Briefcase Departments


Mass. Career Development Institute to Close Sept. 1
SPRINGFIELD — The Mass. Career Development Institute (MCDI) has announced it will close this fall. In a statement, MCDI Executive Director Timothy Sneed said the agency is currently working to “transition its remaining programs to other community providers” and that the center will close on September 1. In addition to the “steadily declining” funding, Sneed said that “job-training programs that were once unique to MCDI are being duplicated in other places in the community.” MCDI has an annual budget of $2.7 million, of which 41% of funding comes from federal sources and 39% from the state. There are about 250 students currently enrolled in MCDI programs. Those students currently enrolled will be able to complete their training by the end of the academic year this spring. The center’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program will be available until Sept. 1. “The good news,” Sneed said, “is that no one in our community will be without the services, as our core programming, such as nurses-aide training, is available in the community-college system or the vocational education system.” Regarding the 29 people who will lose their jobs because of the closure, Sneed said, “our hope is that, by announcing our plans well in advance of the closing of all operations in September, these workers will have ample time to be absorbed into the workforce where their skills in job training can be utilized.” Founded in 1970, MCDI was created to raise educational-attainment levels and develop workforce skills for individuals as part of a comprehensive program. The goal was to graduate participants into the economy through employment, where they could advance their own economic prospects while contributing to the area’s economic development.

Construction Spending Declines in January
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Construction spending snapped a nine-month string of monthly gains with a sharp decline in January but still rose from year-ago levels, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Associated General Contractors of America.  Association officials cautioned that across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration, which took on March 1, along with a possible shutdown of the federal government later in March, could hit construction harder than most sectors and dampen demand for needed projects. “At first glance, January was a bad month for construction, with a sharp drop in private non-residential spending, along with small dips in residential and public construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.  “However, the January figure was higher than the year-ago level. Moreover, steep upward revisions … in the preliminary numbers for November and December suggest January may ultimately prove to have been positive as well.” Construction put in place totaled $883 billion in January, down 2.1% from the December total, which was marked up from an initial estimate of $885 billion to $903 billion on the basis of new data on power and energy construction. The January 2013 total was 7.1% higher than in January 2012. Private residential construction spending was flat for the month and up 22 percent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending slumped 5.1% for the month but climbed 4.0% year over year. Public construction spending dropped 1.0% for the month and 3.0% over 12 months. “Once more complete data is available, power construction should prove to be a strong category in 2013, along with manufacturing, multifamily, and — at least in the first half of the year — single-family construction,” Simonson said. “But public construction, which has declined year over year for 28 straight months, appears to be headed still lower.” As for sequestration and its aftermath, association analysis suggests that an estimated $4 billion worth of federal construction projects will be cancelled this year alone. “These indiscriminate cuts run the risk of undermining the fragile recovery in demand many contractors are just now beginning to experience,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is hard to encourage major new private sector investments in capital projects when Washington can’t even find a way to avoid fiscal crises of its own making.”

MIT Urges Growth of ‘Industrial Ecosystem’
BOSTON — A new report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology urgently recommends that the nation rebuild its “industrial ecosystem” of manufacturers, suppliers, research, and skilled labor to support multiple industries, not just clusters of companies dedicated to one particular sector. The report claims that manufacturers with the ability and talent to produce the ideas of entrepreneurs are in increasingly short supply, as U.S. corporations have shifted production offshore and outstourced many other functions, such as research and development, over the last 30 years. “Across the entire industrial landscape, there are now gaping holes and missing pieces,” the report says. “It’s not just that factories stand empty and crumbling; it’s that critical strengths and capabilities have disappeared that once served to bring new enterprises to life.” The report, compiled by 20 MIT faculty members notes that, for innovation and the invention and creation of new products to occur, startup companies and manufacturers must operate close by so that they may draw on each other’s expertise. The MIT task force studied more than 250 companies in several states to better understand how to improve the nation’s ability to manufacture and benefit from products invented, designed, and brought to market by American entrepreneurs and engineers. The U.S. has lost about one-third of the manufacturing jobs it had more than a decade ago. About 30 years ago, the report says, American corporations began shedding large-scale research and development and manufacturing operations, realizing that leaner operations drove their stock prices higher. Increasingly, cutting-edge research and innovation is instead taking place in universities, startups, and government labs, which face challenges moving ideas to commercial production. “The anxieties of the public connected with many of our own deep concerns at MIT about where the American economy is heading,” the report says. “Our question was: what kinds of production do we need — and where do they need to be located — to sustain an innovative economy?”

Life Sciences to Benefit from $9M in Grants
HOLYOKE — During a recent visit to Holyoke Community College (HCC), Gov. Deval Patrick announced more than $9 million in grants for capital projects related to life sciences in Western Mass. He said the grants, paid for with money from the sale of state bonds, fit in with his current budget and its emphasis on spending on infrastructure and especially on education. An educated workforce, he noted, “is as important to us as oil is to Texas and corn is to Iowa.” The grants include $3.8 million to Holyoke Community College for the creation of the Center for Life Sciences in the Marieb Building, in space to be vacated by moving nursing and radiology programs to the former Grynn & Barrett photo studio building the college recently purchased. The grant is the largest received in the institution’s history, said HCC President William Messner. In addition, the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke will receive $4.54 million for life-sciences work. Bay Path College in Longmeadow will receive a $50,000 planning grant, and Springfield Technical Community College will reap $150,000 in planning-grant money. Industries included in life sciences include pharmaceuticals, medical devices, research, and bio-informatics, or the study of complex data in the field of biology. Through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Commonwealth is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life-sciences industry. These investments are being made under the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, signed into law by Patrick in 2008. The governor also announced smaller grants for vocational and technical high schools and high schools in Gateway Cities in Western Mass.: Dean Technical High School and Holyoke High School with $195,000, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy with $100,000, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School with $100,000, Taconic High School in Pittsfield with $88,000, and Westfield High School with $44,333. With the money, high schools will be able to invest in renovated labs and the latest equipment.

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