Home 2006 October
Opinion
Don’t Give Up on Union Station

Congratulations to Mayor Charles Ryan and his staff for orchestrating the recent planning exercise that developed a new vision of the future of the city of Springfield. With technical assistance from the nationally respected Urban Land Institute (ULI), the city’s public and private sectors collaborated in formulating an exciting new blueprint for the city.

The resulting strategy is designed to leverage our abundant resources to secure a bright future for Springfield’s residents and businesses.

But, as we know only too well, the planning is the easy part; the implementation will be much harder. The entire Springfield community will be challenged to support the vision and to cooperate in undertaking specific project initiatives. We all need to become fully engaged as the implementation process unfolds over the next several years.

I am delighted that the city has decided to continue to pursue the redevelopment of Union Station as a priority project. This opportunity was underplayed by ULI, but it makes good sense to continue to focus on Union Station for a number of compelling reasons:

  • Union Station is an important part of Springfield’s history, and it has great potential for anchoring the northern section of downtown;
  • As a multi-modal transportation facility complete with commuter rail, Union Station could serve as the transit hub for all of Western Mass.;
  • A large portion of space in this handsome building could see new life as office space with ancillary retail uses;
  • More than $40 million in public funds have been committed to the project;
  • Much has already been accomplished; the property is in public ownership. Its roof has been repaired and the asbestos removed. Architectural and engineering studies are complete; and
  • Union Station will complement the other critical initiatives recommended by ULI, and it will not compete for the same public resources.

Make no mistake about it, we need to move quickly to bring this project to fruition. A new project manager should be designated, replacing the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority. All the work products prepared by the consultants and engineers should be reassessed with an eye toward devising a practical redevelopment plan that is firmly grounded in market reality. Access issues need to be resolved with Conrail, and commitments need to be secured for the transit operations. A request for proposals should be issued to find a private developer. This is a long and daunting ‘to-do’ list, but it can be accomplished with concerted effort by all involved.

In a larger context, I am very upbeat about Springfield’s future. I believe the city has turned a corner and that momentum is now building. The new federal courthouse is about 60% complete. The public improvements in the State Street corridor will start next year. These projects are only the beginning.

The ULI process challenges us to focus on undertaking a new series of strategic initiatives. These include the redevelopment of the existing federal building, attracting retail to Main Street, developing residential housing on Court Square and in the South End, and continuing riverfront revitalization. Efforts to rehabilitate housing and to stabilize our neighborhoods are also essential.

I look forward to working with Mayor Ryan and Springfield’s emerging private-sector leadership in securing all of these opportunities.

What can you do? Springfield needs to move beyond the cynicism and pessimism of the recent past. We need to turn the page and focus on our future. I hope that you will join me in enthusiastically supporting these efforts to recapture Springfield’s greatness. Let the work begin!-

Richard E. Neal is a U.S. Congressman representing the state’s Second District.

Sections Supplements
New Leadership Charts a Course for Estate Settlement Solutions Company
From left, Greg Caldicott, Tom Murphy, and Bill Zierolf, the new leadership team at EstateWorks.

From left, Greg Caldicott, Tom Murphy, and Bill Zierolf, the new leadership team at EstateWorks.

Greg Caldicott has developed a strong track record for taking emerging products, introducing them to the marketplace, and building strong sales organizations around them.

He did it at Wellesley-based XFormx, a Web conferencing and collaboration company, where he led the launch of an entry-level product built on an innovative, low-cost ‘desktop-to-browser’ architecture; it was eventually named PC Magazine’s best new product of 2004.

He handled a similar assignment at Boston-based Radio Active Media Partners (now Next Radio Solutions), where he was recruited by the chief executive officer to lead the growth of the company, considered a pioneer in Internet radio services, to portal partners like Bellsouth and Barnes & Noble. He quickly increased the number of monthly listener hours from 150,000 to 1 million by signing new affiliate partners and improving the quality of service.

It was numbers like these that prompted local attorney Tom Murphy to tab Caldicott for the assignment that will form the next line on his resume — taking the company Murphy started, EstateWorks Inc., developer of a Web-based on-demand estate settlement and planning product, to the proverbial next level in terms of sales and market expansion.

Actually, Caldicott represents one half of a new leadership team assembled for EstateWorks, a Maynard-based company backed with investments from several Western Mass. business leaders. The other half is Bill Zierolf, who brings with him to the job of ‘executive chairman’ more than 25 years of experience with information services, software, and Internet companies.

His most recent stop, for example, was at Southboro, Mass.-based True Advantage, a maker of on-demand lead-generation software. There, he directed a successful turnaround, during which he led the roll-out of new software and database products, restructured the organization, hired a new management team, improved renewals from 20% to 70%, and closed deals with several new customers, including IBM, Yahoo, and Herman Miller.

Together, Caldicott and Zierolf are tasked with taking a venture that has always looked good on paper — its products streamline and simplify the often-complex estate settlement and estate planning processes, issues that touch millions of individuals and the professionals handling their affairs — but has thus far not seen the results expected from Murphy and its primary investors.

“I think we’re just barely scratching the surface in terms of this market,” said Caldicott. “We have some great, very prestigious customers, we just need more of them; we’re at the point now where the product is developed and it’s time to gear up sales and marketing, and we have pretty high expectations for growth.”

Zierolf agreed, and said those expectations are based on the size and potential of the market, as well as some quick and effective steps planned to address several matters, including focused marketing and efforts to raise the value proposition for a product that is already in demand.

“This product has a very focused market; we’re in a defined space, and we know exactly who we’re selling to — estate and settlement attorneys and banks,” he said. “One problem some companies have is that they build a mousetrap and then they search for a market. It’s hard to create a market, and we didn’t have to; it’s there.”

Taxing Situation

As he talked about the challenge ahead for himself and Zierolf, Caldicott found himself referencing a recent Monday Night Football game — the one during which the Arizona Cardinals blew a huge third-quarter lead through a series of blunders and wound up losing to the Chicago Bears.

That staggering collapse is not in any way comparable to what has happened at EstateWorks, he said, but it does hit upon one of the clear parallels between sport and business.

“More than 80% of games are won on execution, not the game plan,” he explained, noting that the Cardinals obviously had a good game plan, as evidenced by the large, early lead, but didn’t execute well, or did but not for the entire game. “Usually, it’s not how you draw it up, but how you execute.”

EstateWorks has been drawn up very well, he continued, adding that better execution is at the heart of Murphy’s efforts to assemble a new leadership team and undertake what would be a third round of financing. Both were designed to provide the resources needed to take the company and its product to its next projected phase of significant market explansion.

EstateWorks has already established itself as a leader in Web-based estate-settlement matters for law firms and financial services companies, said Murphy, and it has amassed a star-studded client list that includes Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Branch Banking & Trust Co., Ropes & Gray, and the law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart. The next step is to become a major force in the trusts and estates market, thus moving the venture from startup to growth company.

Caldicott was hired this summer in a consulting capacity to help shape the strategy for meeting that goal, and saw enough potential in the product and its future to become a candidate when Murphy launched an intense, five-month-long search for a new CEO last spring. Zierolf also became a candidate, and Murphy was impressed enough to add the new position of executive chairman and make him part of the team.

What Caldicott saw was a product already in demand, but one to be much more so as the Baby Boom generation, which has created and inherited great amounts of wealth, moves to retirement and beyond.

“We’re talking about a product that focuses on death and taxes, two of the constants in life,” he said. “They aren’t going anywhere; the market for this is huge, and it will only grow as the Baby Boomers age.”

It was this potentially vast market that Murphy, a partner with the Springfield-based law firm Murphy, McCoubrey & Auth LLP, envisioned when, in 2001, he laid the groundwork for the venture that would eventually become EstateWorks.

He was actually inspired in some ways when he encountered the complexities and frustrations of estate settlement after the death of his father. After discovering that many important documents were missing and difficult to assemble, he started thinking about a system that streamlined the process and put the important information and documents where people could get their hands on them. The resulting product was something called FamilyFiles

The initial target audience was individuals, said Murphy, adding that he and his investment partners soon switched their focus to the accounting firms, banks, law firms, and other institutions that handle estate planning and estate settlement.

Web of Intrigue

After years of R&D, the company created a Web-based product grounded in risk-reduction and greater efficiency. Among other things, it can:

  • Store client data, including contracts, documents, and assets;
  • Automate routine, manual data processes;
  • Provide detailed checklists, customized to a particular bank, law firm, or accounting firm;
  • Track due dates to ensure timely completion of tasks; and
  • Facilitate data sharing in documents, forms, and external systems.

The product was introduced at a convention of estate-planning and settlement professionals in late 2002, and soon thereafter, the company got a call from Goldman-Sachs and its New York office, which validated the EstateWorks solution and value proposition after a Web demonstration conducted from Maynard. The client list soon included several smaller law firms, but also national and international financial services giants such as Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.

The mission for Caldicott and Zierolf, which they’ve decided to accept, is to take the apparently strong demand for the EstateWorks product, as well as its solid foundation of clients, and build on them. In other words, they want to match the current quality of customers with far greater quantity.

Which brings Caldicott back to that word execution.

He considers it one of the many legs to the table supporting such a business venture, with others including a quality product, strong value proposition, capital, market (demand), and leadership. “We have all the pieces in place,” he said. “Now we have to go execute; and that’s why we’re really excited about this company and where we can take it.”

Specific tasks for the months ahead include bulking up and energizing the sales staff, creating stronger market-wide awareness of the product and its many benefits, and enhancing that product to create more value for customers, said Zierolf, who has experience with many of these assignments in his various turn-around projects.

“We want to enhance the product with more features and functions, and adding more professional services to our offering,” he said. “By doing so, we’re not just selling software, we’re selling a solution that can be implemented and add value right away.

“One of the worst things about the software industry 10 or 20 years ago is that people would just sell software; they’d sell a CD, and the client would have to install it,” he continued. “On-demand software is a service, it’s a completely different model; we help them get trained on the software and get it loaded. The key is that we’re not selling software licenses; we’re selling solutions.

Caldicott told BusinessWest that he, Zierolf, and other members of the leadership team are preparing a strategic plan and identifying financial goals. Specific revenue numbers were not revealed, but the leadership team does anticipate that 30% to 40% annual growth is certainly achievable.

The reason? The amount of the market that remains untapped.

“We have about 50 customers,” he explained. “There are 8,000 banks in the U.S. and several thousand law firms out there. That’s why we think we’re barely touching the surface.”

Going on Offense

Caldicott was wary about drawing too many parallels between business and sports — and specifically that bizarre MNF tilt.

But there are some similarities, he continued, including teamwork, leadership, having the right game plan, and, of course, execution.

That’s what he wants to help bring to this company that would appear to have all the other ingredients in place to go where Murphy wants it to go.

In short, he has no intention of losing this third-quarter lead.

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

Departments

Advanced Internet Marketing

Nov. 1: Participants will learn how to ensure one’s Web site serves its target audience as well as best practices for Web site design and maintenance as part of a 9 a.m. to noon lecture by Ashton Services. Topics also planned: how to judge Web site performance, how to budget for development and operation, and how to interpret Web site statistics and how they can tell you where to focus your efforts. The workshop will be conducted at the Andrew M. Scibelli Enterprise Center, 1 Federal St., Springfield. The cost is $35. For more information, call (413) 737-6712.

Success Stories Speaker Series

Nov. 8: Dennis Donovan, an executive vice president in human resources at Home Depot, Inc., will be the featured speaker at the next Success Stories Speaker Series event, hosted by the Western New England College Law and Business Center for Advancing Entrepreneurship. Donovan, a 1979 graduate of the Western New England School of Law, has been instrumental in instituting the concept of ‘Change Management,’ the process of creating and implementing new initiatives to maintain a competitive advantage, throughout the business world. He joined Home Depot in 2001 and has overseen the creation of more than 20,000 new jobs a year. The free lecture at 5:30 p.m. is open to the public and will be conducted in the S. Prestley Blake Center at WNEC in Springfield.

Summit for Entrepreneurs

Nov. 13: Bay Path College in Longmeadow will host a free community Innovative Thinking and Entrepreneurship Summit beginning at 4:15 p.m. Breakout sessions will include ‘Lessons Learned,’ ‘Go Global!,’ ‘Social Entrepreneurship,’ and ‘Launch – There’s Help Every Step of the Way.’ In addition, keynote speaker Gloria Smith, president and owner of the Zanger Company, an importer of Polish pottery, will share her innovative sales techniques during dinner at 7:30. The program is free, however, pre-registration is required. To register, visit www.baypath.edu and select Entrepreneurship Summit, or call Lauren Way, director, Entrepreneurial Program, at (413) 565-1193.

Annual Tax Institute

Nov. 17: The 45th annual Western New England College Tax Institute is slated from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on the college’s main campus at 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. The program will include sessions on new Medicaid rules, updates to federal and state tax laws, and the Section 199 producers deduction. The program is designed to qualify for eight CPE credits based on the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy Rules and Regulations. To register or for more information, call (413) 782-1473 or visit www.wnec.edu/tax.

Team Mass. Economic Impact Awards

Nov. 21: The Mass. Alliance for Economic Development will host its third annual Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Awards luncheon at noon at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. These awards honor emerging and established companies that have made a positive impact on the economy of Massachusetts since the beginning of 2005. Local companies being feted include General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Nuclea Biomarkers, and Unistress Corporation. For ticket information, contact Jess Millward at (781) 489-6262, ext. 15, or visit www.massecon.com.

Sections Supplements
Construction Company Quickly Builds a Portfolio in the Pioneer Valley
Bill Aquadro, left, and Steve Killian stand in the shadow of Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s $40 million expansion project.

Bill Aquadro, left, and Steve Killian stand in the shadow of Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s $40 million expansion project.

New York-based Barr & Barr Inc., which counts many elements of Rockefeller Center among its first projects, has, over the past 80 years, compiled a solid reputation in the health care and institutional fields of construction. It made its entry into the Western Mass. area several years ago with work at Williams and Amherst Colleges and, later, Holyoke Medical Center. With that beachhead secure, the company has aggressively gained market share, and has some ambitious plans for the future.

Interaction.

That was the initial, one-word response offered by Steve Killian when asked what distinguishes construction work for the health care industry from, say, that for a college dormitory, parking garage, or office building.

“It’s the give and take between the builder, the architect, the client and the subcontractors to make sure the user knows exactly what their getting, and it’s what they want,” said Killian, senior vice president of Barr & Barr Inc., the 80-year-old New York-based firm that has planted roots in Western Mass. and has built its reputation on, among other things, expansions and new construction for health care providers.

This give and take, as Killian called it, is merely part of an operating model known in the industry as ‘construction management at risk,’ or CM at risk. The CM designation differentiates Barr & Barr from general contractors, or GCs, he explained, and ‘at-risk’ denotes, as the phrase implies, that the builder is assuming some degree of risk.

Specifically, that risk involves the price bid for the project in question, Killian continued, adding that this bid becomes a guarantee of sorts that the price for the work will not exceed that number. And if it comes in lower — something that actually happens in this industry when most, or everything, goes right — then the difference is returned to the client, unless it wants to put it back into the project.

“It’s a model that’s worked very well for us, and it is fairly unique,” he said, noting that there are several versions of the CM delivery method that provide varying levels of risk for construction firms. “It makes us partners with the client, the architect, and subcontractors, and that’s why it’s such an effective method.”

The CM-at-risk operating platform, used for about 90% of its projects, coupled with the company’s reputation — it has handled work ranging from renovations of Radio City Music Hall to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects for New England Medical Center in Boston — has enabled Barr & Barr to make a large and rather immediate impact on the Western Mass. market.

It started five years ago when the company successfully landed projects at Amherst College (some new dormitories) and Williams College (its new $50 million Center for Theatre and Dance, and the push into the Pioneer Valley gathered steam when Barr & Barr was chosen to handle a $12 million expansion at Holyoke Medical Center.

After establishing an office in an area on Hampden Street in Springfield, the company soon added to its Western Mass. portfolio. In 2004, the company was awarded a $40 million expansion at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the largest single project in the hospital’s history, and, more recently, was chosen for a $14 million expansion at Mercy Medical Center, a $12 million renovation/addition at Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and the $9 million parking garage built at Baystate Health’s corporate offices in downtown Springfield.

“When we first looked at this market, we saw some real potential, and we’re seeing that potential realized, ” said Killian, who joined Senior Project Manager Bill Aquadro at the CDH construction site recently to discuss the company’s entry into the Western Mass. market and its outlook on the future. “Our plans now are simply to continue to grow within our identified niche areas — health care and institutional work.”

Building Momentum

As he led BusinessWest on one of the countless tours he has given of the new CDH facilities, now roughly six months from completion, Aquadro stopped in what will soon become one of the hospital’s new operating rooms and pointed to the ceiling, specifically to the mounts that will support lighting and other equipment.

“Technology has changed so quickly and so profoundly,” he started. “Today’s operating rooms have to reflect that. They need to be much bigger, because the technology is bigger, and they have to be built with the understanding that technology will continue to improve.”

This is part of that interaction process that Killian described, said Aquadro, who joined Barr & Barr recently after working for many years in his family’s business, Aquadro & Cerruti. The dialogue begins long before a shovel is put in the ground and continues until the client turns the key in its new facility, he continued, noting that the design of the one of the new patient rooms at CDH was altered recently after a nursing supervisor noted that the location of the nurse-call box wasn’t ideal.

“She said it should be moved,” said Aquadro, “and we moved it; we listened to what we were being told and made some adjustments.”

This ability to listen and respond has helped Barr & Barr build a huge portfolio of institutional and health care-related projects across the Northeast. Current health care projects include those at New York Hospital Medical Center in Queens (a $100 million modernization project), Memorial Sloan Kittering Hospital in New Jersey (a $41 million cancer center), Maimonides Medical Center in New York (a $73 million modernization), among dozens of others.

On the institutional/academic side of the ledger, current projects include work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Syracuse University, Colgate University, and Mount Saint Mary College in New York, among many others.

The client list (dominated with repeat customers, 80% of the total volume of work) and the geographic reach — from Northern New England to Southern New Jersey — has been eight decades in the making, said Killian, noting that the company was started in New York in 1927 by Joseph Barr. The company was first known as Barr & Lane, and later became Barr & Barr when Joseph’s brother, Donald, joined him.

Early work for the company, awarded by Nelson Rockefeller Sr., included the Time Life Building and Rockefeller Center’s Promenade, Garden, Center Theater, and its British and French Buildings.

The company continued to expand and diversify over the next several decades. Starting in the early ’50s, by which time the venture had passed to the next generation of the Barr family, it began to develop its reputation for work in the medical and education fields. It also expanded geographically, with a strong push into the Boston area — rich in both colleges and medical centers — and also Connecticut and, eventually, Northern and Western New York, Vermont, Maine, and the Pioneer Valley. The Philadelphia area is the next target, said Killian.

Barr & Barr’s list of offices speaks to its territorial expansion; locations include Springfield, Framingham, and Williams-town, Mass., New Haven, Conn., Syracuse, N.Y., Brunswick, Me., New York City, and Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Laying the Groundwork

The company had long eyed the Western Mass, market, also deep in medical, higher education, and cultural institutions, said Killian, and made its first foray into the region’s health care sector with the Holyoke Medical Center project, an initiative that included a new surgical suite, cardiac cath lab, and several renovations.
With that foothold, the company later added projects at several area institutions, and, as its reputation and referrals grew, so did the portfolio.

“Our expansion in this market is similar to what we did in the Syracuse area, Vermont, and Princeton, N.J.,” he explained. “You start with a project or two, like we did at Syracuse University, which led to more work at Colgate, Hamilton College, and other institutions, and keep building on that base.”

It was the strong potential for growth in the Western Mass. market that prompted Killian, who has been with Barr & Barr for 14 years, and was working at its Middlebury, Vt. office to relocate to the Pioneer Valley and essentially set up shop for the company here.

He attributes its quick success — more than $100 million in contracts over the past five years — to the company’s strong reputation, but also the CM at risk model, still rare within the construction industry, and especially the Western Mass. market. That operating style essentially makes the company partners with its clients, he explained. It applies a contractor’s perspective and input to planning and design decisions, and has the ability to fast-track early components of construction.

“By making the construction manager-at-risk a key member of the project team, responsibility for construction is centralized under a single contract,” he explained, adding that Barr & Barr’s project-delivery method has no doubt played some role in winning the projects at CDH, Baystate, and, most recently, Mercy Medical Center, institutions that have often used other area builders.

Describing the expansion project at Mercy, James Fanale, chief medical officer for the Sisters of Providence Health System, said it involves new and more modern facilities for the intensive care unit (ICU) and ambulatory services unit (ASU) and speaks to the many changes that are taking place in health care today.

“The people we have working in our ICU are terrific, they’re very talented, caring individuals,” he explained. “But the space … well, it just doesn’t work; the quarters are small and non-private — it’s the way things were done 40 years ago.”

Work to bring the hospital up-to-date and create space that does work has been ongoing for more than a year now, said Fanale, and in recent months has included discourse between the architects, Newton-based TRO Jung-Brannen, Barr & Barr, and both administrators and eventual end-users at Mercy.

The discussions involve everything from the size of the rooms to the colors on the walls to the amount of direct and indirect lighting.

“It’s all very scientific,” he explained. “There is a lot of detail that goes into how these facilities are going to feel and fit.”

The process has been similar at CDH, said Aquadro, noting that the company has been involved in all phases of this project, from the securing of new parking facilities — the addition swallowed up many existing spots — to the location of nurse-call boxes.

The interaction with hospital administrators and front-line employees starts early and is essentially constant, he explained, adding that, in the case of the new operating rooms (half again the size of the current facilities), Barr & Barr and the project’s architects built what he called mock-ups to determine how the rooms would look and what equipment goes where.

“They know what they want, and by doing these mock-ups, they know what they’re going to be getting,” he explained. “That way, there are no surprises.

“It all starts with a vision,” he continued, “for a healing, caring environment. A lot goes into that vision, from the amount of light in the room to access to nurses.”

Material World

Walking through what will be the new central sterile area in CDH’s ‘surgical tower,’ Aquadro said the codebooks that dictate how such facilities are to be built and operated are several inches thick.

This is another factor that separates construction in the health care realm from other types of building. “Those projects have codes that must be followed, too, he explained, “but it’s nothing like this.”

Helping clients meet all those codes, and turn vision into reality, is one of the traits that has enabled Barr & Barr to secure its reputation — and make an already significant impact on the Western Mass. market.

The challenge now is to build on that portfolio.

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

Departments

Good Spirits

Max´s Tavern´s annual Wild on Wine event, staged earlier this month, raised $11,000 for the Springfield Boys and Girls Club. The event was held at the Basketball Hall of Fame, and sponsored by UBS Financial Services.


Members of the UBS Financial team: from left, Michael Jonah, Richard Crews, Sue Barlow, James Foard, and Anthony Montemagni, pose with AnneMarie Harding, event coordinator for Max’s Tavern.


From left, Gary Czelusniak of the Insurance Center of New England, Stefan Dean of Max’s Tavern, and Keith Albano of ASI Inc.


Tim Gallagher of the Gallagher Agency and Vinnie Daboul of TD Banknorth, both members of the Springfield Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, pose with Barbara Kolosowski and Garret McCarthy, director of the Boys and Girls Club.


Tim Ryan, left, and Brendan Fitzgerald of the Ryan Mortgage Group


Carlene Shannon, left, of GMAC and Donna Lessard of the Holyoke Credit Union

Departments

Former MassMutual Chief Wins Appeal over Firing

SPRINGFIELD — Robert O’Connell, former MassMutual Financial Group chief executive, was unjustly fired last year, according to the ruling of an arbitration panel hearing his claim, and now O’Connell stands to win about $50 million in termination benefits. MassMutual ousted O’Connell last year, accusing him of abusing his authority by improperly manipulating stock accounts and interfering with internal investigations, among other wrongdoing. However, the Sept. 22 ruling by the American Arbitration Assoc., which was kept sealed until Oct. 20, finds that O’Connell has essentially prevailed on most of his claim. “The company did a total character assassination of Mr. O’Connell in order to deprive him of his contractual rights, terminate him, and advance and promote his detractors,” O’Connell’s attorney, Dean Richlin, told The Boston Globe. “This decision is a total vindication of Mr. O’Connell and a total rebuke of the board of directors at MassMutual and its advisers.” The company has filed suit against O’Connell in Suffolk Superior Court, seeking to have the award set aside. In a statement to employees, MassMutual Chairman James Birle and Chief Executive Stuart Reese asserted that “we believed then, as we believe now, that the totality of [O’Connell’s] behavior was, at a minimum, improper, unprofessional, and lacking in the ethical leadership that is required” at MassMutual.

Harvey Industries to Expand in Chicopee River Business Park

CHICOPEE — Harvey Industries Inc. recently announced plans to expand its manufacturing operations by constructing a new facility in the Chicopee River Business Park, according to the Westmass Area Development Corp. (Westmass). The vinyl window and door manufacturer currently leases space on Cottage Street in Springfield, but has grown considerably, creating the need for a new larger facility, according to Tom Russell, senior vice president of manufacturing for the company. The new facility will be on a site of approximately 30 acres, which is in both Chicopee and Springfield. The new building will be approximately 255,000 square feet, an increase of more than 100,000 square feet. More than 230 people are employed at Harvey’s current manufacturing site, and the expansion is expected to add a significant number of quality jobs. A groundbreaking is expected in 2007.

Regional Bureaus Receive Tourism Grants

BOSTON — Several Western Mass. visitor bureaus recently received grants from the Department of Business & Technology (DBT)/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) to help generate tourism spending in Massachusetts. Tourism is recognized as the state’s third largest industry, generating more than $808 million in state and local taxes and nearly $12.5 billion in travel-related expenditures. The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau received $460,995 in state funds to market the region as a premier destination, while the Mohawk Trail Association received $181,811 in grant funds. Additionally, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau received $507,567 in state funds for marketing purposes.

Most Workers Consider Age Irrelevant at the Office

MENLO PARK, Calif. — They say age is a state of mind, and a new survey suggests this may be particularly true in the office; 84% percent of workers polled said they would be comfortable reporting to a manager who is younger than they are, and 89% said they wouldn’t mind supervising employees older than themselves. For the first time in history, four generations of employees are in the workforce, from the Silent Generation and baby boomers to Generations X and Y, according to Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. She added that companies recognize the benefits of having diverse, well-rounded teams, and employees may be just as likely to report to a younger supervisor as an older one. In either case, the boss’s management abilities are more of a factor in employee job satisfaction than his or her age. Domeyer said that employees today are recognized more for performance than tenure with a company. The survey was developed by OfficeTeam and includes responses from 567 individuals 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.

Report Shows Cities Guardedly Optimistic about Fiscal Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Like the millions of Americans they represent, U.S. cities were able to pay their bills this year but are concerned about how rising costs will affect their long-term financial stability. In fact, despite a more optimistic view of fiscal conditions, cities have yet to recover fully from the effects of the 2001 recession once changes in city revenues are adjusted for inflationary factors, according to a report recently released by the National League of Cities (NLC). More than two in three city finance directors who responded to the City Fiscal Conditions Survey in 2006 said their cities were better able to meet financial needs during 2006 than in the previous year, yet many city officials cite numerous negative factors that are affecting the solvency of their budgets. An overwhelming majority (92%) of city finance directors cited prices, inflation, and cost of living as factors affecting their city budgets. The survey is a national mail survey of finance officers in U.S. cities. Surveys were mailed to a sample of 1,059 cities, including all cities with populations greater than 50,000 and a randomly generated sample of cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000. The 2006 survey data is drawn from 385 responding city finance officers and allows NLC to generalize about all cities with populations of 10,000 or more. Copies of the report are available at www.nlc.org. The NLC is the nation’s oldest and largest organization devoted to strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership, and governance.

Performance Food Group Purchases Site

SPRINGFIELD — Performance Food Group Co. has purchased 32 acres in the Memorial Industrial Park II on Roosevelt Avenue to expand its Taylor Street operation. The international food and kitchen supplies distributor paid $1.62 million for the property, which will include a 211,000-square-foot facility. The property is adjacent to Smith & Wesson. Company officials expect to go from 300 full-time employees in 2007 to 532 by 2013.

Bradley Adds Amsterdam Flights

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Bradley International Airport (BDL), in conjunction with Northwest Airlines, recently announced it will begin offering scheduled daily nonstop international service for the first time in July. While Northwest Airlines has increased frequency of flights at other airports, BDL is the only new service to be announced by Northwest. Nonstop service to and from Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands is scheduled to begin July 1. The new daily flight is scheduled to depart BDL at 5:45 p.m. and arrive at Schiphol at 6:45 a.m. The return flight leaves Schiphol at 1:30 p.m. and arrives at BDL at 3:30 p.m. With this new service, travelers will have the ability to connect to 81 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India.

Deerfield Properties Sold To N.Y. Firm

DEERFIELD — O’Connell Development Group of Holyoke recently announced the sale of two properties at Yankee Candle for $33.6 million. Both properties on Yankee Candle Way had been leased to the Yankee Candle Co. Deerfield Yankee Candle Acquisition LLC, a company formed by Gumowitz Real Estate in New York City, was the purchaser of the warehouse and three-story office building. O’Connell and its real estate company, Candist LLC, sold the warehouse for $19.6 million, while O’Connell and Candoff LLC sold the office building for $14 million. Both transactions closed on Sept. 27.

Pike Board Considers Ending Tolls West of Route 128

BOSTON — The Mass. Turnpike Authority board recently announced plans to end tolls west of Route 128 effective June 30, a sweeping policy shift that would provide considerable financial relief to thousands of commuters. Under the proposed plan, taxpayers would assume the burden of running and maintaining the Massachusetts Turnpike from Weston to Springfield, and approximately 200 toll collectors would be laid off. At press time, political opponents of Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey decried the timing of the board’s vote, saying it was designed to give Healey a boost among a key bloc of voters. To abolish the western tolls and transfer that portion of the turnpike to MassHighway, the state will have to repay the authority’s remaining $199 million debt on the highway.

Economy Keeps Growing Despite Cooling Trend in Housing

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s latest survey of business conditions around the country found the economy expanding, with growth described as “moderate or mixed.” However, the report also found there was a distinct slowdown in housing, with the majority of the Fed’s 12 regions reporting lower asking prices for homes, a softening in sales, and rising inventories of unsold homes. In addition, the Fed noted that financial institutions were finding that mortgage lending activity had tapered off. That decline in lending was being offset slightly by an increase in lending for commercial projects in several districts, according to the Fed. The economy grew by 2.6% in the second quarter, less than half the pace of the first three months of the year, as it was battered by soaring gasoline prices, rising interest rates and the cooling housing market. The Fed also noted that manufacturing activity was holding up well, with eight of the 12 districts reporting an increase in factory output.

Sections Supplements
As the Climate Changes for Credit Unions, They’re Turning Up the Heat
Sue Boniface and Jim Nagy

Sue Boniface and Jim Nagy of ValleyStone Credit Union

As more and more credit unions change their charter to a community base and increase their books of business, the number of challenges is also rising, from upgrading technology to improving marketing techniques and even employee professionalism. But as challenges arise, so do new opportunities.

Gary Fishlock, president and CEO of STCU Credit Union (formerly the Springfield Teachers Credit Union), said that three years ago, the institution didn’t even have its own Web site. But now, the credit union that once served only employees within Springfield’s public school system has opened its doors to a wider audience, and with the change has added that all-important online presence.

Now, STCU’s Web site gets about 9,000 visitors a month, and its new site for Spanish-speaking customers is gaining speed, as are STCU’s eStatements and online lending programs.

The technological additions and upgrades are one manifestation, says Fishlock, of the significant changes STCU has gone through since switching its charter from ‘single select,’ serving one specific employer or group, to a community charter, essentially opening its services to those who live and work in Hampden, Hampshire, or Franklin counties.

“We had to rewrite the playbook to a degree,” said Fishlock, “and adding new technology to our existing repertoire was necessary to creating a strong posture for ourselves.”

And STCU is certainly not alone. Indeed, many credit unions in the area are at the start of a new culture and operating environment, as an increasing number abandon their identity as a single-employer credit union to serve the general population.

For many, it’s a necessary change, brought on in part by shrinking employee numbers in the industrial sector as technology advances or companies downsize, and by an aging population of members who save more than they borrow, throwing many credit unions off balance.

The switch among credit unions to a community charter is being seen across the nation, but in Massachusetts, where U.S. credit unions got their start, the changes are particularly notable. Many credit unions, especially in industrial centers like Springfield, have been in business for 60, 70, or 80 years, and are, in general terms, changing the way they do business for the first time.

“Credit unions are operating in a new climate,” said Rob Kimmett, senior vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for the Mass. Credit Union League Inc. “They’re offering services to a wider number of members, and there is a movement toward taking the lid off and being more visible.”

As credit unions switch their charters, a number of challenges in the areas of technology, marketing, and member services arise, but as many professionals in the credit union sector agree, it’s also creating some new opportunities.

A Delicate Balance

“It has definitely been a learning experience for us,” said Jim Nagy, president and CEO of ValleyStone Credit Union, formerly the Monsanto Employees Credit Union. “We were in a friendly, rather insulated environment, and now we’re part of a major corridor in the Valley that is filled with competition.”

That has created some new focus points for ValleyStone, which changed its name in 2005 after obtaining approval for a community charter in 2000. Nagy said service, technology, and marketing issues are three areas in which all rechartered credit unions struggle to a degree, and other concerns are not as obvious as others, like appropriate safety and professionalism training for employees who are no longer working in a small, informal environment, but rather in a much more public, corporate world.

It’s an apt parallel for the vast changes that occur as a credit union switches its charter, and the time it takes for an institution to grow into its new role. ValleyStone relocated its offices to Boston Road in Wilbraham, a stretch of road already populated with a number of banks, as part of that change, and also opened a branch inside Chicopee’s Wal-Mart, a partnership that recently dissolved.

“I think that was the right decision,” Nagy said of ending the relationship with Wal-Mart, a chain that is entering the financial services arena on its own and calling attention to the mounting competition both credit unions and banks face. “In the last few years, I think we’ve progressed to become a reputable facility. We rank 29th in the nation in terms of assets, and we’ve adapted pretty well. But now, we need to use that capital to grow and expand further, to stay competitive and maintain an edge.”

Kimmett agreed that credit unions have a tough road ahead in terms of forging a road for themselves.

“There is a ton of competition in the financial services sector — from mutual funds to the strong box under the bed,” he said. “In terms of loans, it’s the same thing.

All lenders compete, locally and nationally. Because of that, it’s not necessarily a wise thing to focus solely on local competition.”

A Strong Statement

But in the name of balance, credit unions must still look at local trends and adapt accordingly. Kimmett said that’s creating some marketing challenges for credit unions, but again, creativity is paving the way toward new opportunities. One trend he said he’s noticed is a very targeted approach to advertising that is geared toward recruiting new members from various walks of life.

“Any good marketer understands how to market individually, and to meet the needs of particular demographics,” Kimmett said. “Any marketing campaign that appears to be geared to one group or another is likely an effort to achieve a balance. Women, for instance, make a tremendous amount of financial decisions, so we’re seeing a lot of marketing toward women among credit unions. And older members deposit more, and younger members borrow more, so we need people on both sides of the fence.”

Suzanne Boniface, marketing and business development officer for ValleyStone, added that to focus its strengths serving employer groups by reaching out to area businesses, ValleyStone has been providing informational sessions and setting up account sets for employees. That provides a no-cost benefit for the employer, and also grows ValleyStone’s member base more quickly than if the credit union focused solely on recruiting individuals.

“Those efforts have been well-received,” she said. “It sounds simple, but it’s a good practice for us to be neighborly, because historically, that’s what we’ve been about. That’s what we do.”

Transfer of Power

Fishlock agreed that growth in all areas of business, from lending capacity to the recruitment of a larger, more diverse set of members, is key as many credit unions redefine themselves. But the real challenges present themselves, he added, when credit unions recognize the many ways they need to function differently within this larger environment.

It’s a matter of striking that balance to which many professionals in the credit union sector refer – maintaining the historical tenets of service common to all credit unions, such as catering to the working class, offering low or no fees, and continuing to serve specific employer groups, while moving forward with new ideas and concepts.

The first area that divide is seen, Fishlock said, is among members. Credit unions may retain current members while recruiting others following rechartering, but must also be careful not to alienate those members, or fail to translate their strengths and services to people outside of that core group.

“By no means are we cutting off the educational group,” said Fishlock of STCU’s former member base. “We existed for 75 years solely because of the educational professionals of the Pioneer Valley. But now, we need to balance the new with the old.”

Fishlock said STCU is leaning heavily on the technology piece of its business to help achieve that balance, using its new Web site and other Web-based tools to recruit new members without alienating its current membership. The Web allows for widespread marketing and a new suite of services, said Fishlock, but it sidesteps the bells and whistles created by other marketing campaigns.

“We’re seeing an increase each month in our membership,” he said, “and there is so much more we can do on the technological end. It also helps us to compete while still providing cost efficiencies.”

Fishlock said STCU has also created a larger footprint in the region, opening a second branch in Westfield, and has recently unveiled a new service aimed at growing the institution’s overall book of business, becoming an equity investor of CU Business Capital LLC, a credit union service organization (CUSO) that focuses on business services.

Through the partnership, STCU is able to offer business loans, business deposit products, business checking, and other services, all brand-new offerings for the credit union. It’s a great example, said Fishlock, of the many ways credit unions are using the uncharted territory in which they find themselves to their advantage, getting creative with new business ventures and with getting the new message out to new audiences.

“Credit unions are primarily for consumers, but this sets us apart – it’s new and unusual to offer business services, and we think it’s the right way to go,” he said. “but it also didn’t make any sense to try and set those services up internally, at great expense. Joining a CUSO was the ideal method to harness the expertise and the capital we needed to offer high-level, quality services.

Similarly, ValleyStone has introduced shared branching, a phenomenon that is virtually unheard of in the banking sector, but is rapidly spreading throughout that of credit unions.

Shared branching allows members of a given credit union to make deposits and withdrawals, loan payments, and loan applications, as well as open sub-accounts and other services, through a different credit union that has entered into a shared branching agreement with their institution. In turn, credit unions that offer the benefit can grow in terms of branch profitability while reducing facility construction expenses, passing those savings on to members. In 2003, there were 436,000 shared branching transactions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined, according to ValleyStone’s figures; in 2004, there were 818,000.

“It’s all done through technology,” said Boniface. “It’s an exciting trend that’s spreading nationally; it allows for added convenience for members. They don’t necessarily need to close out their accounts when they move; 7-Eleven [convenience stores] signed on recently to offer service kiosks in their stores.”

Kimmett agreed that shared branching is a good example of the creative steps credit unions are taking to raise their profiles.

“Shared branching has existed for maybe about 10 years,” Kimmett explained. “It started small and is a very uncommon concept among banks, but it’s typical of credit unions and their focus on providing high-quality service and making sure the member is well-served. As counter-intuitive as it might be to suggest making transactions at a different facility, it’s a convenience tool that is so powerful among members that any real shred of a competitive issue goes out the window.”

Bonds and Trust

It’s also a way to increase a credit union’s profile on a national level. While credit unions are typically smaller than banks and serve a smaller, local population, that world is rapidly changing.

“There are some challenges, but in the end I think the consumer will benefit,” he said. “There are people who still haven’t heard the word and don’t understand that they can belong. But members tend to be devoted, and credit unions have always been focused on what members need and want. They just haven’t devoted as much energy to that in the past. Now, they need to.”

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Sections Supplements
The Many Benefits of Business Interruption Insurance

You don’t have to go far to hear disturbing news of a disaster crippling a local business – a fire, an explosion, etc. All systems are down, and day-to-day business operations come to a standstill.

Then the resilient business owner announces, to the delight of everyone, that the company will continue to pay its bills and salaries until it gets back on its feet – leaving many on the sidelines questioning, ‘How are they doing that?’ The answer: A well-advised business manager included business-interruption insurance in the company’s risk management program.

A properly designed insurance program will financially protect the business owner from events it would otherwise not be able to afford to recover from. These events could include a lawsuit stemming from the actions of one of its employees. It would most certainly include a fire that destroys the building, machines, and tools used every day to conduct business.

Most business people feel they are acting wisely in purchasing just such an insurance program, one that will financially protect the business from these crippling types of events. Unfortunately, this is a critical element of the insurance coverage that is often overlooked.

Your property policy will cover just that, the property of your business. It truly is a great relief to have the financial security to rebuild your building or replace the equipment that is vital to the functioning of your business. That is what comes most often to mind when people consider these types of events.

However, new construction of a building can take months. While equipment can be replaced relatively quickly, it will still take some time before a suitable replacement location can be found, if one can be found at all. In the meantime, the bills continue to come in, your employees can’t afford to be out of work, so they find new jobs, and your customers turn to your competitors to take care of their needs.

How does a business recover from that scenario?

An insurance program that includes a business-interruption policy could provide the resources for a business to survive such a scenario. In its simplest description, a business-interruption policy is designed to pay for the net income that would have been generated if the business were not shut down. It will also provide the funds to pay for expenses – including payroll – that will continue while the business is not operating. It could be tailored to compensate the business for additional expenses that result from efforts to keep operations going or reduce the length of the interruption. The policy could also be structured to extend beyond reopening of the business to allow the clientele to be re-established.

The key coverages of a business-interruption policy are business income and extra expense. These can be purchased as one policy or each separately. Business-income coverage is the portion of the policy that will respond to provide the policyholder the funds to pay for ongoing expenses and will provide replacement of net income. The interesting point here is that it is not necessary for the business to be making an actual profit. In this instance, the policy will provide for the portion of the ongoing expenses that the operation of the business was contributing. The extra-expense portion of the policy will provide reimbursement of above-normal expenses for the business to continue operations. It will also reimburse necessary expenses to get the business to normal operations as soon as possible.

By their nature, some businesses won’t actually have a suspension of operations. However, they would have significant additional costs to remain running. These types of businesses could purchase the extra-expense policy without including the business income section.

When reviewing a business-interruption policy there are several things to consider. First are the causes of loss that are covered on your property policy. The business interruption policy will respond if the loss occurs as a result of a covered cause of loss on the property policy. So business owners need to make sure they review these policies together.

A second important element is the deductible. Unlike most insurance policies that have a monetary deductible, the business income section of the policy has a time deductible; typically, the wait period is 72 hours. A third critical element of the policy is in selecting the limit of insurance. It is important to consider your past financial performance, the co-insurance clause on the policy, and your actual potential loss. If the limit of insurance that is purchased does not equal the co-insurance percentage of the actual potential exposure, a reduction in the settlement could result. Fortunately, there are optional coverages that could be included that will negate the co-insurance clause.

This policy can be customized in many different ways. There are several additional and optional coverages that can be incorporated into this policy. It is important that you and your independent insurance agent spend the time necessary to conduct the proper analysis to develop the right limits and structure of a policy that will financially protect your business from a crippling disaster.

Corey Murphy is a certified insurance counselor and vice president of First American Insurance Agency in Chicopee; (413) 592-8118;[email protected]

Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of October 2006.

Agawam

Nick’s Affordable Home Remodel
430 Main Street
$14,600 — Strip and replace roof

Easthampton

D & R Management Company
D & R Management for Dietz Construction
7 Industrial Parkway
$544,000 — Construction of new
building; office and shop

East Longmeadow

Premier Source Credit Union
232 North Main Street
$1,440,000 — Two-story office

Greenfield

LPL LLC
487-489 Bernardston Road
$55,000 — Commercial office
renovation

Ludlow

East Street School
508 East Street
$245,000 — New roof

Ludlow High School
500 Chapin Street
$245,000 — New roof

 

Springfield

Eastfield Mall Association
1655 Boston Road
$7,700 — Renovate space for
family restaurant

Hampden Savings Bank
19 Harrison Ave.
$10,000 — Interior renovation

Picknelly Family LLC
1414 Main Street (Monarch Place)
$107,615 — Build out of offices

WGGB
1302 Liberty Street
$190,000 — Replacement of existing tower

Yukon Group LLC
95 Fisk Avenue
$500,000 — Renovation of existing
warehouse for new armored car tenant

West Springfield

Rein’s Deli
25 Park Ave.
$10,000 — Repair damage
done by automobile

Features
Your ticket to the show
Fall Business Show Commerce ’06 November 2, 2006

Fall Business Show Commerce ’06 November 2, 2006

The 16th edition of the Commerce trade show, presented by the Chicopee and Greater Holyoke Chambers of Commerce will be staged Nov. 2 at a new venue, the Basketball Hall of Fame. The show will feature more than 150 exhibitors placed in a variety of locations, including the Hall’s Center Court, the MassMutual Room, and the upper levels of the museum. The exhibitor list, which includes a number of long-time participants and newcomers, begins on page 14. The day begins at 8 a.m. with a breakfast in the shrine’s theater, and the doors to the show will open at 9.

List of Exhibitors