by Thaddeus Minshall
Recently, Massachusetts was ranked as the number one business climate in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. A driving factor behind this ranking, U.S. News writes, is Massachusetts’ “highest amount of venture capital investment and highest patent creation rate of any state.” In this context, it is not surprising that Boston’s knowledge-driven economy and premiere universities have attracted growing companies with the flexibility to conduct business from anywhere. In the year ahead, look for more companies to also establish physical footprints in the area north of Boston, which is a burgeoning base for biotech, microelectronics, and industrial tech.
We expect to see growth on the North Shore in part because an innovation cluster has already formed here. For example, biotech companies with North Shore headquarters such as New England Biolabs and MilliporeSigma currently abut complementary medical device suppliers such as HighRes Biosolutions and Medtronic. Industrial process manufacturers like Harmonic Drive and KROHNE call the North Shore home in part due to the local supply of high-quality precision machinists. Similarly, in the semiconductor and circuitry field, companies such as Axcelis and Rochester Electronics have planted roots in proximity to the North Shore’s pool of technical workers with advanced skills. It is not a leap, then, to envision the realization of synergistic supply chain efficiencies on the North Shore.
In addition to the benefits of innovation clustering, we expect more companies will move to the North Shore due to its compatibility with the “hub and spoke” model (i.e., access to a central Boston location supplemented by manufacturing facilities or field offices that cut down on long and unproductive commutes). Some of the companies above could have chosen to plant flags in Boston. Why did they, and why may future companies, choose the North Shore?
One obvious answer is real estate cost savings, however for many companies, that is not the only calculation in play. The most important draw is likely to be related to quality of life. With a stellar public education system, world-class restaurants, vibrant cultural institutions, and engaging leisure activities throughout the four seasons, the North Shore checks every box that contemporary highly-skilled, in-demand employees say they want.
Unlike many “up and coming” regional assessments, this outlook is born not of wishful regional boosterism, but of first-hand experience. Our construction management, planning, design, and development firm, Connolly Brothers, has built new corporate headquarters or facilities for half of the growing businesses referenced above, and while we have not presented a formal survey, our conversations make it clear that many or all of the factors above, among others, coalesce to create an attractive environment for certain future-focused businesses. With this in mind, the North Shore should prepare for the delicate development dance of welcoming new growth while holding the line on preserving those quality-of-life factors that have made the region so desirable.
Thaddeus Minshall is vice president of real estate/development at Connolly Brothers Inc., where he manages the firm’s real estate portfolio, tenant relationships, and acquisitions.