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Gov. Maura Healey stops in Western Mass. to promote economic development bill

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey (right) and Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao (center) at Western New England University on March 12, 2024.
Karen Brown
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey (right) and Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao (center) getting a tour of Western New England University on March 12, 2024.

Gov. Maura Healey and her economic team toured the engineering department at Western New England University (WNUE) Tuesday in Springfield.

They were promoting newly filed economic development legislation that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in manufacturing, bio-tech, and other life science initiatives.

"It's designed to keep us a global leader in certain sectors that we already own and don't want to ... relinquish," Healey said. "And it's also designed to make sure that we're growing in new in new areas, new sectors where we think we have tremendous, tremendous opportunity."

She said she wanted to speak at WNUE given its educational focus on advanced manufacturing and robotics, which would be boosted by the new bill.

Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao said the legislation, known as the Mass Leads Act, would help create new jobs across Massachusetts.

She said while western Massachusetts salaries lag behind those in eastern Mass., especially in Boston and Cambridge, the proposed legislation would help close that gap.

"Of course, we're going to be equitable. I'm thinking about different parts of the state, but there is so much upside here," Hao said. "And the best way for us to close the income inequality is not to have Boston Cambridge come down. It's to have everybody go up and have Western Mass. go up more."

Hao said investments in small businesses, cultural arts, and rural communities would help western Massachusetts in particular.

Healey's economic development bill also includes millions of dollars in climate tech investment.

During the visit Healey discussed appealing Washington's decision to deny the state federal disaster funding. Last fall's flooding destroyed bridges, culverts and farmland across western Massachusetts.

"The reality of climate right now is that we are going to continue to see severe weather and we don't have the resources that we need to be able to deal with this. Our cities and towns don't have the resources and God knows our residents don't have the resources. So, it's why I appealed FEMA's denial," she said.

In addition to federal funding, Healey said the state legislature should create a resiliency fund which could help local communities handle the inevitable floods and other severe weather impacts in the future.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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