Here, the picture gets murkier. Boston has a fighting chance to become an international destination for innovation. But if that comes to pass, it will likely happen because politicians made it easier to start a business. In his committee's summary report, Harvard's Glaeser writes: "Boston already has a wealth of human creativity, but rules often make it difficult for them to implement their ideas." His concern, which applies not just to entertainment venues but to companies across the board, seems to have already resonated in high places. In his State of the City address earlier this month, Menino promised to "cut outdated and redundant permits," and to "reduce red tape for small businesses."
Labyrinthine bureaucratic nightmares aside, the Bay State will remain a choice destination for advanced technological companies — even with countries like China and India jockeying for biotech bucks. Boston and its surrounding areas are among international trailblazers in fields including clean tech, renewable energy, and diagnostic testing. More than 20 percent of US biotech venture capital is invested in the commonwealth, while Governor Deval Patrick's 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative is just underway.
"Every known, unmet medical need in the world is being researched here in Massachusetts," says Bob Coughlin, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "We're competing in a global economy, and because of that we need to keep as many post-docs here as possible when they're finished with their studies. The last thing we can afford is another brain drain."
The biggest shifts in Boston's cultural demographics may have already occurred (see "Government and Politics," below); the big question is, how will local educators deal with our new realities? In 2010, Boston Public Schools trained more than 2000 teachers to instruct pupils for whom English is a second language. Claudio Martinez, a school committee member and executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force, says BPS is prudently adjusting to meet the needs of a population that's currently 87 percent minority students (including immigrant children) and 76 percent students from low-income families. "What we're already doing," he says, "has shown that change can be made in a large system."
For help in its pedagogical push, the city will rely more on colleges and hospitals by instituting a systematic Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. After years of lip-service calls for nonprofits to substantially compensate for not having to pay property taxes, last month, the Menino-appointed PILOT Task Force proposed changes that would more than double current payments to the city. Such an initiative would bring in not just revenue, but also more opportunities for BPS students.
"There seems to be a wall for access," says George Greenidge Jr., founderof Roxbury's National Black College Alliance. "That wall needs to come down, because we have some of the best institutions in the world here, and a lot of kids who should benefit from it still don't."
Is Boston destined to become a one-newspaper town? Things looked grim for the Boston Globe in 2009, when it lost 12 percent of its editorial staff and was embroiled in tense union negotiations; but there's now a general consensus that the paper will survive indefinitely: "A few years ago, I wouldn't have predicted that the Globe would still be here now," says Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub. "Now I'm pretty sure they will be — maybe in a dramatically different form, but they'll be around."