Holyoke 2014: A Year of Economic Progress Text Size

Breathing new life into a city’s economy doesn’t happen overnight. Even the wisest economic investments can take years to pay off. But in 2014, we got to see that begin to happen; we got to see what a city can do when its government is smart, strategic, and efficient. Over the course of 2014, as we all went about our busy lives, it’s possible that some of our city’s work went unnoticed, or overlooked. With 2014 now behind us, and a hopeful 2015 ahead, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about some of Holyoke’s great economic progress in the past year.

Just a few weeks ago, we announced that Holyoke Community College (HCC) would receive a $1.75 million grant from the state to expand the college’s culinary arts and hospitality program. The grant will allow HCC to build a new state-of-the-art center in downtown Holyoke, doubling the size of the school while adding an associate’s degree to its certificate program. The hospitality industry is the third highest employer in Western Massachusetts, and companies often struggle to find qualified employees at all levels of their business. The Culinary and Hospitality program at the heart of downtown will make training for a career path more accessible to more of our residents.

In addition to providing a platform for workforce training, the expansion of this program will bring dozens of students into downtown Holyoke. This is great news for HCC and for the city of Holyoke. When the program is up and running by the fall of 2016, students attending class in our downtown will want places to eat or grab a coffee. Perhaps some will want sit down at Veterans Park to catch up on some reading. As more people come to the downtown, the economic and civic life downtown is enhanced for everyone who already lives there and for the prospects of new business opportunities to serve the people visiting the area.

And this announcement comes on the heels of a number of other downtown investments we saw in 2014.

This past summer, we broke ground on the project turning the former Holyoke Catholic building into 54 apartments. Last month, we broke ground on a new passenger rail platform at Main and Dwight Streets, which will be partially available for Holyokers to take the train by the spring. And last year, along with private, non-profit and academic partners, we formed the Spark initiative to spur entrepreneurship from within Holyoke. Our partnership, which will publicly launch in the coming few months, was seeded with a $250,000 grant from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. This partnership is also part of the reason Popular Mechanics magazine just listed Holyoke as one of the top fourteen “Startup Cities” in the country, recognizing Holyoke’s work to build an ecosystem “to turn innovators into entrepreneurs.”

Other private projects being planned with the assistance of the City will be materializing in 2015, such as the expansion of Marcotte Ford, the redevelopment of the former Lynch School property into a retail site, and the re-use feasibility study of the now closed Mount Tom Coal-fired Power Plant.

Government should take an active role in the development of the future. Some people say it should take a back seat. But a lot of things that happen in this community wouldn’t happen if our people didn’t work for them, and if our government didn’t have the will to see these projects through.

Folks still remember a Holyoke that was vibrant and prosperous. Now, for the first time since Holyoke Catholic closed, students will return to the downtown. Holyoke Catholic itself will reopen as an apartment complex. The train will welcome new people and workers to our borders and better connect residents and entrepreneurs to the region and the New York metro area. Our investments will multiply. And this is how our city government should work—planning holistically instead of looking for quick-fixes. We are helping make investments that build off of one another in the service of a long-term vision. With all the progress we saw in 2014, I am confident that 2015 will be another great year for the City of Holyoke.

Posted on January 15, 2015 by