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Resilient Economy Boosts Business Confidence

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 12, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Business confidence strengthened in Massachusetts last month amid signs that the state and national economies are more resilient than many experts predicted.

BCI.October.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2 points to 60.9 last month, leaving it virtually even with its level of a year ago.

The October upswing was led by growing employer optimism in the Massachusetts and national economies, as well as brightening prospects for manufacturers.

The survey results came during a month when US employers added a stronger-than-expected 128,000 jobs. And while the Massachusetts economy contracted slightly during the third quarter, experts say the reversal reflects workforce capacity limits rather than an economic downturn.

“U.S. hiring was unexpectedly resilient in October and prior months saw upward revisions. It appears that consumers will extend the record-long expansion despite trade tensions and weak business investment,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

The AIM Index, based on a survey of more than 100 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 Business Confidence Index all moved higher during October.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth surged 4.5 points to 67.8 while the US Index rose 3.1 points to 59.6. The increase left the Massachusetts reading 3 points higher than a year ago; the US index has dropped by 2 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.2 points to 58.6, virtually even with its reading from October 2018. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 2.0 points to 63.3, also matching its reading of a year ago.

The Employment Index rose slightly by 0.3 points for the month but remained down 2.5 points for the year, underscoring the capacity issues faced by employers struggling to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (63.4) were more confident than manufacturers (59.0), despite a strong October gain in optimism among industrial companies. Small companies (63.6) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (60.6) or large companies (59.6). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (61.2) remained more optimistic than those in the west (60.4).

Paul Bolger, President, Massachusetts Capital Resource Company and a BEA member, said employers appear to have concluded that the slowing economy remains fundamentally strong enough to make a recession unlikely in the near future.

“Companies are also hoping that a preliminary trade agreement between China and the United States will clear up some of the uncertainty that has been causes by tariffs and an escalating trade battle,” Bolger said.

Business Battens the Hatches

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said the persistent shortage of skilled workers constraining the Massachusetts economy underscores the need for the Legislature to pass an education funding bill that establishes accountability for school districts to prepare students for both college and the workforce. 

“The job of sustaining Massachusetts’ global leadership in innovation belongs to everyone, and that requires a thoughtful, long-range plan to maintain our competitive advantage, including our education system. The foundation of such a plan is a set of educational standards that ensure our students’ continued achievement via distinct criteria,” Regan said.

“Whether Massachusetts high school graduates choose a college track or enter the workforce directly upon graduation, we must remain vigilant and insist on relevant, high standards to provide all our students with equal access to the economic advantages that follow educational achievement.”

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

Congratulations to Top Women-Led Companies

Posted by John Regan on Nov 8, 2019 10:59:02 AM

TopWomenLedBusinesses2019

AIM directors and staff gathered today to honor member companies included in the Commonwealth Institute/Boston Globe 2019 list of Top-Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts. Left to right, AIM Director Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs; AIM Director Janice Goodman, Owner, Cityscapes; AIM Chief Financial Officer Cindy Lyman; AIM Diversity Consultant Juliette Mayers, CEO of Inspiration Zone; AIM Board Chair Joanne Hilferty, President & CEO of Top 100 honoree Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries; AIM Treasurer Dennis Leonard, President & CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts; and AIM Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Brooke Thomson.

 

Associated Industries of Massachusetts congratulates 15 member employers named to the 2019 Top 100 Women-Led Businesses list released today by The Commonwealth Institute and The Boston Globe.

The companies range from financial services giant Fidelity Investments to construction firm E.T. & L. Corporation. Five of the companies are led by members of the AIM Board of Directors – Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries of Boston, Joanne Hilferty, President and CEO; Lancaster Packaging Inc., Marianne Lancaster, Founder and President; Onyx Specialty Papers of South Lee, Patricia Begrowicz, President; Sensata Technologies, Martha Sullivan, President and CEO; and United Personnel Services Inc., Tricia Canavan, President and CEO.

“The companies on this list represent the best of the Massachusetts business community,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“The women who own or run these companies have not just shattered glass ceilings but built their businesses in a manner that creates economic opportunity for all Massachusetts residents.”

AIM members on the list are:

  • Children's Hospital, Sandra Fenwick, President & COO
  • Catholic Charities of Boston, Debbie Rambo, President
  • Comcast (Greater Boston), Tracy Pitcher, Senior Vice President, Greater Boston
  • ET&L Corp, Jennie Colosi, President & Treasurer
  • Elaine Construction, Lisa Wexler, President
  • Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson, President & CEO
  • John Hancock, Marianne Harrison, CEO
  • Lancaster Packaging Inc., Marianne Lancaster, Founder & President
  • Lasell Village Inc., Anne Doyle, President
  • Massachusetts Medical Society, Lois Dehls Cornell, Executive Vice President
  • Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Joanne Hilferty, President & CEO
  • Onyx Paper, Patricia Begrowicz, President
  • Sensata Technologies, Martha Sullivan, President & CEO
  • United Personnel Services, Tricia Canavan, President & CEO
  • UMass Lowell, Jacquie Moloney, Chancellor

The honorees were announced this morning at The Commonwealth Institute/Boston Globe Top 100 Women-Led Businesses breakfast.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Diversity & Inclusion

House Education Bill Stresses Accountability

Posted by Katie Holahan on Nov 5, 2019 11:32:10 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts yesterday commended the state House of Representatives for passing an education funding bill that establishes accountability for school districts to prepare students for both college and the workforce.  

Education“The job of sustaining Massachusetts’ global leadership in innovation belongs to everyone, and that requires a thoughtful, long-range plan to maintain our competitive advantage, including our education system. The foundation of such a plan is a set of educational standards, like those contained in House bill 4145, that ensures our students’ continued achievement via distinct criteria,” AIM President and Chief Executive Officer John Regan wrote in a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and members of the House.

“Whether Massachusetts high school graduates choose a college track or enter the workforce directly upon graduation, if we do not remain vigilant and insist on relevant, high standards, we will fail to provide all our students with equal access to the economic advantages that follow educational achievement at all levels.”

The letter conveys the appreciation of AIM’s 3,500 member employers to Speaker DeLeo, House Education Chair Alice Peisch, and House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for legislation that aligns community needs with goals and outcome-based measurements.

The Massachusetts House voted unanimously on October 23 to pass a $1.5 billion education funding bill with measures allowing the state to hold school districts accountable for how they spend the money. A version of the reform passed by the state Senate removed some of those accountability measures and a conference committee is now trying to iron out the differences.

AIM’s member companies have become increasingly concerned that Massachusetts students are graduating from high school without the knowledge and skills they need to enter the workforce or to succeed in college. 

At the same time, businesses report a persistent shortage of qualified candidates to fill open jobs, many of which pay high wages in growing industries. The skills shortage appears to be impeding economic growth and expansion - a MassBenchmarks report last week showed that the state economy contracted modestly during the third quarter because of workforce capacity limits.

Education matters to Massachusetts employers because it is where we shine as a state and have a competitive advantage over other states and countries.

The House education funding bill, AIM writes in its letter, would allow employers throughout Massachusetts “to hire tomorrow’s work force with confidence, knowing that these potential employees have received the best educational opportunities available.”  

AIM Backs Reasoned, Long-Term Approach to Transportation

Posted by Brooke Thomson on Oct 30, 2019 7:08:11 AM

Virtually everyone in Massachusetts agrees that the commonwealth must repair, update and rethink its transportation system.

trafficsmallJust ask employers in metropolitan Boston where workers navigate daily reliability issues on the MBTA or persistent congestion on the Southeast Expressway. Or manufacturing companies in the Berkshires that struggle to ship products over back roads to the Turnpike. Or restaurants on the Cape that await customers locked in multi-mile backups over the Sagamore or Bourne bridges.

Improving the complex Massachusetts transportation system will require patience, prudence and compromise to reach a solution that lays the foundation for long-term economic growth. The 3,500 members of Associated Industries of Massachusetts know as business people that sorting out the financial, logistical and operational elements of transportation reform will take years of debate and continued analysis.

AIM supports a reasoned, long-term approach built around Governor Charlie Baker’s $18 billion transportation bond bill now pending in the state Legislature. That bond bill acknowledges what Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the AIM Executive Forum in September – the first step in any reform must be to remove current structural impediments that prevent the Department of Transportation and the T from spending the money that the taxpayers have already given them.

AIM believes that Massachusetts policymakers must provide procurement and policy reform to the transportation system before investing money into an outdate infrastructure.

AIM believes that any solution to the transportation issue must factor in the need to reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector to comply with state laws to reduce global warming. 

AIM supports transportation initiatives that are fair to people of all income levels and all regions of the commonwealth.

AIM acknowledges that the commonwealth may need to develop more revenue for transportation in the next three to four years once structural reforms have been accomplished. More work needs to be done to determine the best method of raising revenue and AIM recommends a deliberate approach to funding issues.

Here is AIM’s position on transportation:

AIM supports policies and responsible new investment to reduce congestion; grow capacity to deliver capital projects; lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector and ensure accountability and transparency in transportation investment spending.

  • AIM supports the governor’s bond bill – specifically those provisions that provide employer tax incentives, address congestion and put in place new Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MBTA management and procurement tools;
  • AIM emphasizes the importance of procurement and contracting reform to get money flowing to projects at an accelerated rate. We support creating $1.4 billion in additional MBTA capital availability by changing the $127 million in annual appropriations to contract assistance or by increasing the annual Base Revenue Amount and Dedicated Sales Tax Revenue amount to the MBTA by $127 million.
  • AIM is open to reducing transportation emissions by supporting the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean-energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
  • AIM remains concerned about raising the gasoline tax because it is regressive and has a punitive effect on less populated regions of the commonwealth;
  • Because AIM is the statewide business association, we support a transportation plan that meets in a fair manner the diverse needs of all regions of the commonwealth;
  • AIM supports studies exploring congestion pricing as a means of reducing or mitigating congestion. Congestion pricing must apply equally to all industries and all types of vehicles and not target specific industries such as ride-sharing companies;
  • AIM supports policies that add governance structures to ensure accountability and transparency in transportation revenue spending;
  • AIM supports $105 million in transportation funding in the supplemental budget currently in conference committee on Beacon Hill: $50 million for MBTA, $40 million for Chapter 90, $10 million for municipal complete streets program.

The AIM Board of Directors continues to discuss details of a transportation proposal. The ongoing discussion reflects the importance that the Board attaches to the transportation debate.

Please contact Bob Rio, Senior Vice President, rrio@aimnet.org, for updates on the transportation debate.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Transportation, Charlie Baker

Three Companies Earn AIM Global Trade Awards

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Oct 24, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced the winners of the 24th annual AIM Global Trade Awards, which recognize Massachusetts companies and public agencies of all sizes that have demonstrated excellence in international business. The 2019 honorees represent both Massachusetts manufacturing and professional service industries and include: Crane Currency, Globalization Partners, and SMC Ltd.

CraneCurrency“From the more traditional manufacturing activities to our talent economy, Massachusetts companies are innovative global leaders; international trade is a pivotal aspect of the Commonwealth’s overall business community,” said John Regan, President and CEO of AIM. “We are delighted to honor the 2019 winners, who from innovative product development to best-in-class manufacturing make a true impact on global business. In a time when international trade is at the forefront of national and international conversation, we are proud to show support for the important role of global business in our economy.”

The three Global Trade Award winners will be honored during the AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards Breakfast on Thursday, November 7 from 7:30-10:30am at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy.  The event will feature keynote speaker Martha Sullivan, President and CEO of Sensata Technologies.  A lively panel discussion highlighting the perspectives of several global business leaders including Harriet Cross, UK Consul General in Boston and Professor Ravi Ramamurti, Director of the Center for Emerging Markets at Northeastern University, will follow the keynote. 

The AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards is sponsored by Massport, The Provident Bank, MassMEP and M&T Bank.

Chairman’s Award: Crane Currency, Dalton & Boston

Founded in Massachusetts in 1801, Crane Currency is still headquartered in Massachusetts today. Crane Currency designs, manufactures, and prints high-quality and highly secure bank notes. The paper for all US currency is manufactured by Crane Currency’s 300 employees in Dalton.  The company has a long history of innovation and is known for its state-of-the-art security technology.  Crane Currency acquired a manufacturing facility in Sweden in 2002 and, most recently, built a state-of-the-art printing and technical center in Malta, where it produces bank notes for the central banks of over 50 countries.  Annemarie Watson is president of Crane Currency.

https://www.cranecurrency.com/

Diplomat’s Award: Globalization Partners, Boston

Globalization Partners, a global professional employer organization founded in Boston in 2011 by CEO Nicole Sahin, has grown rapidly in just eight years and now has regional hub offices in eight international locations: United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates, India, Shanghai, Singapore, Brazil, and Mexico. Approximately half of the company’s nearly 200 worldwide employees work in the Boston headquarters.  The services and technology platform developed by Globalization Partners enables companies to hire talent in more than 170 countries within days, without the need to set up costly international subsidiaries.  The company provides a cost-efficient solution for US businesses wanting to test new markets. 

https://www.globalization-partners.com/

Ambassador’s Award: SMC, Ltd., Devens, MA

SMC Ltd. is a global contract manufacturer of single use, finished medical devices.  The company was founded in 1988 by Chetan N. Patel, a graduate of UMass Lowell who grew up in India. SMC has over 350 employees in Massachusetts and 2,000 employees worldwide.  More than half of the company’s clients are headquartered internationally and include well-known European pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies.  SMC, with support from MassDevelopment, recently invested in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Devens where the company does design, molding and assembly.  Its high-speed automation processes enabled the company to extend its product line to include drug delivery within devices.  Approximately one-third of product that is manufactured in Massachusetts goes to international markets.

https://www.smcltd.com/

The AIM International Business Council helps Massachusetts companies engage in international trade and expand their global business activities. Through seminars, referrals, and e-newsletters, the AIM International Business Council provides companies with the resources they need.  Visit www.aimnet.org/international.

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council

Health Spending Hits Benchmark, but Employer Premiums Rise

Posted by Katie Holahan on Oct 21, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Spending on health care in Massachusetts met a key state benchmark for 2018, but employers and their workers continued to pay significantly more for health insurance coverage, according to a new report.

health_careThe Massachusetts Center for Health Care Information and Analysis (CHIA) reported last week that health-care spending increased 3.1 percent from 2017-2018, equal to the goal established under the 2012 state Health Care Cost Control law.

But insurance premiums soared 5.2 percent, while the amount of cost-sharing assumed by employees rose 6.1 percent. Wages and salaries grew 2.8 percent during the same period as health costs continued to outpace earnings.

“The cost of providing health insurance remains a priority concern for Massachusetts employers. The report underscores the need to ensure that the prices paid by employers and their workers reflect the overall trends in health-care costs,” said Brooke Thomson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

CHIA released its report last week in advance of the annual Cost Trends Hearings in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday. Several AIM-member employers are scheduled to testify.

Among the highlights:

Below are a number of highlights with particular relevance for employers:

  • Premiums for fully insured plans in 2018 increased 5.6 percent after rising 4.9 percent in 2017.
  • Cost-sharing rose along with premiums by 5.5 percent in 2018, after a 6.5 percent increase in 2017. Fully insured members paid more and experienced faster cost increases than members in self-insured plans.
  • Enrollment in high deductible health plans (HSHP) surged 31.5 percent. The increase was especially pronounced among small businesses. Meanwhile, enrollment in tiered and limited network plans remained largely the same.
  • Total expenditures for MassHealth – the state’s public health insurance program for low-income people – remained flat while the number of people enrolled in MassHealth decreased.
  • Net of prescription drug rebates, pharmacy spending was $8.1 billion, an increase of 3.6 percent from the prior year.
  • Hospital services, physician, and pharmacy expenditures continued to be the largest service categories of Total Health Care Expenditure (THCE) spending.

About three in five Massachusetts residents are covered through private health insurance. More than 93 percent of those in private health insurance receive coverage through their employer.

Sixty percent of private commercial health insurance members were enrolled in self-insured ESI plans. In the commercial market, approximately 60 percent of people were self-insured through either a large employer or the Group Insurance Commission.

AIM and its member employers have launched several initiatives to control health spending, including an effort to reduce inappropriate use of emergency departments by 20 percent in two years. State officials estimate that a significant number of ED visits are potentially avoidable, a pattern that costs $300-$350 million annually for commercially insured members.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday introduced a sweeping health care bill that puts a new focus on primary and mental health care, while reining in physician and hospital billing practices, penalizing drug companies that sharply increase prices, and infusing struggling community hospitals with new funds. It would prohibit surprise medical bills for emergency and unplanned services, and it would limit the use of hospital facility fees. 

“The year 2018 marked the second consecutive year in which employers and workers did not see the full benefit of moderating health-care spending. Massachusetts cannot continue to support a system in which the premiums paid by employers and their workers rise faster than the underlying cost of health care,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Editor's note - Contact Katie Holahan at keh@aimnet.org to receive updates on health costs in Massachusetts.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Health Insurance, Health Care

Business Confidence Holds Steady; Manufacturing Outlook Dims

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 8, 2019 8:24:21 AM

Business confidence remained essentially flat in Massachusetts during September despite a darkening outlook among manufacturers.

BCI.September.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 0.2 points to 58.9 last month after retreating in August. The Index has lost 3.7 points since September 2018 but remains within optimistic territory.

The September reading was weighed down by weakening sentiment among Bay State manufacturers. The Index’s manufacturing component dropped 2.4 points in September and 7.9 points for the year.

The results mirrored the national Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, which fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. A separate report by IHS Markit showed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst quarter since 2009, though activity increased during September.

“Manufacturers are bearing the brunt of both actual and threatened tariffs against goods imported from China. Many Massachusetts companies have also become caught in retaliatory tariffs and are seeing significant weakening of their overseas business,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

The AIM Index, based on a survey of more than 100 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 AIM BCI were mixed during September.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 0.6 points to 63.3 while the US Index rose to 56.5. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 1.2 points and the US reading 7.1 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 0.5 points to 56.4, leaving it 4.4 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 0.8 points to 61.3 – 3.0 points lower than its reading of September 2018.

The Employment Index rose a point for the month but remained down 3.1 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (61.9) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Large companies (60.2) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (59.9) or small companies (55.4), reversing a trend established during the summer. Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (62.6) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (53.8).

Michael A. Tyler, CFA, Chief Investment Officer at Eastern Bank Wealth Management, and a BEA member, said the gaps in confidence between manufacturing companies and other businesses, and between companies in different regions of the commonwealth, appear to be growing.

“Manufacturing has been hit by the steady increase in tariffs imposed by the United States, China and other nations since 2018. The World Trade Organization estimates that the flow of goods across borders will increase by just 1.2 percent this year and manufacturing companies are feeling that downdraft,” Tyler said.

Business Battens the Hatches

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said a separate survey shows that two-thirds of AIM-member employers expect an economic contraction between now and the end of 2020. Companies are preparing for a possible slowdown by hiring fewer people, paying down debt and limiting capital expenditures.

“A possible take-away from the survey for state policymakers as they begin considering billions of dollars in new spending is this could be a difficult time ahead for the state economy,” Regan said.

“Businesses are assuming a defensive posture and significant tax increases - beyond the $1 billion for the new paid family and medical leave system - even for worthwhile causes, could harm the overall economy, most especially the manufacturing sector.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Massachusetts Companies Wary of Economic Downturn

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 7, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Two-thirds of Massachusetts employers surveyed by Associated Industries of Massachusetts anticipate an economic contraction before the end of 2020.

ManufacturingWorkerSmallMany of those companies are taking defensive measures ranging from hiring fewer people to paying down debt to limiting capital expenditures.

The survey results are based on responses from 111 Massachusetts companies representing almost every sector of the state economy. AIM collected the information as part of its monthly Business Confidence Index survey.

The sobering economic news comes as the Massachusetts Legislature debates billions of dollars in new spending on education, transportation and tax measures.

“A possible take-away from the survey for state policymakers as they begin considering billions of dollars in new spending is this could be a difficult time ahead for the state economy,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Businesses are assuming a defensive posture and significant tax increases - beyond the $1 billion for the new paid family and medical leave system - even for worthwhile causes, could harm the overall economy, most especially the manufacturing sector.”

Seventy-five companies that participated in the survey expect a contraction before the end of next year and 36 do not.

The companies that see a recession on the horizon are carefully managing payrolls, reducing expenses and developing relationships with customers insulated against downturns.

Comments include:

  • Scaling back on hiring plans. Slowing down certain capital expense/equipment purchases until we get a clearer picture of what the next six months will bring.
  • We have temporarily eliminated overtime work that was formerly unlimited.
  • Diversifying our service offerings.
  • Being a small manufacturing company, we can react quickly to changes in the business climate. Also, we will only invest in capital projects that significantly improve efficiencies and process with a payback of 18 months or less.
  • Concentrating on expense reduction - evaluating closely the need to replace positions as all employment related costs continue to increase - using methods such as combining roles in the short-term, hiring part-time as a replacement, reducing headcount by attrition or reorganizing an area.
  • Our workforce has already dropped ... Conditions have been very volatile for us, one month were up two or three months were down, next two months are up, two months after that were down considerably, next month moderate.
  • We have hired an outside firm to pursue sales opportunities.
  • We have cut our work force of temps and are currently on work-share. As we supply many markets, the two most impacted are agricultural equipment and trucking. The latter is a canary in the coal mine and has always been ahead of the economy. The agricultural industry is suffering from the cut in exports and the loss of markets due to tariffs. The continued list of tariff exemptions on imports for products we make also has a depressive affect.

Other companies believe they will ride out a downturn.

  • We think we'll be immune from the contraction.
  • Our industry is counter-cyclical. When the economy contracts, our industry usually receives a boost. 

The Massachusetts economy has continued to expand throughout 2019, though at a moderating pace as the year has progressed. Economic growth slowed from 2.7 percent in the first quarter to 1.4 percent in the second, according to MassBenchmarks.

The AIM Business Confidence Index has likewise remained in optimistic territory during the year but has lost 3.7 points during the past 12 months.

Conversely, the Massachusetts unemployment rate remains at 2.9 percent and private employers created 6,700 jobs between August 2018 and August 2019.

"The AIM survey ultimately argues for economic prudence and fiscal caution in the short term to allow the recent legislative and regulatory changes that have occurred over the last two sessions to take effect," said Brooke M. Thomson, Executive  Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“Massachusetts is flourishing in many ways, and in the wake of such recent changes, we need policies and practices that will ensure the economy remains strong and that creates economic stability and regulatory certainty for employers.”

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

Transportation Chief Takes Strategic Approach

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 27, 2019 11:09:51 AM

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack thinks of the increasing frustration among Massachusetts commuters in terms of “good days” and “bad days.”

While average commute times have not increased substantially in recent years, Pollack said drivers are encountering more frequent bad days in which a 40-minute commute can turn into a 60-minute ordeal.

“If one day in five takes 60 minutes, you now have an hour commute every day. You plan your life as if it’s an hour and that’s why everybody feels worse,” Pollack told 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

The insight is one of many to come from a strategic effort by state officials to understand the underlying transportation challenges facing the commonwealth before identifying solutions. A comprehensive approach to transportation, according to Pollack, covers a daunting range of issues from improving capital planning at the MBTA to highway management to housing development to telecommuting.

“We have laid the foundation for hitting the accelerator and getting these things done,” Pollack told the audience.

She said the two largest challenges facing the transportation system are climate change and traffic congestion.

Massachusetts is seeking to meld the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with funding for new transportation initiatives through the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative. TCI is a regional collaboration of 13 Northeast/Mid-Atlantic states working to reduce carbon emissions through a “cap-and-invest” program or other mechanism that establishes a price for transportation emissions.

Pollack noted that transportation accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

“TCI was not proposed to be a revenue source. It was proposed because it is proven mechanism that has worked in electric sector. It is our best bet to make a dent in transportation greenhouse gas emission.”

Traffic congestion in Massachusetts has reached a “tipping point,” according to a report issued in August by the Baker Administration, which  has signaled support for solutions ranging from allowing commuters to pay to bypass gridlock to reserving bus lanes on highways. The report offered 10 major conclusions:

  1. Congestion is bad because the economy is good.
  2. The worst congestion in the Commonwealth occurs in Greater Boston.
  3. Congestion can and does occur at various times and locations throughout the Commonwealth.
  4. Many roadways are now congested outside of peak periods.
  5. Congestion worsened between 2013 and 2018.
  6. Simple changes in travel time on an average day do not capture the severity of the problem.
  7. Massachusetts has reached a tipping point with respect to congestion.
  8. Many commuting corridors have become unreliable, with lengthy trips on bad days.
  9. Congestion has worsened to the point where it reduces access to jobs.
  10. We should be worried about congestion on local roads, too.

Modernizing the MBTA will plan a big part in helping to reduce the number of cars on the roads, Pollack said. Total capital spending at the T will increase to $9.3 billion between now and 2024, but capital delivery needs to increase to $1.5 billion annually to fund reliability and modernization.

“When enough people use transit and they have a reliable way to get to work, you can take out some of the peaks and get to reasonable balance of good says and bad days,” Pollack said.

Governor Baker in July filed a transportation bond bill seeking $18 billion in additional capital authorization to invest in building and modernizing a transportation system that meets the needs of residents, businesses and cities and towns statewide. The authorization would be used to fund existing programs as well as several new initiatives designed to lessen impacts from roadway congestion and ensure reliable travel throughout the Commonwealth.

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

Tanglewood Makes Sweet Music for Berkshire County Economy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 23, 2019 2:11:17 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts presented a 2019 AIM Next Century Award last week to Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, citing the organization's contributions to the economy of Berkshire County. AIM President and CEO John Regan presented the award to Bart Reidy, the BSO's Chief Strategy Officer, during the annual AIM Employer Celebration in Pittsfield.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, AIM Next Century Award

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