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September 16, 2016

Devens jobs grow by 1,000

Courtesy of Quiet Logistics Quiet Logistics is among the companies that has located in Devens.

Jobs and wages at Devens, a former military base now run by the state as an enterprise zone in north central Massachusetts, have continued their steady climb since 2012 showing a 55 percent increase in employment and an 89 percent spike in total wages over the past four years, according a new report from the University of Massachusetts.

Total employment in Devens approached 5,000 jobs in 2016 with an average annual wage of $83,545, outpacing the state average as biomanufacturing and medical device companies have established a foothold in the area.

The report from the UMass Donahue Institute found the economic activity of private firms and non-profit organizations supported the employment of 5,857 additional workers in Massachusetts and contributed nearly $2.5 billion to the economy.

"The increasing number of Devens employees has resulted from significant commercial growth and has led to a demand for a mix of housing types in new Devens neighborhoods like Emerson Green," MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said in a statement. "We're pleased to work with the business community, residents and surrounding towns to continue to advance the redevelopment of Devens as a major driver of the regional economy and make even more sustainable growth possible."

Devens is a 4,440-acre community in the towns of Harvard, Ayer and Shirley that is run by MassDevelopment after the site was repurposed from the Fort Devens military base that operated from 1917 to 1996.

Voters in Harvard, Shirley and Ayer rejected a push to make Devens the 352nd town in Massachusetts, and it continues to be run as a regional enterprise zone and census-designated place.

The study released Thursday by MassDevelopment and the UMass Donahue Institute is the fourth survey conducted for Devens since 2012, and found that employment within the area grew by 23.5 percent from 2014 to 2016 to 4,977 jobs after 10.9 percent annual job growth in 2014 and 13.3 percent growth in 2013.

Of the 102 total businesses, the five largest employers include Quiet Logistics, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the federal prison housing inmates with medical care needs, Johnson Matthey Pharma Services and SMC Ltd., a medical device manufacturer.

Seventy-six percent of businesses in Devens are private corporations, while 18 percent of the business mix is non-profit and 6 percent is government. Employee wages topped $415.8 million in 2016, an increase of 38.6 percent over the last data reported in 2014.

"Industries that typically employ high-skill workers and pay high wages dominate the Devens private sector," the report states, finding that industries such as manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services are overrepresented in the local economy compared with the state as a whole.

Even with the strong growth of jobs, wages and economic output at Devens, there could be room for more.

According to MassDevelopment, residents in Ayer, Shirley and Harvard are scheduled to vote on Oct. 24 on a proposal to rezone about 32 acres of undeveloped residential land in Devens for innovation and technology business uses.

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