The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation 37-1 to promote economic development and provide incentives to create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy, said Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) in a press release.
The bill makes targeted investments in the state’s economic drivers including innovation and Big Data, workforce development, tourism and marketing.
“This bill takes important steps to encourage economic growth and support innovation across MetroWest and the entire state,” said Spilka, who represents Framingham.“We are improving opportunities for education and lifelong workforce training for people in our communities, especially in the STEM subject areas, and we are helping to connect businesses with the educated, skilled workforce they need to continue to grow, thrive and compete in Massachusetts.”
Innovation and big data are crucial to supporting job growth in the Commonwealth.
The bill includes $100,000 for the Chief Information Officer in the Division of Information Technology to establish an online business portal, which provides a step-by-step guide to starting a business in Massachusetts and the tools needed to complete this process.
The bill also establishes the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to bring together academic institutions, industry and public sector organizations to make recommendations on how to educate and prepare a workforce for careers in Big Data. It further outlines $2 million for the operation of the John Adams Institute within the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and $1 million for the program to identify and promote regional e-health technology clusters.
To help students prepare for higher education after high school, the bill includes $750,000 for the Early College High School Initiative to allow students to enroll in college credit courses. It also requires the Department of Higher Education to assess stackable credentials programs offered at public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth to connect students with local businesses.
In addition, the bill allocates $1.5 million for the Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation, currently doing business as the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, to develop and establish computer science education in public schools across the state and $2 million for the Massachusetts Technology Park Collaborative with $1 million directed to establishing an entrepreneurship and startup mentoring program in consultation with the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation.
Many of the fastest-growing jobs in the Commonwealth are middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school education but less than a 4-year college program. The bill includes $10 million for the Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology Workforce Training Trust Fund and sets a goal of training 4,000 workers in 4 years. To further address this need, $2 million is allocated for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and $150,000 for an employment training program for unemployed young adults with disabilities.
Sen. Spilka successfully advocated for several amendments to the bill to further strengthen workforce training programs and support small businesses, including:
- $1 million for the expansion of a college and career readiness program that would drastically reduce the number of students in remedial courses, especially math courses, at community colleges.
- Adding the MetroWest region to the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council, which administers the state’s Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP). EDIP provides state and local tax incentives for participating companies to foster full-time job creation and stimulate business growth. The MetroWest region is a critical driver of the overall state economy and will now have a seat at the table on this Council.
- $250,000 in increased funding for the Smaller Business Association of New England’s Layoff Aversion Program, which is designed to prevent layoffs at small businesses across the state by providing targeted consultant assistance and strategic alternatives to keep workers in their present jobs or quickly move them into comparable new jobs.
- Charging the state with researching, evaluating and promoting worker-cooperatives as an alternative means of business ownership in the Commonwealth to find new and innovative ways to strengthen the economy and encourage entrepreneurship.
- Requiring the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative to conduct an analysis of the state’s manufacturing supply chain every two years to identify opportunities for the future development and expansion of manufacturing across the state.
- Expanding the industries covered by the Advanced Manufacturing and IT Training Trust Fund to ensure continued growth and skills training for the advanced manufacturing, technology and hospitality sectors.
The bill also does the following to promote economic development across the state:
- Updates the research and development tax credit for businesses and creates an alternative simplified credit as another option to encourage research and development in Massachusetts;
- Includes $5 million for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism to establish an International Tourism Marketing Campaign and replaces the current Massachusetts Tourism Fund Formula with a new formula at the recommendation of the Tourism Formula Commission;
- Includes $10 million for the Brownsfields Redevelopment Fund;
- Requires the Massachusetts e-Health Institute to promote and support the formation of regional health information technology clusters;
- Requires the Commonwealth to adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act to further protect business intellectual property; and
- Creates a 2014 sales tax holiday for the days of August 9-10.
The Senate bill and the House bill, passed June 11th, will now go to a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.