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Video Blog | John Hancock Maintains Global View

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Nov 19, 2018 8:00:00 AM

John Hancock, winner of a 2018 AIM Global Trade Award, is both a major Massachusetts employer and an ambassador for the commonwealth globally.

Owned by Canadian multinational insurance company Manulife, John Hancock offers a broad range of financial products to individuals and corporations.  Equally important, as the lead sponsor of the Boston Marathon, John Hancock plays a major role in bringing global elite athletes and the world’s attention to Massachusetts each April. 

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Massachusetts employers

Technology Becomes Fifth Utility for Cities

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 16, 2018 11:19:01 AM

A sophisticated technology infrastructure and real-time data have allowed the Boston Police Department to reduce crime in the city by 20 percent while arresting far fewer people than in the past.

SmartCities.2“A lot of that is because we are policing smarter. All this technology allows us to do our jobs better,” retired Boston Policy Commissioner William Evans told more than 200 business leaders at an AIM Executive Forum on Smart Cities this morning.

Evans, now Chief of Police at Boston College, said police now have access to video feeds, body camera footage, “shot-spotter” sound data and predictive analytics as they assign police officers to areas most affected by crime. Beginning in January, he said, Boston police officers will collect all of that information on smart phones.

Several miles to the south in Quincy, Chris Cassani is overseeing a $1.3 million project to install an adaptive signal platform that will allow the city’s traffic signals to share data to improve traffic flow. He said the system contains a software algorithm that can grow alongside the tremendous amount of economic development taking place in Quincy.

“There has been a tremendous amount of change, a tremendous amount of investment,” said Cassani, the city’s Director of Traffic, Parking, Alarm and Lighting.

Smart Cities technologies represent a kind of “fifth utility” for municipalities alongside water, electricity, gas and waste, according to three senior executives from Dell who lead the discussion. The executives said that technology not only makes more efficient the city services upon which businesses depend, but also increasingly makes reams to data available to employers on everything from flooding history to refuse collection.

“We absolutely have to build out a digital infrastructure,” said Corky Allen, Regional Field Director for State and Local Government Affairs for Dell EMC.

Rich Barlow, Field Chief Technology Officer for Dell, described how the City of Virginia Beach recently developed the ability to coordinate data from hundreds of flood sensors to minimize damage from hurricanes and other natural disasters.

AIM President Rick Lord said all the changes have important implications for employers.”

“Technology is transforming the world outside your business,” Lord told the gathering.

“It’s changing the management of the roads your employees travel to work, the infrastructure that “provides power to your building, and the municipal emergency services you call if the worst happens.”

Topics: Technology, AIM Executive Forum

Video Blog | Universal Plastics Brings Global Growth Back Home

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Nov 13, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Universal Plastics of Holyoke, winner of the 2018 Associated Industries of Massachusetts Global Trade Award,  manufactures custom thermoformed plastic parts and manages global supply chains for some of its aerospace and medical customers.  Universal Plastics is also “re-shoring,” or bringing back some production from overseas.  The company has five manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and 300 employees in Massachusetts. Watch their story, below.

 

Topics: International Trade, Massachusetts Manufacturing, Massachusetts employers

Trade Expert: Tariffs De-Globalizing US Economy

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Nov 9, 2018 8:43:12 AM

The Trump Administration is stretching the rules and norms of international trade in a manner that will ultimately de-globalize the United States economy and undermine the nation’s prosperity, a Harvard professor and former presidential trade adviser said yesterday.

LawrenceRobert Lawrence, the Albert Williams Professor of Trade and Investment at Harvard’s Kennedy School, told 150 people at the 2018 AIM Global Trade Symposium that the imposition of tariffs by the United States and retaliatory tariffs by China and other nations will actually harm domestic manufacturing since many of the inputs for US producers come from overseas.

“We’re raising costs for American production. It’s a counterproductive strategy,” said Lawrence, who was a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office.

Two prominent Massachusetts employers confirmed that the deepening trade war is causing them to shift manufacturing, in some cases from the United States to overseas locations.

Lisa Hill, Vice President of Global Trade Strategies at Ocean Spray in Lakeville, said the company is moving some of its processing operations to recently acquired facilities in Chile and Canada to avoid retaliatory tariffs from China, the European Union, Mexico and Canada.

“We are literally on everybody’s list,” Hill said as part of a panel discussion on trade.

She told the audience that Ocean Spray has dealt with trade wars in the past but “what we are dealing with today is unprecedented.”

A similar story is unfolding at Sensata Technologies of Attleboro, which maintains operations and business centers in 12 countries around the world. Vineet Nargolwala, Senior Vice President for Performance Sensing, said that 20 percent of the high-tech sensors the company makes in China come to the United States and are thus subject to new tariffs.

The company is responding by moving international production to other sites in Southeast Asia while reserving more of its China operations to make products for the Chinese market.

“It’s definitely a new landscape we are operating in,” Nargolwala said.

Lisa Wieland, Port Director for Massport, said the peak import shipping season for Boston accelerated this year as companies tried to get product into the United States ahead of the tariffs. Massport itself, which is in the middle of an $850 million infrastructure modernization project, had to spent significant time to ensure that three massive ship-to-shore cranes made exclusively by a company in China were not included in the tariff schedule.

The comments on trade policy came as AIM and its International Business Council honored four Massachusetts companies for excellence in international trade. The recipients of the 2018 Global Trade Awards were Universal Plastics of Holyoke, John Hancock of Boston, Bennett & Company of Newburyport and nuTonomy/APTIV of Boston.

Lawrence maintained that the Trump Administration used an overly broad definition of national security to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and a similarly broad interpretation of provisions that permit tariffs when foreign governments impose unreasonable burdens on US commerce.

The result, he said, has been that the United States has ceded world trade leadership to China.

“It leaves us with a severely damaged global trading system,” he said.

Topics: AIM International Business Council, International Trade, AIM Global Trade Symposium

Business Confidence Drops to 17-Month Low

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 6, 2018 8:04:29 AM

Business confidence in Massachusetts declined to its lowest level in 17 months during October as the uncertainties that roiled global financial markets seeped into employer outlooks.

BCI.October.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 1.6 points to 61.0 last month, the fourth decline in the last five months.

The reading remains well within optimistic territory, but the BCI now sits 1.7 points lower than its level of a year ago and at its lowest point since May 2017.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the October decline is noteworthy because of large declines in employer confidence in their own operations, and among manufacturers.

“Fears about slowing growth, trade wars and rising interest rates buffeted financial markets this month, and some of those same fears, combined with an increasingly acrimonious mid-term election, affected employers as well,” Torto said

“The good news is that the fundamentals of the economy remain strong. MassBenchmarks reports that the Massachusetts economy grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate during the third quarter and the national economy added 250,000 jobs last month.”

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 almost all lower during October.

The one exception was the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, which rose 0.2 points to 64.7. Confidence in the state economy has declined 0.4 points since October 2017.

The U.S. Index lost 2.0 points to 61.6, leaving it 0.9 points lower than a year ago.

The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 2.0 points to 59.6, down 2.4 points year-to-year. The Employment Index lost 0.3 points during October while the Sales Index tumbled 3.1 points to 57.4.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 1.0 point last month to 63.3 and 0.3 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 2.1 points for the month and 3.2 points for the year.

Non-manufacturers (61.7) were slightly more optimistic that manufacturing companies (60.3). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (61.7) were more bullish than those in the west (60.3).

Medium-sized companies (62.1) registered higher confidence readings than either large companies (59.5) or small companies (60.6), an unusual result since large companies typically show the most optimism on the BCI.

Katherine A. Kiel, Professor of Economics at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and a member of the BEA, suggested that large companies may be particularly concerned about the ratcheting up of trade tensions between the United States, China and other trading partners.

“Employers responding to the survey are expressing fears about the potential effects of rising tariffs both on the price of raw materials and their ability to expand overseas markets,” Kiel said.
Intersection of Politics, Economy

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, agreed that international trade friction and uncertainty about the duration and scope of new tariffs are clouding employer views of an otherwise solid economy.

“Concerns about trade and tariffs are likely to influence employer decisions as we move toward the end of 2018 and into the New Year. Hopefully, the results of the mid-term elections today will shed some light on the direction of trade policy moving forward.”

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

Potential Legislative Involvement in Lockout Sets Dangerous Precedent

Posted by John Regan on Nov 2, 2018 8:34:04 AM

Proposed legislation that would penalize National Grid during the ongoing lockout of gas workers represents a troubling – and perhaps unconstitutional – foray by Beacon Hill into a private-sector labor dispute.

State House 2015The bill, called An Act relative to the employment of certain workers by National Grid, would prohibit National Grid from:

  • receiving public funds for the upgrade, repair, installation or maintenance of its gas distribution system
  • applying for funds to assist in paying the costs of gate box maintenance and improvements, or
  • receiving from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities any increase in its rates for consumer gas or electric distribution.

The bill would also require National Grid to continue to provide health insurance under its expired collective bargaining agreements with Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012-04.

The House of Representatives has admitted the bill, but no hearing has been scheduled. The measure is unlikely to pass before January since the Legislature remains in informal session when a single legislator may stop a bill.

National Grid, which provides natural-gas service to 116 Massachusetts communities, has 85 communities impacted by a lockout of 1,250 workers after the Steelworkers rejected a five-year contract offer that will boost the current average employee salary, including overtime, from $120,000 a year to $137,000.

The offer also includes a 10 percent increase in the pension plan for current employees, while new employees would be assigned to a completely company-funded defined contribution plan with a 3 to 9 percent company match, in addition to a regular 401 (k) with a company match. The company’s health insurance proposal would also introduce modest deductibles and coinsurance, which the unions currently do not pay.

Intervention in a private labor dispute is beyond the scope of the Massachusetts Legislature and sets a dangerous precedent for the ability of government to takes sides in negotiations between companies and their workers. If lawmakers interject themselves in the National Grid lockout, what would prevent them from also becoming involved in disputes involving manufacturing, service or technology companies across the commonwealth?

The bill would tread upon and regulate a sphere of private sector collective bargaining that is intended to be unregulated by the U.S. Congress.  As such, the legislation is pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act.  Strikes and lockouts are both federally protected actions.

The federal courts have a long history of pre-empting local and state efforts to shape labor disputes. In 1986, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court pre-empted the Los Angeles City Council’s bid to condition renewal of a taxi license on the resolution of a labor dispute.

The proposal could also violate the United States Constitution because, in targeting National Grid and only National Grid, it constitutes a Bill of Attainder proscribed by Article 1 of the Constitution. 

No one likes labor disputes and AIM joins others in hoping that National Grid and its unions can find common ground soon. That hope should not, however, lead elected officials down the road of political expediency.

Topics: Organized Labor, Massachusetts Legislature, Energy

Employers Face New HIRD Form Tomorrow

Posted by Katie Holahan on Oct 31, 2018 11:14:31 AM

Starting tomorrow, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will implement a new Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (HIRD) form for employers.

Health.EnergyThe new form is different than the HIRD form established under the 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform law and later repealed in 2013. 

The purpose of the new HIRD form is to collect employer-level information about company-sponsored insurance offerings, to assist the state in identifying individuals with access to employer-sponsored insurance who may be eligible for MassHealth’s Premium Assistance Program.

MassHealth is the state's Medicaid health-insurance program for low-income residents.

This will help some employers to avoid the EMAC Supplement tax, while still ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage for employees.

  • Employers will have to complete the HIRD form once – annually, in November – detailing the health insurance benefits that they offer their employees.
  • The form will be accessible through the Department of Revenue’s MassTaxConnect online portal.
  • Employers have until November 30 to complete the form. There will be no penalty this year for employers who fail to complete the new HIRD form.

Unlike the old HIRD form, employees do not have to fill out the document. Only the employer is required to fill it out.

Here is an overview of the Premium Assistance Program and additional details for employers who are interested in the program.

Read HIRD Form FAQs

Need more information? Contact Katie Holahan at kholahan@aimnet.org.  

Topics: Health Insurance, Controlling Health Care Costs, Health Care Costs

Congratulations to Top Women-Led Companies

Posted by Rick Lord on Oct 26, 2018 10:54:10 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts congratulates 19 member employers who made the 2018 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 Babson College. Three of the companies are led by members of the AIM Board of Directors – Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries of Boston, Joanne Hilferty, President and CEO; Onyx Paper of South Lee, Pat Begrowicz, President; and Sensata Technologies of Attleboro, Martha Sullivan, President and CEO.

“The companies on this list represent the best of the Massachusetts business community,” said Richard C. Lord, 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:

  • Babson College, Kerry Healey, President
  • Children's Hospital, Sandra Fenwick, President & COO
  • Catholic Charities of Boston, Debbie Rambo, President
  • Comcast (Greater Boston), Tracy Pitcher, SVP Greater Boston
  • Current, Powered by GE, Maryrose Sylvester, President & CEO
  • D'Youville Life & Wellness, Naomi Prendergast, President
  • ET&L Corp, Jennie Colosi, President & Treasurer
  • Eastern Insurance, Hope Aldrich, President & CEO
  • Elaine Construction, Lisa Wexler, President
  • Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson, President & CEO
  • Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, Mary Moscato, President
  • Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, Amy Schectman, President & CEO
  • Massachusetts Medical Society, Lois Dehls Cornell, Executive Vice President
  • MassDevelopment, Lauren Liss, President & CEO
  • Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Joanne Hilferty, President & CEO
  • New England Baptist Hospital, Trish Hannon (David Passafaro)
  • Onyx Paper, Patricia Begrowicz, President
  • Sensata Technologies, Martha Sullivan, 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 at the Boston Marriott Copley hotel.

AIM.TopBusinesses2018

AIM staff members congratulate association Treasurer Joanne Hilferty (third from left), President and CEO of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston, on being named among the Top Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts by The Commonwealth Institute and The Boston Globe. Staff members include, left to right, Kathleen Worthington, Katie Holahan, Ms. Hilferty, Kristen Rupert, Celia Grant, Beth Yohai and Debbie Carroll.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Women-Owned Business

Autonomous Driving Systems Developer Earns Global Innovation Award

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Oct 23, 2018 8:30:00 AM

A Boston company developing groundbreaking autonomous driving software and systems has been named the winner of the 2018 AIM Global Innovation Award.

nuTonomynuTonomy, an Aptiv company, will be honored at the 23nd annual AIM Global Trade Symposium on November 8 in Waltham.  Previously announced Global Trade honorees will include Bennett and Company, Universal Plastics, and John Hancock, all companies that have demonstrated excellence in international business.  

“The global marketplace is an innovative one,” said Richard Lord, President and CEO of AIM. “We are pleased that as part of our recognition of Massachusetts companies exhibiting best practices in advancing global business we have the opportunity to highlight the work of nuTonomy, a company that is truly re-imagining one of the most time-tested pieces of technology – the automobile.”

Founded out of MIT in 2013 by Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli, nuTonomy was the first company to test autonomous vehicles on public roads - in Singapore in 2016 and Boston in 2017.  In November 2017 the company was acquired by global automotive technology company Aptiv.

nuTonomy reached a milestone six months ago when the company made its autonomous vehicles available to the general public in Las Vegas via the Lyft ride-hailing app.

Aptiv and Nutonomy together employ 150 people in Boston’s Seaport district. 

The AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards Breakfast will take place from 7:30-10:30 am on November 8 at Waltham Woods Conference Center.  The event will feature keynote speaker Robert Z. Lawrence, Professor of International Trade & Investment at the Kennedy School of Government.

A panel discussion on “Global Business: Tariffs, Treaties and Trends” with speakers from the Port of Boston, Ocean Spray, and Brandeis International Business School, will follow.  The AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards is sponsored by Massport, Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and The Provident Bank.

Registration for the Global Trade Symposium can be accessed online here

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Technology

What is the Biggest Issue Facing Your Business?

Posted by John Regan on Oct 22, 2018 8:00:00 AM

What is the single most important public-policy issue facing your business?

  • The ability to find qualified employees?
  • The accelerating cost and complexity of providing health insurance to your workers?
  • Declining revenue brought about by newly instituted tariffs against China and the European Union?

Small BusinessSounds like an amusing parlor game, but it’s serious business to those of us here at Associated Industries of Massachusetts who develop our policy agendas every two years based upon the needs and concerns of 4,000 member employers.

Hundreds of those employers have already told us about the issues that keep them awake nights by completing the biennial AIM Issues Survey, which will become the basis of the association’s public-policy agenda for 2019-2020. It will also become the basis of an updated version of The Blueprint for the Next Century, our long-term plan for economic growth in Massachusetts.

We expect to hear from hundreds of additional employers more as we move past the November 6 mid-term election and prepare for the new Beacon Hill legislative session that begins in January.

Employer feedback and participation are essential amid an increasingly uncertain political environment both here in Massachusetts and in Washington, DC.  It’s an environment marked by polarization and partisanship, hostility and incivility, and a Twitter-driven, bumper-sticker approach to serious issues.

Employers accustomed to working in a predictable and collaborative political process here in Massachusetts suddenly find themselves demonized by both the left and right in a political food fight in which there are few rules and precious little middle ground. Increasingly radical shifts by the two major parties are eroding long-held centrist ideologies that have framed our nation’s approach to economic growth since the early 20th century.

Moderate, pro-business Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature face insurgent challenges from progressive activists supporting increased taxes, heavy business regulation and a notion that employers are somehow failing to “pay their fair share.” Now is the time for employers to speak up and articulate their unique role in providing economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts.

What are employers who have already completed the Issues Survey saying?

“Can we stop making legislative changes at the ballot box?  It is an inefficient way to govern.”

“(The health-care surcharge) tax has placed an incredible financial strain, particularly on smaller to medium-sized businesses, which are already struggling to balance the health care needs of their employees with those that are mandated, but the company may not have the resources available to do.”

“Rising costs to operate in Massachusetts must be addressed.  EMAC, paid family leave, minimum wage - all of these in and of themselves are an issue but piled on it is becoming prohibitive.  We are actively working on efficiency and automation gains that will allow us to reduce the size of our work force, which is not what the commonwealth would like.  We need to recognize that many companies have competitors in other parts of the country where operating costs are not what they are here.” 

 We look forward to hearing from you.

Take the AIM Issues Survey

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, massachsetts legislature, Issues

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