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Bradley Passenger Traffic Up Five Straight Months
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — With January passenger statistics tallied, the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) has announced that Bradley International Airport (BDL) has continued an upward trend which began in September 2013. January’s 9% rise marks five straight months of positive year-over-year increases. This follows September (1%), October (4%), November (3%), and December (20%), as Bradley showed an overall 1% total growth in 2013 (5,421,975 passengers) compared to 2012 figures (5,381,860 passengers). Improvements to Bradley’s route offerings, which were implemented throughout 2013, have helped drive this upswing. These advances include American Airlines’ daily non-stop flight to Los Angeles, JetBlue Airways’ Fort Myers and Tampa daily non-stop service, and Southwest Airlines’ three daily non-stop flights to Atlanta through its wholly-owned subsidiary, AirTran Airways. Numerous customer-service enhancements have been instituted as well, such as the establishment of a frequent-parker program, expanded concession offerings, and improvements to passenger-processing wait times. “The Connecticut Airport Authority takes great pride in achieving this milestone of revitalization. One of our greatest selling points to our customers, in addition to our convenient terminal and on-airport parking facilities, is Bradley’s tremendous accessibility from anywhere in the Northeast,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the CAA. “We believe that the best is yet to come. We are excited about working with all of our stakeholders as we continue to aggressively seek additional daily non-stop destinations for our customers from one of the region’s most convenient gateways.” Bradley is the second-largest airport in New England, serving an extensive geographic area with a customer base that covers the entire Northeast. According to the most recent economic-impact analysis, Bradley contributes $4 billion in economic activity to the state of Connecticut and the surrounding region, representing $1.2 billion in wages and 18,000 full-time jobs.

State to Issue $30 Million in Residential Solar Loans
BOSTON — Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan recently announced $30 million for a loan program aimed at encouraging residential solar projects, complementing the Commonwealth’s new solar program to be launched this spring. “When we support our solar industry, we are choosing to shape our future rather than leave it to chance,” Gov. Deval Patrick said. “These programs will allow the solar industry in Massachusetts to continue to flourish and will make solar energy more accessible for residents across the Commonwealth.” Added Sullivan, “the solar industry in Massachusetts has seen tremendous success since Gov. Patrick took office in 2007. The solar financing piece will make it easier for residents to participate in, and benefit from, the Commonwealth’s clean-energy revolution.” The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is currently working with partners and stakeholders to develop the program, expected to launch this spring when the final solar regulations are promulgated. “We continue to work with all stakeholders at the table to develop successful programs to maintain the steady growth of the solar industry,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “I’m proud of the open and inclusive process that led to these regulations and will inform the loan program.” The flow of loans to the residential market is expected to commence in the summer or fall of 2014. The new solar regulations, part two of the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program (SREC-II), are designed to meet Patrick’s goal to install 1,600 megawatts of solar energy by 2020. SREC-II aims to ensure steady annual growth, control ratepayer costs, and encourage ground-mounted solar projects on landfill and brownfield sites, as well as solar units on residential rooftops. “Investing in solar is a win for both our economy and our environment. This investment, in particular, will help spur the residential solar market,” said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “Instead of drilling or mining for our power, we’ll be using our rooftops to fuel future growth. Gov. Patrick and his entire team deserve great credit for their leadership in making this investment.”

Teenagers Find Difficulty Accessing Job Market
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Teenagers are getting squeezed out of the labor force in record numbers as unemployment among the youngest workers continues to soar, according to a study from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. The study found that the percentage of teenagers with jobs has plunged by nearly half over a decade, from 44% in 2000 to 24% in 2011. “If this were any other group, you would call it a Great Depression,” said Andrew Sum, the Northeastern University economist who co-authored the study. Competition from older, more experienced workers pushed into lower-skilled jobs because of the weak economy has crowded out teenagers from traditional jobs in retail, restaurants, and other lower-paying service industries, Sum said. This lack of opportunity could have long-term effects on teens, the labor force, and the broader economy as young people fail to gain the experience that might help them advance careers and become more productive workers, resulting in lower earnings over a working life. The Brookings study examined teen employment in 100 metropolitan areas. In New England, Portland, Maine fared best, with about 37% of teens employed. Providence, Hartford, and Boston all posted percentages around 34%. Teens who had paid employment in one year were more likely to work the following year, the study found. Conversely, said Sum, “if you don’t work at all, you are the least likely to work the following year.”

Partnership to Benefit Creative Businesses
WESTERN MASS. — The state recently designated the Pioneer Valley as part of Massachusetts’ Creative Economy Network and formally partnered with the Western Mass. Economic Development Council (EDC) on an initiative to help creative businesses increase their visibility, recruit talent, find appropriate space, borrow capital, and continue to grow. The designation doesn’t come with state money, but several organizations are planning to apply for state grants. Ann Burke, vice president of the EDC, told the Republican that more than 15,000 people in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties work in the creative economy, an umbrella term that encompasses writers, fashion designers, graphic artists, and advertising professionals, among others. DevelopSpringfield, the Fostering Arts and Culture Project in Franklin County, and the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council are among the other groups participating. Burke said the EDC has already hosted networking get-togethers for these creative workers.

Union Station Project Gets Another $16.5M
SPRINGFIELD — The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has designated another $16.5 million toward the renovation of Springfield’s Union Station. The decision completes the $65.7 million funding package necessary to fully finance the first phase of the redevelopment effort. The total project cost is expected to be $83 million. Phase one of the project involves the construction of a 26-bay bus terminal for regional and intercity bus service; construction of a four-level parking garage; a 37,000-square-foot renovation of the train terminal’s first floor and grand concourse waiting area, including new ticketing and waiting space; and concessions and retail space, according to the DOT’s news release. Work at Union Station began in August 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2016. “Springfield is located at a strategic crossroads for both north-south and east-west interstate highway and railroad corridors in a key region of the Commonwealth,” said Richard Davey, MassDOT secretary and CEO, in a prepared statement. “With these additional resources, the city of Springfield is guaranteed that its potential as a major regional mobility hub will be realized.” As part of the second phase, the Redevelopment Authority would renovate the upper two floors of the terminal building and create an additional 64,000 square feet of commercial or retail space, as well as expanding the parking garage by 120 spaces.

Health Policy Commission Issues $10M to Hospitals
BOSTON — At its first board meeting of 2014, the Health Policy Commission (HPC) awarded approximately $10 million to 28 community hospitals, including seven in Western Mass., to enhance the delivery of efficient, effective healthcare across the Commonwealth. The funds, which range from $65,000 to $500,000 per organization, come from Phase 1 of the HPC’s Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program, which was established by the state’s landmark healthcare cost-containment law. The Western Mass. awards include: $476,400 to Baystate Franklin Medical Center to support expansion of telemedicine capacities to select inpatient and outpatient specialties, with the goal of reducing unnecessary transfers and costs, and connecting local providers to health information exchanges; $499,600 to Baystate Mary Lane Hospital to support expansion of telemedicine capacities to identified inpatient and outpatient specialties, in order to reduce unnecessary transfers and costs, connect local providers to health information exchanges, and support an evaluation of post-acute services and capabilities in the region; $500,000 to Holyoke Medical Center to support implementation of an electronic health record system in the Emergency Department; $233,134 to Mercy Medical Center to support the development of organizational capabilities, capacities, and culture change, in order to accelerate and sustain continuous quality and safety improvements; $344,665 to Noble Hospital to support the development of a centralized scheduling hub to coordinate appointments across multiple hospital units, and to support planning related to health information exchange connectivity; $395,311 to North Adams Regional Hospital to support co-location of behavioral-health services at primary-care practices in Northern Berkshire County; and $357,000 to Wing Memorial Hospital to support achievement of meaningful use stage 1 compliance. “These awards show that the HPC is committed to partnering with community hospitals to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost-containment and quality-improvement goals,” said David Seltz, executive director of the HPC. “We look forward to continuing this work until we build a more coordinated and affordable healthcare system in all corners of Massachusetts.”

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