MassMutual CEO Provides Formula for Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Education Bill Contains Business-Backed Standards

Posted by Katie Holahan on Nov 21, 2019 11:36:35 AM

The Massachusetts Legislature yesterday approved a $1.5 billion education-funding bill that includes measures supported by the business community allowing the state to hold school districts accountable for how they spend the money.

State House 2015The bill, which now heads to Governor Charlie Baker for his consideration, will align community needs with goals and outcome-based measurements, creating an education system that is responsive to the demands of the future workforce.  AIM has long insisted that preparing students for college and the workforce remain a vital component of the education-funding discussion.

“By requiring school districts to consider how they might best prepare students for both college and careers, and by collecting and reporting on important data metrics, the conference committee report strengthens our ability as a commonwealth to support students as they choose from diverse opportunities after high school,” AIM President and Chief Executive Officer John Regan wrote in a letter to lawmakers this morning.

“Our efforts to enhance students’ economic opportunities should not end at graduation.  There is still much important work to be done to close racial and socio-economic achievement gaps and bring more career-connected learning to Massachusetts schools. Employers across the commonwealth are proud to be part of this continued effort and discussion.” 

The final version of the bill emerged this week from a House-Senate conference committee. The House passed a version in October that included strong accountability measures, but the Senate version omitted some of those measures.

Education matters to Massachusetts employers because the commonwealth’s highly regarded schools provide a competitive advantage over other states and countries. AIM’s member companies, however, have become increasingly concerned that Massachusetts students are graduating from high school without the knowledge and skills they need to enter the workforce or to succeed in college. 

At the same time, businesses report a persistent shortage of qualified candidates to fill open jobs, many of which pay high wages in growing industries. The skills shortage appears to be impeding economic growth and expansion - the state economy contracted modestly during the third quarter because of workforce capacity limits.

AIM applauds the House and a Senate for their passage and urges Governor Baker to sign the education funding bill.

Topics: Education Reform, Education, Workforce Training

Accountability Key to Education Funding Reform

Posted by John Regan on Sep 3, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Massachusetts is about to undertake the most sweeping restructuring of public-education funding since 1993.

What does it mean for employers?

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

Employers do not support the sort of reform being promoted by some advocates who have been calling at rallies for a “blank check” of billions of dollars of state aid with no accountability.

The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to debate changes this fall to the formula used to provide money to school districts around the commonwealth. The formula was developed in 1993 as a way to equalize per-pupil school spending between poor communities with shrinking property tax bases and wealthy communities that invest significant amounts of money on their school systems.

But most people now agree that the so-called Foundation Budget is not working.

While the National Assessment of Education Progress indicates that Massachusetts has the best public schools in the nation, that same assessment shows significant achievement gaps between white students and black and Latino students. Massachusetts finds itself in the bottom half of states with respect to Black-White achievement gaps across almost all grades in reading and math and in the bottom third of states with respect to Latino-White achievement gaps across all grades in both reading and math.

The achievement gap matters to employers confronting a persistent shortage of qualified workers in an economy running at 2.9 percent unemployment. With a demographic cliff looming as baby boomer retirements threaten to shrink the size of the state labor force, Massachusetts cannot overlook any citizen who might help Bay State employers compete in the global economy.

There are other issues as well. A report this year by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and AIM found that employers continue to see a gap between the overall performance of the schools and the job those schools are doing preparing students for the workforce. Business leaders want schools to improve the applied skills taught to students, hire better teachers, increase hands-on and vocational/technical education, and forge business partnerships.

Reforming the school funding formula will probably cost taxpayers around $1 billion. Employers understand better than anyone the importance of making strategic investments, but they also know that pouring money into a broken system is not the answer. Employer support for education reform hinges on the establishment of clear and measurable standards that will allow everyone to determine whether changes are working for students, teachers and the commonwealth.

The evidence is clear that more money does not equal better educational performance. An online analysis of school funding by MBAE in June showed that schools serving similar student populations and spending the same amount per student can achieve dramatically different results.

For example, an elementary school in Winchendon spending $13,644 per student and serving 38 percent low-income students and 18 percent special education students has only 31 percent of students on grade level in math, while a school in Revere spending $13,913 per student and serving 43 percent low-income students and 20 percent special education students has 67 percent on grade level in math.

AIM and the rest of the Massachusetts business community insist that the following accountability measured by part of any education funding reform:

  1. Fully implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission through a multi-year, fully funded revision to the Chapter 70 formula that will achieve adequacy and equity for all students. Funding provisions should include revisions to the charter-school tuition reimbursement program schedule and percentages.

  2. Maintain and enhance the state accountability system to ensure new funds go to those students who need them the most and are used effectively to close achievement gaps, set statewide and district targets for closing those gaps with annual reporting on progress, and collect and report on data related to college and career readiness. The state should require, at a minimum, a user-friendly set of comparable data from school to school that correlates with student post-graduation success.

  3. Add a new Chapter 70 enrollment category for Early College and Career Pathways to enable replication and expansion of these promising high-school reform strategies. Every effort should be made to create a new approach to preparing students for the future, including the awarding of industry-recognized credentials, work-based learning opportunities, and successful college and career pathway programs.

  4. Provide significant and supplemental funding for innovation and the implementation of best practices in under-performing schools. It is vital to set aside money to support grants to schools and districts to innovate and create new approaches to closing achievement, opportunity, and skills gaps.

  5. Enact Innovation Partnership Zone legislation to provide communities with a new tool for empowering schools and educators to address persistent low-performance and encourage innovation. Allowing for the expansion of autonomy and flexibility for educators, with school and zone level decision-making, these “zones” can create collaborative partnerships for success and should be extended for voluntary use across the state.

MBAE will conduct a State House briefing on September 10 at 11 am to allow employers to outline the business view of education reform to members of the legislature. The briefing will include individual meetings with legislators to discuss the need for accountability in any changes to the school funding formula. Please contact MBAE to register.

AIM joined other business groups in August to urge Jeffery C. Riley, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, to ensure that additional money provided to schools in the current state budget reach the students for which it is intended.

Please contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, for updates on education issues.

Topics: Education Reform, Massachusetts Legislature, Education

An Open Letter to Raise Up Massachusetts

Posted by John Regan on Aug 26, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Editor's note - Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of community organizations, religious groups and labor unions behind the so-called "millionaires tax," sent an open letter to legislators last week maintaining that "the current transportation and education funding crisis" is the responsibility of the business community. AIM President and CEO John Regan responds.

Dear Raise Up Massachusetts, 

We are in receipt of your open letter to the Massachusetts Legislature regarding “significant and lasting” investments in education and transportation. 

Small BusinessOf interest was the following sentence: “In fact, business groups are actively organizing to avoid paying their fair share.” 

Given that we worked together for months to craft a compromise on paid family and medical leave, I believe that your letter represents a serious statement of position and concern, rather than a political stunt. We spent too many hours sitting across the bargaining table from one another for me to question the fact that you believe that businesses do not pay their fair share.  

But that assertion does not comport with facts: 

  • Massachusetts employers provide 3.2 million private-sector jobs at a mean annual wage of $63,910 to the citizens of Massachusetts (US Bureau of Labor Statistics); half of those 3.2 million jobs are in small to medium-sized businesses (US Small Business Administration) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay more than $3.3 billion annually in corporate excise and other state taxes (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $4.9 billion annually in local property taxes to support schools, public safety and municipal services (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $22.8 billion per year to provide health insurance to their employees (Center for Health Information and Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers generated more than $567 billion worth of goods and services during 2018 (US Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually for workers compensation insurance premiums to protect the financial security of injured workers.
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually into the state unemployment insurance system.
  • Massachusetts employers will on October 1 begin to pay another $1 billion annually for the new paid family and medical leave program. 
  • The top 100 corporate charitable contributors in Massachusetts compiled by The Boston Business Journal gave more than $300 million to Bay State non-profit causes last year, including AIM Vision Award winner Cummings Foundation, which donated $34 million to charity.  This is just a slice of the money and time companies give to support their communities. 
  • State tax collections increased nearly 7 percent during the past fiscal year, surpassing budget benchmarks by $1.1 billion.  

Thousands of hard-working Massachusetts employers, from software startups to corner grocery stores, spend every day paying their fair share to the commonwealth by providing economic opportunity and prosperity from Boston to the Berkshires. 

These employers understand the need to address intractable issues such as transportation and education, but they also understand that the recent examples provided by Connecticut and New Jersey prove that you cannot solve these problems by punitively taxing certain businesses or individuals. 

I am delighted to engage in serious conversations with Raise Up and any other groups seeking to ensure the economic future of Massachusetts. 


John R. Regan, President & CEO 
Associated Industries of Massachusetts 

Topics: Education, Transportation, Taxation

More Substance, Fewer Stunts in Education Debate

Posted by John Regan on Aug 7, 2019 8:30:00 AM

A so-called “beach party” set up outside the State House last week by education funding advocates was a disrespectful and frivolous stunt carried out by people who should instead be focused on the well-being and economic futures of Massachusetts schoolchildren. 

BeachPartyThe point of the beach party, complete with beach balls and shaved ice with flavors such as “accountability slime lime,” was to excoriate the Legislature for going on summer recess without passing a massive restructuring of the funding formula for public schools. 

The fiscal 2020 budget Governor Charlie Baker signed last week includes a $268 million increase in state assistance for K-12 education, but activists want a multi-year commitment to ramp up education spending and address gaps in the quality of education from one community to another.

The beach party was the latest in a series of questionable antics perpetrated by the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance and allies who want billions of dollars in additional education spending with no accountability for results.

In May, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy posted a photo to Facebook of herself and three other women smiling and clutching fake pearl necklaces with a caption that read, "Alice Peisch, let go of the wealth and #FundOurFuture."

Rep. Alice Peisch, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, often wears pearls and the prop suggested that she could not understand the circumstances of poorer students because she lives in the wealthy suburb of Wellesley.

Members of the teachers union have also been observed at public meetings carrying blank checks to signal their distaste for any measurements to accompany additional spending.

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

The stakes in the debate are enormous, beginning with an estimated price tag in the neighborhood of $1 billion. The governor and the Massachusetts Legislature deserve credit for proceeding cautiously on education reform.

AIM members who wish to be updated about the education reform debate may contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs. 

Topics: Education Reform, Education, Workforce Training

Video Blog: Attorney General Healey Addresses Business Community

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 31, 2019 9:34:25 AM

Attorney General Maura Healey told more than 800 business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting May 17 that she looks forward to collaborating with employers on key issues such as education, substance abuse, health care and clean energy. Watch her remarks here.

Topics: Education, Health Care, Attorney General Maura Healey

AIM to Present Gould Education, Training Award to Snapchef

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 16, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A Massachusetts company that has become the largest culinary training and staffing organization in New England will receive the 2019 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.

SnapchefSnapchef, a Dorchester-based company founded 17 years ago by husband and wife Todd and Daniella Snopkowski, provides free culinary training to thousands of people who often subsequently find jobs through the company’s staffing operation. The company places students in entry level positions at blue-chip clients that include the region’s most prominent universities, hospitals, five-star hotels, food service corporations, caterers and corporate cafeterias.

The Snopkowskis have also established deep connections with community groups, churches and culinary schools to address the issue of culinary job readiness training and job creation.

“Snapchef is a wonderful example of the employer community rolling up its sleeves to solve the ongoing shortage of qualified workers in Massachusetts,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“AIM is pleased to honor a company that not only employs more than 1,000 people throughout Massachusetts but also understands the broader significance of work and economic opportunity.”

Snapchef maintains training kitchens in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Providence, R.I., where students get to take home the food they make while training and ride to job sites in Snapchef’s fleet of more than 50 vans.

The cornerstones of the Snapchef educational program are a 14-unit Fast-Track Culinary Training Program, ServeSafe classes and a 12-week Chef Apprenticeship Program that includes 240 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of supervised, on-the-job training.

“We help people find a career, not simply a job for one day,” said Snopkowski, who developed the Snapchef model after growing frustrated with culinary placement services while serving as a chef at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and for Goldman Sachs in New York.

“And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry,” he told BusinessWest magazine in Springfield.

The company has earned a multitude of honors for its work. CEO Todd Snopkowski received the 2015 US Small Business Association Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, as well as the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. Daniella Snopkowski, who serves as CFO, has been named among the Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 business leaders.

Snapchef – the name is a variation on Snopkowski’s family nickname of “Snap” or “Snapper” - provides workers to clients ranging from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

And Todd and Daniella Snopkowski believe the company is just getting started. Snapchef is developing proprietary software for its clients and eventually plans to franchise Snapchef outside of New England.

The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and to the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth.

In 2000, the award was named after the late John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training in Massachusetts.

Past recipients of the Gould Award include the late Jack Rennie, Chairman and Founder of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; Middlesex Community College; Gordon Lankton, President and CEO (retired), NYPRO Inc.; William Edgerly, Chairman Emeritus, State Street Corporation; Northeastern University; The Davis Family Foundation; Intel Massachusetts; EMC Corporation; IBM; David Driscoll Commissioner (Retired) Massachusetts Department of Education; State Street Corporation and Year UP Boston; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership; Brockton High School; the Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program; Christo Rey Boston High School; CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Gould Education and Workforce Training

Video Blog | Gearing Up to Address the Skills Crisis

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 28, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A key element to addressing the persistent shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts will be encouraging collaboration among employers, schools, community colleges, universities and training providers to establish a consistent and logical path from learning to employment.

What will those collaborations look like?

They will probably look a lot like one developed last year by AIM member Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston and the Prime Motor Group of Westwood, which operates 70 auto dealerships throughout the US.

Prime had for many years hired graduates of Ben Franklin’s automotive technology program, but last year stepped up its involvement with Prime Scholars, a partnership that provides students both financial aid and the opportunity to get real-world training with one of the region’s largest auto groups.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Workforce Shortage

2018 Gould Award Honors Springfield Empowerment Zone

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 9, 2018 9:08:15 AM

A model collaboration among the City of Springfield, Springfield Public Schools, the Springfield Education Association, teachers, administrators, local philanthropy, and the commonwealth to turn around 11 middle and high schools in Springfield will receive the 2018 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.

Gould2018Now in its third year and serving more than 5,000 middle and high school students, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership represents a groundbreaking initiative in which individual schools operate with autonomy over hiring, budget, schedule, curriculum, and culture.

Schools in the Zone are overseen by an independent board made up of majority community leaders. It remains part of the district and is accountable to the district and the state under a performance contract.

AIM will present the Gould Award at its Annual Meeting on May 18 at the Westin Waterfront hotel in Boston. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will keynote the event, which will also include presentation of AIM Vision Awards to philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings and the financial services company MassMutual.

“The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership is an example of what can happen when teachers and administrators are provided with the freedom and accountability to make schools better for students,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“AIM is pleased to honor a project that brings together city and district leaders, the local teachers union, the school committee, the commonwealth, educators, parents and students in a key economic area of Massachusetts.”

The Springfield Empowerment Zone has generated bipartisan support on both the state and local levels. Governor Charlie Baker highlighted the initiative in his State of the State speech in January.

“These zones…allow educators to make the changes to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said.

Meanwhile, State Senator Eric Lesser, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Springfield, said “Springfield has been able to avoid a state takeover and create a model for getting everyone talking to each other and all the stakeholders working collaboratively.”

The Board of Directors that oversees the Empowerment Zone is chaired by Chris Gabrieli, chief executive of the education nonprofit Empower Schools. The board also includes Mayor Sarno, School Superintendent Dan Warwick, School Committee Vice Chair Chris Collins, and prominent community members John Davis, Senior Trustee at the Davis Foundation; Beverly Holmes, a former MassMutual executive and now active church pastor; and James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston.

The Springfield Education Association, the union representing teachers in the city, negotiated a separate agreement for educators at schools included in the Empowerment Zone.  Union and Zone leaders maintain an active partnership in their efforts to improve education and create collaborative environments within Zone schools. 

Local and state officials and educators caution that it is too early to declare success, but they are encouraged by improving test results and collaborative alignment among district leadership, unions, school committee members, educators, school leaders, and more.

Superintendent Warwick reflected on the progress of the Zone saying “what I see going on in the schools – the energy, the excitement, the buy-in from students – you can already see these schools have improved and they’re going to continue to improve because of the structures that are being put in place”.

The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and to the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth.

In 2000, the award was named after John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training in Massachusetts.

Past recipients of the Gould Award include; the late Jack Rennie, Chairman and Founder of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Middlesex Community College, Gordon Lankton, President and CEO (retired), NYPRO Inc., William Edgerly, Chairman Emeritus, State Street Corporation, Northeastern University, The Davis Family Foundation, Intel Massachusetts, EMC Corporation, IBM, David Driscoll Commissioner (Retired) Massachusetts Department of Education, State Street Corporation and Year UP Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Brockton High School, Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program, Christo Rey Boston High School, CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries. 

Register for the AIM Annual Meeting 


Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Education, Gould Education and Workforce Training

Tech Foundry Addresses Burgeoning Need for IT Workers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 11, 2017 3:31:56 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award to Tech Foundry of Springfield.

Founded in 2013, Tech Foundry has trained more than 100 people ranging from high school students to older workers – many from underserved and at-risk populations – to meet the accelerating demand for qualified IT workers in western Massachusetts.

Here is their story...


Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Education, Gould Education and Workforce Training

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