SPRINGFIELD — Springfield-based Hot Table, a chain of fast-casual dining locations, will expand this fall with two new stores in Hadley and Glastonbury, Conn. The Hot Table team, brothers John and Chris DeVoie, opened their original restaurant, featuring signature paninis, in Springfield’s 16 Acres neighborhood in 2007. They followed up with a store in downtown Springfield in 2009, and another in Enfield, Conn. in 2012. They are now hoping to grow upon that success by opening their fourth and fifth locations in the heart of two of the busiest shopping districts in the Hartford/Springfield region. The Glastonbury store will be located in the Griswold Shoppes on Main Street, next to Bertucci’s, and is slated to open in early September. The Hadley store will be located in a new plaza on Route 9, in front of Home Depot, and will open in November. A cross between Panera Bread and Subway, Hot Table specializes in grilled panini sandwiches that are made-to-order for each customer. The stores also offer fresh, made-to-order salads, soups, desserts, and a variety of specialty coffees. The fast-casual style of service at Hot Table is designed to ensure that the diner has quick service and the freshest of ingredients. Each location will employ about 20 people. Hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Springfield-based FIT Solutions LLC announced that Meghan Fallon has joined the company as a Technical Recruiter. In her new role, Fallon will be responsible for sourcing technical talent in the information technology field for FIT Solution’s client base in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She brings with her several years of staffing and recruiting experience across a wide spectrum of industries. She has a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst in sociology and communications.
AMHERST — UMass Amherst, along with Global Spectrum, one of the nation’s leading public-assembly-facility management companies, recently unveiled plans for a series of renovations at the school’s Mullins Center, a 10,000-seat, multi-purpose entertainment and sports venue, designed to enhance the fan experience. Renovations include the installation of new, dynamic LED sports lighting for the arena and new upholstery for 3,594 seats. Additional, 7,705 seats will have cup holders installed. Universal Electric Co. and Ephesus Lighting have been awarded the bid to replace the existing high-intensity-discharge lighting with LED sports lighting. Ephesus focuses on commercial, industrial, and entertainment lighting that is vibrant and sustainable. With the new lighting in place, fans in the Mullins Center or watching events on HDTV will have a brighter, sharper view of the performance. In addition, the LED sports lighting will cut the venue’s energy costs by 50% to 75% for each event. The new upholstery in all padded seats will provide an upgraded appearance and more comfort. Finally, patrons at every permanent seat will have a secure place to put their drinks. The entire project is expected to be completed by the beginning of August. “These building enhancements are going to take our fans’ experience to a new level,” said Brian Caputo, assistant general manager and director of Operations at the Mullins Center. “Our new partnership with Ephesus Lighting and the upgraded seats will jump-start the 2014 sports season.”
The regional law firm Bacon Wilson, P.C. announced that Todd Ratner, Esq. has been honored by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as a 2014 “Excellence in the Law” honoree. This event recognizes 25 up-and-coming attorneys for their outstanding accomplishments in the legal community in 2013. Ratner is a member of Bacon Wilson’s Estate Planning and Elder Law department whose practice includes sophisticated estate-planning issues. Additional areas of practice include commercial and residential real estate together with general business and corporate law. Ratner serves on the boards of many charitable entities, including co-chair of the Alzheimer’s Assoc. Tri County Partnership, is a graduate of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield’s Leadership Institute 2007, and taught elder law at American International College. He is a frequent lecturer and has written numerous business, estate-planning, and real-estate articles. Ratner earned his JD from the Pennsylvania State University School of Law, his MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and his bachelor’s degree from Babson College. With 40 attorneys, Bacon Wilson, P.C. is the largest law firm in Western Mass. The firm’s four offices are located in Springfield, Westfield, Northampton, and Amherst.
Technology Park Is Writing a New Chapter to Its Rich HistoryWhen Beth Anderson conceived what became the Phoenix Charter Academy more than a decade ago, the goal was to create an environment where young students who had failed in the traditional high-school setting, often repeatedly, might overcome their challenges and move on to pursue a college education.
It was a laudable concept, but one she wasn’t at all sure would actually work.
And as she commenced a search for a place to fulfill this dream in the city of Chelsea, it became abundantly clear that few others were sure it would work either.
“I had to practically beg people to let us be in a building,” Anderson recalled. “We had no track record, no history, and a brand-new model no one had tried. And we were working with some really tough characters.”
Eventually, space was secured in the former Assumption School, and Phoenix opened its doors in the fall of 2006. Conditions were not ideal — in fact, they were far from it. But the school’s staff and those first 75 students persevered, and soon Phoenix began making real headway toward meeting its stated mission.
In the process, said Anderson, she and other administrators learned invaluable lessons about creating an environment where students could not only learn, but also aspire to excellence.
“We learned early on how important space is,” she explained. “You can’t just stick kids in a space that looks like you’re not going to hold them to a high standard, or one that says they don’t deserve a beautiful space in which to learn.”
Fast-forward to the fall of 2012, and Anderson and her staff had those lessons clearly in mind as they went about searching for space in which to expand the Phoenix network in Western Mass. The charter was extended to include Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee, communities that have large numbers of at-risk students and struggling school systems, and school officials focused their search for space in the City of Homes.
A few months later, that search ended in what some might consider an unlikely location — the Technology Park at Springfield Technical Community College, and, more specifically, long-vacant space once occupied by Springboard Technologies, or at least a big part of what will be left of that building after a large portion of it is razed.
Indeed, the Phoenix facility will become the cornerstone of an imaginative reuse plan for the 110,000-square-foot Springboard building — a.k.a. Building 104 in the former Springfield Armory complex that was also once home to Digital Equipment Corp. — which has been vacant since early 2009.
Plans call for razing roughly 70,000 square feet of the structure — the middle portion of the building — then creating a temporary home for Phoenix in 16,000 square feet of surviving space on the south end of the site (classes are expected to begin in mid-August), while also building out a permanent home for the school in 30,000 square feet of Building 104 left standing on the north end. The school’s temporary quarters will then be leased out to new tenants.Meanwhile, that space in the middle will be converted into roughly 300 parking spaces, replacing roughly the number that will be lost to the college and the Tech Park when a parking lot that was leased by the school off Walnut Street is redeveloped into a grocery store for the Mason Square neighborhood.
Considering all that, Paul Stelzer, president of Holyoke-based Appleton Corp., which manages the tech park for its owner, the STCC Assistance Corp., called this series of developments a “win-win-win” scenario, with maybe a few more ‘wins’ as well. He counted Phoenix, the college, the Mason Square area, and the city as a whole among those that will benefit from these projects in one way or another, while the Tech Park itself will get a new look and new opportunities to expand its tenant base.
“We’re excited about this, because we have the ability to do something good for the community,” Stelzer said, referring to the charter school. “And we have more space to lease, which could lead to bringing more jobs to this region.”
Challenges remain for those operating the Tech Park — Western Mass. Electric Co., which moved in more than a decade ago, will soon be vacating more than 15,000 square feet of space serving as its headquarters — but the complex (not including Building 104) is more than 90% occupied, and the WMECO space and remaining portion of Building 104 create possibilities for bringing new companies, and jobs, to a region that needs them.
For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest looks at what is shaping up to be an intriguing next chapter for the Tech Park, and possible subsequent developments for the historic facility.
Since Springboard closed its doors in 2009 after struggling and downsizing for several years, and even well before that as the demise of the company became increasingly apparent, Building 104 has been a persistent challenge for Tech Park managers trying to reposition that space and generate needed revenue.
The space became a source of controversy and even contentiousness as the assistance corporation offered it as an alternative location for the state-operated data center that was eventually built at the site of the former Technical High School. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal pushed hard for the Tech High site, and eventually prevailed in what became a bitter fight over where the center would be located.
In the years since, there has been little interest in cavernous Building 104, used for manufacturing by both Digital and the Armory, primarily because there is a glut of such space on the market — and has been since the start of the Great Recession — and the Tech Park space is generally not able to compete with such properties on price, said Bob Greeley, owner of R.J. Greeley Co., long-time leasing agent for the park.
However, a new vision for the property began to take shape starting in late 2012, as plans for the neighborhood grocery store — a project pushed by city officials and agencies such as DevelopSpringfield — started to come together and, later, when Anderson and her staff began a hard search for a location in which to create Phoenix’s Springfield facility.“For eight or nine years, we’ve been trying to lease all or part of that former manufacturing building,” said Stelzer. “We were looking for a solution, and circumstances emerged that presented us with an opportunity to do something meaningful there.”
The assistance corporation applied for and received a $3.86 million infrastructure grant from the state to essentially move the parking facilities off Walnut Street into the Tech Park, said Stelzer, adding that the funding will cover the costs of demolition and creating a new parking lot.
When those funds were secured, work commenced with the National Park Service and state and local historical commissions on how the assistance corporation would adaptively reuse the park and how demolition would be accomplished and also remain sensitive to the historic nature of the site for the Armory days.
Meanwhile, park administrators started working on a viable plan for repositioning the portions of the building that would be left standing, said Stelzer, adding the charter school presented itself as an attractive option.
“The Tech Park board and the college had long had thoughts of having a charter school near the campus,” he explained. “And this [Phoenix] facility will give a real boost to the community because it serves a different population.”
That population consists of students who have struggled in a traditional high-school setting, said Anderson, noting that many have dropped out for various reasons, such as academic issues, teen pregnancy, and others.
The school presents an alternative for such individuals, she went on, adding that the model involves a blend of rigorous academics — a longer school day and year, advanced-placement classes, college-class dual-enrollment options, and a strict culture — with social and emotional supports for each student.
“We develop teachers and leaders who believe in the possibility of human change and growth,” she said, “and who fight tirelessly for better outcomes for kids.”
Sara Ofusu-Amah, chief operating officer for Phoenix, said the school is planning to open in its temporary quarters on August 15, with the goal of being in the permanent building in January. Already, 88 students have enrolled — a number that reinforces the perceived need for such a facility — and school officials believe they will easily reach their target of 125 for the fall semester.
The permanent facility will include several classrooms, she said, as well as an on-site day-care facility for the children of students, a small library, a student-support center, science labs, and multi-purpose space school officials call the ‘nest,’ which will serve as the gym, auditorium, and meeting space.
“We want a beautiful space that celebrates academics and scholarship,” she said. “But there’s not a lot of bells and whistles; this is a place focused on preparing students for college.”
The 16,000 square feet that will become the temporary home for the charter school has the potential to host businesses of varying sizes across a number of sectors, said Stelzer, who described it as “higher-end flex space.”
“It will have the ability to do office, light assembly, a clean-energy tenant, or a small call center,” he explained. “We can be flexible there.”
While work begins to demolish the middle 70,000 square feet of Building 104 and outfit the south portion of the property as the temporary home for Phoenix, Greeley is seeking new tenants for the space occupied by WMECO, which is slated to move out in June.
The space was formerly part of a large call center operated by RCN, and while it’s attractive and well-appointed, it brings some challenges as well, said Greeley.
There are a number of small offices and conference rooms, he noted, which would make it ideal for use as a corporate headquarters. However, many companies today favor more open floor plans to facilitate communication between employees and improve work flow.
The space may also prove difficult to subdivide because of the way it’s laid out, he went on, adding quickly that the space gives the park some valuable inventory at a time when the economy is showing signs of life and many businesses are possibly gaining the confidence to move forward with expansion plans and new initiatives.
It’s unlikely that those who conceptualized the Tech Park and were there when the ribbon was cut in 1996 could have imagined the developments unfolding on the site today.
Then again, the park has always been a work in progress, a regional asset that has evolved as the region’s economy and business community have. It’s an evolutionary process that continues today.
In other words, a site already steeped in history is continuing to write more of it.
George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
Fallon’s Summit ElderCare Sets a New StandardPam White is an only child, and is still many years from being in a position to retire.
Which means that she faces some significant challenges in her role as caregiver for her mother, Helese, who has several health issues, but is neither ready nor willing to move into a nursing home.
Pam told BusinessWest that, as she launched a search for a solution to her dilemma, she did so with a specific mindset. She was looking for a facility that was a step above adult day care and two or three steps above a community senior center — a place where medical care was available in the form of an on-site geriatrician, but where there was also a strong social component with a host of activities for a diverse group of seniors.
She has found all this and a lot more at Summit ElderCare, a PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) facility operated by Fallon Community Health Plan in Springfield’s North Medical District.
The facility, which opened its doors roughly a year ago, now serves 53 individuals with roughly the same needs as Helese. They are called ‘participants,’ rather than ‘clients,’ ‘patients,’ or ‘customers,’ because that term best describes what they are, said Kristine Bostek, vice president and executive director of Summit ElderCare.
Elaborating, she said they are participating in a program, based on a national model of coverage recognized by both Medicare and Medicaid, that provides medical care, geriatric case management, care coordination, adult day health services, full insurance coverage (including Medicare Part D prescription coverage), and in-home support in a personalized setting that features interaction with other seniors and a host of activities.
All of this resonated with Pam White.
“My mother is a very social person, and what appealed to me is that there would be other seniors involved in this program,” said White. “I wanted to engage my mother in a program where they have activities, and where it’s obviously a safe environment.
“It’s like one-stop shopping,” she went on, referring to the range of services offered at the facility. “They have a primary-care physician that specializes in geriatrics, and if my mother needs lab work, that can be done. And if I were trying to do that as caregiver, I’d be running here and running there, and that’s difficult with my work schedule.”The Springfield location is one of five now operated by Summit ElderCare in Central and Western Mass., said Bostek, adding that the company started with a location in Worcester in 1995 and eventually added a second facility in that city before eventually expanding into Charlton and Leominster. Further expansion into the Merrimack Valley is now under consideration.
An assessment of the Western Mass. market several years ago revealed a need for a PACE facility there, said Bostek, noting that, after consideration of several possible landing spots, the company eventually chose a location in Springfield in a new medical building on Wason Avenue built to Fallon’s specifications.
One year after opening that site, the company is on target with regard to growth, said Mary Woodis, RN and site director, adding that this location will likely hit its goal of 250 participants within three years.
For this issue and its focus on the business of aging, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Summit ElderCare’s Springfield facility and how it is improving the quality of life for both participants and their caregivers.
Bostek told BusinessWest that the PACE concept is gaining considerable traction across the country, with more than 100 sites currently operating nationwide.
Fallon is now the fifth-largest PACE provider in the nation, with 900 total participants, and the largest in New England, she said, adding that the company is a firm believer in this model of healthcare because it provides a viable option to more expensive nursing-home care, and will only become more popular as the population ages because of the many benefits it provides for people like Helese — and the peace of mind it offers to those like her daughter Pam.
The concept was described by both Bostek and Woodis as a “community-based alternative to nursing-home care,” and one with two critical elements: a healthcare component and a social component, which are both considered critical in the delivery of complete care to a participant.
Elaborating, Woodis said Summit ElderCare provides geriatric case management, care coordination, and a host of additional services that include:
• On-site medical care;
• 24/7 emergency access to a staff member;
• Physical and occupational therapy;
• Adult day services;
• Medically necessary supplies and equipment;
• In-home assistance;
• Medically necessary transportation;
• Nutritional counseling;
• Caregiver education and support; and
• Full medical and prescription drug coverage.
The model has met with a good deal of success in Central Mass., as evidenced by the steady base of expansion, said Bostek, adding that, by the start of this decade, the company was actively pursuing opportunities to bring the concept to other parts of the state.
“Based on experiences in Central Mass., we felt there was a huge opportunity to take this model into this part of the state,” she said of the Greater Springfield area. “So we embarked upon a plan to expand in Western Mass.”
The 14,500-square-foot Springfield facility is licensed to serve residents of Hampden County and a few communities in Hampshire County, said Woodis, adding that, while many of the current participants are from Springfield, several other communities are represented. To be eligible for the program, individuals must by 55 or older and meet clinical criteria that Bostek summed up with the phrase “nursing-home-eligible.”The current mix of participants includes individuals across a broad age spectrum, said Woodis, adding that many are in their 60s, while a few are in their 90s, and there’s one centenarian. Some have cognitive issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, while others do not, and there is a growing number of what would be considered younger seniors with neuromuscular disorders such as MS and ALS.
“A PACE participant, in general, is a frail, older adult,” said Dr. Alison Grover, the on-site gerontologist at the facility. “They probably average in their low 80s with multiple medical problems and usually some difficulty with mobility and self-care.
“It’s not at all unusual to have some level of memory impairment as well,” she went on, “and it’s our mission to keep such individuals in their home as opposed to in a nursing home.”
Summit Eldercare makes this possible by providing that one-stop shopping Pam White described.
Elaborating on this concept, those we spoke with all used the phrase ‘integrated model of care’ to describe what’s offered, meaning both medical care and the many social aspects of the PACE program available at the Wason Avenue facility.
“People come here for their medical care,” said Bostek, referring to everything from visits with Grover to occupational and physical therapy. “But they’re also here for the social aspects of this program, doing things with other participants.”
It is this “complete package,” as Grover called it, that separates Summit ElderCare from a typical senior center and adult day care facilities, and also enables older adults to stay out of nursing homes.
Woodis said activities run the gamut from arts and crafts to computer classes; from reading in the facility’s small library to healthy-cooking classes. On the day BusinessWest toured the facility, a Mother’s Day tea was in progress. Participants helped create tissue-paper flowers and also baked pies for the attendees.
The key to effectively providing this integrated model of care is teamwork, said Grover, and there are many members on the team, including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, a nutritionist, social workers, a transportation coordinator — who oversee work to get participants to and from appointments — and others.
Each day starts with a team meeting, she went on, one that essentially assesses the immediate needs of the participant population and creates an action plan.
“We talk about our participants — we talk about who may be having problems, who may be in or out of the hospital, who has a caregiver that’s been in the hospital for the past month,” she explained. “We talk about what we can do to help support the family and what the patient needs to be safe at home. We talk about whether we need to go out and see the patient at home that day. And then we go out and do our various jobs.”
This is an effective model, but one that many in this region don’t know about, said Bostek, adding that, to meet established goals for growth, the company must build awareness about the PACE concept. Meanwhile, it must also be diligent and imaginative when it comes to outreach and building relationships with individuals and agencies that might refer potential participants.
Those constituencies include senior centers and ASAPs (aging service access points), agencies that serve the elderly, as well as hospitals, primary-care physicians and specialists, elder-law attorneys, senior housing complexes, food pantries, and others.
“We really work hard to be very visible in locations where there would be a large older adult population, as well as a low-income older adult population,” said Bostek. “We do some marketing, but it’s really a grassroots approach that we take.
“You sit across the kitchen table from a caregiver and/or an older adult to talk about the program,” she went on. “We have that personalized touch, but we need to make sure that we’re out in the community and that we’re building relationships with community partners and resources, because we want to them to readily identify that this program may be a viable option for someone and refer them to us.”
Caregivers are a very important piece of this outreach process, Bostek continued, citing statistics showing that one in three Americans serve as caregiver to a spouse, older relative, or friend, and many, like White, face considerable challenges as they take on that assignment.
Grover agreed, and cited the caregiver of that aforementioned centenarian as a good example.
“That patient has medical problems and mild dementia, and is cared for by her son at home,” she explained. “In order to keep her there, he needs oversight on medical management, assistance in the home with personal care, and help to simply balance his caregiver role with other roles in his life. She needs help with personal care and mobility, and for someone like that, there aren’t many other alternatives.”
Coming of Age
There were not many alternatives for Pam White as she searched for a program that would allow her to keep working and also enable her mother to remain in her home and out of a skilled-nursing facility.
The program offered by Summit ElderCare has proven to be the solution sought by both mother and daughter, and this story is now being repeated on a regular basis at the Wason Avenue site.
These developments clearly show that the company has become a PACE setter, both literally and figuratively.
George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
Deliso Financial Services Spans the Gap Between Present and FutureJean Deliso has always asked questions — lots of them.
The habit began in childhood during dinnertime conversations that revolved around her family’s business, and it continues today in her role as a comprehensive financial planner.
Queries are important to the president and founder of Deliso Financial and Insurance Services in Agawam because the answers she receives are key to creating individualized plans for clients.
But she says retirement planning is something many people fail to do, even though life expectancy is much greater than it was years ago and company pensions have all but disappeared.
This is especially true for business owners and women, who tend to put retirement planning on the back burner, citing lack of time, resources, or knowledge as excuses. And although Deliso has clients from all walks of life, she has chosen to focus on these two populations.
“I really enjoy empowering women and watching them gain a sense of accomplishment by taking steps to secure their financial future. This is especially true when I see women who have just come through a divorce or the loss of a spouse,” Deliso said, adding that she works with many women who are experiencing a life transition.
“The problem with women is that they become overwhelmed,” she went on. “They say they don’t understand finances and don’t have the time to meet with a financial planner. But they live seven to eight years longer than men and make less money, so it’s critical for them to take control of their financial lives.”
Deliso noted that 90% of people in nursing homes are female, and 36% of women 65 and older are widowed, compared with 12% of men 65 and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Women also make up half of the U.S. population, represent nearly two-thirds of the American workforce, and are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of households with children.
Deliso said a woman turning 65 today can expect to live to age 85. The 2010 Census counted 53,364 people age 100 and older in the United States, and for every 100 women who are centenarians, only 21 men have reached that age.
As for business owners, Deliso said many of them have their own reasons for failing to create a financial plan.
“Most think their business is their retirement. But quite often, something happens to that plan. They may not be able to sell it, or a child may not want to take over. And even if children do, they may not be as successful as the parent was. There are also industry changes and the fact that businesses go through cycles, and when the owner wants to retire, it may be in a down cycle.”
Other rationalizations include a lack of money or discretionary income. “But everyone can plan, and everyone can save. It’s a matter of priorities,” she added.
For this issue, BusinessWest examines how Deliso, by asking all those questions, helps clients establish priorities and, ultimately, plan effectively for both today and tomorrow.
Dollars and Sense
Deliso’s business education began in childhood. “My grandfather and parents were entrepreneurs who founded their own businesses, and I was washing windows at my parents’ company, ToolKraft, when I was about 7,” she explained.
She graduated to working after school at age 12, and says dinnertime conversations almost always focused on matters pertaining to Chicopee-based ToolKraft. “I worked in receivables, payables, and inventory as a teen. Being a hard-working entrepreneur is in my DNA, and I understand the challenges of owning a business.”
Deliso had always thought about starting a business herself, but the decision to take control of her life was cemented during her sophomore year in college. “I was visiting my mother, who was our company’s comptroller, when the CPA walked in and told her she had to do something. I wanted to know why, and realized I didn’t ever want that to happen to me.”
So she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, moved to Florida, and worked for a CPA firm. Although Deliso was slated to become a partner, after eight years she made the decision to leave.
“I wanted to run my own business, and started an electronic-component distribution company,” she said, explaining that this was a division of a firm owned by her brother. “I knew nothing about electronics, but understood the guts of business because my specialty at the CPA firm had been financial planning for business owners.”
Seven years later, the two companies merged, and Deliso returned to Massachusetts. “I was in my 30s and wanted to start a family,” she explained.
Her next stint was selling long-term-care insurance. But she soon found the work unsatisfying. “I didn’t like the fact that I was just selling a product. I thrive on relationships and wanted something more comprehensive,” she explained.
So, when she received a job offer from New York Life Insurance, she accepted it, and discovered she enjoyed building relationships that helped people.
Then, in 2000, Deliso founded her own company. Deliso Financial and Insurance Services has prospered since that time, and three months ago, junior associate Trina Moskal was hired to help with the growing clientele.
Deliso said that, when her associate began working, she was surprised by the amount of time spent Deliso spent with clients. But she reiterated that it’s necessary to get to know them and understand their beliefs, expectations, needs, relationships with family members, job, attitude toward spending, as well as the amount of money they will need to live comfortably in retirement.
Deliso is passionate about financial education, and says many working adults allocate a percentage of their paycheck to a retirement fund, but don’t understand how it is being invested.
“People throw money at retirement like it’s going into a big, black box,” she said. “But they never look into the box and don’t calculate if there will be enough to pay their bills in the future. It’s important because people are living longer and can spend as many years in retirement as they did in the workforce.
“That requires a lot of money,” she went on, “especially since 50% will live past the life expectancy set up by actuarial tables.”
However, money evokes emotions, and financial decisions are not always rational. For example, a person’s primary goal may be to pay off their home mortgage by the time they retire.
“But if they don’t have cash in savings and have very little in a retirement plan, their house won’t provide them with the money they need to buy groceries,” she told BusinessWest. “Many people become too focused on one goal.”
In other instances, money is spent for purely emotional reasons, which Deliso says can be fine. “A person who has gone through a divorce may need to take a vacation or get away even though they can’t really afford it,” she explained.
But people do need to think about their future and plan for the unexpected.
She said she will never forget a client who called her hours after his wife died suddenly at age 32. “They had children, had just bought a home, and needed both incomes to make the payments. He told me he didn’t even have enough money to afford the funeral.”
Thankfully, the couple had taken out a life-insurance policy that allowed the man to meet his family’s financial needs. “He had a check two weeks later,” she said. “Although many people are afraid of life insurance, if this couple hadn’t purchased a policy, the man would have had to sell the house.”
Early in her career, it became clear to Deliso that women were an underserved population in the financial world, and she was determined to do something about that.
“As I grew my business, it became apparent that women suffer from financial paralysis,” she said. “They’re afraid to make a mistake, and many don’t understand their 401(k) or retirement plans and their risks, as well as what a secure financial future looks like.”
And they need to understand these things, she went on, because statistics show clearly that people are living longer in general, and most women can expect to live longer than their husbands.
As a result, she goes above and beyond to educate women, and has conducted free seminars for this constituency for the past 10 years. Her next free talks, titled “Creating Financial Independence,” are slated for June 5 and June 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Delaney House in Holyoke; call (413) 785-1100 to register.
Overall, there are many facets connected to spending and saving, and Deliso says everyone has a relationship with money that stems from their own history — and often begins in childhood.
“It’s part of the reason I ask so many questions,” she said, adding that the answers help her guide clients so she can build a bridge between their present and future needs. “I need to understand the person, so I think carefully about what I can ask because everyone’s values and life experiences are different.”
She added that many people don’t understand the difference between a financial planner and an investment banker. “The planner looks at the overall picture and competing needs of a person, while the banker focuses more on the investments,” she told BusinessWest.
Her clientele includes many business owners who appreciate the fact that she can speak their language. “Because of my background, I understand cash flow, budgets, sales projections, payroll, receivables, and inventory,” she said, adding that she has helped develop succession plans as well as company-sponsored benefit plans. She also continues to devote time to education.
“As a comprehensive financial planner, I look at cash management, risk management, investment planning, retirement planning, and estate planning, and one of my strengths is that I can take complicated topics and make them easy to understand,” Deliso explained. “Financial planning is not complicated. It can involve complex topics, but if you go through a process, it can be handled easily.”
Her work has earned her many awards, which hang on the walls of her office and include an appointment to the Million Dollar Round Table, a benchmark of achievement for insurance agents. She is a registered representative with NYLIFE Securities and a registered investment adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC.
Deliso — who was named Woman of the Year in 2013 by the Professional Women’s Chamber — also believes in giving back to the community. “It’s a value I was brought up with. I have been blessed and want to continue the legacy.”
To wit, she is chairman of the board at the Community Music School and a member of the board of Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, the Baystate Health Foundation, AAA of Pioneer Valley, Pioneer Cold, the Hampden County Estate Planning Council, the National Assoc. of Life Underwriters, and the Assoc.for Advanced Underwriting. She is also a past chairman and board member of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Bay Path Advisory Council, the Executive Women’s Golf Assoc., and the Community Foundation.
Sense of Accomplishment
Deliso says she went into business so she could control her own destiny. “I was able to accomplish my goal, and today I want to help others control their finances,” she said. “People need a coach to help them understand what to do, how to reach their goals, and then hold them accountable. But just having a plan provides them with a real sense of accomplishment, and I enjoy making that happen.”
Which means Deliso will continue to ask questions so she can bridge the gap between the present and the future to ensure that clients achieve financial independence without having to sacrifice the things that matter most.
Fourth Annual Western Mass. Business Expo Set for Oct. 29
When BusinessWest first presented the Western Mass. Business Expo in October 2011, the immediate goals were to catch the region’s attention, re-energize a concept that had become stale over time, and lay the groundwork for an event that would become an important part of the fall landscape in Greater Springfield.
Three and a half years later, it’s safe to say that those goals have been met.
Indeed, the term ‘Expo’ has become part of the local lexicon, attendance continues to grow with each edition of the show, and the level of energy on the show floor at MassMutual Center continues to increase.
Keeping the needle moving in these directions is a daunting challenge, but this was the assignment BusinessWest gladly accepted in late 2010, said Kate Campiti, the magazine’s associate publisher and sales manager, and it’s one that continues to motivate the staff.
“Continuous improvement — that’s a phrase you hear in businesses large and small and across all sectors; it’s what enables companies to succeed in an ultra-competitive environment,” she said. “And continuous improvement applies to this show as well. It’s not a goal — it’s a mandate from the business community.”
With that in mind, planning for this year’s Expo, which is expected to feature more than 150 exhibitors and draw more than 2,500 attendees, began days after the curtain came down on the 2013 event, said Campiti, adding that a number of component parts of the show are falling into place.
The Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield and the Professional Women’s Chamber will again stage the breakfast and lunch programs, respectively, she noted, while Northwestern Mutual has signed on as sponsor of the popular day-capping Expo Social, ensuring that it will continue to be one of the best networking events of the year.
“The Expo has been very successful with its basic mission of bringing the business community together — to learn, network, share experiences and ideas, and create some momentum for the region,” said Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual, as she explained her company’s participation as social sponsor. “Our company is all about community, so we saw this as a natural fit for us, a way to bring businesses together and celebrate the many good things happening here.”
As Kane mentioned, education is an important facet of the Expo. Over the years, the event has featured insightful keynote speakers, panel discussions, and seminar leaders, and more of the same is on tap for 2014.
In the weeks and months ahead, details of specific show programs will be presented in this space. In the meantime, area business leaders, educators, and nonprofit managers are invited to submit proposals for seminars and Show Floor Theater presentations that they can lead.
Previous seminars and special presentations have been offered on subjects ranging from social media to one local business leader’s conquest of Mount Everest; from Obamacare to working with Millennials. Presentations should be 45 minutes in length, be interactive, and give business owners and managers insight they can take back to their office or plant. The deadline for submissions is June 20. They may be sent to [email protected]
In addition to Northwestern Mutual and presenting sponsor Comcast Business, a number of other area companies have signed on as Expo sponsors. These include silver sponsors Health New England, Johnson & Hill Staffing, and DIF Design, and education sponsor, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Additional sponsorship opportunities are still available, said Campiti.
Planned Growth Boosts Great Barrington’s VitalityChristopher Rembold calls the economic activity that has taken place in Great Barrington during the last year “a rising wave.”
“It’s a really exciting time, and things are just going to get better with all of the projects and investments that are being made here,” said the town planner, noting that the community’s walkable downtown — featuring a Main Street that bustles with business in small shops and eateries — has been extended in the past year, thanks to businesses and developers who purchased and are renovating and moving into historic buildings.
Meanwhile, the village of Housatonic, just outside downtown, is also experiencing growth as small businesses expand, restaurants open their doors, and old mills become sought-after locations for commerce.
But the vitality that the hub of the Southern Berkshires is known for has been carefully crafted.
“Economic development is very important to Great Barrington, but the way we define it is particular to our community,” said Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin. “People really value local businesses and the quality of life here. We have a beautiful environment with conservation land and natural resources, so it’s a matter of keeping things balanced while supporting sustainable growth that is appropriately scaled.”
The town created a so-called master-plan framework three years ago, which was passed by the Board of Selectmen and earned the prestigious American Planning Assoc. Masssachusetts Chapter Award. “It is a very comprehensive vision that came about after hundreds of meetings with town staff members and community members who looked at our strengths, our weaknesses, our challenges, and our values,” said Tabakin, adding that anyone who wants to start a business in Great Barrington can access the document on the town’s website, www.townofgb.org. “It’s a wonderful resource that defines where we want to go.”
Rembold agreed and said the key element in the plan is promoting locally based growth.
“Many of our buildings and downtown businesses are owned by people who live in Great Barrington, and although they may not employ a lot of people individually, together they employ a great number,” he said. “These business owners are active in our civic organizations and contribute to our nonprofits and our award-winning Fairview Hospital. Small businesses tend to be resilient, and almost every business has relationships with other businesses and with our banks, which makes for a tight-knit community.
“We hope to attract more activity in line with that,” he went on. “Great Barrington is not looking for large corporations.”
However, Tabakin said opportunities to establish new businesses or expand still exist in publicly and privately owned property. “We hope to attract companies that will employ younger people,” she added, noting that the town’s population contains a high percentage of retirees, and officials would like to attract more members of the younger generations to the community.
For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest examines the many positive developments in Great Barrington, and how that wave Rembold described is just starting to build.
Right Place, Right Time
The success of the local businesses that dominate the Great Barrington economy is fueled by a number of factors, which include an active arts community, the town’s location — near the New York border and not far from many other destinations in the Berkshires — and its plethora of small shops and boutiques.
Many of these ventures have expanded, and some have earned national recognition.
McTeigue & McClelland is one of them. The jewelry store plans to move from its location on 597 South Main St. into the former Christian Science church on Main Street. “They purchased the structure last year and are renovating it and expanding their business,” Rembold said. “It is a real success story because they are also protecting and preserving an historic building. The company is nationally known, and we are lucky to have their business here.”
He added that Salisbury Bank is another example of a business that has chosen to invest in Great Barrington’s downtown. “They opened a new branch on Main Street last week. They renovated an old structure because they wanted to be downtown in a historic building. And the Barrington Boutique, a bed and breakfast with an artistic look, also just opened. It covers the entire third floor of an historic building, and they put in an elevator.
“I could go on and on with examples like this,” he continued. “There are so many businesses who want to be in Great Barrington and Housatonic.”Betsy Andrus, executive director of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, concurred. “A new furniture store is about to move in on Main Street, and over the past three months, the chamber received three calls from store owners who wanted to find space in Great Barrington,” she said.
Shoppers appreciate the fact that the town issues its own currency, called Berkshares, which can be purchased at local banks. “It’s popular because it gives people a 5% discount when they are shopping. The program has recently expanded, and architects, printers, and other business people also accept Berkshares,” Tabakin said.
Andrus said the walkable downtown area, which is intersected by side streets housing small businesses, is always bustling with activity. “Nothing stays vacant for every long. Things move very quickly, and in the past year Main Street has seen huge renovations,” she told BusinessWest.
The former Betros Market on the north end of the street, which was a blighted property for many years, was purchased a year ago and has been completely renovated. “It is fully permitted for a 2,500-square-foot, 90-seat restaurant, and the owner is looking for businesses who want to lease space in it,” Rembold said. “And a year ago, Cumberland Farms redid the look of their structure. There has been a lot of progress in that area, and the street is expanding north and south. Our downtown is no longer limited to a small area.”
Although most downtown storefront space is occupied, space zoned for business use is available in a number of other locations, including three former schools on the Searles/Bryant campus on Bridge Street. “The river runs behind the buildings, and Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, which is one of our biggest companies, is in the former middle/high school. The complex is noteworthy because it’s LEED-certified,” Tabakin said, adding that it was the first project of its size to receive the LEED Gold designation in Southern Berkshire County.
She said the Bridge Street corridor, which the complex sits on, is a prime location. “Iredale is the anchor company, and the property is adjacent to other successful businesses on Main Street. But the big news is that Main Street is being reconstructed. It is long overdue, and work on the curbs, sidewalks, catch basins, and lighting will start this summer.”
The $5 million project is being funded by the state, and will include a large number of new plantings and trees. “Both community and town officials contributed to the design, which will make the street easier to cross,” said Tabakin. “The design has already created excitement and helped expand the streetscape on both ends.”
Andrus agreed. “In the past, people didn’t go past the post office. Now the walkability of downtown has been extended with the new bank, another new jewelry store, a new gallery, and the Prairie Whale Restaurant, which buys from local farms and is a farm-to-table operation.”
The village of Housatonic has also witnessed development activity, as businesses have chosen to locate or relocate in three former mills in the Monument Mills Complex.
“All of the mills are partially occupied by businesses that are leaders in their field, such as Country Curtains and Berkshire Pulse,” Rembold said, adding that the latter is an arts center that serves 650 students. It leased the first two stories of the former Barbieri lumber operation for six years, but moved into larger studios in the Rubin Mill building across the parking lot from its former location earlier this month.
A new restaurant called Pleasant and Main also opened last month in Housatonic, and Rembold tells businesses who are contemplating a move to Great Barrington not to hesitate if they find a suitable spot. “It is so vibrant that, if anyone waits, the space may be taken,” he told BusinessWest.
Town officials are also taking measures to stimulate economic growth. For example, Rembold said they are working to assess the cost of cleaning up the former Reid Dry Cleaners building by the post office, which is a contaminated site. “It is a privately owned, beautiful building with parking for at least 30 vehicles,” he explained. “We’re working with the owners to get funds from a federal grant program to pay for the assessment and cleanup.”
Tabakin said town officials continually look for opportunities to tap into state and federal monies, and do their best to alert business owners and nonprofits about available programs.
Andrus said the former St. James Church on the south end of Main Street was recently purchased and will become a performance space, thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The arts community is thriving in Great Barrington, and thousands of visitors are drawn to the town each year due to its cultural attractions, which include the renowned Mahawie Performing Arts Center. “There are an endless number of cultural organizations within a mile of downtown, including the Daniel Arts Center at Bard College, the Berkshire Playwright Lab, and the Community Access to the Arts,” Andrus said.
Great Barrington is also breaking new ground in the emerging farming and agriculture sector of the Southern Berkshires, and Rembold said the town’s more than 70 restaurants provide an important outlet for farmers selling produce.
Meanwhile, Wired West, an organization focused on expanding fiber-optic broadband, also expanded into Great Barrington within the past year.
“The town already has cable, but fiber optic is 100 times faster, which is great for filmmakers and the healthcare industry,” Rembold said, adding that the service has already been installed in anchor institutions such as Town Hall and Fairview Hospital. “The trunk lines are up, and the next step will be to expand to individual homes and businesses.”
In addition, demand for housing is on the rise, especially for single-floor living. A new development called Barrington Brook, which will be made up of 44 single-floor condominiums and homes, was permitted last year, and the model unit is expected to open soon.
Tabakin said the town’s popularity and desirability continues to grow.
In addition to drawing tourists and people from the Southern Berkshires who do their shopping and business there, “we have had six calls this year to do film shoots here,” she noted.
They include the seven-minute film “Selfie,” which has gone viral and is a testament to the life and people who work and reside in a town whose name and reputation continue to rise.
Great Barrington at a glance
Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 7,003 (2012)
Area: 45.2 square miles
Residential Tax Rate: $13.56
Commercial Tax Rate: $13.56
Median Household Income: $50,882 (2012)
Family Household Income: $75,508 (2012)
Type of government: Open town meeting
Largest Employers: Butternut Ski Area and Shop, URJ Eisner Camp, Fairview Hospital, Berkshire Hills RSD, Berkshire Meadows, Simon’s Rock College
* Latest information available
Monson Savings Bank Invests in Financial LiteracySteven Lowell fashions himself more than a banker. He’s also a teacher of sorts.
“One of the things that has become clear to us over the past three or four years is that, when it comes to financial literacy, not everyone has a good understanding of how to manage their finances,” said Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank.
“I get a chance to see it on a day-to-day basis, and you’d be surprised,” he added, citing the Financial Literacy Survey conducted last year by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, showing that 40% of the public would grade themselves a C or worse when it comes to their financial literacy.
“It shows up when they’re looking to approve a loan, when you look at people’s personal balance sheets, their debt levels — they just have not been smart about how they borrow money, the way they try to save money,” he continued. “We thought, rather than just complain about it, we’d try to do something about it.”
When Lowell took the reins at MSB three years ago, the bank already had accounts targeted at young people, such as its NextGen Checking for teenagers and college students, but realized he needed to do more.
“Those products were very successful; they started to get young people thinking about their finances. But we quickly realized that wasn’t enough, that we need to start even earlier,” he explaned. “So we started going to classrooms in our communities, targeting the fifth and sixth grades, teaching a course called Dollars & Sense.”
That course features an online game called MoneyIsland, which teaches children about financial literacy — what’s the difference between a need and a want, why it’s important to pay off one’s credit-card balance every month, the difference between earned income and passive income, and other topics. “They’re learning some pretty complex subjects through the game and through classroom instruction.”
After six one-hour sessions, he said, “kids come away with amazing understanding, and hopefully we help them get on the right path. We’ve had great feedback, not only from school administrators and teachers, but from parents, who tell us, ‘I’m learning from my kids.’ That’s good to hear.”
The learning doesn’t stop there, though. Monson Savings Bank has cultivated a reputation for educating the community, whether it’s through public seminars on topics like first-time homebuyer programs, special-needs trust, and long-term-care insurance, or through the bank’s relationship with the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative and its online financial-education program, masssaves.org (more on that later).
“The bank was doing some of this already, but I’ve always had an interest in the education part of the job — not only outside the bank, but teaching the folks inside, too,” Lowell told BusinessWest. “I had a great mentor, and I’ve tried to take on that role for a number of individuals who work for me.
“I encourage other bank officers to do that, too, to encourage this education culture,” he went on. “I’m thrilled because people here have gotten excited about it. The branch managers have so much fun going into classrooms, seeing these children learning about finance. They’re energized by it. It’s really taken on a life of its own.”
MSB as a whole has experienced new life under Lowell, who has continued the impressive growth pattern of his predecessor, Roland Desrochers, who saw the bank increase its assets from around $80 million to $236 million in 15 years. Three years after Lowell took over, that number is $272 million. “We’ve had about 6% to 7% growth every year,” he said.
For this issue’s focus on banking and finance, BusinessWest sits down with Lowell to talk about the specific ways in which Monson Savings Bank is growing its financial clout while maintaining its tradition of community engagement — and its ongoing efforts to create a more financially savvy customer base.
Monson Savings Bank’s most notable recent success may be its commercial-lending operations, which earned recognition from the Small Business Assoc. as the Western Massachusetts 7a Lender of the Year. The SBA noted that the bank loaned to a wide variety of retail, professional, and consumer-service businesses in more than 10 different industries, from transportation and construction to healthcare and childcare.
“We’re a little different than most community banks in that we place a heavy emphasis on commercial lending and offering commercial products in the marketplace,” Lowell said. “I’ve been happy with the way we’ve been able to grow that business over the last few years; we have been in the top 20 commercial lenders in the state for the past two and a half years. For a bank our size, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement.”He credits much of that success with emphasizing a personal touch with would-be borrowers. “We treat each customer as an individual; we try to understand what their issues are and find solutions for them. We try not to say ‘no,’ but there are times, as a banker, when you have to say no, when it’s in the customer’s best interest to say no. But usually, it’s no with a qualifier — ‘maybe if you talk to the folks at SCORE and come back with a better business plan,’ or ‘go to the Quaboag Valley CDC to get started, then maybe come back to us, and maybe we can meet your needs going forward.’ We always try to give people solutions, even when we have to say no.”
It helps, Lowell said, that more companies are beginning to reinvest and borrow after several years of hesitancy. “They’re growing, expanding, going after new territories. I wouldn’t say it’s as strong as it was 10 years ago, but we’re starting to see some positives in this economy, from a banking standpoint.”
Historically low interest rates drove a healthy refinance business at MSB and most other banks, he added, but with rates ticking back up, refis have ground to a halt, and new-mortgage volume still isn’t strong. “So with the commercial area doing so well, making up for that, it’s pretty significant.”
The SBA award is an exciting milestone, he added, “because it goes to the heart of our brand promise to help small businesses prosper. These are the businesses that drive our local and regional economies, and it feels great to play a role in this economic activity.”
On both the commercial and retail sides, Monson Savings Bank has embraced new technology, Lowell said, entering the mobile-banking arena two years ago — customers can even transfer money between MSB and another bank on their smartphones — and introducing remote check deposit last year.
He said when he arrived in 2011 from the much larger Cape Cod Cooperative Bank, he assumed he’d need to be patient with respect to introducing high-tech products at Monson. “But I was surprised how aggressive they were with respect to technology. We’re always looking for the next new product. This business is all about convenience for customers. We have to make it as easy as possible.”
Meanwhile, the bank continues to grow its investment arm, offering products through Infinex Financial Services and regularly ranking in the top 20% of all Infinex banks, typically first or second among banks in its asset range. At the same time, MSB expanded its geographic footprint last year, opening a branch in Ware to go along with offices in Monson, Wilbraham, and Hampden.
“We’ve had a lot of traffic,” Lowell said of the new branch on Route 32 in Ware. “We opened in late June last year, and the branch is already up to $12 million in deposits. We’re really happy about that.”
Even with the temporary drag on profits involved with opening a new branch, he added, “we’ve been really pleased with our profitability over the past few years; we’ve been in the top 20% of banks in the state in terms of profitability.”
With that growth, however, has come increased challenges — for all banks, really — from regulatory bodies, much of it stemming from the financial crash of 2008, leading to Monson’s hiring of a full-time compliance officer.
“I understand why these regulations have come into being,” he noted. “Having said that, they really weren’t aimed at the smaller community banks. We’re not the ones who caused the problems that affected the economy, but we’ve certainly been impacted to the point where it’s necessary to add a full-time compliance officer. You can’t afford not to. It doesn’t matter what size you are; they expect you to follow the rules.”
While bank executives are educating themselves on these new compliance issues, Lowell continues to stress community outreach and financial literacy.
Through a connection forged while serving on the board of the United Way, he became involved in the Hampden County Financial Stability Network, which introduced him to the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative (MFEC), a group of nonprofits, private institutions, government agencies, and other bodies that work together to increase economic stability in Massachusetts through financial education, personal savings, and access to wealth-building assets such as homes, cars, college educations, and small business.
“These folks have got a great program, which they offer online — financial coaching for people in need,” he said of the MFEC project known as MassSaves and its online resource, masssaves.org, which offers financial information and a portal to one-on-one financial coaching via phone, e-mail, and Skype.
“We thought it was a great way to supplement what we’re trying to do in the community,” he added. “They heard about what we’re doing, we entered into a relationship with the collaborative, and now I’m on their steering committee. We’re invested, as they say.”
Monson Savings Bank has invested in its communities in other ways as well, most notably through annual donations of more than $100,000 to various nonprofits.
“The year that I arrived was the first year we actually asked the community to help us select some of the agencies or benefactors that would receive some of the funds,” he told BusinessWest, adding that the bank solicits nominations on Facebook, and the top 10 vote getters receive donations.
“We make sure our customers are included,” he said. “It’s another way they can stay connected to us.”
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]