Advertising Club Selects 2018 Pynchon Medalists

SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts’ trustees of the Order of William Pynchon announced their selection of four local residents as recipients of this year’s Pynchon medal. “Our choice of these four remarkable individuals represents a collective concern and dedication to the past, present, and future of our region,” said Mary Shea, chairman of the Pynchon trustees. Slated to receive the Advertising Club’s Pynchon Medal on Oct. 18 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke are: Craig Carr, one of the original incorporators of the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield; Sally Fuller, a tireless advocate for early childhood literacy; Robert McCarroll, a noted historic preservationist; and Ronald Weiss, who was instrumental in the creation of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The Advertising Club confers the Order of William Pynchon and the Pynchon Medal upon citizens of Western Mass. who have rendered distinguished service to the community. Recipients are nominated each year by members of the community, and are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon trustees, who are Ad Club’s current and five past presidents.

Employer Confidence Weakens During June

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. 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. 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).

More Than $2 Million Announced for Collaborative Workspaces

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration and MassDevelopment announced $2,155,000 in funding for the third round of Collaborative Workspace Program grants, a MassDevelopment program that accelerates business formation, job creation, and entrepreneurial activity in communities by supporting infrastructure that fuels locally based innovation. Eligible organizations may apply for either seed grants to plan and study the feasibility of new collaborative workspaces, or fit-out grants to develop and expand existing workspaces. Through its first two rounds of grants, the Collaborative Workspace Program provided $3 million in funding to more than 50 organizations for the planning, development, and build-out of different types of collaborative workspaces. This new round includes $1.5 million from the Commonwealth’s capital budget and $655,000 from the Barr Foundation, the second installment of a three-year, $1,965,000 grant to the program to expand support for arts-related collaborative workspaces in the Commonwealth. Funding decisions are expected to be announced at the end of September.

MassDOT Announces $1.8M to Expand Industrial Rail and Freight

BOSTON — The state Department of Transportation recently awarded five grants totaling more than $1.8 million as part of the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP), which helps increase rail and freight access, economic opportunity, and job growth. IRAP is a competitive, state-funded, public/private partnership program that provides financial assistance to eligible applicants to invest in improvement projects in rail infrastructure access. State funding for these five projects will be matched by more than $2.4 million in private funds. Locally, $500,000 was awarded to the Western Recycling rail-spur project in Wilbraham. The project will allow an existing solid-waste-handling facility to load outbound waste into rail cars for shipment to out-of-state landfills. With the restoration of rail service to the site, the facility will start processing municipal waste, in addition to construction and demolition debris. The project includes the construction of one loading track and five storage tracks for a total of 6,000 feet of new track. With completion of the project, the facility will be served by more than 1,500 rail cars each year, eliminating 7,500 regional truck trips each year and supporting the creation of eight to 10 additional jobs at the facility. IRAP provides grants to railroads, rail shippers, and municipalities that identify a public benefit gained through improved rail transportation usage or economic growth that would be realized through improved access to rail assets. The other four grants went to projects in Littleton, Peabody, and Upton.

DPH Releases State Study Detailing Marijuana Use

BOSTON — A new, statewide study of marijuana use among Massachusetts residents found that about 21% of adults had used marijuana in the past 30 days, and the proportion of marijuana use was highest among 18- to 25-year-olds. The study, conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), was mandated by the Legislature as part of its revisions to the 2016 adult-use marijuana law. The purpose of the study was to investigate the patterns of use, methods of consumption, and general perceptions of marijuana; incidents of impaired driving and hospitalization related to marijuana use; and the economic and fiscal impacts for state and local governments. Among the study’s other highlights, smoking is the most common method of marijuana consumption, although more than 40% of marijuana users report using multiple methods of use. More than half of adults perceive marijuana to have slight or no risks and use marijuana for non-medical purposes. A survey of patients who use marijuana products for medical use suggests that the average person uses marijuana 24 days a month, with the majority using marijuana products for at least 21 out of the past 30 days. Among respondents that use marijuana, 34.3% reported driving under the influence. Overall, 7.2% of the adult population drove under the influence of marijuana in the past 30 days, and 11.3% of adults rode with a marijuana-using driver in the past 30 days. This is similar to estimates from a survey of medical marijuana patients that found approximately 10% of respondents drove under the influence in the past 30 days. The number of marijuana-related calls to the Regional Poison Control Center in Massachusetts has been increasing over time. The calls include incidents of unintentional exposures among children, with the majority of calls related to 10- to 19-year-old individuals, and/or exposure to dried marijuana flower. The proportion of calls increased after medical marijuana was available in the Commonwealth. Economic projections suggest that marijuana will increase Massachusetts state revenue by about $215.8 million in the first two years of retail sales. The increase will largely come from sales and excise taxes collected on retail purchases. Based on experiences from states with existing legalized adult use, sales-tax revenue is expected to be higher in the second year ($154.2 million), as compared to the first year ($61.6 million).

Google Announces $100,000 Sponsorship for FutureWorks

SPRINGFIELD — During its Grow with Google tour in Springfield, Google announced a sponsorship for FutureWorks Career Center totalling $100,000. The sponsorship will help FutureWorks deepen its available resources to prepare active job seekers with the digital skills necessary to obtain jobs and succeed in the workforce. FutureWorks will deploy Google’s Applied Digital Skills Curriculum its diverse group of youth and adult job seekers over the course of a year. Some of its staff will also be trained on Google for Jobs and teach active job seekers how to use the online platform to streamline their job search. Launched in October 2017, Grow with Google is the tech company’s new initiative to help create economic opportunities for Americans. The project is an extension of Google’s long-standing commitment to making information and technology accessible to everyone, and focuses on providing digital skills and learning opportunities to communities across the U.S.

Jugglers Convention Projects Economic Impact of More Than $1 Million

SPRINGFIELD — With 600 juggling enthusiasts from all over the world descending on Springfield last week for the 71st International Jugglers’ Assoc. (IJA) Annual Festival, the area’s hoteliers, restaurateurs, and retailers expected to see an impact in their cash registers. The six-day convention was projected to have an economic impact of $1,015,545, according to the Western Mass Sports Commission, a division of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The organizers are expecting 600 attendees, and two of our largest downtown hotels have 1,100 room nights booked as a result,” said Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This represents a strong economic shot in the arm for these properties. And we anticipate upbeat business at area eateries and shops as well. It’s a fun, terrific event to have coming into Western Mass.”