Some Things We’d Like to See in 2013

As we prepare to put an intriguing, if unremarkable, business year behind us, it’s time to look ahead to 2013, with some hopes, expectations, and concerns.

Here’s a quick list of some of the things we’d like to see, or not see, in the year ahead.

• First, we only want to see Square One director Joan Kagan’s picture in the newspaper, or this magazine, if she’s at the annual tea wearing one of those big hats or, even better, wielding a ceremonial shovel at a groundbreaking for a new facility in Springfield’s South End. After the tornado in 2011 and the gas explosion in 2012 erased two facilities with Square One signs on the front, it’s time for this nonprofit agency and its leader to get a break and eventually turn these twin calamities into opportunities.

• And now, we return to the issue that dominated 2012 in every way — casinos. It is our hope that the process to determine the winner of the Western Mass. casino moves more quickly, and more civilly, than it did over the past several months. As we said back in the summer, it’s unlikely that anything else is going to get done around here, and especially in downtown Springfield, until we determine where the casino is going to go. So this needs to get settled. And while we understand that this is a competition with very high stakes, we’d like to see more energy put into making these projects work for the region and less energy spent criticizing rival plans.

• Meanwhile, we’d like the players in this market to take a page from the script written in Northeastern Pennsylvania (see story, page 6), where a revenue-sharing agreement was worked out among the communities around Bethlehem, where the casino was eventually built. This casino fight shouldn’t be a winner-take-all proposition. Many area communities will share in the headaches that come with a casino, and they should also share the wealth.

• And while the casino battle plays out, area economic-development leaders have to push ahead with other initiatives because the phrase ‘a casino is not a cure-all’ is not rhetoric — it’s a fact. This region will need other sources of new jobs and other efforts to spark revitalization efforts in area downtowns. We’re encouraged by the work both Springfield and Holyoke are doing to build opportunities with and around the creative economy, and these must continue and expand. At the same time, the region needs to continue to explore new job-creating opportunities in green energy, the life sciences, and other fields.

• UMass will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2013. It should be a big, year-long party. We’d like to see it capped off with strong movement toward creating a satellite campus in downtown Springfield. Such a facility, perhaps undertaken in conjunction with a casino development, would bring young people and a huge amount of energy to Springfield’s central business district. The timing isn’t good — the state budget situation is getting worse, not better — and there are many other priorities for the state university. But an expanded presence in Springfield would serve both the city and the school, and now might be the time to strike.

• Lastly, we’d like to see more area employers gain the confidence to start hiring again. There are many reasons why most people in business believe we’re still in a recession (even though technically we are not), but the jobless nature of whatever recovery we’re seen is the primary culprit. With more people working, spending should increase, and businesses across every sector would benefit. It’s all a matter of confidence, and we hope that, in the year ahead, this region can find some.

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