Cambridge

Review the Business Climate

How it's done

The business climate is the general economic environment that local businesses operate in. Reviewing and understanding the local business climate provides valuable insights about the economy, costs, risks, and incentives that may impact the success of your business. This activity will guide you to better understand the business climate in Cambridge and help you answer the following fundamental questions.

What is the business climate in Cambridge?

We have compiled the most important aspects of Cambridge’s business climate as an interactive dashboard below. This dashboard provides valuable economic, resident, household, dwelling and development indicators that may influence the success of your business.

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Resident Indicator Population Growth Chart

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What costs and assistance should I know about?

Whether you have a new or existing business it is critical to be aware of costs, incentives and grants that impact your business. This dashboard provides you with a snapshot of the major costs of conducting a business in Cambridge and assistance available to Cambridge businesses.

Fiscal Year 2018 Tax Rates (per $1,000 assessed value):

  • Residential: $6.29
  • Commercial/Industrial: $14.81
  • Personal Property: $14.81

Competitive Tax Base

Cambridge’s residential and commercial tax rates continue to be the lowest among surrounding communities and one of the lowest of any city in the state.

City Cambridge Boston Somerville Waltham Lexington
Population (2016) 110,651 673,184 81,322 63,002 33,410
Commercial/Industrial Property Rate* $14.81 $25.20 $18.21 $27.97 $27.69
Residential Property Tax Rate* $6.29 $10.48 $11.31 $12.61 $14.30

*Per $1,000 assessed value. Residential rates do not include residential exemption for owner occupied homes. Residential Exemption has not been adopted by all communities.

Cambridge has a Municipal Credit Rating of AAA from 3 major credit rating agencies.

For more information, visit the Cambridge Finance Department’s property tax information page.

Additional Resources:

For more information on taxes and assessing, please contact Robert P. Reardon, Assessing Director, assessors@cambridgema.gov, 617-349-4343.

To make it easier to do business in Cambridge, many departments host online platforms that allow you to apply, and pay for, many of the most common permits and licenses.

The Cambridge License Commission, which is a three person Board, is responsible for issuing licenses/permits and enforcing rules, regulations, local ordinances and state laws that regulate the service and sale of alcoholic beverages, operation of restaurants, hotels and lodging houses, indoor and outdoor entertainment, hackney drivers and vehicles, parking lots and garages, flammables, peddlers, fortune tellers, second hand goods stores, letting and sale of motor vehicles, commercial leaf blower operators and one day licenses for alcohol and/or entertainment. The Department also manages the Pole and Conduit Commission and enforces the Noise Control Ordinance.

The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is responsible for the enforcement all laws and related City ordinances that pertain to the Massachusetts State Building Code and certain articles of the State Sanitary Code.

Finally, the City Clerk’s Office is the official record keeper for the City of Cambridge. Records kept by the Office of the City Clerk include vital statistics (including birth, marriage, domestic partnerships and death) and business and professional certificates.

Additional Resources:

To learn more about licensing, please contact Nicole Murati Ferrer, Chair, license@cambridgema.gov, 617-349-6140.

To learn more about permitting, please contact Ranjit Singanayagam, Commissioner, ranjits@cambridgema.gov.

To learn more about city records, please contact Donna Lopez, City Clerk, clerk@cambridgema.gov.

The list below contains the average annual wages in the City of Cambridge. Visit the official website of the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) for reports on additional industries and occupations.

Third Quarter 2017

Description 2 Digit NAICS Code No. of Establishments Total Wages Average Monthly Employment Average Weekly Wages
Total, All Industries 5,063 $3,458,775,221 125,944 $2,113
23 - Construction 82 $28,567,197 1,258 $1,747
31-33 - Manufacturing 71 $98,599,056 3,273 $2,317
DUR - Durable Goods Manufacturing 23 $3,456,766 146 $1,821
NONDUR - Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing 48 $95,142,290 3,127 $2,340
22 - Utilities 9 $3,967,236 200 $1,526
42 - Wholesale Trade 154 $125,665,139 3,159 $3,060
44-45 - Retail Trade 382 $45,543,050 5,523 $634
48-49 - Transportation and Warehousing 36 $25,527,747 1,187 $1,654
51 - Information 268 $244,762,904 5,625 $3,347
52 - Finance and Insurance 178 $85,084,631 2,444 $2,678
53 - Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 162 $21,925,982 1,291 $1,306
54 - Professional and Technical Services 1463 $1,480,531,650 37,916 $3,004
55 - Management of Companies and Enterprises 45 $128,426,109 2,034 $4,857
56 - Administrative and Waste Services 152 $47,605,279 4,168 $879
61 - Educational Services 173 $780,655,108 29,305 $2,049
62 - Health Care and Social Assistance 621 $175,283,123 11,214 $1,202
71 - Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 91 $7,723,017 1,264 $470
72 - Accommodation and Food Services 436 $79,161,083 10,552 $577
81 - Other Services, Except Public Administration 693 $29,257,857 2,265 $994
92 - Public Administration 42 $49,800,386 3,226 $1,187

For more information about employment and labor costs please contact the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, Economic Research Department, Detlmi@MassMail.State.MA.US at 617-626-6556.

EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living. The budgets estimate community-specific costs for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children) in all counties and metro areas in the United States. Compared with the federal poverty line and the Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America.

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA MSA

Monthly Expenses 1 Adult 1 Adult
1 Child
2 Adults
1 Child
Housing $1,253 $1,740 $1,740
Food $304 $447 $693
Child Care $0 $1,293 $1,293
Transportation $734 $814 $1,035
Health Care $267 $418 $686
Other Necessitites $628 $883 $981
Taxes $723 $1,335 $1,280
Monthly Total $3,908 $6,931 $7,708
Annual Total $46,902 $83,170 $92,499

Source: Economic Policy Institute, March 2018. Budgets are in 2017 dollars. Numbers may not sum due to rounding.

https://www.epi.org/resources/budget/

The Economic Development Division of the Community Development Department offers the following reimbursement grants, specifically tailored to the needs of small and independent Cambridge businesses:

Additionally, the following are offered free to Cambridge residents and business owners:

Economic Development Division staff in the Community Development Department can help your business access the many resources and funding opportunities from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well. Our partners at the state level include:

For a full list of resources for small businesses, including information about doing business with the City of Cambridge and with large area institutions like Harvard University and MIT, visit the Economic Development Division resources page.

Finally, Cambridge itself is easy to access. Cambridge is located less than a mile away from Boston, surrounded by the towns of Arlington and Belmont and the cities of Somerville and Watertown. At 6.26 square miles, Cambridge has an intimate, personable feel and excellent transportation access to the 60 other communities within its 20-mile radius.

By Car: It’s easy to jump on to Interstates I-90 and I-93 from Cambridge. The city is also directly served by four regional highways: 2, 3, 16, and 28.

By Air: Logan International Airport is only five miles away in Boston, and easily accessible by public transportation, car, shuttle, and taxi services. Logan offers services from 56 air carriers, 50 of which are non-stop carriers. Cambridge is also served by T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI (50 miles away), Worcester Regional Airport (45 miles away), and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH (50 miles away).

By Public Transit: The Red Line and the Green Line pass through Cambridge at six subway stations and one commuter rail station. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority operates 29 bus routes through Cambridge. Additionally, the EZ Ride Shuttle runs five days a week to connect Cambridgeport, Kendall Square, East Cambridge and Boston’s North Station.

By Foot or Bike: Cambridge has an extensive network of pedestrian walkways and bikeways, including the Minuteman Bike Trail which connects to Somerville, Bedford, Arlington, and Lexington, MA. Additionally, 36 Hubway stations call Cambridge home, providing bikeshare access to over 13,000 members.

For more information about accessing resources, please contact Rona Abrahams, rabrahams@cambridgema.gov, at 617-349-4637.

Cambridge is home to over 300 life science and technology related companies, including Amazon, Baxter, Biogen, Broad Institute, Draper Laboratories, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, Sanofi/Genzyme, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. A full list is available at http://cambridgema.gov/business.

The Community Development Department tracks historical data for the Top 25 employers in Cambridge, going back as far as 1995.

Those looking for more information can view the most recent Top 25 data set or can use the Cambridge Open Data site where filter tools allow users to display one or more years of interest. Data can also be exported from the open data portal.

To obtain copies or for more information about the Development Log please contact Cliff Cook, Senior Planning Information Manager, ccook@cambridgema.gov, at 617-349-4656.

How do I use this information?

Having access to business climate statistics and information is one thing, but it's quite another to use data effectively and in a way that will benefit your business. This next section will help you do just that. Learn how to use this information to make better business decisions.

Monitor the local business climate

On-going assessment of the business climate is an essential part of operating a competitive business. In any business climate, there are numerous factors outside your control that will impact your business, both positively and negatively. The health of the economy impacts all businesses, but small businesses usually feel the effect of economic changes faster than big businesses. Improvements in the economy typically provide a rapid increase in new opportunities for small businesses, while an economic downturn can have a significant and prolonged negative impact.

Unfortunately, you can’t influence the economy, but you can monitor the business climate indicators provided above and then take the necessary actions to minimise risks to your business. Staying up to date with the business climate can also help you identify new opportunities that your business can take advantage of.

Know your costs

All industries are unique and incur different types of costs when starting or operating. Understanding these costs is essential when it comes to setting prices, budgeting and planning for growth or downturns. We’ve provided some of the local costs associated with taxes, development and labor that often get overlooked by businesses. There may be other municipal and state costs that apply to your business so we encourage you to contact us to find out more.

Where can I learn more about the business climate?

While we are providing you with a range of valuable information about the business climate, the fact is that there's much more available. In this section we provide you with links to other websites that will supplement our information and help to keep your finger on the pulse.

There may also be other municipal and provincial costs that apply to your business so we encourage you to contact us to find out more.

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Contact us

Rona Abrahams
City of Cambridge Community Development Department
Economic Development Division
617-349-4637
rabrahams@cambridgema.gov