October Home Sales Fell To 12-Year Low

Source: State House News Service
Author: Colin A. Young

As Gov. Maura Healey and her team rolled out her plan to move the needle on housing production and ease housing hardships with outside-the-box policies, people looking to buy a home in Massachusetts faced much of the same in October: the thinnest inventory in more than a decade, record high prices and expensive borrowing costs.

There were 3,515 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts last month, down 16.9 percent from October 2022’s 4,228 sales and the fewest number of single-family home sales for any October since 2011, The Warren Group said in its first look at monthly real estate data since Healey filed her policy-heavy $4.1 billion housing bond bill on Oct. 18.

With the options for prospective homebuyers relatively few and far between, the median sale price for a single-family home jumped 10.6 percent year-over-year to $575,140, The Warren Group said. Like September’s $565,000 median sale price, October’s mark set a new all-time high for the month.

“Home sale prices in October climbed to the highest they’ve ever been during this time of year,” Cassidy Norton, associate publisher and media relations director at The Warren Group, said. “Inventory is far below historical norms, and limited choices make it more difficult to find a home. And record high prices paired with rising interest rates make the task of buying a home that much more formidable.”

Through October, there had been 34,515 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts this year. That represents a 23.9 percent decline from the first 10 months of 2022. The year-to-date median sale price is up 3.6 percent from last year, at $570,000, The Warren Group said.

Potential homeowners are running out of options in Massachusetts, the group said in its October analysis. Last month’s 1,562 condominium sales marked a 9.4 percent decrease from a year ago while the median sale price climbed 4.4 percent to $500,000. Year-to-date, condo sales are down 19.7 percent and the median price is up 4.9 percent to $515,500.

“Massachusetts condo prices soared to a record high in October, setting a new benchmark. Condos previous offered a more affordable purchase option; arguably, at just $75,000 less than a single-family home, those times are over,” Norton said.

High interest rates are affecting would-be homebuyers, and potential sellers. With rates as high as they are now, some prospective buyers have to limit their options because it is far more expensive to borrow money than it was two years ago. And people who are locked in at a much lower mortgage rate are less likely to give that up by making their home available for sale.

As of Thursday, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 7.44 percent APR, according to data compiled by Freddie Mac. A year ago, the average interest rate was 6.61 percent, and two years ago it was 3.10 percent, Freddie Mac said.

Healey and Housing Secretary Ed Augustus have hit the road over the last month to tout the five-year, $4.12 billion housing bond bill that they think will help to ease the housing crunch that threatens the state’s continued development and its competitive standing with other states. In Attleboro last month, Augustus said that 1.6 percent of housing units across Massachusetts were available for sale or rent, calling it the lowest vacancy rate of all 50 states.

“A healthy housing ecosystem should be 4 to 5 percent vacancy rate at any given time, which empowers a consumer to be able to get a rental unit or to make a reasonable offer on purchasing a home,” he said. “How many people here have a family member or experienced themselves or know somebody they’ve worked with who’ve had to make multiple over-asking offers and then still to come away not having the opportunity of homeownership? That is what that low vacancy rate represents to real people.”

He added, “And those people increasingly are saying, ‘Well, I guess that homeownership isn’t an opportunity for me here in Massachusetts. I’m looking elsewhere.’ And the governor was very clear and very specific: We can’t let that happen any longer.”

Healey has tried to attach a level of urgency to her bill (H 4138), suggesting it will be a missed production opportunity if the policies in her bill are not law before the spring construction season gets underway.

But the bill is now in the hands of a Legislature that has struggled to make quick decisions, meet its own deadlines and seldom reaches agreement on anything of consequence without taking it to, and sometimes beyond, the brink. Healey’s housing bill has not moved since it was sent to the Housing Committee on Oct. 18 and the Legislature is in a seven-week stretch of limited activity.

In Attleboro last month, the governor said she needed help from local officials and supporters “to get it done and get it done quickly.”

“Housing construction starts will start in the spring or not, right? So we’ve got to get this going and get this going now,” Healey said.

Healey-Driscoll Administration Announces Historic Financial Aid Expansion for Massachusetts Public College and University Students

Today, Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll announced a historic financial aid expansion that will benefit approximately 25,000 students attending the state’s public community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts. With close to $62 million in new program funding, the MASSGrant Plus Expansion program will cover tuition, fees, books, and supply costs for Pell Grant-eligible students and reduce out-of-pocket expenses for middle-income students by up to half. 

Governor Healey announced the program this morning at Salem State University’s campus, along with Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega, and Chair of the Board of Higher Education Chris Gabrieli. They were joined by Salem State University (SSU) President John D. Keenan; SSU students, faculty and staff; local and statewide elected officials; and public higher education leaders from across the state.  

“For so many Massachusetts residents, higher education can be the ticket to their future career and economic stability. Our employers are looking to graduates of Massachusetts’ exceptional public colleges to meet their workforce needs, and those graduates are most likely to stay in Massachusetts. But far too many people are held back from pursuing the education of their choice because of high costs,” said Governor Healey. “This expansion of MASSGrant Plus will open doors for more students to access higher education, which will strengthen our economy as a whole. We’re grateful to our Legislative partners for making this funding available and look forward to our continued collaboration to make Massachusetts more affordable.”  

“75 percent of our public higher education graduates stay in Massachusetts – like I did after my time at Salem State. They are our future educators, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and maybe even our future Lieutenant Governor,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “By making public higher education more affordable, we’re helping to grow the next generation of leaders and talents in our state – the folks who will staying here to work, raise their families and build their futures. That’s why our administration has taken numerous steps, from expanding MASSGrant Plus to making community college free for students 25 and old, to lower costs and increase access to higher education for everyone.”

Not including room and board, MASSGrant Plus Expansion will cover the full cost of tuition and fees for Pell Grant-eligible students, including, for the first time, the federal government determined expected family contribution (EFC) and an additional allowance of up to $1,200 for books and supplies. Middle income students – defined as those whose families earn between $73,000 and $100,000 annually in adjusted gross income — will have their costs for tuition and mandatory instructional fees reduced by up to half of their out-of-pocket expenses. While middle-income students must be enrolled full time to qualify, the expansion will extend MASSGrant Plus financial aid to both full- and part-time Pell Grant-eligible students for the first time. 

“I’m thrilled that we’re able to deliver such a big investment and increase aid for nearly 25,000 public higher education students. By expanding access to higher learning, we’re able to connect even more students with the life changing opportunities, high quality educational experiences, and work-based training and skills development that our community colleges, state universities, and UMass offer,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler.

“Massachusetts should be the number one state in the country when it comes to upward socioeconomic mobility, and college access is the way to get there,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega. “Any resident seeking an education and career that will bring them higher earnings and improved livelihood deserves our full support on that journey.”   

“The Board of Higher Education identified the need for a new strategy on higher education financing, and in 2022 we created and unanimously approved a new framework,” said Board of Higher Education Chair Chris Gabrieli. “The framework’s top priority was to expand state financial aid and make college truly affordable for our lowest income students and less debt burdensome for our moderate-income students. We are excited and grateful that the Healey-Driscoll Administration and the Legislature have chosen to harness a meaningful portion of the Fair Share revenues to this priority, and we are dedicated to working closely with all our campuses to deliver on this new commitment to students.” 

“Public higher education opens doors to transformational opportunities,” said Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “It’s absolutely thrilling to see state investment put to work so beautifully on behalf of our students through the MassGrant Plus Expansion program. Kudos to the Healey-Driscoll Administration for this tenacious work and thank you to Senate President Karen Spilka for leading the Senate’s enduring commitment to breaking down financial barriers to higher education. I am tremendously excited to see how this expanded student assistance will catapult students, and our Commonwealth, forward.” 

The program will be retroactive to the start of the fall 2023 semester for currently enrolled students. Students who have already completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2023-2024 academic year will not need to take any further action to benefit from the additional financial aid dollars. Funds for the current semester will be credited to their accounts. Students who may qualify but have not filled out the FAFSA should do so immediately.  

“MASSGrant Plus Expansion by the Healey-Driscoll Administration is a game changer for state university students. It is simply historic. I know at Salem State University, 40% of our students are Pell Eligible and hundreds of our students are considered as being from middle income families. This unprecedented investment will allow more of the Commonwealth’s students to pursue their dreams of a college education. It’s a win for them and a win for the future Massachusetts’ workforce,” said John D. Keenan, president of Salem State University and chair of the State Universities Council of Presidents. The Commonwealth’s state universities are incredibly grateful to this Administration for their unwavering leadership in making public higher education more affordable and accessible for all!”  

“The Healey-Driscoll administration’s bold expansion of financial aid will open the doors of a world-class UMass education to students across the state and lower the cost for current UMass students,” UMass President Marty Meehan said. “This will accelerate the upward economic mobility of our students, about one-third of whom receive Pell Grants now, and strengthen the Commonwealth’s investment in its talent pipeline, which is critical to sustaining our competitive edge.” 

“The 15 community colleges are excited by the opportunities the MASSGrant Plus Expansion will offer to our students,” said James Vander Hooven, president of Mount Wachusett Community College and chair of the Community College Council of Presidents. “We are grateful to the Governor, Lt. Governor Driscoll, and the entire administration for the continued investments in our students.” 

MASSGrant Plus Expansion will invest approximately $61.7 million of additional state dollars into public higher education students. The funding for the MASSGrant Plus Expansion will draw on the $84 million delivered for financial aid expansion by Governor Healey and the legislature in the FY24 budget. Remaining funds will be used to support ongoing financial aid policies and to implement Massachusetts’ new tuition equity law, which allows qualifying non-U.S. citizens, namely undocumented students, who have completed high school in Massachusetts to access state financial aid.

This financial aid expansion announcement builds on the Healey-Driscoll administration’s significant investment in higher education earlier this fall, including a $20 million investment in MassReconnect, which made community college free for Commonwealth residents ages 25 and older regardless of income. 

“We applaud the Legislature and the Healey Administration for this momentous investment in young people that uses dollars from the Fair Share Amendment and is rightly focused on low- and middle-income students and their families,” said Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts. “The expansion of the MASSGrant Plus program will open the doors of Massachusetts public colleges and universities to thousands of deserving students, bettering their lives and strengthening our Commonwealth for the good of all residents.”

“As the president of the union that fought for and won more funding for our public schools through passage of the Fair Share Amendment, I applaud Governor Healey for rolling out the MassGrant Plus Expansion program. This is a major step forward in the fight for educational equity, making it possible for more low-and middle-income students than ever before to seek out, and complete, their higher education degrees right here in the Bay State, which will benefit our economy by keeping our talented young people in Massachusetts. With the overturning of federal affirmative action last June, I’m glad to see our governor taking steps toward achieving debt-free public higher education for all,” said Max Page, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. 

“This new form of legislation is going to work wonders for students who need the financial assistance. After being told about the student aid program I have hopes that paying for school and getting through my degree will be much simpler,” said Kiana Alexis, a student at Salem State University. “As an independent student who is in their senior year of college, goes to class full time and works to just make ends meet; I have always struggled to have my aid meet my needs. When it comes time to paying for essentials like medicine and groceries and having to pay for course materials out of pocket such as textbooks and access codes, and other varying project materials not covered by the bookstore advance, it begins to add up; especially when federal assistance such as FAFSA, and various aids such as TRIO Support Services on campus, loans and grants can only do so much before other students and I are stuck paying for the rest out of pocket. Hopefully by getting to be a part of this program will take some of the weight off my shoulders of the stress of paying for school.”

“It’s important to expand financial aid so that more students will be able to go to college and fully utilize their time while there not being bogged down by the financial stressors that students with limited or no financial aid face,” said Nicholas Alves, a student at Salem State University.  

Retailers See Flat Spending This Holiday Season

Source: State House News Service
Author: Michael P. Norton

Citing the impacts of high inflation and interest rates, Massachusetts retailers don’t expect a big bump in holiday season shopping sales this year.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts is predicting a 1 percent increase in local sales based on a survey of its membership. Holiday sales in the 2022 season rose only 1.2 percent locally, the association said.

“With inflation and interest rates eroding the purchasing power of our consumers and the margins of small businesses, it is more important than ever that we all work harder to protect, promote, and preserve our Main Streets and our important local shopping districts,” RAM President Jon Hurst said Wednesday.

November and December retail sector sales in Massachusetts (excluding restaurants, auto sales and gas) typically total about $24.17 billion, RAM said, and historically represent on average 20 percent of annual retail sales.

The association also surfaced “profitability questions” for small businesses that are seeing sales levels similar to last year, saying those questions are being brought on by “the inflation strain on families, and the increased costs on sellers including inventory, wages, borrowing costs, and energy.”

The National Retail Federation projects a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in holiday season sales, and national sales rose 7 percent in the last cycle.

RAM’s holiday season sales projection would be the continuation of a trend as its members are reporting average increases in sales of only about 1 percent year to date. Consumer savings rates increased and debt levels dropped during the pandemic, the association said, “yet those numbers have reversed given inflation and interest rates, and sellers report customers spending levels and the number of in store transactions have been relatively flat to 2022.”

The local numbers are some of the worst in recent years, following sales increases of 9 percent in 2020, 3.9 percent in 2019, 4 percent in 2018, and 3 percent in 2017. Sales dropped by 1 percent in 2016, but rose every other year between 2010 and 2015.

North Central Massachusetts Chamber Welcomes Babcock, Ogeto and Berthet-Garcia to its Professional Staff

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the following appointments to its professional staff.

Maureen Babcock is appointed Executive Assistant, bringing a wealth of skills and experience to the role, including more than a decade of experience in project management, registration, and program coordination. In this position, she will be responsible for managing the Chamber’s database, providing administrative and operational support, and coordinating special projects. A resident of Devens, she has been very active in the community, including volunteering with Troop 1 Boy Scouts and Harvard Parks & Recreation as the Ski Club Coordinator. She also serves as the Chair of the Devens Educational Advisory Committee, which advises MassDevelopment on education-related matters for the Devens community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and business from Mount Saint Mary’s College.

Duke Ogeto is appointed Marketing Coordinator and will assist with marketing and communications efforts, including graphic design, and website and social media management for the Chamber and its affiliate organizations. He holds a master’s degree in digital marketing from Southern New Hampshire University, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from UMass Lowell, and an associate’s degree in interactive media & design from Quinsigamond Community College. A resident of Leominster, he previously served as marketing assistant for World Farmers, located in Lancaster, and as a marketing assistant and graphic designer for UMass Lowell.

Nicolas Berthet-Garcia is appointed Community Business Advisor. In this position, Berthet-Garcia will be responsible for leading outreach efforts to engage and support the Latinx community in North Central Massachusetts. This includes assisting Latinx small business owners and entrepreneurs with one-on-one technical assistance as well as connecting them to resources in the local business community. He has deep roots in North Central Massachusetts, having grown up locally after his family immigrated from Uruguay. In 2015, Berthet-Garcia became the owner and operator of a cleaning company working with clients across Massachusetts. In 2021, he served as the regional lead on a citywide initiative to distribute public health information in collaboration with the city of Leominster. A resident of Fitchburg, he is bilingual in Spanish and English, and is a certified interpreter.

“We are very excited to have Maureen, Duke and Nicolas join our dynamic team and help contribute to the Chamber’s work of strengthening the business climate and advancing the economy of North Central Massachusetts,” said Roy M. Nascimento, president & CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce.

Maureen Babcock can be reached at 978.353.7600 ext. 222 or via email at mbabcock@northcentralmass.com; Duke Ogeto at 978.353.7600 ext. 252 or via email at dogeto@northcentralmass.com; and Nicolas Berthet-Garcia at 978.353.7600 ext. 223 or via email at nberthetgarcia@northcentralmass.com.

Fraud Prevention: Protect Yourself and Your Business

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce has received several reports recently from members indicating that they have received unsolicited emails from a third party, with a domain name not associated with the Chamber, offering to sell our “list” of event attendees. This is a common scam and is not legitimate. The Chamber does not sell our attendee information. We would like to remind members to be cautious and to always be on the lookout for possible scams and frauds. Online fraud is on the rise and businesses continue to be a target of thieves and scammers. Often fraudsters try to impersonate trusted institutions, like your bank/credit union, government agencies, or trusted non-profits in the community like the chamber of commerce. When in doubt, always feel free to contact the Chamber directly to confirm of any emails or solicitations you receive.

  • The North Central Massachusetts Chamber will never ask you for any personal data through unsolicited emails, texts messages, pop-up windows or website banners. If you were to receive something electronically that looks suspicious and claiming it’s from the Chamber then reach out to us immediately;
  • If you ever receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the Chamber or one of our affiliate organizations* (listed below) and asking for personal or financial details, then reach out to us immediately. We may occasionally call to collect or confirm information, but you should not provide any sensitive information unless you are absolutely certain that it is a legitimate call from the Chamber;
  • The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce does not utilize telemarketing firms. If you ever receive a suspicious call from a telemarketer claiming they are soliciting donations for the Chamber or saying they are updating their records, then you should contact us immediately. Do not provide any sensitive personal information;
  • The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce does not endorse any particular products, services, candidates, companies or charities other than its own affiliate organizations. Any solicitations you receive claiming that they are affiliated with the Chamber, endorsed by the Chamber, claiming their product is distributed by the Chamber or using similar language should be viewed with some level of caution. You should contact the Chamber immediately to confirm validity;     
  • The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is an independent organization that is not affiliated with any national, state or local chamber of commerce. Anyone approaching you claiming that they are another “chapter” of the chamber or a business group that is associated with our Chamber or one of our affiliate organizations should be viewed with caution. You should contact the Chamber to confirm validity.
  • In general, we encourage you to always scrutinize unknown or suspicious emails that you receive with attachments or with requests for sensitive details or money transfers. Scammers will mask their email domains to impersonate legitimate sources. If you are suspicious about an email you receive, then you can scroll over the email address to reveal the domain. An email from the Chamber should have the domain of @northcentralmass.com. When in doubt, call to confirm the legitimacy of the email you received. 

We encourage you to continue to be alert and don’t fall for any scams that may compromise your business or personal information. For useful information regarding Coronavirus related scams, please visit the Federal Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/.

*Affiliated organizations of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce include the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation; Johnny Appleseed Trail Association DBA Visit North Central Massachusetts; the North Central Chamber Foundation; and Chamber Insurance, Inc.  

Chamber Hosts Regional Bus Tour to Promote Manufacturing

In recognition of National Manufacturing Month, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and its economic development arm, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, recently partnered with regional organizations to host a unique manufacturing bus tour as part of the Chamber’s Talent Compact Initiative. The initiative is aimed to further partnerships between the region’s K-12 schools, higher education institutions, economic development, and the region’s employers to collectively work to advance the region’s workforce.

The tour, which was held on Tuesday, October 24, provided education, civic and community leaders, and economic development officials an opportunity to learn more about—and the importance of—manufacturing in the region to promote careers in the industry. The MassHire North Central Workforce Board and Mount Wachusett Community College co-sponsored the bus tour.

Participants visited several manufacturing companies where they obtained an insider’s look at how select manufacturers operate, and learned about the growing job opportunities in manufacturing and the necessary skill sets for employment.

This year, the annual manufacturing bus tour included stops at Rocheleau Tool & Die, a family owned and operated business established in 1938 in Fitchburg that specializes in the manufacture of extrusion blow molding machinery, blow molds and related automation equipment; SMC Ltd., located in Devens, a worldwide contract manufacturer of various medical devices and medical equipment; and AIS, Inc., a furniture manufacturer based in Leominster that specializes in high-end office systems. The bus tour also included a stop at the Leominster campus of Mount Wachusett Community College and the MassHire North Central Career Center where participants learned about education and workforce related resources and services available to employers and job seekers.

North Central Massachusetts boasts the largest concentration of manufacturing in the state, with one-third of all private wages in the region paid from manufacturing jobs. Companies range from the world-class plastics industry cluster of more than 140 companies to pharmaceuticals, photonics, and paper as well as biomedical devices.

“The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation remain committed to supporting and growing this critical sector of the region’s economy while also building successful partnerships between businesses and the region’s schools which are critical to the collective, ongoing efforts of keeping manufacturing alive and well in the region,” said Roy Nascimento, president and CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “Manufacturers are some of the most well-paid, highly trained and in demand employees in the workforce, yet despite competitive wages and training, businesses are still challenged with recruiting the workers they need. We hope this tour provided our local educators, civic and community leaders, and other stakeholders with an opportunity to learn more about the jobs available in the region as the need for more young workers and a skills gap exists among the existing and transitioning workforce.”

“Manufacturing continues to be a priority industry in North Central Massachusetts,” said Jeffrey Roberge, executive director, MassHire North Central Workforce Board. “Many thanks to the North Central Chamber for hosting this important event as it brings together our legislators, educators and employers to learn more about this vital sector.”

“This tour proves how the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce commits itself to advancing manufacturing in the region,” said James L. Vander Hooven, Ed.D., president, Mount Wachusett Community College. “Mount Wachusett Community College remains dedicated to providing educational training opportunities to meet the growing needs of local business and industry.”

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce wishes to thank and acknowledge the support and assistance of the following partners who helped make the event possible: MassHire North Central Workforce Board; Rocheleau Tool & Die; SMC, Ltd.; AIS, Inc.; Montachusett Regional Transit Authority; and Mount Wachusett Community College.

For more information on the manufacturing bus tour or the North Central Massachusetts Talent Compact Initiative, please contact the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce at 978.353.7600.

North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce leads effort to erect welcome sign in Hubbardston

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce today announced it has sponsored the construction of a new welcome sign for the Town of Hubbardston located at the junction of Route 68 and Route 62 in the town.

The new sign is part of a project to construct welcoming signs at key gateways in communities in the region to boost civic pride and serve as a positive first impression for visitors. The project was partially funded by a grant secured by the Chamber.

The signs were designed and produced by Add-A-Sign in Leominster and represent the region’s traditional New England style. The Hubbardston welcome sign includes the year 1767, which is when the town was incorporated. It is painted in the proud city color of green with gold lettering. In addition to Hubbardston, similar welcome signs have also been installed at key gateways in Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Sterling, and Westminster. Each sign is carved with the community’s seal and painted to match their official colors. Additional signs will be constructed for other communities in North Central Massachusetts as funding becomes available.

“One of the goals of our regional economic redevelopment plan, One North Central, was to capitalize on our region’s unique locations,” said Roy Nascimento, President and CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “Each city brings a distinctive experience to the region and with this project, those entering Hubbardston will learn about the town while receiving a warm welcome as they arrive.”

“Hubbardston has always prided itself on being a warm, welcoming community,” said Jeff Williams, chair, Hubbardston Select Board. “The new town sign beautifully embodies Hubbardston’s spirit of hospitality and charm. It will be a wonderful symbol to both residents and visitors that they have arrived somewhere special. I am deeply grateful to the Chamber for their generous donation. I look forward to continuing our positive partnership and working together to showcase all that makes Hubbardston such a great place.”

North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation provided financing to Deershorn Farm & Taxidermy

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce granted financing totaling $45,000 to Deershorn Farm & Taxidermy. The funding supported the purchase of a new tractor and provided the farm with working capital.

Deershorn Farm & Taxidermy is a local vegetable farm that also provides taxidermy services. Manager Stephen A. Mudgett, who owns and operates the fourth-generation farm with his wife and daughter, grows corn and other types of vegetables which are offered at the farm’s roadside stand, located at 241 Chase Road in Lancaster, Massachusetts and at local farmers markets. During the winter months, the farm provides taxidermy services.

“The new tractor enabled us to harvest more efficiently and make our work easier,” said Mudgett. “As a family-run farm, the support of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation ensures we can continue to provide our community with fresh produce for generations to come.”

As a microloan lender, NCMDC can provide loans to small businesses up to $250,000 for working capital, real estate, equipment, inventory, expansion and working with our banking partners to provide gap financing for the final piece of a project.

For more information about the NCMDC loan programs, please call 978.353.7607 or visit NorthCentralMass.com or ChooseNorthCentral.com.

Governor Healey Files Legislation Unlocking $800 Million to Compete for Federal Funding

Governor Maura Healey filed legislation and signed an executive order to enhance the administration’s aggressive approach to competing for the historic amounts of federal funding made available to Massachusetts by the Biden Administration. Massachusetts has the chance to compete for and win up to $17.5 billion in federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act.  

To support the administration’s federal funds strategy, the Healey-Driscoll Administration is filing An Act to Provide for Competitiveness and Infrastructure in Massachusettto create a Capital Investment and Debt Reduction Fund that will make $800 million in additional state funding available over the next three years to pursue federal grants. This money will expand the state’s capacity to allocate match funding to satisfy requirements in many federal grant programs for states to cover a portion of proposed project costs and adds to the roughly $2 billion in state matching funds that have already been identified from other funding sources, including through the FY24-FY28 Capital Investment Plan, the FY24 budget, and other appropriations. 

The Governor also signed an Executive Order formally establishing the Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office (FFIO) to be led by Director of Federal Funds & Infrastructure Quentin Palfrey. It also establishes the Massachusetts Federal Funds Partnership for municipalities and tribes. 

“As I’ve been saying since day one, we are here to compete and we are here to win, especially when it comes to these unprecedented federal funding opportunities made available by President Biden and our incredible Congressional delegation,” said Governor Maura Healey. “This blueprint gives our administration and municipalities the tools to compete for and bring home the funding our communities need, and put federal dollars to work advancing economic development, infrastructure and climate resiliency projects all across Massachusetts.”  

“Our administration is committed to ensuring that we have federal funding to support the important work of our cities and towns,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “The Massachusetts Federal Funds Partnership will play a critical role in keeping our local governments up to date on the federal funding opportunities that are relevant to them, and connecting our municipal and tribal leaders with the resources they need to secure federal dollars.” 

“The Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office will be able to effectively leverage the strengths of our state agencies, municipalities, and our Team Massachusetts partners to compete for federal funds,” said Director of Federal Funds & Infrastructure Palfrey. “The tools outlined in this executive order will enable the Commonwealth to capitalize on President Biden’s historic investments of federal money and maximize its impact for Massachusetts. I look forward to continuing our work with local leaders and incredible partners in Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and our congressional delegation to put federal dollars to work all across the Commonwealth.”  

The legislation would leverage interest earnings on the state’s Stabilization Fund, which currently stands at an all-time high of roughly $8 billion. By utilizing the interest on the Stabilization Fund without touching the balance of the state’s savings, the state is anticipated to generate a pool of $250 million a year that could be used to strengthen its applications for federal grants and deliver a strong return on investment that will advance infrastructure, climate and other projects around the state. The interest earnings will be combined with $50 million in Fair Share resources already committed for transportation matching funds through the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

The state will dedicate $50 million of this new funding pool to ensuring the competitiveness of local and regional partners through municipal matching grants and a local infrastructure bank. The Fund also includes $12 million for local government technical assistance to help municipalities successfully apply for federal funding opportunities. 

The legislation further proposes to make the new fund permanent, establishing a new pay-as-you-go capital fund that would be used once these federal grant opportunities expire. The Capital Investment and Debt Reduction Fund would be used moving forward to support state assets and debt management, relieving some pressure on the state’s traditional debt-financed capital plan with safety mechanisms in place should economic conditions change. This type of fund has existed previously in Massachusetts and would be a valuable tool in helping to address the backlog of deferred maintenance needs across the state.  

“We want to ensure that no funding for Massachusetts is left on the table when applying to federal grant programs,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Matthew J. Gorzkowicz. “The State Matching Funds Pool will ensure the Commonwealth is able to provide the financing necessary to unlock federal money, and immediately put awarded funds to work for our communities. It will also become a flexible tool for us in the future to address an array of needs for our state buildings and other assets without jeopardizing the safety net of our strong Stabilization Fund.” 

“This is a fiscally responsible and creative way to leverage the high interest rate environment and historically high stabilization fund balance,” said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg. “Providing a dedicated pool of funds will give Massachusetts an advantage when competing for critical federal funding opportunities. We can both protect the stabilization fund balance and put interest earnings to work for Massachusetts.”

The Executive Order will allow the state to maximize its ability to win federal funds through strong coordination between state agencies, municipalities, and other Massachusetts entities, and by providing additional state resources that are critical to unlocking federal dollars. 

The Executive Order formally creates the Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office (FFIO), which is tasked with identifying key federal funding opportunities that will advance Healey-Driscoll Administrations priorities. Those priorities include improved infrastructure, equity, job creation, economic competitiveness, climate resiliency and decarbonization, workforce development, and more. The office is led by Director Quentin Palfrey, who was appointed in March by Governor Healey as the principal advisor on federal funding and infrastructure. FFIO is responsible for continuing bi-weekly meetings of the Advisory Council on Federal Funds and Infrastructure, chaired by Director Palfrey, which facilitates inter-agency coordination and promotes government-wide strategies for maximizing the award of federal funding. FFIO will also maintain a State Clearinghouse responsible for the internal tracking of all federal grant opportunities and agency applications. 

FFIO will also be tasked with supporting the work of external partners to apply for federal funding opportunities that further the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s priorities for the Commonwealth. This will involve a coordinated approach to supporting municipalities and tribes across Massachusetts. To do this the executive order creates a working group, which will meet monthly as the Massachusetts Federal Funds Partnership, which Lieutenant Governor Driscoll announced last week. The meetings will be open to elected leaders and staff from all 351 cities and towns, as well as the leadership of Massachusetts’ federally recognized tribes. The Federal Funds Partnership will provide targeted updates on relevant federal funding opportunities and connect partners with resources for technical assistance and state matching funds. The first meeting will be kicked off by Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll on Wednesday, October 25th. 

This proposal will power the administration’s efforts to build on the progress it has already made in securing federal funding in recent months. This includes awards of $147 million to expand broadband access in Massachusetts, $108 million towards track improvements between Springfield and Worcester to enable additional West-East passenger rail capacity, $22 million for Massachusetts municipalities to combat extreme heat through increased urban tree canopies, and $19.7 million to establish a Department of Defense Microelectronics hub which will further opportunities for advanced manufacturing and technology. The Administration also has more than $3 billion requested in applications currently pending before federal agencies to fund ongoing projects in communities across the state, including for the Cape Cod Bridges. 

Policy briefs on the Capital Investment and Debt Reduction Fund can be found here. Read the Governor’s filing letter here. 

Statements of Support 

Adam Chapdelaine, Executive Director and CEO, Massachusetts Municipal Association:

“We’re deeply grateful for this timely proposal from the Healey-Driscoll Administration, which would ensure that the Commonwealth can maximize the historic funding available from the federal government. This initiative offers an important framework to support cities and towns in developing successful applications and providing matching funds to leverage
all opportunities.”

Phineas Baxandall, Interim President, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center:

“This is a smart proposal that leverages the state’s strong rainy day fund to secure billions of federal grant dollars in the short-term and to address the Commonwealth’s long-term maintenance and capital needs. In the next three years, this could make the difference in obtaining game-changing federal grants for things like high-speed rail across the state and electric charging infrastructure for the next generation.” 

Chrissy Lynch, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

“We applaud the Healey Administration’s efforts to fully utilize historic federal funding opportunities. This Executive Order will bolster investments into the communities where working people live, into the infrastructure working people need to get around, and support the creation of union jobs at the same time.”  

Rebecca Davis, Chief Operating Officer, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership:

“We congratulate the Healey-Driscoll administration on implementing these critical steps to leverage the many funding opportunities currently available from the federal government. Ensuring that Massachusetts is well positioned to capture this generational opportunity is a priority for Massachusetts business leaders. By working together, we can amplify our impact and secure the necessary resources to drive progress and innovation in the Commonwealth.” 

North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation approves financing for Gather Provisions

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, recently granted a loan of $35,000 to Gather Provisions. The loan was done in partnership with TD Bank. The funding supported the creation of four part-time employee positions and will be utilized toward the purchase of equipment, inventory, supplies and additional start-up costs.

Founded in 2021, Gather Provisions specializes in chef services for private, in-home dinners with curated multi-course menus, as well as catering services for up to 75 people. The business recently expanded to include a small café, located at 290 West Main Street, Northborough. Mass. The café provides a casual, chef prepared menu of soups, sandwiches, salads and prepared food for lunch and early dinner patrons.

“As people are being pulled in many directions each and every day, we realized they may not have time to create a healthy, gourmet meal for themselves or their families,” said Erin Anderson, owner and chef, Gather Provisions. “With the support of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation in partnership with TD Bank, we’re able to provide an opportunity for our community to obtain a quick, fresh and delicious meal for pick-up or to dine in at our a local café.”  For more information, visit https://www.gatherprovisions.com/

As a microloan lender, NCMDC can provide loans to small businesses up to $250,000 for working capital, real estate, equipment, inventory, expansion and working with our banking partners to provide gap financing for the final piece of
a project.

For more information about the NCMDC loan programs, please call 978.353.7607 or visit NorthCentralMass.com or ChooseNorthCentral.com.