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House Repeals 'Tech Tax'

Staff Reports

BOSTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday repealed the much maligned "tech tax" that had been part of the revenue package in this year's state budget.

The addition of the 6.25 percent sales tax to software and computer design services had been estimated to raise $161 million this fiscal year but ran into trouble when no one could adequately explain how it would be implemented. The state's high-tech industry revolted, saying the tax would cost jobs and that its wording was too vague.

"I'm proud of the House's vote today to repeal the so-called tech tax. Our vote sends a strong message to the world that Massachusetts is the place for innovators to succeed and thrive," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

"Because jobs and economic growth are central to the House's agenda, I promised to listen to business leaders and House members on what the tax's impact would be when this measure was initially passed. After listening, we learned of the burden of this tax. Our strong commitment to business and the innovation economy led to its repeal."

The vote was 156-1. The Senate is expected to vote for repeal on Thursday.


Disaster Relief Grant Will Be Used to Aid Businesses

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshires and Franklin County are teaming up on a grant to help small businesses in the two regions.

The project will be launched on Friday, July 19, with an event at 11 a.m. at MediTerra on Main Street.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a Disaster Relief Opportunity grant to the Franklin County Community Development Corp. with project partners Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. The goals are to support small businesses and entrepreneurs that are investing in their businesses and creating jobs.

Officials also see the project as a way to build economic collaboration between Northern Berkshire and Franklin County.

"Small businesses are the heart and soul of our community and this collaboration will bring together a wide variety of services and providers that will be available to our business owners," said Mayor Richard Alcombright in a statement. "Additionally, the ability to provide business planning and modeling along with access to capital and funding sources is a significant win for our businesses."

The mayor said he sees it as a team effort to ensure growth for North County.

The grant provides resources to support direct business technical assistance including individual counseling, trainings, financing, connections to available resources and industry experts for existing businesses and entrepreneurs with business startup ideas. The 18-month grant also provides resources to facilitate capacity building with collaborators in Northern Berkshire for enhancing sustainable business development.

Friday's event will include local and state officials, and Dan Johnson from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office.

"This project will serve and support local businesses that have been struggling to recover from natural disasters and the recession but are looking for an opportunity to create new jobs," said state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who represents towns in both counties.

Collaborating organizations:

Northern Berkshire: Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Enterprises/Berkshire Community College, city of North Adams, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network, North Adams Chamber of Commerce, town of Adams, and Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Franklin County: Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, Greenfield Community College and Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network

For more information: Amy Shapiro at 413-774-7204, Ext. 107, or amys@fccdc.org.


Amazon to Collect Massachusetts Sales Tax Next Year

BOSTON — Massachusetts residents will have to pay a little more next holiday season for their online purchases.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Amazon announced on Tuesday an agreement for the online retail giant to collect and remit state sales taxes beginning next Nov. 1. According to the press statement, Amazon also plans to create hundreds of high-tech jobs in Massachusetts in coming years.

Online retailers for years have been under pressure to collect state sales taxes even if they don't have a physical presence in the state. Brick-and-mortar merchants say Web retailers failure to collect taxes puts them at a disadvantage, states that they're losing billions in revenue.

The Congressional Research Service says states lost some $8.6 billion in tax revenue in 2010 alone.

Amazon already collects sales taxes for California, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Massachusetts and five other states will be added in the next couple years.

"We are thankful Amazon was willing to come to the table and we will continue our conversations with them about creating jobs here," said Patrick in a statement. "This agreement is a win for all sides, and I am pleased it promises to generate millions in long-term revenue for the commonwealth."

Patrick and Amazon officials reiterated support for federal legislation to resolve the sales tax issue. The Supreme Court in 1967 determined that collecting sales tax would place an undue burden on what were then catalog sales but technology has vastly changed the remote retail industry.

"We appreciate Governor Patrick's commitment to Massachusetts jobs and investment and his support for legislation now before Congress that would provide a final resolution to the sales tax issue," said Paul Misener, Amazon vice president of global public policy. "We look forward to creating hundreds of high tech jobs in Massachusetts and continuing to work with Governor Patrick, state leaders, retailers and Congress to pass federal legislation permitting interstate sales tax collection."


Best Buy at Berkshire Mall Staying Open

By Larry Kratka
Berkshire News Network
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — It looks like the Best Buy store at the Berkshire Mall will be staying open.

Best Buy is reeling from online competition and announced last month that it would be reducing the number of locations in an effort to cut costs. The company has just disclosed the list of retail locations it plans to close this year, which will come to a grand total of 50 stores in the United States.

Boston and Wareham will lose one store each but that's it for Massachusetts. No stores are closing in nearby New York or Connecticut.

The hardest hit states were California, Illinois and Virginia. Best Buy officials said they expect most of these stores will permanently close by May 12. Three additional locations are expected to permanently close later this summer. Best Buy operates 1,400 stores across the nation.

USA Today reported the electronics retailer is also cutting 400 corporate jobs. CEO Brian Dunn stepped down last week. The company has said it will be opening some 100 smaller and more profitable "mobile" stores.

Recycle, Renew and Reuse Technology Program Launched

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Bank announced the launch of its Recycle, Renew and Reuse Technology Partnership Program.

Through the program, small Berkshire County non-profit organizations will have the opportunity to apply to receive a limited number of computers, telephones and other technology equipment. The technology has been made available as the result of equipment upgrades and recent mergers.

“We are excited to be able to recycle this technology for use by some of the really important non-profit organizations doing great work in our community, but which may not have the resources to maintain up-to-date computers," said Lori Gazzillo, assistant vice president of community relations at Berkshire Bank.

For more information, visit www.berkshirebank.com/technology.
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