May 14, 2018
Viewpoint

Gateway City holds huge potential

Angela Bovill

Worcester is designated a Gateway City by state law, which creates an economic boost through increased funds for development.

The term Gateway City emerged in 2007, describing midsize cities in Massachusetts anchoring regional economies, but were struggling. These were communities where manufacturing and good jobs once flourished, so the cities represented a gateway to the American Dream. But these cities later suffered economic decline and lacked the resources to reposition, rebuild and attract new investment. Immigrants and refugees resettled in Gateway Cities, meaning these communities were a gateway of opportunity for new Americans.

Massachusetts think tank MassINC helped coin and define the term: "While Gateway Cities face stubborn social and economic challenges as a result, they retain many assets with unrealized potential. These include existing infrastructure and strong connections to transportation networks, museums, hospitals, universities and other major institutions, disproportionately young and underutilized workers, and perhaps above all, authentic urban fabric. Changing social and economic forces open up new opportunities for Gateway Cities to leverage these untapped assets. Demand for walkable neighborhoods is rising and the small entrepreneurial businesses that fuel job creation in today's economy are increasingly seeking out urban innovative environments."

MassINC expressed optimism about Worcester as "New England's second largest city and home to 10 colleges and universities. Worcester's relatively affordable housing, its MBTA and Amtrak connections, and its close proximity to Greater Boston's MetroWest are driving new growth."

So, what does the term Gateway City portend for Worcester's future? I've viewed Worcester from many different angles. As CEO of a large New England nonprofit, I committed early to keeping our corporate headquarters here. And two years ago, we decided to create a new, prototype client center here – to consolidate services in one location, but more than that, to develop a new model of holistic care.

We made that commitment because Worcester is a Gateway City in yet another sense: For individuals and organizations, it can be a gateway to the future. Worcester is well-positioned by size and demographics to attract new investment. It has a great dynamic for innovation and growth. There is a welcoming spirit here, an inclusiveness promoting a sense of community. There's also growing partnerships between civic institutions, for-profit businesses and nonprofits. And some of the credit for that goes to public officials who don't play politics, but rather cooperate to advance the best interests of the city in a nonpartisan, constructive way.

Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance genius, said there are three classes: "Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see." In past decades, we might not have seen such great potential in Worcester. But the evidence has grown so compelling, we should all see it now.

Angela Bovill is president and CEO of Worcester nonprofit Ascentria Care Alliance.

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