Good news/bad news

Officials at Philips Healthcare announced last week the sale of the company’s 140-acre property on Minuteman Road in Andover, its longtime North American headquarters. For $36 million it sold to Atlantic Management Corp., a real estate concern that has redeveloped other major industrial and commercial sites in the region, including the old Raytheon headquarters in Lexington.

That much is good news, in the sense that it gives Andover answers and hope for the future. Atlantic Management is expected to upgrade the property and find new tenants, a Philips spokeswoman told reporter Jessica Valeriani. Town officials doubtlessly hope that will happen sooner rather than later, shoring up a tax base that has grown to include a contribution of more than $1.4 million from Philips each year.

Then there’s the matter of jobs. At its peak, Philips Healthcare put to work 2,200 people in Andover — which pales compared to 105,000 employees worldwide, of course, but was large enough to make it one of the region’s top employers. Last year, when Philips announced the relocation of its headquarters to Cambridge, it said most of jobs in Andover would follow or move to a plant near Nashville, Tennessee. Later on came word that most remaining positions in Andover, as well as the rest of its ultrasound business, would also move to Cambridge or Tennessee.

As it was at the time of last year’s announcement, the loss of Philips Healthcare is a blow to Andover, in terms of both jobs and prestige. The company was located in town for nearly 20 years, and it put a lot of people to work, though to be sure many lived elsewhere.

That being said, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said he’s optimistic many jobs leaving town with Philips will be replaced by the next business or businesses to move onto the old Philips campus. Here’s hoping he’s right.

 

The air we breathe

Warm air and sunshine always draw New Englanders outdoors, and we’re lucky when the spring winds blow ocean air back across the North Shore and Merrimack Valley. Next time you get the chance — if not today, when rain is in the forecast, then certainly this weekend — take a deep breath and appreciate that air. Hopefully it doesn't make you cough.

The nation’s air is getting worse. That’s the finding of an American Lung Association report out this week, drawing upon government data collected between 2015 and 2017. More than 43 percent of the U.S. population lives in an area that reported unhealthy levels of ozone (smog) or particle pollution (soot) during that period, which is higher than the last two surveys. (It’s not as bad as levels recorded from 2012 to 2014, however, which is a good thing.)

Here in our region, the report gives high marks for a lack of particle pollution, though we don’t do as well for smog. Essex County had nine days during the survey period when ozone levels reached unhealthy levels for sensitive groups, such as people with asthma or chronic lung disease. That’s certainly not as bad as it gets out in California, Phoenix or the New York and Washington, D.C., areas, but nor are we in the clear.

One frustrating part of this, especially when it comes to ozone pollution, is that so much depends upon the weather, as opposed to something more readily addressed locally. “The three years covered in this report ranked as the hottest years on record globally,” noted its authors. “High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution zoomed, putting millions more people at risk and adding challenges to the work cities are doing across the nation to clean up.”

It’s not that we're helpless. Indeed, the Lung Association notes the fragile condition of the air we breathe should illuminate the importance of national policies like the Clean Power Plan, Clean Air Act and regulations on methane emissions and automobile pollution — all of which have been diluted or are currently being reconsidered in some fashion.

It's certainly something to consider as we relish the warmer days of spring.

To read the report, go online at https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/

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