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Brooke Thomson Named Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM

Posted by John Regan on Sep 11, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Brooke M. Thomson, most recently Vice President of Government Affairs for AT&T and a former senior official with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, will become Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the association announced today.

BrookeATT&THeadShotThomson is no stranger to AIM. She has served as a member of the AIM Board of Directors and Executive Committee and chaired the board’s Government Affairs Committee for the past year. She replaces John Regan, who took over as President and Chief Executive Officer of the 3,500-member business association in May.

“Brooke Thomson will allow AIM to move forward without missing a beat on critical upcoming debates on transportation, health-care costs and education funding. She brings unparalleled intelligence and experience to the complex issues that AIM tackles every day on behalf of Massachusetts employers,” Regan said.

Joanne Hilferty, President and Chief Executive Officer of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston and Chair of the AIM Board of Directors added: “Brooke understands both government affairs and the broader mission of AIM as an association of forward-thinking employers working to make Massachusetts a better place for everyone by empowering success and creating change.”

Thomson joined AT&T in 2013. Her duties for the telecommunications company include legislative and regulatory affairs in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Thomson came to AT&T after six years in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, where she served as Chief of the Business, Technology and Economic Development Division. Prior to that, she worked as legal counsel to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

Her political experience includes managing the successful campaign of Martha Coakley for attorney general in 2010.

“I am thrilled to be joining AIM, the leading voice for businesses for 104 years. I look forward to working with the outstanding AIM government affairs team to ensure that the organization remains a champion of business in the state as we continue to move Massachusetts forward,” Thomson said.

She begins her new job on September 23.

Thomson is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and Mount Holyoke College.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Joanne Hilferty

Business Confidence Tumbles during August

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 10, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Business confidence continued to seesaw during August as employers warily eyed a possible economic slowdown and the escalating trade war between the United States and China.

BCI.August.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) fell 3.3 points to 58.7 last month after surging 4.4 points during July. The Index has lost 4.5 points since August 2018 but remains within optimistic territory.

The August decline was driven by growing concern about the US economy and the outlook among manufacturers- both elements driven by trade concerns.

Analysts cautioned against reading too much into the month-to-month gyrations of the Business Confidence Index but noted that every measure of confidence now sits below its level of a year ago.

“The imposition of 15 percent tariffs on $112 billion worth of Chinese goods on September 1 underscores the uncertainty facing employers, particularly manufacturers, who do business in overseas markets,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“At the same time, employers are beginning to see evidence from both customers and suppliers of a slowdown in the US economy. That caution is reflected in the 7.4-point confidence drop in the national outlook.”

The nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic health — grew at a moderate 2.0 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from a 3.1 percent growth rate in the first quarter.

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 all decreased during August.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 4.3 points to 63.9 while the US Index dropped to 55.2. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 0.8 points and the US reading 9.5 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 3.9 points to 56.9, leaving it 3.3 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 2.7 points to 60.5, 5.6 points lower than its reading of August 2018.

The Employment Index slipped 1.5 points for the month and 3.8 points for the year even as the state unemployment rate fell to 2.9 percent. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (60.3) were more confident than manufacturers (57.1). Small companies (61.5) remained more confident than large companies (58.7) or medium-sized companies (56.3). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (60.7) continue to be more optimistic than those in the west (56.0).

Katherine A. Kiel, Professor of Economics at the College of the Holy Cross, and a BEA member, said business confidence reflects the same volatility that has shaken global financial markets in recent months.

“Economic growth in Massachusetts slowed from 2.7 percent during the first quarter to 1.4 percent in the second.

Employers remain optimistic overall but see growing downside risks ranging from demographic constraints on the labor force to international uncertainty caused by factors such as tariffs and Brexit,” Kiel said.

State Policy Gains

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said employers will be watching closely this fall as the Massachusetts Legislature debates an education funding bill that could begin to address the persistent shortage of skilled workers in the economy.

“The 3,500 member companies of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) who depend upon the public schools to prepare the workforce of the future support education reform that contains specific and measurable performance objectives. Anyone who owns or manages a business tracks return on investment and the investment we make in our public schools and students should be no different,” Regan said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts employers, Economy

Eleven Companies Earn AIM Next Century Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 5, 2019 10:25:10 AM

A global center of classical music in the Berkshires, a company attracting diverse workers to the construction industry and a technology mainstay on Cape Cod are among 11 Massachusetts companies to be honored with AIM Next Century Awards for 2019.

Next Century awards honor employers, community organizations and individuals who have made unique contributions to the Massachusetts economy and the well-being of the people who live here.

TanglewoodAIM announced today that 2019 Next Century awards will go to iCorps Technologies of Boston; DRB Facility Services of Boston; Zogics of Lenox; Tanglewood of Lenox; MGM of Springfield; Peerless Precision Inc. of Westfield; Lynn Tokarczyk and Business Development Strategies Inc. of Medway; Onset Computer Corporation of Bourne; Rand-Whitney Container LLC of Worcester; Lampin Corporation of Uxbridge; and Interstate Electrical Services Corporation of North Billerica.

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

Award winners will be honored at AIM regional celebrations in Boston on September 12, Pittsfield on September 19, Holyoke on October 3, Easton on October 10, Worcester on October 16 and Lawrence on October 24.

Each event will run from 5-7 pm and is free to AIM members.

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

iCorps Technologies | Boston Regional Celebration, September 12, 5-7 pm, District Hall

iCorps Technologies has been providing comprehensive, visionary information technology outsourcing to businesses across the Northeast since its founding in 1994.  

What began as a part-time business called Off-Hours Consulting quickly grew to the iCorps Technologies of today, with cofounders Mike Hadley and Chris Stephenson continuing to prioritize service while empowering clients through technology. 

Today, iCorps is ranked by the Boston Business Journal as one of the 25 largest IT consulting companies in Massachusetts. It earned Microsoft’s 2018 Partner Award Recipient for Security and Compliance. The company employs 65 people and is rapidly expanding both its geographic footprint and the industries it serves.

iCorps has moved beyond its Boston roots, with an established presence in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Charleston. The company is expanding offerings to meet emerging needs within the legal, life science, professional service, and start-up sectors, while upgrading services in stronghold verticals such as finance and construction. 

iCorps provides a broad selection of on-site and remote IT services including outsourced IT support, cloud computing and optimization, managed programs for cybersecurity and business continuity, staff augmentation, and technology assessments. The company provides advanced technical expertise for clients leveraging products from Microsoft, AWS, Dell, Citrix, VMware, Sophos, Datto, SonicWALL, MimeCast, and more. 

It’s a crucial service for any company looking to thrive in a rapidly changing technology landscape.  

"The iCorps team has either known how to do things right off the bat or has been able to find the answers very quickly. Once I hit the limits, that’s where I can have the iCorps team finish things up for me, or take it to the next level,” said Austin Brinson, VP of Data Analytics, B.GOOD restaurant chain. 

Hadley remains at the helm of iCorps, ensuring that the next generation of business leaders experience “the high standards, expertise, ethics, intense customer focus, and comprehensive IT services offerings on which the company was founded.” 

DRB Facility Services | Boston Regional Celebration, September 12, 5-7 pm, District Hall

Boston-based DRB Facility Services, formerly known as Done Right Building Services, has established a sizable presence in the New England building maintenance industry in a short period of time. Founded by Anthony Samuels in 1993, DRB has grown to more than 600 employees and provides a full range of facilities services for both corporate and government clients.

That rapid growth has continued this year, as DRB expects to grow revenue by 50 percent.

DRB’s success has created economic opportunity in communities where it is most needed. The company, a 100-percent minority-owned enterprise, is committed to developing a workforce that reflects the proportion of people in the community that are of color, females, veterans,and handicapped. 

“As our company has grown, we have worked to develop the people, processes, and tools required to address the changing needs of our clients,” said Samuels. “Building systems have become more complex, as have the needs of building owners and managers, and our clients have asked for greater attention toward safety, environmental, and diversity requirements.”

“Integral to our success is our people. DRB continually recruits and develops the greatest talent in the building services industry,” Samuels said. “With over 11 years industry experience on average, and an optimal balance between management and staff, our management team is the best in the business.”

DRB provides janitorial, landscaping and snow removal services to some of the largest companies in the United States.  Employees are assigned to project teams to establish and enforce expectations for each facility. Project teams are cross-trained to ensure proper coverage.

Samuels was among the first participants in Eastern Bank’s Business Equity Initiative, an initiative designed to help enterprises of color grow.

Tanglewood | Berkshire Regional Celebration, September 19, 5-7 pm, Hotel on North

The economic benefit provided by the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is music to the ears of Berkshire County.

Tanglewood’s renowned summer-long festival of classical and popular music draws more than 300,000 concert-goers annually and generates an estimated $127 million in economic activity, according to research conducted by Williams College Professor Stephen Sheppard.

That impact includes a new $30 million performance, education and visitor complex to support  both the orchestra's summer institute for advanced young performers and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute for adults. The new center sits adjacent to the Koussevitzky Music Shed, Seiji Ozawa Hall and facilities housing the Tanglewood Music Center and its 300 students.

"Tanglewood has an enormous impact on the economy of Berkshire County," Sheppard concluded in a 2018 report.

Tanglewood generates between 930 and 1,100 jobs directly or indirectly, representing a payroll of $35 million. Although many are seasonal, these jobs provide an overall average income exceeding $40,000 a year, generating $15 million in federal, state and local tax revenues.

Sheppard found a 51 percent increase in visitor spending at Tanglewood, where average attendance has increased by 11 percent in the past 10 years. The effects on the county's economy result in an unemployment rate that is 1.8 percentage points below what it would be otherwise.

Tanglewood anchors a vibrant arts and tourism economy that also includes the Berkshire Theater Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival and the Normal Rockwell Museum. The Tanglewood festival regularly draws musical superstars such as Joshua Bell, Renee Fleming, YoY o Ma, Emanuel Ax and John Williams.

The history of Tanglewood began with a series of concerts held in 1934 at the Interlaken estate of Daniel Hanna, about a mile from today’s festival site. The Boston Symphony Orchestra first performed in 1936 and the festival moved a year later to "Tanglewood," an estate donated by Mrs. Gorham Brooks and Miss Mary Aspinwall Tappan.

"Tanglewood" took its name from Tanglewood Tales, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, while he lived in a cottage located on the estate.

Zogics | Berkshire Regional Celebration, September 19, 5-7 pm, Hotel on North

It’s been a dizzying ride for fitness industry supplier Zogics from its origins in founder Paul LeBlanc’s Richmond garage 12 years ago to two consecutive years on the Inc. magazine list of 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States.
 
Dizzying, but far from disruptive, for a laid-back company that offers employees flexible time off, an on-site gym, $500 a year to spend on Berkshire cultural events, subsidized organic community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, and an office where dogs comfortably share the space with workers.
 
Zogics is one of the wellness industry’s largest suppliers for fitness professionals. The company sells products ranging from exercise equipment to gym flooring and lockers to eco-friendly cleaning supplies to organic bath/body products. They serve more than 20,000 commercial gyms, schools, and workplace wellness programs around the world.
 
The company employs 20 people at its headquarters in Lenox and has distribution facilities throughout North America and Europe. Annual sales are approaching $15 million, and the company has been growing at between 25 and 30 percent annually.
 
“Our culture centers around creating the right environment for each employee to excel. Our employees are the heart of our success,” said LeBlanc, “We strive to cultivate a dynamic, engaging, and challenging workplace that inspires employees to give their very best every day.”

Appearing on the Inc. 5,000 list for a second time is rare and comes on top of Inc. honoring Zogics as among the Best Workplaces in America.
 
“In an incredibly competitive business landscape, it takes something extraordinary for a business to succeed. At Zogics, that ‘extraordinary’ is a mix of products we all stand by and employees that believe in the work they’re doing. Our team isn’t just one that sells health and fitness — we fully embrace it,” LeBlanc said.

MGM | Holyoke Regional Celebration, October 3, 5-7 pm, Wistariahurst Museum

The $960 million MGM Springfield has redefined the term "transformative development" in downtown Springfield as New England’s premier resort casino destination.

The commonwealth’s first full-gaming property has created thousands of jobs and drawn more than six million visitors since opening a year ago in a South End neighborhood of Springfield that for years struggled with economic development and the after-effects of a 2011 tornado. MGM Springfield generated $253 million in gross gaming revenue during its first 49 weeks of operation.

Forty percent of MGM Springfield employees live in Springfield. The company, part of MGM Resorts International, partnered with Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College to establish the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute to train people for an industry that was, at the time, brand new to Massachusetts.

Built with a unique “inside-out” design intended to integrate the resort and its customers with the neighborhood, MGM Springfield has been a catalyst for development up and down Main Street in Springfield.

MGM Springfield’s real estate partner, Davenport Companies, is building a $2 million CVS store in its Davenport Square site across Main Street from the casino. Balise Auto Group is building a $6 million Mazda dealership on property it has acquired over the years adjacent to its Hyundai dealership. And there are hotel and apartment proposals for the old York Street Jail site, where city development efforts have been frustrated for years. 

Neighborhood businesses like Red Rose Pizzeria are expanding to deal with an uptick in customer traffic.

“The unique design of our resort is something that is very special to us, and we wouldn’t change it for the world,” said MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis. "As Main Street in downtown Springfield becomes more activated, you're going to see more people bouncing back and forth.”

MGM Springfield has also ramped up the entertainment scene in downtown as manager of both the MassMutual Center and Symphony Hall venues. The company has brought big names such as Cher, Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, Aaron Lewis, Steve Martin and Martin Short to downtown Springfield. 

Peerless Precision Inc. | Holyoke Regional Celebration, October 3, 5-7 pm, Wistariahurst Museum

Peerless Precision of Westfield lives up to its name. The 20-person, family-owned machine shop in Westfield specializes in making parts for the aerospace, defense, and medical devices industries that require precision to .0001 inch.

“Peerless Precision Inc. believes that you should design your products within 5 millionths without having to worry about manufacturability, consistency and accuracy; just send us the specs – we take care of the rest,” the company says.

Kristin Maier Carlson became president of Peerless in 2012, taking the reins from her late father when he became ill. She has since led the company through significant growth, expanded its markets and improved efficiency through lean manufacturing.

Carlson, who grew up around the shop from the age of 15, says she learned from her father the importance of providing educational and training opportunities for employees. The company spends significant time ensuring that expert-level workers pass along their skills to younger colleagues.

The company is also deeply involved with local schools. Carlson sits on the steering and advising committee for Westfield Technical Academy and West Springfield High School’s Pathways to Prosperity Program, and the company opens its doors annually to Westfield Middle School for student tours

“We want to show kids that manufacturing can be a cool and rewarding option for them,” Carlson says.

“One thing I have changed is we used to manage with a ‘top-down’ approach. Since taking over I have developed more of a ‘bottom-up’ culture. By embracing employee ideas, they are apt to share more and buy into the very ideas they are suggesting. I also drive a customer-focused culture. We all know and understand that without the customer, we are nothing,” Carlson said in an interview with innovate413.

Her vision for the future involves doubling the size of the company facility on Mainline Drive and increasing the work force. She would like to use one side of the building for production and the other side for job shop work, research and development, and prototyping, which would allow Peerless to expand into a global market at that point.

Lynn Tokarczyk, Business Development Strategies Inc. | Easton Regional Celebration, October 10, 5-7 pm, Easton Country Club

Lynn Tokarczyk may have helped to create more jobs and business investment in Massachusetts than anyone else.

The founder of the government tax incentives consulting firm, Business Development Strategies, Inc., (BDS) has assisted more than 100 Massachusetts businesses with creating 10,000 new jobs and retaining another 20,000 jobs. Those companies have saved more than $100 million in state and local taxes and invested more than $1 billion in Massachusetts cities and towns by navigating the often-mystifying maze of state and municipal business incentives with help from the BDS team.

Since its founding in 2003, BDS has built an impressive record of success assisting a “Who’s Who” of prominent companies identify, negotiate and secure tax incentives in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), state tax credits and other tools under the state’s Economic Development Incentive Program.

Like any experienced dealmaker, Tokarczyk makes her work look easy. But the business behind the scenes is anything but simple.

BDS has worked on many of the largest expansion and retention projects in the state with companies that include Samsonite, TripAdvisor, IPG Photonics, Horizon Beverage, Keurig, New England Ice Cream, MACOM, MilliporeSigma, Moderna, Analog Devices and Waters Corporation.

Tokarczyk, who serves as a member of the AIM Board of Directors and Executive Committee, started her career as the founder and owner of an upscale women’s clothing boutique, where she honed her skills in sales and business. She took those skills in a new direction when she joined the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) as a project manager, and later, an MOBD regional director. Recruited by Ernst & Young as manager for the New England Area State and Local Tax Incentives practice, Tokarczyk rose to become a senior manager before starting her own consulting firm.

Named 2017 Business Person of the Year by the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce and included in the New England Real Estate Journal’s 2018 Women in Real Estate, she is passionate about achieving the best result for every client. That tireless commitment to success is what puts Tokarczyk and her team among the leading tax incentive consultants in the state. 

Onset Computer Corporation | Easton Regional Celebration, October 10, 5-7 pm, Easton Country Club

Onset Computer Corporation of Bourne has for 38 years been a technology mainstay in a region better known as a tourist destination.

Few of the thousands of vacationers who pass Onset’s 40,000-square-foot design, engineering and manufacturing facility on their way to Cape Cod beaches realize that the company is one of the world's leading supplier of data loggers, weather-station products, wireless sensors, and web-based monitoring systems.

Onset’s award-winning HOBO® data logger and weather station products are used around the world in a broad range of monitoring applications, from verifying the performance of green buildings and renewable energy systems to agricultural and coastal research. InTemp® loggers dramatically simplify the process of monitoring temperature-controlled environments by streamlining daily temperature checks and reducing the paper trail burden.

It is a business that has continued to grow and evolve since Onset began in 1981. The company now employs 160 people, a number that has risen by 15 percent during the past several years.

Data loggers are compact, battery-powered devices equipped with an internal microprocessor, data storage, and one or more sensors. They are connected to a computer, programmed by accompanying software, and then placed in the testing location - inside and outside, underground or underwater - where it records the desired measurement. Once the data is collected, the data logger is then reconnected to the computer and the software reads the data and displays the measurements in graphs and charts.

Onset's first data logger was built by Lon and Ellen Hocker in a barn behind their North Falmouth home in 1981. The business grew by word of mouth in the local scientific community, and the company quickly expanded.

Onset says its central competitive advantage is the degree to which employees are committed to a culture of continuous improvement, innovation, and customer support. The company also gives back to the community in its hometown of Bourne and beyond - employees participate in Give-A-Day-On-Onset (GADOO) by either supporting the local food pantry or another charitable foundation. 

Lampin Corporation | Worcester Regional Celebration, October 16, 5-7 pm, Mechanics Hall

Robin LeClaire knows a thing or two about the value of companies developing their own talent. After all, LeClaire was an original employee of Lampin Corporation and spent 31 years at the company before assuming the role of president two years ago.

Uxbridge-based Lampin is an employee-owned company that makes precision parts and components for some 370 major manufacturers in the aerospace, telecommunications, robotics, defense, renewable energy, medical device, optical, and laser industries. The company’s services include value engineering, precision machining,  subassemblies, laser marking, metal treatment, and finishing—individually or in combination—to quickly deliver precision parts.

“Because Lampin is 100 percent employee-owned, we have a stake in the outcome. Our employee-owners take pride in maintaining machines and seeing customer orders from start to finish. Lampin is among the select few 100 percent employee-owned manufacturing companies in the United States and the pride and quality are demonstrated in our work,” the company says.

Lampin Corporation moved to its present five-acre site in 1985. The original 4,000-square-foot building has been expanded twice and now houses 22,000 square feet of networked CNC equipment operating 24 hours a day.

Lampin employs 35 people, a number than has increased as the company has grown during the past five years.

The company was founded by Harold Fairbanks as the Laminated Pinion Gear Company in 1964. The company had a couple of owners through the years until Scott Rossiter purchased the business in 1982 and renamed it the Lampin Corporation. Rossiter in 2001 elected to sell 30 percent of the company to the employees through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and subsequently sold all of the company shares to the ESOP in 2006.

LeClaire’s journey through the ranks of the company to the corner office underscores the Lampin’s commitment to promoting from within and creating educational opportunities for employees working in a complex corner of manufacturing. Lampin offers in-house training and also works with the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Quinsigamond Community College to send new employees for in-depth education in manufacturing and CNC programming.

The company last year awarded six grants to students and schools in the Blackstone Valley to support programs in engineering, science and robotics. Lampin employee-owners also mentor students at the Blackstone Valley Chamber Education Hub.

Rand-Whitney Container LLC | Worcester Regional Celebration, October 16, 5-7 pm, Mechanics Hall

Rand-Whitney Container may be the largest independent manufacturer of corrugated products in New England, but don’t think the company is resting on its laurels.

Rand-Whitney in July acquired Pennsylvania-based Specialty Finance and Consulting Corporation, a manufacturer and distributor of corrugated sheets, corrugated packaging and related products and services.  The acquisition comes less than a year after Rand-Whitney invested $20 million to expand its 350,0000 square-foot complex of manufacturing, design and office complex on Rand-Whitney Way in Worcester.

Throw in millions of dollars in capital improvements to machinery and it’s clear that Rand-Whitney, part of The Kraft Group of Foxboro, intends to be the big kid on the block for years to come.

Rand-Whitney corrugated products range from simple shipping containers to custom die-cuts and high-end retail merchandisers and displays. Its protective packaging products include wood and foam to ensure even the most delicate products make it to their destination unharmed.

The company calls itself a one-stop solution for packaging needs, offering everything from engineering, design and testing to fulfillment and real-time information processing.

Rand-Whitney also places a premium on using environmentally sustainable materials.

The company owns a 100 percent post-consumer waste linerboard mill and is able to create packaging that uses a high percentage of post-consumer waste. The linerboard mill transforms more than 900 tons per day of old corrugated containers into 700 tons per day of recycled linerboard.  It the only mill in the country to do so with 100 percent post-consumer waste and water.

The Rand-Whitney Group traces its origin to 1857, when Elvira F. Dodge started a company making folding cartons in her home in Leominster. In 1938, Whitney Box of Worcester acquired Dodge Paper Box, forming the modern company. The combined entity was named Rand-Whitney.

From its beginnings the company has prided itself on family values and recognizes that its greatest asset is the employees.   Rand-Whitney aims to provide its employees with a good compensation package and a positive work environment in return for quality work. The company strives to foster a family atmosphere, boasting many employees that have worked there for decades.

The Kraft Group employs more than 5,000 people.

Interstate Electrical Services Corporation | Merrimack Valley Employer Celebration, October 24, 5-7 pm, Salvatore’s

Interstate Electrical Services, headquartered in North Billerica, is a full-service electrical contractor with offices in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Founded in 1966 by Pat Alibrandi with little more than a desk, a chair and a van, the company has grown to become one of the largest merit shop electrical contractors in New England with more than 600 employees and a fleet of more than 180 service vehicles. The company’s work spans the commercial, industrial, healthcare, biotech, life sciences, engineering, service and energy sectors.

Interstate Electrical Services has been named as one of the top 400 electrical contracting firms in the United States.

Interstate is a leader in construction and electrical prefabrication, with a 100,000 square-foot Operations Center in Tewksbury, that serves as a full-service prefab shop for offsite electrical component assembly. UL certification and targeted material delivery ensures consistent quality and reduces site footprint and packaging waste.

In-house project coordinators and detailers work through every phase of a project, turning coordinated construction drawings into actionable plans for material assembly, testing, and just-in-time point of installation delivery of the finished ready-to-install electrical components and systems. This opens up extensive job opportunities beyond the traditional electrician or journeyman roles.

Interstate is at the forefront of reducing the labor gap in the trades and dedicates its time and resources to entice potential employees with robust apprenticeship programs. From high school graduates to those re-entering the workforce to college students, the electrical trade can be an appealing option for those who might not have a specific degree or technical background or perhaps are looking for a second career.

Interstate’s various apprenticeship programs mean trainees have a steady job while learning through hands-on, on-site training. They also enjoy benefits like health insurance and paid time off. When an apprentice completes the program, he or she leaves debt-free and have already joined the workforce. Interstate has over 200 electrical apprentices at any given time, and they receive full pay and benefits.

Interstate’s internship and co-op programs allow students to work with trained professionals on-site to see how their interests line up with the industry. The company works with more than 25 local schools to recruit paid interns in every department, ranging from finance, to business and administration management to software detailing.

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Topics: Massachusetts economy, AIM Next Century Award, AIM Regional Celebrations

Accountability Key to Education Funding Reform

Posted by John Regan on Sep 3, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Massachusetts is about to undertake the most sweeping restructuring of public-education funding since 1993.

What does it mean for employers?

EducationThe 3,500 member companies of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) who depend upon the public schools to prepare the workforce of the future support education reform that contains specific and measurable performance objectives. Anyone who owns or manages a business tracks return on investment and the investment we make in our public schools and students should be no different.

Employers do not support the sort of reform being promoted by some advocates who have been calling at rallies for a “blank check” of billions of dollars of state aid with no accountability.

The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to debate changes this fall to the formula used to provide money to school districts around the commonwealth. The formula was developed in 1993 as a way to equalize per-pupil school spending between poor communities with shrinking property tax bases and wealthy communities that invest significant amounts of money on their school systems.

But most people now agree that the so-called Foundation Budget is not working.

While the National Assessment of Education Progress indicates that Massachusetts has the best public schools in the nation, that same assessment shows significant achievement gaps between white students and black and Latino students. Massachusetts finds itself in the bottom half of states with respect to Black-White achievement gaps across almost all grades in reading and math and in the bottom third of states with respect to Latino-White achievement gaps across all grades in both reading and math.

The achievement gap matters to employers confronting a persistent shortage of qualified workers in an economy running at 2.9 percent unemployment. With a demographic cliff looming as baby boomer retirements threaten to shrink the size of the state labor force, Massachusetts cannot overlook any citizen who might help Bay State employers compete in the global economy.

There are other issues as well. A report this year by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and AIM found that employers continue to see a gap between the overall performance of the schools and the job those schools are doing preparing students for the workforce. Business leaders want schools to improve the applied skills taught to students, hire better teachers, increase hands-on and vocational/technical education, and forge business partnerships.

Reforming the school funding formula will probably cost taxpayers around $1 billion. Employers understand better than anyone the importance of making strategic investments, but they also know that pouring money into a broken system is not the answer. Employer support for education reform hinges on the establishment of clear and measurable standards that will allow everyone to determine whether changes are working for students, teachers and the commonwealth.

The evidence is clear that more money does not equal better educational performance. An online analysis of school funding by MBAE in June showed that schools serving similar student populations and spending the same amount per student can achieve dramatically different results.

For example, an elementary school in Winchendon spending $13,644 per student and serving 38 percent low-income students and 18 percent special education students has only 31 percent of students on grade level in math, while a school in Revere spending $13,913 per student and serving 43 percent low-income students and 20 percent special education students has 67 percent on grade level in math.

AIM and the rest of the Massachusetts business community insist that the following accountability measured by part of any education funding reform:

  1. Fully implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission through a multi-year, fully funded revision to the Chapter 70 formula that will achieve adequacy and equity for all students. Funding provisions should include revisions to the charter-school tuition reimbursement program schedule and percentages.

  2. Maintain and enhance the state accountability system to ensure new funds go to those students who need them the most and are used effectively to close achievement gaps, set statewide and district targets for closing those gaps with annual reporting on progress, and collect and report on data related to college and career readiness. The state should require, at a minimum, a user-friendly set of comparable data from school to school that correlates with student post-graduation success.

  3. Add a new Chapter 70 enrollment category for Early College and Career Pathways to enable replication and expansion of these promising high-school reform strategies. Every effort should be made to create a new approach to preparing students for the future, including the awarding of industry-recognized credentials, work-based learning opportunities, and successful college and career pathway programs.

  4. Provide significant and supplemental funding for innovation and the implementation of best practices in under-performing schools. It is vital to set aside money to support grants to schools and districts to innovate and create new approaches to closing achievement, opportunity, and skills gaps.

  5. Enact Innovation Partnership Zone legislation to provide communities with a new tool for empowering schools and educators to address persistent low-performance and encourage innovation. Allowing for the expansion of autonomy and flexibility for educators, with school and zone level decision-making, these “zones” can create collaborative partnerships for success and should be extended for voluntary use across the state.

MBAE will conduct a State House briefing on September 10 at 11 am to allow employers to outline the business view of education reform to members of the legislature. The briefing will include individual meetings with legislators to discuss the need for accountability in any changes to the school funding formula. Please contact MBAE to register.

AIM joined other business groups in August to urge Jeffery C. Riley, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, to ensure that additional money provided to schools in the current state budget reach the students for which it is intended.

Please contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, for updates on education issues.

Topics: Education Reform, Massachusetts Legislature, Education

Six Companies Earn 2019 Sustainability Awards

Posted by Wendy Bea Dalwin on Aug 26, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Six companies ranging from a global ride-sharing powerhouse to a Berkshire County company making key chemicals used for water purification have been named winners of the fourth annual Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Sustainability Award. The award recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being and contributions to economic prosperity.

Ocean SprayAIM announced today that Lyft Inc., with Massachusetts headquarters in Medford; Holland Company of Adams; American Saw of East Longmeadow; Ocean Spray Cranberries of Lakeville/Middleboro; FLEXcon Company of Spencer; and Signify of Burlington were selected from among several dozen nominations. The six companies will be honored at a series of regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts during September and October.

“These companies set the standard for sustainably managing their financial, social and environmental resources in a manner that ensures responsible, long-term success,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer John R. Regan.

“Sustainability guarantees that the success of employers benefits our communities, our commonwealth and our fellow citizens. We congratulate our honorees and all the worthy companies that were nominated.”

Sustainability has gained widespread acceptance in recent years as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make it part of their business and financial models.

The 2019 honorees were selected by a committee that included members of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable, along with experts Wayne Bates PhD., PE, Principal Engineer for Tighe & Bond, Inc.; Matt Gardner, Managing Partner Sustainserv; and Cristina Mendoza, Solutions Design Lead for Capaccio Environmental.

AIM initiated the Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted hundreds of participants ranging from companies such as Bose, Coca-Cola, Boston Beer and Analogic to smaller businesses such as RH White and Precision Engineering.

Here are summaries of each recipient, along with the date and location of the celebration when each will receive the award:

Lyft Inc. | Boston Regional Celebration, September 12, 5-7 pm, District Hall

In 2018, Lyft became the only transportation network company to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions generated from its rides, in the process becoming one of the world’s largest voluntary purchasers of carbon offsets.

A multimillion-dollar investment during the first year of the initiative allowed the company to offset more than one million metric tons of carbon.

Lyft became a fully carbon-neutral company in September 2018 when it began purchasing enough renewable energy to cover 100 percent of its electricity consumption, including every electric vehicle mile on the platform and expanded its offsets procurement to address emissions from its non-ride operations.

Overall, Lyft has purchased more than two million metric tons of carbon offsets, equivalent to the amount of carbon that 2.4 million acres of trees would remove in a year. Roughly two-thirds of this investment is funding emission reductions in the transportation sector.

Lyft’s achievement of 100 percent carbon-neutrality and 100 percent renewable energy is made possible through partnerships with local agencies to the extent available, and then supplemented where direct renewable energy is not yet available by renewable energy credits (RECs).

“Growing shared, sustainable transportation is central to our goal of ensuring cities are built around people instead of cars. Through growing the number of bikes, scooters, and green vehicles on our platform, investing in carbon offsets, encouraging shared rides, and growing we can make that future a reality,” the company says.

Holland Company | Berkshire Regional Celebration, September 19, 5-7 pm, Hotel on North, Pittsfield

If you drink or use water, chances are that Holland Company of Adams played a role in making it clean.

The 52-year-old family business produces chemicals that are necessary for water purification. Holland chemicals are used in settings ranging from potable water drinking systems to municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities to lake/pond algae control to cosmetics to process chemistry.

The Holland product line includes aluminum sulfate, polyaluminum chloride, sodium aluminate, as well as dry alums.  More recently, the company added sodium bisulfite solution.

“Holland Company products have evolved to meet the increasing demands and requirements of our customers. By applying the ‘Best Fit Technology’ practices, we provide solutions to unique problems our customers face, as requirements for cleaner water increase,” the company says. 

Hugh “Dutch” Holland founded Holland Company in 1967 to serve the paper industry in the northeast with liquid Alum as they converted from dry Alum. As the desire for cleaner drinking water and the environment has grown, Holland Alum and other products have helped municipal water and wastewater customers meet the stringent standards.

Holland currently employs 50 people on its seven-acre site. Adams is a strategically advantageous site for a company serving both New England and New York state and company officials also say they are fortunate to operate in such a beautiful part of the country.

American Saw – LENOX, A Stanley Black and Decker Company | Holyoke Regional Celebration, October 3, 5-7 pm, Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke

It takes a lot of energy to produce more than 35,000 miles of saw blades each year. But thanks to an initiative at called the “energy conservation filter” launched by American Saw at its sprawling East Longmeadow manufacturing plant, being the world’s foremost maker of cutting tools takes much less energy than it used to.

American Saw makes tools using heat-treating equipment like annealing, hardening and tempering. The equipment requires significant amounts of electricity and compressed air – the company uses as much power each year as 3,000 households.

The company in 2012 began to replace much of its old and outdated heat-treating equipment with state-of-the-art machinery that increased capacity while reducing power consumption. American Saw also replaced its air blasting processes with mechanical wheel blasting, considerably reducing the use of compressed air. 

The replacement process led the company to institute the energy conservation filter for all new capital equipment.  The process requires that all new equipment, prior to funds being approved, must be at least 20 percent more energy efficient than its predecessor.

“The energy conservation filter now forces everyone here to evaluate more utility efficient options as we continue to grow,” the company says.

American Saw has also improved the efficiency of its facilities.  The company upgraded the lighting system to LED, installed occupancy sensors in all of its offices, put variable-speed motors on more than 800 motors in the facility, and installed a 2.2-megawatt solar farm on 11 acres of roof.

All of the changes have allowed American Saw to reduce its annual energy consumption by 14.5 million kilowatt hours and its energy bills by $1.8 million per year.

Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. | Easton Regional Celebration, October 10, 5-7 pm, Easton Country Club

Ocean Spray, a farmer-owned cooperative and one of the best know food brands in the world, should next year become the first fruit cooperative in North America to certify that 100 percent of its crop is sustainably grown.

As public interest in food visibility has increased, the ability to measure impacts growers have on their farms, the surrounding ecosystems, and within their communities has become an important challenge for agricultural producers.

The 100 percent sustainable designation grows out of a three-step process initiated by Ocean Spray in 2016:

  1. Measure: How sustainable is Ocean Spray cranberry farming today?
  2. Validate: How does Ocean Spray’s assessment compare to others in the industry?
  3. Verify: Can the assessment results be independently verified on farm?

Measure

In 2016 and 2018 Ocean Spray partnered with FieldRise to develop and launch the Cranberry Farm Sustainability Assessment. This comprehensive questionnaire asks farmers about their cranberry management, non-cranberry land conservation, business operations, worker health and safety, and community involvement.

The results from both 2016 and 2018 demonstrated the cooperative’s strong commitment to sustainable cranberry agriculture.

Validate

During development of the 2018 Cranberry Farm Sustainability Assessment, Ocean Spray partnered with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) to benchmark its assessment against the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), an international and widely accepted agricultural sustainability standard.

This benchmark maps questions from the Ocean Spray assessment to the FSA. This mapping was then verified by an independent auditor, demonstrating the Ocean Spray assessment’s validity as a sustainable agriculture measurement tool.

Verify

The benchmarked Ocean Spray Cranberry Farm Sustainability Assessment allows the company to make cooperative-level sustainability claims through the FSA. These claims are not verified until confirmed through an on-farm audit performed by an independent auditor. Ocean Spray is currently working to complete this step, with initial positive results as of the date of this application.

Ocean Spray is a cooperative of more than 700 cranberry farmers. These family farmers grow cranberries across the United States and Canada, and, in most cases, have been doing so for several generations. Cranberries are a long-lived perennial vine, which remains fruitful for several decades, with some vines over 100 years old still producing berries for Ocean Spray products. 

FLEXcon | Worcester Regional Celebration, October 16, 5-7 pm, Mechanics Hall

As a global manufacturer of pressure-sensitive films and adhesives, FLEXcon has long sought to minimize environmentally adverse operations by striking a balance between environmental factors and its manufacturing processes.

FLEXcon is a cornerstone of the central Massachusetts manufacturing economy and also a sustainability leader in its industry – the company maintains a gold sponsorship of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership, which aims to the increase social responsibility of the graphic communications industry through certification and continuous improvement of sustainability and best practices within manufacturing operations.

“We believe being a good steward of our environmental resources will make us a stronger, more competitive company, better able to support and satisfy our broad customer base. Our employees and neighbors also benefit from our sustainability efforts,” the company says.

FLEXcon classifies its sustainability activities by those involving customers, community and employees:

Customers/Suppliers:

  • Develop enviro-friendly products utilizing enviro-friendly materials and water-based adhesives.
  • Review packaging options to minimize waste, focusing on the re-use of pallets and packaging supplies.
  • Be active in raw-material recycling programs.

Community:

  • Pursue the most current environmental technologies available for new and existing processes and engage in activities that directly impact reduction in air emissions, effluents and toxic material use reduction or elimination.
  • Provide materials for schools and other civic organizations.
  • Support charities within the communities we operate.

Employees:

  • Encourage employees to live a healthier life by offering a workplace wellness program.
  • Be a smoke- and tobacco-free workplace.
  • Provide an open forum for all employees to suggest opportunities in environmental and sustainable matters.
  • Utilize an Environmental Management System (EMS), which defines responsibilities of employees at all levels of the organization to continuously monitor and improve environmental factors.
  • Require all FLEXcon employees and operations to comply with applicable local, state, and federal regulations relating to environmental matters.

Signify | Lawrence Regional Celebration, October 24, 5-7 pm, Salvatore’s

It seems appropriate that a company that has increased the energy efficiency of light bulbs by 80 percent would also become carbon neutral in 2020. That’s exactly what’s happening at Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, as the company continues to reach new milestones with its Brighter Lives Better World Sustainability initiative.

Since 2016, Signify has already became carbon neutral in Greater China, the Benelux, Middle East and Turkey, Canada, Iberia, United Kingdom and Ireland, France and Italy, Israel and Greece, and Latin America. In the United States, the company’s largest market, Signify achieved carbon neutrality in the fall of 2018.   

Signify has committed to do the following by 2020:

  • Obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources;
  • Deliver zero operations waste to landfills; 
  • Generate 80 percent of its revenue from sustainable products, systems and services; and
  • Deliver two billion energy efficient LED lamps and luminaires.

The Brighter Lives Better World program is reviewed on a quarterly basis by the Board of Management and the company leadership. During these reviews, progress on strategic initiatives are discussed and corrective actions taken when necessary.   

Sustainability is fully embedded in the organization and the company’s ways of working. The 2020 targets are included in the long-term incentive scheme for the company’s leadership, as the annual long-term incentive grant is dependent on how well Signify performs against its sustainability targets.

The results so far are encouraging. In 2018, Signify announced:

  • Carbon dioxide reductions of 49 percent were achieved year-over-year, resulting in a net carbon footprint of 146 kilotons of CO2.
  • The company procured 89 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
  • Amount of waste materials delivered to landfills decreased by 17 percent compared with 2017. 
  • Eighty-two percent of manufacturing waste was recycled.
  • Fourteen Signify industrial units reported no recordable injuries in 2018. 
  • Signify achieved a supplier sustainability performance rate of 93%
  • More than 280 suppliers engaged in carbon reduction through the CDP Supply Chain program

Register for a Regional Employer Celebration

Topics: Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable, AIM Sustainability Award

An Open Letter to Raise Up Massachusetts

Posted by John Regan on Aug 26, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Editor's note - Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of community organizations, religious groups and labor unions behind the so-called "millionaires tax," sent an open letter to legislators last week maintaining that "the current transportation and education funding crisis" is the responsibility of the business community. AIM President and CEO John Regan responds.

Dear Raise Up Massachusetts, 

We are in receipt of your open letter to the Massachusetts Legislature regarding “significant and lasting” investments in education and transportation. 

Small BusinessOf interest was the following sentence: “In fact, business groups are actively organizing to avoid paying their fair share.” 

Given that we worked together for months to craft a compromise on paid family and medical leave, I believe that your letter represents a serious statement of position and concern, rather than a political stunt. We spent too many hours sitting across the bargaining table from one another for me to question the fact that you believe that businesses do not pay their fair share.  

But that assertion does not comport with facts: 

  • Massachusetts employers provide 3.2 million private-sector jobs at a mean annual wage of $63,910 to the citizens of Massachusetts (US Bureau of Labor Statistics); half of those 3.2 million jobs are in small to medium-sized businesses (US Small Business Administration) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay more than $3.3 billion annually in corporate excise and other state taxes (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $4.9 billion annually in local property taxes to support schools, public safety and municipal services (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $22.8 billion per year to provide health insurance to their employees (Center for Health Information and Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers generated more than $567 billion worth of goods and services during 2018 (US Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually for workers compensation insurance premiums to protect the financial security of injured workers.
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually into the state unemployment insurance system.
  • Massachusetts employers will on October 1 begin to pay another $1 billion annually for the new paid family and medical leave program. 
  • The top 100 corporate charitable contributors in Massachusetts compiled by The Boston Business Journal gave more than $300 million to Bay State non-profit causes last year, including AIM Vision Award winner Cummings Foundation, which donated $34 million to charity.  This is just a slice of the money and time companies give to support their communities. 
  • State tax collections increased nearly 7 percent during the past fiscal year, surpassing budget benchmarks by $1.1 billion.  

Thousands of hard-working Massachusetts employers, from software startups to corner grocery stores, spend every day paying their fair share to the commonwealth by providing economic opportunity and prosperity from Boston to the Berkshires. 

These employers understand the need to address intractable issues such as transportation and education, but they also understand that the recent examples provided by Connecticut and New Jersey prove that you cannot solve these problems by punitively taxing certain businesses or individuals. 

I am delighted to engage in serious conversations with Raise Up and any other groups seeking to ensure the economic future of Massachusetts. 

Sincerely, 

John R. Regan, President & CEO 
Associated Industries of Massachusetts 

Topics: Education, Transportation, Taxation

More Substance, Fewer Stunts in Education Debate

Posted by John Regan on Aug 7, 2019 8:30:00 AM

A so-called “beach party” set up outside the State House last week by education funding advocates was a disrespectful and frivolous stunt carried out by people who should instead be focused on the well-being and economic futures of Massachusetts schoolchildren. 

BeachPartyThe point of the beach party, complete with beach balls and shaved ice with flavors such as “accountability slime lime,” was to excoriate the Legislature for going on summer recess without passing a massive restructuring of the funding formula for public schools. 

The fiscal 2020 budget Governor Charlie Baker signed last week includes a $268 million increase in state assistance for K-12 education, but activists want a multi-year commitment to ramp up education spending and address gaps in the quality of education from one community to another.

The beach party was the latest in a series of questionable antics perpetrated by the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance and allies who want billions of dollars in additional education spending with no accountability for results.

In May, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy posted a photo to Facebook of herself and three other women smiling and clutching fake pearl necklaces with a caption that read, "Alice Peisch, let go of the wealth and #FundOurFuture."

Rep. Alice Peisch, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, often wears pearls and the prop suggested that she could not understand the circumstances of poorer students because she lives in the wealthy suburb of Wellesley.

Members of the teachers union have also been observed at public meetings carrying blank checks to signal their distaste for any measurements to accompany additional spending.

The 3,500 member companies of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) who depend upon the public schools to prepare the workforce of the future support education reform that contains specific and measurable performance objectives. Anyone who owns or manages a business tracks return on investment and the investment we make in our public schools and students should be no different. 

The stakes in the debate are enormous, beginning with an estimated price tag in the neighborhood of $1 billion. The governor and the Massachusetts Legislature deserve credit for proceeding cautiously on education reform.

AIM members who wish to be updated about the education reform debate may contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs. 

Topics: Education Reform, Education, Workforce Training

Employer Confidence Rises Despite Uncertainty

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 6, 2019 8:18:48 AM

Massachusetts employers shrugged off mounting evidence of an economic slowdown during July and expressed growing confidence in both the state and national economies.

BCI.July.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 4.4 points to 62.0 last month, reaching its highest level since September. The Index has gained 0.8 points during the past 12 months and remains comfortably within optimistic territory.

The confidence surge was driven by optimism in the Massachusetts economy and a strengthening outlook among manufacturers.

“We have to be cautious in reading large month-to-month changes in the Business Confidence Index, but the fact that employers are more optimistic than they were a year ago and six months ago is a good sign,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“With a host of seemingly conflicting indicators at play – unemployment in Massachusetts remains at a low 2.9 percent while economic growth slowed from an annualized rate of 2.7 percent to 1.4 percent during the second quarter – it will be interesting to see how employer optimism holds up for the rest of 2019.”

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.

The July confidence survey was taken after the government reported that US employers added 164,000 jobs during June and before President Donald Trump announced another round of tariffs on Chinese products.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the AIM BCI all increased during July.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth surged 7 points to 68.2 while the US Index rose 4.6 points to 62.6. The Massachusetts reading has risen 3.1 points and the US reading 0.7 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 4.6 points to 60.8, leaving it 2.1 points higher than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 4.2 points to 63.2, virtually even with its reading of July 2018.

The Employment Index gained 1.9 points for the month and 0.2 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy facing a demographic challenge as baby boomers leave the work force.

Non-manufacturers (63.6) were more confident than manufacturers (60.5), who remain concerned about the consequences of tariffs and trade tensions. Small companies (65.2) were more confident than large companies (58.9) or medium-sized companies (62.3). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (63.3) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (59.8).

Michael D. Goodman, Executive Director of the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth, and a BEA member, said business confidence remains volatile amid a swirl of economic and political issues ranging from trade to the availability of qualified workers.

“Employer optimism may reflect the fact that the Massachusetts economy should be somewhat insulated during these final stages of the economic expansion by a unique industry mix dominated by technology and innovation companies,” Goodman said.

Wrong Time to Raise Costs

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said Massachusetts employers already burdened with business and compliance costs could face more of the same soon as the state Legislature debates ways to raise revenue for big-ticket issues such as transportation and education.

“Beacon Hill is awash with calls for more revenue. But the slowing of the economy during the second quarter means this is exactly the wrong time to place additional cost burdens on business,” Regan said.

“If the economy goes into a downturn while costs are increasing that will create big challenges for employers.”

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

Budget Assumes EMAC Assessment Will End in December

Posted by Katie Holahan on Jul 25, 2019 12:01:35 PM

Sometimes the real value of legislation is found in the things left out of a bill.

StateHouse-resized-600Such was the case this week as the Massachusetts Legislature passed a $43.1 billion budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The spending blueprint included important elements ranging from curbs on the cost of prescription drugs in the state Medicaid program to increased aid for public schools.

But the most significant part of the budget for employers lies in what was left out – an extension of the onerous two-year assessment on Massachusetts businesses to fund a budget shortfall in the MassHealth insurance program for low-income people.

The Legislature passed  an increase to the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) in 2017.  Employers have already paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy, some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the legislation.

AIM in January called for an immediate end to the so-called EMAC assessment. The association also engaged a diverse coalition of organizations ranging from human services providers to home-care aides and trade associations to urge key legislators not to extend the two-year assessment in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

Employers are gratified that the Legislature is sticking to the original plan to sunset the tax at the end of 2019.

The assessment falls most heavily upon companies in which employees elect to use MassHealth rather than the employer-sponsored health plan. The assessment has increased EMAC from $51 to $77 per employee, while employers are also required to pay up to $750 for each worker who receives public health benefits.

AIM member employers are proud to lead the nation in providing health care coverage to their employees. Sixty-five percent of Bay State companies offer health insurance coverage to their workers, compared with 56 percent of employers nationwide. A full 100 percent of Massachusetts employers with 200 or more employees offer coverage. 

Employers stand ready to work with policymakers to make long-term structural reforms to both the MassHealth program and the commercial insurance markets to make the financing of health care for all Massachusetts residents sustainable.

Topics: Massachusetts state budget, Health Care, Employer Health Assessment

Employer Confidence Stabilizes in June

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 9, 2019 8:46:46 AM

Employer confidence stabilized in Massachusetts during June despite a continued swirl of conflicting economic and political signals around the globe.

BCI.June.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 0.5 points to 57.6 last month, rebounding from a May drop that left it at its lowest level since October 2016.

The Index has declined 3.7 points since June 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. And though confidence levels are virtually unchanged since January, the AIM Index reflects constantly changing headlines about international trade, economic growth and the direction of interest rates.

“We’re seeing confidence go up one month and down the next in the same way that financial markets have been whipsawed by almost daily changes in the economic outlook,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Employers remain concerned about the prospect of an economic slowdown but were encouraged at the end of June by larger-than-expected job growth numbers, signs of a thaw in the US/China trade battle and signals that the Federal Reserve might ease interest rates.”

Tariffs continue to influence employer confidence.

“Have seen cost increases for construction materials due to the effect of tariffs. This is creating some uncertainty in the pricing of new construction projects,” one member wrote.

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 AIM BCI were mixed during June.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth rose 0.3 points to 61.2 while the US Index rose a full 3 points to 58.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 1.6 points during the past 12 months and the US reading has dropped 2.0 points during the same period.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose slightly, 0.2 points to 56.2. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 0.8 points to 59.0, 4.5 points lower than a year ago.

The Employment Index declined 0.4 points for the month and 2.2 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9 percent jobless rate.

Non-manufacturers (60.1) were more confident than manufacturers (54.4), who have seen their confidence levels drop 8.1 percent since June 2018. Large companies (59.0) were more confident than small companies (58.4) or medium-sized companies (55.6). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (58.5) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (56.3).

Elliot Winer, Chief Economist, Winer Economic Consulting, LLC, and a BEA member, said continuing weakness in the Company Index, Manufacturing Index and Employment Index underscores some of the long-term challenges facing Massachusetts employers beyond the day-to-day headlines.

“Hiring and retaining skilled employees is becoming a barrier to expansion for some companies. The short-term issues affecting confidence will eventually be overshadowed by the long-term demographics of having large numbers of baby boomers leave the work force,” Winer said.

State Policy Gains

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said that Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature have made several decisions recently that boosted employer confidence. Those decisions included postponing the start of contributions for paid family leave and allowing the MassHealth assessment to lapse as scheduled in December.

“Employer have been encouraged by the willingness of state policymakers to meet businesses halfway on some of these complex issues,” Regan said.

“Our hope is that lawmakers will continue this mindful approach to the economy.”

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

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