Chancellor J. Keith Motley and Governor Charlie Baker welcomed more than 250 leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to the University of Massachusetts Boston on Wednesday as part of the 2015 Inner City 100 Conference and Awards, convened by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).
The conference celebrates growth in American urban centers, spurred by some of the fastest-growing inner-city businesses in the country, deemed the “Inner City 100.” Attendees flocked to UMass Boston from across town and across the nation for a day of networking, education, and recognition.
This year the 17th annual conference was held in partnership with UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, led by Dean David Cash and Vice Provost of Economic Planning/Resources and Special Projects Ira Jackson.
“They do pioneering work,” Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC and former state treasurer, said of the McCormack School. “They champion the application of academic research to affect policy change and to improve communities.”
Motley welcomed the Inner City 100 by comparing their success at bringing prosperity to inner cities to UMass Boston’s commitment to its urban neighborhood.
“Our university community pursues goals similar to those of many leaders in this room: We aim to serve the public good, and we ‘stand with the city,’ as our founders instructed,” Motley said. “The business leaders in this room share that same desire, which is why you’ve built your infrastructure, you’ve recruited your talent, and you’ve made investments in an inner city somewhere in America.”
Baker recalled the original vision of Michael Porter, who founded the ICIC in Roxbury in 1994 because he understood the importance and advantages developing businesses in urban areas.
The governor also shared the story of Lawrence’s Sal Lupoli, a small business entrepreneur who took a risk to establish a family-owned restaurant in a Lawrence neighborhood when nobody else had vision for the area. Sal’s Pizza is now considered a stronghold in southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and serves as a role model for other inner-city business owners across the state.
“For me, that’s really the great thing about the ICIC and all of those who are involved in it,” Baker said. “Yes, it’s terrific that it celebrates and tries to replicate success people have had at inner-city and urban development. But the most important thing it does, is it gives all these people who share this point of view and this passion and this vision, an opportunity to share it with each other, to be able to feel like they’re part of something much bigger.”
Throughout the day, attendees participated in breakout sessions and panel discussions with area business leaders, including Meghan Verena Joyce, general manager of Uber East Coast; Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of The Grommet; and Hill Holiday CEO Karen Kaplan, among others.
This year’s Inner City 100 winners were announced at an afternoon awards ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. According to ICIC, the winners represent 45 cities and 23 states, and employ more than 6,100 people. Seven are based in the Boston area. For the complete list of winners, visit http://fortune.com/inner-city-100/.