For Immediate Release
December 09, 2008
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Mayor announces plans to bolster Boston's Economy in Address to Chamber of Commerce
Mayor Thomas M. Menino today joined business leaders at the government affairs forum of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. In his speech to the Chamber's members and guests, Mayor Menino highlighted the fact that innovative ideas and creative opportunities for progress often originate during difficult economic times. Mayor Menino spoke about strong leadership and harnessing Boston's recognized assets, such as its strong workforce, in order to position the City to withstand the current economic downturn and prepare for future opportunities.
"Boston's assets are as great, if not greater, than the challenges we face," Mayor Menino said. "Times of crisis are times for innovation and collaboration, and that's what Boston does best. We must look at Boston's challenges and we must not see obstacles, but opportunities for growth, discovery, and innovation."
Mayor Menino's address focused on combining strong leadership and Boston's existing resources to concentrate on four overarching concerns: 1) Investing in stalled development; 2) Fighting for equity on behalf of residents; 3) Working with the federal government to craft a responsible stimulus plan; and 4) Positioning the City of Boston for future growth.
In a recessive economy, stimulating construction and development remains one of Boston's largest challenges. Mayor Menino acknowledged the impact of tightening credit markets, but emphasized the need to spur projects in the development pipeline in order to create jobs and capitalize on the interest and confidence that developers have in Boston. Modeled after the Hotel Development Loan Fund, created in the wake of September 11, 2001 to fill the gap in financing for hotel projects that were ready to break ground, Mayor Menino announced a new initiative called Boston Invests. Boston Invests is a bold action plan to invest in stalled development projects to ensure that the City's economy can continue to grow and create jobs. The initiative will make available $40 million in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan funds to construction projects that are ready to go.
The Hotel Development Loan Fund resulted in four new hotels and the creation of nearly 3,000 jobs, in addition to $6 million in revenue for the City of Boston from the loan. Boston Invests aims to replicate the benefits achieved seven years ago through the Hotel Development Loan Fund.
Stressing the importance of strong leadership to fight on behalf of local businesses and residents, Mayor Menino underlined his opposition to the state's recent proposal to adjust Turnpike toll rates. He labeled the plan to double tolls in and around Boston as not only unfair to local residents and business, but poor policy as well because the state's proposal would hurt the local economy by driving consumers away from Boston businesses. Mayor Menino also asked that the state maintain its promise of lower rates to the residents of East Boston, South Boston, and the North End to partially mitigate the impact of the nearby Turnpike. While recognizing its unpopularity, Mayor Menino asked the state legislature to consider a more equitable solution to the budget shortfall, such as the gas tax.
Viewing Boston and other cities as the economic engine of nation, Mayor Menino spoke to concerns over the national economy and Boston's role in moving America forward. "Boston is not in need of a bailout," Mayor Menino said. Instead, Boston is in a position to help with the build-up necessary to advance the larger economy. Mayor Menino hopes that a stimulus package will deliver to cities the resources needed to re-build and sustain vibrant communities. Boston has $130 million of school modernization projects ready to go. Housing and foreclosure investments and transportation infrastructure upgrades represent other potential stimulus projects.
Social enterprise infrastructure programs for universities, hospitals and other non-profit organizations are equally important to stimulating the local and national economy. Organizations like these provide the human capital needed for Boston to remain successful in emerging economies. Mayor Menino's leadership in green jobs creation and sustainability policies has provided a way to seamlessly connect the green agenda with economic growth. Achievements in sustainable development and investment in green jobs, now a centerpiece of President-elect Obama's economic plan, puts Boston in a position to capitalize on this growing economic sector.
In looking to the future, Mayor Menino addressed the role played by public-private partnerships in the success of Boston. Partnerships with hospitals, universities, and other non-profit institutions are mutually beneficial, but under the current structure, there are significant disparities in what various institutions contribute to the City. Mayor Menino called on the need to create an equitable PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) system so that these relationships are fairer and generate more value, both in payments and in programs. To this end, Mayor Menino will commission a task force to review the current system of PILOT agreements. The task force will convene hospital, university, and other non-profit leaders to review the current programs and services offered by institutions and to make recommendations to strengthen the partnership between Boston and its non-profit institutions.