UPDATE: January 6th, 2015
Since I wrote this story almost two years ago, over two thousand people have read it. In that time, LOTS of progress has been made in Worcester. I am happier than ever to be working here, and am more excited then ever for the continued progress of New England’s second largest city.
In fact, what prompted this update, is just today the NY Times did this great piece on the recent growth of the city.
So much of what I wrote about below – CitySquare, the Theater District – has made progress. I hope to do a more complete update in the near future.
For now … we begin at the beginning. November 2012…
“We’re NOT moving back to Portsmouth”.
It was November 2012. The person speaking is my wife. We were standing in our kitchen a few days after Portsmouth Mozcation.
You see, I had actually lived in the Portsmouth, NH area for 10 years. I went to college near there. I spent most of my 20’s performing music, making friends, and feeling totally at home in Seacoast NH.
Being back there for Mozcation… feeling the energy of the local community combined with the Moz event was … tempting. I wanted to move back. In my mind, it would be so easy.
I told my wife: “But… I really think it would work this time. And I see a huge opportunity there for our business. The marketing and tech scene is thriving, but there’s no one doing SEO. It’s perfect!”.
She wasn’t having it.
“You can get a summer home there” she would say.
Ahhh, endearing yet not what I had in mind.
– – – –
Let’s back up a bit.
You see, we tried living in the Portsmouth area, where we first got married 6 1/2 years ago. It failed miserably. I was a poor musician. We had no money. She was the one with a steady job and benefits … two hours away. She was driving 4 hours a day, three days a week to keep her job and provide our only steady form of income.
I maxed out my credit card and never told Sarah. She found the bill one day.
Our heat got shut off.
My car was breaking down on a regular basis.
Income as a musician wasn’t working out the way I had hoped.
This isn’t a sob story. These were MY mistakes and I’ve learned from them. All said, I’ve had a damn good life – but the point is we had to leave the area I had come to call home.
So after six months of struggling in NH, we packed up and moved to Holden, MA (the town just north of Worcester). We found the cheapest apartment that allowed our four cats and started over.
– – – –
I hated living in the Central Massachusetts area. It wasn’t home. I didn’t plan on moving here.
Worcester, despite being the second largest city in New England was NOT exciting, not inspiring and no fun. It’s had a tough history of never quite becoming the city it could be. It’s not a particularly attractive city. Not walkable at all really. I grew up near Boston. Why couldn’t it be like Boston? Or Cambridge?! Why did we have to leave New Hampshire?
Arggg, I digress.
So there we are in Central MA. My wife was working full time. And we gradually started digging ourselves out of a financial hole.
Fast forward 6 years to today. I’m not a poor musician anymore. I only teach 4 hours of music a week (soon to be none). SEO has been a LOT of work, a LOT of learning … but VERY rewarding in so many ways.
– – – –
But last November … man. MAN! Portsmouth. It took my mind and emotions hostage. I told my Dad about my idea. I told my friends. We’re gonna move back! I was convinced if we could just get ourselves in an “inspiring” place the business would explode. Portsmouth was the answer. We would be happy.
Sarah wasn’t having it though.
There was no way we’d ever live more than 30 minutes away from her family again. I totally respect that and love her for knowing what’s important to her.
Despite wishing Portsmouth would work out, I put it out of my mind.
Ultimately, as it turns out, Sarah would be right (she always is ) – in ways she didn’t realize.
– – – – – –
Jump ahead to March 2013.
It’s been business as usual. Evolving SEO is doing better than ever. I have some really kick ass clients who I am so grateful to work with.
Yet? Still. Not. Liking. Worcester. Still feel lost.
Then, in one moment. Everything changed.
I remember it clear as day. I was looking around Worcester on Google Maps (I LOVE looking at maps) when I noticed something I’d never seen before – right in the city center;
“Worcester Common Outlets” it read
It jumped out because if there were outlets in city center, I thought I’d have heard of them.
More about the defunct Mall on Wikipedia
Sighhhh – just another symbol of a city that just keeps failing. But reading further I found this;
What was this “CitySquare” project?
From Worcestermass.org [paraphrased]: “CitySquare, a $565 million, multi-phased project in the heart of downtown Worcester, is one of the largest public-private development projects in the Commonwealth outside of the Boston area. Upon completion, the project is anticipated to create more than 2.2 million square feet of commercial, medical, retail, entertainment, and residential space.”
Here’s a rendition of plans for CitySquare;
Wow! In Worcester?! A mixed use, nice, walkable fun place? Could it be possible?
In fact it could be possible – as I discovered ground had been broken on CitySquare just a few months ago. HUGE progress for a city where normally plans never get off the ground.
– – – –
This trigged a massive domino effect.
I started to OPEN MY EYES, stop chasing something “out there” and focus on what has been right here in front of me.
I kept discovering more and more city projects, developments and exciting news for Worcester. Not limited to;
- A 30 acre redevelopment plan for Worcester’s “Theatre District”
- The re-opening of Worcester’s airport, with JetBlue leading the way. Starting with flights to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Austin TX and possibly more cities this November 2013.
- Plans to rebuild the Blackstone Canal and continue revitalization of Worcester’s Canal District
- Major renovations to the DCU Center
- Development / redevelopment of Gateway Park
- The strong possibility of a full fledged film studio moving to town (they’ve recently been shooting bits of movies here).
- A brand new transportation HUB (which will eliminate all bus stops surround the beautiful Worcester Common making it even better)
- A proposed casino
The fact is … this city is EXPLODING with activity. This is a new thing. In all of six years living here, I have never seen anything like this.
Don’t get me wrong. Worcester has a long way to go. This city has a terrible history of projects getting delayed or never happening at all. But this. is. promising.
– – – –
Introducing Evolving SEO’s New Home.
We’re putting our foot down in Worcester. We’re bringing SEO with us. This city has a long way to go. But I feel a huge opportunity here now.
I went from feeling lost to feeling lucky to be here.
Not only do I want Evolving SEO to seize the opportunity, I have a vision for being a part of helping a growing city with a lot of promise.
– – – –
Finally, after over two months of looking for offices, working out lease details, here it is, Evolving SEO’s first real home. Our new office at 100 Grove St Worcester;
- Our office is 400 sq feet on the 3rd floor.
- After the last finishing details, we’ll be moving in June 1st.
Here’s the outside – an old (gigantic 100,000 sq ft) brick mill building circa 1831 (known as the “Northworks” building);
– – – –
Let’s go macro for a second and check out where Worcester is;
- Get here in 45 minutes from Boston (train and buses available).
- Get here in 3 hours from NYC (train and buses also available).
- Boston, Providence, Hartford and Manchester are all major airports within an hour.
- Worcester is New England’s second largest city, and the 71st largest city in the US (by population density).
Let’s zoom in and take a look at where all the development is happening;
(click to see image bigger – I recommend right clicking!)
Few facts about what we’re looking at here;
- Evolving SEO is walking distance to just about everything: restaurants, cafes, hotels, the DCU center, concert venues.
- The development between the different districts are being done in a way, where the hope is they will be distinct, yet pull everything together in a way the city has not experienced in over 50 years.
Alright, finally, let’s look at Evolving SEO’s area specifically and some fun highlights;
(right click to see bigger)
Some highlights here;
- The building itself we are in has two restaurants, a yoga/pilates studio among other things. There are tentative plans for a cafe/sandwich shop too.
- The highway is just behind us, where Boston, NYC, Hartford, Providence are all pretty quick rides.
- Our building, 100 Grove St is the first property just to the north outside of “Gateway Park”.
- There’s a new Marriot hotel next door.
- The DCU center (where all major conferences are held) is a 5-10 minute walk. See where I’m going with this?
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (who owns Gateway Park) surrounds us. Plenty of interns, oh yeah.
- I can take the bus practically from my house right to the office. No driving? Heck yah!!
If you want to see the latest map of plans for Gateway Park, here’s the PDF from the official website.
– – – –
I have always had the grand idealization that the online world can actually CHANGE the offline “real” world. I still believe it can.
Evolving SEO will always be about helping the clients we serve. But we can be a part of the revitalization of Worcester. I’m infatuated with the idea of “online urban redevelopment”.
So I have a few goals in line with that;
- I would like Evolving SEO to lead the way for other digital marketing, tech and startup-like companies to call Worcester their home. By being another business with a presence in the city, I hope to attract other like-minded businesses here.
- In five years, I envision Worcester hosting a full (at least a full day) online marketing conference with at least 400 people attending. The infrastructure is starting to take shape with transportation, lodging, great food and several conference locations. We just need the community and the people.
- Start with small events and meetups. There are NO meetups groups here dedicated to digital marketing, SEO or anything like that. Nothing. The second largest city in New England – 71st largest in the country – has NO SEO meetup group. That’s going to change.
- Help the city with it’s “online urban redevelopment”. The fact is – the way Worcester looks online, has NOT kept up with it’s improvements in the real world. Whether working independently (I’ve already bought some domain names ) or directly with the city – I envision Worcester being as beautiful online as it is offline.
- Incidentally, moving here helps to fulfill just about all of the goals I put forth last December, in one way or another.
– – – –
There’s a lesson here.
It was around January/February when I realized. I had NEVER taken my own initiative to “explore” this area. I had been in denial for almost 5 years about living here. In a way, Mozcation Portsmouth kind of put some closure to that. It forced a much needed conversation between my wife and I.
I started actually exploring roads (literally, less than a mile from our house) I had never taken before. Five and a half years living here and I finally going places right in our own backyard.
Sarah and I have been stepping out of our habits and trying new restaurants that have been here all along we’ve never gone to before.
This all made me realize that this is our home. Home for my family, for our business. And I better damn explore it so I don’t miss the opportunities … right in front of me.
And that’s why I was looking around Worcester on Google Maps that day. That’s how I found CitySquare. And that’s why we’re gonna stay here, bring SEO to the second largest city in New England, help the city to grow – and never close my eyes again – I’m grateful to my wife for getting me to see the opportunity that’s been here all along.
What opportunities could you be missing that are right in front of you?