Chamber Speaks Out as State House Acts on Tourism and Education

The Chamber’s advocacy efforts came to a head this past month, as Beacon Hill took up legislation addressing education and support for the Commonwealth’s growing tourism industry. As is often the case, both these proposals moved through the Legislature with incredible speed, requiring a quick reaction from the Chamber’s staff. 

Regarding funding for public schools, the Joint Committee on Education released a proposal in October that would invest an additional $1.5 billion into the K through 12 system over seven years. These funds would be directed primarily towards schools with high concentrations of low income families, students struggling with learning disabilities, and English language learners. The last such review of the Commonwealth’s education system was conducted nearly thirty years ago, so the Chamber recognizes the need for additional funding. As such, we have worked hard with partners from across the state to ensure this money is invested responsibly, in a manner that addresses achievement gaps and produces high school graduates who are college and career ready. While proposals to expand career readiness programming met with some resistance, accountability measures that we supported were successfully inserted into the House’s draft of the proposal. The House and the Senate each passed drafts of this legislation over the last month, and a conference committee has since been elected to negotiate the differences. 

Almost simultaneously, the House and Senate filed competing supplemental budget bills to close out the state’s 2019 fiscal year.  In the event that the state’s revenues exceed what was projected for a given year, a supplemental budget is utilized to disperse those funds, address areas where state spending is insufficient, and invest in the Commonwealth’s stabilization- or “rainy day”- fund. Recognizing a need for increased support of the tourism industry, the Chamber worked with the regional delegation and advocated for language which would require that gaming revenues allocated to the Tourism Trust Fund be released by November. As of this writing, the funds are being withheld by the Administration, with no clear timeline for release.  In addition, the annual budget passed in the summer did not include funding to support the state’s roadside visitor information centers, including the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center which Visit North Central Massachusetts operates on Route 2 in Lancaster.  The Chamber advocated for an amendment to the supplemental budget to set aside a modest $250,000 to support these eleven facilities across the state.     

Now that both houses of the Legislature have passed their own drafts of these bills, the two branches will negotiate the differences between them before submitting final bills to the Governor, who may approve or veto them. Though this stage of the process is conducted mostly behind closed doors, the Chamber will continue to monitor developments and advocate on behalf of the business community.

Among the legislative priorities which will likely rise to the top following these items is an upcoming transportation and infrastructure debate. Governor Baker recently released an omnibus transportation bill, addressing issues from repairing outdated bridges to improving the Commonwealth’s high way system.  As always, the Chamber has been active on this front, serving as one of the few regional chambers invited to join the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Transportation, advocating in favor of regional equity and against initiatives which would hamper the region’s economic growth. We have also followed proposals to improve rail service closely, drafting testimony on the matter to the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board ahead of a potential vote on the matter. As this broad debate takes shape, the Chamber will remain abreast of the conversation and continue to advocate on behalf of North Central Massachusetts and its business community. 

If you have any questions regarding this or any of the Chamber’s other policy efforts, please reach out to Christopher McDermott, public affairs manager, at cmcdermott@northcentralmass.com or (978) 353-7600 ext. 224.

CHAMBER LAUNCHES WORK NORTH CENTRAL

Localized Online Resource connects Jobs Seekers and Local Employers

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and its economic development arm, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, today announced the launch of a new localized online jobs board to help connect job seekers to employers in North Central Massachusetts.  This online employment resource, called WorkNorthCentral.com, is housed on the Chamber’s website.
Visitors to WorkNorthCentral.com can search for full-time and part-time employment as well as internship opportunities with employers located within the twenty-seven communities of North Central Massachusetts.  This jobs portal is free for job seekers and available at no cost to Chamber members to post and manage as many jobs listings as they need.  Non-members pay a nominal fee to post their jobs.

“We know that recruiting is time consuming and expensive for many employers.” said Roy M. Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation.  “We created Work North Central to help local businesses find the qualified and skilled talent that they need to grow and succeed in North Central Massachusetts.  This jobs bank is another tool in our tool box of resources to support local employers and showcase the opportunities available in North Central Massachusetts.” 

WorkNorthCentral is easy to use.  The job opportunities are categorized by industry, making it easy for job-seekers to conduct targeted searches.  Job seekers can also sign up via the Jobs Board for job alerts to receive an email whenever a new job is posted on the site.  Likewise, employers can easily post and manage their job postings.  Employers posting jobs are able to select a posting duration of 30, 60, or 90 days.  Jobs are automatically displayed on the board within seconds of posting and then dropped from the board automatically after that 30, 60, or 90 days.  The portal also makes it easy for employers to review resumes and connect with qualified candidates.  Employers can direct applicants to their own website or provide other instructions for applying.  While posting jobs on other sites can often cost hundreds of dollars per job, WorkNorthCentral.com is free for Chamber members and provides a highly localized and affordable alternative for employers to find the qualified talent that they need.   

The WorkNorthCentral.com Jobs Board is part of the Chamber and Development Corporation’s continuing efforts to help promote the region and advance the economy of North Central Massachusetts.  In addition to this initiative, the organizations have expanded their efforts to improve the talent pipeline and better connect employers to local schools.  They have also expanded their micro-loan programs and grown their technical assistance offerings for new and established small businesses in the region. 

For more information on the WorkNorthCentral.com Jobs Board, please contact the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce at 978.353.7600.

North Central Massachusetts Chamber Releases 2020 Public Policy Agenda

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce unveiled its Public Policy Agenda for the new fiscal year today outlining the Chamber’s legislative priorities on issues important to businesses and the advancement of North Central Massachusetts.  The agenda was developed to serve as a blueprint for the Chamber’s government affairs efforts and have been reviewed and approved by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee and Board of Directors. 

“The North Central Massachusetts business community is actively engaged in important, pro-business policy issues,” said Roy Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “Our public policy agenda is focused on supporting a strong business climate and ensuring that North Central Massachusetts remains a great place to live, work and grow a business.” 

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce advocates on behalf of businesses across the region, and the new Public Policy Agenda outlines a platform which builds upon the area’s competitive advantages.  The agenda is focused around five priority areas: economic competitiveness; small business; manufacturing; education; and transportation. 

“Our 2020 public policy agenda builds off of our successful advocacy efforts in past years ” said Christopher McDermott, the Chamber’s Public Affairs Manager. “We look forward to working with our members to engage elected officials on the issues that matter most to local businesses and the advancement of North Central Massachusetts.”

For more information or to view the Chamber’s Public Policy Agenda please visit www.northcentralmass.com or contact Christopher McDermott, Public Affairs Manager at 978.353.7600 ext. 224. 

To view the Chamber’s Public Policy Agenda for 2020, Click Here.

Chamber’s development arm closes out a successful year

The Chamber’s economic development affiliate, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), completed its fiscal year on September 30, 2019. The NCMDC works in partnership with local banks, credit unions, chambers of commerce and area nonprofits to support emerging microenterprises, small businesses, and community projects in North Central Massachusetts with loans and technical assistance.  The NCMDC provided 14 microloans in FY2019 that totaled $631,000. The average size of the loans was $42,000, with the smallest loan at $10,000 and the largest at $150,000. These loans were leveraged by another $ 8,718,200 in financing from local banks and credit unions and $3,641,301 in equity from borrowers. These loans helped retain 33 jobs and created 55 new jobs. In addition to the micro-loans, the NCMDC provided over 350 hours of direct technical assistance to start-up and existing small businesses and hosted several successful workshops and forums in partnership with the Chamber. The NCMDC is certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) program and is a micro-loan intermediary for the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information on the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, please visit www.choosenorthcentral.com.

November Edition of Good Morning North Central features Governor Charlie Baker and Local Author Mark Bodanza

The next edition of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber’s popular Good Morning North Central breakfast series is scheduled for Thursday, November 7, 2019 from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton, 99 Erdman Way, Leominster, MA.  The November edition is sponsored by Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. 

The Good Morning North Central series is a high-profile, fast-paced and educational breakfast program geared towards executives, senior managers, professionals and business owners.  Each of the programs has a business-oriented focus and features popular speakers to present on topics of interest to local businesses.

The featured speakers for the November edition are Governor Charlie Baker and local author and lawyer, Mark Bodanza.

Charles Duane Baker Jr. is an American businessman and politician serving as the 72nd Governor of Massachusetts since January 8, 2015. A Republican, he was a cabinet official under two Governors of Massachusetts and served ten years as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Raised in Needham, Massachusetts, Baker graduated from Harvard and obtained an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. In 1991, he became Massachusetts Undersecretary of Health and Human Services under Governor Bill Weld. In 1992, he was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services of Massachusetts. He later served as Secretary of Administration and Finance under Weld and his successor, Paul Cellucci.

Mark C. Bodanza is a Leominster resident, accomplished writer, avid historian and successful trial lawyer. He has previously published eight books and numerous newspaper columns, and he has been a guest commentator on radio and television programs nationwide. Mark has also appeared as a lecturer at schools and colleges throughout the country. Risk Takers and History Makers is his ninth book. Mark’s interest in Leominster’s history is as strong as his participation in the city’s present: Mark served as Leominster’s city solicitor from 1990 to 1994 and is currently a city councilor and chairman of the council’s finance committee. He also serves as the chairman of the Leominster Board of Library Trustees. 

The cost is just $27 for Chamber members/$42 non-members and includes a breakfast buffet.  Tables of ten are also available. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, please contact Kathleen Deal at 978.353.7600 ext. 235, kdeal@northcentralmass.com or click here.

Visit North Central Massachusetts Donates to Firefighters

Visit North Central Massachusetts, an affiliate of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, made donations to the Athol Firefighters’ Association and Phillipston Firefighters’ Association totaling $8,157.00 in September to aid in their fire relief efforts.  The donation came from a portion of the money raised at the 2019 Appleseed Country Fair held Labor Day weekend. 

“We are extremely grateful to the hard working and dedicated members of the associations for their efforts and assistance this year with the Appleseed Country Fair,” said Roy M. Nascimento, president & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and Visit North Central Massachusetts. “The volunteers from the Athol and Phillipston Firefighters’ Associations were critical in helping to organize the parking during the fair and did an amazing job of getting everyone in and out safely, quickly and easily.”

The Appleseed Country Fair welcomed over 12,000 attendees this year and featured over 50 vendors that range from artisans and crafters to food, beer and wine. Live music and a variety of family friendly activities entertained visitors all weekend.

Chamber Welcomes Timothy Hartigan

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the addition of Timothy Hartigan to its professional staff in the position of Membership Sales Manager. 

In this position, Mr. Hartigan will be responsible for managing the Chamber’s membership recruitment and retention efforts.  His mission will be to raise the Chamber’s visibility and educate businesses in the region about the Chamber’s service offerings, promoting the benefits of membership and ensuring that current members enjoy maximum value for their investment.    

“We are excited to have Tim join our team and help lead our member relations efforts,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President & CEO. “His experience will be a tremendous resource for our members and a great help in our work to advance the North Central Massachusetts economy.” 

Hartigan is a native of Leominster and is active in the community, including coaching youth sports and fundraising for local schools. He brings to the Chamber a broad background in sales and business, including experience owning and operating two local small businesses.  Most recently, he served as a client advisor for the Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Maserati Dealership of Wayland.  Hartigan is a graduate of Mount Ida College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration 

“I am thrilled to be a part of this chamber team that is so passionate about supporting local businesses and improving the quality of life in the region.  North Central Massachusetts is such a unique and special place due to its geographic location, rich history and wonderful diversity,” said Timothy Hartigan, Membership Sales Manager. “I am grateful for the opportunity to help contribute towards making the region a better place to live, work and grow a business.”

His early goals will be to expand the Chamber’s presence in communities across North Central Massachusetts and find the best ways to help members grow their business with assistance from the Chamber and its affiliates.

Existing members or businesses interested in learning more about the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce can reach Tim at 978.353.7600 ext. 244 or via email at thartigan@northcentralmass.com.

Congressional Luncheon Scheduled for October 10, 2019

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce is hosting the Annual North Central Massachusetts Congressional Luncheon on Thursday, October 10, 2019 featuring the Honorable Jim McGovern, United States Representative for the Second Congressional District and the Honorable Lori Trahan, United States Representative for the Third Congressional District of Massachusetts.  The program, sponsored by Fitchburg State University, runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Great Wolf Lodge, 150 Great Wolf Drive, Fitchburg, MA. 

This event will provide Chamber members and community leaders the opportunity to hear directly from members of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding business issues and critical matters facing the nation.  

Currently serving his twelfth term in Congress, Congressman Jim McGovern serves as the Chair of the House Rules Committee, which sets the terms for debate and amendments on most legislation; and a member of the House Agriculture Committee.  In 2014, McGovern was named Democratic Ranking Member on the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition.  The Subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes policies and statutes relating to nutrition, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and domestic commodity distribution and consumer initiatives.

Before his election to Congress, McGovern spent 14 years working as a senior aide for the late U.S. Representative John Joseph Moakley (D-South Boston), former dean of the Massachusetts delegation and Chairman of the House Rules Committee.  He was born in Worcester, the son of two successful small business owners.  His two sisters are elementary school teachers in Worcester’s public school system.

McGovern earned his Bachelor of Arts (‘81) and Masters of Public Administration (‘84) degrees from The American University, working his way through college by serving as an aide in the office of U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD).

Congresswoman Trahan was elected to the House of Representatives this past year following Congresswoman Tsongas’ decision to not seek reelection. She has since
been appointed to the House Committees on Education and Labor and Armed Services, has played an active role in securing federal designation of the Nashua River as a scenic waterway, and has filed legislation addressing the opioid epidemic and supporting career readiness programming in public high schools. Part of the vaunted “Pink Wave”- the largest female caucus elected to the US Congress to date- the Congresswoman holds the distinction of being the first Portuguese American woman ever to serve on Capitol Hill.  

Prior to her election, Trahan served in Congressman Meehan’s office- the same office she now holds- for nearly a decade, rising to become his chief of staff. She went on to take an executive’s post in the technology sector before cofounding the woman owned and operated consulting firm, Concire. In this role, she provided client companies advice on business strategy and steps they could take to ensure staff success- with a particular focus on female employees. 

The daughter of working class parents, she was the first in family to graduate from college, attending George Mason University on a Volleyball scholarship. 

Make sure that you reserve your spot early to hear from our congressional delegation on the many critical issues facing the business community in Washington D.C. 

Pre-registration is required and easy. Simply call the Chamber at 978.353.7600 ext. 222, or register here.

The “Big Apple of New England” Unveiled in North Central Massachusetts

On Wednesday, July 10, 2019, the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association (DBA Visit North Central Massachusetts) and over seventy-five local dignitaries and community leaders officially unveiled the “Big Apple of New England” outside the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center on Route 2 in Lancaster, Massachusetts.  This giant red apple structure, which stands at 10 feet tall, is the largest apple sculpture of its kind in all of New England.  The apple was installed outside the visitor center to honor the region’s strong agricultural heritage and connection to apples and that icon of American folk history – Johnny Appleseed.  American pioneer and folk hero John Chapman (AKA Johnny Appleseed) was born locally in Leominster, Massachusetts.  He is the official state folk hero for Massachusetts.  The Big Apple of New England is part of an effort to promote North Central Massachusetts to travelers and visitors.  

The Big Apple of New England joins a growing collection of unique items at the center that showcase the twenty seven communities of North Central Massachusetts.  These include the bronze sculpture of the young Johnny Appleseed that greets visitors outside the doors of the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center and 91 apple trees located on the premises, including three Rambo trees that are direct descendants of the last remaining tree known to be planted by Johnny Appleseed.  These three trees were planted from saplings from a 200+ year old tree in Nova, Ohio that is the last known tree planted by Johnny Appleseed.  The American Historical Forestry provided the saplings from the tree in 2003.  

The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center also includes a hand-painted mural of the four seasons in its interior, as well as a large collection of historical items that showcase the region’s heritage. Unique historical items in the center’s collection include a vintage Iver Johnson Bicycle, pieces of equipment from the region’s agricultural past, old Wachusett Mountain Ski Area items, and a large collection of Johnny Appleseed memorabilia.  In addition, the grounds of the center feature a plaque honoring Johnny Appleseed and a unique commemorative bench made from a ski chair contributed by Wachusett Mountain Ski Area.  The chair was donated in 2014 and refurbished and hand painted with a Johnny Appleseed mural by local students. 

The center also features a popular gift shop that carries many local products including jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup, fudge, chocolates, cheese, sparkling cider, donuts and that local icon of American kitsch – the pink plastic flamingo!  Visitors to the center can also find a wide selection of books highlighting the history of the region, plus good-quality logo merchandise and souvenir items.  

“We are blessed to live in an area steeped in heritage, culture and the great outdoors. We hope this apple serves as a beacon for travelers looking to explore the wonderful communities we call North Central Massachusetts for many years to come.  It’s location at the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center solidifies its destination status and local landmark for Route 2 travelers,” said Al Rose, Owner of Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Massachusetts and Chair of the Board of Visit North Central Massachusetts.  “Stop in, take a picture with the biggest apple in New England!”

“The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is not your run of the mill rest stop!  The center has evolved into a one of a kind destination that helps to welcome, engage and promote the twenty seven communities that comprise North Central Massachusetts,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President and CEO of Visit North Central Massachusetts.  “We are excited to unveil this new attraction at the center that helps to tell the story of this dynamic and beautiful region.  We are very grateful for the strong partnerships that we have with our local communities, businesses and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that helped to make this project a reality.”

“The Big Apple of New England is a great addition to North Central Massachusetts!” said Mayor Dean Mazzarella of the City of Leominster, Massachusetts.  “We are very excited to have this incredible monument that connects back to our heritage as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed and that welcomes visitors to our region.  We wholeheartedly support the efforts of Visit North Central Massachusetts and think this will be a fun and unique addition to the visitors center.”

“As Mayor of Fitchburg, our City takes great pride in our North Central Massachusetts culture. The revealing of The Big Apple of New England is a symbol of our pride, promotes our region, and is a welcoming addition to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center!” said Mayor Stephen DiNatale of the City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.  “Fitchburg is thankful to have a partner like Visit North Central Massachusetts to showcase all the wonderful attributes our region has to offer.”

“All across America the roadsides are dotted with interesting attractions, oddities and draws.  As the home of the Big Chair, I am excited that our area will also be home to the Big Apple,” said Mayor Mark Hawke of the City of Gardner, Massachusetts. “This adds another reason to stop in and see all the wonderful offerings of North Central Massachusetts showcased at the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center.”

The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center, considered by many the gateway to North Central Massachusetts, opened in 1997 as a way to welcome people traveling through the region and give them a place to stop, stretch their legs, and learn more about the twenty-seven communities in North Central Massachusetts and what they have to offer for visitors and families.  Over 165,000 people walk through the visitor center doors every year. 

The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is located at 1000 Rte. 2 Westbound, between exit 34 & 35, in Lancaster, MA.  It is open 361 days a year.  Normal business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  For more information, please call 978.353.7604 ext. 225 or visit www.visitnorthcentral.com.