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December 20, 2023

New AIM CEO: Workforce shortages, inflation, supply chain creating 2024 uncertainty

Photo | Courtesy of AIM Brooke Thomson, president and CEO of AIM

Heading into the start of 2024, the new leader of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts expects staffing challenges to remain the top concern for businesses, while the end of COVID-era federal funding programs will impact margins.

Brooke Thomson will become CEO of AIM, an advocacy group with approximately 3,400 member businesses, on Jan. 1. Stepping into the role, she will be the first woman to lead the organization in its 108-year history. 

Thomson’s takeover as CEO was announced in June. She joined AIM’s staff in 2019 and was previously a member of AIM’s board and the chair of its government affairs committee. She is currently president of the organization, and will be president and CEO come January.

Thomson will deliver a State of Massachusetts Business address on Jan. 16, and she spoke with WBJ about the business landscape as the new year looms.

“Going into 2024, there's continued economic uncertainty. We see it every day, regardless of the region, regardless of the industry,” Thomson said. 

Thomson has spent the last six months since her move to CEO was made official traveling around the state and speaking with members businesses about what they see in their regions and industries. While the particular challenges vary from one region and industry to another, the uncertainty is consistent throughout, she said. 

The top issue continues to be staffing challenges, as well as the broader economic trends of rising inflation and supply chain delays. 

The staffing conundrum is far and above the greatest concern, Thomson said.

“It’s somewhat mind-boggling,” Thomson said. 

The staffing challenges were exacerbated in some industries by the ability of remote workers to relocate out of state to areas with less expensive housing and lower costs of living, she said.

“We have a lot to do to not lose our competitive edge,” Thomson said. 

In her perspective, policymakers can make strides by signaling to business owners they are working for their interests and working to bring competition back. 

The end of many COVID-era programs at the state and federal level are tightening financials for businesses. Support funding was available to businesses, allowing for healthy margins, but the economy is now normalizing. 

“We’re rounding the corner. Now that all that federal support is gone, we are left to say: ‘How is the Massachusetts economy going to function without that sort of backstop?’”

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