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Cover Story

Form and Function

Interim Dean Tom Moliterno

Interim Dean Tom Moliterno

The Isenberg Innovation Hub, a $62 million expansion and renovation of the business school’s facilities on the UMass Amherst campus, will open its doors to students later this month. The building’s exterior design is stunning, and it gives a new face to Isenberg and perhaps the university, but the architects have made it functional as well.

Dramatic. Striking. Stunning. Powerful. Distinctive.

Those are some of the words that come to mind as one takes in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, a $62 million, 70,000-square-foot addition and renovation to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and its copper cladding, circular design, and falling-dominoes effect.

And those who conceptualized this project and then went about raising the money for it certainly had all those adjectives in mind when they went about hiring architects to create something that would effectively, and loudly, announce the Isenberg school’s ascension to the ranks of the best business schools in the country — and also help recruit the next generation of top students.

“Now that we are a top-20 business school, the students who are considering us are also considering a lot of other exceptional business schools. And one of the things that a student and his or her parents think about is the physical space.”

But that’s certainly not all they wanted — or demanded.

“Now that we are a top-20 business school, the students who are considering us are also considering a lot of other exceptional business schools,” said Tom Moliterno, interim dean at Isenberg. “And one of the things that a student and his or her parents think about is the physical space; there is a requirement, much like a football team needs good facilities, for facilities of a certain caliber in order to ensure that we get the best students.

The learning commons in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, like the building itself, has both a striking design and a great deal of functionality; it also doubles as event space.

The learning commons in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, like the building itself, has both a striking design and a great deal of functionality; it also doubles as event space.

“But there’s more to it than that,” he went on. “You need more than a pretty building; you need a building that’s designed to train students and to prepare students for careers in the 21st century.”

Elaborating, he said business schools today require space that is geared far more toward student collaboration, team working environments, distance learning, and career services than even a decade or two ago.

And all of this is reflected in what’s behind the flashy exterior of the Business Innovation Hub. Indeed, as he conducted his formal tour of the new facility, Moliterno seemed to be constantly pointing out places where people, and especially students, could come together and collaborate.

The hallways, like all the areas in the Business Innovation Hub, are designed to promote collaboration.

The hallways, like all the areas in the Business Innovation Hub, are designed to promote collaboration.

In the learning commons, which doubles as event space, there are dozens of soft chairs and small round tables at which people can gather; in the classrooms, the chairs have wheels, and for a reason — so they can be moved and maneuvered to face in any direction, toward the instructor in the front of the room or the student across the table; in the hallway outside the classrooms, there are more soft chairs and gathering spaces; in the courtyard, there are stone benches; on the grand stairway, there are wooden planks affixed to one set of the concrete stairs — again, for a reason.

“If you’re heading up the stairs and you see someone coming down that you want to talk to, you can pull over, sit down on the stairs, and talk,” said Moliterno, adding that the architects — Boston-based Goody Clancy, in partnership with the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Denmark — went to extremely great lengths to inspire and facilitate collaboration, and this, perhaps even more than the stunning exterior and interior designs, is what the new addition is all about.

Roger Goldstein, the principal at Goody Clancy who headed the Isenberg project, agreed, and said the firm applied lessons from two decades of work designing college business schools and additions to the Isenberg initiative.

An aerial view of the expansion project

“Their aspiration was for something with real distinction — something that would be forward-looking and quite contemporary,” he explained, referring to Moliterno and Mark Fuller, the former dean of the Isenberg School and now associate chancellor at UMass Amherst. “But also a building that works really well and will stand up in the long run.”

Yu Inamoto, lead architect for the BIG group on this project, concurred. “One of the desires put forth by the dean, the faculty, and all the others we interacted with was to have a space that was not only impressive, but a place for gathering, and this is reflected throughout.”

Faculty and staff are currently moving into the new facilities, said Moliterno, adding that the building will be ready when students return to classes later this month.

One of the state-of-the-art classrooms in the Business Innovation Hub.

One of the state-of-the-art classrooms in the Business Innovation Hub.

What they’ll find is a state-of-the-art, user-friendly facility that does a lot for Isenberg, and UMass Amherst on the whole.

It gives the business school — and perhaps the university itself — a bold new face. It also gives the school a powerful new recruiting tool and perhaps the ability to rise still higher in the rankings, something that’s difficult to do as it moves up the ladder.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest toured the Business Innovation Hub and learned how it blends form and function and punctuates the Isenberg School’s ongoing ascent among the nation’s top business schools.

Space Exploration

While obviously proud of the expansion’s ground floor, with its learning commons, courtyard, hallways crowded with gathering spaces, and generous amounts of glass, Moliterno was anxious for his tour to reach the second floor.

Because this is where more of that all-important functionality can be found. And it manifests itself in a number of ways, from greatly expanded and enhanced space for the Chase Career Center to separate lounges for students waiting to be interviewed and recruiters waiting to do some interviewing, to the small interviewing rooms that, when not being used for that purpose, can double as additional gathering spaces for students, thus maximizing each available square foot of space.

“Those rooms are sized and furnished to swing one way or the other depending on what the need is,” said Goldstein. “And that improves efficiency because you’re not creating spaces that have only one use and are empty half the time.”

Before elaborating on this mindset and what the Business Innovation Hub means for Isenberg, its students, faculty, the recruiters who will visit it to query job candidates, and other constituencies, Moliterno first went back to roughly the start of this decade, when the seeds for this facility were planted.

And they were planted out of need, he went on, which came in many forms.

The first was simply spacial. Indeed, while the original Isenberg building, built in 1964, was expanded with the so-called Alfond addition in 2002, by the start of this decade, and actually long before that, a growing Isenberg was busting at the seams.

Architect Yu Inamoto says the copper used in the building’s exterior was chosen in an effort to give it a look that is “authentic and real.”

Architect Yu Inamoto says the copper used in the building’s exterior was chosen in an effort to give it a look that is “authentic and real.”

“What we used to say is that we were a family of eight living in a two-bedroom apartment,” said Moliterno, noting that undergraduate enrollment at Isenberg had risen from 2,500 in to 3,400 in just a few years earlier this decade.

Facilities were so cramped that some departments within Isenberg, such as Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, were spread out in other buildings, said Goldstein, creating an inconvenience for students and faculty alike. The Business and Innovation Hub brings all of Isenberg’s departments and offices together under one roof.

Beyond the need for more space, though, Isenberg also needed better space, said Moliterno — space that reflected its climb in the rankings in the U.S. News & World Report listings of business schools — both public institutions (it’s now 26th nationwide and first among undergraduate programs in the Northeast) and overall (44th in the nation). And space that would help Isenberg compete for students applying to the other schools just above or below them on those lists.

“Relatively early in his tenure, Mark Fuller realized that the school was on a trajectory, both in terms of growth and in terms of quality, that was going to necessitate new physical space,” said Moliterno, adding that the first discussions and estimates on square footage required date back to 2010 or even 2009.

At this point, the project essentially “went into the queue,” as Moliterno called it, noting that there were a number of building projects being forwarded for consideration and funding. To move up in the queue — something deemed necessary as the school continued its torrid pace of growth as well as its ascent in the rankings — the Isenberg School took the unusual step of committing to provide 60% of the funding for the project, with the rest covered by the university.

This commitment translated into the largest ever made by a specific school for a campus building project, he went on, adding that this bold step did, indeed, move the initiative up in the queue. And in 2014, formal planning — including specific space requirements and preliminary cost estimates — began in earnest.

However, in the two to three years since the initial discussions and rough sketching were undertaken, construction costs had increased 50%, he said, bringing the total cost to $62 million.

While raising that sum was a challenge — met by tapping into a growing base of successful Isenberg alums — it would be only one of many to overcome.

Another would be fitting the building into that crowded area of the campus while also negotiating a veritable rat’s nest of underground utilities in that quadrant.

“There was this bowl of spaghetti of steam lines, electrical conduits, and high-speed data lines,” said Moliterno. “And one of the real design challenges was figuring out how to put a building on this part of campus given everything that was underground.”

Designs on Continued Growth

Creating a road map for navigating this bowl of spaghetti was just one component of the assignment eventually awarded to Goody Clancy and the Bjarke Ingels Group — a partnership that Moliterno called a ‘perfect marriage’ of an emerging force in the design world (BIG) and a company with vast experience in designing not only academic buildings, but business-school facilities.

“There was this bowl of spaghetti of steam lines, electrical conduits, and high-speed data lines. And one of the real design challenges was figuring out how to put a building on this part of campus given everything that was underground.”

Indeed, BIG has been on a meteoric rise, with a portfolio now boasting Two World Trade Center in New York, Google’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters building, and several dozen other projects either under construction or in the planning stages.

As for Goody Clancy, as noted, it has spent the past 20 years or so developing a strong niche designing new buildings and additions for business schools, and the portfolio includes recent work at Harvard, Boston University, Georgetown University, Texas Tech, and the University of New Hampshire.

Development of this niche wasn’t exactly by design, to use an industry term, said Goldstein, but as often happens in this business, a single project or two can lead to additional opportunities.

And that’s what happened after the firm took on a project for Babson University, known for its programs in entrepreneurship.

“We then did a few more, and before you knew it, we had three business-school buildings, and we thought, ‘OK, this looks like a specialty,’” he told BusinessWest, adding that the company has another four or five business-school projects in various stages of completion, a reflection of the need for such institutions to keep up with the Joneses, if you will, so they can effectively compete for the best students.

“Business schools have wealthy donors and want to build buildings that will advance their brand,” he said. “They want something that will differentiate them.”

Inamoto agreed. “Schools definitely want to make a statement with these buildings,” he said, adding that the Isenberg addition is the first academic project taken on by the firm in this country, and thus it sought to partner with a firm with a deep portfolio in that realm.

As they went about designing the addition, the team of architects focused on both of their priorities — form and function. They conceptualized an exterior that would fit in — sort of — and respect the brutalist style so prominent in other buildings in that part of the campus, such as the Fine Arts Center and the Whitmore Administration Building.

The circular design, meanwhile, would create a dynamic look that would also connect, in dramatic fashion, with the existing Isenberg facility (as the aerial architect’s rendering on page 18 shows) and “close the loop,” as Goldstein put it.

As for the copper exterior, Inamoto said it was chosen — after aluminum was first considered — because the material, like the school itself, isn’t stagnant; it changes over time.

“As a firm, we like the look of copper, and we like to recommend naturally aging materials,” he explained. “The copper panels are already starting to weather; when they’re first installed, they’re a bright, shiny orange, and within weeks, that starts to become darker and brown, and over time, they’ll oxidize to a green copper look.

“Over time, the building weathers,” he went on. “And we didn’t want something that was too flat or too plasticky, if you will. That’s part of our design strategy; we try to select something that’s authentic and real.”

In designing what’s behind the copper façade, they started by gathering extensive feedback, via focus groups, from a number of constituencies, including Isenberg administrators and staff, students, faculty, and others. And they incorporated what they learned into the final design, said Moliterno, citing everything from a café to greatly expanded space for the career center and undergraduate advising.

“They brought in Career Services and said, ‘walk us through everything you do — what are your space needs? You have interviewers here — how many, and what do they need?’” he recalled. “And then, they had that same conversation with Undergraduate Programs and with a committee of faculty who talked about the classroom space.

“And they had the same conversations with students,” he went on. “And this is where we learned that students are often here from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, and thus they want a place to eat in the building, because if they leave the building, they break up their team process.”

As for the career center and undergraduate advising facilities, these are as important to the ultimate success of Isenberg students (and the school itself) as the classrooms, said Moliterno, adding that these facilities provide more services to far more students than they did even a few years ago.

“Students don’t just show up when they’re juniors and look for job postings,” he explained. “They’re working with the career services offices constantly in order to get internships, résumé review, and structure their social-media profile. The hands-on career prep, the number of hours one spends in career services, has grown dramatically over the years, and this is reflected in the design of this building.”

Seeing the Light

As he walked through the expanded career services office during his tour, Moliterno put the Business Innovation Hub and the chosen designs for it in their proper perspective.

“At the initial bid process, when I was speaking to all the architects who were bidding, I said, ‘I want to be clear about something: this might be the most beautiful building in the world, but if it doesn’t work for the students, if it doesn’t enhance and improve the student experience, it will be a failure — full stop,’” he recalled.

‘Most beautiful building in the world’ is a purely subjective matter for discussion, he went on, while the matter of whether a building works for students certainly isn’t.

He’s quite sure that this one does, and while that quality generally doesn’t warrant adjectives like ‘dramatic, ‘striking,’ ‘stunning,’ or ‘powerful,’ it probably should.

And it explains, even more than that façade, why the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub is such an important development for the school and the university.

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

Cover Story Education Sections

Amassing ‘Reputational Capital’

Isenberg School Dean Mark Fuller

Isenberg School Dean Mark Fuller

When Mark Fuller became a candidate for dean of the Isenberg School of Business at UMass Amherst, he saw an institution that was, by his estimation, “solid, but underperforming.” That latter adjective no longer applies. Indeed, Isenberg has made a solid move in the rankings of public schools, reaching No. 1 in BusinessWeek’s compilation of the top public schools in the Northeast. The challenge ahead — and it’s a considerable one, to say the least — is to achieve the additional ‘reputational capital’ to move still higher.

Mark Fuller says he gets asked the question all the time.

It comes in various forms, and is put to him by a host of constituencies, including school administrators, alums, other business-school deans (lots of those), and even the occasional business writer.

They all want to know how Fuller, who arrived as dean of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst in 2009, has been able to orchestrate a steady and quite impressive climb in the rankings of the region’s — and the nation’s — top business schools, especially the public institutions.

To wit, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s current undergraduate business-school rankings, Isenberg ranks first among public schools in the Northeast (New England and New York) and 11th in the nation; among all business schools in the nation, it is 33rd. Just six years ago, those last two rankings were 36 and 78, respectively.

The answer to the question comes mostly in a long form — and you need to set aside more than a few minutes if you want that one — but also a short form, or at least a brief overview that identifies the main elements in the equation.

They are, said Fuller, creating a plan and, more importantly, executing it effectively, while also creating a culture laser-focused on student success (much more on that later).

“I’m a shameless borrower of phrases, like the one from a CEO who came to our school. He used to say that it’s 10% strategy and 90% execution, and I believe that,” said Fuller. “We’re very good at execution, and we have to be, because there’s no magical degree program that suddenly elevates you 30 spots in the rankings; it doesn’t work that way.

“Everyone knows what you should be doing — it’s not rocket science,” he went on. “Where the rubber meets the road is how well you execute on all these things.”

To make a long story somewhat shorter, this is essentially what the Isenberg School has done — and this is, in a nutshell, what Fuller tells all those who ask him the question noted above.


List of Colleges with MBA Programs


Getting more specific, Fuller said there are, quite obviously, many components to the school’s plan. They include everything from the creation of new curricular programs to raising the money needed for the endowed chairs and faculty positions needed to recruit some of the best business professors in the world; from greatly escalating efforts to promote and market Isenberg to the scene going on outside Fuller’s office — construction of a $62 million expansion of the school.

He summed up everything that’s been accomplished to date by saying that Isenberg now has a much better story to tell — in terms of everything from faculty to facilities to the success of its graduates — and is doing an exponentially better job of telling that story.

He lumps all of this together in the phrase ‘reputational capital.’ The school has much more of it than it did a decade ago, and the mission is, well, to simply accumulate much more of this precious commodity in the years to come.

That’s the only way to continue moving up in the rankings, said Fuller, who has the specific goal of propelling Isenberg into the top 10 nationally among public schools.

In many respects, moving up several more rungs will be more difficult than attaining the height currently reached, he said, drawing an analogy to golf — sort of. It is not easy, but easier to move from an 18 handicap into the single digits, he acknowledged, than it is to move from a 6 or an 8 to something approaching scratch.

So it is with business schools and climbing in the rankings, he went on, because doing so will take more work, more money, more of everything else listed above, and, overall, more success in transforming Isenberg into what Fuller called a “national brand” when it comes to business schools.

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It is not quite there yet, he told BusinessWest, noting that the single word Isenberg, while it certainly resonates regionally, is not yet able to stand alone like other brand names such as Haas (University of California at Berkely); Ross (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor); and McIntire (University of Virginia).

“We want to become an iconic brand,” he said. “So when someone says, ‘I went to Isenberg,’ people know where that is. Iconic brands are one-word brands.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest asked the question seemingly everyone else is asking, but then went further, asking how Isenberg can soar still higher and what it will take for the school to achieve that ‘national brand’ status.

Numbers Game

Fuller said there are myriad ways to both quantitatively and qualitatively measure a business school’s success and level of improvement.

These include everything from the number of undergraduate applications received (up a whopping 49% at Isenberg since 2010) to the average SAT scores of accepted students (up from just over 1,200 in 2011 to nearly 1,280 in 2015; from something called ‘recruiter satisfaction,’ which, as that term suggests, is a measure of recruiter happiness with those they recruit, to comments (and a growing number of them) from alums noting that their children were accepted into many of the top private business schools nationally, but not Isenberg; from the rising number of endowed chairs to that aforementioned construction of a 72,000-square-foot addition.

But rankings continue to drive the train, if you will, in academia these days, he noted, and attaining lower numbers in all kinds of compilations was Fuller’s primary mission when he arrived on the Amherst campus in 2009 after serving for six years as chair of the department of Information Systems in the College of Business at Washington State University.

Actually, he said the more specific goal has been to increase the stores of reputational capital, and that rankings are merely a metric of reputation, or one of many, with others being placement rates at Big-4 accounting firms and penetration into leading financial-services giants such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, among others.

“I would like to see us become one of the top 10 public schools in the nation and within the top 20 overall,” he explained, adding that the school is certainly on the right trajectory for those results, but needs to maintain that course and gain more thrust to break those barriers.

And while climbing in the ranks equates to opportunities for the school and the university, he said, the far more important matter is that better rankings and reputation translate into greater opportunities for the students enrolled in the programs.

“Those sorts of universities provide great opportunities for their students,” he said of the schools at or near the top of the rankings. “When you come out of a place with that level of reputational capital, there are simply more job opportunities and higher salaries. And that reputational capital not only allows us to place students better, it allows us to recruit very high-quality students, which builds this sort of perpetual-motion machine that also allows us to recruit very high-quality faculty.”

Backing up a bit, Fuller said he was attracted to the opportunity to lead Isenberg because he saw a solid program that was, in his view, but also that of many others, underperforming.

And he saw an opportunity to change that equation.

“It had a great foundation — I couldn’t have done the things we were collectively able to do without the outstanding faculty we had here,” he explained. “I saw an opportunity to go from high quality to great.”

And while designing and building that perpetual-motion machine he mentioned isn’t the specific wording on his job description, that, in a nutshell, is what he and his team have been doing.

Degrees of Progress

Not to oversimplify things, said Fuller, because there is nothing really simple about all this, attaining more reputational capital, and thus climbing in the ranks, boils down to those two elements mentioned earlier: improving the story a business school has to tell (and there are many elements in this equation) and then telling this story in a louder, more effective voice.

And this brings us back to those main assignments for his team — creating a plan and then executing it.

The plan, Fuller told BusinessWest, has many elements, or building blocks, if you will, all incorporated into the design for a reason — or several of them.

Indeed, at its core, the plan is simple — create programs, hire faculty, and generate quality and results (outcomes) that will:

• Attract top students and enable graduates to succeed in the workplace;

• Generate enthusiasm and financial support among a host of constituencies, but especially alums;

• Enable the school to generate more reputational capital;

• Propel the institution higher in the rankings; and

• Create sufficient momentum to allow each of the above to perpetuate itself and grow in size and strength.

Elaborating, Fuller said everything his team does is student-focused and undertaken with the goal of improving outcomes, meaning everything from job opportunities to salaries.

One of the keys, he said, has been an outside-in look at curriculum, whereby industry leaders provide input on what’s being done and what can be done better.

“We’re trying to find those curricular, programmatic elements that will drive great opportunities for students,” he explained. “And we’re very deliberate in that; we don’t chase just any new majors.”

Instead, the school focuses on where the jobs are and, more importantly, where they will be, in realms such as analytics, business intelligence, and operations and information management.

Meanwhile, the school has also made major strides in the area of professional development, with initiatives aimed at creating internships, generating opportunities to study abroad (a nod toward an increasingly global economy), and helping students improve interviewing skills, network more effectively, and refine their LinkedIn presence, among other things.

“Many of our students will actually say that their peers at other schools and colleges across campus go to them to learn how to refine their résumé or their LinkedIn profile,” he explained. “And we hit the ground running on that; our students will have a résumé and LinkedIn profile by the end of their freshman year.”

Another focus, as mentioned earlier, is that statistic known as recruiter satisfaction, he went on, adding that Isenberg hired a director of organizational metrics, who, among things, garners hard data on just how happy recruiters are with the school’s graduates.

“It’s like flying on an airline,” Fuller explained. “You fly, you get a survey; the airline asks, ‘how did we do?’ We do the same thing.”

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And it turns the results, especially those that are not particularly favorable, into action, he went on, noting that one identified problem was with résumés, criticism that eventually led to efforts to improve and standardize those documents, so much so that recruiters can now easily recognize something Fuller called the “Isenberg résumé.”

As for growing support among alums and other groups, Fuller drew an analogy to big-time college sports.

“Attendance for basketball games where a team is losing is less than it is for a school that’s winning,” he explained. “For alumni, there was a real sense that we had to build pride in the brand, because the public business schools across the country are a very competitive set of schools, and we all want to be competitive.”

Story Lines

When it comes to telling the story better, Fuller started by gesturing across the conference room table to Chris Foley Pilsner. Her business card reads ‘Assistant Dean & Chief Marketing Officer,’ and she is the first at Isenberg to have such a title.

More importantly, she leads a growing team of professionals, said Fuller, adding that the school has become much more aggressive in recent years when it comes to promoting its brand.

“We also have a digital strategist and social-media director, among other positions,” he explained. “We’re building up that infrastructure that allows us to tell our story about how good we’ve become.

“Many people know we’ve gotten better, but they’re not cognizant of how much better we’ve gotten,” he went on. “I hear that from alumni, even; they don’t know how good we’ve really become.”

The goal moving forward is to simply have better news to report, said Fuller, meaning continuous improvement. And, as he noted, moving ever-higher becomes more difficult because the competition is more keen, and those ahead of Isenberg in the rankings have every intention of staying where they are or moving higher themselves.

Continued upward movement is made still more challenging by two rankings where Isenberg lies at the very bottom of the chart, at least among the top public schools. These would be ‘operating budgets’ and ‘school endowments.’

Indeed, Isenberg has an operating budget of $38.2 million (less than one-quarter the total registered by the top-ranked public school, Indiana University’s Kelley School), and an endowment of just over $31 million, far less than one-tenth the figure at the University of Virginia’s Darden School, ranked second overall by BusinessWeek.

In many ways, how far UMass has come despite those statistics are serious points of pride, said Fuller, but those factors, and also the lowest total (70) of tenure-stream faculty among the top schools, will represent serious hurdles to moving higher.

“We like to say, affectionately, that we fight above our weight class,” he said while referring specifically to the operating budget and endowment rankings. “But we also know that you can’t continue to do that, so we’re trying to get our alumni to help us figure out how to grow this operating budget.”

Elaborating, he said that financial gifts from alums are not the only way to enlarge the budget. Others include corporate gifts, grants, and foundation support, and alumni can assist with all of the above.

Overall, to move still higher in the rankings, Fuller and his team will have to build what amounts to a bigger, even more effective perpetual-motion machine, and continue their focus on execution.

To elaborate, he moved to the whiteboard in the conference room and drew a rudimentary schematic, in the form of a circle with the word ‘reputation’ in the middle, and references to the three elements that drive it — programs, infrastructure, and image — and the need to focus on all three.

Image, as noted earlier, is a measure of how others perceive your school, and includes everything from the many regional and regional rankings to efforts to tell the story. Programs, meanwhile, as mentioned, include everything from curricular initiatives to professional-development tools. And infrastructure is a broad term used to describe everything from facilities to the faculty, and it is perhaps the biggest area of need going forward.

The construction project going on outside Fuller’s window is a prime example of infrastructure work, he noted, adding that, with rising enrollment, Isenberg had no choice but to expand its footprint in order to provide the highest-quality education.

“We need the facilities that will allow us to hire the faculty to drive the quality of the program,” he explained, “because I can’t grow anymore, either in quality or the number of students we teach, without expanding our infrastructure.”

Another element of infrastructure is the faculty, he said, noting that the school needs to grow its endowment so it can add more endowed chairs and teaching positions and thus enhance recruitment efforts in that realm.

“The big hurdle for us to move into the top rung of the rankings is to continue to build this infrastructure of resources that will enable us to compete,” he said, drawing another analogy to college sports, this time to the elaborate training facilities needed to recruit top players and coaches to athletic programs.

Off-the-charts Improvement

When asked if there was an accepted road map for public business schools to follow to attain growth and reputational capital, Fuller said ‘no,’ but also that this is another question that those other deans put to him.

Specifically, they want to know the route Isenberg followed to become number 1 in the Northeast and reach a status just outside the top 10 nationally.

He tells them it’s a well-marked route, but the key isn’t knowing the directions; it’s in executing them properly.

That’s how a business school gets where it wants to go.

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

People on the Move

Narayan Sampath

Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Narayan Sampath as its vice president of Administration and Finance. He will serve as the college’s chief fiscal officer, managing the college budget and supervising the Business Office, Human Resources, Campus Police, Facilities, and Dining Services. He started Jan. 2. Among his previous roles, Sampath was administrative director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst, where he managed all day-to-day operations, including administrative, human resource, and fiscal affairs. He was also responsible for the execution of the $95 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center that led to the creation of IALS, now home to three centers with more than 250 college faculty members. From 2013 to 2015, he managed the Center for Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems at MIT, funded by the National Science Foundation, and before that served as MIT’s financial administrator. From 2009 to 2011, he worked as grants administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Originally from India, Sampath holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. He earned an MBA from the International Business School at Brandeis University in Waltham. He has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Kenya.

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Katherine Wilson

Steven Winn

Katherine Wilson, longtime president and CEO of Behavioral Health Network (BHN), announced she will retire on June 30. George Marion, BHN board chair, said the organization has named Steven Winn, BHN’s current chief operating officer, as Wilson’s successor. Wilson was instrumental in the formation of Behavioral Health Network in 1992 when four nonprofit mental-health organizations — the Child Guidance Clinic, the Agawam Counseling Center, Community Care Mental Health Center, and the Hampden District Mental Health Clinic — formed the new entity and appointed Wilson CEO. Since BHN’s founding, Wilson has built the organization from a $1 million annual enterprise into a leading behavioral-health agency in the region. Under her leadership, BHN has grown dramatically and now serves more than 40,000 individuals in the four Western Mass. counties, employs over 2,300 people, and has an annual budget of more than $115 million. Most recently, she was named a Healthcare Hero for Lifetime Achievement by HCN and BusinessWest and was celebrated in the book Power of Women published by the Republican. Under Wilson’s direction, BHN transformed an abandoned factory complex on Liberty Street in Springfield into a sprawling campus that includes BHN’s corporate headquarters, the innovative Living Room drop-in center, Cole’s Place recovery program for men, the 24/7 Crisis Center, an adult outpatient clinic, and its care coordination and outreach services. She also implemented the acquisitions of the Carson Center in Westfield and its affiliate, Valley Human Services in Ware. Winn joined BHN in 1995 as vice president and director of the Child Guidance Clinic. He was later promoted to senior vice president and since 2017 has served BHN as chief operating officer. He has extensive experience in the behavioral-health field and received a master’s degree in developmental psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology, both from UMass Amherst. He went on to complete his fellowship at Yale University’s Child Study Center. After Yale, he became a staff psychologist at the University of New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, where he also taught in the Department of Psychiatry as an assistant professor of Psychiatry. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in Massachusetts.

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John Heaps Jr

Florence Bank announced that President and CEO John Heaps Jr. will retire on May 1, 25 years to the day after he took the top job, making him the bank’s longest-serving CEO. Heaps has grown the bank in terms of staff, the number of branches, the geographic regions it serves, and capital and assets. Florence Bank is a top-performing bank in the industry in the state, with record results over the past five years, according to both the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Depositors Insurance Fund. Heaps will be succeeded from within as president and CEO by Kevin Day, Florence Bank’s executive vice president. Day joined the bank 11 years ago as its chief financial officer. During Heaps’ tenure, Florence Bank’s capital has grown from $24 million to $161 million, and assets have grown from $283 million to $1.4 billion. The bank grew from four branches in 1995 to 11 now — and soon to be 12. The staff has doubled from 112 full-time employees to 221 now. Heaps grew up in Springfield and began his banking career in 1971 in marketing at Valley Bank, later Bay Bank, in Springfield. In 1987, he was first named a bank president for Bank of Boston, also in Springfield. In addition to serving on many nonprofit boards, he has also sat on many boards in the banking industry, including the Connecticut On-Line Computer Center Inc. (COCC), which provides core data processing to banks, including Florence Bank.

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Christina Royal

Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal has been selected for a national fellowship for first-time college presidents administered by Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute. The Aspen New Presidents Fellowship is a new initiative designed to support community-college presidents in the early years of their tenure to accelerate transformational change on behalf of students. Royal and Luis Pedraja, president of Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, were the only two community-college presidents chosen from Massachusetts. They are part of the inaugural group of 25 Aspen fellows selected from more than 100 applicants nationwide. The leaders, all of whom are in their first five years as a college president, will engage in a seven-month fellowship beginning in June 2020. The fellows were selected for their commitment to student success and equity, willingness to take risks to improve outcomes, understanding of the importance of community partnerships, and ability to lead change. JPMorgan Chase is funding the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship as part of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $350 million investment to support community colleges and other pathways to careers and economic mobility.

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Jamina Scippio-McFadden, a senior program manager at UMass Center at Springfield, has been named director of the center by UMass Amherst. She has served as interim director for the past year. Scippio-McFadden’s wide-ranging community involvement includes serving on the executive committee of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts board of directors and the board of directors for the Hampden County Community Impact Foundation and Community Enrichment Inc. She is a member of the Springfield Museums African Hall Subcommittee and an organizing and charter member of the Western Mass. chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc. She joined the UMass Center in 2014 as the director of Marketing and Community Relations, Student Services, and Academic Support. She was appointed program manager for business and community development in the center’s Office of Economic Development in August 2018. She was named interim director of the center in January 2019. Previously, Scippio-McFadden taught communications at American International College and served as a college administrator and faculty member at institutions in Florida and Georgia. She has 20 years of experience in the media industry, including television news, radio, newspapers, and public relations. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethune-Cookman College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She earned a master’s degree in communications from the University of Florida and is currently a doctoral candidate in education at UMass Amherst.

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Bay Path University announced three new members of its faculty across the undergraduate and graduate divisions. Xiaoxia Liu, director, Applied Data Science, is a seasoned data scientist with years of experience across different industries, including healthcare, business solutions, and insurance. She has extensive experience in handling various data problems through teaching, statistical collaboration research, and advanced analytic/predictive modeling. Liu has authored more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles, which have appeared in JAMA, Pain, Circulation, and other leading medical journals. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in communication from SUNY Albany. Joshua Hamilton, program director and professor, is a fellow of the American Assoc. of Nurse Practitioners and is in private practice in Las Vegas, Nev. He has held a variety of faculty and administrative positions in the U.S. and abroad, and is an internationally recognized speaker at conferences and professional meetings. He holds a doctor of nursing practice degree from Rush University and is in the process of completing his juris doctor through Northwestern California University. Nisé Guzmán Nekheba, coordinator and associate professor, Legal Studies and Paralegal Studies, comes to Bay Path with more than 30 years of experience in both professional and academic settings. As a published author and a seasoned presenter, Nekheba is highly experienced in the areas of real property, family law, race and the law, immigration, Native Americans and the law, and law and religion. She is an award-winning academic professional and a member of the American Bar Assoc., the Assoc. of American Law Schools, and the Assoc. for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora. Nekheba simultaneously completed her juris doctor and master of divinity degrees at Harvard University, where she was the recipient of the Harvard University Baccalaureate Speaker Award.

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Andrea Momnie O’Connor, a principal with the law firm Hendel, Collins & O’Connor, P.C., has been appointed to the panel of Chapter 7 Trustees for the District of Connecticut by the U.S. Trustee Program. O’Connor previously clerked for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts. She graduated magna cum laude from Western New England University Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Western New England Law Review, and cum laude from the University of Connecticut. She is an adjunct professor at Elms College, where she teaches legal research and writing. She was named a 2019 Rising Star in the area of bankruptcy law by Super Lawyers. Her practice focuses on bankruptcy, insolvency, and financial restructuring for business and consumer clients.

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As part of its planned expansion of commercial banking talent and resources across the Northeast, KeyBank announced that Matthew Hummel has joined the bank in the newly created position of Commercial Banking team leader, reporting to market president James Barger. In his new role, Hummel will lead and expand the team of commercial bankers serving middle-market clients in Connecticut and Western Mass. and help drive KeyBank’s commercial business growth throughout the market. Hummel brings more than 30 years of commercial-banking experience to KeyBank, primarily from Bank of America’s Global Commercial Banking group, where he strategically aligned banking resources to the needs of middle-market companies requiring complex debt, capital markets, currency, treasury, and other financial solutions. He holds an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Hartford, and a bachelor’s degree from Colby College. He has strong ties to the local community and has volunteered at a number of nonprofit organizations, including Smilow Cancer Center’s Closer to Free bike tour, Literacy Volunteers of America, and Habitat for Humanity. He has served as a Glastonbury Basketball Assoc. board member and boys travel basketball commissioner since 2005.

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Christopher Smith

Comcast announced the appointment of Christopher Smith as vice president of Human Resources for the company’s Western New England region, which includes more than 300 communities in Connecticut, Western Mass., Western New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. In this role, Smith and his team will support more than 1,600 employees and oversee all of the region’s human-resources functions, including talent management, recruiting, payroll, benefits, and training through Comcast University, the company’s internal training and leadership-development program. Prior to joining Comcast, Smith served for the past decade as HR vice president of NiSource, an 8,000-employee utility company based in Indiana that provides natural-gas and electric power to 4 million customers in seven states. Before that, he spent four years with the Pepsi Bottling Group, first as HR manager in Las Vegas and later as HR director in Newport News, Va., where he was responsible for 1,500 employees in 13 locations. In addition, he held various human-resources roles over the course of four years for Mead Johnson Nutritionals, a former division of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business, where he recently served as an adjunct professor of Strategic Human Resources.

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Dodie Carpentier

Dodie Carpentier, vice president of Human Resources at Monson Savings Bank, was recently elected president-elect of River East School to Career (RESTC). Carpentier joined RESTC as a board member in 2014, has previously held positions as clerk and treasurer, and is a member of the scholarship committee for this local nonprofit organization. Working under the umbrella of MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, RESTC promotes K-16 career education and assists in preparing youth for the demands of the 21st-century workplace. In addition to volunteering for RESTC, Carpentier also serves as chairperson for the Monson Substance Abuse Community Partnership, is a member of the steering committee for Rays of Hope, is a read-aloud volunteer for Link to Libraries, and is a guitarist and vocalist for the Folk Group at St. Thomas Church in Palmer. She has worked at Monson Savings Bank since 2006 and has earned certificates in human resources management and supervision from the Center for Financial Training.

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Allison Vorderstrasse, a faculty member and Ph.D. program director at New York University, has been named the dean of the College of Nursing at UMass Amherst. She will begin her appointment on July 1. Vorderstrasse currently serves as a faculty member and director of the Florence S. Downs Ph.D. Program in Nursing Research and Theory Development at New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing. An adult nurse practitioner with clinical experience, Vorderstrasse received her doctorate and master’s degrees in nursing at the Yale University School of Nursing, with specialties in chronic illness self-management research and diabetes. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y. Prior to joining the faculty at NYU, she was an associate professor of Nursing and faculty lead for Precision Health Research at the Duke University School of Nursing. She taught at Duke University School of Nursing from 2009 to 2014. In 2014, she received the Duke University School of Nursing Distinguished Teaching Award. She was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2015, and in 2017 received the International Society of Nurses in Genetics Founders Award for Excellence in Genomic Nursing Research.

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Kiyota Garcia

Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) announced the appointment of Kiyota Garcia as coordinator of the Academic Advising and Transfer Center, effective Jan. 27. In 2010, Garcia started working in the Academic Advising and Transfer Center, which provides continuous support to strengthen, nurture, empower, and educate students in making informed decisions that will guide their educational experience. Garcia holds a doctorate of education in educational psychology from American International College, a master’s degree in clinical psychology from American International College, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bay Path University. She will continue to work on advising initiatives that support the success of STCC students with a focus on retention and completion.

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Angel Coriano

Homework House announced the hire of Angel Coriano as its new director of Programs. He will be responsible for the supervision of day-to-day program operations, including the tutoring and learning process, and will also work closely with local schools, student assessment and evaluation, along with curriculum development. Coriano is a lifelong resident of Holyoke and a graduate of Holyoke Public Schools. An alumnus of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, he has spent the last 10-plus years in the field of education.

People on the Move

Jonathan Breton

Bacon Wilson announced that Jonathan Breton has been named the firm’s newest shareholder. Breton has extensive experience in business law, with particular emphasis on commercial transactions, including business formation, mergers and acquisitions, matters of corporate governance, and commercial loans. In addition to his experience with business law, Breton also works on all aspects of commercial and residential real-estate matters. He is licensed to practice in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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Sue Drumm

Sue Drumm was installed as the 2020 president of the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV), a nonprofit trade association with more than 1,800 members. More than 140 people were in attendance at the 105th annual installation of officers and directors held on Jan. 9 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Drumm is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Longmeadow. She has been active in real estate since 2009 and has served on the RAPV board of directors since 2013. She is involved in several committees at the association, including the community service, education fair and expo, finance, government affairs, and member engagement committees. In addition to the president, the 2020 RAPV officers installed include Elias Acuña as president-elect, Shawn Bowman as treasurer, Cheryl Malandrinos as secretary, and Kelly Page as immediate past president. Directors include Arlene Castellano, Luci Giguere, Lori Grant, Sharyn Jones, Peter Davies, Janise Fitzpatrick, Sara Gasparrini, Cheryl Malandrinos, and Clinton Stone.

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Whittlesey announced the promotions of Tom Dowling and Chris Nadeau to director. Dowling joined the firm in 2017 and has more than 10 years of experience in assurance, tax, and advisory services. His primary focus is on assurance and advisory services for closely held businesses and nonprofit organizations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and a master’s degree in taxation from Bentley University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA), as well as the Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners. Nadeau joined the firm in 2015 and has more than 13 years of experience in public and private industry accounting. His primary focus is on business valuations for closely held businesses and professional service and medical practices. He is a member of the firm’s strategic leadership group. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in accounting, from Westfield State University and is a member of AICPA, MSCPA, and the Institute of Management Accountants. He is a certified valuation analyst, a credential issued by the National Assoc. for Certified Valuators and Analysts, as well as a certified management accountant and a certified information technology professional.

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Pamela Ortiz

Webber & Grinnell Insurance recently welcomed Pamela Ortiz as a business development specialist working in its Holyoke branch, Ross, Webber & Grinnell. She will be responsible for business development of home and auto business in Hampden County. Most recently, Ortiz was a licensed sales producer at Allstate and a customer-service representative at Farm Family Insurance. She is licensed in property and casualty, life, and medical in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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American Outdoor Brands Corp. announced that its board of directors has named Mark Smith and Brian Murphy co-presidents and co-CEOs of the company, effective immediately. Smith was most recently president of the Manufacturing Services Division of the company, while Murphy was most recently president of the Outdoor Products & Accessories Division. In their co-leadership roles, Smith and Murphy succeed James Debney, who has separated as president and CEO and as a director of the company, following the determination by the board of directors that he engaged in conduct inconsistent with a non-financial company policy. The company is proceeding with its previously announced plan to spin off its outdoor products and accessories business as a tax-free stock dividend to its stockholders in the second half of 2020, a transaction that would create two independent, publicly traded companies: Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. (which would encompass the firearm business) and American Outdoor Brands Inc. (which would encompass the outdoor products and accessories business). Jeffrey Buchanan, chief financial officer, will continue to serve as the lead executive on coordinating and executing the separation of the two businesses. Upon completion of the transaction, and as previously announced, Smith will become president and CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., and Murphy, will become president and CEO of American Outdoor Brands Inc.

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Ryan Barry

Elizabeth Zuckerman

Bulkley Richardson recently announced two promotions. Ryan Barry has become a partner at the firm, and Elizabeth Zuckerman has become counsel. Barry joined the firm in 2015 as an associate in the business department and focuses on traditional business practices, including healthcare, construction, and schools. More recently, he has been instrumental in the development of emerging practices such as cannabis, craft brew, and cybersecurity. Zuckerman joined the firm in 2014 as an associate in the litigation department, where her practice focuses on general commercial litigation, First Amendment issues, and defamation. She has a history of successfully litigating complex cases in both state and federal courts with both local and national significance.

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The Collins Companies, one of the largest industrial distributors of pipe, valves, fittings, and engineered specialties serving the Northeast, announced a change in executive management roles effective Jan. 1. Brian Tuohey, owner and president of Collins, will be assuming the role of CEO and has promoted Vice President of Sales Paul Andruszkiewicz to president. In addition to these changes, Dave Shepard, branch manager of the Haverhill sales office, will lead the Collins sales team as director of Sales. He has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, first purchasing for Atwood and Morrill and then in sales for Power House Supply before Collins acquired Power House in 2015. Headquartered in East Windsor, Conn., the Collins Companies is comprised of Collins Pipe & Supply Co., Collins Controls, Niagara Controls, Collins Niagara, Power House Supply Co., and International Valve and Instrument, with nine locations throughout New England and Upstate New York.

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Kylie LaPlante

Dina Merwin

Monson Savings Bank (MSB) recently announced three promotions. Kelly Collins has been promoted to assistant vice president, marketing officer. She joined MSB in February 2016 as marketing officer and has worked hard to promote the MSB brand over the last few years. She is passionate about sharing the bank’s story and successes. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing, has an extensive background in marketing, and recently graduated from the Leadership Pioneer Valley program. Kylie LaPlante has been promoted to the position of business development officer. She joined the MSB team in December 2011 as a CSA (teller). She went on to earn positions of CSA supervisor, assistant branch manager, branch manager, and in December 2018 began working as a business relationship manager. She has a bachelor’s degree in management and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies. Dina Merwin has been promoted to senior vice president, chief risk and senior compliance officer. She joined MSB in June 2013 as a compliance officer. She worked hard to build a successful compliance program for the bank and was promoted to positions of assistant vice president, vice president, and most recently first vice president, compliance and BSA officer. She attended Springfield Technical Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, and Worcester State College, and is a graduate of the Massachusetts School for Financial Studies and the National School of Banking.

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Jessica Derouin has rejoined the Training Resources of America Inc. (TRA) team as manager of the Springfield office located at 32-34 Hampden St. She had previously been employed by TRA for eight years, serving as Western Mass. regional manager, assistant manager, and instructor/case manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from River College in New Hampshire. TRA, headquartered in Worcester, is a private, nonprofit organization that has been providing education, employment, and training services.

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Dr. Estevan Garcia

Treehouse Foundation, a nonprofit that supports children and youth who have experienced foster care, their foster adoptive families, and older adults who live at the intergenerational Treehouse Community, announced that Dr. Estevan Garcia, who joined the board last year, will serve as board president. He is an adoptive foster parent with experience in the New York and Washington child-welfare systems. Additionally, four of his own siblings were adopted, three from the foster care system. Pete Crisafulli, a Realtor with Taylor Realty, also joins the board. Prior to joining the real-estate firm, he spent many years working to protect children. He was the Western Mass. director of MSPCC KidsNet and later worked in the Frontier Regional School district, becoming the assistant principal of Deerfield Elementary School and later the principal at Whately Elementary School for nine years. Since 2006, Treehouse Easthampton has been home to more than 100 community members, ranging in age from newborns to age 92. This neighborhood, where families adopting children from foster care live next door to seniors, is a hub of foster care, adoption, housing, and aging innovation for the region and the nation.

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Kurt Shouse

Florence Bank promoted Kurt Shouse to the position of vice president, information and cybersecurity officer. Shouse brings extensive knowledge and skills to his new role. Prior to his recent promotion, he was the assistant vice president, information and cybersecurity officer. Shouse studied at UMass Amherst, where he received his bachelor of business administration degree in management studies. Additionally, he studied at Utica College, where he received his master’s degree in cyber operations and computer forensics. He earned certification from SANS Institute Global Security Essentials (GSEC), which demonstrates a high-level skill set of hands-on information technology with respect to security tasks. Shouse serves his community as a board member with Northampton’s Dollars for Scholars.

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John Pember has joined Westfield Bank as vice president and commercial loan officer. He will be based in the West Hartford, Conn. office and will help lead the bank’s commercial-lending efforts in the Greater Hartford area. Pember has been in the financial-services industry since 2006. After holding various positions in retail and credit risk, he transitioned to commercial lending in 2014 at Farmington Bank and then held a similar role at United Bank. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Business in 2006 and was a Michael J. Piette Honors recipient from the Connecticut School of Finance & Management. In addition to his professional accomplishments, he is co-chair of the young professionals committee for the Real Estate Finance Assoc. and is a member of Hartford Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs, the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, and the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

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Jon Reske

Craig Boivin

Jon Reske, longtime vice president of Marketing at UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, has retired after leading the credit union’s marketing function for more than 23 years, and Craig Boivin has been promoted to the position of vice president of Marketing. Reske founded the UMassFive marketing department — spearheading a model of constant innovation and expansion — that today boasts leading-edge capabilities including in-house graphic design, social media, digital marketing, and marketing analytics. For the duration of his tenure, he represented UMassFive as lead press contact and a member of the senior management team. Over the last seven years, Boivin has taken on various roles within the Marketing department at UMassFive — most recently as interim vice president — and overseen many successful initiatives, including the credit union’s latest website redesign, implementation of the Buzz Points rewards program, and promotion of UMassFive’s sustainability loan products. In addition to the experience he has gained on the job, he continues to learn and expand his skillset. He will soon be completing the three-year CUNA Marketing & Business Development Certification School and is also enrolled at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. With this promotion, Boivin will continue to focus on promoting the UMassFive mission and brand, as well as lead public-relations efforts and oversight of the credit union’s Marketing team.

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Meredith Wise, president of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE), recently announced the addition of four new members to the EANE board of directors for three-year terms. Toni Hendrix is director of Human Resources and Compliance with Loomis Communities, where she is responsible for partnering with leadership to promote HR management practices to ensure fair, equitable, and consistent treatment of employees while minimizing the potential for legal liability. She also provides consultation and developmental support to leaders and team members relative to employee engagement, policy interpretation, change management, and performance management. Mike Hyland, CEO of Venture Community Services in Sturbridge, brings more than 25 years of experience and a sound history of nonprofit leadership. At the helm of Venture, Hyland focuses on ways to improve services and enhance the lives of the people the agency supports, as well as the employees. The EANE board represents a cross section of professionals throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island who provide certified expertise in the areas of business, human resources, and financial management. The other two new EANE board members are based in Providence, R.I.: Michelle Cunniff, director of Human Resource Services at AIPSO, and Gregory Tumolo, senior counsel and head of the employment-law team at Duffy & Sweeney, LTD.

Economic Outlook

Little Change in the Forecast

‘More of the same.’

For the past several years now, that’s essentially what most economists have been saying when asked about what to expect next year.

Bob Nakosteen

And by ‘more of the same,’ they generally meant steady but decidedly unremarkable growth, which is what the nation, this state, and this region have been enjoying — and that’s the right word for it, because it certainly beats the alternative — for the past half-decade or so.

But over the past 18 to 24 months, ‘more of the same’ has come to mean some other things. These include speculation about a recession and even hard predictions that one is right around the proverbial corner; turmoil, especially in the form of a trade war with varying degrees of escalation; and a historically low unemployment rate that is a positive economic sign, obviously, but also a serious challenge to employers in every sector.

And as a new year and a new decade begins, we’re probably looking at … more of the same, as in all of the above, from the slow growth to the recession speculation to the employment challenges.

“Nationally, gross domestic product grows through a combination of an increase in the labor force and increased productivity, and both of those are really in a slump right now,” said Bob Nakosteen, a professor of Economics at Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, while summing things up. “Productivity is in a long-running slump, and our labor force is growing much less quickly. So although there isn’t any obvious risk of a recession, there is an obvious risk of a real stagnation.”

Of course, 2020 is also a presidential election year, which adds yet another intriguing element to the equation, said Nakosteen, adding that, traditionally, election years, especially those featuring presidents seeking re-election, feature policies designed to provide an additional economic jolt or stimulus.

But this year, there’s really not much that can be done, he went on, adding that another tax cut is unlikely, and interest rates are already at near-historic lows, so they really can’t be lowered any further.

“Generally, those in power during election years try to pass legislation or encourage monetary policy that will trigger more growth,” he explained. “I don’t know how much room there is for that currently, especially with these big tax cuts that have ballooned the deficit, and especially with a split Legislature. They’ve completely hamstrung themselves in terms of fiscal policy — spending and taxes, and what can they do with monetary policy; interest rates are edging slowly back down, but there’s not much room to back down. And it’s completely obvious that interest rates just don’t have the effect that they used to on the economy.”

“There was a real consensus that there was real risk of a recession coming. But that discussion has abated, you’re not hearing those comments anymore. Now, there’s consensus that there’s nothing on the horizon that’s especially risky.”

As for the proverbial big picture, 2019 was supposed to the year the expansion, one of the longest in the country’s history, ended, at least in the minds of many economists, who have since amended their speculation and instead projected a recession for some time this year. And a good deal of this conjecture is focused on the dreaded yield curve, which has been a deadly accurate predictor of recession for decades now.

An inverted yield curve is the interest-rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments, and when such inversion happens, recession almost always follows; in fact, the yield curve has inverted before every U.S. recession since 1955.

This strikingly accurate track record has prompted many economists to say it’s not a question of if there will be slowdown and then recession, but when.

But Nakosteen said that, despite an inverted yield curve, talk of an imminent recession has diminished, largely because most of the other indicators are generally less forbidding.

“There was a real consensus that there was real risk of a recession coming,” he told BusinessWest, emphasizing ‘was.’ “But that discussion has abated; you’re not hearing those comments anymore. Now, there’s consensus that there’s nothing on the horizon that’s especially risky. There are negative things going on, especially the trade war, and there are parts of our economy that are not doing well, such as manufacturing and agriculture. But overall, there’s not much to indicate that we’re destined for a recession.”

That said, the risk of stagnation — defined as a prolonged period of slow economic growth, usually accompanied by high unemployment, as was seen in the early ’90s during the so-called ‘jobless recovery’ — is very real. And the ongoing struggle to find and retain talent will be the main reason why.

“Finally, the labor-force constraint, the fact that the labor force is growing very, very slowly, has become binding,” he explained. “We’ve been talking about this for years now — we knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when it would hit. And there’s a good chance that it finally has hit.

“Employers just can’t find workforce to fill jobs, and you can’t make more if you don’t have people to make more,” he went on, adding that this workforce crunch is impacting the Bay State perhaps even more than the country in general.

Indeed, Nakosteen believes that low unemployment — actually, what amounts to full employment — is likely the primary reason why the Commonwealth has been consistently lagging behind a national economy that is growing at a rate of maybe 2%.

“We have an industry mix of healthcare, high-tech, and education that should make us a fast-growing state, but we’re not; we’re growing more slowly,” he noted. “And I really think that’s because employers just can’t find workers.”

He said evidence of this can be found within statistics on commuting trends, with the Bay State drawing steadily larger numbers of workers from neighboring states, especially Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

“The downside of growth is always on the supply side, and I consider supply to be supply of labor, which is now confronting the state and especially Boston,” he said, adding that there are a number of factors, from the high cost of living to horrendous commutes, that are now limiting the workforce that can help companies in and around Boston grow.

High-speed rail linking east and west might provide some relief, he admitted, but that solution is likely years away if it happens at all.

As for the stock market, when asked to explain why the markets soared nearly 30% this year despite turmoil and talk of inverted yield curves and recession, he said simply, “I can’t.”

He did offer this, though. “I think you have to look at behavioral economics and behavioral finance rather than analytical economics and analytical finance to explain this. It’s a behavioral thing. [Yale economist] Robert Shiller noted that a narrative starts to dominate, and people start to believe it — everyone says the stock market’s great, and that’s kind of self-fulfilling.”

As for 2020, again, Nakosteen is predicting something he’s been forecasting for the better part of a decade now, even though the term hasn’t always meant exactly the same thing: more of the same.

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

Cover Story

From the Casino to Cannabis, Powerful Forces Have Changed the Landscape

By George O’Brien and Joseph Bednar

As the year and the decade come to a close, BusinessWest takes a look back at the stories that dominated the past 10 years and the forces that have in many ways changed the landscape — literally and metaphorically. These include everything from the tornado that touched down that June day in 2011 to the arrival of casino gambling in Western Mass.; from the emergence of a new and multi-faceted business sector — cannabis — to the growth and maturity of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. In short, the region looks a lot different than it did in January 2010, and most of it is for the better. Because this is 2020, here are the top 20 stories from the past decade.

The Casino Era

Perhaps the most dominant story of the decade was the introduction of casino gambling to the Common-wealth — and it covered the entire decade, to be sure, with a number of plots and subplots.

And, of course, the story continues.

Through the early part of the 2010s, the dominant story was where the casinos would be located. Legislation dictated that one of the resort casinos be located in what is considered ‘Western Mass.’ — everything west of Worcester — and a number of sites in several different communities emerged.

That list included the Big E grounds, the Wyckoff Country Club site in Holyoke, a location just off the Mass Pike entrance in Palmer, a site in Brimfield, and, of course, several locations in Springfield, including two downtown — one on the Peter Pan bus terminal site and the other in the tornado-ravaged South End — and one in East Springfield that eventually became home to CRRC (see listing below).

Eventually, MGM’s proposal to revitalize the South End with a $950 million resort casino was chosen by Springfield and then the Gaming Commission. Construction began in the spring of 2015, and for more than three years, the region watched the massive facility take shape.

It opened in August 2018, and since then, the focus has primarily been on revenues that are lagging well behind what was projected when the casino was proposed. However, Mike Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield, has maintained that casinos go through a “ramping-up” process that is generally three years or more in duration, and that the Springfield facility is still very much still in this ramping phase.

Looking forward, MGM officials are optimistic that sports gambling — still being considered by the Legislature — will provide a needed revenue boost. Meanwhile, they point to a number of positive developments spurred by the casino, including jobs, greater vibrancy in the downtown area, a trickle-down effect to other hospitality-related businesses, and new events, such as concerts and the upcoming Red Sox Winter Weekend.

Springfield’s Revitalization

When the decade began, Springfield was still climbing out of a very deep, very dark fiscal hole that it fell into several years earlier, one that took the city into receivership and made it the butt of jokes in the eastern part of the state.

As the decade ends, there is still considerable work to do, but Springfield is a very different place than it was 10 years ago. Its downtown, now anchored by a $960 million casino, is much more vibrant. CRRC is making subway cars in East Springfield. Union Station has been revitalized, and rail service has been expanded. The I-91 viaduct has been replaced. Many of the areas damaged by the tornado of 2011 have been revitalized. Tower Square has new ownership and some intriguing new tenants, including the YMCA of Greater Springfield.

Meanwhile, several of the parks, including Riverfront Park and Court Square, have been restored, and Pynchon Park, which links Dwight Street with the Quadrangle, is getting a facelift. Way Finders is building a new, $17 million headquarters building on the site of the old Peter Pan Bus Terminal. MassMutual is is spending $50 million to renovate and expand facilities in Springfield. Big Y recently completed a $46 million expansion. A $14 Educare facility just opened its doors. The list goes on.

There are still things to be done, such as revitalizing Court Square, building a replacement for the crumbling Civic Center Parking Garage, and spreading the vibrancy at MGM Springfield to properties across Main Street from that complex. But overall, Springfield is enjoying a resurgence, and has taken the step of announcing this loudly, and locally, in a marketing campaign created in concert with the Economic Development Council of Western Mass.

A city that was still very much in a dark place at the start of the decade has now come into the light.

The Rise of Cannabis

While many states have since followed suit, Massachusetts has long been near the vanguard when it comes to legalizing marijuana — first for medicinal purposes in 2012, then for recreational, or ‘adult,’ use in 2016. Both measures were passed by voters at the ballot box, and together they have created nothing less than another economic driver in Western Mass.

New England Treatment Access (NETA), the state’s first dispensary to begin adult sales, drew massive lines when it first opened in November 2018, but still maintains a healthy flow of customers as other shops, like Insa in Easthampton, Theory Wellness in Great Barrington, and others have begun recreational sales — with dozens more, in myriad communities, in various stages of permitting and development.

The burgeoning cannabis trade has impacted other fields as well, such as law, as firms have launched specialized practices to help entrepreneurs navigate the intricacies of this business. Meanwhile, banks eagerly await a possible move on the federal level to allow them to handle cannabis accounts.

Municipalities no doubt appreciate the additional tax revenue, which differs by town — in Northampton’s case, it’s 6% on top of the 17% tax customers pay the state, resulting in a $737,331 haul during NETA’s first three months of operation. In this light, it’s no surprise so many communities have embraced this new cannabis era in Massachusetts.

Marijuana remains illegal federally, but a surge of state-level legalization has probably gained too much momentum for that to remain the case forever. Massachusetts has played no small part in that trend.

A Decade-long Expansion

When the decade began, the economy, in many ways still recovering from what became known as the Great Recession, was nonetheless expanding.

And 10 years later … it is still expanding.

It’s been an historic run in many ways, and one that has seemingly defied the odds and host of issues — from trade wars to turmoil overseas to chaos on Capital Hill — to continue as it has.

For most of the decade, the expansion has been anything but profound — usually a percentage point or two or three of growth — but it has continued, bringing the stock market to new and sometimes dizzying heights — the Dow was above 28,000 as this issue went to press, and the S&P was nearing 3,200 — and the region and the nation to something approaching full employment.

These historically low unemployment levels have brought opportunities for workers and challenges for employers (see below), but they are the most obvious sign that the economy is still humming.

The question is … just how long can this last?

Many of the experts predicted a recession for sometime in 2019. It didn’t happen. Now, many are saying that one is likely for 2020, especially with the current inversion of the yield curve, whereby interest rates have flipped on U.S. Treasuries, with short-term bonds paying more than long-term bonds.

If history is any indicator, then this expansion seems destined to come an end soon. Then again, all the signs, from the stock market to the job market, seem to indicate otherwise.

Workforce Issues

As noted, the expansion has brought with it historically low unemployment in most regions of the country, including Western Mass.

And, as also noted, this has created a market heavily tipped toward the job seeker, which has meant challenging times for employers across virtually every sector of the economy.

Indeed, one consistent theme in the hundreds of interviews BusinessWest conducted with business owners and managers over the past decade has been the ongoing difficulty with finding and retaining good help.

It doesn’t matter which sector you’re talking about — healthcare, financial services, construction, distribution, retail, or hospitality — the one constant has been the struggle to fill the ranks.

At the start of the decade and maybe until a few years ago, employers would say it was a good problem to have; now, they don’t use that phrase so much. It’s just a problem.

And one that has led to some new terminology entering the lexicon: ‘ghosting,’ a situation that occurs when someone is slated to show up for work (or even an interview) and doesn’t, because something better has come along.

The situation has been exacerbated by forces ranging from the retirement of Baby Boomers to the arrival of MGM Springfield, and addressed by initiatives at the state and local levels — from agencies, community colleges, and organizations like Dress for Success — to give more people the skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven economy.

A Growing Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

One of the very best stories over the past decade has been the growth and maturation of the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, to the point where it is now a powerful force in the region when it comes to economic development.

The ecosystem has come to have a number of moving parts, from mentorship groups such as Valley Venture Mentors, EforAll Holyoke (formerly SPARK), and Launch 413 to entrepreneurship programs at area colleges and universities; from angel-investing groups that provide much-needed capital to initiatives like UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences and Springfield-based TechSpring, which are working to take ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

Together, these moving parts have created large amounts of what could be called entrepreneurial energy, which has led to hundreds of new startups selling everything from cookies to mops to software programs that can enable machines to operate more efficiently.

Many of the entrepreneurs behind these ventures have made their way to the cover of BusinessWest, an indication of just how important the startup economy has become to the overall vitality of this region, and how large and impactful the entrepreneurship ecosystem has become.

While many are waiting and hoping for the next Google, Facebook, or Uber, most understand that the many smaller businesses now employing a handful of workers are already changing the landscape in individual communities, such as Holyoke and Springfield.

The Opioid Crisis

In 2016, when Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a sweeping series of measures aimed at curbing opioid addiction, that class of drugs had long been recognized as a health crisis in the Commonwealth.

Specifically, it was the first law in the nation to limit an opioid prescription to a seven-day supply for first-time adult prescriptions and every prescription for minors, with certain exceptions. Among other provisions, information on opiate use and misuse must be disseminated at head-injury safety programs for high-school athletes, doctors must check the Prescription Monitoring Program database before writing a prescription for a Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 narcotic, and prescribers have ramped up continuing-education efforts, ranging from effective pain management to the risks of abuse and addiction associated with opioid medications, just to name a few.

Progress has been slow. In 2017, there were 1,913 drug-overdose deaths involving opioids in Massachusetts — a rate of 28.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, roughly double the national rate of 14.6. The greatest increase in opioid deaths was seen in cases involving synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl: a rise from 67 deaths in 2012 to 1,649 deaths in 2017.

More recent news has been mixed. Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell 6% in the first nine months of 2019 compared to the first nine months of 2018, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Between January and September of 2019, there were 1,460 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, compared to 1,559 in the first nine months of 2018.

However, the fentanyl problem grows — it was present in 93% of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen over that time frame, up from 89% in 2018. Still, the state’s multi-pronged approach to the opioid epidemic may finally be making a difference.

The Tornado of 2011

There aren’t many residents and business owners who don’t have vivid recollections of the tornado that roared across Western Mass. on June 1, 2011.

Indeed, it traveled through a number of communities, leaving in its wake heavy damage and rebuilding challenges like the region had never seen.

It ravaged rural areas like Belchertown, but also traveled right down Main Street in Springfield, crossing over City Hall as it did so.

As it tore across Springfield and the region, the tornado didn’t discriminate; it damaged elementary schools, colleges, and especially what was then Cathedral High School, which was eventually razed and replaced with a much smaller facility known as Pope Francis High School. It laid waste to Monson’s scenic landscape. It changed the landscape at Veterans Golf Course in Springfield and completely uprooted Square One, the early-childhood education provider located in Springfield’s South End. (Joan Kagan, executive director of Square One, became the face of the disaster, literally and figuratively, as her picture — taken on Main Street with the agency’s ravaged home behind her — graced the cover of BusinessWest a few days later.)

After the dust settled, the difficult and inspiring cleanup and recovery began, and in some ways, it is still ongoing. Efforts to rehabilitate the South End of Springfield were greatly accelerated by MGM’s proposal to build a resort casino partly on parcels damaged by the casino. But several other businesses have risen in that era, including a new CVS pharmacy.

The Potential of Rail

State Sen. Eric Lesser has long been touting east-west rail service connecting Western Mass. and Boston, arguing that an 80-minute ride from Springfield’s Union Station to Boston’s South Station would be a game changer — and not only for Springfield.

“In Western Mass., we have great quality of life, great schools, a lot to offer, but we’re not creating jobs fast enough to keep people here,” he told BusinessWest. “As a result, we’ve seen a vacuuming of jobs and opportunities into a handful of zip codes. And in Boston, two crises are playing out simultaneously: out-of-control traffic gridlock and skyrocketing housing prices.”

Connecting the regions with high-speed rail could help solve both problems, he often argues. High-speed rail service between Pittsfield and Boston — with up to 16 round-trip trains running every day along the Interstate 90 corridor — was among the options for linking Western Mass. to Boston presented by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to a state advisory committee in Springfield recently.

It’s not like rail hasn’t already made life easier in Western Mass., what with the launch of the Amtrak Vermonter line in 2016 and the Valley Flyer service between Greenfield and Springfield earlier this year. Ridership originating in Northampton on the Vermonter line increased from 17,197 riders in 2016 to 21,619 in 2018, reflecting a growing demand for rail.

“The new generation — people my age and younger — don’t want to sit in their cars all day,” Lesser said. “They don’t want long commutes on clogged highways. They’re open to using buses and trains in a way that maybe previous generations weren’t. Again, it would solve a lot of overlapping challenges we’re facing all at the same time.”

CRRC’s Rail Cars

A region that used to be home to many major manufacturing companies — at least, more than exist today — got a major boost in 2014 with the announcement that Chinese rail-car manufacturing giant CRRC was coming to Springfield to build hundreds of new cars for the MBTA’s Orange Line and Red Line systems.

The initial contract was for 152 Orange Line cars and 132 Red Line cars to replace aging trains. Two years later, an additional order was placed for 120 more Red Line cars, bringing the state’s total investment in new cars to $566 million.

From CRRC’s $95 million factory on Page Boulevard, which employs about 200 people, about a dozen trains have been delivered, and the company also built a 42,500-square-foot warehouse at the site this year to house large components.

The company’s leaders say they invested in Springfield with an eye on significant growth in the U.S. That has come to fruition, with a deal in 2016 to manufacture new subway cars for the city of Los Angeles and an agreement in 2017 to build new train cars for SEPTA, Philadelphia’s transit system, to name just two developments.

MBTA says the new vehicles incorporate improved safety features, wireless communications for monitoring potential maintenance needs, improved passenger comfort, new technology that provides important customer-facing information, and cutting-edge accessibility features, such as platform gap-mitigation devices.

For Springfield, however, the trains represent something greater — a major manufacturing success story at a time when one was needed.

The Dr. Seuss Museum

For years, people visiting the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden in the Quadrangle would ask where the museum devoted to the beloved children’s author and Springfield native was located. And they would be told there wasn’t one.

That all changed in the summer of 2017, with the opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, a facility that has provided a true measure of the awesome power of the Seuss name and brand by attracting visitors from across the region and country and from around the world.

In its first year of operation, the museum enabled the Quadrangle to shatter attendance records, and the numbers have been steady and quite impressive since.

Museum officials are optimistic that the attendance and revenue boost from the Seuss facility will enable it to modernize and expand many of its other facilities. Meanwhile, civic and economic-development leaders say Seuss gives Springfield a powerful addition to its roster of attractions, one that can inspire — and lengthen — visits to the region.

Holyoke’s Renaissance

Another intriguing story from this past decade has been the resurgence in the city of Holyoke, a proud industrial city that has been re-inventing itself as a center for the arts, entrepreneurship, and, yes, cannabis.

In fact, in one interview with a TV crew several months ago, Holyoke’s mayor, Alex Morse, joked that it was goal, if not his mission, to see the community’s nickname change from the Paper City to the Rolling Paper City. That remark speaks to the enthusiastic manner in which the city embraced the legalization of cannabis in the Commonwealth and essentially opened its doors to many different kinds of businesses within that sector. Today, hundreds of thousands of square feet of former mill space is being eyed for cannabis cultivation and other uses, and several facilities are already operating.

But cannabis is only one of many good stories that have unfolded in Holyoke over the past decade. Others include the opening of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in 2012; renovation of the property known as the Cubit Building, which is now home to apartments as well as the Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute; creation of SPARK, an agency devoted to encouraging and mentoring entrepreneurs (now named EforAll Holyoke); new rail service; and a burgeoning cultural district in the heart of downtown.

Like Springfield and other gateway cities and former industrial centers, Holyoke has evolved beyond those roots, and with very positive results.

Springfield Thunderbirds

One of the best stories of the decade involved hockey in Springfield, and specifically a new team that has infused the region with energy, imagination, and, yes, entertaining hockey.

We’re talking about the Springfield Thunderbirds, a team, and a story, so good that the franchise’s owners and managers were named BusinessWest’s Top Entrepreneurs for 2017.

To recap quickly, hockey, which has a rich history in Springfield dating back to the 1930s, was struggling in Springfield toward the middle of the decade. And then, it was gone, as the franchise known as the Springfield Falcons relocated to Arizona.

But a large group of entrepreneurs and community activists were determined not to see hockey relegated to the past. Their first move was to purchase a franchise in Portland, Maine, and relocate it to Springfield. Their second, even more important, move was to put Nate Costa, then working for the American Hockey League in its Springfield office, in charge.

His goal was to turn the Thunderbirds into a household name, and he has done just that, making the T-Birds, as they’re called, a big part of the renaissance taking place in Springfield.

The team is averaging more than 5,000 fans a night through a host of imaginative efforts — from promotions such as 3-2-1 Fridays ($3 beers, $2 hot dogs, and $1 sodas) to bringing in celebrities such as Red Sox stars David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez.

The end result? A ticket to a hockey game at the MassMutual Center is much more difficult to come by. That’s a sign of the T-Birds’ success on the ice, and in their ability to become part of the proverbial big picture when it comes to Springfield’s revitalization.

Bay Path University’s Evolution

A quarter-century ago, Bay Path College was a small, two-year school experiencing an identity crisis on a number of levels. Today, the institution is a university and a brand known across the region, and also across the country.

And the continued growth and emergence of Bay Path, led by President Carol Leary, who will be retiring next spring, certainly deserves to be among the biggest stories of the past decade.

The college, recently ranked among the fastest-growing private baccalaureate institutions in the nation, has, over the past several years, created the American Women’s College, an online institution; added several new programs, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels; opened a new science center in East Longmeadow; and become an industry leader in cybersecurity and computer-science programs. Meanwhile, it continues to stage its annual Women’s Leadership Conference each spring, an event that draws roughly 1,000 people to the MassMutual Center.

And in 2014, the institution had to create a new sign at its entrance in the center of Longmeadow, one with enough room for the word ‘university,’ a step that reflects its more global reach and its rising brand.

Over the past few years, Leary has been twice honored by BusinessWest, first with its Difference Makers award, and then its Women of Impact award. Those accolades speak to how much she has done for the school and within this region. But they also reflect just how far this school has come.

Ludlow Mills on Schedule

It’s been more than eight years since Westmass Area Development Corp. announced the 20-year project known as Ludlow Mills — a blend of both brownfield and greenfield development — and, about a third of the way through that time frame, progress at this complex of 60 buildings and adjoining undeveloped land has been steady.

When it started the clock back in 2011, Westmass said this project would generate $300 million in public and private investments, more than 2,000 jobs, and a more than $2 million increase in municipal property taxes. To date, high-profile initiatives on the site include the building of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts, WinnDevelopment’s overhaul of the structure known as Mill 10 into over-55 housing, and several smaller developments.

And there is more on the drawing board, most notably WinnDevelopment’s planned conversion of Mill 8, the so-called Clock Tower Building, into a mixed-used project featuring commercial space on the ground floor and more housing in the floors above.

The next key milestone for the project is the construction of Riverside Drive, which will open up approximately 60 acres of pre-permitted light-industrial property.

“We’re getting a lot of interest,” said Jeff Daley, Westmass’ new CEO, who noted that one of the front parcels was sold to the town of Ludlow for a new senior center, which recently broke ground. “That’s going to be a beautiful building to showcase the property from the eastern side.”

Ludlow’s municipal leaders say Ludlow Mills is already creating a trickle-down effect to the town and the region in terms of jobs and other benefits.

“It’s growing,” Daley added, “and there’s a lot of momentum, a lot of interest. People are coming in and creating stable businesses, and creating jobs. It’s really exciting.”

Ideas Take Shape at IALS

UMass Amherst may be renowned for cutting-edge scientific research, but when it comes from turning published papers into public benefits, the transition hasn’t always been smooth. Enter UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS, pronounced ‘aisles’), where a collection of ‘core facilities’ is helping boost the state’s manufacturing economy — and innovation reputation — in myriad ways.

IALS was created in 2013 with $150 million in capital funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and the university itself. Its mission is to accelerate life-science research and advance collaboration with industry to effectively shorten the gap between scientific innovation and technological advancement.

The institute achieves this goal through three translational centers: the Models to Medicine Center, which harnesses campus research strengths in life science; the Center for Bioactive Delivery, which seeks to discover new paradigms for the discovery of optimized delivery vehicles for drugs; and the Center for Personalized Health Monitoring, which aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of low-cost, wearable, wireless sensor systems for health and biometric monitoring.

Located inside the IALS building, these core facilities — now numbering more than 30 — and their high-tech equipment are available not only to UMass researchers, but to companies that want to rent the space and equipment. For those companies, IALS provides a key resource they might not be able to afford on their own — and it could make a difference whether they invest in Western Mass. or go elsewhere.

Together, they form a pathway to commercialization — a vehicle to bring research to fruition and make an impact on society. By creating connections between research and the marketplace, IALS is doing its part to make Western Mass. a hub of innovation.

Baystate’s Expansion

Baystate Medical Center was already the region’s largest hospital — and the flagship of an ever-broadening network of hospitals and specialty practices — when it launched an ambitious, $295 million expansion, called ‘the Hospital of the Future,’ toward the end of the last decade.

‘Future,’ in this context, had multiple meanings. One was a forward-looking mindset when it came to technology, how a modern emergency room should look, and sustainable design and construction elements in the 640,000-square-foot addition. Another was the fact that Baystate left much of the new space undeveloped inside, knowing it would be needed in, well, the future.

When the new space opened in April 2012, its MassMutual Wing housed the Davis Family Heart and Vascular Center, which includes six surgical/endovascular suites designed to accommodate advanced lifesaving cardiovascular procedures, as well as 32 cardiovascular critical-care rooms that support state-of-the-art medicine. Later that year, a much larger Emergency Department opened in the new building, replacing an outdated ER that was designed to handle much less traffic than it was currently receiving.

That’s not the only way Baystate was expanding, of course. It also brought Wing Memorial Hospital and Noble Hospital into its system in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and continued adding to what has become a broad medical campus on the north end of Main Street in Springfield — not to mention its partnership with UMass Medical School in creating a downtown campus, which opened in 2016.

In short, whatever the future brings in healthcare locally, Baystate has placed itself square in the center of it.

Transformation in North Amherst

Cinda Jones, who, with her brother, Evan, represents the ninth generation of Cowls family landowners in North Amherst, has said each generation has transformed the land into what was most beneficial to the community at the time.

These days, she’s putting that philosophy to work at North Square at the Mill District. In fact, Jones’ company, W.D. Cowls Inc., and Boston-based Beacon Communities are developing three mixed-use buildings featuring 130 residential units — including 26 affordable units for people at or below 50% of the area’s median income — and 22,000 square feet of commercial space. The first residents began moving in over this past summer.

The partnership has benefited from local, state and federal support; in fact, it’s the first time that Amherst has taken advantage of legislation allowing the town to grant special tax incentives for projects that include affordable housing for low- and moderate-income tenants.

While impressive on its own, North Square reflects one of the more notable development trends in recent years: mixed-use structures in urban and village centers that generate economic vibrancy simply by putting more feet on the street.

Isenberg Climbs in the Rankings

One of the more intriguing stories from the past decade has been the steady rise of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, a facility that has taken on a new profile — on campus and across the country.

The school, which first opened its doors in 1947, is now ranked first (actually, it’s tied with UConn) among the public undergraduate business programs in the Northeast in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report listings, 11th among the best public business schools in the country, and 50th in the rankings of the best business schools overall.

These numbers have been climbing steadily over the past years as the Isenberg School has made every greater investments in its programs and faculty, an expansion initiative punctuated by the opening this year of a $62 million expansion that puts a new face on Isenberg and boldly announces its intentions to continue its rise in the ranks.

EDC on a Mission

The goal of the Economic Development Council (EDC) of Western Mass. is multi-faceted, but has long boiled down to one core mission: encouraging the growth of the region’s economy, which was pounded by the Great Recession but has since been on a decidedly upward trajectory.

Its president, Rick Sullivan, says the EDC has seen a definite uptick in site searches, both from companies in the region that want to expand and those looking at Western Mass. for the first time.

“What we’ve become is what we call an ‘honest broker,’ he said. “We treat private developers and quasi-public developers the same. When a request comes in, it goes out to everyone on the list, all the economic-development professionals in the area, and we do not care whether the development occurs in Greenfield or Agawam or anywhere in between. We just want to have growth happen in the region, and that will continue to be the case.”

Many of the searches don’t result in a business moving here, he added, but those inquiries are a good gauge of the current health of the economy and the potential of the region, and they’re coming from a range of industries, from manufacturers and construction-materials companies to warehousing operations and call centers. When the region is doing well, Sullivan said, its natural pluses, such as its position near major interstates roughly between Boston and New York, become even more attractive.

Meanwhile, the EDC has forged stronger partnerships with colleges and universities, such as a cybersecurity management program at Bay Path and water-innovation and clean-energy work at UMass Amherst. “I think you’ll see the EDC do more with higher ed,” Sullivan said. “That’s where the talent pool is.”

The economy might eventually waver, but the EDC intends to maintain a steady course when it comes to raising the profile and success of its namesake region.

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

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

People on the Move

Hector Toledo

Gov. Charlie Baker recently appointed Hector Toledo, vice president and Branch Distribution Network officer at Greenfield Savings Bank, to Greenfield Community College’s (GCC) board of trustees. One of 11 trustees, he will replace former trustee Linda Melconian. Toledo joins the board with close to 30 years of experience in banking. Before joining Greenfield Savings Bank in 2018, he held executive positions at People’s United Bank, Hampden Bank, and Bank of America. Raised in Springfield, he has spent the past 25 years volunteering for numerous nonprofits. He is a board member and chair of the finance committee for Baystate Health, a board member for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, a former chairperson of the board of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), and a board member of both the YMCA of Greater Springfield and the United Way of Pioneer Valley. Though new to the college, Toledo has served on boards alongside former GCC President Bob Pura, and is acutely aware of the life-changing impact community colleges have on the students they serve. An alum of STCC, he is of the first generation in his family to attend college. “One of the greatest qualities of community colleges in this state is the automatic support and hope given to students regardless of where they come from, their ethnicity, their gender, or their age,” Toledo said.

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Viability Inc. announced that Don Kozera will serve as interim president and CEO following the recent death of President and CEO Dick Venne. “With decades of executive leadership experience, Don rejoins Viability to provide support and guidance for the organization,” said Patricia Robinson, vice president. “During this time, Don and the board will be collaborating to identify the future needs of Viability and how we continue to develop our organization better together.”

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Karen Smith Wohlers

Karen Smith Wohlers has joined Smith Brothers Insurance and will be responsible for employee-benefits compliance and legal services. She has a strong background in human resources and compliance, which will complement Smith Brothers’ growing employee-benefits services in support of clients throughout the U.S. Previously, she was vice president of Human Resources and then chief operating officer at Square One. “Karen’s experience and impact with both nonprofit and for-profit organizations, as well as her compliance training and consulting work for the Employer Association of the NorthEast, will be a significant addition to our employee-benefits practice,” said Don Poulin, Employee Benefits practice leader at Smith Brothers Insurance.

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Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Berkshire County ran its first All-Ideas Pitch Contest at the Berkshire Museum, awarding first prize of $1,000 to Kaitlyn Pierce of Binka Bear, a product that helps wean children off pacifiers. She also won the Fan Favorite award of $500. Second place prize of $750 went to Michelle Latimer and Leia Miller for their idea 413 Bubbly, a mobile prosecco/champagne business. Third place went to Erin Laundry of Bottomless Bricks, a building-block birthday-party business with a storefront in Adams. More than 100 members of the community came to support the new business ideas, where 11 individuals were invited to showcase and eight pitched their ideas. The contest judges were Evan Valenti of Steven Valenti Clothing, Jodi Rathbun-Briggs of Greylock Federal Credit Union, John Lewis of Sp3ak Easy Studios, Laurie Mick of PERC and the city of Pittsfield, Linda Dulye of Dulye & Co., and Lindsey Schmid of 1Berkshire.

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Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality Group, announced the appointment of H. Jackson Donoyan as vice president of Operations for the growing hotel-management company. As vice president of Operations, Jackson will work closely with Eustis and Main Street’s leadership team to oversee operations at each hotel property in the portfolio. He will focus on revenue generation, operational oversight, owner relations, talent development, and strategic growth. In addition, he is tasked with stabilization and development of the brand while also enhancing the overall guest experience and reinforcing brand standards. Jackson brings a wealth of industry ingenuity to Main Street Hospitality Group, including a background opening and operating newly constructed and renovated hotels. Most recently, he was the general manager at NYLO Providence Warwick Hotel in Warwick, R.I. Prior to that, he was a hospitality consultant in Boston and held positions as the director of Food and Beverage and director of Operations/interim general manager at both the Liberty Hotel in Boston and Hotel Viking in Newport, R.I.

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Kevin Kervick

OMG Roofing Products hired Kevin Kervick as solar products business manager, reporting to Adam Cincotta, director of the company’s Adhesives/Solar Business Unit. In his new role, Kervick is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic plan for the company’s solar business, as well as for managing solar sales, product development, and profitability. For the past four years, Kervick has been a sales and marketing consultant, most recently working with the Spencer Brewery, a startup venture. Earlier, he was owner and chief Marketing officer for the Bassette Co., a commercial printing and marketing company based in Springfield. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Babson College.

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Peter Reinhart, director of the Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst, announced that six campus research teams have been named recipients of the first Manning/IALS Seed Grants. The awards will support next steps in their research, such as proof-of-concept studies, business development, and fundamental research into new products, technologies, and services to benefit human health and well-being. Earlier this year, alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program, which provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. The seed grants were awarded after a competitive process that narrowed 35 teams to six winners. Faculty researchers will receive not only seed funding of $100,000 each over three years, but also business training and mentorship from IALS, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Isenberg School of Management, among others. The winning team leaders and their projects include Derek Lovley, microbiology, “Fabricating Protein Nanowires for Unique Sensing Capabilities”; Jeanne Hardy, chemistry, “Development of Potent Zika Virus Protease Inhibitors”; S. “Thai” Thayumanavan, chemistry, and Steve Faraci, “Pre-clinical Efficacy Evaluation of Liver-targeted, Thyromimetic-encapsulated IntelliGels for the Treatment of Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis”; Neil St. John Forbes, chemical engineering, “Bacterial Delivery of Therapeutic Peptides to Treat Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma”; Shelly Peyton, chemical engineering, “GelTech to Enable Tissue-specific Drug Discovery and Help Eliminate Potential False-positive Hits from Screening”; and Madalina Fiterau Brostean, computer science, “4Thought: Unlocking Insights into Your Mental Health.” The Manning Foundation’s gift provides an investment in UMass Amherst as a partner of choice in advancing and applying knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society.

•••••

Kingbill Zhao

OMG Roofing Products announced that Kingbill Zhao has been promoted to director of Key Accounts and International Sales. He replaces Web Shaffer, who was promoted to senior vice president and general manager of the company’s FastenMaster Division. In his new role, Zhao will manage all sales and marketing activities of the company’s three key account managers, as well as the company’s international sales and its European and Asia market managers. He reports to Peter Coyne, senior vice president and general manager. Zhao joined OMG Roofing Products in January 2010 as the company’s first employee in Asia, and was instrumental in not only building its presence in China, but also in hiring the team in place now in China. Prior to joining OMG, he worked for the Chinese National Building Waterproof Assoc. as manager of the International Liaison Department. Earlier, he worked for North China Power Engineering Co. in Nigeria as commercial manager on a substation expansion project. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Beijing International Study University and is pursuing his MBA from Washington State University. He is based at the company’s Agawam headquarters.

•••••

Jessica DeFlumer-Trapp, vice president of Integration at Behavioral Health Network (BHN), recently received the Excellence in Care Integration Award at the Assoc. for Behavioral Health’s (ABH) annual “Salute to Excellence” event. In the two years DeFlumer-Trapp has served at BHN, she has been guiding the organization’s dramatic growth in medical integration and care management. Strategies to integrate behavioral and physical health are at the forefront of healthcare in BHN’s service area and in the nation. As BHN’s vice president managing behavioral and physical health integration, she is guiding new initiatives related to integration and population health. She was recognized by ABH for her ability to understand trends at the macro level as it relates to the evolving landscape in behavioral health, and bring concept and strategy to the implementation level. Prior to her current position, DeFlumer-Trapp served as BHN’s senior program manager of Population Health, where she charted the overall course of BHN’s population-health initiative, working closely with those in the areas of care management, pharmacy, health, and wellness.

People on the Move

Amy Roberts

Steven Gardner

Jacquelyn Guzie

Nicole Stevenson

Tom Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank, announced four appointments: Amy Roberts to senior vice president and chief Human Resources officer, Steven Gardner to assistant vice president and East Longmeadow Banking Center manager, Jacquelyn Guzie to assistant vice president and regional manager for First Suffield Bank (a division of PeoplesBank), and Nicole Stevenson to West Springfield Banking Center manager. Roberts oversees all human-resources and employee-engagement activities for 325 employees spread over 21 banking centers and three additional locations under development in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She leads a team that is responsible for talent recruitment and development, HR compliance, benefits, employee relations, compensation management, and HR-related associate communication. She has extensive experience in leadership development and coaching, change management, performance improvement, organizational learning and development, and employee engagement, as well as more than 20 years of experience serving in leadership positions in human resources. She holds a master’s degree in human resource development from American International College and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bridgewater State University. She has also earned certificates in leadership development and succession planning, talent development and retention, and human capital management principles from the Human Capital Institute. Roberts’ volunteer service includes serving as a board member for the Center for Human Development, the United Way of Hampshire County, Leadership Pioneer Valley, and the STCC Foundation, as well as serving as an advisory board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters and a Read Aloud volunteer for Link to Libraries. In his new position, Gardner oversees and manages all aspects of a full-service banking center, including staffing, sales, lending, operations, business development, and community relations. He has 18 years of financial-services and banking experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University and an associate degree in retail management from Holyoke Community College. He serves as vice president of the East Longmeadow Rotary Club, is a member of the ERC5 and West of the River chambers of commerce, and is a volunteer for Revitalize CDC and Junior Achievement. In her new position, Guzie is responsible for assisting in the growth of relationships for the Connecticut region. She has 20 years of banking experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an associate degree in business administration from the New England College of Business and Finance. She has served as treasurer of Suffield Chamber of Commerce and president of Suffield Rotary Club, is a member of the Asnuntuck Community College Foundation, and has volunteered for Suffield on the Green, the Suffield Business Showcase, and the Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Assoc. In her new position, Stevenson oversees and manages all aspects of the West Springfield banking center, including staffing, sales, operations, business development, and community relations. She will also ensure that the banking center exceeds service and sales goals, provides excellent customer service, operates according to all bank policies and procedures, and serves as a leader within the community. She has 10 years of banking experience. She holds an associate degree in business administration and management from Holyoke Community College. Her volunteer service includes serving as a committee member for the West Springfield St Patrick’s Day, Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade, and the Agawam St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. She also served as booth chair for Credit for Life Springfield and is a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County, second vice president of the Safe Deposit Group of Western Mass., financial group volunteer for Rays of Hope, and a volunteer for Rebuilding Together. She is a member of the finance group for JDRF, the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.

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Kevin Hurley

Kevin DeMarco

Darcy Lyle

Waterford Hotel Group announced three appointments at the Williams Inn. Kevin Hurley has been appointed general manager, Kevin DeMarco was named executive chef, and Darcy Lyle is director of sales. The new Williams Inn, located at the corner of Latham and Spring streets in Williamstown, will open on Aug. 15. Owned by Williams College, the inn will replace the current Williams Inn, which will continue to operate through July 31. With more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Hurley has dedicated his career to the hospitality industry by taking on various roles at several hotels and resorts in the U.S. in addition to his native Canada. Prior to joining the Williams Inn, he worked as assistant general manager at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester, Vt. He has also held posts at Omni Hotels and Resorts, the storied Charles Hotel in Cambridge, and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. He completed his undergraduate studies at Bishops University in Sherbrook, Quebec and later went on to earn a master certificate in hospitality management from Cornell University. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., DeMarco has honed his culinary skills up and down the East Coast over the past 13 years. He joins the Williams Inn team from the Newport Restaurant Group in Newport, R.I. His last post was as chef tournant at Castle Hill Inn, a historic Relais & Châteaux property in Newport. He also worked at Grande’s Bella Cucina in Palm Beach, Fla. and Public Kitchen & Bar in Providence. He is a SWE-certified specialist of wine and spirits. Lyle brings a wealth of knowledge to the Williams Inn with 28 years of experience in the hospitality and sales industry. Prior to joining the Williams Inn, she worked in sales at the Clark Art Institute, and has also held positions in operations and sales at numerous hotels throughout the upstate New York region, as well as the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Assoc. She attended Herkimer Community College, where she received a degree in tourist facilities and management promotion. While in school, she interned with Disney, where she found her passion for the hospitality and tourism industry.

•••••

Commissioners representing their respective Hampden and Hampshire county communities selected Kimberly Robinson to take the helm of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission as current Executive Director Tim Brennan prepares to bring his more than four decades of service in that role to a close this summer. Since 2011, Robinson has been executive director of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, which serves three counties anchored by Metro Reno, Nevada. Previous posts held by Robinson also include head planner for the city of Detroit and planning manager for the Washoe County Department of Community Development. Pending a successful contract negotiation, Robinson and Brennan will work together to identify a time over the next few months for the transition to occur.

•••••

Aimee Dalenta

Nancy Ward

Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) announced the appointment of Aimee Dalenta as chair of the Early Childhood Education Department and Nancy Ward as Early Education and Care Pathways grant and activity director. Among Dalenta’s roles is to oversee STCC’s new child development associate (CDA) plus certificate of completion program, which is designed for early-childhood educators and school paraprofessionals who want to get their CDA credential and earn college credit at the same time. Dalenta, a professional in the field of education for 14 years, has held roles as a classroom teacher, owned and operated her own preschool, and served as an educational consultant. She has worked at the college level for six years, training future teachers to succeed in the classroom. She will earn a doctorate in education from American International College in August. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Springfield College and master’s degree in education from Western New England University. In her new role, Ward will help launch STCC’s new child development associate (CDA) plus certificate of completion program. She has worked in the field of early education and care since 1987, when she began working as a resource developer at New England Farm Workers’ Council’s voucher child-care program. She became the director of the program in 1989 and continued in that role for 14 years. Ward also worked in the Early Childhood Department at the Collaborative for Educational Services for 15 years, in a variety of positions supporting the professional development of early educators. She holds a master’s of education degree in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in literacy from Lesley University in Cambridge. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at UMass Amherst.

•••••

Darlene Mark

David Babine

Monson Savings Bank announced that Darlene Mark has joined the bank as vice president and commercial loan officer, and David Babine has come on board as the bank’s newest mortgage loan originator. Formerly with Country Bank, Mark has been in banking for 20 years. Her entire banking career has been spent in commercial lending as a credit analyst, portfolio manager, and presently as a commercial loan officer. She has a bachelor’s degree and MBA in business administration from Western New England University and is also a graduate of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts School for Financial Studies at Babson College. Actively involved in the community, she is a finance committee member of Ludlow Boys and Girls Club and volunteers for Junior Achievement. Babine brings close to 20 years of experience in banking, many of those in residential lending. He is a graduate of Westfield State College with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He also obtained a master’s degree in education psychology and an advanced graduate degree in guidance counseling from the American International College. He has spent some time as a school counselor at various local high schools and volunteered as a local athletic coach.

•••••

Thomas Senecal

On June 20, the Horace Smith Fund held its 120th corporators’ meeting at the Carriage House of Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield. Present at the annual meeting were the corporators who unanimously voted to elect Thomas Senecal, president of PeoplesBank, as a new Corporator. Senecal has more than 25 years of experience in the financial-services industry. In 2016, he was elected president and CEO of PeoplesBank, previously serving as the bank’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. He is a graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and is a certified public accountant. He also attended the Tuck Executive Program at Dartmouth College. In addition to his new appointment with the Horace Smith Fund, Senecal also serves as a corporator for Loomis Communities. Following the annual meeting, the Horace Smith Fund awarded $411,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students who will be pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees this fall.

•••••

Lauryn Picknelly

Lauryn Picknelly, a fourth-generation Picknelly, recently joined the family business, Peter Pan Bus Lines, as assistant controller. She graduated magna cum laude from Providence College with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. She then worked for a year in Hartford at Deloitte before joining the family business.

•••••

Jack Vadnais

Michael Johnson

Freedom Credit Union (FCU), a Springfield-based, full-service financial institution with 11 branches throughout Western Mass., announced it now offers an in-house FCU Investment Services division, growing and enhancing a service it previously outsourced. As part of this expansion, Jack Vadnais was named director of FCU Investment Services, and Michael Johnson was hired as associate director. As director, Vadnais will manage all aspects of the division and assist clients in achieving their financial goals. He has been working with members of Freedom for eight years as a financial advisor. A Navy veteran, he is a graduate of Bridgewater State College, a certified financial planner, and a licensed insurance agent. In his role as associate director, Johnson will work mainly with Freedom’s clients in the Franklin County area, advising them about their investment portfolios and providing information about the credit union’s available financial services. Prior to joining Freedom, Johnson served for nearly 15 years as vice president and financial advisor at Greenfield Cooperative Bank. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from UMass Amherst and is a Paul Harris Fellow. A former long-time member of the Rotary Club of Franklin County, twice serving as its president, he also served as vice president of the Greenfield Community College Foundation.

MGM Springfield

From Their Perspective

Editor’s Note: As the countdown to MGM’s grand opening ticks down to the final hours, we asked a number of area business and civic leaders for their thoughts on what this momentous development means for Springfield and the surrounding region.

Nancy F. Creed

Nancy F. Creed

Nancy F. Creed, president, Springfield Regional Chamber

“MGM is already making a difference in the local economy — from job creation to utilizing local vendors and suppliers to attracting all types of folks to downtown. You see those results every day. Just this past week, I met a couple from Sardinia who were here on leisure travel. The streets are bustling with people; restaurants are filling up; people are lined up to get coffee at cafes. It is an exciting time in Springfield and in the region and I can only imagine what more is to come once they officially open!”

Richard Sullivan, president and CEO, Economic Development Council of Western Mass.

“MGM presents an exciting economic opportunity for Springfield and Western Mass. Certainly the almost $1 billion investment in downtown Springfield, the construction jobs, and now permanent 3,000 new jobs are significant. However, the real opportunity is the yearly $50 million purchase of goods and services from the existing local economy. MGM has worked diligently to fulfill this commitment. All of this investment will stay local and provide our local businesses an opportunity to grow.

MGM also presents an opportunity to grow our travel and tourism economy and our convention business. Western Mass already has a lot to offer with the Hall of Fame, Museums, Yankee Candle, Northampton restaurant scene, the Armory, and Six Flags. Adding the new casino and entertainment options brings the region’s culinary and hospitality offerings to a new level.”

Peter Rosskothen

Peter Rosskothen

Peter Rosskothen, owner, Log Cabin, Delaney House, Delaney’s Market & D. Hotel & Suites:

“I am excited about the excitement. I hope to see some new businesses in downtown soon. I know that MGM will cannibalize some of our businesses, but we should be able to compensate for that with increased tourism and the support of its employees. Increased tax revenue, plus the commitment of funds from MGM to promote tourism should increase visitation to our market. I am hopeful that this rising tide lifts all boats. Welcome MGM!”

Mary Kay Wydra

Mary Kay Wydra

Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau:

“The primary role of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau is to attract visitors to Western Mass., and MGM Springfield will certainly help us accomplish that. Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry and continuing to grow in our region. We are confident that MGM Springfield’s incredible new development with a variety of entertainment in the heart of downtown will bring more visitors. It’s our job to encourage these folks to see more, do more, and stay longer, because that translates into additional spending. All of this extra revenue enhances businesses, governments, and residents across our region alike.”

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy, chief development officer for the city of Springfield

“MGM and its $1.1 billion investment in Springfield is a game changer for the region. The job-creation, repeat vendor spending, and world-class entertainment will impact us well beyond anything we could have hoped for in the aftermath of the tornado. Trains through Union Station will provide first-class transportation south to Hartford and New York. In 2019 the service will expand as far north as Greenfield. More than 400 new units of market-rate housing have been created in the downtown. The excitement is real and it will hit home when we welcome Stevie Wonder on Sept. 1.”

Robert A. Nakosteen

Robert A. Nakosteen

Robert A. Nakosteen, professor, Isenberg School of Management, UMass Amherst

“Manufacturing activity in Springfield peaked in the 19th century, and though interrupted by two World Wars, has been in decline ever since. Though anchored by Mass Mutual and Baystate Health, employment growth in the city has been tepid or non-existent for a long time. Now, the MGM casino promises to bring renewed vitality and growth to Springfield. After a construction phase that created 2,000 jobs, once the Casino is fully operational it will employ 3000 people, with some of the hiring from long-neglected pools of available labor. To put these numbers in perspective, from 2010 through 2017, as the state economy was in a strong rebound from the “Great Recession,” Springfield added less than 4,000 jobs overall.”

Nicole Griffin

Nicole Griffin

Nicole Griffin, chief talent officer and owner, Manehire

“ManeHire is thrilled that this day has come when we can celebrate the opening of MGM Springfield. This investment will continue to induce development in the city and support both our tourist and surrounding businesses. The economic development and workforce impact MGM Springfield is providing is just what the city needed. Congratulations MGM Springfield and the residents of Springfield. We did it! #TheCityofWinners.”

Paul Robbins

Paul Robbins

Paul Robbins, president, Paul Robbins Associates Strategic Communications

“The term ‘game-changer’ is probably overused, but this may be one instance where it applies. Springfield, under many administrations, has been seeking to reinvent the core city. There have been many great ideas through the years, but each lacked the economic engine required, which MGM supplies, to create real transformational change downtown. It will be fascinating to see if and how that extends through the city center and regionally on things like job growth and housing values.”

Jack Dill

Jack Dill

Jack Dill, president, Colebrook Realty Corp.

“While I wasn’t a proponent of gaming in Springfield, I have been impressed with how MGM made the case and met its obligations through the approval and development process. Much of the impact on existing businesses in the area will depend on MGM’s ability to expand the market by drawing customers from outside the region and from other venues. If they succeed in long-term market expansion, other businesses in the food, lodging, and entertainment sectors should benefit. If they don’t succeed in growing the market, cannibalization would be an obvious outcome. I imagine MGM will make a concerted effort in the first several months to build market share and demonstrate the new casino’s value proposition; that would impact competitors of all types in the short term following the facility’s opening. We are already seeing the employment impacts in regional and local unemployment data; the Casino, CRRC, and an overall expanding regional economy have been good for job growth in segments that weren’t previously experiencing strong employment demand. We have observed wage rates and time to fill open positions reflecting this demand.”

Nate Costa

Nate Costa

Nate Costa, president, Springfield Thunderbirds

“I believe that MGM is going to be a game-changer for downtown Springfield. Everything they have planned is going to be top-notch, and first class — from their events to their facilities. To have a world-renowned brand steps away from the MassMutual Center and other downtown landmarks, I believe it will spur even more economic development and life in our city. They are also our presenting partner, and an organization that has stepped up and supported our vision from day one. We couldn’t be more excited for MGM to open their doors, and to join us in the true renaissance of a great American downtown. It truly will be a first in this city.”

Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition

“The arrival of MGM presents a number of opportunities for this region, especially with regard to tourism, conventions, meetings — bringing a wide array of groups to the Greater Springfield area. The Big E already hosts a wide array of trade shows and events, but the arrival of MGM presents a great opportunity to drive more trade-show business to this region. To say that there is now a world-class resort casino in Springfield will be a great sales tool.”

David Cruise, president and chief executive officer, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County

“The MGM casino is not about table games and entertainment, it’s about economic development and sustainable job-creation. It’s about the continued economic resurgence of the host community and the continued economic expansion of a critical region of the Commonwealth. We’ve always looked upon this as a job-creation initiative. We’ve always felt that our responsibility is to look at the broader region and make sure that the opening of MGM is a catalyst that helps everyone grow.”

John Doleva

John Doleva

John Doleva, president and CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

“The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame formally welcomes our ‘new’ neighbor, MGM, to Springfield with their beautiful new expansive complex just across the highway from the Hall of Fame. MGM has already proven to be an active, energetic and committed community partner and we know that our work together will provide visitors very unique options as they visit the Springfield region. The advent of the MGM property will be a magnet to our community and all attractions and businesses need to be prepared to put our best foot forward to complement the influx of these new and affluent customers.”

Kate Phelon

Kate Phelon

Kate Phelon, executive director of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

“Back in 2013, I remember being contacted by MGM with regards to building a casino in Springfield. While they didn’t even have the contract at that time, I must admit I was quite intrigued with the call. Fast forward to the present, and in a few days’ time, our area will have a world-renowned casino right in our back yard. We all know and understand the economic impact it will have primarily for Springfield, the vendors who were able to meander the procurement process, and those who are now employed with a prestigious enterprise. It is, no doubt, a very exciting moment for Western Massachusetts, when we are so often overlooked by major corporations. Having met and worked with several of the MGM teams over the past several years, I was impressed with their accessibility, enthusiasm, and genuine concern for fulfilling their contractual obligations. And, might I add, about wanting their guests to have an exceptionally good time. Whether you are for or against gambling, the opening of MGM will be electrifying, and only time will tell if it is sustainable.”

Agenda Departments

‘Protecting Your Assets’ Panel

April 18: Springfield Partners for Community Action Inc. will host “Protecting Your Assets Part III” starting at 6 p.m. at Springfield Central Library, 220 State St. The event is in recognition of National Financial Literacy Month and is free and open to the public. Call (413) 263-6500 to reserve a seat. This year’s panelists include Julius Lewis of the Metrocom Group and the Lewis and Marrow Financial Hour, which airs Wednesdays on STCC radio; and attorney Sara Miller, who specializes in elder law and estate planning. New this year is attorney Martin O’Connor, an authority on tax issues and who helps low-income, non-English-speaking taxpayers understand their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers.

Caritas Gala

April 21: Plans are underway for Mercy Medical Center’s second annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The gala, with its Motown-inspired theme “Reach Out,” will raise funds to support Mercy Behavioral Health Care and the Mercy Emergency Department’s Opioid Community Outreach for education, intervention, and treatment. The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Motor City Magic, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., following by a live auction and dancing until midnight with music from the band Radiance. For more information or to purchase tickets to the Caritas Gala, visit www.mercycares.com/caritas-gala.

Mayors’ Economic Forum

April 26: “Mayors Meet Millennials” is the title of the 2018 New England Knowledge Corridor Mayors’ Economic Forum at Goodwin College in East Hartford, Conn. The program begins with coffee and conversation from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., followed by the conference program from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Participating mayors include Domenic Sarno (Springfield), Richard Kos (Chicopee), Marcia Leclerc (East Hartford), Erin Stewart (New Britain), and Luke Bronin (Hartford). Registration options and more information will be available soon.

BFAIR Annual Meeting

April 27: Berkshire Family & Individual Resources Inc. (BFAIR) will host its annual meeting at Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. The breakfast, set to begin at 7:30 a.m., will include the presentation of several awards for employee recognition, as well as the recognition of the community partner of the year, Richard Alcombright, former mayor of North Adams, longtime advocate for people with disabilities, and currently serving as vice president, Local Business & Customer Relations manager at MountainOne. Additionally, the chairman of the board will offer remarks on the organization’s continued expansion throughout the Berkshires and into Hampden and Hampshire counties. This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Chris May, an advocate and photographer with Down syndrome. This event is sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union. The cost is $10 per person. To attend the annual meeting, RSVP by Friday, April 20 to Carol Fox at (413) 664-9382, ext. 40, or [email protected], or online at www.bfair.org.

Document Shred Day

April 28: Kelley & Malmborg Investment Consulting Group announced it will host a document shred day event on Saturday, April 28 at 9 a.m. at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz St. The event, co-hosted by Valley Green Shredding, is open to the public, with all proceeds going to the Northampton Senior Center. Shredding will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the truck is full or 11 a.m., whichever comes first. A maximum of three boxes per car will be accepted, with a $5 minimum donation. No household items, electronics, metal clips, or rubberbands will be accepted.

Financial-industry Forum

May 3: Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a partnership between Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), will host an employer-engagement forum focused on the financial-services industry from 8 to 10 a.m. at STCC’s Scibelli Hall, Rooms 701 and 702. The forum will provide financial professionals with information on workforce-development training opportunities and related services offered by experienced trainers from HCC and STCC. TWO representatives also will discuss how regional businesses can secure Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Grants to enhance training efforts for their workers. The forum is geared toward financial professionals and their businesses, with the goal of gathering input about workforce-development needs. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided. The deadline to register is April 27. To register, visit www.eventbrite.com and search ‘STCC.’

Community Shredding Day

May 11: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. is partnering with Pro-Shred Security and Century Investment Co. to hold a community shredding day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Century Shopping Center, 219 Memorial Ave., West Springfield (to the right of Bob’s Discount Furniture). Shredding protects private information, and recycling helps the environment. This event is free and open to the public (four-box limit), with a donation of a non-perishable food item for a local food pantry.

Excel Skill Training

May 14-18: Tech Foundry will offer a four-day Excel skill training the week of May 14-18 (every day but May 16) from 9 a.m. to noon at 1391 Main St., ninth floor, Springfield. Because its first Excel class offered to area companies and their employees was such a success, Tech Foundry is eager to meet the Excel needs of more area employers and their employees. The class will cover advanced formulas; tables and formatting; conditional formatting; advanced charting; pivot tables and pivot reporting; VBA and macros; using Excel productively; data tables, simulations, and Solver; Excel integration; and optimizing Excel. The cost per student is $750. To register, e-mail [email protected]. Employers with fewer than 100 employees are eligible for a 50% tuition reimbursement from Commonwealth Corp.

NAMI Walkathon

May 20: The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts will be holding its 18th annual walkathon, “A Journey of Hope and Recovery,” at Stanley Park’s Beveridge Pavilion Annex in Westfield from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The walk is suitable for all ages and will directly benefit the continuing efforts of NAMI – Western Mass. to help improve the lives of individuals living with mental illness and their families. Among the festivities will be guest speakers, entertainment, refreshments, and raffles. For further information, call (413) 786-9139 or visit www.namiwm.org/events for entry and sponsorship forms. Volunteers are needed.

‘Thrive After 55’ Wellness Fair

June 15: State Sen. Eric Lesser and Health New England announced that they will host the second annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Springfield College’s Blake Athletic Complex, located at 263 Alden St., Springfield. The fair is free and open to the public. With more than 40 local organizations ranging from health and fitness to nutrition to elder law, the event will connect residents of the First Hampden & Hampshire District with information and resources to help them thrive. The free program includes a boxed lunch, educational seminars, hundreds of raffle prizes, and access to information and experts to talk to. To RSVP, call (413) 526-6501 or visit www.senatorlesser.com/thrive.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018, which will be unveiled in the April 30 issue of BusinessWest. The 40 Under Forty sponsors include PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), Isenberg School of Management, the MP Group, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, Health New England, Development Associates, Renew.Calm, and YPS of Greater Springfield (partner). Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available), and the event always sells out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected] Also at the gala, the fourth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Nominations will be received at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-continued-excellence-award until May 14. Candidates must hail from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007-17 — and will be judged on qualities including outstanding leadership, dedicated community involvement, professional achievement, and ability to inspire. The award’s presenting sponsor is Northwestern Mutual.