Category Archives: General News

From Worcester to China

In early October I flew the 6:00 AM jetBlue flight out of Worcester to John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York City. The plane landed at JFK in under an hour. While at JFK, I took out my IPAD and along with my cell phone worked for much of the day.  At 3:00 PM I began the short process of boarding a plane to Beijing, China, where I would join a small group of Chamber of Commerce leaders who I would accompany on an inspection tour of China. The inspection tour was a visit to explore whether our respective Chambers of Commerce would be interested in hosting a group tour at a later date. These tours are facilitated by Citslinc, International, which works closely with Chambers across the United States and Canada. After a very smooth flight (12 1/2 hours) we landed in Beijing, China at approximately 8:00 PM where we were greeted by our hosts and tour guides. We quickly boarded our tour bus and were off to a beautiful hotel where we would prepare for a full day of meetings and sightseeing visits the following day. The trip from Worcester to Beijing reinforced that from Worcester Regional Airport people can travel from Worcester to virtually anywhere in the world. These flight options will grow next summer when Delta adds daily flights to Detroit. This will give Worcester daily connections to major hubs in New York City, Philadelphia, Orlando and Detroit.

Recently is has become very difficult to read a newspaper or online news report or turn on the TV or radio and not hear about trade tariff disputes between the United States and China or the military tensions in the South China Sea. The reality is that the two nations represent the two largest economies in the world and tensions will occur. In this regard, while it is important to address legitimate issues of trade inequities, industrial espionage and free and open access to international shipping lanes and fly zones as well as human rights, it is imperative that leaders between the two countries strive to find common ground and trade balances as a stable world order is key to the growth of both nations.

One of the means for us to do so is to have government, business, and citizens of both countries learn about the history and cultures of each other’s societies. China is one of the earliest civilizations known to mankind with dynastic monarchies ruling the country for centuries before modern day China took form in the post-World War II era led by the Chinese Communist Party. Our trip allowed us to visit many of these historic locations and with our knowledgeable tour guides, gain an understanding of how many of these ancient sites and traditions influence modern China to this current day.  These locations include the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Ming Tombs.  We also visited the Capitol city of Beijing, as well as Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. 

As previously mentioned, trade between our two countries is significant. China is the United States’ third largest trading partner. China, with a population of approximately 1.415 billion people sent 19% of all their exports to the Unites States in 2017, which was valued at $431.7 billion. During that same year the Unites States, with an approximate population of 326.766 million, sent 8.4% of all U.S. exports to China which was valued at approximately $130.4 billion.  The United States’ top trading partner is Canada, with a population of about 37 million people. The Unites States sends 18.3 % of its exports valued at $282.5 billion to Canada. The United States second largest trading partner is Mexico, where the Unites States sends 15.7% of all its exports valued at $243 billion. Mexico’s population is about 130.759 million.

According to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, by 2030, China will be the most popular tourist country in the world. They will surpass both the United States and France in this regard. Currently, tourism represents about 11% of China’s GDP and employees 28.3 million people. Our visit underscored this growing trend, in that the Chinese government recognizes that their rich history and growing economy serve dual purposes in bringing visitors to China. Our trip reinforced the effort that the Chinese have undertaken to grow their tourism industry. This includes major investments in transportation infrastructure such as new airports, the largest investment in high-speed rail in the world that links all corners of China together, as well as scores of new roads and bridges. Witnessing these massive investments in transportation, makes clear the need for the United States to do the same if we are going to stay competitive in a growing world economy that includes a modern China. The Chinese government recognizes that a first class transportation infrastructure goes hand and hand with building and maintaining a strong economy. Moreover, as Chinese history demonstrates through things such as the Great Wall, the Chinese have always been willing to undertake large infrastructure projects for the betterment of their nation. Historically, the American people have had the same will as well.

Overall the trip was an excellent experience that gave great insight into China’s history, modern day economy and business climate, transportation investments and perspective of the Chinese people in a new China. As a fellow world super power, the more that we as Americans can understand this perspective, the better able we will be to navigate the challenges that will invariably arise between our two nations, and continue to maintain U.S. economic, diplomatic, and military leadership in world affairs. To learn more about this trip you are invited to attend an information session on December 5 at 5:30 pm at the Worcester Chamber, 311 Main Street, suite 2. A light dinner will be served. Also, please go to our website at WorcesterChamber.org to learn more. This trip is open to both Chamber members and non-members. To RSVP for the information session, please email Alex Guardiola at aguardiola@worcesterchamber.org or call him at 508-753-2924 x 222.

The Rucker Effect

WORCESTER – On Thursday, Oct. 4, the Worcester Historical Museum (WHM) will award its annual Harvey Ball Smile award to Cliff Rucker.

WHM is the only organization solely dedicated to preserving all facets of Worcester’s history and sharing that story with both current and future generations. The Harvey Ball Smile award is given out annually to an individual or organization that has made a significant positive impact on the city.

What is interesting to note is many past recipients or organizations that have received this distinguished award have usually had a long time presence in Worcester. However, Rucker only arrived on the Worcester scene in August 2015 when he was exploring the city as one of several sites where he might potentially take ownership of a professional hockey minor league team. In appropriately honoring him, the WHM has recognized what I call – “The Rucker Effect”.

The recent announcement that Worcester will become home to the Boston Red Sox’s Triple A baseball farm team beginning in the spring 2021 baseball season has generated tremendous excitement throughout the city and region. This $240 million economic development project will not only bring a state-of-the-art ball park named Polar Park to Worcester, it will also create jobs and a mixed-use development on property that has been vacant for nearly 30 years. The specifics of this project are included in several stories in this edition of Chamber Exchange, The Newspaper.

This grand slam announcement came to fruition because of the hard work of a number of individuals and organizations. City Manager Edward Augustus, Jr., Larry Lucchino and Denis Dowdle being the three principles were all key with the city manager being the linchpin to the letter of intent between parties. Strong support also came from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and the state legislative delegation, the business community through the Chamber of Commerce and Canal District Business Alliance, and leaders such as Michael Angelini as well as others to move this proposal forward.

As I reflect on key moments during this process that began with a City Council resolution and a dinner meeting in Boston with Larry Lucchino, there is another moment that I believe was critical to the success of this effort to bring the Red Sox to Worcester. It was at a Worcester Railers game on Nov. 14, 2017. On this date, the Railers were playing a day game and nearly 5,000 Worcester Public School students would get a special treat and attend a game at no expense to them or the school system. Railers team owner Cliff Rucker had worked with Superintendent Maureen Binienda and team sponsors to make the day happen.

Additionally, Rucker invited the leadership of the Pawtucket Red Sox to attend the game as well and host them in his team box at the DCU Center. The game was exciting, the crowd enthusiastic and loud, the fan game day experience was fun, and the Railers played well. Throughout the DCU Center and on the ice and new jumbotron TV, it was also obvious that Worcester’s business community and important organizations were supporting the Railers through sponsorships and advertising. Rucker mingled throughout the game with the Red Sox leadership and spoke about his experiences in taking an ECHL expansion team with no name to the point where the Railers were receiving strong support from the fan base and corporate community here in Worcester and Central Mass. Each and every member of the Red Sox team commented how impressed they were with the atmosphere of the game and how the Railers were being supported by the business community. This would be a key factor in the Red Sox’s decision on whether they themselves would come to Worcester. Would the Worcester business community support and sponsor the team?

Several of us commented to the Red Sox leadership, “imagine what you could do with the Red Sox brand if you approach things in Worcester the same way as Cliff.” At that moment in those conversations with the Red Sox leadership, you could sense that they believed the local business community might be able to support the team in the manner in which the corporate community was supporting the team in Rhode Island. It was also at that moment that I recognized the positive impact Rucker’s commitment to Worcester was having in a new and different way. It is what I call the “Rucker Effect”. Simply, Rucker’s success was facilitating additional opportunities and potential wins for the city and region.

I was first asked to meet with Rucker in 2015 by his consultant Steve Ryan, a fellow alum of Fordham University and former NHL executive, to discuss Worcester as a possible location for a minor league pro hockey team. However, it has been Rucker’s  significant subsequent investments in addition to the Railers, which have had a dramatic impact on Worcester‘s skyline and psyche. The Rucker Effect, as I call it, has many people, property owners and leaders in the community thinking about what we can accomplish individually and collectively. The Rucker Effect has raised the bar on our expectations to improve the city economically, educationally, aesthetically and by strengthening the fabric of our community in a way that brings people together.

As a city, we have made tangible progress in taking on big projects relating to economic development, transportation, and in brownfields cleanup over the past 20 years. Collaboration and a can-do spirit has been the recipe of these successes. Gateway Park, City Square, South Worcester Industrial Park, additional MBTA trains, a growing airport are just a few examples.

Rucker ‘s private sector investments since 2015 have validated our collaborative efforts and can-do spirit. His investments include the construction of a $22 million Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center in the Canal District; the acquisition and cleanup of the old St. John’s High School property; the $2 million plus renovation of the Railers Tavern on Commercial Street; the acquisition of the Central Exchange Building on Main Street as well as the acquisition and several million dollar rehabilitation of the Palladium.

As a lifelong Worcester resident, what makes these commitments by Rucker so significant is that he has been a successful business person, recognized a growing momentum in our city, and wanted to be a meaningful part of it. His presence has accelerated the pace of development. Moreover, his investments have caught the eye of other outside developers and brokers, which has lead to additional development investment. These investments have created jobs and expanded the city’s tax base, however, equally important they have also inspired downtown property owners to consider making improvements to their own buildings. These are examples of the Rucker Effect.

Following a business meeting I attended earlier this year, I was speaking with two prominent business leaders whose families and businesses have been in Worcester for generations. I mentioned that I was going to the Railer’s game that evening. One of the individuals said, “what Cliff Rucker is doing is incredible!” The other individual said, “I know it means we all have to step up and do more as well.” I can say both of these individuals and their businesses have done more since that conversation.

As important as Rucker‘s investments are in the city and how this Danvers businessman and investor has helped stimulate increased development in the sense of higher expectations for many, what is equally important is the way he has gotten involved along with his family to strengthen our community. The Railers Foundation funds numerous youth and educational initiatives. Rucker serves on the board of St. Vincent Hospital and YOU. Inc., which provides programs for kids and young adults facing challenges. Moreover, Rucker worked directly with Superintendent Maureen Binienda to create the Skate to Success program, of which 2,400 students from the public schools participated this past year. Students were taught to skate at no cost. The visits to the rink to learn to skate included academic lessons and a lunch at Nonna’s Pizza at no expense to the kids or the schools.

While there is more work ahead to improve our local economy and provide good jobs that give families an opportunity for economic mobility and a level of economic security, we can be optimistic with people like Cliff Rucker on our team the sky is the limit. Congratulations to the Worcester Historical Museum for honoring him next month with the 2018 Harvey Ball Smile Award. The Rucker Effect has us all smiling a little more these days.

– Timothy P. Murray is President & CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Statement regarding the City of Worcester and the Red Sox

The City of Worcester signed a letter of intent with the Triple AAA baseball team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, to have the team begin their 2021 baseball season here in Worcester. The letter of intent will require City Council approval in the coming weeks. This is a significant milestone, in that the proposal will not only involve the construction of a new ballpark, named Polar Park, but a major redevelopment of the long-vacant Wyman-Gordon site into a mixed-use district. Together the ballpark and redevelopment will create new jobs, tax base expansion and tens of thousands of new visitors to the City annually. Moreover, the redevelopment of the Wyman-Gordon site and Kelley Square area will lead to a plan and design that will knit together the Canal District, Vernon Hill, Green Island, Main South, and lower Chandler and Madison Street neighborhoods of Worcester.


City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and his team deserve enormous credit for their diligent work in reaching this milestone at the request of the Mayor Joseph M. Petty and the City Council. Many individuals and organizations assisted in this several year process. Kudos to the Canal District Alliance for their impactful postcard campaign which created such a positive impression of Worcester on the Paw Sox leadership. Additionally, the support and advocacy of Lieutenant Governor Polito was key to this effort as well. The Chamber and many of our member businesses stepped up to make the case that the growing momentum here in Worcester and Central Mass is something that the team should be part of for decades to come. Also, the developer involved in this project, Denis Dowdle of Madison Properties, and a Chamber member, has a successful track record both in Worcester and statewide on projects of this scale. Lastly, Larry Lucchino and his team are to be commended for the time and attention they have spent in Worcester and Central Mass over the past year. They have listened and learned and gotten to know people, businesses, organizations, and leaders that make Worcester and Central Mass such a special place. They have taken the time to build a foundation for a successful long-term partnership. The best evidence of the success of the Paw Sox’s relationship building with the community is that Ralph Crowley, the President and CEO of Polar Beverages announced with Larry Lucchino at today’s announcement that the ballpark will be named “Polar Park.” Two iconic brands, the Red Sox and Polar Beverages coming together to move the City and region forward.

As previously stated, this letter of intent is an important milestone, but additional work and approvals are still required for the 2021 season. In the meantime, we will continue to root for our Future Collegiate Baseball League Team, the Worcester Bravehearts and congratulate the players, staff, and Creedon Family on another Championship season.

As I See It: Three elements to boost workforce development and the economy

First published on the Worcester T&G. Co-authored with Kate Sharry.

The most important key to the success of any business is its workforce.

We can personally attest to that fact: The top priority of the 2,300 members of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce is workforce development. And the kind of workforce that makes a business successful is one that’s skilled, focused, and as productive as possible. That’s the workforce that Massachusetts will need to keep our economy strong in the years and decades to come.

The good news is that we know how to get it.

It requires an innovative approach in education that starts at pre-kindergarten, plus child care options that enable parents to continue working productively in their careers, and also a way to pay early childhood educators and staff a salary capable of recruiting and retaining them in fulfilling the needs of the first two elements. Each these three pieces is critical for attaining our overall goal in workforce development.

The first step is starting early. Building the workforce of tomorrow doesn’t begin in college or high school. It begins with high-quality early childhood education and care programs targeting our youngest learners.

Starting early makes sense, because the first few years of life are a unique time of brain development. High-quality early education and care programs prepare young minds for future success by teaching foundational early math, reading, and social-emotional knowledge.

This knowledge forms the basis of essential skills that kids will need as they grow and move through school and the workplace. Research backs up the conclusion that quality early childhood programs can be a difference-maker, particularly for at-risk kids: The national business-leader organization ReadyNation, a nonprofit advocate for early childhood education, spotlighted a peer-reviewed analysis of over 120 different studies showing that high-quality, pre-K programs help kids become “kindergarten-ready.” This is critical because research also shows that kids who are kindergarten-ready have higher math and reading scores, better high-school graduation rates, lower rates of special education or grade repetition, and a host of other traits that help put students on a path to college and career success.

Just as quality pre-K teaches students the skills that lead to a stronger workforce tomorrow, quality child care helps parents and businesses be as productive as possible today.

Quality care boosts positive social-emotional learning lessons for children and overall long-term development. It also allows parents to focus on work during the day, rather than becoming distracted at work, missing work, or even having to stop working because of a lack of affordable child-care options.

How big is this problem? Studies show that child-care issues cost American businesses billions every year in lost productivity. Both of us are parents as well as business leaders, and we can vouch for the fact that access to affordable, quality child care can play a major, positive role at work and at home.

Targeted investments that improve access to and quality of early childhood education and care programs bolster our economy today and tomorrow. But, remember what we said at the outset: The most important key to success is the workforce itself.

Without a strong early education and care workforce, the Commonwealth won’t be able to meet the needs of children and families who can benefit from these programs.

While low unemployment rates are great news, they also mean that the supply of workers is low, and people have more choices about where to work. If potential teachers and staff don’t go into the early childhood field, that means there will be fewer slots for children.

Today, almost 40 percent of early educators in Massachusetts earn so little that they have to rely on some form of public assistance. The average salary for an early educator is under $28,000. Meanwhile, the average entry-level, public-school teacher makes about $40,000. Low salaries can create serious problems in terms of retaining talent and avoiding employee turnover. We need a long-term solution to the challenge of improving our early-education workforce.

There have been some positive developments on this front recently. Last year, Governor Baker and the House and Senate invested $38.5 million in a pool to increase its state funding to improve pay and retention for early childhood educators. This boosted the average salary of a subsidized preschool teacher from $26,400 to $27,984.

This year, there’s a House proposal that will both boost this rate reserve pool by another $20 million and will dedicate $8.5 million toward creating early-education-workforce professional development programs in our community colleges. Speaker DeLeo deserves credit for his leadership on this issue.

These are important strides, but we must do more. Improving quality, access, and the workforce for crucial early childhood programs can help the lives of Massachusetts children and families in both immediate and long-term ways while also keeping our economy strong and healthy.

Tim Murray, of Worcester, the former lieutenant governor and mayor of Worcester, is president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and a member of ReadyNation. Kate Sharry, of Paxton, is president/owner of Group Benefits Strategies, and chair of the Board of Directors of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a member of ReadyNation.

Be like Brit

A week ago Monday was the first time in 4 days that I did not wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and the smell of coal burning in the air. These sounds and smells that emanated from the small homes made of concrete cinder blocks and others with pieces of scrap wood and tin roofs surround the Be Like Brit orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti, signaled that it was the beginning of a new day as people cooked their morning meal over a coal flame.

image of Haiti

I was honored to be part of a 12 member group led by Country Bank’s Paul Scully and Cherylann Gengel that had a chance visit the orphanage and meet and interact daily with 66 beautiful children who are part of the Be Like Brit Home and Gengel family. Our group also spent several days working with a group of local tradesmen in building the 108th home for a family in the neighborhood where the BLB Home is located. Many of these tradesmen were trained by Len Gengel.image of Haiti

This trip brought back numerous memories of my interactions with the Gengel family over the years. As a City Councilor and Mayor, I had gotten to know Len Gengel through my City Council colleague Mike Perotto. Additionally, my mother-in-law was a childhood friend of Len’s sister Kathy dating back to the old St. John’s grammar school. Moreover, as Mayor and Lt. Governor I had visited their family restaurant in Rutland, the Grand Slam Cafe on several occasions.

They were good people who were very involved in Central Massachusetts in a variety of different ways. Both Len and Cherylann had deep roots in Worcester and Rutland. Additionally, Len’s passion and advocacy for the residential construction industry was legendary among area elected officials.image of Haiti

As a result, it was jarring to me and so many others who knew the Gengel’s to learn that their daughter Britney was among the missing when an earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, hit the island country of Haiti on January 12, 2010. Britney was in Haiti on a service mission with her school, Lynn University. This earthquake would ultimately claim the lives of nearly 300,000 people. Brutally, the Gengel’s were mistakenly informed that Britney was found alive among the rubble at the Hotel Montana only to be told shortly thereafter that she had not yet been found and was still among the missing. Thirty-three days later, Britney’s body would be recovered and returned home to Massachusetts.

In particular, I recall as Lt. Governor attending a prayer vigil for Britney at St. Patrick’s Church in Rutland with Congressman Jim McGovern during those early days after the earthquake. My oldest daughter was 5 years old and I brought her to the vigil. I am not sure I have ever held her tighter than that night as the priest, friends and family of Britney Gengel offered prayers and words with the hope that Britney would be found alive. Sadly, that would not be the case. However, Britney’s last words in a text to her parents about wanting to build an orphanage in Haiti would be the call to action in which her parents and brothers would honor her life and the manner in which she lived it.image of Haiti

Our group arrived at the airport at Port of Prince Airport in Haiti on a very hot and muggy afternoon. We quickly loaded the two vans with our luggage and supplies for the orphanage and got on our way to Grand Goave. As we drove, the crushing poverty and the complete lack of basic governmental services was evident. Mounds of trash seemed to be everywhere and a lack of access to clean water had people using small river beds or pools of rainwater to bathe or wash clothes.

However, what was also readily apparent amidst this failure of government was the manner in which the people of Haiti carried themselves. Despite their surroundings, there was a humble dignity and industriousness in the way the people walked and worked. The kids in spotless school uniforms, men in ties or women in dresses coming to or from work, waiting for the “tap-tap” makeshift taxi buses to take them home or to work. Or perhaps it was the orderly manner in which merchants displayed their goods or foods that they were attempting to sell in the open-air markets that seemed everywhere along Port of Prince’s busy roads. People were trying to make the best of things, to find a way forward.

image of Haiti

We arrived at the Be Like Brit Home atop a large hill with a sweeping view of not just the Village of Grand Goave but much of Haiti. As we entered the Home we were greeted by the children with several welcoming songs including Leonard Cohen’s – Hallelujah, which was incredibly moving. This was just the beginning of what would be a very meaningful and informative 5 days for all of us who were the visiting “Britsionaries”. “Britsionary” was a Be Like Brit modification of the word missionary for those who would visit and assist in the mission and work of the Be Like Brit organization.image of Haiti

During my trip, several themes emerged based upon my experiences and observations. First, it reinforced what special people that Cherylann, Len and their sons are for leading this effort over the past 8 years. The 66 children who reside at the Home have the highest level of care and educational opportunity. More importantly, these children know they are in an environment where they are loved by adults who seek to bring out the best in each child. Secondly, the Gengel’s have not only transformed the lives of these 66 children in their daughter’s honor, but also for the dozens of families who work at the Be Like Brit Home as well. Whether it is the teachers, child care workers, kitchen staff, laundry, grounds and maintenance crews or the security team, all of these employees and their families have a weekly paycheck that they can count on to provide for themselves and their families. This is a big deal in a country with an unemployment rate that is estimated to be over 60% because of a lack of jobs. Thirdly, the Be Like Brit organization’s goal to build safe housing for the community has resulted in 108 new homes being constructed for residents of Grand Goave This effort is a house by house effort to build safer housing for the residents of Grand Goave. This is in response to one of the lessons learned from the tragic earthquake where unsafe housing conditions contributed significantly to the death toll. Additionally, the Be Like Brit Home provides clean water daily to the neighbors from their own well and filtration system.

Lastly, as I saw the children wearing St. John’s and Holy Name High School shirts, Sacred Heart basketball league jerseys with the local sponsor logos, or dressed up in suits and dresses for Sunday morning church services, I thought about the many ways that individuals, multiple businesses and organizations from Central Massachusetts have contributed to the construction and ongoing support of the Be Like Brit Home and mission.

image of Haiti

I wondered if the people who have assisted the Gengel’s in this journey, in any way, both large or small, truly understand what a tremendous impact they are having on these children and the Village of Grand Goave. The donated buses and vans from the Eagle Hill School and the Bancroft School that transport the kids to school each day. The clothes that people donate so 66 growing kids can be properly clothed. The food that is donated so the children can eat three nutritious meals each day. The individuals, schools and churches that send money or sponsor a child at the Home have all helped create something that is incredibly special. A special mission that has been such a positive force for good that goes well beyond the gates of the Be Like Brit Home.

image of Haiti

It is said, that “if you want to change the world think globally, but act locally.” The magical thing about supporting the Be Like Brit Mission is that people are tangibly helping implement the positive change that Britney and the Gengel’s envisioned and assisting them in empowering the 66 children, staff and Village of Grand Goave, Haiti. To learn more or how you can help further the Be Like Brit organization and its mission go BeLikeBrit.org

image of Haiti

As I See It: Massachusetts needs a “both/and” strategy on energy

If you talk to Christopher Crowley, executive vice president at Polar Beverages, he will tell you that of all the advantages to running a business in Central Massachusetts, the cost of energy is not one of them.

Speaking to the Telegram & Gazette in December, he talked about the measures his company is taking to drive down the cost of energy – and estimated that energy costs at its Worcester bottling plant were more than double its other facilities in New York and Georgia. Polar’s presence, employing 535, is critical to the city and region. Polar generates $59 million in salaries and benefits, $64 million in goods purchased and $18 million in taxes.

The cost

Unfortunately, we have recently seen some Massachusetts manufacturers leave the state, such as Polartec, and Crown Cork & Seal, which both left the city of Lawrence. In this instance, approximately 400 well-paying manufacturing jobs moved to states with significantly lower energy costs – a factor in each company’s move.

Today, Massachusetts is the fifth costliest state in America in which to do business – and one of the biggest reasons is that New England has the highest electricity prices in the continental United States. Every year, businesses and residents of New England pay an additional $1 billion in increased energy costs.

And it’s about to get worse. According to our independent grid operator, if we don’t increase our energy supply soon, Massachusetts may face rolling blackouts and controlled power outages in the years ahead.

What do we do?

So what do we do? Some say we should accelerate our transition to a renewable energy economy. Others argue we should increase access to clean alternatives such as natural gas.

I believe that’s a false choice. To continue our state’s climate leadership and protect good paying jobs in Gateway cities like ours, we need to do both.

As lieutenant governor in the Patrick-Murray Administration, we prioritized ridding ourselves of coal once and for all, retiring old power plants and boosting energy efficiency initiatives across the Commonwealth for both businesses and homeowners alike. We created tens of thousands of green-collar jobs through the Green Communities Act and Global Warming Solutions Act that incentivized the development and use of renewable green energy, such as solar and wind. Our administration also took a leadership role in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which facilitated unprecedented investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for Massachusetts residents and businesses. Additionally, we provided renewable energy credits, and rebates for appliance replacements. As mayor of Worcester, I was proud to have led the effort in the city becoming one of the first to develop and begin the implementation of a Climate Action Plan.

We need to continue to provide aggressive incentives to get to 100 percent green – and I believe we will get there over the next few decades. In the meantime, we still have to power our homes and businesses. We can’t afford to risk losing thousands of jobs in the intervening decades – which is how long President Obama’s own climate scientist had said it would take before we are 100 percent green.

We’ve already seen what happens when we prioritize ideological rigidity over a common-sense transition when it comes to fossil fuels: We actually end up using more fossil fuels – and produce more emissions. This winter, New England burned up more oil for backup oil-fired generators – two million barrels – than we had in almost two years, to make up for the shortfall in reliable electricity during that intense early 2018 cold snap.

We need to fight hard for jobs and a 100 percent green future. And the only way we can do that is by doubling down on solar and other renewables, investing in technology that enhances their effectiveness and storage capacity and, yes, increasing access to natural gas, which burns cleaner than oil and coal.

Natural gas

Today, natural gas generates the electricity that powers most of our businesses and homes, as well as serving as the fuel to heat many of them. It’s reliable nearly 100 percent of the time. It’s also been the single-biggest contributor to reducing greenhouse gases, responsible for regional emissions declining by 63 percent over the last three decades.

Keeping natural gas in the mix will allow us to be on the cutting edge of climate leadership. Right now, Massachusetts policymakers are beginning to look to our transportation sector to reduce some of the 40 percent of emissions that they produce – and electric cars are on the cusp of disrupting markets. Taking advantage of that opportunity will require more than good intentions – it will also require additional electricity generation to fuel them.

There are several proposals about where best to strategically expand natural gas capacity through new or expanded pipelines to supply the state. These proposals include locations in Central, Western and Eastern Massachusetts. Regulators should evaluate each of these proposals on their merits and seek to minimize the impacts that will occur. Additionally, as recently determined by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, these utility companies – not solely the ratepayers – must be prepared to make their own investments in this critical infrastructure.

The time has come to stop pitting jobs against the environment – we need to protect both. And with a “both/and” energy policy that boosts renewables and ensures reliable energy to our homes and businesses for years to come, we can protect both. It’s not just a business issue. Families across Central Massachusetts will benefit through more secure jobs as well as through their own utility bills.

PawSox – An Important Conversation That Will Benefit Worcester

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce fully supports the recent efforts of Mayor Joe Petty, City Manager Augustus, and a majority of the City Council to explore the feasibility of bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester for a variety of reasons.

First, as City Manager Augustus and Mayor Petty have both stated, these efforts are not simply about bringing professional baseball and a ballpark to Worcester. More importantly, this conversation will serve as a catalyst about the reuse of a substantial portion of the 22 plus acre Wyman Gordan site that has laid dormant for nearly three decades producing little in taxes or jobs.

Wisely, this area was included in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Urban Revitalization Plan, which was adopted by the Worcester City Council, and allows for the use of eminent domain to acquire these long standing vacant properties. The Chamber strongly supported the creation of the Urban Revitalization Plan as well.

This conversation with the PawSox is beneficial because it explores how a baseball park can be a driver for new private sector investment on the underutilized parcels of property around a new ballpark on most of the Wyman Gordon site and other underutilized properties in the area. In doing so, we can build on the momentum that has been growing in the Canal District over the past dozen years. Most recently this momentum has manifested itself with the newly completed $18 million Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, which features two new hockey rinks, and 40,000 square feet of retail space, and new businesses openings like Lock 50, Queens Cup Bakery, and Kummerspeck Restaurant and butcher shop, just to name a few.

Secondly, this conversation and process is also about developing a plan that will knit together the Canal District, Vernon Hill, Green Island, Main South, and lower Chandler and Madison Street neighborhoods in a positive and strategic way. This would add density; include mixed use commercial, retail, and industrial uses that create jobs for the residents of these abutting neighborhoods, and expand the City’s tax base. A similar planning process was utilized by the City in the early stages of the now substantially completed City Square project in downtown Worcester.

The Red Sox brand is known internationally, and having a Triple AAA baseball team in Worcester would undoubtedly have many benefits. These benefits include 70 home baseball games, a ballpark that could be used for concerts and other sporting events year round. Tens of thousands of new visitors from across New England, and the country, would come to Worcester to watch baseball and the Red Sox’s future stars. These fans would be visiting many of our local businesses during the spring and summer months. Additionally, the Pawtucket Red Sox Managing Partner, Larry Lucchino, and his team, led by the nationally recognized architect, Janet Marie Smith, have a proven track record of building or rehabilitating baseball parks, like Fenway Park. They have done so in a manner that compliments the urban landscape of the surrounding neighborhoods and have attracted significant, new private sector investment in the immediate area around the ballpark. Camden Yards in Baltimore and Fenway Park are two tangible examples of their work. Additionally, new Triple AAA baseball ballparks, designed appropriately, have helped facilitate private sector investment in cities like Durham, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Indiana, Nashville, Tennessee, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The other positive is that the success of this conversation and process does not hinge solely on whether the PawSox choose to relocate to Worcester. As we witnessed with the City Square project, Gateway Park, and the South Worcester Industrial Park, as pad ready development sites are created, local and outside investors and companies come forward overtime to build on these sites. If the PawSox stay in Rhode Island, a smaller multi-use ballpark could be utilized for the Bravehearts, local colleges, high schools, youth groups, and concerts as well. Additionally, a plan for a mixed use development on the current vacant and underutilized properties in the urban revitalization area property could go forward as well to the benefit of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Chamber will continue to actively participate in this process, knowing that no matter the outcome with the PawSox, Worcester’s future is bright, and we are confident that a plan that makes our neighborhoods and city stronger will be the result.

A Reflection over Labor Day Weekend: Labor law

obituary of Daniel F Murray in blog on labor lawOn July 5th, 1916, my great grandfather Dan Murray died at Worcester City Hospital as a result of a broken neck that he sustained repairing a trolley as an employee of the Worcester Consolidated Railway Company. He was 46 years old. The Worcester Evening Gazette reported about his death on the front page of their July 8th edition, and his obituary appeared in the Worcester Telegram the same day. The work accident occurred in the trolley garage on Market Street in Worcester. Market Street is no longer in existence and the MCPHS University dorm and academic space near Lincoln Square stands where the trolley garage was once located. The Worcester Consolidated Railway Company is today known as the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, as buses replaced the trolley in later years. He was a member of the Street Railway Employees Union which today is known as the Amalgamated Transit Union.

He was survived by his wife and two young children. One of those two children was my grandfather, Daniel F. Murray Jr. who was 8 years old at the time of his father’s death. His funeral mass was held out of St. Bridget’s Church in Millbury and his pall-bearers included his co-workers and fellow union members.

At the time of his death, labor law was underdeveloped and workers compensation and social security did not exist. My great grandmother went to work full time at a local textile mill after her husband’s death. She would also die a premature death caused in part because of her working conditions.

Unfortunately, the story of my great grandfather’s death was not uncommon at the time as the United States was rapidly becoming an industrialized nation. The Labor movement led the fight along with forward-thinking business and government leaders in establishing new protections for workers. These protections, provided through compromise and negotiations in the legislative process would ensure that workers injured or killed at work had a financial safety net for themselves and their families.

The reverberations of my great grandfather’s death at 46 years old have been felt by the Murray family over the years in many ways both negative and positive. The loss of a parent or a spouse at such a young age causes a pain and trauma that manifests itself in different forms. A void is created that cannot easily be filled.

For my grandfather remedying the circumstances of how his parents died would be in fighting for protections and financial security for workers like his parents. He would become a well-respected labor leader known throughout the state for his commitment to those he represented.

His voice would be one amongImage of Daniel Murray death article - a precurser to labor law Labor, Business and Government leaders that sought consensus and advocated for the establishment of the workers compensation system and social security survivor benefits for those injured at work, or who died because of a work related injury.

These common sense reforms were examples of how labor, business and government could come together to protect the nations biggest asset – The American Workforce. As our leaders begin to gather in Washington this fall to discuss important issues such as tax reform, infrastructure investment and immigration, may they remember in our democratic form of government, principled compromise is a virtue, not a vice. It is my Labor Day wish that they collaborate in seeking policy solutions that reward hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit that has made the United States the greatest nation on earth.

It’s Time to Invest in Voc-Tech Education

voc-tech-800

Waiting lists are long; employer demand high

THE DEFEAT OF QUESTION 2 to lift the cap on charter schools has left many on both sides of this issue wondering if any common ground can be found to expand student access to high performing public schools. The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”

There is an immediate opportunity for both sides of this divisive issue to work together in pursuit of student access to the demonstrated educational excellence at the 60-plus vocational, technical, and agricultural schools and programs that exist throughout the state. The strong academic and skills training outcomes of the majority of these schools and programs have students voting with their feet to access these Career, Vocational/Technical Education (CVTE) programs. Currently, the annual statewide waiting list of students hoping to access CVTE programs hovers near 3,500 students. The longest waiting lists are in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities.

As a result, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association of Vocational School Administrators and Massachusetts Community Action Network, formed the Alliance for Vocational/Technical Education (AVTE) to advocate for expanded access to CVTE programs. We believe that expanding access to these schools is one of the best investments the state can make in terms of educational and economic development policy.

Read The Full Article on CommonWealth Magazine

Investing in Vocational/Technical Education

After the divisive debate on the Question 2 ballot question concerning the expansion of charter schools we must now turn to the next chapter concerning K-12 educational priorities now that the voters have spoken on the issue of charter school expansion. In addition to the issue of Chapter 74 funding, expansion of Voke/Tech Ed must be at the top of that list. Read how we can expand access to these schools and address the statewide waiting list.