Law professor Jared Nicholson oversees Northeastern’s Community Business Clinic, a pro bono, student-run legal clinic for small entrepreneurs. Come January his economic development expertise will take center stage when he takes the oath as mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts, which is looking to revitalize its economy despite high rates of poverty and unemployment.
Nicholson won his first-ever mayoral campaign in convincing fashion in November, becoming part of a national wave of young, left-leaning City Hall leaders such as Boston’s Michelle Wu.
“There’s certainly a lot of hope and excitement around what we can be doing in local government,” he says. Pending legislation in Washington will funnel billions of dollars into local communities that will help civic leaders such as Nicholson realize some long-sought goals.
“As a new mayor, to be able to play a role in that, and bring a new energy and fresh perspective to some long-standing issues, is tremendously exciting,” says the mayor-elect, who will officially step down from his faculty role at Northeastern on Dec. 31 when the fall semester concludes. His swearing-in ceremony takes place on Jan. 3, 2022.
He can’t wait to get started. His list of ambitions is long, and much of his agenda is focused on improving Lynn’s economy. It is not a reach for someone who has spent his time at Northeastern helping companies grow.
“One of the real joys of the kind of teaching I was doing is that we had real clients and were able to make a difference in folks’ lives,” Nicholson says of the clinic. “It was such a thrill to be able to share that with my students.”
The former Lynn School Committee member says he is more than ready for the challenge of helping the city realize its potential. Its economic disparities were evident long before the pandemic, when the median household income in Lynn was $56,000, more than 40% lower than average in its county, Essex County.
Nicholson says his goal is a recovery that reaches everyone, and one of the main avenues to that destination is supporting local entrepreneurs. “While entrepreneurship alone won’t close our income gap, studies have shown that self-employment can increase income, including specifically for people of color,” he wrote in an opinion piece earlier this year.
Experiences running Northeastern’s Community Business Clinic helped shape his mayoral campaign.
“We partnered with the city of Boston and the city of Lynn in setting up a legal help desk for small businesses that were hit hard by the pandemic,” Nicholson tells News@Northeastern. He is also publishing research in a legal journal involving a category of small enterprises known as multi-service businesses.
“You see them in a lot of neighborhoods with large immigrant populations,” Nicholson explains. “They’re storefronts that cater to particular immigrant groups and offer a ton of potential for community economic development.”
They provide services such as immigration, taxes, travel, and finance, and also help organize flag days for their countries of origin at City Hall, he explains.
Bringing multi-service businesses into conversations about community goals would significantly increase the city’s reach to different populations, and it would also help answer questions people may have about when and how to use resources for particular issues, like legal help or translation services.
As of 2019, 36.8% of Lynn residents were born outside of the United States, more than double the national average of 13.7%, according to population data.
Key to Nicholson’s double-digit margin of victory (63% to 36%) was running an inclusive campaign, he says. “We were able to build a really broad coalition focused on a vision that had a lot of support, and that vision was a better Lynn for all of us,” Nicholson says.
He was endorsed by the outgoing mayor, and by the Boston Globe, which said he was the candidate who “can best tap into the city’s potential for balanced growth and positive change.”
With his days at Northeastern drawing to a close, Nicholson says he will miss the nearly two years he spent on the Boston campus teaching and learning from others.
His parting message to the Northeastern community: “Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’ve been so grateful to be at an institution that is so focused on the real world.”
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