Worcester is planning to boom...

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Photo, Barbara Fields Twitter page

Worcester is planning to boom...

Worcester is the city with a plan. Hospitals, healthcare, biotech...and baseball. With approximately 10 colleges - Holy Cross and Worcester Polytech (WPI) - the two that come first to mind. Known for its art and art museums and galleries. And 50 miles squarely between Providence and Boston. The PawSox will anchor a complete rejuvenation of Kelly Square, the new centerpiece of activity in "downtown" Worcester. 

A recent call to the newest hotel in Worcester revealed the manager there had come from a fine boutique hotel - in Providence.

A companion to a local digital news site first ventured outside Rhode Island to establish its second hub - in Worcester.

A rare surgical procedure was done on an acquaintance who was hospitalized here in Rhode Island - he went not to Boston - but to Worcester, where the most recognized specialist had recently relocated from Boston.

What's in the water in Worcester?  And how do we get some of it in Rhode Island?

The PawSox were loved here.  They were philanthropic. The poor little stadium of McCoy offered a short evening of entertainment for young and old. But the love got kicked to the curb in a way that won't soon be fully understood. Its spark rested with the vision of the man at the top - Ben Mondor. Many young'uns now won't even recognize that name. One has to think that none of the kerfuffles, and worst, would have happened if Ben had still been at the helm, and not a group of business dealers so far removed from "the people". And maybe the deal would never have been proposed anyway - because Ben loved Pawtucket first, and foremost.

The day the PawSox deal was ratified in Worcester I watched the proceedings on a live stream and was struck by the glee, the smiles, the bipartisan effort to continue to enliven the city by a hope and a prayer - and a leap of faith (along with some solid business planning).

Today we learn that a powerhouse in housing, and affordable housing, leadership is leaving Rhode Island to go to - Worcester. Not only will she be moving there, but she will do so to lead the Greater Worcester Community Foundation - a distant cousin in mission to our own Rhode Island Foundation. The Foundation refers to itself as... "This neighborly experiment built on self-reliance embraces and engages diverse sectors united in their vision of a better Worcester".

It's clear Worcester is on the move, but what strikes me more than anything is the positivity, the vision at the top, the working together, the faith to take a bold step and then to stay solidly behind it, not tear it down the moment it breathes life. Worcester seems, in so many ways, an antithesis to Providence and to Rhode Island, when it comes to bold steps.

Our corruptive nature on big projects lacks full lookback and investigation, which leaves suspicions around every corner, and about every big project.  We've learned the hard way in Rhode Island that often these suspicions are not nay-saying or grumbling for no good reason - but they are legitimate, and often we watch them play out as our fears told us they might.

As Pawtucket struggles with a shiny-ball philosophy - and as it has for an entire generation or more - one can only look at our neighbors 50 miles away and wonder how do we have what they're having? To the PawSox, WooSox, or whatever they will be called...you have to marvel at the smiles on all the faces, the warm receptions, the great field of dreams they seem to be leading for this tired town that has woken up - and is ready for the big time.  Watch some of their news conferences and videos - with the sound off - watch the expressions on the faces, the handshakes, the very "oomph" of it all. It can make one sad for li'l Rhode Island - but we should be learning from all of this.

New direction needs leaders with vision. With a proven ability to work in a bipartisan way. People with a sparkle in their eye and spring to their step.

As Barbara Fields takes her leave - as others have - and others will - we should only wish them well. She says this about her new role to head the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, “I am honored and grateful to the Board for the opportunity to lead this great organization. Worcester’s recent successes and surging momentum have been exciting to watch. As President and CEO, I look forward to developing new strategies to build on this momentum and meet the varied needs of an ever-changing population. We will expand our impact in the community, strengthen GWCF’s local partnerships and together, further the Foundation’s mission of enhancing Worcester in perpetuity.”

Worcester is luring good talent with the lesson many of us learn in life - go where you are wanted - the path will always be easier and happier. Watching the Worcester experiment may give Providence, Pawtucket, and all of Rhode Island its biggest lesson yet. Worcester is having a love fest, and for all Rhode Island has to offer, its rumbles and angst holds it back - and we are being outshone by this city that no one thought, a few years ago, could ever hold a hint of competition to us. Yes, we need some of what they're having.