UMass receives award for proposed plan

By Alyssa Creamer

The University of Massachusetts Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA) received a $40,000 award from the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiative for its proposed plan to aid in alleviating Springfield’s current economic situation.

CPPA was awarded the funds to develop a policy center within its own policy center, which according to the CPPA’s Associate Director for Research, Susan Newton, would be established to focus specifically on the socio-economic issues facing Springfield.

“The new center that CPPA is developing in collaboration with the Center for Popular Economics will bring together University and community members to collaborate around economic development research and projects, among other issues,” said Fred Rose, former lead organizer for the Pioneer Valley Project, an alliance of several local organizations vying for social change in Springfield and a lecturer at CPPA.

Rose explained that the goal of creating this center is to focus on strengthening the ways in which long-term development processes function so that they may be more effective in simultaneously strengthening community development.

“This new initiative will bring a focus on social justice, equity and broad participation as critical to revitalizing Springfield,” said Rose.

“The center can bring an independent assessment of the effectiveness of development projects in Springfield,” continued Rose. “It can also help to identify and implement innovative strategies based on successes in other parts of the country. And it can serve as a convener of diverse constituencies and organizations to make new development programs possible,. She added. Rose earned a doctorate in city and regional planning from Cornell University.

Prior to receiving this award, the University has already been researching ways in which it, according to Newton, “could be a resource for Springfield by [partnering] with the community to help develop the city’s cultural resources.” Rose also mentioned in a release that the city possesses “incredible diversity,” something that enables those involved with the University’s Springfield initiatives to identify its existing cultural resources.

Rose also explained that the new initiative would involve seeking funding from private and public sources, and that the Creative Economy grant is seed money to develop the new CPPA’s new center for Springfield.

Some of the initiatives will involve delving into how to use new techniques to decrease the unemployment rate of the city’s citizens.

“The great need in Springfield is for entry level jobs that pay a living wage with benefits that enable people to develop skills and the opportunity to advance,” said Rose in an interview. “The manufacturing economy provided earlier generations of Springfield residents with these opportunities, but most of those employers are gone,” she added.. Our success needs to be measured in terms of our ability to help provide this generation with the same kinds of jobs and job ladders that moved earlier generations into the middle class.”

According to The Republican’s Sept. 21 article by Jim Kinney, Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Springfield’s unemployment rate stands at 13.3 percent, the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the state, despite its fall from 14 percent last month.

Rose also noted that approximately 55 percent of Springfield jobs, including its ‘professional jobs,’ are being held by commuters.

“Springfield is the sixth poorest city in the nation, which obviously hinders its development,” said Rose, in a release. “In addition, Springfield lacks the kind of community-based development agencies that have played leading roles in other communities,. she added.

According to Newton, approximately a dozen applications for the President’s Office grant were sent in from UMass Amherst, and in previous years, an estimation of 50 to 60 applications are sent in annually from each of the five UMass campuses. The competition was open to the five universities of the UMass system.

“They only give out a handful [of awards] each year,” said Newton. “We’re so pleased and grateful to get one.”

According to its website, the CPPA “is the hub of interdisciplinary public policy research, teaching and engagement at [UMass].” The organizations also makes mention on the site that it is “Home to a growing number of research initiatives, CPPA houses the National Center for Digital Government; the Science, Technology and Society Initiative; and the Public Engagement Project.”

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected] Sam Hayes contributed to this article. He can be reached at [email protected]