MMA letter to Economic Development Committee offering support for several local initiatives in governor’s economic development bill

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Honorable Joseph F. Wagner, House Chair
The Honorable Eileen M. Donoghue, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies 
State House, Boston

Dear Representative Wagner, Senator Donoghue, and Members of the Committee,

On behalf of the cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association wishes to offer our support for several local policy initiatives included in the economic development bill filed by Governor Baker in H. 3983, An Act to Provide Opportunities for All. The economy of Massachusetts is only as strong as the economies of its cities and towns, and we appreciate your work and ongoing partnership to craft legislation that helps realize the economic potential of all communities across the Commonwealth.

Investing More in the Successful MassWorks Program
MassWorks provides a beneficial source of funding for an impressive array of projects across the Commonwealth. Since its creation in 2010, MassWorks has invested approximately $310 million in a variety of infrastructure projects. These have included a $2.6 million investment in the West End Mill Development in Chicopee, $4.7 million toward the Hamilton Canal District in Lowell, a $3.3 million investment in the Six Corners Intersection in Springfield, and $2 million toward the Rear Main Street Corridor in Gardner, which is helping to advance Gardner’s Downtown Urban Renewal Plan.

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which MassWorks is contributing to economic development in cities and towns. We thank you, your colleagues in the Legislature, and the Baker-Polito Administration for building and supporting the MassWorks Program. We strongly support the proposal in H. 3983 to provide MassWorks with an additional $500 million over the next five years. This funding would provide direct investment in economic development and growth in communities across the state, and would serve as a magnet to attract additional funding from other public and private sources. We respectfully ask you to support this MassWorks expansion.

Recapitalizing the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund
Brownfields redevelopment funding continues to drive the environmental cleanup of contaminated land, transforming dangerous, harmful and compromised sites into safe, positive and productive resources as part of key redevelopment projects. The Brownsfields Redevelopment Fund has been depleted since December, and no new projects have received funding this year. H. 3983 would add $75 million to the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund over the next five years, allowing for the remediation of more sites in more municipalities. In addition to recapitalization, H. 3983 would provide a five-year framework for the program to foster
greater stability and predictability. This would allow communities to embark on projects with the confidence that resources from the fund would be available on a more long-term basis. We ask you to build on the longstanding success of this program by supporting this additional capital commitment.

Funding the Gateway Cities Transformational Development Fund
Chapter 287 of the Acts of 2014 created a Transformational Development Fund at MassDevelopment to support large-scale transformative development projects in Gateway Cities. This Fund was intended to support equity investments and technical assistance, and assist in the creation of collaborative workspaces to jumpstart revitalization and redevelopment efforts in Gateway Cities. Though this program has had proven successes, it suffered a $14.5 million setback due to 9C reductions in 2015. H. 3983 would recapitalize the fund with $50 million in additional funding. We urge you to support this increased funding level.

Enhancing the I-Cubed Program
This successful program has proven instrumental to several major municipal development projects. H. 3983 would make several changes to the program to provide greater flexibility. The bill would eliminate the requirement for developers to maintain a performance bond for non- public parts of their projects, raise the aggregate limit of funds that may be used in one municipality from 31 percent to 50 percent, remove the per-municipality cap on the number of projects that may participate in the program, and eliminate the requirement that municipalities participating in I-Cubed establish a liquidity reserve. These changes are intended to enhance the I-Cubed program.

Expanding the Housing Development Incentive Program
H. 3938 would expand the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) by allowing the Department of Housing and Community Development to grant increased tax credits of up to 25 percent (up from 10 percent) for market-rate and mixed-income housing units in Gateway Cities. In addition, H. 3983 would allow greater flexibility in the HDIP by granting eligibility to projects that would not have previously qualified, such as vacant lots.

Economic Development Incentive Program Changes
Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) projects receive tax incentives for job creation, manufacturing job retention, and private investment commitments, promoting business development and employment in cities and towns. H. 3983 would make several changes to the program in order to make it more effective. These changes include decoupling the EDIP credit from the investment tax credit, as well as excise tax changes. The MMA continues to support this important economic development tool.

Starter Home Districts and 40R Changes
Chapter 40R was established as a result of close collaboration between the state and communities, and we recommend that potential changes to the law go through the same process. The MMA has concerns about the sections in H. 3938 regarding starter homes and alterations to Chapter 40R, especially Section 43. We look forward to working with you and the members of your committee to ensure that any amendments to Chapter 40R address any concerns of cities and towns. Our goal is to ensure that Chapter 40R remains a viable and useful local-option tool for communities, which is why any amendments should be examined with great care.

Broadband for All of Massachusetts is a Necessity
In a rapidly globalizing world, individuals, businesses and entire communities must have complete access to the Internet. As you know, dozens of cities and towns in western Massachusetts continue to struggle with the disadvantages of limited or no access to broadband. Completion of the last mile project is an economic imperative, and we respectfully urge the Baker-Polito Administration and all lawmakers to give this issue top priority, and pursue any and all legislative, regulatory and administrative avenues to have MBI finish the last mile project. Communities continue to wait for these vital connections to be finished, and will continue to face difficulties in economic development until MBI completes the work of bringing fast, reliable Internet access to all corners of the Commonwealth.

Summary
We know that you and your colleagues in the Legislature are committed and dedicated to building a strong, healthy and thriving Massachusetts economy, and we respectfully ask you to embrace the strongest possible bill to support economic growth in our communities. The municipally-focused measures outlined above would bring real growth and opportunity to our cities and towns and support the residents and businesses of the Commonwealth, and we urge you to include these provisions in your final bill.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me, MMA Legislative Director John Robertson, or MMA Legislative Analyst David Lakeman at 617-426- 7272 at any time.

Thank you very much. 

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith 
MMA Executive Director & CEO