In October 2015, Massachusetts launched a unique business opportunity initiative called Open for Business, which challenged agencies across state government to find the “highest and best use” of real properties and assets that are entrusted to the Commonwealth.
The purpose, according to Governor Charlie Baker, was to protect natural resources, create economic opportunity, build housing, manage these lands with professionalism and creativity, and to generate appropriate revenue from leases and other partnerships.
Governor Baker said, “This is an opportunity for the private and nonprofit sectors to partner with the Commonwealth as we look to support job creation, affordable housing, renewable energy, capital investment in state buildings, and otherwise manage the lands and buildings that are entrusted to us. We believe the best ideas won’t come from within government; they will come from the private sector, from local leaders, and from community stakeholders.”
Last week Governor Baker briefed reporters about the progress that has been made through the Open for Business initiative, including the sale or lease of 22 state-owned pieces of land and the identification of 80+ potential projects.
When these first 22 projects are fully executed, they will generate:
- $413 million in revenue
- 1,556 new housing units
- 260 new jobs
- 100,000 square feet of commercial space
- $8.2 million in annual property tax payments to cities and towns
As the administration looks for “better and smart or more sophisticated use” of state property, officials expect that the collaboration with the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, as well as private developers, will help the program will also help increase affordable and market-rate housing stock while expanding job opportunities.
For the first time, assets that are owned by different agencies are being aggregated in one place, regular inter-agency meetings are streamlining the process, and progress is being tracked. Since the Open for Business program launched, it has been expanded from 42 properties to 85 potential projects across 41 cities and towns.