Home 2003 November

Since taking the reins at the United Way of the Pioneer Valley early this year, Jim Horne has been working hard to make the agency more visible in the communities it serves. His broad goal is to see the institution evolve from an organization that merely raises money and then distributes it, into one that helps communities identify needs, establish priorities, and set agendas.
Jim Horne says that, historically, the United Way has been an organization known for raising money and then allocating it. It’s also been known as a group that is anywhere and everywhere during the annual fall campaign, but then goes into hibernation when it’s over.

Since he became president and CEO of the United Way of the Pioneer Valley (UWPV) in January, Horne has been working overtime to change both of those long-held perceptions.

He wants the United Way to be known as group that doesn’t just ask for money every September. Rather, he wants it understood that this is an organization actively involved in the cities and towns it serves — one that takes a leadership role in determining where and how investments should be made in area communities.

In other words, he wants the organization to be part of the agenda-setting process in those communities it serves.

Meanwhile, he’s been working to significantly raise the United Way’s profile in those communities, with the goal of familiarizing people with its purpose, and letting people know that when they take part in a YMCA program or join the Girl Scouts, they’re benefiting from United Way-funded agencies, or partners, as they’re now known.

In his first nine months at the helm, Horne, 43, has made visibility a priority — for himself and the United Way as a whole. He’s spoken to every Rotary Club in the region and has been a regular on the chamber of commerce breakfast circuit. But he’s also gone much further in his efforts to get to know the cities and towns in the area and the issues that impact them.

"I want to establish relationships," he explained. "To do that, you have to really know a community, its leaders, and its issues. I’ve spent a lot of time in Holyoke, Chicopee, Westfield, Palmer, Monson, and all the other communities we serve; I’m doing a lot of listening, and I’m showing them the face of the United Way."

Horne, who came to Western Mass. after a stint as vice president and COO of the Akron, Ohio-area United Way, told BusinessWest that United Ways across the country are facing a number of challenges today.

For starters, he noted that, while Baby Boomers and those who preceded them generally understand the United Way and the reasons for its existence, the younger generations do not, and they need to be convinced there is still a place for it. "It’s not enough to say we’ve been around since 1918 — that’s not going to cut it," he said. "We need to show people that through our work, we can make the community stronger."

Meanwhile, the business landscape has changed across this region and the entire country. The large corporations that facilitated fundraising efforts for United Way chapters are disappearing from the landscape, replaced by smaller businesses whose employees and managers are much more difficult to reach.

Locally, Horne said, there is a perception that the United Way is a Springfield organization, leaving many in area suburbs with questions about if and how the organization benefits them. At the same time, the local business community’s involvement in the UWPV has declined over the past decade or so, he said, adding that he wants to "re-engage" many business leaders.

Since arriving in January, Horne has been addressing all these issues simultaneously. His first priority has been to make the United Way more visible — 12 months of the year — but he is also working to make sure the organization is heard, not just seen, and that, more importantly, it listens.

The Job at Hand

"Upside potential."

That’s the phrase Horne used to describe the UWPV, and the reason why he chose that organization over a United Way in Michigan that was also vying for his services.

While he didn’t actually use the term, Horne implied that the local organization has been underachieving in recent years — from a fundraising perspective and several others — and he saw an opportunity to achieve profound growth.

"I like challenges," he said, noting that, while the UWPV has been successful in raising millions for the dozens of groups it supports, it lags statistically compared to other United Ways nationwide. For example, the UWPV has 12 ’major gift’ donors ($10,000 and above), while other groups its size average between 30 and 50. Meanwhile, the UWPV has 600 gifts in the $1,000-to-$9,000 range (the group known locally as the "Pillar Society"), while others its size have 800 to 900.

Overall, the UWPV has a rate of participation (those who donate) of about 26%, while the national average is closer to 35%. Over the past several years, fundraising has been flat (at or around the $6 million mark), Horne said, noting that there have been several factors contributing to this, including the sluggishness of the economy, a sharp decline in the number of major employers, and some campaign strategies that haven’t been effective in getting the message out.

Beyond the dollars raised, however, the UWPV has some work to do to become more involved in the communities it serves, he said, and move beyond the roles of fundraiser and check-writer.

"I looked at the two geographic areas that I was considering and what their needs were, and became intrigued by the possibilities in the Springfield area," he said. "I wanted to be part of raising the profile of this United Way."

Horne has been involved with the United Way since 1994, but he likes to say that the relationship began much earlier, when, as a 10-year-old growing up in Bridgeport, Conn., he would venture to the city’s Boys & Girls Club after school while his mother, a single parent, worked.

The club was a beneficiary of United Way funding, but he didn’t know it at the time. He would find that out nearly two decades later, when, as a production analyst for Sikorsky Aircraft, he became a loaned executive for the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County.

Active in the Bridgeport community — he was on the school board for three terms — Horne enjoyed the work as a loaned executive so much he decided in 1994 to make a career change and join the organization. He described it as a difficult decision, but one he has never regretted.

"I loved the work I did at Sikorsky … I enjoyed my assignments there, which included product support for the presidential fleet and being involved with some experimental projects," he said. "When the offer was put in front of me and I was trying to decide which way to go, my vice president at Sikorsky, who was also board chair for the United Way, sat me down and asked me where my passion was, and where I saw myself being the most productive in the future.

"I really enjoyed helping people see the value of supporting the community through philanthropy," he continued. "It was my experience then that a lot of folks didn’t understand fully the work that the United Way was involved with and how that work improved the community. I realized that there was enormous potential to engage the business community and potential donors to support the United Way."

He started in Bridgeport as a campaign division manager, and in two years became executive vice president of that United Way. He left in April 2000 to become vice president of the United Way of Summit County, Ohio, and eventually assumed the title of chief operating officer there.

Summit County is what’s known as a metro-1 United Way — one that exceeds $10 million in fundraising — and Horne was enjoying his work there, but he desired to direct his own United Way. Late last year, he became one of 70 candidates vying for the opportunity to succeed long-time UWPV director Ty Joubert.

Horne has spent his first several months in the region getting to know the communities served by the UWPV, and also setting a course for expanding the organization’s role in the region.

The Buck Stops Here

When asked how to go about improving the UWPV’s fundraising numbers, Horne said that assignment has a number of components. Generally, however, it comes down to two factors: access and education. In other words, the organization needs to get in front of more people, and when it does, it needs to present a strong case for the United Way and its partner organizations.

The first task becomes more complicated in today’s business community, one dominated by small companies rather than large corporations, he said. In years past, the United Way could visit those large employers and make a presentation that would reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Today, there are only a handful of companies in that category, while the numbers of sole proprietorships, home businesses, and telecommuters are on the rise.

And in many smaller businesses, time-strapped managers don’t have the hours in the day to offer a lengthy program highlighting the reasons why someone should give generously to the local United Way.

To reach the managers and employees of smaller companies, as well as professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and dentists, the UWPV will rely on modern tools like the Internet and direct mail, said Horne, and it will also make more and better use of volunteers who have connections to those in hard-to-reach groups and can provide access.

"What we know is that people give to people," he continued. "And people give to causes — good causes."

Which brings Horne to the second part of the equation — education. "Once we get access, I feel we have a compelling message," he said. "We can show people that, when they contribute to the United Way, they can make their community stronger."

Horne was hesitant to set hard goals for the UWPV, but he believes the organization can reach the $8 million-to-$10 million mark within the next decade.

"If all things remain constant, I think we can get to that level," he said, adding quickly that he will likely need more support from the business community to get there.

"There are a number of community leaders and business leaders who are actively engaged in improving the quality of life in the Pioneer Valley," Horne told BusinessWest. "One of my goals is to find ways to increase their involvement with the United Way’s agenda and have them become a greater part of our work."

"Looking back at the ’70s and ’80s, we had more involvement from the business community," he continued. "While things have improved somewhat in recent years, we still have a number of opportunities to re-engage."

While working to improve fundraising totals, Horne said he also wants the United Way to play a much larger role in setting priorities for how the funds that are raised are allocated — and he said the two initiatives are in many ways intertwined.

"When we increase the visibility of the United Way, and people see us as a true community partner," he said, "I believe people will donate more and they’ll donate more often."

Horne said the goal for the UWPV is to be part of the agenda-setting process, which is somewhat of a departure from its historical mission, but a necessary evolutionary step if the organization wants younger generations to fully understand its purpose and importance to the community.

"Our current process is to raise money in the campaign and then talk with our community agencies to understand better what programs they’d like for us to invest in," he said. "Part of our new strategy is to continue conversations with those member agencies, but also expand them to other service providers and potential programming partners so that we’re better understanding how to maximize our resources."

Ultimately, the goal is to create partnerships with a broader range of non-profit groups, said Horne, who told BusinessWest the shift is part of a nationwide trend toward moving well beyond fund allocation.

Part of the process of partnering with communities is convincing area residents and business leaders that the UWPV is not a Springfield organization, he said, and to that end, the chapter this year staged five campaign kickoff events, instead of the one program traditionally held in Springfield.

"That’s one of the ways we’re making the campaign more personal," he explained, adding that the UWPV is also encouraging its employees to become more involved in their communities by joining civic and fraternal groups and taking roles with neighborhood organizations, human services agencies, and economic development bodies.

"The more people are involved, the better they can help assess the needs of a community and find ways to address those needs," he said. "That’s part of the process of becoming better partners."

United Front

Horne said it wasn’t until he became a loaned executive that he realized that, as a youth, he was benefiting from programs supported by the United Way.

He told BusinessWest that he doesn’t want people to recognize 20 years after the fact that their lives have been improved thanks in part to the United Way.

Through awareness, visibility, and active involvement in area communities, Horne wants to raise the United Way’s profile. By doing so, he knows he can also raise a few more dollars.


The mayoral race in Springfield is over, and Charles Ryan has emerged as the city’s next leader. He won a position it seemed that no one else wanted, and in the weeks and months ahead, he’ll come to fully understand why the field was so slim.

This will be a very challenging time for the city — and especially the person in the corner office. The city is currently in very shaky financial condition, and, by most estimates, things are going to get worse before they get any better.

The budget will be the first priority for Ryan, and he has already given an indication of some strategies he will use to improve the bottom line. These include more conservative spending policies (which are certainly necessary) and also more aggressive pursuit of delinquent property taxes and a campaign to compel the state to fund more of its obligations to cities and towns, including Springfield.

Getting more money from the state — not to mention tax deadbeats — will be very difficult, and we wish him luck with these assignments.

While going to work on the city’s finances, Ryan will have some other challenges, many related directly to the vitality of the city’s business community. At the top of this list, we believe, is restoring a sense of confidence and respect in City Hall. Both of these have been lost in the last term of the Albano administration, and it falls upon Ryan to restore a sense of integrity to the city.

Most members of the Albano administration would disagree, but we believe that the recent undercurrent of corruption and favoritism in City Hall has hurt Springfield’s efforts with economic development. Employers and entrepreneurs looking for places to start or expand a business have many options — locally and across the region — and we sense that many are looking elsewhere, and will continue to do so unless or until they can view Springfield as a business-friendly community where leadership is not pushed and pulled by influence peddlers.

There are other matters on Ryan’s to-do list, however.

For starters, there will be some key appointments, starting with leadership of the Community Development Depart-ment and the Law Department, two posts that are vital for the health and well-being of the city’s business community. Finding good talent will be a challenge, but we believe Ryan can find people committed to Springfield who are willing to serve.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of the city’s Building Department, which is certainly broken and in need of fixing.

As we said several months ago, the Building Department has no real leadership — there is no head of that department at present — and this fact has led to a frustrating backlog of work that has slowed many companies’ plans for development and expansion.

Ryan said many times during the campaign that bulking up the Building Department and giving it the resources to do its job will be one of his priorities. We hope he follows through with this promise and makes an appointment based on qualifications, not politics.

Lastly, we believe Ryan needs to listen and give the business community a stronger voice. Recently, it seems, many policy decisions have been made without clear input from business leaders.

Ryan will have a good opportunity to listen at a business summit set for Dec. 4. Organized by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Springfield Business Development Corp. and sponsored by Banknorth, the summit will provide area business leaders with a chance to set an agenda.

We urge Springfield business owners and managers to take part in that summit and become part of the process. And we encourage the Ryan administration to take what comes from that meeting as a good starting point for his economic development strategy.

There will be no shortage of challenges ahead for Ryan and the team he assembles to lead Springfield. But with every challenge comes an opportunity, and we look upon this new administration as a vehicle for moving Springfield forward.

Sections Supplements

In response to alarming statistics concerning the health and well-being of Springfield’s children, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation has launched its Cherish Every Child Initiative. The multi-faceted effort is a proactive attempt on the part of the foundation to secure a better future for Springfield, and the business community is being urged to get involved because the effort is as much about economic development as it is quality of life.

John Davis likes to relay the story he heard about a traditional greeting among the people of one village in Africa that translates into ’how are the children?’

"It’s not ’hi,’ or ’how are you?,’ or ’what’s happening?’" said Davis. "But, ’how are the children?’ That’s poignant, because that’s how any culture should gauge how healthy it is — by how well the children are doing."

It is with this mindset that Davis, former president of American Saw & Mfg. In East Longmeadow, and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, the philanthropic organization he serves as a trustee, launched an ambitious campaign called the "Cherish Every Child Initiative." The program, as the name would indicate, turns the spotlight on Springfield’s children — who are not nearly as healthy (figuratively and literally) as anyone would like.

Launched in 2000, the Cherish Every Child Initiative was designed to pinpoint the needs of the children in the state’s third-largest city — most of which are obvious — and to identify ways to address these needs, which are anything but obvious.

Davis — who refers to the initiative as a Springfield endeavor, not a Davis Foundation endeavor — described it as a proactive effort to improve the quality of life for Springfield’s children, and as such it represents a departure from the role of this and most other foundations.

"A lot of our gifts over the years have gone to children’s agencies, and much of that gifting was in reaction to someone coming to us with a need or a problem," he said. "We decided to take a different approach and say, ’what are the needs? … what can we do about them in a proactive manner to stem some of the problems?’"

Through a series of meetings involving government leaders, educators, human services officials, health care providers, and members of the business community, the initiative has identified several targets in an overarching plan for the delivery of integrated, high-quality services to young children and their families. The recommendations include plans to:

• Strengthen and coordinate services to families;

• Ensure early education and care for all children age 5 and under;

• Strengthen the early childhood workforce;

• Promote and sustain programs to optimize the health and well-being of young children and their families;

• Raise incomes for the families of young children;

• Encourage recreational and cultural enrichment;

• Establish quality of life indicators for Springfield’s young children and collect and disseminate reliable data on their status; and

• Develop a community awareness campaign.

Working groups have been addressing each of these recommendations, said Mary Walachy, executive director of the Davis Foundation, who told BusinessWest that a status report is due later this month. When it comes out, the groups that have been working on the initiative will have a better road map for reaching their destination, she said, but the bumps in that road will be many.

"All of the recommendations we’ve identified come with challenges," she said. "There won’t be any quick fixes to these problems, but together we can do things to provide a better future for these children."

Walachy said that one of the initiative’s major thrusts has been early education, and support of an endeavor called Early Education for All, which would provide free pre-school programs for every child in the state. The legislation now working its way through Beacon Hill is exemplary of the type of public policy the initiative is backing to improve the quality of life for Springfield children — and provide a better-educated workforce for the future in the process, she said.

Margaret Blood, who is heading the Early Education of All initiative, is also a consultant to the Cherish Every Child Initiative, and conducted interviews that helped identify the eight target recommendations. She called the effort unique in many ways and also a possible model for communities and states across the country.

"What the initiative has done is convene the community to address the issue of Springfield’s children," she said. "That’s important because that’s how these problems can be solved — with everyone pulling in the same direction." Blood told BusinessWest that the region’s business community must lend its support to the initiative, in part because it has the resources and the clout to influence decision-makers on public policy affecting children and families. But it is also a matter of self-preservation; healthier, better-educated children will create a stronger, more versatile workforce down the road, she said.

Davis concurred. "The business community has to look at its contributions to this initiative, whatever they are — time, money, energy — as investments," he said. "They won’t see any return on those investments in a day or a year, but they will be there in the long run."

Not Child’s Play

Davis told BusinessWest that as he and others first started tossing around the idea of rallying a city around a program to improve the lives of Springfield’s children, the concept seemed like pie in the sky. But he said the sobering statistics kept driving home the necessity of such a campaign.

Those numbers paint a grim picture:

• 39% of the children under 18 (about 2,624 individuals) live in poverty, as defined by the federal government — a three-member household earning $14,630 or less;

• Approximately 18% of Springfield’s households with children are headed by a single parent;

• Almost 63% of children under age 5 who are living in a female-headed household are poor;

• Amost 20% of the 2,000 babies born to Springfield women each year are born to mothers under the age of 20;

• Approximately 38% of these babies are born to mothers who receive inadequate prenatal care;

• 10% of babies are born with low birth weights, and each year, approximately 20 of these babies die before their first birthday;

• Approximately 8% of Springfield’s young children are not covered by health insurance, and there is an extreme lack of routine dental care among thousands of children.

The Cherish Every Child Initiative is working to pull various constituencies — including the business community — together to do something about these statistics, said Walachy. She noted that the foundation, with its clout in the region, especially among non-profit groups vying for donations, has the ability to tear down many of the silos that segregate the groups working on various social issues, and get people in a room.

Once in that room, the goal is to get those groups together to identify needs and collect the hard data required to effect public policy and bring about change, said Walachy, placing emphasis on the need to qualify and quantify the challenges facing children and their families.

"We need to look at what the data is telling us about the children of Springfield," she said. "And then we need to look at what the research is telling us about we ought to be doing about the data we’ve collected, and then from there we have to look at what roles we and everyone else can play."

The enormity of the assignment has prompted many to question where and how to start, said Walachy, who told BusinessWest that all eight recommendations are being addressed at once, and the broad goal is to development a strategic plan of action.

"We start at ’A,’ and eventually we’ll get to ’Z,’" she said, adding that the process with each of the recommendations begins with an understanding of current conditions, and then moves on to setting realistic goals and devising specific methods for achieving them.

She and Davis both stressed that hard data is the key is to not only understanding the issues, but creating real change.

"You need data to make scientific decisions," said Davis. "Anyone can say, ’I think this,’ or ’I think that.’ But we don’t want to guess — we want to know what we’re up against."

One of the key elements of the initiative is public policy, said Walachy, noting that the problems facing Springfield’s children and their families cannot be solved by one foundation, despite its resources and its clout.

"The Davis Foundation isn’t going to end poverty for the children of Springfield, and it isn’t going to increase the pay scales, respect, and educational opportunities for our early childhood workforce," she said. "So a critical component of this work is in the public policy arena and the setting of an agenda that will address these areas we’ve identified."

School of Thought

To illustrate the initiative’s purpose — as well as the many layers of challenges awaiting those involved with this effort — Davis, Wallachy, and Blood focused on one of the recommendations, early childhood education, and a bill before the Legislature to spend $1.2 billion a year for voluntary half-day programs for all children ages 3 and 4 and for full-day kindergarten for 5-year-olds, regardless of their family’s income.

The plan is ambitious, said Blood, who told BusinessWest that the initiative has the backing of a number of business and labor groups — including AIM, the Mass High Tech Council, the AFL-CIO, and the United Auto Workers — that rarely come together on issues of this nature. The concept is also backed by statistics showing that, when children get a quality early education, they have fewer problems later on.

"The research is clear — a child who has a quality early childhood education does better in life," she said, citing data showing that the most critical learning period for humans is from birth to age 5. "They are more successful, they stay out of jail; quality early education cuts down on welfare, it cuts down on special education — there is a huge return on investment."

Those supporting the bill are stressing its long-term economic benefits, not its feel-good elements, and a $300,000 media campaign that began last month has been driving those points home.

But despite the statistical evidence, the "unusual constellation of supporters for the bill," as Blood called it, and the intense lobbying effort, the legislation is facing long odds for funding— at least for the immediate future.

With the state staring at an estimated $2 billion deficit and many popular programs facing cutbacks, both state Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran say it will be difficult to fund the bill this year.

And if and when it is funded, there are other issues that will emerge, said Blood, noting that the Commonwealth currently has no statewide vision on how to attract and train the teachers necessary to provide all that early education.

Pay scales in Boston for such positions are about $8 to $10 per hour, she noted, and even worse elsewhere. Unless there is a profound change in how early education teachers are valued — and compensated — there will be problems finding adequate numbers of teachers.

But Blood views the early education campaign — one she has poured three years of her life into — as a marathon, and she says the Cherish Every Child Initiative looks upon its work in the same way.

"We’re looking at this for the long haul — Springfield has the third-highest child poverty rate in the state, and Cherish Every Child is not going to make a huge dent in that tomorrow," said Walachy, who told BusinessWest that the immediate goal is for the community to take ownership of children’s issues and not view them as someone else’s problems.

For the business community, this means coming to understand that investments in children today will generate a stronger workforce tomorrow. Beyond that, however, steps to curb poverty and make children healthier will leave the community with fewer financial burdens, said Davis.

"Most business owners are long-term thinkers — they don’t invest in a new machine and look for the payback the next day," he said. "We want them to understand that the same works when you invest in children; the payback isn’t immediate, but there is a return on investment."

Young Ideas

Summing up the Cherish Every Child Initiative, Davis said it is "a process, not a lightning bolt."

By that, he meant that this is an initiative with no quick fixes, a campaign that will have hard-earned results that may not be seen for many years.

And it’s a process that would move more quickly and more effectively if more people would ask the question, ’how are the children?’


The Longmeadow firm Holland & Bonzagni has developed a national and international reputation for expertise in all facets of intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and, increasingly, cyber law. The firm’s principals describe this specialty as rewarding work that requires a blend of law and science — and healthy doses of patience.

It’s called the kempshall welt.

That’s the term that has come to describe the buildup of plastic that occurs when the two hemispheres of a golf ball cover come together during the manufacturing process.

The method of removing the welt and creating a virtually seamless golf ball is a process — one that is protected from use by competitors by a patent, said Donald Holland, a principal with the Longmeadow firm Holland Bonzagni, which specializes in intellectual property law and helped secure the patent for the client.

Holland told BusinessWest that when most people think of patents, they think of landmark inventions, the formula for Coca Cola, or the mix of herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, patents can be used to give individuals exclusivity on any new, useful, or unobvious process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter — or a new and useful improvement to any of the above.

"That includes the kempshall welt and the method for removing it," said Holland, who told BusinessWest that trademark protection extends well beyond the name a corporation puts on a product, and that a copyright can protect everything from a literary work to a storefront design — but many people in business don’t know these things.

Protecting that which the client needs to protect is at the heart of intellectual property law, said Holland, who described his field — one that boasts some 11,000 lawyers in private practice or working for the government — as an intriguing blend of law and science that he and partner Mary Bonzagni both find extremely rewarding.

That’s because much of their work involves helping entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. And they have helped several people in the Pioneer Valley and beyond navigate the rigorous course required to turn an idea into reality.

The firm has also represented clients in cases where a product, a name, or even a look was being used improperly by another party. One such case involved Deerfield-based Yankee Candle, which had watched competitor New England Candle Company essentially copy the look of the front of Yankee’s retail outlets at its Enfield store.

This may sound like a case of Goliath squashing David, and the press portrayed it that way, said Bonzagni, but protecting what is yours is part of doing business.

"That was important to Yankee Candle because they wanted to expand their mall stores without being afraid that other people would copy the design and dilute their reputation," she said. "What prompted them to take action was the fact that so many customers were confused; one customer even went into New England Candle and, when making her purchase, wrote out a check to Yankee Candle — which the defendant cashed!"

Other customers were taking New England Candle products back to Yankee Candle, claiming they were inferior and wanting their money back, said Bonzagni, adding that any time a company’s reputation is on the line, it has to take steps to protect it.

If there is any downside to work in the field of intellectual property, said Holland, it is watching so many of the companies that the firm becomes involved with fail to reach maturity. "That’s the frustrating part … maybe one in 10 small businesses actually makes it," he said. "There are a lot of good things we’ve seen that just don’t succeed because people don’t know how to delegate — they don’t know how to let go.

"When we do get that one client that makes it," he added, "it’s a lot of fun."

Holland, who opened his practice 22 years ago, says the firm has enjoyed steady growth over the past several years as its reputation has grown internationally. Like other fields within the law, this one has its ups and downs depending on the state of the economy, and at the moment, business is booming overall — if not locally. But he expects the region, which is about a year behind the rest of the country in terms of recovery, by his estimate, to rebound in the year ahead, bringing more new products and startups into the pipeline.

BusinessWest looks this month at this unique firm and the work it does to help move ideas forward.

Down to a Science

When asked how she ventured into the world of patents and trademarks, Bonzagni said she was working with the solid waste management products firm Camp Dresser and McKee on a sludge-recycling project in Detroit when it occurred to her that there might be something else she could do with her degree in organic chemistry.

She enrolled at Western New England College School of Law and, while there, was encouraged by a professor to take her background in science and apply it to patent law.

Holland also took an intriguing route to his current profession. He earned a degree in statistics from Colgate University, but decided soon after graduating that he did not want to keep track of batting averages or chart trends in mortality.

He actually convened a group of professionals in various trades to gain input on possible career paths. One of the people he invited to lunch happened to be a patent attorney. "He fascinated me the most," said Holland, who told BusinessWest he first earned an Aerospace Engineering degree from UConn, and later his Law degree from the University of Miami.

He worked for several years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office working on rotary pumps and turbines for jet engines before creating Holland & Associates in 1981. Bonzagni joined the firm in 1989, and an associate, John Kramer — who holds an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a master’s in Intellectual Property, joined the company in 1999. The firm also has two legal assistants — Cari Mazza and Karen Alberts — who conduct research and provide other forms of assistance to the lawyers and their clients.

The Holland & Bonzagni team specializes in all facets of intellectual property law, and has helped a number of entrepreneurs take concepts off the drawing board and into the marketplace.

Bonzagni has done a good deal of work for paper companies, including one area firm that makes security threads for currency. She has helped secure patents for not only the threads, but the processes for embedding them in the bills. She has also worked recently with a Pittsfield-based venture — New Energies Solutions Inc. — that is moving forward with its development of fuel cells.

Holland, meanwhile, has represented individuals who have developed products ranging from golf ball dimple patterns to mufflers for jet engines, hand tools to security blankets for children called "Taggies." The engine mufflers, known as "hush kits," help plane owners keep older models in the sky longer, and they actually enable a plane to fly faster and more efficiently. The mufflers, selling for $1.6 million each, went on the market last month after several years of development and testing.

Holland has done quite a bit of work for those in the sporting goods industry, primarily golf. He has represented a company called Big Bend Inc., which has developed golf balls that reduce slices and hooks. He also worked with Chicopee-based Hoppe Tool on securing patents for new golf ball molds and the kempshall welt-removal process. He later did work for Wilson and Spalding on golf ball and club innovations.

The firm’s clients are generally industrial corporations, both foreign and domestic, and include manufacturers of aircraft, food, paper products, medical equipment, computer software, chemicals, electronic components, and other high-tech items. It also services chains of restaurants, hospitals, and other businesses to protect their products — and their reputations.

Indeed, roughly half the firm’s work is in the category of stopping counterfeiters and unauthorized copies of products, or knock-offs, as they’re known.

The Yankee Candle case was perhaps the most high-profile example, said Holland, but there have been many others.

Several years ago, he represented a manufacturer of printed placemats, towels, and other household items in an action against the Christmas Tree Shops chain of discount retail stores, which had commissioned Asian manufacturers to create cheaper knock-offs.

"I worked with eight teams comprised of sheriffs and employees of the client," he said. "We went in and seized 117,000 infringing units from Christmas Tree Shops. We first did some investigation into which of their stores were selling the products, and then we went to court to file a complaint. In the meantime, we had sheriffs in the stores with clickers counting the units sold so we could figure out what kind of damages we had.

"Christmas Tree Shops bought seconds from our client one year, and they sold out in no time," he continued. "The next year, they wanted firsts at seconds prices, and when our client said ’no,’ Christmas Tree Shops admitted under oath at a deposition that they took the client’s catalog, took it to two sources in India, and said, ’reproduce this.’ Within six weeks, the chain had written the plaintiff a six-figure check and become its best customer."

Getting a Rough Idea

Ferreting out knock-off artists and helping clients recover damages is among the most rewarding work in this field — "it makes it fun to come to work," said Holland, who told BusinessWest that both he and Bonzagni have worked with national corporations that make some of the most recognizable products in business.

Recently, for example, Holland mediated a case involving Ben & Jerry’s and its ice cream product known as "Chunky Monkey." A woman claimed the name was hers — she had put it on a children’s book — and sought damages. (He was not at liberty to reveal the nature of the settlement.)

However, most of their work would be considered much more mundane — although no less important — such as trying to help a client or potential client determine if a product or process has already been invented, and if an idea is "patentable."

This can be a fairly involved process — and a potentially expensive one — because a number of steps and government agencies are involved. Thus, the firm is committed to having clients and potential clients spend time, energy, and money only when it is warranted.

Much of the work that the firm does falls into the category of education, said Bonzagni, who told BusinessWest that most entrepreneurs, young or old, are too involved with the development of a product or service, and then the day-to-day operations of the venture they’ve created, to focus on protecting their rights and their trade secrets.

Thus, the firm gives tailored seminars on a wide variety of subjects, such as: Managing and Expanding Your Trademark Portfolio; Trade-secrecy Protection; Seizing Counterfeit Goods; Protecting Your Product’s Color and Packaging; Licensing Technology; Cyber-piracy; and Protecting Software.

The firm also posts regular newsletters on its Web site, www.hblaw.org. This fall’s edition, for example, has articles on the recently enacted Madrid Protocol (see page 72) — which dramatically reduces the costs of international trademark protection — and tips for deterring would-be copiers.

Holland has also authored a booklet — used by many major corporations — titled Corporate Guide to Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets, now in its fourth edition.

These educational endeavors are components of the firm’s larger efforts to partner with clients and potential clients, said Holland. He told BusinessWest that, in that role, Holland & Bonzagni works to help companies and individuals avoid some of the costly mistakes and missteps they can make while trying to get a venture off the ground or protect a product, name, or trade secret.

The processes for obtaining a patent, trademark, copyright, or even a domain name, while not necessarily complicated, are more easily navigated when individuals or corporations have the right information, and this is what the firm provides.

Ideally, the firm would like to help improve a venture’s odds of succeeding, said Holland, adding that this starts by gauging the commitment of the party involved and its willingness to do the grunt work necessary to take an idea to the marketplace. This starts with a patent search and a determination of whether a product is actually new. Holland & Bonzagni can conduct that search, but it would rather the potential client do it.

"When people come to see us, we give them a homework assignment to try and weed out those who aren’t serious," he said. "We don’t want people to spend their money needlessly.

"We want them to invest emotionally, and we want them to invest time," he continued. "If we’re going to spend our time, we want to make sure they have the organizational skills to make their product fly. If they won’t commit to that amount of time, their business isn’t going to make it."

No Secret to Their Success

Holland told BusinessWest that his firm has a framed copy of the check made out to Yankee Candle by that confused customer years ago.

It’s a symbol, he said, of the importance of protecting that which identifies a product or a company — be it a name, a label, a color, or, in this case, a storefront design.

This is the essence of intellectual property law, he said, and it is both an art and a science.

For more information, visit the Holland & Bonzagni Web site atwww.hblaw.org