North Central Massachusetts - An Economic Profile
North Central Massachusetts comprises 26 towns and cities stretching about 50 miles in length from Orange in the west to Groton in the east (see Figure 1 below for a reference map of the region). The region includes parts of three counties—Franklin, Worcester, and Middlesex—and covers about 800 square miles, comprising about 10 percent of the land area of Massachusetts. In terms of population, the region has about 275,000 inhabitants, or about four percent of the state total.
With a location on the periphery of the Boston and Worcester metropolitan statistical areas, much of the region is within commuting distance of the two larger cities. Proximity to Boston and Worcester also benefits North Central Massachusetts businesses in terms of labor and market access. The availability of large parcels of land, for example at Devens, also constitutes an advantage for North Central Massachusetts as large properties that offer both infrastructure and transportation access are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive in and around the fast-growing Boston-Cambridge area.
North Central Massachusetts, as such, has become a magnet for larger enterprises, including Bristol Myers Squibb, that need substantial sites for manufacturing production while still being nearby major population and jobs centers. In effect, North Central Massachusetts can offer sites for companies and manufacturers to scale-up in Massachusetts and continue to capitalize on the state’s substantial research and development activities without having to expand or relocate to other parts of the United States or overseas. The region’s access to highways and rail (both commuter into Boston and freight rail) also help to foster the movement of goods and people to, from, and within the region. In terms of commercial airport offerings, businesses and residents of North Central Massachusetts can reach flights from Boston Logan International Airport, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and Worcester Regional Airport.
With its geographic, labor, and economic attributes, North Central Massachusetts has begun experiencing faster relative growth in recent years, both in terms of population and jobs.
This profile, developed by the UMass Donahue Institute, serves to highlight the key trends and unique features of North Central Massachusetts as they relate to its demographics, industry mix, educational outcomes, costs, and quality of life.