What We’re Watching in 2020

The Year 2020 is shaping up to be a period of great growth for the Wachusett Business Incubator.  It is our hope we can play our role in the development of new opportunities for the citizens of Gardner and the region we call home; from Devens to Orange and every community in between.

Here’s what we’re watching for 2020.  These sectors are currently playing out in various ways in our programs or are industries really topical and show promise for the region(in our humble opinion).

We look for: industries that promote independent ownership, diversified revenue streams, promote health and wellness, work within a supportive ecosystem, are a benefit to the planet, are essential, that spread happiness and encourage a sense of community.

Urban Agriculture/Food Systems: What’s more essential than the food eat and the people who grow, process and market that food?  And in post-industrial revitalization zones such as ours, there is a tremendous interest in various solutions being introduced to the marketplace.  A look at existing resources, properties and community interest shows Gardner and the surrounding region is ripe for growth in various ways.  We recognize potential for our region in food processing, food distribution, social justice projects, community gardening, farmer’s market development, AG innovation (think research and development efforts), production or development of nutri-sudicals and more.


Experiential Services  I’m using this generic term to mean any business concept that involves clients required to experience the product and service offered.  This generally means a physical destination environment but can also include a virtual space.  Point being: the resiliency in such a business plan is that people interested in your product/service have to come to you for the unique experience.  This type of business when executed well pays off for its owners.  The WBI has services to assist those interested in developing unique experiences for their would-be or current clients.

Renewable Energy Opportunities abound for entrepreneurs in the renewables space.  We particularly are watching new developments in waste to energy here at the WBI.  There are few guarantees in life: one is the continuation of human population growth and therefore the expansion of human bio-solids and that of the animals we eat. Technologies and their resultant products and services in Pyrolysis, Composting and Anaerobic Digestion.  Execution of financial models in these segments have a profound influence on many of our other major systems such as the aforementioned food systems and can also address issues with energy resiliency and the de-centralizaiton of the grid known as microgrid development.  These segments are top of mind for state and national officials, researchers, funders and many in our community.


Hemp Production/Processing  With the surge in marijuana production, retail and products industry here in New England nearly everyone is excited in the entrepreneurial sector about Cannabis.  The WBI is particularly focused on various solutions utilizing strains of Cannabis Sativa generally referred to as Hemp.  In addition to medicinal opportunities the plant product has potential for use in a number of other industries such as textiles and the building materials.  A successful industry across the board would be a benefit to regional farmers, indoor growers, oil processors, researchers and other entrepreneurs.  The this end, the WBI is currently engaged with its first Hemp processing business within its Leadership Candidates Program.

HandCrafted Products (Feature Wood and Natural Fibers)  In an age of Amazon, hedge fund liquidation of major retailers and consumer apathy there exists an ever growing cadre of consumers eager for quality over quantity, who desire a relationship with the people making their higher end products and a connection to the ecosystem that bore him.  So too exist the craftsmen and women capable of delivering to market goods and services that match this need.  Closer to home the WBI has two such companies currently under our Leadership Candidate Program.  Wood You Build It delivers custom cabinet products with national distribution and all hand made in Gardner, MA.  Another sector to watch for big things in 2020 in Gardner is the Natural Fibers segment.


Village Style retail Given Gardner proximity to locavore movements, it’s population of centrally located citizens, trends in localized retail opportunities the development of numerous, small-box retail spaces, pop-up experimental spaces and other mixed-use village style retail or commercial opportunities would transform the way our local population makes its purchases.  Watch for opportunities in pop-up or shared retail followed by larger village-style opportunities


Independant Music (Content) Distribution The trend towards commodification (devaluing) of musical, literary and other artistic creation is fast coming to end.  The technology exists for widespread readily available distribution of music.  Where innovation is needed for recorded music, music merchandise and untold other industries who can license to use such innovation is in the financial distribution to artists and entrepreneurial developers.  Injecting equity into the equation will spur on new growth in artistic creation as the incentive to both create and make public increases.

Education Services  The world of education is quickly transforming.  At the higher ed level, the pathways in which people engage colleges and universities (where, when, how and why) is rapidly changing as are the ways student efficacy is being measured.  The expansion of k-12 data-driven curriculum, innovations in public funding formulas, the debate over test-based education and more has created tremendous instability where stability and efficacy are need most to benefit society.  But this has also created serious opportunity for entrepreneurial educators, researchers and more.

Local Journalism Few industries play the central role in our democracy that a robust, local journalism infrastructure plays.  With the dissolution or reduction of editorial and reporting staff at numerous regional papers in North Central MA recently, the WBI feels its critical to instigate the conversation regarding what role we and other entities might play in developing new financial models that can maintain and better still expand current reporting capacity.  The fundamental health of our democracy is no less at stake.

Don’t let our meager list stop you from engaging in any number of Wachusett Business Incubator’s Programs, Events, Seminars and Classes now beging offered at wachusettincubator. com.


Scott M. Graves is Executive Director of the Wachusett Business Incubator and founder of Smash Music, an independent music education and merchandising company in Massachusetts.  Find out how you can benefit from the WBI’s Leadership Candidates Program.