Route 128 Ghosts

Driving around Boston this morning to escape the rush hour I passed the old headquarters for Wang, then the exit for DEC, then past where Data General used to be ….

And I wondered, what happened to the tech sector in Eastern Massachusetts? It’s gone. Poof. Sure, there are some pockets here and there, but the era seems to have passed the region by (CMGI and Lycos were hot in their day, but aren’t a shadow of their former selves), hardware is long gone, software sort of became irrelevant after IBM did its hostile takeover of Lotus.

Just weird to realize with the exception of EMC, there just isn’t a lot going on in what was one of the richest tech corridors in the country. Old news I know, but still, sort of an indication of why I fly to RTP these day and don’t drive to a marketing gig outside of Boston.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Route 128 Ghosts”

  1. Good afternoon David, I am responding with my right hand, my left arm in a cast from a mountain bike accident. 65 yr old bones are prone to breaking when you do the classic header over the handlebars.

    Back to 128. My consulting career started at Raytheon Wayland (gone), Honeywell Information Systems Waltham (gone), Polaroid Needham(gone), Carters Needham (gone), and the list goes on. At least the 128 traffic situation should not be as bad.

    Around 1990 I switched from manufacturing and retail to government and finance clients. Off shoring, the Internet, out placement, and globalization in many forms has transformed the workplace and my employer of the last decade, IBM, benched me in favor for an H1-B working my last client NSTAR in 2004. Now as an independent, I travel the country but look back at the 128 hustle with nostalgic memories.

  2. WWIII has already happened, and we lost. As businesses flee the NE – they only make temporary stops down south on their way to Bangalore or Shanghai.

    Staples moves thousands south, only to find their are no fitting replacement workers. Our governor starts an ad campaign to bring in business, but targets Boston radio stations, hinting at the true message “see, I’m workin’ on it.”

    There are still lots of small and promising tech companies, but the focus isn’t around here anymore.

  3. It does appear that the technology sector in Boston is waning, but it doesn’t mean the economy is suffering (more than expected), it is just changing, evolving.

    I think the loss of technology jobs is being replaced with Pharma and Biotech. Genzyme has 8 locations in Massachusetts including their corporate headquarters, Novartis with their BioMedical Research facility headquarted in Cambridge. AstraZeneca’s US based facilities are based in only two locations, Wilmington and Boston (and Westborough).

    Change is good (or so they say)

  4. Both IT and pharma used to require a good university backbone. Now IT doesn’t require it quite as much yet pharma still needs not only the heavy R&D a University can provide but also the ever more problematic phase 3 trials. The airwaves are littered with campaigns for human test subjects. Teaching hospitals are great for that.

    Sure, TeGenero’s debacle in the UK should give anyone pause, but when you get paid for your “travel time” plus the free physical, there are some who just can’t pass it the offer up.

    But the real kicker, of course, is the absolute MOUNTAIN of cash from NIH grants to the Boston area…more than any place else in the country.

    New Jersey’s Biotech loss is Boston’s gain.

    The bigger question, I guess, is why doesn’t tech need a university backbone anymore?

    Is it that the money in technology isn’t in technology but in media? Besides Google, the recent wave of cash (MySpace, Yourbutt, RateMyMole) has been made in social interaction and media, not “pure” tech.

    The better search engine algorithm? Who cares.

  5. Being involved in corporate taxation and economic development, I can attest to the fact that the Southeastern states have been far more aggressive than the Northeastern states have been at attracting companies by offering incentives and low tax environments.

    Taxachusettes has a long way to go before companies are going to see it as a good place to locate. Perhaps its biggest and only draw is its highly educated workforce.

    The high cost of labor and the high cost of property are among the reasons why the Northeast is not competing well. The worst state of all, in my opinion, is New Jersey that seems to think that they can rest on their “biotech laurels” and bask in the glow of New York. While other states are lowering their taxes on corporations, New Jersey is raising them. I talk to companies every day that want to get the heck out of Dodge.

    Consider this: North Carolina is offering Google almost $260M in tax breaks over 30 years to bring 210 people and a “server farm” to a depressed county. I don’t see deals like that anywhere in the Northeast. Once they get Google in, Google will likely expand there as well.

    All is fair in love, war and economic development!

  6. David,

    I was saying the same thing to a few counterparts the other day. Every Mass based Software Company and HW company has been swallowed up. I get calls from headhunters all the time – but they are all recruiting for software and for HW companies that are located in the valley. (Which is a strong sign that software apps are making a comeback) But, not one call from any software companies in Massachusetts!!! What a difference 5 years makes..

    Allaire – swallowed up by Macromedia/Adobe
    Digital – swallowed up by Compaq/HP
    Data General – EMC
    Interleaf – swallowed by Broadvision, now almost defunct
    Lotus – IBM, still a presence..but not much of one anymore

    so on and so on..

  7. Well, isn’t this encouraging at all. After having spent the last 17 years in the earthly purgatory of NJ I am beginning to network for a position back in Mass. From what I am hearing, opportunities in the Bay State are few and far between. Someone please disabuse me of this notion.

  8. There are lots of opportunities in Mass – but it isn’t the same economy it was 17 years ago, not by a long shot. Pharma/medical devices are strong. Internet media is weak. Software … hardware …. seem really weak.

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