From Commissioner Bruce Stebbins: MGC Community Outreach and My Visit with Leadership of the Pioneer Valley Project
On Monday, January 28th, I welcomed the opportunity to speak with the leadership of the Pioneer Valley Project over lunch at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Springfield. The Pioneer Valley Project is a 26-member organization consisting of labor, synagogue, church leaders and other organizations from the greater Springfield area. Their mission is “to relieve conditions of poverty, racism, discrimination, dependency, unemployment and underemployment, and to prevent deterioration of communities in Southern Pioneer Valley.” For this meeting, we were also joined by two students from Central High School in Springfield who are preparing a paper on casino gaming for a class assignment.
I had the opportunity to talk about the creation of the Commission, an update as to where we are with the licensing process and my specific areas of interest as a Commissioner. After I concluded my remarks, I opened the conversation for questions. I did expect that the labor executives and religious leaders might have differing opinions on the topic of expanded gaming but I was pleasantly surprised that most of their questions boiled down to one topic – jobs.
The representatives from the construction trades were concerned about finding potential apprentices who would be good candidates for their training programs in steel and electrical work among other vocations. Noting that a potential casino in Western Massachusetts would likely represent the largest single construction project in the region’s history, they discussed their concern that it was tough to find apprentices that would complete the three or five year programs. I mentioned that the Commission was well aware of the temporary construction jobs that will be created before a casino even opens. We also discussed training programs for the resort positions and how our partnership with the community colleges could benefit the unemployed and underemployed from throughout the region.
It was again the topic of jobs that several religious leaders highlighted when they approached with questions. “How can we make sure that local residents can pursue opportunities for these jobs?” and “We need to make sure that these jobs offer residents a living wage” were among the comments.
Finally, we discussed a topic of the Project’s list of concerns. They asked what tools are available to hold the gaming licensees to the promises that they make. We discussed the relevance of host and surrounding communities and the role the Commission will play with respect to the actual license and work of the mitigation related committees that will be formed.
At the end of the meeting, I was asked if I would be interested in coming back and I said I was more than willing. The lunch with the leadership of the Pioneer Valley Project was once again a great opportunity for the Commission to continue its outreach efforts and it also gave me the chance to meet fellow residents of the greater Springfield area.