Rolling Out the Welcome Mat for Artists in Central Massachusetts

Massachusetts is known as a place of innovation and achievement in fields such as technology, medicine and manufacturing. It is also home to a vibrant community of artists practicing a broad spectrum of creative disciplines. But these painters, sculptors, performance artists and countless other less-easily-categorized creatives, face significant challenges when seeking suitable work and living spaces.

Organizations like the Worcester Artists Group, the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM) and Twin Cities Community Development Center are seeking to change that with plans already underway to develop several new artist spaces throughout Worcester and Fitchburg.


Central Mass. is in need of affordable spaces where artists can live and work.

For many working artists in central Mass., the cost of maintaining a separate residence and workspace can be well beyond their means, and some are forced to resort to questionable practices such as illegally living in a space not zoned as a residential area. Others may attempt to use hazardous materials or techniques at home, putting themselves and neighbors at serious risk.

Increasing the number of venues where artists, already on tight budgets, can live and work affordably would free up time and resources they now spend commuting to larger cities. The savings would allow artists to do more to benefit and enrich the community around them. The proposed developments will not only encourage the arts communities in central MA to flourish, but would also invigorate the local economy as their occupants live, work, shop and eat locally.

In Fitchburg, a plan to convert three buildings near the FAM is under review as community leaders assess the impact of the proposed 55 apartments and determine the best use of the 94,000 square feet of available space.

Worcester will also undertake similar deliberations as a part of broader downtown revitalization plans. Boasting several arts organizations and the world-renowned Worcester Art Museum, Worcester is considered a highly desirable location for artists. The city will be collaborating with organizers and potential residents to assist with development requests and zoning requirements.

The spaces up for consideration are not limited to the most obvious options. Worcester’s cultural development officer, Erin Williams, explained, “We need to think, not just about old mill buildings anymore, but empty supermarkets, empty church buildings that are not being used by their community, but vacant buildings in all their forms.”

EMC Expands the Cloud with Purchase of Virtustream

Hopkinton-based data storage leader EMC Corp. has announced plans to acquire Virtustream, a privately held Maryland firm that specializes in migrating business software to the cloud.

In announcing the deal, EMC said Virtustream would form the basis of EMC’s new managed cloud services business. EMC has been shifting its strategy to increase its focus on helping customers move all their application to cloud-based IT environments.

EMC said the Virtustream deal, when finalized, would complete “the industry’s most comprehensive hybrid cloud portfolio to support all applications, all workloads and all cloud models.”

Virtustream’s chief executive officer Rodney Rogers will report to EMC Chairman Joe Tucci.

“Virtustream is an exceptional company and this is a critical and transformative acquisition for EMC in one of the industry’s fastest-growing and most important sectors,” Tucci said. “With Virtustream in place, EMC will be uniquely positioned as a single source for our customers’ entire hybrid cloud infrastructure and services needs.”


Virtustream, a fast-growing company founded in 2009, works with large enterprises worldwide to migrate, run and manage mission-critical applications in the cloud, including SAP. Virtustream customers include marquis enterprises such as The Coca-Cola Co., Domino Sugar, Heinz, Hess Corporation, Kawasaki, Lexmark and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

As it stands, EMC offers customers its Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution, an on-premise private cloud offering that provides access to public cloud services such as VMware vCloud Air. Virtustream will bring to the EMC portfolio a managed cloud software and services capability available on or off premises. EMC intends to incorporate the Virtustream offerings into the Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution where they expect the combined capabilities, products and services will allow them to address the complete breadth of cloud computing needs.

Municipalities Want to Open the Tap on Liquor Licenses

New restaurants constitute a significant economic development opportunity on the local level. Large-scale retail and commercial retail development plans often include restaurant spaces as part of the overall project.

In Massachusetts, municipalities have liquor license caps set by the Legislature. Because of this, an increasing number of Massachusetts cities and towns are running into a persistent obstacle to development plans that include bars and restaurants: they simply don’t have any more liquor licenses to award.

The lack of available liquor licenses in some cities and towns has forced developers and municipal economic development officials to put projects on hold while they seek special legislation to authorize additional licenses.

The current system creates a barrier to development and thrusts state lawmakers into the position of middlemen between developers and local planners.


The lack of available liquor licenses has forced developers to put projects on hold.

State Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat representing Dracut, recently asked a legislative committee to grant more than a dozen new licenses at once to accommodate planned and anticipated restaurant development in Tyngsborough. If her request is successful, other cities and towns at or near their state caps would likely seek a supply of new liquor licenses to facilitate future development, as well.

Tyngsborough officials have said an envisioned business corridor, which must include new restaurants to thrive, could serve as an economic engine for the area, State House News Service reported.

Ms. Garry said restaurant developers require a greater level of certainty about whether liquor licenses are available before investing time and money into plans that could end up hinging on the vagaries of Beacon Hill politics.

Her bill would carve out a supply of 14 additional licenses for the town, with the condition that they may not be transferred for three years after they’re issued by the town. The provision was added to limit the possibility of developers seeking the valuable licenses to flip for profit, rather than to use long term.

A New Era of Manufacturing for Central Mass

Central Massachusetts is no stranger to the manufacturing industry. The region has a long, proud history in the field. Though the products being produced may have changed, Central Massachusetts remains at the forefront of a new era of advanced manufacturing.

At this time, nearly 56 percent of all manufacturing positions in Massachusetts are considered “advanced.” The old stereotype of the industry as being dark, dirty and declining is quickly being replaced with a brighter, 21st Century vision of advantageous and accelerating growth.

To keep this positive, forward momentum going, and to promote the new manufacturing brand, the New England Council and Deloitte Consulting recently released “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution.” The report evaluates the region’s strengths and advantages. It also identifies opportunities for investment and collaboration which can be used as a road map for growth and developing a competitive edge.

Collaboration seems to be an important part of the detailed report, which includes six recommendations for manufacturers, lawmakers, educators and others to help reinforce regional cooperation.

In a small regional community like New England, it becomes even more imperative for stakeholders in the area to work together to create viable educational pathways which will ensure lifelong learning and the ability to transfer credits for acquired knowledge. The council also advises that we should focus on improving the smoggy manufacturing image to attract new workers. The manufacturing industry of today is safe, innovative, and pays well, especially in advanced manufacturing positions.

The effort will require aligning both state and federal regulations with industry needs. State policy makers have been urged to include advanced manufacturing as a part of state economic development job creation plans.

Massachusetts is already leading the way in the effort, with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which is made up of the secretaries of labor and workforce development, education development, as well as housing and economic development. The cabinet was created to address the current skills gap. Officials in neighboring states now have an opportunity to follow the governor’s example.

State officials are encouraged to begin a regular dialogue with their peers in the neighboring five states to compare ideas and exchange best practices. They should also work together to secure federal funding for the establishment of a New England advanced manufacturing hub under the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative (NNMI). Acting as a highly effective “teaching factory,” the NNMI would be ideal for addressing the industry’s challenges and training the skilled workforce the New England needs.

Central Massachusetts is in a position to continue its long history of excellence in manufacturing. It will take a collaborative effort to continue to advance the industry.

Construction for New Allston – Brighton Commuter Rail Begins

This spring marked the commencement of construction for the new Boston Landing commuter rail station, part of the Allston-Brighton commuter line.

The new station will be located adjacent to the Massachusetts Turnpike as part of commuter line that connects Framingham and Worcester to South Station. It is expected to open in fall 2016, two years later than the original projected completion date.

MBB-2The station is estimated to cost approximately $20 million ($4 – $6 million more than the original projected cost) and is being financed by New Boston Landing LLC, a New Balance development company. It will provide service to employees of the well-known shoe company, and direct access to the company’s planned Boston Landing development, a complex of restaurants, shops, a hotel, and athletic facilities. The headquarters are still under construction.

A select panel put together by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year to study the state of the MBTA suggested that the agency should put expansion plans on hold. However, the panel also stated that projects like this one—which leverage private or federal money—should be exempt from any moratorium and should serve as an example of the type of construction the MBTA should pursue “to stretch every dollar.”

But the protracted timeline also illustrates some of the potential difficulties of a public-private partnership. When private companies foot the bill for major infrastructure projects, the state may find itself beholden to their timeline. With a project like Boston landing, where a private company is ultimately paying the bill, it can be difficult to negotiate penalties for delayed construction.

“Even if it was behind schedule, there aren’t any financial penalties because the private entity has agreed to foot that bill,” said MassDOT spokesman Mike Verseckes.

It is an issue that the state could potentially encounter more frequently in the future, as the state considers other opportunities for public-private partnerships. Last year, the Transportation Department launched a commission to help bring in more private sector partnerships, such a bridge in Cape Cod where the developer could potentially charge tolls and collect revenue.

If the state plans to embark on further public-private partnerships that relate to higher-stakes infrastructure projects—affecting highways, bridges or rails already used by commuters—it would be necessary for officials to take a closer look at ways to negotiate financial penalties for delays.

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; all ingredients for success.

One factor contributing to the company’s culture of entrepreneurial spirit is their willingness to make room for talent – even if that talent is not immediately applicable to a specific job description. Says Dunn, “We host these ‘Entrepreneurs-in-Residence’ for the express purpose of keeping creativity at its peak. We encourage them to work on projects that they want to pursue, recognizing that enthusiasm is a strong contributor to success. Each of those we have nurtured in this way have gone on to great success, but don’t think for a minute that we don’t recognize the benefit we receive from the relationship. It is a true win-win.”

Skyscope Creative is a true entrepreneurial success story – and the book’s not yet done being written.

Stop & Shop and Hannaford – The Makings of an Arranged Marriage

The parent companies of regional grocery giants Stop & Shop and Hannaford have been looking into combining their operations under one umbrella for quite some time, but they may have a small roadblock in that plan – the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The shareholders of Royal Ahold and the Delhaize Group were quite enthusiastic about news of a possible merger, demonstrating their assent by way of a significant rise in both stock prices. However, some officials here in Massachusetts think antitrust issues may bring the entire affair to a screeching halt.

Hannaford has 25 stores in Massachusetts and another 131 fly the Stop & Shop banner. Like many brick-and-mortar competitors in other industries, they are often set up in close proximity to each other and officials fear this will lead to problems with fair competition following the proposed merger.

Both companies do more than 60% of their commerce in the US. While Ahold, parent company of Stop & Shop, has properties mostly clustered in the Northeast, Delhaize does most of its business in the U.S. as Food Lion, a Southeastern regional powerhouse. Analysts say that a merger would realize somewhere in the neighborhood of $670 million per year in reduced costs.

Massachusetts officials are far more concerned with the issues of competition. Economists who favor the position of the state are saying that the merger could go off without a hitch if some of the stores were sold. Everything is speculative at the moment, however, with both sides looking for a way to compromise.

It is unclear whether the merger of the two companies would result in a name change. Both brands are valued in the state, and part of the issue rests in trying to determine what will happen with the customer-facing side of the brand.

Keep your eyes on this space for updates.

Top CEO Salaries in Massachusetts

A current hot topic in the media is the growing gap between CEO and average workers’ salaries. In Massachusetts, the average CEO made 97 times the average worker’s salary. This data comes from “Executive Paywatch: High Paid CEOs and the Low Wage Economy,” published by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The study notes that runaway CEO salaries are fueling economic inequality, highlighted by findings that the average worker in Massachusetts made less than $50,000 a year in 2013 compared to the average CEO, who made almost $5 million in that same period.

National statistics show that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio in 2013 was 331 to 1, and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio was 771 to 1. Massachusetts has six CEOs on the AFL-CIO’s Top 100 CEO Pay list. The top paid CEO in Massachusetts was Hari Ravichandran of Endurance International Group Holdings. His total compensation in 2013 amounted to over $52 million, which is 1490 times the average American worker’s pay. The second highest paid CEO was Trip Advisor‘s Stephen Kaufer. He received almost $40 million in 2013, 1107 times the average American worker’s pay.

The AFL-CIO report opined that the current ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is simply unconscionable. However, not everybody agrees. Mike Stenhouse is the head of the think tank Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Stenhouse commented that wage disparities naturally increase in a depressed economy. This is because there is a decreased amount of middle-class jobs available, which lowers the average income for all. Therefore, free-market CEO compensation should be of no concern to taxpayers.

The AFL-CIO actively supports raising the federal minimum wage to over $10/hour, claiming it offers a simple way to repair the weak economy, boost consumer spending, and increase the purchasing power of low-wage workers. Nevertheless, critics still feel that raising the minimum wage will only force businesses to either raise prices, lay-off workers, reduce hours, or use more automation.

The following is a list of the Top CEO Salaries in Massachusetts:
#50. Nigel Travis – Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc., Canton: $4,206,643
#49. Michael R. Minogue – Abiomed Inc., Danvers: $4,606,673
#48. Michael A. Bradley – Teradyne, Inc., North Reading: $4,845,964
#47. P. James Debney – Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., Springfield: $4,873,237
#46. Peter R. Chase – Chase Corp., Bridgewater, MA: $4,891,223
#45. Scott A. Buckhout – Circor International Inc., Burlington: $5,008,416
#44. Michael K. Simon – Logmein, Inc., Boston: $5,138,234
#43. Louis Hernandez, Jr. – Avid Technology, Inc., Burlington: $5,229,014
#42. Linda K. Zecher – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co., Boston: $5,236,252
#41. Frederick H. Eppinger – Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., Worcester: $5,237,208
#40. Josef H. Von Rickenbach – Parexel International Corp, Waltham: $5,519,080
#39. David Aldrich – Skyworks Solutions, Inc., Woburn: $5,800,648
#38. Harvey J. Berger, M.D. – Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cambridge: $5,872,437
#37. Brian Concannon – Haemonetics Corp., Braintree: $5,977,595
#36. Vincent T. Roche – Analog Devices Inc., Norwood: $6,090,567
#35. Mark S. Casady – LPL Financial Holdings Inc., Boston: $6,137,333
#34. John M. Maraganore, Ph.D. – Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge: $6,236,122
#33. Patrick M. Prevost – Cabot Corp., Boston: $6,309,405
#32. James Heppelmann – PTC Inc., Needham: $6,502,968
#31. Robert F. Friel – PerkinElmer Inc., Waltham: $6,511,991
#30. Michael Bonney – Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., Lexington: $6,606,945
#29. Marc Beer – Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge: $7,036,536
#28. James C. Foster – Charles River Laboratories International Inc., Wilmington: $7,041,418
#27. Alan J. Herrick – Sapient Corp., Boston: $7,154,464
#26. Michael G. Kauffman, M.D., Ph.D. – Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc., Newton: $7,335,194
#25. F. Thomson Leighton – Akamai Technologies, Cambridge: $7,631,578
#24. Thomas J. May – Northeast Utilities, Springfield: $7,660,999
#23. Jonathan Bush – Athenahealth, Inc., Watertown: $8,027,133
#22. Leo Berlinghieri – MKS Instruments, Andover: $8,030,721
#21. Harlan F. Weisman, M.D. – Coronado Biosciences Inc., Burlington: $8,176,551
#20. Ron Zwanziger – Alere Inc., Waltham: $8,176,723
#19. Christopher Garabedian – Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge: $9,701,492
#18. William L. Meaney – Iron Mountain Inc., Boston: $9,766,616
#17. Ronald L. Sargent – Staples Inc., Framingham: $10,767,880
#16. Michael F. Mahoney – Boston Scientific Corp., Marlborough: $10,851,430
#15. James D. Taiclet, Jr. – American Tower Corp., Boston: $12,221,026
#14. Joseph M. Tucci – EMC Corp., Hopkinton: $12,645,957
#13. Jeffrey M. Leiden – Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., Boston: $13,126,474
#12. Philip M. Pead – Progress Software Corp., Bedford: $14,239,235
#11. George A. Scangos – Biogen Idec Inc., Cambridge: $15,015,147
#10. Joseph L. Hooley – State Street Corp., Boston: $15,841,234
#9. Marc N. Casper – Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Waltham: $16,168,880
#8. William H. Swanson – Raytheon Company, Waltham: $17,146,254
#7. Paul A. Ricci – Nuance Communications, Inc., Burlington: $17,939,756
#6. Sean M. Healey – Affiliated Managers Group, Inc., Beverly: $20,007,855
#5. Carol Meyrowitz – TJX Companies Inc., Framingham: $22,514,033
#4. Mortimer B. Zuckerman – Boston Properties Inc., Boston: $23,821,829
#3. Stephen P. Macmillan – Hologic, Inc., Bedford: $24,458,289
#2. Stephen Kaufer – Tripadvisor, Inc., Newton: $39,014,227
#1. Hari Ravichandran – Endurance International Group Holdings, Inc., Burlington: $52,518,620

New England States Explore Energy Alternatives

Energy is expensive everywhere. However, while it may not be widely known elsewhere around the country, it is certainly no secret to those of us living here in Massachusetts that the commonwealth ranks as one of the most expensive when it comes to energy costs. With this in mind, state legislators and energy companies are making a concentrated effort to procure alternate sources of energy to augment current supply.

Officials from the state’s utilities and energy boards hope to source renewable energy from northern regions of the U.S. and Canada while simultaneously opening channels of less expensive natural gas via pipelines from both southern and western areas.

As part of this “diversified” solution, supplies of Canadian hydroelectric power already being generated will be imported while northern New England continues to develop wind farms on a mass scale.

National Grid, a provider of both gas and electric services in the Commonwealth, issued statements saying that both energy sources should be approved. Marcy Reed, the president of National Grid Massachusetts recently stated: “We say we need both pipelines.” National Grid normally “stockpiles” imported liquefied natural gas that is shipped in through port facilities. However, the gas was traded on a global market last year, and New England was the highest global bidder for those natural gas supplies. According to various sources, during the last three winters since 2011-2012, New England paid $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion higher wholesale electricity costs than has been typical.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy is getting ready to hear from clean energy industry officials and those representing energy derivatives from power plants.  Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Benjamin Downing, pointed out that utility companies believe a lack of capacity in gas pipelines is the main culprit behind rate hikes during recent winter months and say there is an urgent need for natural gas flowing into the state from external sources.

According to Matthew Beaton, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, other energy experts are saying the scarcity of natural gas is a “regional affair” and governors from several New England states are convening soon to discuss regional energy policies.

Report: Massachusetts One of Top ‘Middle Market’ States

The Middle Market Power Index from American Express and Dun & Bradstreet reports that Massachusetts has 3,963 middle market companies with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. This translates to just a bit over one-percent of all businesses in the Commonwealth. According to the report, this ranks fourth in the country in terms of percentage of middle market businesses. (Illinois had the highest percentage of middle market companies, followed by Wisconsin and New Jersey.)

The report’s numbers and findings come from Dun & Bradstreet’s proprietary databases of commercial businesses operating in the U.S.

The percentage of middle market businesses in the Bay State was also more than 30% higher than the national average. Nationwide, there were more than 136,000 middle market firms, making up about 0.7 percent of all businesses.

The report showed that Massachusetts can also boast about having almost double the average national percentage of large businesses with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion. The state has 84 such businesses, making up about 0.02 of all the state’s businesses. In the U.S. as a whole, the percentage of large businesses was only about 0.012 percent.

The overwhelming number of businesses in the United States are considered small, with annual revenues of less than $10 million. Nationally, small businesses make up 99.27 percent of all businesses. Given the numbers cited above, it should come as no surprise that, in Massachusetts, that percentage was a bit smaller, with only 98.97 percent of the state’s total number of businesses classified as small. According to the report, the total number of small businesses in the state numbered 390,760.

Nationally, middle market firms employ an average of 368 workers and generate an average of $45.1 million in revenue per firm per year. While the middle market makes up only 0.7 percent of all businesses nationwide, such businesses contribute slightly more than one in five dollars of all business revenues and employ about 28 percent of all private sector workers. Unfortunately, the report did not offer similar information for Massachusetts or any other state.