For Nearly 60 Years, She’s Been a Steady Influence
Ann Kantianis had just graduated from Chicopee High School in June of 1951 when she took a job at Hampden Bank as a secretary.
The stint was supposed to be brief I told them it was just for the summer and then I was going to move on to something else, she said. But Kantianis never left.
Shes been reporting to work at 19 Harrison Ave. in downtown Springfield ever since, and has no real plans to retire, although she admits that there are some days albeit few of them when the thought does cross her mind.
I love what I do, said the 75-year-old. Thats why Im still here and why I want to keep working.
Kantianiss desk has been replaced and moved at least a few times over the past 58 years, but it is probably no more than 40 feet from where she was first stationed to serve as secretary to George Holderness, then assistant treasurer and corporator at Hampden. Only a few months later, the secretary to then-President Robert McGaw passed away, and Kantianis was moved into that position.
Shes been serving in that capacity ever since, although the title was amended in recent years to administrative assistant. Thats been among the more minor changes to come to banking, Hampden, downtown Springfield, and society in general since.
Indeed, Kantianis, who started at Hampden when Harry Truman was president and the Korean War was ongoing, has seen the emergence of television, the computer, the office tower in downtown Springfield (Tower Square, then Baystate West, was opened in 1967), the bank branch (most banks had one location until the early 70s), and eventually the Internet.
Shes connected to it from the latest PC in a line of computers shes used since the early 90s but wouldnt say which sites she visits.
I remember how we would figure out interest rates by hand in the old days she said, referring to large calculators. I had a typewriter forever, and now I can barely remember how to use one.
Over 58 years, one collects a lot of memories, and Kantianis has more than her share.
She remembers, for example, some of the apparently many idiosyncracies of McGaw, who died in 1961 at age 85 while still serving as Hampdens president. McGaw, it seems, didnt drive or at least he didnt drive to or from work, Kantianis recalled, noting that she thought he had a chauffeur, but saw several different individuals handle that assignment.
McGaw, or Mr. McGaw, as Kantianis remembers he insisted on staff calling him, also sent his dry cleaning to New York City, she recalled, adding that she was too young and too timid to question what seemed like an unusual practice. If the shirts came back and didnt meet her boss expectations, Kantianis had to hustle down to the post office and mail them back.
There are also memories of what Kantianis described as a different, better time (in her opinion) for downtown Springfield. I remember there were so many great stores, restaurants, and movie theaters, she said, lamenting the loss of such landmarks as Forbes & Wallace, Steigers, Johnsons Bookstore, and many others.
And then, there are memories of the only robbery to take place at Hampden over the past 58-plus years. It happened in 1994, when Victor Quillard was president and just a few days from retirement after 21 years at the helm.
Kantianis said she and Quillard were sitting in the lobby talking (his office was being used for a meeting) when they both observed a young man handing a note to a teller, then the teller handing him money and reacting accordingly.
As I remember it, I think I did just about everything wrong in that situation, meaning what they say youre not supposed to do, said Kantianis, adding that she distinctly remembers saying to her boss (who was obviously less formal than McGaw), Victor, go get him.
And Quillard did.
He followed the robber out the door, then onto a PVTA bus, where Quillard told the driver to summon a police officer, and then off the bus after the perpetrator started getting nervous and exited out the back door. Quillard continued following him into Harrison Place, where he was eventually apprehended.
It was quite a scene, said Kantianis, recalling that the rest of her 58 years at the bank have been comparatively quiet, but marked by that seemingly constant change.
One thing that hasnt changed, thankfully, she said, is that banking, at least at Hampdens level, is still a people business.
Ive seen several generations of the same family come in here, she said of her other home since 1951. A lot has changed, but we still do business the same way.
More Than a College Town
Tourists, Retirees, Even Telecommuters Keep Businesses Hopping
Laurence Shaffer says no community, like no company of business sector, is truly recession-proof.
Every city and town is feeling the effects of the current downturn, said Amhersts town manager, and his is certainly no exception. But this college town that has evolved into so much more over the past few decades has what Shaffer calls more insulation than most.
It comes from the colleges, obviously, especially UMass Amherst with its more than 5,000 employees and 20,000 students, but also from Amherst College and Hampshire College. However, insulation also comes from the communitys status as a tourist destination, with year-round traffic visiting a host of museums, restaurants, and other attractions. And another buffer has emerged from Amhersts growing reputation as a retirement destination.
Indeed, publications such as U.S. News and World Report have listed the town as one of the proverbial best places to retire to a achievement that results from many of those aforementioned attributes.
All this makes Amherst an attractive location for businesses across a number of sectors, said Shaffer, adding that, as the town celebrates its 250th anniversary, it is also celebrating the fact that it has become a local and regional economic engine, one that continues to add horsepower.
Many communities have to create excitement and buzz to get people there, he said. We already have it.
In this issue, BusinessWest examines the buzz that is Amherst, and how this community of 35,000 continues to build on those layers of insulation.
A Class Act
As they talked about Amherst and its many attributes, Shaffer and Tony Maroulis, director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, said they combine to make the town a true destination for students, professionals, tourists, retirees, and even telecommuters. Indeed, it seems that Amherst has become home to many of those who can utilize technology to live wherever they want, but work for almost anyone, including themselves.
And its the mix that makes the town so attractive, he continued, listing everything from its quintessential New England downtown to its stock of impressive homes to a number of cultural attractions, ranging from the Emily Dickinson Museum to the Jones Library on the campus of Amherst college, which boasts one of the largest collections in the state.
Some of the works there should be in the National Archives, said Shaffer. The library has the original poetry of Robert Frost and some from Emily Dickinson.
There are eight museums that call Amherst home, including the National Yiddish Book Center and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, said Maroulis, noting that, collectively, they draw more than 100,000 people to the town, visitors who usually stay and spread the wealth among a number of restaurants and eclectic shops.
Amherst is very proud of its literary tradition. We are community poets and people who appreciate the grandeur of their artistry, said Shaffer. We have a lot of history here, and we enhance and embellish it.
History and the towns intellectual culture, fueled by the colleges as well as its downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, laced with their own bevy of quaint shops, are responsible for the growing number of retirees choosing to call Amherst home.
Although no empirical data has been kept on how many seniors have recently moved there, there are qualitative, and some quantitative, measures showing that Amherst has become a mecca for retirees.
That reputation and the growing number of older individuals who appreciate the fact that the neighborhood hubs are all accessible by public transportation, biking, or a brisk walk have caused developers to look to Amherst as a viable place to build communities for people age 50 and older.
Hampshire College has been working with Boston developers to develop an over-50 community, and 160 units are planned for Veridian Village, which will be linked with and located adjacent to the college. The developer has gone through the planning-board process, but the project is on hold due to the economy.
Still, its not off the table, and other planned communities are also under discussion, said Maroulis. There is continuing conversation with a number of developers about housing for seniors or families without children.
Shaffer said space that can be developed near the downtown area is available, and builders are talking about creating luxurious, upscale units with lots of glass, fireplaces, and specialized kitchens.
That way, people in fairly remarkable homes can move in and be comfortable, Shaffer said, adding that Amherst neighborhoods are unique, beautiful, and provide a real sense of community to those who live there.
Retirees are increasingly looking to relocate to communities that provide a level of ambience and services that will enhance their lives, he added. And Amherst is a Currier and Ives community.
The history, intellectual stimulation, and atmosphere that draw retirees and tourists are key to the towns branding and economic focus.
We want to be well-known for tourism and should be able to capitalize on it, Maroulis said. The chamber urges people to come to Amherst where you can do a lot in a day.
Prominent town museums are also doing their own marketing. They include the Amherst College Museum of Natural History, the Emily Dickinson Museum, and the National Yiddish Book Center, which have banded together with others in a collaborative effort to promote themselves as a local attraction under the banner of Museums10.
Shaffer says Amherst provides a great environment for businesses such as restaurants, bakeries, retail shops, and bookstores, as the town already has an established clientele, composed of tens of thousands of students and people who work at the colleges, along with the infrastructure to support them.
Something to Celebrate
The sum of Amhersts various parts makes it both a local and regional economic engine, said Shaffer, noting that, while there are many direct benefits to Amherst itself, the impact can be felt across Western Mass.
Amherst has been perceived as an insular community with an internal focus. People forget our regional importance, he said, pointing to UMass Amherst, which is the second-largest employer in Western Mass. UMass is an 800-pound gorilla and is a significant part of the community. We wouldnt have a population of 36,000 without it.
The university pays the town $475,000 to operate its fire and ambulance services along with other payments in lieu of taxes. Its also the summer home for Jehovahs Witnesses. They bring in tens of thousands of people for their sessions, Shaffer said, adding that these visitors frequent the towns business establishments.
Amherst College plays a pivotal economic role and has a strategic partnership agreement with the town. They have gifted us $250,000 over the last two years, Shaffer said. Our partnership with them is deep, strong, and positive.
Hampshire College is the third educational cornerstone, and one of the towns primary goals is to maintain positive relationships with these schools, as they are inextricably linked to economic success.
What comes out of the college is the basis for our economic activity, said Maroulis. Studies that date back to 2006 show that nearly a billion dollars is generated across the region from them.
Since UMass is known as a leader in the field of polymers, engineering, and alternative energy, the town hopes to use that as leverage to attract new businesses to a 60-acre plot of land in North Amherst.
The parcel is composed of farmland owned by the Patterson family, but Shaffer said the town is working to gain control of it and plans to market and develop the site to and for companies who could take advantage of UMass specialty graduates who want to remain in Amherst because of the lifestyle there.
This plot is one of our more significant sites. We have been working on it over the past year, and it is an important opportunity, Shaffer said.
School of Thought
No town is recession-proof, but Maroulis and Shaffer say Amherst comes as close as it gets.
When the recession hit so deeply and quickly, the rest of the country was impacted very fast, said Maroulis. We had stability because classes at the colleges were already in place.
He predicts the town will see the effects of the downturn next year as college endowments are reduced and will see a later recovery as well. We are following a different timeline, he said.
Shaffer agrees. We are not immune to the economic downturn, but we are insulated because of the great stability of our academic institutions, he said.
Although the town has had to make cuts, its public school system has always been a draw, and since we started from a program which was extremely rich, we are not going to cry about the budget, he added.
Amherst also benefits from businesses that spin off from the colleges. Many young students have become entrepreneurs, and Maroulis points to the success of Campuslife.com as an example.
Its a growing business that serves over 60 colleges across the U.S. and Canada and was started here by students who didnt finish college, he said.
UMass has been an incubator for other firms, such as Sun Ethanol, whose name was changed to Qteros. Although the firm, dedicated to producing low-carbon fuel energy from plant and tree waste, has moved from the town, they set a good example of the type of business spawned here and left their mark, said Maroulis. We have seen growth in the university incubator and expect to see more in the future.
If life is a balancing act, Amherst officials see their town as a high-wire attraction. Zones of economic activity include the neighborhoods of Atkins Corner, North Amherst Center, and Cushmans Center, where Cushmans delicatessen serves up music and art as well as food.
There are also businesses in East Amherst Center and open spots ready to be developed along University Drive. All of them are easily accessible to the downtown hub, Maroulis said.
Many telecommuters have moved to Amherst, he added, noting that the urban existence in a small town setting appeals to them. They include Web developers, database developers, and graphic designers who bring their computers to downtown coffee shops and work there.
Another bright spot is the Cinema Complex on the corner of Amity and South Pleasant streets. Its a project that had been been talked about for years, beginning in the late 90s, and was eventually downscaled.
But the result is unique, and consists of a partnership between the nonprofit cinema, which shows foreign and Sundance Festival films, and the attached restaurant, art gallery, jewelry store, coffee shop, Chamber of Commerce office, and more. You cant talk about success without mentioning the importance of this project, said Maroulis. It has helped transform downtown.
The cinema attracts about 2,000 visitors a week who also frequent the shops and eateries. Downtown was a lot different before this was built, he said. It helped set up an anchor and brought in a more-adult crowd.
He explained that, although students have always kept the town vibrant, the new complex is drawing business people and seniors. The nonprofit and shops work in synergy, he said.
Maroulis relocated to Amherst from New York City with his wife and owns a business in town. I like to say Northampton is Manhattan, and we are Brooklyn with a funky vibe. Amherst is a very livable place with a variety of great things to do and a lot of green space.
Thats the color of money, which Shaffer and Maroulis hope will continue to grow in this town with more than 600 businesses and a population rich with citizens of all ages.
They include a year-round population of tourists who flock to the town to visit its eight historic musuems and countless art galleries, dine in its restaurants, and shop in eclectic storefronts. Tourists are also drawn to the classes, galleries, shows, and other offerings at UMass Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College.
Jones Library, which is second only to Boston Public Library in size in the state, is another tourist mainstay that beckons intellectuals who seek out its special collections.
The Emily Dickinson homestead sits about 100 yards from Town Hall, and although it only allows six to eight people to tour it at a time, Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, says its one of the towns biggest draws. Add to that the National Yiddish Book Center and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which sit on land donated by Hampshire College. The two entertained a combined total of 60,000 visitors last year, and visitors to all the museums number more than 100,000 annually.
And theyre only a small part of the picture in Amherst, a town that is quietly making an art form out of quality of life.
Transportation Reform in Place, but Not Over
When Gov. Patrick recently signed the transportation bill into law, it marked a major step forward in a long and arduous process the Senate began last November. At that time, we wrote about the need for reform before revenue in transportation.
We outlined a series of changes we felt were badly needed, and we are proud that the final legislation we enacted specifically addresses those changes. Rather than simply talking about reform while waiting for others to act, the Senate worked swiftly, diligently, and collaboratively to arrive at this moment.
The new law stands as an example of what can be done when we put individual differences aside and work together to create real and lasting change.
In November, we discussed the need to consolidate the various transportation agencies into a new, unified surface-transportation agency to eliminate waste and duplication.
The new law accomplishes that by establishing the Mass. Department of Transportation. We urged the swift dismantling of the Mass. Turnpike Authority, another goal achieved.
MassDOT will operate on the same accounting systems and fiscal year as the state to create a level of consistency and transparency that was missing under the Turnpike Authority. It will also assume all remaining debt from the Big Dig and be able to engage in public-private partnerships to help fund investments in our transportation systems.
This transportation overhaul was not easy, and required a great deal of diligence and effort. Every decision required our full attention. There were legal and constitutional considerations along the way. And we made it our priority to seek input from stakeholders in our transportation system from the Legislature and administration to our transportation agencies. We also listened to the Transportation Finance Commissions recommendations and, most importantly, to the needs and concerns of our constituents across the state.
Shortly after announcing our priorities in November for a cost-efficient, restructured transportation system, the Joint Committee on Transportation held a series of public hearings around the Commonwealth to discuss and study transportation reform and the financing of transportation services. We created a blog to gather input from citizens on transportation issues.
All the information we collected was critical to producing our final plan for a unified, surface transportation authority and taking that first major leap to reforming the delivery of transportation services in the Commonwealth.
Throughout the process, we held steadfast to our insistence on reform before revenue. We strongly opposed a proposal for a significant increase in the states gas tax of 19 cents per gallon that did not include any discussion about reform or consolidation. Rather than continuing to throw money into a broken system, we felt, as we do today, that a fundamental overhaul of our transportation services was the better approach.
Now, as we celebrate the passage of transportation reform, we also recognize there is more work to do. Texting while driving remains on the table, as does the issue of impaired driving at any age, both of which the Joint Committee on Transportation took up in recent hearings. We must continue to implement the lessons learned from the Big Dig, and ensure that we do not slide further and further into debt.
The Joint Committee on Transportation intends to hold oversight hearings to monitor the progress of the reforms as they are implemented. We began with the strong conviction of reform before revenue, and we have delivered. Now, we cannot allow our efforts to go to waste. v
Sen. Therese Murray is president of the Massachusetts Senate. Sen. Steven Baddour is chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
Above and Beyond
The PeoplesBank office at 1240 Sumner Ave. in Springfield was recently recognized by the East Forest Park Civic Assoc. for going above and beyond in improving its neighborhood. Shawn Sheehan (seen here), co-president of the civic association, said the PeoplesBank office was selected because of its design and continued efforts to improve the area. “A major property improvement occurred at 1240 Sumner Ave. when PeoplesBank ripped down a run-down Friendly’s restaurant and replaced it with a new, stylish building that blends well with the recently renovated surrounding buildings,” he said. Melissa Richter (right), branch manager, accepted the award at the Civic Association meeting last month.
New to the Downtown Menu
Izzo’s, an Italian eatery with a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere, opened for business earlier this month. Located on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield, the restaurant, owned and operated by Patsy Izzo, left, and Jimmy Fernandes, features a diverse menu of hearty Italian cuisine, entertainment, and an outdoor seating area.
The following bankruptcy petitions were recently filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Readers should confirm all information with the court.
Abdow, Chad Joseph
Acus, Donald Edward
Adams, Christine A.
Agostini, Michael J.
Allain, Richard L.
Avigliano, Robyn Jude
Bassett, Chad M.
Batchelor, Clifford F.
Bazelak, Annette A.
Beattie, Peter R.
Beaulieu, Scott Andrew
Begin, Joseph L.
Bergman, Daniel Jason
Berman, Barbara Ann
Billingsley, David R.
Blackmer, Richard N.
Blase, Roxann J.
Bodzioch, Joseph S.
Bradley, Roy C.
Bressette, Lauren Elizabeth
Brodeur, Michelle Hazel
Brousseau, Joan A.
Cadieux, Pauline May
Caputo, Gregory M.
Carrano, Francesco Antonio
Christenson, Jessica L.
Connell, Thomas William
Crogan, Jean A.
Cunningham, Lindsay Aaron
Davis, Penelope R.
Demos, Julie Suzanne
Denise Flaim Consulting
Emerson, Rachelle Ann
Field, Erin M.
Floyd, Melissa M.
Giza, Linda Y.
Goodhue, Mark D.
Haggett, Steven C.
Hines, Adrienne D.
Illhardt, Cindy L.
Integrative & Complementa
Kedzierski, Daniel J.
Klavenski, Suzann L.
Kolod, Emily J.
Kroll, Robert J.
LaFleur, James Leo
Lagace, Lee M.
LeClair, Kathleen H.
Lee, Tammie J.
LIA Realty, LLC
Lightcap, Tammy L.
Lindsey LTD. Auto Detailing
Linnell, Theodore R.
MacDonald, Kenneth Paul
Maciorowski, Stanley W.
McCourt, Phyllis Marie
McGovern, John G.
McMahon, Kevin Michael
Millennium Hair Salon
Monska, Justin G.
Morrow, Peter J.
Moseley, Holly Louise
Nartowicz, Philip J.
Neidzwiecki, Rebecca D.
O’Donnell, Maureen Elizabeth
Page Product Design Inc.
Pagnoni, Claire F.
Parker, Steven C.
Perkins, Christopher S.
Perry, Robert W.
Perry, Tina M.
Petty, Kelly M.
Powell, Larry T.
Price, Tracy L.
R & T Engravers
Ralph John Auto Sales
Raymond, Matthew A.
Red Oak General Contractors
Rosario, Jose O.
Sabot, Theodore Jay
Shaw, Brian P.
Smith, Robert L.
Stetson, Andrew Joseph
Sweeney, Paul J.
Tebo, Ronald J.
Teele, Gary G.
Troiano, Claire Angela
Turner, Willam E.
Underwood, Scott J.
Urban, Thomas E.
Van Ness, Dawn W.
Wachta, Bruce Michael
Ware, Maria S.
Williams, Blaine A.
Williford, Everett E.
Woods, Jarel Anthony
Zwinski, Irene A.
Passive Activity Rules Bring Benefits of Real-estate Investment into Question
During this economic downturn, we have seen housing prices and mortgage interest rates fall. The stock market keeps falling and setting new lows. The combination of these events may have people looking to get into the real-estate market for investment purposes.
While there are many things to consider when making such an investment, the possible tax benefits should be at the end of the list. Generally, rental real estate generates a tax loss that may or may not be deducted on the individual tax return. There are rules that may disallow or limit the losses from rental activities and limit the tax benefits of such investments.
Passive Activity Rules
The biggest hurdle in deducting rental losses is the passive activity rules. While real estate might be our current focus, its important for us to have an overall understanding of these rules and how they are intended to work. The passive activity rules were set up by Congress in 1986 to curb the abuses of tax shelters aimed at individuals. The Internal Revenue Code generally does not allow the taxpayer to deduct a loss or credit from a passive activity.
If there is passive income during the year, it is allowed to be offset against the passive losses for the year. Any excess passive losses that were not offset by passive income are carried over to the following year. If the passive activity is fully disposed of in a taxable transaction, the passive losses that were carried over are allowed to be deducted in the year of disposition.
Rental activities by their nature are passive activities. Any rental activity, generally, is considered a passive activity. There are six exceptions to this rule:
1. The average period of customer use for such property is seven days or less, as with a rental-car company.
2. The average period of customer use for such property is 30 days or less, and significant personal services are provided by or on behalf of the owner of the property in connection with making the property available for use by customers (e.g. hotels).
3. Extraordinary personal services are provided by or on behalf of the owner of the property in connection with making such property available for use by customers (without regard to the average period of customer use). An example of this exemption might be the rental of crutches from an orthopedic physician practice.
4. The rental of such property is treated as incidental to a non-rental activity of the taxpayer. This includes property held for investment, and the gross rent received is less than 2% of the lesser of the unadjusted basis or the fair market value in the building (rental of land to a logger, for instance).
5. The taxpayer customarily makes the property available during defined business hours for nonexclusive use by various customers, such as with a parking garage.
6. The provision of the property for use in an activity conducted by a partnership, S corporation, or joint venture in which the taxpayer owns an interest is not a rental activity. For example, a lawyer renting an office building to his or her own practice would fall within this exception.
If the taxpayer is involved in any of the activities noted above, the loss from the activities would not be considered passive. Rather, the losses would be deducted and would not have to meet the passive-activity loss limitations.
The IRS provides an exemption for middle-class taxpayers that allows a $25,000 deduction on certain residential rental activities. The taxpayer must actively participate in the rental activity during the tax year. In other words, the taxpayer must make management decisions, such as approving tenants and arranging for repairs, in a bona fide sense. This exemption is reduced by 50% of the amount of adjusted gross income (AGI) over $100,000 and is fully phased out once AGI reaches $150,000.
There are also special rules for taxpayers in the real property business or real-estate professionals. A taxpayer that is determined to be in the real property business may elect to not be subject to the passive activity rules. A taxpayer must materially participate in the rental activity to be in the real property business. For a taxpayer to materially participate in the real property trade or business, he or she must spend more than one-half of his or her time and more than 750 hours of service during the year in the real-estate business. To be considered a real-estate professional, the taxpayer must materially participate (see below) in the real estate activity and not just merely actively participate in it. Real property trade or business is any real property development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operation, management, leasing, or brokerage trade or business.
A passive activity can also be any activity that is a trade or business that the taxpayer does not materially participate in. Material participation occurs when the taxpayer is involved in the operations of the activity on a basis that is regular, continuous, and substantial. Any work that an owner performs for his or her business is generally considered participation. Material participation is determined on a yearly basis.
Once a taxpayer is considered to materially participate in an activity, it does not mean that he or she will continually be considered to materially participate the next year. If the taxpayer materially participates, the loss generated by these activities would not be considered passive, and the taxpayer would be able to deduct the losses without having the passive-loss rules come into play.
Keeping the above in mind, make your real-estate investment decisions based upon the economics of the investment without considering the possible tax benefits. Under the passive-loss rules, those benefits could be a long time in the making.
Sean Wandrei is a tax manager with Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. His technical concentrations are in multi-state taxation as well as real-estate entities; (413) 536-8510.
Ten Phrases that Can — and WIll — Kill Ideas
By EUGENE BERMAN
1 “We tried that before.”
|2 “Don’t be ridiculous.”|
|3 “It costs too much.”|
|4 “That’s beyond our responsibility.”|
5 “It’s too radical a change.”
|6 “We don’t have the time.”|
|7 “We’re too small for it.”|
|8 “That’s not our problem.”|
|9 “We’ve never done it before.”|
10 “Let’s get back to reality.”
And ten More …
|Eugene Berman is of counsel with the Springfield-based law firm Bacon Wilson (413) 781-0560.|