Hodge Economic Consulting Engaged in Projects in Western Mass and Beyond

Fall of 2017 has brought a wide-range of projects for Hodge Economic Consulting in Western Massachusetts and beyond. Recent engagements include:

  • Regional workforce strategies in the Pioneer Valley and Berkshires (with Camoin Associates).
  • Economic development analysis and strategic planning for the Norwalk (CT) Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) with Stantec.
  • Residential, commercial and industrial market analysis for the Lorain (OH) Area-wide Plan with Vita Nuova.
  • Continued work with PVPC and FRCOG on Knowledge Corridor and Inland Route passenger rail initiatives.
  • Industrial market analysis of two large, vacant sites in Westminster (MA) as part of the MassDevelopment Site Readiness Program.

Hodge presents new Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) Economic Study

Dan Hodge, Principal of Hodge Economic Consulting, recently presented a major study for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on the economic impacts, benefits and costs of completing the ADHS. This updated study included a historical analysis (back-casting) of economic and transportation impacts, and also found that completing the remaining 10 percent of the highway corridors would result in a strong ROI for both the region and U.S. Benefits are expected to be 3.7 times greater than costs and generate about 47,000 jobs for Appalachia. Hodge presented an overview of study findings and methods in Washington, DC to a group of regional stakeholders and was a keynote speaker at the West Virginia Planning Conference in Wheeling, WV.

To learn more, see the ARC press release and final report documents.

Encouraging Increased Economic Development and Growth Throughout the East Coast

Hodge Economic Consulting has been assisting clients throughout the East Coast in economic analysis, data benchmarking, infrastructure planning, and market analysis to encourage increased economic development and growth.  Projects include:

  • Economic development analysis for the city of Taunton (MA) comprehensive master plan as part of a team led by Stantec’s Urban Places group;
  • Economic analysis and strategic planning with the Western Mass and Hartford (CT) area metropolitan planning organizations to work towards enhanced rail service in the region.  A recent article highlights these efforts.
  • Data benchmarking project for the Lawrence Partnership to help a relatively new organization think through appropriate economic, demographic, and real estate data indicators to track over time;
  • Financial analysis and strategy for the city of Brockton’s potential purchase of a desalination water supply plant;
  • Completion of a coal impact study for the North Carolina Department of Commerce; and
  • Market analysis and assessment of industry opportunities at large-scale industrial properties for MassDevelopment’s new Site Readiness Program (with Camoin Associates).

Hodge Economic Consulting Completes Auburn Economic Development Strategic Plan

Hodge Economic Consulting recently completed all aspects of an economic development strategic plan for the town of Auburn (MA).  This plan includes a data-driven profile of economic, demographic, and industry trends for the town; interview findings from a wide range of local/regional economic development stakeholders; a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; and strategy development of actionable policy, investment and programmatic changes for the town. The final plan was completed in spring 2017 and Hodge was retained to help implement key aspects of the strategic recommendations, including developing marketing and promotional materials, and researching options and specifications for hiring a full-time economic development professional.

Hodge Leading Study on Opportunities to Stimulate Economic Growth with Transformative TOD

Dan Hodge, Principal of Hodge Economic Consulting, recently was selected to serve as the Project Manager for a major new MassINC study researching strategies to spur greater development in the downtowns and areas surrounding rail stations in Gateway Cities in Massachusetts. The team will be working to understand:

  • The opportunities to stimulate transformative Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in weaker Gateway City markets;

  • How Massachusetts can make cost-effective investments in the existing transit network and enhance local mobility connections to train stations;

  • Policies Massachusetts can adopt to foster a development mix that reduces GHGs; and 

  • Information to engage and empower communities to help implement TOD.

For more information, see the MassINC press release about the study and the project team.

The Economic Case for Increasing Transportation Investment

It seems everyone from economists to presidential candidates is calling for increased investment in transportation infrastructure.  But it’s easier said than done. 

In a recently published article in CommonWealth Magazine, Dan Hodge (Principal of Hodge Economic Consulting) and Tim Brennan (Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission) provide a systematic economic rationale for increasing transportation investment and a set of six recommended ways to help fund it.  This article is focused on the economic context and transportation funding environment specific to Massachusetts.  However, the arguments for increased transportation investment, the connections to economic development issues, and the recommended funding options could apply to any state or region in the U.S.  Access the full article here

Improving Western Mass Rail – Hodge Working with Regional Leaders to Assess Service Options

Having played a lead role in the feasibility study and federal funding application for the Knowledge Corridor (which relocated Amtrak service to the Connecticut River Line), Hodge is working with regional leaders to assess potential rail improvements for the region.  For the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) and Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Hodge is analyzing the detailed capital and operating costs, ridership, and revenue of a planned pilot service that would extend more rail service north from Springfield to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.  This could mean up to 4 more roundtrip trains for the Valley in addition to the Vermonter.  In a separate effort, he is working with PVPC and the Capital Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) to assess the benefits, costs, ridership, funding, and service level options of the long-planned Inland Route service that would greatly improve the rail connection from Boston to Springfield, and continue south to New Haven and New York.

Hodge Working with Appalachian Region to Help Address Declines in Coal Industry

For the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Hodge Economic Consulting completed a major economic overview of the coal industry in Appalachia to quantify and better understand the recent and long-term decline in that industry.  The report includes state and county-level data on coal production and employment depicting how the region has been declining slowly for decades but is facing a much steeper contraction over the last few years.  He also evaluated coal exports, transportation implications of the coal industry, and retirements of coal-fired power plants.  Hodge is also collaborating with the ARC to implement a follow-up study entitled “An Economic Analysis of the Coal Industry Ecosystem in Appalachia” based on his recommendations for additional research.  Finally, Hodge has been engaged by the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division to help assess the extent to which their rural Appalachian counties may be considered “coal-impacted.”

Hodge Economic Consulting and MassINC release new report on Massachusetts Gateway Cities

Working collaboratively with MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, Dan Hodge authored a research report that examined state investment in Gateway Cities, assessed real estate development trends compared to Boston (which showed Gateway Cities not participating in economic recovery), and outlined ideas to enhance transformative development.  The report found that while Massachusetts is investing disproportionately in Gateway Cities, these investments are: a) dominated by education spending; b) there are few examples of larger-scale investments that can logically be connected to generating transformative development; and c) the state does not (yet) track investment or evaluate impact. Despite an infusion of programs and focus on the state’s small to medium sized cities, the real estate development trends point to a widening gap with Boston.  The report recommends a mix of higher state investment levels, stronger alignment of investment with targeted redevelopment strategies, and an increase in transparency and accountability.  The report was released at an event in Lowell with follow-up events in Springfield and Worcester.

Hodge Economic Consulting Selected to Lead Town of Auburn Economic Development Plan

Hodge Economic Consulting was recently selected by the Town of Auburn (MA) to conduct a new economic development strategic plan.  Hodge will lead all aspects of this new plan, and will be supported by the BSC Group to help with GIS mapping and public meetings.  Auburn is seeking to update its economic development plan with new data, goals, objectives and strategy recommendations.  Auburn has a population of just over 16,000 and is located at a strategically important place alongside Worcester (the 2nd largest city in New England) and at the crossroads of major interstate highways (I-90, I-290, I-395).  Despite its relatively modest size, Auburn has a significant business community with large employers in manufacturing, distribution and retail (Auburn Mall).  The plan will be developed from roughly September 2016 to February 2017.

Hodge Continues his work in Brockton with new Fairgrounds Market Analysis

Following earlier assignments in Brockton, Hodge has been engaged by the Metro South Chamber of Commerce to lead a market analysis of redevelopment options at the 65 acre Fairgrounds site.  That site was planned to be the home of a resort casino but the plan was rejected by the Mass Gaming Commission.  Consequently, there was interest from the Metro South Chamber and City to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different redevelopment scenarios.  Hodge is analyzing site conditions and ownership, traffic and transit characteristics, surrounding uses (mostly retail and residential), and market viability to develop a set of potential re-use options and next steps to implement redevelopment.

Hodge presents on Massachusetts and Northeast economic trends at MEDC Annual Meeting

Dan was an invited speaker at a joint Massachusetts Economic Development Council (MEDC) and Northeast Economic Developers Association (NEDA) meeting in Springfield, MA on December 10, 2015.  Dan’s presentation was titled “Economic Trends, Outlook and Key Innovation and Entrepreneurship Indicators” for Massachusetts and the Northeast US.  Click here for a recap of the day’s event and here for Dan’s presentation

Holyoke wins $250,000 Urban Agenda Grant to expand Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Initiative

Dan worked closely with the Greater Holyoke Chamber Foundation to write the grant funding application to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to secure a new funding award for the city of Holyoke.  This new grant was chosen among many competitive applications to build upon Holyoke’s SPARK initiative to encourage local entrepreneurship and is another step towards implementing the economic development strategy Dan helped create.  Click here for the announcement of grant award winners and here for the broader Innovate Holyoke initiative

Brockton Workforce/Housing Initiative for Homeless Families part of Boston Fed Working Cities Challenge

Dan is working closely with the Brockton 21st Century Corp., the City of Brockton and a team of stakeholders to design a grant application for the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge.  As consultant to the team, Dan is helping organize the workforce, housing and cross-sector collaborations necessary to help expand an existing WorkReady program to a broader set of homeless families with kids in the Brockton Public Schools.  You can learn more about the Working Cities Challenge here and the Brockton effort was profiled in the Enterprise newspaper.

Hodge continues collaborative research with the Appalachian Regional Commission

Building on a series of earlier projects, Dan is currently working with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on two economic and transportation research studies.  In one, Dan is serving as contract manager for a major economic analysis update related to completing the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). Learn more here. In a second project, Dan is conducting research on the coal industry in terms of mining production, coal-fired power plants and transportation as part of the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization). Learn more here.