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Banking and Financial Services Sections
Commercial Loans to Female Business Owners on the Rise

Mary Meehan

Mary Meehan says women are becoming more prominent in many fields, from medicine to management to law, and her loan portfolio reflects that.

Robert Polito would like to take credit for Webster Bank’s success in reaching certain elements of the commercial-loan market, including women business owners.

But he can’t. As the bank’s senior vice president and director of government-guaranteed lending, he more accurately characterizes his role as embracing already-existing trends, from the ever-increasing number of female business owners to the evolving priorities of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA — which guarantees loans by commercial banks and other lenders and provides capital to small businesses that are often unable to qualify for conventional credit — has, in fact, recognized Webster as Connecticut’s top lender to women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“I would love to say it was my strategy to focus on minority- and women-owned businesses, but, honestly, it has been a policy of the SBA to really focus on four main areas: minorities, women, veterans, and rural businesses. We’ve done tremendously well with the first three,” Polito said, noting that Webster’s geographic footprint, in largely urban areas, doesn’t facilitate very much lending in rural markets.

“We have a lot of women, veterans, and minority businesses. And it’s something I really do want to focus on,” he continued. “One-third of my portfolio at Webster Bank is women owners — and that includes women only, not husband-and-wife teams. When I speak to my branch managers — who are mostly women — I’m really proud of that. I think it’s putting your money where your mouth is — not just saying it, but doing it.”

United Bank is doing it as well, having been named Massachusetts’ top lender to women-owned businesses for the past two years. Barbara-Jean Deloria, the bank’s senior vice president of commercial and retail lending credits two factors for that success.

“First, having commercial lenders who are women has been an influence on our ability to market to other women,” she told BusinessWest. “Obviously, in the past, the commercial-lending world has been dominated by male lenders, and by having more women in the marketplace attracts that business niche. Also, there are definitely more women-owned businesses that have surfaced in the past 10 years.”

Lenders both regional and national have noticed. In 1995, Wells Fargo made a commitment to lend $1 billion to women who owned businesses. Earlier this month, the financial-services giant said it would lend $55 billion to such companies by 2020.

Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo’s lead executive for small business, issued a statement that “women-owned businesses are among America’s fastest growing segments, and we are honored to support their role in shaping the future of small business.” In fact, some 30% of U.S. businesses are owned by women — a number that continues to grow.

For this issue’s focus on banking and finance, BusinessWest sits down with several of the region’s commercial-lending players to talk about that trend, and what it means for lenders, borrowers, and the economy as a whole.

 

Growing Clout

Mary Meehan, first vice president of Commercial Loans at PeoplesBank, has experienced similar success lending to women.

“Roughly 40% of my portfolio is women business owners,” Meehan said, a number that includes manufacturing companies, commercial enterprises, and a range of other types of businesses. “We also have women who own investment and real-estate properties, and female doctors in medical offices; that whole area continues to grow as more women go to medical school. In fact, lending to women has also grown as more women get their MBAs or go to law school.”

Clearly, she said, this trend in commercial lending is being driven by larger economic and demographic shifts, from more women entrepreneurs to more daughters stepping into the CEO role in family enterprises, when sons used to dominate succession. “That’s a natural progression in terms of family-run businesses in general.”

The role of women in the region’s business landscape is even more impressive, Meehan said, considering that the 40% figure she cited doesn’t include nonprofits — which form a considerable niche in Western Mass. and at PeoplesBank; many such organizations are run by women.

The increasing profile of women’s business, in fact, is one reason why the SBA and other agencies have chosen to recognize entities that lend to women, said Dena Hall, senior vice president of Marketing and Community Relations at United Bank. “That they’ve designated an award for lending to women is significant.”

Richard Collins, United Bank’s president and CEO, welcomes the opportunity. “We are always eager to help women in business achieve their goals,” he said. “Their success is always significant to the growth of the economy, and their contributions are more vital than ever in today’s economic environment.”

Statistics from the federal government’s National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) back up that perception with hard numbers. Women-owned firms make up 28.7% of all non-farm businesses across the country and generate $1.2 trillion in total receipts. A full 88.3% of these firms are non-employer firms, while the remaining 11.7% have paid employees, employing a total of 7.6 million people.

In addition, women-owned businesses make up 52% of all businesses in health care and social assistance while other top industries for women include educational services (46% are women-owned), waste management and remediation services (37%), retail trade (34%), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (30%).

However, bank and government lending remains a largely untapped resource, according to the NWBC, as 56% of women-owned businesses used personal or family savings to start or acquire their business, compared to fewer than 1% who used a business loan from the federal, state, or local government or a government-guaranteed business loan from a bank.

However, for those who pursue SBA and other types of loans, Deloria said women are more educated than ever about the resources available to them. “I think women-owned businesses are very proactive on doing the research; even before they come in to see me, they recognize that the SBA is a really good resource for them. Most of the time, they’ve already researched that aspect of it.”

Polito agreed, and added that women tend to carefully consider the perspective the prospective lender brings to the table. “I don’t want to generalize, but it has been my experience, when I do meet with women-owned businesses, I find they’re more willing [than men] to listen to recommendations and guidance about what I’ve seen with other businesses of a similar size or a similar business model. They’re more willing to listen and take guidance from the bank.”

 

Forging Ties

That sort of openness and teamwork lends itself to a successful loan, Meehan said, especially when it comes to solo or small businesses. “We have a focus especially on the small-business side, a focus on our branches and lending to someone who comes into the branch. The manager is focused on developing that small-business relationship.

“We go through the same due diligence process, male or female, of getting to know the customer’s business and everything that entails.”

And there’s no shortage of resources available to educate borrowers on what the process entails. Deloria said she’s been active with the Women’s Chamber and other business-networking groups and found them to be effective ways to meet business owners and share information.

“We’re trying to offer more education, identify women’s organizations in the communities we serve to do more outreach,” Polito added. “Frankly, its intimidating for pretty much everyone, and often very intimidating for women- and minority-owned businesses, to walk into a bank and apply for a loan. But I don’t want people to feel that way.”

He said loan officers at Webster “put their noses to the grindstone” for every application that comes in, rather than turning down a potentially promising loan after a cursory look at a credit score. “Two people have to decline a loan. What we’ve instituted for many years is a second-look process. When a deal is declined, we have a second reviewer look at it to make sure we can’t do it.

“Even an SBA guarantee can never make a good loan out of a bad loan,” he added. “But if we can get the loan over the hump for approval, we’ll do it; we’ll take that chance.”

That’s because a successful loan benefits everyone: the bank, the borrower, and, in theory, the customers and employees of the company — which is increasingly likely to be run by a woman.

“The business works or it doesn’t — male or female, and no matter what the color of their skin is,” Polito concluded. “So, the more outreach we can do, the better. Everyone wins when you get capital into the market.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Bankruptcies Departments

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

 

Allen, Scott P.

10 Cheney St.

Three Rivers, MA 01080

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/25/13

 

Allen-LaRhette, Michael D.

Allen-LaRhette, LeahJean

42 Cottage St.

Orange, MA 01364

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Arroyo, Braulio P.

Fernandez, Candida R.

57 Bevier St.

Springfield, MA 01107

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/22/13

 

Avant, Marise G.

161 South St., # 3

Athol, MA 01331

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Ayala, Denise

199 El Paso St.

Springfield, MA 01104

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/21/13

 

Bell, Deborah A.

137 Mill Valley Road

Belchertown, MA 01007

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/15/13

 

Blair-Kinnas, Charlene N.

39 Stratford Ave.

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/25/13

 

Boucher, Michael R.

Boucher, Leni-Sarah

794 Homestead Ave.

Holyoke, MA 01040

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Boucher, Terrance

20 Kateley Lane

North Adams, MA 01247

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/22/13

 

Brantley, Catherine Y.

119 Groton St.

Springfield, MA 01129

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/21/13

 

Burris, Beryl M.

107 Valier Ave.

Chicopee, MA 01020

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Burt, Margo M.

177 Flint St.

Springfield, MA 01129

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Byrd, Judson

Byrd, Lisa

991 Granville Road

Westfield, MA 01085

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Byrne, Joanne Patricia

a/k/a Flannery, Joanne P.

P.O. Box 150

East Longmeadow, MA 01028

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Clark, Douglas K.

Clark, Linda J.

519 East River St.

Orange, MA 01364

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Cook, Tammy J.

a/k/a Lyles, Tammy J.

a/k/a Dean, Tammy J.

1067 Worcester St.

Indian Orchard, MA 01151

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Corigliano, Sarah M.

103 Clough St.

Springfield, MA 01118

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/20/13

 

De La Cruz, Walter

91 Crossbrook Road

Amherst, MA 01002

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Diaz, Elizabeth

199 El Paso St.

Springfield, MA 01104

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Faulha, Maria G.

280 Munsing St.

Ludlow, MA 01056

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Fisher, Touraine L.

106 Lionel Benoit Road

Springfield, MA 01109

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/14/13

 

Forfa, Brian K.

76 Bay State Road

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/25/13

 

Fryer, Matthew A.

Davidson-Fryer, Treasure R.

627 North Westfield St.

Feeding Hills, MA 01030

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/20/13

 

Gaouette, Diana F.

27 Saybrook Circle

South Hadley, MA 01075

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Goodreau, Tricia J.

5 Lozier Ave.

Westfield, MA 01085

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Goodrich, Quentin T.

51 Monson Turnpike Road

Lot 1010

Ware, MA 01082

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Hardy, Michael D.

Hardy, Maria A.

20 Brien St.

Agawam, MA 01001

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/14/13

 

Hernandez, Sylvia C.

847 Main Road

Granville, MA 01034

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/25/13

 

Jamros, Katrina R.

65 Highview Dr., Apt. A

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Kennedy, Michael P.

Rooney-Kennedy, Roxanne G.

13 Adams St., 1st Fl.

Orange, MA 01364

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Kenney, Richard F.

Kenney, Julie A.

65 Strong St.

Springfield, MA 01104

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/16/13

 

Macey, Joseph

131 Podunk Road

Sturbridge, MA 01566

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/24/13

 

Mackinnon, Jennifer M.

174 Birnie Ave.

West Springfield, MA 01089

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/25/13

 

Marr, Matthew J.

Marr, Alicia A.

a/k/a Laterreur, Alicia A.

100 Valier Ave.

Chicopee, MA 01020

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Monczka, Robert W.

Monczka, Faye L.

1545 East Mountain Road

Westfield, MA 01085

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/20/13

 

North Hadley Motor Garage

Lesko, John Leon

24 Golden Court

Hadley, MA 01035

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Pelletier, Karen R.

93 Grochmal Ave., Lot 7

Indian Orchard, MA 01151

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/14/13

 

Pollack, Jay

10 Greenfield Road

Turners Falls, MA 01376

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/15/13

 

Raffa, Lorenzo R.

Raffa, Eyross J.

10 Miller St.

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/21/13

 

Rafferty, David B.

139 New Ludlow Road

Granby, MA 01033

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/15/13

 

Rivera, Jose A.

29 Wentworth St.

Springfield, MA 01104

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Robertson, Andrew K.

Robertson, Lauren N.

a/k/a Dodge, Lauren N.

4 North Plain Road

Sunderland, MA 01375

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/20/13

 

Rodick, Carol A.

75 Commercial St.

Adams, MA 01220

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/22/13

 

Rodriguez, Briseida

397 Page Blvd., 2nd Fl.

Springfield, MA 01104

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/15/13

 

Salamon, Michael Gerard

Salamon, Christine Marie

112 Clairmont Ave.

Chicopee, MA 01013

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Santa, Maria

428 Berkshire Ave.

Springfield, MA 01109

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/14/13

 

Schmidt, Carl R.

365 Main St., Unit 12

Sturbridge, MA 01566

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Scully, Sean

Scully, Cynthia

55 Pleasant St.

Granby, MA 01033

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/15/13

 

Severns, Angie P.

160 Dennison Lane

Southbridge, MA 01550

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Sfakios, Amy V.

a/k/a Leventry-Sfakios, Amy V.

236 Vininghill Road

Southwick, MA 01077

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/28/13

 

Starcun, Jeffrey

242 College Highway

Southampton, MA 01073

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Sumner, Rodney

60 Riverview Homes, Apt. 12

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/21/13

 

Taylor, Gayle L.

a/k/a Crochiere, Gayle L.

20 Lamb St., 2nd Floor

South Hadley, MA 01075

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/27/13

 

Thomas, Tarnesha L.

26 Hamburg St.

Springfield, MA 01107

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/26/13

 

Ware-Charles, Angelica B.

31 Bonnyview St.

Springfield, MA 01109

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/14/13

 

Whitman, Derek L.

80 Damon Road, #6102

Northampton, MA 01060

Chapter: 7

Filing Date: 02/20/13

 

Ziemba, David L.

16 Hartford St.

South Hadley, MA 01075

Chapter: 13

Filing Date: 02/26/13

Banking and Financial Services Sections
Country Bank Maintains Its Community Focus

Paul Scully

Paul Scully says Country Bank’s community involvement extends beyond philanthropy to financial-education programs for young and old.

To describe how Country Bank is getting stronger, Robert Kolb used an apt analogy.

Specifically, Kolb — the bank’s senior vice president and chief commercial banking officer, who came on board six months ago — said he wants to take a “barbell approach” to growing its loan portfolio. Picture Country’s reach geographically, he said, with Springfield and Worcester representing the weights and all the smaller towns in between, where Country has a branch presence, as the bar.

“If we want to continue to grow the portfolio, we have to put our toe in the waters of other areas,” Kolb said, noting that the bank does not have physical branches in those two larger cities, but sees opportunities there. “We’re looking to do more in the Worcester market and the Springfield market … we want to expand our presence in those markets.”

As a mutual savings bank with $1.4 billion in assets, and boasting 14 branches and 245 employees — Country has the reach to grow, said its president, Paul Scully, but continues to maintain an emphasis on small communities.

“We’re still focused on providing a full range of consumer and business products and services within our marketplace, and we view our marketplace as the geography between the Worcester and Springfield areas,” he noted. “Our branching strategy is the same: smaller towns.”

However, he noted, “branch locations don’t matter as much anymore; between mobile banking, remote capture, and other services, customers have really caught on to the fact that they can do all their banking and really never go into a branch. Technology has allowed us to expand our product offerings within more urban marketplaces without having a physical presence there.”

And growth is what Scully has in mind.

“Last year we originated about $105 million in commercial loans — pretty respectable, considering what the market was and what the competition is,” he said, noting that the bank boasts a loan portfolio of $838 million. “A lot of banks are looking for the same opportunities as we are, but there aren’t as many opportunities to go around. What every bank tries to do is differentiate themselves from the crowd.”

One of the ways Country has always tried to do so is through an emphasis on service.

“We look at ourselves as a small business,” Scully said. “We’re a good-sized bank, but we’re still a small business able to offer personalized service. We don’t have a high level of turnover; people who come into the branches see the same people who have been working with them for a long time. Customers are recognized and feel comfortable with the people they’re doing business with. They’re not calling an 800 number where someone across the country is answering. The service element is really a key factor in our success and has set us apart since 1850.”

Added Kolb, “on the commercial side, as an organization, we provide a nice match for what the market demands. We’re not too big and not too small.” But he also echoed Scully’s sentiments about service.

“The money’s still green at the bank across the street. It’s a pretty homogenous product. We all make mortgages and commercial loans; we all do deposits,” he said. “But what really differentiates us is service. It’s not just a tagline; it’s something that’s ingrained and apparent.

“When you walk around the teller line, the average tenure there is 20 years. In the business lines, it’s 10 to 15 years. They don’t stay here because it’s a local, sleepy bank in Massachusetts; they take a lot of pride in the relationships they’ve forged. It is the difference between us and the bank across the street.”

 

Wiring of the Green

Bob Kolb says Internet and mobile banking are key to a bank’s success today

Bob Kolb says Internet and mobile banking are key to a bank’s success today, but so is the personal service available at a branch.

But how important is that physical bank on the street, in the era of Internet and mobile banking? Kolb said it will always have its place.

“There are still customers out there that like to see the branch bank on the corner,” he explained. “Having that visibility is important, and it’s never going away; it’s the doorstep to us being active in the community. And giving back to the community is really part of the culture at Country Bank.”

But technology has certainly changed the way customers interact with banks, Scully told BusinessWest.

“We’re pretty much able to have a full range of products to meet everyone’s expectations, from savings accounts straight through to mobile banking and e-bill payment,” he said. “Last year, we converted our ATMs to digital ATMs, so there are no more envelopes; you put the check right into it. That’s the convenience factor; it expedites the transaction for a person sitting in their car with a couple kids or a dog who wants to be somewhere else.”

Those high-tech advances extend to remote capture for businesses that can conduct transactions without going to a branch, and retail online banking has come into its own as well, but there’s no longer as dramatic a split in the ages of people who use it.

“We used to think of it as a generational thing, with the older client base wanting to come into the branch,” Scully said. “People still want to know the branch is on the corner, but we’ve learned that age doesn’t matter. Almost everyone uses a computer, and we have a lot more seniors using e-billing and other technology, and we have people feeling more and more comfortable with security.”

For that reason, the bank’s educational outreach spans generations as well. Country conducts a banking program in area elementary schools, building early financial literacy by teaching students about savings and investment and providing them with passbooks to open their own in-school accounts. It has since expanded that to a ‘credit for life’ program for high-school seniors, teaching them about credit scores and smart handling of paychecks and expenses.

“But the other thing we’re focused on is the senior piece,” Scully noted. “We do a lot with senior centers, talking about banking technology and security, so they don’t feel intimidated using a computer for their banking.”

When Social Security switched over to electronic payments, “we did a lot with senior centers about what that change means and why e-banking is very secure,” he added. “Once seniors feel more comfortable with the technology and understand that their money is not at risk, they want to use e-banking; they want to use mobile banking.”

“The key,” added Kolb, “is to make those channels available, whether through the computer, at a branch, or on the phone, whether someone is 18 or 88 years old.”

In fact, Scully said, there’s no reason why remote banking shouldn’t be embraced by seniors. “Once people realize, ‘OK, I don’t have to go out in the snow and possibly fall down,’ suddenly they feel really good about it.”

For younger customers, he added, “it’s all about smartphones. They’re not looking to have a passbook; they don’t want to bring in some clunky old thing.”

 

Hometown Appeals

The Country Bank name is only 32 years old, but the institution has been around since 1850, when it was known as Ware Savings Bank. It took on its current name after a 1981 merger with Palmer Savings Bank; another merger with Leicester Savings Bank 17 years ago further increased the bank’s holdings.

From the time of the name change, Scully said, it has been important to communicate a sense of community ties. That’s why the name of each branch reflects its hometown: Country Bank of Ludlow, Country Bank of Palmer, etc. “We like to think of ourselves as that town’s small-town bank, their community bank,” he said — despite the occasional confusion of a customer who goes into a branch in a different town and wonders whether he can bank there because of the different name.

The small-town focus is a positive when it comes to lending, Kolb said.

“Small business is really the backbone of America, and it’s certainly the backbone of the small areas we operate in,” he told BusinessWest. “In Central and Western Mass., it’s about small business; it’s about Main Street. With our branch network and experienced lenders on the commercial side and on the mortgage-origination side, that puts us in a great spot to serve the community with the resources of a big bank, yet we’re small enough to be able to jump in the car and see someone at 7 at night, or be reminded when walking down the aisle of the grocery store that you need to see somebody.”

The hometown emphasis is also at the heart of Country’s philanthropic efforts. In 2012, Scully noted, the bank donated more than $600,000 to community organizations.

“They’re causes that people don’t think about because they don’t necessarily apply to their life, but there are so many people whose lives are affected,” he said, citing the bank’s support of domestic-violence task forces, food pantries, and other organizations. “Unless you need that service, you might not pay attention to the fact that their funding sources have been reduced, or that their needs have grown.”

But the bank offers more than money, he was quick to add, noting that management staff alone volunteered more than 1,400 hours last year at community events — “that’s personal time, nights and weekends” — and the bank has been expanding volunteer opportunities for all employees as well. “Now we have more than 100 volunteers giving back to the community.”

All the bank’s efforts — from its lending business to its charitable work — boil down to an effort to improve people’s quality of life,” Scully said. “Maybe we lend to a business that puts up a building and hires more people. Or we could be giving a scholarship to a kid who then graduates from college. Or we could be supporting social services. It’s all full circle, quality of life.”

Kolb was quick to note that “philanthropy is not something that drives revenue; it’s not a profit center. What it is, really, is part of the culture; it’s consistent with the mutuality of the company. What we’re trying to do for the communities we serve is not a revenue driver; it’s really part of who we are.”

Specifically, Scully added, “the profit is in the long-term impact in the community. Everyone benefits from it. And we didn’t start those things; it’s the legacy of the bank as it relates to every aspect of community life.”

 

Bottom Line

In many ways, despite its asset growth, some things have remained the same at Country Bank, Scully said. “Community banking is consistent banking. We’re taking what we believe we’ve done well and expanding it.”

And that requires constant reconsideration of business strategies. For example, “the [loan] portfolio is very heavy in real estate, so one of my objectives in coming here is to diversify the portfolio,” Kolb said, a process that will take some time considering an economy that is improving, but still far from thriving. “The idea is to start with small businesses and identify opportunities in that space where we can exploit our leverage with our infrastructure and the experience of our lenders and our service.”

Scully called today’s banking environment “an exciting time, but a challenging one,” but he noted that, particularly since the financial collapse in 2008 that was brought on partly by the misdeeds of the largest banks, there’s something appealing to many customers about a community bank’s consistency.

“That’s not to disparage super-regionals, but those organizations use their customer base as a means to produce revenue and income, which increase shareholder value,” Kolb noted. “What sets us apart, as a mutual bank, is that our depositors are in essence the drivers, and our mission is to service those individuals.”

“We have sort of a split personality,” Scully added. “Are we a big little bank or a little big bank? We’re sort of both; we can do almost any type of transaction a big bank can do, and by any standard we’re considered large, but by having a focus on the customer, the community perceives it as a little bank.”

But one that, barbells or not, is growing stronger.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

UMass Innovation Institute Forges Links Between Research, Industry

AMHERST — The UMass Innovation Institute (UMII) is accelerating connections between private business and advanced science and technology available in campus laboratories at UMass Amherst. Its most recent initiative is a five-year strategic partnership with BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, to develop new advanced materials for the automotive, building, construction, and energy industries. The new agreement was announced this week in Cambridge. The agreement between BASF and the UMII, along with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is called the North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials, and is expected to create 20 new postdoctoral positions at the three universities. In addition to the new agreement with BASF, the Innovation Institute, in its first year, hit an all-time high in generating $14.3 million in industry-research awards. The UMII, established in June 2011, expects to grow industrial supported research to about $30 million annually in five years and to become financially self-sustaining during this period. Additional income is anticipated from licensing and startups through the Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property. James Capistran, executive director at UMII, says his organization is well on its way to meeting the initial goals. “Our key task is to quickly and efficiently move the new technologies and scientific capabilities developed in our laboratories at UMass Amherst into the real-world economy,” he said. “We have streamlined the process so that all parties to our agreements can realize the maximum benefit in a time frame that is responsive to the markets and business cycles.” Capistran also noted that, in addition to linking the top-notch researchers and scientists at UMass Amherst to the many high-technology businesses in Massachusetts and the New England region, UMII also plays a key role in boosting the overall reputation of UMass Amherst. “A lot of people in business know we do good work, but now they know we can move rapidly when developing new ideas and products.”

 

Arbors Kids to Open

New Childcare Center

EAST LONGMEADOW — The Arbors Kids will open an additional location at 126 Industrial Dr. in East Longmeadow, across from the Post Office. This will be the company’s largest childcare center, with a host of indoor and outdoor facilities. The new complex provides a full range of programs and activities, all under one roof. The center will house classrooms with interactive smart boards, indoor basketball courts, a turf field, an arcade, a music room, a dance studio, a cafeteria, a lounge, and more. The expansive space outdoors includes an inground pool and waterslides, a basketball court, soccer fields, a baseball field, and play areas. The new childcare center and summer camp will be opening this fall, and enrollment dates will be announced soon. The Arbors Kids provides childcare services for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in a safe and nurturing environment, with a caring and professional staff. In addition, it offers summer camps and before- and after-school programs at locations throughout Greater Springfield. For more information, visit www.arborskids.com.

 

Asnuntuck, Bay Path Sign

Joint-admissions Pact

Asnuntuck Community College and Bay Path College announced that a joint-admissions agreement has been approved by the two institutions. The agreement is designed to provide barrier-free movement from the associate’s degree to the baccalaureate and graduate degrees for students enrolled at ACC. The presidents of the two schools signed the agreement at the Asnuntuck campus on March 5. Multiple opportunities will be afforded to ACC students choosing to take advantage of the agreement. Students participating in the process will receive consideration for various merit-based scholarships, they will be able to obtain jointly supported advisement, and students will be afforded early and conditional acceptance into graduate-school programs.

Commercial Real Estate Sections

BID Strives to Improve, Promote Downtown Attractions

 

By KATHLEEN MITCHELL

 

Don Courtemanche lives in downtown Springfield. He walks to work and takes advantage of the cultural events, eateries, and other offerings readily available to him in the area.

“I think of downtown as a neighborhood. It’s a place where I want to live, stay, and raise my family,” said the executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District, or BID, adding that he can walk to 40 restaurants from his home on Maple Street, which is not technically within the boundaries of the BID, but certainly impacted by the organization’s efforts.

BID board member Evan Plotkin says the ultimate goal of the organization is to make the downtown vibrant and culturally important to the region so it will attract new residents and businesses. “We want to see a return of the middle class and others who have left or abandoned the city,” said the president of NAI Plotkin on Taylor Street in Springfield, in the heart of the BID. “If you create a vibe that improves the perception of what downtown is, you will start to attract new retail businesses, restaurants, and a segment of the population that could move into apartments there.”

The boundaries of the 26-block BID stretch from the Connecticut River to Chestnut Street, and from Bliss Street to the railroad tracks. Union Station, which is undergoing renovation, is the northern bookend of the district. And although some people shy away from downtown because they think it’s unsafe, Cortemanche says that’s a false perception.

“People who are not familiar with the area tend to be skeptical in terms of its public safety,” he told BusinessWest.  “But if you look at the statistics, the BID is the safest neighborhood in the entire city in terms of crime.”

The problem, he went on, is that, “since downtown is the face of the city, whenever anything bad happens, people associate it with Main Street.” For example, when the tornado hit, people watched it cross the southern part of the downtown area on their TV screens because that is where the weather cameras are situated. “As a result, business in the BID plummeted, not because the buildings there were destroyed, but because people assumed the streets were impassable since the media reported the news from the downtown area. The general consumer doesn’t know where the BID begins and ends.”

Plotkin agrees. “A lot happens downtown that is blown out of proportion,” he said.

Still, in spite of economic woes that have hurt urban centers across the country, the BID has held its own in recent years. Its focus now is to continue to collaborate with groups that stage cultural events, bring more people downtown, and, most importantly, take measures to make people feel safe when they visit the district.

This is going to become easier thanks to a recent change in the state’s BID statute, which was passed in July by the Legislature as part of a jobs bill. It no longer allows commercial properties to opt out of membership or paying a fee to an established BID, which they were able to do in the past, even though they benefited from services.

Those services range from keeping the area clean to upgrading streetscapes; from undertaking capital improvements to assigning representatives to act as ambassadors during conventions to help direct tourists and serve as extra security on the street, along with helping to beautify the area and promoting attractions and events.

 

Ongoing Maintenance

Courtemanche said Springfield’s BID, like others across the state, suffered when property owners opted out of the organization. “It became incumbent on us to do more and more with less and less,” he explained.

But, thanks to the new law, there will be more revenue with which to work. “The statute allowed property owners to reaffirm their faith in the BID,” Courtemanche said, adding that it has a 98% approval rating from its members. “We have had meetings with our members who had opted out to see what they want, and their number-one priority is clean and safe streets.”

To that end, the BID has purchased new cleaning equipment, which includes an additional street sweeper, and has also established two new lighting initiatives. One is the installation of LED lights in existing fixtures owned by Western Mass Electric Co., which will double the amount of illumination and reduce energy use by 25%.

The second is a pilot program that began in January on Worthington Street that allows property owners to install new light fixtures on their buildings, with the BID picking up 75% of the cost. “It contributes to the perception of public safety and will have a huge effect because it will light up the beautiful architecture we have downtown after dark,” Courtemanche said.

Keith Weppler, who co-owns Theodore’s Booze Blues & BBQ on Worthington Street with Keith Makarowski, said they chose to have the energy-efficient lights installed. “They really light up the whole building,” said Weppler, who is another BID board member.

He cited other benefits the organization provides. “I see how dirty the streets are early in the morning after a weekend and what a difference it makes after the BID’s cleaning crew comes by. I really appreciate it, and although belonging to the BID doesn’t directly affect my business, it helps the city. Their communication with the police department as well as their work with other businesses is part of the synergy that creates a positive downtown.”

He has also taken advantage of the BID’s affiliation with city officials. “They know who to call if you have a problem,” he said, citing an instance when he had an issue with outdated parking signage outside his establishment and the BID helped get the matter resolved.

The BID has 30 security cameras linked with the Police Department and Department of Public Works, which can spot someone illegally dumping trash or relay the news that a traffic light is out and creating a backup at an intersection, Courtemanche said. It also stages events, including the Stearns Square Concert Series, which brings 5,000 to 8,000 people downtown every week in the summer.

“It started with 10 concerts and has grown to 12, and the spinoff is huge for the parking facilities, businesses, and restaurants in the district,” Courtemanche added. In addition, the organization supports a multitude of events, ranging from those held at the Springfield Museums on the Quadrangle to the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast, the annual Spirit of Springfield’s Big Balloon Parade, productions at CityStage, and basketball games at the MassMutual Center.

 

New Promotions

Recently, the BID launched a number of new promotions designed to bring people downtown.

These include giving away tickets to Falcons and Armor games via a weekly drawing for people who register on the BID Facebook page.

“While that might not seem like a huge move, these people park, go out to eat, may visit a bar after the game, have a great time, and become comfortable downtown,” said Courtemanche.

The BID also employs social media to keep people abreast of ongoing news, such as whether restaurants were open after a gas explosion in November that destroyed a downtown bar and sent glass and bricks flying down Worthington Street.

It also recently finished a promotion that began in December in which people who took photos of themselves in front of restaurants such as Nadim’s and Subway on Main Street, where sidewalk construction is underway, were entered into a drawing for restaurant gift certificates.

“It was hugely popular,” Courtemanche said. “And right now, we are gearing up for spring, which is arguably our busiest or second-busiest season.”

In addition to power-washing the sidewalks, BID employees also fill about 300 planters and 300 hanging baskets scattered throughout the zone with flowers. “We also want to generate a buzz about real -state property here,” he said.

The agency’s plan is to hold open houses in approximately a dozen empty storefronts over the next few months. The first will be in a 3,000-square-foot space beneath the Chestnut Park apartment complex that has sat empty for years. “We will have food and entertainment, and hopefully it will result in a new tenant,” Courtemanche told BusinessWest.

Although real-estate brokers are welcome, the hope is that people who live and/or work downtown will attend the events and convey information about these sites to people they know who may want to open or expand a business. “The downtown consumers have a built-in bias as to what type of retailer they would like to see,” he said.

However, BID officials admit that a lot needs to be done before the area becomes a thriving neighborhood. But they are steadily working toward that goal.

“We still have a lot of vacant space, but we are on the road to the day when we become an urban theme park, which is what successful cities do to attract entrepreneurs,” Plotkin said.

Courtemanche agrees, and says small things add up. “A rising tide floats all ships, and casino or not, the fact that the BID continues to make huge leaps during one of the worst economic climates in decades is telling,” he said. “Businesses are continuing to open, and the area continues to grow.”

 

Future Outlook

Courtemanche said the BID is doing well. “There is certainly room for improvement, but we are holding our own and seeing growth in terms of more employees and more foot traffic. The biggest elephant in the room is where the casino will go, but once it lands, there is a lot of pent-up development that will take place,” he said. “The BID really is a special place.”

Plotkin agrees. “Every downtown has problems from time to time,” he said, “but if we can populate our area with an eclectic mix of diverse people and promote the restaurants and businesses, we will be able to bring about a renaissance here.”

Conventions & Meetings Sections
Hotel Group Gives New Look, Feel, and Name to a Springfield Landmark

Shardool Parmar

Shardool Parmar says the large Mount Tom ballroom on the 12th floor showcases the downtown Springfield skyline and Connecticut River.

Shardool and Kishore Parmar, president and vice president respectively of the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group (PVHG), understand that they have two sizeable challenges when it comes to the property at 711 Dwight St. in Springfield.

The first is to get people to stop talking about it in the past tense — a still-common practice, especially when it comes to the rotating restaurant on the top floor that was once a major destination in the region — and using one of the names that used to be on the building, especially Holiday Inn.

The second is to convince several constituencies, from families to business travelers to event planners, to embrace the new name over the door — LaQuinta Inn & Suites — as one that represents both quality and an attractive option to the deep roster of other players in the local hospitality sector.

And the brothers Parmar believe that a recent $4.5 million renovation project, one that accompanied the new brand name on the landmark — will go a long way toward tackling both.

Indeed, the Parmars say they’re already noticing that while some people still talk nostalgically about the revolving restaurant, named Top o’ the Round, and how they had they had their high school prom there, many more are now talking about the new Mount Tom Ballroom, carved out of the space once occupied by the restaurant, and its stunning views of the Connecticut River and the Springfield skyline.

Meanwhile, they say the facility is catching the eye of event planners, some of whom are still getting quizzical looks, and more, when they reveal their choice for the company’s next function.

“Just recently, we’ve had meeting planners go back to their superiors after booking here and the superiors say, ‘there’s no way we’re going to book over there; are you crazy?’” he said with the laugh. “But they haven’t seen the space.”

Those who have generally report a facility that’s much brighter than the old Holiday Inn or, later, the Inn Place or CityPlace Inn and Suites, and also more customer friendly.

“This is probably one of the nicest looking LaQuinta hotels you’ll see in the whole country,” said Shardool. Indeed, PVGH recently won the Best Conversion award for all LaQuinta Inns & Suites in the U.S.

The Parmars realize that while they’ve made some progress with those aforementioned challenges, real success will take time and energy. It’s an assignment they embrace as one of the more visible components of a growing hospitality chain that also includes facilities in Ludlow and Hadley.

For this issue and its focus on meetings and conventions, BusinessWest toured what had been the forgotten hotel in Springfield, and gained a sense for what could happen next for this intriguing slice of the city’s skyline.

 

Suite Success

Wanting a better life for his two young sons, Laxman Parmar, PVHG’s CEO, brought the family to America in 1987, and eventually purchased the Seven Gables Motel (now Howard Johnson’s) on Boston Road in Springfield.

His two young sons essentially learned the hospitality business from the ground up at the motel, handling a number of odd jobs, from changing beds to cleaning bathrooms to tackling landscaping duties. And their learning opportunities multiplied as their father eventually came to preside over a hotel group that now also includes two facilities in Hadley, the Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn; and the Comfort Inn in Ludlow, which will soon change over to the Holiday Inn Express name in April.

Shardool and Kishore both enjoyed hospitality, but pursued degrees in engineering, and took jobs in related fields. A chemical engineer, Shardool worked in the biotech industry, while Kishore, an electrical engineer, worked at a Boston-area provider of information technology services.

They returned to the family business, however, when their father suffered a second stroke in 2005. And they took what they learned in the engineering field with them, skills and knowledge that have helped them shape decisions that have enabled the hotel chain to continue growing.

“If you look at the greatest CEOs in business history, most of them were engineers,” Shardool explained. He referenced Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, who was a chemical engineer, and former Coca-Cola chairman Roberto Goizueta, a Cuban immigrant and also a chemical engineer.

“Engineers are good in business because we can quickly identify problems, and we have a great understanding of the mechanics of a business, not in the sense of equipment, but in the sense of what steps and what procedures need to take place to achieve the right outcome,” Shardool explained. “So when it comes down to making sure that rooms are clean, we don’t just take somebody’s word for it, we verify it.”

Kishore agreed.

Kishore Parmar

Kishore Parmar says customers are impressed by the contemporary new lobby of LaQuinta Inn & Suites.

“The worst thing you can do is let a problem linger,” he said. “And engineers hate problems that linger, we want solutions, very quickly.”

These attributes and attitudes certainly came into play as the Parmar brothers first assessed the risks and opportunities involved with the former Holiday Inn, and also with moving forward after they eventually triumphed in the competition to acquire the property from the company that was operating it in receivership.

While all those who looked at the facility saw a property in a advanced state of decline, the Parmars saw something else — what Shardool described as ‘great bones.’

“We saw what happened to the hotel more as neglect, and lack of good management than anything else,” said Shardool. “We essentially had an idea of what we wanted here, but it takes time.”

One of the first priorities for the new owners was to rebrand a facility they had already been renamed the CityPlace Inn and Suites. What ensued was in-depth research into national franchise options, and analysis about what might work within the Greater Springfield market.

This research eventually focused on LaQuinta, a name and a chain that is far better known in other regions of the country. What the brand offered was a reputation for quality (at least in those markets where it’s a known commodity), and an opportunity to succeed within a specific niche — a lower-priced product that appeals to those who don’t want or need all the amenities of a full-service hotel.

But what it lacked was name recognition in the 413 area code.

“The greatest thing and the worst thing about LaQuinta is that nobody knows what LaQuinta is,” Shardool explained to BusinessWest. “The greatest thing is that nobody has a preconceived idea of what it is, but of course the downside is that it’s not as well-known.”

 

Room for Improvement

Once they had zeroed in on the LaQuinta brand, the PVHG began formalizing what became a $4.5 million renovation, funded in part by a $2.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and a secondary loan from NUVO Bank & Trust Company, along with PVHG’s own funds.

The motivation for the massive undertaking was to change the look, feel, and attitudes concerning the property, said Kishore, and the LaQuinta chain facilitated these efforts by providing a great amount of flexibility, or individuality when it came to design elements and overall layout of the facility.

“Our goal from the beginning was to have as few walls as possible,” added Shardool, adding the desired effect was a much brighter, far more modern, more customer-friendly facility, from the front lobby to the 12th-floor facilities, and the two brothers believe all that has been accomplished.

The hotel now offers 182 rooms, down from the original 207, and 28 suites, said Kishore, adding that the work was phased in to enable the facility to remain open during the rehab process. The Parmars would close down two to three floors to gut and renovate, while the other floors remained open for business.

The bright, contemporary, open design that allows people to move more freely through the hotel has generated strong word-of-mouth referrals, said the brothers.  Moving the complimentary breakfast down from the dark and cramped top floor to the main lobby area has allowed the staff to meet the customers during breakfast or at the comfortable bar with it’s lime green pendant lamps and stylish, geometric design bar-height chairs.

On the 12th floor what had been three rooms has been transformed into one large function area, renamed the Mt. Tom Ballroom, which comfortably accommodates 260 people for sit-down functions, and 400 for cocktail events. The Summit Room, also on the top floor, can be split into two separate rooms and can hold up to 80 seated guests and 200 for cocktail functions.

Starting from essentially scratch, sales staff at the hotel report considerable interest in the 12th floor’s facilities, with a number of events already booked.

 

Mint on the Pillow

Recent increased national advertising by LaQuinta has helped famililiarize people in this region with the brand, but the Parmars acknowledge that many still don’t know about their facility or its extensive renovations.

They hope to change all that through strong word-of-mouth marketing, and by creating positive experiences for those who choose what amounts to Springfield’s newest hotel.

“LaQuinta has a good leisure following, nationally, and Springfield is predominately a leisure and sports type of customer,” said Shardool. “The business market is not as strong in Springfield, but the hotel market is changing, and we know, it just takes time.”

And in time, they believe far fewer people will be talking about this landmark with the past tense.

 

Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]

Environment and Engineering Sections
FloDesign’s New CEO Eyes Aggressive Growth Patterns

Walter Thresher

Walter Thresher says he would like to position FloDesign to be a ‘skunkworks’ operation for defense and aerospace corporations.

Walter Thresher certainly wasn’t thinking about retiring after a nearly 34-year career at Hamilton Sunstrand, now United Technologies Aerospace Systems, but he was looking to perhaps throttle down a bit, to borrow an industry term, after work on everything from the B2 bomber to the Comanche helicopter to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

“I was looking for a different challenge — something approaching part-time,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he’s found the former, but not exactly the latter, in his new capacity as CEO of Wilbraham-based FloDesign.

This is the company, founded by Western New England University Engineering professor Walter Perez and led by WNEU Engineering graduate and serial entrepreneur Stanley Kowalski, that is most associated with a radical new design for wind turbines. But while that concept was, indeed, designed by FloDesign engineers, Kowalski and Perez now maintain only a minority ownership in the company they spun off to take the concept to the marketplace — FloDesign Wind Turbine — and the company is now headquartered in Waltham.

Meanwhile, another spinoff, FloDesign Sonics, still based in Wilbraham, is engaged in developing technology using sound waves for a variety of uses, including water purification.

The parent corporation, FloDesign, is essentially an aerospace company that has designed, prototyped, and developed products ranging from noise suppressors for jet engines to something called a RAP nozzle, a device that transmits a fluid force, gas, or fine particles over a distance with minimal loses. Thresher takes the helm at an intriguing time for the enterprise, as it looks to create new business opportunities and avenues for growth.

Thresher, who came to the company in February, is considering a number of options for the company, but especially evolution into what he called a ‘skunkworks operation’ for major defense and aerospace companies, like Hamilton Sundstrand.

Skunk Works is the official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs operation, formerly known as Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, which was created in the 1940s and developed aircraft ranging from the U-2 to the SR-71 Blackbird to the F-22 Raptor. But over the ensuing decades, the term has been applied (using the lower case) to a group within an organization, or an outside venture, given a high degree of autonomy to conceive and prototype new products and technologies.

“The team we have here has very good capability in design, rapid prototyping, and then getting parts on test fast,” he explained. “And that’s something that larger companies have a hard time doing; they tend to go slow and follow very fixed processes. What I’d like to do is operate as a skunkworks operation for a larger company.”

Thresher brings vast experience in aerospace product development and engineering to his new position at FloDesign.

After starting his career with Pratt and Whitney as a development engineer in turbine cooling and dirt-separator development, the WNEU graduate moved to Hamilton Sundstrand a year later, where he developed high-pressure water separators, air mixers, sub-freezing heat exchangers, and air-bearing turbomachinery. He led the engineering efforts to improve heat-exchanger-manufacturing processes and defined the build process for air-bearing air-cycle machines used in a number of current military fixed-wing applications.

He has also been responsible for systems on the B2 bomber, and was chief project engineer for the Environmental Control System (ECS) for the F/A-18 E/F aircraft. Later, he was the design manager for the thermal-management systems for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner program, and also performed the function of weight manager to control and reduce the weight of the design. As part of that effort, his team received a special challenge award from Boeing for creative use of design tools to achieve weight reduction.

He was previously chief engineer for the Comanche helicopter ECS, and was most recently the chief engineer for the CH53K HLR helicopter secondary power system. During the design phase, he led efforts to reduce system weight, resulting in a simplified system with little functional compromise, and a 10%-under-contract weight system.

Summing up what’s on that extensive résumé, Thresher said his work centered on parts and systems such as water collectors, air mixers, and heat exchangers, devices similar to those with which FloDesign has made its reputation.

What’s more, the company had been working on some specific projects that intrigued him, such as initiatives involving UAVs, or unmanned air vehicles, for both military and civilian use.

Thresher was eventually approached by Kowalski about taking the helm at the aerospace division of the company. “I was thinking that this was a bit more than a part-time job,” he said, “but it was an exciting opportunity to do some of the things that were on my list at Hamilton.”

He told BusinessWest that his primary job description is to determine the next direction for the aerospace unit. One of his immediate goals is to use proprietary mixer/ejector technology that the company has developed to move two products from the drawing board to the market.

One is a noise-suppressing device that has been in development and funded through a grant from the Small Business Innovation Research program, while the other is the RAP nozzle, which Thresher believes has potential for use in a number of markets, from fire suppression to personal protection.

“We’re trying to figure out just where to go with it at this point,” he explained. “But it has a number of potential applications.”

And his long-range goal for FloDesign is to become an independent skunkworks operation that would take advantage of its experience with everything from scale-model testing to work in design of “less-than-lethal” weapons to design and develop products and technologies for what could become a variety of clients.

“We’re able to do things faster and less expensively than larger operations can,” he explained. “That’s a major area of opportunity that I plan to expand.”

Thresher said FloDesign could thrive in such a role because, while there are many smaller shops that specialize in one phase of product development — design, fabrication, or testing, for example — there are few that can, like FloDesign, handle them all.

“We also have the technical capability to think through what the issues are with the first round of what was designed and tested, and even design modifications,” he said. “And that’s what would make us unique compared to other companies.

“Normally, at a test house, you take parts there, you run a test, they give you the data, and you go home,” he went on. “At a design house, you tell them what you want designed, they do the design, and they give it back to you. We can do all those things.”

 

— George O’Brien

Chamber Corners Departments

ACCGS

www.myonlinechamber.com

(413) 787-1555

 

• March 28: Lunch ‘n’ Learn, 11:45 a.m to 1 p.m., at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield. The topic will be “Implementation of the Healthcare Cost Containment Law: What Does It All Mean?” The guest speaker will be David Seltz, executive director of the Health Policy Commission. He will discuss the role of the Health Policy Commission and how the commission will develop policies to reduce overall cost growth while improving access to quality, ensuring accountable healthcare, and reforming the way healthcare is delivered and paid for in the Commonwealth. Tickets are $20, which includes a boxed lunch. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact [email protected]

 

• April 10: April After 5, 5-7 p.m., at Twin Hills Country Club, 700 Wolf Swamp Road, Longmeadow. The event will feature the ERC5 Feast in the East. Join us for a culinary event sure to please your palate as dozens of local restaurants present their signature dishes. Proceeds benefit the ERC5 Scholarship Fund. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact [email protected]

 

• April 3: ACCGS [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m., at the Springfield Marriott, 2 Boland Way, Springfield. Guest Speakers will be Carol Leary, president of Bay Path College, and Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College. They will speak on the subject “The Importance of Public and Private Higher Educational Institutions in Workforce Development.” Chief greeter: Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club Family Center. Salute: the Horace Smith Fund, for its 115th anniversary. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact [email protected]

 

AMHERST AREA

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.amherstarea.com

(413) 253-0700

 

• April 10: Amherst Area Chamber Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Applewood at Amherst, 1 Spencer Dr., Amherst. Tickets: $17 for members, $20 for non-members. RSVP to [email protected] or register online at www.amherstarea.com.

 

CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

 

• April 17: April Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at the Kittredge Center, Holyoke Community College. Tickets are $20 for members, $26 for non-members. Sign up online at www.chicopeechamber.org.

• April 8: Meet Your Legislators, 5-8 p.m., at the Castle of Knights, 1599 Memorial Dr. in Chicopee. Meet the legislators who represent you and your business, and start a relationship and a partnership with the Commonwealth’s leadership. Your chamber membership affords you a valuable voice on issues that impact your bottom line. Sponsored by Mohegan Sun. Sign up online at www.chicopeechamber.org.

 

FRANKLIN COUNTY

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.franklincc.org

(413) 773-5463

 

• April 1: Medicare & Social Security Workshop, 4:30-6 p.m., at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Learn how to prepare for healthcare expenses. If you are concerned about healthcare expenses in retirement, now is the time to start planning. This begins with an overview of Medicare to help you understand the way healthcare works in retirement and what decisions you need to make now. Next, learn how to maximize your Social Security retirement income. Find out what you need to make the most of your benefits. You will learn important rules and strategies for collecting your retirement benefits, maximizing your spousal benefits, and coordinating Social Security with other sources of retirement income. To register, call the chamber office at (413) 773-5463 or e-mail [email protected]

 

• April 19: Chamber Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. Program to be announced. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact the chamber at (413) 773-5463.

 

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

 

• April 13: REACH Fest Day, starting at 10 a.m. REACH invites local and national artists to show in a multi-city exhibition of contemporary practitioners working in a variety of non-traditional formats. REACH promotes visibility, aims to bridge the arts and spaces in neighboring cities, encourages collaborative experimentation, and invites community members to participate in experiencing an array of contemporary art practices that are exhibited in a variety of traditional, non-traditional, and underutilized spaces throughout participating cities and towns. With more than 25 artist installations and exhibitions, a series of events are scheduled for REACH Fest Day. There will be performances in Easthampton and Holyoke by contemporary movement and sound artists and the One-Minute Vidfest, a film festival at Popcorn Noir in Easthampton featuring one-minute short films submitted by more than 80 artists from Easthampton to Serbia. All exhibitions will be open for visitation in Holyoke from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and in Easthampton from 4 to 9 p.m., in conjunction with the monthly Art Walk Easthampton. For more information visit www.reachfest.com

 

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

 

• April 3: [email protected], from 5 to 7 p.m. at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, 80 Locust St., Northampton. Sponsored by King And Cushman Inc. and ACME Auto Body & Collision Center. Arrive when you can, stay as long as you can for a casual mix and mingle with your colleagues and friends. Tickets are $10 for members, $15 for non-members. To register, call the chamber office at (413) 584-1900 or visit www.explorenorthampton.com.

 

GREATER WESTFIELD

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

 

• April 10: WestNet, 5-7 p.m., at Betts Plumbing, 14 Coleman St., Westfield. Come an enjoy a night of networking. Meet chamber members and bring your business cards for a great networking opportunity. Tickets are $10 for members, $15 non-members. Payment can be made in advance or at the door with cash or check. Walk-ins are welcomed. Call the chamber at (413) 568-1618 or e-mail Pam Bussell at [email protected] Your first WestNet is always free.

 

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

www.springfieldyps.com

 

• April 18: Third Thursday, 5-7 p.m., at Adolfo’s Restaurant, 254 Worthington St., Springfield. Join YPS at Adolfo’s, an Italian restaurant and bar situated across from historic Stearns Square in the heart of Springfield’s Entertainment District. The menu features a selection of traditional Italian dishes along with creative house specialties and a wide choice of wines to match.

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

Slack Chemical Co. Inc. v. Mountainview Products Inc. d/b/a Village Grain and Hardware

Allegation: Breach of contract and non-payment for chemical products sold and delivered: $12,199.91

Filed: 2/14/13

 

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Craig and Cathy Barrows v. Rodney Hunt Co. Inc.

Allegation: Negligent failure to maintain a safe work environment resulting in severe and permanent injuries: $25,000+

Filed: 1/31/13

 

Orange and Realty Trust, as assignee of Quabbin Inc. v. Certain Underwriters of Lloyd’s of London

Allegation: Breach of commercial property and general liability insurance policy: $25,000+

Filed: 1/17/13

 

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Lutvija Katica v. Webster Bank, N.A.

Allegation: Employee discrimination: $25,000+

Filed: 2/19/13

 

Paige B. Scyocurka v. CFA Financial Corp. d/b/a CAN Insurance Cos. a/k/a Continental Co.

Allegation: Failure to settle a claim when liability and damages were reasonably clear: $5 million+

Filed: 1/31/13

 

TBF Financial, LLC v. Alternative Health Inc.

Allegation: Breach of promissory note: $80,632.96

Filed: 2/5/13

 

PALMER DISTRICT COURT

Carl Diluzio v. Commerce Insurance Co.

Allegation: Failure to pay property claim: $3,607

Filed: 3/1/13

 

SPRINGFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Celeste Asikainen v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc.

Allegation: Plaintiff suffered injury to her mouth when she bit into a mushroom containing a rock: $9,806

Filed: 2/25/13

 

Comcast Spotlight Inc. v. Fred Forgione d/b/a Revere Waterproofing and Restoration

Allegation: Non-payment of advertising services: $19,808.12

Filed: 2/14/13

 

R&B Services Inc. d/b/a/ Coverall of Southern New England v. Stockbridge Court, L.P.

Allegation: Non-payment of cleaning services: $2,777.82

Filed: 1/31/13

 

Trina Davis v. The Ratner Cos. d/b/a The Hair Cuttery

Allegation: Negligence causing hair loss: $25,000

Filed: 2/13/13