Biz Leaders Pitch Hao on Ways to Help Mass. Keep Its Edge
BOSTON, FEB. 5, 2024…..Business and tech leaders working to solidify the commonwealth’s competitiveness broadly previewed a handful of ideas Monday before Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, who spoke about the need to be “relentlessly paranoid” as Massachusetts works to grow its lead in major sectors like life sciences.
Sumedh Mehta, chief information officer at Putnam Investments, pitched Massachusetts establishing an innovation and research center focused on AI for finance or financial services as part of MassVision2050, an initiative led by the Massachusetts High Technology Council that explores ways to spur long-term employment and economic growth. Venture capital investors are interested in financial technology and AI, said Mehta, who mentioned North Carolina’s success in the arena.
The MassVision2050 initiative, which incorporates perspectives from the private and public sectors and academia, parallels the Healey administration’s economic development plan and its focus on lengthening Massachusetts’s competitive advantage in several key sectors, MHTC leaders said during an event Monday afternoon.
“If we bring those two together, and we bring the Massachusetts economic plan together and the 2050 vision, we have to build fintech and AI as a center, create some research, bring the academics in, work with industry and create something unique that we can do in Massachusetts that others cannot,” Mehta said. “Can we through research, through engagement with financial services firms that happen to be in the Boston area, that happen to be leaders in their areas, work together with the academic institutes and build something that’s sustainable, and meets the objectives of the 2050 MHTC plans?”
That type of center could attract capital and talent, which could lead to new startup companies launching here, he said.
A separate branch of MassVision2050 is investigating what type of workforce development is needed as the health sector harnesses AI, such as nurses using AI to triage patients. Val Panier, managing director at Boston Consulting Group, said a white paper on workforce training should be drafted for the state to consider within two to three months.
“If you do a rough assessment, you might say that about 60 percent of the workforce in health care will need to be upscaled,” Panier said. New jobs will be created while existing ones may disappear, which signals a need for re-skilling, too, Panier indicated.
Hao said the Healey administration is working “deeply” on crafting the forthcoming economic development bill, based on the economic development plan, titled “Team Massachusetts: Leading Future Generations.” The plan calls on the commonwealth to tackle long-standing problems, such as unreliable transportation networks and insufficient housing to support economic growth.
Under the plan, Massachusetts should “lengthen” its lead in sectors such as life sciences and health care, advanced manufacturing and robotics, and artificial intelligence, while spurring new leadership in climate technology, tourism and culture. It also outlines strategies to recruit and retain talent, as well as strengthen workforce development and training opportunities.
“We’re going to partner very closely with Chair Parisella and Sen. Finegold, and all of our legislative colleagues on figuring out how we can bring this to life with the right funding, the right ownership metrics, the right governance, the right legislation,” Hao said, mentioning the chairs of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
“And so that is the work in progress right now and hoping to get that bill done by the end of the year,” Hao continued.
Hao said she traveled to Las Vegas last week for a meeting with 30 fellow economic development secretaries. She said attendees were asked about the top priorities in their states.
“And everyone said, ‘We want to win in life sciences, we want to win in [computer] chips, we want to win in climate tech, we want to win in being a leader in talent.’ And I mean, everyone is trying to do what we’re doing and they’re trying to catch up,” Hao said.
Hao, asked which states she is most worried about, spoke about competitive advantages for North Carolina and Texas.
“The question for us is, how do we make sure that we are relentlessly paranoid and always kind of monitoring competition?” Hao said.