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UMass Gets OK for Law School

BRIDGEWATER — The Mass. Board of Higher Education voted unanimously on Feb. 2 to approve the application by UMass Dartmouth to award the Juris Doctor, the first professional degree in the study of law. The approval comes one week after discussion of the application at the Board’s Assessment and Accountability Committee meeting in Worcester, including public testimony from approximately 30 individuals, most of whom spoke in favor of the application, and after a positive recommendation from staff at the Department of Higher Education. Gov. Deval L. Patrick praised the board’s decision, noting in a release, “this is another historic moment in education for the Commonwealth. Yesterday’s unanimous vote to approve the law program at the University of Massachusetts is a victory for our students and their families. I’m thankful to the Board of Higher Education, the University of Massachusetts system, and the Southern New England School of Law for all of their thoughtful work and effort to make an affordable public opportunity to aspiring young people in the Commonwealth.” Following last week’s committee meeting, the Department completed its analysis of the university’s proposal and recommended approval of the application. Staff found that the proposed UMass Dartmouth Juris Doctor met review criteria, and that the university will be able to start and operate a law school that will achieve American Bar Assoc. accreditation in a reasonable time frame, presuming it will attain its enrollment goals and prudently utilize associated financial resources. The university’s proposal was made possible in part by an offer from the neighboring Southern New England School of Law to donate its buildings and assets to facilitate UMass Dartmouth being able to offer a Juris Doctor. The Southern New England School of Law will file for institutional closure with the Department of Higher Education within 90 days following the spring 2010 student graduation. UMass Dartmouth intends to invite current SNESL students, faculty, and staff to study and work at the new UMass Dartmouth law program. With this program approval, the university is authorized to enroll its first class in the fall 2010 semester. In spring 2013, upon graduating the first class of first-year students in the Juris Doctor program, the university will submit to the Board a status report addressing its success in reaching program goals and in the areas of enrollment, curriculum, faculty resources, program effectiveness, and accreditation status.

Brightside Closing Some Programs

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The residential and school programs of Brightside for Families and Children will cease operations by April 2. Since its founding in 1881, Brightside has repeatedly evolved to meet the changing needs of the community, and for the past few years, supported the residential treatment and school program at a census level that was significantly less than half of its capacity. Despite extensive efforts by the Brightside management team to increase referrals, there was no expectation that census levels could improve to viable levels. Additionally, company officials note that funding sources are not available to place children in residential programs like Brightside. More than 130 positions will be eliminated due to the closure of these programs, and affected employees can apply for any open position within the Sisters of Providence Health System for which they may qualify. Brightside’s Family Stabilization Team (FST) will continue to provide outpatient services as they work to integrate Providence Behavioral Health Hospital’s Child and Adolescent inpatient (CHAD) and Acute Residential Treatment (ART) programs with the FST program.

Girls Inc. Joins National Investment Challenge

HOLYOKE — Girls Incorporated of Holyoke is one of two Girls Inc. organizations to join the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge, an innovative nationwide program launched last year that gives girls practical, hands-on investing experience while allowing them to keep their gains in the form of college scholarships. With the help and guidance of trained Girls Inc. staff and ING employee volunteers, teams of girls build and manage diversified, real-time portfolios as part of an integrative investment and economic-literacy curriculum. All portfolios are managed and tracked using a state-of-the-art online-trading platform that allows the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge participants to track their performance, absolutely and relative to the other challenge teams. After three years, two-thirds of any gains in the portfolio will be paid by the ING Foundation to the girls in the form of Girls Inc. scholarships for post-secondary education; one-third of the gains will be given to the local Girls Inc. affiliate to support local programming. The original $50,000 principal will then be reassigned to the incoming team. Girls in the ninth grade in the Greater Holyoke area are welcome to participate in the program. For more information, contact Sarah Dunton, director of youth development programs at Girls Inc. of Holyoke, at (413) 539-4505.

Slight Growth Seen in Services Sector

TEMPE, Az. — Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in January, according to the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report on Business. The NMI (Non-Manufacturing Index) registered 50.5% in January, 0.7 percentage point higher than the seasonally adjusted 49.8% registered in December, indicating growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased 1 percentage point to 52.2%, reflecting growth for the second consecutive month. The New Orders Index increased 2.7 percentage points to 54.7%, and the Employment Index increased 1 percentage point to 44.6%. The Prices Index increased 1.6 percentage points to 61.2% in January, indicating an increase in prices paid from December. According to the NMI, four non-manufacturing industries reported growth in January. The four industries reporting growth are other services, utilities, information, and wholesale trade. The 11 industries reporting contraction in January — listed in order — are arts, entertainment, and recreation; mining; retail trade; transportation and warehousing; management of companies and support services; professional, scientific, and technical services; health care and social assistance; finance and insurance; educational services; public administration and accommodation; and food services. The report is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide.

Documentary Explores Holyoke’s Roots

HOLYOKE — Interviews with local leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, and young people bring the past and the present of the City of Holyoke to life in a new documentary, Creating Holyoke: Voices of a Community. The documentary will premiere on March 22 on WGBY, and copies are available at the Wistariahurst Museum Gift Shop for $17.95. Written by Priscilla Kane Hellweg and Rachel Kuhn of Enchanted Circle Theater and Kate Navarra Thibodeau, former city historian for Holyoke, the documentary tells the story of Holyoke’s rich history. The documentary was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nan and Matilda Heydt Fund, and WGBY, and was produced by Navarra Thibodeau. For more information, visit www.creatingholyoke.org.

UMass Endowment Ranks in Top Quartile of Investment Returns

BOSTON — Despite a challenging environment, UMass turned in an endowment performance in fiscal year 2009 that ranked in the top quartile of American colleges and universities reporting performance for one-, three-, and five-year returns, according to the National Assoc. of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The data came from in-depth surveys of 842 U.S. institutions of higher learning, including public and private colleges and universities, their supporting foundations, and community colleges that participated in the 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. Based on change in market value, UMass placed seventh among universities with endowments of $100 to $500 million and 53rd overall, losing only 4.6% of its overall market value. The UMass endowment, which stood at $367 million at the close of FY09, turned in investment performance of -15% last year against an average of
-18.7%, and returned three- and five-year returns of 3% and 4.7%, placing it in the top quartile for performance for those periods.

Study: Struggles Remain For Those Seeking Emergency Food Aid

HATFIELD — A landmark study recently released by the Food Bank of Western Mass. and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, reports that more than 91,000 people, including 32,000 children, receive emergency food each year through the Food Bank and its network of food pantries, meal sites, and shelters. In Western Mass., this represents a 22% increase in the number of residents seeking emergency food assistance since 2006, the last time the study was conducted. Hunger in America 2010 is the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance on a local and national level. In this region, more than 65,000 residents are experiencing food insecurity, not knowing where they will find their next meal, according to Andrew Morehouse, executive director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. An estimated 15,000 people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, meal site, or shelter served by the Food Bank of Western Mass. Morehouse noted that the Food Bank is seeing more people struggling to make choices between food and other basic necessities like rent, utilities, or health care. “We know that nearly three-quarters of all those who seek emergency food assistance are living in poverty and simply cannot make ends meet, so they turn to their local food pantry or meal site for help,” he said in a release. Morehouse added that donors and volunteers have stepped up to help the Food Bank respond to the growing food crisis in Western Mass., including boosting distribution capacity of local partner agencies around the region. The report was based on independent research conducted on behalf of Feeding America by Mathematica Policy Research, a non-partisan social-policy research firm based in Princeton, N.J. A summary of the Western Mass. findings is available at www.foodbankwma.org. The full national report is available at www.feedingamerica.org/hungerstudy.

Unemployment Filings Still Rising

NEW YORK — In the week ending Jan. 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 480,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 472,000. The four-week moving average was 468,750, an increase of 11,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 457,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.5% for the week ending Jan. 23, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 3.5%. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Jan. 23 was 4,602,000, an increase of 2,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 4,600,000. The four-week moving average was 4,617,500, a decrease of 51,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 4,668,750. The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 5.362 million. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 530,405 in the week ending Jan. 30, an increase of 28,234 from the previous week. There were 682,176 initial claims in the comparable week in 2009. The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.4% during the week ending Jan. 23, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 5,665,141, an increase of 62,784 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 4.3% and the volume was 5,806,901. Extended benefits were available in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin during the week ending Jan. 16. Initial claims for UI benefits by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,451 in the week ending Jan. 23, a decrease of 499 from the prior week. There were 1,858 initial claims by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 554 from the preceding week. There were 26,167 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending Jan. 16, a decrease of 59 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 35,777, a decrease of 2,059 from the prior week. States reported 5,632,219 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending Jan. 16, an increase of 281,442 from the prior week. There were 1,839,758 claimants in the comparable week in 2009. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Jan. 16 were in Alaska (7.3%), Oregon (6.6), Pennsylvania (6.5), Idaho (6.4), Wisconsin (6.3), Montana (6.2), Michigan (6.0), Nevada (5.7), Connecticut (5.3), North Carolina (5.3), and Washington (5.3). The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Jan. 23 were in Oregon (+4,336), Puerto Rico (+2,439), and Hawaii (+18), while the largest decreases were in California (-22,674), Michigan (-11,757), North Carolina (-9,546), Georgia (-7,588), and Missouri (-7,577).

Uncategorized
The Difference Makers Class of 2010 Will Be Honored on March 25

The stage is set — sort of.

Details are falling into place for what should be a very special night, when BusinessWest honors its Difference Makers class of 2010. The date? March 25. The place? The Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. The time? Things start at 5 and will go till whenever people are done celebrating.

The occasion? Recognizing the talents and many accomplishments of this year’s Difference Makers. They are:

  • The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, to be represented by its executive director, Mary Walachy;
  • Ellen Freyman, shareholder with the Springfield-based law firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.;
  • James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development;
  • Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities; and
  • UMass Amherst, represented by its chancellor, Robert Holub.
  • To read the stories of these Difference Makers, visit the BusinessWest Web site, www.businessswest.com.

    More than 400 people are expected to turn out for the event, which will feature a networking hour, introductions of the winners, a short speech from each one, some live entertainment, butlered hors d’oeuvres and food stations, and an update on Project Literacy, an endeavor launched by the first class of Difference Makers in 2009, and one that will be continued by the 2010 winners and all future classes.

    This effort, said Kate Campiti, BusinessWest’s associate publisher and advertising manager, was designed to focus attention on the broad issue of literacy and to direct energy and imagination to specific projects to address this critical issue. In 2009, the Difference Makers, working with staff at BusinessWest, collected hundreds of books for the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative through the United Way of the Pioneer Valley.

    In addition, said Campiti, the group drafted a long-range strategic plan for maintaining the focus on this subject and fulfilling a new stated mission: “Creating a Culture of Literacy — One Book at a Time.”

    “It’s really going to be a fun, exciting evening,” Campiti said of the March 25 festivities. “There will be some great networking opportunities, and, of course, we have some wonderful stories to tell.”

    Thus, this is an event with a purpose, said Campiti, adding that the event has been crafted to not only introduce the winners, but to use their stories to inspire others and hopefully create more momentum for the region moving forward.

    This momentum is summed up in what will be an ongoing theme for the Difference Makers event, the so-called Butterfly Effect, said Campiti, referring to the concept that small events (such as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings) can have large, widespread consequences.

    Five area companies have signed on as sponsors for the Difference Makers event: Catugno Reporting/Sten-Tel, Comcast Business Class, Peritus Security Partners, the law firm Royal & Klimczuk, and Sarat Ford/Lincoln Mercury.

    Tickets for the event are $50 each, and tables of 10 are available. For more information or to order tickets, call Melissa Hallock, BusinessWest’s sales and marketing coordinator, at (413) 781-8600 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (413) 781-8600      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, ext. 10; or e-mail[email protected].

    Uncategorized

    There were interesting comments coming out of Boston last week concerning state government and what it can do to help businesses navigate their way through this recession and into calmer waters. All we can say is that we hope there is action to back up the words.

    In interviews with the Boston Globe, Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo all said essentially the same thing: that the state needs to respond more forcefully to the economic crisis by helping existing businesses and spurring new ones. And, for the most part, they’re right. Things are not going to get any better on their own, at least anytime soon, and in the meantime, businesses continue to close or move and the unemployment rate is climbing ever closer to that 10% mark.

    Said DeLeo: “It’s reached a crisis point. We churn hundreds of thousands of jobs a year. If we’re going to recover from this economic downturn, we need to restore our job base and start creating new jobs.”

    To do that, Patrick and Murray have specific proposals that range from providing tax credits to businesses who hire new employees, to a freeze on unemployment insurance rates; from consolidation and elimination of some of the more than 30 economic development agencies within the state’s bureaucracy, to creation of regional one-stop centers for business information.

    We hope that all of these and more make that often-difficult jump from proposal to reality and constitute what might be considered a good start toward making this state much more business-friendly. That’s because the Commonwealth is widely perceived to be anti-business, and in this case, perception certainly is reality.

    Indeed, the Bay State is famous, or infamous, for throwing obstacles in the way of business owners, hurdles that prompt many to look elsewhere when they are thinking of starting or expanding a business. Things are better than they were perhaps 15 or 20 years ago, when the Commonwealth was known as Taxachusetts by the business community, but there is still a long way to go.

    The proposals from Patrick and Murray would seem to be some solid steps in the right direction because they address different kinds of obstacles.

    Patrick’s planned freeze on unemployment insurance, for example, would save businesses $158 per employee this year, and $391 million statewide. Those are not insignificant numbers when one considers that many small businesses are operating on the edge and without a safety net of any consequence. Meanwhile, his proposed $50 million in tax credits for businesses — $2,500 for every new job created by a business with 30 or fewer employees — would help promote hiring at a time when employers are wary about adding personnel, even when they know they need to, and require some kind of push.

    The governor is also looking into ways to limit increases in health-insurance premiums, perhaps by convincing the Legislature to give the state insurance commissioner more power in such matters. Such a step would ease a serious drain on the state’s economy and provide still more breathing room for small-business owners.

    As for Murray’s Senate plan, a big piece of it concerns streamlining the many economic-development agencies currently operating in the Commonwealth. Together, they create a different kind of obstacle for businesses, a maze that must be negotiated or, in many cases, not, because it is simply too daunting or confusing.

    Unwittingly, state officials have simply created too much business bureaucracy, a bevy of agencies that duplicate efforts, waste taxpayer dollars, and leave business owners confused about where and to whom to turn when they need help.

    By simplifying matters, the state will do more than save a few million dollars; it will leave those who own and manage companies in this state better-served and better-able to continue doing business here.

    All of this talk sounds very good, and some of it we’ve heard before. As we said at the top, we hope that this becomes so much more than talk.

    That’s because this state remains a difficult and expensive one in which to do business, and things must change if the Commonwealth is to achieve real progress.

    Features
    Why Flexible Hours and Telecommuting Are on the Rise
    Beyond the 9-to-5

    Brenda Olesuk says the accounting industry has been smart about using flex time and telecommuting as a retention tool.

    In 2003, about 4.4 million Americans were telecommuting, to some extent, instead of showing up at the office. In 2010, that number is expected to surpass 100 million. At the same time, the trend toward allowing employees to work flexible or non-traditional hours has also risen sharply in recent years. Why the surges? As it turns out, even during a recession, companies still value their best talent and are increasingly willing to let them craft a workday around their personal and professional needs. Employers say they benefit because happy workers are productive workers.

    It’s no wonder accounting is such an attractive field for women, considering what a leader the industry has been in providing work-life benefits like flexible schedules and telecommuting.

    “It’s a retention tool,” said Brenda Olesuk, director of marketing for Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. in Holyoke. “In fact, accounting firms, as a rule, have employed flex time, technology, and telecommuting as a both a recruiting tool and as a retention tool.”

    Part of the shift has to do with the rise of women in the accounting field; they make up more than 60% of all accountants nationwide.

    “That has changed the complexion of the industry over the past couple of decades,” Olesuk noted. “Women, of course, have families and often want to have the flexibility of being able to have a family and a career. These are highly educated, accomplished people, and the industry has been very smart about using technology and flex time to attract and retain talent, especially women.”

    But it’s not just accounting, and not only women who are reaping these benefits. Across the board, aided by advancements in communications technology, workers are increasingly being given the option of working at home, or coming into the office for only part of their workweek, otherwise staying connected by phone, e-mail, and Internet.

    The upward trend has been pronounced. In 2003, according to a report from the American Interactive Research Group, about 4.4 million Americans telecommuted from home. A year later, that number had almost doubled, and in 2010, it’s expected to surpass 100 million — almost a third of the country’s entire population, working or not.

    That’s a startling increase, but it doesn’t surprise Lorie Valle-Yanez, vice president and chief diversity officer at MassMutual. That’s because the Springfield-based financial-services firm has long been recognized as a leader in providing work-life benefits to its employees, even being named to Working Mother magazine’s 100-best-companies list 10 times.

    “I like to think we have a culture of flexibility here. If you walked through the halls and talked to people, you’d see it’s less of a formal program and more a part of the DNA of the company,” she explained. “We have a long history of supporting the work-life balance of employees, helping employees meet their obligations inside and outside of work.”

    It’s a trend that should continue as a perfect storm brews, with employers increasingly recognizing the benefits of keeping their top talent happy, and a generation of 20-somethings entering the work world expecting such treatment to a degree not seen before.

    But working from home and setting one’s own hours isn’t a right, say those who spoke with BusinessWest; it’s a privilege earned by the most valuable, productive workers. And used correctly, such flexibility is proving to be a classic win-win for companies and their employees.

    Doing Their Homework

    Employee retention is no small matter; depending on the industry and the position, the replacement cost of an entry-level staff position — including money spent on recruitment, hiring, training, and orienting a new employee — can top $10,000, and often much more. And that doesn’t include the lost time and energy that management must expend on such efforts.

    That’s why keeping top talent happy is critical, even during a recession.

    “Absolutely, it’s attractive for people who want to come work here,” Valle-Yanez said. “One of the selling points when you come to this company is its flexibility. It certainly demonstrates that this company cares about employees’ well-being, and it shows in increased productivity, improved morale, improved engagement, and improved loyalty across the board. People know they can come into this organization and be able to manage their work-life challenges.”

    Smaller companies are also starting to recognize the benefits of giving employees an alternative to the 9-to-5 cubicle shift.

    “Offering flex time and mixed telecommuting arrangements is something we’ve done for a number of years,” said Michelle van Schouwen, president of van Schouwen Associates, a Longmeadow-based advertising and marketing firm.

    “Back when we started, it was born of various necessities — so a valued employee moving to a different state could still do most of their work, or for a parent whose child care ended before our office hours did,” van Schouwen explained. “As we began to work with it, we realized it was a good fit with the type of staffing we had.”

    Specifically, she said, her firm typically hires people who have an independent streak and know how to manage themselves, rather than needing lots of hand-holding. “They tend to be the kind of people who would stay late and do the job at the office, people who know what they’re responsible for and want to get it done. They have that internal sense of professionalism that means they’re going to get their work done.”

    That’s an important factor, Valle-Yanez said, because not everyone has the discipline to stay focused on work when no one is looking.

    “I believe flexibility is not an entitlement; it’s an earned privilege,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s not one size fits all. Not everyone is able to work from home. If somebody is not performing, it’s probably less likely they’ll have the same flexibility as someone who performs very well.”

    The type of job someone has obviously makes a difference, too, she said, noting that a call-center representative would need to work largely on site during regular business hours. But those whose jobs allow them to work from home, on their own schedule, are likely to appreciate the privilege — and that’s good for productivity.

    “People who are good performers have earned the right and earned that flexibility. They value that flexibility a lot, and they’re very productive employees,” Valle-Yanez said. “If you think about it as an earned privilege, you don’t want that privilege to be taken away. So employees who have that privilege tend to be highly motivated.”

    Small World

    Olesuk noted that home offices and corporate offices are more connected by technology than ever before, and many tasks can be performed at night or on weekends, allowing employees who have children or other responsibilities to set their own schedule.

    “In our firm, we have all sorts of people, men and women alike, who are able to work from home or from their office equally well,” she said. “Technology is an enormous component allowing us to do our job from any location, and the flexibility of being able to manage our hours, whether it’s full-time or part-time, and still serve the client and meet the firm’s needs, is a very significant tool. If we were to go back to everyone doing 8 to 5 from this office, we’d have real retention issues.”

    Being an accounting and business-consulting firm, Meyers Brothers Kalicka (MBK) is able to observe this move toward flexibility outside its own walls, too.

    For example, James Calnan, partner and director of the firm’s Health Services Division, sees a definite increase in telecommuting in the medical field, especially for key staff hired for their specific skill set and judgment.

    One of his clients employs a director of finance who’s scheduled to work from home two days per week, with the company supplying the computer, cell phone, and other technology. Another client has field reps in multiple states, and staff meetings are conducted through a dial-in format. While it’s usually key personnel who have more ability to telecommute, Calnan said, most levels of administrative staff are utilizing flex scheduling — again, perhaps spurred by more women in the workforce having to juggle work and home responsibilities.

    Donna Roundy, MBK’s senior audit manager for its Not-for-Profit Division, says nonprofit organizations are increasingly allowing telecommunicating as a way to attract and retain skilled individuals in key roles. Outside of these key positions, she said, most clients typically want their staff on premises.

    Meanwhile, Kris Houghton, a partner and Director of the firm’s Tax Division, says the service sector most successfully utilizes technology for recruitment and retention, with fields such as accounting, law, engineering, medicine, human resources, and computers services best equipped to operate in that ‘virtual-office’ environment.

    Sales forces also benefit from technology and ability to telecommute, she added. While support-level staff may not always have telecommuting opportunities, Houghton said, there has definitely been an increase in flexible hours across the board.

    Telecommuting can also serve specific budgetary purposes, Houghton explained. For instance, instead of bringing a medical coder on board full-time, which a practice may not need, it can hire a coder part-time who does the practice’s work from home at night — a more efficient use of resources.

    Homeward Bound

    At MassMutual, Valle-Yanez said, while scheduling and workplace flexibility is built into the philosophy and culture, each decision on where and when someone works is typically made between that employee and his or her manager, taking into account both outside circumstances and the employee’s work habits and productivity. When the arrangement works, everyone is happy.

    “It’s a nice option,” she said. “You don’t have to face a snowstorm. You can do your work at home. In some cases, people are more productive at home; there are often less day-to-day interruptions, and they’re surprised how much they get done from their home office.”

    In terms of productivity and retention, van Schouwen had similar thoughts.

    “It’s all positive — again, when using the right people,” she said. “For example, among our employees, we have parents of younger children who likely stay with the job in part because it allows them a work-life balance. In addition, we’ve been able to keep people who have moved away with a spouse or made other life changes that would have made an ordinary commute inconvenient.

    “For a small company,” she concluded, “it’s a benefit that’s both affordable and valued, and that’s a precious thing.”

    Joseph Bednar can be reached

    at[email protected]

    Departments

    The following bankruptcy petitions were recently filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Readers should confirm all information with the court.

    Abergel, Nicole S.
    a/k/a Remillard, Nicole S.
    187 Oak St.
    Indian Orchard, MA 01151
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/04/10

    Alameh, Maria
    33 Greenleaf St.
    Springfield, MA 01108
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Alexander, John D.
    11 Francis St.
    Greenfield, MA 01301
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Alfarone, Roberto
    Alfarone, Robinlynn
    a/k/a Gareau, Robin Lynn
    24 Quartus St.
    Chicopee, MA 01013
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Arce, Jesus
    89 Marlborough St.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Arrogante, Ruben Bautista
    Arrogante, Maria Carmen
    29 Day St.
    West Springfield, MA 01089
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Baer, Gale M.
    206 Holy Cross Circle
    Ludlow, MA 01056
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Benito Rocca Heating
    Rocca, Benito G.
    329 Frank Smith Road
    Longmeadow, MA 01106
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/08/10

    Boido, Matthew T.
    3 Cheryl Lane
    Southampton, MA 01073
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/13/10

    Bonsant, Daniel Alfred
    16 Vienna Ave.
    Ludlow, MA 01056
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Brewster, Edythe Mae
    61 Warren St.
    Agawam, MA 01001
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Bulley, Christopher A.
    14 Scott St.
    Springfield, MA 01108
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Cardona, Luis A.
    540 Page Blvd.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Cauley, Linda Marie
    243 College Highway
    Southampton, MA 01073
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Colon, Virgen M.
    226 West Franklin St.
    Holyoke, MA 01040
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Corder, Marquita M.
    5 Cottonwood Lane
    Springfield, MA 01128
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Corriveau, Nicole C.
    a/k/a Staiti, Nicole C.
    42 Bradway Road
    Monson, MA 01057
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Cote, David M.
    Cote, Ginger D.
    54 High St.
    South Hadley, MA 01075
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Cox, Stephen W.
    Cox, Laura A.
    5 Teakwood Road
    Springfield, MA 01128
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Darrah, Richard E.
    a/k/a Linkenhoker-Darrah, Marilyn A.
    7 School St.
    Ware, MA 01082
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/08/10

    Daskevich, Mitchell D.
    Daskevich, Theresa M
    31 James Lane
    Orange, MA 01364
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/04/10

    Davenport, Deborah L.
    a/k/a Ripley, Deborah
    342 North Loomis St.
    Southwick, MA 01077
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    DelAcqua, Steven R.
    4F Culdaff St.
    Easthampton, MA 01027
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    DeMusis, David Leodore
    198 Durant St.
    Springfield, MA 01129
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    DeVault, Timothy S.
    DeVault, Buni B.
    43 Oak Ave.
    Athol, MA 01331
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Dorman, James Andre
    9 Waterford Circle
    Springfield, MA 01129
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Elliott, Tammy J.
    38 Greenbrier St.
    Springfield, MA 01108
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Ferdinand, Nancy M.
    418 North Hemlock Lane
    Williamstown, MA 01267
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/10/10

    Ferry, Daniel L.
    350 West St., Lot 19A
    Ludlow, MA 01056
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Fitzgerald, Louise A.
    928 Granby Road
    Chicopee, MA 01020
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Garbin, Jill E.
    83 Verdugo St.
    West Springfield, MA 01089
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Gelinas, William Francis
    Gelinas, Susan
    a/k/a Thompson, Susan
    36 Austin St.
    Chicopee, MA 01013
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Giordano, Joseph
    495 Berkshire Ave.
    Springfield, MA 01109
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Gleason, Ronald Herbert
    Gleason, Janice Marie
    43 Norwood St.
    Greenfield, MA 01301
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Gorton, Chad Michael
    Gorton, Melanie Mclean
    28 Lyric St.
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Gran, Steven R.
    1 Malone Ave.
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Greene, James R.
    43-45 Ringgold St.
    Springfield, MA 01107
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Halbrook, Sean D.
    Halbrook, Nicole M.
    9 Squire Dr.
    Wilbraham, MA 01095
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/04/10

    Hansen, John G.
    266 Southwick Road
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Harris, Joseph C.
    Harris, Pamela A.
    28 Bangs Ave.
    Orange, MA 01364
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Hernandez, Maritza
    89 Marlborough St.
    Springfield, MA 01109
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Herrera, Melissa
    104 Francis St.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/04/10

    Howard, Juanita L.
    1 Malone Ave.
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Inglot, Andrew G.
    Inglot, Diane Z.
    65 Spring Hill Road
    Belchertown, MA 01007
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Kenyon, Chester W.
    PO Box 3086
    Warren, MA 01083
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Keough, Scott R.
    46 Prospect St.
    Hatfield, MA 01038
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

     

    Kraverotis, April M.
    Kraverotis, Wayne J.
    70 Malibu Dr.
    Springfield, MA 01128
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Kreinest, Jeri Ann
    25 Fairway Dr.
    Longmeadow, MA 01106
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    La Croix, Janet A.
    140 Union St., Apt. 12
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Lane, Barbara A.
    54-6 Simard Dr.
    Chicopee, MA 01013
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/08/10

    Lapointe, Raymond T.
    Lapointe, Sarah A.
    26 Dubois St.
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Livernois, David P.
    P.O. Box 185
    Brimfield, MA 01010
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Lynch, William J.
    Lynch, Joyce H.
    71 Turners Falls Road
    TurnersFalls, MA 01376
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/13/10

    Matney, Louis E.
    11 Greene Ave.
    North Adams, MA 01247
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Matsuk, Aleksey
    Matsuk, Svetlana
    a/k/a Chertovskya, Svetlana
    161 Stimson St.
    Palmer, MA 01069
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Matteson, Raymond F.
    234 Partridge Road
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    McCauslin, Kim
    99 Holyoke Road
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Medina, Roberto
    269 Seymour Ave.
    Springfield, MA 01109
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Moran, Kevin G.
    Moran, June M.
    15 Winthrop Ter.
    PO Box 963
    Warren, MA 01083
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/01/10

    Nentwig, Jeffrey E.
    28 Wells Ave.
    Chicopee, MA 01020
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Normandin, Robert P.
    3284 Boston Road
    Palmer, MA 01069
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    O’Connor, Meghan Ann
    38 Fairlawn St.
    SouthHadley, MA 01075
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Osgood, Susanne L.
    99 Carroll St.
    Springfield, MA 01108
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Pagan, Victor
    Rivera, Damaris
    78 Nonotuck St.
    Holyoke, MA 01040
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Parent, Janice
    495 Berkshire Ave.
    Springfield, MA 01109
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Perry, Jennifer L.
    22 G St.
    Turners Falls, MA 01376
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Porter, Alvin A.
    Porter, Deborah E.
    85 Alvin St.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Reyes, Eduardo
    189 Eddy St.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Rivera, Liz
    101 Layzon Brother Road
    IndianOrchard, MA 01151
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Rossetti, Steven J.
    Rossetti, Lisa M.
    296 Spring St.
    Florence, MA 01062
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Ruiz, Jose B.
    30 Riverview Homes, Apt. #1
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Scanlon, Daniel J.
    123 Pinehurst St.
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Schuster, Gary C.
    Schuster, Pamala K.
    34 Roosevelt Ave.
    South Hadley, MA 01075
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/15/10

    Sepanek, Sharon A.
    78 Forest Park Ave.
    Springfield, MA 01108
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/08/10

    Shrair, Jonathan R.
    20 Ardsley Road
    Longmeadow, MA 01106
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Sieng, Phun
    49 Popwin Lane
    Amherst, MA 01002
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Smith, Candace B.
    97 Osborne Road
    Ware, MA 01082
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Smith, Meghan L.
    4 Liberty St., Unit E
    Easthampton, MA 01027
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/13/10

    Sosa, Carlos N.
    Sosa, Emily
    35 Archie St.
    Springfield, MA 01109
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/14/10

    Storti, Jennifer L.
    11 Naples Ave.
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/13/10

    Topulos, Timothy A.
    25 Lagadia St.
    Chicopee, MA 01020
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/13/10

    Torres, Evelyn
    199 Nassau Dr.
    Springfield, MA 01129
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/05/10

    Valois, Maurice H.
    Valois, Patricia
    a/k/a Potente, Patricia
    97 Woodmont St.
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Vincent, Laurence J.
    Vincent, Carol M.
    681 Shaker Road
    Longmeadow, MA 01106
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    von Marschall, Gloria M.
    127 Spring St.
    Apt. BA
    Springfield, MA 01103
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/12/10

    Vorce, Jay N.
    Vorce, Gail A.
    8 Johnson Road
    Orange, MA 01364
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 12/31/09

    Walulak, Michael Anthony
    Walulak, Jill Ellen
    Meshlovitz, Jill Ellen
    11 Hovey Road
    Monson, MA 01057
    Chapter: 13
    Filing Date: 01/07/10

    Wiener, Michael B.
    245 Tanglewood Dr.
    Longmeadow, MA 01106
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Willemain, Shawn Lee
    59 New Ludlow Road
    Chicopee, MA 01020
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/06/10

    Williams, Wayne E.
    251 Arthur St.
    Springfield, MA 01104
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/08/10

    Winch, Edward N.
    a/k/a Winch, Nelson E.
    40 Columbus Ave.
    Holyoke, MA 01040
    Chapter: 7
    Filing Date: 01/11/10

    Features
    At 25, United Personnel Focuses on Its Next Milestones
    Hire Purpose

    Mary Ellen Scott says the employment-services field is relatively easy to get into, but hard to master.

    Necessity is the mother of invention.

    That’s how Mary Ellen Scott described her beginnings in the temporary-employment industry. “It’s been the story of my life, really,” she told BusinessWest before explaining at length just what that means.

    Scott is the owner of United Personnel in Springfield, which is celebrating 25 years in business. With the industry changing dramatically in that quarter-century, that adage has been in use for much of the time, seeing Scott and company becoming one of the area’s leading placement firms. Looking back on her time in business, she explained how it has come together over the years.

    When Scott and her family moved to Springfield in the early 1980s, a chance encounter with a friend of her then-husband, John Canavan Jr., led to a new career.

    “It was a clothing manufacturer, the old William Carter Co.,” she said, “and it was the only unionized plant in the William Carter conglomerate. They wanted to get rid of it, so they sold it to a man who went to prep school with my husband.” That was Joel Gordon, who bought the factory and renamed it the Gemini Corp., and who contacted Scott at home one day.

    “Here I was unpacking boxes,” she said, “and this man called me up and said, ‘do you want a job?’ Well, I had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, so I said, ‘doing what?’ and he said ‘well, what can you do?’”

    Despite her modest assessment of that interaction, Scott became the human resources director for the plant of 400 employees. But the two-income household was soon to be cut back to one. In 1984, her husband lost his job. “He was 51 years old,” she said. “That was and is definitely an issue in the job-hunting market.”

    After looking for work for more than eight months, Gordon suggested to him to strike out on his own. With a brother in the temporary-help business in Boston, Canavan decided to give that field a shot. Scott explained why.

    “From an entrepreneur’s perspective, in concept, it’s not a very complicated business to get into,” she said. Smiling, she added, “but it is hard to do it well. In the grand scheme, though, you don’t need to know how to operate a lot of machines, and it doesn’t take a great deal of capital up front.”

    Starting the company in Hartford, Canavan drew upon the vast needs of that city’s many insurance firms to specialize in clerical temps. Scott laughed when she remembered her husband’s attempts for her to work with him.

    “It was critical to hire the right person for him to work with,” she said, “but would anyone be willing to jump at a job at a start-up operation, getting paid very little money, when they would have to work very hard, and quit a job that they enjoyed? That’s the question I was asking myself.”

    For two months, Canavan sought someone to oversee front-of-the-house operations —interviews, hiring, placements — while he handled marketing, sales, and the administrative details. As before, fate intervened in Scott’s decisions.

    “My job at this time was changing,” she explained. “Our friend had brought in this new manager, a graduate of MIT and West Point. He had a very different idea about how to treat people than I had.

    “One particularly bad Friday afternoon,” she continued, “I had to be in on a session with him and one of the employees, and I came home and I said to my husband, ‘I think God is trying to tell me something. If we’re going to do this staffing business, we’re going to do it together.’”

    After three months of commuting in separate cars to Hartford — “in case one of us needed to go back to the kids,” Scott said — the first order came in. But it didn’t take long for the pair to hit their stride, and within two years, they opened a branch office in Springfield, at the location still in use today, 1331 Main St.

    Along the way, the business shifted gears from a focus on clerical temps to a division that served the light-industrial sector. “That was a fortuitous decision,” Scott said. “The economy was changing at the end of the ’80s into the early ’90s. Insurance companies in Hartford were struggling with their real-estate deals gone bad. And the first thing a company does when times are hard is to cut back on new temps. So our business in Hartford went downhill.”

    But the Springfield office prospered, becoming one of Inc. magazine’s top 500 fastest-growing companies in 1993 and 1995. “The diverse client list we had here really pulled us through,” Scott said. Not only did they handle clerical and industrial clients, but MassMutual and BayBank were early customers as well. When Canavan passed away in 1999, Scott became the sole owner of the business.

    Does Not Compute

    “During the early years,” Scott said, “we had no computers at all. We had two electric typewriters, and everything was done on paper.”

    Personal computers, however, changed that — and changed the nature of her business. “Companies changed how many secretaries they used,” she said, “and some people don’t use secretaries at all anymore.

    “The clerical sector, which at one point was 100% of our business, became a much lower percentage,” she continued. “These days, we are primarily a light-industrial staffing company, about 70% in manufacturing.”

    Pointing to a stack of boxes waiting to be moved out of the office’s hallways, Scott said that the old-fashioned pen to paper is still necessary for many forms — I9s and W4s, and applications still filled out by hand — but digital communication has become the new tool of choice for United and nearly every other business in this sector. “While e-mailing certainly makes us more available for our clients,” she said, adding that someone in her office is on call around the clock every day, she motioned with a smile at that pile of boxes and said, “I don’t think computers have made less paperwork.”

    Still, Scott said her job is still done, in many ways, just like in the first days of the business. Describing the challenges of staffing in different sectors, she said that clerical candidates still need to be interviewed; “It’s a little more of a conversation to get those jobs filled.”

    Manufacturing often involves her clients requesting multiple orders. “We get calls for upwards of 40 orders,” she said of the number of employee needs. “It can be challenging to find that many people right for the job.”

    While pundits search for hope in the murky economic forecast, Scott said that business at United, and the sector as a whole, is definitely picking up, which is a good sign.

    “When the economy is on the way down, we’re the first to know it, and on the way back up we’re the first to know it also,” she explained.

    “Manufacturing clients are getting orders, and they need workers,” she continued. “We have all different kinds of businesses, and they all seem to be picking up, calling for temps.”

    Hiring Line

    Looking at the next milestone of her successful career, Scott said that the she is thinking about branching out into health-care staffing, acknowledging that it is one of the region’s growth industries.

    “Personally,” she laughed, “I don’t know anything about the licensing and laws involved in that sector. So I will have to hire some expertise in that field.”

    In other words, she’ll take the approach she has from the beginning: that necessity may be the mother of invention, but hard work and imagination are the secrets to success.

    And neither Scott nor her company have ever been lacking in those qualities.

    Uncategorized
    New Economy, Old Economy, and Business Costs

    Policymakers in Boston and Washington love to paint new-economy jobs as an economic panacea, immune to high taxes, staggering electricity costs, and bureaucratic regulation. They tout — and often subsidize — ‘industries of the future,’ while raising costs for the industries of the present that employ the majority of Massachusetts residents. But the new-economy myth exploded in 2009 as companies that have been poster children for innovation-based economic development in Massachusetts announced major expansion projects in Michigan, the Carolinas, and China.

    A recent UMass study found that 70% of technology executives believe Massachusetts must address the cost of doing business, corporate taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. Business costs matter just as much in the new economy as they did in the old.

    High-technology, biotechnology, and clean-technology jobs respond to the same economic influences that determine whether any job will provide economic opportunity to citizens of Massachusetts — or to citizens of Michigan or citizens of China. Innovation remains critical to economic growth, but government must also commit to supporting commercialization and the employment opportunities it will create.

    Our economic future depends upon the ability of the Commonwealth to create a favorable business environment across all industries. The alternative is an ‘invented here, made elsewhere’ economy that provides opportunity for doctoral-level researchers, but leaves other citizens out in the cold.

    That understanding is the foundation of the public-policy agenda of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which continues to advocate on behalf of employers as Massachusetts enters a new decade struggling to emerge from a protracted economic downturn.

    The document calls for an economic policy that balances key public investments with a competitive cost structure that keeps jobs in Massachusetts; a predictable, responsible, and long-term state fiscal policy; uniformly favorable environment for business development across all industries; leadership from business executives to help government resolve important issues; well-conceived and collaborative regulation policies that create measurable benefits; an environment that values contributions made by employers to operate successful businesses that employ state residents; a nimble, world-class education system that provides opportunity for all Massachusetts citizens and the knowledge base for economic growth; and the need for business and government to more fully collaborate in order to ensure mutual success.

    Massachusetts employers, even ‘new-economy’ companies, have cause to worry as 2010 begins. They face an immediate 28% increase in unemployment insurance taxes and $44 million in new assessments for the Medical Security Trust Fund, as well as the Legislature’s failure to address flaws in last year’s $192 million Combined Reporting corporate tax increase that has put Massachusetts at the bottom of CFO magazine’s list of places to do business.

    A better business climate — not higher business costs — is the key to rebuilding our economy and solving the budget crisis that threatens the ability of state and local government to deliver the services that citizens expect.

    Richard C. Lord is president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

    Features
    A Sagging Economy, Other Forces Push Some into Business Ownership

    Entrepreneurs of NecessityMaking the transition from employee to business owner is usually a scary proposition. What’s prompting more people to take such a plunge is the realization that the corporate world is no less scary and, in many ways, even less secure. But whether one chooses this route by choice or out of necessity, a challenging roller-coaster ride almost always awaits.

    Trisha Thompson called it “working for the Mouse,” as opposed to ‘the man.’

    That’s a phrase used by many of those who find themselves in the employ of the massive Disney Corp., which Thompson was, as executive editor of a Northampton-based monthly publication for parents called Wondertime.

    That’s was.

    Indeed, the corporation abruptly shut down the magazine roughly a year ago, despite what most all involved considered solid early success. “We made all our numbers,” said Thompson, referring to the start-up’s performance over its first several years. “We received some awards, we were on track with our circulation … we were a good magazine. We went from an original staff of seven to 32, but they decided to just shut it down.”

    Fast-forwarding things a little, Thompson said this sudden, completely unexpected turn of events provided the rather violent push she and her husband, Fred Levine, then a freelance writer and editor, needed to start their own business venture, called Small Batch Books. Operated out of their home in Amherst, this vanity-press operation specializes in personal memoirs, family histories, and commemorative books.

    It was launched last summer after some extensive job hunting and soul searching led the two to determine that this was the best, most practical route for them to take given their ages (Trisha was 49, Fred 52), their career aspirations, and the decidedly unsteady state of the print publishing industry.

    “It doesn’t feel safe anywhere anymore — there’s no place to go that’s really all that secure,” said Thompson as she explained why she turned down a few other opportunities in publishing, including one in Iowa, and then stopped looking, even if that meant entering the often-scary world of entrepreneurship. “I thought to myself, I’m going to uproot my family to go to Des Moines, and then in a year they’re going to shut that down? No, thank you.”

    And because no place is safe in most all sectors of the economy, many, like Thomson and Levine, have become what Dianne Fuller Doherty calls “entrepreneurs of necessity.”

    Elaborating, Doherty, director of the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network’s western regional office, said that most who go into business for themselves do so out of choice or opportunity. But all economic downturns, and especially the so-called Great Recession, have seemingly removed choice from the equation for some who have found themselves downsized and with few, if any, attractive job opportunities.

    “We’re seeing many people who are choosing this path out of necessity,” she said, “which isn’t always a good thing. Some people are cut out for this, and some people aren’t.”

    Sometimes, such entrepreneurial leaps are brought on by other factors, such as a company’s relocation, discontinuation of programs, changes in administration at a company or institution, or others. For Dan Touhey, the ‘push,’ as those who have made this transition call it, came when his long-time employer, Spalding, which he most recently served as vice president of marketing, announced it would be moving out of Springfield.

    The first announced destination was Atlanta, home to Russell Athletic, which bought Spalding several years ago, Touhey explained. But then, when Fruit of the Loom bought Russell, employees were told that if they wanted to stay in the organization they would have to relocate to Bowling Green, Ky.

    And Touhey never gave that mailing address any serious consideration.

    So after sifting through some offers from recruiters and rejecting them — none looked solid enough in these days of unrest and consolidation in corporate America — he decided to go out on his own last spring with DPT Consulting.

    There are two aspects to this business. The first, concerning his primary client, the Berkshire Opportunity Fund, involves channeling small businesses looking for funding to that venture-capital outfit. The second is centered on offering Touhey’s vast experience in business and marketing to small businesses that can use it. These include a cycling-apparel company in Northampton and a start-up that manufactures a product called the ‘bunt-down bat.’

    As in all cases when individuals mull the shift from being an employee to being self-employed, those who take this step out of necessity must still perform the needed due diligence, said Lyne Kendell, senior business advisor for the MSBDC, who has counseled many people weighing such a decision.

    In short, such individuals must have a solid business concept and a plan of attack, she explained, but also the needed skill sets to be an entrepreneur (not everyone has them), and a passion for what they want to do.

    “It can’t be something they just feel like they want to do or should do,” she explained. “And it shouldn’t be just a way to make money. It has to be something they’re passionate about. Without that, it won’t succeed.”

    By the Book

    This requisite passion was apparently missing the first time Thomson and Levine met with Kendell.

    That was seven years ago, when they were pondering a different kind of venture, one involving custom publishing in the corporate realm, or what Thompson described as “extended advertorials” for products and services.

    “Within about 10 minutes, she was giving us this weird eye, the stink-eye kind of thing,” Thompson recalled. “We were looking over our shoulders saying, ‘who’s she making this face at?’ It was us. She said, ‘do you really want to do this? I’m getting the feeling you don’t, but feel you could or should.’

    “We said, ‘well, of course we do,’” Thompson continued. “But shortly thereafter, we found out she was right, but by then, we had already rented office space and spent money unnecessarily.”

    Things were different when Levine and Thompson were again sitting across the MSBDC conference table from Kendell, this time explaining Small Batch Books. The two told Kendell (and BusinessWest) that they believed they had a somewhat unique concept — a soup-to-nuts vanity publishing operation — and something that they truly believed in.

    This time around, the body language conveyed the necessary confidence and passion, said Kendell, who said she gave Levine and Thompson a homework assignment of sorts, one they ultimately scored well on.

    “I gave them some tasks to do and things to think about, on both the personal side and the business side, and a few weeks later, they came back with those tasks completed and with the confidence that they could take the plunge,” she said. “On the personal side, they have to do what I call a personal retreat — do they have the personal wherewithal to do this? If they’re going to work together, what would the guidelines be for the home life and business life? On the business side, it’s more looking at skills, contacts, potential revenue streams, whether you really know the market, and whether you could, if necessary, live on a part-time job or savings for 12 to 18 months.”

    Kendell has been assigning lots of homework these days, as she and others at the MSBDC handle a larger portfolio of cases than would be considered normal, mostly due to the recession.

    Many of these cases involve businesses that are hurting, said Allen Kronick, senior business advisor for the MSBDC, noting that some wait too long to seek help. For these businesses he sometimes uses the term ‘dead on arrival’ to describe their condition, meaning that there is nothing he or anyone else can do for them. Many others can be helped, he said, adding that his own portfolio has many cases involving companies trying to find ways to hang on until the economy improves — and succeeding.

    Meanwhile, many other cases involve startups, with a good percentage of them blueprinted by individuals who have been downsized and can’t find another job, or at least one to their liking, or who could perhaps find a job similar to what they had before, but are tired of what Kendell called the “rat race.”

    Looking over his portfolio, Kronick said he has several clients that fit this description. They include everything from a former MSPCA employee — laid off when that agency shut down its Springfield facility — who is now making and selling cat scratch posts, to a laser engineer who knew his days were numbered with his now-former employer and started his own venture, to some other former executives at Spalding trying to figure what to do next.

    Tuohey’s situation involves both the recession and general uncertainty about corporate America. He told BusinessWest that, in this economy, even though things have improved somewhat since last spring, opportunities in marketing, and especially senior marketing positions, are few and far between. But recruiters did call, he continued, and upon listening to what they were saying, he became increasingly convinced that there were few, if any, situations that provided the real security and peace of mind he was seeking.

    “When I did find situations, they were less than ideal,” he explained. “They were too similar to what I had just left, and I knew how quickly things could change. I looked at a couple of situations, gave them serious consideration, and decided to decline.”

    Eventually, he said he simply grew tired of waiting for the ideal situation to come about and for the economy to rebound, and started his own venture. The work with the Berkshire Opportunity Fund has been steady and has given him a solid foundation, he explained, adding that he’s slowly but surely building a portfolio of clients in sports-related businesses that can tap into his marketing and brand-building expertise.

    VOmax, a Northampton-based cycling-apparel maker, is one such client. Tuohey said he recently helped the company secure licenses with the National Basketball Assoc., National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball, to make clothes with team logos and colors. Meanwhile, with the Bunt Down Bat venture, he is helping the owner build brand recognition and take manufacturing operations to a higher level.

    Gifted and Talented

    For Marge Slinski, the push into entrepreneurship didn’t come from the recession. Instead, it came first from a change of direction regarding the UMass program she had been involved with — one concerning youths at risk — and an informal policy at the school that acted as a career barrier.

    Elaborating, Slinski said she had a position of authority with a national program, one that won several million dollars in grants to create and replicate initiatives involving youths at risk. She eventually lost that position when the school opted for a different course, and found out rather quickly that, to attain a position with similar responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities to grow, she would need a doctoral degree, which she didn’t have and didn’t want to put her life on hold to earn.

    Instead, she went to the Smith College Career Center (she’s an alum) to get some counseling on what to do next. “I was essentially a person who lost a great job and had no way to replace it,” she explained, adding that those at Smith told her that she could take some of her strengths, specifically those in the arts, and what she called “collaboration building” and perhaps use them to start a business.

    She took that advice and started Choices, LLC, a venture run out of her home that is focused on helping companies find appropriate gifts for their corporate clients.

    Through collaborations with American artists such as Stephen Schlanser, Jennifer McCurdy, Geoffrey Smith, and others, she’s commissioned suitable, meaningful gifts for clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to locally based banks. The recipients vary, from Mideast oil sheiks to Chinese businessmen to retiring employees, and the occasions vary as well, from celebrations of $1 billion sales (for those Fortune 100 companies, obviously) to employees’ 25th anniversaries.

    “I had a new mission,” said Slinski. “Instead of youth at risk, I’m getting corporations to value American arts and crafts as key corporate gifts for their VIPs.”

    Starting with a few leads given to her by her husband, who’s in business, Slinski has managed to steadily grow the company over the past few years, and is now looking to take on a partner and take it to the next level.

    Meanwhile, Levine and Thompson, who worked in Western Mass. several years ago, then relocated for other job opportunities before returning nearly a decade ago, told BusinessWest that they’ve pretty much understood for some time that they would likely have to go into business for themselves, given the rocky state of the publishing industry in recent years.

    “We knew when we moved back here that staying in publishing is not the best place to be, and that we’d probably have to come up with something on our own at some point,” said Levine. “We were lucky along the way in that we did find some staff jobs and we were able to cobble things together with freelance work. But after this last round, with Trisha getting let go, and with the economy taking a huge, huge bite out of print publishing in general, we knew we’d have to do something on our own that would be more stable.”

    Over the past several months, they’ve been able to approach stability through several projects involving personal or family histories or other legacy initiatives, most all of them for customers outside the 413 area code; one current work in progress is for a client in Australia.

    “There are many who won’t have fortunes to leave behind, but will have thoughts and memories and words,” said Thompson, noting, as one example, the remaining World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, many of whom, as they approach or reach their ’90s, are thinking about putting their stories into something that can be preserved for future generations.

    “They have a legacy to leave behind,” she said, adding that this phenomenon certainly provides some growth potential for their fledgling business.

    Free Spirits

    When asked about making the transition from employee to employer, or sole proprietor, those we spoke with said there is a definite learning curve that is part and parcel to such a career shift.

    There are things to absorb, especially on the financial side of things, and there are some trade-offs. There is no steady paycheck anymore, said Thompson, stressing, as she did repeatedly, that there are no sure things in the corporate world either in this day and age. But there is freedom, more responsibility, and, in general, a pride in ownership that doesn’t come with working for someone.

    “It’s very freeing, but’s also a little scary when you’re not working for the mouse,” said Thompson, who noted that, without the strong push that came with the closing of Wondertime, she and Levine may have not made the leap. “It’s freeing because you have as much autonomy and decision-making power as you do responsibility, and that’s unusual. There’s no one else to blame if something doesn’t go right.”

    Said Levine, “on the days when it gets dicey for us and we start to get a little scared, we take a step back and look at the people we know from the long careers we’ve had who have stayed with a large publishing company and lost their jobs because the magazine got sold to some other huge conglomerate. It isn’t always better on the other side.

    “But maybe the biggest difference for me is realizing how much energy you spent in a
    taff job just dealing with personalities and the whole political machinery of it,” he continued. “Now, you can take all that energy and put it into building your business, and also on the creative side as well. Just think about all the time you lose sitting in meetings.”

    Roughly a year after he made the transition, Tuohey has no regrets and isn’t looking back, only ahead. He, too, likes the freedom and greater sense of satisfaction that comes with business ownership.

    “You definitely make your own breaks,” he said. “The thing about what I’m doing that’s so fulfilling for me is that I’ve earned every penny that I’ve made doing this, and I’ve become much more well-rounded of a professional. I think I’m more determined, and more confident in my abilities.

    “Those are the absolute positives,” he continued, “plus I don’t have to jump on a plane every week and fly off and not see my kids.”

    Slinski said her background has been in program development, not business management, so she has had to learn many of the basics, from balance sheets, which she’s still mastering, to pricing.

    “The hardest thing to learn was to ask for the money I deserved; I would tend to underprice, but I’m getting better at it,” she said. “Overall, I was never a business person; I was great at creating things and developing things systematically, but the business side was all new to me, and I had to learn.”

    All those who make the transition to business owner, whether by choice or out of necessity, should be prepared for what Tuohey called a “roller-coaster ride.”

    “There are a lot of ups and downs and emotional swings,” he explained. “Most of all, people have to be prepared to work hard and have some determination and some perseverance; it’s not an easy ride by any means.”

    The Bottom Line

    Touhey says he still hears from recruiters.

    “I get calls once in a while,” he said. “I tell them that I’ve stopped looking for a job, but if they want to talk to me, and there’s an ideal situation, I’ll certainly listen.

    “But I’m going to be the one dictating the terms; I’m not just going to jump back in,” he continued. “I’ve found something I think I can grow, and in the meantime, I’ve proven to myself and my family that I’m capable of providing for us with this, and there’s a certain amount of accomplishment in that.”

    In other words, a former entrepreneur of necessity is now one by choice — and he’s not alone.

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

    Uncategorized
    Strategies for Navigating the Uniform Probate Code

    Imagine that your spouse or parent is in an accident or develops an illness that renders them incapacitated. Certainly, you would be dealing with worry and fear due to their situation, and you would most likely want to do all that you could to assist them. Unfortunately, when adults lose capacity to make their own decisions, if they do not have the proper documents in place, it is necessary to petition the court to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed. In order to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed, the court must first declare the incapacitated person to be incompetent.

    While guardianship and conservatorship laws have existed in the Commonwealth for many years, the laws changed dramatically with the enactment of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) on July 1, 2009.

    Recently, the Probate Court has endured harsh criticism. Many felt that guardianships and conservatorships were obtained too easily, and that there were not enough due-process protections in place for the incapacitated person. With the enactment of the Uniform Probate Court, additional safeguards have been put in place to protect the incapacitated person and to ensure that their rights are protected throughout the process. While this is beneficial to the incapacitated person, it means additional time, expense, and consternation for the petitioning party.

    Prior to the UPC, a guardian could be appointed to handle personal and financial decisions for an incompetent person, or a conservator could be appointed to handle financial decisions. Under the new law, a guardian is empowered only to make personal decisions, such as those involving support, care, education, health, and welfare, and a conservator is empowered only to make financial decisions. As such, if a person is seeking to be appointed to handle both personal and financial matters, this person will have to request that the Probate Court appoint them as both guardian and conservator. Under the new law, this requires two separate petitions to the court.

    Some of the terminology that has been used for many years has also changed. While in the past all incompetent people were called ‘wards,’ the term ‘ward’ is now reserved solely for guardianships of minors. Under the new law, a person under guardianship is called an ‘incapacitated person,’ and a person under conservatorship is called a ‘protected person.’ Court personnel, attorneys, and the public will need some time to master the terminology now used in these matters.

    The UPC has also established priority as to whom should be appointed as guardian or conservator. The highest priority is given to the person named in the incapacitated person’s health-care proxy or durable power of attorney, unless good cause can be shown as to why they should not be appointed. The order of priority differs depending on whether a guardianship or a conservatorship is sought, but in either case, the court may pass over a person having priority and appoint a person having lower priority or no priority.

    A new provision also ensures that a person who is being investigated, or who has charges pending, for committing an assault and battery that resulted in a serious bodily injury to a minor or otherwise incapacitated person cannot be appointed as a guardian or conservator. The court will run a criminal-record check to determine a petitioner’s status and to ensure that they are not prohibited from serving.

    Prior to the UPC, completing the petition to appoint a guardian or conservator was fairly simple. The entire petition consisted of one double-sided page. Under the UPC, the petition has increased to seven pages, and the information requested therein is much more comprehensive. The court is seeking information that would allow the court to restrict the guardian or conservator to making only those decisions that are absolutely necessary, while allowing the incapacitated person to maintain as much independence as possible.

    At the time that a guardian or conservator is appointed, it is necessary to provide the court with a medical certificate completed based upon an examination of the alleged incapacitated person that occurred within 30 days of the hearing. In the past, the medical certificate consisted of one double-sided page, and the physician could complete it with information that the physician believed to be pertinent. Now, a medical certificate spans six pages, and the physician must answer specific questions detailing the incapacity.

    Under the new law, a medical certificate meeting the same requirements must also be filed when the petition is initially filed. It is generally impossible to have a guardianship or conservatorship allowed within 30 days of filing. As such, this new rule essentially guarantees that two examinations and two certificates will be needed, which translates into added expense and increased time pressures.

    Once a petition is filed, notice must be given to all interested parties, including the alleged incompetent person. This notice provides a date by which the person could object to the petition. Under the new law, the alleged incompetent person has a right to counsel, which would likely be exercised if they desire to object. Under the new law, it appears that the appointment of counsel can be requested by anyone, even if they are not involved in the case. If the alleged incompetent person is indigent, then their counsel will be paid for by the Commonwealth.

    The UPC has also restricted some decisions typically made by a guardian that were not restricted in the past. For example, the guardian must receive court approval prior to revoking a previously executed health-care proxy. In addition, the guardian must receive court approval prior to admitting the incapacitated person to a nursing home.

    This provision is extremely problematic, as it prevents incompetent individuals who have been hospitalized and who are in need of rehabilitation from being admitted to the rehabilitation facility without a prior court order. This requirement could easily delay the needed admission to the rehabilitation facility for as much as 30 days or longer.

    With respect to substituted-judgment determinations, in which the court places itself in the incapacitated person’s shoes in order to make the decision that the incapacitated person would make if competent, the new law requires the incapacitated person to attend the hearing thereon. The most common substituted-judgment determination is related to whether the incapacitated person should be treated with anti-psychotic medications. In the past, it was possible and fairly easy to waive the appearance of the incapacitated person. Now, the court must find that extraordinary circumstances exist requiring the incapacitated person’s absence from the hearing.

    In the past, it was the duty of a conservator or guardian of an estate to file an account with the Probate Court on a yearly basis. If the account was not filed, it would not be uncommon for this failure to go unnoticed. The new law mandates that, within 60 days following their appointment, a conservator must report all assets that may be coming under their control in addition to filing an account on an annual basis.

    With the use of new software, it is understood that the court will be proactive and will require conservators to file accounts in a timely manner. If an account is not filed, the court may order the account to be filed. In the event that the conservator does not file his account in a timely manner, or if the judge is not satisfied with the account, the conservator could be removed and a successor conservator appointed by the court.

    Given the increasing difficulty involved in appointing and maintaining a guardianship or conservatorship, it is increasingly important for competent adults to execute health-care proxies and durable powers of attorney. A health-care proxy is a document in which someone is designated to make health-care decisions in the event of incapacity. A durable power of attorney is a document in which someone is designated to make financial decisions in the event of incapacity. Executing these two documents allows a person to avoid the need for guardianship or conservatorship, as the documents cover the two areas in which the court would appoint a decision maker — personal and financial.

    Ultimately, the enactment of the UPC has vastly changed the legal landscape with respect to incapacity. The easiest way to avoid having to navigate this landscape is to plan ahead for incapacity. By executing a health-care proxy and durable power of attorney now, you can put a plan in place that can be carried out without court intervention. n

    Gina M. Barry is a partner with the law firm Bacon Wilson, P.C. She is a member of the National Assoc. of Elder Law Attor-neys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset-protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate; (413) 781-0560 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (413) 781-0560      end_of_the_skype_highlighting;[email protected]

    Departments

    Check This Out

    The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut and Western Mass. gives grants to nonprofits in the area that help children, and recently, $4,000 was awarded to Link to Libraries based in East Longmeadow. Here, Janet Crimmins, co-founder of Link to Libraries, receives the check at ceremonies at Pottenger School in Springfield, which received a donation of 150 books for the school library. Following the presentation, Link to Libraries conducted a Read Aloud program for students, in which a picture book was read and each student received a free book to bring home and share with family and friends.


    Engineering Excellence

    Westfield-based Tighe & Bond recently received an Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Connecticut (ACEC) for the Route 34 Roadway Improvement Project in New Haven, Conn. The award was presented on Jan. 21 at ACEC’s annual awards banquet following a competition open to firms engaged in the practice of consulting engineering in Connecticut. Here, Chris Granatini, P.E. (center) accepts the award on behalf of Tighe & Bond.


    Heart to Heart

    The Second Annual Heart to Heart gala was staged Feb. 6 to benefit Rick’s Place, the Wilbraham-based organization, founded in honor of 9/11 victim Rick Thorpe, that provides support to grieving children and their families. At left, Shelly Bathe Lenn, left, executive director of Rick’s Place, prepares to draw the winning ticket for the grand prize in the raffle as board member Bill Scatolini and Jennifer Boudreau look on. Below, board members and administrators gather for a group photo. From left: Dr. Matt Haluch, Ken Tobias, Dan Sheehan, Amy Selvia-Smith, Carole Mangels (program coordinator), Brian Bracci, Bathe Lenn, Gina Kahn, Rick Hill, Mike Hassett, Glen Garvey, Tina Kuselias, Scatolini, Christina Cracci, and Mark Brannigan.


    Design of the Times

    Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (center) and UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert Holub (far right) were among several Springfield and UMass officials swinging sledgehammers recently to dedicate the start of renovations to 3-7 Elm Street. That property, in Court Square across from City Hall, will be the location of the new UMass Design Center, which will house faculty, staff, and graduate students, and will undertake projects such as park improvements, urban planning, and conservation upgrades that will benefit the city. In addition to storefront offices, the building will also feature a design studio on the ground floor and low-rent apartments on the upper floors.


    Camp Friendly’s

    17-year-old Trevor Bynum of Springfield (left) says ‘thank you’ in American Sign Language to Friendly’s president and CEO, Ned Lidvall. Lidvall recently welcomed Bynum to Friendly’s corporate office for the annual kickoff of Cones for Kids for Camp Friendly’s. Bynum is hearing-impaired and has benefited since he was a young child from Easter Seals Camp at Agassiz Village in Poland, Maine. Since 1981, Friendly’s has been raising money for Easter Seals so that kids with disabilities, like Trevor, can enjoy Camp Friendly’s programs. Friendly’s raised $144,000 in Massachusetts alone last year and ran its 2010 Cones for Kids program through Feb. 13 in every Friendly’s restaurant.


    Ovations

    Mime Robert Rivest delivers a performance in the Ovations series of cultural and educational events at Springfield Technical Community College. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this spring, Ovations is sponsored in part by Chicopee Savings Bank. Events in the series are presented for STCC students and the general public.


    Black History Month

    Springfield Technical Community College Nursing professor Anne Mistivar-Payen, right, who is seeking relatives in Haiti, is presented with a Reflections lamp by Myra Smith, vice president for Human Resources and Multicultural Affairs. All Black History Month events at the college this year were dedicated to the Haitian people, and fund-raising proceeds will be donated to Haiti relief efforts.