Lots of targets for business tax breaks

INTRO TEXT

Apparently, in legislators’ minds, when it comes to “economic target areas,” you just can’t have enough of a good thing.

Adopted in the wake of the recession of the late 1980s and early ’90s, the economic target area designation was aimed at offering state and local tax breaks for businesses that invest in economically distressed areas. The law limited the number of target areas to a total of 20 statewide, but put no limit on their size as long as they were made up of contiguous Census Bureau tracts and met one of 10 criteria of economic need.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

As a result, at least some part of 201 Massachusetts cities and towns now falls within an economic target area. These include not only Lawrence and Lowell, but lots of places not usually associated with blight and decay, including Beverly, Hingham, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

And even more communities may soon be joining the economic target zone club. In September, prompted by legislation filed by Sen. Stephen Buoniconti, a Springfield Democrat, to allow an additional economic target area in West Springfield, the Legislature voted instead simply to double the allowable number of such areas to 40.

“There’s no question that the original intent—to target the most needy communities—has been lost,” says David Tibbetts, who served as director of the Department of Economic Affairs in the late 1990s. “It’s also a credit to the program that people say, ‘It’s been so successful, I want in, too.’”