Massachusetts’s license plates proudly identify the state as “the Spirit of America.” And it’s true that, in many ways, Massachusetts is America’s birthplace — though the other members of the “original 13 colony club” would likely beg to differ.
Many American institutions and ideals that we now take for granted either began in or took shape in Massachusetts. No one can take that heritage away. But today, Massachusetts finds itself at a crossroads of sorts. This most storied of states, where Mayflower-descended blue bloods mingle with 8th-generation Irish and 1st-generation Portuguese, is charged with charting a course for the future — even as it honors its 400-year heritage.
Recently, Massachusetts lawyer and philanthropist Chip Flowers laid out a compelling vision for the state’s next 10 years. Here’s a look at the highlights — and thoughts on how the state’s political, cultural and business leaders can realize them.
A Bipartisan Standing Committee
Flowers proposed the establishment of a “bipartisan standing commission to propose substantive reforms to our existing corporate, judiciary, and tax laws to allow the Commonwealth to become attractive to companies.”
Flowers’ proposed commission wouldn’t have the power to make new laws or change existing codes. Rather than ruling by fiat, it would be charged with studying the most pressing economic and political issues of our day, devising realistic improvements to existing policies or regulations, and inviting public debate on each matter.
Ideally, the standing commission would take a hard look at what’s working in other states, particularly those renowned for their business-friendliness. (Delaware, Texas and nearby New Hampshire come to mind.) It would also think outside the box, drawing in ideas from other countries or using cutting-edge economic, political and sociological research to outline policies suited for the 21st-century economy.
Tax Holidays for New Businesses
Flowers proposes tax-free “incubation periods” for businesses that pledge to relocate to Massachusetts from out of state. Depending on the feasibility of a revenue-neutral model, the concept could eventually be extended to startups and early-stage companies that begin life in Massachusetts. It’s hard to imagine a better way to leverage the ingenuity and entrepreneurial energies of the state’s storied research universities and tech firms.
More Lenient Incorporation Laws
In his op-ed, Flowers asks why Massachusetts isn’t the “global venue of choice for businesses seeking to incorporate.” That’s a good question. Right now, Massachusetts isn’t even on the radar for newly incorporated businesses; Delaware, and to a lesser extent New York and California, hog the spotlight. Although not every business that incorporates in Massachusetts is likely to have a major employment base in-state, the annual fees and taxes associated with incorporation would be a welcome addition to the state’s coffers.
Broad-Based Civic Education
One concept that didn’t get much play in Flowers’ op-ed, but which is nevertheless a worthy addition to Massachusetts’s future-competitiveness arsenal: broad-based civic education. Kids who learn about civics, government and the rule of law early in life tend to be more curious, active participants in the messy experiment we call representative democracy. Flowers has offered some thoughts on this theme before.
Color Inside the Lines
Chip Flowers’ vision for Massachusetts’s next 10 years is just that: a vision. It’ll require strong leadership and thoughtful problem-solving to become reality. And it’s not at all controversial to say that Flowers’ vision is simply a start. Massachusetts (one hopes) will be even stronger in the mid-2020s than it is today — and more willing to set ambitious goals for the next decade.
What’s your vision for Massachusetts’s next decade?