Here are a couple of numbers to get your attention: the South Shore will soon be attracting one worker in the prime 25- to 44-year age group for every three retiring workers. The South Shore remains a wonderful place to live with a range of attractive local communities, a vibrant economy, an educated work force and a expanding world of entertainment and recreation opportunities. But look down the road a few years, and the scene will not be as sanguine unless we make changes in the near future. Do something now, or pay a price in the future.
That was part of the message of “South Shore 2030: Choosing Our Future,” a report prepared for the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. The report is part of a multi-year effort by the chamber to gather and report information about 26 communities south Boston, living and working in those communities and our collective economic future. Chamber members and staff have contributed thousands of hours to the project. And the chamber paid Market Street Services, an Atlanta firm that defines itself as an economic, community and workforce development consulting firm, to assemble an extraordinary range of data about the region, analyze that information and tell us where we are, where was want to go and how to get there. Do nothing except what we have been doing, the report says, and the future is not bright.
The following are some of the findings from the Market Street Services report that was presented recently at the chamber’s annual meeting.
Market Street said the data it collected “reveals some early warning signs that regional trends are no longer pointing towards sustainable growth and success.” Extend the current trends, and we will see more residential growth without job growth, it says.
Fewer and fewer young people see in their future a four-bedroom home on a suburban street with an acre of grass. Young people, the work force of the next 10 to 15 years and beyond, place a great value on living close enough to work that they don’t have to drive every day. They want high-end but smaller homes, a network of young people around them and places to go and things to do that appeal directly to their interest. Young marrieds want great schools, recreation, green spaces, safety and good public health. Peter Forman, chamber president and CEO, added another caveat: get rid of the anti-family attitude, that what-will-it-do-to-the-school-budget attitude, in some towns. To grow economically, to get the workforce needed for the future, the region has to provide what these young workers and families want and need.
The present economy on the South Shore is, in the language of the consultants, too internally focused. We buy and trade goods and services among ourselves in a closed circle, and too often don’t bring major new money into the region. Retailing and financial services, two of the bulwarks of the regional economy, are shrinking nationally and will probably do so here, too.
Transportation remains a major issue for the South Shore, which still has only one major highway route into Boston. Commuter trains and development – residential and business – along those train lines are crucial. The Market Street reports uses the term TODs – transit oriented developments – and points out several already in the process of growing and expanding. That’s one route to our future.
There are many other salient points made the Market Services report. The full report, and additional information, is posted online at southshore2030.com. It isn’t just for business people or chamber members. They have heard about it. We recommend reading it to all our citizens and especially our public officials.
While the report looks at data from 26 communities, the message is valid for everyone in the ring around Boston and farther out. The times are changing, work is changing, transportation and housing are changing, making things and doing business is changing. The message is: Plan for the changes, start adjusting to them or risk getting run over by them.
Published by The Patriot Ledger