The success of diverse Massachusetts companies like VIBRAM and IBM Watson Health underscores the need for employers to engage in public policy debates, Associated Industries of Massachusetts President Richard C. Lord said Friday.
Lord used his annual State of Massachusetts Business address to more than 350 business leaders to call for call upon elected officials and all involved in public policy to set aside polemics and engage instead in civil debate on behalf of the large number of Americans who clearly feel restive, uneasy and suspicious of institutions like government and business.
“Let us resolve to talk with each other, not at each other. Let us resolve to speak in full sentences, not 140-character missives that reduce to two dimensions the complex issues with which we must wrestle,” Lord said just hours before Donald J. Trump took the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States.
“Let us seek bipartisan consensus rather than intractable fiscal cliffs and government by inaction. Let us make hope and hard work our watchwords and not allow cynicism to leave undone the important work of business and government.”
Lord warned that conservative administrations in Washington often prompt progressives in Massachusetts to make the commonwealth an example of big government, higher taxes, inefficient regulation and fiscal instability. Employers are already on the defensive, he said, having barely held off scores of expensive social-engineering bills ranging from a ban on non-compete agreements to the creation of a state-run pension system for private-sector workers.
The first step for business, according to Mr. Lord, is to articulate a positive agenda for economic growth. He noted that AIM is attempting to do that through its Blueprint for the Next Century, which makes four primary recommendations to create economic growth and opportunity for the people of Massachusetts:
- 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 the global economy.
- Massachusetts must create a uniformly competitive economic structure, including an efficient transportation infrastructure, across all industries, geographic regions and populations.
- 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.
A panel of business leaders responded to Lord’s speech and underscored the sense of uncertainty surrounding the transfer of power in Washington.
Robert Reynolds, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Putnam Investments, expressed optimism that the new Trump Administration and Republican Congress will accelerate economic growth and move away from the monetary approach that has dominated US economic policy.
“They already have so-called shovel ready plans,” on taxes, replacement of federal health reform and other issues, Reynolds said.
Donna Cupelo, New England Regional President of Verizon, said that a national technology sector that did not strongly support Trump is now “getting its boots back on” to address issues such as infrastructure, taxes and work-force development.
Lisa Chamberlain, Managing Partner of The Chamberlain Group in Great Barrington, said the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical-device companies is good news for her company’s customers, but repeal also creates uncertainty for small employers like herself.
“The instability of the present moment brings me some concerns and it concerns some of my neighbors,” she said.