Employer Confidence Weakens in December
BOSTON — Massachusetts employers gave a big “bah, humbug” to the year-end economy as business confidence withered in the face of a government shutdown and the largest one-month stock-market decline since the Great Depression. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost three points to 58.6 during December, its lowest level since December 2016. Confidence readings have dropped five points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by an 8.6-point drop in employer views of the national economy, and a 4.7-point drop among manufacturing companies. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but less comfortably so than earlier in 2018. “The Massachusetts economy remains strong, with a 3.3% growth rate and an unemployment rate of 3.4%, but employers are increasingly concerned about factors such as financial-market volatility, a dysfunctional national political debate, and challenges such as the cost of providing health insurance to employees,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. 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.
Bradley Adds New Non-stop Service to Raleigh-Durham, Orlando, Pittsburgh
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the debut in 2019 of new, non-stop service from Bradley International Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Orlando International Airport on low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, as well as the addition of non-stop service to Pittsburgh on Via Airlines. The service to Raleigh-Durham will commence on April 30 on an Airbus A320. It will operate seasonally on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The service to Orlando will commence on May 1 on an Airbus A321. It will operate seasonally on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The service to Pittsburgh will commence on July 22 on an Embraer ERJ145 with 50 seats. It will operate four times a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Community Foundation Awards $665,200 to 45 Nonprofits
SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) recently awarded $665,200 to 45 area nonprofits through its capital grant and capacity grant programs, two of the foundation’s six competitive grant-making programs that focus on improving and supporting quality of life for people in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. CFWM capital grants help local nonprofit organizations expand their impact by funding new and upgraded technology, equipment, and facilities. Capacity grants support local nonprofits to build their own organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency. Grant awards range from $4,500 to $40,000 and address community needs in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, and human services. More than 25 of the projects funded were supported by trusts administered by Bank of America. CFWM receives and reviews grant applications on behalf of Bank of America for four charitable trusts for which the bank serves as a trustee. Total grant awards by county are as follows: Hampden, $412,000, Hampshire, $144,400, and Franklin, $108,800. Capital grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: Ascentria Community Services, Baystate Health Foundation, Bethlehem House, Chester Theatre Company, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, Davenport Child Care, Franklin County Community Meals Program, Franklin Land Trust, Friends of the Montague Common Hall, Friends of the Springfield Public Library, Gardening the Community, Hilltown Community Health Center, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Holyoke YMCA, MHA, Multicultural Community Services of the Pioneer Valley, Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., Robert F. Kennedy Academy, Roca, Second Chance Animal Services, ServiceNet, Springfield Museums, Stanley Park, Tapestry Health Systems, Tolland Volunteer Fire Department, Valley Eye Radio, Willie Ross School for the Deaf, and Womanshelter Companeras. Capacity Grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: 1794 Meetinghouse Inc., Birthday Wishes, Brick House Community Resource Center, Cancer Connection, Double Edge Theatre Productions, Hilltown Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, Link to Libraries, Mary Lyon Education Fund, Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, Massachusetts Review, North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy, Northampton Education Foundation, Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute, and the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts.
Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, Big Y Announce Local Farmer Awards
AGAWAM — Starting Jan. 1, farmers in Western Mass. are invited to apply for Local Farmer Awards up to $2,500 toward equipment and infrastructure projects to help them complete in the marketplace. The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and with the support of other funders, is entering the fifth year of the awards program, which has helped more than 125 farmers carry out a total of 188 projects. Some examples of how the awards have been used include a high-efficiency vegetable washer, a walk-in cooler aging room, an egg washer, high tunnel irrigation, electric fencing, and a milkplan bulk tank. To be eligible, farms must have gross sales of $10,000 or above and either be a member of Berkshire Grow or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) or reside in one the four Western Mass. counties. Berkshire Grown and CISA share their passion for local farms by providing ongoing guidance and help with promotion of the of the Local Farmer Awards. The deadline for applying is Thursday, Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information.
Horace Smith Fund Offers Scholarship, Fellowship Funds
WESTFIELD — The Horace Smith Fund, now in its 120th year, has scholarship and fellowship money available for graduates of Hampden County public and private high schools. Scholarship awards of $12,000 are distributed as $3,000 annually and renewable each year until graduation. Fellowship awards of $15,000 are distributed as $5,000 annually and renewable for two additional years. Students must maintain at least a B average in college. Recipients are selected on a variety of criteria, including financial need, college entrance-exam scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, and recommendations. Of great importance is a personal, written account of why the student feels deserving of financial assistance. Fellowship applicants must also submit their transcripts and, if applicable, GRE or degree-specific test scores. All recipients must be full-time students and residents of Hampden County. Last year, $382,000 was awarded to 37 individuals. Scholarships were given to 26 graduating seniors from 13 Hampden County high schools. Five scholarships were also awarded to current college students to assist them in completing their undergraduate degrees. Six fellowships were given to college graduates pursuing graduate degrees, who had graduated from Hampden County high schools. Completed applications must be received either electronically or by mail to the Horace Smith Fund at 16 Union Ave., Suite 2K, Westfield, MA 01085 no later than March 15, 2019. Applications are available at local high-school guidance offices, college financial-aid offices, online at www.horacesmithfund.org, or by phoning (413) 739-4222.
Small Businesses Starting to Feel Impact of Shutdown
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the partial government shutdown continues, small businesses across the country are starting to feel the effects of the shutdown, resulting in unnecessary uncertainty at the start of a new fiscal year. Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Assoc. for the Self-Employed, the nation’s leading advocate and resource for the self-employed and micro-business community, called on Congress and the White House to work together to end the shutdown on behalf of America’s small-business community. The Washington Post reported that, as of Dec. 22, the Small Business Administration stopped processing new small-business loans due to the government shutdown. Thousands of small-business owners across the country are unable to receive critical funding to start and grow their businesses because of the partial government shutdown. Even when full funding is restored, a backlog is likely. “The negative consequences of one of the longest shutdowns in U.S. history is now fully impacting our country’s small-business community,” said Hall. “From uncertainty around how the shutdown could impact delays in tax refunds small businesses were looking to invest from this year’s new tax law to the shuttering of the Small Business Administration impacting small-business loans, America’s small businesses are on the front lines feeling the adverse impact. “The government shutdown has created additional uncertainty during a critical time when small businesses are starting a new fiscal year,” he continued. “Small businesses must continue to abide by their tax obligations, including paying quarterly tax estimates and adhering to all filing deadlines. However, the federal government is unlikely to keep their end of the deal by processing tax refunds on time and providing small businesses access to critical answers they may have to questions about filing for the first time under the new tax law.” During the shutdown, about 12% of IRS staff are expected to continue working, according to the agency’s lapsed funding contingency plan. This will result in the inability of such functions as staff being available to answer questions for small businesses filing for the first time under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act law going into full effect this tax year. It could also negatively impact the ability of IRS staff to process tax refunds in a timely manner, resulting in delays.