Bringing a life sciences cluster to our region

Last week I wrote about how we have a golden opportunity to rebuild our economy, expand our commercial tax base and bring good paying jobs to our region by establishing a life sciences cluster along our part of I-95.
 
Today that opportunity looks even more promising.
 
As two leading industry experts at a chamber event last week told us, employers in the fast-growing sector want to be located near other like-minded companies.
 
“Biotech is about convening,” Bob Coughlin, the former Mass Bio head who is now with JLL, said at our event. “They love clusters. They love to be close to each other.”
 
That’s how Kendall Square became a national epicenter for this industry. It’s how Watertown has also been able to capitalize on the trend (and is now building three new net-zero elementary schools and funding its pension liability without a tax override).
 
And now, we have a proposal by the new owners of the former Liberty Mutual campus at the Mass. Pike and I-95 on the Weston-Newton line to build a life sciences campus on their 16-acre property.
 
If approved by Weston Town Meeting, the project by Greatland Reality Partners could “help cement a new life sciences cluster on the Newton-Weston border,” writes Jon Chesto at the Globe.
 
That’s because Greatland’s project is just down I-95 from a just-approved a life sciences project by Alexandria Real Estate Equities at Riverside Center on Grove Street.
 
And just a bit further down Grove, Alexandria is hoping to partner with Mark Development on two life sciences buildings at Riverside Station (a change worth $800,000 annually in new tax revenue to Newton). 
 
A cluster created by these three projects within minutes of each other could provide more than 1 million square feet of biotech space, Chesto notes. 
 
But as Chesto also notes, the approvals in both Weston and at Riverside are uncertain, with the Newton City Council to begin considering Riverside next Tuesday April 13.
 
 
Small biz group seeks to take on Amazon
 
A nationwide coalition of independent businesses launched Tuesday with the goal of urging federal policy reform to rein in the market power of top tech companies, the Hill Reports.
 
Small Business Rising -- which represents grocers, hardware stores, pharmacies and bookstores -- is specifically taking aim at Amazon, accusing the e-commerce giant of anti-competitive tactics and harming small firms nationwide. 
 
“Concentrated market power is the single biggest threat facing independent businesses,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement. “Every day, we lose more small businesses because of the abusive and anti-competitive tactics of Amazon and other monopolies. This campaign gives America’s entrepreneurs a platform to stand up and call on policymakers to check monopoly power and reinvigorate the antitrust laws.” 
 
Amazon pushed back on the coalition’s criticism, saying it has in fact "empowered small and mediums-sized businesses."
 
 
Shuttered venues program opens tomorrow
 
Applications finally open Thursday for the SBA’s Shuttered Venue grant program, ending months of wait for a program that was created in December.
 
Here’s the application portal
 
The program was first funded with $15 billion in December and an another $1.25 billion was added as part of the federal stimulus package in March. 
 
FAQs here. There’s a workshop on the program on April 20 at 10 a.m.
 
 
Should you laminate your COVID vaccine card?
 
MassLive explores the lamination question. But, for sure, says CNN, you should not be sharing your card on social media.
 
Meanwhile the ACLU is worried about social inequalities and privacy rights surrounding digital vaccine IDs and President Joe Biden agrees.
 
Of course you won't have a card to laminate, or can even consider a passport, until you're vaccinated. Here's some tips on scoring an appointment from the Globe.

 
Openings and closings
 
  • Roche Bros is opening its new store at Arsenal Yards on Friday.
  • Invicro is moving from Boston to Needham. The life sciences company will occupy 36,000 sf of lab and office space at 115 Fourth Avenue. (Boston Real Estate Times)
  • Santander Bank is planning on closing eight branches in Massachusetts, including the branch in West Newton (BBJ).
  • After being closed since the shutdown Blue on Highland in Needham opens Thursday with curbside takeout.
 
N.E. Council backs bank protections for pot industry
 
The New England Council, a business-minded organization that maintains close ties to members of Congress from the six northeast states, is lobbying for Congress to protect banks working with state-legal marijuana companies from federal regulatory penalties.
 
Because marijuana remains wholly illegal at the federal level, state-authorized businesses have struggled to find banks, most of which operate under federal regulations and with federal insurance, willing to accept them as customers, reports Colin A. Young at State House News.
 
The bill would allow the largely cash-only legal marijuana industry to move towards other payment options, potentially reducing the risks of tax evasion, money laundering and robbery.
 
Every state in New England now allows medicinal cannabis, and three states have legalized adult recreational use.
 
"Given that cannabis-related businesses have been legalized and are an expanding segment of the economy in many communities across the region, we feel that if this legislation is passed it would protect the businesses and communities in which they operate." New England Council President and CEO James Brett said.
 
 
Need to knows
 
  • Newton Community Farm's Online Seedling Sale opens to the public today (April 7) at noon. Purchase vegetable, herb, and fruit plants through the online store and schedule your curbside pickup for mid-May. For more information go to www.newtoncommunityfarm.org.
  • On April 13 9:30 a.m. the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition will host a roundtable discussion on immigration with Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, Anh Vu Sawyer, the Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition and more advocates and directly impacted people. Register.
  • As healthcare industry regulations and patient expectations change, investing in the technology of your practice or facility has become a higher priority than ever. Tomorrow (April 8) at noon, join Grassi Healthcare Advisors and a panel of healthcare, technology and legal experts for the next live discussion on overcoming today’s healthcare technology challenges. Register.
 
MassBay reports significant economic impact
 
MassBay Community College (with campuses in Wellesley, Framingham and Ashland) recently released a report on it impact in the MetroWest region. Read the full report here. Here’s three interesting stats:
 
  • For every dollar a student spends to attend MassBay (out-of-pocket expenses and foregone time and money), they receive $5.50 in benefit in future higher earnings.
  • MassBay’s annual income contribution (operations spending, student spending, and alumni impact) to be $142.7 million, supporting 1,794 jobs in MetroWest.
  • MassBay generates more tax revenue than it takes. As students get better jobs, they pay more income taxes. Also, as students, they depend less on government services and they improve their lifestyles. The present value sum of added taxes and public sector savings results in a $1.80 return for every taxpayer dollar dedicated to support MassBay.
 
Meals program, hospital workers get $25K gift
 
Last week we announced that thanks to an anonymous donor the chamber's meals assistance program that has been running in Newton and Wellesley is expanding to Needham.
 
That gift will purchase $15,000 in meals from independent Needham restaurants to purchase which will be distributed to seniors in need through the the Needham Council on Aging.
 
The story gets better.
 
That same donor just contributed an additional $25,000 to purchase meals from Needham restaurants to be delivered to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham to feed those working on the frontlines.
 
“This gift exemplifies how those in the Newton-Needham Community come together to help one another during times of need,” said Samantha Sherman, BID's VP of Philanthropy.
 
“I am especially grateful to Jay Spencer of the French Press for facilitating this contribution and for all he does to support the local restaurant community.”
 
BID's front line staff have been treated to complimentary restaurants meals since early in the pandemic. This winter Stacy Madison, of Stacy’s Pita Chips and BeBOLD Bars, lead an effort that's purchased 5,000 meals locally for these home town heroes.
 
This new $25,000 anonymous gift ensures that the program can continue for several more months. Go here if you’d like to contribute to this program, click the “Direct My Gift To” button, select “Other”, and type “Lunch Program” in “Other” field. 
 
That's it for today. Back tomorrow.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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