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Industry Groups Fear ‘Inquisition’

Mar 29, 2011Boston Herald, Council in the News

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.

Committee Chairman Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), noting his past stint as a chamber of commerce president, scoffed at concerns the hearing could harm businesses’ Bay State growth plans.

“The companies wouldn’t be sending high-level people if they felt it wouldn’t be constructive,” Montigny said. “Both sides will be doing a little teaching and learning. I don’t think it will an adversarial climate.”

Some business leaders believe the hearing singles out Fidelity, which enjoys a tax benefit from 1996 but sparked outrage with plans to shift 1,100 jobs out of state. In contrast, Evergreen is shuttering its Devens factory and laying off 800-plus workers after landing $58 million in a targeted state financial-aid package.

“I’m really interested in hearing from the Evergreen folks and the (Patrick) administration’s rationale (for giving the financial aid),” said Sen. Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, the panel’s lone Republican member.
John Regan, who handles government affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, will be watching the proceedings intently.

“I just hope the tone of the hearing is serious and respectful and designed to get at some of the questions that drive the decision-making process,” Regan said. “I hope it’s not an opportunity to beat up a pretty important member of the Massachusetts business community for having made a business decision.”

Increasingly, the Massachusetts High Technology Council is stepping up to create, execute, and lead critical statewide competitiveness strategies. Fostering a vision for our innovation economy under the MassVision2050 banner, the Council solidifies its position as a thought leader providing valuable insights to navigate emerging technologies, facilitates long-term planning, and reinforces the Council's commitment to excellence and action in the evolving Massachusetts tech-driven economy.

To learn more, contact Council President Chris Anderson.