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Eastern States Exposition Breaks Attendance Record

WEST SPRINGFIELD — A record number of visitors attended the Big E this year, breaking the fair’s all-time high attendance figure, with a final tally of 1,525,553. The previous record of 1,498,605 was set in 2014. Oct. 1 attendance was 137,208, also a new record for the final Sunday of the 17-day fair. During the fair’s run, the all-time-highest single-day attendance record was also broken when 171,897 visitors attended Saturday, Sept. 23. Three additional daily attendance records were set: Sept. 21, 85,019; Sept. 28, 89,905; and Sept. 29, 109,871. “I am humbled to see the incredible support of Eastern States Exposition by our loyal fair patrons,” said Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Exposition. “The 2017, 101st edition of the Big E broke records again, recording for the first time in history over 1.5 million guests. Patrons of New England’s Great State Fair braved days of punishing temperatures that pushed the heat index to above 100 degrees, they endured a 55-degree drop in temperature accompanied by rain, and yet they came in great numbers to participate in, enjoy, and support this organization and all it stands for.”

Employer Confidence Rebounds in September

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index broke a two-month slide in September, rising 1.2 points to 62.4. The reading equaled its high for 2017 and was 6.5 points better than a year ago. Employer confidence has moved in a narrow range so far in 2017, as employers appear bullish about the growth prospects of their companies. The September uptick was driven in part by a 5.7-point surge in the Sales Index, which is often a leading indicator of increased business activity. “The Index was also taken prior to the announcement of an effort by Congressional Republicans and the White House to significantly reduce corporate taxes, a move that enjoys broad support among employers,” said Raymond Torto, Chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The prospect of tax reform and tax simplification is likely to buoy employer sentiment through the end of the year.” 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. The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were generally higher during September. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, rose 2.2 points to 65.4, a reading that was 8.4 points higher than in September 2016. The U.S. Index of national business conditions dropped 0.4 points to 59.8 after surging more than 10 points during the previous 12 months. September marked the 90th 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, increased 1.6 points to 62.9, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 0.7 points to 61.9. The Future Index ended the month 5.9 points higher than a year ago. The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, gained 1.4 points to 62.3. Finally, the Employment Index fell 2.2 points to 55.8, continuing an up-and-down pattern within the mid-50s on the 100-point scale. “The Massachusetts economy continues to maintain a steady recovery, with employers adding 10,800 jobs during August and the state jobless rate declining to 4.2%,” said Elmore Alexander, dean of Ricciardi College of Business at Bridgewater State University, and a BEA member. “The surge in the AIM Sales and Future indices suggests that business activity may actually accelerate in coming months, so the primary challenge for employers will remain hiring and retaining skilled workers in a tight labor market.” AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also a BEA member, said employers generally support federal initiatives to reduce business taxes, but also remain concerned about the potential effect those reductions might have on the deficit. It is ironic, Lord added, that the proposed Republican tax plan would lower levies for subchapter-S corporations and other small pass-through businesses, while Massachusetts voters may be voting on a surtax next year on those same companies. “Subchapter-S corporations and other companies that pay taxes on the individual level are generally small to medium-sized enterprises that form the heart of the Massachusetts economy,” he noted. “What a shame it would be if the federal government were to help these companies while Massachusetts penalizes them.”

MGM’s 95% Document Submittal Consistent with HCA Commitments

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief Development officer, announced that the MGM 95% construction-design submittals are consistent with the commitments outlined within the city’s host-community agreement (HCA). “As we move closer to the completion and grand opening of this unique urban development, I am pleased to be able to announce another milestone as the city accepts the 95% construction-design submittals,” said Sarno. “Through this continued collaborative effort between the city of Springfield and MGM, the designs submitted remain consistent with what has been outlined within the host-community agreement.” This determination of compliance is based on a detailed review of the submittal documents by a number of city departments, including the Office of Planning & Economic Development, the Law Department, the Building Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Casino Liaison Office. A full review of the 95% construction-design documents was also completed by Chicago Consultants Studio Inc., an urban-planning consultant that has been used extensively by the city of Springfield throughout the casino design-review process. “Based on a thorough review and engaged process over the past few months, we believe that MGM’s 95% construction documents continue to illustrate a high-quality, attractive, and innovative design,” said Kim Goluska of Chicago Consultants Studio Inc. “MGM’s cooperation with the city and its positive enhancements and completion of the key design components has resulted in a project that not only conforms to the HCA intent and requirements, but also creates a new, truly innovative precedent for urban casino developments.” Added Kennedy, “with MGM Springfield nearing completion and the numerous other economic-development efforts underway throughout the city, including the recent grand opening of Union Station, we are really starting to see the new Springfield take shape. Our focus will continue to be on capitalizing on these larger transformative developments to help attract other private investment and jobs to the city of Springfield.”

New England Unemployment Holds Steady in August

BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released New England and state unemployment numbers for August 2017. These data are supplied by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program, which produces monthly and annual employment, unemployment, and labor-force data for Census regions and divisions, states, counties, metropolitan areas, and many cities. The New England unemployment rate was little changed at 4.0% in August. One year ago, the New England jobless rate was 3.9%. The U.S. jobless rate was little changed from July at 4.4%. No New England state had a significant over-the-year jobless rate change.

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