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North Adams, Crane at Odds Over Reopening

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Crane Stationery apparently says its opening Friday. The city says it hasn't fulfilled all the obligations set out in an order by the mayor on Sunday and so can't open. 
 
But what if it does?
 
"I hope it doesn't come to that. But we are prepared to intervene," said Mayor Thomas Bernard on Thursday night. 
 
The legacy printer of fine papers and cards closed mid-March along with hundreds of other "non-essential" businesses at the order of Gov. Charlie Baker as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread within the state. 
 
Last week, the company owned by Mohawk Fine Papers of Cohoes, N.Y., announced it had received a $2 million federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to bring its employees back. 
 
Except the email sent out to employees sounded more like a layoff notice by telling them the plant would "wind down" operations and their jobs would end June 19. The next day, a press release said that wasn't true and that 15 percent of the workforce would stay on "to protect the future of the company."
 
The day after that, the mayor received a communication from Crane saying those 28 jobs would end in September. But that, too, the city was told, was not true. 
 
The questions about the company's decision to reopen operations at the Curran Highway plant led to an order by Bernard that the printer submit a health and safety plan and ensure that it's only doing essential work as outlined the state during the novel coronavirus. 
 
Elements of the company's products were deemed essential by the state Divison of Labor Standards because they supplied industries that fell in the essential list — like medicine and energy — or were being provided to individuals and organizations working remotely as allowed by the state. 
 
The mayor said Thursday night the Crane had not complied with one of the four points in the order: how it would determine that only essential orders were being processed. 
 
"They've substantially met three of them," he said. "They have not demonstrated or indicated how they plan to focus their time on essential work only and have challenged my right to make that requirement. And so, I have I told them this afternoon that they are not to open."
 
Bernard's order issued on Sunday said the company had to submit a plan in writing to the Board of Health explaining how COVID-19 precautions would be instituted; that the plant be inspected to confirm the precautions are in place; that it only do essential work; and, the piece at issue, "providing a list of essential operations businesses being served."
 
The mayor said the health and safety plan submitted by the company is "good and solid."
 
"I want to give them credit, they've done a very good job of putting a plan in place," he said. "What they have refused to do is indicate how they will focus on essential work."
 
Bernard said he was "absolutely within my authority" to prevent the plant from opening. He said he understood the company's desire to ensure the privacy of its clients but it was Crane's responsibility to come up with a plan that would show it's only doing essential business. 
 
He referred to the situation in mid-April in Pittsfield, when Annie Selke's Pine Cone Hill began shipping material for personal protective equipment and other items deemed essential. Pittsfield officials ordered it to cease when it failed to make clear it was not continuing commercial activity. The state allowed it reopen but with a warning to stick to "essential" work only. 
 
The mayor said his concern is for the employees and he's been frustrated by the miscommunications and changing stories that have left them in the middle of it. And other businesses have also been hurt by the pandemic, he said, not just Crane. 
 
He'd prefer everyone take a step back and deep breath and come to an agreement.
 
"What is it that is in the best interests of the Crane employees and, to be fair, Crane's essential business customers."

Tags: COVID-19,   Crane,   printing,   


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Know Your Risk Tolerance at Different Stages of Life

Submitted by Edward Jones

As an investor, you will always need to deal with risk of some kind. But how can you manage the risk that has been made clear by the recent volatility in the financial markets? The answer to this question may depend on where you are in life. 

Let's look at some different life stages and how you might deal with risk at each of them: 

• When you are first starting out: If you are early in your career, with perhaps four or even five decades to go until you retire, you can likely afford to invest primarily for growth, which also means you will be taking on a higher level of risk, as risk and reward are positively correlated. But, given your age, you have time to overcome the market downturns that are both inevitable and a normal part of investing. Consequently, your risk tolerance may be relatively high. Still, even at this stage, being over-aggressive can be costly. 

• When you are in the middle stages: At this time of your life, you are well along in your career, and you are probably working on at least a couple of financial goals, such as saving for retirement and possibly for your children's college education. So, you still need to be investing for growth, which means you likely will need to maintain a relatively high risk tolerance. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to have some balance in your portfolio, so you will want to consider a mix of investments that align with each of your goals. 

• When you are a few years from retirement: Now, you might have already achieved some key goals – perhaps your kids have finished college and you have paid off your mortgage. This may mean you have more money available to put away for retirement, but you still will have to think carefully about how much risk you are willing to take. Since you’re going to retire soon, you might consider rebalancing your portfolio to include some more conservative investments, whose value is less susceptible to financial market fluctuations. The reason? In just a few years, when you are retired, you will need to start taking withdrawals from your investment portfolio – essentially, you will be selling investments, so, as much as possible, you will want to avoid selling them when their price is down. Nonetheless, having a balanced and diversified portfolio doesn't fully protect against a loss. However, you can further reduce the future risk of being overly dependent on selling variable investments by devoting a certain percentage of your portfolio to cash and cash equivalents and designating this portion to be used for your daily expenses during the years immediately preceding, and possibly spilling into, your retirement. 

• When you are retired: Once you are retired, you might think you should take no risks at all. But you could spend two or three decades in retirement, so you may need some growth potential in your portfolio to stay ahead of inflation. Establishing a withdrawal rate – the amount you take out each year from your investments – that's appropriate for your lifestyle and projected longevity can reduce the risk of outliving your money. Of course, if there's an extended market downturn during any time of your retirement, you may want to lower your withdrawal rate temporarily. 

As you can see, your tolerance for risk, and your methods of dealing with it, can change over time. By being aware of this progression, you can make better-informed investment decisions.

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