Sometimes the universe has an unusual sense of timing.

For instance, the following report from MassINC about the development potential of the Pioneer Valley has been recently released in the midst of two disturbing stories about two large economic development projects.

CRRC has been the subject of numerous news reports because the transit authorities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have canceled a $185 million order for 45 rail cars due to a reported four-year delay in completing the order. This story only makes the reputation of the facility more ragged.

Add to that are the reports that MGM Resorts International is seeking a buyer for MGM Springfield. What that would mean for the casino and its amenities as well as the thousands of people it employs is a mystery at this time.

Both of these developments were to have a positive impact on not just Springfield’s economy, but that of the region. Their future, though, does not look bright as it should.

But in the midst of all this comes a very down-to-earth and sensible report titled “Accelerating Inclusive Growth in the Pioneer Valley: A Prospectus for Transformative Economic Investment.” The report was funded by the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council with additional contributions from The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, The Davis Foundation; MassDevelopment and The Massachusetts Competitiveness Partnership.

Yeah, yeah I know. There are many reports that get written in the effort of attempting to address economic problems, but I think this one is different.

The report identifies key parts of the economy of the Pioneer Valley and what could be done to stimulate it. From the interdiction, “For far too long, Massachusetts has relied on the strong performance of greater Boston’s world-class innovation industries to drive economic expansion. Rather than investing in the unique strengths of each region of the state alongside this impressive growth, we have largely focused on continuing to build the Boston economy with state and federal resources.

“Underinvesting in the assets of the Pioneer Valley has led to low regional productivity, which in turn means stagnant population and income growth. To be sure, the Pioneer Valley still contributes meaningfully to the commonwealth’s economic dynamism, but it is not producing anywhere near its full potential. And there can be no doubt that following the current course will lead to serious challenges with significant long-term costs for the state.”

The report notes the lower wages and poverty that occurs here especially in comparison to the eastern part of the state.

The report identified the food science, non-pharmaceutical biomanufacturing and the food eco system; advanced manufacturing; and clean energy transition as the three segments of the local economy with tremendous growth potential.

The report also has its “ask.” It reads, “The preceding sections provide a strong basis for establishing a ‘Fund for the Pioneer Valley’ — a dedicated pool of resources for transformative investment in advanced industries that positions the region for strong and equitable growth while supporting the state’s overall economic development strategy as it relates to the clean energy transition.

“This fund must contain sufficient resources to generate results. Based on a scan of similar efforts, such as the New York Upstate Initiative, this means committing at least $50 million per year in state resources to economic investments in the Pioneer Valley over a 10-year period. While this is an order of magnitude above typical economic development expenditures, the figure is modest from a state capital investment standpoint. The commonwealth regularly devotes this level of investment to singular investments in infrastructure and public facilities. A series of targeted investments in high-growth sectors in the Pioneer Valley will have far broader economic impact and much larger returns for taxpayers in the long run.”

It continues, “This fund should provide support for three basic activities in roughly the following proportions: $400 million for a strategic portfolio of innovation investment; $90 million for site development; $10 million for economic development implementation capacity. To help ensure that the fund makes worthy investments and that it fully leverages the state’s capital, each allocation should leverage additional federal and private investment at a ratio of at least one-to-one. This would result in at least $1 billion in total investment in the Pioneer Valley economy over the next 10 years.”

I urge you to read this report — it’s on massinc.org — in its entirety. Every elected official in the region should be reading it and starting a discussion about how the funding could be put in place and administered. (Just to let you know, when I see an elected official in the wild, I’m going to ask them about this report.)

As much as casinos and cannabis have added to the tax revenue for both the state and municipalities, it is not enough. It is also not enough for the state to continue its historic emphasis on the greater Boston area when it comes to economic development. If Gov. Maura Healey is serious about solving the problems we face, then this should be a very high priority.

G. Michael Dobbs has worked for Reminder Publishing for 23 years of his nearly 50-year-career in the Western Mass. media scene, and previously served as the executive editor. He has spent his time with the publisher covering local politics, interesting people and events. The opinions expressed within the article are that of the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of the paper.

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