April 28th Information & Resource Update
Annual 495/MetroWest Employer Survey

The 495/MetroWest Partnership invites business and organizational leaders in our service area to take part in our annual 495/MetroWest Employer Survey!

This survey represents a collaborative effort between the 495/MetroWest Partnership and Framingham State University's MetroWest Economic Research Center (MERC). Now in its 9th year, the survey has proven an important tool in gauging business confidence in the 495/MetroWest region and in forecasting future growth by regional employers, both in terms of hiring and site expansion. The survey is also a means for employers to communicate concerns and challenges, which can guide policymakers in considering needed changes and investments.

The survey is also incorporated into the 495/MetroWest Partnership’s annual economic and demographic report, Strength in Numbers, which is used to market the region to site selectors and relocating companies, as well as to advance regional needs to state policymakers. Your participation is greatly appreciated, and is leveraged to promote the region and to ensure its continued prosperity.
Key survey details:

  • Who should participate in this survey: owners, leaders, or individuals with regional hiring authority for private, public, or nongovernmental organizations that have a presence in the 495/MetroWest region.

  • This survey should take about 5-7 minutes to complete.

  • Your individual responses will be anonymous; your answers will be aggregated and reported with all responses.

Thank you for your assistance in continuing this important economic assessment tool for our region. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Executive Director Jason Palitsch via email at jason@495partnership.org.
Framingham/ Worcester Commuter Rail Line to Shift to Construction Schedule Effective Monday, May 2nd

The MBTA has launched a new Spring 2022 Construction Schedule for the Framingham/Worcester Line, effective Monday, May 2nd, to accommodate a number of reliability and passenger facility improvements along the line. Most notably, the schedule eliminates the following weekday trips:

  • 512 (Departing Worcester 10:00 AM)
  • 516 (Departing Worcester 12:00 PM)
  • 522 (Departing Worcester 3:00 PM)

  • 507 (Departing South Station 7:55 AM)
  • 516 (Departing South Station 9:55 AM)
  • 522 (Departing South Station 12:55 PM)

The schedule also makes alterations to weekday service routes along the line, impacting existing arrival and departure times. Weekend scheduling remains largely the same; outbound trip duration is increased by four minutes, but scheduled departure times remain the same.

The new schedule accommodates construction for Worcester Union Station improvements, as well as the construction of a high-level platform at Natick Center, among other operational upgrades.
State PFAS Interagency Task Force Releases Report

The Massachusetts State Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force, Co-Chaired by State Representative Kate Hogan, has published its report on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the Commonwealth. The report offers a review of PFAS in the Commonwealth and potential legislative and regulatory action to address the issue of PFAS. The report is a culmination of nine hearings held by the Task Force, which convened researchers, advocacy groups, community members, municipal officials, state agencies, public water systems, legislators, and other stakeholders and experts on the issues surrounding PFAS.

Often called ‘forever chemicals,’ PFAS are a class of chemicals known for their environmental persistence and are used in a wide range of industrial applications and consumer products including firefighting turnout gear. As a result of PFAS contamination in water supplies, consumer products, air, and other exposure pathways, CDC estimates most U.S. residents have PFAS in their blood. The Task Force Report examines the extent and cost of PFAS contamination in water supplies, health and environmental impacts, sources of contamination, and recommendations for regulating and mitigating PFAS in the Commonwealth.

While the federal government has not yet established an enforceable standard for PFAS in drinking water, Massachusetts has established a maximum contaminant level of 20 parts per trillion for six PFAS. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has been testing public water systems and private wells to assess PFAS contamination. MassDEP is also identifying sites with known or suspected releases of PFAS. Given the financial burden on many impacted communities to address PFAS contamination, the state has allocated funding for a variety of PFAS-related activities, including testing and remediation projects.

The Task Force makes 30 recommendations, categorized under the following eight strategies, to protect public health and the environment from PFAS contamination:

  • Fund PFAS Detection and Remediation: The Task Force recommends appropriating funds for state agencies to conduct PFAS testing in water supplies and the environment to accurately assess the extent of PFAS contamination, to conduct investigations in sites with known or suspected PFAS releases to identify sources of contamination, and to provide financial and technical assistance to homeowners, municipalities, and public water systems for PFAS remediation projects.

  • Support Environmental Justice Communities: The Task Force recommends providing additional support to communities with minority, low-income, tribal or indigenous populations through loan forgiveness for PFAS remediation projects and community outreach.

  • Phase Out PFAS in Consumer Products: The Task Force recommends reducing PFAS exposure and contamination by regulating the sale of consumer products that contain intentionally added PFAS. This includes phasing out the sale of these products by 2030, identifying priority products for an earlier phase-out, and implementing disclosure and labeling requirements. Priority products could include textiles, food packaging, and children’s products.

  • Expand PFAS Regulation: The Task Force supports efforts by MassDEP to review its drinking water standards over the next two years and to consider establishing limits to PFAS in effluent for industrial wastewater and groundwater permits. The Task Force recommends defining PFAS as a class for the purposes of consumer product regulation.

  • Encourage Private Well PFAS Testing and Remediation: The Task Force encourages municipalities to institute a PFAS testing requirement during transfers of property with a private well and with new well permits. The Task Force recommends establishing a loan program and identifying strategies to lower the cost of PFAS testing and remediation for homeowners.

  • Support Firefighters and Local Fire Departments: The Task Force recommends reducing the use of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) that contain PFAS by collecting and disposing of stocks of AFFF, decontaminating storage facilities and equipment, and purchasing fluorine free foam. In instances where AFFF is required for emergency responses, the state could require fire departments to report releases of AFFF and take steps to minimize potential environmental impacts. Due to the use of PFAS in firefighter turnout gear, the Task Force recommends reviewing standards for turnout gear and identifying efficacious alternatives to PFAS.

  • Address PFAS Contamination Accountability: The Task Force recommends evaluating potential claims against PFAS manufacturers to seek remediation costs and other damages for PFAS contamination. MassDEP could work with the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct PFAS testing and initiate PFAS removal actions when PFAS levels in drinking water exceed the Massachusetts maximum contaminant level.

  • Enhance Public Awareness of PFAS: The Task Force recommends building upon existing efforts to conduct public education and awareness campaigns around PFAS contamination and state efforts to address PFAS, and to provide guidance to health care providers about how best to assess and discuss PFAS exposure and health risks with patients.

PFAS in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Final Report of the PFAS Interagency Task Force is available for download here.  

To view more information on the Task Force and past hearings, please visit the PFAS Interagency Task Force landing page on MALegislature.gov.
MassEcon Seeking Applications for ReadyMass 100

MassEcon's ReadyMass 100 is the state's premier web-based site marketing the top available commercial real estate assets in Massachusetts. Due to strong market conditions in recent years, the portfolio is well below 100 properties today. MassEcon is currently seeking applicants for land sites and Class A and B buildings currently available. The current ReadyMass portfolio can be viewed here.

Specifically, MassEcon is seeking "shovel-ready land sites" that can accommodate at least 100,000 square feet of build-out. Class A and B commercial buildings that have at least 50,000 square feet of space available will also be considered.

MassEcon upgraded the ReadyMass 100 platform earlier this year with access to more information for listings. ReadyMass is now a more comprehensive site selector tool with a new design, as well as added mapping and data features. With an enhanced search platform, the site now includes:
  • Significant demographic, labor market, wage, business, consumer expenditure, and talent information
  • Virtual tour and dynamic 360 degree Google Earth property imaging
  • Map layering featuring broadband and energy transmission line mapping  

MassEcon, a statewide economic development non-profit, requests a minimum $350 annual online listing fee per property. To apply, entities should first review the minimum criteria for listing land or buildings; click here to access the ReadyMass Minimum Criteria. If a parcel is eligible, the appropriate electronic application should be completed:

All submitted applications will be reviewed on June 10th; applications are requested no later than May 16th. 

Questions may be directed to Doug Kehlhem, Senior Director at MassEcon, at dkehlhem@massecon.com or 508-736-1513.
Governor Files Economic Development Bill

Earlier this week, Governor Baker filed legislation to make $3.5 billion in investments as part of an economic development bill. The legislation, An Act Investing in Future Opportunities for Resiliency, Workforce, and Revitalized Downtowns (FORWARD), H.4720, includes $2.3 billion in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and over $1.256 billion in capital bond authorizations.

The FORWARD bill includes $1.2 billion in ARPA funds for climate resiliency and preservation efforts. This includes a $750 million investment in the Commonwealth’s clean energy industry. The $750 million would be utilized for a variety of areas within the sector, such as electric vehicle rapid charging stations at Logan International Airport, the expansion of the MassCEC Wind Technology Training Center in Charlestown, and a greater focus on higher education and workforce training in an effort to support the clean energy industry. The bill also proposes $413 million to support over 100 projects across state parks and trails, water and sewer, and environmental infrastructure grant programs.

The FORWARD legislation proposes nearly $970 million for investments to support revitalizing the Commonwealth’s downtowns and communities, including $318 million in ARPA funding and $650 million in bond authorization. This includes $550 million for the MassWorks program, including $400 million in reauthorization and $147 million in ARPA funds to support 94 local projects. Nearly 250 municipalities will receive downtown recovery grants totaling $108 million.

The legislation also includes $325 million in ARPA funding for workforce efforts, including $300 million for the Unemployment Trust Fund to address unemployment overpayments. The HireNow program, which provides grants to employers to train and hire new workers, would receive $25 million.

The FORWARD bill includes $270 million in authorization to support housing production across the Commonwealth, including affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, public housing, climate resilient housing, and transit-oriented development. The bill also makes several policy proposals to increase housing production, including an increase of the cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10 million to $30 million.

The bill proposes significant funding to support the Commonwealth’s innovation economy including $50 million for a new competitive and secure future innovation program to make strategic investments in purpose-driven research, technology development, and innovation, and in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), robotics, quantum information science, cybersecurity, communications, and digital health.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Massachusetts is an innovative program to help commercial and industrial property owners in Massachusetts finance energy improvements. The program is administered by MassDevelopment, which has recently released a new, brief overview video of the program on the PACE webpage.

The program lets owners agree to a betterment assessment and lien on the property, sufficient to repay the financing extended by a private capital provider. If the property is sold before the financing has been repaid, the assessment stays and is transferred to subsequent property owners. PACE enables owners to use energy savings to undertake more comprehensive energy upgrades with financing terms of up to 20 years.

Properties eligible for financing through PACE include commercial buildings, industrial buildings, and multi-family buildings with five or more units. Individual municipalities may opt into PACE one time by a majority vote of the city or town council or the board of selectmen, as appropriate.

Earlier this year, the Energy and Sustainable Development Committee of the 495/MetroWest Partnership hosted an informational session for municipal officials on the program; click here to access the slide presentation from that event.
Recent 495/MetroWest Partnership Events:
Recordings & Related Materials

All Partnership events and committee meetings are being held virtually, via Zoom, at present. Committee meetings posted here are open to all interested persons with advance registration.

  • Massachusetts Clean Water Trust: On Wednesday, March 16th, 2022 the Water Resources Committee of the 495/MetroWest Partnership hosted a presentation on the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust is a state agency that provides low-interest loans to municipalities and other eligible entities for the purpose of improving water quality throughout the Commonwealth. Loan funding is provided through the Massachusetts State Revolving Fund. Nate Keenan, Deputy Director of the Clean Water Trust, provided an overview of resources available, as well as information regarding new sources of funding coming to Massachusetts. Click here to access a recording of this event

To view all upcoming events or view recordings of past virtual events, visit the "Events & Committee Meetings" section of our website 495Partnership.org.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you:
Jason Palitsch, Executive Director
(774) 760-0495

Thank you for your continued commitment to strengthening our region.