Month: April 2017

Senator Lesser Celebrates Grand Opening of Longmeadow Shops with Ribbon Cutting

LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined Steve Walker, owner of Grove Property Fund, in celebrating the grand opening of the expanded Longmeadow Shops complex on Thursday.

Senator Lesser presented Walker with an official citation congratulating him on the business’ achievement.

“For as long as I can remember, the Longmeadow Shops have served as a place for the community to gather. In that spirit, I’m glad to join with my community, my colleagues and business leaders today to reaffirm our commitment to sensible and sustainable business development in Longmeadow. This recent expansion at the Longmeadow shops is a welcome addition in our community,” said Senator Lesser, Chairman of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.

The ribbon cutting included Longmeadow Representative Brian M. Ashe, Longmeadow Select Board Chair Marie Angelides and the managers of the many stores in the new shopping complex.

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Senator Lesser Meets with East Longmeadow Town Council

EAST LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser attended Tuesday’s East Longmeadow Town Council meeting to update town officials on his work in the State Senate and hear Council members’ concerns and counsel.

Their wide-ranging discussion covered transportation funding, local aid, health care costs and property tax burdens. Sen. Lesser also provided an update on the state legislature’s budget process.

“These meetings with local officials are very helpful in setting local priorities and carrying them forward to my work in the State Senate. I am grateful to the East Longmeadow Town Council for taking the time to meet with me and discuss the important issues East Longmeadow is facing. I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of the residents of East Longmeadow,” said Sen. Lesser, Chairman of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.

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Senator Lesser Statement on Rattlesnake Working Group Decision to Suspend the Plan to Bring Rattlesnakes to Quabbin Reservoir

SPRINGFIELD — Following the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board vote to indefinitely suspend a plan to establish a timber rattlesnake colony on Mt. Zion Island in the Quabbin Reservoir, Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“I agree with the decision by the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board to indefinitely suspend the plan to breed rattlesnakes at the Quabbin Reservoir. From the beginning, residents in the Quabbin Region did not feel like their concerns about this project were listened to. I’m glad that after a series of listening sessions in the various communities affected, a decision was made to suspend this plan, and to focus on protecting the rattlesnakes in locations where they already exist.

“Protection of the environment and sound stewardship of our wildlife are values I hold deeply, and I know the residents of the Quabbin region care deeply about them as well. My hope is that in the future, these types of projects will be undertaken with an appreciation for the impact they have on local communities.”

In March 2016, Senator Lesser sent a letter (see below) to Secretary Matthew Beaton in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs calling for a halt to the plan until public hearings could be held.

Senator Lesser followed this action with a 2016 budget amendment (see below) to establish the Rattlesnake Working Group.

 

Joint Letter to Secretary Matthew Beaton in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

March 25, 2016

 

Secretary Matthew Beaton

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

 

Dear Secretary Beaton,

We are writing to you with serious concerns about the Commonwealth’s plan to place venomous Timber Rattlesnakes on Quabbin Reservoir’s Mount Zion Island.

As you are no doubt aware, the Quabbin Reservoir is a popular recreational and tourist destination in Western Massachusetts. Consequently, there are a significant number of unanswered questions regarding the risks this plan will pose to the public, including the rattlesnakes’ ability to leave the contained area and the potential threat they pose to hikers, fishermen, sportsmen and others utilizing this precious natural resource, in addition to nearby residents.

According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), “As a venomous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake certainly has the potential to be dangerous.” Moreover, EOEEA has stated, “Because the Timber Rattlesnake is venomous, people express understandable concerns for their safety and the safety of family members and pets.”

It is our hope that any action on the plan to introduce Timber Rattlesnakes to the Quabbin Reservoir will be frozen pending an oversight hearing by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on May 10, 2016.

Thank you for your timely consideration of this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Eric P. Lesser

First Hampden & Hampshire District

 

Senator Anne M. Gobi

Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex District

 

Representative Thomas M. Petrolati

Seventh Hampden District

 

Representative Todd M. Smola

First Hampden District

 

CC:      Governor Charles Baker

Commissioner Leo Roy, Department of Conservation and Recreation

Director Jack Buckley, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

 

Budget Amendment: FY2017-S4-888

ENV 888

Timber Rattlesnakes

Mr. Lesser moved that the proposed new text be amended, in Section 2, in item 2310-0200, by adding at the end thereof, the following:-

“provided further, that no state funding, resources, or personnel shall in any way be used to establish or re-establish a population of venomous Timber Rattlesnakes in a location they presently do not exist; and provided further that the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife shall establish a working group to recommend the best ways to protect the Timber Rattlesnake population in locations where they presently exist.”

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/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Lesser Statement on Rattlesnake Working Group Decision to Suspend the Plan to Bring Rattlesnakes to Quabbin Reservoir

How to turn Western Massachusetts into a high-tech hub

In Masslive 4/13/17

Those of us in Western Mass. watched for two generations as the 128 corridor boomed and greater Boston turned into one of the world’s great tech centers.

Meanwhile, our largely manufacturing-based economy, once a thriving ecosystem, was unable to compete as the technology revolution took hold and policymakers focused elsewhere — leading to a steady economic decline over the last several decades.

But there’s reason to be optimistic that we can transition to compete: The startup and innovation economy that was once concentrated in greater Boston has been planting seeds west of 495. Greentown Labs opened a Springfield office last year and a new Innovation Center is opening in Springfield this summer, as just two examples.

It’s our obligation — and our opportunity — to take advantage of this emerging trend and grow the tech economy in Western Mass. Indeed, it’s never been cheaper and easier to launch a tech venture outside of traditional startup hubs, given the declining cost of mobile internet technology and the proliferation of big data.

So, how do we jumpstart things here in Western Mass.?

Booming tech centers have three things in common: connectivity, access to capital and large numbers of skilled workers.

The connections are already happening.

Last week, for example, I brought researchers from MIT on a tour of the “Laser Lab” at Springfield Technical Community College. We discussed the role Western Massachusetts could play at the center of a corridor between New York and Boston known as the “Silicon Valley of lasers.” This sector alone will need to fill as many as fifty thousand jobs in the coming years — imagine what that could mean for Western Mass.

We need to make these connections permanent with an east-west rail link from Springfield to Boston, and north-south along the Pioneer Valley and into New York City.  Now that Union Station is reopening after four decades, the timing has never been better.

Next, our local entrepreneurs should get the capital they need, without moving to Boston or San Francisco once their ideas get off the ground. One way to do this is by providing a tax credit to investors who put their money into small businesses getting started in Gateway Cities like Springfield, Chicopee, Pittsfield and Holyoke. If a new business can get the funding it needs here, it’s much more likely to stay in Western Mass and hire local workers.

The third component is a well-trained workforce.

Western Mass needs an educated workforce ready to take advantage of the new innovation economy. Making college, particularly community college, affordable and accessible is critical for developing tomorrow’s workers and entrepreneurs. I also filed legislation to provide student loan assistance for young people who live and work in a Gateway City after graduation — because they will be the ones getting our new tech ecosystem going.

Connecting east and west, injecting capital into Western Mass and promoting workforce development would go a long way toward making the western part of our state as vibrant and competitive as the tech center to our east. The result will be thousands of new jobs and the chance to ensure every region of Massachusetts lives up to its potential.

Sen. Eric P. Lesser is chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, and leads Millennial Outreach for the State Senate. He represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts.

Senator Lesser Brings Together MIT Researchers, Industry Leaders for Tour of STCC Laser Lab, Roundtable Discussion

“I hope this is the start of a valuable collaboration,” Lesser said

Springfield — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed representatives from MIT’s AIM Photonics program to Springfield Friday to tour STCC’s “Laser Lab” and discuss how the region could maintain its reputation as a national leader in high-tech manufacturing.

“Western Mass is known for the major manufacturers based in the area. Now we need to be ready to take advantage of the region’s renaissance in high-tech manufacturing, and information-sharing is one critical piece of how we get there. I hope this is the start of a valuable collaboration,” said Lesser, Chairman of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.

Springfield sits in the middle of the I-90 corridor, with Rochester, N.Y., on one end and Boston, M.A., on the other. The area is home to much of the research being done on lasers, and the ways they can be used in various industries from surgery and medical imaging to military technology and robotics.

In 2015, MIT was awarded part of a $110 million federal grant to promote this type of high-tech manufacturing, called Photonics. In a public-private partnership with the state, MIT began a Photonics workforce development program led by Professor Lionel C. Kimerling.

STCC boasts the state’s most advanced technical program for training people to work with lasers in high-tech manufacturing, and is responsible for training many of the employees in the region.

“This was a great event that showcased STCC’s capabilities with regard to photonics technology education and its important role in advancing integrated photonics manufacturing along the I-90 corridor and the New England region,” said STCC Laser Electro-Optics Technology Professor  Dr. Nicholas Massa.

The question for lawmakers is how to ensure Springfield remains the center of this cutting-edge research and training, and how to attract more students to come to Springfield to learn these skills and fill the many high-tech manufacturing jobs coming to the region.

In conjunction with STCC, Lesser hosted a lunch with faculty and students from both schools, including STCC President John Cook and Kimerling, followed by a roundtable discussion with local leaders in manufacturing, business and consulting. A number of employers in the region were represented, including Convergent Photonics, IPG Photonics, Coherent-Nufern and A&M Tool Design.

These industry leaders and research experts discussed how laser technology will revolutionize the operations of local high-tech manufacturers, creating thousands of new high-skilled jobs.

“Springfield sits at the center of a corridor between Rochester and Boston that could become the ‘Silicon Valley of Lasers,’” Lesser said.

 

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In Era of Federal Cuts, Senator Lesser Urges More State Funding for Programs to Help Elderly, Needy

“The uncertainty we’re facing at the federal level means Massachusetts needs to step up and protect our families and our farms,” Lesser said

BOSTON — On Wednesday, Senator Eric P. Lesser, along with representatives from the Massachusetts Coalition of Food Banks, hosted an information session where the theme was clear: federal cuts to assistance programs put the burden on state agencies to fill the gap in funding for critical state programs.

“The potential for dramatic cuts to federal agriculture and nutrition assistance programs, including Meals on Wheels, make these assistance programs more important than ever. The uncertainty we’re facing at the federal level means Massachusetts needs to step up and protect our families and our farms,” said Senator Lesser, Chairman of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.

Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) funding is responsible for a fourth of the food that is distributed by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. A significant number of food recipients are elderly, who also rely on Meals on Wheels, a federal food delivery program that is likely to face extensive cuts in next year’s federal budget.

“MEFAP is more than a line item in the state budget, it’s a lifeline of support for elders, children, veterans and even working families earning minimum wage who are all struggling to keep up with bills and still put nutritious food on their tables every day.  More than 800,000 citizens across the Commonwealth count on MEFAP to avert winding up in a hospital, to be able to learn in school and be productive at their jobs respectively,” said Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The information session was held to discuss MEFAP’s FY2018 budget funding request. MEFAP is requesting $20 million for its 2018 budget, which will provide 22 million meals — an increase of two million meals compared to last year.

MEFAP spends close to $1.5 million each year on fresh vegetables from local farms, making it an important state investment in the Commonwealth’s agricultural economy in addition to essential nutritional assistance for the hungry. Local farms rely on this income and use the investment to grow their businesses and, ultimately, feed more residents.

MEFAP’s budget request is a $3 million increase from last year, which is due to rising food costs and high demand for food assistance. Food prices in Massachusetts are about 10 percent higher than the national average. The extra funds will enable food banks across the state to provide two million more meals than last year.

“This is a win for everyone. This funding supports local farms and local families. Our communities in Western Mass and across the Commonwealth are better off because of this emergency food assistance program,” Senator Lesser said.

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