Jay Ash celebrates bipartisanship in Greenfield speech

  • Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development Jay Ash visited Greenfield, along with Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, in May 2017 to present a Downtown Innovation Grant. On Thursday, he spoke at a Chamber event. Recorder file photo

Recorder Staff
Friday, May 18, 2018

GREENFIELD — The speaker lost his speech.

But that didn’t stop state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash from singing the praises of bipartisanship Thursday.

The former Chelsea city manage has spent the last 3½ years in Republican Baker administration, and was the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce guest speaker.

Ash’s speech was safely tucked in his sport jacket, which was left behind in his car when Mayor Bill Martin and other city officials took him on a trolley tour of Greenfield. But the 140 or so people attending a chamber luncheon at Greenfield Community College — where Ash was the Chamber speaker last May as well — got to hear the latest report on state efforts to boost housing and economic opportunities around Massachusetts.

Ash said he looks back on his greatest accomplishment as reducing the number of homeless families housed in Massachusetts hotels and motels from 1,550 in 49 hotels-motels to 40 families in a single motel.

“We did it by making sure that every one of those families, and families that subsequently showed up have a more sensitive, humane shelter that they go into … or better yet into permanent housing,” said Ash, adding that Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a requirement that its homeless families are housed.

Economicopportunity zones

A dozen Franklin County neighborhoods have been designated economic opportunity zones as part of a $1.5 billion program in hefty breaks on federal capital gains taxes to drive investment in businesses and real estate.

Ash also pointed to the state’s efforts to help Massachusetts towns connect to broadband, noting that of the 53 communities that were struggling without “last mile” broadband, 44 are now on a path to being connected, thanks to a $50 million in state funds approved in 2014-15, along with another $45 million that was authorized last November.

“It’s not perfect yet, but it’s moving on a path where things can happen,” said Ash.

“I’ve always imagined myself being in this position,” Ash said. “I’ve never pictured myself being in this position in a Republican administration. It’s been terrific.”

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 269