More than 500 business executives joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh Tuesday morning as he emphasized his belief in the spirit of Boston’s professionalism and entrepreneurial strength for his first annual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce address and Government Affairs Forum.
Walsh detailed his vision of a more inclusive, international and innovative city at the America Ballroom of the Westin Copley Place.
“It’s inclusive, seeding the growth in every neighborhood and connecting our young people to career pathways,” he said. “It’s international, embracing newcomers and recruiting businesses from around the world. Our mission is innovative, embracing high-tech life sciences and the creative industries that are on the cutting edge of change.”
While the city is on its way to making this vision a reality, Walsh said there is still much to be done, including the collaboration of businesses, entrepreneurs, venture capital funders and community partners to turn Boston into the “economy of the future.”
Walsh proposed changes be made to Boston’s city policy, infrastructure and culture. One change includes the creation of a Chief Digital Officer, who will remake the city’s website, television station and other digital assets.
“The city itself must be at the forefront of innovation,” he said. “We need startups to succeed, and we need them to stay and grow in Boston. We will put together a team of business development and marketing leaders who will do just that.”
With the idea to strengthen Boston Public Schools, Walsh said the city’s children must be given the attention and preparation needed to give them optimal educational opportunities.
“We must prepare our young people to be the leaders of the next generation,” he said. “We are developing a strategic plan to make the Boston Public Schools the premier digital district in the nation by the year 2020. You are sitting here today because you know how to adapt, change and grow. That’s the resilience we need to preserve and pass on.”
By keeping the spirit of Boston alive, this can and should be done, he said. This spirit was seen during the 2014 Boston Marathon and in the days and weeks prior, and it is made up of determination, ambition, resiliency, unity and teamwork, Walsh said.
“Ultimately, the spirit of Boston is in all of you, who work to make our industries, our communities and our city better every day,” he said. “Boston was built by leaders, like you, who know how to collaborate and how to innovate. It’s what made us the city we are today.”
Several attendees said they were impressed with Walsh’s plans and are excited to see what else he has to offer the city in terms of innovation and growth.
Melanie Jones, 34, of Waltham, is the director of marketing at Hotel and Home Recovery, and said Walsh should focus his attention on housing to improve the economy.
“It’s always important to keep the business here in Boston and have plenty of jobs for folks, but to have that, you need to have housing for them,” she said. “A sense of homeownership and living is a huge part of that, and middle income is something that definitely needs to be looked at in every city, not only Boston.”
Manuel Rivera, 40, of Boston, who was representing a startup company called WaterShots, said he had been hoping Walsh would talk more about green technologies and lowering carbon dioxide emissions.
“I would have liked for him to talk a little bit more about sustainability, green technologies and lowering the green house gasemissions,” he said. “I want to know more about his point of view and his plans for that. He didn’t cover that topic enough, and nobody else really asked any questions about it.”
Susan Elliot, 59, of South Natick, is the executive vice president and chief business officer of Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and said her business focuses on low-income and affordable housing.
“Many of the questions that I had were answered here today,” she said. “I was impressed. I thought that he covered the gamut, from jobs, affordable housing and public safety. He touched on them all in a very articulate and informed way.”