Keeping Massachusetts Competitive: Building on Success for a Future of Innovation

How Business Leaders Can Play a Role in the Commonwealth’s Continued Growth

By Patrick Bench

Massachusetts has long established itself as a nationwide leader:

  • We’re home to some of the most prominent universities conducting unprecedented research in our very neighborhoods.
  • We have been a leader in the biopharmaceuticals and life sciences industries and are quickly becoming a national leader in climatetech under the Healey-Driscoll administration.
  • Our policies and politics have long protected personal rights and liberties for women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalized communities.

As Gov. Maura Healey said herself in her recent address at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts has been on a path to become more affordable, equitable, and competitive. We’re only getting stronger as we continue.

It’s All of Us

The Commonwealth has continued to find new ways to harness economic strength, especially after the pandemic. Statewide, we’re seeing innovative ways to thrive and grow, and it’s not just Boston anymore, it’s everywhere:

  • On the North Shore, the blue economy is thriving in cities like Gloucester, as the fishing industry continues to evolve and innovative blue research emerges from places like the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute.
  • Offshore wind is ramping up on the Cape and the Islands in the nation’s first commercial-level off-shore wind farm. Five (of what will be many) new Vineyard Wind turbines began energy production in February, sending power to the mainland for the first time.
  • In Central Massachusetts, businesses are continuing to expand rapidly, evident in our client Sartorius who was recently approved by the City of Marlborough to expand its R&D footprint which will commit more than $100M to Marlborough on top of creating new jobs. Recently, Worcester was named the 15th-best area in the U.S. for life science research talent.
  • MIT-founded Sublime Systems, developer of the first fossil-fuel-free cement product, recently announced plans to grow in and outside of Greater Boston. Sublime will expand its Somerville headquarters at Somernova with an additional 23,000 square feet of R&D space, alongside the company’s announcement to create a $150 million cement-manufacturing plant in Holyoke in 2026.

And while we’re stronger now than we have been prior, Massachusetts still faces some major challenges. We’ve all seen the headlines in recent years: people started to leave the Commonwealth in unprecedented numbers, beginning in 2020.

At the end of 2023, the Census Bureau reported the Commonwealth’s population rose over 7 million for the first time since before the pandemic. This is a major feat for the Massachusetts business community and the Healey-Driscoll administration, specifically for Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao, who has been hyper-focused on maintaining a strong population since she took office.

Looking Ahead

While the recent Census Bureau statistics are a significant step in the right direction, innovative, effective solutions are still needed to address the challenges of the Commonwealth. If we want Massachusetts to continue to thrive, it is, in part, in our hands. As business leaders, here’s what we can do to continue to elevate Massachusetts:

  • Support the MBTA Communities Act: Massachusetts, in the midst of a housing crisis, can only benefit from the implementation of multifamily housing proximate to public transit. Not only will this generate more housing of a critical need, increased access to and usage of public transit will serve to decrease emissions and climate change effects, while also serving to reduce gridlock around Greater Boston. Multifamily housing is an unmet-yet-strongly-desired need across the state, therefore supporting the MBTA Communities Act will allow more opportunities for businesses and employees to thrive in accessible spaces.
  • Follow the Mass Leads’ Momentum: Gov. Healey’s recently announced the Mass Leads Act, which will provide opportunities to expand the local climatetech industry, further cement Massachusetts as a leader in life sciences, and enhance the use of AI statewide. The Governor is outlining her priorities for the future of the Commonwealth, and it’s critical as the state evolves, businesses continue to evolve with it.
  • Back the Housing Bond Bill: Gov. Healey has created sweeping legislation to improve access to affordable housing across the state. The Housing Bond Bill brings innovative solutions to the forefront of the housing crisis across the Commonwealth. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are a new step outlined in the Bill, and with approval, could generate more than 8,000 new units in five years. It’s an easy step to create more affordable options across the state and right in our backyard, as we seek to attract and retain leading talent.

What More You Can Do

Business leaders have the opportunity to affect change through supporting pending legislation and planning for the future, but we can also make an impact via our respective businesses. At Benchmark Strategies, we established a minimum salary for full-time employees at $65,000/year. We’ve also chosen to invest heavily in professional development for employees and are supportive of new growth opportunities for our team members, supportive with both time and flexibility. These decisions have been a contributor to attracting and retaining talented employees. I urge the business community to consider all the factors of what will propel Massachusetts’ statewide growth, but it remains key to look at your own business and identify where you can affect positive change. That’s often the first step.