Making the Right Connections inside Massachusetts for Business Development
Business development typically focus on customer acquisition efforts. But attendees of the New England CRO/CMO Council event, “Making the Right Connections,” learned there is another form of business development that help companies grow.
As part of the free event, Maria Nigro Di Stefano, Northeast Regional Director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, and Ken Messina, Massachusetts Rapid Response Manager, Department of Career Services, explained options that opened the eyes of many of the attendees about what’s possible. This article provides a summary of their two organizations and ways they can help CROs and CMOs in the state.
The Massachusetts Office of Business Development
The Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) is the state’s one-stop source for businesses seeking to relocate to Massachusetts and businesses wishing to expand their current operations in the state. (It is not the only source, but more on that, below.) Since January 2010, the MOBD has helped create 21,786 jobs, retained 61,816 jobs and helped place $8 billion in private investments in Massachusetts companies.
According to Di Stefano, the MOBD, part of the state’s Housing and Economic Development, offers a range of expertise and services to help Massachusetts businesses thrive by:
- Facilitating access to resources.
- Promoting job growth and retention.
- Stimulating private investment.
The MOBD is divided into six regions – Northeast, Greater Boston, Central, Metro West & Merrimack Valley, Southeast and Western – with a regional director responsible for each. Companies should work with their regional director, she advised.
MOBD offers resources that include:
- Financing for real estate, machinery.
- Industry expertise.
- Workforce training.
- Tax incentives.
- International trade.
- Business consultation.
For biotechs, MOBD has worked with MassBio to help municipal officials to make improvements that are attractive to biotechs looking to locate or expand facilities. MassBio has identified more than 80 BioReady-rated cities and towns, which indicates a commitment and readiness to work with biotechnology companies interested in locating to these communities. The four levels of BioReadiness – platinum, gold, silver and bronze – are based on the degree to which a community offers biotech and life sciences friendly zoning, streamlined permitting process, and robust infrastructure.
Beyond BioReady communities, MOBD offers tax breaks such as deductions for abandoned building renovations located in an Economic Opportunity Area. Buildings designated as abandoned by the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council (EACC) may be eligible for a deduction equal to 10% of the costs to rehab the facility. Some of the tax breaks are negotiated directly with the municipality while some – like incentives for job growth (presumably after the once-abandoned building is now occupied) – must be negotiated with the state.
Another program of interest is the Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP), a tax incentive program designed to foster job creation and business growth. Companies may be eligible for state and local tax incentives for job creation and manufacturing job retention.
The process to apply to the EACC for tax credits or EDIP for job creation or retention incentives can be complicated. Di Stefano said the MOBD can help businesses navigate both processes, including connecting businesses with local municipal offices. “Keep in mind, these are not awards. This is an incentive,” Di Stefano said, “so it’s never too early to apply for EACC tax credits. With jobs, the EDIP cares about full-time, not part-time, jobs.”
MOBD also partners with more than a dozen public and private organizations, including:
- Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI), which serves as the Commonwealth’s primary international business development agency charged with promoting trade and investment with global partners in Massachusetts and around the world.
- Commonwealth Corporation, which is designed to strengthen the skills of Massachusetts youth and adults by investing in innovative partnerships with industry, education and workforce organizations.
- MassDevelopment: MA Economic Development & Finance Agency, which offers financing and real estate solutions to support companies and nonprofits, increase housing, eliminate blight, and drive economic growth across Massachusetts.
- Mass Growth Capital Corp. | Empowering Small Business, which creates and preserves jobs at small businesses, women and minority owned businesses, and promotes economic development in underserved, gateway municipalities and low and moderate income communities.
- MassVentures, a venture capital firm focused on fueling the Massachusetts innovation economy by funding early-stage, high-growth Massachusetts startups as they move from concept to commercialization.
- MassEcon: Grow MA with location services and expert consultation, which works to create a supportive culture for business, enhance job growth, promote investment in communities, and spread prosperity throughout the state.
The goal of Mass BizWorks, a state agency that connects business to many money-saving services offered by the state, and some by the federal government – at no cost to businesses – is to coordinate programs focused on workforce development, economic development, and education institutions. The agency provides services throughout the business cycle, from worker training/retraining to access to qualified workers (at the peak of the economy) to alternatives to layoffs and options for downsizing, worker transition and redevelopment (during down times through recovery).
Messina said to take advantage of Mass BizWorks, companies need to understand the business cycle and what makes your company special.
Messina described one of the programs called Workshare, designed to be a smart alternative to layoffs to help companies keep valuable employees in which employees work reduced hours while collecting unemployment benefits to supplement their lower wages. According to Messina, Workshare has saved companies from going out of business while keeping jobs and benefits available to workers.
The agency offers one-stop career centers, available across the state, offering postings, job fairs, etc. It also offers on-the-job training (OJT) programs that, funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) allows employers to be reimbursed a percentage of the new hire wages during training. Employer benefits include hiring a trainee for a full-time position, supporting the development, and implementation of a training plan and a monthly wage reimbursement. The state will pay up to 75% of the salary of formerly laid off employees to help train people and bring them on board. This allows businesses to train people the way they need them to work. (There’s another training program for current employees who need retraining.)
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provides tax credits for hiring veterans, for example. There is no limit on the number of new hires who can qualify, and companies can get tax credits of $1,200 to $9,600 depending on the employee hired. For more info, check out mass.gov.dcs/wotc.
Mass BizWorks works with the Massachusetts Community College System, 15 colleges with campuses across the state to provide contract training services to meet individual business needs. The MCCS offers a reasonable cost structure compared to private training institutions. For more information, visit mass.edu/campuses/phecamuses.asp.
The Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) provides grants up to $250,000 for as much as 24-month training programs. Express grants are available for companies with 100 or fewer employees. Visit workforcetrainingfund.org.
The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) safety grant program awards up to $25,000 each fiscal year to promote safe and healthy conditions in the workplace safety training. DIA works with businesses to make places safer to work. (This is a program none of the attendees has heard about.) For more information, go to mass.gov/dia/safety.
The OSHA Consultation Program is completely separate from federal OSHA inspections and enforcement efforts. Instead, it provides training and education for employers and employees, helping qualified business gain membership in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). All private businesses are eligible, with priority given to small (fewer than 250 employees) in high-hazard industries. For more, go to mass.gov.dols/consult.
Rapid Response Team, part of the Department of Career Services, assists companies to avert layoffs. RRT tries to avert/prevent layoffs or to minimize the impact locally of the layoffs. Even in periods of economic growth, business close and employees lose their jobs. In the state, there are currently about 45 active businesses laying off people; that means there’s a pool of employees available for companies trying to hire. RRT can help find work for employees prior to layoffs by conducting on-site job fairs and individual referrals. The Workshare program (mentioned above) is part of RRT. Visit mass.gov/dcs/rapidresponse.
The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MASSMEP) offers a comprehensive set of resources, services, and support grouped into three core areas of expertise:
- Operational excellence such as Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, continuous improvement, etc.
- Workforce strategies to assess and obtain critical workforce training needed for next-generation manufacturing.
- Innovative growth solutions to help manufacturers with business and operational planning workshops; product design, development, financial planning and more.
More info is available at massmep.org.
The services of MOBD and Mass BizWorks are available to any business in Massachusetts. During the Q&A session that followed the presentation, attendees remarked that there were a lot of offerings that they didn’t know about. For example, MOBD can provide help getting electrical permits for a biotech manufacturing plant – something one attendee needed assistance securing.
The event is part of an ongoing series of information seminars offered to members of the NE CRO/CMO Council.