Industry Groups Fear ‘Inquisition’

Don’t want hearing to embarrass Fidelity

By Greg Turner
Boston Herald

Business leaders are worried today’s Senate hearing to revisit corporate tax breaks in the wake of job losses at Fidelity Investments and Evergreen Solar could turn into an “inquisition” that ultimately hurts Massachusetts’ economic prospects.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council, a group of CEOs from the state’s top tech employers, fired off a legislative memo yesterday urging members of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee to take “a hard look at the root causes” of the job losses rather than hold “an inquisition-style hearing … one that seems designed primarily to embarrass … Fidelity.”

The Senate panel will grill Fidelity President Ron O’Hanley and Evergreen CEO Michael El-Hillow, along with state economic-development and tax officials.

Continue reading

$1B Effort Yields No Bioterror Defenses

Mass. labs in line to join scaled-back Pentagon program

By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is scaling back one of its largest efforts to develop treatments for troops and civilians infected in a germ warfare attack after a $1 billion, five-year program fell short of its primary goal.

Even the heavy infusion of research cash and a unified effort by university labs and biotech companies from Boston to California were insufficient to break through limitations of genetic science, according to government officials and specialists in biological terrorism.

Instead, the Pentagon’s next $1 billion for the Transformational Medical Technologies program will focus on better ways to identify mutant versions of Ebola, Marburg, and other deadly viruses. Those are among the genetically modified agents that officials fear could be used by terrorists or rogue states against urban or military targets.

The continued flow of money, even with the shift in strategy, should help Massachusetts and other states retain jobs and research labs focused on this arena.

“There is tremendous potential for further development of a biodefense subcluster in the state,’’ said James D. Rooney, vice president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

Among Bay State firms that have received contracts under the germ warfare effort is Worcester-based Microbiotix. Representatives from Microbiotix did not respond to requests for comment.

Continue reading

Hub’s the Real Winner in Venture-Capital Matchup over Tech

By Jay Fitzgerald
Boston Herald

New York’s inferiority complex toward Boston is now spreading beyond the realm of sports.

As the New York Jets [team stats] try to pump themselves up with trash talk before their Sunday showdown against the New England Patriots, New Yorkers are now getting all excited by a new venture-capital report showing that their state pulled in slightly more “tech” venture-capital funds than Massachusetts during the past quarter and over the past 15 months.

Except there’s one problem: They cherry-picked the numbers.

While New York has indeed caught up to Boston in VC funding for Internet, mobile and computer technologies, venture-capital money for biotech, medical devices, heath care, utilities and other sectors were conveniently left behind on the proverbial sidelines.

Continue reading

Patrick Doubts State Can Afford UI Rate Freeze

By George Donnelly
Boston Business Journal

Gov. Deval Patrick expressed doubts that the state could afford to freeze the current unemployment insurance rates, which are scheduled to rise by 40 percent early this year. The State House New Service reported today that Patrick said “it’s a serious question whether we can afford to freeze those rates.”

Business groups, including the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts High Technology Council, have called for a freezing of the rates, already among the highest in the country. Efforts to cut back on the benefit levels for unemployment have been unsuccessful. Massachusetts is considered one of the most generous provider of unemployment benefits, both in terms of eligibility and duration of payment — 30 weeks.

Employers face a $259 per employee hit, on average, under a scheduled increase, which would raise the assessment to $897 per employee, according to the State House News Service. Without an increase, there is a projected $200 million deficit in the unemployment insurance fund.