Planning as a Tool for Inclusive Economic Development: Building Life Sciences Program and Policy Capabilities in Gateway Cities

The class is the second of three practica working with Massachusetts Life Science Corporation,
Mass Development, and individual city stakeholders to catalyze inclusive economic
development in Massachusetts Gateway Cities. Last year’s impactful and professionally
acknowledged class report enables us to continue to work with two Gateway Cities—Brockton
and Worcester--to develop implementation plans based on class findings and
recommendations. (The report can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/2GvNQfx.)

This semester’s course will continue to explore the challenges of inclusive economic
development while zeroing in on development of policy and programmatic approaches and
tools that would allow Gateway Cities to evolve successfully to develop the capacity to
undertake life sciences investments and pursue workforce opportunities.

The first third of the class will build students’ skills to conduct industry studies to gain an
understanding of the demand side of economic development (what dominant industrial
resources require to expand horizontally and vertically), as well as changing conditions in the
regional and global life science cluster. In this part of the course, we will utilize state-of-the-art
analysis of industrial clusters--emphasizing e.g., local, national, and global spatial and
competitive cluster dynamics, specific activities and industries within the cluster, inter-industry
linkages, complements and substitutes across activities—and their relevance for under- and
disinvested areas like Massachusetts Gateway Cities. The class will take advantage of our
proximity to Kendall Square, the center of the regional life sciences activity as well as one of the
key cluster nodes globally. Based on these learnings, students will engage and inform
stakeholders in Gateway Cities about global and regional cluster conditions and local economic
development, opportunities appropriate for their cities.

In this course, students will learn about the role that industries play in economic development
and the need for cities to understand how industries and clusters work in order to support
existing businesses, attract new ones, and prepare residents for career opportunities within the
regional labor market. 11.940 complements supply-side courses taught by Karl Seidman that
emphasize modifying the physical and institutional contexts to support the ability to attract and
sustain future economic development activities. Our class gives students the opportunity to
study in real time the needs (demand side) of a key global economic cluster. 11.490 allows
students to gain an understanding of the policy and program infrastructure that attempts to
match the behavior and expectation of economic agents as they operate in an increasingly
global economy. While less constrained perhaps, local businesses also experience the pressures
of the market and hence lessons learned in our class offer a pragmatic view of economic
practices that face each of the Gateway Cities.

In the remaining two-thirds of the course, we utilize the industry and cluster knowledge from
the first part of the class to develop policies and programs to grow life sciences opportunities in
Brockton and Worcester. Based on the findings our 2017 practicum, we anticipate that in this
phase, we break into two teams. The objective for the Brockton team is to improve resident
access to quality job and career opportunities in the regional life sciences cluster. To achieve
this, the Brockton team will focus on developing cooperative, collaborative, and coordinating
capacities within the local workforce development system, which centers around the Brockton
Workforce Investment Board and the local community college. We anticipate a re-envisioning
exercise to create a more holistic approach to workforce development than currently exists,
using multiple tools, including a mapping of the educational infrastructure, local and regional
life science employers, and programmatic bridges for residents to connect to these nodes.
In Worcester students will focus on cluster development strategies for the life sciences. Here
we anticipate that the class group will create a “life sciences master plan” to coordinate the
activities of key public, private, and institutional stakeholders in the city. Development of the
life sciences master plan will involve asset mapping, opportunity and problem identification,
goal setting, and creation of specific policy and programmatic tools to advance cluster
development. The objective is to assist Worcester in building the functional capacity to enable
life sciences business attraction and expansion, as well as the creation of a more robust
innovation ecosystem. A core part of this strategy will be to integrate and elevate the role of
resident opportunity, neighborhood vitality, and community engagement as necessary
components of the city’s life science master plan.