MGM Springfield Opening Delayed by One Year
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, receptive to arguments regarding the impact of a major highway reconstruction on I-91, agreed to allow MGM Springfield to push the opening of its $800 million resort casino to September 2018. It was originally expected to open in the fall of 2017. MGM Springfield officials said the state’s reconstruction of the I-91 viaduct through downtown Springfield — a project expected to begin this year and end by August 2018, although financial incentives to finish by 2017 are in play — must be complete before MGM Springfield can open. The highway project includes ramp closures next to the casino site, and severe traffic congestion would keep visitors away and inconvenience those who do show up, said MGM officials, who still need the city’s approval to push back the opening date.
Business Confidence Up in Massachusetts in July
BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index added 2.9 points in July to 59.2, ending a string of three consecutive monthly losses. “Bouncing back from its dip in the second quarter, confidence among Massachusetts employers is fairly strong,” said Raymond Torto, Chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The AIM Index is up three points from last July and, apart from its recent crest in February and March, is at its highest level since December 2006.” Torto noted that the Index’s recent performance extends a pattern that has prevailed for much of the post-Great Recession period. “Like the economy itself, the Index has followed a long-term trend of improvement, but the upward course has been longer and bumpier than most past recoveries.” AIM’s Business Confidence Index has been issued monthly since July 1991 under the oversight of the Board of Economic Advisors. Presented on a 100-point scale on which 50 is neutral, the Index attained a historical high of 68.5 in 1997 and 1998; its all-time low was 33.3 in February 2009. The sub-indices based on selected questions or respondent characteristics all rose from June to July, and most were up from a year before. The U.S. Index assessing national business conditions gained 2.5 points to 50.1, and Massachusetts Index of conditions within the Commonwealth rose six-tenths to 57.5. “The domestic economy, after a weak first quarter, is experiencing solid expansion, and Massachusetts continues to perform well in the national context,” said BEA member Sara Johnson, senior research director of Global Economics at IHS Global Insight. “Growth in international trade, however, has been disappointing, as improving conditions in Europe have been more than offset by the slowdown in Asia.” The Current Index, tracking employers’ assessment of existing business conditions, was up 3.5 to 59.7, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for the next six months, added 2.2 to 58.6. “The rating of current conditions is the best we have seen since the same reading in October 2006,” Johnson said. “The slightly lower future expectations probably reflect the Federal Reserve Board’s expressed intent to raise interest rates.” The three sub-indices related to survey respondents’ own companies were all well ahead in July. The Company Index, which assesses the overall situations of their operations, was up 3.7 points to 61.7; the Sales Index rose 5.3 to 63.2; and the Employment Index added 2.5 to 57.2. “The Company and Sales indicators are at their highest levels since 2006, and the Employment Index is also in its pre-recession range,” noted Elliot Winer, chief economist at Northeast Economic Analysis Group LLC, a BEA member. “These results are consistent with survey respondents’ favorable appraisal of prevailing business conditions and with recent state employment reports.” In July, confidence remained higher among employers within Greater Boston (61.3, up 3.9) than among those outside the metropolitan area (55.8, up 1.1). Manufacturers continued to be less confident (55.7, up 3.1) than other employers (62.9, up 2.9). “Massachusetts manufacturers, many of them in the central and western parts of the state, are seeing exports suffer because of the strong dollar and difficult conditions in key markets,” Winer said. “The indicators from the manufacturing sector and for the state outside Greater Boston are the only sub-indices that have lost ground, though less than a point each, over the past year.” There was little variation in confidence between small, medium-size, and larger employers.
Report: America’s Economy in Good, but Not Great, Shape
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs in July after economists surveyed by CNNMoney predicted the economy would add 216,000 jobs. Anything above 200,000 is considered very solid. The unemployment rate stayed the same at 5.3%, which is its lowest point since April 2008. Wage growth — the missing piece to America’s economic progress — remained sluggish in July, the report notes. Average hourly earnings only rose 2.1% compared to the prior year. Wage growth is the reason many Americans haven’t felt the benefits of the economy’s recovery. The Federal Reserve wants to see annual wage growth closer to 3.5%. The jobs report is especially important now because the Fed is close to raising its key interest rate for the first time in over nine years. The Fed has said it will hike rates only if it believes the economy is healthy enough, especially for workers. A rate increase would be a good sign for how far the economy’s health has come since the recession ended. Although the Fed wants to see better wage growth before raising rates, wage growth isn’t a requirement. The Fed raised its key interest rate in June 2004 when average weekly earnings were 1.7% compared to the prior year. Average weekly earnings in July were 2.4%. Economic growth has been solid this year, though weaker than in 2014. Last year, the economy added 240,000 jobs a month on average between January and July. This year, that figure is 178,000. However, CNNMoney reports, many experts believe the current jobs report is strong enough to justify the Fed’s first rate hike taking place in September.
Volunteers Needed for Source to Sea River Cleanup This Fall
GREENFIELD — The Connecticut River Watershed Council’s (CRWC) 19th annual Source to Sea Cleanup will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26. The annual, two-day event is coordinated by CRWC in all four states of the 410-mile Connecticut River basin. Each fall, thousands of volunteers of all ages and abilities head out to clean the Connecticut River and its tributaries on foot or by boat. Volunteers remove trash along rivers, streams, parks, boat launches, trails, and more. “Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers have worked hard to combat litter and illegally dumped trash,” said Alicea Charamut, CRWC river steward and organizer of the cleanup. “Their hard work and dedication is impressive and inspiring.” In 2014, more than 2,000 volunteers hauled over 47 tons of trash from riverbanks and waterways in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut. Volunteers use human power and sometimes heavy equipment to pull out everything from recyclables, fishing equipment, and food waste to tires, televisions, refrigerators, and junk cars. To date, volunteers have prevented more than 897 tons of trash from polluting area rivers. There are three ways to get involved in the cleanup: report a trash site in need of cleaning, find a cleanup group near you to join, or organize and register your own local cleanup group. For more information or to register for the event, visit www.ctriver.org/cleanup. “If your group wants to get involved but needs a cleanup site, contact us to learn about reported trash sites that may be near you,” said Charamut. Anyone with questions or trash tips can contact Charamut at [email protected] or (860) 704-0057. “Generous financial support from lead sponsors — NRG’s Middletown Generating Station, Pratt & Whitney, and TransCanada — enables us to organize the thousands of volunteers who participate in the cleanup, and to take on complex projects that require the use of heavy equipment, scuba divers, and other professionals to get those really trashed places cleaned up,” said CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk. CRWC plans to continue efforts on cleaning up the tire dump along the Deerfield River in Greenfield, as well as removing an abandoned exposed pipe in the Connecticut River in Holyoke and a number of fuel tanks in various rivers in New Hampshire and Vermont. The Connecticut River Watershed Council works to protect the watershed from source to sea. To learn more about CRWC, or to join the effort and help protect local rivers, visit www.ctriver.org.
Springfield Seeks Developer for Former Chestnut Junior High Site
SPRINGFIELD — The city of Springfield is releasing a request for proposals (RFP) for the eight parcels of land that formerly comprised the home of the Chestnut Junior High School at 495 Chestnut St. The school building was destroyed in a fire in September 2013, and the site has since been fully cleared. “With $2.8 billion in ongoing economic development in the city of Springfield, now is not the time to rest,” said Mayor Domenic Sarno. We are looking to capitalize on our momentum and bring new jobs and development to the city.” The RFP became available yesterday. Interested parties must return their proposal to the city by Monday, Sept. 14. The site is a total of 166,617 square feet, or 3.825 acres. The lump assessed value for all eight parcels is $127,900. The property was cleared by Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield, which removed all building elements, including foundations. “While the fire resulted in a great loss of the historic school, the site is now fully cleared and available for development,” said Springfield’s Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy. “To find a nearly four-acre site so close to major employers is rare. We expect strong interest in this property.” The neighborhood is home to Baystate Health, Mercy Medical Center, and Shriners Hospital for Children, as well as numerous private medical office buildings. Among many potential uses, the site could be appropriate for additional office development, retail development, or workforce housing targeting employees in the so-called ‘medical district.’ Proposers will be expected to address any zoning needs as well as work closely with the neighborhood to ensure a positive redevelopment of the site. The city recently commissioned an economic analysis of the medical district to examine its employee base of more than 10,000 people to better understand the opportunities that exist for new housing, retail, and commercial space that would not only serve the neighborhood but also these employees. The report can be found on the city’s Planning and Economic Development website at www.springfieldcityhall.com. Parties interested in obtaining the RFP should call the Office of Procurement at (413) 787-6284.