And yesterday our state lawmakers finally did their job and agreed to move forward on the long-stalled economic development bill.
To celebrate, here’s a bonus no-hitter Thursday edition of your Need to Knows newsletter.
We finally have an economic development bill!
Ninety-five days after it was due, lawmakers announced yesterday that they had reached an agreement on a $3.8 billion bill that could be on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk by the end of today.
The bill includes many things businesses and nonprofits across many sectors have been urgently waiting for, including funds to support small businesses, workforce development, housing, climate resilience, EV rebates, MBTA safety, broadband access, public parks, and conservation land.
There are also millions for community health centers, hospitals, andnursing homes plus rate increases for human service workers, according toColin A. Young at State House News.
Oh and – just in time for any incumbent looking to defend his or her job in next week’s election – it includes plenty of earmarks for local projects too.
What’s not there and what falls short
The bill also reportedly includes $100 million to help replenish the fund that pays out unemployment benefits. That’s far short of what’s needed to cover a $2 billion deficit accumulated during the pandemic. It's also short of the $300 million that was in a version of the bill that passed the Senate this summer. The gap now needs to be covered by employers.
?And the bill abandons the tax rebates for families with children, renters, seniors, and the lowest income households, as well as reforms to the estate tax and other measures the House and Senate unanimously agreed to this summer.
The majority of the bill is paid for using the state’s surplus revenue and $510 million of the spending package is funded from American Rescue Plan Act dollars, leaving lawmakers with $1.75 billion in ARPA funds still to work with, according to Alison Kuznitz at MassLive.
Once the bill zips through both branches today, lawmakers can resume their five-month vacation, or as they call it, recess.
They’re due back on the job at some point after New Year's Day -- a mere 60 days away.
Is this the design that saves Watertown Square?
When urban planner Jeff Speck spoke at our annual Fall Business Breakfast last Friday, he shared a quick sketch he made showing a way to make Watertown Square a calmer, more efficient, and inviting place.
“I took one hour, off the clock, to investigate the worst part of Watertown — which is also the heart of Watertown — which is Watertown Square,” Speck said.
Speck’s proposal replaces the uninviting intersection where Mt. Auburn, Galen, Main, and Arsenal streets, plus Charles River Road meet, with two rotaries.
The resulting redesign would roughly double the amount of green space in the square and cuts the amount of asphalt in half.
Properly done, it would eliminate all signals, improving traffic flow while reducing its speed and danger to pedestrians and cyclists, Speck suggested.
Speck said last week that the idea is based on a similar design challenge in Poynton, England. (There's an eye-opening video exploring that transformation. Don’t miss the part where all the naysayers at the beginning, later admit they were wrong.)
After the event, Watertown’s new City Manager George Proakis told Watertown News’ Charlie Breitrose that Speck’s idea was interesting. But he said work needed to be done thinking about Watertown Square, in general, before the design of the intersection is discussed.
“What bothers me [about that intersection] is when you have six lanes of moving traffic on a business street it is very difficult to keep attention on the small businesses and keep the walkable side of things working,” Praokis said.
Speck’s latest work -- an update to his seminal "Walkable City" -- is due in mid-November. Order your copy here.
Good to knows
The Village Bank and the City of Newton are partnering on a microgrant program to support local projects designed to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and school groups can apply for between $250 to $1,000. Apply.
According to survey data from the U.S. Chamber, 56% of small retailers say they have experienced theft in the past year, with 46% being forced to increase their prices as a result. The U.S. Chamber (no connection to our chamber) is organizing a social media day of action on Monday (Nov. 7) and has created this Stop Retail Crime Toolkit.
Vermont retailer Orvis has opened its doors in Linden Square in Wellesley. “We found we have a lot of catalog business coming out of this market–Newton, Wellesley, Needham,” the Linden Square store’s GM Shannon Berry tells the Swellesley Report. “We were like, ‘We need to put a store where our customers want it to be.’”
The Mosesian Center for the Arts is partnering with Watertown Veterans' Services to display support for the veterans in our lives through Nov. 16 at the arts center. Visitors are invited to take a dog tag; write about a veteran they know. On Veteran's Day, there will be a 9 a.m. ceremony to commemorate the display at what, appropriately, was a former military installation.
Friends of the Needham Library is hosting author Marjan Kamali to discuss her best-selling novel "The Stationery Shop" on Sun. Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. Register
Two popular family businesses form a natural merger
Two home-grown companies that have kept many of us well fed -- and lubricated -- over the years have united.
Baker officially expanded into catering in 1991 and eventually opened a 20,000 SF state-of-the-art food production facility on Gould Street in Needham.
Gordon’s is a fourth-generation family business whose roots date back to 1934, with a single shop in Waltham. They now also operate in Newtonville and Arsenal Yards.
Interestingly, Gordon’s president David Gordon received his very first paycheck from Bakers’ Best.
“They’ve been a part of my life, and my family’s, for decades,” Gordon said “Bakers’ Best is synonymous with great food and events. …Great food and great wine make life great – and now we’re bringing them together under one roof.”
“When you build something with integrity and passion, always putting our employees and customers first, chances are you will find success,” said Baker. “I am now in my 70s and feel tremendous pride both in what we have accomplished and the lives we have touched.”
Baker plans to stay on for the next few years to help with the transition. The combined company will employ 250 individuals, with no expected reductions in headcount, and will continue to operate the Needham commissary.