I’ve worked on public policy from a variety of perspectives: as a Capitol Hill staffer, as an advocate, and as a business leader. And far too often, our well-meaning efforts to implement high-impact policies fail because the structures to develop them – from committees to budgets to niche areas of advocacy organizations – are so siled by area that ‘they fail to reflect the realities of the impact of these issues on our communities. The problem is that we don’t live that way and our economy doesn’t work that way.
As we emerge from a pandemic and seek to elect a new governor this fall, Massachusetts must take a holistic approach to addressing the issues — housing, transportation, climate, and workplace — that most impact our people. and our economy. Interconnected crises require integrated solutions, which recognize the intimate links between policies and people.
Take the example of affordable housing, an issue essential to making Massachusetts a place where people can thrive. Despite the promise of remote work, most people still have to get to work. Public transit must therefore be close to homes and accessible to the communities and workers who need it most. As we expand public transport, connecting people to their destinations with climate-friendly, low-carbon public transport options must be a priority as we face the climate crisis. And to ensure that job opportunities in this challenging environment are attractive to the shrinking workforce, we need policies such as a strong minimum wage, equal pay, paid family and medical leave. .
Opportunity Access Center
Going forward, to meet the challenges of our time and position our economy for long-term success, it is essential that we develop policies rooted in the understanding that opportunity and access are interconnected. All of our residents deserve access to opportunity and a high quality of life: a well-paying job, affordable housing and a livable environment, and our policy approach must be centered around this. We need to use multiple lenses and be particularly mindful of low-income communities and communities of color where government policy has historically done harm and failed to provide equitable opportunities.
The business community can – and should – use its influence and resources to advocate for this kind of holistic policymaking. As the COVID pandemic has so clearly demonstrated, the health of our workers and the strength of our economy are so intertwined with housing, transportation and climate. We have both a practical interest and a moral imperative to invest in the development of thoughtful and inclusive policy approaches.
How can we hope to attract and retain workers if they cannot afford housing? If they can’t get to work? What if this job doesn’t treat them fairly? If the climate crisis upset everyday life?
Setting the economy up for success will require focusing on these quality of life issues as we pursue other systemic changes that support equitable economic growth. Massachusetts has just passed a series of far-reaching offshore wind and renewable energy bills, the first in the country. This investment will not only work to decarbonize our energy sources, but will launch an incredible green energy economy. But this does not happen by chance.
Success takes intention
We must align education, workforce development, and regional economic development policies to ensure that all areas of Massachusetts benefit from this economic growth. Our universities, community colleges, unions and vocational schools will nurture a diverse generation of workers, as the state seeks opportunities to support manufacturing across the Commonwealth and redevelop ports on the coast. We will need to develop housing and transportation for students and workers in all of these areas, not just Boston, to create our next-generation economy. These efforts must work in unison to match supply and demand.
Whoever wins the gubernatorial race later this year, the business community must push him to rethink housing, transportation, climate and labor policies and partner with him to do so. . We need to build on the momentum we’re seeing — from multifamily zoning and free public transit pilot programs to electricity to community choice and minimum wage increases — to connect these seemingly disparate issues as we work to enrich the lives of all of Massachusetts. residents.
Generating economic growth is like running a grassroots campaign – something our candidates can relate to – it happens in every community, neighborhood and family, and is built from the ground up. It is our collective responsibility to support policies that build infrastructure, trains, schools and programs, to enable opportunity to materialize. It is our job as business leaders to turn these opportunities into economic realities.
By taking an integrated and equitable approach to policymaking in Massachusetts, we can build a place where all people, communities and businesses thrive.
David Gasson is co-founder of MG Housing Strategies and Chairman of the Board of the Alliance for Business Leadership.