Paul Grogan and Alvaro Lima give Bostons inner city the business

Over its five years of publication, CommonWealth has displayed a consistent interest in city living–specifically, how cities from Boston to Pittsfield can stay or become safe, vibrant, satisfying places for people to live, work, and raise children. And it’s safe to say that many, if not most, Massachusetts cities have seen their fortunes improve over that time: Crime rates have declined, housing has been renovated, schools have gotten more funding (and more pressure to improve). But how to make sure inner city neighborhoods take part in the region’s continued economic growth remains a nagging, and vexing, question.

In CommonWealth‘s Winter 1998 issue, I wrote about Boston’s “enterprise zone”–an attempt to concentrate local and federally funded economic-development efforts on the neediest areas of the inner city. The story posed this critical question, in bold type: does anyone in government understand urban renewal? The answer, then as now, is uncertain. But I recently spoke with two Bostonians who do know something about what it takes to bring urban economies back from the dead: Paul Grogan and Alvaro Lima.

Alvaro Lima (left) and Paul Grogan

Paul S. Grogan has just been named president of the Boston Foundation, the largest grantmaking institution in New England, to which he will bring his vision for urban rebirth starting July 1. When we spoke, he was simply vice president for government, community, and public affairs at Harvard, overseeing the university’s partnerships with its host communities, Boston and Cambridge. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Grogan headed Boston’s community development agency under mayors Kevin White and Ray Flynn. From 1986 to 1998, he led the New York-based Local Initiatives Support Corp., a nonprofit agency that funneled $3 billion in private capital into the efforts of community-based nonprofit developers nationwide. Grogan is also co-author, with Tony Proscio, of Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival, which CommonWealth reviewed last issue.

Alvaro Lima is managing director of Boston’s chapter of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, the nonprofit entity that Harvard Business School guru Michael Porter (the subject of a Conversation interview in CW‘s Winter ’98 issue) established to put into action his theory of the competitive advantage of inner-city neighborhoods. A native of Brazil, Lima is an economist who served in the Ministry of Industry and Energy in Mozambique and Brazil’s Institute for Social and Economic Research. Before joining ICIC-Boston three years ago, Lima was director of economic development at Urban Edge, one of Boston’s most successful–and ambitious–community development agencies.

In February, ICIC-Boston, of which Grogan is also chairman of the board, unveiled its view of business opportunities in Boston’s inner city at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. That plan, developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group, a longtime ICIC partner, utilizes Porter’s trademark framework of industry “clusters” to identify untapped opportunities to boost jobs–and mine profits–in neighborhoods like Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, the South End, and South Boston. Health care is one “cluster” in which the inner city is already well represented but where there’s room for growth. In other industries, such as financial services, information technology, and hospitality/tourism, ICIC sees inner-city Boston lagging, but with the potential to play catch-up. I sat down with Grogan and Lima the day of the ICIC presentation to review the urban investment portfolio. The following is a transcript of that conversation, edited for length.

CommonWealth: Paul, when you were a city official here, Boston was struggling to survive, particularly its residential neighborhoods. But the Boston you came back to two years ago certainly qualifies as one of your “comeback” cities. All the elements you describe as the basis for urban revival are at work here: housing and community development, managed by community-based nonprofit developers; the rebirth of private markets; restoration of public order in neighborhoods that were once riddled with street crime; the reform, albeit incomplete, of perversely bureaucratic public institutions. All this and a seven-year economic boom have turned Boston into a place of near-full employment, with housing stock so much improved that many longtime residents can’t even afford to live here anymore. So, in a city that’s now doing so well, why do we need a strategy for inner-city business development?

Grogan: Well, the rising property values and the relative absence of blight don’t tell the whole story. In fact, Boston continues still to have a substantial poverty population, and a school system that is still deeply troubled. There are an awful lot of people that are trapped with inferior education, low skills, unable to compete in this marvelous New Economy. Boston really has tremendous things going for it, but that sets the stage for the next level of activity. And that is to focus on the jobs, the incomes, and the wealth accumulation that’s going to be possible for that population that is next to, and inside of, all this prosperity but not participating fully in it. But I think Boston is very well positioned to do as good a job as any city can in facing that next order of problems. By the way, I hope you weren’t suggesting that my absence from the city was the key factor in feeding the revitalization of the Boston I came back to. Others have.

CommonWealth: I suppose you can find causation in all sorts of places if you look hard enough. Alvaro, it’s been more than five years since Michael Porter first spelled out the competitive advantages of the inner city, and more than five years since ICIC got down to work identifying the specific advantages that Boston has to offer. Which of those advantages have been capitalized on so far, and which ones have yet to be exploited?

Lima: I think the clearest one is retail, which has discovered the under-served [urban] market. You go in the neighborhoods of Boston today and you’ll see CVS and Stop & Shop and Walgreens. There’s a whole new generation of retailers that is starting to look at the inner city and have an interest. And I think the supermarkets were key. I live in the inner city in Boston and when the Stop & Shop came in it was like giving everybody a pay raise. The cost of food [at small neighborhood stores] was very high and a big chunk of their income is spent on food. What we also discovered, probably a year or two years ago, looking at the [Inc. magazine/ICIC] Inner City 100, was the amazing quantity of companies operating on [the basis of] just-in-time delivery in the Boston inner city. There’s a whole sector of commercial-services companies that are linked to the hospitals, to the universities downtown, that are clearly taking advantage of their location.

CommonWealth: What are some of those commercial services that benefit from that location?

Lima: Be Our Guest, for example. . . . They rent tables and chairs [and other equipment for functions]. They can not only serve downtown Boston very quickly but they can also go to the Cape and get down I-93. . . . Another sector that we have seen [capitalizing on the inner-city location], for example, are the printers. We were fascinated to look at the data and ask, why is it there are so many printers here? We assumed that printers should be printing things outside of Boston. But they are very specialized. They are mainly doing the Fidelity [and other] annual reports and they can’t be in Hong Kong. They have to be here because [Fidelity’s] Mr. [Ned] Johnson changes the report every week. Being very close to the market gives you a transportation advantage. And there is the labor force. It’s incredible the amount of companies that are moving into Boston to take advantage of the labor force. The high attrition rate in the suburbs is killing retailers. You go to Home Depot and their suburban store has kids that want to make $100, $150 during the summer and then have fun. They come here, people are looking for a job.

I think that the next big push will be to look at the question of employment and job ladders. Large corporations in Boston do not have a strategy to deal with a tight labor market. There is no strategy for how you maintain your folks. . . . There is a huge pressure on companies to maintain their labor force.

Grogan: If I can jump in on that. Of course, Harvard University, my current employer, is a huge employer, one of the biggest private employers in Massachusetts–over 15,000 full-time employees. Almost any day of the week we have between 700 and 1,000 job openings at Harvard that we have more and more trouble filling. And it’s leading Harvard to do some very different things institutionally, to establish the links with local job-training programs in Cambridge and Boston and surrounding communities that are identifying people and upgrading their skills. We’re also making a major commitment to upgrade our own low-skill, low-wage workers. The MassINC report [New Skills for a New Economy] pointed out that a third of the Massachusetts work force is not fit for jobs in the New Economy. But as Michael Porter said today [at the Chamber of Commerce forum], those people are here and a lot of them are in the inner city. The real upside, in terms of increasing the productive labor force, is in the city if we have the right manpower strategies to tap that. . . . So that tight labor market which Porter sees more or less being with us for the foreseeable future is a tremendous opportunity for us to move people into the labor force.

I also wanted to comment on the retail area because I think that’s terribly important and people tend to dismiss that: Retail–is that really economic development? But for neighborhoods that have been deprived of retail services that most Americans take for granted, it is a huge thing to have retail reenter the community, not only because of the goods and services that are now available at a reasonable price but the message of vitality that that sends, the traffic it produces. The neighborhood commercial corridors are not only important economically; they’re important parts of the social fabric of communities. And when these places were dreary, boarded-up districts, obviously they were part of what was dragging the neighborhood down and pulling it apart. Now, on a Saturday, to go through these commercial districts and to see every storefront occupied, you see the life on the street, the people schmoozing on the corners, picking up their convenience items. It’s a really important part of the city and these issues are all connected in a way that I think we¹re just beginning to understand.

Another example is housing. Most people wouldn’t say that housing is an economic development strategy. But what people don’t remember is what collapsed the markets in the inner city in the previous cycle of decline was the destruction of the residential neighborhoods: the hemorrhage of people out, the inability to sustain the housing stock, the blight and abandonment that came from that. And that’s what drove the retailers out to the opportunities in the growing suburbs. Well, the community development corporations and others have reconstituted much of the residential stock. There are people in those houses again. And they, by themselves, create a market. . . . A lot of what Michael Porter talks about is the lag in perception and how those powerful images that developed during the period of decline stay with us even after the reality has shifted. But that visible reentrance of retail into these neighborhoods is really a way to, on a symbolic level, say, hey, a different day is here. There is a different set of opportunities. Now let’s work on some of these next-stage economic opportunities to build on the progress that’s been made.

CommonWealth: What about those next-stage opportunities? Some of the leading industries, like financial services and high-tech–first of all, why have these industries not seen the sort of opportunities that have become apparent in retail and, as you say, in commercial services? What’s it going to take to get their attention and get them to start thinking about Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan as places they should think about selling to or locating in?

Lima: We just have to do the same thing we did for retail. I think that we need to make the business case. I think that we need to push them to see that they can modify a little bit their strategy and they can tap into these markets. . . . If you go to neighborhoods where you have first-generation immigrants, where they have their families in their country of origin, and their first financial need is to cash a check and then transfer part [of the proceeds to relatives abroad]. You leave all this market to high-priced [check-cashing services and] loan sharks. The banks are still operating on the branch model, with middle-class deposit accounts. But with a little change–and there are many things going on in this area–you can satisfy this huge market. There is an incredible amount of money that gets transferred to Brazil that is generated here in Boston. We see huge costs not only to transfer, because the costs are high, but [because in mainstream banks] there are no products. It would take some imagination and some thinking about what kinds of products you can tailor to this market.

Grogan: I think there are other things that other parties have to do, too. The government is a critical player in creating an environment for business–or in doing the reverse. We have an administration that’s very pro-business [in Boston]. The mayor has justifiably gotten a lot of credit for continuing the tremendous investment in housing, for supporting the revival of the commercial districts, the reentrance of retail. But the truth is that the city government isn’t really set up to pursue an economic development strategy that’s targeted to industries. The organization of city government is more a reflection of the whole urban renewal area and the almost complete focus on real estate as opposed to other forms of economic development. So a challenge to city governments generally and to Boston is: How do you get organized to relate to the decision-makers in these business sectors who are going to look at the city and understand, to a finely honed degree, what they’re looking for, what they need, and have processes that are going to be smooth and navigable by people that don’t have a lot of tolerance for bureaucracy, confusion, etc. . . .

There also have to be new relationships formed. As [Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce president] Paul Guzzi pointed out this morning, one of the big drivers of our economy–and here again I’m doing a little institutional promotion–is higher education. We have the most extraordinary concentration of institutions of higher education and they bring great benefits to the city. But there needs to be a new strategic partnership between the city, the business community, and the universities to really identify the specific economic opportunities coming out of universities, which are magnets for research dollars, and which create a kind of new geographic rationale for business. Businesses, in lots of ways, can be anywhere today. They don’t have the traditional ties to geography. But why are so many clusters of high technology businesses gathering in the Boston area? Most people would say, well, it’s MIT and Harvard and Tufts and Boston University, because it’s the talent, it’s the research, it’s the innovation that’s occurring in this kind of hothouse of innovation.

What’s the strategy to tap that for the city, for the population we’re concerned about? Everyone is trying to wedge their last building into the Longwood Medical Area. It’s a tremendously dense concentration of medical facilities and related industries, research labs, and so forth. Sooner or later the last building that can go into Longwood is going to be built. And I think this research engine is going to continue. Where does that go? Is there a strategy to capture that for the city and to align training opportunities? So you could not only have the geographical location–a second research park, biomedical research park within the city limits–but you could align our training systems to get people jobs in those establishments.

The universities are going to be economic players. I don’t think we’ve thought of the universities as economic actors. We’ve thought of their economic significance almost in a passive way. But I’d like to see a new strategic partnership between the city, the business community, and the universities to really look at some of these opportunities and how powerful they can be.

CommonWealth: How does city government–and perhaps state government, too‹have to think differently in order to be more strategic in economic development? I think of the city bureaucracies and how they approach projects for neighborhoods. The way the responsibilities break down‹with the exception, perhaps, of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which seems to be in charge of anything it wants to be in charge of–the idea of pursuing an economic strategy by industry doesn’t seem to fit very neatly into the way city government is structured. And isn’t that part of the problem? When you look at a city like Boston, both bureaucratically and politically, it’s not an easy place to do business.

Grogan: That’s right. As I was saying, the city’s organization reflects a previous era. We’ve tinkered with it. We’ve moved it around a little bit. But it is still really an urban renewal government as opposed to a business development government. So that’s going to take some hard thinking. I personally believe that what’s got to happen is, once the mayor sets some goals in this area and understands some things he really wants to achieve with respect to specific industries, then you can extrapolate what kind of organization you need to build to take advantage of that. Form follows function.

Another problem is the fragmentation of government programs. ICIC, in one of its earlier research papers, pointed out that Boston, and most cities, actually get a lot of money from the federal and state governments for, quote, “economic development.” But it comes through 100 different public, private, and nonprofit agencies. So the fragmentation of all of this is very considerable and it obviously limits the strategic use of public capital, which is very, very important in priming the pump. [Now] we have a Republican government that likes block grants. Maybe there’s an opportunity to go and say, here’s the new economic opportunity in cities. We’re not asking for more money but let’s reconfigure what we’ve got so it’s usable and usable in a strategic fashion.

So I think at all levels there are implications for government behavior once you start saying, hey, cities can recover on a business model, on a market model. That’s the new way of thinking about it, as opposed to how are we going to help these terrible, blighted, emptied-out places.

Lima: One interesting thing that came out of the government study is, not only do you have fragmentation of organizations and programs, but there is no strategy that brings them together. There are millions of training programs but there is no link between training programs and business development, for example. It’s as if there were two different parts of the economy. And we have seen that it makes the whole training sector a problem for business development in the city.

CommonWealth: It strikes me that the one attempt to do that, and in fact it’s about the only thing that has passed for an urban economic policy in this country for the last 10 years, has been the notion of an enterprise zone or empowerment zone. When I look at the analysis you do at ICIC, the geographic area that you describe as the inner city is roughly the same as the map of Boston’s enterprise zone. And that idea was to designate an area and say, this is where we’re going to focus our myriad programs and policies and this, that, and the other thing, plus throw in some federal dollars. This is where we’re going to put all of that to make things happen. Why didn’t anything happen?

Lima: I think that in some places something did happen. In Boston, the empowerment zone had some impact. I think that the impact was not greater because the focus was on the geography. . . . There is no strategy that says, this is what we want to accomplish, these are the goals. [Then] you change all these programs to accomplish that. [Instead,] what you have is, you say, well, I’m going to get my programs and collect them all in a place and hope that they will somehow be different than [when they were] dispersed. . . . What are the institutions in the empowerment zone that want to grow; what is their connection with the regional economy? How do you link them?

Grogan: One of the things that a lot of people don’t realize to this day about the empowerment zones is that most of the money is for social services. The empowerment zone was dressed up as focusing on a market model but it was really the old stuff kind of repackaged. In a lot of cities, money hasn’t been spent because there’s been a kind of ferocious, almost old-style patronage scramble. Money has been tied up in squabbles. That’s just the kind of thing that drives the real private sector away. I think the idea of looking at certain geographies and pursuing an integrated strategy still has merit, but the empowerment zones are going to end up being an utterly inconsequential part of whatever happens in these communities. I’d like to see them take a second run at it on a real business basis next time around.

CommonWealth: Let me ask one question about some of the assumptions behind the work that ICIC has done and you, Paul, have raised a bit in your book, as well. It’s clear enough that there’s been a crying need for retail attention in the neighborhoods where retailers essentially abandoned ship 20 or 30 years ago. It’s less obvious to me why the inner city needs to be a locus for jobs. Why do we need job-generating businesses to be located in what are essentially residential neighborhoods? Boston doesn’t have a lot of land available for commercial or industrial development. And what little land there is, any time anybody wants to use any of it, the opposition comes out in droves. That’s because, when push comes to shove, who wants to live next door to a factory or a warehouse or a call center, for that matter? Why shouldn’t Dorchester and Roxbury and Jamaica Plain be bedroom communities, just the way suburban towns are? Why not focus instead on getting the people who live in these neighborhoods access, in terms of both acceptance and transportation, to places where the jobs are?

Grogan: Let me start. I’m sure both of us want to take a whack at this. I think you have a point, in a way. That is, I don’t work in my neighborhood; I never have. I’m connected to an economic opportunity in the metropolitan area. I do think that’s the most important thing, and that does put the focus back on all the labor force questions, the education and training questions, and, to an extent, on transportation. Do you have a way to get to the opportunities that you are suited for? On the other hand, if we think back, Boston once had over 800,000 people and a lot of industry within its borders. Now–and we’re one of the fortunate ones, our population is modestly growing again–we don’t even have 600,000 people and a lot of the industry that we had has departed. There’s room in Boston for a level of business presence that we don’t have now that can be accommodated within the essentially residential character of the neighborhoods. I really believe that. And it would be healthy for the city. Proximity [to jobs] does matter to a certain part of the population. It matters in terms of the tax base. It matters in terms of the political strength of the city. So I think we have to do both. We have to have a resident population that is equipped by virtue of education, skills, and attitude to take advantage of economic opportunity wherever it is in the metropolitan area and have the means to get there. But we also need to attract, re-attract, businesses by virtue of these [competitive] advantages, for which that inner-city location is really a positive.

Lima: I agree with Paul. I think it’s a question of mobility, including the mobility of having people from outside of the inner city coming in to work in the inner city and folks that live there also working there. It’s one of the debates that I think is dangerous, the either/or, that you link folks to the regional economy or you invest in the inner city. In 1981 or ’82, I was living in Mozambique and I went to Johannesburg. By 5 o’clock in Johannesburg you used to see a sea of people, blacks, going to Soweto. The transportation was wonderful. It was a linkage between Soweto and Johannesburg. But the investment was made in Johannesburg. You can link people to the jobs but you still have a question of investment. . . . I think that some of the regional discussion carries some of this risk. You have to do both. You can’t entrap people in the neighborhood and say your mobility is that you have transportation. You can’t say there’s no investment in infrastructure here because we are building on Route 128 and now you have a nice bus that brings you from here to there.

CommonWealth: I was struck, in your book, Paul, and in the presentation this morning and the materials I’ve gotten from ICIC, about the role of immigration in the city. I think you make a strong case for, whatever the controversy about whether immigration is a good thing or a bad thing for the country as a whole, from the point of view of cities immigration is an unalloyed benefit. We know that Massachusetts as a whole, as well as the city, would have lost, in absolute terms, a good chunk of its work force over the past 10 years if it hadn’t been for immigration. Immigration accounts for all the growth there has been in the work force. But it’s not only bodies but ambitions, entrepreneurial spirit, and all those things.

Grogan: I can’t add anything to what you’re saying.

CommonWealth: But immigrants also don’t necessarily know the language. They may not be educated, all of them, very highly even in their native tongue. They’re unlikely to have the skills for an information economy. If we recognize the great benefits that immigrants bring to the inner city, still, what obligations do they impose on us in order to get the benefits of their presence? What are the implications for business development, for government services, to make these newcomers productive and contributing members of a growing economy?

Grogan: Well, there’s a lot we can do and should do. I must admit that I’m personally reassured by history in this vein, because as an undergraduate I was particularly interested in immigration. I was an American history major and wrote my senior thesis on the period from 1880 to 1920. [There were] enormous strains that people felt at the time, great worries about the survival of American civilization when half–at one point, I think it was about 1905–half of all the residents of every major Eastern and Midwestern city were foreign born. We think it’s remarkable that today one in four Bostonians [was born abroad], and Boston is in the upper tier of cities affected by immigration. But this was every major city in America and in a lot of ways the country didn’t possess the kind of engines of Americanization that it now has. And yet we not only survived, but my reading of it is that American society and culture was strengthened enormously. So there is a way that we have of absorbing people and of people responding to the opportunities that are in the society that it doesn’t take care of itself, exactly, but there are some natural processes of absorption and assimilation that, if history is any guide, really work.

Nevertheless, the more rapidly we can help immigrants equip themselves to participate, [the better.] That’s the kind of human-capital investment we want to make. I think, not to cozy up to MassINC, but I think the MassINC report is dead on, in saying that a major investment on the part of public and private sectors in English as a second language and adult basic education programs. . .would have a pretty quick payoff in terms of productivity and labor force participation. And we’re just not doing anywhere near what needs to be done to realize that. It’s looking at this not as a social service but as a human-capital investment that’s going to have a big return. Again, Harvard is recognizing that in our own programs; other major employers need to do the same. We need to be supportive of a massive increase in state funding for these kinds of programs. And if we do that, I think that there’s going to be a big payoff.

Lima: I think that immigration in this country, but mainly immigration in Boston, in the last 10 years is an untold story. If you go to Allston, Brighton, Somerville, Framingham, it’s quite amazing. It’s the pre-Main Streets program. That’s the role of the immigrants–they open their bodegas, their small stores, and create the storefronts that you can now rehab.

Grogan: Look at the Vietnamese on Dorchester Avenue. It’s unbelievable.

Lima: Most recently, the mayor created the Office of New Bostonians that I think is the first step in looking at immigration from a strategic point of view. . . .There is a stigma attached to immigrants. It looks much like the stigma attached to the inner cities, the stigma attached to people on welfare, that they are kind of a drain [on society]. If you do a search in the newspapers in Boston–and we did that a lot–there’s no positive image of Brazilians, for example, or Brazil. My dream is to see the Brazilian government attached to working with the city of Boston. . . .If you go to Somerville, Brazilian kids learn Portuguese from Portuguese books from Portugal. It’s quite amazing and it’s so easy. . . . Governments in Latin America set up their foreign service and the consulates to deal with exiles, students, and tourists. The huge number of immigrants, they don’t know what to do with them. . . . There is no structure for bringing immigrants that are here and linking [them] with Latin America. There is a whole opportunity that will open in the next five or 10 years in the hemisphere. And this is the only country in the whole hemisphere that will have this population, this mingling of different cultures.

CommonWealth: Got to be some businesses in there, don’t you think?

Lima: Absolutely.

Grogan: I think it’s telling that the mayors of what I call the “gateway cities” are so pro-immigration. Tom Menino is pro-immigration. Rudolph Giuliani is pro-immigration. Dick Reardon in Los Angeles, pro-immigration. They’ll go to Washington and they’ll talk to Congress about keeping that door open. If you want to know how this is working for the city, these guys have as good a set of nerve endings as anybody and I think that tells the story. This really is a tremendous opportunity to make the right kinds of investments and create the right kinds of ties. It’s an explosion of energy. . . . You can do things to capitalize on that.

CommonWealth: We don’t have Michael Porter here but we do have a couple of disciples, and I’d like to throw out one question. In some ways, for the construct of the competitive advantage of the inner city, Boston–like many major cities–is a little bit of an easy case. Boston is a regional center for government, finance, health care, tourism, even media. It’s harder to imagine a similar approach to Lawrence and Brockton and New Bedford and Holyoke. We have elsewhere in this issue of CommonWealth a look at some of these smaller cities [see “Small cities, Big Problems,”], which is where the poverty is really concentrated, where the flight of industry is far more complete. The industries that left these cities are less likely to be replaced by high-technology companies or mutual funds. Are small cities a different kind of challenge for economic development than the big cities, where you’ve at least got something in terms of these clusters to feed off of?

Grogan: I think they are, absolutely. In some ways, the economic function and the social function of a truly major city are more easily recoverable, and we’re seeing that. We’re seeing a tremendous rebirth of urban America. The smaller and mid-sized cities that have really lost an economic function, I think it’s more difficult to recapture. But I do think that those cities would benefit from some of the things that have worked elsewhere. For instance, building a set of strong community development corporations in these towns that can really carry forward the patient rebuilding of the residential fabric that’s been done in big cities. That absolutely can be done and it’s already starting to happen. Working to absorb the lessons, the crime fighting lessons, that have been pioneered in big cities. There’s no reason why that can’t transfer. Inventorying the assets. A lot of these cities do have historical assets, architecture, historical sites that need to be seen as economic assets.

Transit improvements can recreate economic function. If Providence can become a bedroom town for Boston, why couldn’t Brockton? You’ve got that commuter rail–25 minutes and you’re in downtown Boston. Brockton has some wonderful loft buildings and old historic structures. And you’ve got a mayor there who I think is really looking much more strategically at that city and its relationship to the region and what’s really possible. What connections exist? And these other cities, as Providence has, can benefit from what we’re all worried about in Boston, which is the tremendous escalation in housing prices and commercial rents. There are a lot of folks who are going to exit Boston because of price and those communities–it sounds disparaging to say [they could get] some of the crumbs from the table. How can I put it more elegantly? Positioning [themselves] with respect to the economic dynamo of the region. I’m quite serious about this. There will be some churning. It’s already happened.

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I think the big message, if Michael were here, is that these communities have to have a strategy. They have to think this through. They have to align their government, their marketing, their assets, with regard to seeing themselves in this larger context. And it’s a very different function for municipal government. Again, just as Boston needs to realign, these smaller cities are going to have to realign their governments. It’s no longer just picking up the trash, running police and fire departments, and operating the public school system. It’s something far more entrepreneurial and strategic. I think the mid-sized cities do have enough mass, capacity, and proximity to this extraordinary collection of assets, as you point out, that are in Boston. There are real opportunities for those communities if they get their act together. And I think, again–Brockton is a city I’m beginning to learn something about–I think there’s some leadership in place there that is thinking very much like this and I think they’re going to make some progress in the next few years.

Lima: I agree with that. I think the need for strategy and realignment of the government is much greater in a small city where the market forces will not do the job, than in a larger city like Boston. We have some companies on the Inner City 100 that are in Lynn and doing Internet stuff. But there is no strategy to figure out, what is it you can bring here, what is the economy, what are the opportunities. . . ? I truly believe that some of the new wave of solutions can come from mid-sized cities, because they have an opportunity to do some different thinking that New York and Boston cannot afford to do. I think the realignment of the government is a key one.