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Cities Seek Strategies to Break Through in the Convention Market
Todd Greenwood

Todd Greenwood, vice president of convention center sales and marketing, says Springfield has what it takes to be a major player in the conventions market.

The convention business sector is slowly improving across the nation, returning to pre-9/11 levels of activity, according to those in the industry. This more-robust climate is creating opportunities for cities like Springfield and Hartford that have invested heavily in convention facilities, but competition is immense in this sector, with communities essentially fishing from the same pond. As in other industries, success in this one lies with effectively building a brand, which for Springfield is still a work in progress.

To publicize Greater Springfield as a destination for conventions, Mary Kay Wydra says that focusing on its small-market character can sometimes help distinguish the region and its convention facility, the MassMutual Center, from other, competing markets.

“If you bring your convention here, odds are you’ll own the building,” she said. “But we take it step further, and tell people that, for a few days, they can also own the region.”

To better illustrate that notion, Wydra, director of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB), cited a recent delegation — the Daughters of the Nile, a charitable organization that raises funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children nationwide. More than 2,500 members descended on the City of Homes last June. Dressed in colorful costumes that are one trademark of the group, members were visible, and their presence was noticed — with the group returning an estimated $1.6 million to the region in direct spending.

“They also had four front-page stories written about them in the time they were here,” said Wydra. “We want to showcase the conventions that choose Springfield — in larger cities, they’re not going to get that kind of press. We offer a small-town environment in a large city, and the front-line people know how to treat visitors well.”

Despite this ability, Springfield is finding the convention business a challenging one to enter, and the city somewhat of a tough sell nearly three years after the MassMutual Center opened its doors.

“The booking pace for the long term isn’t where we hoped it would be,” said Wydra, noting, however, that the GSCVB is working closely with the Mass. Convention Center Authority (MCCA) and other partners to boost those numbers. And officials here can take some inspiration from other Northeast cities, including Hartford and Providence, that had similar teething troubles while getting serious about the convention business.

Those cities learned that it takes time to establish a solid reputation in the industry and effectively build their brands, she said, noting that Springfield is making considerable progress with that assignment.

Todd Greenwood, the GSCVB’s recently appointed vice president of Convention Center Sales and Marketing, says the city has a lot to offer convention planners, including attractions, plenty of hotel rooms, and especially prices that are affordable, especially when compared to major metropolitan areas.

“Hotel rates, parking fees, restaurant bills, these are all going to be lower than in Boston or New York City,” he explained, “and that’s especially important on ‘expense report day,’ when planners start breaking down how expensive it is to hold a convention in a given area.”

In this issue, BusinessWest looks at the highly competitive convention business, and what cities have done, and are doing, to put themselves on the map.

The States of the Industry

H. Scott Phelps, president of the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau (GHCVB), said he remembers similarly lean times for that city not so long ago.

He told BusinessWest that Hartford, like Springfield, continues to build momentum after opening a new facility — the Connecticut Convention Center — in 2005. It has done so by paying attention to activity in the hospitality sector to ensure that an adequate number of well-appointed, updated hotel rooms and other convention-related facilities are available to delegates of all kinds.

“We can’t just book any time,” he said. “We have to make sure we have the rooms, and hotels have been an issue.”

Phelps explained that before the Connecticut Convention Center, which carried a $270 million price tag, opened, the city was “under-facilitied,” and thus had difficulties drawing meetings and conventions. But now, the opposite problem exists — keeping up with the demand for convention space in four diverse venues.

“We’re overcoming that,” said Phelps. “We added 409 rooms with a new Marriott; the Goodwin Hotel is completing a multi-million renovation; the Hilton was closed prior to opening the convention center to become a brand-new, upscale, trendy hotel; and the Crowne Plaza is also completing renovations now. In short, the hotels have proved their products.”

In Rhode Island, Neil Schriever, vice president of Sales and Marketing for the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau (PWCVB), which oversees bookings at the Rhode Island Convention Center and the adjacent Dunkin’ Donuts Center, said the recent addition of new hotel rooms in the capital city has also raised Providence’s convention business profile.

“We are finding that in Providence, changes to our rooms packages in the last eight months enables us to be considered for groups that would have overlooked us before,” said Schriever, noting that the bulk of major convention business is done in Providence, with smaller meetings often welcomed elsewhere in the state. “We added 500 new hotel rooms in the community, 200 of which are at our anchor hotel, the Westin, connected to the convention center.

We’ve increased the city’s walkability for convention attendees, and we’re seeing great signs of success for future business.”

While the Rhode Island Convention Center, which focuses on meetings, and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which includes expansive arena space, are not new buildings, both have undergone renovations in the last decade, and just last month, the two buildings were connected by a covered walkway.

“The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is also in the midst of a three-phase renovation due to be completed next fall,” said Schriever, noting that the project amounts to a complete overhaul of the center’s interior and façade.

To continue to build on that momentum, Schriever added that the PWCVB is working to identify meetings and events that can utilize both buildings in the coming years.

“We’ve really put a bigger focus on our convention services division, working to promote the destination and boost attendance,” he offered. “For instance, we may go to a conference the year before it’s scheduled to come to Rhode Island, put up a booth, and work to get attendees excited about the coming year.

“We have a good brand,” he continued, “but there is still increased competition regionally and nationally, and we must maintain our presence on a national level. Not having enough availability — of convention space or rooms — is another challenge.”

Conventional Thinking

The GHCVB has also instituted programs with similar goals, including a hospitality task force that meets every month to discuss new programming options and improvements to the existing model, and a free shuttle service that runs from the Convention Center to downtown Hartford six days a week, every 12 minutes. Phelps said it’s a Connecticut Transit Authority program that directly connects convention delegates with the dining and entertainment options in the area.

“The restaurants are doing a plethora of new things on their own that we can now better introduce to new audiences,” he said. “The convention center has been a catalyst for other things happening. It’s what we hoped for, and what the center’s supporters anticipated.”

Wydra said she expects that Springfield will follow that same script, but knows that the road ahead is paved with challenges — and expectations that will be difficult to meet.

The $71 million renovation/new construction project that created the MassMutual Center set the stage for some specific booking goals; in 2005, MCCA executive director Jim Rooney told BusinessWest he hoped to reach a rate of 65% of the year — 237 out of 365 days. The city is well behind that pace, but making progress, said Wydra.

She noted that, like Hartford and other cities, Springfield must endure a considerable ramp-up period in the convention sector. Many organizations plan their conventions as many as five years ahead of time, and often rotate between a handful of different venues; as such, the MassMutual Center could easily need another two to four years to reach what Wydra calls “a steady diet” of convention business.

She explained further that, due to the lengthy construction period for the building, it was essentially removed from most meeting planners’ radar screens for a considerable time, and now, the GSCVB must work to re-enter the picture.

“The civic center was offline for five years,” she said. “I think the hotels in the area have gotten used to not having a convention center from which to draw business, and now part of our job is to change that mindset and attract more business.”

Greenwood said the Greater Springfield area has the convention-sector pieces in place to do just that. Hotel capacity in the region, which includes access to more than 50 facilities in Western Mass. and Connecticut, is generally solid, he said, creating a healthy base from which to grow.

“This area has all of the critical components,” he said. “We have the facility itself and the hotel capacity. This city is affordable, but not cheap.”

Greenwood, who comes to his new position most recently from the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, returned to that region-wide marketing effort currently being used by the GSCVB to sell Western Mass. along with the MassMutual Center, adding that, while Springfield may not offer the largest market, it does offer a number of positives that are attractive to meeting planners, including those affordable prices.

Greenwood said the GSCVB is also enlisting the help of the region’s citizens to promote the MassMutual Center and its home base as a viable convention venue through a program called Pioneer Valley Pride, which charges local residents who belong to regional, state, or national associations to provide the bureau with the names of those who run those organizations.

Raising Reservations

And if the emerging success stories in Hartford and Providence are any indication, skies could be clearing here over the next few years.

Schriever said he’s beginning to see some positive trends affecting the Providence market, such as the emergence of a new, short-term demand for mid-sized meetings, which can help to bridge the gap between periods of wooing and waiting and those of bargaining and booking.

“We’re still getting calls for 1,000-person meetings within a 12-month window,” he said. “Right now, with the state of economy as it is, we might see a slowdown in this area, but we’re not anticipating one.”

Further, Schriever said, while convention bureaus across New England are often ladling from the same pot of stew, collaboration in this region of the country is more robust than in most, and this helps move everyone forward in the long run.

“As much as we all compete, we work together to target trade shows on a national level,” he said, noting that this work is often done through the New England Society of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, a membership organization. “We collaborate to sell the whole destination, and it’s important work, because it gets people to New England. If one of us brings in a conference, it’s possible that they will want to return to another venue in New England in the future.”

Indeed, the Hartford, Providence, and Springfield convention markets are very different in many respects; both Hartford’s operating budget and convention facility footprint, for instance, are much larger, and its venues more diverse, than in the City of Homes.

However, convention bureaus across the nation share similar strengths and weaknesses, and the industry itself is experiencing an upswing.

“The industry has seen growth over the past five years; we’ve caught up to pre-9/11 numbers, and there are no signs of a slowdown,” said Greenwood.

Hartford is also a year or two ahead of the GSCVB in terms of construction of a new facility and the subsequent development programs that follow.

Phelps said business was good for all of the city’s convention spaces last year — the Connecticut Expo Center, the Hartford Civic Center, the Connecticut Convention Center, and Rentschler Field.

“We had an outstanding 2007,” he said, noting that, on average, a delegate at a Connecticut convention will stay in the area for an average of 3.6 days and spend about $300. “Part of the reason we had a successful year was because we hosted large conventions, some with up to 10,000 delegates, and also hosted some for up to five days. The economic impact was that much greater, and we utilized a terrific number of hotels. We spread groups out among our hotels, and that created a spread across the city.”

To capitalize on the growth now being seen in the convention industry, Phelps said the GHCVB is focusing on a few key elements of the convention-planning process in 2008. The first is selling Hartford’s convenient locale, close to major thoroughfares including interstates 91 and 84, as well as its affordability as a smaller city. As in Springfield, Connecticut’s small size as a state can be a draw rather than a hindrance, added Phelps.

“Connecticut could fit into many metropolitan areas, such as Houston or Atlanta,” he said. “The diversity of experiences that creates within an hour’s drive is attractive to a lot of people, including those who come from those big cities.

“Here, they can see the bigger region, including the casinos, Mystic Seaport, the college town of New Haven, and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. These are especially attractive for offsite meetings and spouse programs.”

One Fish, Two Fish

Greenwood agreed that when it comes to convention planning, no market, no matter how big or small, can rely on any one strength to pull new audiences in.

“You can’t hang your hat on one thing, but if we we’re going to boil it down to one major effort, it’s concentrating on how to get attendees excited. The city is very capable of doing this.”

And, he said, the GSCVB and Greater Springfield as a whole will continue to reach out to all types of delegates, not only because the region needs the traffic, but because it wants to be a gracious host.

“It’s no secret that many convention bureaus are fishing from the same pond,” he said, “but the hard part is getting people here. Once we do, we think they’re impressed; the ‘big fish’ mentality appeals to them.”

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

Opinion

There’s one overriding positive regarding the role conventions play in the health and well-being of a given city or region: volume.

Tourism and hospitality are relatively robust sectors in Western Mass.; there are several attractions across the region with a national pull, including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Historic Deerfield, the college towns of Amherst and Northampton, and virtually the entirety of Berkshire County. However, the contributions of convention business to the area’s visibility are often overlooked, or not seen to be as newsworthy as a boost in foot traffic among leisure travelers.

But the proof of the convention industry’s effect, or potential effect, on Western Mass. is in the numbers; convince one tourist to vacation in Western Mass., and they may bring along their family or a few friends. Convince one meeting planner, and they bring along hundreds, maybe thousands, and sometimes return several times.

It’s in this vein that conventions can help restore and strengthen the region’s economy, particularly in Springfield, where the area’s largest convention facility, the MassMutual Center, is located. Put simply, conventions offer a much bigger bang for the buck in terms of tourism and hospitality activity.

And while the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau casts a wide net when wooing possible visitors to the City of Homes, welcoming virtually any type of conference (and there’s a conference for everything), there are also some key formulas it adheres to.

For one, the GSCVB is working to identify events that will offer the greatest return of dollars to Western Mass. — through bookings as well as hotel stays, restaurant visits, and other entertainment options, such as athletic competitions. They also pay attention to some industry rubrics that measure overall success, based on the size and type of an event as well as the size of the venue and its hometown. These are doubly important because the Mass. Convention Center Authority (MCCA), arguably one of the most successful such bodies in the nation and owner of the MassMutual Center, pays close attention to the statistics, too.

And the GSCVB is turning some of its efforts inward, in part through the Pioneer Valley Pride program that charges area residents with identifying potential convention guests through their own professional, civic, and community affiliations. This is an effort not only to increase local confidence in the MassMutual Center’s future, but also to better reflect the needs of the region. For example, health care-related events could indirectly address the ongoing nursing shortage, or life sciences conferences could have an impact on extending the Commonwealth’s so-called life sciences supercluster farther west.

Another overlooked aspect of convention business, though, is the time it takes to get into the loop of national meeting planners and major organizations that routinely hold gatherings. The MassMutual Center reopened its doors as an expanded, renovated MCCA property two and a half years ago, and GSCVB president Mary Kay Wydra estimates that it takes at least three years to truly enter the rotation. That reality, compounded by the fact that the former Springfield Civic Center was effectively offline during construction and a change in ownership, means the center could have a few more quiet months before activity starts to ramp up.

For those who may have seen the new convention center as a panacea for Springfield, or, conversely, those who’ve long been skeptical of the center’s ability to help turn things around for the better, these hallmarks of the industry are important to note and understand. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take time for this city’s convention business to jell, as well.

Perhaps the Field of Dreams adage, “if you build it, they will come,” should be modified, too, to read, “if you build it, they will come … eventually.”

Just be patient. Wooing one person to the region for a weekend getaway is a success, but attracting thousands a few years out is worth the wait.

Departments

The following business incorporations were recorded in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties, and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AGAWAM

KRIDE Inc., 68 Plantation Dr., Agawam 01001. Mark D. Benedix, 38 Old Farm Road, Somers, CT 06071. Steven D. Stark, 68 Plantation Road, Agawam 01001, treasurer. (Nonprofit) To raise funds for the research, treatment, etc., of cancer, etc.

AMHERST

Clemente Course in The Humanities Inc., The, 23 Flintlock Lane, Amherst 01002. Earl Shorris, 444 East 82nd St., Apt. 4N, New York 10028. Grace Glueck 23 Flintlock Lane, Amherst 01002, clerk. (Nonprofit) To provide free education in the humanities at the college level to the multi-generational poor in the U.S. and other countries.

Pioneer Valley Personal Training Inc., 534 Main St., Amherst 01002. Jessica P. Phaneuf, 24 North St., Hatfield 01038. Physical therapy and rehabilitation, health counseling, etc.

The Pioneer Valley Gamer Collective Inc., 48 North Pleasant St., Amherst 01002. Michael Whitehouse, 279 Amherst Road, #14, Sunderland 01375. (Nonprofit) To provide a social center for gamers and other geeks to enjoy each other and their hobby and social pursuits.

BELCHERTOWN

Marshall Color Studios Inc., 6 Berkshire Ave., Belchertown 01007. Dean Marshall, same. Technical services and prepress for apparel.

CHESTER

Gateway Little League Inc., 28 Soisalo Road, Chester 01011. Paul Graham, 23 East Windsor Road, Worthington 01098. (Nonprofit) To provide a supervised program of competitive baseball and softball games for the children of the Gateway School District, etc.

CHICOPEE

Anthony R. Kryusz, CPA, P.C. Inc., 77 Yorktown Ct., Chicopee 01020. Anthony R. Krusz, same. Public accountancy.

Flamingo Property Management Inc., 1981 Memorial Dr., Suite 147, Chicopee 01020. John P. Robillard, same. To deal in real estate and ancillary services.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Henry Street Management Co. Inc., 200 North Main St., Suite 204, East Longmeadow 01028. Ernest A. Gralia, III, 24 Ridgewood Road, East Longmeadow 01028. Real estate development.

FLORENCE

Breathe Deeply Inc., 101 Black Birch Trail, Florence 01062. Brandt Passalacqua, same. Web design.

GRANVILLE

Prince Island Association Inc., 392 Water St., Granville 01034. R. Scott Freebern, 5746 Main St., Manchester VT 05255. Gilbert M. Faulkner, 392 Water St., Granville 01034, resident agent. (Nonprofit) To provide beach and pier facilities for members.

HOLYOKE

G & G Restaurant Mfg. Imports Inc., 60-66 Jackson St., Holyoke 01040. Iorgu Rama, 4526 44th St., Apt. 1D, Sunnyside NY 11104. Iorgu Rama, 60-66 Jackson St., Holyoke 01040, registered agent for manufacturing, restaurant equipment, imports.

HUNTINGTON

Timothy Hill Christian Camp Inc., 128 Norwich Lake, Huntington 01050. Howard Wright, 4180 Manor Hills Ln., Atlanta GA 30331. Edward D. Etheredge, 128 Baker Hill Road, Florence 01062, clerk. (Nonprofit) To operate an educational outdoor camp to teach children and families leadership skills and life skills with a spiritual foundation, etc.

INDIAN ORCHARD

Youth Excellence Through Innovation Inc., 115 Dubois St., Indian Orchard 01151. Jacqueline E. Farrow, same. (Nonprofit) To inspire youth by helping them identify and achieve goals through mentoring, learning experiences, and participation in a powerful community, etc.

LONGMEADOW

DHW International Inc., 541 Laurel St., Longmeadow 01106. Tracy E. Carman, same. Marketing of consumer products and components.

LUDLOW

Winsor Realty Inc., 119 Winsor St., Ludlow 01056. Lori C. Marta, 33 Bridle Road, Ludlow 01056. Real estate services.

NORTHAMPTON

ATA & EFE Corp., 18 Green St., Northampton 01060. Harun Iyigel, 134 Entrynbrook Dr., Springfield 01108. To engage in the pizza restaurant business.

 

SOUTH HADLEY

Legowski Landscaping & Construction Inc., 49 Westbrook Road, South Hadley 01075. Renata A. Legowski, same. Landscaping and construction.

SOUTHWICK

Three Sisters Marketing Inc., 41 Foster Road, Southwick 01077. Corine A. Magni, same. To engage in E-commerce.

SPRINGFIELD

Helping Hands Collecting and Distributing Inc., 11 Rush St. Springfield 01109. Oliver Figuereo, same. (Nonprofit) To promote the welfare of the Latinos and Children of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, provide affordable clothes and health opportunities, etc.

In His Presence Christian Counseling Inc., 205 Florida St., Springfield 01109. Emily Kozodoy Harrison, same. (Nonprofit) To strive to empower people to learn to trust in God, etc.

Manolyam Corp., 608 Page Blvd., Springfield 01104. Pinar Karaaslan, 15 Wilson St., Wilbraham 01095. Pizza restautant business.

Oflu’s Captain Pizza Inc., 30 Fort Pleasant Ave., Springfield 01108. Dursun Oflu, same. Restaurant pizza shop.

Project H.O.P.E. International Inc., 93 Parker St., Springfield 01151. Juliet Maxwell, 14 Berbay Cir., Springfield 01109. (Nonprofit) To promote stability in our immediate communities and the world at large, provide educational instruction and tutoring, etc.

Ronald L. Mack Tax & Accounting Group Inc., 82 Main St., Suite 1, West Springfield 01089. Ronald L. Mack, 192 Captain Road, Longmeadow 01106. Accounting services.

Trustcheck Inc., 1 Monarch Place, Suite 250, Springfield 01144. Suzanne F. Murphy, 20 Olde Plains Hollow, South Hadley 01075. Employment verification.

THORNDIKE

Combat Veterans of America, Iraq Afghanistan Chapter Inc., 4020 Pine St., Thorndike 01079. Fred Gula, same. (Nonprofit) To promote a public awareness and remembrance of the sacrifices of the members of American Military Forces of all Combat veterans of America.

WARE

Expense Control Inc., 73 Beaver Road, Ware 01082. David P. Dylewicz, Sr., same. To provide consulting services related to expense reduction.

WESTFIELD

Cocchi Paint Inc., 11 Blueberry Ridge, Westfield 01085. Ralph J. Cocchi, same. Painters.

Greater Westfield Free Health Services Inc., 60 Court St., Westfield 01085. Candy Dyler, 33 Southview Dr., Southwick 01077. (Nonprofit) To provide free health services to persons with need from the Greater Westfield area who lack medical insurance, etc.

Proulx & Proulx Inc., 167 Loomis Ridge, Westfield 01085. Gerard E. Proulx, same. Contractor – building.

Violet-Ion Systems Inc., 28 Laro Road, Westfield 01085. David H. Wicker, same. Computer and computer systems consulting, engineering, sales and services.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Gar Wood Inc., 928 Riverdale St., West Springfield 01089. Naif Makol, 451 Russell Ave., Suffield, CT 06078. Bruce E. Devlin, 1441 Main St., Suite 905, Springfield 01103, registered agent. Operation of gasoline station and convenience store.

HB Retail Inc., 134 Capital Dr., West Springfield 01089. Norman A. Hannoush, same. Jewelry retail sale and repair.

Nicola E. Gioscia, P.C., 82 Main St., Ste. 2, West Springfield 01089. Nicola E. Gioscia, same. To engage in the practice of law.

Rita Bobb-Rollins, DDS, P.C., 36 Memorial Ave., West Springfield 01089. Rita Bobb Rollins, DDS, same. The practice of dentistry.

Vincent F. Gioscia, PC, 82 Main St., Suite 2, West Springfield 01089. Vincent F. Gioscia, same. The practice of law.

Departments

The following bankruptcy petitions were recently filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Readers should confirm all information with the court.

Arbuzov, Pavel V.
Arbuzov, Natalya
42 Bridge St.
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

Arcidiacono, Shawn R.
7 HomeCrest Ave.
Ware, MA 01082
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

Barfitt, Ronald G
213 Birnam Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Bartle, Keith M
19 Castlegate Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Bowens, Lonnie
185 New Ludlow Road, Apt. 111-L
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

Brackney, Robert G.
Brackney, Johanna B.
13 Pisgah Road
Huntington, MA 01050
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/27/07

Candelaria, Sonia
414 Canon Circle
Springfield, MA 01118
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Carter, Rodney
6 Danaher Circle
Springfield, MA 01118
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/28/07

Carver, Cathy Louise
a/k/a Marshall, Cathy Louise
52 Irene St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/18/07

Chagnon, Roland Richard
Chagnon, Rachel Lee
PO Box 18
Belchertown, MA 01007
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Clement, Albert Charles
121 Island Road
Northampton, MA 01060
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Clingman, Charline D.
14 Silver St.
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Cole, Marie A
17 Portland St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

D/B/A F C R Suspension
Binney, Michael
237 West St
Belchertown, MA 01007
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

D’Amours, Dorene Anne
43B North Main St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

De Leo, Kerri E.
76 Ashfield Road
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Dobiecki, Charlene
110 Nora Lane
Ludlow, MA 01056
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Dordine, Michael
Dordine, Virginia M.
36 Daniel Aq.
Springfield, MA 01107
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/29/07

Dorman, John R.
Dorman, Gail A.
40 Adams St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/24/07

Dugay, Lori J.
15 Lavender Lane
Springfield, MA 01129
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Espada, Rosa I.
8 Vermont St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

Favreau, Cecile M
492 South West St.
Feeding Hills, MA 01030
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

Foley, Deborah M.
45 Fairview St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/29/07

Francis, Edward W.
Francis, Linda J.
81 Quaboag Valley Co-Op.
Palmer, MA 01069
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

Geiger, Gordon M.
178 Llewellyn Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Gifford, Nellie A.
78 Brickyard Court
North Adams, MA 01247
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/28/07

Granger, Kathleen
25 Roanoke Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/27/07

Hamblin, David P.
113 Warren RD.
Brimfield, MA 01010
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 01/02/08

Hanson, Glen E.
61 Appleton Ave.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Hatfield, Jason Johnathen
109 Grape St., Apt. Q
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/28/07

Hawkins, Kenneth L.
109 Stony Hill Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

Higgins, Jenean M
45 Orange St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/18/07

 

Hudela, Piotr S.
48 Artisan St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/24/07

Johnson, Donald L.
155 River St., Apt. 3M
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Keaton, Jason
43 Juliette St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/24/07

King, Brian David
9 East Hampton Road
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

Kirk, Cheryl A.
162 1/2 Main St.
Indian Orchard, MA 01151
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 01/02/08

Laplante, Kevin M.
Laplante, Charlene M.
71 Hathorne St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/16/07

Lessard, Charles E.
Lessard, Kathleen R.
26 Gunn Road Extension
Southampton, MA 01073
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/18/07

Lopez, Sol Virginia
207 Sargeant St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Majgier, Ann Marie
46 Warren St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Masotti, Frances
348 Park St., #209
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/24/07

McAnanama, Donna F.
45 Dogwood Lane
Wales, MA 01081
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/17/07

Miller, Kellie J.
275 Silver St.
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/28/07

Mullarkey, Matthew J.
Mullarkey, Nicole M.
11 Fowler Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Nevue, Anthony Jude
Nevue, Annette Diane
150 Osborne Road
Ware, MA 01082
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/28/07

Nooney, Donald J.
25 South Longyard Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

O’Brien, Marie JoAnn
6 Hilltop St.
Springfield, MA 01128
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/24/07

Ortiz, Hommy Enid
Ortiz, Kayra
84 Andrew St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Ramonas, Roy V.
20 Murray Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/18/07

Rivera, Abraham
Rivera, Kelly A.
3 Weston St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/22/07

Rivera, Dalein
88 Riverboat Village Road
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Ryan, Rose Marie T.
603 Berkshire Ave, Apt A-
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/26/07

Schneider, Karen M.
36 Park St
Turner’s Falls, MA 01376
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Seegars, Carolyn A.
58 Mapleshade Ave.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

Serrano, Francisco
37 Whitmore Dr.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/29/07

Slaimen, Tania M.
a/k/a DeMarco, Tania M.
a/k/a Albano, Tania M.
P.O. Box 80027
Springfield, MA 01138
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/18/07

Slick, Frances M.
57 Chase Ave.
North Adams, MA 01247
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 01/02/08

Snow, Elizabeth M.
46 Boynton Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/19/07

Soto, Julio C.
51 James St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 12/31/07

Stone, Jeffrey Bruce
Stone, Elizabeth Jean Antonel
38 Maplecrest Dr.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/27/07

Walunas, Joseph G.
39 Ward Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/21/07

West, Judith A.
11 Plymouth Ave.
Florence, MA 01062
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 12/20/07

Sections Supplements
The Real Reasons Employees Leave, and How to Keep the Best

Why do people leave teams and organizations?

The No. 1 reason people leave jobs is because they fail to connect with their bosses as leaders and as people. People are rarely honest about why they leave a company. Too many associates that depart follow the advice of Jimmy Conway (played by Robert DeNiro) in the 1990 hit movie Goodfellas, who told Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), “Never rat on your friends, and keep your mouth shut.”

There is no up-side incentive for the employee to be open and honest. Think about it: the primary reason people leave companies is because of the relationship and lack of emotional connection with their boss. However, it is almost never talked about in the exit interview. Why? Who wants to burn a bridge with a boss they may need for a future job reference? It is easier to talk about work-life balance, moving on to build your skill sets, or the need to make more money. Salary is much further down the list as a reason to leave than what is usually reported in exit interviews.

What is your current game plan to keep your best people? While most companies talk a great deal about the need to retain the best people to sustain growth, they lack an integrated game plan to create retention momentum.

As a leader, you are personally accountable to acquire and retain the very best people. It is that simple. If you fail to recruit and retain the top talent, you will not sustain growth over time. At the end of the day, the effective leader must embrace a plan to retain the very best talent.

Emotional Connection Points

Emotional connections provide the fuels that greatly enhance retention. It is driven by the trust and development of your individual team members.  It starts with building your emotional connections with each team member.

The power of the ‘unexpected’ is the most powerful way to emotionally connect with another person. Think about it: do you get more credit with your significant other when you send a handwritten note when they least expect it? Of course you do. The same concept applies to you as a leader. It is the unexpected things a leader does that really make the difference. Some examples:

  • Write a personal, handwritten note or send a greeting card to the spouses or significant others telling them what a difference their partner is making to your business.
  • Take the employee to breakfast, lunch, or dinner (if appropriate) and ask them what really matters to them and what you can do as a leader to help them build their future dreams.
  • Take your entire team out together to celebrate a special event. For example, when I was with Hallmark, I would take my team out every year for a holiday dinner in the private dining room of a local restaurant. At the end of the meeting, I would go around the room and say something special about each of the team members. The primary message delivered in front of the entire team focused on the unique skill sets each person brings to the table throughout the year to make us all successful.
  • Place calls to significant influencers or key family members in their lives. You should make phone calls to fathers and mothers if you believe it will make a difference to your best employees. Always ask permission first if you are going to contact anyone beyond the spouse. It is impossible to know without asking whether a call to someone’s parents would be comfortable for an employee or not. You also should follow any laws or rules regarding employee privacy.
  • Create a surprise, fun outing as part of a team business trip. For example, I took my team on a business trip together to the West Coast. While on the trip, we made an unexpected stop at ‘the Rock,’ or Alcatraz, in San Francisco. This created wonderful experiences that directly enhanced team bonding.
  • Organize local activities for the team. These events are fun team activities that should be done during regular business hours to truly be appreciated. Weekend team activities that cut into individual personal time are almost always guaranteed to land with a giant thud. Remember, your team wants you to be a great leader. They are not looking for another weekend friend.
  • Utilize your boss to deliver special praise for a job well done in a one-on-one meeting with your team member. If you are not a CEO, you can engage your supervisor, to conduct a one-on-one meeting with your best-performing team members. Again, this meeting should be unexpected and focus on results and accomplishments as well as the recognition of the unique strengths of the individual. If you are a CEO, having a key member of the board of directors call one of your best people just to tell them how much they are appreciated will go a long way toward retention.
  • Create an unexpected personalized memento for individual team members celebrating the accomplishment of a major event.
  • Retailer Connection

    Ron Cox, an Ace True Value Hardware owner in Appleton, Wis., represents a great example of emotionally connecting with employees. He sent a handwritten note and gift card to the significant other of each of his star employees to let them know how much their spouse meant to his store as a highly valued employee and person. These emotional connections will be transferred to the customer as Cox’s staff ‘pays it forward.’

    In the 2000 movie Pay It Forward, Kevin Spacey indicated that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference, and by using random acts of kindness you can ‘pay it forward.’ This will work very well from you to your employees and in turn to your customers.

    Big Foot

    I have always had a habit as a leader of stomping my feet when I walk down the hallway. People could always hear my size 12 loafers before we made visual contact. This habit has followed me throughout my career.

    During my early years I was counseled to walk slower and talk lower if I really wanted to move into senior management ranks. My teams always had fun with my foot stomping on a regular basis. In fact, I was given the unexpected gift of a ‘big boot’ from my team that was placed on a plaque with the inscription “Big Foot … Keep on Stompin’.” Everyone had a lot of fun with this award at my expense. I loved it!

    Combine all of these emotional connections with self-effacing humor. Always remember, humor at the expense of your team almost always removes deposits from the emotional connection bank. Take your job seriously, but go crazy making fun of yourself. Your team will love it. Humor also relaxes your team and reduces tension. Why were the movie and television series M*A*S*H so successful? They conveyed the humor that was so necessary to maintain sanity in a horrific situation.

    Home Turf

    Don’t forget how the little things can make a huge difference. For example, instead of always having your people meet with you in your office, go visit them on their home turf. It is a sign of mutual respect.

    The ironic part is that, by going to their home base, you give up your legitimate management authority to that person. They will actually see you as a more confident and caring leader. The location of the meeting is a little thing that makes a big difference. You will increase your effectiveness as a leader when you visit your people’s home turf regularly.

    Make Time to Connect

    Remember, people do not usually leave organizations. They leave their leaders. If you lose enough good people, your organization will be unable to grow. The effective leader understands that emotional connections to the leader are the most powerful retention devices in the tool kit.

    If this is all true, why do leaders so often fail to build these emotional connections with their people? Because it takes time and places leaders outside their comfort zones, thus increasing their vulnerability.

    It is easier to tackle those 85 E-mails sitting in your in-box. What many leaders fail to realize is that they are actually more vulnerable if they choose not to invest the time to do it. How does the time needed to replace all your top talent compare with the investment you need to make to emotionally connect with your people? You need to invest every day.

    Jim Welch is founder and president of The Growth Leader Inc., a business-leadership consulting firm, and principal owner in LeadershipFuelNow, LLC. He works with Fortune 500 clients and entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. He is the author of Grow Now: 8 Essential Steps to Flex Your Leadership Muscles;www.thegrowthleader.com

    Sections Supplements
    New Technology Park Chairman Wants to Build Awareness of a ‘Gem’
    Paul Adornato

    Paul Adornato says one of his priorities is to raise the profile of the STCC Technology Park.

    Paul Adornato admits that he didn’t know much about the Technology Park at STCC before he was asked to lead the board that oversees operations there and conducts long-term strategic planning for the facility.

    “I knew it existed, but didn’t know any of the history,” he explained, adding that he understood that it had assumed space, several hundred thousand square feet of it, across Federal Street from the campus, once occupied by Digital Equipment Corp., but not much else.

    What he knew of the Andrew M. Scibelli Enterprise Center at the tech park, which features two small-business incubators, was all that he could gather (again, not much) during a brief visit when he accompanied his daughter, who was at that time in the process of starting her own business, to a seminar on how to get such ventures off the ground.

    Suffice it to say that Adornato has been given a crash course on the 12-year-old park since he was asked to chair the STCC Assistance Corp. (STCCAC), the body created by a special act of the state Legislature in 1996 to manage what has become an award-winning, unique facility. But while getting that education, he has been reflecting on his own prior ignorance concerning the park’s mission and operations — and quickly realizing that he certainly wasn’t alone.

    Indeed, if Adornato, a retired senior vice president at MassMutual and an individual who, in his own words, is “committed to Springfield,” didn’t know how or why the park was formed and that it now houses companies employing close to 900 workers, then many others are likely still in the dark.

    Thus, shedding some light on the situation and creating more awareness of the park and its reason for being are priority one for Adornato, who succeeds Brian Corridan, the original chairman of the STCCAC, who stepped down from that post late last fall. Such awareness is key, said Ardornato, because it is the foundation on which a stronger, financially healthier tech park can be built.

    “I was thinking about how much I didn’t know about the tech park,” he told BusinessWest, referring to the conversations he had late last fall with Corridan, STCC President Ira Rubenzahl, and others that effectively brought him up to speed. “In talking to some of my peers, I found that they didn’t really know much about this gem, either.

    “And that’s what excites me about this opportunity,” he said of his new assignment. “We have a chance to educate a lot of people about what we have here.”

    As part of a broad strategy to get the word out, and thus draw more technology-related tenants to the park, Adornato said he’ll work with his board and college officials to correct many of the misconceptions about the facility. “There are several,” he said, starting with the common belief that it is occupied mostly or entirely by state agencies.

    There are a few — the Mass. Department of Revenue’s Child Support Division is in the park, as is the Mass. Rehab Commission — but the facility is filled mostly with technology-related private and publicly held businesses.

    That list includes Western Mass. Electric Co., Fibertech Networks, Crocker Communications, One Communications, MAP Internet, MCI Worldcom, Northeast Optic Network, Springboard Technology, Wiltel Communications, and others. There are also several startups, such as Mindwing Concepts, which creates reading and literacy aids for the classroom, and Magellan Works, a staffing agency; a few non-profits, such as Valley Radio Reading Service; FutureWorks, the one-stop career center; and some established companies such as the engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB).

    Other misconceptions, said Adornato, include the belief that the entire park is an incubator, that tenants are subsidized by the state, and that the park itself does not pay city taxes.

    “There are a lot of negatives out there concerning the park,” he explained. “If we can get the real story out about how the park works and the value it brings to the area, people will see that this as probably a key to the future economic vitality of this region.”

    Adornato told BusinessWest that one strategy he may pursue is staging receptions at the park for players in target markets — specifically companies in technology-related sectors, but also business groups and even state legislators — to build awareness and possibly recruit tenants for the immediate future and also further down the road.

    “This method has worked for me with other things I’ve done during my career,” he explained. “You start by identifying your customers, reaching out to them, and then bringing them together. If you can show them something they’re not fully aware of, it’s an education for them, something that can help them.”

    Looking forward, Adornato said he wants to build more synergy not only between the park and STCC, but between the facility and other institutions, especially UMass Amherst.

    Elaborating, he said he would like to attract businesses that would complement existing programs at STCC and other schools or perhaps inspire new ones in ways that would start building new job bases, in areas such as sustainable energy or biotechnology, and also secure adequate workforces to grow those new or emerging clusters.

    “We should be able to do a much better job of tying in to UMass and the technology that’s emerging there,” he said. “We should also be tying in more to what’s happening here at STCC. With the infrastructure we have at the tech park and the technical community college across the street, we should be able to provide an attractive workforce to help this region grow.”

    The tech park is still a player in the state’s quest to locate a data center in Springfield, he said, noting that the former Technical High School is also a candidate. While continuing to pursue that prize, the STCCAC will also explore other means to fill remaining space (the facility is about 80% occupied) and thus put the park, the first of its kind in the country and probably the world, on more-secure financial ground.

    For starters, though, Adornato wants to focus on awareness-building efforts, because after 12 years in business, the Technology Park shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone in the Pioneer Valley.

    — George O’Brien

    Sections Supplements
    Time-tested Tactics Still Outshine the Bells and Whistles
    Paul Robbins

    Paul Robbins, president of Paul Robbins Associates, says he undertakes a certain amount of pro bono work each year to assist causes he feels strongly about and keep his name relevant in the marketplace.

    Marketing is a multi-faceted business sector that draws from many different disciplines to create results for a wide array of clients. But what about when the advertising gurus must promote themselves? It seems the best courses of action still include some of the oldest tricks in the book, revamped with a focus on today’s diverse marketplace — in other words, practicing what you preach.

    There’s an aspect of marketing and advertising that Janet Warren, owner of MarCom Capital in Hatfield, says is unique to the industry.

    “You get to be your own guinea pig,” she explained. “As marketers, we are constantly giving advice to our clients, so we routinely test our own advice on ourselves. We have to take a look at what we’re saying to clients — it helps us to be objective and critical, in a positive way, about the advice given to other people.”

    Indeed, marketers are business owners, too, and they’re frequently charged with getting their own name and message out to the masses, just as they help position their clients for increased success in the marketplace.

    This often means turning their own advice inward, and in turn, this tactic sometimes helps them gauge what’s working and what may be ready for retirement in an increasingly specialized, fast-paced business sector.

    “Whether you’re a marketer or not, you need to know what it is about your business that is unique and makes you stand out,” said Warren. “And that process starts with asking questions.”

    The Value-based Sale

    Some of those questions include ‘what are my strengths?’ ‘how can I best help my clients?’ and ‘which types of clients are the best fit for my set of specialties?’ Further, all of these queries are aimed at one goal: translating the value of a marketer’s services to the most appropriate audience. Warren said it’s the most important aspect of what she calls “value-based selling.”

    “It’s really important for marketers to develop a clear, concise message, and to be transparent about what they do,” she said. “Value-based sales sell results: things like our portfolios or case studies of past projects. We have to have results at the ready. They give someone an illustration of what we do, but also help to explain the process.

    “The overall idea is that, through value-based selling, clients or potential clients walk away with information they didn’t have before,” she added.

    Paul Robbins, president of Paul Robbins Associates in Wilbraham, added that honing in on existing strengths adds even more weight to such presentations, and to advertising one’s own marketing outfit, as it allows firms of all types to speak more directly to the types of clients they can best serve.

    “You can be everywhere, or you can be scarce and let your work be your calling card,” he said, likening the difference between the two avenues to the steady stream of guests on a late-night television show. “Johnny Carson used to have guests that were on all the time, but he also had guests that chose to appear only a handful of times who were just as memorable because they chose their appearances very carefully.”

    In Western Mass., he added, the marketing and advertising sector is robust, creating healthy competition for work. Some firms choose to be as all-encompassing as possible to thrive in this market, while others choose to hone in on a specific niche. Either way, he said, the focus should always been on quality, not quantity, because a marketer’s most powerful tool is the work they’ve completed.

    “Marketers rely heavily on their reputations — letting their projects speak for them,” he said. “If I achieve a successful result, if my client is happy with the work, then that’s an automatic marketing tool for me.”

    Warren agreed, adding that this market is one that is also becoming increasingly diverse in a number of creative and technology-related fields. This, she speculated, could signal a shift in the industry toward greater collaboration and subcontracting among firms with various competencies.

    “I think one of the reasons that firms have tried do everything in the past is that this is a small market, and there aren’t many companies that can afford to hire a number of experts,” she said. “But what is important is not to be the best marketer, but to do what we do really well, and to link strategy with action steps and coordinate the pieces. There are a lot of really smart marketers in this market — there’s something about each firm that is a forté.”

    She said that by differentiating a firm’s services from all others, a marketer can not only better reach clients, but business partners as well. “I focus on strategy, and I work with both small and large companies to pull multiple things together. I am not the most technology-savvy person out there, but I can easily pull in an SEO (search-engine optimization) expert if needed, for example.”

    There are some things that all marketers must do, added Robbins, to remain relevant, among them a maintaining a Web presence and rethinking traditional office hours.

    “This is a whole new arena for business,” he said. “Clients want to be able to reach me at any time — at noon on a Tuesday, or on a Saturday morning. This still boils down to good customer service and accessibility, but with the Internet and cell phones, the channels have changed. We must engage people in a different way.”

    March of the Penguins

    But while the industry is evolving, especially through technology, there are still many time-tested tactics that continue to factor greatly into a firm’s success, including the power of word-of-mouth.

    “It’s still the single most powerful marketing tool in the world, and that’s true for marketers as much as anyone else,” said Robbins. “If someone receives great service, they’re going to refer me to someone else.”

    Lucy Carlson, owner of Carlson Advertising based in Palmer, said word-of-mouth has factored greatly into her business plan, and was also integral in getting her business off the ground two years ago.

    “I mostly started getting work by making contacts through the Quaboag Chamber,” she said. “That was really a home run — my first two clients came from that affiliation. From there, I’ve continued to develop relationships. Developing a level of trust and comfort is important, because it increases the clients’ confidence in referring you to other people.”

    Carlson said that’s doubly important for smaller firms like her own, which is positioned to offer companies of varying sizes a wide range of marketing services.

    “I’m small, so I’m focused on personal, one-on-one service. I want people to see me as their marketing person, handling the things they don’t have time for in their business and to help them stand out by finding their own voice.”

    This has become a key aspect of Carlson’s internal advertising. Her firm’s tag line — “In an over-communicated world, how are you going to stand out?” — sends a message to potential clients, but also applies to her own business strategy. A print ad designed for Carlson Advertising by a design firm she often contracts with translated the phrase visually into a sea of penguins, featuring one bird in particular separated from the flock.

    “When you see footage or photos of penguins, there are always thousands of them, just walking in the same direction,” said Carlson. “This business can feel like that sometimes, so the idea became, ‘how do I stand out from the crowd?’”

    She added that public events such as trade shows have returned positive results as far as getting her company’s name and message out in the region.

    “Public events work for me because of the amount of people seeing my work,” she said. “We’re a visual society, so I think that’s why they’re effective. If someone walks by the booth of a client of mine and asks about who handled the design or the copy, I’m getting a benefit, and it’s not even my business on display.”

    Front-porch Pitch

    Robbins said there are other ways to get a firm’s name out in front of the public eye, including efforts to factor in a certain amount of pro bono work each year.

    Robbins completed just such a project recently for the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in Springfield, creating a suite of marketing materials to publicize the museum. He calls such jobs “front-porch projects,” because they are as important to the community as they are to raising his firm’s profile.

    “I do a fair amount of pro bono work, and personally, I feel strongly about healing racism in America,” he explained. “I try to invest in projects that have that characteristic because, first, it’s important to me, and that adds value to my work. Second, there’s a real benefit when someone picks up a brochure for one of these projects and asks who designed it.”

    Warren said that regardless of the project, allowing work to speak for itself is a huge part of any marketer’s self-focused campaign because of the sheer nature of the work at hand.

    “We sell abilities,” she said. “Savvy business leaders and entrepreneurs who don’t know marketing particulars understand that they need people to help them translate their message, and in this ‘Web 2.0’ world, things are getting very specialized. What I try to do is be the one person to pull it all together.”

    Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

    Features
    In the World of Sports Economics, Andrew Zimbalist Knows the Score
    Andrew Zimbalist

    Andrew Zimbalist says the sheer enormity of baseball revenues have been sufficient to quell any labor discord since 1995 because, no matter how the pie is sliced, owners and players are both getting a big piece.

    It was bedtime, and Andrew Zimbalist’s son was worried.

    It was the spring of 1990, and Major League Baseball owners had dug in on a lockout that would eventually delay the start of the season by about a month. And that saddened 11-year-old Jeff — an avid fan with baseball cards plastered all over his walls — because, he told his father, he wouldn’t be able to play Little League ball, either.

    “It was a peculiar comment,” said Zimbalist, a professor of Economics at Smith College. “I explained to him why the major-leaguers weren’t playing, and that it wouldn’t stop him from playing. Then, as I was walking out, he said, ‘hey, Dad, you’re an economist. Why don’t you write a book about baseball economics?’”

    It was a precocious question coming from a preteen, but it got Zimbalist thinking. “I went to the library and starting looking up sports economics,” he said. “And I found that no one had written a book about the economics of baseball.”

    So he worked up a proposal and some sample pages and whisked them off to a publisher, thinking he’d never hear anything back. But two weeks later, the editor called with a $30,000 advance to write the book. The end result, titled Baseball and Billions: A Probing Look Inside the Big Business of Our National Pastime, became a business bestseller in 1992, and Zimbalist began receiving invitations to TV and radio talk shows — and requests to do more writing.

    That he did — following up Baseball and Billions with eight other sports-themed tomes, covering such wide-ranging topics as college athletics, Title IX equality, the economic impact of teams and stadiums on cities, and, of course, baseball, which he has revisited in three other books.

    In the process, Zimbalist, now one of the country’s leading ‘sports economists,’ has found himself increasingly in demand — not only in the media, but as a legal consultant in dozens of cases involving salary arbitration, collective bargaining, antitrust laws, and even litigation involving teams, cities, and leagues.

    “All sports, from baseball and football to NASCAR, tennis, and golf, have lots and lots of issues, and we live in a very litigious society,” he told BusinessWest. “Anyone can find something to sue someone over. There’s always something going on.”

    All of which has helped Zimbalist, who began his career as an expert in Latin American economies, to carve out a starting role in a vastly different arena.

    Halftime Adjustments

    Zimbalist’s career arc has taken him well outside his original goals.

    As an undergraduate in the 1960s, a time of war and social upheaval, he majored in economics as a way to understand the world. He eventually became intrigued with questions of poverty and economic development in Latin America, a broad subject on which he has written several books. He arrived at Smith in 1974, teaching comparative economics.

    But his shift into sports economics has introduced him to far different subjects, such as Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, to quote the title of his 1997 book.

    “My basic finding was that, as a general matter, cities should not anticipate that building a facility or attracting a team will have an impact on the general economy,” he told BusinessWest.

    “If the deal is done in the best conceivable way and the stars align properly,” he explained, “maybe you’ll see a small positive impact, and if the opposite occurs, you might have a small negative impact. Now, if the plan comes with other components, such as a village around the stadium with integrated themes, then you can say the overall project is pro-development, but you can’t say that of a stadium by itself.”

    In 1999, Zimbalist delved into the lucrative world of collegiate athletics with Unpaid Professionals: Commercialization and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports. He doesn’t argue, as some have, that college athletes should be paid, partly on the basis that colleges don’t pay other amateur talent, such as orchestra musicians.

    At the same time, however, he acknowledges that the big money generated by sports programs, particularly football programs at top Division I schools, have led to an uncomfortable hybrid boasting both professional and amateur elements. By some estimates, he said, a star football player may generate more than $1 million for the school by himself.

    “If I had my druthers, I’d sever these big-time programs from college,” Zimbalist said. Athletes would still play at the college stadium, but be paid by an independent team affiliated with the school. In return for the exposure, the college would offer a lifetime free pass — four years of free tuition, room, and board if the athlete ever has the motivation to attend the school.

    “That would get rid of all the contradictions right there,” he said. “They would no longer have to pretend to be students.”

    While the influx of money has arguably changed college athletics considerably over time, said Zimbalist, Major League Baseball has changed enormously just since the 1980s and early 1990s, when strikes and lockouts occurred every few years, culminating in the strike of 1994-95 that erased the World Series for the first time in almost a century.

    “Baseball was dysfunctional from a business perspective then,” said Zimbalist. “The owners couldn’t agree with each other, let alone the Players Association. But historically, baseball had never had any real competition, and it grew very arrogant, with lax business practices, and didn’t innovate at all. It had no central marketing department. As a business, it was limping along.”

    But the lengthy, bitter strike — the last one the sport has endured, in fact — changed all that. “The strike was finally a recognition by both sides that they were wasting a treasure,” he said. “The fan reaction and media reaction were extraordinarily negative, and it scared them. They felt like they had to get their act together and cooperate with each other.”

    That crystalizing moment dovetailed with the ascent of Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig into the commissioner’s chair. Selig is widely credited with many of the popular innovations in baseball since 1995, including interleague games, playoff wild cards, market expansion, and — most notably — revenues that have been growing by an average of 11% per year.

    “One of his greatest strengths has been that he knows the owners, and he spends countless hours talking to them about their issues. He was an effective force in turning baseball in the right direction,” said Zimbalist, who chronicled Selig’s achievements in 2006’s In the Best Interest of Baseball? The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig.

    “The economic riches have become so great that the players lost all appetite for going on strike, and the owners lost their appetite for doing lockouts,” he said. “As imperfect as the situation seems to them sometimes — everyone has something to complain about — the bottom line is that everyone does pretty damn well, and under those circumstances, everyone has learned to get along.”

    Shutting Out the Competition

    Few would deny that the professional sports world, with its billion-dollar coffers and individual monopolies that typically allow one league to dominate each sport, is fertile ground for greed and even corruption.

    However, Zimbalist stops short of calling for federal regulation, noting that even baseball’s legendary anti-trust exemption, so often discussed during the strike of 1994-95, is more a symbol today than anything else.

    “We’ve had anti-trust laws in this country since the 1880s,” he said, “and they used to be vigorously enforced to prevent monopolies from forming and abusing customers.

    “They used to be somewhat effective,” he continued, “but since at least Ronald Reagan and maybe back further, they’ve been eviscerated, and new standards for finding companies in violation make it very difficult to prosecute. It’s almost as though society has deemed that monopolies are bad, but trying to prosecute them is worse, just a waste of resources.”

    Given that scenario, he noted, it’s easy to understand how fans of average and lower income are slowly being priced out of the experience of watching live sports.

    “Revenues have gone way up, players’ salaries have gone way up, and consumers have to pay a lot more to attend events,” said Zimbalist. “All of this could be taking place at a lower level. If stadiums didn’t extort large sums from cities, they’d have to play in more modest facilities and generate less revenue. Players would get paid less, ticket prices would be lower, and profits would be lower. It’s the exact same game, but ratcheted down a notch or two.”

    He doesn’t blame the owners or players, though — “they want to maximize their profit, just like anyone else would do in their situation” — and doesn’t expect the system to change internally. But he says government interference isn’t the answer, either.

    “If we knew how to regulate in this country, I would be more in favor of that, but regulators tend to get captured by industry and the morass of bureaucracy,” he said.

    “I could see it on the world stage, where members of a commission put checks on policies,” he continued, “but I’m not sure the U.S. political scene could accommodate that very well.”

    Two decades considering such debates, and immersing himself in the financial nitty-gritty of the games we play and watch, haven’t made Zimbalist less of a fan — just one with a more critical eye.

    “I’m a different fan than I used to be,” he said. “I have less-focused preferences than I used to. I’ve worked with so many teams and leagues that I’ve come to appreciate many of them. So I tend to root for the teams of my friends, people I respect and like. My preferences are much more evenly distributed, but that just means I have more horses in the race.”

    And if he gets too jaded? Well, there’s always Little League.v

    Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

    Sections Supplements
    This Generation Has Some Different Views — on Work, and the World
    Jeanie Forray

    Jeanie Forray, professor of management at Western New England College, says Millennials sometimes lack certain skills, but are very strong in terms of technology and innovation.

    The ‘kids’ aren’t so young anymore. The first wave of the so-called Millennial generation is now a major force in corporate America, and soon, even more members of this large age group will be ready for entry-level positions — and some will be managers. There are several challenges for employers when it comes to this generational shift, among them work habits that are very different from those of older managers and co-workers. But many local experts say it’s less about ‘conforming’ for either party, and more about meeting in the middle.

    “Does a BlackBerry come with this job?” “How about a company car?” “Will they make me take out my eyebrow piercing?”

    These are questions Jennifer Brown has heard from recent college graduates as part of her work with Staffing Now, an employment agency with local offices in West Springfield and Easthampton.

    “We don’t always see that,” Brown, a branch manager, cautioned, “but we are witnessing it more. Even more often than that, we’re seeing some high expectations regarding salary among new graduates … some expect the best, because they’ve been provided with the best.”

    But the questions about high-tech perks and meaty paychecks comprise just one aspect of a larger phenomenon many employers are taking a close look at lately — the effect the so-called Millennials are having on recruitment, retention, and overall management in the workplace.

    “Millennials may come into the marketplace with high expectations, but if we keep the communication lines open and mentor them as well as learn from them, I think companies will find themselves enriched by their ideas,” said Brown. “This is a very smart group of people, and one that is very sophisticated. They have been shaped by things like Enron, handheld communication, and the effect of the media on American business. We shouldn’t be afraid of recognizing some of the things they have to say; that’s what will keep them in a position, and keep them creative, challenged, and happy.”

    Frank Lovelock agreed. He’s an internal organizational development consultant with Baystate Health who told BusinessWest that many organizations are taking a closer look at employees of all ages, in order to better manage them and their strengths.

    “I think that one of the biggest things going on now is an effort to be aware and really learn about each generation,” he explained, “but the Millennials are a special focus. There’s a move to try to provide awareness to managers and employees in general so people can learn to work with them without misunderstanding what they do and why they do it. If we understand a behavior and where it comes from, it’s easier to work and cope with it.”

    In this issue, BusinessWest takes an indepth look at the Millennials, why they are the way they are, and what managers can do to ‘adjust’ — that’s the word HR professionals use — rather than ‘cater’ to this generation.

    Meet the Millennials

    The Millennials, formerly referred to as Gen Y, is the collective name given to the generation born roughly between 1982 and the present. The group, nearly 80 million strong, is quickly surpassing the Baby Boomer generation in size — most Millennials are the children of Boomers — and the oldest members of this group are now in their mid-20s and beginning to make a significant impact on the American business community through both their size and their habits.

    There’s been a lot of talk surrounding all of the five generations present in today’s society of late, and how each group works with others. The ‘G.I. Generation,’ those born between 1901 and 1926 or so, have the smallest impact on the workplace, due to their advancing age and dwindling size. The ‘Silents,’ born between 1927 and 1945, come next — most of them are retired — followed by the Boomers, previously the largest generation in existence, and Generation X, a relatively small group.

    While Boomers and Xers in particular remain a hot topic in terms of management, marketing, wealth transfer, and other areas, Millennials are receiving particular attention because they represent the future of the workplace, and also tend to live life and do business in ways that have never been seen before.

    This generation has been influenced most by the events spanning from the mid- to late 1980s to today, and as such are strongly motivated by technology, environmental issues, and education. It’s an ethnically diverse generation, and one that has been influenced by major events, including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

    It’s a generation that effectively multi-tasks more than any other, values flexibility and work-life integration, and, in general, has been raised by involved parents, which can sometimes make navigating the choppy corporate waters alone a challenge for this set.

    Jeanie Forray, chair of the Management Department at the Western New England College School of Business, said that while not everyone who falls into the Millennial category will display these traits on the job, the trends are no less important to study as a means of better understanding this large generation. This summer, she and Marketing professor Janelle Goodnight will pilot a course called “Professional Presentation” that will speak to many of the areas in which some Millennials need assistance.

    “There are some lessons that other generations have learned that Millennials haven’t,” she said, noting that these lessons include appropriate dress and voice-mail, E-mail, and meal etiquette, as well as acceptable questions or challenges within meetings, for example. “As a college, we focus on career preparation, and as a faculty, we’ve noticed this. We want to teach these people some of the basics that they will face in the workplace, but at the same time, we don’t want to constrain their strengths.”

    As much as most Millennials have yet to learn, said Forray, they also comprise a generation that is not shy about sharing opinions and ideas, and this is where she said their impact will likely be felt most strongly in the future of the corporate sector.

    “It doesn’t have to be seen as catering to them; that has a somewhat negative connotation. But if we look at it as ‘adapting,’ then it’s something we can embrace. It becomes one more aspect of organizational life.”

    Raised to Rebel?

    Lovelock said many ‘Millennial behaviors,’ as he called them, stem from one’s upbringing, generally speaking, as well as from the technology-saturated years in which this group has come of age.

    “A lot of habits spring from what they’ve grown up with. For instance, communication is constant for them. This is a group that multi-tasks; they can work and communicate with friends at other companies via instant messaging, E-mail, and cell phones.

    “Companies have to think about that,” he added. “There are some things you can’t do at work, but there are other areas in which an employer might be well-served to step back, ensure that an appropriate level of productivity is being achieved, and meet halfway.”

    Lovelock added that flex time is another attractive draw for Millennial job-seekers that could help businesses attract and retain young, quality employees.

    “There’s a strong need for flexibility,” he said, noting, however, that this isn’t the first generation to foster change in the workplace. “Gen X came into the marketplace touting work-life values in a big way. But Millennials take it further. They look for flexibility as a requirement.”

    Gen X factors into another variable that is causing managers to take a longer look at their younger Millennial counterparts; because ‘X’ is a small generation, there are too few employees in this age bracket to fill vacancies left by retiring Baby Boomers.

    “The Baby Boomers generation is huge, and X is small, so as Boomers retire, we have to be aware of the Millennials and work to make a bridge to them,” said Lovelock. “Part of that means understanding how they behave in the workplace, and how managers have to be, too.”

    To help foster that understanding Lovelock says is integral, Baystate has developed courses for employees in generational diversity and generational competency that focus on all four generations. These voluntary classes offer training in how to deal with younger employees and, conversely, what younger employees should understand about their older co-workers.

    “These courses have generated a lot of interest, as well as lively discussions,” he told BusinessWest. “The topics also continue to evolve — most Millennials in our organization are still too young to hold management positions, but courses in ‘Millennials as managers’ are coming. I think when that hits, it’s going to stir up a whole new set of comments and questions.”

    He said it’s important to note that Millennials should be involved in those discussions, not just analyzed from afar.

    Questions and Answers

    “Millennials must change and conform to some things,” said Lovelock. “Often, rules and regulations have been put into place after much research and careful thought. I really think that Millennials are not so much resistant as they have a need to understand why things are the way they are. Once they do, they jump to be part of the team.”

    Brown agreed, noting that while she occasionally gets an off-the-wall question from a young job-seeker, more often than not these young employees, like all professionals just starting out, have a burning desire to be heard and to contribute.

    “It’s very possible that they’ll have to modify their behaviors a bit to fit the company culture,” she said, “and it’s just as possible that managers will have to change with the times, too. It’s about moving forward together, in the right direction.”

    Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at

    [email protected]