John Regan, Associated Industries of Massachusetts president and CEO
The state's largest business association might be based in Boston, but it has deep ties to Western Massachusetts and the Berkshires — 26 manufacturers from the western part of the state, including Crane & Co. in Dalton, helped found Associated Industries of Massachusetts in 1915.
John Regan, who has worked in state government, previously headed the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and oversaw MassDevelopment's real estate division, in May became AIM's new president and CEO. He replaced Richard Lord, a North Adams native and Williams College graduate who recently retired after heading the organization for over 20 years.
Lord had extensive Berkshire County ties — he still maintains a residence here. But Regan, a self-described "city kid" from Dorchester, directed AIM's government advocacy efforts for 12 years but has only minimal ties to the Berkshires.
The Eagle recently sat down with him to discuss his vision for AIM — whose members represent one of every five workers in the state — his plans for including the Berkshires in the organization's advocacy efforts; the organization's perspective and work on the state's Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and the 2019 Employer Medical Contribution; and why he decided not to become a priest.
Q Richard Lord is from Berkshire County. Do you have any Berkshire connections?
A I don't, other than Rick [Lord] and J.D. [Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, who is from Cheshire]. I worked at the Statehouse. I used to be very close to [former North Adams state representative] Dan Bosley. We still are. We're pals. I'm a city kid, born in Dorchester, went to Boston Latin, went to St. John's Seminary [in Boston].
Q Why didn't you become a preist?
A I went to seminary for undergraduate [studies], sort of a philosophy/classics degree. I majored in philosophy and classics, Greek, Latin. ... Theology was the graduate school. That's where you started to wear the clerical collars. I got to the point where I was going to be asked to formally declare my candidacy. But I'd spent enough time exploring it. I didn't think it was going to be for me. ... I opted to leave the seminary for many reasons; those reasons are mostly personal.
Q How did you get involved in the business world?
A When I got out of school, I ended up working as a campus director at [Newbury College] in Boston. My job was to establish the campus and expand the enrollment there. I got to do just about everything. After doing that for a little while, I became aware that a state rep in Dorchester that I knew was looking for a legislative aide. I was hired, mostly to do constituent work, but I ended up doing more and more of the committee work — it was the committee on banks and banking. The chairman I was working for [former Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran] ended up becoming the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. It was a great spot to learn state government from.
Q Can you describe the current state of manufacturing in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts?
A Manufacturing in Massachusetts, and in the western part, especially, is innovative, high-tech, high value added. The jobs provided by manufacturers pay well, and employees enjoy good benefits. Keeping competitive and remaining high value-add enterprises is essential. We do hear from members that the challenge most face is finding the right, qualified employees to fill open positions. This is true across the state, and it is why workforce availability and training are a top priority for AIM and our members.
Q What are your plans for AIM now that you're president and CEO?
A The board of directors has suggested to me that in the first 90 days I meet with people and talk to them about what we're doing well, and what are the things that might be looked at more closely for changes.
Q People may think that because you're not from the Berkshires and don't have as many connections to the area as Richard Lord did, that AIM's focus might change in this area. Can you address those concerns?
A The first event I've done since becoming CEO was to [come out to the Berkshires] meet some members, and meet with you. ... Coming out here first, I think, was an important thing to do. The association was started by a group of manufacturers from this part of the state, so I think it's important to acknowledge that legacy and let the members know that we value their membership. We'll be out again in September [Sept. 19] for one of our fun events [at Hotel on North in Pittsfield]. One of the officers of our corporation is Pat Begrowicz from Onyx Paper [in Lee], an absolutely critical member of our board of directors and officer of the corporation. She ran the search for a CEO. I suspect that if Pat felt AIM was ignoring the needs of this area that Pat would find a way to let me know. All in all, I don't think there's any risk that this area will suffer from any lack of attention.
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