State retail task force to hit the road next month

  • Judy Herrell, owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery in Northampton, is a member of a Retail Task Force created by the Massachusetts Senate last year. The task force will hold a meeting in Northampton on Feb. 5 to hear from business owners and others as it gathers information for a June report that aims to identify ways to help retailers become more competitive. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

@BeraDunau
Published: 1/14/2018 6:50:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A special Retail Task Force created by the state Senate last year will venture to Northampton early next month to hear from business owners in the western part of the state.

The task force, which includes senators and prominent businesspeople statewide, is charged with reviewing and reporting on efforts to strengthen the state’s local retail sector. As part of that mission, the task force is holding hearings throughout the state, including one Feb. 5 in Northampton. The meeting will be held at Union Station Banquets 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

“We want to hear from everybody,” said Judith Herrell, owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery and one of the retail representatives  on the task force.

Herrell is one of the retail industry representatives appointed to the task force by Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, when he was president of the Senate. Sen. Don Humason, R-Westfield, is the western Massachusetts senator on the task force.

The task force was established to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing local retailers and identify ways to help those retailers become more competitive.

The task force has held two meetings at the statehouse in Boston and plans to hold its third on Cape Cod later this month.

“We’re still gathering a whole lot of information,” Herrell said.

She said that everybody, not just those who own businesses, is welcome to testify before the task force.

“Anybody that feels like they want to come is more than welcome,” Herrell said.

Herrell also said that folks are welcome to submit written comments to Humason’s office.

Those who wish to testify at the Northampton meeting have been requested to email the senator at Donald.Humason@MASenate.gov, so that they can be added to the speaker list. Written testimony can also be sent to this email.

Herrell said that challenges facing brick and mortar retail businesses from online competition have been featured significantly in the testimony before the task force so far. Other issues have been minimum wage, and whether or not it should be raised, the sales tax as it pertains to online businesses, and the effect of tourism on retail.

She also said that the task force has mostly heard from research organizations at this point.

“I try my best to keep an open mind,” said Herrell, saying that all other members of the task force have been keeping an open mind as well.

She also said that there is no one answer when it comes to business solutions.

“There’s no one-size-fits all approach,” she said.

Herrell noted that she enjoyed working with the senators.

“These people are really good listeners,” she said.

Herrell hopes the task force’s work will eventually lead to legislation making Massachusetts more competitive.

“You want successful businesses,” she said.

The task force is set to release its findings to the senate in June.

In addition to Humason, other senators on the task force include Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, Jason Lewis, D-Winchester and Julian Cyr, D-Truro.




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