Regional Report: Northeast 2016

A new approach to downtown development is reinvigorating the Northeast Corridor.

In mid-January, GE confirmed it was relocating its global headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut to the seaport-based Innovation District. In announcing the move, CEO Jeff Immelt cited the appeal of being at “the center of an ecosystem” in a “dynamic and creative city.” With the relocation, GE becomes Massachusetts’ largest publicly traded company.

The District was effectively completed two years ago when Boston lured Vertex Pharmaceuticals from nearby Cambridge with $12 million in real estate tax breaks and job-creation incentive payouts. Vertex opened its $850 million corporate headquarters in February 2014, uniting its Massachusetts employees in a building featuring abundant natural light, trophy views of Boston Harbor and outdoor recreation spaces. Vertex also set aside about 3,000 square feet of classroom space for use by Boston educational institutions. The expectation is that the company will eventually hire some of their students.

“Some companies are good at reinvesting in employees, but it’s about helping them become better employees.”

“Making medicines is a team sport that requires hundreds of people working together for many years, and these buildings were designed to bring all 1,300 of our Massachusetts employees together in one space for the first time,” said Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden. “As a company committed to discovering new medicines, I can’t think of a more inspiring environment—the Innovation District—in which to do business.”


In 2014, a record 170,000 commercial entities named the Diamond State their official home, bolstering its rep as a business haven. But in some key categories that diamond is losing its luster. The number of fully operational companies—as opposed to shell corporations—registered in Delaware has shrunk by about 11% since the decade began.

A series of federal judicial decisions has loosened its grip on the corporate legal world. Delaware’s financial services industry, in part a reflection of its pro-business allure, has also weakened, eroding profits and payrolls; a stronger 2015 suggests recovery is in process. The state’s mature chemical cluster, which has been anchored by the Du-Pont family holdings, now faces instability and job losses due to fallout from the chemical giant’s planned merger with Dow Chemical. The aeronautics sector is outpacing manufacturing, contributing over $7 billion a year to the state’s economy. Liberalized casino gambling laws permitting blackjack and similar table games boosted the gaming industry.

Wilmington and Dover, the state’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), will “continue to enjoy modest labor market progress in the near term,” forecasts PNC Financial Services Group. Meanwhile, Wilmington struggles to reverse the perception that it is a dangerous town.

Northeast 2


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