Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb’s Dec. 15 “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com.
Worcester, which I have always seen as “New England’s Pittsburgh’’ because of its metal-related companies, is enjoying a revival, including in manufacturing, which first made it rich. Indeed, in a recent three-year period, the Worcester area’s manufacturing sector grew 15 percent as measured by revenue.
The city also has numerous higher-education institutions that are contributing to its renaissance, but probably the University of Massachusetts Medical Center has been the most important, helping to turn the city into a major biomedical center. Further, there are big redevelopment projects underway downtown. Some of the revival is simply the westward expansion of the booming Greater Boston economy but some of it is due to healthy homegrown boosterism.
And there are such distinguished cultural centers as the Worcester Art Museum and some gorgeous suburbs, such as Princeton and Harvard, Mass.
Worcester has plenty of problems, of course, but its recent success is edifying for other mid-size cities, in New England and beyond. If only its winters were tad milder. Some of the city is around 1,000 feet above sea level, which makes for considerably more snow and ice than in, say, Boston, Hartford and Providence.
By the way, Worcester is somewhat misleadingly called “the second-biggest city in New England,’’ with a population of about 181,000, compared to Providence’s about 180,000, but the latter’s metro area has many more people than Worcester’s – about 1.3 million compared to Worcester’s about 800,000. Worcester proper has far more square miles, at 38.6, than Providence’s 20.6.
Like Boston and some other Colonial-era towns, Providence’s area is small because other towns in its area were quickly incorporated well before Providence could absorb their acreage as its population and economy boomed in the 19th Century. Consider that while the population of Boston itself is about 667,000, its metro area has about 4.7 million people (or "souls,'' as people used to say).
Out west, on the other hand, cities, such as Phoenix, could easily gobble up vast stretches of unincorporated and under-populated land – much of it effectively wasteland.