Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2014,
By: Aaron Nicodemus
When the Fort Devens Army Base officially closed in 1996, the impact on northern Worcester County was devastating. Those 6,700 military personnel and 2,600 civilian jobs disappeared, along with all the economic benefits of those soldiers and employees spending money on local housing, gasoline, food, restaurants and more. One estimate pegged the economic loss to the regional economy at $500 million per year.
But Devens has made quite a comeback lately. MassDevelopment, a quasi-state agency, has been successful in luring large manufacturers into gleaming new commercial spaces — and in refilling those spaces when large manufacturers leave; has enticed developers to renovate former army barracks into housing; and has encouraged new development of single family housing, a hotel, and a film studio sound stage.
Talk to some of the leaders of the Gateway Cities that surround Devens, though, and you hear a different story. The miracle at Devens is being funded at the expense of their communities, they say, poaching their large companies with tax increment financing deals that are funded, in part, by the taxes those communities pay.