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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) announced the 2017 Startup Accelerator cohort this week. The 36 startups, chosen from more than 200 applicants received from around the world, represent high-quality, early-stage startups across more than eight industries, including technology, beauty, healthcare, transportation, and publishing.

“We are excited by the diversity of industries represented in this cohort,” VVM CEO Liz Roberts said. “We are honored that they are choosing to invest their time in our accelerator. They will get intensive training, mentorship, and resources to take their startups to the next level.”

Sixty-five percent of this year’s startups are led by women, and 36% are led by people of color. International teams from Canada, India, and Ghana will participate.

“Educating startup founders is all about helping them minimize their startup risks. Over the next four months, these entrepreneurs and their teams are going to spend time analyzing their products, services, business models, and the markets they intend to disrupt,” said Paul Silva, VVM chief innovation officer and co-founder. “They will learn from successful entrepreneurs — people who have been exactly where these founders are.”

VVM Startup Accelerator participants also develop relationships with funders and are eligible to win up to $50,000 in equity-free cash at the end of the program. The winners will be announced on Thursday, May 25 at an awards ceremony with an expected 600 people in attendance at the MassMutual Center. VVM’s visionary partners include MassMutual, MassDevelopment, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, MassTech Collaborative, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Another aspect of this year’s program is VVM’s partnership with Pathlight, a local organization which serves people with intellectual disabilities. The two organizations put out a national call for entrepreneurs with technology ideas that could increase independence for those with intellectual disabilities. After a rigorous selection process, two such startups were selected to participate in the accelerator: Galactic Smarties and Habit Stackr.

Several of the companies accepted to the 2017 VVM Startup Accelerator are graduates of VVM’s mentorship program, including AlignMeeting, Bhlue Publishing, FootCare by Nurses, Hot Oven Cookies, Listen2aBook, Lumme, RecordME, Streamliners, TripleTote, and Yummy Yammy.

The 2017 VVM Startup Accelerator cohort includes:

• AlignMeeting, business-productivity software facilitating best meeting practices to improve team efficiency before, during, and long after meetings;

• AuCoDe, the Google Alerts of controversies and crisis situations, providing early detection as a signal for hedge funds;

• Barakat Bundle, a curated package of life-saving solutions for mothers and newborns in South Asia;

• Bhlue Publishing, a cloud-based career-development platform for teens and young adults who are struggling to figure out a career direction;

• Bharat Babies, which produces developmentally appropriate children’s books that are inspired by the stories of India and South Asia;

• Connecticut Horse, a bimonthly print and online magazine for horse enthusiasts in Connecticut;

• Emotive Agility Training Center, a consulting company offering training tools and curricula for people with autism to crack the non-verbal code of social interactions;

• Enrichment Express, which provides instructors with the curriculum, materials, and logistical support needed to teach engaging enrichment classes to children 5 to 12 years old;

• Ernest Pharmaceuticals, programmed bacteria to eliminate metastatic cancer;

• Fields Center, which provides help for individuals with autism and families;

• FirmOffer, a software solution for legal recruiting enabling law students to make binding offers to law firms;

• FootCare by Nurses, foot-wellness experts;

• Galactic Smarties, which makes technology that supports independence for people of all ages and abilities;

• GeneRisk, which identifies genetic variants of autism allowing for better understanding of risk and ID targets for more personalized intervention;

• Genoverde Biosciences Inc., an agricultural biotech startup focused on improving crop yield for commercial farming through bioengineering;

• Habit Stackr, which helps people keep daily routines through brain science and a mobile app;

• Hot Oven Cookies, a handcrafted cookie bakery specializing in the delivery and curbside sales of warm, gourmet cookies;

• Kwema, which developed a smart bracelet that can call for help to friends and family, authorities, and Kwema’s safety communities;

• Listen2aBook, which makes audiobook production accessible to everyone;

• Lumme Inc., a startup funded by the National Cancer Institute that develops smart technology to help people quit smoking;

• M1 Tapes, which makes premium, contractor-grade tape measures;

• MEANS Database, a nonprofit technology company devoted to business-friendly food recovery;

• MyBarber, which provides on-site haircuts at offices, apartment complexes, and co-working spaces;

• NERv Technology, which is developing an implantable biochip platform to detect post-operative complications;

• New England Breath Technologies, which developing a pain-free diabetic monitoring device to improve outcomes of patients;

• Nonspec, which has created a low-ost, durable, and adjustable prosthetic system;

• Paysa, which is developing a fingerprint-authorized cashless payment system for stores in rural India with the goal of increasing bank-account owners;

• ProjectMQ, a social-media app for independent game studios and fans worldwide;

• RateFrame, which helps users highlight and share the best parts of any video;

• RecordME, a studio-recording company that provides hardware, engineers, and distribution so content creators and venues can make more money;

• Streamliners, which sells aerodynamic devices to the trucking industry, saving $4,000 per truck per year in fuel costs, paying for itself in three months;

• Trabapido, an online marketplace that helps individuals and businesses find and hire service providers, such as plumbers, painters, and tutors;

• TripBuddy, a ride-sharing startup;

• Tripletote, which manufactures consumer products that help people carry items as they travel, commute, shop, and work;

• VaxAtlas, which provide real-time access to one’s vaccine history, helping to avoid unnecessary repeat vaccines, identify missed vaccines, and alert for outbreaks; and

• Yummy Yammy, which helps busy people eat better, one deliciously addictive sweet potato at a time.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced that Jessica McGarry has joined its Commercial Lending Division. McGarry brings with her 17 years of experience in the industry. Beginning as a part-time teller, she worked her way through the branch system for several years, then to the commercial credit department, where she learned commercial lending from the ground up. She has been a commercial lender in the Worcester market for the past four years, coming to Country Bank from Webster Five.

McGarry earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Nichols College, was a recipient of the Forty Under 40 designation in 2014 from the Worcester Business Journal, and was a member of the Leadership Worcester class of 2015-16.

“As a person, I am serious and diligent when it comes to my work. I take great pride in making sure my customers are well taken care of, with the right products, a high level of service, and a lender that is both qualified and caring,” McGarry said. “I live and work in Worcester County, so the success of the people and businesses here is something that I hold close to my heart.”

Added Scott Pasquale, first vice president of Commercial Lending at Country Bank, “we are excited to have someone with Jessica’s experience and knowledge of the Worcester area join our staff. She brings with her a commitment to the local community and a great foundation of customer relationships.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $100,000 grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. Mutual Impact is funded by MassMutual employees through the company’s annual employee-giving program and matched by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. This is the second year that Square One has received a Mutual Impact grant.

“We are so incredibly grateful to the MassMutual team for their belief in our mission and long-standing, generous support for our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief development & communications officer for Square One. “The funds we receive through this grant will support over 1,000 children and families who rely on Square One for innovative literacy programming.”

The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organizations they select. Selected nonprofits have demonstrated excellence in their organization, volunteer opportunities, and community impact.

“Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “Square One tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.”

Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) announced the promotion of Barb Chalfonte to serve in the newly created role of vice president of Institutional Effectiveness.

The creation of the new position elevates Institutional Effectiveness (IE) and underscores the importance of seeking to enhance the college’s processes and promote student success, STCC President John Cook said. With Chalfonte at the helm, IE will become its own division and have a broader reach. Previously, Institutional Effectiveness had been nested under Academic Affairs.

Chalfonte, who came to STCC in 2010, had served as dean of Institutional Effectiveness and senior research analyst. In her new role, Chalfonte will report directly to Cook and serve as part of his cabinet.

“This is a tangible way to show how much we as an institution value research, data, and assessment,” Cook said. “Given the strategic goals in our Student Success Plan, it’s about integrating process improvement, and putting a large enough umbrella over the work so that it is institution-wide.”

Created in 2012, Institutional Effectiveness helps sustain and improve the teaching and learning environment through ongoing data and research-based planning, assessment, and improvement processes. The work of this division going forward will be to facilitate and promote planning and analysis throughout the college.

“We collaborate with diverse groups to review the college’s mission, goals, and outcomes and demonstrate the achievements of our faculty, staff, and students,” Chalfonte said.

Often colleges have several offices charged with enhancing pedagogy, institutional research, enrollment analysis, and assessment. STCC, however, is one of only a few community colleges in the Northeast that integrates this work into a single entity. Bringing these offices under one umbrella fosters collaboration toward the mission of supporting students as they transform their lives.

The Institutional Effectiveness department includes the offices of Assessment, Institutional Research, and Professional Development. The department also supports strategic planning, process improvement, enrollment reporting, and New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation activities and reporting, and convenes the Student Success Council.

Since 2012, the IE department has helped to obtain more than $2.7 million in funding, including a $650,000 state grant for assessment-related work and a state-funded convening grant to explore initiatives and research related to Hispanic-serving institutions. IE was part of a group that crafted a $2.1 million Title III grant that supports pedagogy- and cultural-competency-related professional development. Members of the IE team contributed to the $3.4 million HSI-STEM grant that the college received last year to help Hispanic and low-income students obtain degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Chalfonte brings a background in science and learning research to the position. She earned a doctorate from Princeton University in cognitive psychology and a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in psychology. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology Department at Westfield State University.

After receiving her Ph.D., she taught in the Psychology Department at Mount Holyoke College and worked as a researcher at the National Priorities Project in Northampton before joining STCC.

“My academic concentration is how people learn and remember,” said Chalfonte. “That’s the heart of learning and teaching. The key concepts of memory and learning apply to what we do here, to the systems that we build.”

Chalfonte strongly believes in the mission of institutions like STCC, which have an open-enrollment policy that allows anyone with a high-school diploma or equivalent to be admitted. She served as data coach for Achieving the Dream, an initiative that champions institutional improvement and student success. Part of her work was to help community colleges close race/ethnicity- and income-based achievement gaps.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in all 24 labor-market areas in the state during the month of December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to December 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Five of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in December, with the largest gain in Boston-Cambridge-Newton, followed by the Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, New Bedford, and Framingham areas. Seasonal losses occurred in the remaining areas.

From December 2015 to December 2016, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Springfield, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for December was 2.8%.
Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 2.8% in the month of December. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,600 job gain in December, and an over-the-year gain of 75,000 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.

The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Center for Human Development (CHD) announced that Comcast has made a donation of 25 Dell Latitude laptop computers with an estimated value of $5,000 to its Caring Together residential programs.

“Comcast is committed to digital literacy,” said Dan Glanville, vice president of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Western New England Region, which includes Western Mass. “We want the next generation of young people to be literate, use computers, and understand the resource that computers can be in their lives. Since CHD Caring Together Residential Programs focus on improving the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable young people, we hope that these laptops can help make a crucial difference in their lives today and for their future. It is truly inspiring to learn of some of the successful stories of these youth, especially considering the challenges they have faced in their life’s journey.”

The laptops will be distributed among the eight CHD Caring Together residential treatment group home locations in Western Mass. Caring Together serves youth who struggle with issues related to trauma, abuse, depression, self-harm, and substance use, among others. CHD’s on-site teams provide the youth with integrated mental-health, occupational-therapy, and nursing services, combined with direct-care staff members who are specially trained and included in the treatment plan. Referrals to all Caring Together residential treatment group homes are made through the state Department of Children and Families or Department of Mental Health.

“Just about everyone these days has a phone, but the young people we serve through Caring Together do not typically come from homes where computers were either available or seen as a learning resource,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president, Office of Advancement at CHD. “The youth we serve are at transition age and may soon be living on their own, so helping them develop independent living skills is truly critical. Comcast understands the breadth and scope of CHD’s work, and their people determined that CHD Caring Together would be a prime and relevant partner to receive these donated laptops. We could not be more excited.”

According to Lee, having computers on site at Caring Together programs will provide great tools to help the residents get organized with homework and research projects at school, access learning resources such as Kahn Academy, improve financial literacy and money-management skills, apply for employment, register for SATs and scholarships, complete applications for higher education, and more.

“It’s important to understand that state contracts and federal funds that help pay operating expenses for Caring Together are highly prescriptive and cannot be used for things like computers,” said Lee. “This generous donation by Comcast will help CHD made a crucial difference in the lives of youth who can benefit greatly from the resources available through digital literacy.”

Departments Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]
A photo essay of recent business events in Western Massachusetts January 23, 2017

A Decade of Engagement

Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS)

Last week, the board of directors of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS) hosted a press conference and leadership luncheon panel to kick off a year-long slate of events celebrating the organization’s 10th anniversary. “I was nothing before YPS,” said Jeremy Casey, past president. “Being a part of this organization has made me better personally and professionally. It’s the best thing I have ever done for my career.” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 18, 2017 Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield Day in the city, praising members’ commitment to cultivate a more engaged young workforce and adding, “you have truly been outstanding ambassadors for the city of Springfield.” Afterward, BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien led a panel discussion with Casey, current YPS President Peter Ellis, and past presidents Jeff Fialky and Pam Thornton. “It’s amazing to me to see the progression, the continuation of the ideas you guys had, that are still happening,” Ellis told the past presidents and current YPS members gathered in the room.” Added Thornton, “YPS is only as good as the people serving. It’s always been a working board, a working organization. Everyone brings their own perspectives, different opinions about how to grow it, and sometimes we didn’t get along, but we’re so excited to see it’s still strong and still growing.”

Making IT Happen

Tech Foundry

Last month, Tech Foundry graduated its third class, during which area employers announced the hiring of IT students, turning them from interns to employees. With close to 100 volunteers, partners, business leaders, friends, and family in attendance, Jonathan Edwards (pictured), Tech Foundry’s director of Strategic Partnerships, feted the accomplishments of the Tech Foundry students, noting that “the class we’ve had this time around is truly remarkable. Now it’s time to build on that momentum.” Meanwhile, Tech Foundry founder and board chair Delcie Bean challenged the graduating students to “live up to the expectations that everyone in the room has for you by helping the Springfield economy grow and thrive. Other guest speakers included Carol Leary, president of Bay Path University, and Andrew Anderlonis, president of Rediker Software, whose company has hired three Tech Foundry graduates.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Lynne Colesano, formerly of Health New England and an insurance professional since 1998, has joined Webber & Grinnell Employee Benefits LLC. She will be responsible for consulting with companies and supporting them with their employee-benefits programs. In addition, her SHRM-CP certification as a professional in human resource management will further help Webber & Grinnell be a trusted advocate for its clients.

“I am privileged to introduce Lynne to the community,” said Michael Welnicki, the division’s head. “She brings unparalleled insight into the benefits, insurance, and financial challenges of organizations of all scopes and sizes, and the expansion allows Webber & Grinnell to add group medical, dental, life, and disability insurance to its portfolio of business insurance.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has announced the promotion of Matthew Scott to dean of students. In his new role, Scott will oversee the Department of Student Life, which includes the Office of Residence Life, the Saremi Center for Career Development, and the Center for Student Engagement.

Among the services and programs that fall under Scott’s purview are residence education, housing operations, student success and retention, student conduct, student activities, diversity and community engagement, international student advising, and campus recreation programs such as intramural sports, fitness and wellness programs, and the fitness center.

Scott served in residence-life and student-involvement roles at area colleges before joining AIC in 2013 as the associate dean of students and director of Residence Life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Springfield College and received his master’s degree in higher education administration from UMass.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Horace Smith Fund, a private foundation that offers scholarships and fellowships, has extended the application deadline date for the Walter S. Barr Scholarships and Fellowships until March 1, 2017, due to the low number of applications so far. Last year, The fund awarded $258,000 to 25 area students.

“To date, we have received only 46 scholarship applications and 16 fellowship applications. It is surprising that more students haven’t applied yet,” said Teresa Regina, trustee and chair of the scholarship committee. “Applications can be downloaded or completed online. They are also available at every area high school and college or by contacting our office.”

The Walter S. Barr Scholarship is available for graduates of Hampden County public and private high schools. Applicants may either be graduating high-school seniors or in college. Scholarship awards of $10,000 are distributed in annual installments of $2,500 and renewable each year until graduation. Recipients are selected on a variety of criteria, including their test scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, and a personal written account of why the student feels deserving of financial assistance.

The Walter S. Barr Fellowship awards are made annually to those wishing to enroll in full-time graduate studies. In general, applicants must be residents of Hampden County. Awards are made to students pursuing a specific post-graduate degree. The award of $12,000 is distributed in annual installments of $4,000 for a maximum of three years. Awards will be made on the basis of all available information, including school records, recommendations, and examination scores. Consideration will be given to both the merit and financial need of the applicant.

“We hope students take advantage of this local resource,” Regina said.