WARE, Mass. — Republican candidate for governor Charles Baker, citing a tendency for Beacon Hill to have eastern Massachusetts “myopia,” spoke in favor of regional strategies for economic development to aid hard-hit cities and towns like Ware.
In an interview with WBUR’s Bob Oakes during a special live broadcast, Baker — who’s stressed his reputation as a turnaround specialist from his time heading Harvard Pilgrim Health Care — said such strategies would take into account what works in individual regions and come from the local level.
“I want it to come from the folks who are actually in business and operating businesses in each of these different regions,” Baker said. “It needs to be one of these things that comes from the ground up instead of being sent from Beacon Hill back out because it won’t be right and it won’t reflect on what really will work.”
Baker outlined the need for such a strategy for the state’s manufacturing industry. The Republican credited the industry, which he said is powered mostly by small, privately held companies crafting niche products, as the reason for more than 250,000 jobs across Massachusetts.
In talking to such manufacturers on the campaign trail, Baker said he’s heard recurring complaints.
“The overwhelming message I get from them is, ‘Do something about my business costs, do something about regulatory policy and red tape and do something about tax policy and we can grow here and we can thrive here,’ ” Baker said.
And while Baker is seeking to improve the business climate, he denied that such focus would decrease support for social services such as unemployment insurance and food pantries. He said the social safety net would not be at risk in his proposed first budget, and he criticized the Patrick administration for what he labeled as cutting programs rather than restructuring the state bureaucracy.
“(Those who need help) have far less to worry about in a Baker administration than they do in a Cahill or a Patrick administration,” Baker said, citing decisions he made as the state’s former secretary of Health and Human Services.
Residents in Ware and other small towns have also spoke of the need for further public transportation — not one of the eight issues outlined on Baker’s campaign website. Baker said there are opportunities to “do more with less,” engaging with certain regional transit authorities that operate in ways he said are more effective.
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As he travels Route 9 this week, WBUR’s Bob Oakes will speak with the four candidates for governor.