Part of a series of monthly columns from the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

A case for business on Beacon Hill

On June 6, members of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee descended on the State House for Beacon Hill Day! Our annual day of legislative action provides our members with opportunities to meet our legislative delegation and advocate on behalf of small businesses throughout Nashoba Valley.

This year, chamber members also got a behind-the-scenes look at the MBTA Control Center and enjoyed lunch at the UMass Club with an aerial view of Boston. During the lunch, attendees spoke with Rep. Edward Coppinger, chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, and Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

Our membership met with most elected leaders or staff of the Nashoba Valley delegation, including Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Sen. Harriette Chandler, Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Rep. Jennifer Benson, Rep. James Arciero, Rep. Harold Naughton, Rep.James O'Day, and Rep. Sheila Harrington. We discussed a wide range of policy issues integral to the communities that make up the chamber, including:

Minimum Wage -- When considering increases to the minimum wage, it is critical to consider the detrimental effect that this will have on small businesses. Employers simply cannot plan payroll to meet rapidly approaching deadlines. Any changes should provide ample time for employers to plan financially.


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Additionally, the chamber opposes the automatic indexing of the minimum wage, and recommends that subsequent minimum wage increases should be modest over the next few years.

Transportation -- As an industrial and economic region vital to the growth of the Commonwealth, we support expanded transportation options throughout Nashoba Valley. Increased commuter options, particularly for reverse commuters into the region, would prove to be integral in maintaining its economic vitality. Options include better access to and increased frequency of the commuter rail lines. We are excited about the public and private collaboration that is funding the development of bus routes for commuters to the Devens area and would like to see similar initiatives.

Healthcare Policies -- In regards to Gov. Baker's recent Healthcare Assessment Proposal, it is important to consider the negative impact it will have on small businesses. Employers that may offer comprehensive insurance coverage options will still be mandated to pay steep fines because they do not meet the required 80 percent participation threshold. This is despite the fact that full-time equivalent employees are not necessarily choosing MassHealth over employer-sponsored plans, but may be covered under a spousal plan, parental plan, Medicare plan, veteran plan or similar plan.

We oppose the imposition of fines in these situations and strongly support exemptions so that businesses will not be penalized for their employees' preferences. These fines will also discourage small businesses from expanding or moving into Massachusetts. We support cost reductions that will result in affordable and comprehensive insurance plans that will not unduly burden small businesses.

Veterans Inc.

I had the opportunity recently to meet with Lisa TJ Blauser (Site Coordinator), Lisa Quintiliani Bousbouras (Community Relations), and Vincent Perrone (President/CEO) of Veterans Inc. to learn more about their housing program at Devens.

The goal of the Veterans Inc. Housing Program is simple: to end chronic homelessness among veterans in our communities. Achieving that goal is complex, requiring more than putting a roof over our veterans' heads. It requires a holistic approach that addresses the "total veteran" and his or her needs.

Veterans Inc. housing comes with a full range of support services including meals, an employment and training program, legal and medical advice, and special services related to PTSD, substance abuse, and other challenges faced by veterans. Intensive case management and counseling are provided to help veterans regain control of their lives.

Veterans make up 1 in 4 of all homeless Americans. Veterans Inc. has an 85 percent success rate -- one of the highest in the nation -- for transitioning clients out of homelessness. 

Learn more about this great organization at http://www.veteransinc.org/

Young Professionals Mega Mixer

Over 100 Young Professionals from six chambers gathered to network poolside at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center on June 21. Chambers involved included: Corridor Nine Area, Marlborough Regional, MetroWest, Worcester, Newton Needham and Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The Young Professionals of Nashoba Valley (YPoNV) offers networking, professional development, and community development opportunities for the region's up-and-coming young professionals. The network is open to young professionals ages 21-39. If you are interested in learning more and getting involved, please contact Meagan Ackroyd at 978-425-5761 or email Meagan@nvcoc.com.

Mark your calendars for YPoNV's next mixer at Sunset Tiki Bar and Grill on Tuesday, August 1. More information at www.nvcoc.com

Shop Local and Win $1,000

Four years ago, the Nashoba Valley Chamber instituted a "Shop Local & Win" program to encourage consumers to shop locally as opposed to shopping online or in a big box store. The original program ran mid-November through the end of the year.

The chamber has accounted for over $1.6 million dollars spent locally through these Shop Local campaigns.

The chamber, always looking for new ways to promote our members, added a "summer campaign" last year and will run a summer campaign this year as well. Starting June 30, area residents are encouraged to save receipts to submit to the Nashoba Valley Chamber and enter to win.

For every $50 spent locally, the receipt holder will be entered to win a $1,000 Nashoba Valley Gift Card. If their receipt is from a chamber member business, they will be entered three times.

Receipts can be mailed to the chamber, dropped off in person, or emailed to Director@nvcoc.com. The deadline to submit receipts is noon on Wednesday August 16.

The Shop Local & Win Summer Campaign is sponsored by Century Carpet & Creative Floors (Ayer), IC Federal Credit Union, Advent Financial Partners, Hanscom Federal Credit Union, Nikopolous Insurance Agency, and SERVPRO of Chelmsford/Westford.

Any questions please contact the chamber office at 978-425-5761

Melissa Fetterhoff is the President and CEO of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, a 600-member organization covering 16-communtiies. Learn more online at www.nvcoc.com.