For Gubernatorial Candidates:  Top 10 Ways the Next Governor of Massachusetts Can Support Cleantech and Energy Startups

The next Governor of Massachusetts faces many challenges, none quite so important as the environment. That’s why over the past few months, Greentown Labs hosted a good number of gubernatorial candidates, providing the Greentown Labs with an opportunity to learn firsthand about the candidate’s positions on clean energy, entrepreneurship and innovation. Community members also had a chance to show off their prototypes and share their progress as Massachusetts’ headquartered businesses. 

To date, Treasurer Steve Grossman, Don Berwick, Juliette Kayyem, and Evan Falchuk have all come through our offices and labs. Each candidate toured Greentown Labs and participated in a roundtable discussion with founders of Greentown companies who shared the opportunities and challenges of operating in the state. (For more on the visits, see press coverage here: Boston Globe, and BostInno.  See blog posts coverage here: Grossman, Kayyem, Berwick, and Falchuk.) 

Among the Top 10 issues raised:

1. Investing in clean tech means jobs: Clean energy jobs in the Commonwealth have grown 22% over the past two years. The Massachusetts’ energy, startup and innovation ecosystem deserves investment similar to other industry-leading sectors like life sciences, biotech, and higher education. Massachusetts’ national impact (#1 state in energy efficiency) and global impact is worthy of even deeper commitment. 

2. MassCEC Must be Maintained and Grown: Governor Deval Patrick started the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to boost the clean energy ecosystem through its grants, investments, thought leadership, and programs. Greentown, and its member companies leverage this support in big ways. The MassCEC is an important catalyst that should continue. Keep it and grow it!

Steve Grossman visits Greentown Labs on March 18th
Steve Grossman visits Greentown Labs on March 18th

3. Build the Manufacturing Sector to help retain Startups: Startups that happen here want to stay here. Yet some Greentown Labs’ companies are sending commercial-ready prototypes ready to out-of-state manufacturers. The Commonwealth’s lack of manufacturing infrastructure for the clean-tech sector is sending business to other states just when companies are beginning to scale and create jobs. Greentown companies recommend incentivizing manufacturing companies to do low rate initial manufacturing. The Commonwealth could play a role in educating and training manufacturers on the opportunity to work with startups. Sometimes startups just need helping with connections to welders, circuit board makers, or other types of hardware expertise.

4. Interns Rock. More Please! The MassCEC has a low-dollar, high-impact internship program that subsidizes interns who work at clean energy startups during the summer. This summer, Greentown Labs hosts (30) interns on site. This seemingly small gesture leverages the Commonwealth’s superior high education community and has a huge impact. It’s a Big win-win. Interns provide fresh energy and ideas in short, powerful bursts that have lead to improved prototypes and or even changed or refined business models of Greentown Labs companies. Interns are also being recruiting for full-time jobs. 

Juliette Kayyem visits Greentown Labs on March 26th
Juliette Kayyem visits Greentown Labs on March 26th

5. Remove Barriers to Government Procurement. State and local governments can make for excellent pilot customers for local companies to field test their energy-saving solutions. Too often, this process is highly bureaucratic, cumbersome, and frustrating. It leads the dead ends and time wasted. This happens despite the Commonwealth’s strong support of clean energy, ambitious goals to reduce emissions, and recognition that solutions save money.

6. Streamline Paperwork, Filings, and Fees.  Starting a company in Massachusetts, and filing the necessary paperwork, can be confusing and time consuming. Simplifying this complex process and being more customer-friendly toward startups will likely increase activity for this group of job creators.

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Don Berwick visits Greentown Labs on April 1st

7. Support Incentive Programs. Incentive programs are a proven success, whether it be Solarize Mass that helped to increase residential solar adoption or MassSave that promotes residential energy efficiency and energy savings. These efforts more than pay for themselves in terms of economic impact. 

8. Offer Small Grants To Create Big Things. Small grants make a big difference. Greentown Labs’ companies have received state-based grants ranging in size from $40,000 to $150,000 from the MassCEC Catalyst Program, MassCEC InnovateMass Program as well as federal grants like Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR grants) or from the National Science Foundation (NSF). These grants accelerate development and progress at early stages. A broader set of state agencies should consider grants to create jobs and drive impact and not dismiss clean energy as a special class.

Evan Falchuk visits Greentown Labs on May 13th
Evan Falchuk visits Greentown Labs on May 13th

9. Support Talent Acquisition and Retention. Massachusetts has a great higher education infrastructure, but some entrepreneurs are finding it difficult to hire talent within the state. Too few highly-skilled foreign workers are able to obtain HB1 visas. The Commonwealth should support efforts to avoid turning away our best talent upon graduation, just when they are primed to make a big impact with their locally-earned degree.

10. Keep the Commonwealth Affordable. The cost of living is high and rising, making it harder for startup teams to live, work and play here. Finding creative ways to support startups and small businesses that are the Commonwealth’s primary jobs engine will help keep them here and boost productivity.