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Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes $458 Million Economic Investment Package

12:00AM / Friday, June 16, 2006
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Bosley:”Businesses Will Get Tools They Need To Succeed” Boston, MA – The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday unanimously enacted and sent to Governor Romney a $458 million economic investment bill designed to promote job creation, economic stability, & competitiveness in the Massachusetts economy. The legislation invests in small businesses, community development, workforce development and education. The passage of the 276 page economic stimulus bill is the end result of a statewide “listening tour” Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi (D-Boston) launched in March 2005. The tour was designed to give legislators an opportunity to hear directly from the state’s business community about the inhibitors to doing business that exist in Massachusetts. “We crafted the most comprehensive and effective bill that we possibly could,” said State Representative Daniel E. Bosley (D-North Adams), principal author of the package and chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. “Before we did though, we listened to people on the front lines of job creation and business development here in Massachusetts about what tools they needed to succeed. This bill will provide them with those tools.” “It is a far cry from the rehashed and repackaged proposals we’re used to seeing,” said Representative Bosley. “With initiatives to expand high-speed internet access, grow and improve our cultural facilities, and increase our export trade capability, we have put forth an innovative and creative plan to make every corner of the Massachusetts economy, from the Berkshires to Boston, competitive in the 21st century.” Provisions of the legislation include: * Brownfields Redevelopment Fund: Invests $30 million for the recapitalization of the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Fund for site assessment and clean-up of hazardous waste sites and includes increases to the amounts for site assessment grants, and a pilot program to deal with the aboveground costs of asbestos and lead paint abatement. * Brownfields Tax Credit: Extends the state’s Brownfields Tax Credit and includes provisions to permit the ability of the credit to be transferred to non-profit organizations. * Historical Rehabilitation Tax Credit: Increases the annual amount of funding available for the historical rehabilitation tax credit to $50 million and the extension of the tax credit until 2011 * Cultural Facilities Fund: Invests $13 million for the first-in-the-nation Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to provide matching state funds for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of cultural facilities in the Commonwealth. This program will leverage over $170 million in state funds to promote $500 million in new construction projects over the next 10 years. * STEM Pipeline Fund: Invests $4 million to recapitalize the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pipeline fund to encourage careers relating to STEM; increases the number of STEM teachers in Massachusetts; and improves STEM educational offerings in public and private schools. It also creates the Robert H. Goddard STEM Council to evaluate and make recommendations to the chancellor of higher education regarding programs supported by STEM Pipeline. * In-State Sales Force: Invests $1.5M for the establishment of an in-state sales force within Massachusetts Office of Business Development. The sales force will act as a liaison to existing businesses in the Commonwealth, and will also assist them in expanding and retaining jobs in the state. * Infrastructure Improvement Bond Program: Invests $100 million to establish a bond program to provide grants, upon joint application of local municipalities and private entities, to fund site remediation, preparation, and ancillary infrastructure improvement projects that will encourage economic development. Eligible projects must either (a) both create, and maintain for a minimum of 5 years, 100 new permanent full time jobs in Massachusetts or (b) document an economic benefit to the Commonwealth that the Secretary of Economic Development determines is sufficiently exceptional * Adult Basic Education (ABE): Invests additional $3M for ABE and English as a Second Language. The increase in funding will help Massachusetts’ lowest skilled workers get into the classes that they need to obtain the minimum credentials to successfully participate in the workforce, including English language proficiency and GED programs. * One-Stop Career Centers: Increases to the appropriation for the state’s One-Stop Career Centers from $4M to $6M. This is the portal through which all initial Unemployment Insurance claimants must report to and provides job seekers with job search assistance and access to online job listings, career counseling, coaching on job search skills, workshops on job search strategies, and access to resources to aid in the employment search. * Education Rewards Grant Program: Creates a new Education Rewards Grant Program with $1.5 M in funds to provide grants to low income students in accredited postsecondary certificate or vocational tech programs or Associate Degree programs in targeted high-demand occupations. It will be the only program that provides assistance to part-time students in the Commonwealth. * Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund: Creates the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund with $11 million in funds to support the development and implementation of employer and worker responsive programs to enhance worker skills, incomes, productivity, retention and competitiveness. It will also include $1 million for Older Worker Re-training * Scholar/Internship Match Fund: Invests $2.5 million for the Scholar/Internship match fund which will provide matching funds for industry scholarships to be given to Massachusetts students going on to study for a post secondary degree at a Massachusetts public higher education institutions. * CITI Initiative: Invests $1 million for the Commonwealth Information Technology Intiative (CITI) at the University of Massachusetts which promotes information technology (IT) fluency across multiple curricula through collaborations with business and higher education and connects graduates with jobs in the IT field. * International Trade: Invests $935,000 for international trade and investment initiatives, including a doubling of the Mass. International Trade Council’s (MITC) budget; increased funding for a Massachusetts presence at trade shows; increased funding for trade missions; two additional foreign trade representatives; the establishment of a foreign direct investment fund and support for the Mass. export center plan to support regional based economic development in export trade. These programs create new and innovative collaborations between the MITC and other businesses and organizations and broadens the Commonwealth’s ability to increase export trade and direct foreign investment opportunities. * Broadband Development: Establishes a state director of broadband affairs, whose charge is to expand broadband access to underserved areas; improve cell phone service; increase the speed of broadband; and establish wireless downtowns. * Medical Device Tax Credit: Creates a 100% tax credit for the payment of user fees to the Food & Drug Administration by Massachusetts medical device companies for product reviews. The reviews are mandated under the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act. * Local Option Personal Property Tax Exemption for Research and Development (R&D) Companies: Allows R & D companies to qualify for personal property tax exemptions, which is the same entitlement that manufacturers receive. * Manufacturer Workforce – Tax Increment Financing Program: Creates a new program which authorizes a city or town on its own, or in conjunction with one or more cities and towns, to adopt a manufacturing workforce tax increment financing (MWF-TIF) plan intended to encourage increased commercial growth of manufacturing facilities located in cities or towns for a minimum of two years. * Small Business Technical Assistance Grants: Invests $2 million for technical assistance grants to be administered by the Dept. of Business and Technology for businesses with 20 or less employees. * Layoff Aversion Program: Invests $250,000 for the Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE) for the layoff aversion through management assistance program for consultant and technical assistance to manufacturing companies in Massachusetts to prevent business closure and employee displacement. * Emerging Technology Fund: Invests $10 million to recapitalize the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). This fund provides both loans and guarantees for facilities and specialized equipment for technology-based companies. This adds working capital and contract based loans to the definition of qualified investments under the ETF. This would allow Mass Development to offer financing predicated on contracts-in-hand to emerging technology industries. The legislation clarifies the enabling language of the ETF to specifically include the marine science technology and the defense technology and homeland security fields in the list of qualified “emerging technology industries” for the purpose of receiving grants from the fund. It also includes marine science technology and defense technology and homeland security companies in the incentive payment programs that are currently given to biotechnology and medical device manufacturing companies for expanding their workforce by 10 or more qualified employees within a calendar year. * Research Center Matching Fund: Invests $10 million in this fund to attract federal funding for major R & D Centers in association with Massachusetts colleges and universities and to support the creation of new centers of excellence in emerging technologies. * Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center: Invests $3 million to recapitalize funding for this Center that facilitates and accelerates the technology transfer between research institutions and companies in Massachusetts. * Massachusetts Life Sciences Center: Invests $10 million for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund and creates the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for the purposes of making, grants or loans to leverage development and investments in stem cell research, biotechnology, nano-manufacturing, advanced sciences, facilities of higher education whose work and mission applies directly to life sciences and biotechnology industry, including applications and industries. * Advanced Technologies: Invests $35 million for the construction of a nanotechnology lab and biotechnology / nanotechnology manufacturing facility at UMass-Lowell. And it puts forward $10 million in bond financing for a bio-processing facility at UMass-Dartmouth. * Agriculture: This legislation contains a number of provisions in support of Agriculture in the Commonwealth, including .tax changes to treat value-added agriculture the same as manufacturing; .Establishes a public procurement preference for locally-grown products; .Allows for zoning changes to permit food grown at multiple farms to be sold at farmstands; .Invests $3.2 Million for Agricultural Innovations Center at UMass-Amherst for technical assistance to farms and farmers in training, marketing, distribution; applied research, and agri-tourism to add value to the state’s farming operations. .Also, invests $200,000 for a matching grant program for the creation of joint partnership on the food processing industry. * Infrastructure Improvements: The legislation invests: .$55 million for transportation infrastructure for the Longwood Medical Area and the areas surrounding Fenway Park. .$25 million for the City Square Project in downtown Worcester .$2.1 million for the City of Westfield for infrastructure surrounding a Target regional retail distribution facility
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