Need health insurance for your small business?

Health Insurance

Need health insurance for your small business? The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce remains committed to helping our members to access the best health insurance plans available and to make sure that your health insurance needs are met. As always, we are just a phone call or email or visit to our office away from being able to help you decide what health insurance plan best meets your needs. Contact the Chamber at 978.353.7600 ext. 227 for information on available plans and to receive a quote.

Question 1 Briefing

On November 6th, voters in Massachusetts will be asked to vote on a series of ballot questions, including Question 1 – a proposal to mandate nurse staffing levels in hospitals in the state.  Your support is desperately needed in helping voters understand the negative impact Question 1 will have on patient care, our communities and North Central Massachusetts.

Please consider sharing the following message and join the statewide effort to raise awareness and provide education regarding Question 1.

  • Staffing decisions should be left to the judgement of qualified healthcare professionals in our hospitals, not imposed via the ballot box. These new government mandated nurse staffing ratios would be enforced at all hospitals, on all units, at all times with no flexibility.  A rigid, one-size-fits-all approach threatens the quality of care for patients and would have a detrimental impact on the state’s healthcare system.
  • Virtually every major health care group, including the Massachusetts Medical Society, American Nurses Association, Emergency Nurses Association, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and Massachusetts Senior Care Association, opposes Question 1 and feels that it would have devastating consequences for patients. Consider what would happen under the new law if an emergency department were to reach its full legal allowance of patients under the new mandates.  The hospital would not be able to admit any more patients, forcing patients and ambulances to waste valuable time in life and death situations searching for an alternative hospital.
  • Every hospital in the state, including our three community hospitals located here in North Central Massachusetts – UMass Memorial HealthAlliance Clinton Hospital, Heywood Hospital and Nashoba Valley Medical Center – also oppose Question 1.  Question 1 would raise costs substantially for these hospitals and negatively impact their ability to provide care.  To implement this costly unfunded mandate, they will be forced to make deep cuts to critical programs, such as opioid treatment and mental health services.  Statewide, Question 1 is projected to lead to the reduction of 1,000 behavioral health beds (38% of the total supply).[i]  In addition, many smaller community hospitals are already struggling financially and will not be able to absorb the added cost and will be forced to close.
  • The independent, non-partisan Massachusetts Health Policy Commission has estimated that passage of Question 1 would cost the Commonwealth up to $949 million annually.[ii] Patients, employers and taxpayers will end up footing the bill for these new government mandates through increased taxes and higher premiums.
  • There is no evidence that Question 1 will improve the quality of care. Out of all 50 states only one other state (California) has mandated nurse staffing ratios and there is no evidence that it has led to improved care.  United Health Foundation ranks California seventeenth nationally in terms of statewide health.  Massachusetts ranks first.[iii]  In addition, a study conducted in 2018 of hospital patient safety ranks Massachusetts fourth in the nation for percentage of hospitals with top patient safety rating, while California ranks twenty-fifth.[iv]

We would encourage you to vote against this measure.  Patient safety should always be the primary concern of the Commonwealth’s healthcare system.  While proponents of this question may be well intentioned, its severe cost and detrimental impact on the state’s healthcare system cannot be ignored.

For more information, please contact Christopher McDermott, Public Affairs Manager at 978.353.7600 ext. 224 or email

Click here to view the Chamber’s positions on the Ballot Questions.

Click here to view our Op-Ed on Question 1

[i] (Coalition to Protect Patient Safety)

[ii] (Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, 2018)

[iii] (Attorney General of Massachusetts)

[iv] (The Leapfrog Group, 2018)

Sample Letter to Legislator: Minimum Wage


As a small business owner and job creator in your district, I urge you to provide cost relief for struggling small businesses.

My business already faces double-digit health care premium increases, highest-in-the-nation energy expenses, and a newly increased EMAC tax. Should this year’s ballot initiatives pass, I would also have to contend with the impact of a $15 minimum wage indexed to inflation, a one-size-fits-all paid family and medical leave mandate, and an income tax surcharge on pass-through businesses.

Massachusetts is one of only eleven states without a teen or training wage. Small businesses have historically served as the first job for young workers, providing an introduction to the workforce. As the cost of hiring workers increase, it grows more difficult to justify employing teenagers and students who lack entry level skills and require extensive training. Without a teen or training wage, these individuals will be continuously crowded out of the workforce.

Increasing the tipped wage to $9/hour will mean Massachusetts servers will experience the same loss of income that Maine restaurant workers experienced. The Maine legislature was forced to override the actions of a misguided state ballot question at the request of restaurant servers due to reduced take-home pay following a minimum wage increase. Massachusetts legislators may be faced with an equally uncomfortable predicament, should this initiative pass.

Massachusetts will be only one of two states with a paid family and medical leave benefit requiring an employer contribution. The other state mandated leave programs are all employee paid and often include a small business carve-out and opt-outs for businesses with an existing program. The current proposal for paid family and medical leave is estimated to be a $1 billion tax on both employers and their workers. This would be the most expensive paid family and medical leave benefit in the nation!

These new mandates will surely factor into future hiring decisions for my business and will limit my ability to increase the number of workers I employ. Therefore, as a small business owner, I ask that you recognize the extreme financial pressures being faced by job creators and understand the sacrifices we are already making to keep residents of the Commonwealth employed. Main Street businesses seek balanced relief, so we can do what small businesses do best: Create jobs and grow local economies.


Last Chance to Advertise in the Manufacturers Directory

Don’t get left out! The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation is getting ready to publish the 2018 edition of the Manufacturers Directory and Industrial Parks Guide for North Central Massachusetts. A limited number of advertising spots are still available.

This publication is the region’s most comprehensive collection of this specialized information, outlining available industrial sites and local manufacturing related businesses, describing products, contact information and more. The directory is designed to promote and connect manufacturers with suppliers as well as serve as a resource for companies looking to relocate or expand throughout the region. Ad rates start at just $350. Please contact David Ginisi at 978.353.7600 ext. 240 for more information or to reserve your advertisement.

Addiction and the Economy:  The Hidden Link 

The preventable loss of life from addiction is a tragedy which destroys families and devastates communities. But often absent from the conversation about addiction is the fact that it is also inflicting harm on the American economy, on a scale not seen in any previous drug crisis.  A 2011 study,  published in the journal Pain Medicine, estimated that health-care costs related to prescription opioid abuse amounted to $25 billion dollars, and criminal-justice-system costs totaled $5.1 billion. But the largest financial cost was to the workplace, which accounted for $25.6 billion, in the form of lost earnings and employment. Howard Birnbaum, a health-care economist and one of the authors of the study, explains, “There are major consequences to the economy…If people don’t have jobs, they don’t have money to spend in the grocery store, or on gasoline.”

And evidence supporting the link between addiction and the economy is growing. In July of 2017, economists from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., reported that America’s opioid epidemic is sidelining people in their prime working years and contributing to the stubbornly low rate of men and women who are either employed or looking for jobs. In September of 2017, Princeton economist Alan Krueger, noted a definitive link between addiction and the reduced labor force: Where Have All the Workers Gone? An Inquiry into the Decline of the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate

The human, social and economic costs of this national crisis can certainly feel overwhelming.  However, here in North Central Massachusetts we have reason to be hopeful as our region is uniquely poised to face this challenge head-on. In February of 2017, the City of Fitchburg applied to be a Pilot Community with Facing Addiction, Inc. The application was submitted by the Joint Coalition on Health after requesting and receiving the full support of Fitchburg leadership including Mayor DiNatale, Chief Martineau and Board of Health Director, Stephen Curry.

Facing Addiction Inc. received more than 50 applications from communities across the country. In March of 2017, it was announced that Fitchburg, MA was selected as one of 15 communities to participate in the organization’s pilot community project.


The Pilot Project, Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond, is seeking support and participation from all sectors including our region’s vibrant business community.

Ways to take action now:

  • Support our work: We are an entirely grassroots initiative. If you are interested in becoming a benefactor of this important work, please contact us at
  • Consider participating in in our research project: On October 16, 2017, we are launching LUV: Listening to Unheard Voices. Working in partnership with UMass Medical School, Community Health Connections and others, the project will conduct interviews and focus groups throughout North Central MA.  The Project is particularly interested in talking with people who have been directly impacted by addiction. All interviews are completely confidential. Information gathered will be shared with community leaders to inform them about what is being experienced on the frontlines. For more information, please contact us at
  • Visit us at Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond
  • Join our mailing list by contacting us at


 “Addiction is a health issue that must be treated as such. It is a preventable illness, and recovery is a reality for over 23 million Americans. But with 22 million still suffering, it is past time to take new and innovative approaches to solving this public health crisis.” – Michael King

If you or a loved one is in need of treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction in MA, call 1-800-327-5050. The Helpline is the only statewide, public resource for finding substance use treatment and recovery services. Helplines services are free and confidential.

  • Susan Buchholz, Volunteer Chair and Coordinator of the Joint Coalition On Health & Volunteer Director of Facing Addiction In Fitchburg And Beyond.

Season Tickets now available

Each year, the NCMCC offers the convenience of season tickets for two of our most popular programs: the Good Morning North Central executive breakfast and Human Resources Council lunch series. Many who attend these programs, often attend the full program year and thus, deserve a token of our appreciation for their program loyalty!

Season ticket holders are offered convenience and a discount on programming by purchasing the entire year up front. At a 20% discount and automatic registration for each event, season tickets are an economical and efficient purchase for business leaders in the community. Season Tickets can also be transferred to another employee within your business if you are not able to attend one of the events.

The Good Morning North Central executive breakfast series is $100 for five events while the Human Resource Council is $150 for nine events (individual event pricing is $125 and $180, respectively).

Season Tickets can be purchased directly through our online calendar at the discounted rate or by contacting Maria McCaffrey at or 978.353.7600 ext. 235.

Attention North Central Chamber Members

Attention North Central Chamber Members

Overtime regulations not going into effect on December 1st

What happened?

Over the last several months, businesses in North Central Massachusetts have been preparing to comply with new overtime rules set to go in effect on December 1, 2016. But last week, a federal judge blocked the new regulations, pausing businesses from having to comply with the law. In short, there are currently no changes to overtime laws.
Many employers have been actively taking steps to change personnel policies surrounding overtime pay, employee classification, and even the way employees perform their job duties. But with this latest decision, those changes may not have been necessary as existing overtime regulations are still in place.

What does this mean?

The federal judge’s injunction to this law gives merit to the existing court cases that have challenged the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulations. Basically, the federal judge believed that the lawsuits challenging the new regulations were legitimate cases that should be heard before any regulations are put in place.
This means that the salary threshold for overtime exemption is still $23,660 and not $47,476.

This decision is not permanent and court decisions could provide a variety of impacts and outcomes for overtime rules.

What to do next?

If you have already made changes to employee classifications and salary, it may be best to not make any more changes. It may be difficult to take back decisions you have made about an employee’s status and job duties. You should consider your own unique situations and the relative costs to making changes to your personnel policies.

If you have not yet made decisions or implemented changes regarding classification of employees, it may be best to hold off on making any changes and see how the litigation works out. You may want to have a plan in place to move forward in the future in the event that the federal judge’s decision is reversed. You should consult an employment attorney or CPA for guidance.

Need more information?

Keep an eye out for more information from the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. If you need assistance, please reach out to Patrick Lawlor, public affairs manager, by phone at 978.353.7600 ext. 224 or by email 




Question: Is there a specific committee charged with overseeing the project or will one be created prior to the project’s start?

Answer: In the past, we have had a steering committee comprised of high level decision makers in the region that participated in the process. So, yes we would envision creating a steering group of volunteer leaders organized to help provide leadership and input into the process. However, I would envision that most of the project oversight would be staff driven.


Question: Will there be staff assigned to the project by the sponsor organizations and if so, what will their role be?

Answer: Yes, we would envision that the professional staff would be engaged in the project in various capacities (i.e. providing oversight, guidance and support).


Question: What is the desired start date for the contract?

Answer: Our timeline is to select a consultant and execute a contract by February 1, 2017. We would like to start the project immediately after the contract is executed.


Question: Is there a desired completion date?

Answer: Based on our initial timeline, we had planned that this project would take 4-5 months once a consultant is selected and the contract executed. However, we have some flexibility and can adjust if deemed necessary. We do not want the project to be rushed and want the consultant to deliver the best quality product. However, the project should not take more than 10-12 months maximum. I should also note that we have some deadlines imposed on us by some of our grant funding sources that are supporting this project which may require the consultant to provide us with formal progress reports to satisfy their requirements.


Question: Given the holiday season, can you tell me when you are considering holding interviews?

Answer: We anticipate that the selection committee will review the proposals in early January and potentially select 2-3 finalists to invite in for interviews and presentations. We would hope to have the selection process completed by the end of February.


Question:  The amount and type of “input’ is an important question with this many cities/towns involved. Do you have any further thoughts on that component ?

Answer: This is a critical piece of the project. I would envision that whomever we select would be experienced in hosting and facilitating “visioning” sessions (as well as other techniques) to gather input from various stakeholders and build consensus around a collective economic development strategy. However, we do not expect that the consultant we select to engage with the elected leadership in each and every community that we represent on an individual basis. We can provide guidance on major stakeholders that should be included in the process.


Question: We are quite experienced in creating a comprehensive community assessment to give you a clear picture of all the demographic and economic data and a meaningful analysis. Will you want to include research on comparison regions from the Northeast or around the country?

 Answer: The data piece is another critical part of the project. If you believe that a comparison with other regions will be helpful, then you should include it in your proposal.


Question: One of our major concerns is the data availability given the many cities/towns to be included.  Is the region represented by the Montachusett RPC and its 22 communities a good source for data ?  Does it cover almost all of your region ?

Answer: Yes, the Montachusett RPC represents most of our core communities and is a good source of data. However, we expect that the consultant we select should also have access to other sources of data.


Question: Is there any flexibility with the budget?

Answer: The $100,000 is our total budget for the project. We have no flexibility there. You should make sure to document if anything is excluded in your final proposal.


Question: How many firms have been invited to respond to the RFP? I don’t see that it’s publicly posted, is that right?

Answer: Currently, there are ten consulting firms that we invited to respond to the RFP.


Question:  Do you have a cut-off date for questions, and will you be sharing Q&A with all prospective bidders?

Answer: We don’t have a set cut-off date for questions. However, I would recommend submitting any questions well in advance of the deadline as possible.  We may not respond to the questions immediately and you want to leave yourself enough time to prepare your proposal and submit by the deadline.

Sharing the Q&A will depend on the number of questions we receive and if we deem them relevant and helpful for the preparation of the proposals. In such a case, we might compile and share the questions and our responses to the questions with all of the bidders.


Question: It appears that submission by email is acceptable and hard copies are not required. Is that accurate?


Answer: Yes, email submission is fine. But, I would recommend that you confirm receipt.