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April 13, 2015 SHOP TALK

Q&A with Timothy J. McGourthy, Executive Director, Worcester Regional Research Bureau

PHOTO/MATT VOLPINI TITLE: Executive Director, Worcester Regional Research Bureau, Worcester RESIDENCE: Worcester EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree: William & Mary; master's degrees: Johns Hopkins, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard

After several years in key roles in city government in Boston, and then Worcester, Tim McGourthy is in his second year of a position that seeks to influence government. After leading Worcester’s economic development office, he moved over to the Worcester Regional Research Bureau last year, succeeding the retired Roberta Schaefer as the organization’s leader.

How is this role different from the one you had with the city?

In the city, I was focused on economic development activities. Here, we can focus on specific items. We look at public education, public finance, public administration, economic development. We target anything that falls under municipal operations (and) responsibilities. So it’s a much broader role.

How does the research bureau, more specifically, help businesses in and around Worcester?

Our goal is to identify the issues of government that might be impacting either government’s operations generally, or government’s impact on the economy, on business. We look for those issues that haven’t been addressed … and we identify solutions. We look at national practices, we look around (at) what academic experts think about the issue, and we put forth best practices for the city to consider, for elected officials to consider, and for the electorate to consider.

Looking back on your role at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, what lessons can Worcester learn about the changes Boston went through during the Menino years?

I think optimism. Boston was a failing city in the 1950s and now it’s one of the top cities in the United States. Worcester has all of the assets that Boston has; it just needs to figure out how to capture them and to build on them. How do we bring more people in, make them recognize the value of Worcester and grow from there? Mayor Menino focused on the nuts and bolts of the administration to the point that people wanted to be in Boston. He wasn’t luring them to Boston.

Flip side: What can Boston learn from Worcester?

Boston needs to learn how to reach out and be friendly to business. While Boston has a more successful track record in bringing businesses in, it’s in spite of government sometimes, not because of government. And I think Worcester has done a good job of creating a business-friendly environment. We have the work in front of us of making people know that that environment is there and ready for investment.

You just completed your first year on the job. What were your chief goals for the year and how many of them did you achieve?

My goal was, first and foremost, to try to connect the research bureau into the broader population, to have an opportunity to expand beyond our current constituency. I had a goal of reaching out to government in a strong way to make us more of a partner. And I think I’ve achieved that. We’ve had a lot of success in bringing government leaders onto our panels.

What's your agenda for the second year?

To broaden our approach within the population to tap into more residents, and to start to build a database of information about the city.

One of the bureau's most recent reports addressed how Worcester is changing. What do you foresee the city economy looking like in 2025?

The economy will continue to grow. As we have changing demography, we also have (a) growing education base and a growing income base. A study by the Brookings Institution (from 2000 to 2008) showed the Worcester metropolitan area had grown more than any other in the country in education attainment and income. That’s part of the result of the realization of the value of (the) Worcester area.

This interview was edited for length.


Q&A with Timothy J. McGourthy, Executive Director, Worcester Regional Research Bureau

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