Policy & Advocacy
Advocating on Your Behalf
The Chamber has a pulse on what’s happening at Worcester’s City Hall, Beacon Hill in Boston, and Capitol Hill on behalf of your business. Our advocacy efforts are ongoing as we advocate for business-friendly policies that encourage economic development, ensure a stellar workforce, and create a climate conducive to growth. In this work, we support businesses of all sizes, across all industries and we recognize the needs of these businesses vary. Whether it’s workforce development, tax competitiveness, health care reform, or economic development, the Chamber is engaged at every step of the legislative process to ensure your voice is heard.
We have our sights set on your bottom line and the Chamber regularly takes on public policy initiatives that have an impact on businesses and the cost of doing business.
Issues and topics on which the Chamber advocates for its members include:
The City of Worcester’s Dual Tax Classification
Worcester’s dual tax rate results in businesses paying a disproportionate amount of the tax burden in the city. The Chamber continuously advocated for a decrease in the disparity of property tax rates to create a business-friendly climate that will lead to an increase in the number of businesses in the city and spread the tax burden thereby decreasing the liability for everyone.
Increased Water and Sewer Rates in the Worcester
The Chamber has advocated for lower water and sewer rates to reduce the financial hardship on both businesses and residents. The rate increase is largely due to federally-mandated updates from the Environmental Protection Agency required at the Upper Blackstone Water Treatment facility. In previous years, the Chamber helped establish conversations between city officials and the EPA with the goal of mitigating some of these increases.
Economic Development Incentives
The development of two hotels within the city was spurred by the Chamber’s advocacy for certain incentives. The AC Marriott in CitySquare brought an additional 160 hotel rooms and 10 suites to downtown while the Courtyard by Marriott Worcester on nearby Grove Street complements the city’s hospitality by adding 134 rooms. These hotels result in economic spin-offs at restaurants, local attractions, and retail establishments.
To build Worcester’s reputation as a destination, the Chamber worked with city administration and state delegations to obtain a $5-million-general-bond bill and an additional $30 million which was targeted at updates, renovations, and expansion of the DCU Center, and attracting more conventions to the Heart of the Commonwealth.
Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP)
To encourage private investment and rehabilitation of aged buildings, the Chamber asked the Worcester City Council to adopt the Massachusetts Housing Development Incentive Program, or HDIP, to encourage private investment and rehabilitation of aged buildings. The HDIP offers tax incentives to developers who revitalize properties into market-rate housing and provides a local-option tax credit, similar to a TIF, further encouraging market-rate development. Legislation was passed in July 2014 which allows developers to consider larger structures. In 2023 HDIP was expanded to $52 million and $30 million annually starting in 2024. A map of Worcester’s HDIP zones can be downloaded here.
Transformative Development Fund (TDF)
The Chamber pushed for the creation of the new Transformative Development Fund (TDF) to provide targeted equity investment for transformative development projects. A list of redevelopment projects within Gateway Cities, of which Worcester is one, will include sites with the greatest potential to provide economic and job growth and which will be prioritized with regard to funding.
Vocational Technical Education
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, through its involvement with the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education (AVTE), has advocated for more investment in Massachusetts vocational programming. Advocating for and implementing the following initiatives will help students on long waitlists and help employers find new qualified workers. In collaboration with AVTE, there are established priorities set in place to achieve the desired CTE school expansion in Massachusetts.
Inclusionary zoning (IZ) is a commonly-employed tool in Massachusetts communities looking to add modest amounts of income-restricted workforce housing to market-rate developments. It is a market-based solution that relies on the construction of new market-rate developments to deliver more affordable housing. Therefore, the most effective IZ policies do not create obstacles to development. Worcester has struck an appropriate balance between mandatory measures and incentives to ensure this. The Chamber supported the city’s proposed IZ ordinance, passed by the city council on April 11.
Worcester should make a statement on its commitment to battling climate change by becoming the first community outside of the Greater Boston Area to adopt the specialized code and get a head start on preparing for its implementation. The Chamber cautiously supports the new regulation, and we do not express this support without consideration of the consequences.
For more information on these issues or to bring an issue to the attention of the Chamber’s public policy committee, contact: Alex Guardiola, director of public policy and government affairs, at 508.753.2924, ext. 222 or email@example.com.