With economic development remaining strong in Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has a new proposal to help more city neighborhoods benefit from that growth.
Walsh is launching an “Economic Development Center,” a rotating series of free business workshops throughout the city. Topics will range from entering the cannabis industry to connecting women- and minority-owned businesses with contracting opportunities, from launching a food truck business to getting certifications for working certain kinds of construction jobs. Some workshops will be tailored for specific immigrant communities.
“We need to be more prolific in our ability to uncover and make visible the opportunities that this economy provides and this economic cycle provides to Bostonians,” Boston economic development chief John Barros said. “We’re going out there with more material, more workshops, more training, and we’re going to do it in places that are closer to people so they’re more accessible.”
Walsh was expected to introduce the program in his State of the City address Tuesday evening.
The new proposal is similar to the city’s “Small Business Center,” a rotating series of programs held in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roxbury during the past 18 months. City officials are increasing the variety and volume this time around, with a plan to hold workshops in community centers, library branches, and other locations across Boston. Approximately 50 are planned so far this year.
The effort also aligns with Walsh’s announcement a year ago of a Boston Hires campaign to get 20,000 low-income Boston residents trained and placed in new jobs that pay at least a “living wage,” currently defined by the city as $14.82 an hour, by 2022.
Barros said some small-business owners originally asked for a central office that could cater to their needs — a physical, bricks-and-mortar version of this new Economic Development Center. City officials considered that option. The rotating Small Business Center was supposed to be an interim step.
But Barros said it proved so successful that the Walsh administration decided that holding events across the city would be more effective than focusing on one location.
“The ‘pop up model’ became the thing we said we need to do,” Barros said. “As soon as we create a [physical] place, we limit some folks.”