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How Mayor Walsh can support the Boston innovation economy

Posted by Chad O'Connor  January 7, 2014 06:00 AM

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Dear Mayor Walsh:

Boston’s innovation based economy has allowed the city to weather economic cycles more deftly than many other cites. Our proud heritage of innovation harkens back to the days when we dominated the textile industry. Our residents are talented and resourceful and this is reflected by the diversity of industry that thrives in Boston.

We have excellent higher education institutions that produce the best and brightest along with infrastructure to support additional businesses. We have investors, bankers, accountants, attorneys, service providers, and advisors who have decades of experience working with the startups and growth companies inhabiting our city. Still, in this changing economy, we are no longer the biggest, the fastest, the best, or the cheapest.

I have been working with Boston entrepreneurs for the past 30+ years and have noticed the same recurring themes of what is thriving and what needs improvement. We need to support this innovation economy with a city that embraces the talented people who create these companies and keeps the next generation of leaders interested and engaged with the Boston community. A few suggestions to consider:

A technology advisory council made up of leaders under age 40
This council will provide insight on making Boston more attractive to startups and younger talent. This will be a great way to plug impending “brain drains.”

A public transportation system open 24 hours a day
9-5 hours are a thing of the past for startups. These individuals work bizarre hours - often 10 am to 2 am the next morning. They work with the rigorousness that created ideas like Facebook, HubSpot, Formlabs, Veracode etc. and are often at a loss for transportation options in the early morning. New York City shouldn’t be the only place where a metro system runs 24/7.

Restaurants and bars open past 1 AM
For the same reasons that these “night owls” need a way to transport themselves around Boston, we also need infrastructure to support those with late-night habits. We are losing this talent to other cities such as San Francisco and New York City that cater to the late-night audience. We are a city with a large population of the best and brightest and to keep them coming we need a supportive ecosystem.

Less red tape and lower fees for startups
Each year in the Bay State startups must pay for their incorporation and annual corporate filing fees. A move to waive this fee or cut it down will be more enticing to cash-strapped startups. More regulation doesn’t necessarily improve the tech ecosystem.

Less legislation on non-compete issues
There is a reason most competition with larger tech firms occurs on the West Coast – non-compete clauses are much more lenient. Lessened legislation will increase competition and show more support for the innovators. In California (home of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.) unenforceable non-competes haven’t harmed innovation.

Reasonably priced housing and office space
Finding space to set-up isn’t as easy as finding an open basement. Rental prices are sky-high for residential and business rentals with Boston consistently accounting for some of the highest rent nationwide. Further, subsidizing startup incubators will bring more people into the innovation center of Boston.

A Mayor who is a pro-business champion and city promoter
We were blessed as a city to have Mayor Menino shape Boston’s innovation economy into what it is today, but it’s time to take it a step further. Mr. Mayor, what we need from you is someone who is willing to make the tough decisions to keep business flourishing. It’s time to take back Boston’s dominance in innovation and eclipse the New York and San Francisco recent gains in this area.

Good luck.

Best regards,
Charley Polachi

Charley Polachi is a Partner at Polachi, the leading provider of Access Executive Search™ services to technology, clean tech, venture capital and private equity clients. Polachi is a retained executive search firm located in Boston.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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