BusinessWest Owner Donates $500,000 to Cathedral High School
SPRINGFIELD — Cathedral High School has received a $500,000 donation from Cathedral alumnus John Gormally, owner of BusinessWest magazine. Cathedral High School President Dr. Ann Southworth said the gift “will be used to provide immediate tuition assistance to students desiring a Cathedral High School education, as well as support faculty.” But the money is more than just a donation. Gormally is also challenging the business community in Western Mass. to “step up to the plate and show their support” like he has done. “I have confidence in Catholic education,” said Gormally, a 1978 graduate of the school. “I think it is important to have a Catholic high school in Springfield. It is my hope and desire that the Springfield Diocese finds a way to rebuild Cathedral on Surrey Road in Springfield. I would also hope that the business community steps up to recognize Cathedral as the important resource it is in the community and financially support it.”
Bay Path Commits to Expand College Access
LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University President Carol Leary joined President Obama, the first lady, and Vice President Biden, along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher-education leaders, to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helped support Obama’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country. “I am honored to participate in this important initiative and to represent the 76.6 million adult women in this country who do not have a baccalaureate degree,” said Leary. “Through the launch of the American Women’s College at Bay Path University, we are making a bold commitment to provide a truly revolutionary model of higher education for underserved adult women. It is time that we as a country focus on this population. Higher education has the potential to transform a woman’s life and, in so doing, positively impact her community, her workplace, and her family. The generational impact of educating adult women is profound: research demonstrates that only 13% of children of women without a degree go on to college. When a woman earns a degree, that figure escalates to 49%. A focus on the education of adult women is critical to President Obama’s goal of restoring our nation as a global leader in college-educated citizenry.” Leary is among the participants being asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-12 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high-school counselors as part of the first lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. Today, only 9% of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54% in the top quartile.
Chief Executives Expect Firms to Keep Growing
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Business Roundtable said Tuesday that 40% of its member CEOs plan to hire more workers, up from 34% in the third quarter. Nearly three-quarters project their sales will rise, roughly the same as the previous quarter. The findings suggest that slowing growth overseas hasn’t caused large corporations to pull back on their hiring plans. Still, the CEOs say they are less likely to invest in new facilities or equipment; 13% say they plan to cut such spending, up from just 10% in the previous quarter. The survey was conducted between Oct. 22 and Nov. 12, and is based on 129 responses from the Roundtable’s 200 member CEOs.
Panel Calls for Changes in State Officials’ Pay
BOSTON — A seven-member advisory commission created by legislation to review compensation for the state’s constitutional officers and the Legislature presented its findings and recommendations Monday in a detailed report to the public and policy makers. The commission, chaired by Ira Jackson, dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston, was established by Section 239 of the state budget and appointed in September 2014 to analyze compensation for public officials, including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, auditor, and the Legislature. The commission was mandated to issue its report by Dec. 1. “The Advisory Commission conducted a transparent, open, data-driven review of the current compensation of public officials and developed a series of major reforms and recommendations based on its research, as well as input from the public,” said Jackson. “We recommend that the Legislature strongly consider implementing important reforms to the process of calculating compensation, while at the same time making appropriate increases in compensation levels for the governor and other elected officials to more adequately reflect their responsibilities.” Recommended reforms include:
• Eliminating legislative per diem payments;
• Determining the biennial adjustment in legislative pay through a consistent process using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure the quarterly change in salaries and wages in Massachusetts for the most recent eight quarters;
• Calculating any increase or decrease in compensation for all constitutional officers and the House speaker and Senate president using the bureau’s data on a biennial basis;
• Limiting outside employment through a first-in-the-nation measure precluding the constitutional officers, House speaker, and Senate president from earning outside income, other than passive income; and
• Establishing future special advisory commissions on a biennial basis to conduct a thorough review of compensation and reforms.
Specific recommendations on compensation include:
• Ensuring that any compensation increases must be cost-neutral to the taxpayer through efficiencies and savings identified by the constitutional officers and Legislature and reported on an annual basis to ensure accountability and transparency;
• Establishing the salary for the governor at $185,000, which, when adjusted for cost of living, would rank 10th among the 50 states. Massachusetts is one of only six states that does not provide a governor’s residence or a housing allowance. The commission recommends that the governor receive a housing allowance of $65,000;
• Providing a salary of $175,000 for the attorney general and the treasurer and receiver general;
• Setting a salary of $165,000 for the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, and the state auditor;
• Establishing compensation for the House speaker and Senate president at $175,000 annually; and
• Increasing the legislative office expense to $10,000 for legislators whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of Boston, and to $15,000 for legislators located outside that radius.
“While any recommendation to increase compensation for state leaders may be controversial, the commission believes these increases are appropriate based on the data we reviewed, and the recommended reforms are important foundations for public trust,” said Jackson. “The commission’s recommendations were guided by a thorough review of data comparing Massachusetts with other states, a strong desire to ensure that the state attracts and retains highly talented individuals regardless of means or geography, and the principle that officials should be fairly compensated based on the significant responsibilities of the offices they hold.”
Christopher Heights Project Breaks Ground
NORTHAMPTON — Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein recently joined representatives of the Grantham Group, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones, and state and local officials to break ground on the Christopher Heights assisted-living community in Northampton. “Christopher Heights is an important step toward the goal of expanding our supply of affordable housing for all of our citizens in the Commonwealth,” said Gornstein. “DHCD is pleased to assist with this development that will not only provide new housing opportunities for the elderly, but will stimulate local economic activity. We congratulate Grantham Group and appreciate the leadership of Mayor Narkewicz and other local, state, and federal officials who have helped make this project a reality.” Christopher Heights will be the newest development in Village Hill, a 126-acre mixed-use community located on the site of the former Northampton State Hospital. Christopher Heights is expected to open in the fall of 2015 and will have 83 assisted-living units, of which 43 are designated for low-income seniors. Seventeen of the 43 affordable units will be reserved for households earning less than 30% of the area median income. Christopher Heights also has locations in Worcester, Webster, Attleboro, and Marlborough. “We are excited to bring our expertise in assisted-living development and management to the Northampton State Hospital redevelopment known as Village Hill,” said Grantham Group Managing Director Walter Ohanian. “We look forward to serving the senior population who will benefit from the housing and services of an affordable assisted-living community.” The Grantham Group estimates that the project will create 65 construction jobs for the area. Once built, there will be another 40 permanent jobs at the facility. “This exciting new addition to the Village Hill community will provide affordable assisted-living housing for our local seniors,” said state Rep. Peter Kocot. “I want to congratulate the Grantham Group, Undersecretary Gornstein, and Gov. Patrick for their leadership and commitment to developing affordable housing for people of all ages.” Since 2007, the Patrick administration has invested more than $1 billion in state and federal resources to create 24,000 units of housing, of which approximately 22,000 are affordable. In Northampton, DHCD has invested more than $7.6 million to preserve or create 98 units of housing, 95 of which are affordable, for veterans, those who are institutionalized or at-risk of institutionalization, and low-income households.
Funding Awarded for Environmental Projects in Berkshire County
LENOX, PITTSFIELD — Gov. Deval Patrick recently joined state environmental officials and local officials to announce $1.2 million in capital funding to support environmental projects at Baker’s Pond in Lenox and Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, enhancing existing natural habitats and improving recreational opportunities for residents. “Growth requires investment, and creating and upgrading recreational parks and open spaces while also providing important community resources will help create growth and opportunity across the commonwealth,” Patrick said. “This investment will improve the lives of Massachusetts children and families now and for generations to come.” The administration’s $125,000 investment in Baker’s Pond will assist in the final phase of restoration of the pond. The removal of invasive species and water-quality improvements will preserve the habitat for wildlife species and make it a more appealing destination for visitors to Kennedy Park. Berkshire Community College’s Life Sciences Department will work with the town to ensure proper removal of any invasive species and the complete restoration of the pond. “Safe, reliable drinking water has always been a critical need. In the 21st century, we will need to develop new technologies to meet growing demand,” said U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern. “I’m pleased that the federal government is joining with the Commonwealth and UMass Amherst in this promising effort.” Baker’s Pond has a history of recreational use, but, after a small dam breach, the pond fell into disrepair, resulting in the growth of invasive plant and animal species. With ongoing improvements, the pond is once again becoming an attraction for tourists and hikers, as well as a habitat for endangered amphibian species. The city of Pittsfield was also awarded $1.1 million to ensure proper drainage and wetland protection as Berkshire Community College works to construct an athletic field on campus, the first of its kind in Berkshire County. The athletic-field location is north of a vernal pool, certified by the Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program, making it important for the project to be environmentally sensitive in order to preserve habitat for plants and animals. “Gov. Patrick has demonstrated a strong commitment to Pittsfield an Berkshire County,” said Mayor Daniel Bianchi. “The city of Pittsfield is pleased to join the governor in a financial commitment for the environmental restoration and construction of the new Berkshire Community College turf field. The new field will provide an athletic hub from Berkshire County and beyond. I look forward to the new events that the BCC turf field will bring to Pittsfield.”
Construction Spending Increases in October
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Construction spending increased in October amid growing public-sector demand for construction and continued modest growth in residential work, according to an analysis by Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the new spending figures underscore the need for measures to increase the supply of qualified construction workers as firms worry about growing labor shortages. “Today’s data shows that construction growth remains volatile,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “While overall construction spending jumped by more than 1% in October, the gain followed two months of stagnation. Public construction was the fastest-growing segment for the month but the slowest-growing over the past year and for the first 10 months of 2014 combined. Conversely, private, non-residential construction inched down from September to October but has risen at double-digit rates — 11% — for the combined January-through-October period. And private residential construction continues to grow very modestly, with multi-family construction taking the lead on an annual basis.” Construction spending in October totaled $971 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up 1.1% from the September total and 3.3% higher than in October 2013, Simonson noted. Private residential spending edged up 1.3% from September and 1.9% from a year earlier, while private non-residential spending dropped 1.0% for the month but rose 6.4% year-over-year. The third component of the total — public construction spending — increased 1.5% from September and 2.3% from a year ago. Single-family home construction gained 1.8% for the month and 13.2% over 12 months, and multi-family work increased 1.0% from the September level and jumped 27.2% from a year earlier. The largest private non-residential type, power construction — which includes oil and gas fields and pipelines as well as electric power — slumped 1.9% in October but rose 0.3% from the prior year. Commercial construction — comprising retail, warehouse, and farm projects — decreased 2.6% for the month but increased 9.3% for the year. Manufacturing construction increased 3.4% for the month and 23% year-over-year. Among the largest public segments, highway and street construction inched up 1.1% for the month and declined 0.1% from October 2013. Public-education construction inched up 2.2% and 6.1%, respectively. “For 2014 as a whole and 2015, private non-residential spending and multi-family spending should be the strongest segments, followed by single-family construction, with very limited prospects for public construction,” Simonson said. Association officials said the spending increases come as many firms report growing labor shortages. They urged elected and appointed officials to act on a series of measures the association has identified that will help expand the supply of qualified construction workers. “We need to make sure there are enough workers available to meet growing demand for construction,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO.
Unemployment Rates Down in Massachusetts
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) reported that seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for October were down in 20 Massachusetts labor market areas and up in two areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the year, unemployment rates were down in all the labor market areas. The preliminary statewide unadjusted unemployment rate estimate for October was 5.1%, down 1.1% from September. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was down 1.8% from the October 2013 rate of 6.9%. During October, 10 of the 12 areas for which job estimates are published recorded job gains. The largest job gain was in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area, followed by the Worcester, Springfield, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, Peabody, New Bedford, Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner, and Framingham areas. The Pittsfield area had no change in its jobs level over the month, while the Barnstable area recorded a seasonal loss. Since October 2013, all 12 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Worcester, Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, Springfield, and Pittsfield areas. The seasonally adjusted statewide October unemployment rate, released on Nov. 20, remained unchanged over the month at 6.0% and down 1.2% over the year. The rate was 0.2% above the 5.8% national unemployment rate. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 1,200-job gain in October and an over-the-year gain of 52,600 jobs. The labor force, unemployment rates, and job estimates for Massachusetts and every other state are based on several different statistical methodologies specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.
ABC Forecasts Continued Growth in Construction Sector
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) forecasts a steady and ongoing economic recovery for the U.S. commercial and industrial construction industries in 2015. The reasonably brisk industry recovery in 2014 should continue in 2015, with momentum especially growing in segments closely related to the current American energy and industrial production resurgence. “ABC forecasts non-residential construction spending will expand by roughly 7.5% next year,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The segments that will experience the largest growth in construction spending in 2015 include power (e.g. natural-gas-related construction), lodging (leisure and business spending), office space (professional-services employment creation), and manufacturing (rebounding industrial production). The public sector will see far more sluggish growth in construction spending; however, this fits a multi-year pattern with private non-residential spending exceeding public non-residential spending by 28% in 2014, up from 15.6% in 2013.”
DevelopSpringfield Buys 77 Maple St.
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Preservation Trust (SPT) announced the sale of 77 Maple St. to DevelopSpringfield for $35,000. The property, built in 1832 as the Springfield Female Seminary, had fallen into a state of disrepair and near-collapse in 2009 when the trust intervened to save the property from demolition. “Today’s sale represents the completion of the trust’s important preservation work and the transfer of the property to a responsible owner who is doing great things next door at 83 Maple St.,” said Don Courtemanche, president of the Springfield Preservation Trust. “We believe having these properties together under single ownership will ultimately be in both properties’ best interests in terms of preservation and marketability.” Added Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield, “we are thrilled to add this wonderful property to our portfolio. It makes so much sense for us to include the rehabilitation of this building in our plans for rehabilitation of the Ansel Phelps House at 83 Maple St.” Since purchasing the property, SPT has made significant structural repairs, including the critical rebuilding of a collapsed wall as well as foundation repairs, roof and trim repairs, and the repair and restoration of 24 of the building’s large, historic windows. The project has been the beneficiary of a great deal of public support, including contributions from the Springfield CDBG Program, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the 1776 Foundation, MassMutual Financial, the Hampden Bank Foundation, Bob McCarroll, and a vast number of SPT members and friends through year-round SPT special events. “We are an all-volunteer organization and could not have saved this building without the support of the community and funders,” said Courtemanche. “This truly was a community effort.” In addition to the Ansel Phelps House, DevelopSpringfield also owns a former carriage house and row of garages on an abutting parcel and an adjacent vacant lot that will provide parking, access, and green space to support both buildings. For information on leasing opportunities, contact Minkarah at (413) 209-8808 or [email protected]
Leadership Pioneer Valley Launches Leadership 2.0
SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is offering offering a new series of bite-sized training sessions beginning in January to enhance leadership skills and understanding of the region. The sessions are open to LPV alumni and other emerging and established leaders. LPV recognizes that leadership is a lifelong process, and the Leadership 2.0 series features six two- to three-hour training sessions on a variety of topics with the goal of deepening leadership skills, creating new and diverse connections, and making an impact on the region. The sessions are open to LPV alumni who want to continue their learning or others who are unable to be part of LPV’s 10-month program. The intent is to diversify Leadership Pioneer Valley’s offerings and create new opportunities. Workshop topics include “Effective Communications,” “Becoming a Superhero Board Member,” and a field experience to explore the Agawam area. The series sponsors include Sisters of Providence Health System/Mercy Hospital, Appleton Corp., the Beveridge Family Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.