Support the news

Is Boston A Second-Tier City?25:00


Scott Kirsner is the Innovation Economy columnist at The Boston Globe, and as such, he's a man in the know.

We had him on the program when BusinessWeek published its list of the 10 best cities for tech start-ups. Cambridge ranked sixth. Boston didn't even make the list.

That made Kirsner think Boston has a public relations problem, because as he put it, Massachusetts is top-notch at a number of things. As he told Radio Boston:

We take this nascent technology that's developed in an MIT lab or one of the great schools around here, and we commercialize it and get it out of the lab and turn it into a new product, whether that's a new drug or whether it's a new lithium ion battery, like A123 systems — they were the biggest IPO of 2009, a Massachusetts company. Or, the governor was just talking about all sorts of clean tech or energy related innovation. So we're really good at that. It's just that we don't have that Steve Jobs gene of marketing it along the way.

So that was Scott Kirsner last year. Imagine our surprise when this week, Kirsner blogged that Boston doesn't have a PR problem. He wrote:

We're a second-tier financial services town. Second-tier technology town. Second-tier retail town. Second-tier defense contracting town.

And then he twisted the knife, writing: "We're number two, but our sense of entitlement keeps us from trying harder."

Is Boston a second-tier city? In tech, finance, retail? If you think so, how come? Or do you think this is missing the forest for the trees — that Boston's rich mix of businesses in a variety of sectors gives it the edge that other cities don't have. And considering that Boston isn't competing against just New York, Silicon Valley, Chicago or Austin, but also against global players like Shanghai and Bangalore, what would you do to make Boston a top-tier world city?


  • Scott Kirsner, correspondent, The Boston Globe and Innovation Economy blogger
  • Saul Kaplan, founder, Business Innovation Factory
  • Bill Warner, founder, Avid Technology and Wildfire Communications
  • Dave Porter, senior vice president for economic development, Austin Chamber of Commerce

This program aired on November 2, 2011.

+Join the discussion

Support the news