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Christopher Geehern

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Employer Confidence Weakens in June

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 3, 2018 9:21:05 AM

Confidence among Massachusetts employers weakened considerably during June as tariffs, rising raw-material costs and approval of paid family and medical leave in the Bay State raised concerns about business growth.

BCI.June.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) dropped 5.3 points to 61.3 last month, its lowest level since August 2017. Confidence remains well within the optimistic range, but the June decline left the BCI slightly below its level of a year ago.

Though analysts say the volatility in business confidence during May and June may reflect some statistical anomalies, the comments provided by employers on the monthly AIM survey suggest that companies are becoming increasingly concerned about a perfect storm of issues on the federal and state levels.

“EMAC (employer MassHealth assessment) and paid sick time are going to put me out of business if something doesn’t change quickly,” wrote one employer.

Another wrote: “A trade war with China is going to cost jobs, not add them.”

“It is certainly significant that the AIM Business Confidence Index is lower than it was in June 2017. It is also significant that many of the individual indicators that make up the overall index - ranging from employer hiring plans to their views of the Massachusetts economy – are also lower than they were a year ago,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design. “It will be interesting to see how confidence changes during the summer as Massachusetts continues to operate at virtually full capacity.”

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 all lost ground during June.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 7.2 points to 62.8, leaving it 1.4 points lower than in June 2017.

The U.S. Index ended the month at 60.0, down 9.3 points for the month but 2.6 points better than a year ago.
June marked the 100th 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, declined 2.6 points to 63.5. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 7.5 points to 59.1. The Current Index gained 1.6 points during the year while the Future Index lost 2.6 points.

Employer views of their own companies also weakened.

The Company Index declined 3.3 points to 61.2, down 1.2 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 55.0, a 3.3-point decrease for the month and 3.1 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index lost 2.9 points for the month and 0.2 points for the year.

Manufacturing companies (62.5) were slightly more optimistic than non-manufacturers (60.2). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (63.3) were more bullish than those in the west (58.7).

“It’s interesting to note that medium and small companies remain significantly more optimistic than larger companies, reversing the typical pattern,” said Edward H. Pendergast, Managing Director, Dunn Rush & Co. “Entrepreneurial companies continue to drive growth here in Massachusetts.”

The BCI decrease came a month after the Mass Insight index of consumer confidence in Massachusetts suffered its biggest quarterly decline in years, from 134 in February to 121 in May. The index remined in optimistic territory, but fell below a comparable index for national consumer confidence for the first time since 2014.

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers are feeling threats from all directions.

“Member employers are deeply concerned about a potential trade war with China and with key US trading partners such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union,” Lord said.

“At the same time, the Legislature last week passed a ‘grand bargain’ that will create a family- and medical-leave requirement and increase the state minimum wage from $11 per hour to $15 per hour. Those requirements, on top of the MassHealth assessment and other elements, continue to challenge employers.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Court Disallows Millionaire's Tax

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 18, 2018 10:04:01 AM

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today disallowed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have imposed a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million and earmarked the money for transportation and education.

ScalesofJusticeVerySmallThe court, ruling in a case brought by AIM President Rick Lord and four other business leaders, decided that the initiative violated the state constitution by posing two unrelated questions to voters – whether they favored the surtax and whether they favored the required appropriation to transportation and education - in the same referendum.

The amendment would have imposed a new graduated income tax of 9.1 percent on all incomes more than $1 million. AIM believed the amendment would have had a devastating effect on the Massachusetts economy by increasing taxes for some 17,000 “pass-through” businesses that pay income tax at the individual rate.

“We are gratified that the Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the business community that the proposed question improperly combined a graduated income tax that has been rejected multiple times with spending requirements meant to appeal to voters,” Lord said.

“The lawsuit was not about public policy, but about preserving the integrity of the initiative petition process. The court did just that.”

The five plaintiffs lead organizations that represent the full breadth of the Massachusetts economy and are united in their commitment to ensuring that the commonwealth continues to foster conditions that support job development and economic growth. They are: Christopher Anderson, President of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, Inc. (MHTC); Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); Mr. Lord; Eileen McAnneny, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF); and, Daniel O’Connell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (MACP). 

The named defendants in the lawsuit were Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State William Galvin. 

The Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in the case on February 5.

"We conclude that the initiative petition should not have been certified by the Attorney General as 'in proper form for
submission to the people,' because, contrary to the certification, the petition does not contain only subjects
'which are related or which are mutually dependent,' pursuant to art. 48, The Initiative, II, § 3, of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, as amended by art. 74 of the Amendments," the court wrote.

"The matter is remanded to the county court, where a judgment shall enter declaring that the Attorney General's certification of Initiative Petition 15-17 is not in compliance with the related subjects requirement of art. 48 and
the petition is not suitable to be placed on the ballot in the 2018 Statewide election."

The court found no common purpose in the taxation and spending elements of the proposed amendment.

"...(W)e are unable to discern a common purpose or unified public policy that the voters fairly could vote up or down as a whole. The two subjects of the earmarked funding themselves are not related beyond the broadest conceptual level of public good. In addition, they are entirely separate from the subject of a stepped rather than a flat-rate
income tax, which, by itself, has been the subject of five prior initiative petitions. Because a reasonable voter could not fairly accept or reject the petition as a unified statement of public policy, Initiative Petition 15-17 does not meet the relatedness requirement..."

The court decision may expedite ongoing negotiations among the business community and progressive groups to compromise on three other potential fall ballot questions – one establishing paid family and medical leave, a second increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and a third reducing the state sales tax. The chances of achieving a so-called “grand bargain” under which the Legislature would pass consensus bills on the three issues are significantly greater with the graduated tax now off the ballot.

Lord said the tax initiative was dangerous because it would have enshrined tax rates in the state constitution.

“Amending the constitution to achieve taxing and spending by popular vote is just a terrible idea, and could undo much of the good work that Massachusetts has done in terms of creating a successful economic climate,” he said. 

Massachusetts voters have previously rejected five proposals to change the Constitution to allow for a graduated state income tax: in 1962, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1994.

Topics: Richard Lord, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Income Surtax

Employer Confidence Surges during May

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 5, 2018 9:28:26 AM

Business confidence surged during May to its highest level since the summer of 2000, driven by improving employer outlooks about the state and national economies.

BCI.May.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2.4 points to 66.6 last month after increasing modestly during April. The BCI has risen in five of the last six months and now stands 5.8 points higher than its level of a year ago.

Confidence remains well within the optimistic range. The only whiff of concern came in the index that measures hiring, which dropped 1.5 points for the month and 0.2 points during the year.

Economists believe the weakness in the AIM Employment Index reflects the persistent shortage of workers in Massachusetts that has forced some employers to postpone expansions or to decline new business opportunities.

Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design, cautioned that major month-to-month movements in the Index like those in May sometimes reflect statistical or sampling anomalies. He noted, however, that the numbers are consistent with a general sense that the US and state economies are picking up steam in the second quarter after a slow start to 2018.

“There are signs GDP growth gathered momentum early in the second quarter, with solid consumer spending, business investment on equipment and industrial production,” Torto said.

The nation’s economy grew at a 2.2 percent rate during the first quarter. Hiring across the US remains strong, with the government reporting on Friday that employers added 223,000 jobs during May.

“And the Massachusetts economy continues to operate at virtually full capacity, creating significant constraints on the availability of labor,” said Torto.

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 in May.
The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth surged 5.9 points to 70.0, leaving it 7.9 points higher than in May 2017.

The U.S. Index ended the month at 69.3, up 5.4 points for the month and 14.4 points for the year.
May marked the 99th 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, gained 1.5 points to 66.6. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 3.3 points to the same 66.6 level. The Current Index has risen 6.2 points and the Future Index 5.3 points since May 2017.

Employer views of their own companies were mixed.

The Company Index increased slightly to 64.5, up 2.1 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 58.3, a 1.5-point decrease for the month and 0.2 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index rose 1.7 points for the month and 3.3 points for the year.

Manufacturing companies (66.8) and non-manufacturers (66.3) were equally optimistic about the economy. Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (67.9) were more bullish than those in the west (64.6).

“Massachusetts employers remain confident, but economic growth in the commonwealth is increasingly bumping up against the structural shortage of skilled workers,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a BEA member and professor in the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, Northeastern University.

Clayton-Matthews told MassBenchmarks earlier this year: “Retiring baby boomers will continue to dampen labor force growth this year and throughout the next decade unless the commonwealth is able to attract young workers from across the country and the world.”

The BCI increase came as the Mass Insight index of consumer confidence in Massachusetts suffered its biggest quarterly decline in years, from 134 in February to 121 in May. The index remined in optimistic territory, but fell below a comparable index for national consumer confidence for the first time since 2014.

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the increase in business confidence underscores the underlying strength of the economy at a time when employers are receiving mixed signals from government.

“On the one hand, employers are seeing benefits from federal tax reform. On the other hand, they are struggling to process the new Massachusetts health-care surcharge and looking ahead warily to the possibility that Massachusetts voters may approve a graduated income tax that could harm small businesses,” Lord said.

“AIM and the employer community are seeking to negotiate reasonable compromises on issues such as paid family/medical leave and a $15 per hour minimum wage, compromises that would allow employers to continue creating jobs for Massachusetts residents.”

Topics: Skills Gap, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

Video Blog | Lt. Governor Karyn Polito Discusses Economic Growth

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 31, 2018 9:28:46 AM

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

The lieutenant governor spoke to more than 850 business leaders gathered for the AIM Annual Meeting.

Here is her entire speech:

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts economy, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

Lt. Governor Stresses Regional Approach to Economic Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employer Confidence Up Slightly in April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

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

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

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

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

Operational Views

Employer views of their own companies were far brighter.

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

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

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

Competitive Playing Field

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

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

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

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

2018 Gould Award Honors Springfield Empowerment Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for the AIM Annual Meeting 

 

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

Tariff Announcements Drive Down Business Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

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

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

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

Operational Views

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

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

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

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

Trade Battles

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

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

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

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

AIM Honors Bill and Joyce Cummings, MassMutual with 2018 Vision Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 2, 2018 9:16:17 AM

A couple giving away its fortune to charity and a distinguished financial services company adding jobs from Springfield to Boston will be honored with 2018 Vision Awards from Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM).

AIM will honor Bill and Joyce Cummings and Cummings Foundation of Woburn and MassMutual of Springfield at the association’s Annual Meeting on May 18 in Boston.

Bill Cummings, the founder of Woburn-based Cummings Properties, and his wife Joyce are among the most prolific philanthropists in Massachusetts, donating more than $21 million each year to organizations working in human services, education, healthcare, and social justice. The Cummings are also signatories to the Giving Pledge, the organization founded in 2010 by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage people to donate their wealth to philanthropic causes or charities.

MassMutual, a cornerstone of the western Massachusetts economy since its founding in 1851, recently announced plans to move 1,000 workers into a new $240 million office in the Seaport District of Boston and another 1,500 new workers to its headquarters in Springfield. The company said the move is part of a broader strategy to consolidate operations in its home state and give the company increased access to a growing pool of tech and financial industry workers.

The AIM Vision Award recognizes companies, organizations and individuals who have made unique contributions to the cause of economic opportunity in Massachusetts. The award reflects AIM’s mission to stand for jobs, economic prosperity, innovation and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.

“The 4,000 member-employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts are delighted to honor two people and one company who illustrate and define the value that free enterprise brings to the larger society,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Bill and Joyce Cummings set the standard for philanthropy in Massachusetts and have built the idea of giving back into the DNA of their business. MassMutual is a 167-year-old company that continues to grow and create significant economic opportunity for the citizens of Massachusetts.”

Bill and Joyce Cummings

CummingsThe Cummings donate millions to charity each year through several programs of Cummings Foundation:

  • $100k for 100 – A grant program that funds small and medium-sized Massachusetts nonprofits in Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Each year, hundreds of organizations vie for invitations to apply for one of the 100 grants of $100,000 each to be awarded locally.
  • Sustaining Grants - Recognizing nonprofits' need for long-term financial support, $10 million in Sustaining Grants go annually to former $100K for 100 winners whose grants are now in their final year.
  • Institute for World Justice – Uses education to help prevent future genocides and other intercultural violence and injustices; and aids in the recovery and rebuilding of Rwanda. The Foundation pledged the first $15 million toward the planning and creation of the first phase of  University of Global Health Equity in Butaro, Rwanda
  • Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine – The Foundation maintains a long-standing partnership with New England’s only veterinary school—providing support and financial resources to sustain the graduate school’s global reputation for excellence. The partnership includes a $70 million commitment from the Foundation, the majority of which has been fulfilled.

Bill Cummings says he learned both the value of hard work and the importance of generosity from his parents. His father painted houses, raising a family in a one-bedroom apartment atop a liquor store and a taxi stand on the outskirts of Boston. His mother was a neighborhood fixture, building friendships as she knocked on doors to collect coins for large charities that once operated that way.

He spent part of his young years washing windows for his neighborhood’s storekeepers, and for three summers as a young teen he sold ice cream from the back of his bike at a nearby Ford Motors assembly plant. Later he purchased and sold dozens of small boats using Boston Globe classified ads. Eventually, he grew Cummings Properties into a 500-person company with a debt-free portfolio of 11 million square feet of commercial real estate.

“My friend Bill writes that he rejects the phrase ‘give until it hurts’ because he and his wife, Joyce, think the better advice is to ‘give until it feels good.’ It’s a fitting observation from a man whose extraordinary business success is outmatched only by his commitment to lifting up those around him,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

MassMutual

MassMutual.FINALMassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits.

The company is one of the largest businesses based in Massachusetts, with $771 billion in assets under management and $670 billion of life insurance protection in force (as of year-end 2017).

MassMutual employs some 3,000 people in Springfield and approximately 7,300 people globally.

The company reached number 77 on the FORTUNE® 500 list in 2017 and was named a FORTUNE Most Admired company for 2018 (a distinction held for the last 18 out of 20 years), topping the list for innovation and the top-ranked mutual company in the life and health insurance industry category. 

MassMutual was also recognized as one of the 2018 World’s Most Ethical Companies for the fifth consecutive year by the Ethisphere Institute. The company was featured on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for the eighth time in the last decade in 2018, earning a perfect score of 100.

Perhaps no company has done more for Springfield and western Massachusetts over a longer period of time while forging more far-reaching business success than MassMutual. From its recent $1 million commitment to expand a support program that addresses students’ out-of-school challenges to promoting inclusive entrepreneurship through a partnership with Valley Venture Mentors, MassMutual has provided a compelling model for companies seeking to balance the demands of a global marketplace with the needs of its hometown.

In addition to strengthening education in Springfield, through the MassMutual Foundation, the company invests in projects, programs and organizations focused on strengthening the city of Springfield through revitalization, development, and social capital.  Signature investments in the region include $15 million of support over 10 years to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to drive education and economic opportunity in western Massachusetts, $1 million to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Capital Campaign to revitalize the Museum, and seasonally supporting the Springfield Museums.

The sustained commitment of MassMutual is even more extraordinary because it has come in an age when most of the other large companies that once also shouldered the responsibility for philanthropy and economic development in the city have long since disappeared or been absorbed into other entities.

In announcing its expansion in Springfield and Boston, MassMutual Chairman, President and CEO Roger Crandall said, "Following a thorough strategic assessment of our operations and footprint, we concluded that our home state of Massachusetts is the best place for us to grow and thrive over the long term. We have deep roots and a supportive community in our hometown of Springfield, and we will continue to invest and grow our workforce in the city."

MassMutual has been honored regularly among the best places to work for both working mothers and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

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Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, AIM Vision Awards

Employers to Save $150 Million on Workers' Compensation

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 23, 2018 4:42:08 PM

Massachusetts employers will see a $150 million decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates beginning July 1 under an agreement between state regulators and the insurance industry.

ManufacturingWorkerSmall.jpgAttorney General Maura Healey, the State Rating Bureau and the Workers' Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau, which represents insurers, agreed this week to a 12.9 percent rate decrease for policies written after July 1. Insurance companies had initially filed for an 11.1 percent rate reduction.

Massachusetts employers must purchase workers' compensation insurance, and rates are re-set at least every other year.

“This is certainly good news for employers. The 1991 workers compensation reform led by Associated Industries of Massachusetts is still paying dividends,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Workers’ compensation rates have declined more than 60 percent since the 1991 reform.

Healey said in a statement, "When we lower the rates for workers' compensation insurance, we protect workers and allow businesses to invest in higher wages and growth."

AIM sponsors A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest writers of workers compensation coverage in Massachusetts. Michael Standing, Chief Executive Officer of A.I.M. Mutual, thanked state regulators for an efficient rate-setting process.

Topics: Workers Compensation, A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company, Workers Compensation Insurance

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