Page 12 - BusinessWest December 7, 2020
P. 12

An Opportunity for the Region
John Gormally [email protected]
George O’Brien [email protected]
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 s 2020 prepares to come to what we hope will be a merci- ton, Cambridge, or the Research Triangle, “because that’s where the ful end (only if our collective luck changes), it is time to workers are.” The workers, at least for some jobs, can be anywhere. look ahead. If you’re an optimist, this bodes well for the region, and we like to
It certainly beats looking back. be optimistic. Which is why we’re encouraged by a more aggressive
And as we look ahead, we need to consider what the world might look like when and if something approaching normal returns, and what it means for us. At both the micro and macro level, it doesn’t mean going back to the way things were before.
The world will have changed, in all kinds of ways, and a good many of these changes will be permanent, as in, there’s no going back to the way we were. This goes for the services we offer to cus- tomers, how we do business, and where we do business.
Yes, everyone hates Zoom — or really hates Zoom, as the case may be. But even the most ardent of haters will admit that a Zoom session beats investing the time and energy in a drive to Worcester, Boston, or wherever. A Zoom session beats getting up early — and getting dressed (don’t forget that part) — to go to a morning board meeting or perhaps even a session with a client.
And that’s just one example. The same goes for the modern office. As much as we all hear that businesses will return to the office, that workers need the camaraderie, that teams need to be in the same room to be effective, it’s clear that things simply will not be as they were.
Companies have learned they can make do with less office space — or without any office space. Individuals have learned they can do their jobs from home, and that ‘home’ doesn’t necessarily have to be close to the office. Which means it doesn’t have to be a densely pop- ulated — and very expensive — area. Businesses owners may gradu- ally ditch the current mindset that they need to be in Seattle, Bos-
attitude toward taking advantage of what appears to be an oppor- tunity for the region (see story on page 6). Groups like the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and the Springfield Regional Chamber appear to moving from ‘we might want to think about this’ to the ‘let’s do something about it’ stage.
By that, we mean they’re moving more assertively when it comes to trying to tell this region’s story and putting information in peo- ple’s hands — with the goal of motivating people, small businesses, and maybe major corporations to consider the 413 as a place to put down roots or expand.
It has always been that way — and we have always sold it as such — but we haven’t done well in pitching people on the concept, even as Boston has become more expensive and its roads have become more congested.
Maybe the pandemic and the lessons learned while navigat-
ing our way through it will change this equation. Maybe. After all, there will be considerable competition from other cities, states, and regions who have learned the same lessons. Meanwhile, this region has never been able to muster the kind of marketing muscle it takes to get a message across to a broad audience.
But it doesn’t hurt to try, and as we thankfully turn the calendar to 2021, it is time to look back a little, reflect on what we’ve learned, and do what we’ve all been trying to do since March — be in a better position after the pandemic than we were before. v
  What Biden’s Presidency May Bring
By John Regan
Joe Biden, set to become the 46th presi- dent of the U.S., will take office at a sin- gular moment in the history of a nation struggling to confront the convergence
of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and social upheaval.
It’s also a singular moment for Massa- chusetts employers. The change of adminis- trations in Washington will have enormous consequences for employers on everything from federal stimulus to the tenor of labor relations.
Record numbers of voters cast ballots either in person, by absentee ballot, or through the mail in an election conducted amid a second surge of COVID-19 cases around the country. It was an election marked by stark polarization on the issues,
a backlash against globalization, the grow- ing influence of technology, and cultural and social struggles.
The new administration and Congress will set the nation’s economic agenda for
the next two to four years. Biden’s ability
to implement his economic plans will ulti- mately be determined by two runoff elec- tions in Georgia that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
The issues for employers will range from taxes to business regulation. The most
immediate concern for Massachusetts com- panies and for the Commonwealth itself is the prospect that a Biden administration could break the logjam over a new econom- ic-recovery package as a follow-up to the CARES Act passed in March. Such a package could reopen the door to the popular Pay- check Protection Program for employers and provide financial support to the state as it seeks to close a project budget shortfall of $3 billion to $6 billion.
It is also anticipated that the new admin- istration will initiate a more aggressive fed- eral approach to moderating the COVID-19 pandemic than that taken by the Trump administration. Federal regulations such as a mask mandate and broad health protocols will affect Massachusetts companies that do business in multiple states.
President-elect Biden has proposed rais- ing taxes on corporations and imposing a corporate minimum book tax. He would also increase taxes on individuals with income above $400,000, including raising individual income, capital gains, and payroll taxes.
Most observers expect regulation of busi- ness to become more aggressive in areas such as occupational safety, union activity, and environmental compliance. The devel- opment of wind energy, including proposed
projects just south of Martha’s Vineyard, is likely to accelerate after several years of slowdowns.
U.S. financial markets are likely to be affected. The stock market generally pro- duces below-average returns during the first two years of a presidency and strong returns during in the second two years as investors gain confidence in the predictability and certainty of an administration.
The nation’s approach to international trade, which was marked by aggressive imposition of tariffs by the Trump admin- istration, may also change under a Biden administration. While the president-elect has refrained from releasing any detailed policy proposals on trade, he has empha- sized the importance of training the U.S. workforce for a competitive global environ- ment, a renewed commitment to reducing trade barriers, and a coordinated approach to negotiations with China that utilizes U.S. allies and international institutions.
AIM members should be assured that the association remains committed to repre- senting your best interests whatever direc- tion the political winds might shift. v
John Regan is president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
 12 DECEMBER 7, 2020

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