Lowell Region Is Sixth Most Geeky in USA: Forbes Mag

This is an extraordinary announcement from Forbes Magazine. San Jose Calif, Boulder Colo., Framingham Mass., Huntsville Ala., and Durham N.C. are the five regions listed as more Geeky than Lowell (figures based on percentage of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math-based jobs). See the list here. Both the City Manager and leftinlowell.com blogged about this announcement, and UMass Lowell Facebooked it early today, thanks to Mike P. on the campus web squad. Forbes online used a picture of the UML Inn & Conference Center with National Park Service canal boat in the Pawtucket Canal in front as the iconic Lowell image (I believe that’s a Jim Higgins photo—nice work, James.)

10 Responses to Lowell Region Is Sixth Most Geeky in USA: Forbes Mag

  1. Bob Forrant says:

    very cool. And if you add to this figure the numbers of people who work in the arts, writing, research, and education the numbers of folks in quite imp econo ic sectors jumps up even higher.

    The trick is to keep building on this impressive situation, which sadly may be difficult if the last few days economy numbers mean what I think they mean. There is massive Insecurity in the global economy. And, in response, consumer confidence is quite low. This will affect revenues collected in this and other states with a sales tax. In addition, states like MA, with a large financial services sector will quite likely see significant job loss there and correspondingly lower revenues from things like capital gains.

    The deficit compromise seems to have done next to nothing to still fears that the entire global economy teeters on the edge of a new recession.

  2. Nancy P says:

    This is so interesting. I got the link this morning from a fellow non-fiction book club member, then it was on the Pollard Memorial Library blog then on the City Manager’s blog!

  3. Arthur says:

    Two points may be necessary to keep this in perspective .
    1.The report is based on statistics collected for the Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford NH NECTA: that is , the City of Lowell , and Billerica ,Chelmsford, Dracut , Dunstable, Pelham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford.
    2. The figues are for 2007. Given that the Recession struck after that , these figures may not reflect current conditions .

  4. Arthur says:

    According to City-Data.com , in 2009 , Lowell had 178 people employed as art and design workers and 155 Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers . These two groups were about 0.7% of the labor force.
    The Lowell Devils relocated to Albany since 2009 so the number in sports may have gone down .
    These are not the only occupations that qualify as Cultural or Creative , of course, but may give some sense of the scale that is involved.

  5. Bob Forrant says:

    Arthur whatever count you looked at is way, way off the mark. About three years ago I was involved in a research project with the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council to identify the numbers of creative economy firms and workers in the Merrimack Valley. Obviously this is a wider reach than just Lowell, but in Lowell alone there were several hundred people who made some portion of their living in such areas as architecture, design, writing, publishing, music, and a variety of what we think of as typical arts activities like painting, photography, sculpting, etc. In Lowell by itself there are probably a couple of hundred people, maybe more, working in museums and galleries. Western Avenue studios and the new live/work space on Jackson Street as well have probably 350 or so people.

    Up and down the valley we identified approx. 350 firms that fit the definition economic dev planners use these days to identify the ‘creative economy’. That does not count the number of folks employed at our long list of colleges and universities in fields related to the creative economy. This includes music and sound recording, at UMass Lowell. These are nationally recognized programs that have begun to help the region establishing a young but growing music industry.

  6. PaulM says:

    The Forbes count is about people whose jobs are rooted in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. That’s another big piece of creative economy activity for those of us who favor a broad definition of creative economy: work that requires specialized knowledge or skill and involves critical thinking, imaginative development of ideas, and innovative problem solving. In the most loose construction of the concept, it is work that cannot be outsourced to sweatshops or dished off to robots. “Creative,” in my view, has to embrace invention and imagination: science/technology fields, where people tend to use a term like invention, and arts/humanities/social sciences fields, where you hear more about imagination. Creativity joins the disciplines. We see it in the “Artbotics” program that UMass Lowell does with The Revolving Museum and Lowell High School. Design and engineering come together as young people create robots of all kinds. Steve Jobs at Apple says the college course that proved most valuable to him later career was Callligraphy at Reed College. “Creative” absorbed into the business sector comes out as “entrepreneurial” in the best sense, so the mindset can soak into the management and professional sectors, from real estate ventures to law practice.

  7. Arthur says:

    Professor Forrant has highighted a terminologiocal issue in the statistics . The industries categorized as ” Arts, entertainment and recreation ” employed 507 people in 2009 per City-Data.com. A person can be employed by a “creative Industry ” and not be in a “creative occupation “.The analogy might be that a security guard at a hospital works in the medical industry but is not a medical employee . Art gallery employees might be included in the industry headcount , but not be considered “art and design ” workers .
    Mr. Marion seems to blur some already hazy boundaries. The Cultural Economy can be seen as a subset of the Creative Economy ,but Mr. Marion appears to wrap everything into the Knowledge Economy .

  8. PaulM says:

    Arthur: Yes, it can get fuzzy. My thinking on this has evolved, and now I don’t believe it is helpful to think of the arts as having a monopoly on the creative economy, which puts me at odds with some of the creative economy data miners. I think the nature of the work is more important than the field it is in. Those STEM workers counted by Forbes can be labeled Knowledge Economy workers, as you wrote. I would merge arts/cultural sector workers (and more occupations) with the STEM workers.

    Here’s what the UMass President’s Office offers as a description of its Creative Economy grants program: “The grant program fosters creativity and innovation across disciplines, providing seed money for UMass initiatives that support the contributions of the arts, humanities and social sciences to the social and cultural fabric of the Commonwealth. Funded initiatives contribute to the state’s economic development and demonstrate significant collaboration with industry, private research institutions and community groups.”

    It was a coup for arts, humanities, and social sciences scholars and practitioners when this program was introduced five years ago as a counterpart to an existing grant program that supported science and technology research. I think it is better for all the innovation to be seen as integrated. Scholars, biz entrepreneurs, practicing artists (all forms), and others are moving in this direction. Smart phones are here thanks to scientists and designers working together. Sound Recording Technology students at UMass Lowell must master the art of listening to music as well as the physics of sound.

    In the 1970s, Dr Patrick J Mogan pushed the idea that Lowell should rebuild its economy around R&D because that activity is fundamentally renewable and sustainable as long as new ideas keep being fed into the pipeline. Dr Bill Hogan, former Chancellor of UMass Lowell, talked about Massachusetts needing to “climb the innovation ladder” continuously. Current UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan is overseeing the construction of a $70M Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center on the North Campus as a laboratory for innovation, from nano-manufacturing to green plastics and biotech. ETIC will give us more infrastructure for continuous innovation and help us compete as a region and state. The researchers and inventors in the labs at ETIC will be as creative as painters and poets at Western Avenue Studios. If it helps for analysts to label these folks as “geeks” rather than “creatives,” that’s OK with me, as long as they are in play. What’s important is the work they do—and the outcomes. We can export paintings and new medical devices out of the Lowell area.

  9. George DeLuca says:

    “The 20 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of workers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions.”

    The details of the data don’t really matter. The perception being presented is that Lowell is being recognized in Forbes Magazine as a desirable place for high tech businesses to relocate, quality workers to consider as a home for their families, and for R&D and production processes that not only fit, but also have the potential to lead in the arena of the world economy. It’s all good.

    Such recognition from a reputable publication makes me feel quite good about our fair City, and proud of the 105,000 residents of various cultures and diversity who continue to make it happen. The City of Lowell has once again been acknowledged as a desirable place to live, work and play. And we’ve never had as many people rolling up their sleves and joining together to work towards making it even better.

    Positioning Lowell as the leader in the region is perfect. As connections with our sister communities grow stronger, so will our ability to compete in the world economy.

    But there’s much more work that needs to be done in the planning for Lowell to be a world class City, especially relative to openly involving the citizens of Lowell in consensus building of important issues. We really don’t need hand picked blue ribbon panels working in secrecy. This recognition is a result of the transparency of government of our citizens, neighborhood groups, City Council and our State & Federal delegation. To me, when you say “The City” you mean the people.

    So we achieve another link in the chain of nurturing and educating our population as we continue down the path towards stabilization and sustainability in shark infested economic waters, and in times of world unrest. As our educational institutions and workforce development programs continue to add richness to the lives of our residents, more will decide to stay on, as the realization hits home … where better to be than Lowell?

  10. Arthur says:

    Clearly , I am failing to get my point across . A concrete example might help.
    In 1990 , Guraraj Deshpande, PhD and his business associates opened Cascade Communications in Westford . This company was successful and Dr. Deshpande , described as a serial entrepeneur in wikipedia, went on to found Sycamore Networks in Chelmsford among other ventures . It is these companies and others like them that provide the jobs that keep or attract the STEM workers .
    In 1990 the Merrimack Valley was in dire economic condition as the Massachusetts Miracle came to an end.In those days , there were many places better to live than Lowell.Someone who knows Dr. Deshpande ( I do not ) can ask him why he chose Westford for the startup.My guess is that he would mention transportation , a pool of talented high tech workers at liberty , etc. I doubt he would cite that fact that the Folk Festival was established by then or a vibrant arts community in Lowell might evolve.An electrical engineer born in India with advaced degrees from Ontario was not likely to be drawn to this area by plans for a quilt museum or a then dream of minor league baseball.Once here , he might enjoy those amenities and even support them , but they are not probable motivators.
    The Deshpande Foundation has financed a project in connection with UML that a friend of mine in the Toledo , Ohio area brought to my attention . I know little about it except an article or two.e.g., http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2011/01/06/desh-deshpande-on- starting-merrimack-valley-innovation-center-and-making-a-global-impact-from-massachusetts-to-india/
    As I read the article , he is asserting that our approach to date has been wrong and wants to get us on a more productive road.The point is defining a new role of developing relevance and doing things that are good for local businesses.The Merrimack Valley Sandbox , especialy if properly linked to the developments Mr. Marion described in an earlier post could be a turning point .

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