After four years as the top lobbyist at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Brooke Thomson has been appointed to take over for John Regan as CEO of the influential business group at the end of the year.
The AIM board approved the promotion and transition plan on Tuesday. Thomson, previously an executive vice president at AIM, becomes president immediately, before moving into the CEO role after Regan, who is 62, retires on Dec. 31. Thomson, 44, will be the first woman to run the statewide group, which has about 3,400 member companies and a staff of 50 full- and part-time employees.
AIM board chair Patricia Begrowicz said board members asked Regan to develop a strong leadership team and a potential succession plan when he was promoted to replace longtime CEO Rick Lord in 2019. Thomson was among Regan’s first hires, for the top government relations job that he had previously held. He got to know Thomson over the years as she progressed from jobs as a legislative aide in the State House and in the state attorney general’s office, and then as a government affairs executive at AT&T. In that last position, Thomson had a seat on the AIM board before Regan hired her away from the telecom giant.
Begrowicz, president of Onyx Specialty Papers in Lee, said board members wanted to hire an internal candidate for the CEO job, and Thomson was the obvious choice. Begrowicz said she had conversations with all the members of Regan’s leadership team. “They all said the same thing: ‘No, not my time now, but Brooke is the right person for the organization,’” Begrowicz said.
Thomson has developed strong relationships with many people in the Legislature and in Governor Maura Healey’s administration, and she has taken a lead role in hosting Healey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and other political leaders at various AIM events this year.
For Thomson, one of the biggest challenges will be representing the business community in public policy debates at a time of rising concern about the state’s economic competitiveness amid high costs and the widespread acceptance of remote work.
“With remote connections, people can live and work anywhere,” Thomson said. “We really need to double down on making sure that Massachusetts is the place where employers want to be and where people want to live, raise their family, and grow their business.”
Toward that end, Thomson will lead AIM’s efforts to push for a major tax reform bill this year that includes changes to the state’s estate tax and a reduction in the short-term capital gains tax. Thomson said she is also looking at other business-friendly tax reforms and economic development policies that could be pursued at the State House next year. AIM wants to address the high costs associated with living and doing business here, she said, but also wants to draw attention to the benefits of being in Massachusetts.
“It’s going to be incumbent upon all of us, particularly here at AIM, to not just address the challenges,” Thomson said, “but to go out there and … talk about the opportunities as well.”