Writer: Esteban Pages
2 min read April 2023 — Despite rising costs of living and high home prices impacting the Greater Boston area in addition to discouraging population trends, the Commonwealth’s chambers of commerce see significant windows of opportunity for the future growth of the region. Invest: spoke with leaders to get their views on what keeps them bullish about the region’s sustainable growth and their respective outlook going forward.
Karen Chapman, President & CEO, Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce
We have the luxury of a single tax rate in the five towns the Chamber covers, which is business-friendly, unlike other regions. Second, we have some of the finest public schools in the state. The challenge when it comes to business is training people. If they are not able to speak English or find affordable housing, those are the biggest issues. We are trying to attract and keep young professionals but our housing costs are extremely high. Our members are trying to attract people from outside the region. We do have a train system but expanding all the stops and all that changed during COVID. Getting workers from the train stations to their businesses is still something that we’re talking about.
My outlook is positive. Very few businesses closed in our region during COVID and a lot of businesses are opening. We are seeing more business growth. There is a lot slated for the next 12 months. One thing I am excited about: Olympus’ partnership with local high schools to strengthen STEM among young women.
Molyna Richards, Executive Director, Waltham Chamber of Commerce
Right now, our restaurant industries are really booming. Boston Property is also building another property for which they are looking at biotech and office spaces, so we have a lot of biotech space. Personally, I would like to see more retail shops here on the main streets to add to the diversity of the already existing great restaurants and salons that are present. Anywhere we can develop and give people jobs, I am happy with that.
My philosophy as a chamber executive director, as a mom, as a woman and just as a person is that my well-being and prosperity are dependent on others, just as theirs is dependent on me. There is a strong reciprocal relationship here. I truly feel that the better my neighbors do, the better I will do, and that is the way I feel about Waltham as well. That’s why, I dream for it to be a healthy economy and for people to come into our city and stay here. I want more economic development. I want people to live here, I want people to want to come here, I want them to live, travel and eat here, so I am hoping that we see this happen.
Tom O’Rourke, President & CEO, Neponset River Regional Chamber
We have got a pretty diverse mix out here, such as our hospitality anchor locations, including Patriot Place, Home of the Patriots, and a major shopping center, as well as Legacy Place and University Station. Some big retail centers and a lot of healthcare from Brigham and Women’s. There are a couple of locations out here, Norwood Hospital, which unfortunately is closed right now. It was just torn down, but it will be rebuilt. We are looking forward to having a new state-of-the-art hospital coming up over the next couple of years. We have also got some biotech with a growing number of players. Moderna has a huge presence in our area with over 1,000 jobs. They developed and produced the vaccine here, which is cool. It is a pretty good mix that includes a manufacturing piece among hospitality.
We have had an opportunity over the past few years to show some additional value to our members as we work through the pandemic. I think it helped our members through the pandemic. We have been able to show value and will continue to do that. We always need to continue to change, we need to keep up with whatever it is we think they need and to communicate with us.
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