Senate Targets Economic Development and Job Creation
BOSTON – The Senate today, in its latest effort to stimulate job growth and economic advancement in Massachusetts, passed legislation that will assist small businesses and the manufacturing industry, invest in research and development projects and strengthen and reform workforce development efforts, Senator Karen Spilka announced.
The bill also establishes a sales tax holiday for August 11 and 12, making this the seventh year for a two day sales tax exemption and the eighth year with at least one sales-tax-free day.
“Today, we passed important legislation promoting economic development, job creation, and continued reform to help support our residents and businesses as our economy continues to recover,” said Senator Karen Spilka. “Building upon past reforms championed in the Senate, this comprehensive bill will provide businesses and workers with the tools and support they need to succeed.”
“Massachusetts has a strong competitive environment and fast-growing core industries, but it’s critical that we continue to support and invest in each sector to ensure our continued growth,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “This legislation makes important investments in our infrastructure and workforce development system, better aligns our educational, business and economic strategies and supports our economic progress.”
The bill addresses many issues brought to light during the public hearings and meetings of the Jobs Creation Commission, chaired by Senator Spilka, including the importance of aligning worker training with available jobs, easing the regulatory burden on businesses and reducing costs for employers:
- Middle skill jobs, which require more than high school but less than a four-year degree, make up a large part of the Massachusetts’ labor market. There are not enough specifically trained workers to fill those open positions. The bill includes $5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and directs the Fund to award grants that address this gap between skills held by workers and the skills needed by employers.
- To streamline the process of complying with regulations the bill establishes a State Regulatory Ombudsman charged with helping employers navigate the state’s business-related regulations. The Ombudsman will also train state workers to identify and reduce the impacts regulations have on small business.
- Massachusetts Office of Business Development will create a website to provide information on public and private resources available to small businesses.
- To reduce costs, particularly in this challenging economic environment, the bill establishes a tax credit equal to the minimum corporate excise tax of $456 for a corporation during its first three tax years. In January, the Legislature reduced the corporate excise tax to 8 percent from 8.25 percent.
- The Brownfields Tax Credit is extended for two additional years.
- The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit cap is increased to $55 million per year from $50 million.
Today’s bill is an important expansion of the Economic Development Reorganization Act of 2010 – co-authored by Spilka and Senate President Therese Murray. That law made major changes to all the state’s economic development activities, increased access to capital for small business, and made it easier for companies to get the help they need to start or grow here. The bill continues these important efforts by:
- Extending the “permit extension act,” to give more time to real estate development projects that have already been issued permits but may be having difficulty obtaining financing during the economic downturn;
- Supporting increased financing for small businesses by changing the limits on the pension fund’s investments in financial institutions that lend to Massachusetts small businesses from $50 million to $100 million; and
- Providing $250,000 for a layoff aversion program operated by the Small Business Association of New England to prevent business closure and employee displacement at manufacturing companies in Massachusetts.
To maintain the pipeline of technology and innovation in the Commonwealth, the bill includes $50 million in funding for the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund which gives grants for research and development projects at universities and research institutions. All eligible projects must secure $3 for every $1 of state money committed, leveraging $200 million for cutting edge research.
In addition, it includes $2 million in funding for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to create a paid internship program for technology start ups and to establish an entrepreneur and venture capital mentoring program.
“I would like to thank the Mass Tech Hub Collaborative – a group of forward thinking leaders in the digital economy industry – for working with us to establish this important talent pipeline. This is how we will mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs in Massachusetts,” continued Spilka.
The bill also establishes an Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, which would be responsible for developing and implementing the state’s manufacturing agenda and creates a grant program to provide technical assistance to small and mid-sized manufacturers.
The Senate bill and the House bill, which passed May 23, will go to a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration by the governor.