Massachusetts Business Czar Greg Bialecki’s Innovation Agenda: The Xconomy Interview, Part One

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city and state officials on how to change the rules. So the work that I did over the years was always essentially at the intersection of the private sector and the public sector. For example, I represented the town of Belmont for several years in a major rezoning of the McLean Hospital site. Even though I’m now in the public sector for the first time in my career, I don’t see myself as working on a different set of issues. It’s the same set, just from a different perspective. In some cases this is literally true, at a very technical level: I was recognized as having an expertise in Massachusetts zoning law, so the Governor asked me to think about rewriting the state’s zoning laws. I have a 20-year knowledge of the details of how our zoning laws work and how other states’ laws work differently, but I also bring the perspective at a higher level of how we strike a good balance. We love business, we like jobs, we like the taxes, we like development. But how do we balance that with the very legitimate needs of the public for environmental protection, protecting the quality of life in our communities, and consumer protection?

X: What about your innovation portfolio—did your work with real estate developers expose you to issues around technology and entrepreneurship?

GB: I know a lot of the technical aspects of zoning law and that’s been helpful, but on innovation and non-competes and so forth, that was not part of my private practice, so I don’t profess to be the expert on the details. But I do think that in the bigger picture my experience is still very relevant, because the biggest question is what is the appropriate role of state government with respect to the business sector, and what is state government doing that supports business or holding business back. I understand the different sides to that question. I understand the ways in which businesses feel that regulation can hold them back, and I also understand the reasons why regulations have made Massachusetts a better place to live and work.

That’s one reason I enjoy working for Governor Patrick, because I think his diversity of prior experience reflects the same. In other words, he has had a number of experiences in the private sector, where he understands what businesses’ needs are, and yet he’s also had the experiences in the public sector to understand that there are values other than making a profit that are important. His charge to me is to find the places where we can do things that advance the “multiple bottom line,” not only making Massachusetts a better and easier place to do business, but doing it in a way that’s not at the expense of other public values.

X: Since you brought it up—exactly what is the appropriate role for state government in accelerating innovation? Should it be a leading role or a supporting role? What levers do you feel that state government has at its disposal for supporting innovation?

GB: The short answer is that it’s a partnership role. When you talk to business people in different industry sectors, there is tremendous variation about how they view government. For a lot of businesses, the basic perception of the relationship between government and business is that it’s adversarial. The business view is that government is going to tax me more or tax me less; they’re going to regulate me more or regulate me less; but there is not a lot of common ground. But there are other sectors that have a very different view, which is that … Next Page »

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