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Remarks of Mayor Martin J. Walsh

April 29, 2014

Mayor's Office

Published by:

Mayor's Office

Last week we celebrated the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. As always, it was a thrilling day. But this year, it was a little more special. We joined hands with survivors, first responders, and runners; and we took back the finish line. We’ve faced some challenges during my first months in office. But I’ve never been more proud to be a public servant than I was last week.

  • We watched 12-year-old Henry Richard run his heart out to win the BAA youth relay for his team, and for his little brother Martin.
  • We saw Jeff Baumann return to the finish line for the first time since last year.
  • We saw runners stop to carry a man who had collapsed, before setting him down so he could finish under his own power.
  • We watched in awe as Dick and Rick Hoyt cross the finish line together for the 32nd and final time. They came back to finish the race they started last year.
  • And we saw a crowd of thousands stretching up Boylston Street, as far as the eye could see. They came from Boston, from New England, from all over America and the world. As we cheered, we were united as one. We lifted our voices together to support the Richards, the Campbells, the Lus and the Colliers; to support the Baumanns and the Hoyts; to support all of us who needed to reclaim this day and this race.

What we felt that day was the spirit of Boston.

It’s something that runs through the past, present, and future of our city. We rediscovered it at the Marathon. But it has been the heart of Boston all along.

My goal as mayor is to nurture and grow that spirit of unity. We do that by building relationships: in the neighborhoods and in the schools; across the State, the country, and the world.

I’m going to talk today about the relationships that are most vital to our economic prospects: the ones we are building with you, the leaders in our business and nonprofit community.

I want to start by asking you to help me make sure we keep the spirit of Boston alive. Our young people need opportunities to get into the workplace, if they are to build the next Boston. And we need the next generation of Boston's leaders to reflect the full diversity of our city. For that reason, I ask you to support our youth summer jobs program. Yesterday my cabinet chiefs and I made phone-calls to many of the companies that don’t currently participate. I want to thank you for listening to our pitch. And I want to thank those of you who participate already. Even if you can't hire teens right now, you can still change a young person’s life, simply by making a donation. Just fill out one of the pledge cards on your table, or visit Youth employment transforms neighborhoods. And it is how we nurture the spirit of Boston.

I want to talk a little bit about that spirit. It’s a spirit of determination and resiliency. It’s a spirit of ambition and teamwork. It’s the spirit that has made us a global leader in education, in medicine, in finance, and in law. And it’s right here in this room: in the business leaders who drive us forward, and the nonprofit leaders who bring us together. It’s in Fidelity Investments, which has grown from a single fund in 1946 into one of the biggest investment firms in the world. It’s in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, helping families get health care for more than 75 years. And that's just to name two, among many.

Ultimately the spirit of Boston is in all of you, who work to make our industries, our communities, and our city better every day. Boston was built by leaders, like you, who know how to collaborate and know how to innovate. Because innovation in Boston is more than a district; and it’s more than an industry; it’s a culture. It’s a culture of solving problems and adapting to change. It’s a culture that your organizations have nurtured and shared. It’s what made us the city we are today.

At City Hall, that spirit—your spirit—is guiding us in everything we do.

We heard it on the campaign, and we heard it in the transition. Businesses and residents alike want certainty, transparency, and responsiveness in City government. Every developer deserves a fair hearing. Every neighborhood needs a voice. Permitting delays shouldn’t disrupt good business plans. Prime locations shouldn’t sit undeveloped. The process has to work for everyone.

The companies that built Boston had to learn, change, and adapt. And cities do too. So that’s what we’re doing.

Two weeks ago we marked the 100th day of my administration. At a community center in East Boston, I talked about our many achievements: in job-creation, school reform, violence prevention, and good government. The same theme ran through all of them. We’re bringing the spirit of community into City Hall like never before.

We’re bringing it to labor relations. The trust we established with our public employee unions has liberated our finances from an endless cycle of standoffs. Early on, we worked with multiple unions to expand weekend hours at our libraries. And now we have agreed on contracts with three public safety unions that will save the city many millions of dollars by avoiding arbitration. These savings will mean more money for our parks, our libraries, and our schools. There was no magic formula—just mutual respect. We showed that we respect public employees. And the unions showed that they respect the City’s finances.

We’re bringing that same spirit to workforce development. This month I announced the Life Science Internship Training Program. It’s a partnership with UMass Boston. Students will enroll in online courses that prepare them for careers in the life sciences. It will connect these students with good jobs; it will provide skilled labor for startups; and it will boost our innovation economy.

And we’re bringing it to economic policy. As KPMG’s audit of the BRA nears completion, we have established a clear new structure of openness and accountability.

John Barros, as chief of economic development, is responsible for recruiting new business and helping existing companies grow.

BRA Director Brian Golden oversees real estate development, providing the steady hand we need to keep our growth on course.

And I can announce today that we are creating a new position at the BRA, charged with making sure all our regulations facilitate, rather than hold up, business growth.

These talented leaders are working closely together, and they are working closely with the community. From now on, everyone, in every company and in every neighborhood, will know who to talk to. And everyone will have a seat at the table.

Our goal is to be just as customer-friendly as you are in your businesses. If you are looking for an opportunity to grow in the City of Boston, we are not your adversary; we are your partner.

The effect of this new tone is clear. We have green- lighted smart new development at an unprecedented rate. Growth is soaring, all over the city: in the Innovation District and Downtown; in the South End and in Roxbury.

It started with the expansion of the Landmark Center that will add a supermarket as well as residential and commercial capacity in the Fenway.

It’s continuing with mixed-use projects on the waterfront, where we are talking with Don Chiofaro about how to reimagine the Boston Harbor Garage; and over the Mass Pike, where we are working with John Rosenthal on the Fenway Center. It will be the first air rights project built in Boston since the Kevin White administration.

And we’re finally seeing the rebirth of Downtown Crossing. Last week we announced that Primark, a major international retailer, will move into four stories and 70 thousand square feet of space in the refurbished Burnham Building where Filene’s once stood. Primark looked up and down the East Coast before deciding to make Boston its first U.S. location.

In sum, the development we have moved forward since the beginning of the year represents more than $2 billion in new investment; 5.7 million square feet of new space; 2,800 new residential units; and 6,700 new construction jobs. That’s more than twice the investment approved in the same period last year. It’s a testament to what happens when you create transparency, and you build relationships.

And there’s more to come. We’re looking to forge partnerships with developers on ambitious projects at neglected sites, such as the Winthrop Street Garage downtown. Never again should prime real estate in the heart of Boston sit unused. Boston’s built environment should be the envy of the world.

The numbers are impressive. And if you look closer, you’ll see a newly balanced and equitable kind of growth. You’ll see our vision for the future of Boston. It’s a vision that is inclusive; that is international; and that is innovative.

It’s inclusive, seeding growth in every neighborhood, and connecting our young people to career pathways. The Department of Neighborhood Development is transforming more than 300 thousand square feet of city-owned property into vibrant commercial space at 8 sites across Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.

It’s international, embracing newcomers and recruiting businesses from around the world. In the past month I have met twice with the dozens of foreign consuls stationed in Boston, building relationships that will foster foreign investment and tourism. Professionals from all over the world want to work and live in Boston. So please join me as I work with our Congressional delegation to promote comprehensive immigration reform. The energy of immigrants is a perennial source of our success.

Finally, our vision is innovative. We’ve seen how established businesses in Boston successfully navigate the global economy. Their leadership has stood the test of time; and we will never take it for granted. Like them, we are embracing the high tech; the life sciences; and the creative industries that are on the cutting edge of change.

We’re well on our way to making this vision a reality. But there’s much more to be done. We are bringing together established businesses, entrepreneurs, venture capital funders, and community partners. They are showing us how to turn our vision for Boston into the economy of the future. We have learned that we need upgrades: to our policy, our infrastructure, and our culture. I’m pleased to be able to announce some initiatives today that will do just that.

First, the City itself must be at the forefront of innovation. So we are creating a new position of Chief Digital Officer. We’re looking for a dynamic leader to enhance our position as the nation’s most digitally connected city. The internet is now the front door to city government, where businesses and residents go to get things done. The CDO will remake our website, our TV station, and all of our digital assets into global models of excellence in civic engagement.

Second, we need startups to succeed and we need them to stay and grow in Boston. So we are convening a community to support and market the innovation happening throughout Boston. We have all the ingredients: revolutionary startups, experienced mentors, dedicated investors. But we need to bring them together. And we need to get their message out to the world. We will put together a team of business development and marketing leaders who will do just that. Yesterday on social media we launched a competition to crowd-source the name of this new initiative. Whatever the name, our goal is clear. We all share a vested interest in supporting Boston’s startup community and building Boston’s startup brand.

Third, our vision encompasses every community. I’m pleased to announce that we will be opening a new business incubator in the Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square. We have moved forward with exciting plans for this historic building. It will house the new headquarters of the Boston Public Schools, as well as retail and community space. But I see an opportunity to go further. I want to bring the economy of the future to the heart of Roxbury. This great neighborhood will join Kendall Square, Longwood, and the South Boston Waterfront as the next hub in Greater Boston’s innovation ecosystem.

Finally, we must prepare our young people to be the leaders of the next generation. So we are developing a strategic plan to make the Boston Public Schools the premier digital district in the nation by the year 2020. This spring, we brought 10,000 mobile devices to our classrooms. But there’s much more to be done. Our Office of New Urban Mechanics is supporting BPS in this work. And we hope our students can count on the entire community to rally around this goal.

Our young people will build the Boston of tomorrow. But they won’t start from scratch. The great city they inherit was built by the folks in this room. You did it with foresight, risk-taking, and leadership. You are sitting here today because you know how to adapt, change, and grow. That’s the resilience we need to preserve and pass on.

So let me close by telling you a story of three Boston companies.

Liberty Mutual was founded in 1912 by a handful of Boston employers, to pool their insurance costs. Today Liberty Mutual has more than 50 thousand employees worldwide, and brings in nearly $40 billion annually. It is still headquartered right here, on Berkeley Street and is one of our great corporate citizens.

Wayfair was founded in 2002, in an apartment in the South End. Nee-raj Shah and Steve Conine were old college friends who started by selling home magazine stands online. Now Wayfair is the largest online home goods retailer in the world, with sales of $1 billion expected this year. Their headquarters on Huntington Ave. is a paragon of progressive workspace.

The third company I want to talk about hasn’t been founded yet—at least not officially. It’s an idea shared by two college seniors somewhere in Boston. They’re looking into getting an apartment with friends after graduation, and they’ve talked about moving to other cities. But they know international students here who are the best coders they’ve ever met. They enjoy our nightlife, and they are taking advantage of the Late Night T Pilot.

They have the seeds of next transformative business model in their hands. What will it take for them to start their company in Boston? And what will it take for them to grow that company in Boston?

They need what Liberty Mutual needed, and what Wayfair needed. They need what your companies need.

  • They need access to capital;
  • They need world-class infrastructure;
  • They need talent, and the housing and the culture to keep it here.
  • And they could really use a proactive partner in City Hall.

We are that partner, and working with you, we will meet those needs. So join me on the ground floor of this company. Stand with me, so one day we can say we were there, together, when this vision for Boston’s future took flight.

My door is open. And my Administration is dedicated to building relationships. With workers. With communities. With businesses. With everyone.

In the past, businesses didn’t hear from City Hall until they were thinking about leaving town. No more. We want to talk to you now, about how we can solve the challenges your company faces. You have the expertise we need: to understand how your industry can continue to create good jobs in Boston.

Help me make Boston even better. Because this isn’t about who gets credit. It isn’t about old and new. It’s about the spirit of Boston, and how it inspires our shared vision for the city we love. Thank you, and I look forward to taking your questions.