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Worcester

What Can Our City Become?

MICHAEL F. COLLINS, M.D., '77, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Medical School

I'm bullish on Worcester. It's an important moment in the city because there is so much opportunity here. We can attract great science-if you look at the building we've done, the folks we've been able to attract, the fact that a relatively new medical school can already have had a faculty member win the Nobel Prize, the fact that we're the state's medical school and part of a great state university-these are all very important formulae for our success. We've been able to leverage our position to acquire the Biotech Park, to build some new facilities here, both the Ambulatory Care Center and the Albert Sherman Center over the last decade. That positions us very well, and it also positions us to attract additional business to the community.

Worcester is the second largest city in New England. I think we've got a lot going on here that perhaps isn't fully appreciated. We have no problem recruiting faculty to come and live in our community. There's a vibrancy now in the arts, with The Hanover Theatre, and the leadership of the Worcester Art Museum. There's a vibrancy in the social fabric of the city, and there's a group of people who work and live here who find it a very attractive place to raise their families and educate their children and live their lives. I think that's a terrific formula for success. Our businesses are equally vibrant. We're in a renaissance period, if you will. We were largely a manufacturing city at the turn of the century. The manufacturing has now switched: It's now about science and education. While we were known as a manufacturing hub, I think we're going to be known as a knowledge generator. The contribution we're going to make to the economy is going to be based on the knowledge we create and disseminate, and the impact that has on the world. It will be known that it was discovered in Worcester.

[At UMass Medical School] our commitment is to change the course of the history of disease. You never know where the next discovery is going to take you. Whether it's RNA biology, which is what Professor [Craig] Mello won the Nobel Prize in-we have perhaps the world's finest collection of RNA biologists that exists. You look at neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal diseases-those are areas in which we have centers of excellence. We have no problem recruiting-right now when we see people for a position, we see the top five people in the world.

Holy Cross has always been an important entity for our community. It occupies an important part of the city; it's engaged in the community. One of the things that is great about the Jesuits is that they're present in society. I think that the Jesuits' presence at Holy Cross and in the greater Worcester community is very dearly felt. Holy Cross is one of the leading institutions in the city; Fr. Boroughs is a terrific leader for our community; our alumni are actively engaged. There are a lot of leaders in the community who went to Holy Cross. We all know who we are, and we respect that.

 

FRED EPPINGER '81, President and CEO, The Hanover Insurance Group

Worcester is a very strong, vibrant city with unlimited potential. It's well poised to grow and prosper moving forward-to be a distinctive second city for the state.

With Boston situated on the ocean, growth obviously must occur to the west. With that in mind, Worcester is uniquely positioned, given its proximity to Boston, its location in the heart of New England and its successful transition from an old industrial-based economy to a new, innovative, technology- and information-based economy. Young professionals and businesses are attracted to urban settings like Worcester, with, among other things, a strong arts and education culture, including our colleges and universities. Very few cities have everything we have to offer.

The ability for us to take off here is real. To do that well, you have to have an energetic downtown. We've made great progress on that front in recent years, and we continue to do so. A lot of what we've tried to accomplish has been creating a vibrant downtown that attracts people, particularly young professionals, [so] people want to live here. It's why we've been doing so much around things like The Hanover Theatre, which has brought people downtown and made Worcester more of a 16-hour city. The theatre blows people away: You walk into the building and can see how incredible it is. And once you go the first time, you go again. If you look at the demographics of all the people from the western suburbs who are now coming to Worcester for entertainment at the theatre, it's extraordinary.

Our company is actively involved in the redevelopment and revitalization of the city. We've been involved in CitySquare, for instance, because we think it can be a catalyst for much more growth and development. The CitySquare project will connect the neighborhoods with the downtown and will create some additional settings for mixed use and corporate headquarters. I think Worcester is going to be one of the great stories of the next couple of decades.

The biggest change I have seen in the last 10 years is attitudinal. We've largely turned away the cynicism that once inhibited our progress. Is it all gone? No. But, compared to 10 years ago, it's like night and day. Success breeds success. When we started to renovate the theatre, they said, "You can't raise $5 million to get that theater done." We raised $30 million. When we sought to bring a minor league baseball team to the city, they said, "You can't bring a baseball team in." We brought in a baseball team. Today, there is a much greater sense of optimism and a can-do attitude. People and organizations are committed to working together and we are having great success.

This city is small enough to know everybody, and it's small enough to know that you can make a difference.  ■

 

Next page: HCM asked 100 students to name their favorite spots in "The Woo."