Economic Forecast 2017

Using our resolutions as motivation

In last year's Economic Forecast, I told you I planned to lose 15-20 pounds and run a marathon in 3 hours and 38 minutes, which would have been a personal best. Well, I lost 10 pounds before July but gained 15 of it back by December, while running a marathon in 4 hours and 42 minutes, making it my second worst in five races.

While I did not achieve my resolutions for 2016, they did serve as motivation for me to run 700 miles before June and finish with 1,000 by the end of the year. In that vein of forcing me to strive for something better, I consider my resolutions to be successful, or at least half-successful.

In that same column last year, I laid out resolutions for various Central Massachusetts industries. Let's see how they did:
• 2016 real estate resolution: Fill empty storefronts in Worcester and Framingham with businesses to create 24-hour destinations. Result: Success! Buzz-worthy businesses – mostly restaurants – moved into the region's urban centers.
• 2016 energy resolution: Install more energy infrastructure like gas pipelines to cut down on high prices and fuel instability. Result: Half-success. Energy projects in the region were delayed by the usual regulatory and local snags, although the state did pass a new law trying to move away from fossil fuels.
• 2016 healthcare resolution: Lower costs. Result: Half success. The rise in healthcare spending did drop from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent, but that means costs still are increasing.
• 2016 education resolution: Develop technology transfer programs to get more student and faculty research into the marketplace. Result: Success! The amount of patent activity out of schools like Worcester Polytechnic Institute more than doubled.
• 2016 banking and finance resolution: Strengthen community banks and credit unions. Result: Success! Continuing to fill the void left by big banks pulling out of smaller markets, community banks and credit unions found increased influence, which also led to a rise in bank mergers.
• 2016 manufacturing and technology resolution: Entice Boston-area startups to set up manufacturing shops in lower-cost Central Massachusetts. Result: Half success. The large flood of startups moving west still hasn't happened, but the region is setting the stage for it to happen this year with aggressive development plans in places like Worcester and Devens.

Achieving resolutions creates a sense of empowerment and accomplishment, but the process of even setting a resolution at the start of the year means we see areas in ourselves where we can improve.

Central Massachusetts has plenty to be optimistic about next year, but our business community should continually strive for something better.
As for me, I remain committed to lowering my body mass index to the point where I can finally run that elusive sub-4 hour marathon.

- Brad Kane, editor

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