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Christopher Geehern

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New Era Begins as Regan Becomes President of AIM

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 20, 2019 10:28:04 AM

Regan.Annual.2019Editor's note: John R. Regan, who has directed AIM's government advocacy for the past 18 years, today becomes the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the largest business association in the commonwealth. Regan outlined a vision for the future of the organization during brief remarks to the AIM Annual Meeting Friday.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca observed “Omni fine initium novum” or, “Every new beginning comes from the end of another.”

As AIM prepares to write a new and exciting chapter in its distinguished history, I am reminded at every moment of the wisdom, generosity and quiet determination with which my predecessor Rick Lord has paved the road before me.

Rick never lost sight of where he came from and he never forgot that trust and respect are the ultimate currency of public policy and service.

Please join me - in again acknowledging Rick for all he has done for the Massachusetts economy.

Conscious of the fact that you have patiently listened to a full menu of speeches already, I would beg your indulgence to offer three brief observations.

First, to the members of AIM and especially to the Board of Directors, I gratefully accept your commission to lead this organization - supporting the dreams and aspirations of Massachusetts employers. We must keep as our guiding principal the fact that economic growth remains the only effective method of achieving the social equity that makes our commonwealth a great place to live and work.

Second, there has never been a more pressing need for businesses to work together with the sort of common purpose that drove 28 visionary companies to create Associated Industries of Massachusetts 104 years ago.

And third, meeting here in the Seaport district underscores the fact that we face an entirely new set of issues and challenges brought about by the breathtaking pace of change driving our economy.

The founders of AIM would no doubt be amazed to discover their association in 2019 wrestling with issues such as the rules governing ride-hailing apps, the appropriate use of drones, or how to integrate the autonomous vehicles driving around outside the building today.

You know, one can almost see the Seaport District from where I grew up in Dorchester. But in economic terms, it’s a different world and a different century being driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs.

AIM welcomes all employers and dedicates itself to serving the needs of the full range of Massachusetts companies working to provide the hope of a better life to our friends and neighbors.

We remain committed to the principals of diversity, equity and inclusion - on our board, on our staff, and throughout our membership. We assert unequivocally that AIM will be an association in the truest sense of the word, providing an opportunity for everyone – especially those who have historically been ignored – a full voice.

Everything we do at AIM is done to help businesses unlock their full potential. We fiercely advocate for positive public policy that helps to create a strong economy.

We empower businesses with the information, tools and resources needed to successfully navigate a fast-paced, complex business world. We foster connections, networks, and the flow of ideas between people and businesses.

We believe that business can be a positive force for change in helping to create a better, more prosperous society. And the best part is, we’re just getting started.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM Annual Meeting, John Regan

Attorney General Invites Collaboration with Business

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 20, 2019 6:40:37 AM

Attorney General Maura Healey told more than 800 business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting Friday that she looks forward to collaborating with employers on key issues such as education, substance abuse, health care and clean energy.

Healey2019AnnualNoting that she and previous attorneys general have worked closely with AIM on everything from health-care reform to implementation of paid sick days, Healey said the association has always based its advocacy on facts and knowledge.

“We look forward to building on Rick (Lord’s) legacy,” Healey said.

“I am firmly of the view that the problems we face today are not going to be solved by government. They will be solved by all of us working together.”

Healey made her remarks shortly after Lord symbolically handed over the job of president and CEO of AIM to John Regan, who has directed AIM’s government affairs advocacy for the past 12 years.

The attorney general said Lord was one of the first business leaders to whom she spoke when she became a candidate for the office. The two met during a driving snowstorm and spent an extended time discussing the burden that health-care costs placed on employers and the challenges of moderating energy prices.

“Under Rick’s leadership this organization has grown in amazing ways,” she said.

Healey’s collaborative agenda remains ambitious now that Regan is taking the reins at AIM.

She told the audience that the key to maintaining stability in the health-care market is to preserve the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some 2.5 million Massachusetts residents have a pre-existing medical condition and 400,000 gained health-insurance coverage through the Medicaid expansion made possible by ACA, according to Healey.

The attorney general also noted the support of the Massachusetts business community for civil rights, stretching from the Goodridge decision establishing marriage equality to opposing a question on the 2018 statewide ballot that would have rolled back protections for transgender individuals.

She decried the new Alabama law restricting access to abortion by making an economic argument. Women are more than half the population and half of the work force, so anything that prevents women from full participation in the employment market will impede economic growth.

Healey concluded by saying that the commonwealth’s formula for funding education must change.

“Your zip code should never determine the quality of education you receive,” she said.

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Health Care, Attorney General Maura Healey

Joanne Hilferty to Chair AIM Board of Directors

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 16, 2019 2:30:03 PM

BOSTON, May 16, 2019–Joanne K. Hilferty, president and CEO of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston, is set to be elected Chair of the Board of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Friday as the state’s largest business association convenes for its annual meeting.

Hilferty2019Dennis Leonard, President and CEO of Delta Dental Plan of Massachusetts, is expected to be elected Treasurer of the association while Patricia Begrowicz, President of Onyx Specialty Paper in South Lee, will be Assistant Treasurer.

Hilferty, Leonard and Begrowicz will stand for election alongside a diverse slate of 13 new board members representing companies from every sector of the economy and from every corner of the commonwealth. The officers and new directors will be unanimously recommended by the AIM Nominating Committee.

A member of AIM’s board since 2008, Hilferty was elected to the AIM Executive Committee in 2010. She became Assistant Treasurer in 2012, and Treasurer in 2015. Hilferty will be the first woman to chair the AIM board.

Outgoing AIM Chair Dan Kenary said: “Joanne Hilferty is an accomplished business executive who runs a $45 million-a-year, multi-location enterprise focused on a critical need for the Massachusetts economy: training and developing talented employees. She has been part of the board leadership at AIM for almost a decade and is the perfect person to carry AIM into an exciting future.”

Kenary is CEO of the Massachusetts Bay Brewing Company, parent company of Harpoon Brewery and four other brands.

Hilferty said: “AIM stands at a pivotal moment as it seeks to represent the full diversity of employers creating economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. I look forward to working with the board to assure that the organization is inclusive as it represents current members and reaches out to new ones in order to continue to be a leading force advocating for economic vitality in the new economy.”

Hilferty has served as president and CEO of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries since 1995, substantially increasing its revenue, geographic reach and number and range of individuals served in its job training and career services. Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries has been named one of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe Magazine and the Commonwealth Institute for the last five years.

Hilferty serves on the Board of the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers and has been appointed to numerous Boston economic development advisory groups. In April she received the Goodwill Industries International Advocacy Leader award and has received numerous other awards including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for not-for-profit management.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University, Hilferty holds a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She lives in Cambridge.

The 13 new directors set to join AIM’s 75-member board are:

  • Arthur Barrett, President, Barrett Distribution Centers, Franklin
  • Peter Bowman, Vice President, External Affairs, Verizon Communications, Boston
  • Janice Goodman, Owner, Cityscapes, Boston
  • Dominick Ianno, Head of State Government Relations, MassMutual, Springfield
  • Marie Johnson, Treasurer, Ken’s Foods, Inc., Marlborough
  • Pia Sareen Kumar, Owner, Universal Plastics, Holyoke
  • Marianne Lancaster, President, Lancaster Packaging, Hudson
  • Emiley Lockhart, Senior Counsel and Director of Regional Initiatives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
  • Thomas Pacheco, Chief Financial Officer, Acushnet Holdings Corporation, Fairhaven
  • Srinivas Reddy, Director, Global Innovation & Supply Network Operations, Procter & Gamble, Boston
  • Emily Reichert, Chief Executive Officer, Greentown Labs, Somerville  
  • Kumble Subbaswami, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Annemarie Watson, President, Crane Currency, Dalton

“We are delighted to welcome such an impressive group of CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders to the AIM Board of Directors. These new board members are accomplished, committed, and full of  creative energy that will keep AIM moving into the future,” said outgoing AIM President and CEO Rick Lord.

About AIM

Founded in 1915, AIM engages in public policy advocacy for more than 3,500 Massachusetts employers who collectively employ one of every five residents of the commonwealth. AIM is dedicated to supporting pro-business legislation and policy on the full range of economic issues including the cost of health care and energy, compliance with employment laws, state and federal budget, taxes, financial issues, and workforce development.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM Board of Directors, Joanne Hilferty

AIM Names John Regan New President and CEO

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 9, 2019 12:12:47 PM

John R. Regan, a Boston native who has directed government affairs advocacy at Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) for the past 12 years, was selected today as the next President and Chief Executive Officer of the commonwealth’s largest business association.

Regan2019The AIM Board of Directors approved the selection of Regan during a special board meeting this morning. Regan succeeds AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, who is retiring after two decades leading the organization.

The appointment is effective May 20.

“The AIM board of directors conducted a comprehensive search to find just the right person to lead this dynamic organization into the future,” said Patricia Begrowicz, Chair of the AIM CEO Search Committee and President of Onyx Specialty Papers in South Lee.

“After engaging with an extraordinary and diverse group of more than 100 candidates and prospects, our committee recommended unanimously to the board that John Regan should be the next President of AIM.”

Regan, who joined the AIM Government Affairs Department in 2000 and was appointed Executive Vice President in 2007, said: “My goals are to ensure that AIM remains the pre-eminent voice for businesses on Beacon Hill, and to make Massachusetts an attractive state for employers of all kinds to succeed. I’m committed to ensuring that AIM represents, and advocates for, the full diversity of Massachusetts employers. I am deeply honored and grateful to the board of directors for their confidence in me and for all the time and effort they invested in this search process.”

At AIM, Regan’s focus has been administrative and legislative advocacy, regulatory affairs, litigation, and ballot initiatives. He has negotiated favorable outcomes for employers on major issues such as health-care reform, paid family and medical leave, use of non-compete agreements, pay equity, unemployment-insurance rate freezes, and the 2018 “Grand Bargain” compromise that avoided costly and contentious ballot questions concerning the minimum wage, sales tax, and paid leave.

Dan Kenary, Chair of the AIM board of directors said: “John emerged as the clear top choice to build on Rick Lord’s long legacy of success advancing the interests of employers and fostering economic growth and opportunity in the commonwealth. We’re excited to have John lead our organization.” Kenary is CEO and co-founder of Mass. Bay Brewing Company in Boston.

Regan has deep experience in both the private and public sectors. Prior to his tenure at AIM, he served as Chief Operations Officer for MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, overseeing real estate development and community revitalization projects including the transformation of the former Fort Devens. Before MassDevelopment, Regan was the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, leading the commonwealth’s business retention and recruitment efforts.  

Regan, a graduate of Boston Latin School, earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s Seminary College in Boston and a certificate in organizational management from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

About AIM

Founded in 1915, AIM engages in public policy advocacy for more than 3,500 Massachusetts employers who collectively employee 1 of every 5 residents of the commonwealth. AIM is dedicated to supporting pro-business legislation and policy on the full range of economic issues including the cost of health care and energy, compliance with employment laws, state and federal budget, taxes, financial issues, and workforce development.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, John Regan

Employer Confidence Rises in April

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2019 8:55:23 AM

Massachusetts employers grew more confident during April as the state and national economies regained their footing.

BCI.April.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2.4 points to 60.3 last month. Confidence remains well within optimistic territory, though still 3.9 points below its strong reading of April 2018.

The April 2019 increase reflected growing employer optimism about economic prospects for the next six months and about the future of their own companies.

All of the constituent indicators that make up the BCI rose during April with one notable exception. The Employment Index fell 1.5 points to 54.4, suggesting that employer sentiment continues to be tempered by a persistent shortage of qualified workers.

“The Business Confidence Index continues to show a conflict between short-term economic optimism and long-term concern about the prospect of finding enough appropriately skilled workers to run Massachusetts businesses,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“The immediate news for employers is positive as economic growth in Massachusetts surged to an annual rate of 4.6 percent during the first quarter of 2019 and US growth came in at 3.2 percent.”

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 showed a broad-based strengthening of confidence during April.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth rose 1.5 points to 63.2, while the US Index gained 2.8 points to 58.3. The Massachusetts reading has declined 0.9 points during the past 12 months and the US reading has dropped 5.6 points during the same period.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 3.1 points to 60.5. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 1.7 points to 60.0, still 5.1 points lower than a year ago.

The decline in the Employment Index left that measure 5.4 points lower than in April 2018. One good sign for job seekers is that the Sales Index, a key predictor of future business activity, rose 3.9 points during the month.

Non-manufacturers (64.1) were more confident than manufacturers (57.3). Large companies (60.7), medium-sized companies (60.5) and small companies (59.7) all had similar confidence outlooks. Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (64.5) continued to be far more bullish than those in the west (55.5).

Edward H. Pendergast, Managing Director of Dunn Rush & Co. and a BEA member, said employer confidence reflects first-quarter economic growth that was stronger than most experts anticipated. That growth sent US stocks to record highs in April before this week’s selloff.

“The consensus on Wall Street is for slowing growth as the year progresses, but the economy is setting a solid and predictable pace that reassures employers that there is little immediate threat of recession,” Pendergast said.

Training and Education

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the sluggish Employment Index underscores the urgency for business and government to collaborate on ways to train and educate the workers who will drive the economy in the future.

“The persistent shortage of workers will become more severe as large numbers of baby boomers continue to leave the work force. It is imperative that we address the next generation of workers, so we can extend opportunity broadly to the people of Massachusetts.”

Lord’s commentary is his final one before retiring as President of AIM next week.

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

AIM Honors Wayfair with 2019 Vision Award

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 29, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Wayfair Inc., a Massachusetts-born technology company that has redefined how people shop for their homes, is the recipient of the 2019 Vision Award from Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM). Wayfair has more than 5,500 full-time employees in the commonwealth and continues to grow its presence in Boston and beyond.

WayfairFounded in 2002 when engineers Niraj Shah and Steve Conine started selling stereo racks over the Internet, Wayfair has grown into one of the world’s largest online destinations for the home. The company currently offers 14 million products from 11,000 suppliers and last year generated $6.8 billion in net revenue.

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 largest employer association in Massachusetts will present the award at its Annual Meeting on May 17 in Boston. Attorney General Maura Healey will deliver the keynote address.

“The 3,500 member employers of AIM are delighted to honor a company that was launched in Massachusetts and continues to create economic opportunity from one end of the commonwealth to the other,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord, who noted that the Pittsfield Wayfair facility is expected to employ 300 people.

“Wayfair is the prototype of the economic growth we love to see – a company with deep local roots that uses technology and great management to dominate a global market.”

In addition to growing its corporate headquarters in Massachusetts, Wayfair has also recently announced it will open its first-ever full-service physical retail store in the Natick Mall later this year.

“We are proud to have built our business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and delighted to accept the 2019 Vision Award from Associated Industries of Massachusetts,” said Shah, who is a native of Pittsfield.

The company has also become a major player in the community, structuring its social responsibility efforts around creating safe and comfortable living spaces for people in need. It maintains charitable partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, Homes For Our Troops, and other organizations.

Wayfair will join a distinguished list of AIM Vision honorees, including Fidelity Investments Chief Executive Abigail Johnson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, General Electric, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, MassMutual, philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings, Boston University brain researcher Dr. Ann McKee and Nuance Communications.

AIM is the statewide business association in Massachusetts, representing the interests of employers form all sectors of the economy on public-policy issues.

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts economy, AIM Vision Award

AIM to Present Gould Education, Training Award to Snapchef

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 16, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A Massachusetts company that has become the largest culinary training and staffing organization in New England will receive the 2019 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.

SnapchefSnapchef, a Dorchester-based company founded 17 years ago by husband and wife Todd and Daniella Snopkowski, provides free culinary training to thousands of people who often subsequently find jobs through the company’s staffing operation. The company places students in entry level positions at blue-chip clients that include the region’s most prominent universities, hospitals, five-star hotels, food service corporations, caterers and corporate cafeterias.

The Snopkowskis have also established deep connections with community groups, churches and culinary schools to address the issue of culinary job readiness training and job creation.

“Snapchef is a wonderful example of the employer community rolling up its sleeves to solve the ongoing shortage of qualified workers in Massachusetts,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“AIM is pleased to honor a company that not only employs more than 1,000 people throughout Massachusetts but also understands the broader significance of work and economic opportunity.”

Snapchef maintains training kitchens in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Providence, R.I., where students get to take home the food they make while training and ride to job sites in Snapchef’s fleet of more than 50 vans.

The cornerstones of the Snapchef educational program are a 14-unit Fast-Track Culinary Training Program, ServeSafe classes and a 12-week Chef Apprenticeship Program that includes 240 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of supervised, on-the-job training.

“We help people find a career, not simply a job for one day,” said Snopkowski, who developed the Snapchef model after growing frustrated with culinary placement services while serving as a chef at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and for Goldman Sachs in New York.

“And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry,” he told BusinessWest magazine in Springfield.

The company has earned a multitude of honors for its work. CEO Todd Snopkowski received the 2015 US Small Business Association Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, as well as the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. Daniella Snopkowski, who serves as CFO, has been named among the Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 business leaders.

Snapchef – the name is a variation on Snopkowski’s family nickname of “Snap” or “Snapper” - provides workers to clients ranging from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

And Todd and Daniella Snopkowski believe the company is just getting started. Snapchef is developing proprietary software for its clients and eventually plans to franchise Snapchef outside of New England.

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 the late 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; the Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program; Christo Rey Boston High School; CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Gould Education and Workforce Training

Employer Confidence Slips in March

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 2, 2019 8:30:59 AM

Business confidence weakened slightly in March amid signs of both a cyclical global slowdown and persistent demographic factors limiting the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts.

BCI.March.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 0.3 points to 57.9 during March. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 5.6 points during the past 12 months.

The decrease reflected employer concerns about economic prospects for the next six months. Those concerns outweighed growing optimism among manufacturing companies and rising confidence in the Massachusetts economy.

The March Business Confidence survey took place as the government announced that Massachusetts created only 20,000 jobs during 2018 instead of the 65,500 previously estimated. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average payroll job growth in Massachusetts fell from 1.3 percent in 2017 to 0.9 percent last year.

“Massachusetts employers continue to struggle with the challenges of a full-employment economy complicated by demographic issues such as the retirement of large numbers of baby boomers,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“U.S. economic growth appears to be slowing, as well as world economic growth, but recession fears are still low.”

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 moved in a narrow range during March.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth gained 0.9 points to 61.7. Confidence in the Massachusetts economy has declined 6.1 points since March 2018.

The U.S. Index measuring employer sentiment about the national economy slipped 0.5 points to 55.5, leaving it 9.7 points less than a year ago.

Employers were slightly more optimistic about current conditions than about the future. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 0.6 points to 58.3 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 1.3 points to 57.4. The Future Index has fallen 7.0 points during the past 12 months.

The Employment Index, measuring employer optimism about hiring, rose 1.2 points to 55.9.

Non-manufacturers (60.6) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Small companies (60.8) were more optimistic than large companies (55.2) or medium-sized companies (57.5). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (60.0) continued to be more bullish than those in the west (55.0).

Northeastern University professor Alan Clayton-Matthews, a BEA member, said the downward revision of the Massachusetts job-growth numbers was consistent with demographic trends such as the large number of baby boomers retiring from the work force.

“The last New England Economic Project forecast projected a slowdown in payroll job growth from 1.7 percent in 2017 to 1.1 percent in 2018 and 0.6 percent in 2019 and a slowdown in labor-force growth from 1.6 percent in 2017 to 0.6 percent in 2018 and 0.4 percent in 2019. This forecast was largely based on demographic projections assuming a full-employment economy,” said Clayton-Matthews.

“The state economy seems to be running at full capacity, and the basic state indicators don’t suggest a lack of demand, though it’s hard to spot turning points until there is enough hindsight.”

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers remain concerned as Beacon Hill lawmakers undertake a broad discussion of how to fund expensive policy priorities such as transportation infrastructure, public education and clean energy. He noted that AIM will be part of a group assembled by the state Senate to look at the Massachusetts tax code.

“AIM undertakes these debates conscious of the oppressive cost burdens already facing Massachusetts employers. Massachusetts must develop a fair strategy to address its spending needs without harming employers who are already struggling to implement a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program along with the rising cost of both health insurance and energy,” Lord said.

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

Senate President Calls for 'Bold Steps'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 15, 2019 11:20:37 AM

 

Senate President Karen E. Spilka today called for Massachusetts to take “bold steps” to address issues such as transportation, education, health-care costs and economic development in the face of relentless changes to the state economy.

SP.Spilka“The common thread of all the challenges we face is unprecedented change. The success of our Commonwealth will ultimately be measured by how well we navigate and harness the potential of this change,” Spilka told more than 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum on Waltham.

She said Massachusetts finds itself in a unique political moment that will determine the future course of its economy.

“It would be a mistake to waste this moment on incremental changes and small ideas,” she said. “Now is the time to be bold. That said, we have to find a way to reach consensus on our bold ideas.”

Spilka said state leaders must replicate the collaborative model of last year’s “grand bargain,” which brought together employers, advocacy groups and legislators to hammer out a compromise on paid family leave and the minimum wage. She thanked the business community for engaging in those conversations and invited employers to continue to participate in major policy debates.

The Senate President cited the growth of the Metrowest district she represents as an example of the challenges and opportunities facing the Massachusetts economy. Technology and innovation have transformed Metrowest from a Boston bedroom region to the home of major employers like Staples, TJX and Boston Scientific, but that growth has stressed the transportation infrastructure and priced some workers out of the housing market.

She acknowledged that resolving these issues carries a large price tag.

“I firmly believe we must create an economic development and tax framework for the 21st century where innovative technology-driven businesses can develop and thrive here but where we also capture new revenue to continue providing essential services, and fund our vision for our future,” she told the audience.

“So far, we have been addressing these new industries on a piecemeal basis, which only serves to breed confusion for business, government, and consumers. We must work together to find a balance that benefits us all, especially as we will be relying on these industries to continue to fuel our economic success.”

Spilka said the Senate will address health-care costs by looking at the price of prescription drugs and the cost transparency of the medical system. She praised the initiative led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation to reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, AIM Executive Forum, Senate President Karen Spilka

Business Confidence Rebounds in February

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 5, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Business confidence rebounded modestly during February as optimism about the state and national economies outweighed a darkening outlook among Massachusetts manufacturers.

BCI.February.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) gained 0.5 points to 58.2 after dropping in January to its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 6.8 points during the past 12 months.

The February increase was driven by a 3.4-point jump in employer views of the state economy and a 3.3-point rise for the national economy. The government announced last week that the US economy grew at a 2.9 percent rate in 2018, matching 2015 as the biggest increase since the end of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

“Employers remain generally optimistic about a state economy that continues to run at full-employment levels and a US economy that is projected to grow by 2.2 percent this year” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“At the same time, the erosion of confidence among Massachusetts manufacturers during the past 12 months raises some concern about the long-term sustainability of the recovery.”

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 higher during February.

The 3.4-point increase in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth left that indicator at 60.8. Confidence in the Massachusetts economy has declined 7.7 points since February 2018.

The U.S. Index measuring employer sentiment about the national economy rose to 56.0, its highest level since November. The reading was still 10.9 points less than a year ago.

Employer views about the future were more optimistic than the present for the first time in 11 months. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.5 points to 57.7 while he Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 1.5 points to 58.7.

Non-manufacturers (61.7) were significantly more confident than manufacturers (53.3). Large companies (62.3) were more optimistic than either medium-sized companies (57.1) or small companies (55.2). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (59.6) continued to be more bullish than those in the west (56.3).

“Employers last month welcomed several developments, including the end of the government shutdown and the Federal Reserve’s decision to pause increases in interest rates,” said Sara L. Johnson, Executive Director, Global Economics, IHS Markit and Vice Chairwoman of the BEA.

“The overall picture of business confidence reflects the economy itself – slowing a bit but still strong overall.”

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said the comments provided by employers on the February AIM Business Confidence Index Survey show that many companies remain bullish about 2019, while others remain concerned about issues ranging from gridlock in Washington to the persistent shortage of skilled employees.

“There are plenty of mixed signals 10 years into the economic recovery,” Lord said.

“Massachusetts employers face rising wage costs, rising raw-material costs and the challenge of integrating new public-policy mandates such as an increased minimum wage and paid family and medical leave. It’s the right time in the business cycle for state and federal government to follow the lead of the Federal Reserve and pause the imposition of expensive new initiatives.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

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