Home 2015 April
Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Loomis Communities’ annual spring reception will honor the founding board of directors of Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the senior living community on Thursday, May 21 at 4:30 p.m. at the retirement-community campus, 807 Wilbraham Road, Springfield.

The founding board of directors will receive the Elvira Whiting Ball Award for outstanding service to older adults. The reception will honor retired Michael Daly, Bruce Dewey, Jack Dill, Dr. Richard Flynn, John Gallup, Barbara Jefferson, Ronn Johnson, George Kuselias, David Longworth, John Mailhot, Keith McLean-Shinaman, Anthony Mott, Dr. Jill Russell, Scott Stearns Jr., J. Michael Wallace, Dr. Stephen Wittenberg, and deceased members Carl Breyer, Dr. Randolph Bromery, and John Mann.

The community opened in 1995 on the east campus of Springfield College on Lake Massasoit, the result of a collaboration between its founders, Baystate Health and Springfield College. When established, Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing became the first continuing-care retirement community in Springfield with independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing all on the same campus and under one roof.

According to David Scruggs, CEO of the Loomis Communities, “the establishment of the community 20 years ago was the result of a vision shared by leadership from Baystate Health and Springfield College, who were intent on building a first-of-its-kind retirement community in Springfield. There is no better way to honor these founders than with the Elvira Whiting Ball award, named after another visionary leader who, over 100 years ago, with a group of Holyoke women, established the first Loomis community to provide older adults a place to live ‘exempt from strife.’”

The award is presented annually to an individual or group for outstanding service to older adults who personify the spirit of Loomis’ founding leader.

The reception is open to the public. Tickets to the event are $35, with proceeds to benefit the nursing centers at Loomis House in Holyoke and Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing. Reservations can be made by calling Carol Constant, director of community engagement, at (413) 532-5325.

The spring reception sponsors include benefactor sponsors Mountain View Landscapes and Peoples Bank; sustaining sponsors Goss & McLain Insurance and Health New England; patron sponsors Lyon & Fitzpatrick and Smith Brothers Insurance; and platinum sponsors Easthampton Savings Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, O’Connell Care at Home, Retirement Dynamics, and Specialized Construction.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Effective May 1, STCU Credit Union is changing its name to Arrha Credit Union.

“To usher in the next era in financial services, we’ve evolved our name and our look. It’s all to provide the best, most innovative member experience ever,” the company explained in a statement. “We are excited to have a name that is reflective of the credit union we’ve become. While our name is changing, we are still the same strong credit union with the same board of directors, management, and employees.”

In 1929, STCU Credit Union was formed to serve the teachers of Greater Springfield. Since then, it has grown and expanded our membership to a much broader community.

“We’ve spent the past few years examining how to better serve all of our members and create a brand that truly represents who we are today,” the credit union noted. “Arrha, meaning ‘a pledge in earnest,’ is one of the oldest words in the English language and reflects our pledge to assist our members in reaching their financial goals by providing superior products and services in a personal manner.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank will present “Staying Ahead of the Hackers” on Wednesday, May 13 from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Center, 330 Whitney Ave., Holyoke.

The presentation is part of the bank’s 2015 Business Banking Seminar Series. This free seminar will focus on best practices in security to ensure that your small business does not become a victim to the latest security threats. Presenter Matthew Putvinski serves as director of the Information Technology Assurance Services group at Wolf & Co.

To join this workshop, register online at bit.ly/PBsignup by May 8. For questions on the 2015 Business Banking Seminar Series, e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 538-9500.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Having raised a half-million dollars on word of mouth alone, the Community First Fund is now publicly pushing to reach $1 million before the end of the year.

The fund is managed by Common Capital Inc., a nonprofit that finances and assists small businesses. The fund is comprised of loans by people in Western Mass. who utilize their savings to help launch or expand local businesses. Investors receive a 2% return over the three-year term of the loan and then have the option of rolling it back into the fund. An investor’s return is not tied to the repayment ability of Common Capital’s borrowers, but is a general obligation of the organization. The fund accepts loans ranging from $500 to $50,000.

“The key to creating more well-paying jobs and other opportunities is to put local money into the local economy,” said Chris Sikes, CEO of Common Capital, which has been financing small business for 25 years as well as providing hands-on help in accounting, human resources, marketing, and other business areas. “Much like we strive to buy from local farmers, we also see real, positive results when we partner with local businesses.”

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank has been named the Small Business Lender of the Quarter by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for the first quarter of fiscal year 2015.

During the SBA’s first quarter — Oct. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2014 — Berkshire had 22 SBA loan approvals in Massachusetts, tying it as the third-most-active lender out of 84 lenders. During fiscal year 2014, Berkshire had 26 7(a) loan approvals for small businesses in the Pioneer Valley and Berkshire County, totaling $2.139 million. Also, Berkshire was ranked 13th by the SBA across all of Massachusetts in its 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program in 2014.

“Congratulations to the entire Berkshire Bank team for being named our Small Business Lender of the First Quarter,” said Robert Nelson, Massachusetts SBA district director. “Our continued economic expansion is dependent on lenders such as Berkshire Bank supporting the small-business community — which is why we are so very happy to applaud the bank on this recognition.”

Berkshire Bank is a preferred SBA lender and is a participant in the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office Small Business Partnership Program, offering a full suite of financial services for small businesses.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — First responders are the ones who run into burning buildings and rush to help during natural disasters and other emergencies. Because they work in dangerous conditions, there’s a chance at the start of every shift that they won’t see the end of it. And, more often than not, they don’t have a will.

First responders often don’t think about the high risks inherent in their work, or the need for an estate plan in the event of their demise. It might sound paradoxical, but it’s true. But Caroline Murray, director and associate professor of Paralegal and Legal Studies at Elms College, is working to change that. Every spring, she hosts a workshop at the college, allowing students in her Wills class to offer free, attorney-supervised will-writing services to local heroes.

The event is associated with the Wills for Heroes Foundation, which originated after 9/11, when the lack of estate planning among most first responders became clear. The U.S. military offers soldiers free estate-planning documents — especially wills — but local first responders must pay for their own, and they can be expensive. “And, understandably, this is a topic most families do not want to think about, never mind discuss,” Murray said.

Wills for Heroes was founded in 2007 to create and execute free wills for first responders. Attorneys from around the country volunteer to participate in these events. This year, Murray and her class of about a dozen students will work with the West Springfield Fire Department. She and her class wanted to help local first responders, cementing community relations and also allowing them to focus on a specific group of heroes each year.

It’s an important service to offer firefighters. For example, in the U.S., 106 firefighters died in the line of duty in 2013, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Three-quarters of them died from emergency-related activities, half died from fire-scene activities, and 14 died while returning from or responding to emergencies. These deaths were unexpected and sudden, and if the firefighters died without wills in place, the families could have ended up with miles of red tape to walk while grieving.

It’s important to Murray’s students, too. Law firms generally prefer to hire paralegals with experience, she pointed out, so students must earn such experience in the classroom, or through voluntary clinics or internship opportunities. “The event helps paralegal students gain the valuable experience they need by creating and executing wills under the supervision of an attorney.”

It also forces them out of the classroom comfort zone and get a real, hands-on taste of estate planning, she added. “Several students [in previous years] claimed this was their favorite class because what they did made a real difference.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Merchants Bancshares Inc., the parent company of Merchants Bank, and NUVO Bank & Trust Co. jointly announced the signing of a definitive agreement pursuant to which Merchants will acquire NUVO for approximately $21.8 million in stock and cash, which represents $7.15 per share.

Headquartered in Springfield, NUVO is focused on providing business loans, deposits, and cash-management services to small and medium-sized businesses and individuals in Western Mass. At Dec. 31, 2014, NUVO reported approximately $153 million in assets, $139 million in loans, and $134 million in deposits. Merchants had approximately $1.7 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, 2014, with total shareholder equity of approximately $125.8 million.

“We are excited to enter the Greater Springfield market through a combination with NUVO Bank & Trust,” said Michael Tuttle, president and CEO of Merchants Bancshares. “The market has witnessed a great deal of change recently, the NUVO team is extremely experienced, and the growth opportunity is significant. We plan to invest in and grow the NUVO team and business. While operational areas will be combined, the value created in this merger will be more attributable to revenue growth than expense reduction. We look forward to welcoming the NUVO banking team to our Merchants family.”

Under the terms of the agreement, shareholders of NUVO may elect to receive either 0.2416 shares of Merchants common stock or $7.15 in cash for each share of NUVO common stock outstanding, subject to total consideration being comprised of approximately 75% stock and 25% cash. Holders of NUVO common-stock options will receive a cash payment for the difference between $7.15 and the exercise price of the option, while warrant holders of NUVO may either be cashed out in a similar fashion or receive an equivalent warrant to acquire Merchants stock. The merger price of $7.15 per share is equivalent to approximately 133% of NUVO’s tangible book value at Dec. 31, 2014 and 51.9 times NUVO’s last 12 months’ earnings.

The agreement has been approved by both institutions’ boards of directors. The closing is anticipated to occur during the fourth quarter of 2015, subject to approval by NUVO shareholders, receipt of required regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions. Merchants expects the transaction to be accretive to its earnings in the first full year of combined operations.

NUVO’s chairman, Donald Chase, is expected to join the boards of directors of both Merchants Bancshares Inc. and Merchants Bank. In addition, Merchants has entered into employment agreements with M. Dale Janes, NUVO’s CEO, and Jeffrey Sattler, NUVO’s president and chief loan officer. NUVO will remain a distinct brand and operate as a division of Merchants Bank.

“There is tremendous opportunity in our market, and we believe that we can best capitalize on it by leveraging the liquidity, expanded lending limits, lower-cost deposit base, and broader product range of a strong partner like Merchants,” Chase said. “Additionally, Merchants’ publicly traded stock and dividends will be attractive to our shareholders. We have admired Merchants for some time, and getting to know their team better has reinforced the fact that we share common values and a similar operating philosophy.”

Added Geoffrey Hesslink, president and CEO of Merchants Bank, “the NUVO banking team will be able to lead credit opportunities of greater size, close more aggregate volume, and fund the business at a lower cost of funds with our combined balance sheet. In addition, we will be able to provide their team additional products, including municipal banking and wealth and asset management, as well as expanded mortgage offerings, with which to serve their market while keeping their own unique operating brand.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The River Valley Counseling Center (RVCC), an affiliate of Holyoke Medical Center and member of Valley Health Systems, will hold its fourth annual 5K Run/1-Mile Walk fund-raiser on Saturday, June 13. Funds raised will support RVCC in providing mental-health and other supportive services to individuals, families, and groups in the Pioneer Valley.

The first 100 registrants for this year’s Run/Walk event for River Valley will receive a free T-shirt. The deadline for mail-in registration is Friday, June 5, with online registration accepted until Wednesday, June 11. An awards ceremony and festivities with food and entertainment will be held following the race, which will be held rain or shine. Download a registration at www.rvcc-inc.org or register online at www.accu-specracing.com.

This is RVCC’s premier fund-raising event and promotes the importance of exercise and wellness. “Research shows that people with mental illness have a lifespan 25 years shorter than that of the general population,” said Angela Lozano Callahan, fund-raising committee member and race co-chair. “There is a clear connection between mental and physical health, as sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, smoking, and side effects of medications, so often a part of mental illness, lead to chronic conditions, from heart disease to diabetes. Funds that are raised through our corporate sponsors and community members allow RVCC to connect residents to the services they need.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Hollister Insurance of Clinton, Mass. has acquired J.F. Conlon and Associates of Amherst.

J.F. Conlon has been a leading employee-benefits broker in Western Mass. for 20 years. Jim Conlon, president of J.F. Conlon and a former regional director with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, has plans to retire within a year of the transition, and Hollister President Matt Hollister has assumed the role of CEO for the overall business. April Williams, who has worked at J.F. Conlon for 15 years as a producer and account manager, has been promoted to regional manager and will head up the Amherst office.

The consolidated business gives Hollister Insurance a broader presence in the Massachusetts employee-benefits market, increases the number of plans offered, and adds significantly to the depth of experience in the brokerage staff. J.F. Conlon will continue to maintain the same close relationships with its customers while being able to offer additional support available through Hollister Insurance, such as human-resources support and benefit technology solutions.

Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donald Courtemanche noted that “J.F. Conlon and Associates has long been a strong partner of the Amherst Area Chamber. We wish Jim Conlon the very best in retirement, and are confident that the company is in great hands with April Williams at the helm. I also look forward to getting to know Matt Hollister and think that he will be a good resource for the community here in Amherst.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — What is emotional intelligence? Why is it important to leadership? Can it be learned? These and other questions will be explored in an interactive workshop, “Work of Leaders Essentials,” sponsored by Leadership Pioneer Valley and Bredenberg Associates. The event will be held at the Business Growth Center in the Springfield Tech Park on Friday, May 1 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. A networking lunch will follow.

The program is designed for seasoned and emerging leaders in business, government, education, and healthcare, as well as coaches and consultants. It will be presented by Ingrid Bredenberg, professor of Leadership and Management at Marlboro Graduate School and senior strategy coach with Bredenberg Associates. Online registration is available at workofleaders.eventbrite.com.

The program is based on more than six years of research into leadership best practices. Interviews with over 300 authors, consultants, and thought leaders in the field of leadership development, as well as analysis of millions of data points from 360-degree assessments of leaders, resulted in a book, The Work of Leaders, as well as a leadership-assessment tool. The tuition of $95 includes a personalized Work of Leaders assessment which must be completed prior to the event.

“Leaders need more than just vision. They need to be able to align people, processes, and projects to their organization’s purpose. And then they need to take action to make things happen. That’s the goal of this program,” said Lora Wondolowski, director of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

Added Clarissa Sawyer, program director for the Mass Bay Organization Development Learning Group, “with all the changes in business, policy, and education, leaders need to be forward-thinking, collaborative, and visionary. Leaders aren’t born; they’re educated. This program provides critical insights and strategies for new and seasoned leaders.”