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Cover Story
What’s Next for America’s First National Blueway

It used to be called “America’s best-landscaped sewer system.”

But no one’s laughing at the Connecticut River anymore, which is now being held up as a model of how dozens of diverse stakeholders — individuals and groups focused on such diverse goals as conservation, recreation, education, and economic development — can come together to benefit one of the nation’s longest rivers.

The river’s recent designation as the first National Blueway — part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative — reiterated that success.

“This designation was based on 60 years of partnerships,” said Andrew French, project leader for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Sunderland, noting that the Connecticut River Watershed Council, a group that advocates for the environmental health of the river, formed in 1952.

“And so much has happened since then,” French continued. “It went from being characterized as the best-landscaped sewer to a partnership that’s being used as a model for the National Blueway system.”

That partnership, he said, has, over the years, brought together stakeholders from the realms of conservation, education, recreation, and economic development, many under the aegis of Friends of the Conte Refuge, a loose coalition of individuals and groups with interest in the health of the river and its watershed. And it’s critical that these parties work together, French stressed, or none of their individual efforts will be successful.

Andy French

Andy French says myriad stakeholders were crafting strategies for river use long before the Blueway designation.

“One of the things that Friends of the Conte feels most strongly about is that, when we talk about blueways, we’re not just focused on the river. We are focused on the watershed and all of the elements in it,” he told BusinessWest. “Our work not only needs to be interested in the flora and fauna, but it has to be relevant from a recreation standpoint; it has to be relevant from an economic standpoint. If we’re not interested in the economy, then any conservation is not going to be sustainable. The bottom line is that having that balance between conservation, recreation, and the economy is vital. It’s important to do all three.”

Those with a stake in the Connecticut River hope the Blueway designation helps to achieve just that, and advance goals that have been decades in the making.


Blue By You

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal has long been interested in the Connecticut River from both the ecological and economic angles. He told BusinessWest that, while the Blueway distinction doesn’t bring additional federal funds to the river’s stakeholders, it is meant to unify existing conservation efforts into a more cohesive strategy, one that preserves important U.S. rivers as natural interstate corridors that benefit both people and wildlife.

“The Connecticut River represents a great achievement for conservation and protection,” Neal said, adding that achievements like Blueway status “keep the idea of our scenic waterways in front of all of us.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal

“When you consider where the river was 40 years ago and what it is today, it is just extraordinary,” he added. “When you consider what those old mills dumped into the river, and today it’s alive with active and passive recreation … the river is back.”

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said earlier this year that the Blueways program aims to protect and popularize the country’s rivers by taking a holistic approach to conservation. Unlike the current patchwork of federal protections, which typically only cover certain segments of a river, a national blueway will include the entire river “from source to sea,” as well as its surrounding watershed.

Salazar visited Hartford in May to announce that the 410-mile Connecticut River and its vast watershed, encompassing land in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, would be the first Blueway. In fact, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club, more than 10% of the U.S. population lives within 100 miles of the river’s 7.2 million-acre watershed.

“The Connecticut River watershed is a model for how communities can integrate their land and water stewardship efforts with an emphasis on source-to-sea watershed conservation,” he said at the time. “I am pleased to recognize the Connecticut River and its watershed with the first National Blueway designation as we seek to fulfill President Obama’s vision for healthy and accessible rivers that are the lifeblood of our communities and power our economies.”

Andrew Fisk, executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, said the designation was gratifying for those in his organization, as well as the Conte Refuge, because it affirms the work they and others have already done in transforming the river from a polluted problem to one bounding with recreation and wildlife. Fisk said Salazar’s advance team was impressed by the region’s ability to bring more than 40 organizations together to work on issues of water quality, land conservation, and recreation.

French agrees. “That’s the direction we’ve been going in. I think America’s Great Outdoors is an outstanding initiative, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a public servant; I really believe that. I like it because it’s looking at the ecology of the landscape, it’s looking at the economy of the landscape, and it’s looking at the demand for space in the landscape. In many ways, it’s getting ‘real.’ We’re living within a working landscape, and we need to figure out how to do education, recreation, and conservation in that landscape.”

With that in mind, he continued, “over a year ago, after the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative came about, we were talking to members of Friends of Conte, and we said, ‘hey, this potential Blueway initiative seems like a good opportunity.’

It’s also an opportunity that was aided immeasurably by the waterway’s designation as an American Heritage River (AHR) in 1997, Neal said. In angling for that title, Neal actually traversed the entire length of the river — mostly by boat, but occasionally by car at impassable points. He said the Clinton-era AHR program brought additional funds for sewage cleanup as well as a ‘navigator,’ a federal employee charged with working with communities to identify resources for river cleanup and use.

“Because it had that designation,” Neal said, “it moved the river up in terms of priority” for later developments like the Blueway program.

The hope of the Blueway program is that many different stakeholders can form a network under the Blueway umbrella, creating a seamless system that will filter down to users in the form of information on water quality, recreational opportunities, and other aspects of the Connecticut River and its watershed. The fact that those partnerships already existed, French said, was clearly a factor in earning the Blueway designation.


Working Tidal

The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Salazar notes, is an attempt by the Obama administration to set up “a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century.” That agenda has three aspects: protecting and restoring lands of national significance, building a new generation of urban parks, and increasing the national focus on rivers. Joining with pre-existing partnerships, such as those that exist around the Connecticut River, demonstrate “how the federal family can be an effective conservation partner for community-led efforts.”

Still, the Blueway designation alone won’t make much difference in itself. “It will only do as much as we choose to do,” French said. “If you’ve got a foundation and a forum to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate, and you don’t use it, then nothing is going to happen.

“But a lot is already being done in this area,” he continued. “I look at the National Blueway system as an opportunity to just ramp it up a little more and save time and money. The landscape will benefit from Cabinet-level commitment.”

It’s a landscape that deserves the attention, Neal said. “It’s huge, and there are so many great stories along the Connecticut River — the sheer beauty and how important that river was to the success of those communities in the Valley. If you look at the seal of the city of Springfield, the Connecticut River is on that seal.”

French said it’s the interplay of economic and ecological interests that makes his partnerships so vital.

“Recreation is a big part of America’s outdoors; it connects people with the great outdoors. If you’re going to recreate outside, the environmental quality and conservation of the land is key. And if you don’t accompany your conservation efforts with recreation in mind, then the sustainability of your conservation potential is going to suffer. The same holds true for economics; quality recreation can lead to economic opportunities.

“The National Blueway system, in many ways, is being modeled after parts of the Silvio Conte Refuge,” he added. “It’s very much in line with what we as partners are trying to accomplish in the Connecticut River watershed.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Business Expo Offers Inspiration and Education to Attendees

A man who climbed Mt. Everest. A woman who built her business from nothing and sold it for over $200 million. The head of the company that makes FiveFinger running shoes. These dynamic speakers and more are all at the Western Mass. Business Expo on Oct. 11. Why would you be anywhere else?

“This Expo is exceptionally well-developed this year,” said Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest, which is producing this second annual event. “The variety of our inspiring, high-level speakers, informative programs, and the depth of our educational seminars are unmatched.”

From the Expo Kickoff Breakfast, with Mass. Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland, presented by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS), to the Expo Luncheon with Michael Clayton, Ambassador for Trust, who led the most successful BBB in the nation, and 12 educational seminars throughout the day, the schedule is fully packed. After only one year, the success of the Expo’s outreach and the audience that it attracts demonstrate how it has evolved into yet another educational experience.

“We’ve created what we’re calling ‘co-located’ events,” said Campiti. “These are events that would have occurred elsewhere, but the ease of opening up to our public has brought them to the Expo.”

Of those events, the first, from 8 to 9:30 a.m., includes the Purchasing Management Association of Western New England, a membership organization that serves the manufacturing community and the purchasing arm of those companies. The group will host their monthly meeting with Herb Robins, who will speak on “Lean 8 Wastes and Inefficiencies.”

From 10 a.m. to noon, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, UMass, and the Scibelli Enterprise Center at STCC will sponsor a Business Service Provider MeetUp. This event offers the nonprofits and agencies that serve small startups and entrepreneurs a chance to meet each other and learn more about how each agency helps their clients.

From 1 to 4 p.m., the Assoc. of Operations Management, a group that supports the manufacturing sector, will welcome Birgit Matthiesen of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Assoc., who covers Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch, and works closely with U.S. associations toward heightened North American competitiveness.

In addition to more than 180 exhibitors, other highlights include Michael Matty of St. Germain Investment Management, who just recently climbed Mount Everest; Nancy Butler, author of Above All Else: Success in Life and Business; Michael Martin, GM of Vibram FiveFingers running shoes; four sessions about e-mail marketing and social media by Constant Contact; a Health Care Corridor; and the aforementioned co-located events that will provide impetus for the region’s business community to learn, build lasting relationships, and grow.

And speaking of relationships, the day will close out with what has become known simply as the Expo Social, where exhibitors and visitors can converse with each other from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Again, why would you want be anywhere else?

Sponsoring this entire event is Comcast Business Class, in addition to silver sponsors Health New England, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, and Stevens 470. Booths are going fast, but a few are still available and can be ordered by calling (413) 781-8600, logging onto www.wmbexpo.com or www.BusinessWest.com, or e-mailing [email protected]

Building Permits Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of September 2012.




Benchmark Senior

153 Cardinal Dr.

$8,000 — Repair water damage


Mr. Shower

646 Springfield St.

$50,000 — New roof




Amherst Montessori School

27 Pomeroy Lane

$2,092,000 — Construction of a two-story addition


Filion Leasing Inc.

150 College St.

$10,000 — New roof


Jones Library Inc.

43 Amity St.

$108,000 — Install new flooring, ceiling tiles, and lighting in the Woodbury Room


Northland Boulders, LLC

188 East Hadley Road

$116,000 — New roof


Town of Amherst Recreation

205 Triangle St.

$298,000 — Pool repairs and upgrades




Demayo-Chicopee Square, LLC

516 Montgomery St.

$38,000 — HVAC duct system


John Rusin

16 Bolduc Lane

$6,000 — Interior renovation at the Den




Bernard Gawle

90 Union St.

$37,000 — New roof


City of Easthampton

Lovefield St.

$10,000 — New roof


The Phillips Manufacturing Co.

17 Ward Ave.

$21,000 — New roof




92 Race Street, LLC

92 Race St.

$710,000 — Interior renovations


Holyoke Mall Company, LP

50 Holyoke St.

$323,000 — Renovate Old Navy store


Michael Ciolek S-H-R Trust

494 Appleton St.

$306,000 — Construct new masonry walls




Bridge Street LLC

82 Bridge St.

$10,500 — Exterior repairs


Smith College

12 Bedford Terrace

$4,000 — Repair porch


Smith College

50 Elm St.

$22,000 — Exterior repairs at Clark Hall




Northeastern Sheet Metal

50 College St.

$58,000 — Sheet-metal work





125 Cartland St.

$30,000 — Build three offices


Derf Realty

170 Carando Dr.

$120,000 — Renovate 2,800 square feet to expand existing tenant


John Salema

1218 State St.

$55,000 — Interior cosmetic renovation to office space


No Limit Investment Inc.

489-493 Worthington St.

$8,500 — Exterior renovation


Sanjay Patel

182 Boston Road

$106,000 — 1,860 square feet of space added to existing building



1105 Boston Road

$500,000 — Install solar array on existing roof




Balise Automotive

635 Riverdale St.

$10,000 — Remodel restrooms


Lattitude Realty, LLC

1338 Memorial Ave.

$200,000 — Renovate 2,600 square feet of commercial space

United Way: 90 Years of Meeting Needs

On occasion, we are asked, “why give to the United Way and not simply make a direct contribution to my agency of choice?” This is a very important question for all of us at the United Way, and here are a few answers.

The United Way is a volunteer-driven organization committed to addressing the most critical needs in our community. We determine those needs by researching and analyzing the prevalence of a social problem and the critical needs in the communities we serve. After gathering the data, we look for opportunities where an investment of funding will yield a measurable return on the investment.

We are no longer simply reporting the number of people served, but also focusing on the outcomes of the service provided. This no easy feat given the reality that it often takes years to change behaviors and achieve tangible outcomes and results, but we know we are making an impact based on benchmarks and regular reports. We are also implementing and supporting science-based and results-oriented approaches and service-delivery models that have demonstrated positive outcomes in communities like ours. We are holding the organizations (funded through a competitive grant-making process) accountable, and we are holding ourselves accountable to the thousand of donors and investors.

United Way of Pioneer Valley has embarked on its celebration of 90 years of service in the Pioneer Valley. Over the past decade, UWPV has distributed more than $50 million dollars to nonprofits serving children, families, elders, and individuals with special needs and circumstances. The dollars help support those services that feed the hungry and offer emergency housing and assistance for victims of domestic violence, homelessness, and fires. Critical funding is also dedicated to improving high-school graduation rates, early-childhood education, reading by grade 4 in Holyoke and Greater Springfield, and youth development and prevention services.

We recently launched a regional initiative to address income disparities, workforce development, and the financial stability of low-income and working families. These efforts will not only strengthen families, but will impact quality of life and economic development throughout the Pioneer Valley. Over the last three years, we have also committed resources to help nonprofits build greater capacity through partnerships and collaborations, so limited resources can provide expanded services to youth and families; every dollar invested leverages additional dollars from other funding sources.

Additionally, our financial support of Mass 211, an information and referral system, provides an immediate response to individuals searching for social services in their respective communities. Residents in our service area (Hampden County, South Hadley, and Granby) are the second-highest users of Mass 211 in the Commonwealth. What an amazing resource financed through contributions made to the United Way. These are examples of investments for the common good, and we will all benefit.

Our 90th anniversary has provided an opportunity to reflect, rejuvenate, and rejoice. We would like to thank our corporate, business, and social-service partners for hosting annual workplace campaigns, and our donors who make online contributions or send a check in the mail. Special thanks to the board of directors and our volunteer leaders, campaign coordinators, and local, regional, and statewide supporters. Your contributions of time, talent, and money truly make a difference.

Our resolve is to continue the rich tradition and history of this organization and do more to address the escalating social needs and conditions confronting our communities. How can we do more? Through the generosity and investment of individuals who believe they have a responsibility and desire to contribute to the common good of all. These people remain essential to our efforts. Please join us in celebrating our 90th anniversary. Visit our website (www.uwpv.org) for information about how you, too, can Live United … Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

Dora Robinson is the president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Departments Picture This

Send photos with a caption and contact information to:  ‘Picture This’ c/o BusinessWest Magazine, 1441 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103 or to [email protected]

Swing of Support

The YMCA of Greater Springfield recently honored a longtime community supporter, David Demos, and welcomed sports celebrities to the 20th Annual Scantic Valley YMCA Golf Outing. The event was held at both the Country Club of Wilbraham and the new Cold Springs Country Club in Belchertown. From top, Kirk Smith, YMCA president and CEO; Jules Gaudreau of the Gaudreau Group and a corporate board member; Demos, honorary co-chair; Jim Rice, Red Sox Hall of Famer; and “Coach” Willie Maye of the Boston Celtics. At top: Chris Ott (left), YMCA personal trainer, and Paul McConnell, YMCA member, wait their turn on the greens. Smith (center) stands with Barry and Kim Sanborn of ProShred. Maye (far left) and Rice (center) pose with Day of Caring volunteers from MassMutual.

Common Ground

The historic Cooper’s Commons in Agawam recently celebrated the grand opening of a new marketplace of distinctive shops and services. The complex contains Cooper’s Gifts & Curtains and unique businesses in the former Country Squire Furniture Shop. The recent renovations complete phase 1 of two phases; phase 2 is expected to be completed in 2013. Surrounded by area supporters at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, above center, is Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen, and to his right is Kate Gourde, second-generation owner of Cooper’s Commons and Cooper’s Gifts and Curtains. Right, state representative Nick Boldyga, 3rd Hampden District, presents Gourde with a proclamation from the State House.


Family Business

Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. recently invited Dr. Michael Klein to speak to a group of family-business owners as part of an educational family-business event. Klein, at left at the head of the conference table, authored the recently published book, Trapped in the Family Business.

West of the River Chamber Taps into Youth

Michael Beaudry and Debra Boronski

Michael Beaudry and Debra Boronski are completing the first year of a new management arrangement that saves the WRC a significant amount of administrative expenses.

Remo Pizzichemi has passed the torch.

Specifically, Pizzichemi, vice president of the Welcome Group Inc., which manages the West Springfield Hampton Inn and the Springfield/Enfield Holiday Inn, has passed the chairmanship of the West of the River Chamber of Commerce (WRC), to 32-year-old Michael Beaudry, owner of Azon Liquors and TEG Business Consulting, a small marketing and branding company that focuses on social networking, both in Agawam.

Pizzichemi is proud of his past year helming the WRC, the business organization that serves West Springfield and Agawam — the towns directly west of the Connecticut River — characterizing his tenure as the start as a new way of operating (more on that later). But he’s cognizant of the need to keep a membership-based business organization interesting, active, and, most importantly, growing. With technology radically altering the various ways of communicating and doing business, the board felt strongly that a shot of youthful energy was necessary.

“We went in [to a new era of the chamber] with eyes wide open, knowing that we needed to address younger business officers on the board, and we did that primarily by asking Mike to be the chairman this year,” said Pizzichemi. “The fact that he owns two small businesses, it’s really helped us expand our horizons to not be the typical stale chamber, but to be a vibrant new chamber that focuses on young, new people and young, new businesses.”

Beaudry represents the demographic that the chamber needs to pay attention to, added Debra Boronski, the new executive director of the WRC, who also runs the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce (again, more on that later). “And that is why, at our recent annual meeting, we had a speaker who talked about how each generation works with, and needs to work with, each other in the workplace.”

One of Beaudry’s first goals will be an overhaul of the chamber’s website, which he says will be user-friendly — offering the ability to purchase event or program tickets online, and providing a broad interactive forum for members, as opposed to a static, administratively managed blog — in addition to more Facebook and Twitter outreach.

While other chambers — not just in the Western Mass. region, but across the nation — are wringing their hands, wondering what they are going to do about their aging membership, and how they should appeal to that younger population that’s necessary for their survival, the WRC is actively creating events and programming that appear to be attracting that target audience, while retaining current businesses.

With catchy new names for networking programs — ‘Wicked Wednesdays’ instead of the typical ‘After 5’ event, for instance — and more attention to business advocacy, the WRC is healthy and growing, and not a moment too soon.

For this edition of Getting Down to Business, BusinessWest sat down with the past and present chairmen of the West of the River Chamber, as well as the relatively new executive director, who have all ridden out a recent storm of uncertainty that could have spelled the end of the WRC.


At a Crossroads

“This chamber finished last year with more members than it started with,” Boronski proudly stated.

In any chamber’s book, that would be a success, but it’s especially gratifying for this group, considering its recent turmoil. About two years ago, faced with a monthly management-fee increase request by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS), which oversaw the administrative and event duties of the WRC, the board felt there was a need for an economical solution that wouldn’t continue to eat away at the bottom line.

“We were at a crossroads, where they asked us to contribute more money, and we just couldn’t see it; our board of directors formed a subcommittee to determine if there were any alternatives, because we literally had no idea if there was any alternative,” explained Pizzichemi.

The answer was to offer a unique deal to Boronski, who had been vice president of the ACCGS for 11 years and in 2008 founded, and remains president of, the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, a statewide chamber which provides discount business benefits, but more importantly provides businesses a presence on every legislative level across the Commonwealth.  The deal enabled Boronski to handle day-to-day WRC affairs as executive director, at a significantly reduced cost.

“Local chambers of commerce are looking at more effective ways to use their resources to better serve their members,” she said. “That’s how progressive this chamber is; they partnered with me and are using their member resources to provide services and products as opposed to paying rent, insurance premiums, and high salaries.”

Now, for the same $300 member fee plus $4 per employee (the creation of a ‘micro-business’ dues level for sole proprietorships is being discussed), which Pizzichemi said hasn’t been raised in four years, members not only receive the benefits of the WRC — including discounted or free consultation services, networking events, and business representation with both towns’ municipalities — but also reap all of the Massachusetts Chamber benefits.

Initially, the migration away from the ACCGS and the new managerial change were confusing to some members who left the chamber, thinking they had been members of the ACCGS, not the WRC.

“Some left because they thought that the ACCGS was a chamber, but it’s really a management organization, and they were members of the WRC all along, so the numbers dipped from 217 to 177 at one point. But we’re back up there,” Boronski explained, noting that the WRC surpassed its former peak last year, with 234 members.


Share the Wealth

As the WRC sorted out its new position as a standalone chamber with no bricks-and-mortar central office, it relied on old-fashioned teamwork and launched a mission to appeal to a younger audience while offering business advocacy and a set schedule of more events.

Boronski pointed to ‘Business with Bacon,’ which offers “breakfast with sizzling-hot topics,” which caused all to laugh — but the underlying feeling is that, be it funny, cute, or catchy … it’s working.

“We are getting members to come out for those and network, and our Wicked Wednesdays are attracting 50 to 70 people and that’s a strong showing,” said Beaudry.

But two years ago, there weren’t many events at all, Boronski said. “We’ve really made it a mission to have set schedules for purely networking events. In fact, the tag line for Wicked Wednesdays is ‘no cost, no agenda, no program, no kidding.’ That’s what small businesses need, to network and meet with people with no agenda other than that.”

“And,” Pizzichemi added, “the ability to offer real substance in the form of education and business support.”

He and Beaudry counted on their fingers the amount of money given out by the WRC in the form of grants. Six grants for $500 apiece were awarded a few years ago to member businesses for advertising assistance, and recently, four $1,000 business grants were awarded to help businesses with educational costs.

“For example, one of our auto-dealership repair services was awarded a grant to further the education of one of his technicians,” Pizzichemi said.

Another recent win for both the WRC and Agawam was the chamber’s advocacy for modifications to the business personal tax valuation that were ultimately passed, resulting in lowered taxes for hundreds of businesses. Other big hits include the recent approval of two solar-power developments (by Rivermoor Energy/Citizen’s Energy) for H.P. Hood and the town of Agawam, support for Costco’s liquor-store license and expansion, and the encouragement of a new economic-development administrator in West Springfield, which resulted in the recent hiring of Michele Cabral.

The three also point to the creation of the Agawam Small Business Assistance Center (ASBAC), which was initially funded by the town of Agawam but is now funded by the WRC. From the basics of Excel and QuickBooks to the ins and outs of social-media marketing, the ASBAC provides monthly educational seminars that help startup business members.

Next up for the WRC is the high-profile 6th Annual Food Fest West on Nov. 1 at Crestview Country Club. Pizzichemi anticipates almost 20 restaurants and more than 300 attendees.

“In a climate where almost every restaurant is overshadowed by franchises — certainly Riverdale Street in West Springfield is home to many — this elegant event celebrates our dining quality, but we do let the franchises in,” Pizzichemi said.

Along with the annual summer golf tournament and the hosting of candidate forums for local political races, ‘Coffee with the Mayor’ programs — open forum where members may converse with new West Springfield Mayor Gregory Neffinger and Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen — began this spring and have been well-received by members, said Beaudry.

As he takes charge, Beaudry’s goal is to achieve a constant flow of new, young businesses and retention of longtime members. Tapping his social-media knowledge, Boronski’s experience, and what he knows his generation needs to succeed in business, he and the companies that make up the WRC may just make this body’s transitional years a model for other chambers.


Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]