Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Charter change with no ch 43B or elected charter commission

Yes we did it. It's not illegal. We petitioned the legislature for a special act and they did it.

go here:

City and Town Charters - Adoption, Revision and Amendments "Under the Home Rule Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution (Amendment Article 89) and the Home Rule Procedures Act (MGL Ch. 43B), cities and towns can form a charter commission to adopt a new charter; entirely revise an existing charter, or amend selected charter provisions. As an option to the Home Rule Charter process under Ch. 43B, communities can also adopt, revise or amend a charter by a special act of the State Legislature with approval by the Governor (See Special Acts ). "

Tesla gets funding for an awesome Li-ion car

This is a company that produces an electric supercar. It's a plug-in, not a hybrid and can go 0-60 in about 3.9 seconds. This is a $100K car we're talking about here.

It uses a large Lithium ion battery, the same technology that Boston Power wants to manufacture here in town.

Anyway yesterday they got a nice loan under the stimulus package to continue and expand their work, for a more modest car called the S. Programs like this can use federal funding as many times the technology isn't going to provide a return quick enough or is considered too risky for private money.
"We have a historic opportunity to help ensure that the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks are made in America," the president said in a statement. "These loans -- and the additional support we will provide through the Section 136 programs -- will create good jobs and help the auto industry to meet and even exceed the tough fuel-economy standards we've set while helping retain our competitive edge in the world market."

on the road by the end of 2011.

"We are honored to receive one of the first loan awards in this program," company CEO Elon Musk said. "I'm confident we'll put the money to very productive use. We look forward to producing the Model S."

Tesla has long been counting on the loan to help it build the sedan it unveiled in March and had been in discussions with the agency for about nine months. It had sought $350 million to retool a factory to build the car and $100 million to manufacture battery packs and drivetrain components. Those packs and components will be used in vehicles built by Tesla and other automakers  most notably Daimler, which recently bought nearly 10 percent of Tesla to jump-start development of the Smart EV.

Some of the other front runners - got this tweet from CR

consumerreports Green carmakers may emerge as next U.S. car industry

The program is not the same as the grant that Boston Power wants to get, I believe that one is here

But it's just a reminder that good things are happening in this technological area, that will extend to things like the power plant (the batteries) and hopefully we'll in this geographic area be one of the beneficiaries of it, so long as the town handles things properly.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hospital medical costs

More good data from Consumer Reports on medical costs analysis. McAllen Texas, a border town, has the most expensive average care (that they have data for, they need more for instance Med city isn't on there - we've got so many hospitals in the area... probably a good thing)

Overtreatment: The lesson of McAllen, Texas : Consumer Reports Health Blog

some parts of the country spend a lot more on health care than other parts—but don’t get better results. John E. Wennberg, M.D., M.P.H., Elliott Fisher, M.D., M.P.H., and their colleagues at the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, who have spent several decades documenting and researching this issue, have estimated that if every place in the U.S. practiced the same kind of medicine as the most frugal places, we could cut costs by as much as 30 percent and still end up just as healthy.

Hospital cost comparison tool here - somewhat useful but they need more data/hospitals (we've got so many around here)

Your Hospital Stay - Compare Hospitals for Chronic Care

Umass medical comes in right about the middle, others in the area are way high like Mass General, Clinton; Harrington in Southbridge a bit too conservative probably. Don't get sick on the Cape either- way low.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fast food convenience costs a lot

Got this interesting tweet (which I'm addicted to btw it's awesome ;)

Fast-food nearby: Convenience, but at what cost?: Consumer Reports Health Blog

The study looked at how fast-food influences the overall quality of people's diets, particularly when these restaurants are plentiful nearby. Researchers pulled data from a survey of more than 5,600 adults ages 45 to 84 who lived in six urban areas. They used two scales to rate the quality of people's diets, looking at both positive factors (e.g., eating fruits and vegetables, fiber, and good fats) and negative (e.g., eating fatty and processed meats, fried potatoes, salty snacks, and desserts). People were also asked how often they ate fast-food in a week, and whether they had many fast-food restaurants within a mile of where they lived. For an objective measure of fast-food availability, the researchers also mapped the locations of fast-food chains nearby.

People who consumed fast-food at least once a week were two to three times more likely to have a poorer-quality diet than those who didn't eat any fast-food. And having more fast-food options close by decreased the odds of having a healthy diet by up to 17 percent. When working out these results, the researchers took into account factors known to influence what we eat, such as age, sex, race, education, and income. Doing this makes the link between fast-food and diet all the stronger.

Apparently the proximity of fast food has a health cost on the surrounding population. I can't help but wonder over the years the overweight, diabetes and high blood pressure caused as a side effect in our little town from all we have around ...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More about the eco-battery maker

Already a maker of 3 year eco-friendly Lithium Ion batteries for HP laptops, Boston Power is looking to get into transportation batteries with its new product called Swing.

There have been stories all over the place about the potential plant in our town and the stimulus money request. Here's one.

If Boston-Power receives the DOE funding, it plans to have the Massachusetts factory up and running in full-scale production in about three years after it begins work on the project, she said, adding that the company expects to hear back from the DOE in July and to begin work immediately, if it gets the thumbs-up.

Sounds like it could be a few years before they come online ... although you never know with these things.

It makes some sense that making the batteries for cars must be big (and heavy) therefore manufacturing them here saves the transport cost like the ones from China.

Kind of exciting about the potential for additional jobs here in addition to the 600 figure.

new so called "green jobs" and 2,000 indirect jobs are expected to be created through the facility according to the firm.

This probably doesn't count restaurants and hotels that might benefit, nor the increased property values from the higher paid workers who might be employed there and attracted to living here. A better market for home builders I would think ....

On another topic of concern to many (me included), as far as safety, they have earned the coveted "Nordic" label (the Scandinavians are sticklers about environment ;) for their technology ... from this website link:

Boston-Power is the first and only provider of rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells to earn the prestigious Nordic Ecolabel accreditation for its cell technology - all our cells carry the Nordic Ecolabel symbol. Created in 1989 and part of the Global Ecolabel Network, Nordic Ecolabel is the most stringent environmental product certification, and acknowledges companies like Boston-Power that are conscientious regarding the environmental impact of the production, usage and disposal of its products.

How does this help the environment? Boston-Power’s Nordic Ecolabel accreditation verifies that the company fulfills the criteria for long life, high capacity, and the smallest amounts of detrimental heavy metals (practically zero levels allowed). In fact, an independent study commissioned by the British government in 2008 named Nordic Ecolabel a "world leader" in environmental standards, indentifying its best practices in the area of certification of sustainability. To see the complete study, click here.

"It is an achievement that is well-deserved and also a testimony to their commitment to combine technical knowledge with environmental quality standards. It also proves that collaboration between the US and Europe can result in world-class products." says Ragnar Unge, CEO of Nordic Ecolabel in Sweden. "Boston-Power is the first US-based company ever to receive the Nordic Ecolabel. Boston-Power cares about today's consumers but also future generations. The Nordic Ecolabel vision is a sustainable consumerism to reach a sustainable world. Boston-Power is helping us achieve this goal."

Please click here to view our Sonata 4400 certification

Please click here to view our Swing 4400 certification.

Pretty impressive! Saving the world starting with the local economy - it's a win win win all around ....

Monday, June 1, 2009

More good news for Auburn!

Maybe Beth Prouty was right - we don't need to promote business in town, we can deal with a dual tax rate just fine thanks.

This very encouraging story about a high tech battery company planning to locate in town, to create up to 600 new quality jobs! Some of this is pending stimulus money from the fedgov to start this, but it's a glimmer of major hope for our local economy.

A great development if it pans out. I would strongly encourage the town government to fast track this one. I do have some concerns about toxics with battery manufacture, although given they are planning use of state of the art technology that should be addressable.

All in all I have to think this is REALLY good news for Auburn! And I think it points out the fact that things really aren't all that bad around here as far as prospects, economic outlook and comparative position of our businesses vs other areas. We have low unemployment, a stable growth story, good resources and infrastructure and great location. Dual tax rate or not ....