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Retaining Boston's tech cluster

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Today marks the fourth day of South by Southwest (SXSW), a conference that attracts almost 50,000 people and showcases the latest in music, film, and technology each year in Austin. Back here in Boston, the business pages are highlighting our own cluster of tech companies in areas like social networking, retail, and health care; the big concern is that these startups could be lost to places like Austin and San Francisco.

Two Globe stories in Sunday’s paper highlight the tension. Even startups naturally suited to Boston’s talent base, like education, are struggling to gain traction, a Globe story reports. Directly below it, Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy column tells the story of a consumer application startup conceived here, and then heading to California for talent and investors.

“Investment” seems to be a recurring theme since companies in both stories praise Boston’s talent supply, but speak of struggles to get their ideas funded. BostInno, a news site that tracks the city’s innovation environment, points the finger of blame partially at Boston’s high housing costs.

Even within Massachusetts, there is competition for attention and resources. Consumer technology startups are just one of a few industries Boston is trying to incubate. While tech startups can receive help from organizations like MassChallenge and the Cambridge Innovation Center, other industries, like life science and film, get the added benefit of state help in the form of tax breaks. 

                                                                                                                    --CHRISTINA PRIGNANO



BEACON HILL

The Patriot Ledger kicks off the media’s annual “Sunshine Week” by calling for support for Rep. Charles Murphy’s efforts to overhaul the public records laws.

State officials and community college chiefs are divided over the schools’ mission, WBUR reports.

Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi has his bid to remain in prison in Rhode Island denied, as the bank prepares to foreclose on his North End condo.

The South Coastal Counties Legal Services, which provides reduced-cost legal aid for civil matters to low-income residents, has laid off 10 staffers including attorneys, closed several offices and cut the remaining staff’s pay because of funding cuts from the state.

The Republican checks up on the state’s “Open Checkbook” effort.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Vehicle excise taxes rose in 250 of the state’s cities and towns last year, a turnaround for the local coffers as well as an indication that people are buying newer cars again.

A group of Lawrence residents calling themselves “Somos Lawrence” are trying to figure out how to respond to a Boston magazine article calling their home “the city of the damned,” the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Worcester Telegram reports that municipal police departments are violating the Public Records Law by not keeping a daily log of crimes and arrests.

The Aquinnah’s late entrance into the casino competition may be held up in court due to a land deal struck in the 1980s, the Boston Globe reports.

ELECTION 2012

The National Review notices Mitt Romney does well among upscale white voters. Rick Santorum charges that isn’t enough for Romney to “close the deal.”

The Washington Post explores Ann Romney’s love of and troubles with horses.

The health care reform law was the key in Democrats losing 63 seats in 2010 and unless Republicans get back on message, they could fall victim to the same fate, according to a study highlighted by the Weekly Standard.

John Sununu calls talk of a brokered GOP convention “silly speculation.” Slate crunches some delegate math, and ponders what the convention will look like, even if Santorum can’t catch Romney.

President Obama lunches with Michael Bloomberg. Meanwhile, The American Prospect outlines the policy challenges Obama will face in his reelection battle this year. One is gas prices: As they rise, the president’s ratings fall.

RedMassGroup criticizes Mitt Romney for using a private email account to conduct official business while he was governor.

The New York Times wonders aloud about the political relevance of the Deep South.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Newspapers are America’s fastest-shrinking industry; renewable energy companies are growing most quickly.

The Wall Street Journal has details on the $25 billion nationwide mortgage settlement, which still hasn’t been filed in federal court.

U.S. News & World Report offers some fixes for the Postal Service to right itself.

EDUCATION

A Globe editorial argues school districts should do more to test students for college-readiness while in high school to prevent them from taking expensive remedial courses when they enroll in community college.

Parents at the Smith Leadership Academy in Dorchester are angry over layoffs that occurred in the weeks before MCAS testing was set to begin, the Globe reports.

There are plenty of concerns about a plan to raise the dropout age to 18.The Berkshire Eagle wants to know more about the new anti-dropout proposal, such as how the state plans keep disinterested students from disrupting kids who want to learn and who is going to pay for “graduation coaches” to keep those students on track.  The MetroWest Daily News isn’t so keen on the idea either.

HEALTH CARE

The Brockton Enterprise surveyed local hospitals and found mixed results in the waiting time of emergency room patients since 2009 when the state began asking hospitals to voluntarily track and report the information.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is spotlighted in a USA Today article about the increase in mass transit across the US (of course, there’s not a word about the system’s financial crisis or miserable condition of  its infrastructure).

A MBTA Red Line attack is captured in a YouTube video, NECN reports.         


ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Joe Kennedy’s Citizen Energy plans to build a solar farm in Devens, the Lowell Sun reports.

A switch to raising beef cattle instead of dairy cows could save some small farmers.

The Globe reports on progress of the wind turbine testing facility in Charlestown.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Florida passes a law allowing state agencies to randomly drug test employees, the AP reports (via Governing).

MEDIA

The Nieman Journalism Lab explores some promising paywall models.

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