Chamber News

May 13, 2020 Likes Comments

We're getting a new neighbor

We’re starting this morning with some good non-pandemic news.

Actually, two really pieces of good non-pandemic news for our region.
First, comes word from Globe columnist Jon Chesto that tech media company IDG Inc. is relocating from Framingham to the former PTC headquarters on the Needham side of the N-Squared Innovation District.
This is big. First it soothes any remaining sting left from PTC’s decision to move to the Seaport back in 2017 by replacing it with the No. 1 tech media company in the world.
Second, IDG is led by Mohammed Ali, one of Greater Boston’s genuinely dynamic business leaders. Ali has become a powerful voice on immigration and other vital issues. We'll be fortunate to have Ali and his employees as a neighbor.
Ali told Chesto he wanted to move his 600 employees to Needham to “get closer to Boston. The new location will allow employees who live in the city to reverse-commute to Needham via the Green Line and a shuttle bus. But Ali didn’t want to get too close: IDG considered Boston and Cambridge, but the commute proved to be too difficult. Needham turned out to be a happy medium, with access to talent in the city as well as the suburbs.”
IDG will move into its roughly 125,000 square feet space on Kendrick Street next year. The space is owned by Boston Properties.
The other really good news
At a time when everything seems to be cancelled or postponed, the Mass Department of Transportation board has just approved the contract for the $31.1 million redesign of the Needham Street/Highland Ave. corridor.
The 1.7 mile project -- from the fire station on Highland Avenue in Needham to the Route 9 overpass in Newton -- will create raised bike lanes, shared use paths, new sidewalks and a wider bridge over the Charles. Traffic signals will be replaced in five locations with new traffic signals being installed in two locations. In addition, storm water basin and infiltration trenches will be installed to help with drainage.
It’s important to note that the state will not be making Needham Street wider. Studies show that adding lanes doesn’t actually improve traffic flow; it attracts more cars. Instead, this is about making Needham Street safer for residents, shoppers and workers, no matter which mode of transportation we choose.
Construction will begin this summer.
The latest from Baker on reopening
Gov. Charlie Baker left a few more tea leaves regarding his plan to reopen the state’s economy yesterday.
One day after unveiling a four stage reopening matrix and mandatory safety standards for all workplaces, Baker suggested that “people who work in ways and in spaces that don’t have a lot of face-to-face interaction with customers as part of their regular business” were likely to be among the first allowed back to work, starting on or soon after, May 18.
“And then, as you move into the second and third phases or intermediate steps along the way, we’ll start to bring the folks who have direct face-to-face contact with customers in, and make sure we do it in a way that gives them the time that they need to actually create the infrastructure that’s necessary to preserve and protect their employees and their customers,” Baker added.
A Texas-sized idea worth replicating
As restaurants await guidelines from the governor’s Reopening Advisory Committee, here’s an idea worth considering from the Lone Star State: The Texas Restaurant Promise includes a commitment from restaurateurs to adhere to a series of safety protocols but -- just as importantly – a commitment from customers to behave too.
That second part matters. Many restaurant owners say getting consumers onboard with the new protocols is one of their top worries. They don’t want to have to police customers who refuse to wear face coverings or follow social distancing.
Meanwhile, a group of roughly 100 Massachusetts restaurant owners and related hospitality businesses owners are asking Gov. Charlie Baker to allow them to partially reopen on May 19, and operate at full capacity one month later.
All hands on deck
This morning at 11 a.m., Colette Phillips (who along with Mohammed Ali was one of Boston Magazine’s just named 100 Most Powerful People) will be co-hosting our “Don’t Panic, Pivot!” zoominar. If you’re free, I recommend you check it out.
You should also check out an op-ed Phillips (a chamber member) co-wrote for the BBJ, exploring why “businesses would be smart to look at diversity and inclusion as an opportunity to gain an advantage” both to through this pandemic and into the future.
“At a moment when so much is unclear, one thing is not: We need all hands on deck for what will be a difficult several months for the regional economy,” Phillips and co-authors Beth Chandler and Dani Monroe wrote. “The sooner we make our businesses diverse and inclusive, the nimbler and better prepared they will be — for the recession and for writing the next chapter in the American economy. "
A few final items
  • The Metropolitan Area Planning Council is releasing recommendations today for municipalities to facilitate small business reopening and recovery. They’re presenting their report in a webinar today at 2 p.m. You can read the recommendations here.
  • The blumshapiro Foundation is accepting grant applications from nonprofits for programs that impacts the academic, social and/or emotional needs of families and children. Funding guidelines can be found here. Deadline to apply is July 31 and the application is here.
  • A reminder that the YMCA of Greater Boston branches, including the Charles River YMCA in Needham, are offering emergency child care on a drop in basis to parents or guardians of essential workers. Details and a full list of locations here.
  • Let me know if you have something you’d like me to ask Sen. Ed Markey when he joins for a chamber zoominar tomorrow at 11 a.m.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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