An economic recovery that finally feels like a recovery provides Massachusetts policymakers with a rare opportunity to address the long-tern structural issues that will shape the Bay State business climate for the next century, the president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts said today.
Richard C. Lord, in his annual State of Massachusetts Business address, said that the future of Massachusetts is built upon an encouraging present, much as it was 100 years ago when AIM was founded by a visionary group of industrialists. He said that AIM will begin its second century by seeking solutions to persistent challenges to economic growth such as the shortage of skilled workers, harnessing innovation and the ability to compete in global markets.
“Associated Industries of Massachusetts begins a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary today by honoring the determination of our founders to solve the big issues that determine the ability of Bay State residents to create a life for themselves and their families. AIM embraces with our founders the dictum of Theodore Roosevelt, who said ‘We should not forget that it will be just as important to our descendants to be prosperous in their time as it is to us to be prosperous in our time.’ ” Lord told an audience of 250 people at the AIM Economic Outlook Forum.
Speaking one day after new Governor Charlie Baker took the oath of office in Boston, Lord outlined four key long-term growth strategies for Massachusetts contained in AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century, a document intended to commemorate the organization’s centennial:
- Government and business must develop the best system in the world for educating and training workers with the skills to allow Massachusetts companies to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy.
- Massachusetts must create a competitive economic structure across all industries, geographic regions and populations rather than picking winners and losers.
- Establish a world-class state regulatory system that meets the highest standards for efficiency, predictability, transparency, and responsiveness.
- Massachusetts must find a way to moderate the substantial burden that health care and energy costs place on business growth.
Lord said the strategies are intended to create an economy that benefits all Massachusetts residents and spreads prosperity to all corners of the state. He noted that one of the immediate challenges for policymakers is to address the economic imbalance that has developed between the thriving Cambridge-Boston innovation beltway and the rest of the commonwealth.
He told the audience that “at a time when there is frequent discussion of income inequality, and the need to create what Boston Mayor Marty Walsh last month called an inclusive recovery that makes us better and not merely bigger, it is important to remind ourselves that the Massachusetts economy boils down to the nexus of a person, a job and an employer,” he said.
A panel of business leaders responded to Lord’s speech.
“A job with a future remains the only sustainable strategy for raising the long-term economic prospects of thousands of our fellow residents who may not yet be sharing in the recovery.”
Eric Roman, General Manager for Research and Applied Markets for GE Health Care Life Sciences, said Massachusetts was a logical place for the division to consolidate its headquarters and 500 high-value jobs.
“We wanted to pick a place close to customers, education and the strong work force that will allow us to grow both in the short term and in the long term,” said Roman, who will head up the new operation in Marlborough.
“GE is not looking at the short term here, we are making a long-term commitment.”
Patricia Begrowicz, CEO and co-owner of Onyx Specialty Papers in South Lee, said her company just completed a “very strong” fifth year and looks forward to another good year moving forward. Costs remain a challenge, however, as the company now pays half a million more for electricity and $300,000 more for health insurance each year than it did when she purchase the business five years ago.
“We’ve seen positive development on the market side, but the cost side has also grown,” said said.
John Harthorne, founder and CEO of the MassChallenge, said the startup accelerator would not have become a global force outside of Massachusetts. He noted that MassChallenge launched during the depths of the recession.
“We had very deep motivation to save the world,” he quipped.
The enterprise has expanded to Israel and plans to move into London and other markets during the next several years.