MassEcon Annual Conference Highlights Massachusetts within a Global Economy

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Caption: Michael Dolega, Director and Senior Economist at TD Economics and panelists.  Photo Credit: Janet Stearns.

More than 130 leaders from across Massachusetts gathered at the Newton Marriott Hotel in early June for the 2016 MassEcon Annual Conference, whose theme was Connecting Massachusetts to the Global Economy. An informative and insightful conversation took place that assessed the state’s current and future outlook for success in a globally connected world.

Featured speaker Michael Dolega, Director and Senior Economist at TD Economics, made these observations pertaining to the state’s economy in the global context including:

• Massachusetts stands to benefit from high value-add goods exports in the high-tech, health care, machinery, and chemical markets, due to strong human capital and intellectual property protections.

• Massachusetts is well positioned to gain from persistent expansion in service exports which has doubled in value nationally since 2005 and accounted for $25 billion in Massachusetts last year.

• Current free trade agreements cover 31% of Massachusetts goods exports, but pending deals such as the TPP and TTIP, this share could increase by 33%, removing sizeable tariffs that make Massachusetts products more expensive and less competitive.

Following the presentation, Dolega was joined by moderator Curt Nickisch (Senior Editor at the Harvard Business Review) and panelists Lorraine Attridge (Fast Trak Leader at GE Healthcare Life Sciences), Colin Gillespie (President of LEGO Education North America), Charles Gray (Vice President and General Counsel at Teradyne), and Paula Murphy (Founder and Director at the Massachusetts Export Center), for further discussion and Q&A with audience members. The dialogue covered a variety of topics ranging from doing business with Iran to the impact of the current election cycle to the significance of non-compete clauses.

The panelists emphasized the many strengths of the Massachusetts economy, including:

• World renowned education institutions which consistently produce high caliber talent

• Openness to foreign leaders, workers, and businesses

• Innovative environment

• Recent increase in direct international flights to and from Logan International Airport in Boston

The panelists also highlighted areas of improvement for the state, including further investment to modernize the infrastructure; additional encouragement to mid and small sized companies to establish headquarters in the state; and ensuring that protectionist regulations regarding employees do not obstruct the Commonwealth’s continuous goal of becoming a world class economy.

During the Q&A, Dan Griggs, a TD Bank Market President, raised the issue of non-compete clauses and their impact on business. In response, Charles Gray disagreed with those who cite the presence of non-competes (agreements that prevent employees from using information gained from employment to establish a competing business effort) as a reason for business success. Gray referenced, that in large part, the impact of non-competes depends on the individual market, which can mitigate their overall impact.

In addition, Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI) Executive Director Mark Sullivan conveyed to the audience the role his office could play in helping connect Massachusetts businesses to the global economy. Sullivan also emphasized the availability and attractiveness of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities, offering his office’s assistance to any individuals or companies interested in exploring the opportunities in these locations.

Thank you to all who attended the 2016 MassEcon Annual Conference, and a special thank you to our featured speaker, panelists, moderator and sponsor TD Bank.