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

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their gaming cluster initiative, which is very exciting. We have been working on that for about a year. And the biggest thing I’m excited about there is PAX East [the gaming conference coming to Boston on March 26, 2010].

And then design. There are almost 45,000 designers in the state and 3,000 design firms. But there was no really strong industry association, no one place where we could get together and have a broader conversation. So we invested in forming DIGMA [the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts]. We worked with the Massachusetts Cultural Council on a grant to coordinate that, and even before that DIGMA had a grant from the Mass Technology Collaborative. You’ve heard me talk about how we need to have a little more swagger. One of DIGMA’s roles is to validate that. We have the second largest product design industry in the country, and no one even knows that! DIGMA is planning a series of design and innovation events over the next few months to begin to help other industries understand.

Music and publishing are obviously both creative industries and are very strong here, but I haven’t had time to get to them yet, in all honesty. Part of that is that, again, there isn’t any one organization. There is no Post Mortem for music. I’d love to try to figure that out. Why don’t we have a “North by Northeast,” a signature music event? I am dying to have someone come to me and say “I want to start a festival.” But it’s got to come from someone in the community.

On the work of the Creative Economy Council:

The third piece of what I do is that I’m the staff person for the Creative Economy Council, the policy-suggesting, advisory council to the secretariat and the legislature. We just released our first report, and there’s a lot of suggestions in it. We did this big outreach, where we got all of these working groups together, and artists organized themselves and got to us. We tried to take as many suggestions as possible, and put it all in there. The next step for us is to form a strategic working group to look at what are laws that would address this. There are some perennial challenges: there is never going to be enough money to support everything. But the next few years, while the state budget is going to be extremely challenged, is the time to plan and write law for when there is money around.

On the challenges of working for an administration that comes up for reelection next year—meaning Schupbach might be out of a job come January 2011:

We’re very aware of that. I’m trying to leave a legacy of a better infrastructure for these industries and building the conversations, whether it’s with DIGMA or the video game cluster or MITX or the Mass Production Coalition. It’s about making sure that when and if I have to leave my position, I can leave behind a few things: First, the fact that the creative businesses themselves know that they can call the state and get some help to expand. Second, a stronger infrastructure. Thirdly, the big, long-term goal is to leave behind a lot more creative jobs. It would be nice, for example, to have such a strong film industry here that it’s spinning off jobs into other digital media companies.

On the role of the creative industries in repairing the state’s overall economy:

The creative economy and creative businesses can be successful in different ways in different areas. It’s county-by-county. Inside I-495, the innovation economy is incredibly strong. It’s also strong in other areas of the state, depending on what your definition is. Are creative businesses the silver bullet for every community? No, it is a mistake to think that. It’s an important piece of the puzzle for most communities, yes. But it can’t be the only thing you focus on. You have to have a diverse economy to be successful.

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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.