Home 2013 June
Cover Story Sales and Marketing Sections
Hiring Top Sales Performers Is Certainly No Accident

By Jim Mumm
BW0613bCOVDetermining the right person to hire isn’t easy, and when it comes to hiring a top-performing sales superstar, it’s even more difficult.
Let’s face it: there is a sea of apparently strong candidates looking for a job. And don’t kid yourself; any sales person worth their salt is going to be able to talk a good game.
But making a poor hiring decision will cost you dearly. Depending on which expert you listen to, the cost of making a poor hiring decision is anywhere between one and two and a half times the candidate’s annual fully loaded salary.
What should strong leaders do to mitigate the risks and maximize the return on investment pertaining to hiring top-performing sales professionals?  What can an organization do to not only greatly reduce hiring mistakes, but also build a highly effective sales organization? We need to paint a very clear picture of the perfect fit before we start looking for the candidate.  Then, we can objectively determine if the candidate truly fits in our picture. Here’s how.
Managers must follow a systematic, step-by-step recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding process. This system begins with identifying the primary function indicators (PFIs) of the sales role you are attempting to fill. PFIs are the basic tasks that a salesperson must be able to accomplish, such as prospecting, negotiating, and closing. Next, a professional manager must identify and determine the winning attributes of the best-fit candidate. Finally, the manager must ascertain whether or not the candidate is a proper fit for the team by building a team matrix.
To accomplish this, the manager utilizes these three core components (PFIs, winner attributes, and team matrix) to develop a series of questions designed to uncover the information needed to make a good hiring decision.  The questions are constructed so that the answers reveal how well the candidate fits the desired job profile. Scores to all answers are summed, and the best-fit candidate is revealed.

Three Steps
Let’s break down each of the three components and reveal how questions are developed from each area and give some sample questions that could be used.
Step one of building a hiring template includes identifying the actual functions the sales professional will be expected to perform. We call these functions primary function indicators because they reveal the actual functions the candidate must be able to accomplish and the behaviors at which the candidates must be proficient to perform these functions. Finally, we must determine the questions we should ask that will help us determine whether or not the candidate can perform these behaviors to the desired level of proficiency.
For example, if you are attempting to hire a sales professional capable of bringing in new business, he would have to effectively prospect. A question might be, “if we hired you to build this new territory to $2 million in one year, how would you do it?” The answer to this question will speak volumes. And you should be able to differentiate a made-up answer from one given by a sales professional who has actually lived it.
To make this step easier, we incorporate the SEARCH model.  SEARCH is an acronym that stands for skills, experiences, attitudes, results, cognitive skills, and habits. If we can create questions that reveal the candidate’s relative strengths and weaknesses in these six areas, we are well on our way to determining if they can actually perform the tasks. Once you’ve determined the questions needed to determine a candidate’s PFIs, you are ready to proceed to step two.
Step two is to identify whether or not the candidate has what it takes to be a top performer (winner) in your specific organization. We call these ‘winner attributes.’ To figure out whether or not the candidate has the winner attributes you require, it is helpful to use the BAT method. BAT stands for behavior, attitude, and technique. Behavior is all about what they do, technique concerns how well they do it, and attitude is how they feel about doing it. Let’s take a look at each.
Behavior involves understanding the planning, goals, and actions necessary to be successful in that role in your organization. For example, how well does the candidate set long-term, short-term, and daily goals, and how does this compare to how well your top performers set goals? You might ask, “tell me about your experience building and executing a plan to hit your sales objectives,” followed by “tell me what you did when you found yourself behind your target goals.”
Again, the answers will reveal how the candidate thinks and should give you a good idea of whether or not they have actually successfully built plans. If you ask the same question pertaining to goals to 20 different candidates, you’ll get 20 different answers. It is our job as managers to understand the required behaviors our top salespeople have and to identify the candidates whose behaviors are the closest match.
Next is technique, which consists of personal presence, tactics, and strategy. These are all measures of how well they are able to perform the behaviors that are necessary for success. Finally, attitude involves what’s between your ears. For example, some people don’t mind attending networking events and actually enjoy meeting and talking to new people. However, others dread networking events and would sit in the corner, check their e-mails, and talk only to people they know. The difference is their attitude toward, or how they feel about, networking. You might ask, “what are your favorite and least favorite prospecting activities, and why?”
Some examples of winner attributes for top-performing salespeople are the desire to win, strong internal motivation, superior discipline, and the ability to build and nurture relationships. Again, the key is to develop written questions that will help you determine whether or not the candidate has these desired attributes.
The final step in developing the hiring template is to determine how well the candidate will fit within your team. When filling a position in an existing department, it is important to find a candidate who fits best with your specific team. Often, managers try to hire the best producers, only to end up with a group of ‘fighter pilots,’ when what they really needed was a group of strong team players who can work and play well together for the good of the organization.
The key questions to ask are, do they supply skills needed by our team, or do they have skills that everyone else has? Are they a match for the current team or for the future team that we’re trying to build? For example, if you need to land new business and you have a stable of account managers, you need to ask questions that reveal the candidate’s ability to bring in new business because it complements the skills of your existing sales staff.
Once you develop four or five questions from this area that will help you uncover the facts, add them to your previous questions from PFIs and winner attributes. By now, you should have a good 30 core questions to use for each and every interview. Score each candidate on a scale from one to 10 for each question and determine, before you start interviewing, a lowest acceptable summed score from all questions. Create a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves.’ If any candidate doesn’t achieve the minimum score or have all the ‘must haves,’ they are eliminated from the process.

Moving Forward
Once you’ve developed this approach to recruiting and interviewing candidates, you’ll be able to choose the best fit objectively based on relative, objective scores. Once you’ve chosen the best-fit candidate and informed the others that they are no longer in consideration, it is now time to implement your 90-day on-boarding plan.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, who’s got time to do all this?  Before you decide this is too much work, ask yourself how much time you spent talking to poor performers last year. Think of how many hours were spent writing up politically and legally correct ‘fix-it-or-hit-the-road’ letters last year. How many hours did you spend trying to coach or motivate poor performers who weren’t hitting their sales objectives? How many hours did you agonize over a weaksales person that you wish you would have never hired in the first place, but now that you have, you are hoping they’ll finally provide an acceptable ROI?
Consider having to fire them and start back at the beginning of the hiring process all over again. Think about the recruiter fees, the advertising costs you spend to place the ad, all the time your real performers wasted trying to bring them up to speed.
Perhaps it’s less expensive to invest time now finding the right salesperson for the role and properly on-boarding them, instead of spending all the time on the back end when you are stuck with a bad hire. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘pay me now, or pay me later.’

Jim Mumm is CEO of Sandler Training, serving Western Mass. He is an award-winning trainer, author, speaker, and successful entrepreneur; (646) 330-5217; [email protected]; www.jimmumm.sandler.com

Using Psychological Science to Hire People Who Can Sell

By Michael A. Klein
“Do you know what you can learn about someone from an interview?” I like to ask potential clients. My answer: “Plenty, and it begins with how well someone performs during an interview.”
Now, some think that in sales, if the candidate sitting across from you can sell themselves to you, then they can sell. But can they really? You know that they can sell you on them. And for some products and services, potential customers need to be sold on the salesperson. But other components loom large: can they sell to others? And will they sell to others? And can they sell what you are hiring them to sell?
Résumés and interviews (behavioral interviews, specifically) can provide valuable information, and, of course, no job offer  — even for commission-based positions — should be made without a careful review of prior experiences, reference checks, and probably more than one interview. But that information is still amazingly limited, and tells us little about whether this person can and willsell your product or service to others. This is where small or mid-sized businesses can benefit from the millions of dollars that large companies have spent on selection testing and assessment.
While using psychological testing to predict performance has a controversial, and some would say problematic, history, work being done over the past 15 years has led to a clear conclusion: we can predict work-related behaviors with great accuracy legally, quickly, and easily through the use of reputable assessment tools.
It’s important to note that there are currently no regulations for claiming accuracy in the sale of pre-employment tests. Therefore, unless taken to court, test publishers and distributers roam freely about the commercial countryside, making outlandish claims regarding the ‘science’ and usefulness of their hiring tests.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining here.  industrial/organization (I/O) psychologists and other psychometricians have been setting guidelines for the design, construction, validation, and reliability of these tests for more than 25 years. As a result, reputable test publishers adhere to these guidelines and can easily back up their claims with detailed (and frequently updated) technical manuals, validity and reliability studies, and published peer reviews. In the case of selection tests, it can’t be said often enough: let the buyer beware.
If you know where to look, and can assess the assessment, you will save time, effort, and great expense in the hiring process. As much as human beings are complex creatures, no two people are the same, and measuring something as complex as personality can feel insulting to our egos, the selection-testing industry has learned which traits, values, and emotional and social skills are far more likely to lead to those behaviors that result in actual sales. Although seemingly complicated, if there is a magic bullet, it’s this: the more psychometric data you have on someone, the more likely you are to hire the right person and avoid a hiring disaster.
There are an amazing variety of pre-employment assessments available, and they generally fall into one or more of these categories: personality, values and motivators, interests, emotional intelligence (maturity and polish), cognitive ability (intelligence tests), skills, and knowledge.
Even once this data is gathered, there needs to be a clear differentiation between what can be scientifically justified for the specific position and what is simply a personally desirable characteristic. For example, while a hiring manager may believe that successful salespeople have a strong desire to be acknowledged for their achievements (this particular motivator is known as ‘recognition’), that may be true of all salespeople, not just successful ones. One of the most basic mistakes managers make is assuming that a high level of a specific attribute, trait, or skill is responsible for success when, in fact, it has little to no actual impact on performance.
A client of mine told me that he didn’t need to study his salespeople (i.e. determine what traits, motivators, etc. differentiate high performers from low) because he knew that his top people all had two particular behavioral styles (from a test known as the DISC): dominance and influence. I explained to him that almost all of his salespeople probably have those styles regardless of potential because he only hires people with those styles, not to mention the fact that the impact of these two styles on sales has no basis in science whatsoever.
His desire to simplify and find a single score, result, or number is very common and, unfortunately, very misguided.
To answer the question of whether they can do the job, we must look first at personality traits. Based on studies using the most accepted model of personality in business (the five-factor model, or FFM), the following are a few of the traits that predict this ability:
• Self-confidence — demonstrating a belief in oneself;
• Experience seeking — enjoyment of new opportunities and adventures;
• Openness to others — concern for others’ experiences and feelings; and
• Drive — ambition and eagerness to advance and succeed.
However, that only answers the question of whether they can do the job. Whether they will do the job is answered by looking at the key motivators and values of the candidate. From other studies, we know that these values and preferences are key:
• Connection — the desire to build social networks and collaborate; and
• Business — the desire for financial success and wealth.
Unfortunately, a great salesperson can have these traits and motivators, but can still cause major problems internally. For example, ego can get in the way of working with others in the office, impulsivity can result in frequent mistakes, and a lack of common sense can turn into unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. Here is where one’s EQ (emotional intelligence) comes into play.
In short, EQ tells us how well someone understands and manages themselves, others, and the world generally. While EQ increases with age and can also overlap with personality traits, it can also be developed. Therefore, personality is more about hardwiring, while EQ looks at skills. The following are a few EQ scales that are important to sales, but can also be problematic if they are too high:
• Assertiveness – expressing oneself appropriately and not aggressively;
• Optimism — Staying positive despite setbacks, seeing opportunity; and
• Self-regard — Knowing and accepting oneself and one’s strengths and weaknesses
Lastly, many clients ask about the accuracy of self-assessment testing. “What good is this if the job candidate is not answering the questions honestly?”  “Can’t they just answer how they think we want them to?” The good news here is that many tests now utilize questions that are difficult to game. For example: “would you like to be a race-car driver?” To a test taker, answering this affirmatively might mean that they interested in exciting experiences, or, alternatively, it could mean they are someone who is an adrenaline junkie or someone who takes too many risks.
The tests are constructed in such a way that we know how successful salespeople answer (or, rather, their patterns of answers) as opposed to focusing on any one question. When good science is involved, it becomes far less obvious to the test taker, as well as the fact that it’s the combination of responses that tell us something.
In addition, psychological self-assessments have developed ways of identifying faked results — again, because of developers doing their homework during test construction. So, for many tests, we receive a report that tells us the likelihood that someone has attempted to present himself or herself less honestly than hoped.
Finally, no test can determine on its own if a person is a good job candidate. Psychological assessments or pre-employment testing must be only one part of a larger selection process that includes many other sources of information, including thorough background checking. To reiterate, if there is a magic bullet in the process of hiring effective salespeople, it is this: the more information we have on someone before they start, the better-positioned we are to make a good decision.

Michael A. Klein is president of Northampton-based MK Insights2. He has more than 16 years of experience as an assessment specialist, consultant, speaker, and facilitator. He focuses on the application of psychological data for the selection and development of individuals in organizations, including executives, leaders, salespeople, and highly trained professionals, with a specialty in family-owned firms. He has worked both internally and externally in human capital, including positions in organizational development and human resources. He has experience in healthcare, financial services, publishing, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, construction, and private equity, and is a full member of the American Psychological Assoc. and Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology; (413) 320-4664.

Sales and Marketing Sections
To Remain Competitive, You Must Adjust Accordingly

Research shows that more than 50% of all cell phones are now smartphones. Add to that the growing number of people who own tablets, and it is estimated that mobile Internet users will exceed the number of desktop internet users by 2014.
The rapid rise in mobile technologies has dramatically changed the way that we communicate at work, at home, and while out and about, and business owners must adjust to this phenomenon.

We Love Our Smartphones
The majority of cell-phone purchases are now smartphones because they quickly become the preferred technology. Smartphones let you make phone calls, but what makes them so smart is that they have an operating system and can run software. This enables them to have features similar to those found on your computer, including web browsing, sending and receiving e-mail, and the abilities to open and read documents, take photos, listen to music, and watch videos.
Smartphones are getting faster at accessing the Internet and letting us view websites, engage in social media, download apps, and access driving directions via GPS. No wonder we love them.
Because mobile devices have become so convenient to use, they are now an integral part of our on-the-go lifestyle. That means many of your customers are trying to access your website on a mobile device. Most mobile devices will display your website correctly, but it will be incredibly tiny, and users will have to enlarge it and scroll from side to side to read the content. If you do not currently have a mobile-friendly website, now is the time to begin putting one in place.

Two Key Options

Options for having a mobile-friendly website include a mobile redirect or responsive web design. A mobile redirect can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Essentially, it redirects mobile users accessing your website to a separate website optimized just for mobile devices. In this case, you have two separate websites that need to be updated and maintained.
Another option is to make your website mobile-friendly by using responsive web design. Responsive web design uses fluid grids, CSS (the coding language for formatting and styling web content), and media queries to control how your website is displayed based on a device’s screen size. Responsive web design provides the advantage of just one website to update and manage versus having a separate mobile site to maintain.
Whatever method you choose, you should minimize the amount of information displayed on your mobile site by tailoring it to the needs of a mobile viewer. Consider what information your website visitors need when accessing your site while on the go. Some basics include business address, directions, an interactive map, hours of operation, and contact information. If you have a retail operation, then sales, special offers, and events should be easily visible to entice mobile web visitors to stop by.

Mobile Search
According to Google, there has been a fivefold increase in mobile search over the last two years. Research also shows that more than half of all consumers use their smartphones to search for products even when they are at home and could use a desktop or laptop computer. This data emphasizes the need for a mobile-friendly website.
If someone searches for your business and finds you, they should be taken to a website designed for a mobile device. If you are investing money in paid search, and those searches are on mobile devices, you are wasting your money if those ads don’t lead to a mobile-friendly website.

Local on Mobile
Your customers are searching while they are out and about, looking for places, products, and special offers. Roughly 70% of searchers are looking for a local product or service, and more than 80% of people searching for local information will take action within a day. Mobile searchers have a need, and most often it is an immediate one.
I encourage you to register your website for local search. This will let you control the quality of your local search results, ensure the accuracy of the information, and help increase your search ranking. Here are several major search engines you can register with; some have a verification process by phone or mail.

Social on Mobile
Social media seems to be made for mobile, as it’s all about what we are doing right now and sharing that with our friends. About half of the people using social media do so on a mobile device. Mobile users log in more often and spend more time on social-media sites. Mobile devices nicely integrate social-media apps that make it easier to post on a mobile device than from your desktop.
For example, you can snap a photo with your phone and post it right to Facebook. Knowing how your customers use their mobile devices is important when developing social-media campaigns. Businesses need to start their planning with a mobile perspective and tailor their ideas accordingly.

Mobile Commerce
Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is defined as consumers shopping and conducting other financial and promotional activities on their wireless, handheld devices. Browsing, shopping, and purchasing are increasingly done on mobile devices, and that trend continues to grow.
As the technology for online mobile shopping is improved and simplified, the shopping experience becomes easier and more convenient. Millions of American smartphone owners use apps for shopping, and even more use a retailer’s mobile website. It is clear that mobile shopping will continue to grow and your customers will be looking for this purchasing option.

Geolocation for
Customer Tracking
Mobile devices also provide GPS and wi-fi technology that can determine where a user is located. This allows you to leverage that information and send real-time mobile offers that can drive people to your business and generate a purchase. As we continue to gather data on our customers, we can move toward using demographic, psychographic, and past-purchasing behavior combined with current event data to deliver highly customized messaging.
Not everyone likes the idea that their smartphone knows where they are, so you will need to communicate the value consumers can expect to receive from your geolocation programs and give them options on participation.

Develop Your Mobile
Marketing Plans
Reviewing the trends and technologies that are making your customers mobile reinforces the need to provide a mobile experience to your customers. The combination of a mobile-friendly website, local search, m-commerce, geolocation, and social media provides you with powerful ways to reach your customers and prospects while they are on the go.

Tina Stevens is principal and creative director at Stevens 470, a full-service, multi-channel marketing firm providing strategic marketing, print communication, and web development; stevens470.com

Turning Good Science into Good Jobs

So, just what does $100 million buy today?
Many business owners and economic development leaders are asking that question, following the announcement earlier this month that the state, through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, has funneled $95 million in grants to the Life Sciences Laboratory at UMass Amherst and another $5.5 million to the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute in Springfield, with the broad goal of leveraging that investment to spur economic development and jobs (see story, page 9).
In this case, $100 million would appear to buy opportunity — in many forms, but especially an opportunity to further diversify this region’s economy, something that desperately needs to be done — while bolstering a still-vital precision-manufacturing sector, making this region a much bigger part of this state’s rise to the top when it comes to generating business in the life sciences, and propelling the university to a higher level in terms of research and prestige.
Will $100 million buy all that? Probably not, but it will certainly generate some momentum that might make all those things possible.
That’s what state leaders, including Gov. Patrick, university administrators, and elected officials were saying at an elaborate press event on June 6 to announce the grants, and they may well be right. These investments — that’s the best word to describe what the state is doing — are designed to stimulate what Susan Windham-Bannister and others call “innovation-driven economic development,” which would be something new to this region, but also something actually quite old.
Indeed, in recent years, the main thrust of economic development, not just here but elsewhere, has been to attract large employers to vast expanses in industrial parks. We’ve had some success with that approach in the Pioneer Valley, but other regions have enjoyed much more.
Innovation-driven development is different. It starts with the development of materials, products, processes, and expertise, and uses all of the above to stimulate startup companies, bring opportunities to existing ventures, and draw companies from other areas who want to take advantage of all this.
We saw this happen with the Springfield Armory, which wasn’t exactly a startup operation (although, in some respects, it fits that description), but was the birthplace of a great deal of innovation, which eventually led to a number of businesses started by people who worked at the Armory, and, eventually, to the birth of a thriving precision-manufacturing sector. The same can also be said, in many respects, for the gunmaking industry that developed in Western Mass. and Connecticut, which was truly innovation-driven.
Fast-forward more than 200 years, and this region now has an opportunity for different kinds of innovation, from the development of personalized health-monitoring devices using nanotechnology, to discovery and application of new compounds to fight infection, to translating basic protein research into new therapeutic treatments for Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other infectious diseases.
These are the types of research-and-development opportunities that will be taking place at three research centers to be constructed and equipped through that $95 million grant to the university. Meanwhile, at PVLSI, the $5.5 million grant will support the development of a new Center of Innovation in Health Informatics and Technology, designed to spur progress in such areas as population health management and healthcare quality.
In Cambridge and Worcester, similar investments, both public and private, have led to the formation of dozens of companies and the creation of thousands of jobs in the broad life-sciences sector, and Windham-Bannister believes that model could be replicated in Western Mass.
Time will tell if she’s right and if this region can, indeed, translate good science into good business and good jobs, but this region has been handed what appears to be a golden opportunity.
The challenge now is to take full advantage of it.

Community Profile Features
Northampton Forges Ahead on Innovative Projects

NorthamptonMayor David Narkewicz says Northampton is a city on the move, leading the way in arenas that range from its energy-efficiency programs to its effort to increase the number of daily Amtrak shuttles when high-speed passenger rail service begins next year, to $67 million of new projects expected to add $3.1 million to the tax base.
“We’re moving in a positive direction, and my administration is committed to continuing to build on success,” he said. “We have a strong local economy with lots of businesses, and we want to support them, reach out to new companies, and maximize the use of our developable land.”
Terrence Masterson, the city’s economic development director, agrees. He said the city’s appeal results from its mix of industry, retail shops, and cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities.
“Northampton has a lot of assets which include the benefits of a living in a rural town as well as a large, livable city,” he told BusinessWest. “It has a culturally rich downtown, is well-positioned off Interstate 91, and hopefully will soon have passenger rail service. We also have a solid educational system, and our parks and open-network system is without peer. You can live in Florence and ride your bike downtown.”

Mayor David Narkewicz

Mayor David Narkewicz shows off a rendering of the new, upgraded passenger platform planned for the former Union Station on Pleasant Street.

The city has been feted with a wide array of awards, which range from being named among the “Top 25 Art Destinations” by American Style magazine to one of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live” by CNN Money magazine and the “Top 10 Family Friendly Towns” by Parenting magazine. Other honors include the Retailers Assoc. of Mass. Award of Excellence for the best downtown shopping district.
“We have a vibrant and diverse economy with lots of locally owned retail shops and restaurants; it’s one of the things that sets us apart, because it has been hard for cities to hang onto that in other parts of the country,” said the mayor. “People often say that Northampton has big-city charm, but maintains its small-town character.”
The city is also a center for healthcare, as Cooley Dickinson Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, which is planning to expand its specialty care, serve people across the region.
For this issue, BusinessWest continues its Community Profile series with an in-depth look at Paradise City, which certainly isn’t content to rest on its laurels.

Diverse Initiatives
Narkewicz said Northampton’s leadership is evident in its approach to eco-tourism. “We have one of the most well-developed rail trails in Massachusetts and are on the cutting edge of developing new segments,” he said, referring to the 12.5-mile route that runs through the city. “We have also done a lot of work to promote local agriculture.”
In addition to three farmer’s markets, the city has one of the largest community farms in the state. The endeavor known as Grow Food Northampton came to fruition in February 2011 when the organization purchased 121 acres of permanently protected farmland in Florence. The nonprofit is a collaborative effort, and its community garden was so successful in its first year of operation that it is doubling in size this year. The city provides funding to the Farm Education Collaborative, which presents workshops and programs at Crimson and Clover Farm in Florence to benefit schoolchildren and adults.
The mayor also notes the Connecticut River Greenway in Northampton, one of the Commonwealth’s newest state parks, which connects open spaces, scenic vistas, and archaeological and historic sites along the length of the Connecticut River.
“We’re a green community, and were among the first cities awarded green-community status by the state,” Narkewicz said. “We’re way ahead of everyone else, and our green initiatives add to what makes Northampton unique.”
He and other city officials recognize the importance of energy conservation, and to that end, the energy and sustainability initiative called Northampton Leading the Way was launched about two years ago.
“We worked with Columbia Gas and National Grid to create a business concierge program that allowed commercial property owners to make significant energy improvements to their facilities,” said Narkewicz. “It resulted in savings for them and helped add to the city’s overall sustainability.”
The city reduced its own energy costs by 27%, and the nonprofit Center for Eco-Technology conducted the outreach to businesses. The utility companies have continued to fund the program because it has proven to be a real success. “Utility costs are a major part of the bottom line for businesses, and this is also good for the environment,” Narkewicz said.
The city kicked off a second energy-efficiency initiative last month to help residents reduce utility bills and conserve energy through measures such as high-efficiency hot water and heating systems, added insulation, new thermostats, and other weatherization efforts. They can schedule free home energy assessments, and Narkewicz said the program “is another example of how the city of Northampton is helping people and the environment.”

New Projects

Terrence Masterson

Terrence Masterson says the city’s appeal stems from its mix of industry, retail, and cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities.

Economic development is also on the upswing, and the King Street commercial area is undergoing an unprecedented level of new building and renovation.
Northampton Crossing (the former Hill and Dale Mall), which sat vacant for about 20 years, was purchased two years ago and is being redeveloped into medical offices and retail shops. The mayor said the space will become home to offices connected to Baystate Medical Center, and added that several new banks and other projects, which include a new hotel being constructed on Conz Street, are in progress.
In addition, two new buildings will offer much-needed office space in Northampton. They are located at the gateway to the city, which officials designate as the area off exit 18 from I-91 near the Clarion Hotel. An office building with 30,000 square feet of space completed about a year ago was fully leased within three months, and a second building is under construction. Masterson says the additional 80,000 square feet of office space will be a significant development for the city. “It is hugely exciting,” he told BusinessWest.
Other growth is expected as the Clarion Hotel hopes to replace its existing structure with a new building and restaurant. “Eventually the whole site will undergo a major facelift and expansion,” Narkewicz noted.
Tourism will also get a boost, thanks to a new Fairfield Inn under construction. It will add 108 hotel rooms, bringing the city’s total to 457. “It will provide more revenue and also allow more people to stay in Northampton,” Masterson said.
And work continues on Village Hill, built on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital, where space has been in high demand. Kollmorgen Electro-Optical (now L-3 KEO) relocated there from King Street, a boutique hotel is being created in a building that once housed male attendants at the state hospital, and 9,000 square feet in a new, 12,000-square-foot office building under construction have already been rented.
The projects promise to enhance the city as well improve its economy. “We are pleased not only because of the growth in economic activity, but because it will allow us to expand our tax base,” Narkewicz said, explaining that taxpayers will vote on June 25 on whether to allow a $2.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override because Northampton is facing significant cuts in service due to a $1.4 million budget gap.
Still, progress continues. “All of the projects we have going on fuel each other,” Masterson said. “But it’s critically important for us to keep adding to them, and we think Amtrak will be another way to bring large numbers of people here.”
Narkewicz agrees, and believes the anticipated commuter rail service will have a positive impact on the city. The return of Amtrak service, which will transport passengers along the west side of the Connecticut River, is part of a larger, $73 million federal project, and calls for a shift next year in the Amtrak-Vermonter’s route, which will include new stations in Greenfield, Northampton, and Holyoke.
The mayor is part of a passenger-rail advisory committee made up of stakeholders in the community who want to maximize the railway’s potential. The Knowledge Corridor Feasibility Study, which the current construction project is based on, indicates that expanded rail can generate economic benefits to a number of communities, and Narkewicz believes it could increase the number of trips between the state of Vermont and Springfield. He would also like to see service extend into New York City.
“The rail service will benefit people in terms of transportation, but will also increase the potential for business, whether the passengers are students, tourists, or people who come here for our art and culture,” Narkewicz said.
He has been proactive in promoting an increase in the number of shuttles, and sent a letter to the secretary of the state Department of Transportation last month, citing numbers from Amtrak showing that regional rail ridership has boomed nationally and locally over the past 15 years.
“We believe this new rail service will deliver many positive economic benefits for downtown/urban revitalization, tourism, residential quality of life, and business/job development,” Narkewicz wrote, adding that the letter was also signed by Greenfield Mayor William Martin and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “It’s an issue everyone agrees with, and it will be a real thrill for a lot of people to have Amtrak trains here.”
There are also plans to rebuild the old passenger platform at the former Union Station on Pleasant Street. The new, 40-foot platform will include an awning and cover designed to complement the building’s architecture.

Continuing Progress
Narkewicz said collaborations with residents, government agencies, other cities and towns, and a number of organizations, coupled with efforts to attract new business and spur economic growth, have had a positive result.
“We are moving forward,” he concluded. “There is a lot of activity here, and together, we are making a difference.”

Departments Picture This

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

Lifetime of Dedication

Gary-McCarthy-with-Board-MembersGary-McCarthy-National-Boys-&-Girls-Club-RecognitionGary McCarthy, executive director of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, was recently honored by the Boys & Girls Club of America for his 50 years of service to the organization. Top: McCarthy stands with the Springfield Boys & Girls Club board chairs who have served during his tenure: from left, William Fraser, Malcolm Getz, William Hadley, Diane Dunkerley, Jack Fitzgerald, Stacy Magiera (immediate past chair), Tim Gallagher (current chair), McCarthy, Vinnie Daboul, Timothy Crimmins, and Art Jones. Bottom: from left, Gene Bailey, director of organizational development, National Boys & Girls Club of America; McCarthy; and James Hurley, director of development, National Boys & Girls Club of America.
Photos courtesy of Michael Epaul

Branching Out

RibbonCuttingMonson Savings Bank recently conducted a ribbon cutting for its new branch at 136 West St. in Ware. Pictured, from left, are John Desmond of the Ware Board of Selectmen; Steve Lowell, president and CEO, Monson Savings Bank; and Greg Harder, chairman of the Ware Board of Selectmen.

Thought Process

photo[2]LVPOne of six teams of the Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) class of 2013, calling themselves the Next Generation Pioneers 2, celebrated their graduation with the presentation of a 10-month-long project on May 31. LPV strives to develop a network of emerging and existing leaders to address challenges and opportunities across the region. Bottom: from left, Christin Deremian, management, Human Resources Unlimited; Brittney Kelleher, commercial loan officer, Westfield Bank; Juli Thibault, talent acquisition marketing & operations manager, Baystate Health; Annamaria Golden, manager of Community Relations Benefits, Baystate Health; Alfonso Santaniello, president and CEO, Creative Strategy Agency; Jason Randall, director of Human Resources, Peter Pan Bus Lines; Peter Ellis, creative director, DIF Design; and Mark Sayre, actuarial consultant, MassMutual Financial Group.

Woman of the Year

DSC_8401DSC_8456DSC_8411The Professional Women’s Chamber (PWC) recently honored Jean Deliso, president of Deliso Financial and Insurance Services in Agawam, as its Woman of the Year. Deliso was feted at the chamber’s annual dinner on June 6 at the Cedars in Springfield. Top: Kristy Batchelor, branch manager, Hampden Bank; Laurie Cassidy, executive director, West Springfield Council on Aging; Amy Scribner, associate director of marketing, Hampden Bank; Peg Daoust, branch manager, Hampden Bank; Susan Dominick, branch manager, Hampden Bank; Debra Geisler, branch manager, Hampden Bank; and Nora Braska, training officer, Hampden Bank. Middle: Dave Demos, vice president, Complete Restoration Solutions; Deliso; Alika Hope, co-host, Connecticut Perspective TV; and Michelle Cayo, PWC president. Bottom: Anita Bird, office manager of the Community Outreach Office, MGM Springfield; Kelley Tuckey, vice president of public relations, Eastern Region, MGM Resorts International; Deliso; and Jane Albert , executive director of the Baystate Health Foundation and vice president of Development, Baystate Health.

Employment Sections
Colleges Work to Help Students Open Doors to Opportunity

Bay Path College’s Laurie Cirillo

Bay Path College’s Laurie Cirillo says the job market has improved, but there are still many challenges awaiting job seekers.

‘Marginal improvement.’
That’s the phrase one hears repeatedly from area college career-services professionals as they talk about the overall job market and the prospects for members of the class of 2013.
Roughly translated, those two words, or others used to convey the same sentiment, imply that conditions are certainly better than they were a few years ago, when, in the wake of the Great Recession, many sectors — including financial services, law, retail, and even healthcare — sharply curtailed their hiring, forcing many to stay in school or take jobs in fields other than the one they chose.
But while the skies have brightened slightly — moreso in the technical and healthcare-related fields than others — the job market is still challenging in many respects, said Laurie Cirillo, executive director of the Sullivan Career and Life Planning Center at Bay Path College. She noted that, while a large number (25% or more) of the school’s graduates go on to seek advanced degrees, those choosing to enter the job market are facing everything from stern competition — including many members of those classes that graduated during or just after the recession — to some lingering reluctance on the part of some employers to add to their payrolls.
“Given the fact that we have a positive job-growth outlook for the state, we’re preliminarily seeing our students have more success and find opportunities locally,” she said of the overall job market. “But there is a lot of competition for these opportunities.”
In this environment, said Cirillo and others we spoke with, candidates need any advantages they can get, and area colleges are becoming both diligent and imaginative in helping them find some.
These initiatives include everything from encouraging and creating experiential learning experiences — including internships, practicums, and co-ops — to networking events and career fairs designed to introduce students to employers, to programs providing help with résumé and interviewing skills.
Summing up these efforts, Jeanette Doyle, director of the Career Center at Springfield College, said they enable students to become better able to sell themselves to potential employers — a skill, or trait, that many need help with.
“Most students are too humble,” she noted, referring, generally, to how they respond to interviewers’ questions. “It’s always about selling your skills and qualifications. We have to remind them to go out and market themselves in the most positive light, and they have to remind themselves that they’re competing against other people for these jobs.”
Much of the focus today is on experiential learning, especially internships, which can bring a number of benefits for students and employers alike, said Candace Serrafino, interim director of Career Services at UMass Amherst, who noted that the school was recently ranked among the top 10 schools in the country by US News & World Report when it comes to students participating in internships.
For companies, she noted, interns can provide everything from technical skills to important generational perspective, to an additional hand when when many employers need one or more. For students, she added, they provide hands-on experience, insight into the working world, and an introduction to a company that might become an employer.
Jeanette Doyle

Jeanette Doyle says the primary objective of career center activities at Springfield College is to help students become more adept at selling themselves to employers.

“Every publication that we’re reading echoes the same message — that, in today’s market, students must have that career-related experience,” Serrafino said, noting that roughly 60% of the undergraduates at UMass do get some form of experiential learning experience, and, increasingly, they’re starting earlier in their college career. “Students are definitely getting that message.”
At Baypath, internships are required, said Cirillo, adding that, overall, the school has been successful in forging partnerships with area employers, such as Baystate Health, on a number of experiential learning opportunities that help prepare students for life after graduation.
For this issue and its focus on employment, BusinessWest talked with a number of area career-services professionals about both the state of the job market and ways colleges are working to open more doors for their graduates by making it easier to sell themselves to employers.

Degrees of Progress?
Those we spoke with said it will be perhaps six months or more before they’ll have anything approaching hard data on how well the class of 2013 is faring when it comes to entering the job market — and in their chosen field.
That’s when most surveys of graduates, revealing if, when, and where they’ve found employment, are compiled, said Maria Cokotis, career counselor in the College of Business at Western New England University. But she and others noted that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to warrant the use of the phrase ‘marginal improvement’ or words slightly more positive.
And that aforementioned evidence comes in many forms, from the number of employers taking part in career fairs staged over the past several months to the wide range of companies that are hiring — from Enterprise Rent-a-Car to Health New England to a host of retailers, such as TJX.
“There are signs that the job market has gotten better since last year,” said Cokotis, adding quickly that there are caveats involving those who have found success, These include the field in question, flexibility with regard to geography — meaning those willing to relocate, especially to larger urban areas — experiential learning, and being realistic when it comes to expectations and a willingness to accept something less than the ideal job if doing so will start a career down the right path.
“If someone’s in information technology and is willing to relocate, there are a lot of opportunities that will present themselves,” she said, referring to one field along the spectrum.
“It’s also important for students to focus on the first job not as the ultimate career move, but a first step in their career,” she continued. “They should be thinking about where they can go to develop and apply some solid skills that will provide a stepping stone to the next position that they want to go to. Sometimes, students have a very idealistic outlook as to what they want in their first job, but they have to look at the realities of building on experience that will begin to carve a career path.”

Maria Cokotis

Maria Cokotis, a career counselor in the College of Business at Western New England University, says job seekers must be realistic in their expectations when it comes to that first job.

UMass Amherst’s Serrafino has also noticed an uptick in the job market, at least in certain fields.
“Anecdotally, what we’re seeing is that things are picking up slowly,” she said, putting some additional emphasis on that last word. “Certainly, some of the technical majors, such as our engineering students and our computer science students, are finding greater opportunities than our non-technical students, and our finance, operations, and accounting students are also faring well.
“We serve a lot of liberal-arts and sciences students, and for them, it’s a little softer market,” she went on. “But it certainly becomes firmer when a student has an internship or a co-op under their belt.”
Serrafino said that one of the more encouraging developments with regard to the market has been strong attendance among employers at the school’s four annual career fairs — one staged by the Isenberg School of Management, another for engineering students, the Alana fair (involving minority students), and the campus-wide Career Blast, staged in February, the largest of the events.
“We broke all records — the number of employers increased significantly, as well as the number of students participating,” she said, noting, as one example, that the engineering fair drew 91 employers and 1,350 students. A year ago, those numbers were 78 and 1,100, respectively. At the Career Blast, there were 141 employers and 2,000 students (most from UMass, but also others from surrounding schools). In 2012, only 98 employers showed up.
As impressive as the quantity of employers was the variety, she went on, noting that the list of participants included GE, ISO New England, Health New England, Liberty Mutual, Macy’s, General Dynamics, Hanover Insurance, and MGM Resorts International.
And while companies take part for several reasons — some are recruiting intern candidates or simply maintaining visibility, for example — many have been hiring this year.

Courses of Action
While the employment scene is brightening somewhat, entering the job market remains challenging, said Cirillo, adding that Bay Path, like other schools, is being aggressive in its work to help students better compete for jobs in their chosen field, and be prepared to succeed in those professions.
Internships and co-ops are a big part of the equation, she said, but the school goes further, with such initiatives as the Sullivan Center’s career and networking events that, as the name suggests, are designed to provide career education and networking opportunities customized to a major field of study. The sessions, staged throughout the spring, include keynote presentations, panelists discussing their careers, and structured networking.
There are sessions for legal studies, business, education, psychology, criminal justice, and science, said Cirillo, noting, for example, that speakers and panelists for the criminal-justice event included John Gibbons, U.S. marshal for the District of Massachusetts; Margaret Oglesby, assistant chief probation officer for Springfield District Court; Col. Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; and Lucy Sotto-Abbe, Massachusetts Parole Board member, among others.
Another somewhat unique program at Bay Path is a career-shadowing program in which first- and second-year students go out into the field and spend some time with people in the profession they’ve targeted.
“It gives that first-year student a chance to really define the difference between what a job is like in their imagination and what it’s like in reality,” she explained, using forensic science, with expectations created by TV shows such as CSI, as one example. “We also encourage students to interview professionals working in the field and find out what their career stories are, and thus learn how they got to where they are, what kinds of career competencies they think are important for people in that field, and what their daily life and challenges are like.
“Getting in touch with professionals and being able to career shadow helps that first- or second-year student crystallize, or develop some confidence in, their major early on,” Cirillo continued. “Or, it might prompt them to say, ‘I thought I wanted to do this, but I don’t, so now I’ll do this instead.’ Developing confidence in the major early on is important.”
Meanwhile, it’s important for the student to have confidence as they go about their job search and take on those first job interviews. And that’s why many area schools have created programs to help them tackle those assignments.
Such initiatives range from UMass Amherst’s ‘Resumania,’ program, a four-day blitz during which career-services staff members prepare and update hundreds of résumés, to a host of efforts involving the art and science of interviewing, to seminars on the effective use of social media in a job search.
At Springfield College, said Doyle, the school brings alums back on campus to talk with seniors about what they’ll experience during a job search, at their first interview, and after they’ve been hired. It’s part of a larger effort to take learning beyond the classroom, she said, and prepare students for the workplace.
As part of this initiative, career-services staff members, sometimes working with alumni, conduct mock interviews with students, asking many of the tough, behavioral-based questions that are part and parcel to interviews today, and, overall, preparing them for something unlike anything they’ve experienced.
“Sometimes, students are surprised — they’ll say, ‘I was there for six hours; I had no idea it was going to be like this,’” she noted. “It’s still an employer’s market — there are a lot of candidates, and for them to pick the best one, they have to do their due diligence. We just want to help students be ready.”
At UMass, assistance also includes something that Serrafino called “job-fair prep workshops.” There were roughly a dozen conducted over the past year, she said, adding that they focused on everything from proper dress and body language to the questions they can expect.
“We teach the students to be able to market themselves in a 30-second infomercial,” she explained, “and focus on such things as how to greet an employer and how to put their best foot forward in a few moments, and not go up to someone and say, ‘so, what kind of jobs do you have here?’”

Happy Landing
Time will tell just how well the class of 2013 fares with its efforts to break into the job market. As those we spoke with said, there are many signs they will do better overall than those in many recent classes.
Meanwhile, the task at hand for area colleges is to continue to be imaginative with programs to help improve students’ odds and, overall, open more doors.

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

UMass Needs More Public Dollars

In the coming days, the Massachusetts Legislature will make an important decision about funding for the University of Massachusetts and, in so doing, will play a significant role in determining what kind of university UMass will be as it enters the next phase in its history.
On a literal level, the Legislature will decide whether UMass will receive the $479 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal year proposed by Gov. Patrick and approved by the House or the $455 million advanced by the Senate. The higher level of funding is important because it would arrest a long-term budget slide, make the state-student funding split more equitable, and provide students with an overdue tuition and fee freeze.
But the commitment we are asking the state to make is actually part of a much larger effort we are shaping to dramatically strengthen UMass and make sure it always will be the kind of public university that Massachusetts, with its innovation and intellectual horsepower, needs.
As we ask the Commonwealth to do more, UMass is also gearing up to do significantly more to provide the financial foundation a university needs to be great. And while it isn’t just about the money, dollars matter when it comes to attracting and retaining top professors, providing aid for students who need and deserve it, and ensuring that our facilities match up with our academic and research ambitions.
With that in mind, UMass this fall will launch its first system-wide capital campaign with the goal of dramatically increasing the private funds flowing into the university. These dollars will sustain a community of excellence — a reinforcing circle of top students, professors, and facilities.
Taken in tandem, a major infusion of public and private funds will give UMass the financial muscle it needs as it completes its first 150 years of service and prepares to make an even more profound contribution to the people of the Commonwealth.
UMass is the third university I have had the honor to lead. As I complete my second year as president, I am struck by one thing above all else — how much our five campuses have done with such limited resources.
Over the past 15 years, while state funding has remained flat, UMass has added 13,000 students (most of whom come from and will remain in Massachusetts), has seen student achievement rise to the point where its flagship campus in Amherst is now a top producer of Fulbright scholars, has won a Nobel Prize, has seen research expenditures reach $600 million a year, has become a national leader in income derived from faculty inventions, and consistently places in the upper reaches of the World University Rankings.
All of which prompts two questions: Shouldn’t we protect the great asset we have developed? And how much more could we do with a little more public and a lot more private support?
While we seek to gather the resources we need to make this a truly transformational moment, I realize that we need to keep front and center a value that is so much a part of our New England heritage — and that is frugality. Respect for a dollar is something I learned growing up in a Maine town where people eked out a living in mills and on fishing boats, and where scrimping and saving was an essential way of life.
Over the past five years, UMass has saved $68 million through efficiency steps, including consolidating administrative functions previously performed on each of the campuses. We expect to save another $123 million over the next five years by reducing energy expenditures, improving our purchasing practices, and streamlining information-technology operations.
Our commitment to transparency mirrors our commitment to efficiency, and, to make it easier to gauge our performance in key areas, we will release an annual performance report giving donors, public officials, and the public at large a better sense of how we are doing and what their dollars are helping to build.
UMass marks its 150th anniversary this year, so it’s a time to celebrate the past — and to build for a brighter and loftier future. With that future in mind, we are asking the state to join with us to create a truly historic moment. We have a chance to place UMass on a course that will allow it to soar — and this is an opportunity we have to seize.

Robert L. Caret is the president of the University of Massachusetts.

$100 Million Expected to Spur Innovation, Economic Development

Ed Leyden

Ed Leyden says the $100 million in grants for life sciences represent an opportunity for his company to diversify, expand, and eventually add jobs.

Ed Leyden called it “science — not science fiction.”
That was his way of describing a product not yet on the market, but one he believes might be there soon. This would be a wristwatch-like device that would collect vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and more, that could be sent to a doctor if needed.
“There’s a push on now for diagnostics, and what’s called ‘self-diagnostics’ — things you can wear, like a watch,” said Leyden, president of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing Company in Agawam and co-chair of the state’s Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative. “They can monitor a number of bodily functions and download them right to your phone — it would be an extremely early-warning system.”
Developing such a monitor, prototyping the device, and then eventually manufacturing it — preferably in the Pioneer Valley — are some of the many goals, if not expectations, that accompany $100 million in grants from the state via the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), that were announced at an elaborate ceremony earlier this month in the shadow of UMass Amherst’s gleaming new $157 million Life Sciences Laboratory.
The awards — $95 million to UMass Amherst and $5.5 million to the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute in Springfield — are part of a $1 billion, 10-year investment on the part of the state designed to stimulate growth of its life-sciences supercluster, considered the largest in the country.
When asked what this latest investment would mean for the Western Mass. region and the state as a whole, Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the MLSC, said simply, “drive economic development and job creation.”
She then elaborated, telling BusinessWest that this investment — which will fit out and equip a substantial portion of the Life Sciences Laboratory, which will house three new research centers (more on them later) — could help this region replicate the development of life-sciences-related businesses and jobs seen in Cambridge and Worcester, the two strongest pockets for that sector in the state.
To describe what’s happened in those cities, she summoned the phrase “innovation-driven economic development,” which she would use early and often.
“In this model, you begin to create some smaller companies, some spin-outs, and some specialized, innovative technologies,” she explained. “And the large companies want to be around that; they want to be near to what’s happening, so they begin to locate in that area.
“You have small companies growing up, and you have large companies putting up a footprint near these centers of activity,” she continued. “This is the new model of innovation-driven economic development, and it’s really upside-down from the traditional model. You’re not looking to use lots of incentives to get a large company to move; instead, you invest in young companies, and you invest in these centers of specialized expertise that large companies want to be around and take advantage of.”
For this issue, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the $100 million investment made by the state and what it means for this region and the life-sciences sector now stretching across the Commonwealth.

Down to a Science
Summing up the state’s $100 million investment in the two Western Mass. facilities, Windham-Bannister said these grants are intended to build on the specific strengths of this region. Specifically, these include the university and the research currently taking place there and that will take place at at the Life Sciences Laboratory, as well as a precision manufacturing sector that is expected to work with those researchers to eventually bring new products to the market — and, if all goes according to plan, manufacture them in the Bay State, and, more specifically, the 413 area code.
This strategic direction, if one wants to call it that, stemmed from work funded by a $300,000 training grant designed to identify the highest and best use for grants from the life-sciences center in this market, she explained. “We set out to determine what were the basic strengths within Western Mass. in the life sciences, what were the strengths at the university and PVLSI, how could we accelerate and build on those strengths, and, more importantly, how could they interact with the companies in the community to help them grow and also encourage startups?”
The answer, arrived at eventually, was to essentially fund three new research centers at the Life Sciences Laboratory, with the goal of creating collaborations with biotechnology firms, medical-device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and other players to bring new products to the market and, in the process, create new jobs.
The three centers will each have a specific focus:
• Personalized Health Monitoring will focus on developing nanotechnology and large dataset management to improve healthcare through low-cost, wearable wireless sensors that analyze patient data continuously in real time, said Windham-Bannister. Biomanufacturing firms, medical-device manufacturers, ‘big-data’ analysts, and other healthcare industry partners will produce prototypes, test them, and assess their manufacturing feasibility.
• Bioactive Delivery will focus on discovery and application of new drugs, agricultural, and ‘nutriceutical’ compounds, she told BusinessWest. “These are things that are very product-oriented, they are input to the development of drugs and devices, and they play to the strengths of the expertise not just at the university, but also in the region, where there is a lot of innovation going on with regard to materials.”
• Models to Medicine will be focused on translating basic protein research by UMass Amherst experts into new therapeutic targets. This center will capitalize on an explosion of discoveries over the past 10 years suggesting that a variety of protein dysfunctions play a role in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and infectious diseases.
Meanwhile, the $5.5 million targeted for the PVLSI will support the development of a new Center of Innovation in Health Informatics and Technology, which will be focused on advancing public/private-sector partnerships and incubating innovative technology solutions developed by startups and larger, more established vendor firms in areas such as population health management, healthcare quality, big-data analytics, and mobile health.
Assessing these plans for PVLSI and the Life Sciences Laboratory, Leyden said the investments being made by the state could generate opportunities for precision-manufacturing shops like Ben Franklin and eventually bring new jobs to that sector.
He said his firm, which specializes in making parts for the nuclear, aerospace, defense, power-generation, and other sectors, doesn’t do much work in medical-device manufacturing, but could, because it has the personnel, equipment, and ability to meet the high quality standards necessary to succeed in that specific niche. And there are many area firms in that category.
“The infrastructure is here,” he explained. “We have a strong advanced-manufacturing base here, and even the companies that don’t have experience with medical devices could move into that area — the work is very similar to what they’ve doing already.
“And to me, being a strong manufacturer is being diversified,” Leyden continued. “If you have the ability, and you’re doing another sector’s worth of work, you’re further insulated from the ups and downs from the economy and the manufacturing world.”
There are many existing firms in the area that could eventually benefit through the research that will take place at the university at PVLSI and through collaborative efforts with those teams, said Windham-Bannister, adding that the state’s investment could also spur new startups and possibly prompt life-sciences companies in Worcester, Cambridge, and elsewhere to establish a presence in Western Mass. to take full advantage of the research going on here.
All this is part of innovation-driven economic development, she told BusinessWest, noting that there has already been considerable interest in the three planned centers expressed by life-sciences-related firms not only in Western Mass., but across the state.
“I would think that these companies would want to have a presence close to these centers,” she continued, “because that’s what we’ve seen in Worcester and also what we’ve seen in Cambridge.”

Making Things Happen

Windham-Bannister said it’s impossible to place a timeline on this process of innovation-driven economic development. But, drawing on what’s happened in Worcester, Cambridge, and elsewhere, she said she wouldn’t be surprised if progress comes quickly, and that, as a result of these investments, Massachusetts was able to build on what is already considered a substantial lead in a national competition to create jobs within the broad life-sciences sector.
“The goal at the Life Sciences Center is to translate good science into good business across the Commonwealth, and to enhance this state’s position as a global leader in this realm,” she said, adding that these latest developments in Western Mass. will certainly help move the needle further in the right direction.

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

McGovern Adjusts to a Greatly Changed District

Rep. Jim McGovern, left,

Rep. Jim McGovern, left, speaks with some of his new constituents in Amherst.

Congressman Jim McGovern was talking about how to spur economic development and job creation in some of the Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester County communities that are now part of his territory — a significantly reworked Second District — and he started by going back to a speech he gave before the Worcester Chamber of Commerce roughly a year after he was first elected to the House in 1996.
This was to be a candid talk — one he feared might be a little too candid.
“I thought I’d get booed out of the hall,” he recalled with a laugh, adding that he was essentially telling those assembled that they were wandering aimlessly in their pursuit of progress, and thus underperforming. “I said, ‘economic development here reminds me of my then-3-year-old son’s soccer team; if someone kicks the ball to the left, they all run to the left, and if someone kicks it to the right, they all head to the right — no one knows what their position or assignment is.’
“I said there was no logic behind what we were doing here — we’re simply not connecting the dots,” he went on. “And a number of people came up to me later and said, ‘we agree — there’s no plan here; there’s no thought being given to economic development.’”
Over the next several years, Worcester and its officials put some thought into it, he told BusinessWest, adding that, as a result, progress has been made in several areas, from significant growth of sectors like the biosciences and medical-device manufacturing to reinvigoration of Worcester Airport, which will be a stop for JetBlue starting in the fall (more on all of this later).
It all happened through creation of plans and establishment of partnerships with a host of constituencies, from local colleges and universities to private developers, to make them reality, he said, adding that he will work to take some of the lessons learned in Worcester and other communities he’s served, and apply them in cities and towns he might have needed Mapquest to find before late last year.
Indeed, McGovern was probably the congressman most impacted by last year’s massive statewide redistricting effort, facilitated, in some respects, by the retirement of John Olver, whose old First District was essentially parceled out to McGovern and Richard Neal, who formerly represented a much different Second District and also added a host of new communities to his territory.
2nd Congressional District Map

2nd Congressional District Map

McGovern’s former district (the Third) included Worcester, his birthplace and political base, near its west boundary, and swept like a giant apostrophe to the south and east, all the way to Fall River. Now, Worcester is near the eastern end of a district that winds through five counties, the Quabbin Reservoir, and 63 cities and towns (he formerly had only 28), including ones that border Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
“It’s quite a change — I have a lot of learning to do,” he said, adding quickly that this is an ongoing process that has really just begun.
His said his assignment going forward is to continue visiting those 63 communities, learning about both common and specific challenges, and then create some plans — as he helped draft in Worcester — to address matters such as bolstering the agriculture and tourism sectors and finding new uses for the millions of square feet of idle old mill space in Athol, Orange, Palmer, Ware, and many other communities.
But perhaps his overriding mission, he went on, is to disprove some comments from an anonymous reader posted at the end of a story in one of the local papers announcing the results of redistricting. McGovern didn’t have the exact wording on that missive, but he could effectively paraphrase.
“‘We got screwed,’ this person wrote,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he or she went to to say, “‘what the hell is a big-city Worcester politician going to care about what goes on here in the Pioneer Valley?’”
To prove this individual wrong, McGovern, consistently ranked among the most liberal congressmen in the country, said he knows he has to be visible and accessible — and he’s already doing that, through numerous visits to the area and the opening of a district office on Pleasant Street in Northampton — but he also has to be active and accountable, and create progress on the most overriding issue facing every city and town in the Commonwealth: jobs.
For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with McGovern about what he’s learned through several months of discussions with his new Western Mass. constituents, and how he plans to incorporate lessons learned in Worcester, Fall River, and elsewhere to his work in the 413 area code.

Progress Report
It’s called Gateway Park at WPI.
That’s the name put on ambitious project in downtown Worcester that speaks, in general terms, to the progress made after McGovern’s aforementioned speech to the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
Originally developed as a joint venture with the Worcester Business Development Corp., the park is now solely owned by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Now in stage 2 of development, its flagship complex is the 125,000-square-foot Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center, which opened in 2007 and is fully occupied with graduate research laboratories, life-sciences companies, state-of-the-art core facilities, and WPI’s Corporate and Professional Education division. The strategic plan eventually calls for five buildings on this site.
The park is perhaps the most significant of the many positive steps Worcester has taken over the past 15 years, said McGovern, adding that it exemplifies the basic approach he embraces when it comes to economic development and job creation. Summing it up, he said it comes down to putting a firm strategic plan in place — in this case, Worcester’s commitment to building its life-sciences sector — and creating partnerships to make it reality.
The same pattern was followed in Fall River and a property now known as the Narrows Center for the Arts, he said, referencing the 280-seat facility, built on the top floor of an old mill building, that hosts national and local performing and visual artists, musicians, writers, and performers.
“They took an abandoned factory and turned it into a spot where some of the top musicians in the country come to play,” he said. “People from all around the region come to attend these concerts, and when they do, they eat at the local restaurants, sometimes they spend the night, they might go shopping beforehand, they attend the local festivals; it all helps out.”
Successes of this magnitude will be difficult to replicate in rural Hampshire and Franklin counties, but McGovern believes he can take the same basic approach and spur economic development in some of the communities he’s now representing.
Getting to know and understand these communities — while also disproving that anonymous commentary mentioned earlier — is the latest career challenge for McGovern, who described his 1996 victory over Republican incumbent Peter Blute as “surprising.”
It came two years after his first bid for Congress while working as a senior aide to long-time Rep. Joe Moakley, in which he lost a crowded Democratic primary. He’s faced only sporadic opposition since, while cementing himself as one of Washington’s most liberal lawmakers and making a mark in areas ranging from transportation to education to nutrition. He currently serves on the powerful Rules Committee, and also on the House Committee on Agriculture.
Since last fall, McGovern has been spending significant amounts of time getting to know his new district and the people who call it home. “Trying to learn all that I need to learn and know all that I need to know is like drinking water from a fire hose — it’s a lot of stuff, and every community is unique.”
He said it’s been a learning experience on many levels.
“People out here take their politics seriously,” he said, referring specifically to the Hampshire and Franklin County portions of his district, which also includes one precinct in Palmer, which is in Hampden County. “They care passionately about the issues, and I’ve had some of the most candid and interesting conversations ever in this part of the district.”
He said his previous district was created to benefit a Republican (Blute), and was therefore more conservative than this new Second District, which includes, in Amherst and Northampton, some of the most liberal communities in the entire state, but also has many conservative pockets as well.
“There’s a little bit of everything — moderate, liberal, Tea Party,” he said with a laugh. “Between Worcester and Franklin County, there are pockets of everything, which keeps life interesting; every day is a learning experience.”
One thing McGovern said he’s already learned is that this region is, by his estimation, “a hell of a lot more coordinated than Worcester was 10 years ago.” Elaborating, the said the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and other agencies have identified challenges and opportunities, and have undertaken a number of coordinated initiatives to spark economic development.
“There are good things happening here,” he said. “The challenge for me is to plug into what’s going on and figure out how I can help.”

The Job at Hand
With such a large, spread-out district (compared to everyone but Neal, who represents all of Berkshire County and all but the Palmer precinct in Hampden County), McGovern said he has to maximize his time and carefully plan out his schedule.
He explained that, if he has three days to spend in the district, for example, he’ll spend one in each area: west (Northampton), east (Worcester), and northeast (Leominster).
And while visiting Western Mass. cities and towns, McGovern said he’s learned that the challenges and concerns are pretty much the same as they are across the state. Specifically, the main priority is jobs, and in many communities that were former manufacturing centers, this means reinventing themselves into something else, while also looking at new kinds of manufacturing, different from the paper and textile making that once dominated the scene.
“The one common thread I see and hear in all parts of my district is people worried about their economic security,” he told BusinessWest. “They’re worried about jobs. There’s a good deal of support for reinvigorating our manufacturing base and also support for training programs for displaced workers in the region, because a number of people have lost their jobs in this difficult economy. There’s also a lot of talk about energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects.”
In Worcester, the process of creating that proverbial something else would never be described as easy, and it is very much still ongoing, said McGovern, but it was greatly facilitated by planning and the many colleges and universities that call that city home, including Assumption, Clark, Holy Cross, Worcester State University, WPI, and UMass Medical School, among others. These collaborations have involved from biosciences to renewable energy.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in Worcester — we’ve established some collaborations that have made a difference,” referencing projects ranging from Gateway Park to a revitalized Union Station and the Canal District surrounding it; from the airport to reinvigoration of depressed neighborhoods. “A friend of mine who hadn’t been to Worcester in seven years visited recently and couldn’t believe how much had changed and how much new construction was going on; we’re building every day.”
The many colleges in the Amherst/Northampton area, and especially UMass Amherst, can play a similar role, said the congressman, adding that one of his goals is to continue to expand the relationship-building efforts between the university and the communities that surround it to stimulate new business opportunities — and jobs.
“In some states, the natural resources are the minerals in the ground,” he said. “Here, the natural resources are the educational institutions, the colleges. We have all these knowledge-based institutions in the Pioneer Valley that complement and coordinate very well with the schools we have in Worcester. There are opportunities for collaboration that would benefit both areas.”
Meanwhile, in the more rural areas of Hampshire and Franklin counties, agriculture remains a key component of the economy, and McGovern said this makes his seat on the Agriculture Committee more relevant and important. And while working to sustain and perhaps grow agriculture-related businesses, he wants to examine new business opportunities in some of these rural communities, including different options in manufacturing, reuse of the old mills still dominating the landscape, and bolstering tourism, much as Fall River has done through efforts to revitalize its waterfront district.
“It all begins with vision and thinking outside the box,” he said, referring specifically to finding new uses for old mills, but also to economic development in general. “There is a need for housing across the state, and maybe some of these old mills can be redeveloped for that purpose, but also for business development, a supermarket, light manufacturing, and more.”
When it comes to tourism, awareness of what this region and others have to offer, or lack thereof, is part of the problem — and the challenge moving forward, he said, adding that most other sections of the country do a much better job of promoting their tourism assets.
In each community, and with each initiative, the key is to have a plan, or specific strategic direction, said McGovern, returning once again to Worcester and Gateway Park.
“With that initiative, we all sat in a room together, had a conversation about what we were going to do, and then took assignments,” he recalled. “It takes a plan, and what Worcester was lacking was a vision; the ingredients were there to make incredible things happen — what was needed was vision and a plan.”

Summing Up
Those same ingredients are needed in many of the Western Mass. communities that McGovern now counts within his district. Helping put them together is one of the primary items on his to-do list, along with taking initiatives already in progress and moving them forward through partnerships.
“Most all of the challenges we’re facing are not going to be solved by the federal government alone, or the state government alone, or the local government alone, or the private sector alone,” he concluded. “It’s going to involve partnerships and collaborations, and I think I’ve been pretty good at those things.”
But perhaps the most pressing matter is to disprove the comments from that anonymous reader concerned about what a Worcester-based Congressman can do in the Pioneer Valley.
If he can succeed with the former, McGovern said, he knows that the latter will essentially take care of itself.

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