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Mayor emphasizes economic development

New center aimed at boosting local small business ventures

Trea Lavery
Mayor emphasizes economic development
Mayor Martin Walsh addresses an audience at Boston Symphony Hall during his annual State of the City address. PHOTO: MAYOR’S OFFICE PHOTO BY JOHN WILCOX

In his annual State of the City address last week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the opening of a mobile Economic Development Center that will offer free workshops to community members on equity and inclusion, small business, community economic development, and jobs and talent.

“Now, we not only require funds for job training; it must be training that helps local residents fill those new jobs,” Walsh said in his speech. “We’ll be in every neighborhood, with job training and business workshops, like how to open a restaurant or compete for a city contract.”

The Economic Development Center will hold workshops throughout the year at accessible locations in every neighborhood of the city, and will also offer interpretation services and a child-friendly environment for attendees who are parents.

Chief of Economic Development John F. Barros said, “To ensure our economic development strategies deliver real results for Bostonians, we are bringing policy and resources to residents and businesses in an accessible, thoughtful and collaborative manner.”

The Office of Economic Development will also work with residents to get their feedback on policy and work with businesses and individuals to access local resources, trainings and other opportunities.

The workshop series is part of Walsh’s Boston Hires campaign, launched in 2018, to get 20,000 residents into jobs with a living wage by 2022.

Walsh cited the city’s current unemployment rate of 2.4 percent, the lowest ever recorded.

In 2017, the administration launched the Small Business Center, a pilot version of the new Economic Development Center. It offered workshops in Mattapan, East Boston and Roxbury. While the plan was originally to create a physical center to hold workshops, Walsh said in a statement that the Small Business Center was so successful that it was simply expanded to include the entire city.

Walsh also stressed in his State of the City address his continued determination for “growing our middle class,” a promise he made in his 2018 inauguration speech.

Also in the Tuesday night address, Walsh discussed the city’s efforts towards diversity, highlighting the proposal for a Fire Cadet program, following a city report released Jan. 9 exposing an unwelcoming culture toward female firefighters.

“We are changing Boston’s culture for the better,” Walsh said. “Our City Council is the most diverse it’s ever been, in background and in experience. Council members are attorneys, teachers, housing advocates, small business owners and veterans.”

Other topics in the State of the City address included the city’s dedication to combating climate change, lowering crime rates, funding libraries, arts and culture, investments in renewing Boston Common and Franklin Park, funding education, fighting addiction and the creation of the Age Strong Commission, formerly the Elderly Commission, to better serve seniors in the city.

Walsh closed his speech by criticizing federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and announcing that he and Governor Charlie Baker will soon be visiting the nation’s capital to advocate for investments in housing, transportation and the environment.

“Instead of building a wall, let’s show them how to build bridges,” Walsh said. “To our national leaders, I say: If you want to learn how to bring people together, not push them apart, look to Boston.”

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