Home 2014 March
Features
Wellspring Initiative Strives to Create a Steady Stream of New Jobs

Fred Rose, left, and Evan Cohen

Fred Rose, left, and Evan Cohen say the upholstery cooperative has strong growth potential.

Bob Demerjian says he saw the ad last fall on a state website featuring job postings. It caught his eye for several reasons.

For starters, he had been unemployed for some time, and realistic opportunities to rejoin the workforce had become quite scarce. But there was something else. While waiting for such an opportunity to develop, Demerjian had begun to learn the somewhat obscure trade of upholstery, and had landed a few odd jobs. Escalating this activity into a vocation seemed unlikely, though.

Fast-forward a few months, and Demerjian is stripping the fabric off a chair that until recently occupied the lobby at the campus hotel at UMass Amherst. He is working in the spacious confines of Alliance Upholstery in a century-old building in Springfield’s South End where monkey wrenches were once made, and, decades later, Bottaro-Skolnick Furniture had its showrooms.

He is the first official employee owner of something called the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative (WUC), and the hope, and expectation, is that there will soon be many more.

Wellspring is the name of a unique collaborative designed to create economic opportunities and revitalize Springfield’s neighborhoods. Launched in 2011 with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program intends to use the purchasing power of the region’s largest employers to provide a market for new worker-owned companies that will create entry-level jobs and ownership opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents.

These employers, also called ‘anchors,’ include Baystate Health, the Sisters of Providence Health System, Springfield Technical Community College, UMass Amherst, and Western New England University, and the hope is to add more, said Fred Rose, co-director of the Wellspring Collaborative at the Center for Public Policy and Administration at UMass Amherst.

“It’s estimated that these major institutions purchase more than $1.5 billion worth of goods and services a year, and maybe less than 10% of it comes from the Springfield area,” he noted. “So there’s a big potential market for goods that we could produce locally, and we’ve been meeting with their purchasers and identifying possible opportunities.

“If we could shift just 10% of that $1.5 billion, we could create 2,000 or 3,000 jobs in this city,” he went on. “We want to build a capacity for these institutions to use their purchasing powers to drive some development.”

Rose said Wellspring was inspired by the many examples worldwide of worker-owned businesses successfully serving such anchors. Perhaps the most notable is the program known as the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. The initiative, which involves Case Western University, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and other major employers, has grown to include a laundry, a solar-power operation, and a growers cooperative, said Rose, adding that the program has created hundreds of jobs.

But there are many other examples of how this concept works effectively, said Rose, citing the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain’s Basque region as another.

In Springfield, the Wellspring initiative has begun with an upholstery shop, said Rose, because there is recognized need for such services, an existing infrastructure in the form of the Alliance Upholstery facilities, and an important partner at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, which has operated an upholstery program for years and provides a pool of employee candidates with some initial upholstery training.

But there could be other businesses underway in the near future, including a greenhouse operation that would supply fresh fruits and vegetables to those anchor businesses, as well as a laundry and other ventures.

The Wellspring initiative involves a number of partners in addition to those anchors, including Jobs with Justice, the New North Citizens Council, the Center for Popular Economics, Partners for a Healthier Community, GreenWorks, the Pioneer Valley Project, the Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, MassMutual, and the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

That list reveals that the program is not only about jobs and economic development, said Steve Bradley, vice president of Government and Community Relations and Public Affairs at Baystate Health. It’s also about neighborhoods, and the overall health of the region.

“There’s a very direct correlation between income levels and both an individual’s and family’s health status,” he said when explaining why a health system would become involved in an economic-development endeavor of this nature. “Simply put, the poorer you are, the worse your health is going to be.”

For this issue, BusinessWest goes behind the scenes at the upholstery cooperative for a look at this intriguing operation, and also talks with a number of those involved with Wellspring to gauge its potential as a vehicle for generating economic development — and much-needed jobs in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Seats of Government
Evan Cohen, long-time owner of Alliance Upholstery, a venture that at one time took his name, said his trade is somewhat of a lost art.

Decades ago, he noted, there were a number of upholstery shops in Greater Springfield employing hundreds of highly trained craftspeople. Alliance is one of the few operations left, and it handles everything from new, high-end furniture to old sofas and chairs that need a new look and a new seat. But there is still a good deal of demand for services, as indicated by the number of projects in progress and in waiting on his shop floor.

Scattered in among those mostly high-end new pieces and some antiques have been some institutional projects, including 65 booth-like pieces from the Berkshire Dining Commons at UMass Amherst, several chairs from the mayor’s office in Westfield, assorted pieces from the campus hotel at UMass, and others.

These represent what Rose and others describe as the start of what could be a thriving enterprise, and the first of a series of businesses designed to keep a portion of that aforementioned $1.5 billion in the City of Homes.

“Our goal is to create a network of these businesses,” said Rose, adding that the ultimate success of the Wellspring initiative will be determined by how effective its organizers are at identifying need among those anchor institutions and creating efficient, profitable ventures to meet them.

Bob Demerjian

Bob Demerjian at work at the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative

There is certainly ample evidence in both this country and abroad to suggest that worker-owned businesses supplying such anchors is a viable economic-development strategy, he said, adding that the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain have grown to 110 cooperatives employing more than 80,000 people in 2012. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s Evergreen program has grown to four businesses and has received national attention for its potential to revitalize blighted neighborhoods.

It will take years, if not decades, to approach those levels of success, Rose went on, adding that the long-range business plan is to generate smart, need-driven expansion that will meet Wellspring’s stated goals of creating jobs while also revitalizing neighborhoods.

Getting the WUC off the ground has been roughly a two-year initiative, and a learning experience on a number of levels, said Rose, one that involved everything from identifying partners to securing capital to attracting those first customers. And the operation takes Wellspring from words on an informational brochure to reality, which is an important first step.

“We learned a lot getting this business started,” said Rose. “We had to raise $145,000 in capital, and that was challenging, because not a lot of places want to put money into startup companies.”

Funding was eventually obtained from what Rose called a “socially responsible investor” in Boston, while a line of credit was secured from Freedom Credit Union, and a $15,000 grant was attained from the city’s small-business loan program.

And while funding was being located, organizers were creating partnerships with Alliance Upholstery and the Sheriff’s Department, which has contracts for upholstery work with many of those aforementioned anchors, but has limited capacity, so potential exists for handling overflow. Only a few people currently work at the WUC, said Rose, but there is potential to add another six or more before the end of the year.

Couching Their Remarks
Ira Rubenzahl, president of STCC, has been to Cleveland, and he’s toured some of the Evergreen facilities. He came away inspired, believing that Springfield could replicate some of that success.

“Cleveland is very impressive,” he said. “They have major institutions there like the Cleveland Clinic, which is an enormous operation. They’re on a much different scale there, but the concept works, and it’s something we can do here.”

Like others we spoke with, Rubenzahl said the worker-owned-business model has a number of attractive qualities that go beyond simple job creation. Indeed, there is a wealth-creation component to the initiative that could drive home ownership and prompt investments in the neighborhoods where these businesses are located.

“We believe that additional business development is important for the city, especially business development that could employ people of modest skills,” said Rubenzahl. “We have a lot of people in this city without college degrees who need jobs, and this idea of enabling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do it themselves has a certain attraction for us at the college. We think this is an important initiative, and we’re very supportive of it.”

Bradley agreed. He said Baystate became involved in Wellspring as part of its Community Benefits Program, and has been inspired by the program’s goal of stimulating development in areas of the city where there has been little private-sector investment in recent years.

The Baystate system provided the project with some seed money ($50,000) as well as some technical support, most of it from Frank Robinson, president of Partners for a Healthy Community. And the system is committed to helping initiatives like the WUC become reality because of their impact on overall health within a community, especially one like Springfield, which has nearly half its population living at or below the poverty line.

“When you look at the direction in which healthcare is moving, there is a greater focus on education, prevention of disease, and the promotion of wellness,” he explained. “And one of the factors in that equation is economic status; if we can help local people create and grow jobs in their neighborhoods through co-ops, then we can help raise the economic status of those individuals and their families, which will in turn create a much healthier community.

“We like to say healthcare is more than just acute care, and it’s more than just treating people who have serious disease,” he added. “It’s all of that, but it’s also about investing in the health of the community as a whole, and focusing on population health.”

Dan Keenan, vice president of Government Relations for the Sisters of Providence Health System, concurred.
“It’s simple — jobs are a key component to a healthy community,” by way of explaining the system’s involvement in Wellspring. “There’s been a lot of studies showing that a key health indicator is employment.”

Sofa, So Good
As he ripped the old fabric off that chair from UMass, Bob Demerjian used simple, direct, upbeat language to talk about Wellspring and the break it has provided for him.

“It’s good — I like the work,” he said. “I’m learning a skill that few people have. It’s an opportunity for me.”

And for the region as well, to tap into the buying power of those anchors and create businesses that may help change the fortunes of some Springfield neighborhoods.

Demerjian is the first Wellspring employee, and all those involved believe he will be the first of many.

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

Departments People on the Move

Jessica West

Jessica West

Easthampton Savings Bank announced that Jessica West has been promoted to Branch Officer at the Northampton Street office. West served as Assistant Manager with Eileen Hickle as Branch Officer before her retirement at the end of February. She joined the bank as a Senior Teller for the Belchertown office in 2002, was promoted to Assistant Branch Manager in Belchertown in 2008, then Assistant Branch Manager at the Northampton Street office in 2012. West graduated from Springfield Technical Community College with an associate degree in mechanical technologies, and has taken various CFT courses.
•••••


Candace Pereira

Candace Pereira

The Gray House has inducted Candace Pereira to a three-year term on its board of directors. Pereira, a Commercial Lending Officer at United Bank since 2005, served most recently as Senior Credit Analyst following earlier positions as Senior Commercial Loan Associate and Mortgage Representative. Pereira holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College. The Gray House is a small neighborhood human-services agency in Springfield whose mission is to help its neighbors facing hardships to meet their immediate and transitional needs by providing food, clothing, and educational services in a safe, positive environment in the North End of Springfield.
•••••

Denise Dukette

Denise Dukette

Hampden Bank
announced three new members to its Business BankingCommercial Lending group:
• Denise Dukette, Vice President, Commercial Credit Officer, joined the bank in June 2013, as Vice President and Credit Officer of Business Banking. She oversees risk management, credit underwriting, and operational support for the bank’s business-lending functions. Dukette brings more than 30 years of managerial and lending experience, having held leadership roles at commercial and community banks in the Springfield and Hartford markets, including Fleet Bank, TD Bank, and United Bank. She has managed credit departments, loan review, risk management, loan operations, and commercial lending, as well as working at a Western Mass. economic-development agency. Dukette earned a bacherlor’s degree in economics at Wheaton College and an MBA from UConn;



James Babcock

James Babcock

James Babcock, Vice President, Commercial Lending, has spent nearly all of his 25 years in commercial lending at community banks in the Northern Conn. market, including United Bank, Simsbury Bank & Trust, and First National Bank of Suffield. His new role will include business development in Massachusetts and reaching out into Connecticut. Babcock has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and earned an MBA from Babson College; and






John Downs

John Downs

John Downs, Vice President, Commercial Lending, brings more than 30 years of managerial and commercial-lending experience, having held leadership roles at community banks including PeoplesBank and Chicopee Savings Bank. Downs earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from American International College and an MBA from Western New England University.
•••••



Michael Linton

Michael Linton

Michael Linton, Owner of Michael’s Party Rentals in Ludlow, recently graduated from the Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program, developed by the American Rental Assoc. (ARA), one of the party and event rental industry’s most distinguished certifications. Recipients of the CERP certification were recognized at the Rental Show, ARA’s annual trade show and convention, in Orlando, Fla. in February.
•••••
Rick’s Place Inc. recently announced that Donald Mitchell, Director of Projects and Facilities at the YMCA of Greater Springfield and current Vice President of the Board of Directors, succeeds founding board President William Scatolini, who, along with Dan Sheehan and Glen Garvey, established Rick’s Place in memory of their friend from high school, Rick Thorpe, who died in Tower Two of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mitchell brings enthusiasm and experience to Rick’s Place; since 2008, he operated a local nonprofit in Springfield, assisting small businesses, and has served on a state board and several nonprofit boards. Scatolini’s tenure as President of the board from 2007 to 2014 helped to establish Rick’s Place, and he will continue his involvement with the organization as a member of the executive committee. Rick’s Place, which opened in March 2007 with six youth, provides support to grieving young people and their families. Seven years later, the nonprofit has worked with hundreds of youth throughout Hampden County.

Agenda Departments

Management Conference
April 2: Accountability is a hot issue in today’s business world. At the Holiday Inn in Enfield, Conn., the Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE) will hold its 10th annual management conference, called “It’s All About Accountability.” The conference will address personal accountability and responsibility in achieving organizational results, based on Linda Galindo’s bestselling book, The 85% Solution. EANE is bringing to the area Kathleen Kelly, a master certified facilitator in ‘the Accountability Experience.’ She will teach supervisors and managers how to develop accountability and learn to accept no less than 85% responsibility for the outcomes of their actions. Conference breakout sessions will include: “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” “Taking the ‘Difficult’ out of Difficult Conversations,” “Tom’s Fired: Where Did Things Go Wrong?” “Taking Ownership for Your Own Professional Development,” “Digging Deep: Performance Improvement Through Real Coaching,” and “Ethical and Legal Obligations of Managers in Solving Workplace Issues.” For more information about the conference, contact Karen Cronenberger at (877) 662-6444 or [email protected] To register, call (877) 662-6444 or visit www.eane.org.

Journey Around the World for Literacy
April 30: Link to Libraries invites you to travel to India, Asia, Latin America, France, Ireland, and Italy — all within the Delaney House and D. Hotel and Suites. A selection of ballrooms and suites will be transformed into different global destinations, complete with costumes, cuisine, décor, and local flavor. The event, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Delaney House on Route 5 in Holyoke, costs $25 per person, which includes multiple food stations.
An optional $10 buys unlimited sampling at specialty drink stations.
There will also be a cash bar. Funds will benefit literacy programs through Link to Libraries. To register, send a check,
payable to Link to Libraries Inc., to the following address: Link to Libraries, Attn. Karen Blinderman, Registrar, P.O. Box 958,
West Springfield, MA 01090. Your check is your reservation.

Not Just Business as Usual
May 1: The Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Foundation’s Not Just Business as Usual event is a key networking event for business leaders in Western Mass. This annual celebration, in its fifth year, is a celebration of innovative thinking which gives participants the opportunity to learn from business experts while raising significant funding for the STCC WORKS scholarship program. It will be held at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. A cocktail and networking reception will be run from 5:30 to 7 p.m., with dinner and keynote speaker to follow from 7 to 9 p.m. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Alan Robinson, award-winning author and associate dean of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Robinson will discuss his latest book, The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas. Drawing on his work with companies worldwide, Robinson will review the strategies needed to develop a management team open to grassroots innovation and the policies and practices that encourage — and those that discourage — employees’ ideas.
Robinson has advised more than 200 companies in 15 countries. Both tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available. Tickets are $175 each or $1,500 for a table of 10. For additional information or to become a sponsor, contact Christina Tuohey, STCC’s director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations, at (413) 755-4475 or [email protected] To purchase tickets online, visit www.stcc.edu/njbau.

40 Under Forty
June 19: The eighth annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. Judges recently chose this year’s class from more than 150 nominations, a record. They will be announced, and their stories told, in the April 21 issue. More details on the gala will be revealed in upcoming issues, but tickets cost $65, and they typically sell out quickly. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Court Dockets Departments

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT
David and Deborah Walker v. Rice Oil Co. Inc.
Allegation: Defendant failed to repair and maintain a propane heater in a good and workmanlike manner, causing the heater to fail: $400,000
Filed: 1/7/14

Sandy Moya v. Frontier Regional School District
Allegation: Racial discrimination and retaliation: $25,000+
Filed: 2/10/14

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
380 Union, LLC v. Aspen Square Management Inc.
Allegation: Breach of lease agreement by failing to pay rent for three years: $500,000+
Filed: 2/18/14

Northeast Realty Associates, LLC v. Mohegan Resorts Mass, LLC, Mohegan Sun Mass, LLC and Michael Vito & Associates Inc.
Allegation: Breach of contract and related claims arising from the defendant’s pursuit of casino license in Revere, Mass. in breach of exclusivity agreement: $71,985,283
Filed: 2/21/14

People’s United Bank v. Berger Painting Inc.
Allegation: Default on promissory note: $196,000
Filed: 2/7/14

TD Bank, N.A. v. TCI Enterprises, LLC, Transcend Carriers Inc., James F. Jordan, and Susan W. Jordan
Allegation: Default on promissory note: $1,241,813.12
Filed: 2/6/14

Temis Inc. v. HCPro Inc.
Allegation: Breach of contract for services rendered: $108,712.87
Filed: 2/12/14

SPRINGFIELD DISTRICT COURT
Christy Webster v. Ear, Nose, & Throat Surgeons of Western New England, LLC
Allegation: Dissemination of confidential information: $24,999
Filed: 2/19/14

Gordon L. Goldsmith, Jr. v. Axiom Capital, LLC
Allegation: Breach of contract and failure to pay on stock purchase agreement: $3,774.24
Filed: 2/21/14

Truss Engineering Corp. v. Hanley & Williams Lumber Co. Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of goods sold and delivered: $5,538.72
Filed: 2/20/14

Western Mass Electric Co. v. Taylor Davis Landscape Inc.
Allegation: Negligent operation of equipment, causing damage to defendant’s property: $10,499.20
Filed: 2/11/14

Departments Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

Elite Appliance Inc., 172 School St., Agawam, MA 01001. Richard G. Melloni Jr., same. Appliance repair.

Amherst

New England Charter Service Inc., 150 Fearing St., Suite 3, Amherst, MA 01002. Hui Luo, 13825 31st Dr., #5H, Flushing, NY 11354. Bus touring and travel service.

Belchertown

Little Friends Child Care Center Inc., 58 Daniel Shays Highway, Belchertown, MA 01007. Elizabeth Sawyer, same. Child care.

Easthampton

Miranda Design Studio Inc., 281 Main St., Easthampton, MA 01027. Jason Miranda, same. Publishing service and graphic design.

Feeding Hills

Nesen Trucking Inc., 95 West View Lane, Feeding Hills, MA 01030. Nikolay Nesen, same. Trucking.

Granby

Premier Irrigation Inc., 49 Taylor St., Granby, MA 01033. Colby Nugent, 55 Taylor St., Granby, MA 01033. Installation and maintenance of irrigation systems.

Hampden

Earth Movers Excavation Inc., 65 Allen St., Hampden, MA 01036. Kara J. Hatch, same. Excavation services and site work for residential, commercial, and municipal projects.

Hadley

Wheel Equal Inc., 44 North Maple St., Hadley, MA 01035. Michelle Moore, same. To conduct scientific research to further the development, production and provision of wheelchairs and adaptive equipment for persons with disabilities.

Hinsdale

Frontline Service Solutions Inc., 81 New Windsor Road, Hinsdale, MA 01235. Anthony E. Hyte, same. Consulting.

Holyoke

Ministerio Evaniglistico El Reino De Los Cielo Se Ha Acercado Inc., 339 Hampden St., First Floor, Holyoke, MA 01040. Keilyn M. Betancourt, same. Religious church.

Morales Xpress Inc., 50 Holy Family Road, Holyoke, MA 01040. Noel Morales, same. Transportation of goods (trucking).

Lee

Piretti Tennis Inc., 625 Chapel St., Suite 1C, Lee, MA 01238. Richard F. Piretti, same. Tennis court construction and maintenance.

Monson

Main Street Restaurants Inc., 216 Main St., Monson, MA 01057. Paul S. Stone Jr., same. Restaurant.

Monson Fire Department Assoc. Inc., 121 Fenton Road, Monson, MA 01057. Mathew Walch, same. To provide a relief fund for any active member of the Monson Fire Department, honorary member of the association, and their immediate family who are in need of financial aid.

Chamber Corners Departments

AFFILIATED CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
www.myonlinechamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• March 25: ACCGS Pastries, Politics and Policy, 8-9 a.m., at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield. The event will feature David Bassett, TSA federal security director at Bradley International Airport. Reservations are $15 for members, $25 for general admission. Reservations may be made online at www.myonlinechamber.com or by contacting Cecile Larose at [email protected]
• April 2: ACCGS [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m., at the Delaney House, 3 Country Club Road, Holyoke. Mayor’s Forum, featuring first-term Mayor Edward Sullivan of West Springfield, second-term Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, and third-term Mayor Domenic Sarno of Springfield, moderated by abc40’s Dave Madsen. Reservations are $20 for members, $30 for general admission. Reservations may be made online at www.myonlinechamber.com or by contacting Cecile Larose at [email protected]
• April 9: ACCGS Lunch N Learn, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Lattitude Restaurant, 1388 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Featuring “The Art of the Brand,” presented by Mary McCarthy of Andrew Associates. Attendees will learn the core elements of successful branding and the necessary building blocks that should be put in place in order to ensure that your brand successfully conveys meaningful messages that resonate with your customers or audience. Reservations are $20 for members, $30 for general admission, and may be made online at www.myonlinechamber.com or by contacting Cecile Larose at [email protected]
• April 30: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hosted by state Sen. Gale Candaras. Spend a day at the State House and hear from key legislators, members of the Patrick administration in its final months in office, and our local delegation. Reservations are $180 and include transportation, lunch at the Union Club, and a wrap-up reception at the 21st Amendment. Reservations may be made online at www.myonlinechamber.com or by contacting Cecile Larose at [email protected]

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.amherstarea.com
(413) 253-0700

• March 27: Taste a variety of margaritas and vote for your favorites, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst. Step into the tropics and pretend you’re on a Caribbean island. This is a Division One competition between restaurant and business margaritas. Your votes will determine who will take home the coveted AACC trophies. Restaurant margaritas presented by Hadley Farms MeetingHouse and Bridgeside Grille. Business margaritas presented by Amherst Laser and Skin Care, New England Promotional Marketing, Scandihoovians, and Applewood at Amherst. Admission is $20 pre-paid, $25 at the door.
• April 3: Chamber Brown Bag Event (first of a three-part series), 12:30-2:30 p.m., at the Jones Library. Learn about the importance of understanding Google searches for business visibility and learn about online business presence. More than 90% of consumers start their buying process online, and your business may be falling through the cracks when it comes to search engines. The talk includes prospect preferences in online search, your business presence on Google platforms (interactive), local search and your business (interactive), content marketing strategy, and converting shoppers into buyers. The event includes a raffle of a free Google presence analysis and a $100 voucher. Bring your mobile devices. Admission is free.
• April 9: Chamber Breakfast, “The Power of Video,” 7:15-9 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 423 Russell St., Hadley. Learn about using videos to promote your business. Sponsored by Epic Filmmakers. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for non-members.
• April 23: Chamber After 5, 5-7 p.m., at Western MA Family Golf Center, 294 Russell St., Hadley. Cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members.

CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101

• March 25: 20th Annual Table Top Expo and Business Networking Event, 4:30-7 p.m., at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Exhibitor cost: $125 for a table. Admission: $10 in advance or $15 at the door. To register, contact the chamber at (413) 594-2101.
• April 16: April Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College. Tickets: $20 for members, $26 for non-members.
• April 16: April Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., at the Residence Inn by Marriott. Tickets: $5 for members, $15 for non-members.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.easthamptonchamber.org
(413) 527-9414

• April 10: Networking by Night, 5:30 p.m. More details to follow. RSVP appreciated. Contact us at (413) 527-9414 or [email protected] Tickets are $5 for members, $15 for future members.
• May 02: Wine & Microbrew Tasting, 6 p.m., at Wyckoff Country Club. Unfamiliar with wines? Looking for the perfect wine for dinner? You’ve had the Wente Merlot and Chardonnay, but want to try the St. Michelle Riesling? Well, then, step up to the tasting bar. All of our guests (21 years of age and older) are welcome and encouraged to enjoy samples of more than 42 unique grape and fruit wines. Not interested in wine? That’s OK, because we have a microbrew tasting going on for you, too. One location, one price. Every year the event has grown. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.explorenorthampton.com
(413) 584-1900

• March 25: 20th Annual Table Top Expo and Business Networking Event, 4:30-7 p.m., at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Exhibitor cost: $125 for a table. Admission: $10 in advance or $15 at the door. To register, call (413) 584-1900 or e-mail [email protected]
• April 2: [email protected] 5, 5-7 p.m., at PeoplesBank, 300 King St., Northampton. Sponsored by PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Register at [email protected]
• April 10: Seminar, “Art of Small Business,” first in a three-part series, 9-10:30 a.m., at the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Don Lesser of Pioneer Training. Tickets: $20 for members, $25 for guests. Registration is required due to limited space.
• April 21: Seminar, “Art of Small Business,” second in a three-part series, 8:30- 9:30 a.m., at the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Tina Stevens of Stevens 470. The program is free, but registration is required due to limited space.
• May 7: [email protected] 5, 5-7 p.m., at King & Cushman Inc.; 176 King St., Northampton. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage Services Corp., King Autobody, and Goggins Real Estate. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Register at [email protected]
• June 4: [email protected] 5, 5-7 p.m., at Black Birch Vineyard. Sponsored by Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, the Creative, and viz-bang! Cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Register at [email protected]

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618

• April 3: Social Media Workshop, 8:30-10:30 a.m., at the Holiday Inn Express, 39 Southampton Road, Westfield. Presented by Alfonso Santaniello, the Creative Strategy Agency. Topic: engaging across platforms — how to create engaging content, what types of content should you be creating, how to distribute content through various platforms, and the importance of tracking along the way. Cost: free to Westfield Chamber members, $25 for non-members paid in advance. Seating is limited; register early. To register, call Pam at the chamber office at (413) 568-1618.
• April 7: Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., at Renaissance Manor, 37 Feeding Hills Road, Westfield. The GWCC invites you to have coffee with Mayor Daniel Knapik in a very informal setting. Hear first-hand from the mayor about key issues and get an update on construction projects. The mayor also welcomes any questions or concerns you may have. Free, informative, and open to the pubic. To register, call Pam at the chamber office at (413) 568-1618, or e-mail [email protected]
• April 9: After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., at Czar Energy, 53 North Elm St., Westfield. Don’t forget your business cards. Great connection opportunities. Bring a prospective new member for free. Members: advertise your business with a table top for $50. Hors d’oeuvres served. Walk-ins welcome. Haven’t been to an After 5? Your first one is free. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members (cash at the door). To register, call Pam at the chamber office at (413) 568-1618, or e-mail [email protected]
• April 30: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hosted by state Sen. Gale Candaras. Spend a day at the State House and hear from key legislators and members of the Patrick administration in its final months in office. Cost: $180, which includes bus, lunch, and reception. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 568-1618.

PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S CHAMBER
www.professionalwomenschamber.com
(413) 755-1310

• April 8: PWC Ladies Night, 5-7 p.m., at Baystate Health, 325 King St., Northampton. An opportunity to network socially with other female professionals in a casual and unique setting. Reservations are complimentary but required by contacting Dawn Creighton at [email protected] The Professional Women’s Chamber is an affiliate of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.ourwrc.com
413-426-3880

• April 2: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., at Insurance Center of New England, Agawam. Free for chamber members, $10 for non-members. Event is open to the public; non-members must pay at the door. Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events hosted by various businesses and restaurants, bringing members and non-members together to network in a laid-back atmosphere. For more information, contact the chamber at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]
• April 16: Networking Lunch, hosted by Cal’s, 12-1:30 p.m. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief sales pitch. The only cost is lunch; attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you. For more information, contact the chamber at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
www.springfieldyps.com

• March 27: CEO Luncheon, 11:45 a.m to 1:15 p.m., at Health New England, Monarch Place, Suite 1500, Springfield. Guest Speaker: Peter Straley, president and CEO of Health New England. Sponsored by Adam Quenneville Roofing, Siding, and Windows and BusinessWest. Members-only event; space is limited. CEO Luncheons are first-come, first served; seats up to 20 maximum.

Departments Picture This

Send photos with a caption and contact information to:  ‘Picture This’ c/o BusinessWest Magazine, 1441 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103 or to [email protected]

Person of the Year
_MG_9995MG_0211Attorney Laura Santaniello Gentile, Hampden County Clerk of Courts, was recently honored by the Springfield chapter of UNICO, the Italian-American Service organization, as its first Person of the Year, replacing the previous Man of the Year designation. At left: Gentile with her husband, Thomas Gentile, and her son, Thomas Gentile Jr. Right: Gentile receives the award from Frank Stirlacci, president of the Springfield chapter of UNICO.

Big Plans for the Plaza
SpfldPlazaCharles Irving, principal of the Davenport Companies (left), and Christopher Knisley, president and partner of Albany Road Real Estate Partners (second from left), recently entered into a joint venture to purchase the 440,000-square-foot Springfield Plaza shopping center on Liberty Street for $35 million. Present for the announcement were, from left, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and Springfield City Councilor Orlando Ramos. In addition to the initial outlay, Davenport (which is also the development partner of MGM Springfield) and Albany Road plan on pouring another $5 million into the property in renovations.

Celebrate Springfield
AM7J7207AM7J7258AM7J7276DevelopSpringfield hosted its 3rd annual Celebrate Springfield dinner to observe Springfield and the many accomplishments the community has achieved over the past year. The Partner in Progress Award was given to three individuals who, through their leadership and ability to motivate and inspire others, have supported the Rebuild Springfield Plan. From left to right: Helen Caulton-Harris, left, director of Springfield’s Department of Health & Human Services, and Armando Feliciano, chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority and a DevelopSpringfield board member, honor Colleen Loveless, executive director of Rebuilding Together; Feliciano and Caulton-Harris recognize Terry Powe, principal of Elias Brookings Elementary School; Suzanne Bharati Hendery, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Baystate Health, accepts the award from Caulton-Harris and Feliciano on behalf of honoree Mark Tolosky, former president and CEO of Baystate Health.

Briefcase Departments

Bradley Passenger Traffic Up Five Straight Months
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — With January passenger statistics tallied, the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) has announced that Bradley International Airport (BDL) has continued an upward trend which began in September 2013. January’s 9% rise marks five straight months of positive year-over-year increases. This follows September (1%), October (4%), November (3%), and December (20%), as Bradley showed an overall 1% total growth in 2013 (5,421,975 passengers) compared to 2012 figures (5,381,860 passengers). Improvements to Bradley’s route offerings, which were implemented throughout 2013, have helped drive this upswing. These advances include American Airlines’ daily non-stop flight to Los Angeles, JetBlue Airways’ Fort Myers and Tampa daily non-stop service, and Southwest Airlines’ three daily non-stop flights to Atlanta through its wholly-owned subsidiary, AirTran Airways. Numerous customer-service enhancements have been instituted as well, such as the establishment of a frequent-parker program, expanded concession offerings, and improvements to passenger-processing wait times. “The Connecticut Airport Authority takes great pride in achieving this milestone of revitalization. One of our greatest selling points to our customers, in addition to our convenient terminal and on-airport parking facilities, is Bradley’s tremendous accessibility from anywhere in the Northeast,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the CAA. “We believe that the best is yet to come. We are excited about working with all of our stakeholders as we continue to aggressively seek additional daily non-stop destinations for our customers from one of the region’s most convenient gateways.” Bradley is the second-largest airport in New England, serving an extensive geographic area with a customer base that covers the entire Northeast. According to the most recent economic-impact analysis, Bradley contributes $4 billion in economic activity to the state of Connecticut and the surrounding region, representing $1.2 billion in wages and 18,000 full-time jobs.

State to Issue $30 Million in Residential Solar Loans
BOSTON — Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan recently announced $30 million for a loan program aimed at encouraging residential solar projects, complementing the Commonwealth’s new solar program to be launched this spring. “When we support our solar industry, we are choosing to shape our future rather than leave it to chance,” Gov. Deval Patrick said. “These programs will allow the solar industry in Massachusetts to continue to flourish and will make solar energy more accessible for residents across the Commonwealth.” Added Sullivan, “the solar industry in Massachusetts has seen tremendous success since Gov. Patrick took office in 2007. The solar financing piece will make it easier for residents to participate in, and benefit from, the Commonwealth’s clean-energy revolution.” The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is currently working with partners and stakeholders to develop the program, expected to launch this spring when the final solar regulations are promulgated. “We continue to work with all stakeholders at the table to develop successful programs to maintain the steady growth of the solar industry,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “I’m proud of the open and inclusive process that led to these regulations and will inform the loan program.” The flow of loans to the residential market is expected to commence in the summer or fall of 2014. The new solar regulations, part two of the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program (SREC-II), are designed to meet Patrick’s goal to install 1,600 megawatts of solar energy by 2020. SREC-II aims to ensure steady annual growth, control ratepayer costs, and encourage ground-mounted solar projects on landfill and brownfield sites, as well as solar units on residential rooftops. “Investing in solar is a win for both our economy and our environment. This investment, in particular, will help spur the residential solar market,” said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “Instead of drilling or mining for our power, we’ll be using our rooftops to fuel future growth. Gov. Patrick and his entire team deserve great credit for their leadership in making this investment.”

Teenagers Find Difficulty Accessing Job Market
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Teenagers are getting squeezed out of the labor force in record numbers as unemployment among the youngest workers continues to soar, according to a study from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. The study found that the percentage of teenagers with jobs has plunged by nearly half over a decade, from 44% in 2000 to 24% in 2011. “If this were any other group, you would call it a Great Depression,” said Andrew Sum, the Northeastern University economist who co-authored the study. Competition from older, more experienced workers pushed into lower-skilled jobs because of the weak economy has crowded out teenagers from traditional jobs in retail, restaurants, and other lower-paying service industries, Sum said. This lack of opportunity could have long-term effects on teens, the labor force, and the broader economy as young people fail to gain the experience that might help them advance careers and become more productive workers, resulting in lower earnings over a working life. The Brookings study examined teen employment in 100 metropolitan areas. In New England, Portland, Maine fared best, with about 37% of teens employed. Providence, Hartford, and Boston all posted percentages around 34%. Teens who had paid employment in one year were more likely to work the following year, the study found. Conversely, said Sum, “if you don’t work at all, you are the least likely to work the following year.”

Partnership to Benefit Creative Businesses
WESTERN MASS. — The state recently designated the Pioneer Valley as part of Massachusetts’ Creative Economy Network and formally partnered with the Western Mass. Economic Development Council (EDC) on an initiative to help creative businesses increase their visibility, recruit talent, find appropriate space, borrow capital, and continue to grow. The designation doesn’t come with state money, but several organizations are planning to apply for state grants. Ann Burke, vice president of the EDC, told the Republican that more than 15,000 people in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties work in the creative economy, an umbrella term that encompasses writers, fashion designers, graphic artists, and advertising professionals, among others. DevelopSpringfield, the Fostering Arts and Culture Project in Franklin County, and the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council are among the other groups participating. Burke said the EDC has already hosted networking get-togethers for these creative workers.

Union Station Project Gets Another $16.5M
SPRINGFIELD — The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has designated another $16.5 million toward the renovation of Springfield’s Union Station. The decision completes the $65.7 million funding package necessary to fully finance the first phase of the redevelopment effort. The total project cost is expected to be $83 million. Phase one of the project involves the construction of a 26-bay bus terminal for regional and intercity bus service; construction of a four-level parking garage; a 37,000-square-foot renovation of the train terminal’s first floor and grand concourse waiting area, including new ticketing and waiting space; and concessions and retail space, according to the DOT’s news release. Work at Union Station began in August 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2016. “Springfield is located at a strategic crossroads for both north-south and east-west interstate highway and railroad corridors in a key region of the Commonwealth,” said Richard Davey, MassDOT secretary and CEO, in a prepared statement. “With these additional resources, the city of Springfield is guaranteed that its potential as a major regional mobility hub will be realized.” As part of the second phase, the Redevelopment Authority would renovate the upper two floors of the terminal building and create an additional 64,000 square feet of commercial or retail space, as well as expanding the parking garage by 120 spaces.

Health Policy Commission Issues $10M to Hospitals
BOSTON — At its first board meeting of 2014, the Health Policy Commission (HPC) awarded approximately $10 million to 28 community hospitals, including seven in Western Mass., to enhance the delivery of efficient, effective healthcare across the Commonwealth. The funds, which range from $65,000 to $500,000 per organization, come from Phase 1 of the HPC’s Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program, which was established by the state’s landmark healthcare cost-containment law. The Western Mass. awards include: $476,400 to Baystate Franklin Medical Center to support expansion of telemedicine capacities to select inpatient and outpatient specialties, with the goal of reducing unnecessary transfers and costs, and connecting local providers to health information exchanges; $499,600 to Baystate Mary Lane Hospital to support expansion of telemedicine capacities to identified inpatient and outpatient specialties, in order to reduce unnecessary transfers and costs, connect local providers to health information exchanges, and support an evaluation of post-acute services and capabilities in the region; $500,000 to Holyoke Medical Center to support implementation of an electronic health record system in the Emergency Department; $233,134 to Mercy Medical Center to support the development of organizational capabilities, capacities, and culture change, in order to accelerate and sustain continuous quality and safety improvements; $344,665 to Noble Hospital to support the development of a centralized scheduling hub to coordinate appointments across multiple hospital units, and to support planning related to health information exchange connectivity; $395,311 to North Adams Regional Hospital to support co-location of behavioral-health services at primary-care practices in Northern Berkshire County; and $357,000 to Wing Memorial Hospital to support achievement of meaningful use stage 1 compliance. “These awards show that the HPC is committed to partnering with community hospitals to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost-containment and quality-improvement goals,” said David Seltz, executive director of the HPC. “We look forward to continuing this work until we build a more coordinated and affordable healthcare system in all corners of Massachusetts.”

Community Spotlight Features
Developments Strengthen Northampton’s Economy

Mayor David Narkewicz

Mayor David Narkewicz says new projects in Northampton range from redevelopment of blighted buildings to new construction.

On March 7, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was staged at two new auto dealerships on 347 King St. — Country Hyundai, which relocated from Greenfield, and Northampton Volkswagen, which moved from Damon Road.

Mayor David Narkewicz said the dealerships are among a bevy of exciting new projects that will increase vitality in Paradise City. “There is a lot of investment going on right now, which we are very pleased about,” he told BusinessWest.
Terry Masterson agreed. “There are 13 projects with a total value of $88.6 million that will add 203,000 square feet of office/professional floor space, 110 new hotel rooms, 73 housing units, and 83 assisted-living units,” said the city’s economic development director.

He and the mayor then offered a tour, figuratively speaking, of the community and its many commercial and residential developments. And there were stops in virtually every corner of the city.

They started on King Street. The auto dealerships were a $6 million investment, and were built by TommyCar Auto Group on the site of the former Kollmorgen Corp. Electro-Optical Division (now L-3 KEO), which moved to Village Hill. They will add about 50 jobs and generate about $85,000 in tax revenue, Narkewicz said, adding that there is a significant amount of activity happening in the King Street area.

This includes the redevelopment of the blighted former Price Chopper supermarket property by Colvest Inc. It is now called Northampton Crossing, and a new building has become home to Greenfield Savings Bank, while the existing Firestone building has been expanded.

The most significant change, however, is the conversion of 70,000 square feet of retail space into medical offices. Baystate Health moved a medical practice into the renovated building and added a laboratory, MRI and imaging services, and obstetrics and gynecology. “They leased about 60,000 square feet of the facility,” Narkewicz said. “This is a great reuse of the property and gives area residents additional medical options in one of our key commercial areas.”

The former Mobil station at 300 King St. was also redeveloped last year by PeoplesBank in Holyoke, which purchased the site and built a LEED-certified, green banking center. “This is a commercial corridor, and we are excited about all of the investment here,” Narkewicz said.

Meanwhile, another project slated to change the landscape is the construction of a 108-room Fairfield Inn on Conz Street. Narkewicz said developer Mansour Ghalibaf, who owns Hotel Northampton, has been challenged to meet the demand for hotel rooms at commencement and other times of the year.

“This will increase the city’s hotel-room inventory from 358 rooms to 470 rooms,” said Masterson. “And multiplying it by the current occupancy rate will equate to 100,000 people staying overnight each year when it is complete.”

Activity is also occurring south of the site on Route 5 in Atwater Business Park, where space in two, new 40,000-square-foot office buildings has been leased. “The first building is occupied, while the second is expected to be finished by the end of the year,” Narkewicz said, adding that Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s medical offices and Community Support Options are consolidated into one building, and the hospital plans to move additional medical practices into the second.

There are also plans to tear down the former Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and build a new hotel with 100 rooms. “The property has a big footprint, and there is a separate retail pad that could become a restaurant as well as room for an 80,000-square-foot office building in the back,” he said.

Moving north, to the site of the former Northampton State Hospital, residential and commercial development is escalating (more on that later), and downtown continues to thrive.

Terry Masterson

Terry Masterson says the majority of space in two new office buildings in Atwater Business Park has been leased by Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

“Downtown has no real vacancies; there are over 70 stores and 35 different types of restaurants and specialty shops,” Masterson said. “Talbots is celebrating 20 years in their Northampton store, and the Academy of Music programs draw more than 40,000 people to the city.”

And long-term planning continues to redevelop the Three County Fairground into a year-round exhibition facility for agricultural and cultural shows. “A new, 80,000-square-foot exhibition facility will be built, and renovations will be made to the existing buildings,” he noted. “In the coming years, the expanded facility will become a regional attraction for shows and exhibits with the potential to generate $50 million in commerce.”

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest continues that tour of Northampton, which reveals that an already-thriving city is building additional momentum in every sense of that phrase.

Grounds for Optimism
At Village Hill, the canvas that developers started filling in 15 years ago is fast becoming a masterpiece of mixed-use development, with more initiatives in progress or on the drawing board.

The Gatehouse, a 16,000-square-foot structure that integrated the former gates to the state hospital into its design, opened its doors last year. It hosts office and retail space, and is the first commercial building on the north side of the campus.

Fazzi Associates, a Northampton-based healthcare services firm, relocated to the Gatehouse from King Street and expanded into 20,000 square feet of office space, Masterson noted, adding that the building also contains a Liberty Mutual claims office, and a small coffee shop is being planned.

Although the Gatehouse is the first commercial structure on the north side of the development, it already was home to a number of residential developments that cross all price brackets.

“It’s impressive to drive through Village Hill and see the different types of housing and how balanced it is,” Masterson said, noting that Wright Builders Inc. built a six-unit subdivison of single-family homes last year and started the first phase of Upper Ridge, a four-unit townhome building. The company is expected to begin the second phase of its Upper Ridge at Village Hill project this spring.

That development will include a duplex as well as one three-story, six-unit, elevator-equipped apartment building. Each unit will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Pecoy Builders is also developing homes in Village Hills, said Narkewicz. The company has completed roughly half of a 24-unit subdivision of single-family homes that offers homebuyers nine plans to choose from in varying price ranges.

MassDevelopment, for Hospital Hill Development LLC, has invested more than $18 million in planning and infrastructure construction, and created the master plan for Village Hill, which is being marketed and developed in sections. In addition to the land currently out to bid on the back property, additional acreage remains to be developed, the mayor noted.

Overall, said Masterson, commercial, retail, and residential development occurring in the city is well-balanced. “We have hotel and retail space, along with senior housing,” he noted as he spoke about the new Christopher Heights project, a $13.4 million, 50,000-square-foot, 83-unit assisted-living facility being built at Village Hill by the Grantham Group.

“Half of the units will be affordable,” Narkewicz said, explaining that the master plan includes mixed-income development.
Meanwhile, many other developments are underway or in the planning stages in and around downtown.

Northampton Community Arts Trust has found a new home at 33 Hawley St. “They purchased a former health club [Universal Health and Fitness] and plan to create 12,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 250-seat black-box theater in it,” said Narkewicz. “Northampton Center for the Arts will be the key tenant.”

Also, the former Clarke School campus on Round Hill Road is slated to undergo a transformation. The Springfield-based OPAL Real Estate Group purchased 12 acres, which contain eight buildings, and plan a historic conversion of the structures that will include residential apartments and retail and office space.

“It’s a significant development because the campus was never on the tax rolls,” said Narkewicz, adding that efforts to bring more housing stock onto the market are critical, because officials believe more healthcare professionals will want to live in Northampton due to the expansion of Baystate Health and the fact that Cooley Dickinson Hospital has become an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Northampton-based hospital and Mass General’s Cancer Center have also entered into an agreement to expand oncology services to Pioneer Valley residents, with plans to build a new cancer center in the city.

On the Right Track
Coinciding with the many commercial and residential developments are infrastructure initiatives designed to improve traffic flow and, overall, make it easier for people to commute to and live in Northampton.

For example, improvements are in the works for the fork in the road that drivers encounter when they take Exit 18 off I-91 and head into Northampton.

“The intersection is owned by the state, and it plans to redevelop it and turn it into a roundabout,” said Narkewicz, noting that design work is 75% complete. “It’s a much safer and more efficient way to move high volumes of traffic through a complicated traffic pattern.”

The city is also in discussions with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce about the many new businesses that have opened at the juncture where Pleasant Street becomes Route 5.

“Several commercial buildings have been redeveloped, and this is an area we are trying to grow as a way of extending our downtown,” the mayor explained. “It’s evidence of an emergence of positive small business and retail growth, and the city is working with the chamber to improve parking to support the growth, traffic, and other pedestrian issues to extend the walkable district of Main Street. All these changes are bearing fruit.”

State officials also want Northampton to take over the section of Route 5 that turns into Pleasant Street. There are some environmental challenges, said Narkewicz, adding, “we’re looking at how we can create a better transition from the state highway to downtown. We have put in some traffic islands to demarcate the point when you leave the highway and enter the city zone to encourage new commercial development.”

City officials are also looking forward to the return of Amtrak service, which will transport passengers along the west side of the Connecticut River. It is part of a larger, $73 million federal project and calls for a shift in Amtrak’s Vermonter route, which will include new stations in Greenfield, Northampton, and Holyoke. “The state is working with us on plans to build a new railroad platform next to the track,” Narkewicz said.

Local businessman Jeremiah Micka has purchased the old rail station building with plans for its conversion, which will include a new sports bar on the north side of the structure, as well as a 200-seat banquet hall. The Tunnel Bar underneath the building will remain open, and the mayor said he is happy that the rest of the building will be redeveloped, as it was empty and on the market for several years.

Moving Forward
Masterson calls Northampton a leading city in Western Mass. “It has many diverse economic and demographic assets that generate economic strength locally and within the Pioneer Valley Knowledge Corridor region.”

Narkewicz agreed, and said Village Hill is a model development because it is close to downtown and residents can walk there, ride their bikes, or use PVTA buses. “Plus, it contains open space and community gardens. It’s an example of the sustainable growth Northampton is focusing on,” he said.

Growth that is taking place in every corner of the city.

Northampton at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1884
Population: 28,592 (2012)
Area: 35.8 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential Tax Rate: $15.39
Commercial Tax Rate: $15.39
Median Household Income: $48,864
Family Household Income: $56,844
Type of government:
Mayor, City Council
Largest employers: Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Smith College, City of Northampton