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Business Leaders Share Outlook for 2017

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 23, 2017 10:10:11 AM

What lies ahead for Massachusetts employers as a new administration comes to Washington in 2017? Listen as three distinguished business leaders - Robert Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of Putnam Investments in Boston; Donna Cupelo, region president of Verizon in New England; and Lisa Chamberlain, managing partner of The Chamberlain Group in Great Barrington – share their opinions as part of the AIM Economic Outlook Forum. Moderator is Jeff Brown, Business Editor of WBZ Radio in Boston.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers, AIM Executive Forum

GE Tops 2017 Massachusetts Business Stories

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 21, 2016 10:40:03 AM

It didn’t take long for 2016 to become a year of watershed events for the Massachusetts employer community.

GE.Boston.jpgThe year wasn’t two weeks old when General Electric Company announced plans to move its corporate headquarters and other operations from suburban Connecticut to the heart of Boston’s seaport Innovation District. The stunning GE announcement kicked off a year that eventually saw an iconoclastic real estate developer pull the upset of the century to win the presidency; Massachusetts become one of the first states in the nation to pass a wage-equity law; and the state economy post its lowest unemployment rate since January 2001.

Here are the top 10 Massachusetts business stories of 2017:

  1. General Electric announces plans to move its corporate headquarters and 800 high-paying jobs to Boston. The move electrified the Bay State economy as GE maintained that Boston was a logical location for a company seeking to marry manufacturing with advanced technology. “Today, GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt.

  2. Donald J. Trump is elected President of the United States on a platform of lowering business taxes, repealing federal health-care reform, boosting infrastructure spending and reworking trade agreements. The most unconventional and vitriolic election in US history ended at 3 am on November 9 as Trump rode a populist wave of economic disaffection and upset Democrat Hillary Clinton. Republicans also maintained control of both houses of Congress, raising the probability that the new president will make good on many of his campaign promises.

  3. Unemployment in Massachusetts drops to a 15-year low of 2.9 percent. The jobless rate ended the year with five consecutive monthly declines as employers created 67,200 jobs from January through November. The largest private sector percentage job gains were in Construction; Professional, Scientific and Business Services; Education and Health Services; and Leisure and Hospitality. Since the rate peaked at 8.8 percent in September 2009, there are now 332,700 more residents employed and 198,700 fewer residents unemployed as the labor force increased by 134,100.

  4. Massachusetts passes a balanced wage-equity law. Governor Charlie Baker signed a compromise wage-equity measure on August 1 designed to ensure that workers are fairly compensated without regard to gender, and according to the value they bring to the business enterprise. The compromise followed months of negotiations between AIM, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Maura Healey. The legislation explicitly recognizes legitimate market forces such as performance and the competitive landscape for certain skills that cause pay differences among employees.
     
  5. Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas puts a last-minute hold on new federal overtime regulations a week before they are due to take effect on December 1. The injunction put Massachusetts employers in the difficult position of either undoing the changes they had made to comply with the regulations or leaving those changes and associated costs in place. The new regulations would have raised the threshold for exemption from overtime to $913.00 per week, or $47,476.00 per year. The rules face an uncertain future under the Trump administration.

  6. Massachusetts voters legalize recreational marijuana over the objections of employers high-profile elected officials. The vote on the statewide ballot question 6 percent to 46.4 percent. AIM opposed the measure because of its potential to reverse decades of hard-won progress by employers to create safe and drug-free workplaces. AIM maintained that the new law would place employers in the untenable position of determining whether an employee who tests positive for marijuana, used legally under state law, is too impaired to operate a machine or drive a company vehicle safely.

  7. Health-insurance premium costs accelerate after several years of modest increases. Total health care spending in Massachusetts in 2015 was $57.4 billion, a 4.1 percent increase over 2014 that surpassed the state's official cost growth benchmark of 3.6 percent, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA). Spending on MassHealth was up 4.6 percent, and spending on commercial health insurance and Medicare were both up 5.3 percent last year, according to CHIA. And the net cost of private health insurance was up 12.6 percent in 2015. Prescription drug spending of about $8.1 billion last year (an increase of 10.2 percent over the previous year)  was one of the factors driving up health care costs, accounting for about 36 percent of the overall growth last year, CHIA reported.

  8. The Massachusetts Legislature declines to restrict the use of non-compete agreements as the state Senate rejects a compromise reached between House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the business community. The breakdown of negotiations brought a stunning, if temporary, end to a contentious effort by venture capitalists to do away with current law governing non-competes. 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.

  9. Lawmakers expand the scope of solar-energy subsidies, effectively imposing an $8 billion tax on electric ratepayers and putting that money into the pockets of solar-energy developers. The bill, passed in March, raised the cap on net metering – the process by which solar developers sell excess electricity back to the power grid – by 60 percent for private projects and 75 percent for public projects. The primary reform contained in the measure would lower the net metering credit to 60 percent of the retail rate, but that reduction would not apply to facilities owned by municipalities and government entities.

  10. Former Associated Industries of Massachusetts President John Gould dies at 86. Gould, a passionate advocate for business and education who built AIM into the predominant employer association in Massachusetts, passed away in July. He 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.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers, Top 10

Employers Back More Charter Schools

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 11, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts member-employers favor by a two-to-one margin expanding the number of charter schools in the commonwealth, according to an AIM survey released this morning.

Education.jpgQuestion Two on the November 8 statewide ballot will ask voters whether to lift the current cap on charter schools. AIM supports raising the cap and has endorsed a “yes” vote on Question Two.

Sixty-eight percent of 107 employers who responded to a special question on the September AIM Business Confidence Index Survey said the state needs more charter schools. Thirty-two percent believe Massachusetts should not permit the creation of more charters.

Current law allows no more than 120 charter schools to operate in Massachusetts and seventy eight charters are now active. About 40,000 students, or a little more than 4 percent of Massachusetts elementary and secondary students, attend charter schools. The Education Department estimates that another 34,000 students are on waiting lists.

A "Yes" vote on Question 2 would give the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to lift the cap, allowing up to 12 new charter schools or expansions of existing charters each year. Priority would be given to charters that open in lower-performing districts.

Employers who support Question Two cite strong academic performance at charters, the value of competition and the ability of charters to innovate as reasons to lift the cap.

“Schools that have less government involvement, less union involvement and greater competition clearly have a better chance of achieving excellence than an entity run by the government,” one employer commented.

Opponents of charter expansion express concern about the potential siphoning of financial support for existing public schools.

“This is the time to invest and fund more to public education than to take money away,” said another employer.

Katherine Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said employer support for charters reflects persistent concern about the shortage of workers with the skills needed for the global knowledge economy.

“Employers are accustomed to innovation. They value it in all areas of business, so it’s only logical that that extends to the education of Massachusetts’ future work force,” Holahan said.

“Charter schools can provide the innovative educational opportunities that encourage students interested in diverse fields of study. As our members face increasing challenges to finding qualified workers, they are looking to a variety of sources to find capable, qualified employees at all skill levels.”

Employers also seem swayed by the statistics about charter-school performance. In Boston, for example, the average yearly academic growth for charter-school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Education

Beacon Hill Debrief: How Did Employers Do?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 29, 2016 2:45:43 PM

AIM Executive Vice President John Regan recently discussed the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session and what it meant for employers on Comcast Newsmakers.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts employers

Which Issues Matter to You? Take the AIM Issues Survey

Posted by John Regan on Sep 26, 2016 7:30:00 AM

The two major candidates for president will debate tonight. Will they address issues that matter to employers?

statehouse.jpgThe Massachusetts Legislature will kick off its 2017-2018 session in January. Will lawmakers identify the public-policy challenges that most concern Massachusetts employers as they seek to grow, create jobs and generate economic opportunity?

Employers have an important role to play in the debate over how to improve the Massachusetts economy. How can you ensure that your opinions and good ideas are heard? Start by participating in the biennial Issues Survey from Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

The commonwealth’s largest and most powerful employer association wants to hear from you so it can accurately represent the interests of employers both large and small before Massachusetts state government. Which issues pose a threat to your business? What steps could Massachusetts take to improve the business climate? How can Massachusetts assure its global competitiveness in a world in which economic growth is becoming ever more concentrated?

AIM will use responses from the Issues Survey to construct a pro-growth Legislative Agenda for the 2017-2018 Beacon Hill session. Legislators rely upon the AIM Legislative Agenda to identify the issues of importance to the Massachusetts employer community.

All responses will remain confidential.

Why participate? As AIM’s Chairman Dan Kenary remarked at this year’s Annual Meeting:

“The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s maxim that ‘all politics is local’ has never been truer that it is today. And if all politics is local, the employer community represents a sleeping giant with enormous potential to drive sound public policy from the bottom up.  Call it entrepreneurial populism - those of us who risk everything to employ our neighbors in Boston, Worcester, Springfield or more than 348 other communities in Massachusetts must tell our stories to the representatives, senators and member of Congress in whose districts we operate.”

We stand at a singular moment in the history of Massachusetts as the forces of political moderation struggle to hold back furious attacks from progressive insurgents who see business and employers as the problem rather than a force for good. The ability of employers to ensure economic stability and continued opportunity rests entirely on their willingness of individuals to add their voices to the public debate.

AIM will publish its Legislative Agenda in January, immediately after President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord delivers his annual State of Massachusetts Business address.

AIM represents the interests of 4,000 companies from every sector of the economy.

Take the Issues Survey

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts employers

AIM Honors 11 Companies, Individuals with Next Century Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 12, 2016 7:53:29 AM

Eleven companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the Massachusetts economy have been named recipients of the annual Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Next Century Award to be presented at a series of regional celebrations in September and October.

The honorees range from a startup accelerator in Springfield to one of the commonwealth’s most passionate advocates for manufacturing to a company you would never believe is one of the largest government contractors in the nation.

AIM announced today that 2016 Next Century Awards will go to Unistress Corporation of Pittsfield, The Chamberlain Group of Great Barrington, Valley Venture Mentors of Springfield, Smith & Wesson of Springfield, Hanover Insurance company of Worcester, retiring Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Project President Jack Healy, MACOM of Lowell, Potpourri Group Inc. of Billerica, Analog Devices of Norwood, Coins n’ Things of Bridgewater and State Representative Patricia Haddad of Somerset.

“AIM created the Next Century Award to honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals creating a new era of economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. These remarkable people and institutions - world leaders in their fields – inspire the rest of us by exemplifying the intelligence, hard work and dedication to success that has built our commonwealth,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Award winners will be honored at AIM regional celebrations in Pittsfield on September 20; the Hanover Theatre in Worcester on October 17; the Wood Museum of Springfield History on October 20; Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on October 24; and the Riverwalk Complex in Lawrence on October 26. Each event will run from 4:30-6:30 and is free to AIM members.

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

Unistress Corporation, Pittsfield | September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Unistress3.jpgThe future of Unistress Corporation is every bit as expansive as the sprawling New NY Bridge being built across the Hudson River with the company’s massive precast concrete deck panels.

Pittsfield-based Unistress, the state's only manufacturer of large precast/prestressed concrete structures, is working on the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge as part of a $70 million contract that is the largest in the company’s 48-year history. The project prompted Unistress to invest more than $6 million to expand its facilities on Cheshire Road and hire more than 150 new workers to bring its total work force to more than 500 people.

Manufacturing the deck of a bridge that will handle eight traffic lanes, four breakdown lanes, a bicycle and pedestrian path, state-of-the-art traffic monitoring systems and accommodations for either light rail or commuter rail is nothing new for a company that worked extensively on the Big Dig project in Boston. Unistress has also worked on parking garages, railway stations, and stadiums, including the new Yankee Stadium.

The $100 million-a-year company has completed more than 500 precast structures throughout the Northeast and has won numerous awards for excellence from its peers. The Unistress plant has been certified for more than 45 years under the Precast/Prestressed Concrete (PCI) Plant Certification Program.

Unistress is part of a family of construction companies that dates back to the nadir of the Depression in 1936. Italian immigrant Basilio Petricca struck out on his own and improbably won the opportunity to rebuild seven bridges over the Hoosac River that had been destroyed by a hurricane. Though he had never before built a bridge and used his pickup track as an office, Petricca got the job done and made the bridges passable again. 

“We don’t do a lot of cookie-cutter jobs. Construction managers who work with us know we can get even the most complex jobs done for them. They don’t ask us if we can do it—they ask when we can get it done,” said Perri Petricca, the current Unistress Chief Executive and the grandson of Basilio.

The Chamberlain Group, Great Barrington | September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

How does a group of high-end visual effects professionals working in movies and television end up improving the quality of medical care for millions of people?

Chamberlain.jpgIf you’re The Chamberlain Group in Great Barrington, you use your visual effects wizardry to make mimetic organs for surgical and interventional training.

Chamberlain’s life-like organs are used in the sophisticated simulation labs that medical schools, hospitals and medical device makers employ to train surgeons. The company’s mission is to “bring practice to the practice of medicine.”

The Chamberlain Group’s products are sold to more than 150 medical-device manufacturers and teaching institutions in 50 countries, including Russia and India, Asia and the Middle East, and in virtually all 50 states domestically. Their client list includes Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Cleveland Clinic, Lahey Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and NASA.

Berkshire Business Quarterly magazine said, “The Chamberlain Group’s design ingenuity has been a breakthrough for the medical community. Models look, weigh, and feel just like real living tissue and provide a better training device than a cadaver, animal, or lesser-realized product would.”

Eric and Lisa Chamberlain launched The Chamberlain Group in 1999 after working for New York design firms that made miniature models and special visual effects for films ranging from Gandhi, Tootsie, and The Big Chill to Ghostbusters, Predator and Woody Allen’s Zelig. Medical schools and device manufacturers were beginning to move away from cadavers and animals in their training programs and the Chamberlains saw opportunity in the burgeoning simulation business.

It was a textbook case of nimble entrepreneurs adapting skills from one industry to a seemingly unrelated one. The result is a thriving enterprise with 23 employees working in an 8,500-square-foot design and manufacturing facility.

“When we began our work in anatomy in the late 90’s, there was no such thing as a ‘simulation industry.’ Without an institutional or disciplinary bias, with no set formula to follow, we have entertained all possibilities. We have held to the high standards of our visual effects work to inform our product development:  be excellent, try anything, stay nimble,” Lisa Chamberlain says.

The company earlier this year earned the 2016 Exporter of the Year designation for Massachusetts and New England by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Jack Healy | October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

No one has done more to reinvigorate manufacturing in Massachusetts than John (Jack) Healy, who retired recently after guiding the Worcester-based Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) for 17 years.

Healy had already logged a full career as a manufacturing executive at companies like LEGO and Presmet when he became founding Director of Operations for both MassMEP and the MAC in 1999. He quickly energized both organizations and set them about helping hundreds of small and medium-sized manufacturers implement growth opportunities through advanced manufacturing and management practices.

MassMEP has worked with 1,800 manufacturers since its inception, providing these companies with consulting, business and management advice through its professional project managers. The organization has also created job-training programs, established skill standards and associated testing, and advocated for manufacturing needs to policymakers. Healy geared these services primarily to the small manufacturing companies that have come to dominate the Massachusetts economy during the past three decades.

But Healy’s most enduring legacy will come from his efforts to address the critical shortage of workers with the skills needed by manufacturers to compete globally.  His accomplishments include the creation of an award-winning Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T) Program, which trains and recruits future workers with little or no prior manufacturing experience for entry level production jobs; and a comprehensive machinist training curriculum that extends from basic skills through bachelor’s degrees.

Those efforts have had particular resonance in Worcester and central Massachusetts, where manufacturing constitutes about $6.4 billion worth of economic activity. Manufacturing represents 19.9 percent of the private sector's gross domestic product in the central region compared to 12 percent statewide.

“If we lost manufacturing in the metropolitan Worcester area, we would be in tough shape," Healy told the Worcester Business Journal.

Congressman James McGovern of Worcester notes that Healy has played a key role in the ``Manufacturing Our Future'' effort in Massachusetts, which has served as a catalyst for developments like Worcester's Gateway Park.

MassMEP has received numerous awards under Healy’s leadership, including a 2011 Workforce Training Partnership of the Year Award from the Workforce Solutions Group, the 2011 John Gould Education & Workforce Development Award from AIM and the 2010 Group Innovator of the Year from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester | October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The Hanover Insurance Group has a more than 160-year history in Worcester, but with a new chief executive at the helm and record results for its most recent year, the $5 billion company has its focus firmly forward.

The Hanover is the holding company for several property and casualty insurance companies, and one of the oldest continuous businesses in the United States still operating within its original industry. The company provides a wide range of property and casualty products and services to individuals, families, and businesses, and distributes its products through a select group of independent agents and brokers.

Together with its agents, the company offers specialized coverages for small and mid-sized businesses, as well as insurance protection for homes, automobiles, and other personal items. In addition, through its international member company, Chaucer, The Hanover also underwrites business at Lloyd's of London in several major insurance and reinsurance classes, including marine, property and energy.

The company has been successfully transformed over the past decade, from a predominantly regional insurer into a global property and casualty insurance player, writing business across the United States and in approximately 175 other countries. The Hanover currently employs approximately 1,900 people in Massachusetts – the vast majority in Worcester – and about 4,800 people in total.

The Hanover also has earned a reputation as a concerned and active corporate citizen, helping to create positive and lasting change in Greater Worcester and in the communities where its employees live and work. The company works with its many community partners to address a range of needs, placing a special emphasis on youth and education, donating millions of dollars each year to the United Way and to a host of non-profit organizations.

The breadth of The Hanover’s community involvement is underscored by the fact that it will accept its award in the renovated downtown theater to which it committed $2 million in 2006, as part of an initiative to stimulate economic development.

The Hanover launched a new chapter in its corporate history on May 16 when it named former Aetna executive Joseph M. Zubretsky as its new president and chief executive officer. Zubretsky succeeded longtime CEO Frederick H. Eppinger.

Zubretsky joined The Hanover after almost nine years at Aetna, where he served in a number of key senior executive positions, most recently as chief executive officer at Healthagen Holdings, a group of healthcare services and information technology companies.

Smith & Wesson, Springfield | October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Smith & Wesson has been a cornerstone of the Pioneer Valley manufacturing economy since Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson began to produce the Model 1 revolver in Springfield in 1856. The company’s storied history traces an arc from the old west to the Imperial Army of the Russian Tsar to outfitting thousands of laws enforcement officers in the United States and abroad.

But beyond its own success, Smith & Wesson has been a crucible of technology and skills that have fueled the development of a metal machining hub in western Massachusetts that now serves industries from aerospace to medical devices.

Smith & Wesson Corp. today is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of firearms. The company is expected to generate more than $900 million in annual sales in its current fiscal year.  It also employs more than 1,700 people, most at its sprawling manufacturing plant on Roosevelt Avenue.

Smith & Wesson has delivered tremendous organic and inorganic growth in firearms, and in 2010 moved 225 new jobs to Springfield as a result of its earlier acquisition of Thompson/Center Arms in New Hampshire.

In addition to growing its historical and sizeable firearms business, Smith & Wesson has recently expanded beyond firearms.  It acquired accessories maker Battenfeld Technologies in 2014, and in August of this year added Taylor Brands to its list of acquisitions.  Taylor is a designer and distributor of high-quality knives and specialty tools.

Then Smith & Wesson purchased a leader in laser sighting products, Crimson Trace.  Smith & Wesson paid $180 million in cash for both the Crimson Trace and Taylor acquisitions. 

In addition to Smith & Wesson’s rich legacy of supporting philanthropic efforts in the community throughout the decades, the company has more recently taken a visible role in addressing the critical shortage of trained machinists that is affecting all areas of Massachusetts. The Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center was created at Springfield Technical Community College to host STCC’s manufacturing and engineering technology programs, which prepare students for jobs in modern, computerized precision-machine shops.  It’s is just one of many programs that the company has supported to help deliver economic growth.

Among Smith & Wesson’s best known products over the years have been the .38 Military & Police Revolver, now known as the Model 10, a firearm that has been used extensively by police forces and has been in continuous production since 1899; the Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies; and the popular M&P line of polymer pistols and rifles.

Smith & Wesson Corp. is the main operating subsidiary of the publicly traded Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.

Valley Venture Mentors, Springfield | October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield |4:30-6:30 p.m.

Valley Venture Mentors is creating an entrepreneurial renaissance in a region replete with business success stories, from the first-ever gasoline powered motorcar and to the invention of the game of basketball.

VVM opened for business as a small, grassroots nonprofit in 2011 and has since grown to a community with more than a thousand mentors who have guided more than a hundred startups, from app developers to fair-trade wedding dress retailers. In 2015 those startups generated more than $10 million in revenue and investment and 222 jobs. 

In May, Valley Venture Mentors awarded $252,000 in funding to 12 companies in its second annual startup accelerator competition. The awards ranged from $6,000 to $50,000, with judges allocating the money following a four month long process of boot camps and pitching sessions.

Harder to measure is the amount of time and money that entrepreneurs didn’t waste thanks to the VVM community’s collective knowledge. Mentors are business executives from healthcare, energy, social services, engineering, finance, and other sectors; nonprofit board members; teachers, investors, lawyers, designers and developers.

Says one mentor: “I came to pay forward the help given to me when I was starting out. Next thing I know, I am learning almost as much as the startup I was helping.”

The organization believes that there is no better way to create transformational economic growth than to train, support, and invest in business startups. VVM is focusing some of that training and support this year on manufacturing by launching the nation’s first manufacturing accelerator in partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program administered by MassDevelopment, the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, and AIM.

The Manufacturing Accelerator brings small and medium-sized enterprises together with potential customers to discover new ways to do business. The accelerator’s intensive training program helps manufacturers learn the needs of potential buyers, validate the ability to deliver on those needs and how to communicate capabilities.

Coins N’ Things, Bridgewater | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Drive past the modest headquarters of CNT, Inc in Bridgewater and there is nothing to suggest that you’ve stumbled upon one of the nation’s largest government contractors. Even the quaint company name, maintained from its roots as a retail store for coin collectors, carries no hint of the scope and breadth of the operation.

CNT, a privately held, family-controlled business, is in fact the largest wholesale vendor of gold in the United States. In fiscal year 2011, the company became the U.S. federal government's largest supplier of precious metals, with government gold sales that accounted for about half of the $3.8 billion in contracts to supply silver and gold to the United States Mint during the year. CNT ranked number 39 on the list of the top 100 contractors of the U.S. federal government for that same fiscal year, with $1.89 billion in obligations from the government, all from the Treasury Department. That made the company the single largest contractor to the Treasury Department.

Founded in 1974 by Louis Oliari and his son, Mark, Coins N’ Things, Inc. (dba CNT) began as a retail shop dealing with coins, jewelry, stamps, and other ‘things.’ In the mid-1980s Mark grew the company into a precious metals wholesaler. Since that time, we have grown into the largest privately owned company in the precious metals industry. Currently, CNT is one of the largest precious metals wholesalers worldwide dealing with major governments and large retailers.

In 2002, the United States Mint approved CNT to become one of 11 businesses worldwide authorized to buy American Eagle silver bullion coins for distribution; at that time, qualifications for that authorization included a substantial retail customer base and net worth of at least $5 million. In 2009, CNT was authorized by the United States Mint to become an authorized distributor for the American Eagle gold, platinum, and palladium products; qualifications for this authorization included a net worth of at least $50 million. In 2010 the business obtained approval to sell gold to the U.S. federal government.

The business has about 70 employees, including Mark Oliari, his wife Patty, and their three children. Today, the CNT family of companies has grown to include, CNT Depository, Inc., CNT Lending, Inc., and Bay Precious Metals.

Analog Devices, Norwood | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

It may be the understatement of the year to say that Norwood-based Analog Devices is on a roll.

In the past four months, Norwood-based semiconductor company agreed to acquire competitor Linear Technology Corp. for about $14.8 billion, quadrupled its sales to Apple amid the ramp-up to the iPhone 7, announced a 6.4 percent increase in its quarterly profit, then paid $42 million for the Cyber Security Solutions (CSS) business of Sypris Electronics LLC., in Tampa, Florida.

Not bad for a 51-year-old company that already leads the worldwide data converter market with a 48.5 percent share.

Analog Devices manufactures analog, mixed-signal and digital signal processing (DSP) integrated circuits (ICs) used in electronic equipment. These technologies are used to convert, condition and process real-world phenomena, such as light, sound, temperature, motion, and pressure into electrical signals. The company services industries ranging from communications, computer, industrial and instrumentation to military/aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.

In a business defined by innovation, Analog invests 19 percent of its $3.4 billion in annual revenue on research and development. The company employs 2,500 people at Massachusetts facilities in Norwood, Wilmington and Chelmsford, and more than 9,500 people worldwide. It maintains manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts, Ireland and The Philippines, and 30 design centers worldwide.

Analog was founded by MIT graduates, Ray Stata and Matthew Lorber in 1965. The same year, the company released its first product, the model 101 op amp, a hockey-puck sized module used in test and measurement equipment. Analog became a publicly traded company in 1969 and by 1996 reported more than $1 billion in revenue.

Analog’s acquisition of Linear Technology is viewed as a blockbuster as  chipmakers add scale amid record industry consolidation.

“The combination of Analog Devices and Linear Technology brings together two of the strongest business and technology franchises in the semiconductor industry,” said Vincent Roche, President and Chief Executive Officer of Analog Devices. “Our shared focus on engineering excellence and our highly complementary portfolios of industry-leading products will enable us to solve our customers’ biggest and most complex challenges at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds.”

Hon. Patricia Haddad | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

When Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo needed someone to conduct difficult negotiations with the business community this summer over a proposed wage-equity bill, he called upon Rep. Patricia A. Haddad.

Through weeks of negotiations on perhaps the most important legislation of the year, Haddad worked with Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other employer representatives to craft a bill that ensures that workers will be fairly compensated without regard to gender but instead according to the value they bring to the business enterprise.

The compromise legislation passed both House and Senate and Governor Charlie Baker signed the nation’s first wage equity law measure into law on August 1.

“Rep. Haddad was determined, respectful and insightful as she held together the negotiations and secured the support of the business community,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM.

Haddad represents the people of Dighton, Somerset, Swansea and Taunton, and serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives. 

A member of the House since 2000, she has served on a variety of committees including Human Services and Elder Affairs, Health Care, Medicaid, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Rules, Ethics and Ways and Means. Haddad served two terms as Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education and prior to her recent appointment as Speaker Pro Tem, was Assistant Majority Whip.

Haddad is deeply involved in the economy of her region and of the commonwealth.  She has worked closely with AIM on issues of electricity policy and on labor law, and is the only member of the Legislature to be honored with the AIM Next Century Award for 2016.

The new pay-equity law promotes salary transparency, limits upfront questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourages 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.

Potpourri Group, North Billerica | October 26, Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Potpourri Group earlier this year moved into a state-of-the-art, 450,000-square-foot facility in Littleton that will increase the company’s employment roles to 400 people during the business pre-holiday season.

Potpourri’s CEO, Jonathan Fleischmann is committed to his team and to Massachusetts. He notes, “Our new facility has been a ‘long time coming,’ with the company weathering the recession, completing several acquisitions, and conducting national location studies prior to receiving board approval to move forward.”

“The Potpourri management team is excited to be remaining in Massachusetts and finding a new home in Littleton in particular, retaining the ‘institutional knowledge of its great work force’ and in gaining the capacity needed to continue on our growth strategy,” Fleischmann said.

The company has even purchased vans so workers who lived near the former facility in Whitinsville would have an easy way to reach the new building.

“After several years of operating beyond capacity in Whitinsville, we’re finally graduating to a new level of scale and productivity,” said Fleishmann, who serves on the AIM Board of Directors. “We’re very proud to be achieving this by not only retaining, but adding jobs here in the commonwealth.”

Potpourri is a national, multi-channel, direct-to-consumer company headquartered in North Billerica. Founded in 1963, Potpourri started as a single brand and has expanded to 15 brands through organic growth and acquisitions. The company today is among the leading multi-channel direct-to-consumer companies in America, and offers thousands of products in the areas of home décor, apparel, jewelry, gifts, toys, travel, and pet accessories.

The company distributes close to 250 million catalogs and ships more than five million packages annually.

Potpourri is leasing the Littleton facility from Braintree-based capital partners Condyne & Affiliates. Condyne has invested approximately $35 million in the building and Potpourri has so far invested close to $9 million in capital expenditures. Builders broker ground in April 2015 and completed construction in February.

MACOM, Lowell | October 26 | Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Think of MACOM as the roadbed for the information superhighway. The publicly held company – which makes semiconductors, components and subassemblies for analog RF, microwave, millimeter-wave and photonic applications – has become a global leader by satisfying society’s insatiable appetite for information.

That success translates into 400 jobs at the company headquarters in Lowell and 1,200 jobs globally.

The company’s technology increases the speed and coverage of the mobile Internet and enables fiber optic networks to carry previously unimaginable volumes of traffic to businesses, homes and datacenters. MACOM technology also enables next-generation radars for air traffic control and weather forecasting, as well as mission success on the modern networked battlefield

Headquartered in Lowell, MACOM has been a technology bellwether for Massachusetts since its founding as Microwave Associates in a Boston loft in 1950. MACOM today is certified to the ISO9001 international quality standard and ISO14001 environmental management standard. MACOM has multiple design centers, along with manufacturing, assembly and test, and operational facilities throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

MACOM has thrived in recent years by moving away from commodity markets for chips that go into appliances and automobiles and ramping up research and development to focus on higher-complexity products.

The company divides its revenue into three categories: Networks comprises 65 percent of sales and includes wired broadband, cellular infrastructure, and fiber optics. Aerospace and Defense, mainly radar and communication, is approximately 20 percent of sales.

In the defense sector, the company's fabrication plants are located in the U.S. and certified as a "trusted foundry" by the Department of Defense. The rest is composed of "multi-market," a catch-all for everything from industrial and scientific measurement to even medical, such as CAT scanners.

MACOM has also replaced low-margin products with more specialized high-margin products. The changes have boosted the company’s gross margin by five percentage points since 2011. Sales have also increased at double-digit growth rates.

Growth drivers on the horizon include the continued build-out of cellular and high-speed networks, including fiber optic networks where MACOM is increasingly building expertise, most notably with its recent acquisition of FiBest Limited, a Japanese supplier of optic sub-assemblies.

MACOM’s growth has created dividends for the communities in which it operates. The company attempts to align its core business values with initiatives that support the enhancement and revitalization of communities by providing needed infrastructure and access to programs for hunger relief, education, community development and military/veterans initiatives.

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

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Register | Lawrence

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts employers

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 Surges in May

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 7, 2016 9:30:00 AM

Confidence among Massachusetts employers rose to a 10-month high during May as the state approached full employment despite persistent mixed signals from the national economy.

BCI.May.2016.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index rose 1.5 points during May to 57.7, the highest level since July 2015. The reading was slightly higher than the 57.3 level posted a year ago and comfortably above the 50 mark that denotes an overall positive economic outlook.

The brightening outlook came amid growing evidence that the US economy is regaining its footing after a 0.8 percent growth rate during the first quarter. Recent reports on retail sales, housing starts and industrial production paint an upbeat picture of the economy in the second quarter.

At the same time, the government reported on Friday that the US economy created just 38,000 jobs during May, the slowest pace since 2010.

“Massachusetts employers appear to have shaken off the uncertainty of the fall and winter and are now feeling optimistic about the remainder of 2016,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“The most encouraging news is that every constituent measure contained in the Business Confidence Index rose during May and most were higher than they were a year ago.”

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.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, surged 2 points to 59.3 in April, up 3.4 points from the year earlier. The U.S. Index of national business conditions rose 1.3 points to 51.8. Employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than about the national economy for 73 consecutive months.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 2.2 points to 57.4 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 0.8 points to 58.1

“Confidence among Massachusetts employers appears to be rising in lockstep with consumer confidence, which Mass Insight reported last week hit a 10-year high during the second quarter,” said Katherine A. Kiel, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, College of the Holy Cross, and a BEA member.

“The Massachusetts economy grew faster than the nation during the first quarter of 2016 and is now approaching full employment with a jobless rate of 4.2 percent – no surprise to employers who continue to struggle with a shortage of skilled workers.”

The three sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations all advanced.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, rose 1.4 points to 59.2, while the Sales Index increased 1.9 points to 59.8 and the Employment Index jumped 0.9 points to 55.1.

“Massachusetts continues to enjoy healthy job growth because of the commonwealth’s favorable industry mix - especially the health, education, advanced manufacturing, and high-tech segments of professional and business services,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University.
The 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.

Confidence levels in February were higher in Greater Boston (59.5) than in the rest of the commonwealth (56.1). Non-manufacturing companies enjoyed a significantly brighter outlook at 62.7 than manufacturing employers, who posted an overall confidence level of 54.3.

AIM’s President and CEO Richard C. Lord, a BEA member, said Beacon Hill lawmakers will have a profound influence on the economic fortunes of Massachusetts as the 2015-2016 legislative session draws to a close.

“The Legislature and the Baker administration continue to exercise the type of predictable fiscal discipline that employers value as they look to grow and expand,” Lord said.

“At the same time, the end of the legislative session includes bills on energy, wage equity and paid leave that are cause for concern among employers.”

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

Do Employers Respond to Online Comments?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 6, 2016 8:50:16 AM

OnlineComments.jpg

A majority of AIM member employers choose not to respond to comments made about their companies on social media and Internet rating sites, according to a new AIM poll.

Sixty-two percent of companies responding the AIM monthly issues poll say they never answer what most experts believe is a swelling volume of online consumer feedback. Twenty-seven percent say they respond only to answer a question, 1 percent respond only when they have time and 10 percent always respond.

The results are based on responses from 152 employers.

The survey was taken amid media reports last month of several restaurants and hotels seeking to remove themselves from the popular online rating service TripAdvisor, which is based in Needham and is an AIM member. TripAdvisor maintains ratings on all operating business, an approach that has allowed the site to grow into a platform with more than 320 million reviews of businesses around the globe.

Online customer comments have become an important issue for businesses as traditional word-of-mouth referrals move to the Web and become globally visible. A recent survey by Brightlocal found that the percent of consumers who form their opinions about a business through online reviews rose from 22 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2014.

Being part of the review forums often bolster a business’ bottom line. One Harvard Business School study of restaurants in Washington found that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings led to a 5-to-9 percent increase in revenue. A  report from the Boston Consulting Group involving a survey of nearly 4,800 small businesses found that companies who have a Yelp profile yet do not advertise on the site saw their annual revenue increase by $8,000 on average.

Several companies responding to the AIM survey say they do not use social media for business purposes. Others said they leave the task of monitoring online comments to their marketing departments or to an outside marketing firm.

Companies point out that the issue of online comments does not stop at consumer reviews, but also includes sites that allow current employees to evaluate the company for the benefit of job seekers.

“We just discovered GlassDoor and are diligent about responding to every comment on that site,” one member wrote.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Technology, Internet

AIM Chairman Urges Employers to Engage with Political System

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 31, 2016 8:30:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts Chairman Dan Kenary, Co-Founder and CEO of the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, is calling upon employers to step up their interactions with public officials in the face of an increasingly turbulent political environment.

Kenary told more than 750 business leaders at the AIM annual meeting that employers must create a "entrepreneurial populism" in which those who employ the citizens of Massachusetts articulate the value of their work to the larger society.

Here are his remarks...

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers

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