Investing in Water Infrastructure Has to Be at the Top of the List
Many Communities Can’t Support Biotech, Housing Growth
By: MassBio CEO Joe Boncore and NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small | This op-ed was originally published in Banker & Tradesman on December 19, 2021.
One of the many ways that MassBio, the state’s leading life-sciences industry advocacy organization, works to advance our state’s leadership in this critical sector is by developing and publishing its “BioReady” ratings.
First launched in 2008 and steadily refined in the years since to support the continued growth of this transformative, and critical, industry, the BioReady credential currently identifies 84 of the state’s 351 cities and towns that MassBio confirms as offering the most favorable locations, zoning and permitting protocols, and municipal services to support life sciences and healthcare companies. The BioReady designations are a critical piece of Massachusetts’ global reputation as an innovation economy and lead to billions of dollars in investments in our communities.
So, what would you expect would be the at the top of the checklist for determining whether a Massachusetts community qualifies as “BioReady”?
Proximity to leading universities and hospitals? The presence and asset levels of local venture capital firms? PhDs per capita inside the city or town borders?
Here’s the answer: “Municipal water and sewer available in commercial and industrial areas.’’
That’s right – when MassBio starts the process of evaluating how well-positioned a city or town is for life sciences companies, the very first question it asks is whether basic water and sewer infrastructure is available in the areas zoned for laboratories, office buildings and other facilities.
Over the next four years, analysts project that Massachusetts will add more than 20 million square feet of new laboratory and life sciences biomanufacturing space, and all the jobs that come along with it. That’s the equivalent of more than 13 Boston Prudential Towers, both through new construction and the renovation of older office, industrial and Gateway Cities properties.
The best way to ensure regional equity so that all residents can benefit from the boom? Invest in water.
Benefits Boost Housing, Too
Across the commonwealth, the commercial real estate industry is working tirelessly to ensure the powerful economic engine of life sciences development serves as the centerpiece of thriving, attractive live-work-play communities that include housing, retail and entertainment.
When communities invest in water infrastructure, they protect their residents, set up their local businesses for success and create future opportunities for economic investment – as demonstrated by MassBio’s BioReady evaluation. Such investments in Burlington led to 300 new apartment units in one mixed-use development; similar upgrades in Revere resulted in over 200 new units of housing.
The critical, but often overlooked, importance of safe, reliable water, sewer, and wastewater infrastructure is the reason why MassBio and NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, have signed on as founding members of the new #InvestInWaterMA campaign.
The goal of #InvestInWaterMA is to make sure that as Gov. Charlie Baker, the legislature and municipal leaders decide where to allocate state and federal COVID-19 relief and infrastructure funds, critically important water and sewer projects get the equitable funding they need and deserve.
A 2017 study by the Office of the State Auditor found Massachusetts faces a $1 billion per year gap for at least the next 20 years between what engineers document we need to invest in water and sewer infrastructure – and the resources we have committed.
We have a unique opportunity to close the gap with one-time COVID relief and critical infrastructure dollars. Our communities, policymakers, businesses, and residents cannot afford inaction.
The 1,400-plus companies represented by MassBio are pushing the frontiers of science and changing and saving patients’ lives every day. NAIOP Massachusetts’ more than 1,700 members are building, strengthening and rejuvenating properties and communities across the commonwealth.
What we and our #InvestInWaterMA partners all recognize is that reliable, modern water infrastructure is critical to the health, well-being, and economic vitality of our residents, our businesses and our commonwealth.
We ask you to join us in telling policymakers that water infrastructure should be at the top of their checklists – and to commit to making the investments we need to recover with resilience and thrive now and in the future.
Joe Boncore is CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). Tamara Small is CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association.