Mass Business Blog

News and Perspectives on Massachusetts Business and Economy

Biotechs and Robotics Pay Off for Massachusetts

A law passed in 2008 that provides subsidies to biotech and robotics companies in Massachusetts is helping to grow these industries in the commonwealth. Some say the biotech and robotics industries in MA are beginning to rival those of Tokyo and California, which have long been considered the global leaders in this type of business. Massachusetts Received One Third of Seed Stage Funding One of the reasons for this growth in the commonwealth is the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act of 2008. This legislation authorized $1 billion in investments, grants, loans, and tax breaks over the next decade to be given to local biotech companies. The government is following through with their promise; they have presented over $761 million in seed-stage funding for these businesses between 2009 and 2013. This has allowed nine of the ten largest drug manufacturing companies to set up research and development laboratories in Massachusetts. Homegrown vs. Tax Incentives—Paying Twofold One of pivotal stipulation of the MA incentive package is that it focuses on local businesses who have already been working in the industry. Legislation hoped to unlock the commercial potential of research already being conducted at state universities including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts. By attracting smaller companies on the cutting edge of research, Massachusetts has found that large companies tend to migrate to states where those small companies are thriving. Massachusetts Grows Connections—And Keeps Them Attracting smaller companies that draw the interest of larger companies has helped Massachusetts become a leader in the biotech and robotics industry. The new financial incentives attract companies and talent to the commonwealth. As the biotech and robotics industries continue to grow, investors have become more motivated to provide additional seed money for growing companies. Larger companies have spent more time mentoring startup companies after seeing their industry swell; the success of large and small companies comes...

Massachusetts Startup Creates Database to Connect Manufacturers

While experts have regularly acknowledged the decline of the manufacturing industry in America, they have done very little to reverse it. An innovative, new-business incubator in Somerville, MA is starting to take steps in a better direction. Greentown Labs—A Manufacturing and Technology Incubator Greentown Labs assists other startups in the technology and manufacturing fields. Like many business incubators, it incorporates a cooperative working space for startups. However, unlike the others, Greentown also offers prototype-manufacturing space, shared machinery and shop tools, and a large event space. In total, the lab offers 33,000 total square feet of creative space for their companies. Manufacturing startups at Greentown are provided with the necessary infrastructure to move their company from conceptual stages to actual production- and revenue-making stages. Greentown Labs currently hosts 40 companies and supporting organizations that employ over 300 people. Not surprisingly, many of Greentown’s companies specialize in clean technology and the energy industry. The lab also boasts an impressive list of energy-conscious alumni that have “graduated” into their own spaces. Not only do Greentown companies have a versatile physical space to use, they also utilize the services of “sponsor companies” to assist their operations. For example, members are granted access to sponsor-supplied software at little to no cost to their company. Additionally, members have access to marketing, human resources, graphic design, insurance, and other services. Companies working in the incubator also have the all-important opportunity to network and collaborate with other startups. Bringing Manufacturing Innovation Back to the Bay State Incubators such as Greentown Labs make it easier for startups to bring manufacturing job opportunities back to Massachusetts. Over the past several years, Boston has quickly emerged as one of the country’s leading technological hubs. While major research universities such as MIT and Harvard play a role, a business incubator devoted to manufacturing provides a unique, invaluable advantage to the Boston...

UMass Researchers Granted $1.6M for Robotics Development

What do Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, and the World Trade Center attacks all have in common? Obvious tragedy aside, the common factor in each of these disasters is the use of robots to assist first responders in rescue and cleanup missions. Robotics technology has evolved exponentially over the last two decades, along with the potential to save victims of disaster faster with decreased risk to first responders and other rescue personnel. A research team at UMass Lowell led by Dr. Holly Yanco, founder of the UMass Robotics Lab and director of the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, have been awarded four grants totaling more than $1 million toward the development and study of robotics for use in rescue and damage assessment, as well as improving mobility and increasing independence for the elderly or disabled. At a time when science and technology experts around the globe, including notable names such as Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and Elon Musk, are speaking out against the dangers of implementing weaponized artificial intelligence, Yanco’s team are driving research in the opposite direction and looking for ways to improve and save human lives. The grants awarded will fund research and development in four areas of robotics: improving communication and assessment between robots and control centers in disaster situations, educating rescue personnel in the best methods for using robots in the field, research in robotics for mobile manufacturing, and research and development on low-cost robotic arms to assist and improve mobility for the physically disabled. The researchers are utilizing a wide variety of devices in their research that are available to the public, such as Google Glass and touchscreen laptops and tablets. In the future, this may lead to technology that could be integrated with pre-existing resources for disaster-response teams. One of the most interesting areas of study will be the...

How Will the “Internet of Things” Affect Business?

The continuing advancement of wireless technology has created a world where devices are connected in incredible ways. Cloud computing and the increasingly widespread network of data-gathering sensors have made it possible for devices to communicate with one another to accomplish goals—a trend people are calling “The Internet of Things,” or IoT. With IoT, it may be possible to create useful structures such as  “smart bridges,” which would be constructed out of cement containing sensors that monitor stress, fissures, or warping. The monitoring system could provide ample warning before a serious collapse. IoT would make it possible for stores to track the spending habits of their customers via their unique cell phone signatures and also make purchase suggestions. It even makes it possible for you to control every appliance in your home with your cell phone. But what effect will the “Internet of Things” have on businesses? The infographic below, created by Leigh-Ann Carroll with Exigent Networks in the UK, illustrates some key factors where IoT will have a definite, positive influence on the global...

FLEXcon Gains Space-Age Flexibility in Spencer Business Market

FLEXcon, a family-owned business in Spencer, Massachusetts, has recently landed national attention with their new space-age business partnership. NASA’s Glenn Research Center has agreed to license the production of a special insulator to FLEXcon, a local business in Massachusetts. “We are delighted to secure a licensing agreement for Glenn’s technology,” said Glenn Research Center Director Jim Free, in a press release. The special insulator is a significant improvement over other products. The material is a polyimide aerogel film that insulates against both heat and cold. The film, which is 500 times stronger than traditional silica aerogels, is currently patent-pending. FLEXcon’s license will allow the Massachusetts business to manufacture and market the film, as well as develop new applications for it. FLEXcon won’t need to install any new equipment, as their existing  manufacturing equipment can be re-calibrated to create the new technology. “We know how to take their invention and make it commercially feasible, … We’re excited about this. We’re proud of it. … This is a good win for FLEXcon.” —Bill Sullivan, Vice President of Performance Products, FLEXcon While the product was developed for use in space suits, it can also be used in a variety of every-day applications. The efficient, lightweight insulator can be used in household applications like refrigerators, dishwashers, and to insulate pipes. It can also be used in clothing.  Sullivan explained that, “You don’t want to put on a big parka when you’re climbing up Mt. Everest. You want to put on something that’s light but will give you good thermal energy.” The polyimide aerogel also has applications in the medical industry as it can be used to insulate the containers used for organ transport and blood storage. The ability to manufacture and distribute a brand-new bleeding-edge product can be a significant boon for the town of Spencer. The product will be a new sales...

Worcester Chamber Names Skyscope Creative Entrepreneur of the Year

In an announcement heralding the “overnight success” of a rapidly growing central Massachusetts-based company, The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce recently named Skyscope Creative as its choice for Entrepreneur of the Year. Alex Dunn, Skyscope’s Chief Operating Officer and one of its three founding partners, expressed his appreciation for the recognition. “From the very outset, Skyscope’s mission has been to help the world’s most interesting and important technology companies solve key business challenges with creative and effective video. We work very hard to deliver the best for our clients, and it’s nice to know that the business community is recognizing us for our efforts on their behalf.” Founded in 2012 by classmates Dunn, Sam Shepler (CEO), and Gabe Gerzon (Creative Director), all were enrolled in Clark University’s MBA program and had an obsession with video production as well as a shared vision for its largely untapped potential in specific business applications. The field was far from empty, but the three grads saw they had an advantage that set them apart, so they launched Skyscope and got to work. Today, the company they founded in a shared off-campus apartment now occupies an entire floor of newly renovated warehouse space and is among the nation’s very best producers of video for business. Their roster of clients includes Cuisinart, The Game Show Network, Emirates Airlines, and Pinterest – among dozens of others. It may have made sense to some to launch their hot new media agency in either New York, Los Angeles, or even Boston, but the three chose instead to headquarter their new venture in Worcester. While none of the three were native to Worcester, all had grown familiar (and enamored) with the area while attending Clark. They recognized the city offered the rare combination of a skilled workforce, low-cost space availability, easy access to transportation infrastructure, and a resurgent attitude;...

Raytheon buys 80% of Websense for $1.9 billion

In an effort to improve its cyber-protection technology, Waltham-based Raytheon has reached agreement with private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners LLC  to acquire an 80 percent share of Websense Inc. for $1.9 billion. Vista acquired Websense two years ago for about $990 million. Raytheon plans to integrate Websense into its existing  Raytheon Cyber Products unit and operate the new division with Websense incumbent CEO John McCormack at the helm. In addition to contributing the $400 million cyber products unit,  Raytheon will infuse $1.6 billion in cash, $600 million in the form of a loan. For its 20 percent stake, Vista will contribute $335 million to the venture. Websense’s Triton platform, which allows companies to adapt and respond to future cyber attacks, is said to be what particularly appealed to Raytheon. In November, Raytheon spent $420 million to bolster its intelligence business by acquiring surveillance and cybersecurity company Blackbird...

Study Foresees Continued Medical Technology Growth

The medical technology industry is growing as an increasingly significant sector of the Massachusetts economy. According to predictions from Evaluate Ltd., a market research firm, it is expected to grow at a 5 percent annual rate for the next five years. The report, entitled “EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020” (free registration required for download) shows that medical technology sales are expected to reach $514 billion by the end of that period, with influential mergers and emerging players reconstructing the faces of industry leaders. Westborough-based Coghlin Companies, Inc. recently announced that their subsidiary Cogmedix, a medical device manufacturer founded in 2008, had outgrown its space and was relocating to its new location in Worcester, more than doubling the size of its facility to keep up with growth and demand. The announcement of the merger involving Medtronic and Covidien, estimated at $42.9 billion, is  is anticipated to form the new market leader in an industry that will be worth over half a trillion dollars by 2020. Research has also shown that spending on global research and development will reach $30.5 billion by that year, a growth of 4.2 percent. In the first half of 2014, $1.3 billion was raised in completed medical technology IPO offerings, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2013. During the first half of this year, the value of mergers in the medical technology field rocketed up by 363 percent compared with the same period the year before, a huge indicator of what can be expected in the near...

Massachusetts a Leader in LEED-certified Construction

For the third consecutive year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ranks among the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Top 10 in the US. The rankings consider sustainable building design, construction, restoration and rehabilitation and, in terms of square feet per capita, Massachusetts is fifth-best in the country for projects that adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, adding 99 LEED-certified projects last year. The top four states, from bottom to top, are: Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, and Illinois. Matthew Beaton, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, said that the ranking was an endorsement of Massachusetts’s requirement that all new construction and major renovations meet the state’s LEED Plus green building standard. “Clean energy is yielding significant economic benefits with 10.5 percent job growth in the last year and 47 percent growth since 2010,” said Beaton. The standard demands that energy performance for the new or renovated building be at least 20 percent better than the state’s building energy code, that the outdoor water consumption must be reduced by at least 50 percent, and that the indoor water consumption be reduced by at least 20 percent. In addition, principles of smart growth and smart energy must be promoted. Presently, there are 37 LEED-certified buildings in the state, with 70 percent of them certified either gold or platinum. Beaton said in a statement, “This recognition is another example of Massachusetts’ commitment to strengthening our economy, shaping our energy future and protecting our environment through clean jobs and technology.” The numbers bear those comments out, with almost 6,000 clean energy-related businesses in Massachusetts, employing a total of over 88,000 workers. Beaton also pointed out that Massachusetts was again – for the fourth consecutive year – named by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy as the top state in the country in energy...

Medical Device Manufacturer Moves to Worcester

Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westborough-based Coghlin Companies Inc., recently announced the relocation of its world headquarters to 17 Briden Street in Worcester.  The medical device engineering and manufacturing services provider has become quite a success story in an increasingly important sector of the Commonwealth’s economy. Chris Coghlin, President and CEO of the Coghlin Companies, stated “We are very excited about the trajectory of Cogmedix and the recent relocation, renovation and expansion of this world-class facility. For more than 100 years, our family has shared a deep-rooted passion for the economic success of Worcester and its surrounding communities, and we look forward to adding many new jobs in the greater Worcester area for years to come. The proximity of this facility lends itself well to attract highly skilled technicians as well as engineering and supply chain personnel as our growth continues into 2015 and beyond.” Matt Giza, Vice President and General Manager of Cogmedix, said, “This move was made necessary by our steady pattern of growth. We really needed the additional space and these newly outfitted facilities are more than twice the size of our former location. This expansion will allow us to increase capacity to accommodate the needs of our customers, both existing and new, as well as provide improved inventory and supply chain management operations.” Addressing Cogmedix’ growing niche in manufacturing finished laser and optically-based medical devices, Giza noted that upgrades included the installation of five purpose-built, independently climate-controlled, laser-safe test labs. Amenities include new cafeteria spaces, modern conference rooms, and a new Customer Convenience Center featuring fully equipped workspaces exclusively for visiting clients to enable a more intimate and efficient product launch experience with total transparency. In addition to expanded production capacity and other benefits made possible by the much larger facility, the address itself has significant advantages. “Our new location,” Giza explained, “is at...

Technology Skills for Manufacturing are Lacking in Region

With recent trends toward onshoring and reshoring, manufacturing jobs are gradually returning to the USA from overseas. Most do not, however, seem to be finding their way into Central Massachusetts. While manufacturing – and the technology propelling it forward – is projected to continue to grow, albeit slowly, during 2015, the focus here remains on locating workers qualified to help the local manufacturing sector expand. Workforce Sharpening A suitable workforce is still not available to help grow the manufacturing industry back into the social fiber of the region. Key manufacturers in Worcester County point to the lacking workforce as a major factor in re-establishing manufacturing in the Bay State. Some companies have actually reached the point of having to sell off capital equipment because they simply can’t find anyone to operate it. “The trend is going to be virtual training and online training,” says Torbjorn Bergstrom, the director of the Haas Technical Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. These are both rather inexpensive and could provide some workers in a short amount of time. They have proven helpful in other fields and should be just as helpful in restoring industry to its rightful place in Central Massachusetts. Economic Innovation Before a product can launch in the public marketplace, someone needs to manufacture it. Massachusetts has become world-renowned as an incubator for technologies useful in many industries, and it continues to rely on local small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to nurture that reputation. “Almost all of the manufacturing companies here in Massachusetts are SMB companies,” Bergstrom commented. The City of Worcester has many multi-story brick buildings sitting vacant since the day a toy, shoe, textile, or furniture manufacturer left – often several decades ago. Worcester is also the center of finance and education in the county. It would seem as though all the pieces were in place. However, unlike some...

Worcester Groups Pitch Transportation Solutions – Seek Backers

In an effort to provide much-needed transportation solutions in Worcester, seven groups provided ideas for a National Science Foundation program. This program, which was also shared with the cities of San Diego and Chicago, seeks to provide solutions to the cities’ transportation issues that arose out of growing populations. Some of the innovative ideas included skyline transportation and environment scanning apps. The groups present labored over their proposals for ten months. Though there was a grant program, the groups involved share the creative credit. Participants in the program suggested that the groups might benefit from partnering with businesses. The Art of Science Learning as well as Worcester’s Incubator for Innovation sponsored the event. Worcester’s focus was on transportation while San Diego handled water resources and Chicago handled urban nutrition. Professionals, students and a healthy cross-section of people from around Worcester were represented. One of the interesting things about the program is that each of the represented groups presented a unique approach. One idea was to make the bus system more demand-driven than it is presently. One of the groups crafted a middle school curriculum about transportation. Another came up with the idea of converting volunteer service hours into usable bus passes. One proposed program uses predictions about walking patterns to determine which sidewalks and walkways to repair. Another proposes helping patients coordinate bus trips according to their appointments. One of the things that participants took away from the experience was that, if the desire actually existed, the community could adopt these options immediately, with experts predicting better momentum for the work will make a...

UMass Amherst Replacing Campus Bookstore with Amazon

Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus will no longer be buying their textbooks at the campus bookstore. That familiar on-campus amenity is being replaced by online retail giant Amazon.com. The current textbook annex operated by Follett Corp. is being replaced by an Amazon distribution center that is designed to save the students money. According to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, University officials recognized that as the cost of textbooks and course materials are increasing every year for students and represent one of the major expenses of attending classes on campus, the new deal using book services provided by Amazon will not only offer students what they need at lower prices but also provide a more convenient shopping experience.Compared with the prices being charged currently at the UMass Amherst campus bookstore, the new Amazon pricing structure will enable students to save as much as 31% annually, translating to an average cost savings of $380 per student. The new system gives students the option of purchasing either digital copies of the textbooks and course materials they need, or the option of taking delivery of traditional physical ink and paper books to either on-campus or nearby addresses using free one-day delivery. Students also have the option of ordering their textbooks online and then picking them up in person at a location in the campus center staffed by Amazon personnel. UMass Amherst’s five-year deal with the retailing giant will provide the school with a 2.5% commission on almost all student sales conducted through the Amazon storefront linked to the University’s course-selection software. The University is guaranteed payments of at least $375,000 the first year, increasing to $465,000 and $610,000 for the next two years. Amazon already has similar textbook service agreements with the University of California Davis as well as Purdue University. An Amazon spokesman says that this effort to reinvent the...

Study Foresees Continued Medical Technology Growth

In recent years, the medical technology and medical device manufacturing industries have become an increasingly significant sector of the Massachusetts economy. According to predictions from Evaluate Ltd., a market research firm, it is expected to grow at a five percent annual rate for the next five years. The report, entitled “EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020,” shows that medical technology sales are expected to reach $514 billion by the end of that period, with influential mergers reconstructing the faces of industry leaders. The announcement of the merger involving Medtronic and Covidien, estimated at $42.9 billion, is one such example. It is anticipated that together they could become the new market leader in an industry that will be worth over half a trillion dollars by 2020. Research has also shown that spending on global research and development will reach $30.5 billion by that year, a growth of 4.2 percent. In the first half of 2014, $1.3 billion was raised in completed medical technology IPO offerings, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2013. During the first half of this year, the value of mergers in the medical technology field rocketed up by 363 percent compared with the same period the year before, a huge indicator of what can be expected at least in the near future. The Evaluate Ltd. report predicted that activity among the major players in the sector will continue on a large scale. The Medtronic-Covidien union represents the biggest merger in the industry’s history and marks the beginning of a period of rapid change for the market. This, and other megamergers, will continue to dominate and reshape the various areas of the field in the immediate and possibly extended...

Cutthroat Shopping App Lets Retailers Compete for Shoppers

With Black Friday and its shopping bonanza madness quickly approaching, big retailers are getting ready to fight each other in an effort to attract customers during the busiest shopping days of the year. In recent years, major retailers such as Target and Walmart have waged discount and inventory battles to gain the most customers, but such tactics are no longer effective with the advent of major online retailers such as Amazon. Retailers have been paying attention to the slew of mobile apps that help shoppers get the most out of their retail experience. There is no shortage of apps that scout deals, deliver coupons and give shoppers detailed information about the good and services they crave. To this end, many retailers offer their own mobile apps that keep shoppers informed about store discounts and special sale events, but shoppers have upped the ante in recent years with “showrooming,” a 21st century shopping behavior that consists of going to a store and using a smartphone to check for lower prices in the vicinity.Showrooming has led to apps such as Find&Save, which recently added a new feature that enables retailers to engage in a bit of cutthroat competition to steal potential shoppers away from each other. Until recently, Find&Save was similar to many mobile apps that deliver enticing coupons on smartphones; what was added is the ability for retailers to reach shoppers while they are physically on the premises of their competitors. One example would be a shopper whose GPS-enabled smartphone places her at the nearest Home Depot. This could open an opportunity for competing chain Lowe’s to steal that potential customer with either lower prices or a cash reward of $25. For the time being, apps like Cash Dash require shoppers to take a photo of their purchase receipt in order to have their reward transferred to their PayPal accounts, but future...

Aaron Portnoy to Speak at Worcester Economic Club

World-renowned computer security expert Aaron Portnoy will be the featured speaker at the Worcester Economic Club’s 533rd meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 at the Hogan Campus Center at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Portnoy graced the July 21, 2014 cover of TIME Magazine’s “World War Zero: How Hackers Fight to Steal Your Secrets.” Portnoy, vice-president and co-founder of Exodus Intelligence, started on his career path while still in high school; he successfully hacked the network of his school, the Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science in Worcester. Today, rather than using his prodigious skills to disrupt and cause mischief, he now uses his expertise to do good as one of the world’s foremost experts in reverse engineering for vulnerability discovery, and has identified major vulnerabilities in the systems of multiple institutions. Attendance for this event is restricted to club members and special pass holders. The annual membership fee is $200 and single-event special passes are $75. (Supply of special passes for this event is extremely limited.)  Both can be purchased here. About the Worcester Economic Club Founded in 1903, The Worcester Economic Club remains one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind in the country. Comprised of professional men and women from the Worcester County area, we are dedicated to providing a forum for the open discussion of economic, civic, educational, and sociological subjects that are of interest to our members. Membership in the Worcester Economic Club is $200 per year with guaranteed access to all events and speakers hosted by the Club. All meetings are networking opportunities with a cocktail hour and formal dinner followed by a speaker. Speakers have included well known public officials, economists, educators, journalists, and business leaders. For more information visit their website....

New Wristband Claims to Shock Users Out of Bad Habits

A company in Boston called Behavioral Technology Group has created a wristband called Pavlok that shocks people with 340 volts of electric current. After putting the product on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, the company has raised three times the amount of their original goal of $50,000. That’s largely because the company claims the wristband will help people break bad habits. Co-founder Maneesh Sethi explains during the promotional video created for Indiegogo, “Now I know that electric shock sounds crazy, but sometimes crazy works.” The campaign garnered enough attention that more than 1,000 funders have pledged money to help fund the product. With their goal met, the company plans to start shipping the wristbands in March or April, 2015. The electric bands will retail for about $150, but they are being offered for $99 on the Indiegogo campaign page. Sethi was inspired by the idea that led to Pavlok when he observed the Pavlovian impact of shock collars on dogs. The effectiveness of the wristband on humans, however may vary widely depending on the user, user’s bad habits, and the level of addiction. In the medical journal Frontier, a 2012 research article addressed Pavlovian responses in humans. “The mechanisms modulating the impact of Pavlovian responses on instrumental [habitual and goal-directed] performance are largely unknown, both in human and non-human animals.” In the Indiegogo video, a man who has tested the Pavlok wristband states that he lost seven pounds after using the band for approximately two months. He does not reveal specifically how the wristband helped him achieve that goal. Sethi, who is backed by an undisclosed number of investors, says that when wearers begin to go back to bad habits, “Pavlok jolts them out of it.” Pavlok’s Indiegogo campaign ends Nov....

New Massachusetts Energy Chief Says State Can’t Rest in Push for Renewable Energy

Bespectacled Maeve Bartlett stood behind a glossy black podium at the DCU Center and made a bold claim: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is, she said, the national leader in meeting the challenges of climate change and adopting renewable energy technologies. Numero uno. The criteria: megawatts. In 2007, Massachusetts had 3 megawatts of solar capacity and 3 megawatts of wind capacity. Operating at full power, these renewable energy plants could power 3,000-5,000 modern homes – small peanuts in a state with 6.7 million people. But then Governor Deval Patrick and his administration passed three clean energy laws: the Green Jobs Act, the Green Communities Act, and the Global Warming Solutions Act. Businesses came a-dashing. Today, the state boasts 643 megawatts of solar capacity and 103 megawatts of wind capacity, and in 2014, Clean Edge ranked Massachusetts the leading state for clean energy policy and eco-energy investments per capita. Barlett, formerly the agency undersecretary, was recently appointed to lead the final seven-month charge as head of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. She hopes to implement such plans like the Cape Wind project, secure hydroelectric contracts and construct more than 300 urban parks. During her speech at the DCU Center as part of the eighth annual Massachusetts Energy Summit, Barlett said that the state could not rest in its push for renewable energy. The state hopes to eventually secure 30 percent of its power from clean energy sources. Such grandiose plans represent big bucks. The Massachusetts clean energy sector is a $10 billion industry, with employment expected to surpass 100,000 jobs in early 2015. The sector has seen double-digit job growth for three consecutive years. At the recent Clean Energy Annual Jobs Report, Governor Patrick reported, “We have long believed that a strong commitment to investing in clean energy would not only provide significant environmental benefits, but would also serve as an...

EnerNOC to Spend $76 Million for World Energy Solutions

Boston energy software company EnerNOC Inc. announced on Tuesday that they plan to lay out $76 million in cash for energy auction business World Energy Solutions, Inc.  This places a value of $5.50 for each share of World Energy stock, about 1/3 higher than Tuesday’s closing price of $4.15 per share (Nasdaq: XWES). EnerNOC will also be taking on World Energy’s debt, totaling approximately $10 million as of the end of June. Directors at both Enernoc and World Energy already approved the deal, which is expected to close during Q1-2015. EnerNOC Chairman and Chief Executive Timothy G. Healy said, “This acquisition advances our energy intelligence software business and will help us deliver more value to our enterprise customers who are looking to increase productivity and take control of their energy costs.” The two companies have overlapping customer bases. Users of EnerNOC software include companies, utilities and various other entities buying and managing energy while World Energy runs online energy auctions. EnerNOC revenues during 2013 totaled about $383 million with profits of $22 million, compared to World Energy’s revenues of $35 million with a net loss of $2 million. EnerNOC reported it expects the deal to boost its annual revenue by about $30 million. World Energy is allowed to seek offers from other buyers for another 55 days, with EnerNOC having the right to match any offer. What the deal means for employment is unclear. World Energy currently has more than 100 workers. EnerNOC said in an SEC filing that employment decisions will be made during planning to integrate the...

ACEEE: Massachusetts Tops California as Most Energy-Efficient State

Recently, the American Council of Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the eighth edition of the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The scorecard ranks the states based on various energy-efficient metrics such as how much electricity and fuel they use and their overall carbon footprint. In 2014, Massachusetts achieved the highest score for the fourth year in a row. Today, states are implementing many different energy efficient tactics and programs. In fact, the number of state energy efficiency programs has tripled since the first ACEEE scorecard was introduced eight years ago, with many states using new energy-efficient initiatives to promote in-state jobs. According the scorecard, the top states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts (42/50), California  (40.5/50), and with three states – Vermont, Oregon, and Rhode Island – tied for third place at 37.5 out of 50 possible points. The top two states are certainly no surprise.  In recent years, Massachusetts has been earning the top slot on the scorecard for years and California is consistently found close to the top. Looking a bit deeper, Rhode Island, which tied for third, joined the top five for the first time. This is a testament to the improvements the state has been making in its own initiatives to improve its score. States at the top of the list have each invested in energy efficiency programs that help spread awareness and implement utility, transportation, building, and government policies that encourage energy efficiency. In turn, these policies work to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gases that scientists say contribute to global warming. Just this past summer, the town of Newton replaced 8,406 high-pressure sodium street lights with LEDs, a project made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Green Communities Act and $500,000 in rebates from NSTAR.  Massachusetts-based businesses are also leading the way, fostering our nation’s energy-efficient habits. Access Fixtures, a lighting company based in Worcester is...

Apple and Bose Settle Patent Dispute

These days, as we are constantly surrounded by noise and seek personal respite, noise cancellation is an increasingly popular – sometimes necessary – technology that subtracts noise in the surroundings from what is heard through a headset. This technology has proven to be “big money.” Two companies, Beats Electronics (now owned by Apple) and Bose Corporation, are capable of providing this kind of quality sound through their headphones. Unfortunately, they have been at odds with one another and have been in court since July over five patents that control the suppression of background noise in their products. Both companies manufacture their headphones in China, a key point, since Bose was seeking to prevent Beats from bringing its products into the U.S. Moreover, Bose claimed patent infringement and sought damages as well. Outside the court case, Bose sought investigation of both Beats and its contractors. It brought its complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission. And on top of judicial and administrative action, there are additional items for this story. It turns out that Bose, as an NFL sponsor, was offended when a San Francisco Giants team member wore its competitor’s Beats headset to a postgame event. The effect? Bose’s sponsorship was supporting the advertisement of its competitor! The word is that Bose and Beats have settled their disagreement. Bose has sought to end all judicial and administrative actions. Officially, the whole thing is “settled,” but details have not been made public. It has been observed that Apple appears to have more interest in its streaming-music system and not on accessories like Beats with its headphones. Apple really added to its streaming capabilities by purchasing Beats Music, a streaming subscription service, and may not have had so much interest in Beats hardware and this...

Massachusetts Emerging as Robotics Leader

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one need not look very hard to find robots under construction, being tested or in action. The state is fast becoming the robotics capital of the country. A long list of companies make their headquarters here including iRobot Corporation, the creators of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Bluefin Robotics Corporation manufactures underwater units, CyPhyWorks Incorporated designs spying hover crafts and Rethink Robotics creates robots used in manufacturing. Massachusetts also boasts MIT and WPI, both schools that remain on the cutting edge of developing new technology every year. Altogether, there are 100 robotic companies and 35 research and development facilities that design and manufacture robots for consumer, industrial, law enforcement, medical, military and research purposes. In the past four years alone, 11 new companies emerged. Massachusetts sells and exports more robots than any other location on the planet. Studies estimate that annual sales are close to $2 billion. The industry also currently employs approximately 3,200 people. Robotics companies are thriving in the state, as manufacturers and other organizations are expressing an ever-growing desire to incorporate the machines into daily operations. While some fear that the automated devices will replace humans in the employment sector, the machines are largely being created to perform the work, not replace worker. In military scenarios for example, robots have the capability of entering dangerous areas, which saves the lives of troops. The phenomenal growth of robotics also influenced the University of Massachusetts Lowell to construct the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center. The 10,000 square foot facility will serve as the testing grounds for manufacturers desiring to test their robots in a variety of environments. The site will feature indoor and outdoor testing centers that include sand pits and splash pools. The ideal location means that the facility will be readily accessible to dozens of companies. Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council chief executive...

Ebola and the Economy

Unless you’ve been under quarantine for the past few weeks, you know that Ebola has once again reared its ugly head, causing widespread concern – bordering on panic in some quarters – about the possibility of a global pandemic. How realistic a possibility is this?  Could it actually happen? Frankly, it’s still too early to say one way or the other. However, it’s not too soon to make some basic predictions about how some businesses will be affected should matters get much worse. Dr. Bruce Aylward is the Assistant Director General for the World Health Organization (WHO). He recently announced that organization’s prediction that the number of cases is expected to top 9000 by the end of this week, and the fatality rate of the current outbreak has risen from just under 50% to over 70%. When asked how the situation might evolve over the next 60 days, he warned: “We anticipate the number of cases occurring per week by that time to be somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 per week.” As in previous instances of global health scares, airlines, theaters, sports arenas, and other locations where large “fraternities of strangers” gather are sure to be the first to suffer the economic consequences of a population frightened into isolation. Participating in purely recreational activities will be weighed against the fear of contagion, and attendance is sure to plummet.  Schools, churches, and other venues where attendance is “less voluntary” will follow suit in very short order if the outbreak is not quickly reigned in. The WHO announced yesterday that the Ebola epidemic had officially been halted in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.  Sadly, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other nations in the region remain mired in the misery of a highly-contagious, incurable, deadly viral outbreak, and new cases are popping up around the globe on a daily basis.  Should this situation...

Massachusetts Receives $327,000 in AT&T Settlement

Class Action Case No. CV-09-1529 SI never went to court. The two sides – the Federal Trade Commission and AT&T – settled in October, 2014. AT&T, the largest mobile phone service provider in the nation, agreed to pay $105 million for unauthorized cell phone charges in a practice known as “mobile cramming.” Cramming is when a phone company charges fees for services neither ordered nor requested by the customer. In AT&T’s case, mobile phone customers were charged up to $9.99 per month for third-party wallpapers, ringtones, horoscope text messages, celebrity gossip, and other crumbs of seemingly free information. In the industry, these are called “Premium SMS content.” Monthly AT&T bills allegedly hid the charges as part of the total balance. They were listed under the nebulous category, “AT&T Monthly Subscriptions,” giving no hint of their third-party status. The Federal Trade Commission alleged that AT&T pocketed 35 percent of the third-party monthly charges. “Mobile cramming is a major problem that continues to harm consumers in Massachusetts,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. In 2011 alone, AT&T received approximately $1.3 million customer complaints about the extra fees. The company ended the practice in 2013. Massachusetts received $327,000 as part of the case settlement. Under terms of the agreement, AT&T must open an $80 million fund, administered by the Federal Trade Commission, to refund customers who were targets of cramming. Customers can request free billing summaries from January 2005 to January 2013 to check for third-party charges, and they are eligible for 100 percent repayment. “This case underscores the important fact that basic consumer protections – including that consumers should not be billed for charges they did not authorize — are fully applicable in the mobile environment,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. AT&T is the first major phone service carrier to enter a national settlement involving mobile cramming practices. Negotiations with...

Framingham Company Merges with NYC IT Provider

Framingham-based VP Solutions Inc., and another national information technology service company ComputerSupport.com, have confirmed they are merging to better capitalize on market opportunities in the the IT and digital industries. This trend of mergers continues throughout the industry as companies look to acquire and leverage assets they don’t possess internally. As technology continues to evolve and disrupt business practices, companies are compelled to respond quickly and resourcefully to ensure their spot in the marketplace. VP Solutions has developed its reputation and position in the legal service sector, and is planning to expand its base with a new range of services and products by leveraging the assets and expertise of ComputerSupport.com. If well executed, the synergy produced by the companies joining forces has the potential to transform the industry. This merger will provide customers with improved engineering, customers service, and cloud computing solutions, among other digital innovations and applications. Naturally, top executives at both firms are hoping for positive results for company shareholders as well as for their respective internal teams. They believe equity members will seek rising growth and value in their ownership stakes. Employees can expect to receive exposure to new knowledge points and innovative skills that will bolster their careers and earnings potential within the company for years to...

3D Printing – Not for the Masses?

Somerville, MA-based Formlabs, a relatively new company on the scene of 3D printing, stands poised and ready to revolutionize the market. The driving force behind the company’s advancement, Colin Raney, has some ideas about how the technology will change industry in the future, and not all of them are mainstream. The major advancement made by Formlabs is the creation of a relatively inexpensive and small 3D printer that costs only $3,300 and is of desktop size. This is a sharp departure from the refrigerator-sized earlier models that cost $10,000 or more. Raney said that this will make the advantages of 3D printing far more accessible. He tempered that, however, with a judgment that 3D printing is likely to remain primarily in the professional field. Raney’s reasoning behind this was simple. While 3D printing technology is getting less expensive, it is not yet cheap enough to justify common household use. It would be far more expensive to buy a 3D printer and the resin materials needed to create basic household items than it would be to simply buy those items. Raney suggested that household 3D printing is still a long ways off despite his recent advancements. This view is in contrast to other’s views on the topic and also to much of the hype surrounding 3D printing. On the other hand, the advantages to the professionals of the more portable and less-expensive 3D printers are great. Raney believes his work will allow professional designers and engineers the ability to work better and faster. It will also be of benefit to smaller design businesses that previously had great ideas and potential but were unwilling to deal with the bulkier and far more expensive earlier models. 3D printing technology allows the creation of structures that would be impossible using any other currently available technology. Raney promises that his technology will allow designers...

Two MA Tech IPOs to Watch

Buzz surrounding the local tech community has been perking up lately with the recent announcement of two IPOs. Just last week, Boston-based online retailer Wayfair announced plans to raise $350 million in an IPO scheduled for the fall.  Now, Cambridge-based HubSpot has indicated that they also have plans to go public with an IPO to raise around $100 million. Employing 700 people and launched by MIT graduates Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot, an inbound marketing solutions provider, offers products based on a subscription business model. Analytics, blogging, SEO, social media, marketing automation and lead generation are offered under a single, centralized application. The company’s main clientele are medium-sized businesses with employed staff ranging anywhere from the teens to 2000 individuals. Halligan owns 4.9 percent of the company and Shah’s stake is 8.8 percent. The founders believe in a corporate culture that provides employees with numerous ways to grow and informs them about nearly every every detail concerning the business. David Skok and Larry Bohn, two venture capitalists with ties to the Boston area have a large stake in Hubspot with 17.1 percent held by Skok’s interest and 27.1 percent owned by Bohn’s General Catalyst. Last February, analysts estimated a potential valuation for Hubspot at around $1.3 billion after the IPO is held which was slightly under the marketing automation software company Marketo’s (MKTO) $1.7 billion valuation at that time. In 2013, Hubspot generated revenue of $77.6 billion with a 50 percent growth rate over 2012. That is lower than the growth of Marketo which was $95.9 million in revenue and 64 percent growth last year. Since Marketo’s initial public offering a year ago, the stock has weathered with a 33 percent downturn in price. Losses for Marketo were $47.4 million in 2013 compared to $34.3 million for Hubspot. In the first half of 2014, losses for Hubspot were $17.7...

Aaron Portnoy to Speak at Worcester Economic Club

The Worcester Economic Club (WEC) announced today that Aaron Portnoy, a world-renowned computer security expert, has been booked as one of its speakers of the 2014-2015 WEC Speaker Series. Portnoy is featured on the July 21, 2014 cover of TIME Magazine’s “World War Zero: How Hackers Fight to Steal Your Secrets.” In today’s era of privacy concerns and compromised security infrastructure, what Portnoy has to share with the Club is sure to be of interest.As in past years, Worcester Economic Club’s 2014-2015 Speakers Series will feature many of the world’s foremost thought leaders, including nobel laureates, authors, journalists, economists, and business leaders. “I am pleased to announce Aaron Portnoy, one of the world’s leading authorities on cyber-security, will be addressing club in November,” says James J. Paugh, III, CEO of WorkersComp Analytics, LLC and President of the Worcester Economic Club. “Through our prestigious speaker series, we seek to showcase our commitment to promoting insightful, relevant discourse. Portnoy’s Time cover story highlights the security issues facing the economy today.”The 534th club meeting featuring Aaron Portnoy will be held Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Portnoy, who is the vice-president and co-founder of Exodus Intelligence started his career in reverse engineering for vulnerability discovery while still in high school by hacking the network of his school, the Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science in Worcester. Today, he is one of the world’s foremost experts in reverse engineering for vulnerability discovery, having determined major vulnerabilities in the systems of multiple institutions. About the Worcester Economic Club Founded in 1903, The Worcester Economic Club remains one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind in the country. Comprised of professional men and women from the Worcester County area, we are dedicated to providing a forum for the open discussion of economic, civic, educational, and sociological...

Did the $525,000,000 Massachusetts Poured Into Biotech Generate 571 or 17,994 Jobs?

Yes? No? Maybe? The state of Massachusetts has spent $525 million encouraging the development of the state’s biotech industry, just over half of the $1 billion budgeted for this purpose. This public investment is being applied to grants, tax breaks and business loans for companies planning on moving to Massachusetts or expanding their operations in the state, and is intended to encourage a healthier state economy. But, just how many jobs are really being created by this taxpayer investment? One academic study by Pioneer Institute claims that Massachusetts’ $525 million directly created only 571 new jobs in life science industries. This figure applies to a period starting in 2009 and ending in 2013. In contrast, consider a study from Northeastern University that claims that between 2006 and 2012, life sciences and related industries added 17,944 jobs in the state. While Northeastern’s period of study doesn’t exactly match Pioneer Institute’s, the astounding variance of the results illustrate that questions remain about public investment Massachusetts biotech industry. Questions need to be answered. Should the government of Massachusetts take tax dollars collected from businesses and individuals and give them to other businesses? Should government be picking industry winners and consequently with businesses that pay taxes but don’t receive tax breaks and cash investment by government losers? If government should take money from some businesses and give it to other businesses, should the alleged investment be made from politicians who are being lobbied by special interests or independent professionals? Creating new jobs isn’t the only way public incentives can aid select businesses and potentially the economy of Massachusetts. Specifically for a more complete picture of how biotech incentives are working, other questions should be answered. For example, one could ask how much private capital biotech firms have attracted and what kinds of returns backers have seen on their investments. It is also useful to ask how much extra tax revenues the state may see from capital gains. Until questions like these are answered, it will remain impossible to know just...

President Obama to Speak at High School Graduation

In an effort to draw attention to an educational success story as well as highlight the need for continuing development of a manufacturing and technical workforce, President Barack Obama will be speaking to this year’s Worcester Technical High School graduating class this afternoon. “The school’s combination of rigorous academics and hands-on learning opportunities characterizes the President’s vision for an education that works for America’s students,” according to a White House official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the president’s speech. “He will reiterate his commitment to reforming America’s education system, as well as his challenge to redesign America’s high schools and connect our nation’s learners to high-speed broadband.” Bill DiBenedetto, President of Uxbridge, MA-based Lampin Corporation commented, “Lampin has been an active supporter of STEM education for quite some time now, and we’re excited to learn that the White House is now promoting technical education in this manner.” He added, “The future of manufacturing and technical operations in this country is the next generation of young people in our schools today. If they are not given a solid educational foundation along with an awareness of the career opportunities in the manufacturing industry, this vital domestic economic sector will ultimately die out as it is exported to other countries.” Worcester Tech is led by Dr. Sheila Harrity, a National High School Principal of the Year who was recognized last month at the White House. When she took over in 2006, the school was one of the lowest performing schools in the state. However, the school is now ranked among the best in Massachusetts in terms of testing scores. In fact, during her time at Worcester Tech, Harrity has seen the graduation rate grow by 17 percentage points (from 79.3% in 2006 to 96.4% in 2012) and the dropout rate fall from 6.5% in 2006 to...

Ivy Corset Building in Worcester Increases Energy Efficiency

With lighting costs being a significant percentage of energy costs, it’s important for buildings to update outdated and energy-wasting luminaires. Access Fixtures achieved energy savings for the historical Ivy Corset building in Worcester, Mass by retrofitting six wall packs on the front of the building.  The renovated brick factory building once housed the Ivy Corset Company. The wall packs on the front of the building were part decorate, part functional—but produced an unattractive yellow light. Previously, the wall packs used 35 watt high pressure sodium lamps and ballasts that totaled 43 watts per pack. By replacing the lamps with energy-efficient A21 style LED lamps, the building was able to maintain the historical elements while reducing energy by 75% and improving visibility.  According to the press release, the retrofit will save $14.08 per wall pack for a total savings of $84.48 per year. Payback for the initial cost of the LED retrofit is less than 1.5 years including labor. Because the LEDs won’t have to be replaced for 17 years, the LED wall pack retrofit will provide a total energy savings of $1,436 over the lifetime of the LED lamps. Additionally, the longevity of the LEDs reduce maintenance cost needed to frequently replace the lamps.  It’s important for property managers to understand the value of updating lighting systems. Updated luminaires can cut energy use, save money, and ensure that all areas are safely illuminated. And, lastly, no more ghostly yellow or orange...

What are the latest internet scams to beware of and how can you avoid them?

Guest Post From Sarah Hewitt Be sure to follow Sarah on twitter @SarahHewitt52 Internet scams will exist as long as scammers continue to be inventive. Fraud prevention teams work extremely hard investigating internet fraud but once one scam has been brought under control a new, more inventive one will arise. For this reason it’s important to stay on your toes when it comes to online transactions or interactions. One of the most famous scams of the internet age has become known as the ‘Nigerian prince’ due to the scammer’s method of extracting cash using an elaborate back story. Email Link Virus Links within the body of an email that urge you to click through to a website are known as phishing links and have been around for a number of years. The more sophisticated of these emails will appear to be from a well-known and trusted organization such as a bank or phone company. When you click the link the website may even look like the official website however if you’ve been requested to verify your card details or similar you should beware. Check the URL in your browser- if it’s irregular then leave and visit the correct web address instead. Don’t click a link in your email where you cannot see where the link goes. If the text is hyperlinked you should mouse over it or right click it as if to edit it. You should then be able to find out if the link you thought was to a 20% off sale at ASOS really goes there at all. Shortened URL such as those created by but.ly can be converted back again using longurl.org. Automatic Email Viruses Emails can launch a virus upon opening. In days gone by the virus was usually contained in an attachment but this variety, known as the ‘drive-by email’ begins downloading malware when...

220% Revenue Increase of Access Fixtures LED Products

LED lighting is continuing to grow. Access Fixtures reports LED products sales are up 220% year over year compared to the first half of 2013. While the price of LED lighting is decreasing, LEDs are simultaneously advancing in energy efficiency, light output, module life, and versatility. The rapid progression of LED lighting is known as Haitz’s Law. Every decade, the cost per lumen (lumens are the unit of useful light emitted) falls by a factor of ten while the amount of light generated per LED package increases by a factor of twenty. Therefore, LEDs are becoming a reasonable and cost-effective option when considering alternatives to incandescent, HID, and fluorescent light sources. LED lighting provides a significant return on investment, but its biggest draw is arguably its energy efficiency. For example, today’s ten-watt LED bollard lights can outperform a seventy-watt, high-pressure sodium bollard light. LED wall packs can exceed the performance of 100-watt metal halide wall packs using less than half the energy. Increased sales are found in products such as LED bollard lights, LED area lights, and LED wall packs. Future sales are expected to maintain the rapid growth in sales of Access Fixtures LED...

Massachusetts Firms Look to WIN-911 to Raise the Alarm

Austin, Texas is pretty far away from the rolling hills and rocky shores of Massachusetts, but a Texas firm is supplying some of the top Massachusetts companies with a software product that protects their assets and, in some cases, even saves lives. Companies such as Raytheon, EMC, Boston Scientific, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Biogen all have industrial processes that control and monitor their facilities. If part of the system malfunctions, it’s imperative to know right away. Those firms look to WIN-911, formerly Specter Instruments, the world’s most widely-used alarm notification software for the process control industry to recognize issues and raise an alert. Working in unison with a company’s SCADA system and able to push notifications through a variety of devices and network environment (smartphone push notifications, web browser, analog or VOIP phone calls, SMS messages, email, in-plant announcement system, and other devices), WIN-911 recognizes an alarming condition and notifies the appropriate party. WIN-911’s built-in logic engine also decides how the notification escalates should the alarm continue to be a problem. As a company with global clients, WIN-911 has plenty of options for service providers. Yet WIN-911 looked back to Massachusetts to keep its business at the leading edge of the online world. With a website newly designed by Worcester-based firm Applied Interactive, LLC, WIN-911 is set to launch a new version of it’s alarm notification software to the world, via touchpoints in...

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