What CIC Boston says about Boston


For anyone still wondering how tech is changing Boston, this is how.

On Friday Michael Farrell reported that the Cambridge Innovation Center, which has played a central role in making Kendall Square a hub for startups, now aims to do the same for Boston’s Financial District starting next month.

The Financial District has already been well on its way to having a tech presence even without the 300 startups that the new CIC Boston office on Milk Street is expected to bring. Young tech companies in the neighborhood include SageCloud on Oliver Street, Yottaa on Federal Street, and the 23 startups located in PayPal’s StartTank incubator at One International Place.

But the 1,200 employees who’ll work for the companies at CIC Boston, many of them twenty-somethings, should make the most noticeable difference yet in the economic center that is the Financial District. I worked on Federal Street for four years and often felt that I must have been the only “tie-less” guy within a five-block radius.

It’s “a part of town that has traditionally hosted lawyers, bankers, and investment managers,” as Farrell wrote. Soon, you’ll be able to add entrepreneurs, coders, and inbound marketers to that list.

More important is what this says about the economic picture in Boston. The Massachusetts financial services sector has been steadily shedding jobs since the financial crisis that began in 2008. Nearly 2,000 jobs in finance and insurance have been cut in the past year, 14,000 since January 2009, according to state figures.

Tech startups are starting to fill that void, though in a very different way.

Young, unproven companies are constantly coming and going in a place like the CIC. They often start out and stay very lean during their tenure; many have minuscule funding and rely more on hustle than on headcount (many have 10 or fewer employees).

In short, they’re not the sort of employers that the Financial District of years past has had.

But in an age where few industries are adding jobs at all, it’s still no doubt a net positive for the Financial District — and particularly for the scores of restaurants and retailers in the neighborhood — that the CIC Boston is coming.

And perhaps the forward-thinkers who will soon be bumping elbows with the neighborhood’s established players will rub off a bit, too.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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