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A Different One-Year Anniversary

Posted on May 15, 2020

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit (A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.)
The Aeneid

Wednesday marks one year since the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Board of Directors entrusted me to lead the commonwealth’s largest business association. The Board promised me on May 20, 2019 that my tenure would be an eventful one for the association.

They were not kidding.

I was busy adjusting to my new role when the global COVID-19 pandemic abruptly reshuffled the entire social, medical, political and economic underpinning of the nation and commonwealth. Thousands of Massachusetts businesses were suddenly forced to shut down, close to a million Massachusetts residents lost their jobs, schools closed, colleges went virtual and AIM shifted into full battle mode to help our 3,500 members through the crisis.

The AIM staff worked around the clock to help members understand a cascade of new governmental orders and regulations that in many cases forced them to suspend their businesses. We spoke with employers reduced to tears because they could no longer keep their employees working. We helped manufacturing companies answer the call to re-orient their production to make much-needed medical equipment. And we are now working with companies on how to re-open.

I keep looking for the CEO manual on pandemics, but so far, no luck. My guess is that Aeneas didn’t have one either when he uttered the line above from the Aeneid.

Crises teach lessons, and this one has provided some profound ones:

  • I have been moved by the unwavering support of the 3,500 companies that make up AIM. These companies have looked through their own pandemic-related struggles because they believe business can be a positive force for change in helping to create a better, more prosperous society. AIM membership remains strong and, in fact, has grown during the most challenging days of the pandemic.
  • The work done by AIM is even more important to the future of the Massachusetts economy and the jobs it provides than I imagined. AIM during the height of the crisis was fielding more than 150 calls a day from companies large and small, from all industries, whose continued existence depended upon clear answers to questions such as their status as essential businesses or their Paycheck Protection Program loan applications. We were honored to help.
  • AIM members continue to make remarkable contributions to the effort to control and eradicate COVID-19. More than 600 manufacturers ranging from Procter & Gamble/Gillette to 99 Degrees Custom in Lawrence answered the call to make personal protective equipment they never made before. Research companies such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are racing at unprecedented speed to find a vaccine for the virus. Remember these contributions the next time someone paints employers as a bunch of greedy profiteers.

It is perhaps a blessing that my second year at the helm of AIM comes just as Governor Charlie Baker initiates a deliberate, four-phase plan to re-open the Massachusetts economy. Both events remind us that our guiding principal moving forward must be that economic growth remains the only effective method of achieving the social equity that makes our commonwealth a great place to live and work.