Publication Date

1996

Comments

The Center for Economic Development at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, is part of the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department, and is funded by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the University of Massachusetts.

Abstract

This report presents a series of initial strategy recommendations for the economic development of the cities of Springfield and Holyoke. There are six cities in the Pioneer Valley: Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Westfield, Northampton, and Agawam. The three contiguous cities of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee form the urban core of the region. Historically, these cities have been the cultural. financial, and industrial centers of the Pioneer Valley. The scope of this report is limited to the cities of Springfield and Holyoke because these cities face uniquely urban problems that Chicopee, a largely middle class community, does not.

The client for the project is the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), which will use this report, along with its 1994 Plan for Progress, as a preliminary step to implementing an urban investment plan for the region. The work for this project consisted of three components: research and data analysis, interviews, and strategy development. The interviews were connected with two major groups: professionals in economic development and planning who work in the cities, and selected members of each community. The initial strategies that the project team recommends attempt to highlight issues of concern indicated by the analysis and interviews.

The Pioneer Valley has experienced a good deal of change over the last few decades - trends that are not unlike those seen by urban areas across the country. The current economic, demographic, and technological trends will create new roles for the cities and towns of the Pioneer Valley. In recent years, the world economy has been undergoing a permanent structural change, marked by a shift away from manufacturing to the service sector. Given that the economy of the Pioneer Valley had long been based on manufacturing, this structural shift needs to be addressed by both local and regional economic development plans.

To achieve the greatest impact, plans must be conceived and executed on a regional level. Cities and towns need to cooperate and collaborate rather than compete if the region is to thrive. In particular, the importance of vital core cities to the outlying areas must be emphasized. The initial strategy recommendations contained in this report acknowledge that importance. A brief discussion of these recommendations as they appear in the body of this document follows.

One way to acknowledge the inextricable links between city and region is to implement policies of metropolitan resource sharing. These should include fair housing programs, regional education alliances, social services, and tax base sharing.

This report also places an emphasis on community, because any plan that does not reflect and involve the community it affects is not likely to succeed. Recommendations include policies that empower communities, especially minority groups, by connecting them to each other and to institutions. Specific recommendations concerning the relationship between local governments and community organizations are made. Policies that empower individuals by improving their economic prospects, particularly through small business development, are also recommended.

A series of recommendations on land use and infrastructure advocate the consideration of regional issues and needs when policy goals are set. The regional importance of resource distribution patterns and of strategies aimed at making use of polluted urban industrial sites, known as brownfields, are addressed.

Similarly, regional considerations are at the fore in a set of recommendations dealing specifically with economic development. As with community issues, collaboration and cooperation are stressed in a discussion of economic development for the region. Economic growth strategies for the core cities in particular are further emphasized in recommendations that are based on the competitive advantage of the core cities. The value of the diversity of the cities is highlighted along with strategies to help realize the full potential of the Pioneer Valley's urban core.

Specific policy recommendations in the areas of tourism, transportation, telecommunications, and business retention are aimed at enhancing regional identity and regional growth. The advantages of the location of the core cities at the "crossroads of New England" are significant and should form a basis for future development and job growth.

Appendices at the back of the report provide a summary of the interviews conducted by the project team with professionals and community activists in the core cities of Springfield and Holyoke, along with a list of those interviewed. The interviews were an invaluable source of insight into the unique problems and opportunities faced by the urban core of the Pioneer Valley, and the project team is grateful to all those who took the time to share their ideas. An additional appendix consists of graphs showing the composition of the labor force and industrial base of each of the two core cities.

Pages

Section 5: Pages 1-81