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Museums10 Prepares a Celebration of the Art of the Book
Artwork created with or inspired by books of all types, which will be on display as part of BookMarks.

Artwork created with or inspired by books of all types, which will be on display as part of BookMarks.

Last year, residents and visitors to the Pioneer Valley alike were asked to take a virtual tour of another destination through Museum10’s inaugural, cross-promotional arts and culture endeavor, GoDutch!.

This year, however, Museums10 has closed the book on Dutch culture, and opened a new volume on the written word, and how it has been historically celebrated right here at home. Museums10, a partnership of 10 museums in the upper Pioneer Valley, has announced its second cross-cultural initiative, titled BookMarks: A Celebration of the Art of the Book.

The program follows the success of GoDutch!, which explored the art and literature of the Dutch culture past and present. BookMarks will be the largest Museums10 event of the year, geared toward its mission of using the region’s museums and cultural attractions as magnets for cultural tourism and, ultimately, economic vitality in Western Mass.

According to Tony Maroulis, project coordinator for Museums10, the goal for GoDutch! was to increase attendance at the participating museums by 5%. Instead, the event boosted visitation by 15% across the board, and in some venues by as much as 40%.

This year, the group will be building on that success, and also taking BookMarks in a few different directions, aimed at further increasing visitation to its participating museums and marketing the various attractions within the Valley.

“GoDutch! was a success on many levels, we really did well,” said Maroulis. “The drawback was that the season was really long – it ran from January to the end of August, and that’s a really long time to sustain momentum.”

With that in mind, BookMarks has been planned to run for a shorter period —from September 2007 to January 2008 – a stretch that coincides with the Pioneer Valley’s busiest season for tourism.

In addition, targeted weekends have been created this year, to keep interest and public knowledge of BookMarks programs from waning: Art of the Book Weekend will kick off the initiative, from Sept. 20 to 23, and will be followed by Books Out Loud, from Oct. 12 to 14.

Two weekend programs are still in the planning stages, he said, adding that one will explore the effect technology has had on books and literature, while the other will be a science fiction weekend, planned to coincide with Halloween.

“The weekends looking at different topics differ from our schedule last year,” said Maroulis. “BookMarks already includes quite a few programs — it’s packed, and the weekends help to point out the various options to people.”

Ties the Bind

And similar to last year’s endeavor, several free-standing programs have also been scheduled throughout the fall and winter months at the museums and at area businesses, which speaks to the cross-collaborative goals of Museums10 and of BookMarks.

“This is where we start to meet our mandates in promoting the region,” said Maroulis. “By involving the business community in cross-promotional events, we’re getting people into the museums, but also the stores, restaurants, and hotels.”

According to some data collected during last year’s GoDutch!, Museums10 has had some success in this arena, as well.

Maroulis said the organization recorded about 105,000 visitors to GoDutch! exhibits and programs. Of the visitors surveyed, 60% reported that they were also patronizing stores and restaurants during their visits, and a whopping 40% said they stayed overnight in the Valley – a percentage that was higher than expected, and certainly welcomed.

“There was real economic impact, and that’s exactly what we wanted to hear,” he said, adding that, while applying for a grant for BookMarks from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (the group received $75,000 toward the program), Museums10 estimated a $10 million boost to the local economy during GoDutch!.

“We’ve done a lot more this year, talking with businesses and giving them ideas, not just saying ‘come up with something,’” he said, noting that readings by authors and poets has been one area in which businesses have shown early interest.

To date, businesses such as the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, and Amherst Cinema, which is mulling a mini-film festival inspired by literature, have expressed interest in partnering with Museums10 to create events.

In addition, the organization is actively seeking corporate sponsors, and has already begun preliminary talks with Veridian Village in Amherst, a community geared toward Baby Boomers, and media sponsors WGBY in Springfield, Preview magazine of Easthampton, and WFCR in Amherst.

Maroulis said he hopes to see even more interest as BookMarks’ launch date nears, in part due to the theme Museums10 chose for its second foray into a multi-organization, cross-promotional, regional event.

“It is really unique for us to cross-promote,” he said. “this is something where people can piggyback on our initiative to add value to their events, and if they’re putting our name and our logo in their own materials, it’s just as valuable to us. Everyone wins, and there are very few scenarios like that.”

Literary Prowess

Maroulis added that BookMarks evolved from a desire to offer a program that leaned more heavily on the Valley’s exisiting merits.

He explained that curators who work within the museums initially introduced the idea of celebrating the art of the book, as well as the role books and literature have played in history and how that role has changed in recent years. They were looking for a truer, more organic, museum-centric theme, and added that unlike GoDutch!, which brought the art and culture of a completely different region to Western Mass., BookMarks is a perfect fit for the Valley, drawing on its long, literary history.

“This is a theme that makes sense for the Valley,” said Maroulis. “We have such a rich tradition of literature and art — that’s what the Valley is about.”

BookMarks will present programs or exhibits at all of Museums10’s venues, which include seven college museums, all located on the ‘Five College’ campuses in Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley: The University Gallery at UMass, Amherst; the Mead Art Museum; the Emily Dickinson Museum and Homestead; the Museum of Natural History at Amherst College; the Hampshire College Art Gallery; the Smith College Museum of Art, and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Two independent Amherst museums – the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the National Yiddish Book Center – and Historic Deerfield complete the group. Maroulis said seven museum exhibitions will serve as the anchors for BookMarks:

  • Spiderwick from Page to Screen at the Eric Carle Museum, which will display materials from the books Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide and The Spiderwick Chronicles, which is currently being made into a feature film by Paramount Pictures;
  • The Write Stuff: The Material Culture of Literacy, presented at Historic Deerfield, displaying various objects related to reading and writing in colonial New England;
  • Two by Two: Lines, Rhymes, and Riddles, on display at the Mount Holyoke Museum of Art, including original artwork and poetry by Brad and Mark Leithauser, two brothers who collaborated on four volumes of art and verse;
  • Off the Shelf: Books from the Amherst Library Collection at the Mead Art Museum, displaying unique and limited edition volumes;
  • The People’s Book and Alpha Botanica at the National Yiddish Book Center, concentrating on the Five Books of Moses and a book of engraved alphabets by Sarah Horowitz;
  • Poetic Science: Bookworks by Daniel E. Kelm at the Smith College Museum of Art, featuring the work of the artist and book-binder, and
  • Bethan Huws at the University Gallery, UMass Amherst, featuring the artists’ work in text and language as a conceptual art movement.

To promote those wide-ranging events cohesively, Maroulis said Museums10 called on Barry Moser, who has lent his illustrative talents to more than 250 books, to create a logo for the event.

“We had a logo for GoDutch! last year that was cute, and people really liked it,” he said, “but I think they had a hard time making the connection between GoDutch! and Museums10.”

This year, the group has taken that into account, he said, noting that effective branding is key to the success of all cross-promotional events sponsored by Museums10, because of the wide range of activities and venues.

Stepping up to the Plate

“This year, we made sure to have Museums10 in the logo, to tell people who and what we are,” he said. “Another goal of ours is to really create a true sense of brand awareness.”

“Along with that, we’d of course love some brand loyalty – in other words, repeat visitorship.”

In keeping with that goal, Museums10 has already begun mulling 2009’s cross-promotional offering, hoping to take yet another tack and focus on gastronomy – and all things edible.

With a European country and a major mode of communication under their belts, Maroulis expects that this upcoming chapter in Museums10’s legacy will be a piece of cake — or at least include one.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements

10-10:45 a.m.

Creating a Work-life Balance = Healthier Business
Led by Anne-Marie Szmyt, director of WorkLife Strategies at Baystate Health
Room 1

Golf and Learn: Leadership and Team Building on the Green
Led by Lynn Turner and Ravi Kulkarni of Clear Vision Alliance
Room 2

Effective E-commerce
Led by Justin Friend and Fred Bliss, Stevens Design Studio
Room 3

Think Like an Entrepreneur: Any Time, Any Place, Any One
Led by Dr. Jan Ruder, Dr. Sandi Coyne-Westerkamp, Professor Lauren Way, and Dr. James Wilson III, the Graduate School at Bay Path College
Room 4

11-11:45 a.m.

New Ways to Meet Your Workforce Hiring and Training Needs
Led by Kevin Lynn, manager of Business Services at FutureWorks Career Center, and Charles Bodhi, director of Employer Services at the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
Room 1

The Secret Life of Your Information
Led by Elizabeth A. Rivet, Ph.D., director of Graduate Studies in Communications and Information Management and assistant professor of Information Technology at Bay Path College
Room 2

Taking the Lead: Manage with Style
Led by Carol Bevan-Bogart, Cambridge College
Room 3

Multichannel Marketing
Led by Tina Stevens, Stevens Design Studio
Room 4

2-2:45 p.m.

Effectively Reaching the Hispanic Market
Led by Hector Bauza, president, Bauza & Associates
Room 1

The Implications of Aging Parents: How to Help Your Employees
Led by Joanne Peterson, program development manager, Baystate Visiting Nurse Assoc. & Hospice
Room 2

Seven Steps to Improve Your Web Site’s Performance
Led by Dave Flaherty, president, Ashton Services
Room 3

Opinion

‘An agency in crisis.’

That’s how state Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) and House chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, described the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority at one in a series of press conferences he’s called over the past few weeks to blast away at the authority and its management.

The pronouncement was inspired by the death of a PVTA rider, a user of the authority’s paratransit service who fell after being dropped at the wrong location by the PVTA’s vendor, California-based MV Transportation. It had the desired effect — another front-page headline in the local paper for Wagner, and some more embarrassment for beleaguered PVTA Administrator Mary MacInnes and her staff, as well as the authority’s advisory board.

But Wagner was just getting warmed up. He was back in front of the media with more artillery a few weeks later, calling for the state inspector general’s office to investigate the PVTA’s hiring of a replacement for MV without seeking bids; McInnes would later say the matter would go to bid, but denied pressure from the state to do so.

Crisis? Maybe. Chaos? certainly. Politics? Lots of it. Indeed, while controversy continues over the van contract, Wagner keeps summoning the press to his office and PVTA Advisory Board Chairman Richard Theroux keeps accusing the state representative of ax-grinding, specifically resentment over the board’s hiring of former Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos as interim administrator more than a year ago.

Whether ‘crisis,’ an overused and often poorly used term, really applies to the PVTA can be debated, but what can’t is the fact that the PVTA’s oversight structure needs reform, and we hope Wagner, while calling press conferences, can also take a real role in bringing it about — he insists that this is his primary mission.

Perhaps the place to start is with that 24-member advisory board, the model for which is simply not working. For starters, while the board is staffed with well-meaning individuals, many of them have no idea how to oversee a transit system, and some were chosen for mostly political reasons. Meanwhile, this is a weighted system, almost Medieval in its structure, in which all the power goes to the more heavily populated communities, such as Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Northampton (which have more riders than smaller towns, obviously) and their representatives to the board.

Things are made worse by the fact that the mayors of those cities feel it necessary to come out of their corner offices when there is a big vote — like the one on a new administrator (MacInnis didn’t win a majority of votes, but got the ‘right’ ones), or an interim administrator, or the paratransit contract — and leave their representatives at home.

The move to award MV that contract was a classic case of these mayors trying to save a little money (MV was the low bidder, but the previous firm had years of experience handling the paratransit service) and thereby fix something that wasn’t broken, and thus really break it in the process. The PVTA’s administration didn’t handle matters with the new vendor very well, but the problem started with the advisory board vote.

It probably makes sense that Springfield’s vote on the advisory board weighs more than Williamsburg’s (maybe one bus reaches that Hampshire County community). But something needs to be done to take at least some of the politics out of the oversight of the PVTA and encourage more-responsible management of one of the region’s most important assets.

It will be difficult to orchestrate such change here and across the regional transit authority system, but it needs to happen, because while the PVTA may or may not in crisis, it has more than its share of problems — a van load of them.

Sections Supplements
Federal Courthouse Project Throws Some Curves at Those Building It
Joe Cocco

Senior Project Manager Joe Cocco

Designed by Moshe Safdie, the new, $55 million federal courthouse building taking shape on State Street will be a stunning addition to the landscape in downtown Springfield. For Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, the Holyoke-based firm that is managing construction of the 265,000-square-foot facility, the project presents an intriguing set of challenges and a worthy addition to a portfolio that includes Boston’s Rowes Wharf, Monarch Place, and Springfield’s Memorial Bridge.

They call it the “tree fort.”

That’s the name given by workers at Daniel O’Connell’s Sons to a small, glass-walled room, or enclosure, that will sit at the end of a winding staircase within the new, $53 million federal courthouse taking shape on State Street in Springfield. One of many unique architectural twists to the 265,000 facility, the balcony (that’s its formal name) will sit about 45 feet in the air and offer stunning views of the surrounding area, including two century-old trees that have in many ways helped shape this latest addition to Springfield’s skyline — literally and figuratively.

Indeed, the trees, said to be among the oldest in the city, are almost cradled within the exterior of the building, which is shaped somewhat like a script ‘C.’ Maneuvering around the trees — there were three, but one was determined to be diseased and taken down — has been one of many challenges facing O’Connell and the subcontractors that have handled specific aspects of the work, said Joe Cocco, senior project manager.

Others include the curvature of the building, something most subcontractors do not have much experience with; sometimes-unique design specifications, including areas that must be blast-proof or “ballistic resistant” (and there are degrees of both); the federal government’s use of metric measurements; and building U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor’s courtroom, and its many sightlines, to his specifications.

Overall, the courthouse assignment has been an intriguing addition to the O’Connell, or DOC, portfolio, said Cocco, noting that the project is large and quite visible, but not so big that it becomes difficult to manage.

“This is the perfect size project for O’Connell,” he explained. “It’s a big job, but it’s not one of those mammoth projects that’s impossible to control.”

As he gave BusinessWest a hardhat tour of the courthouse — due to be completed late this fall — Cocco talked about its many unique characteristics and how they make the building special … and somewhat difficult to take from blueprints to reality.

Round Numbers

When the tour reached Ponsor’s courtroom, one of three in the facility, Cocco referenced lines drawn on the floor to indicate where the judge’s bench will sit. He then pointed to the spot on one wall where the jury box will be located, and also to where the witness stand and other components of the room, now being fabricated for assembly later this year, will be placed. All this was done with considerable input from the judge.

“He’s been here on an almost weekly basis and has had input on many levels,” said Cocco. “We’ve done a number of mock-ups for him for sightline verification; he wants to be sure that, when he’s sitting at his bench, his line of sight to the jury and the witness box are right.”

There is similar attention to detail at every level of this project, which has been nearly a decade in the making, and will house the federal court and several other tenants, including U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who secured funding for the initiative.

The project actually consists of several components — the sweeping, glass-walled façade; the main courthouse building, which includes offices for several tenants, including Neal; and the so-called Chamber Building (connected to the main structure by glass walkways), which will house offices for the judges and other court personnel, and the U.S. Marshals.

Fashioned from Indiana limestone and pre-cast concrete (some 9,000 cubic yards of it), the courthouse complex is the latest landmark project for the 129-year-old O’Connell company, started by Daniel J. O’Connell the day after he was fired from his job as superintendent of streets in Holyoke for refusing to replace workers with the mayor’s hand-picked crew. The largest construction company in Western Mass., O’Connell has built several commercial and institutional buildings in the region and well beyond, and has also handled infrastructure work ranging from bridges and dams to a portion of the Big Dig.

The list of local projects includes Monarch Place, Tower Square, the Yankee Candle corporate headquarters in South Deerfield, Village Commons in South Hadley, the Massachusetts Venture Center in Hadley, and the 330 Whitney Ave. office park in Holyoke. Outside Western Mass., perhaps the company’s best-known work is Rowes Wharf, the 665,000-square-foot mixed-use development built largely on piles in Boston Harbor. O’Connell worked with Beacon Construction on the joint-venture project, which was honored with the prestigious Build America award by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The company won a second Build America award for its work in the early ’90s to reconstruct the Memorial Bridge — a structure the company helped build 70 years earlier. The lengthy project was made exceedingly challenging by a demanding schedule, logistical constraints, officials’ insistence that the bridge had to remain open, brutal winters, and even flood waters.

The courthouse project hasn’t been nearly as daunting, said Cocco, who played a lead role on the bridge work, but it has posed some challenges for O’Connell and the 20-odd subcontractors that have worked on the initiative. The trees — a Copper Beech and a Linden — have presented more than a few hurdles, for example. Perhaps the biggest was the need to redesign a portion of the basement and move some mechanical equipment to the roof because the trees’ root structures would have made the process of excavation for that section of basement cost-prohibitive.

But most of the challenges have come simply from meeting demanding specifications set down by Moshe Safdie, the Canadian-born architect perhaps best known for his award-winning work on Habitat ’67, the striking housing complex located on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal that was based on Safdie’s master’s thesis at McGill University and built as part of Expo ’67. The once-affordable housing — the architectural cachet has since made the units quite expensive — is a complex of modular, interlocking concrete forms.

Some of the Springfield courthouse’s unique design features were incorporated for security reasons, said Cocco, noting that the building has blast protection designed into it, for example, and the structural steel has been designed using progressive-collapse analysis, meaning that if one of the perimeter columns fails, those surrounding it would absorb the load. Also, the U.S. Marshals have some exacting requirements with regard to the ballistic-resistant qualities of their offices.
But many of the design challenges are aesthetic in nature, he told BusinessWest, using the words ‘clean’ and ‘flush’ to describe how the structure’s various parts come together.

“The real challenge with this building is the intricacy of the design,” he said. “The architect’s standard design details are very difficult; it requires a tremendous amount of effort on our part to coordinate all the parts and pieces so they fit together the way the architect intends.

“Some of these details are not what would be considered standard, and many of the subcontractors are not used to doing things this way,” he continued.

Typically, we build what the architect draws, but in this case, because the details are so difficult, it requires quite a bit more intervention on our part to make sure everything fits right.”

As examples, he cited the windows and skylights, which appear flush with the walls and ceilings around them, almost without interruption, in the form of frames or, in the case of the windows, the aluminum mullions.

“This architect likes everything flush,” he explained. “If you look at the roof surface, the glass and the skylights are flush with that roof surface. It’s the same with the windows; you don’t see the mullions — they’re hidden behind those structural elements, so you get a very clean look.”

“Even with the wood trim inside the building, everything is flush,” he continued. “Those details are challenging — in terms of the sequence of how pieces come together, but also for the tradespeople who have to make sure everything is aligned properly.”

The curvature of the building itself poses other challenges, especially for the tradespeople working on the job, said Cocco, noting that the radius of the front façade is 34,025 millimeters, or 112’8” — at DOC’s request, the architect is using both metric and English measurements.

“They’re used to pulling out a tape measure and putting it between two places … when it’s on a curve, they can’t do that,” he explained. “So our engineering staff has done more layout on this job than it would do ordinarily to maintain proper control of location of walls and other components to make sure it all comes together properly.”

Courting History

Thus far, everything has come together as Safdie and his company have intended, including the tree fort, said Cocco.

Much work remains, but most of the serious challenges have been met and overcome. And the trees — protected by a chain link fence — have survived the rigors of construction.

That was just one of the many priorities on a project that has been demanding on several levels — and has thrown DOC and its subcontractors a number of curves.

George O’Brien can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
General Contractors Say Uncertainty Is in the Forecast
William Crocker

William Crocker has seen a steady flow of small to medium-sized projects in the private sector, trends that feed into his company’s strengths.

For an industry that boasts sturdy materials and powerful machinery, construction can be a delicate business. Especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

“Last year was kind of an odd year,” said Thomas Zabel, president of the O’Leary Co. in Southampton, recalling the late onset of spring in 2006. “The weather kept things slow in the beginning, but then we got busy toward the end of the year.”

This year, however, right out of the gate, “we see a lot of opportunities with various types of projects across the board.”

Such a difference can be credited to more than just weather, of course. In fact, said Richard Aquadro, president of Aquadro & Cerruti in Northampton, the way the winds of supply and demand blow tends to be more important.

“I think the climate is getting better for contractors,” Aquadro said. “The last few years, it was a business owners’ market, and they were getting deals of a lifetime. Now, we’re getting to a point where we can pick and choose what we’re going to build.”

More than one of the contractors who spoke with BusinessWest this month brought up the term ‘cautious optimism,’ only to chuckle about it; they know it’s an overused buzzword in a region that tends to stay on an even keel even when other areas of the country alternate between frenetic building booms and periods of economic drought.

Still, some builders are indeed feeling optimistic for 2007, reporting a thaw in what has been for some a relatively cool couple of years — even if spring was a bit late showing up again.

Laying a Foundation

William Crocker, president of Crocker Building Co. in Springfield, said activity has been slow thus far in 2007, but he expects opportunities to present themselves throughout the year.

“We’re starting off slower than usual, but our estimating and bidding activity is probably higher than usual for this point in the year. So there are more prospects out there even though there’s less work on hand,” he said.

“We’re coming off four very busy years in a row,” he added, “so we do anticipate the next year to shape up pretty well, although there is a fair amount of uncertainty from business owners.”

McGraw-Hill Construction, an informational resource for the construction industry, projects a modest 1% decline in total activity nationwide this year, calling the overall forecast “a mix of pluses and minuses.”

However, that projection includes an estimated 5% decline in single-family housing construction. The commercial side is stronger, with activity in institutional buildings projected to increase by 7%, manufacturing by 14%, and public works by 5%, following a 10% surge in 2006.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, “the builders who were busy last year are busy this year, and those in a strong niche market are going to be healthy,” said Mary Gately, director of market services for Associated General Contractors of Mass. Those strong markets include health care, higher education, and small retail.

“We’re finding from our membership that those in the college and university marketplace or in health care seem to be fairly busy; those seem to be the primary markets,” she explained.

Aquadro & Cerruti, for example, has taken on work recently at Amherst College and Smith College, and will begin a job next year at Mass. College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, reflecting a decade-long surge of work for companies in the Pioneer Valley that specialize in higher-education projects. “We’re seeing more opportunities,” Aquadro said. “The colleges are pretty active.”

Meanwhile, virtually every hospital in Western Mass. has recently launched or finished a major building project, including Holyoke Medical Center’s recent $11 million expansion, Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s just-opened $50 million patient building and surgery center, the $14 million ICU and ambulatory care unit being built at Mercy Medical Center, and Baystate Medical Center’s planned $259 million expansion.

At the same time, “I think there’s some capacity being reached in the manufacturing and warehouse market,” said Peter Wood, vice president of business development for Associated Builders of South Hadley. “I do see the medical and service sectors doing pretty well and expanding. So while I do think capacity has been reached in certain areas, other areas are opening up.”

Meanwhile, Crocker said conventional building throughout Western Mass. is generating more activity than the pre-engineered metal side of the business, but added that such trends can shift quickly.

Back to School

Aquadro said builders who compete for public school work could start to see some positive rumblings from that sector after a few years of stagnancy.

Massachusetts was no different from the rest of the country in seeing diminished school construction. According to McGraw-Hill, education-related projects totaled 273 million square feet nationally in 2001, but fell to 209 million, or 23% less, by 2004. In Massachusetts, the decline over the same period was closer to 50%.

“My guess is that will start to change this year,” Aquadro said. “There was a moratorium put on a lot of it years ago, and public school building has been pretty slim, but with the new governor, the projects that have been lined up for years could start to move forward.”

Aquadro & Cerruti picked up one of the higher-profile jobs in that sector, winning the bid to build the new Holyoke Catholic High School near Elms College in Chicopee.

Meanwhile, for companies that don’t rely on publicly funded work, the flow of jobs looks to be steady, Crocker suggested.

“We mainly operate in the private sector, and a large portion of our work is referrals, so we’re not necessarily chasing government work,” he said. “There are several contractors of our size in this area, and we compete with them for those jobs.”

It helps, he said, that Crocker tends to shun very large-scale projects, which have not presented the same opportunities in recent years as the smaller jobs the company prefers — those ranging from “$500 to $5 million, and anywhere in between,” as he put it.

Aquadro agreed that major projects are slow to emerge off the drawing board. “We’d like to take projects ideally from $10 million to $30 million, but there haven’t been a lot of these around, so we’ve bid for smaller projects,” he said. “But we’ve still found enough work, and we’re competitive. The climate has the all-around appearance of being better and providing more opportunities.”

Hammering It Home

Gately said many of her organization’s members are more hopeful this year than they were during a slow patch last summer.

“We were holding our breath last year,” she told BusinessWest. “The architects’ boards weren’t moving, and construction is about six months behind the architects. But by the fall and the beginning of this year, those projects were starting to filter down to the construction phase.”

“We see a good forecast this year,” Wood said. “We’re coming off a very strong period, and we have additional projects coming to the construction phase by the summer. I’m looking forward to continued success.”

Maintaining a diverse slate of projects is key, said Zabel, whose company recently broke ground on the St. John Pastoral Center in Ludlow and is also building a new hangar for AirFlyte at Barnes Airport in Westfield, among other jobs. He said the aerospace industry and machine shops are showing active growth in the region, among others. “There are many different things out there for us, quite a few opportunities.”

Time factors have contributed to the stress that many construction companies are feeling, Crocker said.

“Business owners want projects done sooner than they used to, while town planning requirements take longer and cause delays. But we anticipate doing about as much as we did last year,” he said, noting the Belchertown courthouse and a United Rentals facility in Ludlow among the recent projects. “All in all, we’re tentatively optimistic.”

Yes, there’s that word — optimistic — again, as ubiquitous in the spring as hopeful feelings at Fenway Park. But in construction as in baseball, the dog days of summer will be the true measure.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements

Breakfast (7:15)
Featuring a keynote address by Wes Moss, a certified financial planner, entrepreneur and former candidate on NBC’s The Apprentice.

Lunch (noon)
Hosted by the Better Business Bureau and featuring motivational speaker Dr. Steve Sobel, author of the Good Times Handbook.

A Microbrew Tasting (12-2 p.m.)
Participants can sample three craft beers distributed locally by Williams Distributing: The Redhook Brewery (Portsmouth, N.H.), Magic Hat Brewery (South Burlington, Vt.),
and Sierra Nevada (Chico, Calif.)

Seminars (10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.)
Topics range from work/life balance to effective E-Commerce;
from workforce hiring to multi-channel marketing
(see the full schedule, page 19)

Taste of the Market (3-5 p.m.)
Local restaurants, sponsored by show exhibitors, will offer
free samples from their menus.

Departments

In Good Company

Michael Zasky, president of Zasko Productions, with his father, William Zasky, holds the hardware that comes with being named Business of the Year in Chicopee for 2006. The award was presented at the Chicopee Chamber’s recent Shining Stars event.


Making the Grade

Westfield resident Cori Marsh has been named the 2007 recipient of the Marjorie Green Scholarship by PeoplesBank. A Business Administration major at Holyoke Community College, Marsh received the $1,000 scholarship from PeoplesBank Executive Vice President Douglas Bowen. She will use the funds to continue her education at Bryant University this fall. The scholarship is named after Marjorie Green, who rose to the position of senior vice president of the bank during the 1960s.


Taking Stock

Peyton Patterson, chairman, president, and CEO of NewAlliance Bancshares, recently rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange with her executive team as the company marked its third anniversary of becoming a public company. Headquartered in New Haven, Conn., NewAlliance Bancshares is the parent company of NewAlliance Bank, which has 88 branches in Connecticut and Western Mass., and assets of approximately $8 billion.


Town Meeting

Springfield Technical Community College President Ira Rubenzahl, Student Goverment President Nelly Cruz, and Dr. Celeste Budd-Jackson, vice chair of the STCC Board of Trustees, join Governor Deval Patrick at a recent town meeting staged by the Patrick administration at STCC.


After 5

Jackie Keady, donor relations manager for the Sisters of Providence Health System, greets guests at a recent Chamber of Commerce After 5, held at Healthtrax in East Longmeadow.