THIS YEAR marks the tenth anniversary of the Gateway Cities movement. The story, as we tell it, begins with a study produced by John Schneider and a team of researchers, myself included, from the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Like most origin stories, this account is incomplete. The germ of the idea actually came from CommonWealth, the journalism arm of MassINC.
Crisscrossing the state on assignment, CommonWealth reporters often found themselves in urban centers. Whether it be Springfield or Worcester, Fall River or Lowell, Brockton or Pittsfield, they saw how decades of disinvestment and uneven economic growth had taken a heavy toll on places Bay Staters had long known as proud all-American cities. The early issues of CommonWealth cover this struggle —but the tone is often notably upbeat. Rather than laying down and accepting the decline that many experts foretold, these communities were standing up and fighting for a vibrant and prosperous future.
Fast-forward a decade and here we are with Gateways, a new publication devoted to telling the stories of these valiant leaders and the change they are forging through blood, sweat, tears, and boundless optimism.
This legion includes Chris Rezendes, founder of ImpactLABS in New Bedford.Chris grew up in Fall River, left for larger stages, took away what he could, and returned home to make good with his partners at a socially-responsible technology company. With similar ideals, the Nash brothers followed a path back to their hometown of Pittsfield to launch Blue Q, “producers of life-improving, joy-bringing products.”
Our premier issue also features roving entrepreneurs drawn to Gateway Cities simply because they saw opportunity. This camp includes Brooklyn-born chef Jared Forman (no relation), who came to Worcester to open deadhorse hill, and Al Wilson, the founder of Beyond Walls, an organization tapping into Lynn’s architectural and cultural heritage to produce breathtaking works of public art.
The Beyond Walls profile is just one of several examples of the prominent role artists are playing in the transformation of our Gateway Cities. Gloria Hall writes about the evolution of Art in the Park, describing how Worcester residents have rallied around the biennial installation to make each iteration stronger. We also have a piece from the Lowell-born poet Princess Moon, a testament to how cultural expression heals and unites.
Historic structures and a diverse cultural milieu are crucial ingredients, but leadership is ultimately most essential to Gateway City regeneration. This premier issue includes words of wisdom from Niki Tsongas, the retiring Congresswoman from Lowell who has made that iconic mill city’s comeback her life’s work; former Pittsfield
Mayor James Ruberto, a major force in the birth of the Gateway Cities movement; and current Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, who embodies the spirit of collaborative leadership Gateway Cities will need to forge ahead through turbulent times.
Conceived to celebrate an anniversary, this new product demonstrates that we are 10 years young. I hope these pages will imbue you with the collective energy of our Gateway Cities, reigniting the the passion in those who have been with us since the beginning, and inspiring others to come onboard.
Research Director, MassINC
Executive Director, The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute