John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, recently joined Comcast Newsmakers and host Jenny Johnson for a look at the issues facing employers as the Massachusetts Legislature begins a new, two-year session.
John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, recently joined Comcast Newsmakers and host Jenny Johnson for a look at the issues facing employers as the Massachusetts Legislature begins a new, two-year session.
Lynn Tokarczyk may have helped to create more jobs and business investment in Massachusetts than anyone else.
The founder of the government incentives consulting firm, Business Development Strategies, Inc., (BDS) has assisted more than 100 Massachusetts businesses with creating 10,000 new jobs and retaining another 18,000 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.
Lynn Tokarczyk, second from left, stands with
BDS has worked on many of the largest expansion and retention projects in the state with companies that include Samsonite, Horizon Beverage, Keurig, New England Ice Cream, MACOM, MilliporeSigma, Moderna Therapeutics, and Waters. The project list also includes
Tokarczyk 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.
Upon launching BDS, Tokarczyk quickly became known as an innovative leader whose entrepreneurial spirit, competitive nature and diplomatic skills were having a positive impact on the state’s business community.
The global pet products manufacturer and distributor, Rolf C. Hagen, first contacted BDS in 2003 when it needed to expand its Mansfield operations. Fifteen years later, the company returned to BDS for assistance with securing tax incentives for a second expansion of its USA headquarters and distribution center.
The travel site, TripAdvisor, reached out to BDS when the company was planning a multi-million dollar real estate expansion in Needham. Even though the town had never before approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package, the BDS team fast-tracked the process to completion in just three months.
A member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Board of Trustees of the Milford Regional Healthcare Foundation and several Chambers of Commerce, Tokarczyk shares her skills with a wide range of organizations. 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 a frequent speaker at Economic Development forums.
Drawing from lessons learned early in her career, Tokarczyk tailors her consulting services to each client’s needs. “We manage the entire tax incentive process for our clients and we work round the clock to ensure that projects have a positive outcome,” she describes.
“We strive to be the best in the business by consistently earning our reputation for excellence.”
What is the single most important public-policy issue facing your business?
Sounds 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.
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, 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.
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.
More 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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
Answers 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:
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.
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.
Question 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.
AIM Executive Vice President John Regan recently discussed the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session and what it meant for employers on Comcast Newsmakers.