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Martin Meehan Elected 27th President of UMass
BOSTON — Martin Meehan, a former U.S. congressman who became chancellor of his alma mater, UMass Lowell, and transformed it into a highly ranked national research university, was unanimously elected today as the next president of the five-campus UMass system. Meehan, the eldest of seven children, who used his UMass Lowell education as a springboard to a distinguished career in Congress and now to the presidency of the region’s largest and top-rated public university, said he was honored by the board’s action and eager to build on the work he has done at the Lowell campus. “Serving as chancellor of my alma mater, UMass Lowell, for the last eight years has been the most fulfilling period of my professional life, so I am excited about the opportunity to lead the University of Massachusetts system,” said Meehan. He will succeed President Robert Caret, who will step down June 30 to become chancellor of the 12-campus University System of Maryland. “I thank the UMass board of trustees and the presidential search committee for their confidence,” Meehan said. “Massachusetts is synonymous with the best in higher education. We will seek to strengthen our position as a world-class public university system that is accessible, affordable, and a catalyst for innovation and economic development in the Commonwealth.” Meehan was one of two finalists chosen by the 21-member search committee, working with the executive search firm Korn Ferry. The other finalist was John Quelch, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the former dean, vice president, and distinguished professor of International Management at China Europe International Business School. Quelch was formerly chairman and member of the Massachusetts Port Authority. The board of trustees met separately with each candidate in open session before voting to select Meehan as president. They cited Meehan’s strong record of achievement and success at UMass Lowell, his distinguished record of public service, his passion for UMass and its mission, and his ability to communicate and to inspire as being among the reasons for selecting him as the University’s 27th president. The former congressman will be the first UMass undergraduate alumnus to serve as president of the five-campus, 73,000-student system.

State Business Confidence Hits Pothole in April
BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index dropped 1.1 points in April to 59.1, backing off from its post-recession high.
“In April, the snow finally melted, the sunlight got stronger, and Massachusetts employers were a bit more positive about current business conditions — but other concerns weighed more heavily,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The index’s decline is attributable to lower confidence among the state’s manufacturers, who confront both weak growth domestically and challenges in global markets due to the stronger dollar.” As in 2014, Torto noted, the index performed well through a weak first quarter for the U.S. economy, which recorded a 0.2% growth rate. “We think AIM members have confidence in the fundamental stability of business conditions,” he said. “Slow growth has caused survey respondents to temper their expectations, but they continue to foresee improving conditions ahead. The AIM Index is up 6.1 points from last April and 9.6 points over two years, reflecting a significantly better business climate in Massachusetts and nationally.” The AIM Business Confidence Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. Most of the sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of respondent declined from March to April, but all were up from a year before. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, shed 2.2 points on the month to 58.6, and the U.S. Index of national business conditions lost 1.7 points to 53.8. “Despite the weak first quarter, the U.S. Index been above 50 for five consecutive months, and seems at last to be established in positive territory,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, a BEA member. “The Massachusetts Index continues to lead its national counterpart, and the latest MassBenchmarks Economic Index shows that the state’s economy has outperformed the nation’s so far this year.”

Springfield Issues Permits for Casino Site Work
SPRINGFIELD — Following months of design reviews and coordination meetings, the city is preparing for a significant amount of utility construction work to begin in and around the casino resort area in downtown Springfield. Beginning in the next few weeks, utility upgrades, expansions, and relocation work will begin on roadways surrounding the footprint for the casino resort, specifically Main Street, Union Street, East Columbus Avenue, and State Street. The work is required to terminate existing utilities that currently serve buildings that are slated for demolition; reconstruct, upgrade, and relocate utilities surrounding the MGM Springfield development area to support the size and scale of the project; and perform necessary maintenance on the aged infrastructure to extend its life expectancy into the future to support the casino development and additional growth. The Springfield DPW has issued numerous permits for utility disconnections and installation of project fencing. However, the department is preparing for a significant ramping up of construction activities through the spring and summer. Christopher Cignoli, DPW director, noted that, “based upon our meeting with the MGM Springfield development team, its contractors, and all of the area utility companies, there will be a significant amount of work occurring in the next four to six months in and along Main Street, Union Street, East Columbus Avenue, and State Street. Our job is to coordinate all of the requests for work and attempt to minimize the impact to parking and traffic and to notify the public as much in advance as possible to seek alternate routes, if necessary. We also have to coordinate this utility work with any work proposed for the I-91 viaduct project, which is also scheduled to begin in the next few months.” In order to provide the public with as much information as possible on the construction of the entire casino complex and associated construction work, the city will be launching an MGM Springfield casino-construction website, which will list all the permits issued by the city as well as issue weekly construction updates to notify residents and businesses of potential impacts.

State Announces Solar Milestones
WORCESTER — Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton announced that Massachusetts has installed more than 841 megawatts of solar electricity, bringing the Commonwealth more than halfway to the Baker-Polito administration’s goal of 1,600 megawatts by 2020. “Today’s announcement further supports the Baker-Polito administration’s commitment to a vibrant clean-energy sector that creates jobs and economic prosperity for the Commonwealth,” Beaton said. “Continuing to diversify Massachusetts’ energy portfolio through the development of solar generation will work to strengthen the state’s growing clean-energy economy while supporting new, innovative technologies.” The 841 megawatts of installed solar electricity is enough to power more than 128,000 average Massachusetts homes, and is responsible for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions equal to taking over 73,000 cars off the road. “Under the Baker-Polito Administration, Massachusetts will continue to harness solar power to protect the environment, save on energy costs, and create jobs,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson. “This is an exciting milestone toward the year when we meet our solar goal of 1,600 megawatts and generate 3% to 4% of today’s electric demands with local, available solar power.” According to the Solar Foundation, Massachusetts ranks second in the U.S. for solar jobs, while every dollar invested in solar in the Commonwealth creates $1.20 in economic benefits to the local economy, according to the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. Last year, solar electricity capacity installed was the fourth-highest in the country. “Solar energy is an economic driver here in Massachusetts, employing more than 12,000 workers in high-quality clean-energy jobs,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Alicia Barton. “Working together across government and in partnership with industry and communities, we’re well on our way to meeting our goal.” There are solar installations in 350 of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns, with at least 175 local communities hosting projects that directly benefit the municipality. There are more than 25 megawatts of solar at over 180 schools across Massachusetts, 30 megawatts on farms, and eight megawatts on state buildings and land.

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