News of interest about the region’s business community
ValleyBike Launches Regional Bike-share Program
NORTHAMPTON — ValleyBike launched with a celebration and parade on June 28 at in Pulaski Park. ValleyBike is the first bike-share program in the Pioneer Valley and the first pedal-assist bike-share program in New England. The program allows members to pay for bikes by the trip, or join as a member for unlimited 45-minute rides by the day, month, or year. Partners include the communities of Amherst, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield, as well as UMass Amherst and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). ValleyBike was initiated by Amherst, Northampton, and the PVPC, and then quickly joined by Springfield, Holyoke, and South Hadley. The planning effort was led by the PVPC, which found the funding for planning. Leadership of the effort switched to Northampton for the implementation phase of the project. Residents may sign up at www.valleybike.org, with special founding membership opportunities for a limited time. “ValleyBike is yet another exciting example of how our region, and its cities and towns, are working collaboratively and proactively to shape a smart and sustainable future for us all,” said PVPC Executive Director Tim Brennan. “ValleyBike not only introduces a new type of shared mobility, but offers a creative and sensible way to improve our air and our health while capturing the benefits of modern-day pedal power.” ValleyBike has contracted with Bewegen Technologies and Corps Logistics to build and operate the system, and is funded by state and federal grants, Bewegen investments, community investments in station pads, user fees, and program sponsors.
State Awards $1,080,000 to Increase Access to Healthy, Local Food
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration awarded $1,080,000 to a joint partnership between the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund and Franklin County Community Development Corporation to create a sustainable program that creates quality jobs and increases food access for low-income residents throughout the state. The funding is awarded under the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (MFTP), a program launched by the Baker-Polito administration in 2017, which seeks to establish a financing infrastructure that increases access to healthy, affordable food options and to improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities statewide. The MFTP, funded through the administration’s FY 2018 Capital Investment Plan, provides funding through grants to community development financial institutions and community development corporations. This statewide program is designed to meet the financing needs to fresh food retailers and distributors that plan to operate in underserved communities where costs and credit needs cannot be filled solely by conventional financing institutions. With the funding, grantees may provide grants, loans, and technical assistance to support entities that have shown a meaningful commitment to sell fresh, affordable, and local products, with a preference for food grown, caught, or harvested in Massachusetts. Projects that are eligible for funding through the awarded financial institutions include the development, renovation, and expansion of supermarkets; commercial community kitchens; and commercial greenhouses.
Job Picture Continues to Improve in Massachusetts
BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 13 labor-market areas, increased in six areas, and remained the same in five labor-market areas in the state during the month of May, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to May 2017, the rates dropped in 23 labor-market areas and increased in one area. Fourteen of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded a seasonal job gain in May. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Worcester, Framingham, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas. The Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton area lost jobs over the month. From May 2017 to May 2018, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Worcester areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide-unadjusted unemployment rate for May was 3.3%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the month of May remained at 3.5% for the eighth consecutive month. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,200-job gain in May, and an over-the-year gain of 56,100 jobs.
Pioneer Valley Communities, PVPC Acting on Climate Change
SPRINGFIELD — Nine new Pioneer Valley municipalities recently joined six already working on Municipal Vulnerability Program (MVP) certification, bringing the total to 15 communities seeking greater resiliency in the face of climate change. That represents 35% of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s (PVPC) member municipalities — home to approximately 410,000 people, or more than 66% of the region’s population. In 2017, six pioneering municipalities applied for and secured MVP planning grants, and four of these six have now successfully secured action grants in the highly competitive first round of funding. Of these, Belchertown will assess stream crossings and culverts, Holyoke is learning from Hurricane Maria survivors how to adapt and care for vulnerable residents affected by extreme weather, Northampton is reducing storm damage by designing with nature, and Pelham aims to improve small-town resilience. Together, these 15 municipalities have secured $1,186,512 in state funding to plan for ($348,000) and adapt to ($838,512) the changing climate. The funding allows the PVPC to engage with local officials and community stakeholders, while leveraging its unique technical capabilities. Any of the 43 cities and towns of Hampden and Hampshire counties not currently engaged in MVP work, but interested, should contact PVPC Senior Planning Emily Slotnick at (413) 781-6045 or [email protected]