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Massachusetts' Lead Sectors Include Information & Communications Technology, Skilled Manufacturing

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Jun/Jul 08)
"Although nationally we are seeing a slow economic year, Massachusetts is doing reasonably well, showing a slight gain in jobs during the first quarter of 2008," says Greg Bialecki, Massachusetts's undersecretary for business development.

The information technology/communications industry, which currently reports a statewide work force of approximately 174,000 people and annual global sales of over $26 billion, continues to grow in the Bay State. Microsoft Research, the basic research arm of Microsoft, is opening a new lab in Cambridge, the company's sixth research center and its first on the East Coast. Internet search engine Google recently moved to a larger location in Cambridge to accommodate its expanding work force of 175 people. IBM also has grown, announcing the development of a large software campus this year outside of Cambridge to consolidate smaller sites. Says Bialecki, "Smaller companies producing video games, such as Guitar Hero made by Harmonix in Cambridge, are responsible for a good chunk of job growth in this area."

To encourage expansion in the life sciences, Governor Deval Patrick is encouraging passage of a 10-year, $1 billion life sciences initiative. Besides research, biotechnology manufacturing is boosted by educational institutions such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "When a firm's manufacturing arm in addition to its research is located here, different types of job are created as well as more opportunities for employment," says Bialecki.

In the energy sector, the state takes "a broad approach.trying to promote projects in wind, solar, biofuels, and clean coal technology," says Bialecki. "We have some terrific offshore wind capability and significant opportunities for wind due to our shallow coastal banks off the coast of Cape Cod, where the wind turbines can be bottom anchored." The state recently won a $2 million grant from the Federal Department of Energy that will help fund a wind-blade testing facility in Charlestown for testing and evaluation of wind-blade designs.

In manufacturing, projects tend to be high-tech and capital-intensive. "Companies such as Gillette manufacturing razor blades and Titleist's golf balls need highly skilled workers for their new manufacturing methods," says Bialecki. "Our manufacturing is very export oriented. The total value of exports in manufacturing from 1999 to 2006 is up 40 percent, and manufacturing still employs one out of every 11 people in Massachusetts."

To move projects more quickly through the permitting process from the drawing board to construction, the governor has implemented the concept of Growth Districts containing pre-permitted and shovel-ready sites. "All major permitting will be done in advance so that permits will be ready as fast as plans can be drawn up and submitted," says Bialecki.
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