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Worcester Regional Economic Competitiveness Outlook

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Greater Worcester Region is the Commonwealth’s best kept secret. While other regions of the state are attempting to create innovation clusters, attract young people and families to fuel their workforce, or better educate their workforce and build pathways to higher education, these assets already exist in Worcester County. As the second largest city in Massachusetts, Worcester of the 21st Century offers an outstanding value proposition to new and expanding businesses.

VALUE PROPOSITION

Worcester is GROWING.

Between 2000 and 2010, Worcester experienced greater population growth than Boston and Massachusetts, and a higher rate of growth of families than Boston and Massachusetts. During this same period, Worcester’s employment increased twice that of the state, and the number of households earning $75,000 or more per year grew by 66%.

Worcester is COST COMPETITIVE.

Worcester’s real estate costs are less than Boston on average, the region’s workforce costs are lower than Boston, and the cost of living is lower in the Greater Worcester Region than in the Greater Boston Region.

Worcester is ACCESSIBLE.

Worcester is conveniently located in the center of the state with access to Boston, Hartford and Providence within a one hour drive, and Manchester, NH within one hour and fifteen minutes. By car, air, or train, Worcester is easily accessible from all directions points North, South, East and West. Worcester has its own airport, but is also approximately an hour from four major regional airports – Logan International Airport in Boston, TF Green Airport in Providence, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and Bradley Airport in Hartford.

Worcester’s Workforce is YOUNG and EDUCATED.

In 2010, nearly 25% of Worcester’s workforce was age 15 to 24, 84% of the workforce had greater than a high school education, and 30% had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Also in 2010, both Worcester and Worcester County had higher concentrations of people age 0 to 14 than Boston or Massachusetts, providing a larger volume of young workers that will be entering the workforce over the coming decade.

Worcester’s INNOVATION ECONOMY is THRIVING.

Between 2000 and 2010, the County’s Manufacturing sector was 2.4 times stronger than that of Suffolk County. During this same period, the Scientific Research & Development subsector grew employment by 31.7%, and the Computer Systems Design and Related Services subsector, which includes digital game development, grew employment by 46.3%. Industry clustering has begun to take shape in these innovation sectors across the region and are expected to grow.

The Chamber’s investigation reveals that there are three distinct Growth Sectors presenting significant opportunity for job creation and private investment across the Greater Worcester Region.

GROWTH SECTORS

Manufacturing.

In 2010, Manufacturing in Worcester County was the strongest sector in comparison to Suffolk Coun­ty. Across Worcester County, 31,279 people were employed in manufacturing in 2010, and nearly 10,000 people were employed in manufacturing in the City of Worcester. The average annual wage across the sector in Worcester County was $55,879 in 2010. There is evidence that the Manufacturing sector is poised for significant growth statewide and the Greater Worcester Region is uniquely posi­tioned to realize significant industry growth.

Education and Healthcare.

The Education and Healthcare sector grew by 35.5% between 2000 and 2010 in the City of Worcester and by 2010 represented the single largest employment base in the City with 28,956 employees. Sim­ilarly, in 2010, this sector represented the largest employment base in Worcester County with 71,277 people working in Education and Healthcare across the County. In Worcester County in 2010, the average annual wage for the Healthcare subsector was $46,647, and the average annual wage for the Educational Services subsector was $33,670. Due to the astronomical growth in this sector over the last decade, and the anticipated nationwide growth in the healthcare sector, it is reasonable to assume that the Education and Healthcare sector will remain strong and present growth opportunity for the region.

Professional, Scientific & Technical.

Between 2000 and 2010, the Professional, Scientific & Technical sector grew by 32.6% or 3,498 employees in Worcester County. In particular, the Scientific Research & Development subsector grew employment by 37.7% and the Computer Systems Design and Related Services subsector, which includes video game design, grew employment by 46.3% across the County. In 2010, the average annual wage for the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sector in Worcester County was $68,805. This sector thrives on clusters, which exist and are growing in Worcester County thanks to the region’s unique resources such as MassDIGI – the Massachusetts Video Game Institute, Univer­sity of Massachusetts Medical School, the Massachusetts BioMedical Initiative – a thriving biotech incubator, and Gateway Park, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Center that hosts early stage science and engineering companies. Through continued collaboration, investment and focus on growing these existing clusters, it is expected that the sector will continue to expand in the future.

The investigation concludes that the Chamber, its partner organizations and the area’s municipalities need to work together to build off the region’s existing assets and design a business recruitment network that is unmatched in the Commonwealth. The following strategies are recommended to improve the “business friendliness” of the region and to market the region’s value proposition to prospective businesses.

ACTION STRATEGIES

Expedited Permitting & Municipal Best Practices

It is recommended that municipalities in the region consider adopting 6-month permitting on priority development sites, and implementing a variety of best practices in economic development such as uploading permit applications online and establishing a single point of contact for businesses.

Tax Incentives

It is recommended that municipalities in the region consider utilizing such incentives as Tax Incentive Financing (TIF), District Improvement Financing (DIF), and Local Research & Development Tax Credits.

Trade Shows and Networking

It is recommended that the Chamber and its partners utilize a comprehensive business recruitment strategy that involves attendance at industry-specific trade shows, one-on-one pitch meetings with growing companies, and networking and participation with targeted industry groups.

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, with support from its partner organizations and area communities, has an outstanding opportunity to enhance and leverage existing assets to realize greater economic prosperity across the region for the future.

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