“Not Your Father’s Route 128”: Jason Schupbach Promotes Massachusetts’ Creative Economy

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show up at as many events as possible, to let them know we’re interested. I’ve been unbelievably pleased and amazed at just how much is going on out there—you guys have written about a lot of it. This is not your father’s Route 128 anymore. I’m at a different event every evening. That’s why I’m excited about MassItsAllHere.com. On the IT page we’re able to link to all of the events that are happening.

On the signs, from MOBD’s point of view, that the recession is waning:

Up until the time right around when Lehman Bros. collapsed, we were still busy. We’d get these calls—“Here is a national company that wants to expand in the state or add 200 jobs.” Then it just stopped. The fear was unadulterated. But around this July, the phones started ringing again, and it just felt like the fear had stopped, and people were acting like they had money again. Investments that we knew about from before started to move forward again. It’s not great out there—there are still a lot of people unemployed, and we still need a lot of jobs in the state. But we’re heading out.

On his biggest job:

My primary job is to work with businesses. That’s what I do. A company calls me, and I help them grow, and provide resources. If you look at our website, you’ll see there are about nine different services that we provide. If you are looking for angel or VC funding, we can point you in the direction of those guys and make recommendations. We have a small business development center that does nothing but work with entrepreneurs. We have partners we work with to help people find space—that’s easy to find, as long as you’re realistic. We also like to assist you if you’re looking for assistance around your workforce. We have a number of different tools—some of them have stalled a bit because of the economy, financing-wise, but if you are looking for 3-D designers, say, we can help you find those folks. We have good relatonships with the schools cranking out that talent. We also like to help businesses if they are interested in greening or improving the environmental quality of their busineses. We have a staff person in environmental affairs who does nothing but work to help Massachusetts businesses become greener, which is exciting. Obviously, we have a number of tax incentive and grants programs to assist with the actual growth of a business, depending on what the needs are. We don’t run the incentives from our office, but we can say “Here is the person you can talk to.” And we also have an export promotion office for companies looking to export overseas. So we’re like the Google of the state, or the traffic cops. We don’t want you to have to call around to 16 different agencies—it’s our job to do that.

On efforts to help creative-economy clusters build their identities:

The second piece of what I do is getting the clusters of different creative industries a little more organized. If you look at other clusters like biotech or clean energy, there is the Mass Biotech Council and the New England Clean Energy Council, and they are highly organized. They meet, they have organizations that promote what they do, and they have CEOs who get together and talk about the key issues. Very little of that was happening in the creative industries. Film has a highly organized advocacy group, the Mass Production Coalition, and we have a film office with film tax incentives that are pretty highly developed. So, for film, I don’t have to do a lot except work with individual businesses. The second most organized [creative sector] is advertising. There is both MITX and the Ad Club. Those are two very strong industry organizations with two incredibly bright people running them, Kiki Mills and Kathy Kiely.

But two sectors that were a little more disparate were video games and design. In video games, there is Boston Post Mortem, an incredible group that meets all the time and has built an amazing job making people feel like there is a great video game community here, but the CEOs weren’t getting together to talk about the issues. And now the MassTLC has stepped up to the plate and launched … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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5 responses to ““Not Your Father’s Route 128”: Jason Schupbach Promotes Massachusetts’ Creative Economy”

  1. I am glad there is actual organized and concerted effort to “re-start” the tech startup environment in Boston/RT 128 area – we need it.
    The good news is (as I learned at the MTLC unConference last week) that we have plenty of pretty good startups around in MA.

    Thanks,
    -Stas Antons
    SmartSymbols Interactive Technology

  2. Being an industrial designer, I love Jason’s focus on this area of the creative economy. How many people know that one of the largest and most successful design firms in the world is in Boston? Continuum’s main office is right on the Mass Pike in Newton (they have a slick silver sign visible from the highway on the side of their brick loft building). Since its 1984 founding, Continuum has also spawned many successful offspring in the product development and design strategy consulting spaces. (Manta, Altitude, and ELEVEN come to mind quickly.) (Full disclosure: I worked there for five years when we were still tadpoles.)

    And yes Wade, Jason does seem to get around. I met Jason last week at the MTLC UnConference and he impressed me with his energy and vision. I am wishing him well and willing to help him succeed in this role in any way I can.