Home 2009 March
Agawam Wants to Balance Commercial Growth with Rural Charm
Deborah Dachos (left, with Mayor Susan Dawson)

Deborah Dachos (left, with Mayor Susan Dawson) says the time has come for residents to re-evalute the Tennis Road property.

Agawam is the first colonial settlement in the Pioneer Valley and, from its early beginnings in 1635, has always had a rich agricultural history.

What makes this community of 30,000 residents different from many others in the region is this link to the farms of yesteryear, yet with a suburban presence at the other side of a bridge from the city of Springfield. Like other bedroom communities in the Valley, more than 75% of the town’s population commutes out of town.

Mayor Susan Dawson recently told BusinessWest that it is just that balance of the rural and suburban which initially drew her to the town. “When I moved here, I came from outside Philadelphia,” she said, “and I was looking for a suburban community. But I also wasn’t really looking for ‘big,’ because at college in Lancaster County, Pa., I really enjoyed that agricultural side of things.”

While many other communities struggle with foreclosures and tax defaults, Dawson said that because Agawam is solidly in the middle of the economic spectrum, her town hasn’t been affected to the extent that one reads elsewhere. The median family income hovers around $59,000, and the median sale price of homes from the most recent statistics comes in at just under $200,000.

While Agawam prides itself on that small-town charm, it is also home to one of the region’s largest tourist draws: Six Flags New England. Despite a history with that entertainment giant, the town has struggled in recent years for an appropriate balance of its residential and commercial areas, and town officials and residents say the time has come to address this situation again, learning from past divisive issues.

Tennis, Anyone?

Deborah Dachos is the town planner for Agawam, and she likes to look on the bright side of the current economic climate. “One thing we’ve noticed is that the number of applications for new development has significantly decreased over the last year,” she said. “But that gives me the opportunity to do things I might not normally have the time to do.”

What Dachos was specifically referring to is a townwide, comprehensive economic-development survey to address what she, others in Town Hall, and many residents feel is an important, if not the most important, issue: commercial development in Agawam. Sent out to residents via mail, E-mail, and a local newspaper, the survey seeks answers to a variety of questions about retail preferences in the 01001 zip code.

But more importantly, the survey addresses the concerns that townspeople might have with what is known in town as ‘the Tennis Road property,’ one of the most valuable pieces of undeveloped land bordering Route 57.

Three years ago, an out-of-state developer petitioned to change the zoning on the property to enable commercial, retail construction. A binding referendum question was defeated by a margin of 3 to 1. The prevailing thought from that vote was that Agawam residents do not want a big-box retailer in town, especially one that would negatively impact the smaller residential roads leading to the site and also the high school across the highway.

Dachos said the time has come to re-evaluate that property. “We put that question into the survey to revisit Tennis Road,” she said. “It appeared that, from anecdotal information, people were opposed to someone from the outside. The fear was that some New Yorker was going to come in and circumvent local and state laws, and build something that would be too big for the town.

“At the time,” she continued, “the perception from the referendum vote was that residents said we definitely don’t want commercial development on that property. But the survey results aren’t suggesting that right now. People want new retail development there, but they want very specific things.”

Ed Borgatti is the owner of E.B.’s, a popular Agawam restaurant, and is also the former president of the Agawam Chamber of Commerce. Remembering that referendum, and the developer whose plans were cut short, he believes it wasn’t the right time, nor the right way, to proceed with such a proposal.

“The developer who wanted to build out the Tennis Road property a few years back made some serious missteps,” he told BusinessWest. “He wasn’t a bad person; he just went about it the wrong way for Agawam. He was from out of the area, he used PR people and lawyers from Springfield, and basically people in Agawam are not thrilled to feel like the big city is trying to muscle them into decisions.

“He should have gotten a consultant from town,” Borgatti continued, “and he should have hired an Agawam lawyer … but as it happened, the town politicians sat down at the meeting, and in come all these guys from Springfield, and that was just the wrong thing to do.”

Dachos said that now is the time for the voices of Agawam to decide what they would like for Tennis Road. “The residents and the community need to speak up,” she said. “For the first time, it’s not a developer from outside the community saying, ‘this is what we’re going to give you,’ or ‘this is what you’re going to get.’ It is us saying, ‘OK, do you want something there, and if so, what do you want?’ So we, as a town, can say to a potential developer that this is what the community says it want, and what it will support.”

She noted that there is a developer interested in the property right now, but the administration wants to promote what the community has an interest in.

Big, but Not Too Big

Dave Ratner is the owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City, one of the stalwarts in the town’s local business establishment. After 34 years of successful operations in the community, Ratner knows a thing or two about how things work, and he still finds Agawam a good fit.

“Well, one of the things about Agawam that makes it good for a home-grown business,” he said, “is that when real-estate brokers from chain stores come to town looking to establish a presence, we’re not on a major highway, so they say, ‘there can’t be any kind of marketplace here,’ and they stay away. And these days, trust me, when you’re an independent business owner, that’s very good for you.”

But Ratner admits that such lack of competition can be too much of a good thing. “The flip side to that is, there’s more traffic when you do have major, national tenants.”

Elaborating on this conundrum, Ratner said that it might not be a bad idea for a few of the bigger players on the national retail scene coming to town wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. “I think if we got one or two major tenants in Agawam, the whole stock of the town would go up.”

Ratner gives a great deal of credit to the town leaders in their efforts to bring successful tenants to the other building abutting his store, formerly housing the now defunct Steve & Barry’s. “The officials in the town are wonderful to work with. Anything that I’ve ever needed, they’ve helped with.

“It was amazing how much coaxing the town had to do to get Steve & Barry’s to come to this plaza,” he continued. “The brokers came from New York; they drove by here and said, ‘well, this is a terrible location.’ It’s not on Route 5, so they didn’t want to open up. But as it turns out, this was one of the best stores for that chain in the region. In little ol’ Agawam.”

Even though much of the town’s focus is on the new dirt that could be developed on Tennis Road, many members of the community wonder if such development could revitalize the sagging fortunes of the Agawam Towne Plaza, as reported in these pages recently after the bankruptcy of Steve & Barry’s shut down the one anchor store in an otherwise nearly empty plaza.

Both Dawson and Dachos mentioned the lengths to which the town strived to get that retailer into the plaza, hoping that, with such a strong presence, the vacancy signs in the windows would be replaced with new business opportunities. But what makes Tennis Road such a desirable commercial property also makes the Towne Center a more difficult sell. “There is a large, vocal group that really wants to see something happen in that plaza,” Dachos said. “People just can’t understand that the buildings are old, the street visibility is not great, and it lacks the highway location.”

Roller-coaster Ride

Even though the big-box stores have had a rough road in breaking ground in Agawam, the Six Flags complex has successfully co-existed with the town. Dachos gives that company a gold star for its efforts to be a good neighbor.

“They’ve invested a tremendous amount of revenue, several million dollars, in parking lots, pedestrian bridges, and road improvements, to reduce gridlock,” she explained. “Six Flags has been, from my perspective, a very good neighbor here in town. And it supports a lot of social and civic organizations. The taxes and the jobs are great. We don’t hear the complaints that we did when it became a Six Flags facility, where people couldn’t get out of their driveway for hours and hours.”

Dawson agreed. “Someone might think that a giant presence like Six Flags would be an issue for small-town Agawam would be such a giant presence like Six Flags. But that hasn’t been the case.”

Responding to the recent news of hard times and possible bankruptcy for the nationwide chain, Dawson said that despite the grumblings of impending doom, the company’s local operation should be riding the roller coaster A-OK. “According to the information I’ve gotten from them, they are looking at reorganizing, which simply means that they are going to reorganize their debt. But the services they provide will still be the same. As long as the public doesn’t stop going to their entertainment areas, the company will stay sound.”

Borgatti, meanwhile, sees the future of his hometown as looking bright. And the word he used to describe this optimism was vision.

“We’ve always lacked vision in business development in this town,” he said. “But we are going in a positive direction now.”

“I think people are afraid that development immediately means that we are going to lose our small-town charm,” he continued. “But they can live in harmony. There’s always that fear some big developer from out of the area is going to come in and take over for their own benefit. But there are people who grew up here who have a good idea of how to develop and still keep the town spirit intact.”

Dachos agreed. “Primarily this development interest we’re seeing right now is home-grown, and the developers who are proposing the subdivisions are local guys who have confidence that things are going to improve, and they want to get ahead of the curve and get their projects approved so that they are ready to go. New restaurants are opening up by local residents who have had dreams for years, and who are now just plowing ahead and doing it.”

Dawson weighed in with her final thoughts on the controversial issue of Tennis Road and its future. “What Agawam is going to have to do is make some tough decisions about development,” she said, “because we can have development — which means new tax growth, new revenue — and it can be clustered so that it doesn’t negatively affect our residential areas.

“My goal is for affordable senior housing as well as commercial development that people want. It’s going to be a win for everyone in town. We’ll see what happens.”

Sections Supplements
The Space Is Ready for a Biotech Facility, but the Funding Is in Limbo
Dr. Paul Friedmann

Dr. Paul Friedmann says Mass Life Sciences is dealing with several projects across the state with less money on hand than it had expected.

Except for some HVAC ducting and a few pieces of stranded equipment on carts, Dr. Paul Friedmann is standing in a big, empty space on the top floor of the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute building in Springfield.

‘Empty’ is the key word here.

The 12,500 square-foot area is the much-anticipated home of the region’s first biotech incubator, which has the potential of luring entrepreneurs and the seeds of new business to the area.

The plans are laid. The space has been chosen. Everything is ready to go, but until the Mass Life Sciences Center frees up the $5.5 million in funds, which the state earmarked for the build-out of the incubator, that space remains empty. It was hoped that the money would come through last year, but so far it has not.

Mass Life Sciences Center is the entity in charge of distributing the $1 billion in funds generated when Gov. Patrick signed the Life Sciences Bill in June 2008. The bill is part of a 10-year strategy to lure more life-sciences business into the state. A $5.5 million chunk of it was to go toward creating an incubator in the Pioneer Valley.

“We’re working with Mass Life Sciences right now,” said Friedmann, who is the executive director of the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute. “It’s an ongoing process. They are trying to support us, but they didn’t get all the funds they asked for, and they have other projects in the state they are trying to help.”

Early-stage companies often don’t have the means to commit to a long-term commercial office lease. They need a place to survive until they can garner enough interest to attract another level of venture funding. If the life-sciences industry is to bring the next wave of economic growth to the state, an incubator could play a vital role in helping new companies get a foothold in the region.

“The state has supported the concept of life sciences as one of its major goals with the idea that it’s going to be a major source of activity and job creation in the state,” said Friedmann. “If we want to do that, we have to have an incubator, because young companies are not going to come here if there is no place to go. And to attract an established company here is very hard to do.”

With a biotech incubator, the real benefit is lab space, Friedmann said. “Businesses have been known to start in garages, but it’s much harder to start a laboratory. You just can’t do it in any place except an incubator.”

The incubator space at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute has room for about a dozen wet labs, so called because water and specialized utilities are piped in for use in biological and chemical experiments. According to Friedmann, ideally, entrepreneurs will rent a space for three to five years until they reach a point where they are ready to implant somewhere else, which is why there’s also talk of building a biotech park in the area.

“If a young company is successful, the idea is they will leave the incubator, and because of the infrastructure and support systems they have been built, they will be more than likely to stay in the area,” explained Friedmann. “And if they stay in the area, they need a place to go.”

The end result of all this is more jobs. According to the National Business Incubation Assoc. Web site, in 2006, incubators in North America assisted more than 27,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for more than 100,000 workers and generated annual revenue of more than $17 billion.

Western Mass. has a history of entrepreneurial activity in some sectors, but not biotechnology. It’s away from Boston and major sources of venture funding, but if the region is to attract young biotech ventures at all, it needs a place for them to start.

Hopefully, that place is coming soon.

“We should get at least some of the money this year,” Friedmann said. “We’ve had some discussions with a couple of potential tenants. But until we build it out, nobody is gong to make a commitment to go into the space. We’re still waiting.”

Sections Supplements
Enhanced Protection Available for Those Needing Guardianship

A new law will take effect in Massachusetts on July 1 relative to guardianships. This issue has been debated and discussed for more than 20 years, and this law is intended to create uniformity among all states across the country; 13 states enacted the law in 2008.

Until now, in Massachusetts, most issues regarding the administration and legal requirements of guardianships were decided on a case-by-case basis. The new law is more than 100 pages long, and one article applies primarily to the protection of disabled people and their property.

Most provisions of the Uniform Probate Code relating to the settlement of deceased people’s estates do not become effective until July 1, 2011. In Massachusetts, however, over the past year, changes have been made to both the ‘petition for guardianship of a person’ and the medical certificate required to be filed with the court for a finding of incapacitation. These forms were implemented in order to reflect society’s changing view of incapacitated individuals and preserve those people’s rights.

The court has redefined the requirements to determine that a person is incapacitated when they are unable to attend to their own affairs and are in need of a guardian. In addition, some of the terminology that was utilized for many years is now going to be changed. As an example, in the past, a person who was determined by the court to be incapacitated was referred to as a ‘ward.’ This term is now reserved solely for the guardianship of a minor. Any other person who needs a guardian is determined as an ‘incapacitated person,’ a ‘person in need of services,’ or a ‘protective person.’ Court personnel, attorneys, and the public will have to learn the new terminology as well as, potentially, new forms, procedures, and standards.

Here are some of the highlights of the measure:

  • Any petition over a protective person must be served on that person, and that individual has a right to appear at a hearing. In addition, if that person so requests, they may, but do not have to be given, a right to a closed hearing. It is uncertain how this will be conducted, but presumably, the courtroom will be closed to all parties not having an interest in that particular proceeding.
  • A person has a right to counsel. This was not always the rule in the courts regarding a civil proceeding. This right to counsel has been expanded to apply to the person in need of protection. In addition, the statute also provides that consideration should be given to that person if he or she is 14 or more years of age as to the selection of a guardian.
  • To the extent that the person has assets, then their counsel should be compensated from those until the court determines otherwise. If the person to be protected is indigent, then their counsel may be paid by the Commonwealth, but it is uncertain as to where that money will come from and at what rate or by what standard their counsel should be compensated.
  • At the current time, a person may always select their counsel, but in some cases, a person who is not competent, but thought they were, may or may not have the right to select counsel of their own choosing. As a further safeguard for the person, in the event that the court finds it necessary or beneficial, the court may appoint a guardian ad-litem who may be a lawyer, public social worker, or charitable agency to investigate the condition of the person, their affairs, living arrangements, etc., and report to the court to allow the court to make a better decision. Note that a guardian ad-litem does not advocate for the incapacitated person, but reports to the court as the ‘eyes and ears’ of an independent investigator that provides additional information.
  • A new provision provides that there is a prohibition against a person being appointed as a guardian when that person is being investigated or has charges pending for committing an assault and battery that resulted in a serious bodily injury to a minor or incapacitated person. There will presumably be a CORI investigation done to determine each petitioner’s status and ensure that they are not a prohibited party.
  • The terminology of ‘guardians’ and ‘conservators’ has been relatively interchanged for years in the probate courts. Under the new law, a guardian is charged with making decisions regarding the incapacitated person’s support, care, education, health, and welfare. A person’s financial matters are to be managed by a person who is now going to be called a conservator. Therefore, if a person is seeking to be designated as responsible for a protected person’s personal care and financial matters, this person will have to request that the court appoint them as both a guardian and conservator. Of course, these matters may be consolidated into one, but separate documentation may be required by the court.
  • While each competent person has always been encouraged to establish a health care proxy and durable power of attorney during their lifetime, it is increasingly more important to do so. The health care proxy will attend to one’s medical decisions in the event of incapacitation, while the durable power of attorney will attend to financial decisions, and thus allow either the same or different people to make decisions relative to the principal’s affairs.
  • With proper execution while competent, these two very important documents allow a person to make decisions for himself or herself and avoid the need for guardianship. Naturally, if there is disagreement within the family over decisions made by the agent under the health proxy or power of attorney, the family would be able to bring a petition with the probate court and seek to either have the agent removed or have a guardian or conservator appointed.

    However, information in prior documents must be disclosed on the petition for guardianship filed with the court so the judge will have information as to whom the protected person nominated while he was still competent.

    Under the new act, the guardian may have to request specific authority to have a protected person institutionalized in a long-term care facility. Hopefully, this special request can be made within the original petition for guardianship. If not, then after a guardianship is allowed, the guardian may need to file a separate or supplemental petition for additional authority to require the permanent institutionalization of the protected person. Naturally, this will cause additional emotion, time, publicity, and cost.

    Within the framework of the new law, there is additional language that encourages the courts to review guardianships and possibly allow one on a limited basis, rather than making a full determination that the person is incapacitated and has no rights to make any decisions regarding his or her own care and finances.

    In the past, it was the duty of a guardian to file an account with the probate court. As a condition of their bond, the new law mandates that the guardian/conservator report all assets that may be coming under their control within 60 days following their appointment and file an account on an annual basis. With the advent of new, sophisticated software, it is likely that the court will be proactive in requiring fiduciaries to file accounts.

    In the event that the guardian/conservator does not provide an account in a timely fashion, or in the event that the judge is not satisfied with the decisions that the guardian/conservator is making, then the fiduciary could be removed and a successor fiduciary be appointed by the court.

    All in all, these changes are intended to further protect the rights of anyone needing guardianship. Hopefully, the provisions of the new law will be carried out as intended and enacted.

    Attorney Hyman G. Darling is chairman of Bacon Wilson, P.C.’s Estate Planning and Elder Law departments. His areas of expertise include all areas of estate-planning, probate, and elder law. Darling hosts an estate-planning blog atbwlaw.blogs.com/estate_planning_bits; (413) 781-0560;[email protected]


    Purchasing Undeveloped Land


    1. Are wetlands, vernal pools, or streams located on or adjacent to the property? That stream or small depression filled with water may limit or completely inhibit your proposed development.
    2. Is the property located wholly or partially within an active flood plain? If so, the exact extent of the flood plain may need to be determined for insurance purposes. Most flood-plain development requires permitting.
    3. Is the property located within rare-species habitat? Development within rare-species habitat may require permitting and is often time-consuming.
    4. Are there zoning regulations that may inhibit development? Is the site zoned properly for your proposed development? Will variances be required?
    5. Are there legal considerations including liens and/or other encumbrances?
    6. Is there any potential for hazardous waste contamination on the property or adjacent properties? To limit your liability, a site investigation focused on previous ownership and past land usage may be required even though the property is currently undeveloped.
    7. Are electric utilities available nearby? Sewer and water? If sewer is not available, site soils should be tested to ensure that a septic system can be designed for the property.
    8. Is the land suited to your development needs? As a general rule, it is easier to develop a property based on its constraints than to fit a pre-designed project onto a property.
    9. Are there other potential site constraints to consider? Steep slopes, ledge, site access, and high ground water are common issues.
    10. If you are unsure about any of these issues, consider hiring a professional to evaluate your property. An experienced land-development consultant can identify potential development constraints before they become issues.

    John M. Prenosil is a principal with Ware-based JMP Environmental Consulting Inc. and has been involved with land development since 1996; (413) 967-5601.

    Sections Supplements
    Biannual Law Seminar Renamed to Honor Late Attorney John Sikorski
    John Sikorski

    The late John Sikorski is being honored in a way that reflects his love of learning and his dual skills in employment and trial law, colleagues say.

    Before John Sikorski died last year, at the much-too-young age of 55, he built a reputation in the legal world not just as a skilled lawyer, but someone who never felt he was skilled enough to stop learning.

    “John was a voracious legal reader. He’d drive back and forth to Boston listening to legal tapes,” said Jeff McCormick, managing partner of Robinson Donovan, P.C., the Springfield-based law firm where Sikorski had worked for 18 years in employment law.

    “And he was an idea man,” McCormick continued. “All the time, I’d come into the office in the morning, and on my desk would be a three-page memo with an idea John had about how we could improve one of the areas of practice in the office, or how we could help somebody become better at their job.

    “He was one of those guys who — I wouldn’t say he goaded you — but he’d challenge you all the time to become better. He was always helping us improve. He was a real champion of our office.”

    The question, then, for McCormick and his colleagues became, how best to honor Sikorski and keep his memory alive in an appropriate way?

    “Every one of us, to a person, said that we have to do something that honors him by continuing the thing that were important to him,” he said. “He was a real champion of continuing legal education, so someone decided to contact MCLE.”

    That’s Boston-based Mass. Continuing Legal Education Inc., which presents skills and education programs year-round. “We started talking to them about whether there might be some way we could endow one of their educational programs,” McCormick said, “to fund a program to help pay for people who want to go to an employment law-related seminar but couldn’t pay for it.”

    In the end, the firm decided to endow what will now be called ‘Employment Law Trial Skills: The John C. Sikorski MasterClass,’ a workshop held every two years that provides Massachusetts lawyers with advanced education in trying employment cases.

    The program will include lectures by experienced trial lawyers, guided discussions, participatory exercises, and advice from judicial panels. Participants will acquire advanced skills for shaping trials, making effective opening statements and closing arguments, conducting direct and cross examination of human-resources professionals, and establishing damages. They will also learn techniques to help them become more effective at assessing both evidence and expert witnesses.

    Sikorski would have appreciated being involved in any program that helped employment lawyers bolster their courtroom skills, McCormick said. “John was a really good trial lawyer,” he noted. “There are a lot of employment lawyers who aren’t great trial lawyers, but he had that mix.”

    Employment Law Trial Skills takes place every other year at MCLE headquarters in Boston; this year is an off-year, so Sikorski’s name will grace the program starting in March 2010, and then biannually thereafter.

    “Because it’s held only every other year, it’s one that historically has been very well-attended,” McCormick said, “so we felt, what could be more fitting than to name it after John? So Robinson Donovan, as a firm, has endowed that program at MCLE in perpetuity.”

    McCormick, who served as president of the Mass. Bar Assoc. from 1998 to 2000, recalled that Sikorski had been chair of the MBA Labor and Employment Section, a much-sought-after post in which Sikorski excelled. One reason might have been his constant desire to learn more and pass on what he learned.

    “John was a great partner,” he said. “He became known not only in the area but also statewide as someone in the employment-law field who was committed to excellence and always striving to be a better lawyer.”

    He was also a multi-faceted individual, McCormick said, noting as one example Sikorski’s passion for flowers and the impressive garden he and his wife built in their backyard. Hopefully, the seminar now offered in his name will have an impact that proves to be just as perennial.

    “If you went to his funeral, you would not have imagined that so many people knew John,” McCormick said. “People came from Boston, and a custodian in our building was there, too. John touched so many people’s lives, professionally and personally. He was a great friend, and it was a true loss.”

    Joseph Bednar can be reached at

    [email protected]


    It’s no space-age fantasy: today’s doctors and other medical professionals know they’re living in exciting times. Anxious times, too.

    When we asked some of the area’s foremost medical experts for their thoughts on what the next 15 or so years will bring to the health care landscape, they had no shortage of ideas.

    They spoke about the promise of stem cells, and the possibility that scientists might hone their potential to replace tissue and even grow new organs for patients in need — an idea that would have seemed like science fiction not too long ago.

    They talked about how robotics, laparoscopy, and other surgical advances are helping doctors operate with a minimum of trauma or scarring, and turning what used to be week-long hospital stays into outpatient visits.

    The breakthroughs keep piling up — research on gene therapy to reverse the effects of heart disease and prevent it from recurring. Imaging technology that is giving doctors quicker, more accurate pictures of health problems. Computer advances that are starting to help doctors diagnose and treat homebound patients remotely.

    The list goes on, and it speaks not only to the boundless ingenuity of medicine and science, but also to the impressive quality of health care in Western Mass., where many of the latest technologies are being put into practice every day.

    So, there’s clearly no shortage of optimism when it comes to innovation. But there’s also a nagging worry that’s beginning to loom ever-larger for those who are paying attention.

    It’s simply this: how are we going to pay for it all?

    Let’s face it — Americans are accustomed to expecting the best, and our attitude toward health care is no exception. If there’s a breakthough in treatment, people want to partake of it, and they want it now. That’s our culture.

    But doctors and policy experts are starting to ask some sobering questions. With health care already costing about $2 trillion per year, with each new high-tech medical solution arriving with a hefty price tag, and with the plentiful Baby Boomers expected to live longer — often managing serious, chronic health issues — than past generations, many are starting to wonder whether our current health care infrastructure is even sustainable.

    In some cases, they’re flatly saying that it’s not.

    Although debate will rage over the details, many expect that some sort of universal health care in the U.S. is inevitable, which will strain the system further. Long waits for non-essential treatment might become commonplace. Federal regulators might have to decide which products make it to market and which are deemed, well, not cost-effective.

    Some would gasp at the very thought. But, again, we’re Americans, and we’re used to having options. The idea of our health care choices being severely reduced is a scary thought — but it’s one that many are openly talking about.

    There’s a clear dichotomy in play; science is performing miracles on a daily basis, but will we reach a point where even those efforts must be slowed due to financial restraints?

    “We’re developing all this great stuff,” Dr. Jeffrey Leppo told us when he was interviewed for the “Vision 2025” story (see page 34). “We can maybe cure diseases, but we’re still decades away in some cases, and in the meantime we’re pouring tons of money into it without any control.”

    It’s not clear right now that anyone has the answer for a cost problem that, by the direst estimates, could crash the system within 10 years. Efforts to streamline health care through electronic record-keeping and other efficiencies play around the edges, but don’t tackle the core of the problem, which is simply a growing lack of money to pay for everything we want.

    And we want everything. Which, in the end, may turn out to be the biggest fantasy of all.


    Getting Down to Business

    Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno recently announced that Royal & Munnings, LLC is the recipient of a city of Springfield contract providing certain services to minority- and women-owned businesses. The services to businesses under the contract includes technical and legal assistance in obtaining state and federal certification as a minority- or woman-owned business, in responding to procurement opportunities and in obtaining financing and bonding to support these businesses in their participation in construction and supply projects. From left: Maria Lopez-Santiago, chief procurement officer for the city of Springfield; Aimee Griffin Munnings, partner with the law firm of Royal & Munnings, LLC; Sarno; and Amy B. Royal, Partner with Royal & Munnings, LLC.

    Parting Thoughts

    Paul Digrigoli, founder and president of Digrigoli Salons, was the keynote speaker at the recent national conference for NACCE (the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship) in Anaheim, Calif. Here, he makes his point to an audience of educators looking to develop or enhance programs for teaching entrepreneurship.

    Model Operation

    Balise Lexus recently hosted a launch reception to introduce the all-new 2010 RX at its dealership on Riverdale Street. The all-new RX is touted as the “reinvention of the vehicle that invented it all,” according to Mike Balise, left, vice president of Balise Motor Sales, seen here with Brant Baird, district sales manager for Lexus. The event drew several hundred visitiors, and was highlighted by an auction of the first few RXs delivered to the West Springfield showroom.

    Forging Partnerships

    Fagor-Automation Corp. in Chicago recently donated the installation of its new Innova 40i ‘True Vision’ digital readout system in the Machine Tool Technology Program at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School in Springfield. The new computer controls will assist Putnam students to blend their pre-existing Windows computer skills with most of the manual metal-working machines at the school. In preparation for a hands-on open house at Putnam this spring, precision-machining companies that are interested in viewing this new equipment, which will be debuted at EASTEC 2009 on May 19-21, should contact Fred Carrier at Putnam ([email protected]). Coordination of these donated services to Putnam was lead by Buck Upson, president of Pioneer Tool Supply Co. Inc. of West Springfield, the Putnam Program Advisory Board, and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County. Installation of the controls was provided by Danny Steidi and Joel Kasnick from Fagor-Automation Corp.

    Hometown Heroes

    The American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter recently honored several Western Mass. residents at its annual ‘Hometown Heroes’ breakfast. Above, Tony Filipe (left), president of the Home Builders Assoc. of Western Mass., with honoree Joseph Lesniak of Indian Orchard. At right, Sheila Doiron (left), director of Communications and Community Relations for Bay State Gas, with honoree Bobi Steingart of Longmeadow.

    Springfield’s Hoop Hall Will Host BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty Gala
    The Basketball Hall of Fame will be the site of this year’s 40 Under Forty gala.

    The Basketball Hall of Fame will be the site of this year’s 40 Under Forty gala.

    Mark the date: June 18.

    That’s when BusinessWest will celebrate its third class of 40 Under Forty winners at a gala to be staged at the Basketball Hall of Fame on Springfield’s revitalized riverfront.

    Kate Campiti, associate publisher and advertising director for BusinessWest, said the magazine wanted to bring the event to the Hall of Fame in 2009 to showcase some of the exciting developments there and be a part of that revitalization process.

    “We’re spotlighting some of the bright, young talent in this region at our festive celebration, which has become a not-to-be-missed event,” she explained. “But we also wanted to turn the spotlight on Springfield, its riverfront, and the Hall of Fame complex. We’re excited to be bringing our event to this great venue.”

    The Hall’s Center Court will be the site for the gala, which will honor a diverse class of under-40 leaders, as chosen by a panel of five judges. The scores were tabulated early in March, and the winners were notified a few weeks ago. They will be presented to BusinessWest’s readers in the magazine’s April 27 issue.

    To maintain a level of suspense, we’ll reveal only that this group of winners represents sectors ranging from manufacturing to technology; from law to financial services; from retail to construction. Overall, it is a very entrepreneurial group, with many business owners, as well as others who bring a spirit of entrepreneurship to their company or nonprofit agency.

    While not all the details of the June 18 event have been hammered out, many things are known, starting with corporate sponsorship of the event. Several companies have agreed to take a lead role in presenting the gala, including Bay Path College, Comcast, Fathers & Sons, Hampden Bank, and Moriarty & Primack.

    Tickets to the event, which will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, lavish food stations, and entertainment, will be $50 each and may be obtained by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 10, or via E-mail at[email protected].