Chamber News

October 07, 2020 Likes Comments

Bio tech project would transform part of Galen Street

A proposed bio tech project on the Watertown-Newton line would transform a drab stretch of Galen Street, bring new jobs and tax revenue to Watertown and a redesign to the adjacent MBTA bus terminal just outside of Watertown Square.

The proposed 200,000 sq. ft., five story, building by Boston Development Group would include lab space, two new public park areas, new streetlights, sidewalks and other improvements at the site of the Colonial GMC dealership. Elkus Manfredi is the architect.
 
The development calls for reconfiguration of the adjacent Watertown Yard bus depot and a dedicated bus lane along busy Galen Street. (Watertown News explains here ).
 
The project presentation is here. Developers will answer questions during a community meeting tomorrow (Thursday) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., via Zoom.
 
Licensing board votes to help Newton restaurants
 
Newton’s liquor licensing commission voted unanimously last night to a one-time liquor license fee reduction for restaurants after the city’s attorney backed off from a claim that the reduction was unconstitutional.
 
As I wrote in yesterday’s email, City attorney Maura O’Keefe told the board last month that cutting these fees violates the state’s “anti-aid amendment,” which prohibits the giving of money or property by a city or town to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation embarking upon any private enterprise.

But Rick Heller, general counsel and senior VP at Legal Sea Foods, who reviewed O'Keefe's analysis on the chamber’s behalf, sent a letter to the commission arguing that reliance on the anti-aid amendment was "misplaced and not supported by the law.”

O’ Keefe backed down last night, saying “anti-aid is a minor issue” and advised the commission it could indeed approve the cut if they felt it was “in the public good.”

And that’s exactly what the commission did; agreeing to a one-time 50 percent, emergency reduction and also agreeing to allow restaurants to split their payments in two parts, one due Nov. 30 and the second due May 30, 2021.

The chamber is grateful to the commission for its thoughtful deliberation and especially to Newton City Council President Susan Albright who requested and fought for the cut, with support from 17 other city councilors.
 
Last night’s decision may have saved a dishwasher’s job. It may help a restaurant restock a refrigerator, buy PPE, or pay a water bill. It may make it possible to purchase an outdoor heater or tent. It may enable an owner to tough it out this winter.
 
And given yesterday’s move by the White House to cut off talks for any federal stimulus package (on the same the Fed Reserve Chair warned doing nothing would have "tragic" repercussions), each and every dollar saved right now matters.
 
Need plexiglass?
 
Are you in need of plexiglass for your restaurant, your shop, your office or, perhaps, to protect your favorite political candidate from a less careful opponent?
 
The Massachusetts Department of Corrections may be able to help.
 
The DOC is offering plexiglass and sneeze guards and other products manufactured at MCI-Shirley.
 
Inmates at MCI-Shirley aren’t the only ones filling the need for COVID-19 protective equipment. The Hampden County House of Corrections in Ludlow has been producing personal protective equipment.
 
If interested, call Steve Cristol at774-235-5099 at MassCor Industries. Delivery is free.
 
Loan program failed to meet many businesses' needs
 
Hundreds of thousands of businesses that applied for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program were ultimately given less than they needed, according to a Government Accountability Office review of the program. (BBJ story)
 
When the SBA first started providing loans in March, it limited loans to six months of working capital, capping the amounts at $500,000 even though the program was set up to cover loans of up to $2 million. That cap meant that many businesses did not get loans for the amount needed, GAO said in its report .
 
Time to stock up on peanut butter cups
 
Gov. Charlie Baker won't be issuing rules or mandates regarding Halloween, saying decisions about trick or treating or other activities should be left to local officials, State House News reports.
 
“The reason we’re not canceling Halloween is because that would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties,” Baker said. "Indoor Halloween parties are simply the wrong way to safely celebrate this particular holiday."
 
"The best thing you can do if you want to celebrate Halloween, find a way to get outside and just be careful and cautious. Wear a face covering. Keep your distance and take advantage of all the guidance that's been out there previously about the best way to avoid further infection."
 
Earlier in the day, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance put out a statement calling on Baker to "make clear to the children, parents, and businesses across Massachusetts that Halloween is on this year" as a way to give retailers and other businesses a bit of a boost.
 
In Newton, the popular tradition of having kids decorate store windows will continue, only this time the students are being asked to create their artworks at home for hanging at their assigned storefront.
 
Cigarette sales, taxes, dip
 
Massachusetts ban on menthol cigarettes appears to be responsible for a 24 percent decrease on cigarette sales and a nearly $32 million drop in tobacco excise taxes in the three months since its first-in-the-nation ban took effect, State House News reports.
 
But the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association says the ban has merely pushed sales to neighboring states.
 
Overall cigarette sales in New Hampshire and Rhode Island where up 65 percent and 17 percent in August, respectively. New Hampshire saw a 91 percent spike in menthol cigarette sales alone in August. Rhode Island's coffers benefited from 40 percent bump in menthol sales.
 
Grants and resources
  • Is your business prepared for Paid Family and Medical Leave? Go here to register for one of two webinars (Mon. Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. or Weds. Oct. 28 at 8:30 p.m.) about the complex Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits that workers can begin utilizing in January.
  • As Newton continues its process of revising the city’s zoning code, Green Newton is organizing a forum “How Zoning Relates to Newton's Climate Action Plan” next Thurs. Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Details here.
  • Watertown is providing a second round of grants to its smallest, small businesses. Qualified business (five or fewer employees with medium/low income) can apply for up to $10,000. The first round of this program closed Sept. 25. Applications for round two are due Oct. 23. Details here.
  • Newton’s Foundation for Racial, Ethnic and Religious Harmony is accepting grant proposals from charitable organizations in Newton. Grants between $200-$1,500 are intended to facilitate learning, interaction, and understanding, and to build respect across racial, ethnic and religious groups with the purpose of furthering the recognition of our diversity as a source of community strength. Deadline Oct. 31, with a second grant cycle coming this spring. Details here.
One last thing
 
Finally, what should you do if someone says to you: “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life,” but you’ve studied the science and you don’t quite see it that way?
 
First, check your mailbox. Second, check out this printable COVID 19 pocket guide.
 
See you tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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