SALEM — For someone who helped preserve Salem from the urban-renewal wrecking ball in the 1970s, attorney Bill Tinti has a fitting view from his office on the fourth floor of Shetland Park.
The offices of Tinti, Quinn, Grover and Frey, where he is president, command a view of the city’s past, present and future: historic Derby Wharf, the tall ship Friendship, the Custom House and, of course, the soon-to-be decommissioned Salem power plant.
Tinti himself is, in a sense, going back to the future as he takes over as chairman of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce for the second time in 20 years. A former chairman of the Salem Redevelopment Authority and former Salem city solicitor, he will oversee the state’s third-largest chamber, serving the business interests of more than 1,000 companies.
Tinti recently took over the reins of the chamber from Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management in Salem.
Tinti’s goal as chairman will be to help make the chamber “an effective voice for the growth industries within the region,” he said. His focus will be on helping businesses navigate changes in the health care landscape with the coming of the Affordable Healthcare Act and changes at the top of state government next year. He took some time to chat with The Salem News recently.
Are there any similarities in today’s business climate and the one 20 years ago?
“Twenty years ago was ... the last major effort to reform health care. You may remember that, right? Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton, of course, was the president, and you may remember that there was an effort they put a huge amount of time and energy into: ‘What are we going to do about the health care system in the United States?’ And, of course, that effort ultimately collapsed. So, 20 years ago, we saw a major effort to deal with health care. Obviously, we now have Obamacare, which is 20 years later a replication of that effort.
Health care has been a goal of Democrats.
“That’s been an effort since Harry Truman was president a long time ago, because as you know, we are the only — I believe it is true — we are the only advanced country that has not dealt with the problems of health care.”
A lot has been said about dealing with Obamacare, but what can the chamber do?
The major point from the standpoint of the North Shore Chamber relates to the fact that we have achieved the goals of Obamacare. In other words, right now we are at, it’s estimated, 97 percent of the residents of Massachusetts have health insurance. The system we presently have, which is about 6 years old and was put in place when Mitt Romney was governor, tracks many of the elements of Obamacare. The main effort of the chamber (over the past year and a half) has been to try to make sure that our system, the system that we have that is working pretty well, is not impacted negatively by Obamacare. ... Those issues, as you probably know, have led to a request for waivers of various aspects of Obamacare as it relates to Massachusetts, and that has been an ongoing effort in terms of the North Shore Chamber. And it’s going to continue to be an ongoing effort.”
You were talking at a recent North Shore Chamber breakfast about the change of constitutional leadership in the state. Tell me what this means.
“This is going to be an historic year for Massachusetts ... because we will be replacing the governor and the lieutenant governor, No. 1. We will also be replacing the attorney general, because Martha Coakley will give up that position in her race for governor. We will also be replacing the state treasurer, again because State Treasurer Steve Grossman is also running for governor. So, what you are looking at is ... the three main and most powerful constitutional offices being changed in the election in 2014. It’s critical — certainly, it’s critical from the standpoint of small businesses — that the candidates for those offices first of all be educated about the needs for small business, but it’s also important that the small-business community understand where these candidates are and what they stand for, and what the issues are that they are going to be concerned about.
What was compelling enough for you to become the North Shore Chamber chairman again?
“It’s a combination of these issues. From the standpoint of health care, there is no more important issue for the business community than the correct implementation of health care. As you know, health care costs are an enormous burden on business and individuals. ... The changes in the constitutional offices, that certainly was a major factor.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.