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What is the Biggest Issue Facing Your Business?

Posted by John Regan on Oct 22, 2018 8:00:00 AM

What is the single most important public-policy issue facing your business?

  • The ability to find qualified employees?
  • The accelerating cost and complexity of providing health insurance to your workers?
  • Declining revenue brought about by newly instituted tariffs against China and the European Union?

Small BusinessSounds like an amusing parlor game, but it’s serious business to those of us here at Associated Industries of Massachusetts who develop our policy agendas every two years based upon the needs and concerns of 4,000 member employers.

Hundreds of those employers have already told us about the issues that keep them awake nights by completing the biennial AIM Issues Survey, which will become the basis of the association’s public-policy agenda for 2019-2020. It will also become the basis of an updated version of The Blueprint for the Next Century, our long-term plan for economic growth in Massachusetts.

We expect to hear from hundreds of additional employers more as we move past the November 6 mid-term election and prepare for the new Beacon Hill legislative session that begins in January.

Employer feedback and participation are essential amid an increasingly uncertain political environment both here in Massachusetts and in Washington, DC.  It’s an environment marked by polarization and partisanship, hostility and incivility, and a Twitter-driven, bumper-sticker approach to serious issues.

Employers accustomed to working in a predictable and collaborative political process here in Massachusetts suddenly find themselves demonized by both the left and right in a political food fight in which there are few rules and precious little middle ground. Increasingly radical shifts by the two major parties are eroding long-held centrist ideologies that have framed our nation’s approach to economic growth since the early 20th century.

Moderate, pro-business Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature face insurgent challenges from progressive activists supporting increased taxes, heavy business regulation and a notion that employers are somehow failing to “pay their fair share.” Now is the time for employers to speak up and articulate their unique role in providing economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts.

What are employers who have already completed the Issues Survey saying?

“Can we stop making legislative changes at the ballot box?  It is an inefficient way to govern.”

“(The health-care surcharge) tax has placed an incredible financial strain, particularly on smaller to medium-sized businesses, which are already struggling to balance the health care needs of their employees with those that are mandated, but the company may not have the resources available to do.”

“Rising costs to operate in Massachusetts must be addressed.  EMAC, paid family leave, minimum wage - all of these in and of themselves are an issue but piled on it is becoming prohibitive.  We are actively working on efficiency and automation gains that will allow us to reduce the size of our work force, which is not what the commonwealth would like.  We need to recognize that many companies have competitors in other parts of the country where operating costs are not what they are here.” 

 We look forward to hearing from you.

Take the AIM Issues Survey

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, massachsetts legislature, Issues

Lord to Retire as AIM President, CEO in 2019

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 12, 2018 11:00:24 AM

Richard C. Lord, who built Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) into one of the most powerful and far-reaching business associations in the commonwealth, will retire next year after leading the organization for almost 20 years.

Lord.Speaking-1Lord, a North Adams native and Williams College graduate who took the top job at AIM in 1999, will remain as president and chief executive officer while the AIM board of directors chooses a successor. He will ensure a smooth leadership transition while overseeing critical ongoing AIM public-policy and organizational initiatives through the middle of 2019.

“Rick Lord has built AIM into an organization of more than 4,000 employers from all sectors of the economy who believe that business should be a positive force for creating a better, more prosperous world. He has led the organization through a period of unprecedented growth and change, and created tremendous upward momentum for our next leader,” said Dan Kenary, Chair of the AIM Board of Directors and CEO of The Harpoon Brewery in Boston.

Lord made the 103-year-old former manufacturing association the voice of all Massachusetts employers on generational economic issues such as the cost of health insurance, taxation, education, worker training and energy. At the same time, he expanded the membership of AIM into developing areas of the state economy such as services, technology, biosciences and robotics.

His accomplishments range from representing the views of employers during the landmark 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law and subsequent 2012 Health Cost-Containment Law to expanding the AIM HR Solutions business to help employers both large and small manage complicated human-resources issues.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as President and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts for almost two decades. It’s now time for me to set out on a new adventure while AIM finds a leader who will build on this strong foundation for the future,” Lord said.

“I’m most proud of leaving AIM with the most talented team of professionals I have ever had the opportunity to work with. The primary asset of a business association is its people and the staff of AIM enjoys an enviable level of credibility and respect among employers, elected officials and key decision makers.”

Lord joined AIM in 1991 as Executive Vice President of Government Affairs after serving as Chief of Staff for the Committee on Ways and Means of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Before entering public service, Lord worked in financial positions at General Electric Company and McCormack and Dodge.

He is a 1977 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Psychology.

Lord has served on an array of policy and charitable board during his tenure at AIM. He currently serves as a member of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and chairs the board of directors of the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program. He also serves as a board member at The Children’s Trust Fund, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company.

“We are grateful that Rick has left AIM in a position of strength as we begin the search for a new CEO,” said Patricia Begrowicz, who will lead the AIM Board of Directors committee that will search for a successor.

“The Search Committee plans to engage a professional search firm to cast a wide net for the next CEO of AIM. It’s a great job with a great organization that has a great future,” added Begrowicz, President of Onyx Specialty Papers in South Lee.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Looking for Employees? Evacuees from Puerto Rico are Looking for Work

Posted by John Regan on May 3, 2018 8:30:00 AM

AIM is working with the Baker Administration to assist the thousands of people who fled hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to live in Massachusetts - people who are ready to go to work for Bay State employers who have struggled to find workers in a full-employment economy.

HurricaneMariaMore than 140 people who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island in September have already been hired by Massachusetts companies, including several AIM members. Many of the evacuees have work experience in office and administration, sales and related fields, food preparation and serving, transportation and moving materials, education/library, landscaping, production, management, and health-care related occupations.

The largest group of evacuees is found in Springfield, Holyoke and rest of Hampden County. Other significant populations have settled in Great New Bedford, central Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley.

The state’s network of one-stop career centers is coordinating efforts to secure employment and housing for people relocated from Puerto Rico. The career centers are also working with the evacuees on issues such as work readiness, English-language skills and conversion of specific licenses for professional occupations such as nursing, social work and cosmetology.

The list of AIM-member employers who have already hired Puerto Rican evacuees include DeMoulas Market Basket, MassMutual, Packaging Corporation of America, Staples and Walmart.

Category 4 Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $94 billion in damage when it struck Puerto Rico on September 20. The storm left more than one million people without power and prompted more than 250,000 island residents to relocate to the continental United States.

Employers interested in hiring evacuees may contact Massachusetts Undersecretary for Workforce Development, Jennifer James, at 617.626.7124.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Skills Gap, Massachusetts economy

Uber Envisions New Transportation Model

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 30, 2017 4:16:43 PM

The ride-sharing app Uber has logged the fastest ascent in Silicon Valley history, growing from a startup eight years ago to a company operating across 450 cities in 73 countries and serving 40 million customers each month.

But the company’s Boston-based regional manager, Meghan Verena Joyce, said the company’s ultimate objective is much larger - to merge traditional transportation infrastructure with new technology to create a new model of moving from one place to another.

“I often wonder whether my daughter will ever have a driver’s license,” Joyce mused as she spoke to 300 people at the AIM Executive Forum in Waltham this morning.

The new transportation model, Joyce said, will make efficient use of private automobiles and public transit to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and land-intensive parking. It will create a system in which everyone – including people in low-income urban areas often left out of the transit grid – will have access to reliable and affordable transportation.

“We believe there is a better way,” said Joyce, a Harvard MBA who served as an associate at Bain Capital and as a senior policy advisor at the US Treasury before joining Uber in 2013.

The challenge is not the one billion automobiles that exist worldwide, according to Joyce, but the solitary manner in which we use them. A show of hands from the audience indicated that the vast majority of people had driven to the Executive Forum with only one person in the vehicle.

Joyce said that Uber has already taken steps to integrate technology with existing transportation infrastructure to streamline the system. Many Uber customers in Boston combine ride-sharing with the MBTA, while others use a modified car-pooling initiative called UberPOOL to share rides with neighbors who travel to the same locations at similar times.

Almost one-third of Uber trips in Great Boston come from UberPOOL, according to Joyce. In San Francisco, where UberPOOL has existed for a longer time, the program has reduced car traffic in that city and saved an estimated 6.2 million gallons of gasoline while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 55,000 metric tons.

Joyce said Uber’s vision also includes providing transportation options for people in low-income urban areas. People in Dorchester and Mattappan, who she said formerly waited an average of 25 minutes for taxi pickups, now enjoy 96 percent reliability and pickups within 3-5 minutes with ride sharing.

“Our vision is to create a transportation ecosystem that is better for everyone,” she said.

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Transportation

State of Massachusetts Business - The Age of Uncertainty

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 20, 2017 10:47:52 AM

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.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Donald Trump

Trump on Trade: More Questions than Answers

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Dec 1, 2016 8:30:00 AM

What will happen to U.S. trade under the new Trump administration?  Which voices in the Cabinet and Congress will prevail?  Are free trade deals dead?  Will the U.S. impose high tariffs on China and Mexico? Will we become more protectionist?  Will companies be punished for creating jobs overseas or rewarded for keeping jobs state-side?

international.flagssmall.jpgAnswers to these questions remain unknown.  It’s still uncertain how the new presidential administration will proceed on trade.  Although candidate Trump campaigned on a strong anti-trade platform targeting China, Mexico, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Trade Pact), President-Elect Trump is already softening some of his rhetoric.

AIM has been engaged in discussions with state and federal political leaders, company executives, trade organizations, Congressional staff members, and seasoned trade professionals to understand how to keep US international trade fair and unencumbered and help Massachusetts companies continue to prosper.  Here’s what we know:

  1. Although there’s general agreement that trade is critical for jobs and the economy, employers need to do a better job telling the story of how trade has helped companies grow and create jobs.
  2. Manufacturing, an industry important to President-elect Trump, is a vital part of the U.S. and Massachusetts economies, responsible for millions of jobs and a significant component of GDP. Most manufacturers export or send their finished products up the supply chain to larger exporters—meaning that international trade is key to business success.
  3. NAFTA has been a strong driver for economic growth in the U.S., although not all parts of the U.S. have benefitted evenly. NAFTA can be renegotiated and modernized, but scrapping it would be disruptive and damaging to supply chains, investment and more.
  4. Job losses in manufacturing over the past several decades have been due in significant part to automation, not solely to overseas production.
  5. Training and re-training of displaced workers needs to be a priority on the state and federal levels through vocational schools, community colleges and other initiatives.
  6. Canada, Mexico and China are the three top trade partners for Massachusetts. Any disruption of trade across our northern or southern borders threatens thousands of jobs in the Bay State.
  7. China is a valuable import source and export destination for Massachusetts. Millions of Chinese citizens entering the middle class represent strong trade potential.  High tariffs or a U.S. trade war with China would have a significant negative impact on our citizens and companies. 
  8. Under Trump, the US Trade Representative (USTR) job may be downgraded from a Cabinet-level position to a senior-level administrator within the US Department of Commerce. This would put the U.S. at a significant disadvantage at the negotiating table.
  9. Trump needs early wins on trade. Recent negotiations with Ford and Carrier, who are scaling back plans to move jobs out of the U.S., may help with this.  As one expert noted, Trump is perhaps less anti-trade and more “pro-good deals.”

So, what can you do?

Tell your personal stories about trade - how you identified a new market for your product, how you work with international customers to meet their needs, how you’ve grown jobs at your company because of global trade.  Share these stories with your state and federal elected officials—and with AIM.  Many jobs depend on trade—that message needs to be delivered to lawmakers.

Stay informed.  Participate in events at which trade will be discussed.  Strengthen your existing trade relationships.  Communicate regularly with your international customers.  Reach out to potential clients in new markets.  Identify sticky trade problems that need to be solved.

Finally, remember that countries have been trading goods and services across borders since the beginning of time.  Presidents and prime ministers may come and go, but trade relationships persist.  Even in tough times, good companies find a way to meet customer needs and make deals happen. 

Topics: International Trade, Donald Trump, Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Marijuana Legalization Harmful to Business

Posted by Rick Lord on Oct 19, 2016 10:30:00 AM

A proposed law on the November ballot to legalize and commercialize marijuana in Massachusetts would reverse decades of hard-won progress by employers to create safe and drug-free workplaces.

VoteHereSign.jpgQuestion 4 would place employers in the untenable position of determining whether an employee who tests positive for marijuana, used legally under state law, is too impaired to operate a machine or drive a company vehicle safely. It would also create a legal nightmare for employers caught between a state law that permits private use of marijuana and a federal law - often the overriding jurisdiction in employment scenarios - that prohibits marijuana use.

That’s why the Board of Directors of AIM has joined an extraordinary coalition of public officials, civic leaders and businesses urging a “no” vote on Question 4. The coalition includes Governor Charlie Baker; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Attorney General Maura Healey; Members of Congress Joe Kennedy, III, Stephen Lynch, Nikki Tsongas and William Keating; Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts; the Massachusetts Hospital Association; the Massachusetts Medical Society; and the Massachusetts Municipal Association

A survey conducted by AIM earlier this year indicates that employers oppose Question 4 by a wide margin.

Sixty-two percent of employers said they would vote “No” on the pot legalization referendum due to appear on the November 1 ballot. Thirty-eight percent were in favor.

The proposed ballot law would authorize individuals 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their home and up to ten ounces of marijuana in their residences. It calls for taxes on marijuana sales and creates a Cannabis Control Commission to handle regulation and licensing.

If approved, the new law would take effect on December 15.

“We’re not surprised by the poll results given the concerns being expressed to us by member employers,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“How will an employer respond to a worker operating heavy equipment on a job site under the influence of marijuana? Many jobs, particularly those in safety-sensitive fields like transportation or manufacturing, must adhere to federal regulations that still prohibit the use of any substance that creates impairment.”

In fact, no breathalyzer-type technology exists to measure the degree of impairment suffered by a marijuana user. Question 4 not only fails to establish an enforceable legal standard as exists in other states, but also fails to establish a standard by which employers may terminate or discipline an employee who may have used marijuana and could be a safety risk on the job.

The potential consequences are significant.

In Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2010 and recreational marijuana in 2012, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent between 2006 and 2014. Emergency room hospital visits that were “likely related” to marijuana increased by 77 percent from 2011 to 2014; and drug-related suspensions/expulsions increased 40 percent from school years 2008/2009 to 2013/2014, according to a September 2015 report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a collaboration of federal, state and local drug enforcement agencies.

Recent surveys have also indicated an increase in general marijuana use when states approve the legalization of marijuana. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2012 and 2013 (when marijuana was legalized but states had yet to implement a regulatory framework) the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana jumped by more than 20 percent in Washington and Colorado.

Employers remain concerned that much of the increased marijuana usage in these states has come from high-potency edibles - THC-infused candy bars, gummies, cookies and soda – many packaged to look like candy and snacks. Almost half of all marijuana sales in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize, now come from edibles and concentrates.

The appeal of edible marijuana products to teen-agers is an issue for medical and behavior health organizations like the Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare.

“The research shows that marijuana poses a risk for the young brain — those 25 and under — that is predisposed to emotional and mental health issues,” said NAMI Mass Executive Director Laurie Martinelli.

Marijuana legalization is among a handful of November ballot questions with implications for employers. AIM favors a proposal to lift the cap on charter schools and opposes questions that would end the use of Common Core educational standards and impose de-facto government price controls on hospitals.

AIM also opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 4 percent surtax on income more than $1 million that could reach the ballot by 2018.

Topics: Ballot Questions, Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Beacon Hill Debrief: How Did Employers Do?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 29, 2016 2:45:43 PM

AIM Executive Vice President John Regan recently discussed the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session and what it meant for employers on Comcast Newsmakers.

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

Power and Collaboration on Beacon Hill

Posted by Rick Lord on Sep 21, 2016 4:27:48 PM

An article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, Business lobby holds new sway on Beacon Hill, accurately reports that Associated Industries of Massachusetts exerts unique influence on Beacon Hill on behalf of employers.

statehousedome.jpgWe do. That’s why your company is a member.

Unfortunately, the article also distorts AIM’s position on an important piece of legislation - the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – and contains a glaring factual error. I feel it is important to set the record straight.

The article reports that AIM opposed The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act during the 2015-2016 legislative session. But the article does not tell you that our opposition reflected legitimate concern among employers that the legislation duplicates existing law and provides an applicant or employee with the power to reject multiple and reasonable offers of accommodation by an employer.

The issue is similar to the recent debate over wage equity, in which AIM initially opposed a flawed bill meant to accomplish a goal we all supported. Far from exercising “veto power” over the House of Representatives, as one senator asserted to the Globe, AIM was able to work with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the attorney general to develop an acceptable piece of legislation that we were ultimately proud to support and that Governor Charlie Baker signed.

The Globe article fails to mention that AIM has signaled the Legislature that we are willing to enter into the same type of negotiations on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. AIM executives told reporter Frank Phillips on several occasions that the association supports fair treatment of pregnant women and is open to discussions to eliminate provisions of the bill that would place an undue burden on employers.

The article also inaccurately reports that Cape Air, the business owned by retiring Senator Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, is a member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. For the record, Cape Air has not been a member of AIM since 2003.

As member employers you should be proud of that AIM represents your interests with unparalleled skill and integrity. You should also acknowledge that the Massachusetts House of Representatives is developing workable legislation for the people of Massachusetts by working collaboratively with the business community.

The bottom line of the Globe article is that no organization is more prominent in public policy debates that AIM.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the article or AIM’s positions.

 

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Massachusetts senate, Associated Industries of Massachusetts

AIM Honors 11 Companies, Individuals with Next Century Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 12, 2016 7:53:29 AM

Eleven companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the Massachusetts economy have been named recipients of the annual Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Next Century Award to be presented at a series of regional celebrations in September and October.

The honorees range from a startup accelerator in Springfield to one of the commonwealth’s most passionate advocates for manufacturing to a company you would never believe is one of the largest government contractors in the nation.

AIM announced today that 2016 Next Century Awards will go to Unistress Corporation of Pittsfield, The Chamberlain Group of Great Barrington, Valley Venture Mentors of Springfield, Smith & Wesson of Springfield, Hanover Insurance company of Worcester, retiring Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Project President Jack Healy, MACOM of Lowell, Potpourri Group Inc. of Billerica, Analog Devices of Norwood, Coins n’ Things of Bridgewater and State Representative Patricia Haddad of Somerset.

“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 Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Award winners will be honored at AIM regional celebrations in Pittsfield on September 20; the Hanover Theatre in Worcester on October 17; the Wood Museum of Springfield History on October 20; Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on October 24; and the Riverwalk Complex in Lawrence on October 26. Each event will run from 4:30-6:30 and is free to AIM members.

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

Unistress Corporation, Pittsfield | September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Unistress3.jpgThe future of Unistress Corporation is every bit as expansive as the sprawling New NY Bridge being built across the Hudson River with the company’s massive precast concrete deck panels.

Pittsfield-based Unistress, the state's only manufacturer of large precast/prestressed concrete structures, is working on the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge as part of a $70 million contract that is the largest in the company’s 48-year history. The project prompted Unistress to invest more than $6 million to expand its facilities on Cheshire Road and hire more than 150 new workers to bring its total work force to more than 500 people.

Manufacturing the deck of a bridge that will handle eight traffic lanes, four breakdown lanes, a bicycle and pedestrian path, state-of-the-art traffic monitoring systems and accommodations for either light rail or commuter rail is nothing new for a company that worked extensively on the Big Dig project in Boston. Unistress has also worked on parking garages, railway stations, and stadiums, including the new Yankee Stadium.

The $100 million-a-year company has completed more than 500 precast structures throughout the Northeast and has won numerous awards for excellence from its peers. The Unistress plant has been certified for more than 45 years under the Precast/Prestressed Concrete (PCI) Plant Certification Program.

Unistress is part of a family of construction companies that dates back to the nadir of the Depression in 1936. Italian immigrant Basilio Petricca struck out on his own and improbably won the opportunity to rebuild seven bridges over the Hoosac River that had been destroyed by a hurricane. Though he had never before built a bridge and used his pickup track as an office, Petricca got the job done and made the bridges passable again. 

“We don’t do a lot of cookie-cutter jobs. Construction managers who work with us know we can get even the most complex jobs done for them. They don’t ask us if we can do it—they ask when we can get it done,” said Perri Petricca, the current Unistress Chief Executive and the grandson of Basilio.

The Chamberlain Group, Great Barrington | September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

How does a group of high-end visual effects professionals working in movies and television end up improving the quality of medical care for millions of people?

Chamberlain.jpgIf you’re The Chamberlain Group in Great Barrington, you use your visual effects wizardry to make mimetic organs for surgical and interventional training.

Chamberlain’s life-like organs are used in the sophisticated simulation labs that medical schools, hospitals and medical device makers employ to train surgeons. The company’s mission is to “bring practice to the practice of medicine.”

The Chamberlain Group’s products are sold to more than 150 medical-device manufacturers and teaching institutions in 50 countries, including Russia and India, Asia and the Middle East, and in virtually all 50 states domestically. Their client list includes Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Cleveland Clinic, Lahey Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and NASA.

Berkshire Business Quarterly magazine said, “The Chamberlain Group’s design ingenuity has been a breakthrough for the medical community. Models look, weigh, and feel just like real living tissue and provide a better training device than a cadaver, animal, or lesser-realized product would.”

Eric and Lisa Chamberlain launched The Chamberlain Group in 1999 after working for New York design firms that made miniature models and special visual effects for films ranging from Gandhi, Tootsie, and The Big Chill to Ghostbusters, Predator and Woody Allen’s Zelig. Medical schools and device manufacturers were beginning to move away from cadavers and animals in their training programs and the Chamberlains saw opportunity in the burgeoning simulation business.

It was a textbook case of nimble entrepreneurs adapting skills from one industry to a seemingly unrelated one. The result is a thriving enterprise with 23 employees working in an 8,500-square-foot design and manufacturing facility.

“When we began our work in anatomy in the late 90’s, there was no such thing as a ‘simulation industry.’ Without an institutional or disciplinary bias, with no set formula to follow, we have entertained all possibilities. We have held to the high standards of our visual effects work to inform our product development:  be excellent, try anything, stay nimble,” Lisa Chamberlain says.

The company earlier this year earned the 2016 Exporter of the Year designation for Massachusetts and New England by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Jack Healy | October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

No one has done more to reinvigorate manufacturing in Massachusetts than John (Jack) Healy, who retired recently after guiding the Worcester-based Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) for 17 years.

Healy had already logged a full career as a manufacturing executive at companies like LEGO and Presmet when he became founding Director of Operations for both MassMEP and the MAC in 1999. He quickly energized both organizations and set them about helping hundreds of small and medium-sized manufacturers implement growth opportunities through advanced manufacturing and management practices.

MassMEP has worked with 1,800 manufacturers since its inception, providing these companies with consulting, business and management advice through its professional project managers. The organization has also created job-training programs, established skill standards and associated testing, and advocated for manufacturing needs to policymakers. Healy geared these services primarily to the small manufacturing companies that have come to dominate the Massachusetts economy during the past three decades.

But Healy’s most enduring legacy will come from his efforts to address the critical shortage of workers with the skills needed by manufacturers to compete globally.  His accomplishments include the creation of an award-winning Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T) Program, which trains and recruits future workers with little or no prior manufacturing experience for entry level production jobs; and a comprehensive machinist training curriculum that extends from basic skills through bachelor’s degrees.

Those efforts have had particular resonance in Worcester and central Massachusetts, where manufacturing constitutes about $6.4 billion worth of economic activity. Manufacturing represents 19.9 percent of the private sector's gross domestic product in the central region compared to 12 percent statewide.

“If we lost manufacturing in the metropolitan Worcester area, we would be in tough shape," Healy told the Worcester Business Journal.

Congressman James McGovern of Worcester notes that Healy has played a key role in the ``Manufacturing Our Future'' effort in Massachusetts, which has served as a catalyst for developments like Worcester's Gateway Park.

MassMEP has received numerous awards under Healy’s leadership, including a 2011 Workforce Training Partnership of the Year Award from the Workforce Solutions Group, the 2011 John Gould Education & Workforce Development Award from AIM and the 2010 Group Innovator of the Year from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester | October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The Hanover Insurance Group has a more than 160-year history in Worcester, but with a new chief executive at the helm and record results for its most recent year, the $5 billion company has its focus firmly forward.

The Hanover is the holding company for several property and casualty insurance companies, and one of the oldest continuous businesses in the United States still operating within its original industry. The company provides a wide range of property and casualty products and services to individuals, families, and businesses, and distributes its products through a select group of independent agents and brokers.

Together with its agents, the company offers specialized coverages for small and mid-sized businesses, as well as insurance protection for homes, automobiles, and other personal items. In addition, through its international member company, Chaucer, The Hanover also underwrites business at Lloyd's of London in several major insurance and reinsurance classes, including marine, property and energy.

The company has been successfully transformed over the past decade, from a predominantly regional insurer into a global property and casualty insurance player, writing business across the United States and in approximately 175 other countries. The Hanover currently employs approximately 1,900 people in Massachusetts – the vast majority in Worcester – and about 4,800 people in total.

The Hanover also has earned a reputation as a concerned and active corporate citizen, helping to create positive and lasting change in Greater Worcester and in the communities where its employees live and work. The company works with its many community partners to address a range of needs, placing a special emphasis on youth and education, donating millions of dollars each year to the United Way and to a host of non-profit organizations.

The breadth of The Hanover’s community involvement is underscored by the fact that it will accept its award in the renovated downtown theater to which it committed $2 million in 2006, as part of an initiative to stimulate economic development.

The Hanover launched a new chapter in its corporate history on May 16 when it named former Aetna executive Joseph M. Zubretsky as its new president and chief executive officer. Zubretsky succeeded longtime CEO Frederick H. Eppinger.

Zubretsky joined The Hanover after almost nine years at Aetna, where he served in a number of key senior executive positions, most recently as chief executive officer at Healthagen Holdings, a group of healthcare services and information technology companies.

Smith & Wesson, Springfield | October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Smith & Wesson has been a cornerstone of the Pioneer Valley manufacturing economy since Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson began to produce the Model 1 revolver in Springfield in 1856. The company’s storied history traces an arc from the old west to the Imperial Army of the Russian Tsar to outfitting thousands of laws enforcement officers in the United States and abroad.

But beyond its own success, Smith & Wesson has been a crucible of technology and skills that have fueled the development of a metal machining hub in western Massachusetts that now serves industries from aerospace to medical devices.

Smith & Wesson Corp. today is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of firearms. The company is expected to generate more than $900 million in annual sales in its current fiscal year.  It also employs more than 1,700 people, most at its sprawling manufacturing plant on Roosevelt Avenue.

Smith & Wesson has delivered tremendous organic and inorganic growth in firearms, and in 2010 moved 225 new jobs to Springfield as a result of its earlier acquisition of Thompson/Center Arms in New Hampshire.

In addition to growing its historical and sizeable firearms business, Smith & Wesson has recently expanded beyond firearms.  It acquired accessories maker Battenfeld Technologies in 2014, and in August of this year added Taylor Brands to its list of acquisitions.  Taylor is a designer and distributor of high-quality knives and specialty tools.

Then Smith & Wesson purchased a leader in laser sighting products, Crimson Trace.  Smith & Wesson paid $180 million in cash for both the Crimson Trace and Taylor acquisitions. 

In addition to Smith & Wesson’s rich legacy of supporting philanthropic efforts in the community throughout the decades, the company has more recently taken a visible role in addressing the critical shortage of trained machinists that is affecting all areas of Massachusetts. The Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center was created at Springfield Technical Community College to host STCC’s manufacturing and engineering technology programs, which prepare students for jobs in modern, computerized precision-machine shops.  It’s is just one of many programs that the company has supported to help deliver economic growth.

Among Smith & Wesson’s best known products over the years have been the .38 Military & Police Revolver, now known as the Model 10, a firearm that has been used extensively by police forces and has been in continuous production since 1899; the Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies; and the popular M&P line of polymer pistols and rifles.

Smith & Wesson Corp. is the main operating subsidiary of the publicly traded Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.

Valley Venture Mentors, Springfield | October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield |4:30-6:30 p.m.

Valley Venture Mentors is creating an entrepreneurial renaissance in a region replete with business success stories, from the first-ever gasoline powered motorcar and to the invention of the game of basketball.

VVM opened for business as a small, grassroots nonprofit in 2011 and has since grown to a community with more than a thousand mentors who have guided more than a hundred startups, from app developers to fair-trade wedding dress retailers. In 2015 those startups generated more than $10 million in revenue and investment and 222 jobs. 

In May, Valley Venture Mentors awarded $252,000 in funding to 12 companies in its second annual startup accelerator competition. The awards ranged from $6,000 to $50,000, with judges allocating the money following a four month long process of boot camps and pitching sessions.

Harder to measure is the amount of time and money that entrepreneurs didn’t waste thanks to the VVM community’s collective knowledge. Mentors are business executives from healthcare, energy, social services, engineering, finance, and other sectors; nonprofit board members; teachers, investors, lawyers, designers and developers.

Says one mentor: “I came to pay forward the help given to me when I was starting out. Next thing I know, I am learning almost as much as the startup I was helping.”

The organization believes that there is no better way to create transformational economic growth than to train, support, and invest in business startups. VVM is focusing some of that training and support this year on manufacturing by launching the nation’s first manufacturing accelerator in partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program administered by MassDevelopment, the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, and AIM.

The Manufacturing Accelerator brings small and medium-sized enterprises together with potential customers to discover new ways to do business. The accelerator’s intensive training program helps manufacturers learn the needs of potential buyers, validate the ability to deliver on those needs and how to communicate capabilities.

Coins N’ Things, Bridgewater | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Drive past the modest headquarters of CNT, Inc in Bridgewater and there is nothing to suggest that you’ve stumbled upon one of the nation’s largest government contractors. Even the quaint company name, maintained from its roots as a retail store for coin collectors, carries no hint of the scope and breadth of the operation.

CNT, a privately held, family-controlled business, is in fact the largest wholesale vendor of gold in the United States. In fiscal year 2011, the company became the U.S. federal government's largest supplier of precious metals, with government gold sales that accounted for about half of the $3.8 billion in contracts to supply silver and gold to the United States Mint during the year. CNT ranked number 39 on the list of the top 100 contractors of the U.S. federal government for that same fiscal year, with $1.89 billion in obligations from the government, all from the Treasury Department. That made the company the single largest contractor to the Treasury Department.

Founded in 1974 by Louis Oliari and his son, Mark, Coins N’ Things, Inc. (dba CNT) began as a retail shop dealing with coins, jewelry, stamps, and other ‘things.’ In the mid-1980s Mark grew the company into a precious metals wholesaler. Since that time, we have grown into the largest privately owned company in the precious metals industry. Currently, CNT is one of the largest precious metals wholesalers worldwide dealing with major governments and large retailers.

In 2002, the United States Mint approved CNT to become one of 11 businesses worldwide authorized to buy American Eagle silver bullion coins for distribution; at that time, qualifications for that authorization included a substantial retail customer base and net worth of at least $5 million. In 2009, CNT was authorized by the United States Mint to become an authorized distributor for the American Eagle gold, platinum, and palladium products; qualifications for this authorization included a net worth of at least $50 million. In 2010 the business obtained approval to sell gold to the U.S. federal government.

The business has about 70 employees, including Mark Oliari, his wife Patty, and their three children. Today, the CNT family of companies has grown to include, CNT Depository, Inc., CNT Lending, Inc., and Bay Precious Metals.

Analog Devices, Norwood | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

It may be the understatement of the year to say that Norwood-based Analog Devices is on a roll.

In the past four months, Norwood-based semiconductor company agreed to acquire competitor Linear Technology Corp. for about $14.8 billion, quadrupled its sales to Apple amid the ramp-up to the iPhone 7, announced a 6.4 percent increase in its quarterly profit, then paid $42 million for the Cyber Security Solutions (CSS) business of Sypris Electronics LLC., in Tampa, Florida.

Not bad for a 51-year-old company that already leads the worldwide data converter market with a 48.5 percent share.

Analog Devices manufactures analog, mixed-signal and digital signal processing (DSP) integrated circuits (ICs) used in electronic equipment. These technologies are used to convert, condition and process real-world phenomena, such as light, sound, temperature, motion, and pressure into electrical signals. The company services industries ranging from communications, computer, industrial and instrumentation to military/aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.

In a business defined by innovation, Analog invests 19 percent of its $3.4 billion in annual revenue on research and development. The company employs 2,500 people at Massachusetts facilities in Norwood, Wilmington and Chelmsford, and more than 9,500 people worldwide. It maintains manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts, Ireland and The Philippines, and 30 design centers worldwide.

Analog was founded by MIT graduates, Ray Stata and Matthew Lorber in 1965. The same year, the company released its first product, the model 101 op amp, a hockey-puck sized module used in test and measurement equipment. Analog became a publicly traded company in 1969 and by 1996 reported more than $1 billion in revenue.

Analog’s acquisition of Linear Technology is viewed as a blockbuster as  chipmakers add scale amid record industry consolidation.

“The combination of Analog Devices and Linear Technology brings together two of the strongest business and technology franchises in the semiconductor industry,” said Vincent Roche, President and Chief Executive Officer of Analog Devices. “Our shared focus on engineering excellence and our highly complementary portfolios of industry-leading products will enable us to solve our customers’ biggest and most complex challenges at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds.”

Hon. Patricia Haddad | October 24, Gillette Stadium, Putnam Club | Foxboro | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

When Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo needed someone to conduct difficult negotiations with the business community this summer over a proposed wage-equity bill, he called upon Rep. Patricia A. Haddad.

Through weeks of negotiations on perhaps the most important legislation of the year, Haddad worked with Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other employer representatives to craft a bill that ensures that workers will be fairly compensated without regard to gender but instead according to the value they bring to the business enterprise.

The compromise legislation passed both House and Senate and Governor Charlie Baker signed the nation’s first wage equity law measure into law on August 1.

“Rep. Haddad was determined, respectful and insightful as she held together the negotiations and secured the support of the business community,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM.

Haddad represents the people of Dighton, Somerset, Swansea and Taunton, and serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives. 

A member of the House since 2000, she has served on a variety of committees including Human Services and Elder Affairs, Health Care, Medicaid, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Rules, Ethics and Ways and Means. Haddad served two terms as Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education and prior to her recent appointment as Speaker Pro Tem, was Assistant Majority Whip.

Haddad is deeply involved in the economy of her region and of the commonwealth.  She has worked closely with AIM on issues of electricity policy and on labor law, and is the only member of the Legislature to be honored with the AIM Next Century Award for 2016.

The new pay-equity law promotes salary transparency, limits upfront questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourages companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities.  It explicitly recognizes legitimate market forces such as performance and the competitive landscape for certain skills that cause pay differences among employees.

Potpourri Group, North Billerica | October 26, Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Potpourri Group earlier this year moved into a state-of-the-art, 450,000-square-foot facility in Littleton that will increase the company’s employment roles to 400 people during the business pre-holiday season.

Potpourri’s CEO, Jonathan Fleischmann is committed to his team and to Massachusetts. He notes, “Our new facility has been a ‘long time coming,’ with the company weathering the recession, completing several acquisitions, and conducting national location studies prior to receiving board approval to move forward.”

“The Potpourri management team is excited to be remaining in Massachusetts and finding a new home in Littleton in particular, retaining the ‘institutional knowledge of its great work force’ and in gaining the capacity needed to continue on our growth strategy,” Fleischmann said.

The company has even purchased vans so workers who lived near the former facility in Whitinsville would have an easy way to reach the new building.

“After several years of operating beyond capacity in Whitinsville, we’re finally graduating to a new level of scale and productivity,” said Fleishmann, who serves on the AIM Board of Directors. “We’re very proud to be achieving this by not only retaining, but adding jobs here in the commonwealth.”

Potpourri is a national, multi-channel, direct-to-consumer company headquartered in North Billerica. Founded in 1963, Potpourri started as a single brand and has expanded to 15 brands through organic growth and acquisitions. The company today is among the leading multi-channel direct-to-consumer companies in America, and offers thousands of products in the areas of home décor, apparel, jewelry, gifts, toys, travel, and pet accessories.

The company distributes close to 250 million catalogs and ships more than five million packages annually.

Potpourri is leasing the Littleton facility from Braintree-based capital partners Condyne & Affiliates. Condyne has invested approximately $35 million in the building and Potpourri has so far invested close to $9 million in capital expenditures. Builders broker ground in April 2015 and completed construction in February.

MACOM, Lowell | October 26 | Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence | 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Think of MACOM as the roadbed for the information superhighway. The publicly held company – which makes semiconductors, components and subassemblies for analog RF, microwave, millimeter-wave and photonic applications – has become a global leader by satisfying society’s insatiable appetite for information.

That success translates into 400 jobs at the company headquarters in Lowell and 1,200 jobs globally.

The company’s technology increases the speed and coverage of the mobile Internet and enables fiber optic networks to carry previously unimaginable volumes of traffic to businesses, homes and datacenters. MACOM technology also enables next-generation radars for air traffic control and weather forecasting, as well as mission success on the modern networked battlefield

Headquartered in Lowell, MACOM has been a technology bellwether for Massachusetts since its founding as Microwave Associates in a Boston loft in 1950. MACOM today is certified to the ISO9001 international quality standard and ISO14001 environmental management standard. MACOM has multiple design centers, along with manufacturing, assembly and test, and operational facilities throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

MACOM has thrived in recent years by moving away from commodity markets for chips that go into appliances and automobiles and ramping up research and development to focus on higher-complexity products.

The company divides its revenue into three categories: Networks comprises 65 percent of sales and includes wired broadband, cellular infrastructure, and fiber optics. Aerospace and Defense, mainly radar and communication, is approximately 20 percent of sales.

In the defense sector, the company's fabrication plants are located in the U.S. and certified as a "trusted foundry" by the Department of Defense. The rest is composed of "multi-market," a catch-all for everything from industrial and scientific measurement to even medical, such as CAT scanners.

MACOM has also replaced low-margin products with more specialized high-margin products. The changes have boosted the company’s gross margin by five percentage points since 2011. Sales have also increased at double-digit growth rates.

Growth drivers on the horizon include the continued build-out of cellular and high-speed networks, including fiber optic networks where MACOM is increasingly building expertise, most notably with its recent acquisition of FiBest Limited, a Japanese supplier of optic sub-assemblies.

MACOM’s growth has created dividends for the communities in which it operates. The company attempts to align its core business values with initiatives that support the enhancement and revitalization of communities by providing needed infrastructure and access to programs for hunger relief, education, community development and military/veterans initiatives.

All of the regional award celebrations are free and open to AIM members, but registration is required.

Register | Pittsfield

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Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts employers

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