Daily News

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers weakened considerably during June as tariffs, rising raw-material costs, and approval of paid family and medical leave in the Bay State raised concerns about business growth. 

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index dropped 5.3 points to 61.3 last month, its lowest level since August 2017. Confidence remains well within the optimistic range, but the June decline left the BCI slightly below its level of a year ago.

Though analysts say the volatility in business confidence during May and June may reflect some statistical anomalies, the comments provided by employers on the monthly AIM survey suggest that companies are becoming increasingly concerned about a perfect storm of issues on the federal and state levels.

“It is certainly significant that the AIM Business Confidence Index is lower than it was in June 2017. It is also significant that many of the individual indicators that make up the overall index — ranging from employer hiring plans to their views of the Massachusetts economy — are also lower than they were a year ago,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “It will be interesting to see how confidence changes during the summer as Massachusetts continues to operate at virtually full capacity.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index all lost ground during June. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 7.2 points to 62.8, leaving it 1.4 points lower than in June 2017. The U.S. Index ended the month at 60.0, down 9.3 points for the month but 2.6 points better than a year ago. June marked the 100th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, declined 2.6 points to 63.5. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 7.5 points to 59.1. The Current Index gained 1.6 points during the year, while the Future Index lost 2.6 points.

Employer views of their own companies also weakened. The Company Index declined 3.3 points to 61.2, down 1.2 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 55.0, a 3.3-point decrease for the month and 3.1 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index lost 2.9 points for the month and 0.2 points for the year.

Manufacturing companies (62.5) were slightly more optimistic than non-manufacturers (60.2). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (63.3) were more bullish than those in the west (58.7).

“It’s interesting to note that medium and small companies remain significantly more optimistic than larger companies, reversing the typical pattern,” said Edward Pendergast, managing director at Dunn Rush & Co. “Entrepreneurial companies continue to drive growth here in Massachusetts.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced that Rania Kfuri and MaryLynn Murray have joined its Board of Directors. They will each serve a three-year term.

Kfuri currently works as the Communications and Partnerships officer for the Solidago Foundation. Throughout her life experiences, she has worked to support educational opportunities and access to resources that improve the lives of women and girls. She has a professional background in international development, with a master’s degree in ethics, peace, and global affairs from American University in Washington D.C.

Murray is vice president for Commercial Lines and Sales at the Insurance Center of New England. She holds an MBA with a concentration in human resources and has been employed in the insurance industry since 2002. She previously served on the board of the Agawam Small Business Assoc. and on the Women’s Fund marketing committee.

In addition, new officers elected include Haydee Lamberty-Rodriguez as board president (formerly vice president), Leigh Rae as vice president (formerly board clerk), and Pia Kumar as clerk. Layla Taylor, immediate past board president, will remain on the board through June 2019.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — For the second consecutive year, customers of Pride Stores and store management are showing support for Square One in a big way. 

Pride recently held a campaign where customers were encouraged to purchase a Square One ‘square’ for $1 at all Pride locations. Pride owner Bob Bolduc agreed to match all the donations in support the children and families served by Square One. Bolduc, along with his team, presented a check for $13,000 to Square One on July 3.

“We are so grateful to Bob Bolduc, the Pride staff, and their many loyal customers for their very generous support of our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief Development & Communications officer for Square One. “Not only did the campaign raise much-needed funds to support Square One’s work in the community, it was a great way to raise awareness of the programs and services that our agency provides. Whether we are teaching children to read and write, inspiring an appreciation of fine arts, providing a nourishing meal, or developing a healthy love of play, everything we do is driven by our vision of a bright future for all children, despite the daunting challenges many of them face at home.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Crocker Communications Inc. has been honored with the exclusive ATSI 2018 Award of Excellence for the 10th year. This award is presented annually by the Assoc. of TeleServices International (ATSI), the industry’s trade association for providers of telecommunications and call-center services, including telephone answering and message delivery across North America and the UK.

Independent judges are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a six-month period. The scoring criteria includes response time, courteousness of the representative, accuracy of the call, knowledge of the account, and overall impression of the call.

“The ATSI Award of Excellence is one of the many ways businesses in our industry can measure their customer-service levels as it relates to agent performance,” said ATSI President Josue Leon. “Agents are evaluated on how they interact with callers based on established call-handling criteria. The program gives participating companies bragging rights — and with good reason.”

The award was established 22 years ago as a means to improve the overall quality of the call-center industry by setting expectations and measurements to ensure a successful call-handling experience.