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Offshore Wind Project Underscores Value of Competition

Posted by Bob Rio on May 23, 2018 5:40:55 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts today applauded the competitive process that led to the selection of Vineyard Wind to begin developing a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard that will power the equivalent of 750,000 homes each year.

WindTurbinesOceanSmallThe selection of Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, follows an intensive bidding process conducted under the 2016 Act to Promote Energy Diversity. AIM supported the competitive elements of that bill as a means to get the best deal possible for ratepayers as the commonwealth moves to renewable sources of electricity.

Vineyard Wind, an AIM member, will now begin negotiations to secure the necessary transmission services and power purchase agreements to facilitate the delivery of offshore wind electricity to Massachusetts customers. Once satisfactory contract terms are secured, those documents will be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for formal review.

AIM expects to represent the interests of employers in that review.

No figures were released yesterday about what the power produced by the Vineyard Wind development will cost. 

“AIM supports competition as the best way to moderate energy costs in Massachusetts and that idea was clearly born out by the spirited race to build the nation’s first large-scale wind farm,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The 2016 energy bill required the state’s electric distribution companies to procure 1,600 megawatts offshore wind energy within the next decade, resulting in intense competition among offshore wind lease holders for long-term contracts with utilities in Massachusetts.

Vineyard Wind says its project will “support hundreds of operations and maintenance jobs and create thousands of construction jobs.”

“Vineyard Wind is proud to be selected to lead the new Massachusetts offshore wind industry into the future,” said Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind. “Today’s announcement reflects the strong commitment to clean energy by Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature.”

Vineyard Wind expects to begin construction in 2019 and become operational by 2021. When completed, the will reduce Massachusetts’ carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars from state roads.

The proposal also commits $10 million to a Wind Accelerator Fund to accelerate the development of an offshore wind supply chain, businesses, and infrastructure in the Bay State by attracting investments to upgrade or create necessary facilities and/or infrastructure.

It also creates a $2 million Windward Workforce program to recruit, mentor, and train residents of Massachusetts, particularly southeast Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands, for careers in the commonwealth’s new offshore wind industry.

Separately, a second AIM member, Deepwater Wind, was selected yesterday to develop 400 megawatts of offshore wind to serve Rhode Island.

Topics: Environment, Energy, Offshore Wind

Lt. Governor Stresses Regional Approach to Economic Growth

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 21, 2018 8:44:05 AM

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, dubbed the “road warrior” because of a travel schedule that has taken her to every city and town in Massachusetts, told AIM members Friday that the measure of economic growth is the degree to which prosperity is shared throughout the commonwealth.

LG.PolitoPolito told more than 850 business leaders gathered for the AIM Annual Meeting that the Baker Administration has sought to meld state programs such as the Economic Development Incentive Program and Massworks with regional growth strategies that reflect the unique economic footprint of each region.

“What we have learned from this journey is to develop strong relationships that help to grow the economy throughout the state,” said Polito, a lifelong Shrewsbury resident who represented that town in the Legislature before becoming Lieutenant Governor in 2015.

She added later: “People don’t judge how things are going in life by how things are going at the State House, on Beacon Hill…They judge things by how things are going in the communities where they raise their kids.”

Polito keynoted a celebration of Massachusetts employers that also saw AIM present Vision Awards to the financial services company, MassMutual, and to philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings. The association also honored the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership with the 2018 John Gould Education and Work Force Development Award.

Polito recalled sitting in city and town halls throughout the commonwealth speaking to local officials about the best ways to stimulate the economies in those communities. The conversations dovetailed with an administration effort to persuade local governments to share best practices and become more efficient.

More than 850 of those best-practice projects are currently underway.

The lieutenant governor said that ensuring economic development takes place “from one end of this great state to another” was a priority for the administration from the start. She noted several examples, including investment in a life-sciences incubator in Pittsfield, development of a life-sciences manufacturing center in Worcester, the introduction of broadband Internet to 53 western Massachusetts communities that lacked it, and the use of $275 million in infrastructure investments to improve everything from downtown commercial streets to access roads opening up industrial parks.

“Each region has incredible assets…regional strategies are integral to growing the economy throughout the commonwealth,” she said.

Polito also stressed the importance of solving key economic issues such as the shortage of skilled workers, the shortage of affordable housing and the rising cost of energy.

She said efforts to address the tight supply of workers are concentrated on three areas – information technology, health care and manufacturing.

The objective is “to graduate students to you with the right skills.”

Polito thanked AIM for representing the interests of all types of employers.

“You give such strong voice to the businesses across our commonwealth, no matter how big or small and no matter where they are situated,” she said.

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, AIM Vision Award, Gould Education and Workforce Training

Natural-Gas Constraints Bad for Business, Bad for Environment

Posted by Bob Rio on May 8, 2018 11:41:13 AM

A shortage of natural-gas capacity during the December/January cold snap added $1.7 billion to the electric bills of business and residential customers in New England while erasing all the environmental benefits from solar energy in Massachusetts during 2017.

coal_power_plantNow you know why Massachusetts employers support the idea of expanding natural-gas infrastructure in the region.

New data released yesterday by the Massachusetts Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and compiled by Concentric Energy Advisors underscores the economic and environmental damage wrought by our energy status quo. AIM is a member of the Coalition, along with scores of other business associations and labor unions.

Natural gas supplies in the region are tight during the winter. Despite abundant supplies just a few states away, pipeline infrastructure to get it here is inadequate and efforts to address this issue have been stymied by those who believe upgrading our natural gas infrastructure will stall progress on transitioning to clean energy. 

Electricity generators simply don’t have enough natural gas to operate during the bitter cold because most of the available gas is used to serve businesses and homeowners.

To satisfy the increased demand for electricity, power plants burn stored back-up oil and coal. The lights stay on, but greenhouse gas emissions increase exponentially since oil and coal emit more carbon than natural gas. The cold-weather shortage of natural gas has become so common in recent winters that power generators are paid to store oil, whether or not it is needed, as sort of an insurance policy funded by ratepayers through higher electric rates.

According to the Concentric report, the amount of coal and oil burned during just a two-week period generated 1.3 million tons of extra greenhouse gas emissions over what would have been emitted if gas had been available. The ratepayer cost was $1.7 billion higher than the previous winter – most of which will show up in next winter’s energy bills. 

In fact, Eversource yesterday sought a 15 percent increase in electric rates for customers in western Massachusetts for the period July through December.

How much is 1.3 million tons? The extra greenhouse gases negated all the greenhouse gas saving from all the solar energy produced in Massachusetts throughout 2017. It’s a problem that cannot be solved by adding more solar capacity since the highest need for natural gas is in the winter, when solar output is at its lowest.

Had the cold period continued (or if another came later in the year), brownouts would likely had occurred. ISO-NE, the regional power grid operator, reports that the system was about three days away from crashing as some plants were already running out of oil and had to curtail their output.       

This dangerous mix of rising costs, rising emissions and brownouts comes at a time when other states are dangling low energy costs in front of Massachusetts employers to persuade those companies to expand elsewhere. It’s not a tough sell – our energy costs are nearly double those of states in other regions of the country.

AIM, along with other members of the Coalition for Sustainable Energy, support a balanced approach to address the region’s energy problems. That approach embraces renewables - AIM has supported the development of both hydro power and offshore wind – while at the same time acknowledging the stresses on our current system and the economic and environmental damage that is occurring.

Read the Concentric Report

Please contact me at rrio@aimnet.org for more information.

 

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Environment, Energy

Employer Confidence Up Slightly in April

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2018 8:48:02 AM

Business confidence strengthened during April as growing optimism among employers about the prospects of their own companies outweighed a more cautious outlook about the state and national economies.

BCI.April.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 0.7 points to 64.2 last month after falling a full point in March. The BCI has gained four points during the past 12 months and remains well within the optimistic range.

The April increase was driven by 2.6-point surge in the index measuring employer confidence in their own companies, along with a 2.5 percent jump in the Employment Index.

Those increases offset slippage in employer views of both the Massachusetts and US economies. The trend appears to be tied to specific issues such as imposition of the employer health-care surcharge in Massachusetts and commodity price increases stemming from the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“While business is good, I am not confident in the general direction and tax policies of the federal government. My impression is that short term gains will come at the expense of future economic, social, and environmental stability,” wrote one employer.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the confidence numbers reflect a solid economy that is growing modestly – 1.6 percent annually on the state level and 2.3 percent annually for the United States.

“The Massachusetts economy is operating at virtually full capacity, but growth is slowing due to constraints on labor,” said Torto.

“Employers are certainly concerned about public policy issues, but those concerns for the moment are minimized by the underlying strength of their businesses.”

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

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index provided a study in contrasts during April.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth declined 2.8 points to 64.1, leaving it 0.8 points higher than in April 2017.

The U.S. Index ended the month at 63.9, down 1.3 points after rising 6.7 points during the previous 12 months. April marked the 98th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy, though the gap has recently narrowed.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 2.5 points to 65.1. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 1.1 points to 63.3. The Current Index has risen 5.2 points and the Future Index 2.8 points since April 2017.

Operational Views

Employer views of their own companies were far brighter.

The Company Index increased to 64.3, up 4.1 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 59.8, a 3.6-point increase for the year.

Manufacturing companies (65.3) remained more optimistic than non-manufacturers (61.1). Large employers (66.1) were more bullish than medium-sized (63.4) or small businesses (63.4).

“Massachusetts employers have maintained a positive view of the economy since the fall of 2013. The numbers move up and down in a small range, and there are certainly long-term concerns about labor availability, but business confidence remains comfortably in positive range amid a full-employment economy,” said Sara L. Johnson, Executive Director, Global Economics, IHS Markit and a BEA member.

Competitive Playing Field

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, pointed to the recent announcement by Philips Lighting that it will end manufacturing at its Fall River plant as evidence that Massachusetts must still pay attention to the cost of doing business.

“Many of the employers who responded to the April Business Confidence Index Survey expressed concern about the new $200 million health-care surcharge and its effect on small business,” Lord said.

“The surcharge was levied to close a budget deficit in the MassHealth program for low-income residents. AIM continues to work with the Legislature to institute structural reforms that will put that program on sound financial footing for the long term.” 

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Employer Health Assessment

Looking for Employees? Evacuees from Puerto Rico are Looking for Work

Posted by John Regan on May 3, 2018 8:30:00 AM

AIM is working with the Baker Administration to assist the thousands of people who fled hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to live in Massachusetts - people who are ready to go to work for Bay State employers who have struggled to find workers in a full-employment economy.

HurricaneMariaMore than 140 people who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island in September have already been hired by Massachusetts companies, including several AIM members. Many of the evacuees have work experience in office and administration, sales and related fields, food preparation and serving, transportation and moving materials, education/library, landscaping, production, management, and health-care related occupations.

The largest group of evacuees is found in Springfield, Holyoke and rest of Hampden County. Other significant populations have settled in Great New Bedford, central Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley.

The state’s network of one-stop career centers is coordinating efforts to secure employment and housing for people relocated from Puerto Rico. The career centers are also working with the evacuees on issues such as work readiness, English-language skills and conversion of specific licenses for professional occupations such as nursing, social work and cosmetology.

The list of AIM-member employers who have already hired Puerto Rican evacuees include DeMoulas Market Basket, MassMutual, Packaging Corporation of America, Staples and Walmart.

Category 4 Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $94 billion in damage when it struck Puerto Rico on September 20. The storm left more than one million people without power and prompted more than 250,000 island residents to relocate to the continental United States.

Employers interested in hiring evacuees may contact Massachusetts Undersecretary for Workforce Development, Jennifer James, at 617.626.7124.

Topics: Skills Gap, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy

Natural Gas Central to Energy Cost Moderation, Greenhouse Reductions

Posted by Bob Rio on Apr 25, 2018 11:00:00 AM

How do you reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent and accelerate the development of renewable energy without bankrupting businesses that already pay among the highest electric rates in the nation? One key element as New England relies more heavily on electric power is expanding natural-gas capacity. That's why Associated Industries of Massachusetts is part of the MASS Coalition for Sustainable Energy.

The video below is a must-watch for any employer worried about his or her electric bills.

Employers interested in more information about the cost of energy may contact Bob Rio at rrio@aimnet.org

Topics: Environment, Energy, Sustainability

Much at Stake for Employers in Final 100 Days of Legislative Session

Posted by Rick Lord on Apr 23, 2018 8:30:00 AM

Today marks 100 days until the Massachusetts Legislature wraps up formal business for its 2017-2018 session.

ExteriorThe end of formal sessions will bring with it the usual eleventh-hour debate on bills that will otherwise have to go back to the starting line when a new session begins in January 2019. Informal sessions continue through the end of the year, but the rules of the Legislature make it all but impossible for controversial bills to pass.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, as the statewide employer association, looks forward to representing employers late into the evening of July 31 – perhaps into the wee hours of August 1 – as lawmakers consider bills that could have a profound effect on employers and the Massachusetts economy.

But the real Beacon Hill deadline that employers need to keep their eye on this year is the first week of July. That’s because the end of the legislative session is inextricably bound up with four potential questions that could appear on the November election ballot, and any compromise on those issues will have to be wrapped up before ballots go to print in early July.

The most important issues for AIM at the end of the session all revolve around these potential ballot questions and ongoing negotiations intended to develop compromises that could be approved by the Legislature before July 31.

AIM has been part of negotiations for more than six months on a proposal to mandate paid family and medical leave for Massachusetts employees.

The association opposes the question, which would cost $1 billion annually by allowing covered workers to take up to 16 weeks of family leave or 26 weeks of medical leave. Workers could take family leave to care for a child after the child’s birth, adoption, or placement in foster care; to care for a seriously ill family member; or to address needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service.

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM, has been hashing out the paid-leave issues with representatives of Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition sponsoring the proposal.  All sides remain committed to seeking a fair agreement that does not inflict significant damage to the economy.

A poll of AIM-member employers last week indicated that companies favor by a two-to-one margin reaching a negotiated settlement.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriett Chandler have convened separate negotiations on proposed ballot questions that would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and reduce the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.

And looming over all the negotiations is a pending decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on a challenge that four business association colleagues and I filed to a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 4 percentage-point surtax on incomes more than $1 million. A decision in that case is expected this spring, adding pressure to the already tight time frame for finding common ground on the other questions.

“AIM will follow hundreds of bills as the session comes to an end, but creating a better and less burdensome paid family and medical leave law will be the priority,” Regan said.

“The minimum-wage increase and graduated income tax are right behind that. The objective is to provide the Legislature with the opportunity to resolve all these issues rather than mounting multiple ballot campaigns that could cost $10 million each.”

It’s a full plate for 100 days. The clock starts now.

Topics: Minimum Wage, Massachusetts Legislature, Paid Family Leave

2018 Gould Award Honors Springfield Empowerment Zone

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 9, 2018 9:08:15 AM

A model collaboration among the City of Springfield, Springfield Public Schools, the Springfield Education Association, teachers, administrators, local philanthropy, and the commonwealth to turn around 11 middle and high schools in Springfield will receive the 2018 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.

Gould2018Now in its third year and serving more than 5,000 middle and high school students, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership represents a groundbreaking initiative in which individual schools operate with autonomy over hiring, budget, schedule, curriculum, and culture.

Schools in the Zone are overseen by an independent board made up of majority community leaders. It remains part of the district and is accountable to the district and the state under a performance contract.

AIM will present the Gould Award at its Annual Meeting on May 18 at the Westin Waterfront hotel in Boston. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will keynote the event, which will also include presentation of AIM Vision Awards to philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings and the financial services company MassMutual.

“The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership is an example of what can happen when teachers and administrators are provided with the freedom and accountability to make schools better for students,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“AIM is pleased to honor a project that brings together city and district leaders, the local teachers union, the school committee, the commonwealth, educators, parents and students in a key economic area of Massachusetts.”

The Springfield Empowerment Zone has generated bipartisan support on both the state and local levels. Governor Charlie Baker highlighted the initiative in his State of the State speech in January.

“These zones…allow educators to make the changes to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said.

Meanwhile, State Senator Eric Lesser, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Springfield, said “Springfield has been able to avoid a state takeover and create a model for getting everyone talking to each other and all the stakeholders working collaboratively.”

The Board of Directors that oversees the Empowerment Zone is chaired by Chris Gabrieli, chief executive of the education nonprofit Empower Schools. The board also includes Mayor Sarno, School Superintendent Dan Warwick, School Committee Vice Chair Chris Collins, and prominent community members John Davis, Senior Trustee at the Davis Foundation; Beverly Holmes, a former MassMutual executive and now active church pastor; and James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston.

The Springfield Education Association, the union representing teachers in the city, negotiated a separate agreement for educators at schools included in the Empowerment Zone.  Union and Zone leaders maintain an active partnership in their efforts to improve education and create collaborative environments within Zone schools. 

Local and state officials and educators caution that it is too early to declare success, but they are encouraged by improving test results and collaborative alignment among district leadership, unions, school committee members, educators, school leaders, and more.

Superintendent Warwick reflected on the progress of the Zone saying “what I see going on in the schools – the energy, the excitement, the buy-in from students – you can already see these schools have improved and they’re going to continue to improve because of the structures that are being put in place”.

The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and to the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth.

In 2000, the award was named after John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training in Massachusetts.

Past recipients of the Gould Award include; the late Jack Rennie, Chairman and Founder of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Middlesex Community College, Gordon Lankton, President and CEO (retired), NYPRO Inc., William Edgerly, Chairman Emeritus, State Street Corporation, Northeastern University, The Davis Family Foundation, Intel Massachusetts, EMC Corporation, IBM, David Driscoll Commissioner (Retired) Massachusetts Department of Education, State Street Corporation and Year UP Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Brockton High School, Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program, Christo Rey Boston High School, CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries. 

Register for the AIM Annual Meeting 

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Education, Gould Education and Workforce Training

Legislature Tightens Access to Criminal Records; Adds Employer Protection

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Apr 4, 2018 4:46:57 PM

The Massachusetts Legislature today passed a criminal-justice reform bill that narrows the ability of employers to research the criminal records of job applicants, but also provides legal protection from negligent-hiring claims to companies that are unable to view a sealed criminal record.

ScalesofJusticeVerySmallThe state Senate and House of Representatives both passed the measure with overwhelming majorities. It now goes to Governor Charlie Baker, who has 10 days to sign or veto it.

Inclusion of the negligent-hiring provision grew out of discussions brokered by AIM last summer between sponsors of the bill and employers who rely upon criminal background checks through the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI) system.  The provision protects employers that conduct background checks and end up hiring individuals with criminal records that are sealed, expunged, or no longer available to employers. 

Key elements of the reform bill for employers include:

  • Accelerates the ability of offenders to seal records from 10 years to seven years for felonies and from five years to three years for misdemeanors.
  • Raises the threshold that defines felony larceny from $250 to $1200, thus classifying more cases as misdemeanors that can be quickly sealed or expunged.
  • Assures that cases dismissed before arraignment do not appear on criminal records.
  • Assures that youthful offender cases tried in juvenile court are treated as juvenile instead of adult CORI.
  • Allows expungement of non-serious cases up to age 21 (both juveniles and young adults).
  • Prevents employers from inquiring about sealed or expunged cases.

Organizations that serve vulnerable populations, such as school systems or nursing homes, would continue to have broader access to criminal records.

AIM members with questions about the status of the legislation should contact Brad MacDougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org. Members with questions about how the measure will affect their companies should call the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, CORI, Human Resources

Tariff Announcements Drive Down Business Confidence

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 3, 2018 8:28:21 AM

Confidence among Massachusetts employers weakened during March amid roiling international trade tensions and volatile financial markets.

BCI.March.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) declined a point to 63.5, retreating from a 17-year high in February. The BCI has gained 1.1 points during the past 12 months and remains comfortably within the optimistic range.

But virtually every element of the March confidence survey lost ground, led by a 1.7-point drop in the US Index of national business conditions. Several employers blamed the Trump Administration’s decision to level tariffs on steel, aluminum and other products for their uncertain outlook.

“Tariffs on stainless steel and aluminum will negatively impact our bottom line in the short run and could prevent our customers from providing new projects due to increased costs,” wrote one employer.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the steel and aluminum tariffs raise the prospect of retaliation by other nations against products made by Massachusetts companies.

“Trade wars reduce the competitiveness of Massachusetts companies and increase costs for consumers. Announcement of the tariffs sent financial markets into a tailspin last month and some of that uncertainty rubbed off on employers,” said Torto.

Cranberries, for example, a key Massachusetts agricultural export, were among the products targeted for retaliation by the European Union before the administration exempted that region from the steel and aluminum tariffs. Massachusetts companies exported $27.5 billion worth of products to foreign markets during 2017, with the largest share (13.5 percent) going to Canada.

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

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mostly lower during March.
The decline in the US Index was matched by a 1.6-point decline in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth. The Massachusetts Index stood at 66.9, leaving it 3.2 points higher than in March 2017.

The U.S. Index ended the month at 65.2, 5.3 points better than a year ago. March marked the 97th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 1.5 points to 62.6. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 0.6 points to 64.4. The Current Index has risen 0.8 points and the Future Index 1.4 points during the past 12 months.

Operational Views

The only element to gain ground was the Employment Index, which rose 0.9 points for the month but remained 1.7 points behind its level of a year ago. The Company Index, meanwhile, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, was off 0.7 points to 61.7.

Manufacturing companies (65.4) were more optimistic than non-manufacturers (61.3). Large employers (68.8) were more bullish than medium-sized (60.3) or small businesses (65.2).

“There is no question that the whirlwind of events taking place in Washington, from the tax bill to trade sanctions, are affecting the outlook of Massachusetts employers,” said Barry Bluestone, Professor of Political Economy at Northeastern University, and a BEA member.

“But it’s also worth noting that the only two elements of the BCI that have declined during the past year are the Company Index and the Employment Index, two measures tied to the performance of individual companies. Overall confident remains strong, but those elements will be worth watching.”

Trade Battles

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the announcement of tariffs and subsequent modifications of those tariffs by the administration has generated uncertainty among employers.

“Trade barriers are cause for concern in a state that exported more than $27 billion worth of goods in 2017,” Lord said.

“AIM and its member employers continue to believe that free trade and open markets remain the best way to ensure growth in the global economy.”

Topics: International Trade, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

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