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Legislative Scorecard Paints Tale of Two Chambers

Posted by John Regan on Aug 29, 2016 7:35:05 AM


Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) today released its 2015-2016 Legislative Scorecardd, the most widely read report on the voting record of Massachusetts legislators on issues important to employers. AIM releases the Legislative Scorecard at the end of each two-year session to ensure that members know legislators’ records on key economic and public-policy issues, and to recognize lawmakers who understand the importance of a vibrant economy for all residents.

Scorecard2016.jpgThe 2015-2016 legislative session was a tale of two chambers. While the House of Representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo successfully forged consensus on important measures such as wage equity and energy, the Senate hewed to a more progressive, ideological approach that produced a steady stream of bills with the potential to harm the Massachusetts economy. The divergent approaches are reflected in the Legislative Scorecard results.

Virtually every member of the House of Representatives earned grades of 50 percent or higher and 126 reps ended the session at 75 percent or better. The ratings were based on a dozen roll-call votes dealing with issues ranging from economic development to restricting the use of non-compete agreements.

In the Senate, meanwhile, only five of 40 members managed grades above 50 percent and a staggering 15 Senators posted scores of 18 percent. The highest score in the Senate belonged to Senator Don Humason of Westfield at 59 percent.

The Senate scores were based upon many of the same issues debated by the House, as well as additional votes on so-called wage theft and efforts to modify the commonwealth’s punitive treble damages law. Two key Senate votes – on energy and non-compete agreements – were not included because they were conducted as voice votes.

The Legislative Scorecard selects votes that reflect the objectives of The Blueprint for the Next Century, AIM’s long-term plan for economic prosperity in Massachusetts. The plan maintains that only a vibrant, private-sector economy creates opportunity that binds the social, governmental, and economic foundations of our commonwealth.

The Blueprint contains four specific recommendations against which AIM measures public policy issues:

  1. Develop the best system in the world for educating and training workers with the skills needed to allow Massachusetts companies to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy.
  2. Support business formation and expansion by creating a uniformly competitive economic structure across all industries, geographic regions and populations, rather than picking winners and losers.
  3. Establish a world-class state regulatory system that ensures the health and welfare of society in a manner that meets the highest standards of efficiency, predictability, transparency and responsiveness.
  4. Moderate the immense long-term burden that health care and energy costs place on business growth.
"We hope that employers find the Legislative Scorecard informative, and that they will share the results with your colleagues and associates," said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Six Companies Earn Inaugural AIM Sustainability Awards

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Aug 22, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Six Massachusetts companies ranging from a ski resort in the Berkshires to the largest grocery chain in New England have been named winners of the inaugural Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Sustainability Award. The award recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being and contributions to economic prosperity.

AIM announced today that Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort of Hancock; PeoplesBank of Holyoke; W.D. Cowls, Inc. of North Amherst; Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. of Sudbury; Gorton’s Seafood of Gloucester; and the Stop & Shop New England Division of Ahold USA were selected from among 33 nominations. The six companies will be honored at a series of regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts in September and October.

“These companies set the standard for sustainably managing their financial, social and environmental resources in a manner that ensures responsible, long-term success,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord.

“Sustainability guarantees that the success of employers benefits our communities, our commonwealth and our fellow citizens. We congratulate our honorees and all the worthy companies that were nominated.”

Sustainability has gained widespread acceptance in recent years as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make it part of their business and financial models.

The six honorees were selected by a committee that included the co-chairs of AIM’s Sustainability Roundtable - Johanna Jobin, Director of Global EHS and Sustainability at Biogen; and James McCabe, Sustainability Manager, Global Operations Group, Waters Corporation.

AIM initiated the Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted dozens of participants from companies such as Bose, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Boston Beer, MilliporeSigma, Ocean Spray, Analogic and Cisco.

Here are summaries of each recipient, along with the date and location of the celebration when each will receive the award.

Stop & Shop New England, Division of Ahold USA – October 24, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro

StopShop.jpgStop & Shop in April opened an innovative, state-of-the-art, Green Energy Facility in Freetown that uses a natural process called anaerobic digestion to convert inedible food that cannot be donated into clean energy.  The process produces up to 40 percent of the energy for Stop & Shop's 1.1 million square-foot adjacent distribution center, enough power to operate the center for four months of the year. 

Each day, 95 tons of inedible food from 208 Stop & Shop stores is brought to the 24,000 square-foot facility to be processed and converted into biogas.  The bio-gas fuels a generator that in turn, generates electricity providing power for heating, lighting and air conditioning systems in the sprawling distribution center.

“As a responsible retailer, one of our top priorities is reducing our environmental footprint, specifically through the conversion of food that would otherwise go into a landfill,” said Mark McGowan, President, Stop & Shop New England.  “The Green Energy Facility is a perfect example of our ongoing efforts to be greener in our operations.”

The Green Energy Facility is part of Stop & Shop’s strategic and long-term efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.  Today, Stop & Shop diverts 88 percent of its total waste from landfills with the goal to be “zero waste” by 2020.

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Hancock – September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort will add to its extensive renewable energy portfolio this season by installing high-efficiency snowmaking guns on its downhill ski facility in Hancock. The resort expects to be completely powered by renewable energy by 2017.

JiminyPeak.jpgThe 450 new snow gun heads will replace older, less efficient technology and will reduce the amount of electricity used for making snow.  The new LPXY snowmaking guns generate twice as much snow using half the amount of compressed air as the older model. Jiminy was able to take advantage of a National Grid energy efficiency incentive program to help offset a portion of the cost for the upgrade.

The project, along with the installation of LED lights on nine night-skiing trails, is the latest in a long history of environmental stewardship for the resort. Recent additions to the portfolio include a 2.3 megawatt community shared solar facility with Nexamp and a co-generation facility located in the Country Inn. These renewable projects are in addition to the 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine for which the resort was awarded the Golden Eagle Award from the National Ski Areas Association.

Jiminy Peak is the largest ski and snowboard resort in southern New England and a premier four-season resort in the Berkshires. The 167-acre facility includes extensive conference and wedding facilities.

“Controlling and reducing the snowmaking operating costs, maximizing snow production and optimizing the benefits of all capital reinvestments have long been the mantra of this organization,” the company says.

“Jiminy's policy of environmental awareness is seen in all of our activities. We seek to raise the environmental awareness of guests and employees, and to broaden their knowledge and appreciation through educational programs.”

Jiminy is also a participant in the NSAA Climate Challenge, joining other resorts striving to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and preserving the earth for future generations.

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc., Sudbury – October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. established in 1910, is a company that works and lives off the land, so it’s no surprise that the company spends a lot of time understanding and mitigating its impact on the environment.

Cavicchio is New England’s most comprehensive wholesale horticultural grower and distributor, cultivating and sustaining more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials and nursery stock, complimented by a premium selection of loam, mulch, stone, and landscape supplies.

The company operates 10 acres of state-of-the-art greenhouse space powered by computerized environmental control systems. Water usage has been addressed by installing flood floor systems to recycle water and by grading the fields (160 acres) so that irrigation water circulates back to irrigation ponds.

The company utilizes wood-fueled heating and cooling systems in its greenhouses year-round. The wood that fuels these boilers is chipped on-site from logs and cut trees brought in by landscape contractors.  The process provides a convenient way for customers to recycle debris and has eliminated the need to use fuel oil.

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. communicates, both internally and externally, the importance of not misusing the land they occupy, and has engaged customers by implementing free plastic-pot and tray recycling programs, recycling over 300 tons of plastic annually.  And, Cavicchio has dedicated 10 acres to composting and recycling of grass, leaves, soil, brush, asphalt, concrete and cement. Other environmental efficiency improvements include incorporating electric carts and replacing diesel-powered tractors.

PeoplesBank, Holyoke – October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield

PeoplesBank.jpgPeoplesBank is not only building environmental responsibility into its own future, but also helping others do the same.

The 131-year-old community bank based in Holyoke recently constructed LEED® certified branches in Springfield, West Springfield, and Northampton – the first of their kind in the area. LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

After building the branches, PeoplesBank initiated community education events to spread the word about environmentally friendly construction and building operation. It also installed electric-vehicle charging stations at three locations and held e-recycling events that have collected more than 100,000 pounds of material to date.

But the bank didn’t stop there. Using one of its core business capabilities, PeoplesBank has financed more than $100 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power in the region. The organization regarded tackling the sheer complexity of financing these projects as another opportunity to serve the community.

The bank even sponsors of a farmers’ market for associates, a program that led to the formation of an Environmental Committee to promote green values at home and at work.

“Through our commitment and actions to support environmental sustainability, we believe that we can make the region a healthier place to live, work and raise a family,” said Tom Senecal, PeoplesBank President and Chief Executive Officer.

 W.D. Cowls, Inc., North Amherst – October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield

Here’s proof of sustainability - W.D. Cowls Inc. has been continuously managing generations of the same forest land in western Massachusetts since 30 years before the Revolutionary War.

The North Amherst forestry, real estate and building-materials company has been working woodlands in the Pioneer Valley since 1741, through nine generations of family ownership. Cowls grows and harvests diverse mixed species - including pine, oak and hemlock - along with other forest products. It also retails lumber, paint, hardware and building materials at its Cowls Building Supply store.

The long-term sustainable view that has led Cowls to care for and maintain the same Massachusetts forest for more than 275 years led the company to create the largest private conservation project in Massachusetts history, placing a Conservation Restriction on 3,486 acres of timberland now known as the Paul C. Jones Working Forest. An additional 2,000 to 3,000 acres are due to be conserved during the next 12 months.

In a textbook definition of Smart Growth, Cowls uses revenue earned conserving outlying open space to sustainably develop downtown North Amherst.  Cowls’ generational Home Farm redevelopment is as sustainable as the company’s forest practices.

Every generation of the Cowls family since 1741 has built what was needed on the 20-acre Home Farm in North Amherst.   The site in the past has produced tobacco and onions, and housed such diverse operations as the Amherst-Sunderland branch of the Holyoke Street Railway system, a major dairy operation and the first electric sawmill in the country.

For this generation, the Cowls’ Home Farm is becoming a new town center called The Mill District.  The project already includes Cowls Building Supply; Atkins Farms Market in the old cow barn; The Lift Salon and Bread and Butter Café in the new Trolley Barn; and more than a dozen apartments.

The next phase of growth is about to begin.   North Square in The Mill District will feature 130 apartments and 22,000 square feet of restaurants, shops and services underneath.

Today, as the state’s largest private landowner, Cowls sets the bar for environmental and economic sustainability. 

Gorton’s Seafood, Gloucester – October 26, Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence

One of the most recognizable names in seafood discovered that reducing its environmental impact is a matter of degree – nine degrees to be exact.

Gloucester-based Gorton’s Seafood, for many years a leader in preserving the oceans that yield its products, utilized data and scientific analysis to determine that raising the temperature at which its frozen seafood was distributed would significantly reduce diesel emissions tied to climate change. So the company changed its recommendation for delivery temperatures from minus 10 degrees to minus one degree

The result was that the company’s carriers saved 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year, the equivalent of removing 85 cars from the road or planting 696 trees. Gorton’s was also able to smooth out significant swings in temperature to which its seafood is often subjected during the long journey from plant to grocery store to home freezer.

The program is part of a broader sustainability program at Gorton’s called Trusted Catch.  As part of that commitment to sustainability, Gorton’s currently sources 97 percent of its wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified as sustainable by a third party.

“As a seafood industry leader located in America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Massachusetts, we recognize that preserving our oceans and natural resources is not merely an option, it is a mandate. It is a mandate that we have followed for generations by partnering with a select group of suppliers and adhering to strict quality controls and standards that are among the toughest in the industry,” the company said.

All of the regional award celebrations are free and open to AIM members, but registration is required.

Register | Pittsfield

Register | Worcester

Register | Springfield

Register | Foxboro

Register | Lawrence

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Environment, Sustainability

Business Owners, Managers Talk about Their First Summer Jobs

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 3, 2016 11:56:53 AM

They may be running the most successful companies in Massachusetts today, but many senior executives at AIM-member businesses began their work lives with summer jobs delivering newspapers, working clam shacks on the Cape or picking vegetables.

Caddy.jpgAIM asked business owners and managers participating in the monthly Business Confidence Index what they did for their first summer jobs.  The responses underscored the fact that everyone pays his or her dues when entering the work force, whether working on farms, in gas stations or at summer camps.

“Paper boy at age 11, janitor at age 14, construction at 15, marine mechanic at 17, engineer at 22, global manager of sustainable operations at 28,” responded one manager who believes the experiences of his early summer jobs prepared him well for later career challenges.

“I loved it and it gave me great experience dealing with people, cash handling and generally just being required to think on my feet and make responsible decisions,” said another participant whose first summer job was working in the Snack Shack at the Orchards Golf Course in South Hadley.

Golf courses were a common source of summer employment, whether in lawn maintenance, caddying or food service. Other popular jobs were landscaping, construction, restaurants, commercial fishing and babysitting.

Many people fondly recalled working at iconic locations around the state.

“Serving Ice Cream at the Rt. 1 Saugus (Dinosaur) Mini-Golf and Ice Cream,” recalled one survey participant.

The list of summer jobs also provides reminders of how much things have changed, and continue to change, in the regional economy.

“Pumping gas at a full-service gas station.”

“Stocking shelves at First National stores.”

“Flipping burgers at Hardees.”

“Boat yard worker at 85 cents per hour.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of nostalgia about summer jobs.

“I use to mow lawns outside an office building and always told myself that someday I wanted to work inside the building. Now that I work inside an office building, there are plenty of days I look outside at the young people mowing the lawn in the beautiful sunny weather and wish I could be back outside the building,” one participant wrote.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Jobs

Employer Confidence Falls Again in July

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 2, 2016 9:19:26 AM

A resurgent US stock market, better-than-expected job growth and growing labor-force participation failed to make believers of Massachusetts employers during July as business confidence fell for a second consecutive month.

BCI.July.2016.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) declined one point to 55.1 last month, leaving it more than four full points lower than in July 2015. The confidence reading remained above the 50 mark that denotes an overall positive economic outlook, but optimism dimmed across the board on employment, the Massachusetts economy and employers’ outlook on their own companies.

The BCI has now declined in three of the past four months.

Economists suggest that employers may be caught between the expectation of an expanding US economy and concern about anemic growth and instability overseas. It’s a paradox that has resulted in the stock and bond markets, which usually move in opposite directions, rising in tandem this year.

“We see a familiar pattern in what is now the fourth longest economic expansion since World War II - employers remain optimistic about the state of the economy but it is an optimism marked by fits and starts and reactions to all sorts of political and economic events,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators Fall  

Most of the sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer declined during July.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, dropped 1.3 points during July and 0.3 points over the year to 57.2. The U.S. Index of national business conditions, in contrast, bucked the downward trend of the past year (in which it dropped 3.0 points) by gaining 1.5 points. Even so, employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than about the national economy for 75 consecutive months.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.2 points to 55.3 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, slid 1.8 points to 54.8.

“July marked the first time since September 2015 that employers were more positive about current conditions than those six months from now. It’s something to watch, since confidence drives employer decisions on hiring and investment moving forward,” said Elliot Winer, Chief Economist, Northeast Economic Analysis Group LLC.

“It’s also worth noting that employer confidence in their own companies has declined by 5.8 points, albeit from a high level, during the past 12 months.”

Operational Views Dim

Indeed, the three sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations all weakened.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, fell 1.8 points to 55.9, while the Sales Index lost 1.4 points to 55.6 and the Employment Index dropped 2.0 points to 52.5.

The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable – 37 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.  

“A tightening labor market is finally beginning to put upward pressure on wage growth as employers compete for skilled workers,” said Professor Michael D. Goodman, Executive Director of the Public Policy Center (PPC) at UMass Dartmouth.

“Wages rose 2.6 percent for the 12 months ended in June, the fastest annual growth rate since 2009. While this is welcome news for the state’s working families, whose wages have been stagnant for an extended period, it represents a challenge for those employers with limited pricing power who can expect it to be increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain the labor they need to support expected growth in coming months. ”

 Confidence levels in July were higher in Greater Boston (56.8) than in the rest of the commonwealth (52.2).  Non-manufacturing companies enjoyed a significantly brighter outlook at 58.0 than manufacturing employers, who posted an overall confidence level of 52.6. 

Beacon Hill and Business

AIM’s President and CEO Richard C. Lord, a BEA member, said employers should take encouragement from the moderate approach to business issues taken by state lawmakers during the two-year legislative session that ended Sunday night. Beacon Hill balanced a difficult budget with no tax increases, passed economic development and energy legislation, and developed a consensus pay-equity measure that balances the needs of employers and workers.

“The Legislature and the Baker Administration again showed an understanding of the factors that contribute to business growth and job creation,” Lord said.

“We give particular credit to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who forged meaningful compromises on pay-equity, non-compete agreements and other key issues.”

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

Former AIM President John Gould Dies at 86

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 1, 2016 10:59:21 AM

John Gould, a passionate advocate for business and education who built Associated Industries of Massachusetts into the predominant employer association in Massachusetts, died Saturday at the age of 86.

Gould.jpgA former senior vice president of Shawmut National Corporation, Gould became chief executive of AIM in 1988 and guided its transformation from a manufacturing association to one representing the interests of employers from all sectors of the economy. He also made AIM a pivotal voice on a series of issues ranging from workers compensation reform to taxation to the development of education standards for the commonwealth.

“The stature, respect and effectiveness that AIM enjoys today rests in large measure on the shoulders of John Gould and the work he did during an exceedingly difficult economic period in the history of Massachusetts,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“There are companies, jobs and opportunities that exist in Massachusetts in 2016 that might not be here were it not for the work that John Gould did. He was one of those who laid the foundations for the stable economy and world-class education system we all enjoy.”

One of Gould’s most enduring accomplishments was his decision in the midst of the workers compensation crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s to have AIM create its own workers compensation insurance company, called the Massachusetts Employers Insurance Exchange. That company, now a mutual insurer called A.I.M. Mutual, has grown into one of the largest writers of workers compensation coverage in Massachusetts.

Former colleagues recall Gould as a no-nonsense former newspaper reporter whose softer side was evident from his extensive involvement with causes such as the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Children’s Trust Fund and early childhood education. Former Governor Michael Dukakis appointed Gould to the state Board of Education and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino appointed him to the Boston School Committee.

Gould’s dedication to learning prompted AIM to rename its annual education and work force training award as the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award in 1999. The award recognizes companies and individuals for efforts to improve public edition and advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the commonwealth.

Gould’s extensive community activities also included the executive committee of The Challenge to Leadership; the Communications and Public Relations Advisory Committee for The Archdiocese of Boston; the Advisory Board of the College of Management at UMass-Boston, the Associates Program at Northeastern University; and the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Gould actually served two tenures with AIM. He served as director of public affairs from 1960 through June 1965 before leaving to pursue a public relations career, first with the firm of Newsome and Company, and then with Shawmut. His responsibilities at Shawmut included coordinating all external communications for the regional bank holding company headquartered in Boston and Hartford, Connecticut. 

He began his as a reporter, political reporter and feature writer for the Boston Herald-Traveler Corporation.  Gould attended Boston University and served in the United States Air Force Security Service from 1950-1954.

Gould retired as president and chief executive office of AIM in 1999, remaining as vice chairman of the Board of Directors. He also continued to serve as a director of A.I.M. Mutual.

“John will be greatly missed and the 4,000 member employers of AIM send their thoughts and prayers to his family,” Lord said.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Lawmakers OK Energy, Economic Bills; Non-Competes Remain Unchanged

Posted by John Regan on Aug 1, 2016 8:40:56 AM

A frenzied conclusion to the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session produced far-reaching measures on energy and economic-development, but no agreement on restricting the use of non-compete agreements.

statehousedome.jpgA consensus pay-equity bill supported by the business community passed a week earlier and is due to be signed by Governor Charlie Baker today.

Richard C. Lord, President and CEO of AIM, said employers should take encouragement from the fact that the final bills that passed around midnight Sunday largely reflected the moderate approach to business issues taken by the House of Representatives.

“The House and the Baker Administration again showed an understanding of the factors that contribute to business growth and job creation,” Lord said. “We give particular credit to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who forged meaningful compromises on pay-equity, non-compete agreements and other key issues.”

He also noted that lawmakers and Governor Baker worked responsibly to balance a difficult budget with no tax increases.

The energy bill commits Massachusetts utilities to purchasing up to 30 percent of the state’s electricity from offshore wind generation and hydropower imported from Canada or upstate New York. The final version rejects a troublesome proposal to double the state's minimum requirements for renewable energy and also maintains funding mechanisms for development of natural gas pipelines.

“The bill will raise electricity rates as the commonwealth transitions to non-carbon fuel sources. That said, lawmakers approached the issue in a careful and thoughtful manner that recognizes the need to include a variety of generation sources for electricity,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Average electric rates in Massachusetts are the third highest in the nation for industrial ratepayers, and more than twice as high as companies pay in the competitor state of North Carolina. Those costs place employers at a significant disadvantage when competing with businesses located in other areas of the country.

The breakdown of negotiations on non-compete agreements brought a stunning, if temporary, end to a contentious effort by venture capitalists to do away with current law governing non-competes. AIM has waged a protracted battle to defend the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes, but the association nevertheless negotiated a reasonable compromise measure that passed the House of Representatives.

The House bill would have limited the duration of non-competes to one year and required employers who did not compensate workers at the time they signed a non-compete to pay 50 percent of the worker’s salary during the non-compete period. A separate Senate bill would have limited the term of non-competes to three months and required employers to pay 100 percent of a worker’s salary regardless of existing financial compensation.

The deadlock means that opponents of non-competes will have to return to square one and refile their proposals when the 2017-2018 legislative session begins in January.

“The outcome of negotiations on the use of non-competes is disappointing to the business community, which worked in good faith with the House on a reasonable compromise. AIM continues to believe that non-compete agreements with common-sense limitation protect intellectual property and stimulate investment and innovation in Massachusetts,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The economic development bill includes $500 million in authorized borrowing for the MassWorks infrastructure program, $45 million in capital dollars for brownfields environmental projects and $45 million for equipment for career and technical education, among other measures. The bill also features a new tax deduction intended encourage families to save for college tuition costs.

The pay-equity bill is intended to promote salary transparency, limit upfront questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourage companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities. It explicitly recognizes legitimate market forces such as performance and the competitive landscape for certain skills that cause pay differences among employees. 

  Register for AIM Brown Bag Webinar:   Legislative Wrap-Up

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Economic Development, Non-Compete Agreements, Energy

A Statesmanlike Approach to Non-Competes

Posted by Rick Lord on Jul 25, 2016 7:54:02 AM

The 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli defined a statesman as “essentially a practical character” who works “to ascertain the needful, and the beneficial, and the most feasible manner in which affairs are to be carried on. 

DeLeo2016.jpgMassachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo displayed admirable statesmanship and determination in forging a consensus wage-equity bill under which workers will be fairly compensated regardless of gender while employers retain the ability to design competitive pay plans to attract and retain skilled employees. The bill won unanimous approval Saturday and is now on Governor Charlie Baker's desk.

Now, the speaker is putting his statesman’s hat back on in an effort to pass a compromise bill governing the use of non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. His efforts deserve the full-throated support of the employer community.

You know the non-compete issue by now. AIM has fought relentlessly for several years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-compete agreements to protect intellectual property. Efforts to ban the use of non-competes have been driven by a small group of well-heeled venture capitalists who cannot seem to master the idea that if you don’t like non-competes, just don’t use them.

Speaker DeLeo, as he did with wage equity, reached out to AIM and other business organizations to understand the concerns that employers had with a possible ban on non-competes. He wanted to limit the use of non-competes with low-income workers, teen-agers, interns and other categories of workers without harming companies seeking to prevent the loss of trade secrets worth millions of dollars.

The result was a compromise bill endorsed by the employer community that would limit non-competes to one year and give employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete, but not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period. The bill passed 149-0.

But the state Senate ignored the speaker’s carefully crafted compromise and passed its own bill with Draconian restrictions that would effectively end of the use of the documents in the Bay State. The Senate measure would limit non-compete agreements to three months and require employers to pay the full salary of the former employee during the restricted period. The bill would exempt anyone earning $130,000 or less from non-competes.

The issue now rests with a conference committee that will attempt to hammer out the differences between the two versions.

But the compromise and statesmanship on non-competes has already taken place. We urge the Senate to recognize the balanced compromise woven by Speaker DeLeo and to adopt the House version of the non-compete bill.

And we're not alone. Baker on Saturday announced that he supports the House bill "because he believes it better balances workers' abilities to seek new employment while ensuring cutting edge businesses can protect essential intellectual property."

AIM urges all its members to contact the conference committee and urge them to adopt the House version.

  Contact the Conference Commiittee

Topics: Employment Law, Non-Compete Agreements, Intellectual Property

Take Action to Limit Electricity Rate Hikes

Posted by Bob Rio on Jul 22, 2016 11:57:57 AM

Employers concerned about the rising cost of electricity in Massachusetts take note – it’s time to contact members of a legislative conference committee hammering out an energy bill that could make your current electric bill look like child’s play.

Electriclinessmall.jpg The message: Pass a bill that follows the detailed recommendations of a four-page letter sent by AIM earlier this week.

The Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker have made it a priority to secure passage of an energy/electricity bill prior to the end of the session on July 31. 

AIM supports the commonwealth’s efforts to transition its economy to non-carbon fuel sources and attract new businesses to Massachusetts.  At the same time, the complex House and Senate energy bills now in conference will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts upon employers and citizens alike during the next two decades. 

One fact is clear: The final bill will raise electric rates.  Under virtually any scenario the above-market costs passed to ratepayers in the form of rate hikes could be larger than any utility rate hike in history. Massachusetts could end up buying up to 40 percent of its electricity from high-priced renewable energy sources.

The disparity between electric rates in Massachusetts and those in competing states is hindering the ability of employers to attract and retain jobs. The list of internationally known companies that have moved out of Massachusetts just in the last year is long and includes Polartec in Lawrence; SABIC in Pittsfield; Kraft Foods in Woburn; General Mills in Methuen; General Foods in Woburn; and Notini and Sons in Lowell.

Traditional companies located in Gateway cities are at particular risk. These companies are not beneficiaries of the new economy, but still provide good paying jobs, tax revenue and spin-off spending to their communities. 

Other Massachusetts employer groups also sent a letter to the conference committee this week urging lawmakers to factor in costs to ratepayers.

Contact the Energy Conference Committee

 

Topics: Electricity, Energy

Legislature Approves Compromise Wage-Equity Bill

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jul 21, 2016 3:20:57 PM

The Massachusetts Legislature unanimously passed on Saturday a compromise pay-equity bill hammered out among House leaders, the attorney general and the business community. The measure now goes to Governor Charlie Baker.

StateHouse-resized-600.png“The business community is gratified that legislative leaders are moving forward with a bill that ensures fair compensation for all workers while allowing employers to attract and retain skilled employees,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“House Speaker Robert DeLeo and his leadership team deserve tremendous credit for reaching out directly to AIM and really listening to the concerns of employers.”

The legislation is intended to promote salary transparency, limit upfront questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourage companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities. It explicitly recognizes legitimate market forces such as performance and the competitive landscape for certain skills that cause pay differences among employees. 

That recognition will allow employers to continue to reward star performers and to compete in the white-hot market for workers with skills such as computer programming, engineering, advanced manufacturing and biosciences.

The bill states that “no employer shall discriminate in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work.” Wage differentials are permitted, however, based upon:

  • a system that rewards seniority with the employer
  • a merit system
  • a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue
  • the geographic location in which a job is performed
  • education, training or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the particular job in question; or
  • travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job.

There were several additional provisions that persuaded AIM and its 4,000 member employers to support the House bill:

  • It provides a three-year affirmative defense from liability to employers who conduct a self-evaluation of their pay practices in good faith and can demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work. The self-evaluation may be of the employer’s own design, so long as it is reasonable in detail and scope in light of the size of the employer, or may be consistent with standard templates or forms issued by the attorney general.
  • Affirms the ability of employers to protect the confidential information about employee wages should another employee seek that information.

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM, credited DeLeo, Speaker Pro Temp Patricia Haddad of Somerset, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey of Haverhill and Attorney General Healey for developing a workable compromise on pay equity.

The law would take effect on July 1, 2018.

 

Topics: Employment Law, Pay Equity

AIM to Honor International Business Leaders at Symposium

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Jul 20, 2016 2:33:47 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) announced today that it will present its 21st annual Global Trade Awards at a new Global Trade Symposium Oct. 6 at Gillette Stadium.

Globe.jpgThe 2016 AIM Global Trade Breakfast Symposium will honor up to four Massachusetts companies, organizations or individuals for distinguished achievement in international business. The event will also bring together experts from throughout the commonwealth to discuss current issues affecting international trade.

AIM’s International Business Council has honored more than 80 companies since initiating the Global Trade Awards in 1996.

“AIM is creating a signature event that will underscore the vital role that international trade plays in the health of the Massachusetts economy,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Massachusetts is a global economic, educational and research center and AIM is delighted to honor the achievements of the people and companies that have made it that way.”

AIM is currently accepting nominations for the 2016 Global Trade Awards. Nominated companies must demonstrate that they have:

  • increased or retained jobs in Massachusetts by entering new global markets;
  • demonstrated new or creative solutions for import/export challenges;
  • produced or adapted a product line or service for foreign markets;
  • established alliances or partnerships to increase international trade; or
  • invested in infrastructure or manufacturing in Mass. to enhance trade.

Applications are reviewed and winners selected by a subcommittee of AIM’s International Business Council board.  The deadline for nominations is August 20.

Apply for a Global Trade Award

The 2015 Global Trade Awards went to water-treatment innovator Desalitech, advanced materials leader Hollingsworth & Vose Company, and Massport. Other winners throughout the years have ranged from V.H. Blackinton to Ocean Spray to Pittsfield-based Interprint.

More than 200 Massachusetts business leaders are expected to attend the October 6 Symposium, which will feature a breakfast, keynote speaker, panel discussion, and awards ceremony in the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium. Executives from across the commonwealth will share insights on how they’ve grown their businesses internationally, what’s made Massachusetts a unique player on the global stage, and what global trade might look like in the future.      

“AIM believes that Massachusetts deserves a world-class gathering to celebrate its status as an international trade leader.” said Kristen Rupert, Executive Director of the AIM International Business Council.

“We look forward to honoring Massachusetts companies that play key roles in the global economy, offering innovative products and services produced in Massachusetts to markets across the globe.”

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council

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