Boston should focus on building its future based on three industries:
* Healthcare (biotech and hospitals all under one heading)
* Higher education
And, to a lesser extent:
* Financial services
* High tech (Internet, computer software, etc.)
First, I include “high-tech” as a backup, only because the majority of companies in this field are probably going to be interested in moving to the suburbs (or, East Cambridge). Also, I don’t know what it means.
And, I include financial services as a backup, only because it seems as there will be a fair amount of consolidation in the industry over the coming years – it’s only a matter of time before Fidelity sells itself to Merrill Lynch and moves its headquarters to New York.
Of course, focusing on hospitals, colleges and tourism presents some problems.
First off, these types of industry aren’t going to fill the 2 million square feet of office space scheduled to come on the market over the next decade (I made up the 2 million figure … but it’s at least that).
Second off, the big issue with hospitals and colleges is that they don’t pay any property taxes! Everytime we let Beth Israel build a new tower, we’re taking the land off the tax rolls. Same goes for Boston University, etc. These institutions make “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOT fees), but not nearly as much as could be made if the land was developed into office buildings and/or condominium projects.
Third off, do we really want more tourists? And/or conventioneers? Maybe – they come, they spend money, then they leave. After spending lots of money on restaurants, bars, and on hotel rooms. This helps us out. But, they don’t really add much to the daily lives of residents, right? They cause traffic jams, they cause congestion, they look and act differently than us (that’s not supposed to come off racist or anything).
Fourth off, obviously, there’s economies of scale – keeping Fidelity or Mellon happy means we can count on hundreds or thousands of employees staying here, whereas if we lose a restaurant or bar, we’re talking maybe 30 people out of jobs. Plus, those jobs tend to be unskilled and, perhaps, lower paid (no executive jobs at the Bull & Finch, is what I mean). But, beyond tourism, focusing on hospitals and universities means lots of doctors and professors, which brings an upper class, as well as a certain amount of cache to our city. (Don’t forget about all the lawyers, too!)
There’s plenty more to be said about this.
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