The Innovate MA Alliance is an umbrella organization comprised of organizations and individuals who care about the future of the broadly defined “Innovation Economy” in Massachusetts, which includes anything from tech to food trucks to robotics. Groundwork! hosted Innovate MA for a lunch presentation that quickly turned to a lively discussion about the future of the SouthCoast and Massachusetts as a whole.
Leland Cheung, Cambridge City Councillor and Mike McLaughlin of Sage Systems gave a presentation highlighting the challenges the innovation economy faces in the state of Massachusetts; namely, a lack of support for innovative ventures from state government officials that is compounded by our own lack of voice around important state legislature. The proposal of Innovate MA is to unite entrepreneurs in Massachusetts gateway cities, such as Springfield, Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, and Worcester, to collectively create an agenda and strengthen our voice with state government.
The presentation proved to be a springboard for discussion: how do we remodel our SouthCoast economy for success? And a more important question: what does success look like for us? Does the well-known Silicon Valley model work for Massachusetts; and if it did, is that what we want? Most of us who were present in the room shied away from the valley model in favor of something more distinctly “Massachusetts,” citing a strong history of manufacturing, blue-collar work ethic, and a solid system of values.
The group also seemed to agree that success means a better quality of life for all, more financial stability, and higher standards of public safety and health, in contrast to the flashy multi-million dollar successes that dot Silicon Valley.
What are the next steps? Innovate MA has created an online platform to connect innovators in different cities and spur discussions to prioritize goals and actions. Some items on the plate are a repeal of the non-compete enforcement in Massachusetts, immigration reform, procurement reform, and efforts to build Mass pride and the innovator social scene.
Here in New Bedford, the SoCoLAUNCH! group is working to program some larger events, including a maker fair, hackathon, and possible TedX Conference in the late fall. We believe that the more discussions we can galvanize through events like these, the more we will incite action and collaboration, moving towards the kind of success we envision.
What do you think? What does the innovation economy in Massachusetts need to focus on the most?
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