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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

Customers say they want an indoor vax mandate too

We’re fed up with surge after surge after surge.
That’s at least partly why I believe, nearly three out of four of our chamber members (71 percent) told us this week that they’d support a vaccine mandate similar to the one about to begin in Boston for indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment.
With talent in such short supply, many employers were reluctant to impose their own vaccine requirements in 2021.
But Omicron seems to have been the tipping point for many.
Just as with our hospitalsschoolsairlines and nursing homes, our small businesses are getting hammered by high absentee rates.
Now it's not only hard to find new applicants, but many on your current team are home sick or quarantined.
And as much as most businesses dislike government mandates -- and as much as some worry that a vax mandate will hurt their ability to hire and retain workers -- it appears that more of our employers are open to using any tool available that might finally help put COVID in the rearview mirror.
It's important to repeat this
As I mentioned yesterday, as much as many of our businesses now seem to support vax mandates they also want rules that are consistent across municipal lines, not different from community to community. (Same with mask mandates.)
Business owners and employees are also very concerned about being asked to enforce these mandates -- especially given how hostile some customers are already.
Finally, Massachusetts needs a vaccine passport system as exists in other parts of the country and world, something Gov. Charlie Baker said was "in the works" back in November.
Our customers want an indoor vax mandate too
A statewide poll also released yesterday from the MassINC Polling Group suggests most consumers are supportive of vax mandates too.
Sixty-nine percent of those polled in December said they would feel “very” or “somewhat” safe dining indoors at a restaurant with a vaccine mandate in place, up from 59 percent without one, writes MassINC Polling Research Director Maeve Duggan in CommonWealth.
Half of those who are boosted (and in our Charles River Chamber communities that's most residents) would feel safe going to a movie, concert, or theater under a vaccine mandate, compared with 36 percent who would feel safe without a mandate in place.
Nearly two-thirds of voters overall (65 percent) also support reinstating a statewide indoor mask mandate (which exists in Newton and Watertown, but not Needham or Wellesley).
“Voters in Boston and the inner suburbs are open to the changes,” Dugan concludes. “A majority already support proof of vaccination for employees (73 percent) and for customers at stores and restaurants (65 percent).
"Support for customer proof of vaccination dips in Western and Central Massachusetts (50 percent) along with the Southeast region of the state (44 percent)."
National Lumber sold to Dallas company
After 87 years as an independent, family-owned company, National Lumber has been acquired by Builders FirstSource, Inc., the Dallas-based building products supplier announced.
National Lumber operates 19 facilities, including in Newton and Needham, and employs more than 700 people across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“Following 87 years as a family-owned company, we are excited about our future with BFS, the biggest, and more importantly, the best supplier of building materials to professionals in the country,” Steven Kaitz, National Lumber Co-CEO said in a statement.
“My sister, Margie, and I have been stewards for over 45 years of a business built by our grandfather, dad, uncle and now our dedicated employees, who will get to share in our continued success.”
National Lumber President Manny Pina, along with other key members of senior leadership, will continue their tenures managing local operations following the acquisition.
Wellesley office park has new owner too
 The Wellesley Executive Office Park at 70 Walnut Street has changed hands for $36.6 million, according to the Real Reporter
Nelson Cos. sold to a joint venture featuring Lincoln Property Co. that is reportedly planning to reposition the four stand-alone buildings (130,000-sf in total) into a modern, first-class medical/office campus.  
The pandemic continues, but these things have expired
Several emergency COVID-19 measures that were put in place during the pandemic expired last month, including: 
  • Remote notarizations
  • Remote proceedings of Public Corporations and Charitable and Non-Profit Corporations (where not prohibited by internal bylaws)
  • Reverse mortgage counseling
The pandemic continues, and these things will soon expire (unless government acts)
 In addition, several additional COVID-19 measures are set to expire in the spring unless the Legislature acts, including: 
  • Remote participation through open meeting law. Expires April 1.
  • Outdoor Dining. Expires April 1.  Municipalities retain authority locally to issue, suspend, or terminate such permits.
  • To-Go Cocktails/Drinks (i.e. wine, beer, mixed drinks, etc.) for off-premise consumption. Expires May 1.
 Another reason why hiring is so hard these days 
Massachusetts ranks near the top of the list of states people are leaving the fastest, and near the bottom of those people are moving into.
The United Van Lines' annual national movers study ranked Massachusetts No. 7 on its list of top outbound states, up from No. 8 the year before. And U-Haul’s movers study ranked Massachusetts ranked No. 47 for inbound migration in 2021, the same ranking as in 2020.
The BBJ published a good editorial this week exploring the causes and what needs to be done to reverse this trend.
Is your company looking to step up its DEI efforts?
The chamber has formed an affinity group for owners and managers looking to explore ways to make their workplaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Each month, this group will get together to discuss best practices and challenges relative to hiring, staff development, purchasing, customer service or other matters through a DEI commitment.
It's open to chamber member owners and managers at businesses or nonprofits with ten or more employees and we have a few openings right now for additional participants.
The next monthly virtual meeting is Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. Contact me if you meet the criteria and are interested in learning more.
Other need to knows 
  • Needham's Board of Health now requires the use of high quality (surgical grade or better) masks by both staff members and patrons in select locations where priority or high risk populations gather. (You can sign up for updates in general from Needham here.) 
  • The number of women CEOs doubled in the first half of 2021, according to a new global study (BizWomen
  • Gas prices are up. And so are the standard mileage rates set by the IRS to calculate the deductible costs of using a car for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes (BBJ
  • The Metropolitan Area Planning Council will share strategies to help cities and towns to revitalize strip malls in a virtual event on Jan. 11 at 2:30 p.m. Register 
Do you prefer half-full or half-empty?
Business owners hoping for another round of federal COVID relief may have felt optimistic after reading a Washington Post article Wednesday saying a bipartisan group of Senators were collaborating on a package of billions in grants for businesses, including restaurants, performance venues, gyms and even minor league sports teams. 
But not so if they saw the CNN report the same day saying those talks have stalled, with no legislation resulting from those early discussions and a lack of support from the White House for another round of spending, with one possible exception, according to Bisnow.
“There might be something small for restaurants,” a senior official in the Biden administration told CNN. “But the economy is booming, there are millions of open jobs, and we do not believe people should be sitting at home if they are vaccinated and boosted, as most adults are.” 
Meanwhile our cities, towns and the state are sitting on significant amounts of ARPA dollars that could really help now but, from business operators' point of view, are taking too long to get out the door.
That’s today’s Need to Knows, unless you need to know about the company that created a toilet seat that’s also a heart monitor.

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