Need catering or a location for a holiday party or office lunch?
We’ve just updated our Easy Eats Directory, a one-stop shop for catering or private event venues. Not only will you find a wide selection, but you’ll be supporting local chamber member restaurants, caterers, and other businesses.
You can also explore other chamber member businesses by location, category, and more with our Find it Local Directory.
And check out our Shop Local Market, a curated marketplace featuring locally made or themed items and gifts for clients' families and friends.
(If you're a chamber member but don’t see your business listed email Maxime or call 617-244-5300. Not a chamber member? Join today.)
Give business a break? Newton City Council says no
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller tried to give Newton’s commercial property owners a bit of a break on property taxes last week.
But Newton’s City Council overwhelmingly turned Fuller -- and our businesses -- down.
Fuller recommended a modest commercial rate shift as a way to "benefit the commercial properties that have certainly suffered during the pandemic,” CFO Maureen Lemieux explained at the fiscal '23 tax classification hearing. (Fig City New report here.)
Only two councilors – President Susan Albright and Tarik Lucas – agreed with Fuller’s recommendation to modestly shift the annual increase off the backs of business (which would still, as always, be paying a much higher overall rate).
“I think the mayor got it right,” said Lucas, speaking in support of the businesses.
The rest of the council was unconvinced.
“I certainly understand that our businesses have some issues, although we’re coming out of the pandemic,” said Councilor Marc Laredo, speaking in opposition to Fuller’s 172% recommendation and in favor of a 174% shift.
The vote was 21 to two, with two absent.
And just so we’re clear about what a difference a two percent shift means to the median tax bill:
Under the mayor’s recommendation: The residential single-family increase would have been about $655 and the commercial increase about $630.
Instead, the council supported a single-family increase of $628 (so about $27 annual savings) but a commercial increase of $878 (nearly $250 more.). See summary sheet
As I said in my testimony during the hearing, businesses may be "coming out of the pandemic" but we are not coming out of an economic crisis for our businesses.
Inflation, increased utilities, wages, insurance, and interest rates are all big challenges, as is fear of a recession next year.
It’s disappointing that more of our councilors didn’t see it that way.
Watertown’s City Council also wanted to shift a larger burden onto commercial properties at their tax classification meeting last week.
But due to an obscure 1980s law, the city’s commercial limit can’t be more than 150% (as opposed to 175% in Newton or even the 159% shift Watertown approved for the current fiscal year).
The city has been petitioning Beacon Hill to change that limit. But a home rule petition failed to pass in time for this year’s rate setting, despite support from the city’s State House delegation and the council.
All that said, Watertown’s commercial sector continues to contribute more and more each year to the city’s coffers. It's the gravy train that's allowed Watertown to rebuild its schools without any overrides and fully fund its pension.
But here's hoping Watertown's councilors remember that the city's small businesses and the commercial sector could be substantially harmed by a large tax increase once that home rule petition is eventually approved.
Needham and Wellesley are on deck
Both Wellesley and Needham hold their tax classification hearings next Tuesday (Dec. 6).
Of all our chamber communities, only Wellesley has the same rate for residential and commercial – something that’s helped make Wellesley real estate so desirable right now.
Report: Middlemen siphoned billions from the PPP program
Many of our local community banks had teams heroically working around the clock during the early part of the pandemic -- helping their business customers secure critical financial relief through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
And many of our businesses and nonprofits will tell you those efforts were a lifesaver, enabling them to meet payroll, rent, and keep the lights on.
But a report released yesterday by a House Select Committee accuses another group of lender companies, known as fintechs, of siphoning off billions in PPP funds for possible private gain.
“Some of the companies involved had never before managed federal aid, the report found. At the height of the pandemic, they failed to hire the right staff to thwart fraud,” reports the Washington Post.
?“They amassed major profits from fees generated from the loans — large and small, genuine and problematic — that they processed and reviewed. And they repeatedly escaped scrutiny from the Small Business Administration, putting billions of dollars at risk, the probe found.”
Holiday happenings in our communities
Watertown's Whoville Jubilee and Official Tree Lightinghappens Saturday (Dec. 3) from 4-8 p.m. at the Commander’s Mansion. The tree lighting is at 6:30 PM. Organizers will be accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots and the W.P.D. Whooly Foundation. Hayride shuttles will be available from the East Garage at 321 Arsenal Street to the event.
Due to forecasted rain and wind, Needham’s Annual Blue Tree Lighting has been rescheduledto Sunday (Dec. 4) from 5-6 p.m. with a ceremonial lighting of a tree decorated with blue lights on Greene’s Field, plus our favorite Santa arriving by fire truck, holiday songs performed by the Needham High Chorale and Plugged In Band.
Newton City Hall is being transformed this Saturday and Sunday into an 18-hole mini golf course complete with greens and holes winding through the secret staircase in the mayor’s office, city council chambers, and War Memorial. RSVP.
Wellesley’s Holiday Stroll and Scavenger Hunt is back on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Includes singing carolers, a sleigh ride with Santa, a scavenger hunt, and the holiday tree lighting ceremony organized by the Wellesley Merchants Association.
The entirely renovated facility (a former Boston Sports Club), includes four multi-purpose courts for basketball, volleyball, and pickleball; three group exercise studios; state-of-the-art strength and cardiovascular equipment lines; newly renovated locker rooms; Y Work Lounge; and a four-lane 25-yard lap pool. Details
Other need to knows
The Town of Needham is conducting a Parking Study focused on two key areas: Needham Center and Needham Heights. Take the survey here.
Josh Ostroff has been hired to be Newton’s new Director of Transportation Planning. Ostroff has been serving as Interim Director with Transportation for Massachusetts, a statewide transportation coalition.
Needham has hired Shane Mark to be the new assistant director of Public Works/Operations. Mack was previously Director of Streets and Sidewalks and Director of Operations for Newton.
Watertown cell therapy company SQZ Biotechnologies Company is laying off about 60% of its staff and losing two executives as it presses pause on most of its programs. (BBJ)
Pleasant Street life science project detailed
Broder has submitted planning documents for a life sciences and retail project on the former Cannistraro property (and the former home of the Plumbing Museum) at the corner of Pleasant Street and Rosedale Ave. in Watertown, reports Watertown News.
The company acquired the property for $46.5 million last year. The project includes a new four-story life science/office building, and a new garage and would create a ‘Central Green’ which would serve as a park space for residents and workers.
Before you go, tell us who you know
Thanks to referrals from our members, The Charles River Regional Chamber has consistently been among the state's fastest-growing chambers. And now as the year draws to a close, could you please take a moment to consider if you have any clients, business partners, or friends who could benefit from our advocacy, events, and networking opportunities? Just fill out this form with the names of those you think could benefit from chamber membership. When they join before the end of the year, we'll thank you with a $25 gift card to the restaurant member of your choice for each new member you've sent us.
Thanks in advance for giving this some thought!
That’s your Need to Knows for today, unless you need to know if it’s ever a good idea to buy wine from Steph Curry, James Harden,Dwyane Wade, or other NBA stars.