An innovative idea incubator at the forefront of the next-generation industries of clean energy and clean tech is moving from Boston’s innovation district to the Innovation City: Somerville.
Greentown Labs will bring 24 start-up companies that call it home to 28 Dane St., along with 92 jobs and plans for expanding to over 140 jobs in the next five years inside 33,000 square feet of space, a substantial increase from their current space in Boston’s innovation district.
Gov. Deval Patrick joined Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki today, on a tour of Somerville to meet local entrepreneurs, ending with a joint press event at noon at 28 Dane St. about Somerville’s rise as the Innovation City and welcoming Greentown Labs to its new home.
The City of Somerville facilitated Greentown Labs’ move in part through a $300,000 working capital loan that utilizes Community Development Block Grant Funds, part of a new initiative by the city to support innovative business activities and new employment opportunities. The loan contains requirements for new job creation and that not less than 51 percent of new job hires go to those who meet moderate- and low-income standards. Greentown Labs also agrees to use it best efforts to hire Somerville residents in all available job opportunities.
“People are figuring out that this isn’t the innovation district or the innovation center—Somerville is the Innovation City. We are a city that prides itself on innovation, creativity and originality,” Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said. “We have made it a priority as part of our comprehensive 20-year SomerVision plan to attract and bring in companies like Greentown Labs. This move is a result of our own Future Economies Commission, launched to ensure that Somerville is at the forefront of the next generation of economic opportunities.
“We are providing the vision, planning, zoning, infrastructure improvements and business and economic development policy to attract these types of 21st century industries,” Mayor Curtatone continued. “Greentown Labs coming here to Somerville is an endorsement of all those efforts and a testament to the economic strength of this community.”
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is also contributing to Greentown’s expansion into Somerville through a $300,000 grant, provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a division of the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. In addition, Rockland Trust Company is also supporting the expansion of Greentown Labs by providing construction financing.
Greentown Labs’ mission since its inception in 2011 is to provide low-cost prototyping space to clean energy and clean tech start-ups. Those firms range from those in the very early conceptual stage of product development and prior to receiving venture capital to those that are already receiving venture capital support and are now moving into the more advanced stages of product development.
“The types of jobs we envision for the future are the exact type of jobs that Greentown Labs offers,” Mayor Curtatone said. “Those job opportunities, in the type of industries that will fuel part of Somerville’s renaissance and we will attract here, are industries like Greentown Labs and what they offer.”
Greentown Labs is settling in a burgeoning area already home to several innovative companies that fuel Somerville’s industrial renaissance. The facility at 28 Dane St. that Greentown Labs will call home formerly housed the Ames Envelope facility, a legacy industry for almost a century in Somerville, until 2010 when Ames sold their operations to a Wisconsin-based firm resulting in the loss of nearly 150 jobs.
Since then, what has organically grown in the area is a campus of small start-up industries and enclaves, including the shared spaces of Artisan’s Asylum, Inc. and Fringe, along with creative start-up manufacturers like Cuppow and Recovery Green Roofs. It’s not only happening in this area of Somerville—the city recently welcomed e-commerce innovator The Grommet to Davis Square. Somerville not only provides the space needed for these industries to flourish, but the active, walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented neighborhoods that attract workers in those industries who want to live near where they work.
“These organizations and companies recognize how a concentrated universe of thought, intelligence, skill and value working together can create the industries of the future and economic opportunity for Somerville and the region,” Mayor Curtatone said. “What was created through one industrial revolution and faded away to another economic transformation has spurred another new tech revolution here in Somerville. Both current industries thinking about expansion and start-ups looking for a place where their concepts can thrive are looking to Somerville because it’s a city that supports originality, creativity and innovation. We’re going out and getting those companies. We’re bringing them here.”