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A top priority of the Baker-Polito Administration has been “Building Stronger Communities,” with Lt. Governor having traveled to all corners of the Commonwealth on a tour bearing the same name over the last seven months. But more specifically, Governor Baker has sought to help the Commonwealth’s gateway cities excel.

Lawrence Urban Agenda Roundtable, 7.31.15At the end of July, Governor Baker and three of his cabinet secretaries held a roundtable in Lawrence on workforce development and the Administration’s Urban Agenda. The Urban Agenda is comprised of a series of policy goals around improving education, economic development, affordable housing, and public safety, including youth violence reduction and recidivism prevention. In promoting an Urban Agenda, the Baker-Polito administration looks to improve the quality of life for residents of Massachusetts cities.

“The transformation of urban public education is central to the transformation of urban neighborhoods. Through the Workforce Skills Cabinet, we are connecting education, workforce development, and economic development initiatives so they have the greatest impact on urban communities.” Education Secretary Jim Peyser

Lawrence Urban Agenda Roundtable, 7.31.15The Fiscal Year 2016 budget Governor Baker signed last month makes significant new investments in Massachusetts communities, including a $2 million Urban Agenda economic development grant program. The program will challenge neighborhoods across Massachusetts to form partnerships that leverage existing economic assets, target specific workforce populations, define their economic development and quality of life goals, and then deliver on those goals

Joining Governor Baker in Lawrence were Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ron Walker, all members of the Governor’s Workforce Skills Cabinet created in February. As part of the Urban Agenda, the Workforce Skills Cabinet will work with communities to match the needs employers to those seeking employment or additional education training. After brief remarks from Mayor Dan Rivera, Governor Baker, and each of the secretaries, each listened as local professionals told their stories and shared their experiences.

The Eagle Tribune reports:

Marlene Marmolejos was one of the five professionals who had the opportunity to speak to Baker. She co-founded Gifted People, a creative agency on Island Street which provides design, advertising and music production services to aspiring musical artists.

Marmolejos serves as the agency’s chief operating officer, and she also works as a teen coordinator with Lawrence Community Works, helping young people better understand what kind of work they’d like to be doing in their life. She was “very excited” for the opportunity to speak with the governor, and expressed optimism the Urban Agenda grant would provide young artists with the needs to be successful.

“I hope it will be a direct help, because sometimes when you hear about funding, where it actually goes can be misunderstood,” Marmolejos said. “If we can directly help people, like the young people I work with, achieve their goals, I think it would be phenomenal.”

The following week, Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito toured the CitySquare project in Worcester. CitySquare is an ambitious redevelopment of Worcester’s downtown core that was unlocked by MassWorks infrastructure funds. The current phase of construction will bring 370 housing units, a 168 room hotel, a restaurant and 550 underground parking spaces.

CitySquare Worcester Site Visit, 8.5.15

“Behind me is over a decade worth of work by the city, the state and many of our partners. It doesn’t look like much now, but when this is completed CitySquare will be a very different place and we will see a very different downtown. All of this is setting the stage for future investments.”

Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Perry

The Baker-Polito Administration’s 2016 capital budget increases funding for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program to $75 million, a $20 million increase from the previous capital budget. MassWorks provides a one-stop shop for municipalities and other eligible public entities seeking public infrastructure funding to support economic development and job creation. MassWorks, in turn, makes strategic investments in public infrastructure that leverages private investment in jobs and smart growth housing. Since 2011, MassWorks has awarded over $287 million for public infrastructure projects in 102 communities across the Commonwealth.

The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development will be accepting applications for the 2015 MassWorks Infrastructure Program starting Aug. 24 through Sept. 4.

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