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Voices: Perspective

DeLeo pokes Mark Zuckerberg

Speaker sends open letter urging Facebook to return to Massachusetts

BY: Robert DeLeo


The following is an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from Speaker Robert DeLeo, originally published at Menlo Park Patch.

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on what you have missed in Massachusetts since you left in 2004. In recent years, Massachusetts has become a more desirable home to innovation companies and their workers.

Just Monday, in fact, we announced a major economic development bill. One of this bill’s provisions is aimed at establishing strong links between young people and innovation employers.

We call it a “Talent Pipeline.” Under this legislation, Massachusetts will match, dollar-for-dollar, stipends for interns at technology and innovation start-ups. This will help create links between our talent pool and employers even before these students graduate. This program represents the strong commitment Massachusetts is willing to make to retain many of the young people who attend our colleges and universities and to attract those from other locations who want to be in an attractive environment.

In the bill, we also create an innovation investment fund that will offer matching grants to research and development projects sponsored by our universities and research institutions.

Since you have been away, we have transformed the face of Boston’s waterfront. What was formerly industrial warehouses and docks has been converted into the “Innovation District,” a neighborhood comprised of incubator-spaces, laboratories as well as restaurants and cafes for those who work there. Aware of the huge success that we’ve seen in this district, we are providing more funding for the city-state-private business partnerships that can help generate new opportunities.

Of course, Massachusetts is now in a position to offer these programs because of the strong fiscal management we have exercised in recent years.

Unlike California, where Governor Brown just announced a $16 Billion budget deficit sure to mean massive cuts in services and increases in government revenues, Massachusetts leaders have passed budget-after-budget on-time and with no new taxes or fees.

Even in the midst of the downturn, we continue to put money into our rainy day fund and address difficult financial conditions. Last year, the Democratic House, Senate and Governor all supported common sense changes to the way our municipal employees receive their health insurance, which has resulted in more than $100 million of savings for this year.

In 2010, we received $250 million in federal “Race to the Top” funds thanks to our “Act Relative to the Achievement Gap.”

And just last week, we unveiled a balanced approach to curb health care costs for all consumers to accompany our already successful universal health care plan.

These decisions are causing others to take notice. These policy decisions along with our fiscal prudence are factors that prompted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s to increase our bond rating from AA to AA+.

We are making progress in Massachusetts.

Our unemployment rate is down to 6.5% from a high of 8.7% and below the national rate of 8.2 %. This fact was noted in a column on Slate.com headlined “The Bay State is best.”

“Massachusetts is looking particularly sharp when it comes to the globalized, tech-driven economy on which America’s superpower standing hinges,” wrote Mark Vanhoenacker in Slate. “Massachusetts is as green as it is high-tech, and recently displaced California as the nation’s most energy-efficient state.” The economic development bill we announced this week will allow us to build on those strengths.

I believe that as Facebook issues its initial public offering and experiences additional growth and expansion, a renewed presence in Massachusetts makes sense. I am available to meet with you and members of your team to update you on why Massachusetts is an important place to open an office.

Finally, I am sending a message to employees and heads of new companies to stay in Massachusetts if they are here already and to come and see what is happening if they haven’t visited yet.

There is no denying California’s strengths, but a lot has changed in Massachusetts in the eight years since Facebook moved out. It’s a place where young workers, start-up companies and innovation entities want to be.

Robert DeLeo is the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

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