Yesterday Governor Deval Patrick signed, "An Act Relative to Infrastructure Investment, Enhanced Competitiveness and Economic Growth in the Commonwealth." The legislation will increase economic development and create jobs in the Commonwealth's key sectors of innovation and infrastructure.
The legislation also sets the weekend of August 11-12 as a sales tax holiday to increase business for the Commonwealth’s retailers. For those two days, the sales tax is exempted from most items, but the holiday does not include restaurant meals, tobacco and single items that cost more than $2,500.
“Jobs are our top priority, and creating the right environment for job growth means improving our infrastructure, preparing our workers, and encouraging industrial and commercial innovation,” said Governor Patrick. “That’s why Massachusetts is recovering faster than the nation, and why this bill matters.”
Massachusetts has recovered from the recession faster and stronger than the nation as a whole, with an unemployment rate of 6 percent compared to the national average of 8.3 percent and the economy growing at 4 percent increases in the first two quarters of 2012 compared to national growth of 1.5 percent in the first quarter and 2 percent in the second quarter. The initiatives in the legislation signed by the Governor Tuesday reflect the priorities the Patrick-Murray Administration laid out in “Choosing to Compete in the 21st Century,” the Commonwealth’s long-term economic development plan.
"Though Massachusetts possesses a competitive economy fueled by fast-growing core industries, the targeted investments included in this bill are necessary to ensure lasting economic stability and strength," said Senator Gale Candaras, Senate Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. "By enhancing workforce development, providing support to small businesses, and encouraging research and development, this legislation will hopefully stimulate job growth and economic development in the Commonwealth, leading to a prosperous, sound economic future."
The economic development plan includes expansion of the state’s world-class innovation economy, and the legislation includes a number of initiatives supporting the sector, including $50 million for a Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Fund. The fund will support collaborative research and development projects among businesses and universities, building off the example of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, which is expected to be completed this fall.
The legislation also creates a $1 million talent pipeline through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative that will provide matching grants aimed at increasing technology sector internships, and another $1 million to support mentoring, advice, incubator space and accelerator programs similar to MassChallenge.
In the area of workforce training and education, the legislation includes $5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, which prepares Massachusetts residents for new jobs in high-demand occupations and which helps to close the middle-skills gap and create seamless pathways to employment.
Further, the legislation supports the Patrick-Murray Administration’s goals of improving housing affordability to support the state’s workforce. The bill provides $4 million for the state’s Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund, extends the life of permits issued between 2008 and 2010 for another two years, and provides for four specific MassDEP regulatory reforms to streamline approvals.
The legislation also:
- Creates a one-stop web portal for small businesses through the Massachusetts Office of Business Development;
- Creates the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program at MassDevelopment to raise the profile of advanced manufacturing by encouraging young people to enter the sector and facilitating the adoption of local innovations into small and mid-sized companies;
- Doubles the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board cap on investments in financial institutions that prioritize small-business lender from $50 million to $100 million;
- Empowers regions to increase economic opportunities through increasing flexibility in the 43D expedited permitting program, streamlining the District Improvement Financing Program, and creating a Local Infrastructure Development Zone Program;
- Enhances the I-Cubed program to provide innovative financing mechanisms for infrastructure investments that would allow faster decision-making and execution, and more local control.
Information from a press release.