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Local GOP host Jobs Forum for region

Date: 10/12/2011

Oct. 12, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — Saying “Tonight we want to be your ears whatever you think is helpful for us to take back to Boston we will,” State Rep. Donald Humason Jr. welcomed more than 20 small business owners to the Republican Caucus’ Jobs Forum at the Agawam Senior Center on Sept. 26.

The purpose of the gathering, one of a dozen such meetings slated to take place across the state through the end of October, was for GOP legislators to take the pulse of small business in Massachusetts.

State Reps. Nicholas Boldyga of Southwick and Todd Smola of Palmer joined Humason for the forum, which also featured a business panel of West of the River Chamber of Commerce (WRC) members Jason Freeman, park president, Six Flags New England, and Ken Vincunas of Development Associates.

“It was a proactive initiative by the Republican Party and the West of the River Chamber of Commerce was happy to help bring business owners and managers to the table for the discussion,” Tamara Frickle, executive director for the WRC, told Reminder Publications.

Freeman and Vincunas broke the ice by discussing various difficulties that their respective businesses have encountered, including changes in the minimum wage scale and health and safety rulings for amusement parks to the prevalence of endangered species protections and the impact on small business development in the Bay State.

Audience members broached other business difficulties, ranging from fired employees who were caught stealing still being able to obtain unemployment compen-sation to changes in how contract employees are classified by the state to the need for small businesses to hire legal and accounting help in order to wade through the forms necessary to comply with state regulations.

Remo Pizzichemi, vice president of the Welcome Group Inc, which operates the West Springfield Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Springfield/Enfield, which is in the process of signing a contract allowing solar panels on the grounds of one of its properties, applauded the state’s pro-solar environment, but also highlighted how adjustments to current regulations might encourage even more solar development in the state.

“I thought it was very successful,” Boldyga said. “We had a couple of great WRC members on our panel ... and a good showing of people from various industries.”

He said he and his fellow representatives sympathized with the frustrations of many business owners, especially those that involved the processing of documents to comply with state regulations for small businesses.

“As a legislature we aren’t going to create jobs, we need to get out of [small business’] way,” Boldyga said, adding that one idea that had already come out of the Agawam Jobs Forum was the possibility of creating a packet of essential forms that all small business owners need to fill out, streamlining the compliance process so businesses could “hire people and then let them take care of their families.”

He said he, Humason and Smola were in the process of compiling all the other comments made by small business owners that evening so they could share them with fellow GOP party members later this month.

The overall goal of the statewide forums, he added, is to “put together a package of what the overwhelming consensus of what we need to assist small businesses to succeed and thrive” in Massachusetts.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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