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Mass. business leaders not bullish on state


Mass. business leaders not bullish on state

SPRINGFIELD — A recent survey shows state business leaders aren’t feeling good about the local economy, with 89 percent rating business conditions in Massachusetts as fair to poor.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts survey released last Friday showed that just 11 percent of the 500 executives who responded rated conditions as good. None said the Massachusetts economy was excellent.

The survey was conducted over the past month, and many results came in even before the recent stock market gyrations and passage of the $700 billion federal bailout.

Associated Industries’ executive vice president for government affairs, John Regan, told The Republican of Springfield that members ranked the costs of health care, electricity and fuel as the biggest issues of concern.

State unemployment edges up in September

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts inched up to 5.3 percent in September, but remains below the national average.

Preliminary September estimates released last Thursday by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development show the rate increased from a revised figure of 5.2 percent in August.

The national unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.1 percent in September.

The state’s 2008 unemployment rate through September has averaged 4.8 percent. That is higher than the 4.5 percent recorded for the same time period in 2007, reflecting a national economic slowdown.

New jobs were added in the trade, transportation, utilities and government sectors, while the construction, manufacturing, education and financial sectors lost jobs.

BU to conduct deep checks on bioterror workers

Scientists hired to work at Boston University’s new bioterrorism laboratory will have to undergo a rigorous background check that will include psychological testing and a review of their financial records.

BU vice president for operations Gary Nicksa told The Boston Globe that the purpose of the checks is to spot researchers who may be susceptible to stress-related mistakes or extortion. The checks will be even more rigorous than current federal standards.

The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories in Boston’s South End will conduct research into some of the world’s most dangerous germs.

Nicksa also said the building will be monitored by security cameras and researchers will work in pairs.

The $192 million lab is scheduled to open next year.

 Menino imposes hiring freeze

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has put a freeze on all nonessential hiring and ordered a review of the city’s finances.

The move came a day after Gov. Deval Patrick announced widespread cuts and the elimination of 1,000 jobs as the state tries to close an expected $1.4 billion budget gap.

The city had been relying on state funding for improvements on several properties and for repairs and construction across many departments. The mayor’s office says it’s unclear now exactly how much money the city now will get.

Menino says to expect some cuts, including to community policing programs.

RMV trims hours, services to deal with cuts

The state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will cut branch hours as it scales back amid a massive, statewide budget cut.

The RMV saw $2 million chopped from its budget as part of $1 billion in cuts and spending controls announced by Gov. Deval Patrick last week.

RMV Registrar Rachel Kaprielian said last Friday that the agency will save $40,000 by opening most branches a half hour later at 9 a.m. Branches that have been closing late on Thursdays at 7 p.m., will now close at 6 p.m.

Another $800,000 will be saved by eliminating courtesy notices for various services, such as license renewals.

RMV spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said the rest of the cuts will come in areas that won’t be as noticeable to customers, such as using less expensive paper and reformatting forms.

Mass. to put official airplane on auction block

Gov. Deval Patrick is ordering a little used state airplane sold as part of his sweeping budget-cutting plan.

But unlike Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who famously ordered a state-owned jet worth more than $2 million sold, Massachusetts’ official aircraft is a lowly Cessna airplane, purchased in 1974 for just $22,000.

It’s sitting in a hangar in Norwood and is owned by the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, which at one time used it to travel to small airports for inspections.

The last time anyone logged hours on the plane was a year ago.

Officials said the airplane could sell for between $40,000 and $60,000 — and save taxpayers nearly $28,000 a year in maintenance and storage fees.

How many leaves change color in N.H.? 608 billion

NASHUA, N.H. — As another gorgeous leaf-peeping season winds down, consider how many individual leaves make up the red, orange and yellow backdrop that attracts hordes of tourists to New Hampshire each fall.

Coming up with an estimate isn’t easy, as the Telegraph of Nashua recently discovered.

“I’ve been in the tree business for 30, 35 years, and I’ve never been asked that question,” Kevin Fredette of Gate City Tree Service said when queried about how many leaves a tree has.

In its New Hampshire Forest Resources Report, the U.S. Forest service said there were 4 billion live trees in New Hampshire in 2006 that were at least 1 inch in diameter. One-sixth of the state’s forestland consists of sugar maple, yellow birch and beech trees, which adds up to 666 million colorful trees.

Unfortunately the Forest Service was born of logging, so it doesn’t much care about leaves. The report estimates the “dry biomass” of live trees (300 million tons), but that’s wood, not leaves. To get an estimate of “foliar biomass,” the newspaper turned to the Forest Service office in Durham, where workers asked not to be identified “probably because they should have been doing something useful instead,” the newspaper reported.

The result: 1,460 pounds of leaves per acre of sugar maple, birch and beech trees. Multiply that by 2.5 million acres of trees and you get 1.9 million tons of leaves.

At a tenth of an ounce per leaf, that’s 608 billion leaves in New Hampshire.

Goldman Sachs head wants $55M for Nantucket house

NANTUCKET — The co-president of financial services company Goldman Sachs is trying to sell his Nantucket estate for a record $55 million.

Jon Winkelried’s asking price for the 5.75-acre property, which includes two shoreline parcels, is more than double the record sale of $26.5 million set last year.

The main house includes a wine room, billiard room, four fireplaces, a swimming pool and five bedrooms. The property also has a guesthouse and two garages.

Winkelried bought the two parcels in 1999 for just under $7 million and built the main house afterward.

The taxes are nearly $68,000 per year.

Winkelried owned $345 million worth of common stock when he took over as co-president of Goldman Sachs in 2006. His compensation last year was $67.5 million.

(Associated Press)