Often, when we say that something, or some trend, is ‘changing the landscape,’ we don’t mean literally, and we’re often exaggerating.
That was not the case with some of the biggest stories of the 2010s, a decade in which the landscape was changed literally, but also figuratively, and in all kinds of ways.
Start with the tornado that roared through the region on June 1, 2011. It certainly altered the landscape, from Springfield to Brimfield. But there were other landscape-altering developments over the past 10 years, especially the introduction of casino gambling and the arrival of a broad, multi-faceted cannabis industry in Massachusetts. More on both of those later.
But there were other significant changes to the landscape — specifically, the business landscape — that took place over the past decade. And they’re all still having a profound impact.
These range from ongoing workforce challenges facing employers across every single sector of the economy to the continued growth and maturity of the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, to the opening of the Dr. Suess Museum at the Quadrangle, an addition that is certainly helping to put Springfield on the map.
Speaking of Springfield and being on the map, it’s pretty safe to say that more people are setting their GPS for the City of Homes than at any time in recent memory (we know, GPS hasn’t been around that long, but you get the point). The casino in the city’s South End has a lot to do with that, but overall, the city is enjoying a renaissance of sorts that involves the arts, tourism, entrepreneurship and innovation, a new hockey team, some new businesses, and even some new places to live.
There is still considerable work to do, but it’s safe to say that the city has rebounded nicely from the fiscal nightmare of a decade ago and now has what could be called momentum as we enter the 2020s.
As for the casino and cannabis, these were the biggest stories of the decade, and they could well be among the biggest in the decade to come.
MGM Springfield has transformed the South End into something one might find in Las Vegas. The question on everyone’s minds, though, is just how many people are finding it. The revenues — as in gross gambling revenues, or GGR — are not what they were projected to be, and that is certainly cause for concern.
But, revenues aside, the casino is certainly bringing more vibrancy to the downtown, especially when big shows are slated. And the complex holds considerable promise for luring more convention groups to the region.
The casino will certainly be making headlines for years, but the question remains — what kind of headlines?
As for cannabis … we wrote several months ago that this development is likely to be far more impactful than the casino on a regional basis, and we’re already seeing that. In communities like Holyoke, Easthampton, Northampton, and others, cannabis is bringing jobs, tax revenues, and new opportunities for development of commercial real estate, much of it previously vacant or underutilized.
And we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial real estate.
The cannabis industry, in most respects, is still very much in its infancy. What will it look like when it’s all grown up? That’s a matter to be decided in the next decade.
As for the one that’s soon to be referred to in the past tense … it was one of profound change to the landscape, in every sense of that phrase.