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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial

A recent report issued by the Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning, Boston-based think tank, brought a new wave of criticism to the admissions practices at the University of Massachusetts and its flagship campus in Amherst, but what it really did — we hope — is open some eyes to some of the alarming trends in higher education today.

The report, released late last month, revealed that out-of-state applicants are often getting in at the expense of in-state residents with higher grade-point averages and SAT scores. The average GPA for admitted out-of-state students was 3.78, while for Massachusetts students it was 3.97.

Stating the blatantly obvious, Mary Connaughton, co-author of the report, said it isn’t supposed to be this way. “It’s actually heartbreaking,” she told the Boston Globe. “We don’t want our kids left out in the cold.”

Indeed, we don’t. But we need a much deeper analysis of the numbers and, more importantly, some aggressive action taken by the state elected leaders to perhaps reverse them.

Out-of-state students are preferred in this environment because they pay higher rates. Meanwhile, competition for those students (and all students, for that matter) is especially keen as high-school graduating classes continue to shrink in size, and that’s why out-of-state applicants are getting admitted to the Amherst campus with lower GPAs than young people in Chicopee, Lowell, and Fall River.

As the Pioneer Institute said, in essence, that’s bad — because this is the state university we’re talking about. It’s there, primarily, to serve state residents, especially as a lower-cost alternative to the many, many exemplary private colleges and universities in this and other states.

Through the decades, it has filled this role well, even as its stature has increased and it has become much more than a ‘fall-back school’ — a phrase used by so many who went there in the ’70s and ’80s to capture how it became their choice after they couldn’t get into, or couldn’t afford, those aforementioned private schools.

But in recent years, changing financial conditions have forced changes in admission policies, and we choose those words carefully. As the state’s commitment to higher education wavered, the university was seemingly left with little choice but to favor out-of-state students and the higher tuitions they paid.

There are other reasons for admitting out-of-students; for starters, they want to come here because of the excellence of the programs, which is a good thing, but the school also wants to create needed diversity by admitting students from other parts of the country and other parts of the world.

But mostly, it’s about money. The estimated cost of attending UMass Amherst for an in-state resident is just under $30,000; conversely, for an out-of-state resident, it’s between $47,600 and $49,000. You can do the math.

And so can the people trying to administer programs at the flagship campus. They would appear to have two choices: admit more in-state residents and incur losses in revenue that threaten quality of programs and perhaps the existence of others, or admit more out-of-state students.

The latter has been the course, and in 2016, the school actually gave more admissions to students who lived outside the state than to those who called the Baystate home — although, overall, more than 75% of those attending the school are from Massachusetts.

School officials believe that’s a good number. The Pioneer Institute doesn’t, and Connaughton believes the state should consider a cap — perhaps 18%, the number used by some other states — on out-of-state admissions so that deserving state residents don’t lose out.

We have a better idea — stronger support of higher education at the state level so those reviewing admissions applications don’t have to make the amount of tuition a student can pay the first number they look at.

Opinion

Opinion

By Beth Haddock

The e-mail can arrive in your inbox cleverly disguised, appearing to come from your boss, a co-worker, or some other person, business, or organization you trust.

But click on a link or attachment as instructed, and you could be in for a headache. You’ve just given cybercriminals access to your company’s data — and potentially put the business out of compliance with federal laws and regulations about protecting that data.

Phishing attacks are one of the most common security challenges individuals and businesses face when it comes to keeping information secure. The phisher’s goal is to steal sensitive and confidential information. That information could include Social Security numbers, credit-card and bank-account numbers, medical or educational records, dates of birth, and e-mail addresses.

That’s problematic because federal regulations may require that your business keep certain information secure. Just as an example, health providers are expected to safeguard the medical records of patients under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Such compliance issues can create unwelcome complications for businesses, which is why they need to be proactive in addressing phishing. Here are a few steps they can take to protect themselves.

Educate employees. The first line of defense against phishing is employees, because they are the ones likely to be targeted. Make them aware of the concerns and tell them to be suspicious of e-mails that offer them links with little explanation, or that ask for sensitive data, even if it appears to be coming from a trusted source.

Reassess who has access to data. Because employee mistakes are the most likely cause of a breach, retraining alone may not get the job done. A business or organization may want to take another look at who should have access to all that sensitive data, and make adjustments where possible.

If a breach happens, take action. You can’t just ignore the data breach. Right away, your IT team needs to be notified so they can get to work handling the breach. At the same time, it’s important to immediately contact your compliance officer or attorney so they can take appropriate steps for reporting the breach to the proper regulatory agencies.

These phishing expeditions from cybercriminals represent a serious challenge for businesses and for their compliance officers. It’s critical to be aware of the threat and to know that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and avoid finding yourself out of compliance with regulations that govern your sensitive data.

Beth Haddock, CEO and founder of Warburton Advisers, is the author of Triple Bottom-Line Compliance: How to Deliver Protection, Productivity and Impact. She has more than 20 years of experience as a compliance and business executive, and her consulting firm provides sustainable governance and compliance solutions to leading international corporations, technology companies, and nonprofits.

Opinion

It was encouraging to see that work will be starting again soon on the Innovation Center in downtown Springfield. Very encouraging.

It’s been almost a year since the work stopped, creating a strange and at the same time troubling blip in what seemed like an otherwise uninterrupted flow of progress, good news, momentum, and positive vibrations.

The center is just one project, but the halt to work — the result of what has been called a severe miscalculation of just how much this project cost and a resulting cash-flow problem that prompted the contractor to cease and desist — was unnerving on a number of levels.

Indeed, while all those involved were confident that work would start again soon and the project would live up it to its considerable hype, as the months went by and the quiet continued on Bridge Street, doubts grew about whether this important link in the chain would become reality.

Now, it seems likely that it will. And that’s good news on many levels.

Let’s start with DevelopSpringfield, the agency that conceived this project and saw its reputation take a small hit when the venture ran aground, if you will, just as its former director was leaving to take another opportunity.

The optics weren’t just bad, they were terrible. But the agency has bounced back from this setback to a large degree, and we will remind people that, from the beginning, and from a projects standpoint, DevelopSpringfield has taken on what could only be called the ‘hard ones.’ Make that the ‘really hard ones.’

This portfolio includes the Gunn Block in Mason Square across from the Springfield Technical Community College campus, a building that may be beyond rehabilitation at this point. But it also includes sites such as 77 and 83 Maple St. and 700 State St. (the former River Inn) — properties that have been successfully rehabilitated.

These are projects that no one else would seemingly touch. When you target longshot projects like this, things are not always going to go smoothly.

But there is a bigger-picture perspective when it comes to the Innovation Center. As we said, it is an important link in the chain, or important ingredient in the recipe for a successful downtown, if that analogy works better.

Indeed, for a central business district to work, it needs many different constituencies coming together. It needs workers (downtown has always had those); it needs residents (downtown has many of those, but it needs more, especially those in higher income brackets, and it will likely get more if talks for more market-rate options become reality); and it needs visitors, and downtown should have a much larger volume of those given the opening of MGM Springfield, the rehabilitation of Union Station, some new restaurants, and the possible revitalization of a moribund Tower Square.

But it also needs startups and young entrepreneurs, people who can make Main Street or Bridge Street, or any number of other streets in the downtown, their mailing address. In cities ranging from Cambridge to Seattle to Brooklyn (OK, that’s a borough, not a city), startups have been a huge factor in the off-the-charts growth of those communities.

They bring jobs, residents, commerce for service business, vibrancy, and something else — more startups.

The Innovation Center won’t do that all by itself, but it will be a huge contributor to that movement as it serves as home to not only Valley Venture Mentors, but eventually some of the startup businesses VVM mentors.

Given everything else going on downtown and all the things that have gone right, the restart of work on the Innovation Center may seem like a minor story.

It isn’t.

Opinion

Opinion

By the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast

Is your company handbook in need of a checkup? While handbooks vary in scope and detail, below are five policy areas employers should review.

Sexual harassment. With the rise in social awareness about sexual-harassment and workplace respect in general comes the need for companies to review the scope and depth of their policies, not only to ensure their policies are current regarding the process and procedures for handling complaints, but also in the messaging being communicated by leadership.

Equal opportunity. With additional protected classes coming into effect into 2018 in some jurisdictions (such as state initiatives designed to expand pregnant workers), employers should ensure their EEO policies cover these new protected groups.

Pregnancy accommodation. Some states, including Massachusetts, have enacted pregnancy-accommodation laws that will provide expanded communications and policies to inform employees about their rights to pregnancy accommodations and what those might entail.

Standards of conduct or employee conduct. With a new composition of board members at the National Labor Relations Board come new interpretations on a variety of subjects like civility, social media, and confidentiality.

Leaves of absence. As states continue to adopt sick-leave legislation and/or paid family-leave legislation, companies will either need to add leave policies to comport with the new requirements or update their existing policies to ensure that they are properly aligned.

In addition to these hot topics, here are five more handbook pitfalls to avoid:

Gender-identifying pronouns. Avoid using language like ‘he’ and ‘he/she’ in policies. Rather use language like ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘employee,’ or ‘employees’ where possible.

Contract language. Avoid language or phrases such as ‘terms or conditions of employment,’ ‘in consideration,’ and ‘employer and employee agree’ that could potentially leave the door open for a court to construe the document as a contract.

Handbook versions and revisions. Failure to maintain revision dates, execute and maintain signed acknowledgement forms confirming receipt of the current handbook revision, or identify in the handbook that the current handbook supersedes prior editions all can raise questions of which policies apply..

Avoid legal and ambiguous terminology where possible. Your employees are not lawyers. Use easy-to-understand, objective language in policies, particularly in discipline and related matters. Provide clear examples of behavior to provide a better understanding of employer expectations.

Avoid automatic termination or ‘cliff’ language in leave-of-absence policies. Leave policies that dictate that termination will automatically result after a certain amount of time could be construed as unlawful by a court or agency because it disregards the employer’s obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to engage in a “good-faith, interactive process” and fails to consider whether an extended leave of absence would be an undue hardship on the employer.

 

Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast

Opinion

Editorial

Winter hung in for so long, we thought spring might never arrive. But it has.

Indeed, the first of the college commencements were last weekend (it wasn’t so long ago that students didn’t gown up until after or just before Memorial Day, but that’s another story), and there are several more this weekend.

Meanwhile, the high-school graduation ceremonies are only a few weeks away. These occasions serve as reminders that soon, if not already, thousands of young people will be looking for summer jobs.

In what has become an almost annual plea, we strongly encourage area companies large and small to help them in their quest.

Summer jobs are important not only to young people and their families, but for the entire region, and for a number of reasons, some of which actually fall into the category of economic development.

But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, the more obvious benefits.

Yes, summer jobs put money in the pockets of young people, something that’s especially important as the costs of attending college rise and more and more families struggle to meet those costs. But there are many benefits beyond the paycheck.

As those of us who have been there know, first jobs — and second jobs and third jobs — are important learning experiences, whether they take place at Mercy Medical Center, MassMutual, Friendly’s, Six Flags, a vegetable farm in Hadley, the corner pizza parlor, or one of the Balise company’s new car washes. Each and every job is a learning experience.

Those who hold those jobs learn about the responsibility of coming to work every day and working as a part of a team to deliver products and services. And about being on time and providing solid customer service.

Meanwhile, they’re also developing skills and learning about a particular field and the career opportunities that lie within it.

Which brings us to that economic-development component of this discussion and, more specifically, the workforce-development component.

If you read BusinessWest regularly, and thoroughly, you can probably recall many occasions when, in the course of tracing their career path, the subject in question will talk about how a summer job or internship altered their trajectory and thus altered their life.

You hear it from doctors and nurses, bankers and accountants, machine-shop owners, and even business writers. A summer job opened their eyes — to a great company, to opportunities, and to a career.

It doesn’t happen all the time, certainly, but it happens enough.

When you look at all the reasons why companies should work hard to create a summer job or two (or 10 if they can manage it) — from that exposure to their company to having some young people to bounce ideas off and gain input from, to simply getting some much-needed work done — it’s clear that they can and must make the effort.

It’s easy to say they don’t have the budget or that summer help is too much trouble or that it’s just too hard to get good help.

We encourage companies not to do what’s easy, but instead do what’s right — for them, the young people they’ll hire, and the region as a whole.

Spring is here, and that means it’s time to think about creating summer jobs.

Opinion

Opinion

By Bob Rio

A shortage of natural-gas capacity during the December-January cold snap added $1.7 billion to the electric bills of business and residential customers in New England while erasing all the environmental benefits from solar energy in Massachusetts during 2017.

Now you know why Massachusetts employers support the idea of expanding natural-gas infrastructure in the region.

New data released this month by the Massachusetts Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and compiled by Concentric Energy Advisors underscores the economic and environmental damage wrought by our energy status quo.

Natural-gas supplies in the region are tight during the winter. Despite abundant supplies just a few states away, pipeline infrastructure to get it here is inadequate, and efforts to address this issue have been stymied by those who believe upgrading our natural-gas infrastructure will stall progress on transitioning to clean energy.

Electricity generators simply don’t have enough natural gas to operate during the bitter cold because most of the available gas is used to serve businesses and homeowners.

To satisfy the increased demand for electricity, power plants burn stored backup oil and coal. The lights stay on, but greenhouse-gas emissions increase exponentially since oil and coal emit more carbon than natural gas. The cold-weather shortage of natural gas has become so common in recent winters that power generators are paid to store oil, whether or not it is needed, as sort of an insurance policy funded by ratepayers through higher electric rates.

According to the Concentric report, the amount of coal and oil burned during just a two-week period generated 1.3 million tons of extra greenhouse-gas emissions over what would have been emitted if gas had been available. The ratepayer cost was $1.7 billion higher than the previous winter — most of which will show up in next winter’s energy bills. In fact, Eversource recently sought a 15% increase in electric rates for customers in Western Mass. for the period July through December.

How much is 1.3 million tons? The extra greenhouse gases negated all the greenhouse-gas savings from all the solar energy produced in Massachusetts throughout 2017. It’s a problem that cannot be solved by adding more solar capacity, since the highest need for natural gas is in the winter, when solar output is at its lowest.

Had the cold period continued (or if another came later in the year), brownouts would likely had occurred. ISO-NE, the regional power-grid operator, reports that the system was about three days away from crashing, as some plants were running out of oil and had to curtail their output.

This dangerous mix of rising costs, rising emissions, and potential brownouts comes at a time when other states are dangling low energy costs in front of Massachusetts employers to persuade those companies to expand elsewhere. It’s not a tough sell — our energy costs are nearly double those of states in other regions of the country.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, along with other members of the Coalition for Sustainable Energy, support a balanced approach to address the region’s energy problems. That approach embraces renewables — AIM has supported the development of both hydro power and offshore wind — while at the same time acknowledging the stresses on our current system and the economic and environmental damage that is occurring.

Bob Rio is AIM’s senior vice president, Government Affairs.

Opinion

Editorial

And then … things got even more interesting. And that’s saying something.

There was already considerable anticipation, speculation, curiosity, and intrigue involving the $950 million casino taking shape in Springfield’s South End, but in recent days, it seems everyone simply doubled down on all of the above.

For starters, MGM Resorts International announced that the casino would open ahead of schedule — August 24th to be exact — giving this region a date with destiny and a ramp-up period that’s only been accelerated. Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts chief executive Mike Maddox told CNBC late last week that the corporation isn’t planning to sell the $2.5 billion casino currently under construction in Everett. That move is a clear effort to tamp down the speculation that a sale is imminent, and that MGM Resorts might be interested in buying the property, thus putting a huge question mark on the Springfield Casino.

With that announcement as background material, a Boston Globe columnist — no, not the one accused of embellishing material he wrote about the Boston Marathon bombings — turned up in Springfield last week and started asking elected officials and men and women on the street for their thoughts on the prospect of a name other than ‘MGM’ going up on the casino rising in the South End.

One of those asked that question, a business owner in the South End, reportedly said “we can’t hold them (MGM) back if they want to buy something else … but I’ve got one of those big brooms and we’re going to chase MGM with that broom if there’s something goofy going on.”

Like we said, things have gotten even more interesting. And there’s a good chance that this pattern will only continue until August 24 and beyond.

For now, maybe a deep breath — or two — is in order.

Let’s start with what we know. The MGM name will be on the South End casino when it opens; that’s not going to change. All systems are go on that score, and the city is moving quickly to make sure the downtown is ready for the estimated 12,000 visitors a day and looks the part of a community on the rise.

If you visit downtown, you’ll notice that the streets are being paved, sidewalks are being redone, police substations are being readied, flowers are being planted — and those are just some of the steps being taken.

As for the MGM Springfield, it is moving ahead aggressively with putting a workforce in place — it must feel good about that daunting process if it moved up the opening to August — and with finalizing contracts with area vendors (see story, page 6). And, of course, the construction work continues, outside and especially inside.

A process that began more than five years ago and has been talked about for more than a decade is in the home stretch, the final furlong, as they say, and the excitement is palpable.

As for the speculation about the Wynn property and whether the MGM flag will fly there instead of in the South End … it’s just that, speculation. But in keeping with this region’s somewhat pessimistic outlook and inferiority complex (yes, it’s real) some are already resigned to the worst happening.

Maybe it will, but why would Wynn seemingly give up on a project, and a market, it fought so hard to get into? Yes, the company’s reputation has taken a big hit with the controversy surrounding ousted chairman Steve Wynn and it will take another one if an investigation concludes that executives looked the other way when it came to Wynn’s indiscretions, and selling that license may be a way to cut the company’s losses. But the Boston market is extremely lucrative, and many are now saying that it is likely that Wynn will fight hard to stay in it.

One thing we’ve learned in this market from our limited experience with the gaming industry is that the picture can change quickly and that the landscape can be altered in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

We’ve seen that happen already in the South End. Could we see it again?

There already was plenty of intrigue. Now, it’s like everyone just doubled down.

Opinion

Editorial

If you haven’t noticed yet (and you probably have, because that special section is where everyone turns first), BusinessWest has changed up the format when it comes to presenting its 40 Under Forty honorees.

In years past, there were short profiles written by staff members, who, by the way, considered that assignment among the most enjoyable within a given year. However, this year, we decided to switch things up and offer a questionnaire of sorts.

Indeed, we gave our honorees a series of questions and informed them they could answer as many as they wanted, so long as they kept to a word count. The questions ranged from what would be considered traditional — “How do you define success?” — to the decidedly not so traditional — “What will work colleagues say at your funeral?”

Almost everyone answered that first one, and very few took a stab at the latter, but that’s not important.

What is important is that this year, those of us at BusinessWest decided to let our honorees do more of the talking — and they certainly did. And by doing so, they’ve given all of us some things to think about.

We’ll get back to that in a minute. First, the class of 2018…

Like those that came before it, this class is diverse in every respect, meaning everything from gender to geography to the fields they’ve chosen. Indeed, virtually every sector is represented by these 40 individuals, including healthcare, financial services, education, nonprofit management, law, retail, and more. And many of them have chosen to work for themselves, not for someone else, something we’re seeing more of in recent years.

And, like most all of the 440 honorees who came before them, the members of the class of 2018 are involved in the community, supporting nonprofits and causes ranging from the Zoo at Forest Park to Link to Libraries to the United Way, and putting their many talents to a different, commendable use while doing so.

Unlike those previous classes, though, these honorees got to tell us a little more about themselves. They had more opportunity to tell us what’s on their minds and about what’s important to them. And, again, they took full advantage of it.

Like when we asked them which actor or actress would portray them on the big screen. People gave nods to Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Paul Rudd, and even Robert Redford. We think — we hope — he meant a much younger Robert Redford, but we digress.

Perhaps the most intriguing question, and the one that generated the most responses, was that one about success and how it is defined. We understand that there is certainly a politically correct way to answer this question, but we believe our honorees were quite sincere when they implied strongly (and we’re paraphrasing here) that success isn’t measured by the number on the paycheck — although that’s part of it.

Instead, our honorees noted, it’s measured by how happy and fulfilled someone is — not by the job they hold, but by the life they’re living.

One honoree actually summoned that old ‘I don’t live to work, I work to live’ line, but the others were saying essentially saying the same thing.

If you read all 40 responses (that will take time, but make some; it’s worth it), you’ll find that many of these individuals count their parents as their best role models and mentors, and consider it their unofficial mission in life to have someone write the same thing about them in 20 or 30 years.

Overall, it’s very refreshing and, as they say in this business, good reading.

If you haven’t done that yet, get to it next.

Opinion

Editorial

If you haven’t noticed yet (and you probably have, because that special section is where everyone turns first), BusinessWest has changed up the format when it comes to presenting its 40 Under Forty honorees.

In years past, there were short profiles written by staff members, who, by the way, considered that assignment among the most enjoyable within a given year. However, this year, we decided to switch things up and offer a questionnaire of sorts.

Indeed, we gave our honorees a series of questions and informed them they could answer as many as they wanted, so long as they kept to a word count. The questions ranged from what would be considered traditional — “How do you define success?” — to the decidedly not so traditional — “What will work colleagues say at your funeral?”

Almost everyone answered that first one, and very few took a stab at the latter, but that’s not important.

What is important is that this year, those of us at BusinessWest decided to let our honorees do more of the talking — and they certainly did. And by doing so, they’ve given all of us some things to think about.

We’ll get back to that in a minute. First, the class of 2018…

Like those that came before it, this class is diverse in every respect, meaning everything from gender to geography to the fields they’ve chosen. Indeed, virtually every sector is represented by these 40 individuals, including healthcare, financial services, education, nonprofit management, law, retail, and more. And many of them have chosen to work for themselves, not for someone else, something we’re seeing more of in recent years.

And, like most all of the 440 honorees who came before them, the members of the class of 2018 are involved in the community, supporting nonprofits and causes ranging from the Zoo at Forest Park to Link to Libraries to the United Way, and putting their many talents to a different, commendable use while doing so.

Unlike those previous classes, though, these honorees got to tell us a little more about themselves. They had more opportunity to tell us what’s on their minds and about what’s important to them. And, again, they took full advantage of it.

Like when we asked them which actor or actress would portray them on the big screen. People gave nods to Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Paul Rudd, and even Robert Redford. We think — we hope — he meant a much younger Robert Redford, but we digress.

Perhaps the most intriguing question, and the one that generated the most responses, was that one about success and how it is defined. We understand that there is certainly a politically correct way to answer this question, but we believe our honorees were quite sincere when they implied strongly (and we’re paraphrasing here) that success isn’t measured by the number on the paycheck — although that’s part of it.

Instead, our honorees noted, it’s measured by how happy and fulfilled someone is — not by the job they hold, but by the life they’re living.

One honoree actually summoned that old ‘I don’t live to work, I work to live’ line, but the others were saying essentially saying the same thing.

If you read all 40 responses (that will take time, but make some; it’s worth it), you’ll find that many of these individuals count their parents as their best role models and mentors, and consider it their unofficial mission in life to have someone write the same thing about them in 20 or 30 years.

Overall, it’s very refreshing and, as they say in this business, good reading.

If you haven’t done that yet, get to it next.

Opinion

Editorial

And then … things got even more interesting. And that’s saying something.

There was already considerable anticipation, speculation, curiosity, and intrigue involving the $950 million casino taking shape in Springfield’s South End, but in recent days, it seems everyone simply doubled down on all of the above.

For starters, MGM Resorts International announced that the casino would open ahead of schedule — August 24th to be exact — giving this region a date with destiny and a ramp-up period that’s only been accelerated. Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts chief executive Mike Maddox told CNBC late last week that the corporation isn’t planning to sell the $2.5 billion casino currently under construction in Everett. That move is a clear effort to tamp down the speculation that a sale is imminent, and that MGM Resorts might be interested in buying the property, thus putting a huge question mark on the Springfield Casino.

With that announcement as background material, a Boston Globe columnist — no, not the one accused of embellishing material he wrote about the Boston Marathon bombings — turned up in Springfield last week and started asking elected officials and men and women on the street for their thoughts on the prospect of a name other than ‘MGM’ going up on the casino rising in the South End.

One of those asked that question, a business owner in the South End, reportedly said “we can’t hold them (MGM) back if they want to buy something else … but I’ve got one of those big brooms and we’re going to chase MGM with that broom if there’s something goofy going on.”

Like we said, things have gotten even more interesting. And there’s a good chance that this pattern will only continue until August 24 and beyond.

For now, maybe a deep breath — or two — is in order.

Let’s start with what we know. The MGM name will be on the South End casino when it opens; that’s not going to change. All systems are go on that score, and the city is moving quickly to make sure the downtown is ready for the estimated 12,000 visitors a day and looks the part of a community on the rise.

If you visit downtown, you’ll notice that the streets are being paved, sidewalks are being redone, police substations are being readied, flowers are being planted — and those are just some of the steps being taken.

As for the MGM Springfield, it is moving ahead aggressively with putting a workforce in place — it must feel good about that daunting process if it moved up the opening to August — and with finalizing contracts with area vendors (see story, page 6). And, of course, the construction work continues, outside and especially inside.

A process that began more than five years ago and has been talked about for more than a decade is in the home stretch, the final furlong, as they say, and the excitement is palpable.

As for the speculation about the Wynn property and whether the MGM flag will fly there instead of in the South End … it’s just that, speculation. But in keeping with this region’s somewhat pessimistic outlook and inferiority complex (yes, it’s real) some are already resigned to the worst happening.

Maybe it will, but why would Wynn seemingly give up on a project, and a market, it fought so hard to get into? Yes, the company’s reputation has taken a big hit with the controversy surrounding ousted chairman Steve Wynn and it will take another one if an investigation concludes that executives looked the other way when it came to Wynn’s indiscretions, and selling that license may be a way to cut the company’s losses. But the Boston market is extremely lucrative, and many are now saying that it is likely that Wynn will fight hard to stay in it.

One thing we’ve learned in this market from our limited experience with the gaming industry is that the picture can change quickly and that the landscape can be altered in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

We’ve seen that happen already in the South End. Could we see it again?

There already was plenty of intrigue. Now, it’s like everyone just doubled down.