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Council in the News


Viewpoint: A Vision for Massachusetts in 2050: In Pursuit of Steady Excellence

Bold vision for Massachusetts
© Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

Boston Business Journal | December 1, 2022
Bob Reynolds and Navjot Singh, Ph.D.

Massachusetts has a lot to be proud of. With a population of just 6.8 million people, we rank among the top 25 largest economies globally. The state is home to some of the best education and healthcare in the world, and we have a rich history of leading the country forward.

We have a lot going for us, but we also need to keep looking down the field.

Take our sports teams as an example. Nobody wins the super bowl every year, but the Patriots just had a generation of unrivaled success. The Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics are all repeat winners. These world-class franchises didn’t appear overnight. They took vision, planning, and focus over decades — and they are constantly working at it.

That same championship mindset is what we need to take as a collective Massachusetts ecosystem to win in the global economy — not in the next quarter, or next year, but over the long term. We call it our MassVision2050.

Robert Reynolds a vision for Massachusetts in 2050
Putnam Investments President and CEO Robert L. Reynolds
Navjot Singh, Ph.D., McKinsey & Company a vision for Massachusetts in 2050
Navjot Singh, senior partners at McKinsey & Company’s Boston office.

So, what might a winning long-term vision look like?

The GDP of Massachusetts today is around $680B, with about a 2% real compound annual growth rate over the past decade. If we could boost that growth rate by a fraction, let’s say to 2.5%, by 2050, we would be a $1.3 trillion economy. That kind of growth would translate into countless jobs, investment in key industries and infrastructure, and a broader prosperity.

The key is the consistency over time, and getting there, as our sports champions have shown, takes a combination of offense, defense, and teamwork.

Let’s start with defense, which is about sustaining our current momentum. How do we ensure that we are working together as a community — businesses, academia, and the public sector — to promote an environment that will support our diverse economy and truly exceptional workforce? From housing to transportation, to K-12 education, there is much we can do to encourage the most innovative and distinctive talent in the world to call the Commonwealth home.

MassVision2050 will begin with a dynamic analysis of how to maintain our leadership in the industries that have enabled us to achieve the innovation and growth that we have to-date. From world-class healthcare to asset management and fintech to life sciences and more, Massachusetts is a recognized leader. We have the potential to move from that to “the” champion in driving these industries with some of the most concentrated workforces in the United States.

A great offense, on the other hand, looks down the field and spots opportunities. We know we can accelerate our leadership in emerging industries that will disproportionately drive growth where we have a substantial opportunity to win. Industries like clean energy, cybersecurity, fintech, health tech, AI, transportation, blue tech, and so many more will drive the next horizons of growth with unprecedented levels of excitement.

Whether offense or defense, we can all agree that one thing is critical: teamwork. In terms of our vision for Massachusetts, teamwork is about creating a business environment that develops and rewards innovation. This teamwork will require heavy collaboration across the leaders in our community from the private sector, academia, and the public sector.

Specifically, we need to come together as a team to relentlessly focus on two critical topics: workforce and capital. 

On workforce, being home to so many top universities is an enormous competitive advantage for our state, but the reality is 60% of our graduates leave to work elsewhere. We need to change that. Perhaps an answer can be found in institutions like the UMass system, Northeastern, or WPI where, even in the most competitive degree programs like cyber-security, 50-60% of graduates choose to stay here. Building stronger pipelines from degrees to jobs is the missing link and would help channel more university graduates into our local market.

And the kind of growth we’re talking about requires capital — lots of it. Granted we have some advantages, like the $4.4 billion in R&D funding that local academic institutions receive each year. We also ranked third in the country in venture capital funding last year. But we need to think much bigger, and it’s going to require leveraging all funding sources to really commercialize and scale the technology and industries that will propel us forward.

World-class economies, like great sports champions, don’t just happen. They need good fundamentals — and we’ve got them — but they also need a coordinated vision, strategic investments, and a supportive environment to flourish. Now is the time for Massachusetts to imagine that future — and we should play to win.

Bob Reynolds is chair of the Massachusetts High Technology Council and CEO of Putnam Investments. Navjot Singh is a director of the Massachusetts High Technology Council and a senior partner in McKinsey & Company’s Boston office.