A transformation is taking place on Beacon Hill, driven by the growing willingness of Massachusetts employers to communicate with state lawmakers.
The traditional cynicism among business people that “they never listen anyway” has in recent years given way to the reality that employer activism has put jobs and economic growth on the front burner of state politics. Everyone from Governor Deval Patrick to House Republicans is proposing economic development plans to address the cost of doing business, regulatory reform and education.
State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, is among a new generation of state legislators who have their ears open to the employers who create opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. Forry led her committee on an eight-stop statewide listening tour during the dark days of the recession in 2009-2010, and the result has been a series of bills aimed at reducing regulatory red tape and controlling the cost of health insurance.
“The top three concerns we heard about at every stop from the North Shore to Springfield were over-burdensome regulations, limited access to capital and rising healthcare costs,” Forry says.
The listening tour paved the way for passage of the AIM-backed Small Business Impact Statements Bill (H3772), which was signed in part into law in August 2010 as part of the omnibus Economic Development Reorganization bill. The measure requires state agencies to assess the potential impact of all new regulations on small businesses before their implementation and to review old and current regulations to take out any unnecessary or over-burdensome rules.
Governor Patrick upped the ante on regulatory reform last month when he announced that the commonwealth will review more than 1,000 state regulations to find at least 250 rules that can be streamlined or rescinded. State agencies have been directed to consider the appropriateness of adopting national models or standards to align the state’s practices with those in place elsewhere in the country.
The same 2010 Economic Development bill that produced the small-business impact requirement also simplified access to capital by consolidating the Massachusetts Community Development Finance Corporation (CDFC) and the Economic Stabilization Trust (EST) into the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
And Forry isn’t finished. She recently worked with AIM to file H2896, An Act to Provide Immediate Relief to Small Businesses on Healthcare Costs, under which employees already covered by an alternative healthcare plan - through a spouse for example - would be removed from the calculation determining the "Fair Share Contribution.” The bill is currently before the Joint Committee on Public Health.
“Small businesses are critical to the economic growth and vitality of the entire Commonwealth, and I strongly believe it is only through building partnerships with you that we will envision and realize policies enabling our communities to thrive once again,” Forry said.
The lesson for employers is that the 2008 recession and financial crisis have underscored for public officials the importance of creating a business climate that will put some of the 240,000 unemployed Massachusetts residents back to work. Sure, government can seem like a foreign country to business people accustomed to making decisions on a dime. But the doors are more open than they have been in years. Don’t hesitate to speak up.
Top 10 Public Resources for Small Business
Associated Industries of Massachusetts has joined a Patrick Administration initiative to promote the hiring of veterans by Bay State employers.
The initiative announced yesterday at the State House includes $500,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 to train veterans through the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T.) program. MassMEP also plans to immediately use $200,000 in existing state funds to offer a new training class for veterans during this fiscal year.
“AIM and the business community are honored to work with the administration to support the hiring of veterans,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.
“At a time when many Massachusetts employers are struggling to find qualified workers, people returning from military service provide just the kind of experience that can help any business. These returning heroes know how to get up in the morning, show up on time and get the job done.”
Governor Patrick declared November “Hire a Veteran Month” and announced the formation of an inter-agency task force to help state government increase its hiring of veterans. The administration will also offer Massachusetts businesses an option to post an official state logo designating the company as a “Proud Employer of Massachusetts Veterans,” if the company employs a certain percentage of veterans.
“By partnering with the business community, we can encourage and increase the hiring of more Massachusetts veterans, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Patrick said.
The initiative comes as unemployment rates for post 9-11 veterans continue to run higher than for non-veterans. The current jobless rate for returning veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 is 21.1 percent, more than double the rate for the overall population. Economists fear those numbers may deteriorate as the United States ends operations on Iraq and large numbers of military personnel return to civilian life.
Jack Healy, Director of Operations for MassMEP, said training is key to addressing the problem.
“This high percentage of unemployment is due partly to stereotyping veterans’ fitness for employment, such as inadequate technology skills and lack of education. M.O.S.T. training helps veterans overcome such stereotypes and equips them to fill unmet skills needs in our advanced manufacturing sector.”
Other business groups supporting the veterans’ initiative include the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE), the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Mass High Tech Council, the Defense Technology Initiative, and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts
AIM looks forward to providing more information about the initiative in the coming weeks.
Employers with questions about hiring veterans may contact the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veteran’s Services (www.mass.gov/veterans), their local One-Stop Career Center, or AIM.
Massachusetts employers began 2011 with a dose of measured optimism that pushed the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) up 2.8 points in January to 55.2.
The increase left the BCI in positive territory for a fourth consecutive month after a slump in the third quarter of 2010. Employer confidence now rests more than 20 points above the historic low of 33.3 posted at the height of the financial crisis in February 2009.
“Four consecutive months in the positive range, above 50 on the Index’s 100-point scale, points to cautious but real optimism about the economy and business climate,” said Raymond G. Torto, Global Chief Economist at CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. and Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).
“The January survey results show that Massachusetts employers are regaining confidence in state and national economic conditions, and expect further improvement over the next six months.”
Fifty-three percent of employers who responded to the monthly BCI survey said they expect “continued slow, halting growth” while 41 percent foresee robust or accelerating economic growth and 6 percent ‘deteriorating conditions.’ Torto said the balance is towards the positive side amid signs that we may be approaching the end of the jobless phase of the recovery.
AIM’s Business Confidence Index has been issued monthly since July 1991. The January reading was up 9.4 from a year earlier, 18.5 over two years, and 4.6 compared to January 2008, the first month of “official” national recession.
Most components of the BCI gained ground in January along with the main Index. The Current Index of conditions prevailing at the time of the survey was up 1.1 points at 52.4, while the Future Index of expected conditions six months ahead surged 5.1 to 58.3.
“The Current Index is holding above 50, about 10 points better than a year ago, but the improvement in the Future Index is more significant,” commented BEA member Michael Goodman, chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “We have not seen Massachusetts employers this optimistic about immediate future prospects in almost four years.”
AIM Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel Eileen McAnneny will assume her seat tomorrow on a state economic development commission that AIM believes must concentrate on creating a uniformly favorable business climate to encourage job growth.
McAnneny will press AIM’s emphasis on jobs, economic opportunity, fiscal predictability, business formation, innovation and education. The association believes that the private sector has the unique ability and responsibility to create economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts.
“The creation of a job and a person’s ability to do it weaves together every important aspect of social and economic stability – the desire for a better life, the ability to support a family, the confidence to start a business, and the need to support efficient government management of services such as education, health care, and public safety,” McAnneny said.
The commission, created two years ago but only now getting off the ground, is expected to conduct sessions throughout Massachusetts to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each region.
“Moving around or going to various regions may provide us with more information, more opportunities to hear from people,” Representative John Scibak, co-chair of the jobs commission, told State House News Service last month. He added that he would like to “hear from people who are actually involved in [job creation] on a day-to-day basis.”
Gov. Deval Patrick approved a resolve creating the commission in January 2009. Members appointed by the governor include: Tim Sullivan of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Aaron Tanaka of the Boston Workers' Alliance, Alan Clayton-Matthews of Northeastern University, and McAnneny.
Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo appointed Senator Karen Spilka and Scibak as co-chairs. Republican leaders appointed Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Paul Frost. All nine cabinet secretaries were appointed to the panel and permitted to designate officials to appear on the commission in their place.
AIM believes that sustained economic growth requires:
- Economic policy that balances key public investments with a competitive cost structure that keeps jobs in Massachusetts.
- Predictable, responsible and long-term state fiscal policy.
- A favorable environment for business development across all industries.
- Leadership from business executives to help government resolve important issues.
- Well-conceived and collaborative regulation that creates measurable benefits.
- Valuing Massachusetts’ employees, the contributions they make to a successful business and the willingness to pay them accordingly.
- A world-class education system that provides opportunity for all Massachusetts citizens and the knowledge base for economic growth.
- Collaboration between business and government to ensure mutual success.
The commission will hold its first meeting amid a debate over the use of tax and other incentives to encourage companies to create or retain jobs in Massachusetts.
AIM believes first and foremost in a fair and simple corporate tax code. But we also believe that when economic incentives are needed, those incentives should take the form of broad-based, statutorily clear tax credits that are taken as a matter of right if companies achieve certain investment goals, not credits granted via discretionary administrative fiat.
Statutory tax credits have the value of being predictable and understandable for taxpayers and investors alike. Pure tax credits also have the virtue of being payable only if the taxpayer actually has a Massachusetts corporate tax liability – refundable credits cost the commonwealth money directly and immediately.
What is your suggestion for the economic development commission? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
The push to control health costs in Massachusetts gained significant momentum over the weekend as the chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts urged hospitals to adopt a new global payment system and warned that providers who hold onto traditional fee-for-service arrangements face level or reduced payments.
Blue Cross President and CEO Andrew Dreyfus, in a letter to hospitals and physician practices reported Sunday in The Boston Globe, noted that “we all know that rising costs continue to threaten the health care that is so important to our community.
“Health care costs are making businesses in Massachusetts less competitive, and limiting their ability to grow. Health care costs are squeezing municipal budgets, taking money from schools and police and fire protection, and health care costs are consuming too much of family incomes, forcing many families to make difficult sacrifices,” Dreyfus wrote.
Dreyfus’ comments came as the Patrick administration prepares to file health cost legislation that is widely expected to institute a payment system under which medical care providers are put on an annual budget and given incentives to control costs and improve care instead of being paid for individual doctor visits and procedures.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve the insurance crisis facing employers, applauds Dreyfus’ comments as a constructive step in helping employers suffering with rate increases of up to 40 percent. Employers remain ready to work with lawmakers, doctors, hospitals and insurers to ensure that spiraling health costs do not divert an already tentative economic recovery.
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Massachusetts employers bracing for a 40 percent average increase in Unemployment Insurance taxes January 1 may face additional assessments after a state panel meets tomorrow to address a $70 million deficit in the fund that provides medical insurance to unemployed people.
The Unemployment Health Insurance Rate Review Board could decide to increase employer assessments to keep the Medical Security Trust Fund solvent at a time of persistently high unemployment. Massachusetts increased the assessment from $16.80 to $33.60 per employee for 2010, but officials suggest that the rate may have to increase again to $50.40 per employee or more for 2011 to keep the fund above water.
AIM favors eliminating the Medical Security Trust Fund because it duplicates the services offered under the 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform law. The Commonwealth Care program created under health reform allows individuals who have lost their jobs and income to purchase short-term health insurance through the Commonwealth Connector Authority.
AIM has filed bills in each of the past three legislative sessions to eliminate the Medical Security Trust Fund. The association believes that the commonwealth would not be staring at the current deficit if lawmakers had recognized the duplicative nature of the fund and eliminated it in 2006.
“Why would we raise assessments on struggling employers for a program that provides a service available elsewhere?” said Eileen McAnneny, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
McAnneny said AIM would support revising the eligibility requirements for Commonwealth Care to state explicitly that unemployed people could use the system.
The Medical Security Trust Fund should also be eliminated, AIM believes, because lawmakers during better economic times used the fund to pay for programs unrelated to health care for the unemployed.
Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, confirmed earlier this year during a public meeting that the administration was considering merging the Medical Security Trust Fund with Commonwealth Care.
“Over the long-term I think we need to consider all options,” Gonzalez said, as reported State House News Service.
But the administration has not disclosed its position on the merger more recently.
The possibility of increased medical security assessments comes as AIM works with the Patrick administration to find ways to ease the average $258-per-employee Unemployment Insurance increase set to hit Massachusetts businesses. Analysts fear an increase of that magnitude could suppress job growth and create even more demand in the unemployment system.
Projections from the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance show that the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which ran a balance of more than $2 billion prior to the recession, will begin 2011 some $202 million in the red. That deficit would trigger a move to the highest rate schedule permitted under Massachusetts law, raising the average UI cost per employee from the current $646 to $904.
A move to schedule G would increase total contributions from Massachusetts employers from $1.576 billion to $2.235 billion.
Meanwhile, AIM joined business organizations from throughout the country in November to ask Congress to continue to waive the interest on loans used by Massachusetts and 31 other states to pay unemployment insurance claims. AIM also asked Congress to waive penalties under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act levied on employers in states borrowing from the federal government to meet their obligations to jobless workers.
2010 shifted the always unpredictable alchemy of business and politics in the Bay State.
A year that began with a political earthquake when Republican Scott Brown won the Senate seat formerly occupied by Edward M. Kennedy ended amid hopeful signs that the halting economic recovery was here to stay. Massachusetts employers spent 2010 trying to put the economic crisis behind them while dealing with developing crises surrounding the cost of health care and electricity.
What were the top 10 stories that affected Massachusetts employers during 2010?
- Massachusetts economy recovers fitfully, but faster than the nation as a whole.
The unique mix of knowledge-based, high-value companies that drive the Massachusetts economy helped the commonwealth end 2010 with an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, well under the national rate of 9.3 percent. The AIM Business Confidence Index rose throughout the spring, and then returned to positive territory late in the year after turning bearish in the third quarter.
- AIM challenges expensive National Grid/Cape Wind power agreement.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in December to set aside the commonwealth’s approval of a power-purchase agreement between National Grid and Cape Wind that will increase electric bills for thousands of Massachusetts employers. AIM said the agreement sets a dangerous precedent for allowing utilities to negotiate expensive power agreements outside of the competitive bidding process and to allocate the costs of those contracts unfairly to commercial and industrial customers.
- Rising cost of health care reaches crisis stage in Massachusetts; Governor Patrick and Legislature respond.
The cost of providing health insurance to workers reached the tipping point for employers as rates rose up to 40 percent and virtually everyone agreed that the Massachusetts health care market is unsustainable without fundamental changes to the way companies and consumers purchase medical services. Governor Patrick rejected scores of proposed rate increases by insurance plans, then signed a cost-containment law requiring insurers to offer low-cost, limited or tiered network plans, and setting the stage for broad changes in the way insurance companies pay for medical care.
- Political scramble - Scott Brown elected to the Senate and Governor Patrick re-elected despite national Republican landslide.
Republican Scott Brown of Wrentham shook the political world in January when he won a special election to fill the Senate seat held for decades by the Kennedy family. The election made Brown a superstar in Washington and unleashed a tidal wave that returned Republican control to the House of Representatives in the November elections. Ironically, one of the only states the tidal wave missed was Massachusetts, where Governor Patrick won re-election and every Democratic representative was returned to office.
- Corporate acquisitions are back.
Two years after the global financial crisis, New England companies with strong balance sheets pulled out their wallets and began to make strategic acquisitions. Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities agreed in October to buy NStar for $4.17 billion in a deal that will create the largest New England utility company. German drug giant Merck KGaA bought life sciences company Millipore of Billerica for $6 billion in March. Massachusetts companies were also buyers: Thermo Fisher Scientific announced in December that it would purchase Dionex Corporation of California for $2.1 billion.
- Congress passes federal health care reform; judge later declares portions of the law unconstitutional.
President Barack Obama in March signed landmark national health reform legislation that bore a striking resemblance to the Massachusetts health care reform law of 2006. The federal law requires individuals to carry health insurance, changes underwriting rules and imposes a fee if an employer does not offer coverage. The fact that Massachusetts was the only state in the nation with its own health reform initiative was a mixed blessing for employers – the concepts were familiar, but there are significant differences between the state and federal laws that must be reconciled. In December, a U.S. District Court judge in Virginia ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
- Defense industry emerges as the untold success story of the Massachusetts economy.
A report by AIM and the University of Massachusetts in December showed that as the overall economy has struggled in the face of two recessions and fundamental industry shifts, Massachusetts defense contractors quietly tripled the value of their contracts to $15.6 billion. They doubled their employment rolls to 115,563 people and increased their overall economic output by 146.2 percent. The report also found that innovation-rich Massachusetts defense contractors are well positioned to offset overall defense cutbacks by addressing technology needs at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
- Business blocks organized labor priorities; Obama appointments to labor board create challenge for employers.
Furious lobbying by AIM and business interests around the country prevented passage in Congress of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which would have deprived workers of the right to a private ballot in union elections. Congress also declined to pass another labor priority, the Paycheck Fairness Act. But President Obama’s appointment of union lawyers Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board shifted the labor relations playing field steeply away from employers.
- Massachusetts approves wide-ranging economic development measure.
The Legislature approved and the governor signed an economic development bill that limits the scope of combined tax reporting, creates a 3 percent capital gains tax rate for individual investors in start-up companies, and provides most industries with the ability to extend a net operating-loss (NOL) carryforward from five to 20 years. The bill also places an automatic sunset provision on state regulations and requires proposed new regulations to include a business impact statement. The state will undertake a study of the factors driving the high price of electricity for Massachusetts employers.
- State lifts charter school cap, adopts national standards and wins Race to the Top dollars for education reform.
A controversial decision to endorse national education standards paid off for Massachusetts in August when the commonwealth won some $250 million in federal education money through the Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program for school improvement. The money will support reform efforts in four areas: standards and assessments; statewide data systems; effective educators; and turning around low-performing schools. These priorities were supported by employers, who recognize the importance of educated citizens to fuel economic growth.
What is your opinion about the most important business developments of 2010? We welcome your comments.
The filing of an appeal yesterday by Associated Industries of Massachusetts to the approval of a power-purchase agreement between National Grid and Cape Wind generated news headlines throughout the country, including an editorial in the Boston Herald saying that AIM deserves credit for speaking out on behalf of all ratepayers who will see increases in their bills because of the deal.
“Associated Industries of Massachusetts has earned a shout-out not just from the businesses it represents but from all ratepayers who’ll be hit by the unconscionable deal the state has struck with Cape Wind,” the Herald said in an editorial entitled AIM to Ratepayer Rescue.
The editorial concludes: “For business this isn’t a matter of turning down the thermostat or caulking windows, it’s a matter of survival - something the green brigade refuses to acknowledge.”
On New England Cable News, AIM Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel Robert Rio said AIM appealed the power-purchase approval because it will increase electricity costs for employers who already pay some of the highest electric bills in the country.
The story also appeared in scores of newspapers, blogs and television news reports.
AIM argued in its appeal that approval of the National Grid/Cape Wind deal by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) was “arbitrary, capricious,” an “abuse of discretion and not otherwise in accordance with the law.” AIM believes the agreement sets a dangerous precedent for allowing utilities to negotiate expensive power agreements outside of the competitive bidding process and to allocate the costs of those contracts unfairly to commercial and industrial customers.
The DPU approved the proposed power-purchase agreement between National Grid and the 130-turbine offshore Cape Wind project on November 22. It was the first such agreement ever approved under a provision of the Green Communities Act (GCA) allowing utilities to sign long-term contracts for renewable power directly with generators.
The legal challenge by AIM to the Cape Wind/National Grid contract is based upon three issues:
- The contract was not competitively bid.
- The amount of the Power-Purchase Agreement exceeds 3 percent of National Grid’s load.
- National Grid’s ratepayer allocation of the above-market costs of Cape Wind is inconsistent with the law and harms ratepayers on competitive energy supply.
Confidence among Massachusetts employers dipped in November after a record surge the previous month as companies continued to wrestle with what one analyst calls a “fitful” economic recovery.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index lost 3.2 points, but remained in positive territory at 52.1. The Index had posted a record 7.7-point increase in October after slumping throughout the third quarter.
Employers remain more confident about the Massachusetts economy than the national – no surprise since the commonwealth’s unemployment rate rests more than a full percentage point lower than the national rate of 9.8 percent.
“(October and November) together tell a clearer story than they do separately,” said Raymond G. Torto, Global Chief Economist at CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. and Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA). “The Index has moved back to the positive range, above 50 on its 100-point scale, where it was in late spring before a third-quarter slump. A third straight reading above 50 in December would give us our strongest quarter since the end of 2007, and some further upward movement would be reassuring.”
Employers are frustrated by the slow pace of economic growth.
"The recession may be over according to economists’ definition, but the unemployment rate is lagging way behind other indicators and banks unwillingness to lend is stifling the economy," one employer wrote in response to the survey.
The November retreat left the Business Confidence Index 6.3 points higher than it was at the beginning of 2010. Readings of 50 points and above indicate that employers have a generally optimistic view of the economy, while readings below 50 points indicate a bearish outlook.
All of the specific confidence measures that go into the overall Business Confidence Index declined in November. The Current Index of conditions prevailing at the time of the survey was off 2.6 points at 50.6, while the Future Index of expected conditions six months ahead dropped 3.5 to 53.5.
The Massachusetts Index of business conditions prevailing within the commonwealth fell 2.6 points to 47.5, remaining above the U.S. Index of national conditions, which lost 5.8 (after a 12.3-point gain in October) to 43.0. On the year the state indicator was up 9.0, its national counterpart up 6.3.
Survey respondents have rated the state’s economic climate better than the nation’s through this downturn and recovery and they expect Massachusetts conditions to turn slightly positive before mid-2011, ahead of national conditions.
The Company Index, which measures survey respondents’ overall confidence in the situations of their own operations, was down 2.6 points in November to 56.3. The Sales Index shed 2.4 to 56.5, and the Employment Index was off 1.2 points to 52.5. Confidence was sharply lower in November among manufacturers (-5.7 to 53.2) and in the state outside Greater Boston (-7.3 to 49.4), compared to moderate declines among non-manufacturing employers (-1.7 to 50.7) and within the metropolitan area (-0.2 to 54.2).
“The November results suggest that October’s leap in business confidence, though perhaps exaggerated, was no mere aberration,” said Richard C. Lord, AIM’s President and CEO, a BEA member. “The overall message remains positive, and the continuing favorable assessment of conditions in Massachusetts relative to the nation is very good news, particularly in comparison to our experience coming out of past downturns.”
But in absolute terms the Bay State’s economic picture is far from rosy, Lord noted.
“Only 4 percent of respondents to a special question agreed with economists that the recession is over, and 26 percent said ‘maybe’; while most (55 percent) chose ‘not yet, although conditions seem to be improving’ and 15 percent said ‘recovery is not in sight,’” he said.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts met with employers at five locations throughout the commonwealth in October to gain input on a public policy agenda for the 2011-2012 legislative session.
The discussions identified many common concerns, such as the high cost of health insurance and the expected unemployment insurance tax rate hike. But there are also issues of particular concern to employers in each region.
In the Berkshires, the high cost of electricity and proposed state regulations to prohibit the use of certain chemicals generated the most attention during the 90-minute AIM session.
Discussions in the Pioneer Valley focused on the high cost of living and its impact on retaining the thousands of students who attend local colleges. Employers are also concerned about securing an educated workforce, lack of appreciation for manufacturing and the need for municipal finance reform.
Employers from the North Shore and the Merrimack Valley expressed concern about the disconnect between Beacon Hill policies and issues such as economic growth, the lack of skilled/technical workers and the need for a strategic state economic development plan. There was general agreement that most lawmakers "just don’t get it" – they want jobs but won’t approve reforms to make investments in Massachusetts attractive.
At the South Coast session, employers discussed the need to communicate the importance of making the Massachusetts economy competitive in order to retain jobs and confront competition from foreign markets. Economic competitiveness and the impact of health insurance increases running more than 20 percent generated a hearty discussion.
Unsustainable growth in state and local spending, an unfriendly state business environment, the need for a transparent state budget and the impact of health insurance rate hikes were the focus of the central Massachusetts session. Several employers expressed resentment about the lack of accountability for the manner in which Massachusetts conducts its business.
The take-away from the sessions is that employers believe that the Bay State’s economic future depends upon adoption of a favorable business climate across all industries. The alternative, as one lawmaker said earlier this year, is an "invented here, made elsewhere" economy that provides opportunities for doctoral-level engineers and scientist, but leaves other citizens out in the cold.
Employers believe that if progress can be achieved in lessening the cost of doing business, the commonwealth will be well positioned to achieve economic growth and create jobs by capitalizing on its existing strengths.
Comments recorded at the regional sessions will be folded into the development of AIM’s 2011-2012 Public Policy Agenda that will be presented to the AIM Board of Directors for approval in January.