Unleash Our Jobs Potential
Imagine if three remarkable Massachusetts innovations created the potential to significantly boost the state economy over the next four years:
• Two undergraduates devise an algorithm that generates a worldwide market for high-value software available over the Internet, much like the invention of Facebook did.
• Taking a cue from his daughter's toy, a chemist develops a high-tensile strength micro-fiber with a "twisty-fuzzy" surface capable of holding and reinforcing dissimilar materials in totally new ways. It leads to a revolution in medical, packaging, and structural materials.
• A biologist inkjets and laminates onto an improved plastic wrap a complex soup consisting of new cells cultured from her skin, generic growth hormones, and off-the-shelf biologics, then grafts the results directly onto her forearm, thereby generating a groundbreaking treatment for major burn wounds.
Today, investors in these three breakthroughs would insist that the innovators move the new businesses that grow out of their ideas to another state. Governor-elect Charlie Baker's challenge is to work with the Legislature to make it easier for entrepreneurs to succeed right here in Massachusetts.
The commonwealth Mr. Baker is about to lead has the ingredients necessary for exploding job growth. A Northeastern University study and state and federal labor statistics reveal a huge labor surplus; and our workforce is the most innovative, flexible, hardworking and educated in the world.
But a thin tissue of little-known rules, laws and taxes that forbid project-based problem solving, and suppress hiring, start-ups and self-employment in many fields creates a barrier between these ready resources and innovators like the under-grads, the chemist and the biologist.
The governor-elect's top job-growth priorities should be to take six steps that would yield nearly 400,000 new jobs:
• Reviving self-employment in service occupations by relaxing the commonwealth's harsh independent contractor law to allow individuals to be self-employed doing project work under contract to firms anywhere, in any field, would create more than 300,000 jobs and job openings over four years.
• Removing Massachusetts from the list of just nine states that levy an inventory tax and eliminating the minimum corporate excise and net-worth corporate tax would open up middle-class employment in manufacturing, distribution, and retailing and create 56,400 new jobs.
• Relaxing site restrictions that often prevent new restaurants from opening in areas without municipal wastewater facilities would create 38,000 new jobs.
• Allowing 90-day permitting for real estate development and doubling the height restriction currently imposed by zoning so buildings can be built to serve a growing economy.
• Asking the commonwealth's congressional delegation to vote to abolish the Affordable Care Act's medical device tax, which has suppressed hiring in an industry that had been growing rapidly in Massachusetts.
• Streamlining employer compliance with state regulations and filings by moving to single-point-of-contact filing requirements for taxes, fees, reporting and compliance. This would reduce the so-called "time tax" on entrepreneurs and corporations and allow them to devote more resources to growth and job creation.
Enacting these changes won't be easy. But the sooner they're done, the sooner we can generate jobs from which all Massachusetts voters would benefit and the sooner the undergrads, the chemist, the biologist and tens of thousands of other Massachusetts innovators like them could hire, grow, pay taxes and, most importantly, thrive right here in Massachusetts.
Mike Hruby is president of New Jobs for Massachusetts, a public policy advocate for rapid growth in private sector employment in Massachusetts.