From cannabis taxes for community programs to preparing Roxbury students for tomorrow’s workforce
Now that the elections are over, we have new leadership at the city and state level, and with new leadership comes new opportunities. What follows are recommendations I have made to many of those running for office who were looking for ideas to include as part of their economic platforms.
For starters, we should encourage equity ownership in the cannabis industry while improving transparency and accountability on the taxes collected. It’s essential that cannabis taxes go to support programs in the community, not the general fund. Similarly, we should insist on equity ownership in the clean energy industry, not just employment opportunities. After all, leveraging the state’s natural resources and tax dollars should benefit everyone. If we don’t insist on equity ownership now, it is doubtful we will achieve it later.
We must bring some of the billions of dollars the federal government has made available for infrastructure improvements and fighting climate change to Massachusetts to build Green Zones in our urban Black and brown areas across the state. These simply require an environmental audit, that serves as a needs assessment, which becomes the basis for funding requests. Building Green Zones would not only mitigate environmental hazards, harness opportunities for sustainability, create a market for green innovation and improve the quality of life in the community, it would provide green jobs.
We must also develop a plan to increase the number of Black founders in the tech and life sciences spaces in conjunction with our workforce development efforts. These efforts should focus on careers in which employee compensation includes performance bonuses and equity participation, such as advanced manufacturing, biomanufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other smart technologies.
While we’re at it, we should expand workforce development opportunities for returning citizens. During the pandemic, we learned that many jobs, such as coding, can be done remotely. Jobs that can be performed remotely are CORI friendly jobs. We should also provide prisoners with training for these career opportunities and let them start working at these jobs before they are released.
Another important step is demanding equitable procurement practices from anchor institutions, including voluntary transparency on procurement metrics. We must develop a city-sponsored bond program to enable Black businesses to win larger contracts and a larger share of the city’s $500 million annual construction business.
In the same vein, we must insist that community development corporations comply with their mandate to “develop and improve urban, rural and suburban communities in sustainable ways that create and expand economic opportunity for low and moderate income people.”
To prevent job loss and increase minority ownership in local businesses, we should use acquisitions to solve the succession problem. We should also increase support and funding for the adoption of business cooperatives following the Mondragon model.
Going a step further, we should encourage social impact investing from institutions, private foundations, and donor-advised funds. And we would be remiss if we failed to leverage the state’s rapidly expanding biotech and life science opportunities, such as two new developments planned for Roxbury. The Nubian Square Ascends project will provide over 250,000 square feet of space, while the My City at Peace development of Parcel 3 will include about 700,000 square feet of life-science space. We must ensure the educational institutions along the Roxbury corridor—including Madison Park High School, John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, Roxbury Community College, Dearborn STEM Academy, and Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology—are preparing students for these opportunities.
In conjunction with workforce development and jobs creation, we also need to pursue strategies and funding to increase home ownership, such as assisting mobile voucher holders to become homeowners and increasing down payment assistance and savings match programs for first-time homebuyers. We should also incentivize the ownership of owner-occupied homes and expand community land trusts, housing co-ops, and rent-to-buy programs.
Finally, now that Mayor Wu has implemented the Massport Model in Boston for all projects over 20,000 square feet, we should adopt it for all public and private development in the region.
Whichever strategies officials choose to pursue, the main thing is to prioritize growth for historically underserved individuals and places as a way to improve life for everyone.