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Holyoke named one of ‘Best Startup Cities in America’

Date: 1/16/2015

HOLYOKE – The editors of Popular Mechanics have named The Paper City one of the 14 best Startup Cities in America.

In the on-line listing ( the editor wrote, “No disrespect to San Francisco or Brooklyn, but we wanted to identify the next wave of cities building an ecosystem to turn innovators into entrepreneurs.”

The list includes St. Louis, Mo., Asheville, N.C., Oakland, Calif., Portland, Maine, Baltimore, Md., Boulder, Colo., Reno, Nev., Des Moines, Iowa, Cleveland, Ohio, Urbana, Ill., Queens, N.Y., Detroit, Mich., and Austin, Texas. Holyoke is the smallest community on the list.

“This is a VIP list of nationally-recognized innovation and entrepreneurship centers,” Marcos Marrero, director of Planning & Economic Development for the City, said. "It’s humbling and exciting that Holyoke is on that map. It’s a testament to the public-private-academic collaborations many of us have been working on for several years and the best resource Holyoke has: its people. This news is a validation of a strong collective effort and a call to action to continue changing the fundamental economic dynamics in Holyoke.”

Mayor Alex Morse said,  “I am proud to see Holyoke included on this list. In Holyoke, we know what we need to do bring our economy back to life. When we make sound investments—whether securing funds for a train platform, or working with folks who want to rehabilitate our old buildings—those investments multiply. When we work to facilitate maker-spaces for today’s innovators and entrepreneurs to collaborate and discuss new ideas, those ideas have the potential to improve our lives and stimulate the economy. We’ve put in the work, and I am beyond pleased that Popular Mechanics is showcasing our work for the rest of the country.” 

For the on-line listing, the Popular Mechanics editors printed an essay by Morse: “I was born and raised in Holyoke, and I moved back here right after I got my degree in urban studies. At college I learned about the life cycle of cities, how they can run into bad times but also come back and be successful again. I wanted that for Holyoke, so I ran for mayor and won in 2011, when I was 22. In the three years since, my administration has worked with partners in the community and the region to make Holyoke a center of innovation. 

“One advantage we have is cheap energy. On the city’s eastern border the Connecticut River drops 57 feet as it presses south. When the city was founded, in 1850, the river powered waterwheels for paper mills; today it generates inexpensive, clean energy. The old mills are attractive industrial workspaces. A new co-working and maker space, Brick Coworkshop, has been in one of the old mills since 2013. The owner says his operating costs are about a third of what they would be in a bigger city like Boston. 

“The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center opened here in November 2012 and has drawn other tech-based businesses to the city. Spinoff development includes Gateway City Arts: We gave them a tax incentive—a first for a local creative business—and they recently purchased another building. 

“We just launched our Spark initiative with a $250,000 grant from the Boston Fed to support "entrepreneurship for all." Sometimes people with good ideas don’t know how to access space or get business permits or financing, so Spark helps out. That fits with my idea that government should take an active role in the development of the future. Some people say it should take a back seat. But a lot of things that happen in this community wouldn’t happen if our team didn’t have the will to make them happen.”