A report compiled by The Boston Globe ranks median incomes of cities and towns across Massachusetts: both highest and lowest. Making the top ten of the lowest median incomes are five Western Massachusetts communities: Springfield, Holyoke, Monterey, Southbridge and Orange. Not one Western Massachusetts city or town is in the top twenty of highest median incomes.
Professor Robert Nakosteen from UMass Amherst's Isenberg School of Management says these numbers are not surprising. He says the economy of the entire state has shifted since the loss of its traditional manufacturing base, but the eastern part of the state has been able to replace that loss with a number of high-tech industries. Western Massachusetts — on the other hand — has not coalesced around a single industry.
"It's a wide spattering of a lot of things that haven't really been dynamic in their growth and haven't really been leaders in forging…the Western Massachusetts economy into the future."
Nakosteen says the impacts of a stagnant economy are wide-ranging and will only improve with the involvement of many sectors of the economy.
"This has affected the demographics around here, it's affected by and effects the education levels, public services in some communities are not what they should be, and all those things have to come together in a positive way to make an economy grow, and it's just very difficult to get all those pieces moving in the right direction."
Though the economy in the western part of the state hasn't recovered as much from the recent economic downturn as the eastern part, Nakosteen says there are a handful of current initiatives that could bring growth in the coming years, including expansion at Baystate Medical Center and a new computing center in Holyoke. The report was compiled with the assistance of the US Census bureau, UMass Donahue Institute and Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.