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Latino Chamber Continues to Expand Its Programs

Deborah Roque

The Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce helped Deborah Roque channel her entrepreneurial spirit; she now owns two small ventures.

In the years after she emigrated from Puerto Rico to Western Mass., Deborah Roque took work where she could find it, and eventually found a groove in the warehouse sector, rising to manager of a facility in South Windsor, Conn.

But she always had a desire to be in business for herself, and today, she has not one, but two entrepreneurial ventures that vie for her time. Most of the hours are devoted to Roque Neighborhood Tax Services, which provides bookkeeping, payroll, notary, and other services to individuals, small businesses, and a few larger corporations. On weekends, though, she commits significant amounts of time and energy to Aponte-Roque’s Shoes & Accessories, an online store that promotes itself with the slogan “Where the fashion is always notable.”

Roque’s tax service is located at 1655 Main St., Suite 505 in Springfield. That’s one of the offices within an incubator facility operated by the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce (MLCC), which opened its doors in 2004. Since it was launched three years ago, the incubator has helped dozens of small, minority-owned businesses get off the ground, said Carlos Gonzalez, president of the MLCC.

And that’s just one of a host of services the organization now offers, he said, listing everything from advocacy to technical assistance for small businesses; from networking events to programs designed to help area companies connect with — and do business with — the large and growing minority population in Western Mass.

Such efforts are part of what Gonzalez called “bridge-building work” between the Anglo (majority) population and the region’s minority groups.

“As the Latino community continues to grow, it needs to recognize that the Anglo community is an economic opportunity,” he explained. “And the Anglo community obviously needs to recognize that the growth of the Latino community is definitely an economic opportunity. So we need to bridge those gaps.”

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez says that fostering entrepreneurship has become one of the highest priorities for the Latino Chamber.

The MLCC now boasts more than 700 members statewide (more than half are in Western Mass.), with offices in Springfield, Holyoke, Boston, and Lawrence, and another planned for Worcester, said Gonzalez, who splits his time among all of those locations but keeps his main office in downtown Springfield, just around the corner from Roque.

He told BusinessWest that, while the name is the Latino chamber of commerce, the organization serves a number of “minority” groups, including women, African-Americans, and a growing number of Asians and Russians in the Greater Springfield area. And he expects the MLCC’s role within the state’s business community to continually expand, as those minority populations increasingly become the majority, which they already have, by most all accounts, in Springfield, and were long ago in Holyoke, Lawrence, and other communities.

“Our membership has started to change … we’re becoming more of what I would call an ethnic chamber, or minority chamber,” he explained. “We have many women-owned businesses, many non-Latino, and even non-minority owned business owners coming to our seminars and networking events.”

He attributes this growth and diversification to the strong lineup of educational programs offered by the MLCC, as well as the myriad success stories it has helped script.

For this, the latest segment of the Getting Down to Business series, BusinessWest turns the spotlight on the MLCC and the many programs it offers to a diverse population that is becoming an ever-more-powerful force in the regional and state economy.

 

Work in Progress

Gonzalez told BusinessWest that there are many within the Latino community — and other minority groups — that share Roque’s entrepreneurial drive.

For some, business ownership is a dream, a passion they’ve pursued for years, he explained, noting that, for many others, it is simply their best option for making a living.

“Considering the unemployment crisis and the lack of job opportunities in this region, the only way to find economic solutions for many people in the inner city, particularly within the minority population, is for people to start their own businesses,” he explained. “And every small business is potentially creating revenue for 1.5 people.”

Helping individuals take business ventures from their kitchen table to the incubator in downtown Springfield, and often well beyond, has become one of the signature services provided by the MLCC, which has certainly grown and evolved since it was launched nearly a decade ago.

It was a vision cultivated by Gonzalez, who had spent years in government (specifically, the Springfield mayor’s office as an aide) and also in business — he operated a Spanish-speaking radio station. The simple goal at first was to create an organization that would help combat poverty by assisting members of the Latino community and other minority populations succeed in the modern workplace, as employers and especially as business owners.

“I saw a lot of people, particularly in the Latino community, with a strong interest in entrepreneurship, but there were few resources to meet their cultural and language necessities,” he said by way of explaining the genesis of the MLCC. “The minority population was growing in Springfield, and entrepreneurship was a key area that no one was targeting.”

The plan — one that has largely been adhered to — was to start in Springfield and expand into areas, especially urban centers, where the Latino community was growing or already sizeable. Holyoke and Lawrence were natural landing spots, said Gonzalez, adding that Worcester is the next logical point of expansion, with a facility due to be operating by the end of this year.

In each community where the MLCC has established a presence — and in all the communities it serves through those offices — the emphasis has been providing members and those served with the tools to succeed, whether that be in the workplace or a business owner, and education has been at the heart of those efforts.

“Education and training was, is, and will always be the heart and soul of our chamber,” he told BusinessWest, “We’re not only a chamber that does networking — we actually do education and training on site.”

Over the years, the MLCC has greatly expanded its roster of services, always with the goal of providing the necessary tools for success, whether it be in the workplace or, increasingly, with small entrepreneurial ventures. Offerings now include:

• Small-business technical assistance, which comes in many forms, with programs tailored to the needs of specific constituencies and provided in conjunction with a host of partners, including other chambers and economic-development-related agencies;

• Lending to Success, a business-lending technical-assistance program that offers loan assistance, business plans, financial plans, and marketing strategies to successfully access capital for startups and growing businesses. The MLCC provides mentoring in legal, accounting, and marketing activities to support businesses through the growing process;

• The Alliance/Alianza Contractor Development Program, which helps foster procurement, contracting, and employment opportunities in the construction trade industry between women and minority small businesses and government and corporate entities;

• The Estes Conectado Technology Program, a full-service computer laboratory that provides technology education to help participants become more proficient in the use of technology, especially as it relates to business operations, reducing costs, and improving time management;

• The La Academia Program, a workforce and skill-development program that provides an introduction to making musical instruments, cabinetmaking and refinishing, sewing, basic computer skills, conversational Spanish classes, management training, and more;

• Advocacy on policy issues that effect the business community, such as local, state, and federal procurement regulations, taxes, small-business programs, and other areas; and

• Youth and leadership programs, including a Leaders of Tomorrow program that provides leadership training for youths through mentoring, public speaking, and community involvement, as well as a business seminar for young people ages 7-16, at which they can learn about everything from basic banking skills to starting a small business to keeping financial records.

 

Taking Flight

But arguably the most successful initiative has been the small-business incubator center, which offers office space, conference rooms, an Internet computer lab and training room, and, most importantly, mentoring and other forms of assistance to help businesses get off the ground and to the proverbial next stage.

Gonzalez told BusinessWest that the current list of 20 registered businesses that share space in the incubator includes everything from Roque’s tax-service operation to a few accountants and lawyers; from photographers to a pizza restaurant located on the ground floor of the building. And while most are Latino-owned, there are some started by African-Americans, Russians, and other ethnic groups.

The common denominators are an entrepreneurial spirit and a need for physical space and technical assistance that will enable that spirit to flourish.

Roque took a path that would be considered typical among those who have participated in the program, said Gonzalez, adding that she started her venture in her home, moved into shared space in the incubator, and now occupies her own office at 1655 Main St.

“I always wanted to own my own business,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the MLCC helped her make the transition from her home, where she worked for several years to establish a client base, to her downtown Springfield facility.

Today, many of her clients are small-business owners themselves, people who know the specific field they’ve chosen, but usually not the payroll, bookkeeping, and other duties that are part and parcel to owning a business, so they’ve turned to her for assistance. “It’s very rewarding work, and each day is different,” she said, dispelling some perceptions about the work she does. “I enjoy working with small businesses.”

While the incubator in Springfield has been the scene of many success stories, the MLCC has helped inspire and then write entrepreneurial success stories in many other communities with large minority populations, including Holyoke and Lawrence, where MLCC efforts have helped that city, in which 80% of the population is Latino, gain statewide recognition as a minority business hub.

In the Paper City, the chamber has been working closely with Mayor Alex Morse and his administration to help get many new businesses off the ground and, in so doing, create momentum and fill vacant storefronts and office space at the same time.

Among the initiatives is what Gonzalez called a “healthy-food restaurant” to be opened downtown that will also serve as a training ground for entrepreneurs across the area looking to get into the food industry.

“Mayor Morse has been very supportive of new approaches to entrepreneurship and training,” said Gonzalez. “We’re looking to fill empty storefronts with a new entrepreneurship spirit that’s being cultivated by the mayor, the data center, and a new arts center going in the downtown, and an urban-renewal plan that’s been designed to connect the Latino-populated neighborhoods with the core of the city.

“We’re excited about what’s going on in Holyoke right now,” he continued. “They’re really thinking outside the box, and they’re allowing entrepreneurship to be part of the overall solution to bringing back Holyoke.”

Minority Report

As he talked about the MLCC’s work in the many urban areas it serves, Gonzalez mentioned some new initiatives. They include work in Holyoke to help entrepreneurs leverage the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, which will open its doors soon; efforts in Springfield to prepare minority populations for the coming of the casino era; and programs in several communities involving business opportunities in the emerging ‘green’ energy and biosciences sector.

They provide clear evidence that, while the Latino Chamber’s basic role hasn’t changed, the specific ways in which that mission is carried out will continue to expand and evolve.

And they will always be centered on people like Deborah Roque, who have dreams and aspirations — and the need for some assistance when it comes to making them reality.

 

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

Environment and Engineering Sections
Statewide Initiative Helps Chicopee Move the Needle on Uniroyal Site

Uniroyal complex in Chicopee

One of the buildings in the former Uniroyal complex in Chicopee.

Tom Haberlin, director of Economic Development for Chicopee, has been dealing with the fate of the sprawling former Uniroyal plant and neighboring property in the center of the city for more than 30 years.

And as he talked about the project and the recent progress made in readying the site for redevelopment, he chose words that were succinct yet powerful.

“We’ve had a stage-four cancer here in the heart of Chicopee for decades,” he said. “And cancer surgery is expensive.”

That cancer, of course, is the combination Uniroyal (tires) and Facemate (a Johnson & Johnson textile mill) site, a 65-acre strip of polluted land and buildings along the Chicopee Falls section of Chicopee River that, until last year, was home to 23 century-old manufacturing, administrative, and maintenance buildings in various stages of physical and environmental decay. Only 11 of the original buildings remain.

The area is officially designated by the Commonwealth as a ‘brownfield’ site, due to the high level of environmental contamination on the property — PCBs, petroleum, and asbestos have been identified there — and with this designation, as well as proper planning and considerable collaboration with state and federal agencies, the city has finally begun to see real progress in efforts to rehab the site.

Much of this momentum is due to an initiative launched by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who dealt with a number of brownfield projects when he was mayor of Worcester, and took that experience — and lessons learned from it — to the State House. There, in collaboration with Gov. Deval Patrick, he worked to create the Brownfield Support Team (BST), which in many ways complements the 1998 Brownfields Act by bringing together state environmental and economic-development agencies to target assistance for some of the Commonwealth’s most challenging and complex brownfield sites.

The Uniroyal/Facemate site was one of six across the state to receive assistance under Round 2 of the BST initiative; four others are in Attleboro, Chelmsford, Somerville, and South Gardner, while citywide assistance was granted for Brockton. (Springfield’s Chapman Valve site was among five included in the first round of funding).

Assistance from the BST has accelerated work on an initiative known as RiverMills at Chicopee Falls, a project that includes construction of a new senior center on the Uniroyal site, possible development of market-rate housing and office/retail facilities, and expansion of a river walk.

The BST was created to help communities clear the innumerable hurdles presented by brownfield-site redevelopment, including assistance with both charting a course for contaminated property and then dealing with — and securing funds and other support from — an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies, said Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette.

To date, the program has helped to coordinate efforts and secure support from MassDevelopment, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and others, said the mayor.

For this issue and its focus on Environment & Engineering, BusinessWest talked with Murray and city officials about the many challenges involved with brownfield development, and how the BST is helping to write a new chapter in the history of the Chicopee site.

 

Not Treading Lightly

Bissonnette said people in Chicopee often ask, “how come it takes so long to knock down those buildings?”

“I get that all the time,” the mayor sighed. “People don’t realize that it’s a very complex process that involves asbestos, mercury, PCBs, and other petroleum contaminants, and asbestos remediation, for one, can triple this long part of the process.”

He offered the example of a fictitious $2 million project to demolish an old manufacturing plant. The building looks hollow — just a pile of old bricks — but $1.3 million will be needed to properly dispose of all the contaminants, many broken down by the elements and leaching into the soil, while the actual razing of the structure costs only $700,000.

Returning to the Uniroyal/Facemate site, the mayor said, “we could sell it, on its best day, for $4 million, but it would take $20 million to get there [cleaned up], and then we’d hope for a private partner to develop it.”

The question is, who will pay that $20 million, he went on, adding that no private development would take on that burden and the municipality is certainly not in a position to do so.

Michael Bissonnette

Michael Bissonnette says local residents don’t realize how costly and complicated it is to raze a large brownfield site.

Overcoming such stalemates and achieving progress on projects that have, like the Uniroyal property, moved at a snail’s pace for decades was the specific motivation behind creation of the BST, Murray told BusinessWest. He noted that clearing such roadblocks requires high levels of patience, collaboration, accountability, and, most of all, funding, and the BST was designed to generate all of the above.

He recalled a report showing that remediating Worcester’s brownfield sites would potentially result in almost $30 million in tax revenue for the city, which in one year would provide funds to resurface every needy street, cut property taxes, and allow aggressive movement on school construction.

“This was a pretty powerful data point that struck me,” he said, “and it got me thinking that, if we had a focused and disciplined approach, and prioritized the cleanups with the highest return first, we’d be making some progress over time.”

He convened the Mayor’s Brownfield Roundtable, which met monthly with the Legislature, the private sector, and state agencies to talk about how they could prioritize sites. Brownfield sites typically require massive environmental oversight and have multiple owners, and agencies are often putting liens against landowners or fighting one thing or another in several courts. All told, the complexity before one even gets to remediation is challenging at best.

In the case of the Uniroyal/Facemate site, all of the above were in play, and assistance from the BST has helped pave the path to progress.

 

Getting a Grip

“When we started, the city did not have control of either site, and the municipality had to get control of it, a clear title,” Bissonnette explained. “And the EPA had a lien against the Facemate land.

“We were in an interesting position of arguing with them [the EPA] that they were trying to collect money from us on the one hand,” he continued, “but eventually we’re trying to get money from them to clean this up on the other hand. It didn’t make sense.”

It eventually worked out as a ‘discharge of the lien,’ which was litigated in three different courts and is something quite rare, Bissonnette said. The city then partnered with MassDevelopment for a $4 million grant to do site assessment and remediation assistance, and the EPA gave $600,000 more for asbestos cleanup. A $5 million loan was taken out by the city, and $1.4 million from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is being used to help pay that loan.

“The city has cobbled together pretty close to $10 million in federal and state monies and loans, with the city putting in $4 million of the $8 million needed for a senior center on the Facemate site,” said Haberlin. “In late October, we’re expecting to hear on approval of a $1.6 million MassWorks grant to finance the construction of roads, water, sewer, and a pump station to the senior center and two private parcels on either side.”

In all, the 65-acre site includes 45 acres (only 20 to 25 are buildable) of Uniroyal property, and 20 acres of Facemate, but while the Facemate area of the site is set, the Uniroyal ownership is another issue. Haberlin said it was purchased from a private owner by Michelin North America several few years ago, and the company inherited all the issues that come with a brownfields site; Michelin argues that it is responsible for cleaning up what the decaying buildings do to the soil, but not the buildings themselves.

Haberlin said he belives he has another five years of what he called the “Uniroyal saga” to contend with, and Bissonnette concurs.

“If this was easy, it would have been done before me.” Bissonnette said. “But the good news is that Michelin is coming to the table, and we are moving toward a joint agreement on how this will proceed.”

All those involved say the assistance from the BST has been instrumental in moving the process forward, and that the Chicopee project, the largest to date in terms of size to be so designated, provides more evidence that the unique initiative is working and worthy of emulation.

Murray said the Uniroyal/Facemate project was chosen for assistance because the RiverMills at Chicopee Falls redevelopment opportunity was already in motion and had solid potential for return on investment, but needed a higher level of coordination to move ahead.

“We try to target some of the bigger projects where maybe a municipality has some preliminary and conceptual plans done, so we don’t have to start from the beginning,” he explained. “But the municipality just needs the technical expertise, the resources, and the staff power to move it forward.”

Through the BST, said the lieutenant governor, a dedicated staff person from each of the agencies is assigned to the project in question, providing a level of ownership, or accountability, that is needed with such complex projects.

“They are involved in weekly conference calls and monthly meetings,” he explained. “The idea is that you’re all in charge [of your own agency], and it’s your responsibility; you’re accountable. And it’s been a very good model.”

Murray is encouraged by not only the recent remediation progress of Round 1 of the BST and now the advancement of Round 2, but the EPA reports that other states are looking at the Massachusetts model to replicate it.

“I do think we are ahead of the curve, and in the last round nationally of brownfields money [$69.3 million in assessment/cleanup grants and revolving loan funds], we got $6.75 million of that total, far and away the highest total of any state,” Murray told BusinessWest. “I think it’s because we have a track record of collaboration and coordination, and we want to get this money from the federal level as quickly as possible so communities like Chicopee are the beneficiaries.”

Round 3 is in the works, and all teams, especially the DEP and EPA, will be looking at which sites could be next. And a large number of projects are competing for funds, something Murray says is a good problem to have.

“It forces the communities to prioritize which sites they want to go forward on,” he said, “and forces municipalities to come up with consensus plans and be disciplined in their approach.”

 

Clean Slate

For Chicopee, the figurative field of dreams is quickly — at least by government standards — becoming the literal reality. Bissonnette is encouraged by the many comments from people he sees at the post office in Chicopee Falls, who no longer stare at the old, vacant Facemate buildings.

“It’s an encouraging sign for them; those buildings are gone, and it means progress,” said the mayor. “We will soon have the most beautiful walk and bikeway along that river. It’s gorgeous, but they just can’t see it yet.”

In other words, the expensive cancer treatment is working.

 

Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]

Building Permits Departments

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

 

AGAWAM

 

West Mass Area Development Corp.

912 Shoemaker Lane

$1,741,000 — Installation of a solar generation facility

 

CHICOPEE

 

Chicopee Housing Authority

165 East Main St.

$225,000 — Waste and vent pipe replacement

 

New Greek Orthodox Church

32 Grattan St.

$3,000 — Bell tower repairs

 

GREENFIELD

 

Country Club of Greenfield

130 Country Club Road

$23,500 — Exchange existing antennas on tower

 

Greenfield Housing Authority

1 Elm St.

$5,000 — Construct new room in the community center

 

Greenfield Industries Inc.

34 Sanderson St.

$50,000 — Install new roof

 

Mary Calagione

285 High St.

$6,200 — Change existing bay window

 

Town of Greenfield

21 Ferrante Ave.

$123,000 — Install dust system

 

Town of Greenfield

62 Meridian St.

$34,000 — New vinyl siding

 

HOLYOKE

 

Contemporary Apartments Inc.

59 Mosher St.

$250,000 — Replace back porches

 

Eastern Micro-Graphics Inc.

624 Hampden St.

$53,000 — Add wireless communication facility

 

LUDLOW

 

Craig Tracy

77 Winsor St.

$39,000 — Alterations

 

Crown Atlantic, LLC

145 Carmelinas Ave.

$15,000 — Antenna replacement

 

Freedom Credit Union

645 Center St.

$16,000 — Alterations

 

Joseph Starczyk

242-250 East St.

$11,000 — Alterations

 

SOUTH HADLEY

 

Netlink Global

50 College St.

$25,000 — Install telecommunications tower

 

SPRINGFIELD

 

Morais Enterprises, LLC

108 Rocus St.

$20,000 — Install solar panel system

 

Shiloh SDA Church

797 State St.

$9,250 — New roof shingles

 

Smith & Wesson

2100 Roosevelt Ave.

$832,000 — Construct a 5,000-square-foot addition to Building “L”

 

Smith and Wesson

2100 Roosevelt Ave.

$110,000 — Install modular building

 

Styrolution Corp.

950 Worcester St.

$17,500 — New duct work system for air conditioning

 

WESTFIELD

 

Carl Schmidt

815 North Road

$27,500 — Construct a second-floor deck

 

City of Westfield

59 Court St.

$2,703,000 — Exterior renovations

 

City of Westfield

22 Franklin Ave.

$440,500 — New roof on Franklin Ave. School

 

Mark Katz

321 Elm St.

$25,000 — Interior repairs

 

Robert Bacon

310 Lockhouse Road

$610,000 — New commercial building

 

WEST SPRINGFIELD

 

Cumberland Farms Inc.

143 Park St.

$1,059,000 — Construction of a gas station and convenience store

 

 

 

 

Agenda Departments

Understanding Your Company’s Cash Flow

Oct. 24: Your business runs on cash — cash in and cash out. At a workshop titled “Understanding Your Company’s Cash Flow,” presented by the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network, attendees can learn the basics of cash flow, how to manage cash-flow projections, the timing of cash inflows and outflows, how to improve a company’s cash flow, and how cash flow is different from profit. The workshop will take place at 10 a.m. at PeoplesBank, 330 Whitney Ave., Holyoke, and will be presented by Robb Morton of Boisselle, Morton & Associates in South Hadley. For more information, call (413) 737-6712.

 

Top Trends in Politics

Oct. 24: “Top Trends in Politics @Westfield State: a Round-table Discussion of What is Happening Now” will be staged at the Woodward Center on the Westfield State University campus starting at 7 p.m. A public reception begins at 6:30. The event is described as “an exploration of election year 2012 — the issues, candidates, strategies, and political climate” — and will feature six panelists. They include Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author of Cronkite, historian, and professor at Rice University; Hendrick Hertzberg, senior editor and political commentator for the New Yorker; Shannon O’Brien, former Massachusetts state treasurer and receiver general; Dan Thomasson, nationally syndicated columnist and former editor and vice president of Scripps Howard; Lowell Weicker, former U.S. senator and U.S. representative; and Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle. For more information, visit www.westfield.ma.edu

 

Rays of Hope Walk in Springfield, Greenfield

Oct. 28: As the nation observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month, thousands of walkers and runners will be hitting the pavement to support breast health in Western Mass. as part of the 19th annual Rays of Hope – A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, and its accompanying 3rd annual Run Toward the Cure 8K. This year’s annual walk events, presented by Health New England, are set for Springfield and Greenfield, while the run is held only in Springfield. Last year some 21,000 combined walkers and runners from Springfield and Greenfield, including over 600 teams, participated in Rays of Hope. Since 1994, the program has raised $10.25 million, all of which has remained in local communities on behalf of patients and their families affected by breast cancer. The Springfield walk and run begin at Temple Beth El on Dickinson Street, with registration set for 9 a.m. The walk in Greenfield begins at Energy Park on Miles Street, with registration at 10 a.m. The Springfield walk steps off at 10:30 a.m., preceded at 10:15 a.m. by the run, and the Greenfield walk begins later at noon. Walkers in Springfield can choose from a two- or five-mile route. The shorter route is accessible to handicapped participants, while the five-mile stroll is a little more challenging with some hills. In Greenfield, participants can select a two- or three-mile route, both of which travel up Main Street before taking different directions. Participants can register for both the walk and run online at baystatehealth.org/raysofhope, where they can also create their own personal webpage to assist them in their fund-raising efforts. For the Springfield Walk, free parking with shuttle service is available at locations near Temple Beth El, including in East Longmeadow at American Saw and East Longmeadow High School, as well as in Longmeadow at Blueberry Hill School and Longmeadow High School, and at other locations found on the Rays of Hope website. Participants are asked to refrain from parking on the side streets near the temple. In Greenfield, free parking is available in the public lots behind Green Fields Market, on Chapman Street behind Wilson’s Department Store, behind the Franklin County Court House, and in the Freedom Credit Union parking lot. Walkers are asked not to park in the Wilson’s Department Store lot for the benefit of its customers. There is no shuttle service, as all lots are within walking distance of Energy Park. Handicapped parking is available at Temple Beth El and at Energy Park for those with an official handicapped parking permit and/or license plate only. No pets, other than service dogs, are allowed at either the Springfield or Greenfield locations.

 

Equity-financing Workshop

Oct. 31: For some new or small businesses, equity financing is the most appropriate way to bring required capital into the firm. This could be the case because the businesses are high-risk, high-growth, or in need of more startup and growth capital than can be supplied by other sources. At a workshop titled “Equity Financing for High Potential/High Growth Ventures,” presented by the Mass. Small Development Center Network, attendees can learn about this attractive financing option. The program will provide an overview of equity financing and answer questions such as, what qualifies a venture for equity financing? What are the biggest mistakes you can make and the smartest things you can do while seeking equity investment? What should the venture leadership team look like? What are equity investors looking for? What matters the most in seeking equity investment? What are the major reasons why a business is funded or not funded? How are equity deals structured? And how do you set a valuation for a new venture?

The workshop, to be presented by Peter Morton of the MSBDC Network, Central Regional Office, will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Scibelli Enterprise Center, 1 Federal St. in Springfield. A light lunch will be provided. For more information, call (413) 737-6712.

 

HCC Fall Open House

Nov. 1: Holyoke Community College will stage its annual Fall Open House from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development’s PeoplesBank Room. Guests can learn about HCC’s nearly 100 degree and certificate programs, as well as the school’s comprehensive support, services, student clubs and activities, financial aid, and more. Applications for admission will be accepted at the event, and there will also be individual breakout sessions for financial aid and adult learners. The open house will feature a new segment called “Conversations by Division” beginning at 6 p.m. Guests will be assigned to a separate meet-and-greet based on their intended major, led by division teams. Each divisional conversation will be followed by a short question-and-answer session and then a student panel discussion. For more information, contact the Office of Admissions at (413) 552-2321 or [email protected]

 

Writer, Essayist to Speak

Nov. 5: Anne Fadiman, a writer, essayist, and author whose first book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, won her a National Critics Book Circle Award, will visit the region as part of the Ovations series, sponsored by the Chicopee Savings Bank Endowment for Academic Excellence, the STCC Office of Academic Affairs, and the STCC Honors Program. There will two performances, at 10:10 and 11:15 a.m., in Scibelli Hall. Both are free and open to the public. The Washington Post called Fadiman’s book “an intriguing, spirit-lifting, extraordinary exploration.” The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the story of Lia Lee, the daughter of Hmong immigrants from Laos, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1981. What follows is the story of a clash of cultures as well as an examination of the U.S. healthcare system. The book is often taught in university literary journalism courses across the country and serves as a casebook for cross-cultural sensitivity. Fadiman also is the author of Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader and At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays. She currently resides in Whately and is a professor of English and writing mentor at Yale University. For additional information about the Ovations series, contact Philip O’Donoghue at (413) 755-4233 or [email protected]

 

Employment Law and Human Resources Practices Update

Nov. 8: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast will stage its annual Employment Law and Human Services Practices Update at the Holyoke Hotel and Conference Center (formerly the Holiday Inn). The conference, sponsored by Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, will address the challenging state and federal legal and regulatory environment for employers, and present practical solutions and information to guide employers in their day-to-day employment decisions. The conference is designed for all levels of management — executives, corporate counsel, human-resource professionals, managers, and supervisors — who need practical and timely information to help negotiate ever-evolving employment issues. Conference presenters will include Joel Berner, chief of Enforcement for the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination; Charles Krich, principal attorney for the Connecticut Human Rights Organization; attorney Elaine Reall; and attorneys from Skoler Abbott & Presser, P.C., and EANE. For more information, contact Karen Cronenberger at (877) 662-6444.

 

40 Under Forty Reunion

Nov. 8: BusinessWest will stage a reunion featuring the first six classes of its 40 Under Forty program at the Log Cabin Banquet & meeting House inn Holyoke. The event, open only to 40 Under Forty winners, event judges, and sponsors, will begin at 5:30 and feature a talk from Peter Straley, president of Health New England, about leadership and community involvement. For more information on the event, call (413) 781-8600, or e-mail [email protected]

Opinion
Not All Jobs Are Created Equal

We heard the presidential candidates discuss their views again at the most recent debate, and it is clear that they agree on at least one thing: jobs and job-creation policies are critical to the future of the economy. Yet, like many politicians, policy makers, and pundits, the candidates continue to gloss over what both men certainly know to be true: not all jobs are created equal.

Based on our work at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, we see two clear and distinct routes to new job creation.

There are small and medium-sized companies created to offer traditional goods and services to a local or regional market. Think ‘mom-and-pop’ operations. They include your yoga studio and the pizza place down the street. While valuable to the economy in general, these companies are not large enough to serve as a growth engine for the entire economy. They do, however, offer important opportunities for employment and provide valuable services.

The other route to job creation comes from exploiting new technological advances to create businesses that aim to compete in a global market. Think of a large pharmaceutical company or biotech firm.

Both small companies and innovation-driven enterprises create jobs, but the types and numbers of jobs they create are remarkably different.

Small businesses are a vital part of our economy, particularly for individuals with relatively lower levels of education and skills. They give people the opportunity to work independently and to use their skills, particularly in times when large, established companies are laying off workers. Unfortunately, many small businesses employ only the founder and spouse or just a handful of workers. These companies create jobs, but they typically provide lower-than-average wages and poor benefits.

Contrast these companies with the innovation-driven enterprises. These companies seek to address global markets — offering goods and services based on some kind of substantial innovation linked to a clear understanding of a specific market.

These companies generally employ individuals with high levels of education and training. New biotechnology companies, for example, are usually founded, led, and staffed by physicians or individuals with MBAs or PhDs in molecular biology. As these companies grow, they also create a wealth of high-quality, auxiliary employment for those with lower skills — laboratory technicians, manufacturing staff, hospital workers, etc. The Massachusetts governor’s office has calculated that for every high-level biotechnology job created, five lower-level jobs are also created.

Yet politicians and policy makers often fail to make a distinction between jobs created by small ‘mom-and-pop’ enterprises and innovation-driven enterprises. It is a critical mistake. They are different, and the policies to support them differ.

Small-business creation is an important part of job creation, but it is only a part of what is needed to create large transformations in the economy. Innovation-driven companies generate many more new jobs and exports than small business.

If job creation and economic prosperity are the goals, innovation-driven entrepreneurship must be a major element of government strategy and policymaking. Not all jobs are created equal, and we need both kinds of companies in order to create the vibrant economy both candidates are seeking and voters are demanding. As a result, separate and equitable organizations need to be set up, with different programs and mindsets. From training programs and tax incentives to business accelerators and mentoring activities, entrepreneurial support programs must be designed differently for innovation-driven enterprises and small-business entrepreneurs.

Policies and politicians who lump both sorts of entrepreneurs together are likely to fail. Going forward, both candidates need to address job creation in a way that recognizes the distinction between the two types of organizations.

 

Bill Aulet is managing director at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Fiona Murray is faculty director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and professor of Management of Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Court Dockets Departments

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

 

 

CHICOPEE

DISTRICT COURT

LVNV Funding, LLC, assignee of FIA card Services, N.A. v. Sweetwater Cycles

Allegation: Unpaid balance due for monies loaned: $27,629.29

Filed: 9/5/12

 

GREENFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Trans River Marketing Co., L.P. v. Whitney Trucking Inc.

Allegation: Non-payment of waste disposal services provided: $188,160.50

Filed: 8/29/12

HAMPDEN

SUPERIOR COURT

Hanibal Technology, LLC v. Spectrum Analytical Inc.

Allegation: Breach of loan agreement: $1,500,000

Filed: 8/27/12

 

Ocean State Job Lot v. Cobalt Industries Inc.

Allegation: Defendant has failed to pay subcontractors: $116,459

Filed: 9/4/12

 

SPRINGFIELD

DISTRICT COURT

Perlman Recycling Inc. v. Tri County Recycling

Allegation: Non-payment of goods sold and delivered: $9,874.99

Filed: 8/28/12

Opinion
I-91: Imagine the Possibilities

State and city officials went public recently with reports that the elevated section of I-91 that slices through downtown Springfield is in very poor condition (that’s not a news flash) and in need of repairs and rebuilding that will cost north of $400 million (that is news — and a very big number indeed).

These revelations have led to some early speculation — or daydreaming, depending on your point of view — about possibly making this a surface road or perhaps even taking that stretch of the highway and putting it underground, like Boston’s Big Dig. Neither of these options is very likely, due largely to the nightmarish delays and cost overruns that made two three-letter words, ‘big’ and ‘dig,’ synonymous nationally and internationally with ‘disaster.’

But it would be nice to dream.

That’s because this stretch of I-91, like many of the highways built in the ’50s and ’60s as part of the Interstate Highway System, helped link cities, while also destroying much of their fabric. Inspired by urban planners such as New York’s famous (and infamous) Robert Moses, highways such as I-91 helped suburbanize America while also accelerating the demise of once-proud urban centers — like Springfield.

I-91 made the city more accessible than ever before. But that accessibility came with a steep price. Some thriving neighborhoods, especially the South End, were cut in two, with many homes, businesses, and parks destroyed to make way for the highway. Indeed, in the days after the tornado that touched down in that neighborhood 16 months ago, many long-time South End residents and business owners said that was the second disaster to befall the area, with I-91 being the first.

The new highway took people to Springfield, but it also took them right through it and on to other destinations, such as the Holyoke Mall, downtown Northampton, and Hartford, and it would be fair to say that there has been more of the latter than the former, and this has been one of many factors that have contributed to Springfield’s decline over the past 45 years and only modest recovery.

But it is also I-91 and other connecting highways, such as I-291 and the Turnpike, perhaps more than other factors, that have made Springfield the first choice of three companies that want to win the coveted license for a Western Mass. resort casino. People would like to think the city’s quality of life, available real estate, and the fact that its residents will likely support a casino have made the idea popular, but the bottom line is, what makes Springfield attractive is that you can get there — and very easily — from just about anywhere.

Unless something miraculous happens and the state becomes willing to take on another project like the Big Dig, it seems certain that the elevated section of I-91 will be subject to an endless string of patch jobs designed to lengthen the road’s useful lifespan. This will lead to more disruption downtown (recent potholes have caused huge traffic tieups) and perhaps two or three more decades of the status quo.

It will also mean many more years of trying to find ways for Springfield to thrive in spite of the highway. Efforts to date have not been very successful, although the riverfront is much more vibrant than it was decades ago and a casino promises to bring thousands of people to the city each day to at least gamble for a few hours.

According to local legend, the original plan was to put I-91 on the west side of the Connecticut River, but some powers that be decided that this wasn’t prudent, practical, or both. Springfield has had to coexist with the highway ever since, and for the most part, it has suffered due to its existence.

While daydreaming about removing the eyesore from the landscape, city and regional officials will likely have to make do with finding more ways to leverage the road as an asset and live with its drawbacks.

Because it’s highly unlikely there will be an opportunity to live without it.