BOSTON - The Massachusetts Legislature voted overwhelmingly today to adopt a set of economic development programs aimed at revitalizing twenty-four of the Commonwealth’s older industrial cities through tax incentives and urban investment commitments. Today’s adoption of the conference committee report on economic development, which includes these Gateway Cities initiatives proposed by the Gateway Cities Legislature Caucus, now heads to the Governor for his signature.
“Improving our housing stock is vital to the economy of Gateway Cities, like Pittsfield,” said Benjamin B. Downing, State Senator from Pittsfield and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue. “As a member of the conference committee I advocated strongly for these provisions. I urge Governor Patrick to continue his support for Pittsfield and our other Gateway Cities by signing this package into law.”
Gateway Cities are municipalities with a population between 35,000 and 250,000 that have a median household income and educational attainment rate below the state average. Unemployment rates in these cities have climbed well above the state average of 8.8%, with New Bedford’s reaching 14.4% and Lawrence’s rate at 16.7%.
“Our priority is jobs,” said Antonio F.D. Cabral, State Representative from New Bedford and House Chair of the Gateway Cities Caucus. “The package passed today will create jobs in our Gateway Cities and throughout the state, and invest in communities with shared needs and potential.”
The specifics of the legislation include:
Reconfiguring the Gateway Cities Manufacturing Retention and Job Growth Program to offer tax incentives to employers who create at least 25 new manufacturing jobs or retain 50 such positions in a manufacturing facility located in a Gateway municipality;
Creating the Housing Development Incentive Program to allocate $5 million for tax credits for developers of multi-unit market-rate housing in designated housing development zones within Gateway municipality;
Allocating $50 million to the Growth Districts Initiative Grant Program which expedites commercial and residential development by making certain properties “development ready” with respect to local & state permitting, site preparation, environmental remediation, and transportation infrastructure; and
Extending the Brownfields Remediation Tax Credit Program to provide tax incentives to businesses who will clean and develop lands, much of which in Massachusetts is located in Gateway municipalities.
In addition, part of the package proposed by the Gateway Cities Caucus, a seven-year extension of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, was included in the recently-enacted FY11 operating budget. That program provides tax incentives to developers who rehabilitate, reuse and revitalize historic properties, often creating quality affordable and market rate housing, community centers, retail and office space, and performing arts venues.
The twenty-four communities that currently would qualify for these new initiatives are: Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester.