By Sue Ellen Woodcock
When it comes to economic development in Winthrop there are strengths and weaknesses, but there are also a number of people working to create the right atmosphere.
Northeastern Professor Barry Bluestone, of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, presented the results of a study from 220-question survey filled out by the members of the Economic Development Committee.
The overall finding is that the Town is relatively in very good shape.
The report, prompted by the desire to improve Winthrop Center and find something to do with the old middle/high school on Pauline Street, said communities like Winthrop will prosper only if they are successful in finding new sources of revenue.
Last Thursday night at the E.B. Newton Bluestone said Winthrop is strong in traffic and parking. Parking is free and available. There is no access to major highways. While some may think traffic is a detriment it actually moves well, especially with the closeness to Boston and Logan Airport. There is also a low crime rate and the tax rate is shared by businesses and home owners. On the flip side, housing in Winthrop was more expensive than comparative communities.
The study also noted the Town’s ferry transportation and close proximity to 15 public and private colleges and universities with major research centers.
Business-wise Winthrop is growing businesses, from 260 in 2001 to over 300 businesses in Town in 2012. Bluestone said 250 jobs have been created in Winthrop since 2011. There are now 42 construction firms in town.
“A lot of economic development starts at the Town level,” Bluestone said. “And municipal leaders have to support.”
Weaknesses in Winthrop include how quickly projects are approved. The permit review process takes longer than comparable communities. The Town’s website could be improved and the Town’s infrastructure has room for current needs only.
Bluestone stressed the importance of marketing the Town.
“The ones who sell their town do the best,” Bluestone said. “Also cross marketing with the Chamber of Commerce and the town working together. These aren’t expensive things but things you can actually work on.”