By Jeremy F. van der Heiden
This is the third installment of a three-part series of our interview with Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman, who is currently campaigning in the gubernatorial race.
In the final segment of our interview with Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman, who is running for governor in the forthcoming election, we will discuss his opinions on empowering women entrepreneurs, the role of government and more.
The Somerville Times: Women-owned small businesses are outpacing growth in several categories when compared to men-owned small businesses. Do we need to be doing anything, other than what we are, to promote small business ownership, or leadership in larger enterprises?
Treasurer Steve Grossman: Women have been treated inequitably across the board. I mean, some of it is documented at 77 cents in earnings for every dollar a man makes at the same job. That’s improving among younger workers but it’s still not a dollar for a dollar – and it should be a dollar for a dollar.
But in terms of businesses, I think it starts at the top. When I realized that, of the 100 largest publically traded companies in the state of Massachusetts, only 11 percent of their board members were women – that’s when I took office back in 2011 – I said wait a second, time out, what can I do about this?
We adopted a policy in print, the State Pension Fund. It’s called “Zero Tolerance for Zero Diversity.” If there are no women or people of color on the corporate boards in the 9,000 companies in which we own stock, we vote against the management. As a statement of disapproval because diversity around a table makes better decisions. That’s been proven.
Treasurer Grossman went on to affirm that many of the changes that he has made in his current position has helped to strengthen equal opportunities, and that the government must find ways to stimulate equal justice under law, noting that these are the four most important words in the equality language from his perspective as an elected official.
“Give everyone an opportunity. You can’t guarantee equal outcomes, but you sure as heck should be able to guarantee equal opportunities,” he stated. “We’re not there yet, but that’s what government can do at its best.”
TST: Do you think that sometimes it is a matter of the government getting out of its own way?
TSG: Absolutely. That’s why I mentioned permitting and regulation. If you look at some of the rules and regulations that have been on the books for years, sometimes government just gets in the way of entrepreneurship. A remarkable number of people are very entrepreneurial, and then they try to do something and they’re blocked.
You have to get out of the way sometimes. I’ll give you a business example of that. Bristol-Myers Squibb, a big drug company, said, “We want to build a new research and manufacturing campus, somewhere,” and they looked at Massachusetts for obvious reasons – life sciences research, they wanted to be near Cambridge and Harvard and MIT – but they also looked at Switzerland, North Carolina, Texas and a lot of other places.
So, Marty Jones came along, Massachusetts Development, and said look, if we can get you permitted – because it normally takes twice as long to permit new biopharmaceutical facilities in Massachusetts as it does in Massachusetts – we’re still scratching our heads and they are in the ground working, creating jobs, we’re talking about $300 million, $400 million, $500 million investments – big deal, construction and job creator.
Mass Development said if we can get you permitted in 60 days, would you come here. They said absolutely. We can do better, and we have to have a sense of urgency about what the 21st century is all about. It’s all about fast, flexible, and entrepreneurial.
So, what Joe Curtatone has been able to accomplish working with a lot of smart, savvy people who are willing to invest billions of dollars of private money into Somerville – this is a small amount of public money, relatively speaking, leveraging an enormous amount of private money because [investors] said ‘this is a guy, this is a town that is going to make it easy for us to do business here.’
The Treasurer noted that the state needs to find ways to strengthen the availability of affordable, middle-class housing on the local level. He also pointed to some of the programs he has put forth that have helped to empower younger individuals, increasing the likelihood of keeping talent in the state for longer periods of time.
Interestingly, Treasurer Grossman stated that arts and culture must also be a focus, asserting that people want STEAM education, which is Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math, rather than just STEM.
“Incorporate the arts in everything we do, and it’s a huge economic driver among the 100,000 people working in the cultural space, and very few cities know that better than Somerville,” he added.
To close out the interview, Treasurer Grossman stressed the importance of middle-class housing, as well as the need to ensure that transportation – specifically the MBTA – is modernized as soon as possible, affirming that fears of trains breaking down and repetitious delays are simply unacceptable.
As for budget-related matters to pay for these projects, he stated the following:
“I made a bunch of promises when I ran for treasurer, and I kept those promises. There are four ways to grow an economy. One is growth – more jobs, more businesses, more investment. It’s called a virtuous cycle of investing and return on investment. Number two: public-private partnerships. Third: savings. We have helped to reduce the amount it takes to run the pension fund by $100 million a year. And fourth, revenue. I’m not going to take revenue off the table, but if we do go that route, it must be progressive.”
We thank Treasurer Grossman for his time, and wish him the best of luck in the election.