The new year looks like it will be a challenging one for our economy and therefore many of our businesses and nonprofits. Your chamber team is committed to being your voice, your connector, and your collaborator as we work through the months ahead.
Let us know how we can help.
Needham kid says goodbye
A one-time Needham newspaper delivery boy who later went on to pump gas in the town center and eventually became governor of Massachusetts will take that final "lone walk" down the State House steps this evening.
We’re grateful to the guv and his team for their many efforts, particularly in support of our businesses during the height of the pandemic, and on the housing front.
We’re also looking forward to collaborating with Gov-elect Maura Healey and her administration (super excited that long-time chamber memberand collaborator Monica Tibbits-Nutt, who knows our region's transportation challenges as well as anyone, will be part of Healey's Mass DOT team).
And, dare I suggest, the timing of Baker's departure and Healey’s arrival seems to be right on trend?
Closing the book on HireNow program
As noted above, the Baker administration rolled out many initiatives that were essential to businesses during the pandemic, most notably an easy-to-access $4.8 milliongrant program administered by Mass Growth Capital Corporation.
But (as I feared would be the case last March) the administration’s HireNow program wasn't among its best efforts.
Last week, Jon Chesto at the Globe finally got hold of the final numbers for the somewhat mysteriously-run initiative, which offered employers $4,000 grants for new hires for job training or recruitment.
Nearly 2,000 companies were reportedly helped by HireNow and that’s significant. But what the data doesn’t capture is how many employers made hires and invested in training, or bonuses, but never received their expected grants because the program was oversubscribed, or because of problems with the platform.
We may never know that number. But anecdotally I heard from many frustrated small business owners.
After failed delay tactic, two housing projects overwhelmingly approved
Two projects that would bring new, transit-oriented housing to West Newton were approved by the Newton City Council last night.
Mark Development received the green light to transform the Santander Bank building, creating 50 transit-oriented apartments and a restaurant while maintaining the historic façade and bank lobby.
Also approved was a proposal for 106 River Street to create nine small residential units that appear to fit well within the goals of the MBTA Communities law.
Councilor Lenny Gentile blocked both projects from going to a vote last month. He said last night the projects were too big and not in keeping with his memories of West Newton of bygone days. He also expressed frustration that his colleagues were prioritizing housing creation over other considerations. (Well councilor, we do have a housing crisis.)
And he vowed to keep objecting.
“It’s going to be a long year,” Gentile said.
Santos (no, not that one) to open second Watertown restaurant
The Massachusetts native and Hell’s Kitchen Season 7 runner-up operates Buttermilk & Bourbon locations at Arsenal Yards and in Boston's Back Bay as well as Citrus & Salt in the Back Bay and Nash Bar & Stage in the Theater District.
The new Butterbird, also at Arsenal Yards, will be a casual takeout place.
Minimum wage increases, premium pay ends
This a reminder that, as of Jan. 1, the hourly minimum wage in Massachusetts is $15. The tipped wage has increased to $6.75 per hour.
The retail premium pay mandate has also been fully eliminated. That means employees may be compensated at their regular rate of pay for work performed on Sundays and on holidays. All Sundays and select holiday hoursmust be voluntary.
Of course, most businesses are already paying well above the minimum wage for entry-level workers, with the exception of perhaps some teen jobs, Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst told Reilly.
And Hurst warns that for many employers “profitability has totally evaporated" as "costs of operations have risen substantially."
"Early 2023 could indeed be a very challenging time. We may indeed be entering a period of recession, where we will see some jobs eliminated and a lot of small businesses close their doors.”
Our best wishes to Debbie Good Miller, executive director at the Brookline Chamber, who is stepping down from her post at the end of this month. Our chambers collaborated on several events together (remember Breakfast at Fenway?). We always enjoyed the partnership.
Former Rep. Shawn Dooley, who gave up his job in his unsuccessful challenge to unseat Sen. Becca Rausch, has been appointed by the Baker administration to the state Civil Service Commission. (State House News).
The virtual meeting exploring Alexandria Real Estate Equities' proposed garage at 480 Arsenal Way (as part of ARE’s larger Watertown Mall project) has been rescheduled to Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Meeting documents here.
State’s new zoning law explained to non-zoning geeks
2023 is going to be a critical year for the state’s MBTA Communities Law and a likely contentious topic at many municipal meetings, online forums, and neighborhood conversations.
If you’re interested in understanding how this zoning law could impact 175 Massachusetts communities (including our chamber municipalities) CommonWealth has just published the first of a five-part series by Amy Dain, breaking down the decisions and requirements.
Watertown manager gets a leg up on her coworkers
Finally, this morning, if you missed it over the holidays check out the story about the mysterious arrivals of tiny pink flamingos “seemingly out of nowhere” at a Galen Street publishing house in Watertown.
“They were taped to office cubicles, nestled in potted plants, and resting on conference room tables," Spencer Buell at the Globe reported. "There was no explanation for their sudden arrival, but staff at the small children’s book company were enthralled.”
“My main motivation, just in general, is to make people happy,” Boss told the Globe. “And so I really figured that this might be just a cute, fun thing as we were coming back to the office” after COVID-19 restrictions.