Home 2006 December
Opinion
A Model for Tackling the Energy Challenge

On July 20, 1969, the United States reached the moon, beating the decade’s-end goal set by President John F. Kennedy. Many saw the original timetable as too ambitious. Yet with the country committed to the mission, and with the mission accelerated by federal policies promoting the necessary technological advances, the U.S. flag was planted in lunar soil sooner than even many optimists expected.

Winning the race to the moon was a technological triumph, to be sure, but its benefits reached deep into the nation’s psyche, inspiring a generation of children to believe that they could play a role in the nation’s most exciting ambition and providing fuel for the nation’s innovation economy.

Project Apollo surfaces repeatedly as a model for tackling the energy challenge. Given the urgency of the situation, achieving a secure energy future will, indeed, call for a similar commitment in funding, policies, and passion. The execution, though, will have to be different. More than a discrete undertaking with a single goal, the energy project will have to deliver a broad portfolio of solutions, playing out on timetables measured over a few years to several decades.

No single technology can meet current or projected energy demands. Humankind uses energy at the rate of 14 trillion watts. Supporting that much primary energy use would require about 10,000 large coal plants, at 500 megawatts of electricity each. To generate an equivalent amount of electricity with solar power, today’s deployment would need to be increased several thousand-fold.

Adding to the pressure for multiple approaches to this vast challenge, the time for initiating meaningful steps to curb climate-threatening carbon dioxide emissions is short. It will take a long time to change the energy mix appreciably. Yet we are probably only decades away, at best, from the point of no return on greenhouse gas concentrations.

The university research community has embraced these challenges, with many faculty and students invested in finding energy solutions. Superb work underway on many campuses today, from Berkeley and Stanford to MIT, from the University of Michigan to the University of Texas to Georgia Tech, encompasses an impressive range of new and evolving technologies.

The tireless enthusiasm of students is one reason universities have the potential to play key roles in energy innovation. In addition, while integrating new technologies on a broad scale into an immense and mature sector of the economy will pose complex challenges, universities have expertise to share not only in technical fields, but also in economics, planning, architecture, political science, and management, among others.

Federal energy research funding that is sporadic, at best, is one reason university research has not realized the promise of the post-1970s energy crisis. Happily, this situation is changing. The Department of Energy has increasingly emphasized basic energy research in a range of areas — a welcome recognition that we have much yet to learn on the way to truly game-changing energy technologies.

To fully realize its potential, though, the university community must lower some internal barriers. The standard academic research model of a single investigator, or a small group of people, working on narrowly defined problems is important but, frankly, not sufficient in an energy context. We must develop organizational structures and incentives that encourage large multidisciplinary teams and, where relevant, permit true working partnerships with industry and government groups.

Project Apollo’s inspiration ultimately produced the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers who have fueled this country’s innovation economy. Today, our nation hungers for a similar inspiration, one that will refocus the attention of our schoolchildren toward science, mathematics, and technology. In fact, our future economic success could depend on it.

Susan Hockfield is president of MIT.

Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of November 2006.

CHICOPEE

Sentry Uniform
803 James St.
$50,000 – 16’ x 42’ addition to front of building

EASTHAMPTON

Liebmann Optical
1 Industrial Parkway
$25,800 – New roof

GREENFIELD

Esthier Christopher
76 Hope St.
$1,500 – Fire Escape

HOLYOKE

O’Connell Properties Inc.
480 Hampden St.
$15,000 – Replace ceiling in second-floor conference room

LUDLOW

Town of Ludlow DPW
198 Sportsmen Road
$200,000 – Alterations to transfer station

SOUTHWICK

Karman Rhodes Plaza
515 College Highway
$180,000 – 3,600-square-foot addition

SPRINGFIELD

Jerron Realty LLC
1191 South Branch Pkwy.
$716,000 – Erect eight-unit condos

 

Mercy Medical Center
271 Carew St.
$61,000 – Renovate existing nursery

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
193 Williams St.
$552,000 – Construction and alterations

Sisters of Providence Health Systems
271 Carew St.
$8,400,000 – New ICU

Sisters of Providence Health Systems
271 Carew Street
$1,844,000 – ASU renovations

WESTFIELD

Westfield Bank
560 East Main St.
$900,000 – New Bank

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Longview Fiber Co.
42 Palmer Avenue
$30,000 – Roof repair

MJ O’Malley/Salomon Realty
52-54 Wayside Avenue
$80,000 – Office addition

Sections Supplements
Carol Leary Directs Bay Path Toward a Second Act

In her first 12 years as president of Bay Path College, Carol Leary has choreographed a stunning metamorphosis — transforming the formerly sleepy Longmeadow institution not long ago considered a secretarial school into a leader in innovation, entrepreneurship, and professional development. Always looking forward, her next strategic plan, titled ‘Good to Great,’ borrows from author Jim Collins and speaks to her philosophy that the process of continuous improvement never ends.

Carol Leary, president of Bay Path College, remembers a time when her life’s ambition was to be a choreographer.

She had the background – years of dance training – and the requisite passion, as a great lover of culture and the arts.

But Leary ultimately chose to forgo dancing with the stars and instead focus on a different creative pursuit – essentially, creating opportunities to allow others to find their true callings. Fueled by her vast experience in higher education and a deep affinity for learning at all stages of life, Leary brought with her to Bay Path a leadership philosophy that leans heavily on the power of teams, along with a strong belief in ongoing professional development, particularly for women.

The result is a flourishing campus with several new programs aimed at the needs of the region served by the four-year, private women’s college – primarily Western Mass. and Northern Conn. – and a school that has raised its profile in national and international circles of late.

All this didn’t happen overnight, but many of Bay Path’s latest developments didn’t take years to develop, either. Just as in dance, a lot had to do with timing, said Leary, and with careful attention to each step of the process on the part of the entire Bay Path troupe.

The college recently completed its five-year ‘Vision 2006’ strategic plan, and has just embarked on ‘Vision 2011,’ which carries the theme ‘Good to Great,’ borrowed from the title of one of Leary’s favorite professional development books, written by Jim Collins.

The theme is an apt example of the mission of the college and its ongoing development goals, which Leary said are geared toward the improvement of not only its students on professional and personal levels, but also on the betterment of the region’s many businesses, and of professional women in general.

“What I take from the idea of ‘good to great’ is that when you think you’ve reached where you want to be, you have to realize that you still have to improve, because you can’t become complacent,” said Leary. “Things change, environments change, and you must be nimble and flexible enough to welcome opportunity to your doorstep.”

When she arrived in Longmeadow, this challenge translated into hiring the best people to develop new programs to meet market trends, always with a focus on innovation, and in many ways those practices remain at the forefront of Bay Path’s development plans.

“I truly believe that our success has been because of the people who have been hired and have committed their own visions to this college in the last 12 years,” she said. “When I arrived here, I recognized a sense of anticipation – when a new president enters an organization, be it corporate, private, not-for-profit, or educational, the members of that community try to figure out what is going to happen. They ask, ‘what will my role be with this new person at the helm?’

“But my philosophy has always been to make use of the best talents of the people you have, and let them use their imagination, their creativity, and their expertise to develop programs that they think will meet market demand,” she added. “So that’s basically been my style – use everyone’s potential, nurture it, and then implement whatever their ideas may be.”

However, to make best use of those ideas, Leary said not everything can be left to the process of free, organic thought; there must also be a clear plan for progress in place to organize all of those divergent thoughts into one course of action.

“I’m also a true believer that the people and the plan have to work together,” she explained. “You can hire the very best people, but if you do not have a road map or a vision of where you want to be, then I think you can become very scattered, and you can detour into areas that might not be where you should be.”

By the Book

That mode of thinking has kept several new initiatives running smoothly at Bay Path, including a number of new academic programs and majors, which have been introduced over the past decade in addition to a suite of successful professional development conferences.

The college changed from a two-year college offering associate’s degrees to a four-year baccalaureate college in 1988, but Leary said in many ways Bay Path was still operating as a two-year college when she arrived in 1994. At the time, it offered 14 associate’s degree programs and three baccalaureate degrees, and no graduate programs.

“I saw that as an opportunity,” she said. “I saw the expanse of where we could go.”

The course offerings have since shifted to include nine baccalaureate programs and five master’s programs. Bay Path also operates six days a week, having added its ‘Saturday school’ in 1999, and offers classes in two locations, at the main Longmeadow campus and its satellite location in Southbridge. Leary said extending the off-campus sites across the Commonwealth is a new goal, but at the start of her career at Bay Path, it was an idea that seemed lofty and far off.

“Back then, I wasn’t thinking about branch locations,” said Leary. “But because of the people who were hired over the next five years, a whole host of ideas were introduced to the college that included one-day-a-week programs and graduate programs. We also started looking at the talents of our current faculty, and we found that many of them had dreams that we could fulfill.”

These included an expanded science program that led to the creation of Forensic Science and Forensic Psychology programs at Bay Path that are now attracting students from across the country as that field grows in popularity, particularly among women.

“From a recruitment standpoint, there is a market there for forensic science and biology,” she said, “and at women’s colleges we saw that it was one of the four top majors that women went into, so we knew it was going to be a good market. We also had faculty with the expertise in all of the areas that surround forensic science, and we gave them the opportunity to hire faculty to fill the gaps. It was just the right time, the right voices, and the right people in place that brought those programs to the forefront for Bay Path.”

In addition to the forensic science programs, Bay Path has also created four master’s degree programs over the past seven years: a master’s in Communication and Information Management, introduced in 2000, a master’s in Occupational Therapy in 2002, an MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practice, and, most recently, a master’s in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management, unveiled just this year.

The master’s in Communication and Information Management was largely spearheaded by William Sipple, Bay Path’s provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, who had taught in a similar program at Robert Morse College prior to relocating.

“That was an easy transition into the master’s program because he had done it,” Leary said, adding that the master’s in Occupational Therapy that followed was also added relatively easily. “That was a natural outgrowth. The accrediting body had said that by 2007, a master’s would be the minimum requirement in that field, and so creating that program was a gradual process.”

The MBA, however, introduced in 2005, was built from the ground up over a period of a few years, and was tailored to address the need for entrepreneurial ventures in the region, as well as those led by women.

“We realized that, in many ways, we as an institution were representative of the degree we were going to create, because every year we seem to have something new happening on this campus,” Leary said. “Therefore, we had some experts we could draw upon, and then in turn use to recruit new experts to Bay Path.

“We did not want to do a standard MBA program, because of the other 15 programs in a 45-minute radius,” she continued. “We knew we needed a niche program. This area is one of the top areas in the country for entrepreneurship, and it needs an infusion of new companies in the area, so that program was one that we had really thought about, and we waited until the right moment.”

A Woman’s World

The first MBA class will graduate from Bay Path this May, just as the first class in the new master’s in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management will enter courses.
Leary calls this newest offering “the soul of Bay Path,” in part due to her own observances in the non-profit sector, where she often volunteers her time.

“I have seen firsthand that it’s such an important part of the psyche of an area to have a good, well-run non-profit sector. I listen very hard to what the struggles are, and I watch when a leader of a not-for-profit retires and how hard it is to find a successor.”

In addition to those challenges, Leary said there is currently a national trend of turnover in non-profit leadership as leaders at retirement age make way for new blood, and 70% of the people who work in the sector are women.

“Those two factors, for me, created the perfect mix,” she said. “It happened very quickly, but we had all the pieces to create a stand-alone master’s program.”
Those new programs also add weight to one of Leary’s most challenging decisions, which came very early in her presidency: the choice to maintain Bay Path’s identity as an all-women’s college, even while the current national trend is toward a co-ed charter, or toward closing completely.

“I think we realized 12 years ago that even though we knew it was not going to be a smooth run, we were going to remain a women’s college,” she said, “even though they were closing everywhere.”

Leary referenced several institutions in Massachusetts alone that have gone co-ed – among them Elms College, Regis College, Emmanuel College, and Lesley College – all in the last decade.

“But we believed in the professional development of women. That’s our mission, and we’ve made a strong commitment to figure out what programs women needed for the future. In every conversation we have we want to make sure that new programs, including the master’s programs that by law are open to men, include a few courses that look at a woman’s perspective, which can be taken by both men and women.”

Leary herself is not the product of a women’s college – she attended Boston University and graduated with a degree in Political Science, and later earned her master’s in Student Personnel and Counseling from SUNY Albany, and her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from American University. However, she said her experiences at Boston’s Simmons College, as director of Residence from 1978 to 1984 and as the college’s associate dean in 1984 and 1985, cemented her belief in the power of women’s education.

“Working at Simmons College really opened my eyes to the incredible potential and possibility women’s education had,” she said. “So when I came to Bay Path after having worked at Simmons for many years, I realized we could stay an all-women’s college and be successful.”

A Development Story

To prove that theory, Bay Path made its first major stride in women’s development early in Leary’s presidency, by instituting the Women’s Professional Development Conference (WPDC) in 1996.

The annual event attracts more than 800 attendees, most women, but Leary said men attend too, in part to hear from an impressive list of speakers that has featured Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Cokie Roberts, Jackie Joyner Kersee, and Madeleine Albright.

“I look back at that first women’s conference and reflect, and in many ways I think that was one of the defining moments of Bay Path as a women’s college,” said Leary. “We stayed true to our mission for professional education of women and by having this conference and by inviting the very best minds in America to Springfield, it helped define our image in the eyes of many people in the community.

“That image,” she explained further, “is of a college that is going to take risks, and is going to ask the very best to come to Springfield. And, we are going to encourage women to take advantage of professional development opportunities that we have brought to their doorsteps.”

The WPDC’s continuously impressive list of speakers, to which writer and poet Maya Angelou and Valerie Plame (the CIA agent outed by the press in 2003) will be added in April, 2007, has also added to the buzz about the annual event and its host college on both a regional and national level. Returning to the idea of timing, Leary said some of those speakers were the result of a simple invitation, but others have chosen to speak based on the conference’s theme that year – usually a one-word notion that ties the entire day of workshops and networking together.

Last year, that theme was humor, an idea that resonated with the day’s keynote, producer, writer, and director Nora Ephron, famous for directing such films as Sleepless in Seattle and writing When Harry Met Sally. And this year, the theme of ‘resilience’ played a major role in Angelou’s decision to lend her name and her voice to the program.

“She had eight speaking engagements before her that had been offered,” Leary said, “and the reason she chose us was she loved the theme. I think it’s easier for us to get speakers now because of our themes, and also because they can look at who we’ve had in the past.

“Our speakers are also women who really enjoy being surrounded by other women who are there to learn from them,” she added. “From that very first conference to the one we will present in 2007, I think we have set the standard very high.”

Other development programs have followed the WPDC, including a wide array of workshops, academic programs, and community partnerships centered on entrepreneuriship and innovation. These programs, which include courses in Innovation in Business, Entrepreneurship, and ‘Entrevation,’ a term coined to represent skills that pair the two concepts, began to emerge in 2001 and have since created a campus-wide initiative that has received some national attention.

There’s also the Innovator’s Roundtable, comprised of area CEOs and business owners who provide advice and expertise regarding the skills required when starting a business or even entering today’s job market; a cooperative education program, in which students are placed in area small businesses, where they will gain hands-on experience in what is required to be an entrepreneur; a summer program in entrepreneurship for high school girls that acts as a bridge between area youth entrepreneurship programs and the initiatives at Bay Path; and the Innovative Thinking and Entrepreneurial Summit, which began as a series of lectures and expanded, now held each year since 2003. The summit draws on entrepreneurial minds both nationally and regionally, and is just one of many entrepreneurship-related ventures funded by a $143,000, three-year Coleman Foundation grant received by the college in 2005.

In the past, entrepreneurs such as Yankee Candle CEO Craig Rydin and Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, have spoken, and this year Jeff Taylor of Monster.com fame visited to speak about his latest venture, the Baby Boomer-driven Web site Eons.

Tapping into Talent

All of these programs revisit that theme of lifelong learning that Leary enjoys and respects so much, and have contributed to a cohesive educational repertoire at Bay Path, aimed at preparing people – students, area residents, business owners, and especially women – for the job market of today and the challenges of the world at large.

“You need to have a mind that’s an open book, so that no matter what you’re doing, you can learn from it,” Lear
concluded. “If I have an idea, and I share my idea, others can add to that idea, so a small kernel can lead to great things.

“It’s all about the ability to speak up, to take a risk, and to step back from the comfort zone.”

Leary has taken that step, and countless others are following her lead. While she’s yet to take her talents to Broadway, Bay Path’s resident dancer has made some impressive moves – and promises to keep a close watch on her timing, her audience, and the stage she has set.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
How the Changes Will Impact Your Bottom Line

Earlier this year, President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act into law. This immense measure (more than 900 pages) overhauls the funding and disclosure rules for defined benefit plans, revises the deduction limits for qualified plans, addresses conversions of pension plans to cash balance plans, liberalizes payout and rollover rules, and, makes a number of other changes relating to pension plans and their beneficiaries.

It also revises specific rules related to charitable giving and makes a number of charitable reforms. As an employee, you will likely see positive changes to the qualified retirement plans at work, so watch for these over the next couple of years. What follows is a summary of a few of the provisions that may affect individuals:

Many Prior Pension, IRA and QTP Provisions Made Permanent

A number of pension, IRA, and Qualified Tuition Program (QTP) changes were made in 2001 but were scheduled to “sunset” at the end of 2010. The act makes these provisions permanent including the following:

  • Increases in the IRA contribution limits, including the ability to make catch-up contributions;
  • For individuals age 50 and over, catch-up contributions to 401(k), SEP and Simple IRA plans;
  • Increases in limits on contributions, benefits and compensation under certain deferred compensation, tax-sheltered annuity and qualified retirement plans; and
  • Expanded and liberalized QTP rules related to contributions and distributions.

Rollovers OKed for Non-spouse Beneficiaries

Pre-act law did not allow non-spouse beneficiaries to roll over inherited qualified plan accounts to IRAs. The new law permits rollovers of distributions from an eligible retirement plan of a deceased employee to a non-spouse beneficiary’s IRA, beginning with distributions after 2006. For example, children who inherit their parents’ IRA will no longer be required to pay taxes on the balance immediately, but will be allowed to roll it over to their own IRA.

Rollovers of After-tax Contributions

For tax years beginning after 2006, the act permits an employee to make a direct rollover of after-tax contributions from a qualified retirement plan to either another qualified retirement plan or a tax-sheltered annuity, provided that the receiving plan separately accounts for the after-tax contributions and their earnings. Prior to this change, the rollover options of after-tax contributions were limited.

Charitable Giving Using Tax-free IRA Distributions for Those age 70 1/2 and Older

Under prior law, there was no special tax treatment for distributions from regular or Roth IRAs that were used to make charitable contributions. The distributions were subject to the rules at the time and may have been fully or partially taxable. The contributions were subject to the deduction limitations and may have been reduced by the overall limitations applied to itemized deductions.

Under the act, for IRA withdrawals in 2006 and 2007, there is an exclusion from gross income (up to $100,000) for qualified charitable distributions. To be a qualified charitable distribution, the IRA trustee must make the contribution directly from the IRA to a charitable organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, and the distribution must be made after the date the owner of the IRA attains age 70 1/2. Only those amounts that would have been taxable are considered to be qualified charitable distributions. No contribution deduction is taken for those amounts that would have been taxable but are now excluded from income. Note that qualified charitable distributions may be used to meet the required minimum distribution rules even though it is the charity and not the IRA owner receiving the funds.

Recordkeeping Requirements for Charitable Contributions

For contributions made after 2006, the act disallows deductions for monetary gifts (cash, check, etc.) unless the donor maintains appropriate records that include either a bank record or a written communication from the donee organization showing the donee’s name, amount, and date of the contribution.

This article contains only a general discussion of the rules, and you should consult with your tax advisor for additional information or assistance.

This article is not a tax opinion. To the extent that this article includes any tax advice, it is not intended or written to be used by the recipient or any other party for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Code or any other tax authority.

Jana B. Bacon, CPA is a member of the Firm of Wolf & Company, P.C. a regional certified public accounting and business consulting firm, with offices in Boston and Springfield, and Albany, New York;www.wolfandco.com)

Departments

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden and Hampshire counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AMHERST

International Arthouse Features Inc., 83 Shays St., Amherst 01002. Larry Jackson, same. Film distribution.

BELCHERTOWN

Rushing Rivers Inc., 50 Two Ponds Road, Belchertown 01007. Piotr Parasiewicz, same. Research on rivers.

BRIMFIELD

Sunny Farm Days Inc., 81 Five Bridge Road, Brimfield 01010. Kimberly J. Morse, same. Marketing operations.

EASTHAMPTON

Scheherazade Reportory Theatre Inc., 32 Briggs St., Easthampton 01027. Mark J. Vecchio, same. (Nonprofit) For charitable purposes.

FEEDING HILLS

Family Bike of Agawam Inc., 1325 Springfield St., #4, Feeding Hills 01001. Trevor J. Emond, 67 Cooley Dr., Longmeadow 01106. Bicycle (and other sporting equipment) retail sales and repair.

HOLYOKE

Sacred Slam Inc., 263 Suffolk St., Ian Koebner, Holyoke 01040. Ian Koebner, same. (Nonprofit) To promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and respect for diversity through the arts and education, etc.

LUDLOW

PCD Group Inc., 185 West Ave., Ludlow 01056. Carlos Cortinhas, 34 Jestina Circle, Ludlow 01056. To operate an auto repair shop.

MIDDLEFIELD

New American Castle Museum Inc., 86 Chester Road, Middlefield 01243. Kim Baker, same. (Nonprofit) To operate a museum.

NORTHAMPTON

NoHo Management Inc., 36 King St., Northampton 01060. Mansour Ghalibaf, same, president, treasurer and secretary. Hotel management.

Northampton Swimming and Diving Booster Club Inc., 49 Northern Ave., Northampton 01060. Robert Boyton, 20 Emily Lane, Northampton 01060. (Nonprofit) To promote the sport of swimming and diving in local Hampshire county communities.

 

Somatics Inc., 32 Mason St., Northampton 01060. Steven Aronstein, same. Somatics and somatic education certification and consulting.

SPRINGFIELD

Korv Inc., 288 Worthington St., Springfield 01103. Orlando Velez, same. To provide a full restaurant/banquet hall service, including takeout and offsite catering.

R.R. Enterprises Inc., 125 Paridon St., Springfield 01118. Ronald Ruell, Sr., 121 Albemarle St., Springfield 01108. Sale of paper, used books, used clothing.

Talk Media Inc., 650 Belmont St., Springfield 01108. Michael Harrison, same. Media production and management.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

B & K Hospitality Management Co., 739 Prospect Ave., West Springfield 01089. Dinesh Patel, same. Hotel management.

Chunida Inc., 739 Prospect Ave., West Springfield 01089. Dinesh Patel, same. Operation of hotel.

Guyette Framing & Home Improvement Inc., 202 High Meadow Dr., West Springfield 01089. Chris P. Guyette, same. Framing and home improvement.

Revaba Inc., 739 Prospect Ave., West Springfield 01089. Dinesh Patel, same. Real estate holding company.

Summerwood Construction Inc., 1027 Amostown Road, West Springfield 01089. Scott C. Harvey, same. General contracting/residential and commercial remodeling.

Sunburst Inc., 739 Prosepct Ave., West Springfield 01089. Dinesh Patel, same. Operation of restaurant and bar.

WESTFIELD

Own your Home Inc., 60 Scenic Road, Westfield 01085. Charles Fortin, same. Providing sources of financing to sell real estate.

St. Pierre Brothers Drywall Inc., 18 St. Pierre Lane, Westfield 01085. Troy M. St. Pierre, same. Drywall work.

WILBRAHAM

Palmer Park Inc., 655 Glendale Road, Wilbraham 01095. Leonard F. Surdyka,
same. Real estate

Sections Supplements
Westfield Bank Charts a Steady Growth Pattern
James Hagan

James Hagan says Westfield Bank will continue to grow only by understanding the changing needs and preferences of 21st-century retail and commercial customers.

As banks across Western Mass. grapple with a host of new challenges — from reduced profit margins to a decrease in home-mortgage business — Westfield Bank continues to grow steadily by aggressively building its commercial loan products and by making itself more accessible to both business and retail customers. In doing so, this 153-year-old institution remains one of the region’s financial success stories.

James Hagan believes in identifying a niche and excelling in it. And, like his predecessor at the helm of Westfield Bank, he’s finding success by building on what works.

When Hagan took the reins from longtime bank President Donald Williams last year, he was already committed to the course that Williams had set: focusing on the bank’s commercial-lending business and not getting drawn into the branch boom that has seen other regional institutions extend their footprints into far-flung territories.

To be sure, Westfield Bank has seen success in its retail and home-mortgage business, and it is making strategic expansion moves as well — but none of it at the expense of local customers or a growing commercial-loan business that now boasts a backlog of more than $50 million, at a time when banks that rely more heavily on home mortgages might be feeling a bit squeezed.

“Our backlog is extremely high,” Hagan said of the commercial-loan business. “That doesn’t mean we’ll get all those accounts, but if we get even a good percentage, we’ll have a very successful 2007.”

He added that the regional economy might typically grow slowly, but he senses the kind of optimism from the area’s business community that bodes well for continued success in commercial banking.

In this issue, BusinessWest examines why the key players at Westfield Bank are hopeful for continued growth — both by offering the products that customers want, and by taking steps to make their lives a little bit easier.

In My Time of Banking

From Westfield Bank’s launch 153 years ago through the mid-1970s, its assets had grown to about $100 million, but three decades of rapid growth have brought that total to $832 million. The bank will also benefit from selling 9.9 million shares of stock in its ongoing conversion to a fully public company, a transaction approved on Dec. 18.

“That should certainly increase our capital and assets as we move forward into the new year,” Hagan said — in turn increasing the bank’s flexibility in making more and larger loans.

“We’ve continued our emphasis on the commercial lending aspect and actually made strides there,” Hagan said, noting that the bank has hired additional lenders to oversee its business-loan activities in Northern Conn., a new market for Westfield Bank.

One of them, William Fleming, “came to us with a venture capital background and added a world of experience,” Hagan said. “We’re very excited about going into Connecticut and opening up a tremendous new marketplace for us. And we’re doing it with what we call ‘desk to deposit.’”

Specifically, Westfield is the first community bank in the region to use a technology known as remote data capture.

“It’s a piece of equipment that scans checks at a customer’s place of business and allows us to deposit items to accounts here in Westfield,” said Alice Babcock, vice president and director of community banking. “What that means is, we don’t need a branch in Connecticut to support our lending efforts there. We can put one of these on the customer’s desk, and he can access Westfield Bank even though his office is far away.”

The bank, which has also introduced the technology to clients in Western Mass., is the first community bank in the region to use remote data capture, Babcock added, although the technology is commonly used by larger institutions.

“It has been met with remarkable success,” she said. “It allows our customers to do business without having to come to the branch, and it’s a window for customers to deposit checks up until 7 at night, instead of having to come to the bank by closing time at 4 or 5. It’s revolutionizing how businesses do their banking.”

“It has been a good way to get in the door with prospects,” especially those located away from the bank’s Western Mass. branches, Hagan said. And because time is money to business people, any development that makes customers’ lives easier benefits the bank, particularly in such a fiercely competitive market for commercial banking.

“The nice part for us is that it doesn’t limit our footprint to physical branches,” Babcock said. “We can support customers down there, which gives us more time to think through our strategy on bricks-and-mortar expansion.”

Not that Westfield Bank has been lax on that account. At a time when banks are branching out at unprecedented rates, Westfield hasn’t built many new branches, but is making a few key additions.

Take Tower Square in Springfield. In March 2006, the bank moved its downtown office to that location, from a building farther away on Main Street.

“We’re excited about what we’ve seen develop in that particular marketplace,” Hagan said. “Our assets have grown significantly in that branch since we moved. We’ve gained a lot of visibility and accessibility there.”

Babcock added that downtown Springfield continues to have a safety problem — or at least a perception of one — but people feel more secure banking at a commercial center like Tower Square.

“Plus, we wanted to make a commitment to the heart of Springfield, and that’s where Tower Square is,” Hagan said. “We feel very strongly about that.”

Positively East Main Street

A fourth branch in Westfield, set to open in April 2008, also speaks to an emphasis on making life easier for customers. Babcock said the bank’s current main branch on Elm Street lies close to the Great River Bridge, which will undergo a lengthy rebuilding project over the next few years.

“The main office is becoming less convenient for people; they’re concerned about the bridge,” she said. “So that was one of the main reasons we began looking for an alternate branch. The location on East Main Street (near the new Home Depot which opened earlier this year) is well-suited for us on that side of town. It really helps residents of that area who are used to coming here.”

“In the past 10 years, there have been 500 or 600 housing starts in the neighborhoods on that side of town,” Hagan said. “The time is right. We’ll have good visibility and accessibility there.”

To further emphasize the convenience factor, Westfield Bank will pilot a seven-day schedule at that branch, keeping office hours on Sundays as well as weekdays and Saturdays.

“Saturdays are over pretty quickly, what with children and sports and everything else,” Babcock said. “All the research we’ve done says that banks that open on Sundays have been very profitable. And customers appreciate not being stressed and having a little more time to get to the bank. It may become a model for us going forward.”

At the same time, Westfield Bank will announce another new branch opening in the coming months. Hagan would not reveal the location, but said it’s in a town where the institution does not currently have a presence.

That location, and the second Westfield site, would bring the bank’s branch total to 12. In addition, three new automated tellers were added in the past year — two in West Springfield and one in Westfield — bringing the bank’s total number of ATMs to 19, with the same growth rate planned for 2007.

In a competitive (some might say overbanked) market, banks need to be more accessible to customers in order to compete for their business, Hagan said. That’s especially true over the past couple of years, during which time financial institutions have found it increasingly difficult to harvest large profits, due to a phenomenon known as a flat yield curve.

Essentially, the yield curve is the difference between short-term and long-term interest rates on loans. In recent years, short-term rates have been significantly lower than long-term rates, which is beneficial for banks, because it allows them to borrow money on the short end and loan it long-term. However, the Federal Reserve has raised short-term rates over the past few years while long-term rates have remained steady, cutting into banks’ profit potential in the loan business.

However, the impact is felt especially in the arena of long-term mortgages, and Westfield Bank’s recent emphasis on its commercial loan business over the home-mortgage side insulates it somewhat from the full effects of a flat yield curve — not to mention a declining mortgage-loan market.

“Because we focus more on commercial lending, the residential downturn hasn’t impacted us as much as it has other banks,” Hagan said.

Gotta Serve Somebody

All banks, however, regardless of their focus or size, must deal with customers’ shifting preferences for how they want to do business. Westfield Bank has seen such strong response to its online banking, for instance, that the technology — along with greater use of ATMs — has forced the institution to adjust the roles of its branch staff.

“We’re seeing customers use alternate delivery channels for transactions, but you still need bricks and mortar for more complicated questions, financial counseling, that sort of thing,” Babcock said. To that end, the bank has trained and upgraded its branch staff to be more skilled at this kind of work.

Frankly, that shift away from conducting routine business in the branch doesn’t surprise Hagan, and it gives banks more flexibility to expand their customer base without necessarily expanding their physical footprint.

“You need to make things as convenient as possible for customers and prospects,” he said. “Typically, what’s happened is that the day-to-day transactions that used to be done at a physical branch are being done on computers. We’re seeing customers using internet banking products to a much greater degree.”

In short, said Hagan, there’s only one method of making a bank more accessible to 21st-century customers:

“You have to take the bank to them.”

Joe Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
Time Management Is the Topic of the Day

It’s called BuzzWhack.

Created at the start of the new millennium, it’s a tongue-in-cheek Web site compiled by newspaper editor John Walston, devoted to defining corporate-speak in all its forms and calling attention to the human factor of any workplace.

And sure enough, right there between ticker shock and tin kickers, is a slew of time-related turns of phrase that illustrate how heavily the concept of time – and not having enough of it – weighs on our collective minds. Timeboxing, time-suck, and time toilet are particularly illustrative.

One of the most prevalent buzz terms in career development of late is that of time management, referring to better utilization of time, being more productive, and streamlining various tasks to optimize the hours in a day.

In other words, how to get things done in the time you have to do them.

But many professionals are beginning to take this phrase seriously. While it’s a simple concept, it’s something that many professionals – Americans in particular – struggle with. The reasons why vary, ranging from busier lifestyles to an increasingly ‘hooked-in’ work environment that can make multi-tasking easier, but can also add distractions.

The subject is currently being addressed through a number of channels, including time-management software, countless self-help books, professional seminars, even hypnosis – a Froogle search for ‘time management’ products alone returns 159,776 results.

Experts in time management, many of them executive coaches who specialize in maximizing productivity, say all of these interventions work for some, but none for all. That’s because everyone manages their time differently, and if those management skills are lacking or ineffective, the solution must first fit an individual’s natural habits to a tee.

Up-to-the-minute Analysis

So what do the experts suggest? First, and above all, a personalized approach.

Jess Dods, president of Right Choice Careers, a career coach with international experience and an organizational consultant, said one of the first steps he takes when working with a new client is to “flush out” what that person’s relationship with time is. Identifying that broad relationship, he said, is key to the process of better time management because it leads to more effective, long-term solutions.

“Some of the questions I ask are ‘how does this person relate to time?’ and ‘does this person feel that time is a prison, or time is a tool?” he offered. “Finding out how they perceive time then leads to the steps that can be taken to reach specific goals.”

Some people, he explained, see productivity as a major hallmark of their own worth, and changes to their work processes can be seen as a threat not only to their habits, but to their jobs or even their personalities.

“I know people who keep busy in order to distract themselves from other things,” he continued, “and busy people who see their schedules as a part of their own self-worth. I also know people who look at being busy as job security, or who enjoy the familiarity of the stress of being busy.”

Many of those symptoms of the problem, as Dods describes them, are nearly the same as many American ideals – in particular, that of hard work leading to prosperity. That could be one root, he mused, of the nation’s sticky relationship with time, and why time-management-related stress is so much more prevalent in this country than in others.

“We’re taught from an early age that work is difficult, and we expect that when we are most productive, the work will also be hard,” he said. “Some people make sure they don’t have enough time to do things, because that’s the only way they feel as if they’re working at all.”

But being busy isn’t synonymous with managing time, Dods cautioned, calling that forced business a “well-decorated rut.”

“Change doesn’t come easily – none of us want to change,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s important to note that we’re not a bunch of train wrecks.”

Instead, Dods said today’s workplace can benefit from a close look at time management as a tool for increased productivity and profits.

Week Explanation

Madeline Carnevale Calabrese, president of Calabrese Consulting in South Hadley, agreed with the personalized approach to time management. Beyond international differences in how time is viewed and managed, she noted that the collision of established workers with a new generation of employees who approach work in a very different, very technological way also creates time-management issues for both parties.

“Younger people are very good at multi-tasking,” she said, “but have trouble isolating tasks. With the older group, it’s a different set of issues. Oftentimes, these people have tried and true methods of doing their jobs that just aren’t working anymore.

“There are a couple of forces that are pressing on them,” she added. “Older workers are now working side-by-side with a younger generation that is technologically tuned-in, and historically that’s not how older workers have worked. That, in turn, creates stress, and older workers are asking, ‘how do I stay valuable?’

Calabrese said the process begins with identifying priorities within a given job, and how one person can best meet those priorities without sacrificing their own personal habits.

“You have to take a close look at a person’s workload, work cycles, and personality,” she said. “Usually, people come to me knowing something’s not working, and they’re at the point of frustration. We look at their patterns and their work environment, and we start by identifying priorities and how to stick to them.”

Calabrese also cautioned against always viewing time management as a problem that begins and ends with a given individual. Sometimes, she said, people’s careers have innate qualities that make managing time more difficult.

“Some people have careers or offices that are very interruptive, and we need to work around that,” she said. “I usually suggest evaluating the interruption based on the priorities of that day. Sometimes, all someone needs is the language to ask someone to get back to them. It’s about creating space without being aggressive or, on the other hand, without being steamrolled.”

That approach can also include identifying a person’s peak productivity times, or in some professions, one’s prime creative time, said Calabrese.

“I tell people to pick the best time of the day to work on a project based on its priority and the time of day the individual is most likely to produce their best work,” she said. “And at that point, they must remain uninterrupted – shut the door, go somewhere else, whatever it takes.”

On Second Thought

Despite that strong emphasis on creating an individualized time-management plan, there are some steps that everyone can try to help identify the source of some time management problems.

Joshua Hornick, a leadership, management, personal, and professional coach based in Amherst, said that, with the preponderance of time-management resources currently available, the first step for anyone with time issues is to find one such resource that resonates personally.

“There are a zillion books and articles that give you tips and tricks, or it could be a coach that can help you, or an internal resource at your job,” he began. “First, know where you are and where you want to realistically take your game. Then, you can investigate further independently, or maybe it’s time to get your pit crew together.”

To evaluate what time-management issues may currently exist, many coaches suggest selecting a period of time – one or two weeks, for example – and logging daily activities.

“That’s a cognitive process that can help to illuminate problems,” said Hornick, echoing Calabrese’s position that sometimes, there truly is too much to be done, and if so, that needs to be isolated.

“Sometimes, people have time issues because they’ve taken on too much,” he said. “But once that is realized, focus can be clarified.”

That clarity, Hornick continued, leads further to a better ability to prioritize.

“The most obvious way to prioritize is to make a list,” he said. “Then, there are lots of ways you can streamline your environment.”

That could mean physical improvements, Hornick said, such as filing or ‘bucket’ systems, or new habits, such as acting immediately on small, two-minutes-or-less tasks once they crop up – if an E-mail requiring a response comes in, for instance, or if a supervisor asks for an update.

It’s here that many experts cite one of the most underutilized and counter-intuitive optimizers of time management – ask your boss for help.

“If you’re still lost, you’re well-served to get some specific support,” said Hornick. “If you’re an employee and you’re concerned about time management, talk to your employer – managers love it, and a really good manager will bend over backwards to help you.”

Calabrese added that beyond helping an employee find some extra minutes in the day, business owners and managers are also keenly aware of what is important to their daily operations as well as the bottom line, and in some cases, can serve as mentors and examples of best practices.

“If you’re not sure where to go from where you are, the thing that can get you back on track is communication with the upper ranks,” she said. “Managers are in touch with the new and the important when it comes to their business, and they can help show an employee what’s old, and what needs to be let go.”

Things like time-suck – any activity that wastes time, according to BuzzWhack – or carbon-based error – any mistake caused the human factor. And guarding against falling into the time toilet can be exactly what an employee needs to avoid being dooced, plutoed, or voted off the island.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Departments


Karen Volpe

PeoplesBank has announced the promotion of Karen Volpe to Assistant Vice President of the Fairview office located at 1936 Memorial Drive in Chicopee.

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The Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) has announced the promotion of Jeffrey K. Keck to Executive Director. BID is an affiliate of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. Prior to his promotion, Keck served as operations manager at the BID for more than seven years. In his new position, Keck will continue to work closely with BID property owners, businesses, government, and the general public. He will also be responsible for coordinating special events and programs that will enhance the downtown business district with a focus on real estate.

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Carlson GMAC Real Estate announced the following:
• Barbara Robinson has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Wilbraham office;
• Deborah Lenz has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Wilbraham office;
• Gisele Meunier has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Wilbraham office;
• Christine L. Swanson has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Longmeadow office;
• Sheila Clapprood has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Longmeadow office;
• Judith S. Cohen has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Longmeadow office;
• Suzanne W. Carter has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Holyoke office;
• Amy Meo has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Holyoke office;
• Jennifer Fleury has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Agawam office, and
• Chris J. Hall has joined the firm as a Sales Agent in the Palmer office.

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Lamson & Goodnow of Greenfield has hired Coreen Foote, CPA, as Chief Financial Officer.

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Ryan W. Crosby has joined the Palmer office of Carlson GMAC Real Estate.

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Eric A. Marsh has joined Greenfield Co-operative Bank as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer.

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Gina C. Birchall has been named Vice President of Underwriting at Berkshire Life Insurance Co. of America, headquartered in Pittsfield. Birchall will be responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of current underwriting processes and engaging with Berkshire Life’s reinsurers on a strategic basis related to risk retention.

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United Personnel Services Inc. announced the following:
• Lauren Mendoza has been named a Staffing Consultant in the Springfield office, and
• Rebecca Freeman has joined the Hartford office as a Staffing Consultant.

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William P. Chase II, President and Owner of Hi-Tech Window and Siding Installations Inc. of Haverhill, has been appointed to the Westfield State College Board of Trustees by Gov. W. Mitt Romney. Chase is a 1991 alumnus of the college.

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Sheryl J. Sadler-Twyon

Sheryl J. Sadler-Twyon has been named Vice President for the Information Technology Department of Florence Savings Bank.

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The Cancer House of Hope, with locations in Westfield and Springfield, announced the following:
• Parker Hodgman has been named a member of the Board of Trustees for the 2007 fiscal year;
• Jenn Cohen has been named a member of the Board of Trustees for the 2007 fiscal year, and
• Jennifer DeMoe has been named a member of the Board of Trustees for the 2007 fiscal year.

•••••

Century 21 Pioneer Valley Associates announced the following:
• Arthur Haskins III, a Sales Associate, has successfully completed the CREATE 21® New Agent Training Program;
• Terry Bartus, a Sales Associate, has successfully completed the CREATE 21® New Agent Training Program, and
• Erica Burns, a Sales Associate, has successfully completed the CREATE 21® New Agent Training Program.

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Dave Boisselle has been promoted to Vice President of Operations at J. Polep Distributions Services in Chicopee. Prior to his promotion, Boisselle served as director of operations for 18 years.

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The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) has appointed Alicia M. Szenda to Group Tour Coordinator. Her responsibilities will include working closely with the GSCVB’s Group Tour Committee to develop initiatives to increase motor coach visitation to the Pioneer Valley. She will also represent the region at industry-related trade shows and conventions.

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Lyn Yarmesky

Lynn Yarmesky has been named Vice President of Lending at the STCU Credit Union, with offices in Springfield and Westfield.

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Tighe & Bond, Inc., based in Westfield, announced the following:
• Alfred Mascia Jr., P.E. has joined the firm. Mascia is a civil engineering manager and licensed professional engineer with more than 28 years of experience in the design, planning, management, and construction administration for a diverse mix of site-development projects;
• Christopher O. Granatini, P.E., has joined the firm. A registered professional engineer, he brings more than 10 years of experience in various aspects of transportation and traffic engineering;
• Daniel P. Rukokoski, PWS, RSS, has joined the firm. He is a senior environmental scientist with more than 11 years of experience in wetland delineation; municipal, state, and federal permitting; remedial investigations; Phase I, II, and III environmental site assessments; and environmental health and safety, and
• Craig S. French, P.E. has joined the firm. A registered professional engineer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, French adds a decade of structural engineering experience to the firm. As manager of the structural department, he will be responsible for structural engineering and architectural design, with involvement from the conceptual phase and planning through final design and construction.

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OMG Inc. in Agawam announced the following:
• Brian Wroblesky is now the Midwest Regional Manager for Roofing Products Sales;
• Stephen Trites has been named Southeast Regional Manager;
• Sean Kelly is now in charge of the Northeast region;
• Joe DiSanto has been named Customer Service Manager for Roofing Products;
• Andy Cleveland is transitioning within Roofing Products from National Accounts to Product Management. He will be responsible for the sales and marketing of the OlyBond program;
• Brent Kreutzer has been named National Accounts Manager, and
• Corey Rohland has been promoted to Western Regional Manager.

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Adam Lesko

Adam Lesko, a board certified Microbial Consultant, has formed Green Environmental Consulting in Northampton. His firm specializes in industrial hygiene, indoor environmental quality, and mold consulting services. In addition, his company develops and maintains custom database solutions for managing asbestos and other environmental data.

 

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Michael T. Moriarty

Michael T. Moriarty has joined the staff at United Bank as a Senior Vice President in the Commercial Banking Department. He will be based out of the main office on Elm Street in West Springfield, and will work with commercial clients throughout the bank’s market area.

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Madeline Claudio

Madeline Claudio has been promoted to Business Development & Sales Manager in the TD Banknorth branch at 958 State St., Springfield. In her new role, she will focus on growing and developing business in the branch serving customers throughout the region.

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Denise Eldred

Denise Eldred has joined the Office of Development and Alumni Relations as Coordinator of the Annual Fund at American International College (AIC) in Springfield. In her new position, Eldred will serve as Phonathon Director. She will also work with AIC donors, and will be involved in planning alumni events.

Opinion

By most accounts, Springfield is starting to rebound.

The Finance Control Board has stabilized the city’s finances and brought about relative peace and harmony to the labor front. The Urban Land Institute study of the city has established some priority areas for the community, and there is already movement on some of these fronts. We’ve seen momentum in the business community and the commercial real estate market, and the promise of more activity and jobs.

As the new year dawns, many in the community would like to add to this list by putting the scandals that have rocked Springfield in the rear-view mirror. Some have suggested that the FBI, which has successfully ferreted out wrongdoing on the part of many city officials, including most members of the Asselin family, should consider its work here done.

Not yet.

The FBI shouldn’t close the book on Springfield until its work is finished, and that won’t be accomplished until former Mayor Michael Albano, who was ringmaster for the circus that his administration became, is made to account for his many misdeeds.

While several members of his administration have been indicted, tried, found guilty, and incarcerated, Albano has thus far escaped the same fate. Maybe there’s nothing the Feds can pin on him, but we suspect that there may be other reasons for the FBI’s reluctance to act on the former mayor.

Albano has suggested to many that the FBI’s crackdown, similar in some ways to the well-documented Operation Plunderdome that took down Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, is part and parcel to “being an Italian American” who assumes a leadership position in this country. This is nonsense.

Albano’s assertions are offensive to all Americans, especially to those of Italian descent, and are being compounded by Albano’s opining that the FBI’s interest in Springfield and his administration is motivated by actions he took 24 years ago.

Albano, a former member of the state Parole Board, recently testified in a U.S. Civil Court trial that the FBI never provided him with information that three men convicted of murder were innocent. The testimony came in a trial in which two men and the families of two deceased men are suing the government for than $100 million for wrongly putting them in prison.

The two living individuals, who were freed after 25 years in prison, were exonerated after documents were released indicating that the FBI knew the men were innocent but set them up to protect an informant who committed the murder of a mob member.

Outside the courtroom, Albano told reporters that when the Parole Board was considering whether to commute the sentence of one of those convicted, he was told by two FBI agents that voting for the commutation — which he eventually did — would not be a good career move for him.

It appears that Albano is trying to use these events, and his ancestry, to suggest that the FBI has no good reason for being in Springfield and turning City Hall, the Housing Authority, the Mass. Career Development Institute, and other once-corrupt agencies upside down looking for wrongdoing.

The truth is that the FBI has every reason to be here, as evidenced by the convictions already won, and it should stay here until its job is finished. More importantly, it should not be intimidated by Albano’s posturing about being bullied by the bureau two decades ago.

Former members of the Albano administration have hinted privately that the best defense against the FBI is a good offense. The former mayor has been saying for years that the bureau has an ax to grind and that this explains why the Feds have set up camp in Springfield.

The truth is that the mayor presided over a City Hall that was corrupt, out of control, and an embarrassment to the community. And that’s why we believe the FBI’s work, as damaging as it has been the city’s reputation, must continue until all the questions are answered. Then, it will be appropriate to move on.

Sections Supplements
Seeking to Break Out of Ongoing Stagnation

The Pioneer Valley in Western Mass. has gone through the kinds of cycles that are typical of evolving economies in both the state and nation. But what has been occurring over the past 20 years presents a curious mismatch between appearance and hard data.

By appearance, the region would seem to be in a difficult position; companies, especially ones that once offered high-wage manufacturing jobs, have been closing their doors, victims of the forces of globalization and creative destruction. Poverty rates are high and increasing. And the region continues to see a net out-migration of residents. But at the same time, data nonetheless shows that jobs and income are still growing, albeit slowly. The region has not experienced the rapid economic growth seen elsewhere during the mid- to late-1990s, but neither has it suffered the sharp drop-off seen in other regions in recent years.

In short, the region continues to economically hold its own, especially in the past few years and especially in its level of employment. But progress is slow — indeed, some have described the Pioneer Valley’s economic condition as one of ongoing stagnation. More than anything else, this study of the last 20 years of economic and demographic development in the Pioneer Valley reveals an economic landscape that is missing a dynamic growth sector that can provide a growing number of high-paying jobs — and a sense of economic identity for the region.

During the 19th century, the Pioneer Valley was America’s first Silicon Valley, where innovation led to a thriving manufacturing sector. The use of interchangeable parts in manufacturing, which saw its origins in the production of armaments for the military at the Springfield Armory, revolutionized production processes. As a consequence of this advance, a thriving machine tooling and precision metal working sector developed in the region.

But throughout the 20th century, both major and small employers have gone out of business, a process that continues as manufacturing plants close. The manufacturing economy void has been partly filled by the ‘Ed-Med’ sector — ‘Ed’ stands for education or more generally ‘knowledge creation’ and ‘Med’ stands for the medical, or, more broadly health care. Ed-Med is by far the most important current employer in the Pioneer Valley. But this positive development cannot mask a significant area of alarm: the incidence of poverty in the region, which exceeds that of the state (and, in the case of Hampden County, that of the nation).

While the region has not experienced the same dire fate as other American cities that have lost their economic base, the Pioneer Valley has suffered from comparison with the eastern part of Massachusetts, especially the metropolitan Boston area. This has been especially true when looking at the secular pattern of real (price adjusted) per capita income. While per capita income has been growing in the region, its rate of growth has fallen significantly behind that of the state as a whole, and especially that of metropolitan Boston.

Employment – the “Ed-Med” Influence

From the business cycle peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s to the peak in the most recent business cycle, employment in the Pioneer Valley grew by 2.5%, from 319,739 in 1989 to 328,000 in 2004. National employment growth was a considerably more robust 14.8% during the same period, and statewide growth was 3.8%. The Boston metropolitan/northeastern part of the state experienced employment growth of 4.7% over the same period. The Pioneer Valley has, however, seen somewhat stronger employment growth recently. From the trough in employment in 1995 until 2004, employment grew by a bit more than 7%, from about 306,000 to about 328,000.

In the Boston/Northeastern part of the state, employment peaked in 2002 and then began to decline. The Pioneer Valley, however, did not see a drop in employment through 2004. Nor did it experience a drop in employment during the recent recession, unlike Eastern Massachusetts, where the sharp loss of jobs followed a period of relatively robust job growth. The knowledge creation segment of the economy is broad, and the Pioneer Valley encompasses many of its activities, including information (media production and distribution, telecommunications), professional and technical services provision, management services, and educational services. Combined, such knowledge creation sectors accounted for nearly 60,000 employees, or 21% of all Pioneer Valley employment in 2004.

One of the more prominent employers in this sector is the flagship Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts system, which is the largest piece of a regional higher education cluster. Surrounding UMass are four well-known small liberal arts colleges: Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. These five institutions form the Five College System, which allows students in any of the colleges to enroll in classes in all of them. The five colleges employ a total of nearly 9,000 people, not counting a large number of student employees on all the campuses, especially that of the University of Massachusetts. But while this concentration of employment is important to the Pioneer Valley economy and identity, it has not been a growth area, or even a particularly dependable sector. In particular, UMass has suffered from severe budget cuts in recent years, and only now is beginning to replace some of the jobs that were lost.

After education, the next most important employment sector is health care, which accounts for 16% of regional employment, nearly 44,000 people. This sector consists not only of health care, as traditionally defined, but also “social and community services,” such as homeless shelters and community kitchens. Despite its steep decline, traditional manufacturing remains an important employer, accounting for 11% of the region’s total employment in 2004, or more than 32,000 people.

Considerable economic development efforts, as well as investment dollars from the state, have resulted in the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, a collaboration between Baystate Medical Center and UMass. While its primary stated goals are clinical, the collaboration is designed to create the environment from which to launch commercially successful development and manufacture of biomedical and other health-related products. This type of activity is broadly defined as ‘advanced technology manufacturing.’ While this activity now accounts for only 1% of Pioneer Valley employment, its potential is important.

Population Trends Reflect the Economy

Recent population patterns in the Pioneer Valley closely mirror the path of the economy. Population growth in the region over the past 20 years has been very slow, growing from 646,000 in 1980 to 680,000 in 2000, for an increase of just 5.2%. Over the same period, population grew in Massachusetts by more than twice as much (10.7%) and in the United States by nearly 23%.

Perhaps the most troubling pattern in population change in the region is its continuing net out-migration. Since 1990, the region has lost a net of nearly 35,000 people to out- migration. This number is the result of considerable ‘churning’ – in other words, it is the outcome of the interaction between flows of in-migration and out-migration. During this period, more than 130,000 people moved into the region while more than 165,000 people moved out. There was been a sharp increase in the volume of net out-migration in the last year for which data is available, 2004.

Much of the migration into and out of the Pioneer Valley involves short-distance moves. Many of these gross flows cancel out, leaving small net (though slightly negative) changes due to migration. By far the largest in- and out-flows have been to and from the border state of Connecticut.

There are also significant flows probably associated with retirement from the labor force. The largest net out-flow of migrants from the Pioneer Valley — nearly 13,000 net out-migrants over the period — was to Florida. This represents one-third of all net out-migrants from the Pioneer Valley since 1990.

Most other destinations/origins of Pioneer Valley migrants are close by, either in New England or New York state (with which the Pioneer Valley had a positive net migration flow). California and Arizona also received relatively large net flows of migrants.

Within the state, the Pioneer Valley has a net negative migration balance with most other regions. The Berkshire and Central regions are the only of the state’s regions with which the Pioneer Valley has a positive net migration. Two regions in the state, metropolitan Boston and the Cape and Islands, have the largest magnitude of negative net migration balance with the Pioneer Valley. Much of the migration to the Cape and Islands may, again, be associated with labor force retirement.

It is encouraging that for all this net out-migration, a good deal of in-migration to the region is also occurring. Typically, when a region is truly stagnating, migration is uniformly in the ‘out’ direction, with very little in-migration. The Pioneer Valley has certainly not experienced that pattern. And a significant portion of the negative net migration may well be due less to economic forces than to retirement.

Nonetheless, the reality remains that net migration has been consistently negative for over a decade. Migration tends to be highly selective of the very members of a population upon which the future is based: Younger, better-educated, and with better income/occupational prospects.

There has been considerable migration within the Pioneer Valley, the net result of which has been a drain on the population of Hampden County, where the cities of Springfield and Holyoke are located. Since 1990, Hampden County has gained more than 29,000 migrants from within the Pioneer Valley, nearly 30,000 of them from Hampshire County. Over the same period, Hampden County lost over 34,000 residents to Hampshire and Franklin Counties. The net effect of this in- and out-migration has been a drain on the population of Hampden County. Nearly 5,000 net migrants have left Hampden County for Hampshire and Franklin Counties, most of them to Hampshire County.

Income and Poverty

The pattern of per-capita income in the region, especially relative to the state, is instructive of the pattern of the regional economy over time. The region’s per capita income has been consistently lower than that of the state as a whole, though that fact is at least partly compensated by a lower cost of living, especially in housing. Still troubling, however, is the pattern of change over time. In 1970, per capita income in the Pioneer Valley was nearly 90% that of the state and more than 80% that of metropolitan Boston. Since then, the region’s per capita income has deteriorated. In 2003, Pioneer Valley per capita income was 75% of the state’s and 66% t of metropolitan Boston’s.

The relative deterioration of regional incomes is a secular, rather than a cyclical, phenomenon. Over the course of the business cycle, whether increasing or decreasing, the changes the region experiences in per-capita income are always more muted than the change experienced in the state. The Pioneer Valley does not rise as high or fall as far as the state. The economic dynamism of the eastern part of the state has never translated well to the Pioneer Valley.

This region did not fully share in either of the two most recent sustained state economic expansions of the 1980s and the 1990s. The other side of the picture is that the Pioneer Valley also did not suffer as badly as Eastern Mass. when recession replaced expansion. Because it is a hotbed of technology, Massachusetts experiences economic cycles that are at times excessive. The bad news is that the Pioneer Valley has long since lost its high technology sectors; the offsetting news is that its economic cycles have been less extreme.

The incidence of poverty provides another measure of the region’s income circumstances. In 2004, the U.S. Bureau of the Census defined the poverty threshold for a family of four as a total household income of $19,157. The poverty rate in the Pioneer Valley has consistently been higher than that for the state. This is especially so in Hampden County, where the poverty rate also exceeds that of the nation. Of the three counties in the region, only Hampshire County has a poverty rate that is less than that of the state.

Perhaps an even more telling measure of regional poverty is the share of students eligible for the free and reduced school lunch program. A study recently completed by the UMass contained the following analysis of this data:

“The federal poverty level is too low to properly assess the number or proportion of children from low-income families. Federal school lunch subsidies cover children from families with incomes up to 165% of the poverty level…

“The percentage of public school students eligible to receive reduced-price or free school lunches in the Pioneer Valley is alarming,” the report continues. “In the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years, 40% of public school students in the region resided in households with incomes no higher than 165% of the poverty level. No region in the state has a higher percentage of low-income students. Public school systems in cities such as Boston or Worcester have comparable percentages of low-income students, but the regional concentration of low-income students in the Pioneer Valley is approximately one-third higher than any other region in the state. The Pioneer Valley’s low-income students are concentrated in the region’s cities, Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee; however, many of the region’s rural school districts are also home to high concentrations of low income students.”

The Cost of Housing

The Pioneer Valley has less expensive housing than the eastern part of the state, a cost advantage that many in the region hope will help promote increased economic growth. A Boston Globe report late last year explained:

“Housing prices in Western Mass. have risen much faster this year than in the Boston area, fueled by Bostonians moving farther from the city in search of lower prices, according to a report released yesterday…

“Between January and November, the median price of a single-family home rose 13.3% from a year earlier in Hampden County, where Springfield is located; 10.9% in Hampshire; and 10.3% in Franklin. Depending on traffic and the time of day, these counties are around a 90-minute commute each way from Boston, though they’re much closer to employers along Interstate 495 or in the Worcester and Framingham metropolitan areas.

“The condo market in Western Mass., while smaller than Boston’s, is sizzling. The number of condo sales surged nearly 28% this year in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin. The median condo price rose 28.9% in Franklin County in 2005; 18.9% in Hampden; and 18.2% in Hampshire, according to Warren Group. Condo prices were up 1.8% in Suffolk, and 8.5% statewide. Despite the price increases, the gaps between east and west remain huge. For example, the median price of a Hampden County condo was $124,900 this year, up from $105,000 last year. The median condo price in Suffolk County was $340,000, up from $333,850 last year.”

This may mark the beginning of a significant development for the region. Though it is too early to determine if this trend of housing price-driven movement to the region will continue and grow, especially with home prices flat or falling across the state. But this is at least an indication that the Pioneer Valley has some natural advantages — and these may again be grounds for hope.

Conclusion

In 1999 Benchmarks published a profile of the Pioneer Valley economy. In the conclusion of that study was the following assessment:

“There is a considerable effort under way to revive and remake the economy of the Pioneer Valley … at the moment, those forces have resulted in a flat or slightly growing regional economy. The difficult task of spawning genuine economic development lies ahead.”

< >Seven years later there seems little reason to modify this statement. The Pioneer Valley, despite its illustrious economic history and reputation for offering a high quality of life, remains stagnant and without direction.

Robert Nakosteen is on the faculty of the Isenberg School of Management at the UMass Amherst and is executive editor of Benchmarks, the university’s quarterly report on the state economy. This story originally appeared in Benchmarks.