<strong>Unemployment Rises Slightly in January
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for January were up in all 24 labor market areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), compared to December 2014 rates. However, compared to January 2014, over-the-year unemployment rates were down in all of the labor market areas. BLS also released job and unemployment estimates for the new geographical boundaries of the labor market areas that were redrawn based on 2010 Census area delineations. These changes allow job estimates to be published for 15 areas, and labor-force and unemployment-rate estimates to be released for 24 areas. During January 2015, both Massachusetts and the 15 local areas for which job estimates are published experienced seasonal job losses. Since January 2014, all 15 areas added jobs. The Barnstable, Lawrence, Worcester, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Framingham, and Pittsfield areas added more jobs than over the same time period last year. In order to compare to the local unemployment rates, the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for January was 5.6%, up 0.7% from the revised December 2014 rate. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was down 1.3% from the January 2014 rate of 6.9%. The seasonally adjusted statewide January unemployment rate, released on March 10, was 5.1%, down 0.2% over the month and down 1.0% over the year. The rate was 0.6% below the national unemployment rate. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 2,600-job gain in January and an over-the-year gain of 68,000 jobs. Once a year, BLS revises and updates area job estimates, which are available back to 1990. The revised labor-force and unemployment rates go back to 2014. The labor force, unemployment rates and jobs 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, labor force, 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.
MGM Springfield Names VP, Slates Groundbreaking
SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts International announced that Brian Packer has been named vice president of Development and Construction for MGM Springfield, as it makes preparations for a March 24 groundbreaking event. As part of the MGM Resorts development team, which provides oversight and construction management on all regional and international integrated-resort projects, Packer will provide executive oversight for all aspects of construction and program-management activities at MGM Springfield. He has been an owner’s representative for MGM Resorts for more than 10 years, specializing in large, complex design and construction projects. He most recently served as director of Design and Construction. While in this role, he assembled the team that helped open ARIA Resort & Casino, one of the largest private developments of its kind. “Our team designs and delivers the most distinct hospitality properties in the world,” said Michael Mathis, MGM Springfield president. “Brian is the right person to assist in developing MGM Springfield, the largest development in Springfield and one of the largest in the region’s history.” Added Packer, “I was thrilled to have been asked to come to Springfield on behalf of MGM. Our company has been abuzz about the revolutionary and integrated downtown design and what we hope to accomplish for the Western Massachusetts region. I look forward to working together with our local partners to achieve this new vision for Springfield.” The construction of MGM Springfield will offer opportunities in a wide range of property components, such as early work and off-site work for the garage, casino, hotel tower, and retail plaza. Each component will allow for various bid opportunities for local contractors, in both prime and sub roles. MGM has and will continue to advertise additional opportunities for future construction packages as they become available. Interested bidders will learn about the scope of work, how to participate in the pre-qualification process, and MGM Springfield’s policy on minority contractors, vendors, and purchasing. “As certain aspects of the construction phase become the next priority, we will roll out this meeting process to get the right people for each piece of this design,” Mathis said.
ACCGS Releases 2015 Legislative Agenda
SPRINGFIELD — The Affiliated Chamber of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS) has released its 2015 legislative agenda, addressing the major legislative issues intended to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs, and stimulate growth in the Greater Springfield region. The agenda touches upon key issues in the areas of tax policy, workplace ethics, healthcare, and workforce development. The ACCGS will continue to update the legislative agenda throughout the session so to stay current with the evolving nature of the region. With revenues growing at a 4.5% rate, the chamber will focus on how those revenues are prioritized and spent in the areas of Gateway Cities, infrastructure, and local aid. The chamber continues to work hard in making the region competitive when it comes to the costs of doing business, and is addressing issues in the workplace with a focus on mandated sick leave, unemployment insurance, treble damage, and non-compete legislation. Healthcare costs are a major priority in this session’s agenda and remain a point of concern for the chamber and its members. The chamber will focus its efforts on addressing the federal Affordable Care Act, mandated benefits, and insurance disbursements. With more than 6,000 pieces of legislation filed at the commencement of the session on Jan. 1, the ACCGS will be monitoring the progress of these bills to better assert its position throughout the 2015-16 legislative session.
Springfield Establishes Casino Liaison Office
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and the Office of Planning & Economic Development have officially announced the establishment of the Casino Liaison Office. In order to meet the requirements of the Gaming Act found under Section 96 of Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011, a host community is required to take action to help coordinate and expedite local permitting of a gaming facility. The Casino Liaison Office will act similar to a local permitting ombudsman to help coordinate and expedite local permitting of the development. The role of this office is to work with MGM Springfield and its construction-management team to resolve the myriad issues likely to occur during the construction period and to help streamline city permitting. This office will be in existence for a short time covering the period of construction and the first year of operation, with an expected span of 39 months. This office will be overseen by Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer, and will be staffed by Al Chwalek, retired director of the Department of Public Works, and attorney James Hannifan. The Casino Liaison Office will coordinate the efforts of the various city departments involved in the development and construction of the casino project and serve as an information resource for the developer and as a representative and facilitator for developer in the processing of its permitting, licensing, and regulatory approvals. “Due to the size and complexity of this multi-million-dollar project, it is imperative that the city provide a direct point of contact as we move forward with the realization of this tremendous economic-development project for the city of Springfield,” said Sarno. “Both Al and Jim have direct knowledge of the development process and will be instrumental in making sure that, when issues arise, they can be dealt with directly and in a timely manner to ensure this project stays on track.” In addition to the Casino Liaison Office staff, Sarno will also be bringing together a number of key departments as part of a casino-development team. This team will include the Office of Planning & Economic Development, Department of Public Works, Law Department, Building Department, Police Department, Fire Department, Water & Sewer Commission, and Office of Administration and Finance. As part of this team, the city will also be re-engaging the services of a number of outside casino-related consultants. These include Fuss & O’Neil, a local traffic-engineering consultant; the Chicago Consultants Studio Inc., a Chicago-based planning firm, which will review site-planning-related issues; and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, formerly Shefsky & Froelich Ltd., for its expertise concerning legal matters relating to the gaming industry. The city will fund the office staff through payments received in conjunction with the host-community agreement. Outside consultants used for their expertise will be funded pursuant to the terms of the agreement, which obligate the developer to pay development process cost fees. “As we did during the casino-review process, the city wants to ensure that we have a transparent and open process and that we also have the most qualified people to help guide one of the largest development projects in the city’s history,” Kennedy said. “This team of city departments and consultants, which will also be fully available to the City Council as part of their review, will help to play a major role in the permitting process and provide much-needed input as we look forward in anticipation of the casino’s opening in 2017.”