Bret Bero on the Issues
This election is not about what has happened over the past 8 years; rather, it is about our vision for the future. A vision grounded in the economic reality of the disruptive change that has occurred because of COVID, the change that is coming because of future disruptions such as climate change, and the recognition that Massachusetts can do better.
Small Business and the Economy
I am running for Lieutenant Governor to be a champion for small business, which is vitally important to our economy and communities. Small businesses make up 99% of all businesses in Massachusetts and employ nearly half of the workforce. They also tend to create local jobs, source materials locally, and have a positive impact on the character of our neighborhoods and towns. We can and must do better to ensure that our small business entrepreneurs, owners, and employees are supported in their efforts to start a business, and to help ensure that those businesses thrive.
So, how do we accomplish this? Different areas of the Commonwealth will have distinctly different business models, whether seasonal businesses on Cape Cod and the Berkshires, small manufacturing companies in central Massachusetts, or technology and Life Science businesses in Cambridge. The distinct business needs of those different businesses cannot be met by a “one size fits all” program. Our State must recognize and respond with policies and programs that met the unique challenges that those businesses face.
Yet, there are also certain fundamental truths that impact all start-ups. First, someone must have a business idea, and create a business plan that documents a path forward. Unfortunately, although the cost to do this is small, often just $5,000, many do not have the means to turn their ideas into a plan. And without a plan, there can be no funding, and with no funding, there is no business. So, Massachusetts and the successful financial services industry that exists within the State must develop a private/public partnership to provide grants to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Second, we must provide small businesses access to capital that can be used not only for capital investments in hard assets like a factory and equipment, but capital that is flexible and can be used to impact operating budgets such as the hiring and retention of qualified employees. As of July 2021, many businesses have assets that are idle because they cannot find the workers they need to use those assets. State government must understand the underlying business problem that are paramount and develop programs that respond to those specific needs if those programs are to be successful.
Third, most start-ups fail within the first few years of their existence. We have to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and help small businesses build a support network that goes beyond the challenging first and second years so that they are able to survive and thrive, even in the face of economic disruption. This ongoing help is not just “throwing money at the problem;” rather, it can be using the assets of the State, such as faculty at our public colleges and universities, AND the skills of our retired financial services and business executives to deploy the expertise and experience of our citizens in a public/private enterprise designed to support businesses during their formative years. Let’s drawn on the “lessons learned” from the State’s successful Venture Capital experience that has found that it is often the operating expertise, not the access to capital, that is critical to business success.
Fourth and finally, small businesses must have a seat at the table as we address all the issues that are impacting their ability to thrive—climate change, housing, transportation, education and childcare.
Addressing Climate Change
Climate change is an existential threat. We must be willing to address this issue at the international and national level if we are to reverse the potentially devastating impacts. However, we can do our part locally. Specifically, we can demonstrate the viability of offshore wind. By developing this important industry, we will provide low-cost renewable energy to businesses and homes, but also boost our economy by establishing Massachusetts as the national center of excellence for this nascent industry. Longer term, as the State, nation, and world moves from fossil fuels to renewable energy, our vocational high schools and community colleges can provide the technical expertise and certification necessary for the creation and support for HVAC businesses focused on converting home heating systems from existing gas/oil burners to the new alternative energy systems required to combat climate change. We must also further develop our public transportation infrastructure to provide fast, reliable, and affordable inter-city transportation options that take cars off the road and decrease carbon output. In short, our response to climate change must encompass the entire business “supply chain” when we get serious about addressing the disruptive change most recognize is coming. And, Massachusetts should be a leader in the expanded alternative energy industry when the dust settles on this necessary disruptive change.
The cost of housing in Massachusetts is becoming prohibitive, not just for low-income individuals and families but for the middle class as well. The percentage of income being spent on housing is limiting many family’s ability to set aside money for their children’s education, for retirement, or just to have a cushion of savings. Massachusetts, eastern Massachusetts in particular, cannot be a place where just the wealthy can afford to live. We must examine existing programs as well as develop new programs that will help Bay Staters secure quality and affordable housing. And affordable housing must be introduced in a way that is not just one dimensional—once housing is built, infrastructure and education needs will quickly follow.
Massachusetts is an economic and innovation leader in the world in large part because of the quality of our workforce. While we should be proud of the scientists and engineers our schools produce, we must also ensure that everyone has an education that allows them to enter a career that will provide both financial stability and intrinsic self-worth. We must ensure that all of our students are receiving a quality education, regardless of what zip code we live in. We must keep the UMass and state university system within reach for our college bound students. And we must recognize and value that not everyone wants to pursue a 4 year degree in liberal arts. So, we must do better by our community colleges, which can provide vocational training and certification for talented students who choose this path. Finally, COVID has clearly created change in how pre-K through 12 education can be delivered. Yet not all communities can respond to the expanded technology and space needs, nor has the State recognized the changing demands placed upon our educators to create the new learning methods and models that will enable Massachusetts to remain a leader in education.
Healthcare is a right not a privilege. But even today after Massachusetts instituted universal healthcare and Obamacare became the law of the land, quality and affordable healthcare is out of reach for too many people. The solution to the problem is to begin to move to a single payer system like Medicare for All. Medicare for all will not only ensure access to quality and affordable healthcare for every American, but it also takes the onus off businesses to provide it and pay for it. The funds businesses previously budgeted for healthcare could instead be used to increase wages for workers.
I believe the next challenge for us is childcare. Today, most two parent households, both parents work outside of the home. And for single parent households, there is not even a choice. Yet the cost of childcare is prohibitive, and in most cities and towns scarce. If we want to support working families we have to tackle this issue and develop accessible, quality, and affordable childcare that helps children and their families thrive.
I believe that every member of the LGBTQ+ community should have the freedom to live their true lives proudly, with full equality, and with full protection under the law. In spite of so many advances in the battle for equality, there remain efforts to limit LGBTQ+ rights in state houses across our country. I am proud that Massachusetts has been a leader in recognizing LGBTQ+ rights, but even here there is more we can do. Tolerance is not enough — we must be vociferous in our support for equality and strive to promote the talents, skills, creativity and intelligence that all of our citizens have to offer — because equality is about more than just accepting diversity, it’s about promoting diversity and recognizing that we are stronger as a Commonwealth and a country when we embrace it. Society is richer when we recognize and appreciate all our bothers and sisters, and love them for whom they are.