I run a media production company in Newton and understand the demands of running a small business. My company, StormPort Productions, produces videos for businesses, camps, non-profits, and individuals; many of my clients, vendors, and independent contractors are right here in Newton. During my schooling, I worked at local restaurants: Baker’s Best, now gone from Newton Highlands, and Johnny’s in Newton Centre.
Our city has a thriving business community but, like in every American city and town, there are challenges. On-line shopping threatens to starve our retail shops. Competition from big box stores and chains cuts into the viability of our locally-owned stores. We need foot traffic and parking so that residents can patronize our city’s restaurants and cafes, transportation to our business districts so employees from outside Newton can get to work, and a better mix of housing so that businesses in the city can be assured of a nearby workforce from which to recruit workers and talent.
Here are some of the things we need commit to in order to help Newton’s businesses flourish and thrive.
Housing. Companies that the city is trying to bring to its new Innovation District on Wells Avenue, and to other districts, need to know their work force can live in Newton. They want to be able to use the city, with its nationally recognized schools and excellent geographical location, as a positive recruitment tool to attract talent. This means the city must develop a better mix of housing so that entry doesn’t depend on being able to afford a $1.1 million dollar home, the current median selling price for a Newton house. We need apartments, condos, and a greater variety of living arrangements, including co-housing and shareable housing that allow younger people with modest incomes to live in our city and work for our businesses. For more about these housing ideas, please see Housing on this website.
Transportation. We need to expand our public transportation so that workers coming into Newton from Boston or elsewhere for jobs in the newly developing business districts and elsewhere in the city can get there. We also must commit to getting bike lanes out to the business districts and across our city, because people will really bike to work if it’s safe and convenient. It’s happening in other cities and there’s no reason it can’t happen in ours.
Prioritizing local. We need to prioritize local service and retail businesses instead of chains so that they are the ones serving the new business districts. This means helping local restaurants get the contracts for these new business centers and finding creative ways to connect other local services, such as contractors, accountants, lawyers, transportation services and more, with those new companies coming in. We also need to shore up our efforts to encourage residents to shop local.
Boost efforts to strengthen communal ties and connect residents to each other. Because the more we connect with one another, the more we are invested in every aspect of our shared life, including the health of our businesses.
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