The Mass. House of Representatives has approved comprehensive economic development and jobs legislation.
The bill aims to further strengthen Massachusetts’ innovation industries and position the state as a global leader both economically and culturally through forward-looking solutions including a focus on emerging industries, investments in workforce development and education, and promoting targeted regional growth.
“Since becoming Speaker in 2009, creating jobs and bolstering our economy has been my top priority,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “Through fiscal prudence and inventive legislation we’ve made unprecedented gains. This bill extends those efforts to ensure that residents, businesses and communities are able to compete and excel in a dynamic, global economy. I’m particularly proud and encouraged by the initiatives that will broaden the circle of economic prosperity to all regions of the Commonwealth”
"This legislation demonstrates a commitment by the House to a robust economy that stretches across Massachusetts,” said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, Chair of the Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies (D-Chicopee). “Through strategic investments and policy initiatives, we aim to encourage private sector investment, strengthen the innovation economy, support the manufacturing sector, and provide workforce training to help meet the critical needs of Massachusetts employers.
The legislation invests $1.5 million in MassCAN, a public-private partnership which requires matching investments dollar-for-dollar, for the development and implementation of a program to establish widespread, progressive computer science education in public schools. It creates and provides $2 million for the Big Data Innovation & Workforce Fund to promote the use of big data and analytics industries, provide tools for related career development and explore how analytics can help address problems of public concern like transportation, energy and public health.
The legislation also invests $2 million in the Talent Pipeline initiative, a program that has won national praise since its creation through the 2012 economic development law. The program encourages students and young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and providing mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs.
Recognizing the unique role that start-ups and early-growth companies have in revitalizing the economy, this bill includes numerous provisions to support the innovation ecosystem including:
- Builds on a program allowing PRIM to invest at least $150 million in institutions that make capital available to small businesses and early-stage companies;
- Provides $1.5 million for MassVentures, an organization that supports the innovation economy by funding early-stage, high-growth startups in Massachusetts as they move from concept to commercialization;
- Creates the Angel Investor Tax Credit to incentivize investment and foster growth in newly formed start-ups in Massachusetts. Investors are eligible for a 20 percent credit of the qualifying angel investment, 30 percent if the recipient business is located in a Gateway City.
- Authorizes increased spending for the Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) Program from $325 million to $600 million, and raises the number of allowed I-Cubed projects within any community from three to eight.
Since the 2008 economic downturn, the House of Representatives has strategically targeted economic sectors that will provide sustainable jobs for workers of all skill levels across a variety of industries. The 2014 economic development legislation establishes the Middle Skills Job Training Grant Fund, funded at $15 million, to provide grants to vocational-technical schools and community colleges that will support advanced manufacturing and IT training. The fund seeks to train 4,000 workers in the next four years to meet the talent needs of Massachusetts employers. The bill also funds a matching grant program for small manufacturing companies to provide technical assistance and avert layoffs and closures.
In Speaker DeLeo’s 2014 address to the House Chamber he noted: “There is much to be proud of in Massachusetts. Yet, opportunity is sometimes harder to come by outside Route 495. We need to change that.” The 2014 economic development bill lays the groundwork for this renewal through numerous initiatives, including the creation of the Transformative Development Fund which will support residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development in Gateway Cities. The legislation provides an initial $12 million investment a portion of which will support the creation of Collaborative Workspaces in Gateway Cities to spur innovative and creative business growth.
The bill also improves two existing housing programs, the Housing Preservation & Stabilization Trust Fund through a $5 million investment, and the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) which provides developers with tax credits for mixed-income, market rate projects. This bill eliminates the cap on the number of units permitted per HDIP development and doubles the amount of existing tax credits to $10 million for the next four years. Other regional advancement provisions include:
- Invests $1.5 million in the Working Cities Challenge, a public-private initiative in partnership with the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, to advance cross-sector collaboration and create lasting economic improvement;
- Provides $10 million to the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund to encourage development of currently vacant and underutilized properties across the Commonwealth and provides $2.5 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Access to Capital (BRAC) which offers low-cost environmental insurance to help mitigate risk.
- Creates a Job Creation Incentive which will allow businesses to receive a tax credit up to $1,000 per job created, or up to $5,000 per job created in a Gateway City, capped at $1 million per project.
The bill also creates a sales tax holiday on August 16th and 17th, marking the ninth year the Commonwealth will provide a two-day sales tax exemption.