DiZoglio Unveils Comprehensive Small Business “MassMakers” Bill

: From left to right, Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts; State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester); Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen); and Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association.

: From left to right, Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts; State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester); Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen); and Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has unveiled comprehensive new small business legislation, Senate Docket 2812, An Act to support MassMakers.

DiZoglio, who serves as chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, was recently joined at the State House by business leaders as she discussed the details of the MassMakers Act, which has been designed to assist small businesses by recognizing their unique challenges and providing tools to help them succeed.

Among the topics addressed were the establishment of a Massachusetts Main Streets Office, a MassMakers web portal to assist aspiring start-ups and scale-ups, microbusinesses, and the empowerment of the state’s Supplier Diversity Office.

The introduction of the MassMakers Act comes on the heels of listening tours that DiZoglio has hosted over course of this session to hear the concerns of the small business community in Massachusetts.

“The importance of a healthy small business economy to job creation and growth in Massachusetts cannot be overstated,” said DiZoglio. “This bill is the culmination of a year’s worth of dialogue with entrepreneurs, business owners, and business and community leaders. They have told us what they need – increased connectivity, streamlined regulation and service delivery, access to knowledge and opportunity, and empowerment to succeed. This bill is a big step in the right direction regarding these topics.”

Created through the MassMakers Act is a Supply Mass/Buy Mass interactive network that connects Massachusetts businesses shopping for supplies and services with other MA businesses who provide those goods and services – making it easier to shop local.

The bill creates a MassMade designation to bolster recognition of those businesses that produce or manufacture within the Commonwealth. Recognition is the first step in promoting awareness of the beneficial ripple effect that shopping local has throughout Massachusetts cities and towns.

Under this bill, Small Business Saturday will become Friday, Saturday & Sunday to expand awareness & opportunities to shop local over the holidays. Alongside this effort, the Office of Business Development is directed to develop, evaluate and recommend other policies that will encourage keeping consumer dollars close to home.

Another provision in the bill establishes an office of Mass Main Streets to oversee coordination, promotion and revitalization of downtowns and commercial districts by connecting resources across municipal lines. Every state in the U.S. has an office of main streets. It’s time Massachusetts fills this gap in serving our small business community.

“It should be a priority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to protect, promote and preserve Main Streets in 351 cities and towns across the state,” said Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Main Streets were born in New England, as was the concept of Main Streets state offices to work with local non-profits and the national office of the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Yet Massachusetts hasn’t had an office or focus since the 1980s to properly work with national and local campaigns. It’s hard work to keep our Main Streets viable in the age of the smartphone and it’s time to make it a priority for our future generations.”

“When I was growing up, my father owned and operated a small wholesale and retail chocolate business, and I saw firsthand the challenges that small business owners face in starting and running their businesses,” said State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “Small businesses need our support because they lead the way in revitalizing our downtowns and invigorating our local economies. I’m excited to support the MassMakers Act, and pleased that the bill includes legislation that I filed to create the Massachusetts Office of Main Streets, which will coordinate local, state and federal efforts to support and promote our local downtowns.”

The MassMakers Act creates a MassMakers Portal, a one-stop shop interactive web portal for aspiring and established businesses in the Commonwealth. Conceptually modeled after the successful Haverhill Business Portal, the goal of the MassMakers Portal is to provide a single entry pathway from aspiration to realization, whether the dream is to start a new business or to take the next step and scale up an existing business.

“What I love about this legislation is how it aligns with what is happening in conversations at the local level, both publicly and privately,” said Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. “There are states all over the country coming into our markets to try and take our business. This legislation goes right to the heart of problems impacting us and supporting local businesses when they need it the most.”

“Small businesses provide vibrancy and financial stability for our communities,” said Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association. “Having a one-stop portal will provide them an opportunity to locate all of the info they need in an easy and understandable manner.”

Currently, a review of the impact of rules and regulations on small businesses is only required of state agencies once every 12 years. Less than 40% of small businesses survive past 10 years, however. It’s imperative that these reviews are conducted in a timely fashion to see what’s working and what’s not to assist small businesses. The MassMakers Act synchronizes the impact review with the development of the economic development policy required during the first year of each new administration so that the review can inform the governor’s economic plan.

Also created under the legislation is the H⇧RE MASS program to give students and adult professionals with valuable trade skills the knowledge they need to start their own businesses. H⇧RE MASS would provide mentorship and create real, tangible pathways to success. A complement to the existing MassHire program which connects businesses with potential employees, H⇧RE MASS takes employees and connects them with the opportunity to become employers.

The MassMakers Act also defines the term “microbusiness” – the smallest of our small businesses – and charges the Office of Business Development and others to examine micro-lending for microbusinesses to promote increased opportunities for access to seed money and ongoing capital. Small businesses can employ hundreds and still be considered small businesses in MA. Microbusinesses operate more like mom and pop shops and they need special considerations and their own designation if we are to create opportunities specific to their success.

The MassMakers Act also seeks to empower the state’s Supplier Diversity Office – which is tasked with promoting minority, women and veteran-owned businesses but has struggled in recent years due to inadequate funding and staffing – to fulfill its mission by reinstating it as its own agency under Housing and Economic Development. The MassMakers Act further reaffirms the state’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by incorporating diversity and inclusion plan requirements in government contracts for goods and services similar to the current Massport Model.

Haverhill’s Hartell Johnson Honored at State House

Hartell Johnson 2

In honor of Black History Month and the Commonwealth’s commemoration of the work of prominent African Americans in Massachusetts, state legislators recently nominated local advocates, community leaders and business members for recognition during Black Excellence on the Hill Day.

Hartell Johnson of Haverhill was nominated by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) for the occasion, in honor of her work in the Merrimack Valley.

A former vice president and current member of the Greater Haverhill League of Women Voters, Johnson has served on the City of Haverhill Cultural Council and Community Affairs Advisory Boards and, for more than a decade, has worked as a business analyst at Fresenius Medical Care. She was a candidate for Haverhill City Council in 2017 and is on the board of directors at Haverhill’s Zinnia Montessori School.

“Hartell embodies so much of what makes the Merrimack Valley and its communities great,” said DiZoglio. “An unwavering advocate for stronger educational opportunities for students, improved economic development and enhancing cultural affairs, she is a true force for positive change in the City of Haverhill.”