AIMBlog_Logo_Resized

Christopher Geehern

Recent Posts

Employers Ring Out 2019 on Confident Note

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 14, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Massachusetts employers rang out 2019 on an optimistic note as business confidence rose to its highest level in 15 months.

BCI.December.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) gained 1.6 points to 62.2 last month, leaving it comfortably within optimistic territory 3.6 points higher than a year ago.

The strong year-end results were driven by brightening views of the US economy and an increasingly bullish outlook among Bay State manufacturers.

The results came during a month when the US economy created 145,000 jobs to cap a decade of steady payroll gains that marked the longest growth period in 80 years of record-keeping. December also saw an easing of the international trade tensions that disquieted employers for much of 2019.

“Business confidence remained steady and strong throughout 2019 as employers saw underlying strength in the economy through sometimes distracting political uncertainties,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

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

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the Business Confidence Index moved mostly higher in December.
The US Index assessing business conditions nationally surged 3.6 points during the month and 7.7 points for the year to 62.8. The Massachusetts Index lost 1.8 points in December but remained higher than the national reading at 65.2

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.1 points to 61.6, leaving it 4.3 points higher than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 1.1 points to 62.8, an increase of 2.8 points over 12 months.

The Employment Index was up 0.9 points in December and 1.0 points for all of 2019 amid a persistent shortage of workers that may become worse as large number of baby boomers retire.

Non-manufacturers (63.2) were slightly more confident than manufacturing companies (61.4). Large companies (65.2) were more optimistic than small (61.7) or medium-sized (60.5) companies. Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (62.7) remained more optimistic than those in the west (61.6).

Sara L. Johnson, Executive Director of Global Economics at IHS Markit and a BEA member, said global economic growth appears to be stabilizing, supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus in the United States, China, Western Europe, and Japan.

“After slowing from 3.2 percent in 2018 to 2.6 percent in 2019, global real GDP growth is projected to hold steady in 2020. The ratcheting down of trade tensions, progress on the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, favorable financial market conditions, and resilient consumer spending contributed to a sense of stability at the close of 2019,” Johnson said.

Pending Issues

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said employers face an eventful 2020 as state policymakers wrestle with major issues such as transportation financing, health reform and the implementation of paid family and medical leave.

“The Baker administration and the Massachusetts Legislature have done a commendable job managing the state budget while maintaining an environment of economic growth. The decision to allow the MassHealth employer assessment to sunset indicates that lawmakers understand that overburdening business will ultimately constrict economic opportunity,” Regan said.

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

Business Confidence Steady as Economy Remains Solid

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 10, 2019 7:38:12 AM

The Thanksgiving holiday left Massachusetts employers in a good but cautious mood as business confidence remained steady during November.

BCI.November.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 0.3 points to 60.6 last month, leaving it one point lower than its level of a year ago but three points higher than in January.

The results came during a month when the Massachusetts unemployment rate remained at an historic low of 2.9 percent and employers nationally created a stronger-than-expected 266,000 new jobs. Employers also spent the month trying to make sense of the on-again, off-again trade war with China.

The US economy grew at a deliberate 1.9 percent pace during the third quarter, while the Massachusetts economy contracted by 0.2 percent as employers began to bump up against labor-force constraints.

“The AIM Business Confidence Index has drifted up and down amid a swirl of economic and political uncertainties during 2019, but employers have remained consistently optimistic about their overall prospects,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

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

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the Business Confidence Index all moved in a narrow range during November.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth lost 0.8 points to 67.0 while the US Index declined 0.4 points to 59.2. The Massachusetts Index is virtually even with its level of a year ago; the US index has dropped 4.5 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 0.9 points to 59.5 after surging during October. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 1.6 points to 61.7, almost a point lower than a year ago.

The Employment Index remained even for the month, leaving it 1.3 points higher for the year, underscoring the capacity issues faced by employers struggling to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (62.2) were slightly more confident than manufacturing companies (59.3), which have been most directly affected by uncertainty surrounding trade policy. Medium-sized companies (61.2) were more optimistic than large companies (60.8) or small companies (59.2). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (61.2) remained more optimistic than those in the west (59.8).

Barry Bluestone, retired Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University and a BEA member, said Massachusetts policymakers appear ready to address issues such as housing and transportation that will affect the ability of the commonwealth to attract and retain skilled workers.

“The economic future of Massachusetts rests with highly educated and highly skilled people who will maintain the commonwealth’s status as a global center of economic growth and innovation. But those people will not put down roots here if they can’t afford housing or navigate their way to work,” Bluestone said.

The Moderate Middle

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said political leaders in Massachusetts continue to show a willingness to collaborate on critical economic problems. He noted that the Baker Administration and the Legislature worked together in November to pass a landmark $1.5 billion public-school funding reform that contained accountability measures sought by business.

“The partisan polarization that characterizes much of our political debate misses the fact that there is a moderate middle in America seeking action on important issues. A study from New Center shows that 43 percent of Americans classify themselves in the political center, compared with 34 percent for the right and 23 percent for the left,” Regan said.

“The results make us optimistic that bipartisan cooperation will continue in Massachusetts on issues such as transportation, health costs and taxation.”
.

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

MassMutual CEO Provides Formula for Growth

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 22, 2019 11:32:27 AM

The chief executive of a company creating thousands of jobs in Massachusetts believes the commonwealth can continue to prosper by addressing key issues such as housing, transportation and education.

Roger W. Crandall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Springfield-based MassMutual, told the AIM Executive Forum this morning that Massachusetts benefits from a bi-partisan and balanced public-policy approach to business.

“Massachusetts has the best of everything. It has an unbelievable history. We've had an unbelievable run over the last 10, 15, 20 years and I think we've got another unbelievable 10, 20, 25 years in front of us,” Crandall told an audience of 250 business leaders.

MassMutual, which oversees more than $500 billion in assets, has embarked upon a major expansion in Massachusetts that includes a new, 17-story tower now under construction on the South Boston Waterfront that will accommodate approximately 1,000 employees. The company is also adding 1,500 jobs to its Springfield headquarters.

Crandall said Massachusetts has generally done a good job providing support and resources for business development while maintaining a good quality of life for its residents. One key element of that quality of life is housing, he said, that that is a challenge moving forward.

Moderately priced housing is essential to retaining the talented employees who graduate from the commonwealth’s renowned colleges and universities, Crandall said. The price of housing in Boston has increased by 61 percent during the past decade and the average monthly rent in the city now stands at $2,500.

MassMutual has supported Governor Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice Bill, along with proposals to create a $10 million down-payment assistance program for first-time home buyers. The company separately contributes to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s Way Home Fund to provide homeless people with a safe and stable environment in which to rebuild their lives.

“We are supportive of efforts to create more housing,” Crandall said.

On transportation, Crandall said companies cannot afford to lose employees – or fail to attract new ones – because people are unable to get where they need to go. He urged employers to support investment in the MBTA and made an impassioned plea for the development of high-speed east-west rail to connect Boston and Springfield.

The final major issue on MassMutual’s priority list is education. Crandall said Massachusetts must continue to pay attention to maintaining best-in-the-nation educational institutions at all levels that provide young people with the skills that will be needed to drive the innovation economy. He commended the Massachusetts Legislature for passing an education funding bill with strong accountability provisions.

“The future is a future of human capital,” he said.

MassMutual was founded in 1851 when 31 founders pooled together $100,000 to write insurance policies for friends and neighbors. The company now pays out more than $14 million per day in life-insurance, retirement and other benefits to customers.

 

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Education, AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

Resilient Economy Boosts Business Confidence

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 12, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Business confidence strengthened in Massachusetts last month amid signs that the state and national economies are more resilient than many experts predicted.

BCI.October.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2 points to 60.9 last month, leaving it virtually even with its level of a year ago.

The October upswing was led by growing employer optimism in the Massachusetts and national economies, as well as brightening prospects for manufacturers.

The survey results came during a month when US employers added a stronger-than-expected 128,000 jobs. And while the Massachusetts economy contracted slightly during the third quarter, experts say the reversal reflects workforce capacity limits rather than an economic downturn.

“U.S. hiring was unexpectedly resilient in October and prior months saw upward revisions. It appears that consumers will extend the record-long expansion despite trade tensions and weak business investment,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

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

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators  

The constituent indicators that make up the Business Confidence Index all moved higher during October.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth surged 4.5 points to 67.8 while the US Index rose 3.1 points to 59.6. The increase left the Massachusetts reading 3 points higher than a year ago; the US index has dropped by 2 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.2 points to 58.6, virtually even with its reading from October 2018. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 2.0 points to 63.3, also matching its reading of a year ago.

The Employment Index rose slightly by 0.3 points for the month but remained down 2.5 points for the year, underscoring the capacity issues faced by employers struggling to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (63.4) were more confident than manufacturers (59.0), despite a strong October gain in optimism among industrial companies. Small companies (63.6) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (60.6) or large companies (59.6). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (61.2) remained more optimistic than those in the west (60.4).

Paul Bolger, President, Massachusetts Capital Resource Company and a BEA member, said employers appear to have concluded that the slowing economy remains fundamentally strong enough to make a recession unlikely in the near future.

“Companies are also hoping that a preliminary trade agreement between China and the United States will clear up some of the uncertainty that has been causes by tariffs and an escalating trade battle,” Bolger said.

Business Battens the Hatches

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said the persistent shortage of skilled workers constraining the Massachusetts economy underscores the need for the Legislature to pass an education funding bill that establishes accountability for school districts to prepare students for both college and the workforce. 

“The job of sustaining Massachusetts’ global leadership in innovation belongs to everyone, and that requires a thoughtful, long-range plan to maintain our competitive advantage, including our education system. The foundation of such a plan is a set of educational standards that ensure our students’ continued achievement via distinct criteria,” Regan said.

“Whether Massachusetts high school graduates choose a college track or enter the workforce directly upon graduation, we must remain vigilant and insist on relevant, high standards to provide all our students with equal access to the economic advantages that follow educational achievement.”

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

Business Confidence Holds Steady; Manufacturing Outlook Dims

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 8, 2019 8:24:21 AM

Business confidence remained essentially flat in Massachusetts during September despite a darkening outlook among manufacturers.

BCI.September.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 0.2 points to 58.9 last month after retreating in August. The Index has lost 3.7 points since September 2018 but remains within optimistic territory.

The September reading was weighed down by weakening sentiment among Bay State manufacturers. The Index’s manufacturing component dropped 2.4 points in September and 7.9 points for the year.

The results mirrored the national Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, which fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. A separate report by IHS Markit showed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst quarter since 2009, though activity increased during September.

“Manufacturers are bearing the brunt of both actual and threatened tariffs against goods imported from China. Many Massachusetts companies have also become caught in retaliatory tariffs and are seeing significant weakening of their overseas business,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

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

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the AIM BCI were mixed during September.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 0.6 points to 63.3 while the US Index rose to 56.5. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 1.2 points and the US reading 7.1 points during the past 12 months.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 0.5 points to 56.4, leaving it 4.4 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 0.8 points to 61.3 – 3.0 points lower than its reading of September 2018.

The Employment Index rose a point for the month but remained down 3.1 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy.

Non-manufacturers (61.9) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Large companies (60.2) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (59.9) or small companies (55.4), reversing a trend established during the summer. Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (62.6) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (53.8).

Michael A. Tyler, CFA, Chief Investment Officer at Eastern Bank Wealth Management, and a BEA member, said the gaps in confidence between manufacturing companies and other businesses, and between companies in different regions of the commonwealth, appear to be growing.

“Manufacturing has been hit by the steady increase in tariffs imposed by the United States, China and other nations since 2018. The World Trade Organization estimates that the flow of goods across borders will increase by just 1.2 percent this year and manufacturing companies are feeling that downdraft,” Tyler said.

Business Battens the Hatches

AIM President and CEO John R. Regan, also BEA member, said a separate survey shows that two-thirds of AIM-member employers expect an economic contraction between now and the end of 2020. Companies are preparing for a possible slowdown by hiring fewer people, paying down debt and limiting capital expenditures.

“A possible take-away from the survey for state policymakers as they begin considering billions of dollars in new spending is this could be a difficult time ahead for the state economy,” Regan said.

“Businesses are assuming a defensive posture and significant tax increases - beyond the $1 billion for the new paid family and medical leave system - even for worthwhile causes, could harm the overall economy, most especially the manufacturing sector.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Massachusetts Companies Wary of Economic Downturn

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 7, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Two-thirds of Massachusetts employers surveyed by Associated Industries of Massachusetts anticipate an economic contraction before the end of 2020.

ManufacturingWorkerSmallMany of those companies are taking defensive measures ranging from hiring fewer people to paying down debt to limiting capital expenditures.

The survey results are based on responses from 111 Massachusetts companies representing almost every sector of the state economy. AIM collected the information as part of its monthly Business Confidence Index survey.

The sobering economic news comes as the Massachusetts Legislature debates billions of dollars in new spending on education, transportation and tax measures.

“A possible take-away from the survey for state policymakers as they begin considering billions of dollars in new spending is this could be a difficult time ahead for the state economy,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Businesses are assuming a defensive posture and significant tax increases - beyond the $1 billion for the new paid family and medical leave system - even for worthwhile causes, could harm the overall economy, most especially the manufacturing sector.”

Seventy-five companies that participated in the survey expect a contraction before the end of next year and 36 do not.

The companies that see a recession on the horizon are carefully managing payrolls, reducing expenses and developing relationships with customers insulated against downturns.

Comments include:

  • Scaling back on hiring plans. Slowing down certain capital expense/equipment purchases until we get a clearer picture of what the next six months will bring.
  • We have temporarily eliminated overtime work that was formerly unlimited.
  • Diversifying our service offerings.
  • Being a small manufacturing company, we can react quickly to changes in the business climate. Also, we will only invest in capital projects that significantly improve efficiencies and process with a payback of 18 months or less.
  • Concentrating on expense reduction - evaluating closely the need to replace positions as all employment related costs continue to increase - using methods such as combining roles in the short-term, hiring part-time as a replacement, reducing headcount by attrition or reorganizing an area.
  • Our workforce has already dropped ... Conditions have been very volatile for us, one month were up two or three months were down, next two months are up, two months after that were down considerably, next month moderate.
  • We have hired an outside firm to pursue sales opportunities.
  • We have cut our work force of temps and are currently on work-share. As we supply many markets, the two most impacted are agricultural equipment and trucking. The latter is a canary in the coal mine and has always been ahead of the economy. The agricultural industry is suffering from the cut in exports and the loss of markets due to tariffs. The continued list of tariff exemptions on imports for products we make also has a depressive affect.

Other companies believe they will ride out a downturn.

  • We think we'll be immune from the contraction.
  • Our industry is counter-cyclical. When the economy contracts, our industry usually receives a boost. 

The Massachusetts economy has continued to expand throughout 2019, though at a moderating pace as the year has progressed. Economic growth slowed from 2.7 percent in the first quarter to 1.4 percent in the second, according to MassBenchmarks.

The AIM Business Confidence Index has likewise remained in optimistic territory during the year but has lost 3.7 points during the past 12 months.

Conversely, the Massachusetts unemployment rate remains at 2.9 percent and private employers created 6,700 jobs between August 2018 and August 2019.

"The AIM survey ultimately argues for economic prudence and fiscal caution in the short term to allow the recent legislative and regulatory changes that have occurred over the last two sessions to take effect," said Brooke M. Thomson, Executive  Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“Massachusetts is flourishing in many ways, and in the wake of such recent changes, we need policies and practices that will ensure the economy remains strong and that creates economic stability and regulatory certainty for employers.”

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

Transportation Chief Takes Strategic Approach

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 27, 2019 11:09:51 AM

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack thinks of the increasing frustration among Massachusetts commuters in terms of “good days” and “bad days.”

While average commute times have not increased substantially in recent years, Pollack said drivers are encountering more frequent bad days in which a 40-minute commute can turn into a 60-minute ordeal.

“If one day in five takes 60 minutes, you now have an hour commute every day. You plan your life as if it’s an hour and that’s why everybody feels worse,” Pollack told 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

The insight is one of many to come from a strategic effort by state officials to understand the underlying transportation challenges facing the commonwealth before identifying solutions. A comprehensive approach to transportation, according to Pollack, covers a daunting range of issues from improving capital planning at the MBTA to highway management to housing development to telecommuting.

“We have laid the foundation for hitting the accelerator and getting these things done,” Pollack told the audience.

She said the two largest challenges facing the transportation system are climate change and traffic congestion.

Massachusetts is seeking to meld the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with funding for new transportation initiatives through the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative. TCI is a regional collaboration of 13 Northeast/Mid-Atlantic states working to reduce carbon emissions through a “cap-and-invest” program or other mechanism that establishes a price for transportation emissions.

Pollack noted that transportation accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

“TCI was not proposed to be a revenue source. It was proposed because it is proven mechanism that has worked in electric sector. It is our best bet to make a dent in transportation greenhouse gas emission.”

Traffic congestion in Massachusetts has reached a “tipping point,” according to a report issued in August by the Baker Administration, which  has signaled support for solutions ranging from allowing commuters to pay to bypass gridlock to reserving bus lanes on highways. The report offered 10 major conclusions:

  1. Congestion is bad because the economy is good.
  2. The worst congestion in the Commonwealth occurs in Greater Boston.
  3. Congestion can and does occur at various times and locations throughout the Commonwealth.
  4. Many roadways are now congested outside of peak periods.
  5. Congestion worsened between 2013 and 2018.
  6. Simple changes in travel time on an average day do not capture the severity of the problem.
  7. Massachusetts has reached a tipping point with respect to congestion.
  8. Many commuting corridors have become unreliable, with lengthy trips on bad days.
  9. Congestion has worsened to the point where it reduces access to jobs.
  10. We should be worried about congestion on local roads, too.

Modernizing the MBTA will plan a big part in helping to reduce the number of cars on the roads, Pollack said. Total capital spending at the T will increase to $9.3 billion between now and 2024, but capital delivery needs to increase to $1.5 billion annually to fund reliability and modernization.

“When enough people use transit and they have a reliable way to get to work, you can take out some of the peaks and get to reasonable balance of good says and bad days,” Pollack said.

Governor Baker in July filed a transportation bond bill seeking $18 billion in additional capital authorization to invest in building and modernizing a transportation system that meets the needs of residents, businesses and cities and towns statewide. The authorization would be used to fund existing programs as well as several new initiatives designed to lessen impacts from roadway congestion and ensure reliable travel throughout the Commonwealth.

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

Tanglewood Makes Sweet Music for Berkshire County Economy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 23, 2019 2:11:17 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts presented a 2019 AIM Next Century Award last week to Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, citing the organization's contributions to the economy of Berkshire County. AIM President and CEO John Regan presented the award to Bart Reidy, the BSO's Chief Strategy Officer, during the annual AIM Employer Celebration in Pittsfield.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, AIM Next Century Award

Business Confidence Tumbles during August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the AIM BCI all decreased during August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Policy Gains

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

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

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts employers, Economy

Eleven Companies Earn AIM Next Century Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kraft Group employs more than 5,000 people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for a Regional Employer Celebration

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

Subscribe to our blog

Posts by popularity

Browse by Tag