Boston Business Journal – OpEd by Joseph L. Hooley, Chairman and CEO of State Street Corp.
Boston has been a center of ingenuity and innovation for nearly four centuries, so it’s no surprise that our city has emerged as a major force in the rapidly unfolding technological revolution. We’re well-positioned to capitalize on the shift to a digital economy, as confirmed by a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that ranked Boston first among 25 major U.S. cities for fostering entrepreneurial growth and innovation.
But our ability to sustain Boston as a global center of innovation can’t be taken for granted, especially in the face of a sluggish, some might even say stagnant, global economy.
Dynamic cities require a collaborative, entrepreneurial environment to foster innovation and growth. Boston has many factors working in its favor – world-class academia, vibrant and diverse business sectors, a strong entrepreneurial community, and business-friendly state and local government. But these strengths alone won’t ensure our continued success. What’s needed is a convergence of new thinking among government, academia, nonprofit organizations and business, the same kind of public-private collaboration that convinced GE to come to Boston.
It’s important for the local business community, government, academic institutions and industry groups to team up to support emerging enterprises, a major driver of innovation and a critical conduit for talent emerging from our schools and universities. The recent launch of Financial Technology Boston, an initiative by the Boston Financial Services Leadership Council and Mass Insight to promote Boston as a leading “fintech” center, is a good example of how competitors can work together to nurture innovation. There are countless other examples of the power of collaboration at work right now in Boston.
The ultimate success of these efforts, however, depends on our ability to align our education system with economic development and jobs. This calls for close coordination between employers and educators across the education spectrum – from traditional public schools to exam schools, charter schools to vocational-technical schools, and community colleges to universities.
We need to set a new strategy for developing the highly skilled work force that employers need to meet the challenges and opportunities before them. This begins with investing in our public schools to support a strong pipeline of home-grown talent and job readiness skills for under-served, inner-city students. This will require tough choices about the commitment of public and private funding, but we can’t afford not to make these investments.
Encouraging collaboration among nonprofit groups focused on enhancing education and job readiness for Boston students is another critical part of the equation. Last year, State Street launched the Boston Workforce Investment Network, a partnership with five high-performing nonprofits working to provide education, training and career opportunities for young people in Boston. By investing with and developing education pathways between these nonprofits, we expect to improve their effectiveness and increase the number of people they serve by 60 percent over the next four years.
It’s going to take continued collaboration to ensure that Boston remains a hub of ingenuity and growth. Now is the time for us to nurture and build partnerships to provide the kinds of opportunities that will ensure our relevancy and success well into this new digital era.