Attleboro can now receive the benefits of increased funding for education and development from the state through its Gateway Cities program. The state's Executive Department Office of Housing and Economic Development announced Monday the city qualifies for the program because the median household income in Attleboro fell below the Massachusetts average of $65,981.
State Rep. Betty Poirier and former state Rep. George Ross attempted to qualify Attleboro for the program last year by modifying the standards for inclusion. Their proposal was approved by both houses of the state legislature, but rejected by Gov. Deval Patrick.
Attleboro and Plainville, which the state also announced Monday had become a Gateway City, join 24 other communities in the program. In addition to the economic standard, Gateway Cities must have a population of 35,000 to 250,000 and have a rate of residents with bachelor's degrees below the state average.
State Rep. Paul Heroux, whose district includes most of Attleboro, told Patch the city acquiring the Gateway City designation sends mixed signals.
"On the one hand, Attleboro now qualifies for tax breaks for some businesses, the opportunity to apply for education and economic development grants," wrote Heroux in an email. "These will be good for Attleboro."
He continued, "On the other hand, Attleboro is below the state's percent on education and below the state's median on income. That we are below these measures, and that we have dipped in terms of income in particular, is not a good thing. However, Attleboro has had many recent successes in education; BCC is a positive addition that will help advance education rates in Attleboro."
A press release from the state says cities in the program will have "access to specific programs targeting those cities" and have preference in "broader, state-wide programs." Among the programs noted are one providing cities with "a development tool to increase market-rate housing stock and support economic development" and another that develops and restores parks in urban neighborhoods.
"Our Gateway Cities possess tremendous potential and opportunities and the Patrick-Murray Administration's emphasis on these communities is designed to help unlock that potential," said Greg Bialecki, the secretary of housing and economic development, according to the press release. "By continuing to invest in innovation, infrastructure and education in these communities we are creating new opportunities for growth in the future."