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Daily News

At the Western Mass. Developers Conference last Thursday, MassMutual President, CEO, and Chairman Roger Crandall announced that the corporation will be investing $6.5 million in initiatives to assist fledgling businesses in Springfield. This is a major step forward in the ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in Springfield, and a commitment that could create considerable momentum in a city that needs some.

The company announced that it will create a $5 million Springfield Venture Fund (SVF) to invest in high-potential startups in Springfield, and also commit $1.5 million over the next three years to support the creation of a startup accelerator by Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), an entrepreneur-mentoring network in Springfield which will manage the program, and DevelopSpringfield, a nonprofit organization dedicated to driving development in Springfield, which will build out a physical location for the accelerator.

The VVM Accelerator, modeled after MassChallenge, will provide startups with the space, training, connections, and opportunities they need to succeed, while creating a pool of potentially investable candidates for SVF and other seed funds. Startups accepted into the accelerator will be competing for more than $200,000 in grants to be awarded at the end of the four-month program.

These two initiatives will help provide entrepreneurs with what they need most — access to capital, and access to the support that is usually necessary to help good ideas become sound, profitable business ventures.

To be realistic, these investments probably won’t start paying dividends, in terms of large numbers of jobs, for several years, if not decades, but they are important economic-development initiatives for a city that has been historically entrepreneurial, but not in recent memory.

Indeed, the City of Homes, also known as the City of Firsts (everything from the ice skate to the monkey wrench to the parking meter was developed here), hasn’t added to that list in some time. MassMutual’s significant investments may change that equation.

More importantly, though, they will help stimulate development of what has become the most valuable commodity in any city, region, state, or country: jobs. And we’ve said on myriad occasions and in many ways, this city can’t count on recruiting major employers, such as a casino, to create the jobs that are needed. There must be organic growth, such as the developments in the 19th and early 20th centuries that made Springfield a vibrant manufacturing center and a place where people wanted to live, work, and operate a business.

MassMutual, inarguably Springfield’s leading corporate citizen, should be lauded for recognizing the importance of new-business creation, and for making the sizable investments needed to create a much-needed spark in the city.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Health Systems announced the appointment of neurologist Dr. Octavian Adam to the medical staff of Berkshire Medical Center and Neurology Professional Services of BMC. Adam is accepting new patients in need of neurology services and is partnered with Drs. Laurence “Jay” Ufford, Thomas Kwiatkowski, and Emma Weiskopf in providing comprehensive neurology care at Neurology Professional Services of BMC.

Adam came to the Berkshires from active-duty service as a neurologist in the U.S. Navy at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va. A lieutenant commander, he was also deployed twice to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2013. He previously served with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the Methodist Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital in Houston.

Adam is board-certified in neurology and received his medical degree from Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania. He completed his residency in neurology at the University of Texas Medical Branch and was fellowship-trained in movement disorders at Baylor College of Medicine, Parkinson’s Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic, in Houston.

Daily News

MONSON — Monson Savings Bank will stage a complimentary ‘lunch and learn’ workshop titled “Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners,” featuring attorney David Walczak, a leading expert on real-estate law and, in particular, estate planning for rental real estate.

The event is designed to help owners of residential and commercial rental real estate to learn how an appropriate estate plan and the use of a real-estate trust can avoid the costs, risks, and headaches associated with inheriting rental property. It will be held Tuesday, July 15 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at MSB’s Wilbraham branch, located at 100 Post Office Park. The event is free and includes lunch, and it is open to the public; however, reservations are required.

“We are pleased to bring this important information to our communities,” said Steve Lowell, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank. “Many rental property owners do not realize that, too often, when rental property is included in a will — or worse, a probate situation because the property is not included in a will — the costs, risks, and headaches end up outweighing the value to the person inheriting the property.”

Walczak focuses his practice on estate planning, real-estate transactions, small-business organization, and transactional law. His firm, David Walczak Attorney at Law, P.C., is based in Wilbraham.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Professional Chamber of Commerce has announced that Patricia Diaz Dennis, retired senior vice president and assistant general counsel for AT&T and commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission during the Reagan administration, has been confirmed as the luncheon speaker for the fourth annual Western Mass. Business Expo, set for Oct. 29 at the MassMutual Center.

Dennis, a member of the board of directors at MassMutual, is a highly sought-after speaker, whose broad résumé also includes service on the National Labor Relations Board, a stint as assistant secretary of State for human rights and humanitarian affairs, a three-year term as chair of the Girl Scouts of America, and a lengthy stint on the Texas State University System Board of Regents.

At AT&T, from which she retired in 2008, she was responsible for corporate litigation, procurement, corporate real estate, environmental corporate compliance, IT, and trademark and copyright legal matters. Before joining AT&T in 1995, Dennis was special counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell for communications matters in the international law firm’s Washington, D.C. office. From 1989 to 1991, she was a partner and head of the communications section of the Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue law firm.

The Western Mass. Business Expo, presented by BusinessWest, will feature more than 150 exhibitors and a number of informative programs. The slate of speakers and programs is being finalized, with more information to be released in the weeks to come. For more information on the event, visit www.businesswest.com or www.wmbexpo.com.

Daily News

It was a surreal scene at the Student Price restaurant (the Fort) toward the end of last week.

Late afternoon on Thursday, just a few days after the news broke that the landmark would be closing by week’s end, hoping to reopen under new ownership later in the summer, there were lines out the door and down the street to get in.

Patrons had to use valet parking because there were no spaces available anywhere near the establishment. Inside, the crowds at the bars were three or four deep. People were told that the odds of getting a table were slim to none. Everywhere, patrons were using their cell phones to take photos of their favorite bartender or the famous picture of Rupprecht Scherff, the long-time owner and chief greeter, or of themselves in front of the bar. People who, a few weeks earlier, would have casually discarded that Student Prince-embossed drink stirrer without giving matters a second thought, were now putting them in their purses and taking them home.

In every corner, the questions and the conversations were the same. “Who’s going to buy the place?” “What will Springfield be like without the Fort?” “How much do you think those steins are worth?”

On Friday, at least one of those questions was answered. Peter Picknelly, CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines, will step in and buy the landmark. The current plan is to shut down for a few months, hire a manager, do some work inside, and make what Picknelly called “tweaks.” He told the local paper that he’ll likely take pig’s knuckles off the menu and take some other steps to “modernize” it, while otherwise keeping the Student Prince intact.

We wish him well, because it will likely take more than tweaks to keep the restaurant part of the local landscape. Indeed, Rudi Scherff, one of the owners who decided it was time to sell, wasn’t wrong when he said times were changing — for the worse. He was right on the money when he noted that fewer people are working in the downtown office towers today, and far fewer are inclined to commit the hour it takes to walk three or four blocks, sit at a table, order lunch, and then eat it. And he was correct when he said that the pending I-91 viaduct-reconstruction project will be a nightmare for downtown business owners, many of whom are already just hanging on.

The scene at the Student Prince Thursday was part nostalgia, part saying goodbye to a piece of the city’s history, and part indication that the city doesn’t want to let go like it did with Johnson’s Bookstore, Steiger’s, Forbes & Wallace, and other downtown icons. There was little that Springfield and the surrounding region could do about those losses; the handwriting was on the wall. There might be something they can do here, though. It may not be too late.

People just have to step up and be supportive long before the drink stirrers become coveted souvenirs.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers will save money on unemployment insurance under legislation signed by Gov. Deval Patrick Thursday as part of a compromise to raise the state’s minimum wage. The new law freezes the rates for the insurance this year at 2013 levels, and lowers them slightly in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Currently, Massachusetts has the fourth-highest unemployment-insurance cost, with companies spending $714 per employee, on average. Under the new law, the minimum wage in Massachusetts will increase to $11 per hour by 2017, from $8.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College’s Institute for Learning in Later Life recently held an instructor and member appreciation wrap-up reception and 25-year celebration. More than 60 people enjoyed an afternoon with activities and refreshments. The past spring semester topics included politics, opera, book groups, world religions, use of iPads and tablets, a Pete Seeger sing-along, a film series and discussion on Paul Newman, a nature walk at Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, and more. Courses were held at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing and Springfield College. The Learning in Later Life program was established 25 years ago and reflects Springfield College’s guiding philosophy of humanics education of the whole person in spirit, mind, and body. Each semester, between 150 and 200 people register for classes. For more information or to be put on the mailing list for the fall semester, contact Suzette Wood at (413) 748-5287.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MassMutual announced a new, $5 million Springfield Venture Fund (SVF) to invest in high-potential startups in Springfield. The new seed fund is designed to serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the Springfield community and complement a new accelerator program in the city designed to help startups succeed. “Since 1851, MassMutual has been proud to call Springfield home. We see great economic-development opportunity in the city, and we’re proud to contribute to the positive momentum with this announcement,” said Tim Corbett, executive vice president and chief investment officer for MassMutual. “The Springfield Venture Fund will enhance the city’s already strong entrepreneurial environment for startups, as well as help entrepreneurs grow their business, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue for the city.” SVF seeks to invest $5 million over the next five years in startups with business operations currently located in or willing to relocate to Springfield. Target companies will have a defined product or service, be no more than three years old, and have strong, committed management teams; well-defined, scalable business plans; and high-growth potential. In addition to SVF, MassMutual will invest more than $1.5 million over the next three years to support the creation of a startup accelerator by Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), an entrepreneur-mentoring network in Springfield that will manage the program, and DevelopSpringfield, a nonprofit organization dedicated to driving development in Springfield, which will build out a physical location for the Accelerator. The VVM Accelerator, modeled after MassChallenge, will provide startups with the space, training, connections, and opportunities they need to succeed, while creating a pool of potentially investable candidates for SVF and other seed funds. Startups accepted into the accelerator will be competing for more than $200,000 in grants to be awarded at the end of the four-month program. “By providing startups with greater access to capital, educational opportunities, and valuable mentors, SVF and VVM are a winning combination in helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams while drawing valuable resources and businesses to the Springfield area,” said Scott Foster, president of VVM. The Springfield Venture Fund is expected to start taking proposals in the fall. The VVM Accelerator will be accepting applications in August and expects to launch in early 2015.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — David Chase, vice president and commercial lender for Hampden Bank, was recently named a 2014 Community Bank Hero by Banker & Tradesman magazine. This prestigious honor is given to those dedicated business professionals who provide outstanding service to their clients, and who have gone above and beyond for the community. Chase was recently honored at an awards gala held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Boston. A lifetime resident of Western Mass., Chase is actively involved with several organizations, including the West of the River Chamber of Commerce as a board member. Chase is also a board member of the Gray House, where he spends many hours volunteering his time to the organization’s efforts to revitalize the community. “We are extremely proud of Dave for his dedication and commitment to his clients and the community,” said Luke Kettles, senior vice president and senior lender of Hampden Bank.

Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week, the latest evidence that an economic slowdown earlier this year hasn’t caused employers to cut jobs. Weekly applications fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000, the Labor Department said. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, rose 2,000 to 314,000. The average has fallen 9% since Jan. 1.