Economic Forecast: New manufacturing | Worcester Business Journal

Manufacturing is a $6.5-billion industry in Central Massachusetts, with multiple sectors experiencing upheaval in 2021. Here’s what is on tap for next year.

Investment in Devens

Billions of dollars passed through Devens in the last year, by way of companies expanding, investing in, buying, or building real estate, much of which will go toward manufacturing and research across multiple sectors, including the $1.8 billion raised by nuclear energy startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems. If real estate is hot in Central Massachusetts right now, Devens is a pressure point. While manufacturing space in other parts of the region are being repurposed and, sometimes, built new, nowhere seems to have as much action going on as the former military base north of Worcester. Investment hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, as many of 2021’s announced projects come to fruition, bringing with them another hot commodity: jobs. 

The younger face of agriculture

Central Massachusetts has more than 1,700 farms, according to the nonprofit Central Mass Grown, and Worcester County is ranked third in the nation among direct-to-consumer agricultural sales. With community supported agriculture sales growing in popularity as consumers seek out locally sourced produce, meat, and flowers, a younger generation of farmers is working to transform the industry. Amassing Instagram followings and using savvy marketing techniques to appeal to a social media-driven world, the region’s agricultural sector is set to continue expanding as farm turnover increases and both Millennials and other older professionals experience white-collar burnout, turning toward careers to get them outside and connecting more directly with their communities – a benefit for farmer and consumer, alike.

Shifting cannabis regulation culture

The Cannabis Control Commission, which regulates the adult-use and medical markets in Massachusetts, has officially moved out of its freshman class, with Chairman Steven Hoffman the only member of the original five-person team remaining. In the time since the CCC got to work, and since the legal market officially opened up shop in November 2018, many of the fears about the cultural and economic fallout of legalizing cannabis have failed to come to fruition. In lieu of those concerns, a young and popular – and lucrative – industry is getting off the ground. The current class of commissioners are now tasked with expanding and fine-tuning the regulatory landscape, not setting it up from scratch. They’ve already clarified requirements for business diversity plans, and they stand to make similar changes moving forward. While their predecessors laid the initial groundwork, the current commissioners will work to improve it.