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Employer Confidence Falls Slightly in March

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index (BCI) declined a point to 63.5 in March, retreating from a 17-year high in February. The BCI has gained 1.1 points during the past 12 months and remains comfortably within the optimistic range. But virtually every element of the March confidence survey lost ground, led by a 1.7-point drop in the U.S. Index of national business conditions. Several employers blamed the Trump administration’s decision to level tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other products for their uncertain outlook.

Pioneer Valley Receives Grant to Pursue Healthcare Access Solutions

SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) announced that it, in partnership with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), has been selected as one of seven regions in the country by the National Center for Mobility Management to develop and test ways to increase community members’ access to healthcare services. Through this grant, the project team will be looking at barriers that patients face when trying to access healthcare for chronic conditions or sudden, non-emergency health needs. With missed appointment rates of up to 25% at some healthcare facilities, this project seeks to improve patient health outcomes, improve cost efficiency for healthcare providers, and optimize transportation systems for non-emergency healthcare. The project team, which includes representatives from PVTA, PVPC, Baystate Medical Center, Health New England, Stavros, Greater Springfield Senior Services, and the New North Citizens Council, represents a variety of stakeholders and perspectives to address this issue. The ultimate goal of this project, slated to conclude in October 2018, is to come up with a ‘pitch’ for a solution to the problem of missed appointments. In order to develop its pitch, the project team is going to host a series of focus groups, conduct surveys, and do on-site observations with the people involved in the medical scheduling and transportation process.

Single-family Home Sales in Valley Soar in February

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales rose by 27.4% in the Pioneer Valley in February compared to the same time last year, posting big gains in all three counties, while the median price rose 8.3% to $194,900, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were up 36.4%, while the median price shot up by 45.8% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 23.6%, while the median price was up 7.9%. In Hampshire County, sales rose by 27.7% from February 2017, while the median price was up 16.8%.

Chamber Board Votes to Endorse Pledge Against Human Trafficking

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber board of directors voted unanimously to publicly endorse the Western Massachusetts Businesses Against Human Trafficking Pledge and encourage members of the chamber to take the pledge. Convened by MGM Springfield, the chamber joined a coalition of businesses and organizations in 2017 to support the work already being conducted by law enforcement, community organizations, and faith-based groups across the region and to lend its assistance to help eliminate the scourge of human trafficking. Since then, the chamber has formalized its support by endorsing a pledge to increase awareness of and protect against human trafficking in its places of business, and to collaborate broadly across the community and region to address the issue. Coalition members include MGM Springfield, Peter Pan Bus Lines, the Springfield Regional Chamber, East of the River Five Town Chamber, the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (owner of Union Station), Sheraton Springfield, and Springfield/Worcester Hilton Garden Inns.

Amherst Chamber Moves to Volunteer Management

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will transition to an all-volunteer team structure for several months in order to better serve its members and leverage its robust network of volunteers. Peter Vickery, president of the chamber’s board of directors, said the change will also help the membership-based organization dedicate more resources to member-to-member services, networking, and advocacy. As part of the transition, interim Executive Director Jerry Guidera will step down from his organizational support role. The chamber will maintain a presence at the Visitor Information Center in downtown Amherst, co-located with the Amherst Business Improvement District.

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