Atlanta analyst J Mac Holladay says the South Shore has “so many assets,” but challenges as well. He outlined the Chamber’s new “Choosing Our Future” report at a Thursday luncheon.
But Holladay – a former economic development director for three Southern states – said the South Shore’s economy could stall, and the area become less attractive to families and professionals, if the chamber and local towns and cities don’t work together to take advantage of what he called a “once in a generation opportunity” to get in gear with a rapidly changing economy.
And he said the heart of that opportunity will come from cultivating more South Shore business, and giving young families and professionals reasons to live and work here.
“That’s the keys to the kingdom,” Holladay said.
His comments followed a luncheon presentation of a new Market Street report, “South Shore 2030: Choosing Our Future,” which examines the area’s long-term challenges as well as its prospects.
“This is not about what happens next Tuesday,” Holladay told an audience of more than 200 business owners and leaders, entrepreneurs and elected officials. “And there is no silver bullet. It’s going to be hard work every day.”
He said the Great Recession of 2008 also turned out to be “the Great Reset” for the nation’s economy, and the South Shore now faces its own difficulties – a growth rate that trails Boston and the U.S., an aging work force, and an imbalance of professionals who commute to work in Boston.
“It’s a different time. It’s a different challenge,” he told the chamber audience.
To reverse those trends, Holladay said South Shore towns need to be more “family friendly” by cultivating a welcoming sense of place and providing more varied housing.
At the same time, he said the chamber and municipal governments will have to develop a better “ecosystem” for entrepreneurs and startups.
He said that will require more inviting development around commuter-rail stations, among other places, and further expansion of the area’s Internet networks, to help small businesses.
“You’ve worked on this before,” Holladay said, referring to the state and region’s long history from 19th century industrial development to the 20th century building of highways and mass transit.
In his Patriot Ledger interview, he said communities and builders need to turn their attention to young families and professionals, who want to rent or live in smaller houses and who are seeking amenities such as green spaces and bike paths instead of large-lot suburban houses.
He said it’s crucial for the South Shore to draw more people in the 25-to 44-year-old age group, in part because the region will soon be attracting only one worker in that group for every three retiring baby boomers – and the other half of that goal is to offer good jobs closer to where they live.
“It’s about choices,” Holladay said.
By Lane Lambert, The Patriot Ledger
Published January 28, 2016
Reach Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @LLambert_Ledger.
Photo by Greg Derr, The Patriot Ledger