New England Council

James T. Brett: New England needs approval of new NAFTA



While the U.S. economy continues to show steady signs of growth, there is considerable concern in the business community about current U.S. trade policies and their potential to stunt that growth. And rightly so – with 95% of the world’s consumers located outside of the U.S., it is critical that we have policies in place to promote international trade and expand access to foreign markets for American businesses.

Fortunately, our leaders in Congress have the opportunity to take an important step to bolster U.S. exports and drive continued economic growth by approving the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed earlier this year. Approval of this agreement is of particular consequence here in New England, where two of our region’s top trade partners are our neighbors to the north and south.

The USMCA makes critical updates to modernize the previous trade pact between our three nations – the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

NAFTA, which was approved and has been in place since 1994, was written before many of the digital technologies that drive our 21st century global economy, such as cloud computing and online commerce, even existed. The USMCA includes important provisions to address such topics as cross-border data flow and data localization, and takes key steps to protect U.S. intellectual property.

The importance of trade with Canada and Mexico to the New England economy cannot be overstated. Canada is a top-three trade partner for all six New England states, and Mexico is in the top 10 for five of the six states in the region.

Exports from the six New England states to Canada and Mexico totaled nearly $13 billion in 2018 alone. That includes $420 million in exports from New Hampshire alone. Some of the top exports from the Granite State include computer and electronic products, machinery and transportation equipment.

At the same time, trade with our North American neighbors supported over 600,000 jobs in New England in 2017, including nearly 55,000 jobs in New Hampshire.

Some members of Congress have expressed reservations about the USMCA, particularly on such issues as labor and environmental protections, patent exclusivity for certain medicines and enforcement mechanisms.

While the business community appreciates these concerns, walking away from the USMCA because of them would be, simply put, disastrous.

Fortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the initiative to establish a working group to negotiate with Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, to address these concerns. Several New Englanders – House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts as well as Connecticut Representatives Rosa DeLauro and John Larson – have been named to this nine-member group, so our region’s interests are certainly well-represented, and we are confident that the working group will reach a satisfactory resolution.

In our 21st Century global economy, access to foreign markets is vital to the success of American businesses. It is imperative, therefore, that the U.S. continue to maintain and expand trade relationship with key partners around the globe, and in particular, with our immediate neighbors here in North America. The New England Council is hopeful that Congress will consider the impact trade with Canada and Mexico on our nation’s economic well-being, and will take swift action to approve this important trade deal.

James T. Brett is the president and CEO of The New England Council, a non-partisan alliance of businesses and organizations.

New England Council pushes post-NAFTA agreement

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is a neoclassical building that straddles the international border in Rock Island, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont.

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is a neoclassical building that straddles the international border in Rock Island, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont.

This is from The New England Council (

“The New England Council is calling on Congress to approve the US-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA), a free trade agreement that makes critical updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In a letter sent on June 10, 2019, to members of the region’s House and Senate delegations, the Council stressed the importance of free trade with these two key trade partners for the region’s continued economic growth.

“Canada and Mexico are two of New England’s top trading partners, and it is vital to our region’s economic wellbeing that we continue to have free trade with our neighbors to the north and south,” said James T. Brett, President and CEO of The New England Council. “We have heard from Council members throughout the region, representing a wide array of industries, that they support the USMCA and the important updates it makes to NAFTA by addressing such issues as digital commerce and intellectual property protection. We are hopeful that Congress will take action to approve the agreement in the near future.”

In its letter, the Council noted that Canada is a top export market for New England businesses, with nearly $8.8 billion in goods exported in 2018 alone, plus another $3.3. billion in services exported. The letter also noted that and that more than 430,000 jobs in New England rely on trade and investment with Canada. With regard to Mexico, the Council noted in its letter that exports from the six New England states to Mexico totaled nearly $4.2 billion in 2018, and in five states Mexico is a “top ten” goods export market. The Council expressed its belief that these numbers will only be bolstered by the USMCA, as the U.S. International Trade Commission recently estimated the agreement will increase U.S. national employment by upwards of 176,000 jobs and raise U.S. real GDP by $68.2 billion.

The USMCA was signed by the three nations on November 30, 2018, following months of negotiations. On May 30, 2019, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to Congressional leaders to begin the approval process and allow for the President to send the agreement to Congress within 30 days.

The New England Council has a long history of support for free trade. In recent years, the Council endorsed legislation to allow for Trade Promotion Authority, supported free trade agreements with such nations as South Korea, Panama, and Columbia, and called for multi-lateral trade agreements with important trade partners in Europe and Asia.’’

New England in the Arctic


Via The New England Council (

“The University of New England (UNE) and New England law firm of Verrill Dana LLC are partnering to host the first Arctic Investment Conference in New England. This day-long event will give participants an overview of the North Atlantic and Arctic investment landscapes. The conference will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Innovation Hall, University of New England, Stevens Avenue, in Portland, Maine.

“The conference will explore how technologies developed to solve problems and promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the North Atlantic and Arctic are creating potential investment opportunities in New England. Additionally, participants will learn about key actors and how they work across sectors, models for cross sector collaboration, and the proper scale for investment.

“The NEC congratulates UNE and Verill Dana for its success in organizing the first Arctic Investment Conference in New England, and for promoting partnerships between private enterprise and the stakeholders who are working to address climate change.’’

Boston reveals social-investing program

Boston’s Back Bay section as seen from across the Charles River.

Boston’s Back Bay section as seen from across the Charles River.

From The New England Council (

“The City of Boston has revealed a plan to invest in companies with strong environmental, social, governance (ESG) practices. Under the new policy, the city will invest up to $150 million of its operating funds in fixed-income securities of socially responsible companies.

Boston will make these investments by partnering with the Ceres Investor network, a sustainability nonprofit headquartered in Boston. Ceres uses its advocates using its investor network to address challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, pollution, and human rights abuses. Beyond investing in socially responsible companies, the city will pursue a “Community Bank Investment Initiative,” where the city will commit at least $100 million to Boston’s community banks and local financial institutions.

Boston’s Chief Financial Officer Emme Handy said, ‘This policy allows us to – while we are providing those critical core municipal services – build on that to support other valuable ESG businesses in our community banks. . . And we think it’s a great way to leverage our taxpayer dollars in a new way that supports the values of the city of Boston.”’

UMass Boston to lease Accordia space for mixed-use development

View of part of the UMass Boston campus, which is on Boston Harbor.

View of part of the UMass Boston campus, which is on Boston Harbor.

This is from The New England Council (

“UMass Boston announced that its board of trustees and building authority have unanimously agreed to lease the Bayside Expo Center site to Accordia Partners. This deal will see the 20-acre site developed into 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use space.

“At $235 million, the partnership between UMass Boston and Accordia Partners will provide funding for the school as well as the opportunity to develop the space. The university will engage its community to determine the priorities for the development of the site. The space will include academic, life-science, residential, and retail space, and will create public access to the waterfront.

“Interim Chancellor Katherine Newton said, ‘Part of what I hope we can do is to see what kinds of industries arrive at Bayside and then build academically toward them, so that there’s a natural bridge between our students, faculty and those industries. . . We’re not going to make any decisions right now about what’s going to be teed up.”’

2 Maine schools announce new marine-law program

Portland waterfront and skyline.

Portland waterfront and skyline.

This is from The New England Council

“New England Council member the University of New England (UNE), in Biddeford, Maine, has announced a partnership with the University of Maine School of Law (Maine Law), in Portland, that offers marine-science students a faster track to a law degree. This new arrangement will enable students to earn a bachelor’s degree in marine science and a law degree in only six years, one year faster than is typical.

UNE is one of only four schools in the country that offer a bachelor’s degree in marine affairs, while Maine Law is one of six law schools in the country that specialize in marine and maritime law. Under this new arrangement, students can save time and money by enrolling in what will be known as the UNE Marine Affairs – Maine Law 3+3 Pathways Program. This will allow UNE marine affairs students to enroll in Maine Law after their junior year.

James Herbert, president of UNE, said, “Marine affairs is a fast-growing discipline, and law plays an increasingly important role in the field. This partnership between UNE and Maine Law will give strong and highly motivated college applications incentive to come to Maine or stay in Maine for their education and their careers.”

Eversource and Orsted to partner in 2 offshore wind projects


From The New England Council (

Eversource and Ørsted have announced a partnership in two offshore wind projects off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This partnership marks Eversource’s entrance into offshore wind energy.

Eversource is purchasing a 50 percent stake in two projects being developed by Ørsted — the Revolution Wind and South Fork Wind Farm. In addition to the wind projects themselves, the wind-power industry and state governments have committed to investing in the State Pier in New London, Conn., which will be used as a transit point for turbines and parts. The Revolution Wind partnership will deliver enough energy to power 420,000 homes and businesses in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The South Fork Wind Farm will provide electricity for more than 70,000 homes on eastern Long Island.

Executive Vice President of Enterprise Energy Strategy at Eversource Lee Olivier, commenting on on wind energy, said “We think it’s the future in this region. . . We think when you look at the proximity where much of offshore wind will be developed, it’s a good opportunity to bring the future into New London. It’s a real advantage for developing wind in the Northeast.”

“We are excited to have Eversource join us as we embark on the creation of the strongest U.S. offshore wind platform,” added Thomas Brostrøm, CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and president of Ørsted North America.

The New England Council applauds this new partnership between Eversource and Ørsted, and the impact it will have on expanding access to renewable energy in New England.

UNH School of Law seeks to offer mostly online degree focusing on intellectual-property law

The University of New Hampshire School of Law named its honors program after the great Massachusetts U.S. senator, secretary of state and orator Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire native.

The University of New Hampshire School of Law named its honors program after the great Massachusetts U.S. senator, secretary of state and orator Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire native.

The New England Council ( reports:

The University of New Hampshire School of law, in Concord, recently forayed into the online-education industry. If it gets permission from the American Bar Association, UNH will create the nation’s first specialized law degree.

“If given the approval to proceed, the online law degree from UNH will focus on intellectual property, covering topics from patents and trade secrets to privacy. The degree will take three and a half years to complete, and will likely start in the fall of 2019. The school would require the students to be in Concord only three or four weeks each year, and most classes will be taught online. The hope is that the American Bar Association will make an exception to their rule, which says law degrees can offer at most one third of total credit hours through distance learning, with the rest taking place on campus. Only three of the accredited law schools in the country, including Syracuse University, in New York State, Southwestern University, in Los Angeles, and Mitchell-Hamline University, in Minnesota, have applied for and received approval to offer an online JD degree.

“Dean Megan Carpenter said in a statement that, ‘Intellectual property is a perfect area for this. It is the law of innovation, so we should think about ways to innovate in legal education while teaching it. . . It’s satisfying to use a technology when you’re learning about law that supports that technology.’

“The New England Council congratulates UNH on this exciting new initiative and commends them for working to make law school more accessible.’’

N.E. just got a lot more clout on Capitol Hill


Jim Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council (, says that New England’s congressional clout just got a big boost because Democrats won the House in the mid-terms.

“I would say, today, that our region, our New England congressional delegation is a powerhouse in the new 116th Congress,” Mr. Brett recently told a group in Ipswich.

In New England, all 21 House seats will now be held by Democrats, with the defeat of a Republican in Maine’s Second Congressional District. To read more, including about individual New England congressional movers and shakers, please hit this link.

Holy Cross lauded for Teach for America role

At Holy Cross, Fenwick Lawn, with Commencement Porch of Fenwick Hall in the foreground and the Chapel beyond.

At Holy Cross, Fenwick Lawn, with Commencement Porch of Fenwick Hall in the foreground and the Chapel beyond.

This is from The New England Council (

“The College of the Holy Cross, a Council member, was recently ranked as a ‘Top Contributor’ of graduates to Teach for America programs. In 2018, the small private college in Worcester sent 12 students, making it the second biggest contributor among all small schools in the country.

“Under the Teach for America programs, graduates sign on for two years of teaching in under-served schools across the country. Since the program’s inception in 1990, 212 Holy Cross alumni have participated. This year, 3,600 teachers will be sent to 36 different states, with Holy Cross graduates heading to classrooms in Washington, DC, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Florida.

“Amy Murphy, director of the Center for Career Development at Holy Cross, said, ‘Holy Cross challenges our students to consider the ways they can best use their gifts, talents and passions in service to others. For many of our graduates, that is in our nation’s most under-resourced communities and schools. What’s more, Holy Cross students embody many of the qualifications and traits that Teach for America seeks in candidates: demonstrated leadership skills, high achievement and a commitment to standing in solidarity with those from marginalized or impoverished backgrounds.”’

“The New England Council commends Holy Cross on continuing to foster civically engaged students with a passion for learning and thanks them for their dedication to educating our future leaders.’’

Big Mass. export exposition

From the New England Council (

“On Friday, December 7th, the Massachusetts Export Center will host the Export Expo, the state’s largest and most important export event of the year. The New England Council is proud to once again sponsor the event.

“Attendees will have access to a wide range of export resources, and will also have a chance to learn more about issues impacting day-to-day export operations. Government, non-profit, and private sector export providers will have exhibits featured throughout the event, which will coincide with workshops and roundtable discussions. Amid today’s rapidly-changing global trade environment, including recent and anticipated shifts in U.S. trade policy, the Export Expo will focus heavily on the hot-button issues such as China and tariff policy, tightening foreign investment policy, USMCA and free trade policy, export controls, sanctions, enforcement, and more. The keynote speaker will be Richard Ashooh, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration.

“The expo will run 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the State Transportation Building’s 2nd Floor Conference Center, 10 Park Plaza in Boston. Registration is $45 per person. Click here to learn more and register online.’’

UMass Dartmouth gets state grant toward developing 'blue economy corridor'


This is from The New England Council (

The University of Massachusetts announced that UMass Dartmouth and its SouthCoast Development Partnership received a $300,000, three-year state investment from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The money will go towards the development of a “blue economy corridor.”

The blue economy marks a cross section of marine-related industries, including offshore wind, fishing, aquaculture, watercraft design and marine scientists. The “blue economy corridor” initiative is intended to develop the blue economy supply chain, workforce and higher education research, all while identifying challenges to growth and exports and looking for ways to diversify the regional economy.

Speaking of the three-year plan for the Blue Economy, UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson said that he intends to create a strategic, regional economic plan by first talking to stakeholders and brainstorming about what the region can become. He said, “What we’re doing is laying the foundation on solid ground.”

Greentown Labs given role in promoting American-Made Solar Prize


From The New England Council (

“Greentown Labs was recently selected as one of five organizations that will help grow the American-Made Solar Prize. The Solar Prize was created to facilitate competition to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing and as a Power Connector, Greentown Labs will be awarded $100,000 to ensure the Solar Prize’s success.

Somerville, Mass.-based Greentown Labs, the largest clean-tech incubator in the country, has long dedicated itself to supporting the development of technology that simultaneously provides energy to our growing population while minimizing our impact on the environment. It has cemented itself in the center of the industry, where it can harness the combined power and capabilities of clean-tech startups, innovators, investors and experts. This network allows Greentown Labs to provide immense support to the American-Made Solar Prize and to the American solar industry at large. In May 2019, Greentown Labs will host the ‘Go! Contest’ at the conclusion of the final competition. Along with an array of competitors, the event will feature distinguished judges and stakeholders, to help move the competitors’ innovations forward.

Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said, ‘The American-Made Solar Prize incentivizes the nation’s entrepreneurs to rapidly discover, research, iterate, and bring new solutions to market to expand solar manufacturing in the United States. Our team is working to help startups bring their hardware-focused innovations to market faster through our startup-oriented programming and we’re eager to support more early-stage companies in their solar manufacturing efforts.’

The New England Council congratulates Greentown Labs, a NEC member, on this partnership with the American-Made Solar Prize and commends it for its support of entrepreneurs working to transform the future of energy.

Providence's Urban Innovation Project

On the Woonasquatucket River, in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood.

On the Woonasquatucket River, in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood.

From The New England Council (

“The City of Providence recently announced a partnership with anchor institutions to drive urban innovation. Mayor Jorge O. Elzora explained that this partnership would revitalize two innovation districts in Providence, one in the Jewelry District and another along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, by prioritizing public and private investments in those areas.

Providence’s Urban Innovation Partnership echoes a model embraced by many other cities across the country, where city governments are considering how to thoughtfully partner with local businesses. Officials believe that partnering to grow the economy in Providence in a way that serves the diversity of the city will ensure a collective success. In efforts to advance their vision, the City of Providence has selected Boston-based Venture Café Foundation to serve as “Urban Innovation Districts Maker Incubator Program Manager” to help organize collaboration between various local institutions.

Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza said in his announcement, ‘Through the Urban Innovation Partnership we’re making a commitment to work collaboratively because we know that Providence’s future success requires that our diverse anchor institutions join us at the table. Our city has so many existing resources and strengths and to truly advance them we must work shoulder to shoulder to support innovation and job growth in our capital city.’

Eversource to use drones to monitor infrastructure


From The New England Council (

“Eversource Energy recently announced its plans to begin using drones to conduct inspections of high-voltage infrastructure. Eversource is a Hartford- and Boston-based utilities company that provides electricity for over a million customers throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The energy company intends to implement drones to monitor 100 percent of its power line and electrical infrastructure maintenance. This high-tech solution has many benefits, some of which include minimizing the need for infrared helicopter inspections, cutting down on fossil fuel use, and obtaining a more frequent view of the electrical infrastructure to identify and prevent potential issues. Eversource has been experimenting with drone usage since 2016, but only decided recently to make piloting them routine. As the energy industry becomes increasingly aware of the affordability and practicality of inspection drones, it is likely Eversource will become just one company of many who are taking advantage of this technology.

Carol Burke, Eversource Energy’s manager of transmission line operations in New Hampshire, said, “At first, we really were just targeting specific lines that we knew might have some issues. It worked out great and in the last two years we ended up developing a more formal program. It’s a great way to do an inspection as with very clear, detailed videos and pictures you can see any type of defect, aging or rotting on a structure.”

Harvard pay-parity policy helps bring outside workers into middle class

The Baker Library at the Harvard Business School, which is across the Charles River from Harvard’s main campus.

The Baker Library at the Harvard Business School, which is across the Charles River from Harvard’s main campus.

From The New England Council (

“Harvard University was featured in a New York Times article that profiled one of the university’s food-service employees, Martha Bonilla. At her job preparing breakfast and lunch for executives at Harvard Business School, Ms. Bonilla and other Harvard service employees receive the same pay and benefits as those who are directly employed by the university.

Harvard’s policy requiring parity among service workers and university employees was formally adopted after numerous student-led protests in 2001 demanding better pay for campus workers. Recent research claiming that wage disparity in the US is a product of institutions outsourcing to low-wage contractors further motivates Harvard’s effort to avoid outsourcing and pull workers from the bottom of the labor market into the middle class.

The New England Council commends Harvard University’s efforts toward wage parity and thanks them for their commitment to support hard working serving employees on their campus.’’

To read The Times’s story, please hit this link.

'New Englanders of the Year'

From left, Dunford, Leiden, Mills and Tsongas.

From left, Dunford, Leiden, Mills and Tsongas.

This just in from The New England Council (

"The New England Council is pleased to announce our 2018 New Englanders of the Year.  These four remarkable New Englanders will be honored at our 2018 Annual Dinner on the evening of Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the Seaport Hotel/World Trade Center in Boston.  ....  This year, we will honor three individuals who have made tremendous contributions to our region and our nation:

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council.  Prior to becoming Chairman, in October 2015, he served as the 36th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.  Over the course of his four decades of distinguished service in the Marines, he has served as an infantry officer at all levels and is the first Marine Corps officer to serve in four different four-star positions. General Dunford has served in a variety of key leadership posts, including senior command posts in in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  A native of Boston,  he is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College and holds master’s degrees from both Georgetown University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Leiden is a physician and scientist who, for the last 30 years, has dedicated his career to improving the lives of people with serious diseases. His experience spans all aspects of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.  Under Dr. Leiden’s leadership, Vertex has brought to patients the first and only medicines to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF), and is now developing a medicine that could reach 90 percent of people living with this devastating disease. It is his mission and the basis of the company’s research priorities to bring transformative medicines to people with CF and other serious diseases. Dr. Leiden also cares deeply about inspiring and equipping under-resourced students and young women to become the next generation of scientific leaders. He established a signature program at Vertex to enhance science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) education among Boston students, including an on-site Learning Lab, mentorship programs, internships and college scholarships.

Staff Sergeant (ret) Travis Mills, U.S. Army Veteran and Founder of the Travis Mills Foundation –Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mills, a Maine resident, served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. In April 2012, during his third tour, he was critically injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol, losing portions of both legs and both arms. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and today is an advocate for veterans and amputees. In September 2013, he established the Travis Mills Foundation to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans.  In June 2017, he opened the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat, in Rome, Maine, where war-injured veterans and their families are welcomed for rest and relaxation at no charge.  Sergeant Mills is also the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Tough as They Come.

The Honorable Niki Tsongas, U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Tsongas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, becoming the first woman to represent the Bay State on Capitol Hill in 25 years. She is in her final year representing Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, having announced her retirement in 2017.  Throughout her tenure in Congress, Rep. Tsongas has served on the House Armed Services Committee, where she has been a tremendous advocate for our region’s defense sector and military installations, and has fought tirelessly to support and protect our men and women in uniform.  She has also been on the front lines of developing policies related to domestic energy production, the environment, and our National Park System as a member of the Natural Resources Committee. The Congresswoman is a graduate of Smith College and Boston University School of Law.''

James T. Brett/Michael K. Thomas: A strategy for building a New England pipeline for talent



From the New England Council (


The New England Board of Higher Education Commission on Higher Education & Employability recently released an 18-point strategy to increase the career readiness of graduates of New England colleges and universities and improve their transitions to work.

Chaired by Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, the 50-member commission invested 11 months in public meetings and working-group sessions exploring New England employers’ concerns about a lack of qualified, skilled workers, particularly in rapidly changing, technology-intensive and growth-oriented industries.

In its report, “Learning for Life and Work,” the commission offers a strategic action agenda with key recommendations to align institutions, policymakers and employers.

The commission believes that all postsecondary students must have access to and demonstrate completion of critical employability-related experiences during their postsecondary education, including:

• Foundational skills in literacy, numeracy and communication.

• An individual career plan prepared early in their postsecondary experience.

• At least one paid and/or credit-bearing, work-integrated learning experience.

• Achievement of digital competencies related to their course of study, career goals and the fast-changing economy.

• Attainment of an affordable credential that is employer-informed and aligned to a career pathway.

The commission also recommends that the New England states should collaborate to launch multistate, industry-specific, talent-pipeline partnerships focused on top growth-oriented sectors in the states and region (including health care, life and biosciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing and financial services), and driven by key stakeholders from higher education, industry and government.

As a regional business association, The New England Council brings together employers across a range of industries with colleges and universities to foster partnership that will help develop a talent pipeline in our region. The council has promoted internships, apprenticeships and other partnerships where employers ensure that students are being educated in up-to-date industry practices that will prepare them to contribute to the regional workforce. The council has also advocated for public policy that will support and enhance experiential-learning opportunities for students at various levels of education.

Talent is already one of the biggest reasons that companies choose New England. Building upon the world-class strength of our institutions and human capital will confirm that this reputation is long-lasting and indisputable.

Working together, we can ensure that New England will have a future as a hub for cutting-edge technology, innovative entrepreneurship and career-ready graduates prepared to tackle the economic and civic challenges that lay ahead for us all.

James T. Brett is president and CEO of The New England Council and a member of the NEBHE Commission on Higher Education & Employability. Michael K. Thomas is the president and CEO of NEBHE and executive director of the commission.

James T. Brett: New England has benefited greatly from NAFTA

The Canada Border Inspection Station at Stanstead, Quebec, just across the border from Derby Line, Vt.

The Canada Border Inspection Station at Stanstead, Quebec, just across the border from Derby Line, Vt.

From The New England Council (

Over the past 18 months, we have seen a marked shift in U.S. trade policy. Soon after taking office, President Trump made good on his campaign promise and announced that the U.S. would seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA,) a multilateral agreement with Canada and Mexico that was put into effect in 1994. In more recent months—amid reports that NAFTA talks have grown contentious and that the U.S. is considering withdrawing altogether — the administration announced tariffs on certain imports that directly affect our neighbors to the immediate north and south.

Canada and Mexico are not only important allies, they are significant economic partners for the U.S., and for the New England states in particular. As the voice of the region’s business community, The New England Council believes it is of critical importance that the U.S. continue to work toward a modernized NAFTA, and that the administration should reconsider the tariffs against our partners in Canada and Mexico.

The impact of trade with Canada and Mexico on the New England economy cannot be understated. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Canada is the premier goods export market for businesses in five of the six New England states — in the sixth state, it is the second-largest market — representing more than $8.3 billion in exports in 2017 alone. Canada estimates that in 2017, service exports from our six states totaled nearly $3.3 billion. Mexico is also a top trade partner for our region, with three states counting our southern neighbor as their second- or third-ranking export market for goods. The region exported $4.4 billion worth of goods to Mexico in 2017, and remains a significant multibillion-dollar market for goods produced in Mexico. Data from the International Trade Administration indicates some 10.7 million American jobs are supported by goods and services exports, and it is doubtless that tens of thousands of New England jobs rely upon trade with Canada and Mexico.

The tariffs that President Trump has put into place are already having a significant impact here in New England. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released a state-by-state analysis of the impact of the emerging trade war on U.S. exports. According to the report, as a result of the administration’s tariffs, $11 million in New Hampshire exports to Canada are targeted for retaliation, and close to $1 million in exports to Mexico are targeted for retaliation. Some of the hardest hit products include steel and aluminum products, lighting products, and certain foods. In total, nearly $2.7 billion in New England exports to Canada and Mexico face retaliation.

It is certainly appropriate to revisit and update major trade agreements. Some elements of our economy did not even exist at the time NAFTA was first negotiated, and we commend the administration for taking steps to modernize this historic agreement. At the same time, the President is right to be concerned about trade imbalances and to seek ways to minimize trade deficits. However, given the importance of trade with these two nations, it is gravely concerning that the administration would even suggest withdrawing from NAFTA. Further, the evidence laid out by the U.S. Chamber’s new report suggests that the tariffs are most certainly not serving our nation’s best interests, and could harm disparate and unrelated sectors of our economy.

It is understandable that partners and neighbors, on occasion, can have temporary disagreements over policy considerations, including on trade matters. However, The New England Council believes it is crucial that the playing field remain open for businesses, workers, and families across New England, so that they — through no fault of their own — are not disadvantaged by potential retaliatory trade measures or a defunct NAFTA.

James T. Brett is the president and CEO of the New England Council.


James T. Brett: Some big wins for New England in federal spending bill

The Dartmouth {College}-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H., a recipient of National Institutes of Health research funds.

The Dartmouth {College}-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H., a recipient of National Institutes of Health research funds.


Last month, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law a $1.3 trillion fiscal  2018 federal spending bill. The bill, which funds the federal government through Sept. 30, includes some big wins for New England, particularly in the areas of health care and scientific research.

New England is home to leading research hospitals and universities, which are developing treatments for numerous devastating diseases. Much of this work is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and so it is welcome news that the omnibus bill passed last week includes a $3 billion increase in NIH funding, bringing the total funding for this agency to $37 billion.

This increase will have a significant impact in New England. In fiscal year 2017, New England received more than $3.6 billion in NIH funding, which supported nearly 45,000 jobs and drove nearly $8.5 billion in economic activity, including nearly 2,100 jobs and more than $350 million in economic activity in Rhode Island alone. An increase in NIH funding will surely benefit our region, while also helping our medical institutions continue their important work.

The spending bill also includes a $300 million increase in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds a wide range of scientific research, much of which is conducted at colleges and universities. Many institutions throughout New England receive such funding, and are conducting cutting-edge research in a variety of fields.

In fiscal year 2017, New England institutions received more than $650 million in NSF funding, including nearly $50 million in Rhode Island. The increase in NSF funding for the current year will mean greater support for research that is underway throughout New England.

A third important area addressed by the spending bill is the opioid-addiction crisis, which has had a significant impact in New England. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were nearly 4,500 drug overdose deaths in the region in 2016, including 326 here in Rhode Island-

Fortunately, the spending bill includes some $4 billion for various efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, including funding for addiction research, grants to bolster state efforts and support law enforcement, and support for rural communities. This additional support will no doubt help the various efforts underway in our region to combat this epidemic.

Of course there are a variety of other elements of this bill that will benefit New England — including an increase in defense spending, boosts for apprenticeship programs and career and technical education, and money to upgrade Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, just to name a few.

But the three provisions outlined above will certainly have a significant impact on the economy and quality of life in our region.

It is important to note that this deal was just that: a deal, the product of bipartisan compromise. There will be a variety of other important issues before Congress in the near future, including gun control, immigration reform, and infrastructure investment. We are hopeful that this example of bipartisanship is a sign of things to come. Our region and our nation deserve it.

James T. Brett is the president and CEO of The New England Council (, a nonpartisan alliance of public and private organizations across the region that lobbies in the region, in Washington and elsewhere for programs that benefit New England's economy and broader society.