders in establishing new protections for workers. These protections, provided through compromise and negotiations in the legislative process would ensure that workers injured or killed at work had a financial safety net for themselves and their families.

The reverberations of my great grandfather’s death at 46 years old have been felt by the Murray family over the years in many ways both negative and positive. The loss of a parent or a spouse at such a young age causes a pain and trauma that manifests itself in different forms. A void is created that cannot easily be filled.

For my grandfather remedying the circumstances of how his parents died would be in fighting for protections and financial security for workers like his parents. He would become a well-respected labor leader known throughout the state for his commitment to those he represented.

His voice would be one amongImage of Daniel Murray death article - a precurser to labor law Labor, Business and Government leaders that sought consensus and advocated for the establishment of the workers compensation system and social security survivor benefits for those injured at work, or who died because of a work related injury.

These common sense reforms were examples of how labor, business and government could come together to protect the nations biggest asset – The American Workforce. As our leaders begin to gather in Washington this fall to discuss important issues such as tax reform, infrastructure investment and immigration, may they remember in our democratic form of government, principled compromise is a virtue, not a vice. It is my Labor Day wish that they collaborate in seeking policy solutions that reward hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit that has made the United States the greatest nation on earth.

It’s Time to Invest in Voc-Tech Education

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Waiting lists are long; employer demand high

THE DEFEAT OF QUESTION 2 to lift the cap on charter schools has left many on both sides of this issue wondering if any common ground can be found to expand student access to high performing public schools. The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”

There is an immediate opportunity for both sides of this divisive issue to work together in pursuit of student access to the demonstrated educational excellence at the 60-plus vocational, technical, and agricultural schools and programs that exist throughout the state. The strong academic and skills training outcomes of the majority of these schools and programs have students voting with their feet to access these Career, Vocational/Technical Education (CVTE) programs. Currently, the annual statewide waiting list of students hoping to access CVTE programs hovers near 3,500 students. The longest waiting lists are in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities.

As a result, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association of Vocational School Administrators and Massachusetts Community Action Network, formed the Alliance for Vocational/Technical Education (AVTE) to advocate for expanded access to CVTE programs. We believe that expanding access to these schools is one of the best investments the state can make in terms of educational and economic development policy.

Read The Full Article on CommonWealth Magazine

Investing in Vocational/Technical Education

After the divisive debate on the Question 2 ballot question concerning the expansion of charter schools we must now turn to the next chapter concerning K-12 educational priorities now that the voters have spoken on the issue of charter school expansion. In addition to the issue of Chapter 74 funding, expansion of Voke/Tech Ed must be at the top of that list. Read how we can expand access to these schools and address the statewide waiting list.

Canada is Massachusetts’s No. 1 customer

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This is an excerpt from my article, “Your Turn: Canada is Massachusetts’s No. 1 customer” published in Worcester Magazine.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, there has been considerable talk about the equity of international trade deals and whether they help or hinder the U.S. economy. During these conversations, it is critical for all Americans, and the people of Massachusetts, to fully understand the incredibly important economic and trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada.

Speaking in April before a large audience gathered for the Chamber’s Business & Government Forum sponsored by Ventry Associates, David Nathan Alward, Canada’s consul general to New England, offered a fascinating overview of this successful relationship. Prior to Alward’s role as consul general, he served as 32nd premier of New Brunswick, a position comparable to that of governor in the U.S.

French Canadians are one of our region’s largest demographic and played a crucial role in Worcester’s early development. By 1870, nearly 40,000 French- Canadians had settled across Central Mass. What many may not know is, even today, our Canadian ties continue to be a core contributor to successful trade and commerce in Massachusetts, not to mention travel and tourism.

The full article can be found at Worcester Mag here.

New Locomotives Should Bring Express Commuter Train to Worcester

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Did you know that there are about half a dozen brand new locomotives, valued at $6 million each, sitting in Worcester’s railroad yard right now?

These new locomotives, along with 80 new passenger cars, will be coming online soon thanks to the transportation bond bill signed by Governor Patrick and supported by the Massachusetts Legislature.

The deployment of these locomotives and passenger cars could greatly impact the Massachusetts economy by creating a 46-minute non-stop service from Worcester to Boston.

Currently one of the busiest MBTA commuter lines, the Worcester/Framingham line is crucial to the economic synergy between Massachusetts’ two largest cities. The creation of this express commuter train is essential.

read-full-article

Video: Deval Patrick, Tim Murray Reflect on Administration and Partnership

“Tim Murray was an extraordinary partner and a magnificent Lieutenant Governor. As a constitutional matter, the Lieutenant Governor basically has whatever responsibilities the Governor decides to give to him or her. I recognized pretty early that Tim had so much to contribute in terms of his understanding of politics first of all and the back stories behind so much of the politics we were dealing with. He has a deep understanding of municipal government and municipal needs and aspirations; and that is critically important to the tone we were trying to set and frankly the collaboration that we knew we needed to lift the commonwealth as a whole.

Tim Murray has a very personal respect and high regard for people who serve in the military, so having him lead the Governor’s council on veterans affairs was a natural. He’s deeply empathetic, and creative, so having him lead the Governors council on housing and homelessness was also a natural. There are many ways in which Tim took an assignment and just drove it deeper, and as a result of his work – his work – we led the nation on so many fronts. I’m grateful to him.

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When Tim made the decision to step down as Lieutenant Governor and not to run for Governor on this cycle, that was also about putting the interest of his marriage and his family, and therefore his own heart above his political interests and ambitions. I respect that too. I hope that Tim stays involved in public life. He’s a great balance of brainpower and empathy. We need that kind of courageous leadership here in Massachusetts and frankly in the country.”

– Former Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit 2014

Gateway Cities and the Gateway Cities agenda is perhaps the most important vehicle in how we can assist in facilitating economic mobility and educational opportunity in every region of the state.

Governor Patrick recently received the Gateway Cities Innovation Award at the annual Gateway Cities summit and had some nice things to say about our work together in pushing and implementing this agenda over the past eight years. I wanted to share his remarks with you in this short video:

Charter TV 3: Higher Ed Business Partnerships

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Great discussion today. The strength and diversity of the Central Mass economy is increasingly driven by partnerships between higher education and the private sector. Our growing innovation economy in the life sciences, robotics, video and digital gaming is fueled in large part from research and development that takes place on our campuses.

Our Chamber Recruit, Retain, Incubate strategy for Central Mass is very much integrated with our Higher Ed community. A major emphasis of the Chamber is to increase internships among our college students with our member employers in an effort to expose them to the range companies of world class companies in the area to get them to stay and live in the area after graduation.

Remembering Tom Menino

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In remembering Mayor Tom Menino two conversations that we had together come to mind which I think really capture who he was and what was important to him.

The first was when as Mayor of Worcester I lead a delegation of Worcester residents and business owners to Boston to learn about Mayor Menino’s Main Streets Program. During that visit I rode with the Mayor in his SUV down Harry Truman Parkway in Boston in the Mayor’s neighborhood. He gleefully shared with me how in the closing months of the Clinton Administration he had secured a few million dollars to resurface Truman Parkway and add brick treatments and decorative lamps. He went on to say that Harry Truman was his political hero because ” Harry Truman was all about hard work and didn’t worry about who got the credit.” Certainly the same will be said about Mayor Menino.

The second conversation with Mayor Menino was years later as Lt. Governor when I visited him at the Parkman House. I was exploring the pros and cons of running for Governor and I went to visit the Mayor to seek his advice. We had a great conversation and he shared with me his experiences as acting Mayor and stories from his first campaign for Mayor. However, the most impactful thing he said was that no matter what my decision was that I needed to take care of my family because “family is what is most important.” Tom Menino always had his priorities right. He and the entire Menino family are in my thoughts and prayers and I will miss “America’s Mayor”.