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Ameristar Withdraws from Casino Competition

SPRINGFIELD — The competition for a winning casino bid in Springfield narrowed to two late last month when Ameristar Casinos dropped plans for a $910 million resort casino on property it owns on Page Boulevard. Although Las Vegas-based Ameristar believed it had the superior proposal for a casino in Western Mass., the company concluded there is not sufficient likelihood that the basis upon which it could be awarded the license to develop and operate a casino in Springfield is favorable enough to warrant its further pursuit. Specifically, the local selection process, various project requirements, and associated costs led to the decision to reserve Ameristar’s resources for other opportunities. Ameristar has not yet made a determination concerning plans for marketing the 40-acre Page Boulevard site, which it says is the largest commercially developable site in Springfield. The site’s size, location, and ease of access to major highways make it attractive for a variety of large-scale developments in addition to a casino. “This was a difficult decision that will unfortunately result in us not being able to bring a world-class casino entertainment facility to Western Mass.” Ameristar CEO Gordon Kanofsky said. “However, I am extremely proud of the efforts of our team members who aggressively pursued this project. We are grateful for the hundreds of meaningful relationships we have built in the Pioneer Valley and the Commonwealth and for the widespread community support we received over the last year while introducing New Englanders to our company.” Mayor Domenic Sarno responded by saying, “obviously the city is very disappointed in Ameristar’s decision to withdraw from the competition to locate a world-class resort casino in Springfield. Ameristar made a strong proposal for an exciting project that would have given our voters a clear choice as to the type of location that would best serve the city. Nonetheless, I am confident that the proposals of MGM and Penn Gaming will create a robust competition resulting in a project that will … revitalize Springfield [and] create thousands of good-paying jobs for our residents and significant opportunities for our business community, with sustainable economic benefits for our great city, but also for Western Mass. and the state. We wish Ameristar the best as they continue their business and pursue other opportunities.”


Ludlow Mills Named Priority Project

BOSTON — Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray recently announced that Ludlow Mills, the 170-acre site planned for redevelopment by Westmass Area Development Corp., is among five new projects designated for cleanup assistance through the Patrick-Murray administration’s Brownfields Support Team (BST) Initiative. Ludlow Mills is the only project located in Western Mass. that is involved in the third round of the BST. Ludlow Mills is a mixed-use project with primary focus on commercial and industrial development. The site has environmental-cleanup needs that require further assessment and has received both state and federal grants that have provided site and environmental remediation. In responding to the announcement of the site as a brownfield support priority, Kenn Delude, Westmass president and CEO, said, “Westmass, the town of Ludlow, and our region are pleased by the lieutenant governor’s announcement to include the Ludlow Mills Preservation and Redevelopment project in the BST, and we thank Gov. Patrick and the administration and our legislative delegation for their continued support and assistance. As the largest brownfield mill-redevelopment project in New England, the Ludlow Mills project will significantly benefit from the interdisciplinary work of the BST to address complex and complicated environmental aspects of this project as we work to revitalize the site, retain and grow jobs, and improve the regional economy.” Westmass and HealthSouth recently jointly broke ground on a 74,500-square-foot, 53-bed, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver-certified rehabilitation hospital that will offer all private rooms for patients needing rehabilitative care. The hospital is slated for completion in November 2013. Planning is also underway to develop a $20 million, 83-unit senior-housing complex on the site. Both projects will result in hundreds of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs once completed. Redevelopment of the Ludlow Mills complex over the next two decades will create and retain more than 2,000 jobs and stimulate up to $300 million in private investment. The 170-acre site includes 66 buildings, offers approximately 1,450,000 square feet of space, and is bordered by 1.5 miles of riverfront. Buildout of the project will occur over 15 or more years, and the project will embrace sustainable-development principles and will seek to encourage LEED-quality new construction at the site. Launched in 2008, the BST has coordinated 24 state, local, and federal agencies over the last several years to tackle some of the state’s most complex brownfields and has helped deliver more than $18 million in funding to accelerate cleanup and streamline progress to overcome technical roadblocks.


Business Confidence Index Drops on Fiscal-cliff Fears

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 4.3 points in November to 46.8 as Massachusetts employers found themselves swept toward the ‘fiscal cliff” of drastic federal budget reductions and tax increases. “The tax increases set to take effect unless Congress acts will affect virtually every business, and the automatic spending cuts will hit hard at both defense and non-defense sectors in Massachusetts — and serious macroeconomic effects are also projected,” said Raymond Torto, global chief economist at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. and chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA). “After an election that did little to break the deadlock in Washington, we are very close to the edge. Whereas October’s results merely pointed to this concern, November’s treat an adverse outcome as a probability. In October we noted a weak reading for national conditions, while other index components held up well. The November readings are off almost across the board. The main Index dropped well below 50, into negative territory on our scale. Respondents expect conditions to deteriorate over the coming six months. And employers are losing confidence in the situations of their own companies, which we generally interpret as a reaction to rising uncertainty.” Because most survey responses were submitted shortly after the election, Torto added, they do not reflect more recent developments that may signal movement toward compromise in Washington. AIM’s Business Confidence Index has been issued monthly since July 1991 under the oversight of the Board of Economic Advisors.


Nation’s Non-residential Construction Spending Rises Slightly in November

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s non-residential construction industry experienced a modest gain in October as spending increased 0.5% to $571.3 billion, according to the Dec. 3 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Total non-residential construction spending — which includes both private and public projects — is up 5.1% compared to one year ago. Private, non-residential construction spending increased 0.3% for the month and is up 10.7% year over year. Public, non-residential construction spending increased 0.8% for the month, but is 0.4% lower than the same time last year. Eleven of 16 non-residential construction subsectors posted increases in October, including transportation, up 5.3%; water supply, up 4.3; and lodging, up 3.9%. Ten construction subsectors experienced increases in spending year over year, including lodging, up 29.3%; transportation, up 21.2%; and power, up 19.2%. In contrast, five construction subsectors posted decreases in spending for the month, including communication, down 6.9%; manufacturing, down 2.7%; highway and street, down 2.3%; sewage and waste disposal, down 1.7%; and conservation and development, down 1.5%. Construction subsectors registering decreases in year-over-year spending include conservation and development, down 13.6%; water supply, down 7.2%; highway and street, down 4.8%; communication, down 3.8%; sewage and waste disposal, down 3.8%; and religious, down 3.7%. Residential construction spending jumped 3% for the month and is up 19.4% from the same time last year. Total construction spending — which encompasses both non-residential and residential spending — was up 1.4% for the month and is up 9.6% compared to October 2011. “As the nation approaches its fiscal cliff — a collection of tax increases and spending cuts that kick in at the end of the year — the pattern of recovery in non-residential construction spending has shifted,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Earlier this year, private-sector, non-residential construction spending growth was more robust, but has since declined. This comes as little surprise, as more projects are being put on hold.” He added, “there are two likely scenarios for non-residential construction spending in the U.S. Both scenarios hinge upon the outcome of the fiscal-cliff debate. Under one scenario, the nation falls back into recession, resulting in diminished public and private non-residential construction spending. Under the other scenario, a productive outcome on the fiscal cliff is achieved, and non-residential construction spending accelerates at some point in 2013 and into 2014.”

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