Home 2007 November
Opinion

It’s been talked about for years, but there now appears to be some real movement in the efforts to give UMass a physical presence in downtown Springfield, and perhaps elsewhere in this region.

Looking for ways to help spark Springfield’s recovery, and also to spread the economic development wealth that the university holds, at least potentially, Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration are talking with greater urgency about creating some kind of “UMass presence” in Springfield — perhaps as part of the broad State Street corridor development/redevelopment effort.

No one knows what such a development might look like, but the parties — Patrick and his secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Daniel O’Connell; UMass administrators; and Springfield officials — have agreed that this is worth at least talking seriously about.

We concur, but would advise that all these parties perform some real due diligence and mastermind a strategy that would make a UMass presence here a long-term asset and not a quick fix designed to make it look like the Patrick camp was doing something to help Springfield. Meanwhile, this UMass presence mustn’t threaten other institutions of higher learning that have been in Springfield for decades; instead, it should complement what one or more of these schools may be doing and inspire other partnerships down the road.

Here’s one idea, actually taken from the governor’s so-called Springfield Partnership. Under the category of ‘potential future investments,’ the document lists a possible feasibility study on the development of a renewable-energy research center. If we assume for the moment that such a study reveals that this research center is indeed feasible, then it seems logical that UMass, working in concert with Springfield Technical Community College and perhaps other schools in the city, could be a catalyst for such a center.

STCC and its Technology Park (which sports a photovoltaic installation on its roof) have identified renewable energy as not merely the focus of a potential degree program, but as a very real economic-development strategy for the region, one that could, that’s could, bring large numbers of jobs to Greater Springfield — not tomorrow or next year, but over the next few decades.

It is only a matter of time, and probably not much of it, before there is an aggressive regional and national push to bring renewable energy sources to the marketplace. If the dire predictions about soaring prices for gasoline and heating oil in the coming months become reality, and the economy suffers greatly, then there will be a louder cry for alternative fuels like wind power, solar power, and others.

And just as Worcester has become a center for development in the broad biosciences field, Western Mass., and specifically Springfield, could become the hub for renewable energy research and product development.

Worcester’s base of biotechnology-related businesses wasn’t built overnight — and it’s certainly still in the early stages of development. It started with research at colleges located in and near the city, research that eventually led to jobs and, for Worcester, a reputation as a place where such businesses can get started and eventually grow.

The same can happen here, and renewable energy is just one example of how the university can help spawn some real, long-term economic development in the Greater Springfield area.

To establish a UMass presence in Springfield merely to help fill space in one or more commercial properties — the old Technical High School, for example — or maybe to help some downtown businesses by increasing foot traffic, isn’t the kind of big thinking that’s needed here.

Those at the university, the Statehouse, and Springfield City Hall need to start a dialogue about the ways UMass can make some major contributions to the local economy in a meaningful way, and for decades to come.

Sections Supplements
Printers Are Rolling Out More Environmentally Sound Practices
Andy Timmons

Andy Timmons says green printing can provide some effective marketing for companies like John C. Otto.

Starting with a long tradition of streamlined production and strengthened by a number of recent conservation-focused initiatives, printers are emerging at the forefront of the green movement, as they incorporate new programs aimed at keeping the presses running lean, mean, and earth friendly.

Ben Franklin, a printer by trade, may not have seen the green-printing trend coming during his years at the press.

But Andy Timmons, executive vice president at John C. Otto Co. in East Longmeadow, thinks Franklin would have embraced the new, environmentally friendly practice, and seen its worth as a tool to streamline business and bolster the bottom line.

“Printers are some of the most adaptive, technology-driven people in this country,” he said. “We welcome change because it’s necessary to improve the work we do every day. There’s no other industry that spends as much time as we do re-evaluating workflow, and it’s always been that way, since the beginning.”

That sentiment is carrying John C. Otto and other printing companies forward, as the latest major change to their work picks up both speed and attention.

‘Green’ is a ubiquitous term these days, speaking to the practices of all businesses and individuals that reduce negative impact on the environment. There’s a strong focus on recycling, as well as on incorporating organic materials whenever possible, to reduce the use of petroleum-based products.

For printers, this means switching to vegetable-based inks, recycling paper by the ton, and monitoring energy consumption. It means placing recycled paper towels in the bathrooms, turning the heat down during slow production times, and keeping a close eye on direct mailings. Two holiday calendars sent to the same office? Not anymore.

Timmons said that, more than anything else, the devil is in the details when it comes to going green. But increasingly, the printing industry is being seen as one of the leaders of the movement.

The Kings of the Forest

One of the buzz terms prevalent in the printing industry recently is ‘FSC certification,’ a designation granted by the Forest Stewardship Council. It follows a rigorous audit and application process, and essentially verifies that any ‘certified’ product can be traced back to an FSC-certified forest, which has gone through a similar certification process.

According to the FSC Web site, the purpose of the certification effort is to “shift the market to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples, and violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging.” In order to use the FSC logo as an ‘environmental claim’ on paper, the product must have flowed through the FSC ‘Chain of Custody,’ or COC, from a certified forest to a paper manufacturer to a merchant and, finally, to a printer who has obtained certification.

Certified paper producers are becoming the norm, and that’s prompting the next industry in the chain, printers, to join.

“The paper companies really drove this,” said Timmons, noting that John C. Otto obtained its FSC certification last year, along with 68 other companies owned by Consolidated Graphics, its parent company, which mandated the change. “It was a situation in which we felt like we had to get on board or get out of the way.”

Becoming FSC-certified requires an investment, and can be time-consuming, said Timmons, adding that the audit process requires an examination of every part of the printing process, which a company must then record and disclose.

“There’s a substantial fee — thousands of dollars,” he added. “It’s not crushing, but it’s enough to get your attention.”

From that point, the certification process requires that a printer use FSC-certified papers, non-toxic inks, and recyclable plates, and must monitor its paper-recycling efforts closely. If and when a company is approved by the FSC, it is provided with a standard operating procedure for printing an FSC job, which involves everyone from the customer and salesperson to the prepress operator and bindery and shipping personnel.

A series of FSC logos are also provided, which can be placed on a completed product to announce its place in the Chain of Custody, but only after the FSC has reviewed and approved the project and its standing as forestry-friendly.

Power and Process

Certification is still a relatively recent phenomenon in the printing industry; the FSC maintains a directory of certified printers across the country, and as of Nov. 5, there were 614 FSC printers in the nation, including 10 in Connecticut and 18 in Massachusetts. Of those, only two, John C. Otto and Bassette Printers in Springfield, make their home in Western Mass.

Still, the process is becoming the next step for many outfits in their ongoing ‘green’ efforts. June Roy-Martin, communications and business development manager with Quality Printing in Pittsfield, said she first looked into the program a year ago, and at that time was told by industry insiders to hold off because FSC didn’t formally apply to printers yet.

“I made some calls regarding FSC certification because I noticed the trend in the paper companies, and was told that it might be something for us to look into in the future,” she said. “But that was just a year ago, and now it’s definitely something we’re moving forward with.”

Roy-Martin explained that while her company has yet to secure FSC certification, Quality Printing has already instituted a number of environmentally sound practices. She agreed with Timmons that printers are a breed that is accepting of change, and that the industry is, in many ways, at the forefront of the green movement.

“Over the years, we have always tried to listen to what our customers are saying to us in terms of technology and the environment,” said Roy-Martin. “We have had a recycling program for all end-cuts of paper and office paper for many years, as well as a program for aluminum plates. Over the past five years in particular, we have phased into using exclusively soy-based inks and a wide range of recycled papers, and we only deal with paper distributors that are FSC-certified.”

There are other initiatives planned at Quality Printing, among them the incorporation of renewable energy sources, such as solar power.

“Printers in general accrue very high energy costs, and we don’t want to continue to drain the supply,” she said, noting that in light of Gov. Deval Patrick’s focus on renewable energy, she hopes that state or federal assistance could offset the costs associated with installing a solar power system. “We hope to get grant funding for it, but regardless it will be an investment we’ll make, and we’ll make it because we want to.”

Then there’s something called the ‘merge and purge.’ Often overlooked as merely an administrative function, Quality Printing’s practice of reviewing the names on a mailing list and carefully cross-checking names with addresses has allowed the company to eliminate duplicate mailings to one office or home, said Roy-Martin. The little things are more important than ever, she added, because clients are becoming the industry’s watchdogs.

“We failed to merge and purge once, just once, and you can’t imagine the phone calls,” she said, adding that requests for more environmentally friendly practices are frequent, especially among clients in the academic and non-profit fields, and could very well be a deciding factor in an organization’s decision to contract with a given printer.

“The health of our business has become directly related to environmental printing; we have to be aware, or customers aren’t even going to consider us,” she said. “It’s important to our clients to do business with good stewards of our world, and they’re not afraid to tell you how they feel about it.”

Full-court Press

Deanna Gaulin, safety manager and director of Human Resources at Hitchcock Press in Holyoke, a paper converter and printer specializing in film and foil laminations, gravure printing, specialty coating, and embossing, said that while she, too, will soon be embarking on the long, detailed process of FSC certification, many practices that are now seen as ‘green’ have been part of the printing process for some time, and have given the industry an important boost when incorporating new initiatives.

“I think you’re hearing more and more about green printing, but for many printers, things that are seen as environmental now have long been part of the nature of the job,” she said. “Computerized pre-press operations, for example, have reduced the amount of processing chemicals we use, and save water and energy. Communicating by E-mail saves time, but also paper, and labeling waste carefully keeps paper out of the landfill.”

Gaulin noted that, from a price standpoint, the demand for environmental products has made adding new aspects to Hitchcock’s repertoire simpler, too.

“Certainly, an important aspect of green printing is the paper we use, and we utilize recycled paper whenever possible, as well as vegetable-based inks,” she said. “Our customers are absolutely asking for these things more often, and unlike in the past, it’s not more expensive to use now — sometimes it’s cheaper. In making the switch, we’ve had no difficulty whatsoever.”

That, in turn, has allowed Hitchcock to make some of those smaller changes that are contributing to the green movement — the shop uses ecologically sound cleaning supplies, has installed a sensor system for lights to curb electricity use, and sometimes mixes its own inks to avoid ordering multiple colors.

“We also follow all Mass. DEP regulations and obtain a DEP compliance certification yearly, something we don’t have to do, but volunteer do,” said Gaulin. “We find that using environmentally sound measures not only benefits the environment, but protects the bottom line and minimizes waste.”

Green in the Genes

Timmons agreed that embarking on the FSC-certification process was made easier by the cost-saving, conservation-minded measures John C. Otto had already employed.

“We’ve always had a low output of anything harmful to the environment,” he said, “and we passed the FSC test the first time around. Still, it was eye-opening to see how much waste printers create as part of normal business.”

That has led to a new level of environmental stewardship at the company, but also to a new marketing benefit. Timmons said the FSC logo, or any proof of green practices on the part of a printer, not only retains clients who recognize the importance of environmentalism, but can also generate business.

“Initially, we didn’t see business grow directly out of this,” he said, “but as customers gravitate more toward green printing, the FSC logo makes a very powerful statement for us. We’re seeing an increased level of business that is continuing to pick up steam.”

Timmons said about two in 10 print jobs at John C. Otto now carry an FSC logo, and he theorizes that as that pace quickens, green printing will become yet another intervention that leads to an improved workflow.

“Printers must constantly revise the work they do,” he said, echoing one of Ben Franklin’s more famous quotes, first printed on his own press: keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee.

“The printing industry is defined by change,” Timmons concluded. “But you know what? We’re used to it.”

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
AM Lithography Expands Its Operations in Holyoke
Jamie Meadows

Jamie Meadows says creating AM Packaging, AM Litho’s sister company, was one of the firm’s best moves.

Print, die-cut, fold, glue.

It’s a fairly simple process, and a set of procedures that is translating into new developments and strong annual growth at AM Lithography and its burgeoning sister company, AM Packaging.

The printing company extended its reach into the packaging industry seven years ago, and this year, that move has necessitated an expansion into a new facility on Winter Street in Holyoke that has the company and the city chalking one up for the team.

AM Lithography (‘AM Litho’ for short), based in Chicopee, was founded in 1985 by Allen Meadows, who remains the company’s president. Over the past 25 years, AM Litho has grown steadily, providing commercial sheet-fed printing services to a wide range of clients across the Northeast, particularly in the financial services and academic fields.

Jamie Meadows, director of sales, said AM Litho was presented with the opportunity to diversify into the packaging market by addressing the needs of an existing customer at the start of the decade, and that request has since led to the creation of AM Packaging.

Meadows said that, above all else, he sees that move as an achievement integral to the company’s identity and success.

“It’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” he said. “We’ve doubled our sales almost every year, and last year, we grew more than 50%.”

That pace signaled the possible need for expansion early on, said Meadows, and as orders continued to increase, the space required for these new products — boxes, folders, and other types of plastic and paper-based packages of all kinds — necessitated a move.

“On the packaging side, we became a company with a national reach very quickly,” he said, noting that while AM Litho prefers to keeps its client list confidential, jobs can include virtually any kind of product packaging for both corporate and retail use.

Like the printing sector in general, it’s a specialty that experiences both ups and downs. But lately, the arrow has been pointing upward at AM Packaging.

“This is a business in which we have peaks and valleys regularly; it’s not uncommon to have a very busy time followed by a slow spot,” said Meadows. “But after launching AM Packaging, we had four or five months in a row when we were just slammed, and we were simply running out of room.”

With plenty of orders lining up on the horizon as well, Meadows said he began touring manufacturing locations across the region, including in Chicopee, Agawam, and Holyoke.

“But as soon as I walked into the Winter Street location, I knew that was home. It was modern and clean, and had everything we were looking for.”

Making a Case

The 59,000-square-foot facility was once owned and occupied by Laminated Paper, which sold the location to AM Litho in July of this year. AM Litho has committed to investing more than $6 million in the building, which includes the purchase price, updates to its infrastructure, new equipment, and staffing costs.

Meadows said the benefits offered by the city of Holyoke were one draw toward the location, and a large aspect of the decision to not only purchase the Winter Street building, but also enter into a collaborative partnership with the city, aimed at fostering economic growth.

“The incentive programs they offered were great,” he said, listing the willingness of the Office of Economic and Industrial Development and Holyoke Gas and Electric to work with the company on various issues, as well as a tax-increment financing, or TIF, arrangement.

Kathleen Anderson, director of Holyoke’s Office of Planning and Industrial Development, said that collaborative approach between the city and AM Litho began very early in the process.

“Originally, I believe they approached the mayor’s office,” she said, “and they wanted to learn more about the incentives that Holyoke could offer.”

The process began, she continued, with a meeting between city officials, AM Litho’s management, and HG&E — and also a question: why Holyoke?

“Whenever someone comes to us from another community, we always ask if they’ve approached their own community first,” she said. “We’re more interested in regionalism and helping all Western Mass. communities across the board, not taking business away from anyone. Others have done the same for us.”

Anderson said AM Packaging’s need to expand necessitated an amount of space that wasn’t readily available in Chicopee, prompting a search in Holyoke. But the conversations also helped to address some of the company’s own questions and concerns, according to John Dyjach, assistant director of the Office of Economic and Industrial Development.

“They wanted to get a feel for the future of the area they were considering,” said Dyjach. “They wanted to know if it was positioned for positive growth, and if the Winter Street corridor was an area that was up and coming in general. They didn’t want to be the only ones there.”

Dyjach said Laminated Paper had taken exceptional care of the property, which was on the market for a little more than two years before AM Lithography completed its purchase.

“It’s a great, modern building, and we had a lot of people interested,” he said, “but it was a particularly good fit for AM Litho’s operations.”

In addition, the industrial section of the city also includes two properties appropriate for rehabilitation, the former Ampad manufacturing facility, and also a few parcels of land that are drawing interest from both local and out-of-state parties.

Employer Benefits

Beyond the potential for new growth on Winter Street, though, Dyjach said the city also offers industrial property owners many different levels of assistance that proved to be attractive to AM Litho.

First, there’s the role of MIDAC, the Mayor’s Industrial Development Advisory Committee, which pairs city officials with business owners to form a group with the sole purpose of attracting and retaining industrial activity. One of MIDAC’s offerings is the opportunity for potential property owners to network with current property owners, and to get answers from objective sources to sometimes-tough questions about doing business in Holyoke.

“People know it’s our job to pitch the city,” said Dyjach, “and fostering conversations with other business owners who aren’t being paid to do that allows for a level of trust to be developed.

“It also allows business owners to network with each other and, hopefully, do business with one another,” he added. “We’re as proactive as we can be to find good matches for the city and its business community.”

And on a more tangible level, the TIF, offered by the city in concert with the Commonwealth, is designed to give new industrial property owners the opportunity to save money in the early years of developing a new business venture.
There is a 100% property tax exemption in the first year of ownership, 75% the following year, 50% the third, and 25% in the fourth year, said attribution. The program spans five years; in the final year, the property owner pays all taxes, but is eligible for additional benefits from the state.

“It’s a substantial savings — tens of thousands of dollars,” said Dyjach, “and in the long run, it helps property owners increase the value of their facilities, by freeing up funds for renovation and other improvements.”

Anderson said the program has been in place for several years, and reflects Holyoke’s standing as a regional economic target area in the state. Chicopee, Westfield, and Easthampton share the same distinction.

“It creates a significant payback for the city by allowing for investments in new jobs and revenue gains,” she said. “The criteria for inclusion is a good-faith effort on the part of the company to hire people from within the city, particularly those in low- to moderate-income brackets.”

Pulp Non-fiction

Meadows said that part of the bargain has been a relatively easy task thus far, given the rapid growth of AM Packaging.

“We’re committed to hiring at least two Holyoke residents in the first three months of operation,” he said. “We’ve been there four months now, and we’ve added eight employees.”

The company, which now employs a total of about 150 employees in Chicopee and Holyoke, is also positioned for what Meadows said he expects will be rapid growth.

“Our short-term, modest goal would be to grow 25% in the next year,” he said. “But that’s a goal we could blow out of the water. AM Packaging is becoming a serious player in the area and a major part of our business.”

That said, Meadows, and also officials in Holyoke, hope the growing company will print, die-cut, fold, and glue its way to greatness — and, in the process, seal a positive fate for the Paper City.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
L’uva Strives to Give Customers a Grape Experience
Michael Ratté

Michael Ratté says a large, diverse menu and an impressive wine list keep customers coming back to L’uva.

Michael Ratté operates an award-winning Springfield restaurant, the culmination of almost 30 years in the food-service business.

But the co-owner of L’uva didn’t start anywhere near the top; his first foray into the business was busing tables at Springfield Country Club at age 16.

“I’ve been in fine dining almost exclusively ever since, in many places in this area and elsewhere,” he said. And when it came time to actually own a restaurant, Ratté soon decided he was better off following his own instincts.

“At first, I was with a few other guys with their own concepts, and none of them were in the restaurant business,” he said. “When I pointed out the inadequacies of their ideas, they got afraid. So I bought them all out and did it on my own.”

Well, not quite.

Ratté partnered on the venture with chef Joseph Groth, who remains co-owner and head chef today, and earns credit for the eclectic nature of the expansive and ever-changing menu.

“The idea was fine dining, a big menu, and lots of wines,” said Ratté; indeed, L’uva is a French word for grape, and the wine list features more than 60 selections by the glass, 350 by the bottle, “and there are probably another 75 to 100 that aren’t even on the list.”

In this issue, BusinessWest visits what is quickly becoming a Springfield destination for food fans and wine lovers alike.

Creative Touches

Ratté has described Groth’s food creations as having Asian, French, and Italian influences, but with a distinctly American twist.

There’s an element of adventure in the menu, from a Caesar salad topped with semolina-fried oysters to entrees including maple-crusted scallops and duck with sun-dried cherries. L’uva also offers creative cheese plates, a selection of desserts all made in-house, and petite entrees that leave room for … well, salads, cheese, and desserts.

“My chef is outstanding, and this is a family venture, so everybody involved cares about what we’re doing,” Ratté said. “We’ve all been together for so long, we work really well together.”

Even though Ratté and Groth’s earliest concept, something resembling a sandwich shop, morphed into the fine-dining establishment L’uva is today — “this is a much fancier look than what we were originally going to do,” Ratté said — even then they intended to include plenty of beer and wine selections.

And L’uva has certainly forged a reputation for wine, hosting wine clubs, private wine tastings where people can learn more about different varieties, and even “wine flights” — sample servings of four different wines, offered on their own or with a meal. Just a year after its 2003 opening, L’uva was earning ‘best wine list’ honors in the Valley Advocate’s annual Best-of-Springfield poll — in addition to ‘best restaurant,’ ‘best creative American cuisine,’ and ‘best service and waitstaff.’

That latter honor is no accident; L’uva is staffed by professional waiters, some of them seasoned industry veterans — “not college kids working for extra money,” Ratté said — and customers are greeted with the option of valet parking on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ratté is pleased by the way his restaurant has become a noted part of the downtown dining and entertainment scene. “I don’t think this area is underserved by restaurants,” he said, “but I don’t think many places pay as much attention to detail as we do.”

That attention to detail is evident in the way Ratté restored the brick walls and tin ceiling of L’uva’s 1850s building. “We feature art by local artists on the brick wall on the bar side, and that changes every month, so it changes the look in here and also gives plenty of locals an opportunity to show off their works,” he said.

Forward Thinking

Ratté’s plans to open a second location in Belchertown, at the site of the former state school, fell through last year, but he continues to keep his eyes open for other opportunities to expand. “Many opportunities have arisen, but I’m waiting for the perfect fit for what we want to do.”

In any case, he said, locals who patronize L’uva at its current location don’t have anything to worry about.

“A lot of people heard about Belchertown and thought I’d leave the downtown location completely,” he said. “But that’s not true. We have a following down here, and there’s no reason to leave Springfield.”

In fact, he said, many people don’t believe that a pleasant dining experience can exist in that area of Main Street, close to the Hippodrome and the entertainment district — until they stop by for the first time.

“There’s so much negativity about the downtown, but we’ve never had any problems,” he said. “Things that happen miles away are not what the downtown is like, and any negatives here are things that happen at 2 in the morning, so it’s nothing that affects my customers.”

In fact, Ratté said all the news outside his front window lately has been positive, including the city’s installation of new sidewalks, pavement, and streetlights on Main Street. “A lot of people from the suburbs are afraid to come to downtown Springfield,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s founded.”

Changes are constantly afoot inside L’uva as well, as Groth produces a new menu four times a year, keeping some favorites but always introducing new items.

“It’s a huge menu, but our regular customers still often wind up trying everything, so it’s important to change it for them,” Ratté said. “It also allows us to take advantage of seasonal items, so we get things when they’re at their best. And we’ll go a little heavier in the winter, which is nice.

“Besides,” he added, “I have to vary it for myself. I eat here all the time.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

Departments

Having a Ball

The ballroom of the Springfield Sheraton was the site for the annual Bright Nights Ball, the major fundraiser for the Spirit of Springfield, staged on Nov. 17. More than 400 people turned out for the black-tie affair, which had a Monopoly theme (Hasbro Games was the sponsor), and featured a live auction that netted more than $30,000 for the Spirit of Springfield. Clockwise, from right, Urban League of Springfield President Henry Thomas, U.S. Congressman Richard Neal, Spirit of Springfield Director Judith Matt, and Springfield Mayor-elect Domenic Sarno; volunteer hostess Stephanie Malikowski and host Thomas Murca display Monopoly Express games. Those purchasing the $50 items also won chances to win prizes; (left to right) Dr. Fraud Madawwar, Joan Hebert, Col. (ret.) Ron Senz, Sarno, Leila Mudawwar, and Dr. Ronald Kanagaki; Josephine Sarnelli and Jeff Lander from Small Planet Dancers.


Positive Steps

Partnering institutions that brought the Alvin Ailey II dance company (at left) to Springfield’s CityStage for two performances are represented by, left to right, John Wilson, Springfield College; Naomi White-Innis, American International College; Jose Tolson, Elms College; Kent Alexander, Elms College; Troy Powell, associate artistic director, Alvin Ailey II; Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield Department of Health and Human Services; Myra Smith, Springfield Technical Community College; William Blatch, Black Men of Greater Springfield; Janine Fondon, Unity First News; and Ira Rubenzahl, President of STCC.

Departments

State Gives Go-ahead for Massive Baystate Expansion

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s Public Health Council has given Baystate Health the green light to proceed on a $239.3 million expansion project. After hearing testimony from hospital administrators and civic and business leaders, the board voted unanimously to approve Baystate’s application for the project, which will add 48 beds to the 653-bed facility. Baystate President and CEO Mark Tolosky said he expects construction to begin in the summer of 2009, and that the facility will be open in 2012. Mercy Medical Center had initially opposed the expansion plans, but later dropped that opposition when state analysts clarified themselves and said the space will not be used for additional beds, but to supplant existing beds.

Center Untangling Wireless Communication Challenges

AMHERST — A new research center that will address far-reaching problems in wireless communication will be established at UMass Amherst, thanks to a $200,000 start-up grant from the UMass President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund and the President’s Creative Economy Fund. The Center of Excellence in Wireless Communications should lead to broad new capabilities in areas from emergency preparedness and homeland security to health care, education, and entertainment. Led by Dennis Goeckel, the new center will bring together more than 15 researchers from the fields of networking, communication systems, electromagnetics, and circuits to tackle the challenges that arise in an increasingly interconnected world. The UMass Amherst campus is providing an additional $40,000 in funding.

Study: Health Insurance Mandates Hurt Low-income Employees

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new study presented as part of a Cornell University symposium finds that ‘Pay or Play’ laws, which require employers to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fine, will reduce employment for the least-skilled members of the workforce. The study, sponsored by the Employment Policies Institute and authored by Cornell University economists Richard Burkhauser and Kosali Simon, uses federal Current Population Survey data to calculate that for every 100 newly insured employees resulting from a Pay or Play law, 10 low-wage employees will lose their jobs. For a copy of the study, titled “Who Gets What From Employer ‘Pay or Play’ Mandates,” visit epionline.org. The Employment Policies Institute is a noprofit research organization dedicated to studying public-policy issues surrounding entry-level employment.

AIM Applauds Introduction of Comprehensive Energy Bill

BOSTON — The Green Communities Act of 2007, previewed at a press conference recently by Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi, will, when enacted, place an improved focus on cost-saving energy-efficiency programs and renewable energy for both citizens and business owners throughout the Commonwealth, according to Richard Lord, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Mass. (AIM). AIM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit employer association of more than 7,000 state businesses and institutes. AIM applauds those representatives from business, energy, and environmental groups for coming together to develop an energy-reform package designed to control costs by enhancing existing energy efficiency programs in Massachusetts and encouraging the development of additional cost-effective sources of alternative energy. Last summer, AIM issued a statement that called for the reinvigorating of state energy programs, in light of the fact that Massachusetts consumers face some of the nation’s highest costs for electricity. Most recently, AIM conducted several briefings across the state outlining the results of a member survey detailing the impact of high costs of electricity on businesses. While nothing in the short term can lower the cost of electricity to the level in some other states, the Green Communities Act should serve to ensure a more efficient use of current resources as a first step to more stable rates for electricity in the future, according to Lord.

Family Businesses Face Future Risks

SPRINGFIELD — Family businesses are optimistic about growth but not immune to future challenges, according to a survey sponsored by MassMutual, the Family Firm Institute, and the Cox Family Enterprise Center at the Kennesaw State University Coles College of Business. Increasingly led by women and driven by strong ethical and family-oriented values, family businesses are most at risk for financial troubles centered on the lack of formal succession planning and preparation, and the personal financial issues of family business owners, according to the study.

2008 Woman of the Year Nominees Sought

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Partnership, a division of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Inc., is once again seeking nominees for its Woman of the Year Award. This is one of the highest regarded awards by citizens and is recognized as the top citation earned locally. Women in the Pioneer Valley are eligible for nomination and a Chamber affiliation is not required. The nominee should best exemplify ideals of outstanding leadership, accomplishments, and service to the community. Services can be rendered over a lifetime or for more recent achievements. Nomination forms can be requested by calling (413) 543-8000, via E-mail to [email protected], or at the Affiliated Chamber of Commerce of Greater Springfield office, 1441 Main St., Springfield. The deadline for nominations is Jan. 9.

Survey: Firms Pursuing Technology Upgrades

MENLO PARK, Calif. — When asked what initiatives were top of mind for their firms over the next two years, chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed most often cited technology upgrades (53%) and business process improvement measures (50%). Companies are focused on shoring up their infrastructures to create greater efficiencies and control costs, according to Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. McDonald added that technology upgrades allow firms to boost critical network security, facilitate global collaboration and enable easier interaction with customers. The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

Sections Supplements

It’s the last workday before Christmas, and there’s a gilt-wrapped package on your desk from a co-worker.

What could it be? Personalized golf balls? A handy letter-opener? The latest best-selling title atamazon.com?

The anticipation can fill many an employee with glee — but others with dread. Gift giving at the office can be a tricky task, and sometimes, a well-intentioned present can backfire.

A few Western Mass. professionals answered the call (anonymously) from BusinessWest to ’fess up about the best and worst holiday gifts they’ve received, and their stories offer some insight into what to give and what to shelve.

For one bank vice president, his favorite gift was also his most lamented. A client presented him with a brand-new set of Callaway golf clubs as a special thank you for a year of good advice; however, the gesture was too extravagant for him to accept.

“They were even left-handed,” said the southpaw, “but as a gift that cost in the thousands, of course I couldn’t take them.”

The clubs did eventually find a good home, though, as a raffle prize raising funds for a local Boys and Girls Club. But the story calls attention to a common error in the arena of corporate gift-giving: before you reward a colleague for a job well-done, make sure your sentiments — and your spending — are in line with their company handbook.

That said, the pendulum shouldn’t swing too far in the other direction, from fabulous to free. A stylist in Hampden recalls a well-traveled client presenting her with a bag of used hotel samples of shampoo and conditioner. “We laughed for weeks over that one,” she said.

An account executive in Springfield said that after many years of graciously accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly, she’s drafted her own short-list of appropriate Yule-tidings.

“One of the worst gifts I received was a ‘boxed’ bread called Panettone,” she began. “It’s supposed to be an Italian treat, but upon taking it out of the packaging, it was dry and spongy and utterly gross. My husband and I played a really awesome game of catch.”

Instead of petrified pastries, she suggests small, crowd-pleasing items for coworkers, such as scratch tickets, movie passes, or gift cards, especially for coffee and gas.

“No plush items, they should only be given to children under the age of eight,” she said. “No items that play Christmas carols, and please, do not re-gift items! It’s so obvious!”

Instead of rewrapping, consider donating unwanted items to a local survival center, she said.

Finally, a business owner in Springfield bravely shared a tale that teaches us to reel in our holiday expectations in the workplace. Every job is different, as she found shortly after finishing college, and even a fruitcake isn’t mandatory.

“After working in restaurants for the many years it took me to complete my college education, I had my first office job working for a non-profit organization,” she recalled. “In restaurants, the holidays were a bountiful time. Not only did we get good food to eat and very generous tips from regular customers, we’d always get gifts of nice bottles of wine or other swag, plus at least a $100 bonus from the owners.

“At the holiday party at my new office job, I was absolutely astonished when our holiday cards were empty, except for a nice note from the executive director of the agency,” she continued. “Flabbergasted, I asked the accounting department if we should expect our bonuses in our paychecks that week. After all, in my conception of ‘office job,’ big Christmas bonuses were the norm. The accountant gently informed me that non-profits had to account for every dime of government funding and couldn’t just give money away. I turned about 12 shades of red and slunk back to my rickety metal desk.”

Sections Supplements
Business Best-sellers and Local Favorites That Are Bound to Please

It’s been a robust year for business titles, examining everything from daily work habits to global economic change. What follows is a list of popular titles available this holiday season, currently featured on amazon.com and the New York Times Best-seller lists:

• The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching!: Written by business guru Jeffrey Gitomer, author of the series Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Books, ‘Cha-Ching’ offers a series of suggestions geared toward improving sales.

• The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World: Currently the top-selling business title at Amazon.com, this retrospective from author Alan Greenspan takes a look at the increasingly global economy through the lens of his own life, including his childhood, his 18-year tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and the events on and following Sept. 11, 2001.

• The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich: A popular title this year for obvious reasons, Timothy Ferriss’s ‘4-hour Workweek’ theory was derived from more than five years of research, following successful people who have abandoned the ‘deferred-life’ plan for gaining wealth.

• Ready To Wear: An Expert’s Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe: A featured speaker at Baypath College’s Annual Women’s Conference this year, author Mary Lou Andre offers tips for matching wardrobe with lifestyle, organizing a closet, and developing an efficient shopping strategy on a budget.

• Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World: A departure from the usual presidential memoir, this new title by Bill Clinton focuses on philanthropy and the practices corporations, small businesses, and individuals are adding to their daily lives to foster change on both local and global levels.

• Living Longer Working Stronger: Simple Steps for Business Professionals to Capitalize on Better Health: Kevin Fosnocht examines the link between healthy bodies and healthy careers, offering suggestions for more-balanced diets, better sleep habits, and maintaining good health while traveling.

• Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die: Written by Chip and Dan Heath and inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s blockbuster The Tipping Point, ‘Made to Stick’ explains why six tenets — simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories — make some ideas unforgettable.

…in addition to business titles, we’ve compiled a selection of books, fiction and non-fiction, penned by a few of the region’s many authors:

• Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s: A memoir penned by local businessman John Elder Robison, owner of Robison Service in Springfield, ‘Look Me in the Eye’ examines life growing up ‘different,’ overcoming obstacles, finding success, and finally reevaluating strengths and weaknesses after being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

• Golfing In New England: The Essential Guide for the New England Golfer: Published by Amherst guidebook publisher New England Cartographics, this guide was written by John Da Silva and edited by Valerie Vaughan, describing more than 600 public, semi-private, and resort courses in the six New England states. Course statistics, greens fees, directions, and other information is provided, as well as detailed listings of other golfing resources in each state such as golf retailers, driving ranges, golf schools, touring clubs, private golf courses, and golf associations. The guide is one of several outdoor activity guides published by New England Cartographics, all of which are available at necartographics.com

• An Execution in the Family: One Son’s Journey: Written by Western New England College professor Robert Meeropol, this memoir recounts his life and experiences following the execution of his birth parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

• Songs from a Lead-Lined Room: Notes — High and Low — from My Journey through Breast Cancer and Radiation: This memoir from Palmer resident Suzanne Strempek Shea, who usually writes fiction, recounts her experiences with breast cancer and radiation therapy.

• 1940: Now available for pre-order at Amazon.com, this novel by Northampton author Jay Neugeboren begins on the eve of World War II and follows a woman whose father has mysteriously disappeared. The book will be available in April 2008.

Compiled by Jaclyn Stevenson

Departments

Bright Nights

Nov. 21-Jan. 1: Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield opened Nov. 21, and will run Wednesdays through Sundays until Dec. 9. Bright Nights will then be open nightly from Dec. 12 through Jan. 1. Buses run nightly from 5 to 6 p.m., and cars from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 6 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays. For more information on admission, call (413) 733-3800 or visit www.brightnights.org.

ACCGS Government Reception

Nov. 28: The Carriage House at Storrowton Tavern, Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, will be the setting for the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Inc.’s annual Government Reception. The 5 to 7 p.m. event allows ACCGS members to meet socially with local, state, and federal elected officials and begin or renew commitments to work together. For more information on tickets, visit www.myonlinechamber.com.

Day of Health

Dec. 5: The YMCA of Greater Westfield and Noble Hospital will team up for a Day of Health from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 5 to 7 p.m. at the YMCA on Court Street, Westfield. A series of free screenings will highlight the festivities, including blood pressure, body-fat analysis and BMI, foot care, pulmonary function, and sun and skin damage. Also, a fasting full lipid profile, a blood test for total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides, will be available for $25. Appointments for the cholesterol screening are available from 7 to 9 a.m. and can be made by calling Noble Health Beat at (413) 568-2328. In addition, Therapeutic Massage of Greater Westfield will treat participants to a five-minute mini-massage, and Beauty by Jeunique Custom Bras and Shape Ware will be on hand to ensure women have the perfect fit. For more information on the event, contact Charlene Call, member retention/wellness director, at (413) 568-8631, ext. 305.

Entrepreneurial  Boot Camp

Dec. 7: The Regional Technology Corporation (RTC), in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, will stage the half-day “Entrepreneurial Boot Camp & Flavors of Capital” seminar at the Kittredge Center for Business & Workforce Development at Holyoke Community College, starting at 8 a.m. The first half of this event will feature a workshop on “How to Speak Investorese,” presented by Paul Silva, managing partner at Angel Catalyst. Banks, investors, and funding agencies use specialized language to describe and analyze companies. Companies that don’t speak this language have much more difficulty in securing funding. This lecture will teach attendees the basics of how to talk to bankers, investors, and granting agencies so they will hear the actual potential of their business. Attendees will also be shown how to identify weaknesses in their business before they become a problem — and stop them from being funded. The focus of the second half is a panel discussion on the “Flavors of Capital,” moderated by Joseph Steig, managing director of Innovation Path Inc. and co-founder of the River Valley Investors angel group. Attendees will learn which types of funding source are a good fit for a given opportunity. The panel will include experts from venture capital, angel investors, regional banks, the Western Mass. Enterprise Fund, and others. Following these presentations, attendees can talk one-on-one with the presenters and visit their tabletop displays for helpful literature and handouts. Cost of the event is $25 for RTC members and $50 for non-members. Advanced registration is required, and seating is limited. Contact April Cloutier at [email protected]  to register.

UMass Dinner Forum

Dec. 11: The UMass Family Business Dinner Forum will host two topics, “The Starbucks Experience: Lessons in Leadership to Spark You and Your Business to Unimaginable Success,” and “Should We Grow Our Business by Acquisition?” Registration is required. For more information and to register, contact Ira Bryck at (413) 545-1537 or via E-mail at [email protected] .

Opinion
A Winning Game Plan for Life Sciences

A championship team is built by investing in a nucleus of talented people and focusing that talent on achieving a common goal. This approach has been the foundation of the success of the New England Patriots.

We believe it is also the formula necessary to sustain Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences.

A vision, a game plan, and prudent investment are necessary elements in assuring that the Commonwealth maintains its competitive edge in the life sciences. This is the reason that we support Gov. Deval Patrick’s Life Sciences Initiative.

We have all the fundamentals in this region to elevate our position in the international life sciences community. We are home to the world’s best medical and research facilities and the best and brightest scientists, technicians, and medical practitioners. Many of the world’s leading biopharma and medical-device companies are based here. We have consistently led the nation in per-capita NIH funding, biomedical venture capital investments, and life science PhDs. This success also makes us a target — a target for every other state and international competitor for life-sciences business and talent.

When the Patriots were at risk of leaving for St. Louis in the early 1990s, we made a significant but calculated investment to purchase the team and keep it in New England. Patrick has now stepped forward to do the same with our life-sciences supercluster. It comes at a critical time.

California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Singapore, and others are aggressively investing billions of dollars to attract our top scientists and companies through lucrative grants, tax credits, and facilities. We remember how the high-tech industry all but disappeared in this region a couple of decades ago and the dramatic impact it had in terms of lost jobs and tax revenues. We cannot afford to let that happen with life sciences.

Life-sciences research and industry have a major economic impact on the region. It is growing significantly faster than other sectors, providing millions in tax revenues and thousands of high-paying jobs. These jobs expand beyond research science and PhDs. The Kraft Group’s core businesses are in paper and packaging manufacturing and distribution. These industries and many others, like information technology, software, advanced materials, and construction, benefit significantly from the growth of life sciences companies and facilities.

A recent study by the Milken Institute underscores this ripple effect, concluding that for every direct job in life sciences, 3.6 indirect jobs are created. Combine this economic activity with the fact that Patrick’s initiative also calls for life-sciences workforce and training programs, and we have a game plan that assures the best chance of success.

Massachusetts is at the cutting edge of developing cures and therapies that save millions of lives throughout the world. Over the years we have been major supporters of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other institutions, and we have seen first-hand how the science developed has helped in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Whether it is addressing serious injuries from sports or aiding the recovery of children from cancer through breakthrough technologies, we are indebted to this research and cannot risk a loss of it to other regions of the nation or the world.

A few years ago, we invested our resources in keeping the Patriots in Massachusetts. It is an investment that we believe will continue to benefit the New England community for generations to come.

Now we must keep life sciences here, and we support the leadership and wise commitment of our friends in the Legislature, the business community, and the governor to maintain our excellence in scientific and medical research and industry and to maintain and grow our significant lead in the life sciences.

Robert Kraft is chairman and chief executive of the Kraft Group. Jonathan Kraft is president and chief operating officer of the Kraft Group. This article first appeared in the Boston Globe.