Starbase founder Burton Francis, on the right, gives Evan Falchuk a tour of the Peck's Road building on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One by one, Burton Francis introduced Evan Falchuk to his employees on Tuesday, telling them that Falchuk is challenging the establishment.
And one by one, the Starbase Technologies employees made sure they got their opinion heard — from welfare reform to gun control to business to putting their kids through college.
They've met plenty of politicians before but when Francis explained that Falchuk is an independent running for governor, many perked up a bit.
"The impasse in government is so bad that we really need to change out the Republicans and the Democrats and get some new, basic people running the show," Francis said.
Francis started Starbase more than 25 years ago, manufacturing molds for an array of products from pens to laundry detergent caps to airplane parts. His business has grown to employ about 50 people at his Peck's Road location.
But he says he is concerned with the costs associated with doing business, and he hasn't seen much help from those in leadership positions.
"It is nice to be able to know the person who can make sure laws don't get passed that could hurt my employees, hurt my tax rate. The cost of doing business in Massachusetts and keeping cost down will help not just me but every manufacturer in Massachusetts," Francis said.
Francis typically votes Republican but says that doesn't matter now because neither party listens to the common, everyday people. When a close family friend began working for Falchuk, Francis started hearing about the independent campaign and was intrigued.
"We need change going right to the top," Francis said.
Falchuk says guys like Francis and the Starbase employees represent exactly what his campaign is about. The Newton candidate formed the United Independent Party and wants to remodel how government operates.
"What you hear so often is people feeling the political process isn't representing their interest anymore," Falchuk said.
That's led to to only about a quarter of registered voters making it to the polls, he said, because the residents are "dispirited" about government.
"We have a system that is not taking people seriously. If you want to make people mad, don't take them seriously, ignore them and treat them as if they don't matter. That is what our government has done," Falchuk said.
Falchuk says he isn't "dispirited" though. He sees people's frustration as an opportunity to start something new.
"Voters don't have to be tied into the establishment. It doesn't have to be Democrat or Republican. We can build a new future that is not tied to those structures that have caused many of the problems we face," Falchuk said.
The issues brought up by the Starbase employees is what Falchuk says he hears across the state in his campaign. The campaign began last year and Falchuk is focused on meeting as many people as he can - whether that means walking down the street at Third Thursday in Pittsfield or at the Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams to visits to businesses like Tuesday.
He tells voters that lowering the cost of living will help not only individuals but also businesses.
Health care, for example, Falchuk says is causing a tremendous strain on everybody. The system is based on people getting sick and it shouldn't be, he said.
Nearly every employee shared their opinions with Falchuk as he toured the molding company.
Falchuk says the state needs to limit consolidation of hospitals and to implement payment fee schedules for health-care providers to show exactly how much they are getting in revenue day to day. He says if the state can curb health care costs 5 percent, that translates to billions of dollars back to residents.
"This is a problem that we need to get ahead of. It shouldn't happen that a city as important as North Adams doesn't have a hospital in it," Falchuk said. "The reality is that the high cost of health care is what is driving these problems and it affects business."
He also says housing costs are too high and it is because the state hasn't done enough to build more, driving the cost down. Falchuk's lieutenant governor candidate Angus Jennings, for example, worked on the zoning that allowed the Rice Silk Mill housing complex. That zoning calls for mixed use of housing and business to drive "vibrancy" in downtown areas, Falchuk said.
Another way to lower costs is to simply bring more people in. In the Berkshires, Falchuk says the creative economy is a major driver of not only bringing tourism dollars to the area but can also attract new residents.
As for future generations, Falchuk left Starbase after seeing another example of thriving manufacturing — a business type that so many people have cast in a negative light, he said.
"I think it is really important that this kind of manufacturing work is seen for young people as an opportunity, seen as a craft, a trade, as something to be proud of," Falchuk said. "That's honorable, good work. The state should be funding job training programs to support this."
The election for governor is starting to heat up following the Democrat and Republican conventions and should pick up more steam after the primary on Sept. 9. Once the Democrats pick a candidate — Donald Berwick, Martha Coakley or Steven Grossman — the election will gather even more attention. The Republicans have already chosen Charlie Baker as their candidate.
When that happens, Falchuk says he will be in the thick of it. He says in the last year he has raised enough to last through the election as well as the start of funds for other candidates in 2016 if United Independent becomes an official party.
"We will be outspent. We will be outspent from the party organizations. That is the big loophole nobody likes to talk about. Both the Democrats and Republicans, their state and federal parties are able to channel unlimited amounts of money to support their candidates. I think it is possible to run and win a really good statewide race for $3 million or $4 million. They're going to spend a heck of a lot more than that and we'll spend about that," Falchuk said.