Chamber News

Needham / Newton
February 10, 2021 Likes Comments

Chamber members step up to help chamber members

Late last year, 22 chamber member businesses and individuals donated more than $8,000 to create a fund to support independent restaurants, retailers and other small chamber member businesses and nonprofits that may be struggling to pay their chamber dues due to the pandemic.


If your small business or nonprofit is facing economic hardship, you may apply for a one-time 50 percent discount off your 2021 chamber membership dues.

Both current members and new members are eligible. And any member who already paid this year's dues is eligible to apply for a rebate.

Full details and the application form is here. Funds are limited so apply soon. Send questions to info@nnchamber.com
 
Business confidence up
 
Many Massachusetts employers began 2021 by turning optimistic for the first time since the pandemic shut down large swaths of the state and national economies last spring.
 
Associated Industries' Massachusetts Business Confidence Index climbed to 52.4 during January, surpassing the 50 mark that denotes an optimistic view of the economy.
 
The reading was 14 points higher than its 2020 nadir in April, but still almost 10 points below where it was 12 months ago.
 
“We are really looking at two economies – one dominated by finance, manufacturing and technology that continues to grow and a second made up of travel, tourism and other public-facing industries that are likely to struggle for some time to come.” said Raymond Torto, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Chair of the AIM Board of Economic Advisors.
 
The number of small businesses operating in Massachusetts during November was 37 percent less than in January 2020.

Guv: Housing bill may help post-COVID reality
 
It took four years to pass, but Gov. Charlie Baker believes the housing law he signed last month will have a greater impact than he imagined when he first filed the proposal to make it easier for cities and towns to approve new housing projects, writes Matt Murphy at State House News.
 
The law lowers the threshold from 2/3rds to a simple majority for local boards to approve zoning changes for new housing and could have an immediate impact locally (see next item).
 
When he first filed the legislation in 2017, Baker said he was trying to address a decades-long slowdown in housing construction that had led to soaring prices, forcing families to relocate further from jobs and discouraging businesses from setting up in Massachusetts.
 
Yesterday Baker said the law could help communities adapt to a post-pandemic work environment as many continue working from home, while Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy expressed hope that the bill will help remedy economic disparities.
 
"In a moment when we all focus more on issues of racial equity, we also saw the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and we came to understand that housing conditions were a root cause of that impact," said Kennealy.
 
Those housing rules could soon be felt locally
 
The new housing law could have an immediate impact on a proposal in Needham and another in Newton.
 
When a proposal to rezone the parcels currently occupied by Muzi Motors and Channel 5 went before Needham Town Meeting two years ago, it had majority support, but did not pass because it did not have the required two-thirds vote.
 
Now, when a revised plan for the same properties goes before Town Meeting this spring, it will only need a majority vote if the project allows for housing (as the current draft does). Documents for the proposal are here. Video from last week’s meeting on the plan is here.
 
The new housing bill might also come in play in Newton for a proposal to add a life sciences building to the Riverside Station mixed use project. Previously, the project would have needed two-thirds support from the City Council. Now it appears only simple majority might be needed.
 
The same bill also requires MBTA Communities – including Newton, Needham, Wellesley and Watertown -- to have at least one multi-family housing district at least one-half mile from a transit station.
 
Specifics for the law are yet to come. But at least Newton has acknowledged that it does not currently have a zoning district to satisfy the requirements.
Communities not in compliance will forfeit some significant sources of state funding programs.
 
Need to knows
  • Babson Experiential Learning is now accepting project applications for the Summer 2021 semester. You'll be assigned a Babson's student consulting team and no cost to your organization. Applications are due Friday (Feb. 12) for projects with a May 2021 start date. More information here.
  • Sen. Ed Markey will be the featured speaker at the New England Business Summit on Immigration, Feb 19, 2021 11:30 a.m. Presented by the Mass. Business Immigrant Coalition. Register here.
  • Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller will deliver her annual State of the City address tonight (Feb. 10) at 7 p.m. Watch at NewTV.org or via Zoom, passcode is: 917074, ID is: 884 2570 8332.
Food pantry exploring new locations
 
The Centre Street Food Pantry in Newton is exploring options for new space.

Cost is very important and the pantry is open to partnering with religious organizations or other nonprofits or commercial partners who want to be generous with their space at low rent.
 
Needs include: 2000 square feet (minimum) open floor plan or one that allows for a reconfigurable room division; ground level access, with no stairs, for moving food easily; and space where cars can pull up near the entrance, or a parking lot. Email Saadia Baloch for more specifics or you have any ideas.
 
Vaccine acceptance growing
A new study from the CDC finds that people are getting more comfortable with the idea of getting the coronavirus vaccine, the Globe reports. From September to December, the number of people who said they are "absolutely certain" or "very likely" to get the vaccine, increased from just under 40 percent to nearly 50 percent.
 
The Biden administration will ramp up a public safety campaign focused on social distancing and mask wearing but will delay a national campaign it to promote vaccine awareness until more doses are available, according to the Wall Street Journal.
 
Taking the mystery out of PPP, ERC, PMFL and other acronyms
 
We've paid a lot of attention to the PPP. But some experts believe the Revised Employee Retention Credit can be even more financially beneficial for many employers. Join the chamber Thursday at 11 a.m. for an opportunity to ask ALL-CPAs questions about PPP2, the RERC and other provisions recently enacted by Congress. Register here.
 
And this morning at 10 a.m. we’ll have a webinar about Massachusetts Paid Medical and Family Leave law. Register here.

Newton looking to expand spring outdoor dining
 
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the chamber felt the City of Newton was not as accommodating to outdoor dining last year as other municipalities had been (for example, Needham and Waltham).
 
But this winter the Fuller administration and a group of city councilors have been busy working on making Newton more accommodating to street dining this spring. So far, it's encouraging.
 
Yesterday, at a meeting of the Chamber’s Dining Collaborative, the city previewed several steps that would give some restaurants the ability to expand outdoor dining parklets.
 
In addition, Newton Community Pride has committed funds to dress up shared dining spaces (like the one established last year in the Newton Center parking lot) with tents, lights or other enhancements.
 
And the City Council will consider an item temporarily removing the need to obtain a parking waiver for adding outdoor seats.
 
Finally, Newton has received a grant to study how to make outdoor dining permanent once the state of emergency is over and is pursuing ways to activate vacant store fronts.
 
I’m grateful to Mayor Fuller and her team, and to City Council President Susan Albright, City Councilor Alicia Bowman and others for their work on these issues this winter. More details are expected soon.
 
Be back tomorrow!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.

 

Subscribe to our Events eNewsletter, INBusiness or BOTH!