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Non-Voters Will Outnumber Voters in November, Pollster Says

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 14, 2018 3:28:11 PM

The number of registered voters in the United States who will choose not to cast ballots in the mid-term elections is more than twice that of people who will vote for Democratic and Republican candidates combined, Suffolk University political pollster David Paleologos told the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

Paleologos2018The director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center estimates that 77 million Americans will vote in November, but that 160 million registered voters will stay home. Paleologos challenged the 280 business leaders in the audience to take a leadership role in urging employees to participate in the political process.

“You have people working for you who are not registered to vote. You have people working for you who are registered but who will not vote,” he said.

Paleologos, who typically interviews only probable voters for his political surveys, conducted an unusual poll in April of people not registered to vote or registered voters who have not voted. These non-voters showed the same preference patterns as their voting neighbors in terms of candidates and the country’s direction but cited a multitude of reasons for sitting out elections.

Their reasons ranged from a feeling that their votes would not make a difference to apathy to lack of trust in the candidates on the ballot. More than 78 percent of the non-voters believe the nation needs more than the two current two major political parties to represent the political views of the American people.

Paleologos predicts that if the current trend continues, the 2036 presidential election will mark the first race for the White House in which the total votes cast for Democrats and Republicans will be less than the people who don’t vote.

“This will be the number one topic in 2020,” he told the audience. “The numbers don’t lie.”

The swelling ranks of non-voters represent an opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats as they battle for control of the US House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate in November. Unregistered voters preferred President Trump against a generic Democratic nominee in the Suffolk survey, but registered non-voters strongly favor the Democrat against the incumbent president.

More than 80 percent of non-voters say they would consider casting ballots if they knew their votes could swing a close election in either direction.

Paleologos’ polling of people who do vote indicates potential trouble for Republicans in Congress. Fifty percent of Americans in a generic poll favor Democrats versus 39 percent Republicans in the mid-terms, while 58 percent say they want to elect a Congress that “stands up” to President Trump.

Those results remain consistent in statewide polls in key jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

At the same time, Paleologos stressed that voters by a slim margin do not appear inclined to impeach the president. Forty-seven percent of voters oppose impeachment, even following the guilty pleas of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, while 44 percent favor impeachment and 9 percent are undecided.

Paleologos2

 

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Election 2018

Strong Economy Boosts Business Confidence

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 11, 2018 5:10:00 AM

Massachusetts employers were equally confident about the national and state economies during August, breaking an eight-and-a-half-year run in which they were more bullish about the commonwealth than the nation as a whole.

BCI.August.2018The brightening view of the US economy boosted overall business confidence as employers headed for the end of the third quarter.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) gained 2 points to 63.2 last month after tumbling more than five points during June and July. The gain left the BCI two points higher than a year ago, comfortably within optimistic territory.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the last time employers were more optimistic about the national economy than the state was during the nadir of the Great Recession in May 2009 when the AIM BCI Massachusetts Index was 33.1 and the US Index was 34.4.

“The confluence of opinion reflects gathering optimism about the US economy rather than any weakness in the Massachusetts business climate. The Massachusetts Index rose 1.5 points during the year, but the US Index soared 4.5 points during that same period,” Torto said.

The optimism about national prospects came despite persistent concerns about rising production costs generated by tariffs and other factors.

“Steel tariffs are causing major cost escalation on goods and equipment ordered for installations. Freight costs are also rising rapidly. Many manufacturers of our equipment orders are refusing to quote freight until day of shipment and will not even give estimate of freight costs,” wrote one BCI participant.

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 largely higher during August.

The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations rose 2.4 points to 62.1, up 1.2 points from August 2017. The Employment Index gained 2.4 points to end the month at 57.0 while the Sales Index lost 0.8 points to 61.0.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 2.5 points to 66.1, leaving it 4.8 points higher than the year earlier. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 1.5 points during August, but remained down 1.0 point for the year.

Non-manufacturing companies (63.6) were slightly more optimistic than manufacturers (62.8). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (65.2) were more bullish than those in the west (60.8).

“All of these numbers are well within optimistic range and reflect the views of employers operating in a state economy that grew at a 7.3 percent annual rate during the second quarter. The acceleration in economic growth underscored strong gains in employment, earnings, and consumer and business spending,” said Elliot Winer, Chief Economist, Winer Economic Consulting, LLC, and a BEA member.

“Underlying economic strength is, for the moment, overshadowing a somewhat unpredictable public policy environment.”

Historically strong economy

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, agreed that employers are driving a Massachusetts economy that remains historically strong.

“The state unemployment rate remains at 3.5 percent, wage and salary income surged 19.2 percent during the second quarter and economic output has accelerated,” Lord said. 

He cautioned, however, that the escalating series of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs among the US and its trading partners are starting to take a toll on Massachusetts employers.

“The thousands of member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) are increasingly concerned about the negative effect of current and proposed tariffs on Massachusetts companies. Particularly alarming are tariffs on raw materials, components and finished goods coming from China,” Lord said.

“While we concur with the need to address China’s unfair trade practices, we do not believe that tariffs are the best strategy. Tariffs are already hurting our companies here in Massachusetts and additional damage is anticipated, by business owners and leaders.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Tariffs Damage Massachusetts Companies

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Sep 10, 2018 8:30:00 AM

The thousands of member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) are increasingly concerned about the negative effect of current and proposed tariffs on Massachusetts companies.

Itnl.PortParticularly alarming are tariffs on raw materials, components and finished goods coming from China. While we concur with the need to address China’s unfair trade practices, we do not believe that tariffs are the best strategy. Tariffs are already hurting our companies here in Massachusetts and additional damage is anticipated, by business owners and leaders.

AIM hears weekly from companies across industries—retail, machining, consumer goods, manufacturing, plastics, semiconductor— who are suffering from recent tariffs and are concerned about proposed tariffs.

One Massachusetts CEO told us: “Tariffs are by far the most serious issue my company has faced in 40 years of business—much more important than health insurance costs, regulations, and finding workers...”

These companies need tariffs eliminated.

What are the tariffs?

  • The U.S. imposed tariffs this past spring on steel (25 percent tariff) and aluminum (10 percent tariff) imports from Canada, Mexico, the EU and other countries. In response the EU, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and Russia immediately instituted retaliatory tariffs on US exports to those countries. India will implement retaliatory tariffs this month.  
  • The U.S., separately, imposed two rounds of tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products earlier this summer. The U.S. is now considering a third round of tariffs, which may take effect as soon as this week, on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China. These tariffs range from 10-25 percent.   The China tariffs effectively tax U.S. consumers and manufacturers on many goods that they purchase from China.

The consequence of tariffs on Massachusetts companies are far-reaching:

Higher costs of doing business: Companies are paying more for components, raw materials and finished products. Firms often cannot pass these additional costs to their customers. The result is reduced profitability and reduced opportunity to re-invest in the business.

Supply-chain disruption: Companies spend decades developing and refining their supply chains. China is a valuable source for components and finished products. In many cases, these components and products are simply not available in the US, at any price. Quality and quantity requirements necessitate buying from overseas providers. Finding new suppliers is difficult or impossible.

Impact on jobs in Massachusetts: When companies must pay 15 percent to 200 percent more for materials or products, the financial impact is significant. Executives have told us their options are limited. Choosing among no new hires, decreased benefits/raises, or layoffs does not bode well for the Massachusetts economy or for companies themselves.

More competition from foreign manufacturers: One manufacturer told us that his company is already losing sales to foreign competitors who can offer a similar product at a lower price point because the US product carries a tariff and the one made in Europe or Asia does not.

General economic climate: With higher expenses and less income, Massachusetts companies may cut back on spending and investment, leaving employees with stagnant or lower incomes.

AIM has reached out to the US Trade Representative and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to  express concern about tariffs and to encourage the U.S. to meet with China to develop a bilateral trade agreement.  AIM is in frequent contact with trade experts in Washington in order to help member companies struggling with the negative impact of tariffs. 

It’s time to re-open the gates of free trade that have made Massachusetts, its technology and its products the envy of the rest of the world. We think that’s the best America First policy.

Click here to receive updates on the tariff issue.

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Tariff

AIM Announces 2018 Sustainability Award Winners

Posted by Debbie Carroll on Sep 6, 2018 1:59:04 PM

Seven Massachusetts companies ranging from a global financial-services powerhouse to a startup Berkshire County drug manufacturer have been named winners of the third 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.

Berkshire SterileAIM announced today that State Street Corporation and Eversource of Boston; Analog Devices of Wilmington; Fallon Health of Worcester; Sanderson MacLeod Inc. of Palmer; Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing of Lee; and Twin Rivers Technologies of Quincy were selected from among several dozen nominations. The seven companies will be honored at a series of regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts during September, October and November.

“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 Richard C. Lord.

“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 seven 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, Ocean Spray 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.

State Street Corporation | September 27 | 100 High Street Amenity Center | Boston

Financial-services giant State Street Corporation is proving that sustainability encompasses operational elements ranging from environmental stewardship to management of human capital.

State Street in 2015 launched The Boston Workforce Investment Network, a four-year program to strengthen Boston's future work force by advancing job readiness for youth. As the signature program of the State Street Foundation, the company has committed $20 million over the four years to five high-performing Boston area nonprofit organizations that focus on education and work force development.

The Boston WINs initiative brings together the private, public and nonprofit sectors toward a common goal: creating meaningful career paths for Boston youth. The program is unique both in its size and scope – State Street has committed to it across many facets of its work. State Street Foundation has pledged major support both directly and via a matching gift incentive, and the State Street Corporation is working to hire WINs candidates into permanent and internship roles. In addition, the Coordinated Action component strengthens working relationships between the WINs partners and the schools in which they work, ensuring better sharing of data.

Over the course of the program, partners will scale their reach by 60 percent so that more Boston youth will receive services that prepare them for college and career success. Since program launch in June 2015, partners have collectively served 53 percent  more youth.

State Street also launched Coordinated Action a means for partners and 26 Boston public high schools to work together to prepare students for college and workforce readiness. State Street has committed to hiring 1,000 aspiring professionals as part of the initiative. 

Eversource| September 27 | 100 High Street Amenity Center | Boston

The largest electric utility in New England has launched a broad-based initiative to ensure the sustainability of its work force through a commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Eversource CEO Jim Judge joined more than 350 other CEOs in signing the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge. The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance D&I in the workplace. 

Eversource’s D&I Corporate Council, state teams, and Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are comprised of employees based in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire who serve as change agents and champions of D&I.

Plans are in place to launch two new Business Resource Groups in 2018: a Young Professionals BRG, an LGBQT BRG; and one in 2019: a Differently Abled BRG. Currently, nearly 1,000 employees across all three states are involved in Eversource state councils and BRGs and the company continues to evolve and expand these groups.

Eversource says it wants to build the next-generation energy work force, “one with diverse, highly skilled, and qualified employees capable of delivering on the responsibility to meet customers’ evolving energy needs.”  Eversource has developed a three-year diversity and inclusion plan, which incorporates initiatives and metrics to improve our overall D&I results, and by pledging to take on specific D&I actions.

Analog Devices| October 4 | The Riverwalk | Lawrence

Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) in Wilmington occupies a campus composed of six buildings housing offices, semiconductor manufacturing space, labs for R&D, and a central utility plant. 

The company in 2015 initiated a major efficiency effort that has been implemented by cross-functional teams of operators, engineers, and managers, with the intent to eliminate wasteful activities and update older equipment.  To date, the effort has yielded more than $1 million of annual savings in electricity costs and a 19 percent spending reduction on chemicals supporting manufacturing operations, significantly reducing ADI’s impact on the environment. 

The Wilmington facility has reduced its electricity consumption by 34 percent and its water usage by 18 percent, based on data normalized to production output (i.e. the resources required to create one unit of product).  ADI also reduced usage of two solvents by 60 percent in this same timeframe.

ADI says it had to convince itself as a company to think beyond what solutions worked in the past and focus on creating the future.

“Some changes – especially those related to solvent usage - affected areas or processes that were thought to be too complex or simply untouchable, others affected areas that didn’t appear would have much of an impact, until the measured effects proved otherwise,” the company says.

Specific projects completed during 2017 include:

  • Replacing dozens of vacuum pumps and chillers with more energy efficient models for semiconductor processing equipment. This saves over 3.4 million kilowatt hours per year.
  • Lowering the idle power or temperature on reactors and furnaces between runs, which saves over 1.2 million kWHs per year.
  • Reviewing our manufacturing facility’s exhaust configuration and optimizing the exhaust flow in many areas, resulting in 1.4 million kWHs saved per year.
  • Across the site, reducing nighttime lighting in low & no traffic areas as well as completing 75% of LED replacement for parking lot lighting (remaining 25% to be completed in 2018).
  • Consolidating the number of tools running two kinds of solvents and reducing the change-out frequency, effectively reducing usage of those solvents by over 60%.
  • Combining and reducing the frequency of trans-Pacific shipments reduced our usage of packing materials and generation of transportation-related pollution.

ADI recently announced that the Wilmington campus would become its new global headquarters, which entails constructing two new LEED-certified buildings. These buildings will incorporate cutting-edge energy-efficiency technology, solar panels to support energy usage, and new collaboration and social areas that will draw the best and brightest employees for years to come. 

Fallon Health| October 11 | Mechanics Hall | Worcester

Fallon Health uses grants and community/employee engagement to address barriers that affect the health and well-being of under-served communities. By addressing some of the most basic barriers, such as transportation, education, housing and access to food, the health plan can identify the underlying root causes of poor health outcomes.

The commitment to hunger relief extends throughout Fallon Health.  Employees throughout the organization are encouraged to volunteer in the community—and are provided eight hours of paid work time to do so. Employees volunteered 6,428 hours of their time in 2017.

Over the last 12 years, Fallon has distributed $1.8 million to hundreds of hunger-relief programs and helped 726,000 individuals throughout the state who are food insecure. Those efforts help to prevent avoidable health-related expenditures because food insecurity leads to more doctor visits, hospital stays, emergency room treatment, prescription medication and home health care.

Indirect costs associated with hunger weaken the state’s economic health through lost work time, low productivity and premature death.

Each year, Fallon’s Senior Leadership team kicks off the new year by going directly into the community to understand the barriers at street level. They volunteer their time by preparing and serving community meals for children and their families at a local Boys & Girls Club.

The company believes in helping people access food where they live and learn. Employees built or renovated food pantries at the Boys & Girls Club and the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Center in Worcester (SWNIC). During the holidays, Fallon supports families with personalized and bountiful holiday meal kits in addition to new toys and much-needed clothing. Employee donation and corporate giving in 2017 for the holiday program totaled more than $17,000.

Fallon is also working on an innovative, sustainable solution modeled after the “Open Door Pantry” in Gloucester and the “Food is Medicine” approach in Lowell.  The company has partnered with the Lowell Community Health Center (LCHC), Mill City Grows and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank (MVFB) to lay the groundwork for a food pantry to be housed in the MVFB. Fallon solidified its commitment with a $50,000 donation to the project.

Sanderson MacLeod| October 18 | Wistariahurst Museum | Holyoke

Many manufacturing companies have adopted continuous improvement initiatives, but few small employers have adopted them as comprehensively as Sanderson MacLeod, a maker of twisted wire brushes based in Palmer.

The company initiated a continuous improvement effort while establishing a LEAN culture under which employee teams identified waste.  Sanderson-MacLeod says involving the work force in improving the company created a rewarding experience.

“Our teams include employees from various positions. We encourage everyone to share their ideas – what the problem is and their thoughts on how to go about researching the issue and finding a solution to it.  When we first started the process, we mentioned “LEAN” multiple times a day … now it is hardly mentioned as it is just a part of who we are.  It is in our culture; our employees are always looking for a way to improve our processes,” the company says.

Adopting LEAN culture is a big challenge for small companies - many start the LEAN journey and then stop after a few weeks or months.  The process requires a culture shift that is supported throughout the entire organization. 

Sanderson-MacLeod says the move to LEAN manufacturing has made the company measurably more efficient, producing more parts in a shorter amount of time. On-time shipping metrics improved, and lead times decreased. The result – the company has brought in additional business based upon its ability to produce quality parts delivered on time.

Employment has increase 23 percent since the process began.

Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, Inc.| October 25 | Hotel on North | Pittsfield

What if you could create a sustainable, sterile drug manufacturing facility from the ground up?

Chances are that it would look a lot like Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, a three-year-old startup that specializes in manufacturing small-scale injectable drugs for clinical trials with an isolator that ups the quality of the clean-room product.

Berkshire Sterile describes itself as a state-of-the-art fill/finish contract manufacturer providing formulation and sterile filling as well as analytical development and stability services to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. All sterile filling operations at BSM are performed utilizing isolator-based technology.

BSM also offers terminal steam sterilization of syringes, specialty filling and lyophilization of vials and syringes including dual chamber liquid/liquid and liquid/lyo configurations. 

It’s an operation that is generating significant economic growth in the Berkshires.

The company has hired more than 80 professional positions in the past 3.5 years.  More than 10 of those employees have purchased houses in the area.  Clients come from all over the US and overseas to visit the facility, bringing a lot of business to local hotels and restaurants

BSM worked with several suppliers of pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment to design and produce an isolator-based manufacturing line that could produce sterile injectable drug products in vials, syringes and cartridges. A flexible design of the system allows multiple drug container types to be filled in the same manufacturing line.  The drugs that BSM produces are primarily new drugs in development and clinical trials to treat various therapeutic areas including cancer, osteoarthritis, cardiac diseases and pediatric orphan diseases.

The use of isolator technology not only provides better assurance of drug sterility, it reduces requirements for large volumes of heating, cooling and dehumidification/humidification required for traditional cleanroom environments. The technology also reduces the requirements for sterile gowning and testing reducing trash and consuming fewer valuable resources.

Twin Rivers Technologies Manufacturing Corporation| November 1 | Easton Country Club | Easton

Twin Rivers Technologies, one of the largest Oleochemical producers in North America, executed two projects - a Combined Heat and Power/Heat Recovery Steam Generation (CHP/HRSG) facility and Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers - that created measurable benefit for the environment while underscoring the company’s significant role in the community.

The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) facility utilizes natural gas and incorporates Heat Recovery Steam Generation (HRSG) to generate high pressure steam for the manufacturing operations, as well as providing a significant portion of the electricity needed.  The direct benefit of the project is an increase in steam capacity and therefore production capability, as well as improved reliability for heat and electrical utilities.  

The indirect benefits of the CHP/HRSG project have been just as impressive.  First, the installation helped reduce the company’s reliance on heavy fuels like #6 and #2 oils. This helped to reduce the overall emissions of the facility by decreasing volatile organic compounds, Nitrous Oxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and other pollutants released to the atmosphere.  The facility is reliable and can operate without interruption if power goes out, preventing costly shutdown/startup operations where raw material, fuel, electric and manpower losses significantly affect the viability of any business.

The Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers replaced a packed-bed water scrubber that had been installed in 1998 and proved to be an ineffective odor-control device.  The direct benefits of the project were the reduction of odors from the facility that impact the surrounding community and the savings of water used to supply the former odor control unit. 

Topics: Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable, AIM Sustainability Award

Twelve Companies Honored with 2018 AIM Next Century Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 4, 2018 8:30:00 AM

NextCentury2018

A world-renowned wellness resort in the Berkshires, a Southbridge manufacturer that has made cutlery since James Monroe was president, and a clean-technology incubator that has launched more than 170 companies are among 12 organizations and individuals that will receive Next Century awards from Associated Industries of Massachusetts at a series of regional celebrations in September, October and November.

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.

AIM announced today that 2018 Next Century awards will go to Greentown Labs of Somerville; Cityscapes of Boston; 99 Degrees Custom of Lawrence; Gem Group Inc. of Lawrence; Lancaster Packaging of Hudson; Dexter Russell Inc. of Southbridge; Six Flags New England of Agawam; United Personnel of Springfield; Canyon Rach of Lenox; B & B Micro Manufacturing of North Adams; Accurounds of Avon; and Sensata Technologies of Attleboro.

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

Award winners will be honored at AIM regional celebrations in Boston on September 27, Lawrence on October 4, Worcester on October 11, Holyoke on October 18, Pittsfield on October 25, and Easton on November 1. Each event will run from 4:30-6:30 and is free to AIM members.

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

Greentown Labs | September 27 | 100 High Street Amenity Center | Boston

Somerville-based Greentown Labs is the largest hardware-focused, cleantech incubator in the country, providing 100,000 square feet of prototyping lab and office space to entrepreneurs building products to address society’s biggest environmental challenges.

Greentown Labs was born in 2011 when five entrepreneurs - Jason Hanna of Coincident, Sam White and Sorin Grama of Promethean Power Systems, Jeremy Pitts of Oscomp Systems and Adam Rein of Altaeros Energies - were looking for affordable space to keep building prototypes after they graduated from MIT. The organization has since nurtured more than 170 startup companies that have together created 1,200 jobs and raised more than $350 million in funding.

The organization currently houses 90 companies that are building and commercializing solutions for renewable-power generation, sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, battery storage, industrial- waste recycling, and water conservation. In late 2017, Greentown Labs expanded its campus within the Union Square neighborhood of Somerville and added 58,000 square feet of coworking, prototyping lab, chemistry lab, and event space.

Among the companies to grow out of Greentown are Bevi, Accion Systems, NBD Nano, RightHand Robotics, Open Water Power, and Piaggio Fast Forward. 

Greentown Labs also maintains a Manufacturing Initiative that allows startups to establish working relationships with manufacturers throughout the commonwealth. The Manufacturing Initiative has facilitated nearly 800 connections between startups and manufacturers leading to more than 75 contracts.

Cityscapes| September 27 | 100 High Street Amenity Center | Boston

“I transform people’s lives with the power of plants.”

Janice Goodman, founder and CEO of the interior-scape company Cityscapes, has built a thriving business by bringing the outdoors inside at glass-and-steel office structures throughout Boston.

Forget the single plant in the corner of your office – Goodman and her 70 employees believe the business is about biophilia, the concept developed by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson identifying the innate human and emotional connection to nature. Cityscapes has made that connection everywhere from the Wintergarden at the Prudential Center to the renovated atrium at 100 Federal Street, where the company installed two “living walls” of plants.

Cityscapes blossomed in 1992 from a retail flower business called Fleurtacious that Goodman operated in Copley Square. Cityscapes provides design consultation, weekly guaranteed plant maintenance, flowering plant programs, seasonal displays and exterior landscape services for property management companies, office buildings, corporations and hotels throughout the greater Boston area.

Cityscapes uses live plants in areas where nature is sparse. Goodman says the process is especially important today amid a worldwide building boom of office towers.

“Traditionally, with urban expansion, many natural open spaces are lost, but designing with nature in mind will benefit us all in the end,” she says.

“Today’s built environments can and quite often do cause stress. Biophilic design is a solution to this issue, decreasing negative effects on people and nature alike, while facilitating the connection between the two.”

Goodman is a professional speaker and registered instructor for the American Institute of Architects Continuing Education system; and for BOMI, Building Owners Managers Institute, offering educational credits and programs to architectural and commercial property professionals.

Cityscapes is heavily invested in supporting community organizations. The company donates plant material and holiday decorations to local charities and non-profit organizations such as the Brookview House, Friends of the Elderly, The Home for Little Wanderers, The Pine Street Inn, The American Cancer Society, Hope in Bloom, Rosie’s Place, and the Veterans Hospitals throughout Boston.

Goodman and her staff also invite children from local day-care centers to the greenhouse, so they can learn about plants and how they help the environment.  Cityscapes has provided jobs for people with disabilities for more than 18 years.

99 Degrees Custom | October 4 | The Riverwalk, Lawrence

“Apparel, meet your future.”

99 Degrees Custom of Lawrence is seeking to create nothing less than a second industrial revolution in a city that was a cradle of the first.

The company launched in 2013 with a vision of melding technology, design, just-in-time manufacturing and socially conscious management into a new model for the apparel industry. Thirty-four-year-old founder and CEO Brenna Nan Schneider calls her vision “inclusive innovation.”

99 Degrees Custom fills specialty orders for activewear – everything from oven mitts to running jackets.   Applications include military, medical, and consumer markets. The company offers full development services, sample making, small-batch manufacturing, and production.

Customers include start-ups and established brands like New Balance. Schneider has grown by helping apparel companies complement their forecast-based global supply chain with demand-driven domestic production. That allows the companies to keep inventory in stock, reduce mark-downs, and eliminate sold out styles, colors, and sizes.

“By combining a smart and responsive supply chain model with wearable technology integration, we envision a bright future for US apparel manufacturing and jobs,” the company says.

99 Degrees Custom is known for lean process, a team committed to continuous improvement, and production lines engineered for agility. It works “on the cutting edge of sew-free and wearable technology integration as well as on-demand and mass customization manufacturing.”

Schneider’s long-term plan is to become a major apparel manufacturer with 1,000 jobs that allow employees to support themselves and their families.

“You have families working fulltime jobs living in poverty and more jobs that are being created that place people in poverty,” says Schneider.  “So how do we change that?”

Schneider starts by paying her workers above the minimum wage.   She has also created a culture in which learning is a priority.   Speed and quality are important, but what she wants most from her employees is to continuously learn – technical skills and executive ones, like solving problems.

99 Degrees Custom has garnered numerous awards, including the 2017 Massachusetts Legislative Caucus Manufacturing Award, the MIT Inclusive Innovation Prize and The Boston Globe’s Game Changers list.

The Gem Group | October 4 | The Riverwalk | Lawrence

Lawrence-based Gem Group - the promotional product industry's premier supplier of bags, business accessories, gifts and writing instruments – celebrated its 60th anniversary this year by expanding into a new line of business that will create significant economic growth in its home town.

The company in January announced its expansion into the specialty foods category under the brand name, Gourmet Expressions. It will offer a range of gourmet gifts bundled with an assortment of totes, coolers and drinkware, as well as a collection of gourmet food gift towers and baskets.

According to Gem, the new food-gifting division will offer customers one-stop shopping convenience for year-round gifting and branded marketing solutions.

“This was an easy choice for us,” said Jonathan Isaacson, president of the Gem Group and son of founder Samuel Isaacson.

“There hasn’t been that much innovation in the food category, and it’s a place where we believe we can add a lot of value. For example, in the traditional food business, there often isn’t a keepsake to remind the recipient of where that gift came from. With our design-oriented bags and cases, we can solve that problem.”

Gem Group is currently in the process of building out a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) certified fulfillment center within its manufacturing plant in Lawrence. HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

Such dramatic growth is nothing new at Gem Group, which employs approximately 350 people in Lawrence and 500 people worldwide. The company operates a manufacturing operation in China but has maintained most of its production in Massachusetts despite the changing economics of manufacturing in a high-cost state.

The company is ranked as one of the industry's largest suppliers by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).

Gem maintains a full in-house design team and generates multiple product launches a year. The product line includes totes, coolers, backpacks, padfolios, duffels, electronics and gadgets, drinkware, stationery, messenger bags, briefcases, gifts, travel bags and writing instruments, as well as high-quality brands featuring American Tourister, bobble, Brookstone, Igloo, Lynktec, Moleskine, Samsonite, Speck, Thermos and Zebra.

Samuel Isaacson founded the Gem Group before passing it on to his son in 1994. Under Jonathan Isaacson’s ownership, the company moved to Lawrence, and expanded its facilities from 90,000 square feet to 155,000 square feet. 

Dexter-Russell Inc.| October 11 | Mechanics Hall | Worcester

The oldest and largest maker of professional cutlery in the United States celebrates 200 years in business in 2018, an extraordinary accomplishment that underscores the adaptability and foresight of manufacturers who continue to thrive in Massachusetts.

Dexter-Russell Inc. employs more than 200 people at its plant in Southbridge just west of Worcester. The company manufacturers about 2,400 different products, from steak knives to pizza cutters, many of which end up in restaurants or meat and seafood processing plants. Many New England fisherman prefer a Dexter knife to cut their stripers, fluke or tuna.

Efficiency and automation are the reasons that the company has been able to prosper during a period when many manufacturers have not, according to President and CEO Alan Peppel, a longtime member of the AIM Board of Directors.

“We have always believed in continuous improvement, and now are overlaying more aggressive lean manufacturing concepts. In addition, we have always reinvested back into the business using the most advanced machinery in the world to make our products world class in quality and efficiency,” Peppel says.

Dexter-Russell, Inc. is successor to two venerable American cutlery manufacturers: The Harrington Cutlery Company and the John Russell Cutlery Company.

Henry Harrington, a New England craftsman and inventor, established the first cutlery company in the United States on June 18, 1818 in Southbridge. Harrington manufactured surgical equipment and shoe knives.

He introduced the Dexter trade name in 1884. Named after Henry Harrington’s son, the Dexter line of fine kitchen and table cutlery soon gained a reputation for quality in America's homes and restaurants.

Another New Englander, John Russell, founded his Green River Works on March 1, 1834. After having made his fortune in the cotton industry, Russell, at age 37, turned his energies to the manufacturing of quality cutlery. He built his water powered factory on the banks of the Green River near Greenfield.

On May 1, 1933, the Harrington Cutlery Company and the John Russell Cutlery Company merged, bringing together the two most respected names in cutlery. The new company, Russell Harrington Cutlery Company, offered a broad range of quality cutlery products from the famous knives that "won the west" to innovative cutlery for the professional and industrial markets.

After an ownership change in 1968, the company changed its name to Dexter-Russell, Inc. in 2001 to reflect its long history of product brand identity.

Just as John Russell paid generous wages in the nineteenth century to attract skilled craftsmen from Europe, Dexter-Russell today competes for talent with pay and benefits such as a profit-sharing plan that is available to all employees. It was one of the first profit-sharing plans created in the country at the time.

The program gives workers the opportunity to contribute up to 5 percent percent of their earnings into their 401-K retirement fund each year. When combined with the company’s match and separate contribution based on profitability, an employee can save 20 percent of earnings annually into their own retirement account. More than 90 percent of employees participate.

Another element of the company’s success and longevity, according to Peppel, is its practice of being close to the customer and listening to customer needs. The company is often able to identify a need, then engineer and manufacture a knife, turner, or other product and have it delivered in less time than it would take to make and ship the product from overseas.

“Our success is evaluated every day: how well do we meet our customers’ needs; and as a manufacturer, how well do we improve our products and our manufacturing processes to improve quality and efficiency,” Peppel says.

Lancaster Packaging | October 11 | Mechanics Hall | Worcester

Marianne Lancaster has built the Hudson-based supply management and wholesale packaging distribution firm she started straight out of college 29 years ago into a national company with 18 employees operating out of two buildings.

It’s a small-business success story forged against challenges ranging from the 2008 recession to competition from large national players to the unique financial and operational issues that confront minority women business owners. She has persevered not only by growing her own company but also by becoming a respected voice helping fellow minority entrepreneurs access the resources they need.

Lancaster Packaging can source industrial packaging, often with military specifications, from multiple suppliers with which it has built relationships over the years. The company also keeps a supply of packaging in its Hudson warehouse to help clients who need it quickly. Certain sizes and types of packaging built to military specs can take time to order from a custom shop - having it available in Lancaster's warehouse allows a quick drop shipment.

Faced with increasing competition in the packaging space from logistics and trucking companies, and after losing her biggest customer in 2005 (a bank that was bought out by a larger bank), Lancaster was forced to reinvent her business model.

She launched a procurement services division in 2008 that focused her services on unique items companies purchase once but likely won't again. That allows procurement managers to focus on their core purchasing, while outsourcing smaller bits to Lancaster.

"This is stuff that comes up that's unexpected that they may never buy from that supplier again," she told the Worcester Business Journal. "(Procurement managers) don't want to deal with a $20 flashlight someone needs in Alabama. That's what we do."

The bulk of her customers are in the aerospace industry, including BAE Systems and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Engineering teams are often the ones purchasing one-off items.

Lancaster credits the procurement division with most of the company's revenue growth over the past few years. It’s the sort of growth that lands Lancaster Packaging regularly among the Boston Globe’s Top 100 women-led companies.

Lancaster has used her own business success to address the broader issues facing women and people of color seeking to build companies. In 2013, she testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which held a hearing on how to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem for minority women.

Lancaster told the committee that lack of financing initially inhibited the development of her company, a story consistent with studies showing that minority-owned firms have a disproportionate challenge in accessing capital. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce, minority-owned firms are less likely to receive loans, more likely to be denied loans, and pay higher-than-average interest rates.

Ultimately, according to Lancaster, success is built upon relationships.

“The key to our success has been the development of amazing, trusting and collaborative relationships between both our customers and suppliers.”

Six Flags New England | October 18 | Wistariahurst Museum | Holyoke

The economic footprint of Six Flags New England is every bit as imposing as the Superman roller coaster that marks the largest amusement park in New England along the banks of the Connecticut River.

Six Flags, which began to operate the former Riverside Park in 1998, has spent millions of dollars over two decades to expand its lineup of 100 rides, shows and attractions, along with the largest water park in the Northeast. The company is the region’s largest seasonal employer, hiring more than 3,000 people each year during a nine-month season that stretches from the spring through the summer to the holidays.

The 235-acre park is also a lynchpin of the tourism economy both for western Massachusetts and the entire commonwealth. The organization’s 13 roller coasters draw thousands of visitors to the region and provide national media exposure for Massachusetts as a destination.

The property is one of 20 across the United States, Canada and Mexico operated by Six Flags, a $1.4 billion-a-year enterprise that is the nation’s largest owner of regional amusement parks. More than 30 million people visit a Six Flags park each year.

Capital investments at Six Flags during the past six years include vertigo-inducing rides such as Harley Quinn Spinsanity, the Joker 4D Free Fly Coaster, Wicked Cyclone and New England Sky Screamer. In between the thrills, Six Flags welcomes visitors with entertainment figures ranging from Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to Batman and Wonder Woman.

Six Flags maintains a similarly high profile in the western Massachusetts community.  The company supports more than 3,000 non-profit organizations ranging from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Red Cross to the March of Dimes and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield. The support includes cash donations, ticket donations and on-site charity events.

United Personnel | October 18 | Wistariahurst Museum | Holyoke

At a time when finding qualified employees remains a defining challenge for Massachusetts companies, United Personnel of Springfield connects more than 700 people each day to good jobs throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut.

It’s been that way for 35 years since Mary Ellen Scott and her late husband, Jay Canavan, started the company with the goal providing employment opportunities to match the skills and aspirations of a range of western Massachusetts residents.  The company has thrived during the intervening decades by deftly weaving itself into the fabric of a western Massachusetts economy that operates uniquely on personal contact and trust.

United Personnel and its staff of 40 people provide clients with everything from temporary and contract workers to direct-hire employees in areas ranging from administrative and professional to information technology, light manufacturing, medical, dental and hospitality. The business puts the company on the front lines of complex and rapidly changing employment issues such as diversity, work-force development and education to meet ever-changing skill demands and the need to bring new participants into the work force.

Headquartered in downtown Springfield, United Personnel offers staffing support services throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. The company operates additional offices in Northampton, Pittsfield and Chelmsford, along with Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut.

United Personnel is now led by Tricia Canavan, Mary Ellen and Jay’s daughter, along with a committed team of managers and staff. Canavan serves as a member of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Board of Directors, in addition to serving on the boards of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, the Springfield Public Forum, the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Business Leaders for Education and the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board.

The company regularly appears on the Boston Globe list of Top 100 Women-Led Business in Massachusetts and this year received Inavero Best of Staffing awards for both client satisfaction and talent satisfaction.

"With a tight labor market and growing economy, finding the right recruiting partners is critical to success," said Inavero CEO Eric Gregg. "Best of Staffing winners provide consistently remarkable service to their clients and job candidates, and I couldn't be prouder to feature United Personnel as true leader in the industry."

The company underscored its ties to the Pioneer Valley two years ago when it opened new offices in Springfield in the historic Stearns Building, which dates to 1912. The offices face a corner of Steiger Park, once the site of the Steiger’s Department Store, and are across Bridge Street from the Springfield Innovation Center at 270-280 Bridge Street

The company marked its new headquarters and ongoing commitment to work-force development and education by creating a scholarship fund in the company's name that will help deserving students from the Gateway Cities of the Pioneer Valley continue their educations. The fund will be administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Canyon Ranch Lenox | October 25 | Hotel on North | Pittsfield

Canyon Ranch Lenox, which rose from the ruins of the 19th-century Bellefontaine Mansion in 1989, has firmly established itself -and the Berkshires - as one of the top wellness destinations in the world.

It has also established itself as a centerpiece of the Berkshire County economy, attracting nearly 45,000 guests annually and employing about 560 people.

The resort encompasses nearly 120 acres, with the historic, stately 1897 Bellefontaine as the centerpiece. The structure was once as a private home, a seminary and a boarding school, but was empty and gutted by fire when Canyon Ranch Founders Mel and Enid Zuckerman and Jerry Cohen spent $10 million to restore the building as the East Coast presence of the company they started in Tucson, Arizona in 1979.

Canyon Ranch offers a lengthy selection of treatments that range from deep tissue massage to Ayurvedic treatments and detoxifying seaweed wraps. Board certified physicians are on staff to provide evidence-based prevention, science-based precision, and high-touch personalization as part of integrative medical solutions. The facility also offers diagnostic laboratory testing.

The Lenox resort is part of a sprawling wellness enterprise that includes the original flagship in Tucson, the world’s largest day spa at The Venetian® & The Palazzo® hotels in Las Vegas, and 22 Canyon Ranch at Sea wellness facilities on Cunard Cruise Line, Oceania® Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises®, and Celebrity Cruises®. The company is now owned by John Goff, Chairman of Canyon Ranch, and is headquartered in Ft. Worth, Texas. Helmed by former auto executive Susan Docherty as its chief executive, Canyon Ranch is committed to the Lenox property and has recently accelerated its investments there.

Two years ago, the brand embarked upon a multi-million-dollar renovation of its dining room and guest rooms. The company also constructed 19 luxury condominiums called the Residences at Bellefontaine, providing owners a world-class wellness at their doorstep. The residential project is valued at $20 million to $22 million and contributes around $300,000 a year in property taxes to the Town of Lenox.

It’s a project that fits into a global “wellness real estate” market estimated at $134 billion by the Global Wellness Institute, with a pipeline of more than 740 projects worldwide.

Docherty told The Berkshire Eagle last year: "Canyon Ranch is a very wise sanctuary. We're trying to impart wisdom in whatever way guests seek it, so they can have a transformative experience."

B&B Micro Manufacturing | October 25 | Hotel on North | Pittsfield

Tiny houses are making a big impact on the Berkshire County economy.

B&B Micro Manufacturing – founded in 2016 by Hoosac Valley High classmates Chris St. Cyr, Mitch Bresett and Jason Koperniak – now employs 42 people in the Windsor Mill in North Adams making the kind of tiny houses that have become a staple of Home & Garden Television. B&B makes mostly contracted units for a vacation rental company, but also does custom tiny houses and its own designs.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright told iBerkshires recently that the company's growth has been a bright spot in reviving the city's manufacturing base, an integral part of its creative economy. 

"You can say that there's going to be 100 new jobs when a hotel is being built and people here will say, 'OK'," he said. "Now you have 42 on the payroll since April in manufacturing and that, here, strikes a very cool chord."

Tiny homes, usually 500 or fewer square feet and capable of being moved on a trailer, have become enormously popular during the past decade among individuals and families looking to save money, simplify their lives and adopt an environmentally sustainable life. The market has been buoyed by television shows and tony home villages sprouting up around the country.

Tiny houses cost between $30,000 and $75,000 and can be built quickly. All units are built to Recreational Vehicle Industry Association standards.

St. Cyr, Bresett and Koperniak all grew up in Adams but came to the business from different directions. St. Cyr graduated from Williams College and worked for a hedge fund; Koperniak graduated from Bowdoin College and worked in the financial sector; and Bresett learned the home-building trade from his father, who founded B&B as a traditional home-building business. 

The B&B Micro Manufacturing partners see the next step as creating modular units for families or small custom homes. These could be an affordable housing solution for young people or empty-nesters, especially in expensive housing markets like eastern Massachusetts.  The company is newly certified as a modular manufacturer in the state of Massachusetts.  

"If we can take a $70,000 unit and put in the Boston area on a tract of land that may not support a large home — east of 495, housing is an issue," Koperniak told iBerkshires.

"We're trying to be that architecturally chic niche where you can have something very nice in a small size, at an affordable price point, and relatively fast."

Sensata Technologies | November 1 | Easton Country Club | Easton

The name Sensata comes from the Latin word sensate, which means “those gifted with sense.” It’s an appropriate name for century-old, $3.5 billion global company that engineers critical sensing systems embedded within automobiles, heavy vehicles and off road equipment, industrial and telecommunications equipment, and commercial and military airplanes.

Sensata designs and manufactures sensing, electrical protection, control and power management systems with operations and business centers in 12 countries globally.  The company’s products improve safety, efficiency, emissions and comfort for millions of people every day in transportation, appliance, aircraft, and industrial applications.

“We focus on solving the world’s need for a cleaner, more efficient, electrified and connected world,” says CEO Martha Sullivan, a member of the AIM Board of Directors.

With a US base in Attleboro, Sensata employs more than 1,000 people in Massachusetts.

A key priority remains developing and attracting engineering talent in a competitive global marketplace.

“We have a compelling vision and purpose and technologies that are vital to changes underway in the industrial landscape. This attracts talent and has served us well,” Sullivan says.

“Retaining our talent is just as important as attracting them,” Sullivan says. “We have built a culture that is based on a set of core values that helps define who we are as an organization; these values are built on teamwork and interdependency – we call it One Sensata – they are built on integrity, striving for excellence, bringing passion to the solutions and systems that we create and offering flexibility to our teams. This is how we are winning for our customers and for our teams.”

Winning for Sensata means being a world leader and early innovator in mission-critical sensor-rich solutions and electrical protection, helping engineers accomplish tasks as varied as:

  • Enabling electrification in cars, trucks and industrial equipment;
  • Lowering  emissions;
  • Improving industrial equipment efficiency;
  • Preventing electrical fires; and
  • Enabling smart and connected products.

The company sells 47,000 unique products and ships more than 1.1 billion units annually. Much of its market growth has come in China, which now represents 15 percent of company revenues.

AccuRounds | November 1 | Easton Country Club | Easton

AccuRounds and its CEO, Michael Tamasi, have become symbols of the new generation of hyper-efficient, advanced manufacturing companies driving the Massachusetts economy.

Founded in 1976, Avon-based AccuRounds is a contract manufacturer that machines and assembles precision turned components for the medical, defense, aerospace, semiconductor, robotics and emerging-technology markets. The company makes everything from the metal shafts used in the flu-vaccine manufacturing process to the top spires on all the "Freedom Trail" signs in Boston.

The company employs 80 people in its 45,000-square-foot facility on Bodwell Street.

AccuRounds was a manufacturing pioneer in 1995 when it embarked on a quest to implement lean manufacturing. These techniques were applied throughout the organization, and in 2006, AccuRounds won the Shingo Prize Northeast Silver Medallion, the first contract metalworking company in North America to do so.

The company later reorganized into value streams utilizing a comprehensive lean management system that has dramatically increased speed to market. It is a pattern that traces the transformation of manufacturing in Massachusetts from high-volume commodity goods made on vast assembly lines to complex, engineered parts made by highly-skilled workers.

Recently, AccuRounds has introduced automation, robotics, machine monitoring, big data and 3D printing to its production floor.  These new technologies are the future of manufacturing.  The team has embraced them as part of their continuous-learning culture.

CEO Tamasi has become an evangelist for the value of manufacturing in creating economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. He currently co-chairs the Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a state initiative to enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts Manufacturers, and also chairs Business Leaders United, a group led by the National Skills Coalition in Washington, DC.

Tamasi went to the White House four years ago as one of only two small-business CEOs to participate in a high-level conference with former President Barack Obama on dealing with long-term unemployment. He has spent significant time addressing the persistent shortage of skilled manufacturing workers that threatens to slow the growth of the state economy.

“There is a renaissance in manufacturing taking place in this country. We have a golden opportunity to capitalize on it and grow our economy, but we need people to be trained and skilled,” he told Fox News after the White House conference.

“We need critical thinkers and problem solvers. We need people who want to improve, and most importantly, we need people with a positive attitude.”

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers, AIM Next Century Award

Slow and Steady Approach to Clean Energy Protects Ratepayers

Posted by Robert Rio on Aug 27, 2018 8:30:00 AM

The energy bill passed in July by the Massachusetts Legislature, signed by Governor Charlie Baker and supported by AIM has been criticized by environmental advocates for not being “aggressive” enough in promoting the use of renewable energy.

WindTurbinesOceanSmallThe new law doubled the requirement for purchasing new renewable power over the next ten years and allowed the procurement of an additional 1600 MW of offshore wind, in addition to the 1600 MW of offshore wind and 1200 MW of hydro power already on tap.

It’s true that AIM urged lawmakers to take a cautious approach on the measure, especially since a sweeping 2016 energy bill that created a host of new initiatives is still being phased in.

But AIM has learned over the years that moving slowly and deliberately often leads to a better environmental and economic outcome than reacting quickly to the latest fad.   

Remember Cape wind? 

Back in 2010 the same environmental advocates and the administration of then-Governor Deval Patrick fell all over themselves supporting the Cape Wind project, even when it became obvious the development was in trouble. AIM recognized Cape Wind for what it was – a no-bid project with sky high prices that would have added hundreds of millions of dollars to 
the electric bills of Massachusetts ratepayers.

The 30 cents-per-kilowatt hour average price of Cape Wind would have become even worse than it seemed at the time because the wholesale cost of electricity has plummeted over the last eight years due to low natural-gas prices. 

Abandoning Cape Wind allowed offshore wind technology (and the law) to catch up to a place where we now have zero carbon-energy at reasonable costs. New offshore wind turbines are expected to produce electricity at less than a third of the cost of Cape Wind.   

AIM and its 4,000 member employers deserve a share of the credit for that cost shift.

It was AIM, not the environmental advocates, that ensured that the 2016 energy bill required all future offshore wind contracts to be transparent and competitively bid, because we knew competition would drive down prices. The bidding process also attracted world-renowned companies because they knew the process would be fair and open.

The 2016 law included two other important provision pushed by AIM. First, any future offshore wind contracts would have to be cheaper than any existing contract, guaranteeing lower prices in the future as technologies and experience levels become better. Second, these contracts would have to be cost-effective to the ratepayers of Massachusetts.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence it was widely criticized. Eighty-six changes were eventually made to that first draft, and the final document was shortened by one-fourth.   

 Our country’s founders weren’t against independence – they just wanted to make sure they got it right.

It worked backed then and we think it’s the best approach now.    

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts economy, Energy

Baker Signs Energy, Non-Compete Bills; Vetoes Patent Trolling

Posted by John Regan on Aug 13, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Governor Charlie Baker last week signed a clean-energy bill and new rules governing the use of non-compete agreements, but vetoed a “patent-trolling” provision that could have prevented companies from protecting their intellectual property.

Baker.2017The energy bill was among 53 pieces of legislation passed in the waning hours of the formal legislative session that Baker signed on Thursday. His actions on non-competes and patent-trolling, both of which were part of a $1.2 billion economic development bill, came on Friday.

AIM supported the energy measure and the compromise bill on non-competes but opposed the patent-trolling language.

“We are grateful to Governor Baker for thoughtful decisions that will benefit both the business community and the larger community,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

AIM had urged Baker to strike the problematic patent-trolling language from the economic development bill.

“The patent-trolling language contained in the bill pending before you is materially different from the compromise language approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committee (S.2432),” Lord wrote to Baker early last week.

“The changed language appeared within the final days of the legislative session and has raised significant concerns from employers who believe it may limit the ability of companies to protect intellectual property.”

AIM supported other portions of the economic-development bill ranging from an apprenticeship tax credit to changes to the Economic Development Incentive Program.

The non-compete language signed by Baker mirrors an agreement that AIM and other business groups reached two years ago with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The measure limits non-competes to one year and gives employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete but does not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.

The new energy bill authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, and establishes an energy storage target. The renewable portfolio standard will increase by one percent until the end of 2019, then by two percent each year until the end of 2029. It would then set the state on a track of one-percent increases each year thereafter.

Topics: Non-Compete Agreements, Energy, Charlie Baker, Patent Trolling

Business Confidence Flat During July

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 7, 2018 9:07:47 AM

Confidence levels among Massachusetts employers were virtually unchanged during July as strong economic growth balanced persistent concerns about tariffs and escalating international trade tensions.

BCI.July.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) dropped 0.1 point to 61.2 last month after tumbling more than five points in June. The drop left the BCI three-tenths of a point lower than a year ago, though still comfortably within optimistic territory.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, said employers grew justifiably bullish about the state and national economies during July while expressing uncertainty about their own prospects.

“The Manufacturing Index has dropped more than eight points during the past two months, pretty much concurrent with the escalation of trade tensions that are increasing prices, disrupting global supply chains and putting some companies in the crosshairs of retaliatory tariffs,” Torto said.

One BCI survey participant in the construction industry wrote: “The tariffs are escalating building costs. We get several price increases per week. It’s harder for most people to have the means to spend on up-keep, much less renovation or new construction.”

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 mixed during July.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth gained 2.3 points to 65.1, leaving it 1.9 points ahead of July 2017.

The U.S. Index ended the month at 61.9, rising 1.9 points after sliding 9.3 points the previous month. The US Index was 4 points better than a year ago.

July marked the 101st consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 0.1 point to 63.6. The

Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 0.4 point. The Current Index gained 2.4 points during the year while the Future Index lost 3.1 points.

Operational Views

Employer views of their own companies weakened.

The Company Index declined 1.5 points to 59.7, down 2.5 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 54.5, a 0.5-point decrease for the month and 1.2 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index lost 0.6 point for the month and 2.3 points for the year.

Non-manufacturing companies (63.0) were more optimistic than manufacturers (58.6). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (63.6) were more bullish than those in the west (57.6).

“The Massachusetts economy itself remains strong and it accelerated sharply in the second quarter, bucking the expectation of slower growth due to low unemployment and demographic constraints,” said Elmore Alexander, Dean of the Ricciardi College of Business, Bridgewater State University.

“The recent surge in state economic growth reflects strong gains in employment, earnings, and consumer and business spending.”

New Laws in Massachusetts

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers spent much of July digesting a raft of new public policies passed by the Massachusetts Legislature as it wrapped up the formal portion of its 2017-2018 session.

“Employers face new restrictions on the use of non-compete agreements, imposition of paid family leave, an increased minimum wage and a wholesale shift in the generation of the energy they use,” Lord said.

“And that’s on top of the $200 million annual assessment on employers to close a budget gap in the MassHealth program. Employers clearly have a lot to think about.”

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

AIM Urges Governor to Sign Energy Bill, Parts of Economic Development Bill

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 6, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts on Friday urged Governor Charlie Baker to sign a clean-energy bill and approve portions of a $1.2 billion economic-development bill passed by the Legislature earlier in the week.

State_House_and_One_BeaconIn a letter to the governor, AIM expressed support for key portions of the economic-development bill ranging from an apprenticeship tax credit to imposition of reasonable limits on the use of non-compete agreements. But the largest employer association in the commonwealth urged the governor to strike other elements of the bill, including a “patent-trolling” provision that could prevent companies from protecting their intellectual property.

“The patent trolling language contained in the bill pending before you is materially different from the compromise language approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committee (S.2432),” AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord wrote to Baker.

“The changed language appeared within the final days of the legislative session and has raised significant concerns from employers who believe it may limit the ability of companies to protect intellectual property.”

The economic-development and energy measures were part of a flurry of activity as the Legislature ended the formal portion of its 2017-2018 session early Wednesday morning. Governor Baker has 10 days to sign the bills, veto them or send back amended language.

The language in the economic-development bill governing use of non-competes mirrors a compromise that AIM and other business groups reached two years ago with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The measure limits non-competes to one year and gives employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete but does not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.

AIM fought relentlessly for more than 11 years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes to protect intellectual property. The new bill accomplishes that goal.

The new energy bill authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, and establishes an energy storage target. The renewable portfolio standard will increase by one percent until the end of 2019, then by two percent each year until the end of 2029. It would then set the state on a track of one-percent increases each year thereafter.

The bill “is a measured approach to public policy. It changes only those programs that need changing without disrupting newly established programs before they have had a chance to work. It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Massachusetts while being considerate of our high electric prices,” Lord wrote in a separate letter to the governor.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Economic Development, Energy, Charlie Baker

Beacon Hill Passes Energy, Non-Compete Bills; No Agreement on Health Measure

Posted by John Regan on Aug 1, 2018 8:16:11 AM

The Massachusetts Legislature ended its 2017-2018 formal session last night by mandating increased use of clean energy, establishing limits on the use of non-compete agreements and curbing the practice of “patent trolling.”

statehousedome1Lawmakers meanwhile were unable to reach agreement on a massive health-care bill that had generated concern among employers because it leveled assessments on medical providers and insurers that would eventually be passed on to consumers. The bill also contained no reform of the MassHealth program even as employers contribute $200 million per year to close a budget gap in the health-insurance program for low-income people.

Beacon Hill lawmakers crossed the finish line early this morning after a frenetic day that saw passage of bills covering everything from economic development to opioid care.

Governor Charlie Baker now has 10 days to review all the legislation. AIM will consult with member employers on the issues before recommending that the governor sign or veto each measure.

The new energy law authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, and establishes an energy storage target.

The compromise calls for the renewable portfolio standard to increase by one percent until the end of 2019, then by two percent each year until the end of 2029. It would then set the state on a track of one-percent increases each year thereafter.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts had supported a measured approach that would neither harm ratepayers nor elbow out other zero-carbon generation such as hydro-electric power. AIM supports the final bill.

“H.4857 An Act to Advance Clean Energy constructively builds upon the success of last year’s omnibus energy legislation,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“By following this measured approach, Massachusetts avoids disrupting the energy sector by making significant changes to programs that are themselves in the middle of being finalized. AIM feared that course would have delayed our effectiveness in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

“The measure will continue our aggressive transition from fossil fuels to a zero-carbon future while at the same time recognizing the importance of cost on Massachusetts ratepayers.”

(Contact Rio at rrio@aimnet.org or 617.262.1180 to learn more.)

The law governing use of non-competes, included in an economic development bill, mirrors a compromise that AIM and other business groups reached two years ago with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The measure limits non-competes to one year and gives employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete but does not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.

“AIM has fought relentlessly for more than 11 years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes to protect intellectual property. The new bill accomplishes that goal and reflects the productive compromise brokered two years ago by the speaker,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs.

The economic development bill also contains a provision to limit the practice of patent trolling, in which third parties demand financial settlements for alleged infringement on patents they do not even own. AIM maintains concerns about the language of the provision because some employers may be unable to engage in legitimate protection of their intellectual property amid an avalanche of state litigation.

“The language of the bill is materially different from the compromise language previously approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure,” MacDougall said.

“This is an important and legally complex issue, one that should be addressed by federal law.  However, given Congress’ failure to act, if Massachusetts is to establish a policy, we need to get right for our AIM members who are victims of patent trolls and patent holders.”

(Sign up for future updates here on non-compete and patent legislation, or contact MacDougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org or 617-262-1180 to learn more.)

The demise of the health-care bill turned on differing approaches by the House and Senate to capitalizing community hospitals. 

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano told the State House News Service early this morning, "We were just too far apart philosophically to a come to a resolution that fit our agenda."

The Quincy Democrat said the House was focused on trying to find a way to financially stabilize community hospitals in the short-term with assessments on insurers and large hospitals, while he said the Senate "wanted a market driven approach." "We just thought we couldn't wait," Mariano said.

Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said, the lack of agreement on health care reflects the enormous complexity of the issue. She said AIM and its employer-members will continue to work with the Legislature to find ways to moderate the cost that companies face in providing health coverage for employees.

“While final action was not taken on major health-care legislation, we remain gravely concerned that – without long-term reform to MassHealth and the commercial market – Massachusetts’ health-care costs will continue to increase unchecked. Until reform is achieved, no relief is in sight for employers and their workers seeking to access care at a reasonable cost,Holahan said.

The conclusion of formal sessions on July 31 of even-numbered years generally means the end of the line for controversial bills. Lawmakers will meet for the remainder of 2018 in informal sessions, when a single lawmaker may stop any measure with an objection.

(Contact Holahan at kholahan@aimnet.org or 617.262.1180 for more information.)

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Non-Compete Agreements, Energy, Health Care

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