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Daily News

BURLINGTON — John Myers, chairman of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Companies (AIM Mutual), has been named the 2015 Insurance Professional of the Year by the Insurance Library Assoc. of Boston. The award will be presented at a luncheon ceremony at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel on Oct. 16.

The Insurance Library Assoc. noted that Myers was selected for the honor because of “his dedication to the insurance industry and community at large.” Myers served as AIM Mutual’s chief executive for 19 years and was elected chairman of the board of directors in 2012. His insurance career has spanned more than 40 years.

During Myers’s tenure with AIM Mutual, he has worked to establish the company as an industry leader in the region, known for its contributions to workers’ compensation insurance legislation and workplace initiatives on behalf of employers and injured workers. AIM Mutual is now the second-largest workers’ compensation insurer in the Commonwealth and provides workers’ compensation coverage for 17,000 employers throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

Under Myers’s leadership, the AIM Mutual Insurance Companies have been consistently rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Co. for their financial strength and stable outlook and have been recognized for their innovative approach to the business.

Myers was elected to the governing committee of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau in 2004 and served as its chair in 2006. He has been a member of the Property Casualty Insurers Assoc. of America’s terrorism Risk Alternative Task Force since July 2007.

The Insurance Library Assoc. of Boston, founded in 1887, provides literature, information services, and professional education for the insurance industry and related interests. More information on its annual recognition award and this year’s recipient can be found at www.insurancelibrary.org.

Daily News

AMHERST — Massachusetts real gross domestic product grew at an estimated annual rate of 5.4% in the second quarter of 2015 according to the MassBenchmarks Current Economic Index, released today by MassBenchmarks, the journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

U.S. real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3%, according to the advance estimate of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Based on the latest available information, it’s estimated that, in the first quarter of 2015, the state economy expanded at a 2.1% annualized rate while the nation grew at a 0.6% annualized rate.

In the second quarter, the state’s economy rebounded strongly from the weather-induced slowdown of the first quarter, with robust growth in employment and spending. Massachusetts payroll employment expanded at a 3.1% annual rate in the second quarter, nearly twice as fast as in the first quarter, when employment grew at a 1.7% annualized rate. Nationally, payroll employment grew at a 1.7% annual rate in the second quarter, down from 2.2% in the first quarter. The state’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8% in March to 4.6% in June, while the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 5.3% during the same period. The state’s unemployment rate has reached pre-recession levels.

“The rising tide appears to finally be lifting the boats of the long-term unemployed, even though conditions for these workers remain difficult,” noted Dr. Alan Clayton-Matthews, MassBenchmarks senior contributing editor and associate professor of Economics and Public Policy at Northeastern University, who compiles and analyzes the Current and Leading Indexes.

The broader U-6 measure of unemployment, which includes part-time workers who want full-time work and those who are unemployed but marginally attached to the labor force, declined significantly in the second quarter. “For the 12-month period ending in June, the Massachusetts U-6 rate fell to 10.4%, a 0.6-percentage-point drop from the 12-month period ending in March,” he noted. “In June, Current Population Survey-based estimates put the Massachusetts U-6 rate at 9.7%. The corresponding U.S. rate in June was 10.5%.”

Massachusetts income and spending growth was also very strong in the second quarter. Based on withholding tax revenues, state wage and salary income in the second quarter grew at a 4.8% annual rate, following growth of 4.8% in the first quarter. Consumer and business spending on goods subject to the state’s regular sales and motor-vehicle sales tax increased dramatically in the aftermath of the snowiest winter on record. In the second quarter, spending grew at a whopping 19.3% annual rate, following 1.8% growth in the first quarter. The ability and willingness of households and businesses to spend reflects the underlying strength of the state economy and bodes well for future growth, the report asserts.

The MassBenchmarks Leading Economic Index for June is 4.8%, and the three-month average for April through June is 5.0%. The leading index is a forecast of the growth in the current index over the next six months, expressed as an annual rate. Thus, it indicates that the economy is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 4.8% over the next six months (through December 2015), suggesting that the state’s solid economic performance will continue through the rest of the year. It is projecting real state gross-product growth of 5.1% in the third quarter and 4.8% in the fourth quarter.

However, while the state economy appears to be in the midst of a solid economic expansion that positions the Commonwealth for solid future growth, risks to the outlook remain. Weak international economic conditions and geopolitical uncertainty continue to weigh heavily on the economic outlook for Massachusetts and the nation. The strong dollar, combined with sluggish growth in Europe and slowing growth in China, has had a significant impact on state and national exports. For the first five months of this year, Massachusetts merchandise exports are down 14.0% as compared to the first five months of 2014, while U.S. merchandise exports are down 5.2% during the same time period.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD, CHICOPEE — Berkshire Community College (BCC) and Elms College in Chicopee have signed a memorandum of understanding allowing qualified BCC human services graduates, as well as graduates with associate degrees from other accredited institutions, to complete Elms College’s bachelor’s-degree program in social work at BCC’s main campus on West Street in Pittsfield.

BCC President Ellen Kennedy and Elms College President Mary Reap originally signed an agreement regarding the off-campus program for social work in May 2013. Classes previously offered in Lee will shift to BCC’s main campus starting next month. Students will work with BCC advisors as they complete their associate degrees at BCC and then with Elms advisors as they transition into the bachelor’s-degree completion programs.

“We’re pleased to welcome Elms College to our Pittsfield campus,” said Kennedy. “We know that students are the most successful when they have the flexibility to balance studies with work and personal commitments. Having top-notch educators from Elms College at our campus offering weekend classes will most certainly benefit students interested in earning a bachelor’s degree in social work close to home.”

Added Reap, “social work is a growing, vitally important field with expanding job opportunities for Western Massachusetts. We’re pleased to partner with Berkshire Community College to set students on the path to bachelor’s degrees leading to rewarding careers, empowering them to change lives for the better in the Berkshire community.”

In addition to social work, Elms will also offer two online degree-completion programs as part of the memorandum of understanding, including a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology assistant and a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management.

Classes taught by Elms College faculty will be held at BCC on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Students who complete coursework in 10 eight-week sessions over a 20-month period will be awarded a bachelor of science degree in social work. Two cohorts, consisting of new and returning students, will begin classes Aug. 29.

To qualify for transfer to Elms or enrollment into the off-campus program, BCC students must have earned an associate degree and have a minimum grade-point average of 2.5.

The two institutions originally signed an articulation agreement for social work majors in 2004. The first off-campus social work cohort launched in August 2013 and graduated this past May.

BCC currently has approximately 50 transfer-articulation agreements with colleges and universities throughout the country. Examples include Clarkson University, Colorado State University, Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Russell Sage College, Southern Vermont College, the University at Albany, the College of Saint Rose, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. BCC also has MassTransfer agreements with all Massachusetts state colleges and universities, including UMass Amherst and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

In addition to BCC, Elms College has a number off-campus agreements with institutions — including Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, and Springfield Technical Community College — in dozens of programs, including early care and education, management and marketing, social work, nursing, accounting, and psychology.

For more information about BCC’s human-services program, visit www.berkshirecc.edu/humanservices or e-mail Audrey Ringer at [email protected].

For information about Elms College’s social work program, e-mail Maureen Holland at [email protected]. For information about Elms College’s social work degree-completion program, contact Wanda Banks at [email protected] or (413) 313-4287.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield Financial Inc., the holding company for Westfield Bank, reported net income of $1.4 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, compared to $1.3 million, or $0.07 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2014. For the six months ended June 30, 2015, net income was $2.7 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, compared to $3.0 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, for the same period in 2014.

Among other selected financial highlights for second quarter of 2015:

• Total loans increased $73.3 million, or 10.7%, to $759.4 million at June 30, 2015 compared to $686.1 million at June 30, 2014. This was primarily due to increases in residential loans of $47.3 million, commercial and industrial loans of $23.4 million, and commercial real-estate loans of $2.1 million.

• Securities increased $20.7 million, or 4.2%, to $516.7 million at June 30, 2015, compared to $496.0 million at June 30, 2014. On a sequential-quarter basis, securities were relatively flat at June 30, 2015, compared to $515.2 million at March 31, 2015.

• Net interest and dividend income increased $78,000 to $7.8 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2015 compared to $7.7 million for the comparable 2014 period. On a sequential-quarter basis, net interest and dividend income increased $189,000 for the quarter ended June 30, 2015, compared to the quarter ended March 31, 2015.

• The bank prepaid $10 million in Federal Home Loan Bank borrowings with a weighted average rate of 2.77% and incurred a pre-payment expense of $278,000 in the second quarter of 2015 in order to eliminate a higher-cost liability. Net gains on the sales of securities of $276,000 were used to partially offset the pre-payment expense.

• Non-interest expense increased $334,000 to $6.9 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2015 compared to the second quarter of 2014. On a sequential-quarter basis, non-interest expense increased by $154,000 for the quarter ended June 30, 2015, compared to $6.7 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2015. The efficiency ratio, excluding non-core items, was 76.1% for the second quarter of 2015, compared to 78.1% for the quarter ended March 31, 2015.

“Over the past twelve months, we have seen significant momentum in our efforts to grow both the loan portfolio and our deposit base,” said President and CEO James Hagan. “With loans increasing 10.7% year over year, we are demonstrating our commitment to growing our core customer franchise.

“We are also pleased to announce that Christopher Fager, assistant vice president, Commercial Lending, has recently joined Westfield Bank’s commercial team,” Hagan added. “Christopher brings more than six years of banking experience and is based in our commercial-lending office in downtown Springfield, which was established in August 2014.”

Finally, Hagan noted, “we continue to see success in Westfield Bank’s recent market expansion into Northern Connecticut. Our two Connecticut offices now have over $36.6 million in deposits. The Granby, Connecticut office has been open just over two years, and Enfield, Connecticut opened in November 2014. The customer base in the Connecticut market is very receptive to our brand of banking, and our objective is to continue to develop loan and deposit relationships.”

Daily News

WORCESTER — Fallon Health, a not-for-profit healthcare-services organization, announced it is strengthening its commitment to the people it serves in Western Mass.

Members of its NaviCare program — a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan and Senior Care Options program — now have access to Baycare Health Partners, a physician-hospital organization serving five Baystate Health hospitals and more than 200 medical practices in the Pioneer Valley.

Fallon members enrolled in the plan’s NaviCare program are able to access Baycare’s participating facilities and physicians including Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Noble Hospital, and Baystate Wing Hospital.

“Fallon has a high regard for Baycare Health Partners’ commitment to improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and sustainability of healthcare in the community,” said Patrick Hughes, president and CEO of Fallon Health. “We’re pleased to partner with them to increase accessibility to high-quality healthcare for one of the most vulnerable populations we serve — frail elders with complex care needs.”

NaviCare is a unique product for adults age 65 and over. It combines in one package all Medicare and Medicaid benefits, plus additional benefits and services designed to promote independence and quality of life. NaviCare is available to those ages 65 and over who are enrolled in MassHealth Standard. For those who qualify, NaviCare is available at a $0 premium with $0 co-payments. All healthcare is coordinated by a team of doctors, specialists, nurses, and social workers who develop a plan of care specific to each member.

“For more than 25 years, Fallon has remained committed to helping older adults with complex care needs to live as independently as possible in the communities in which they are comfortable,” said Richard Burke, president of Senior Care Services and Government Programs. “Each time we expand our NaviCare network, we’re able to provide more options that can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of older adults and their families.”

In addition to NaviCare, Fallon offers other products and programs for Medicare beneficiaries in Western Mass. and throughout the state, including a variety of plan choices for its Medicare Advantage product, called Fallon Senior Plan. Fallon also offers a Program of all-inclusive care for the elderly, called Summit ElderCare.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Organizers of the 2015 Western Mass. Business Expo, presented by Comcast Business, have extended the deadline for submitting proposals for educational seminars to be presented at the annual show. Proposals will now be accepted through Friday, July 31.

This year’s event, set for Nov. 4 at the MassMutual Center, is expected to attract more than 2,000 business professionals. The show will feature a number of seminars to be presented during the course of the day in three tracks: Sales & Marketing, Business Management, and Hottest Trends. Presentations should be 45 minutes in length, be interactive, and give business owners and managers insight and actionable ideas to take back to their office or plant. Proposals may be sent to [email protected].

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, an environmental engineering and consulting firm, recently hired Cristina Perez to lead and expand its asset-management services for the firm’s clients.

A civil and environmental engineer with more than 15 years of consulting experience, she has more than nine years of experience with infrastructure asset management, capital-improvement planning, and geographic information systems (GIS). Perez will work primarily out of Tighe & Bond’s new Westwood, Mass. office.

Perez has consulted with numerous public and private clients on asset-management, GIS, facilities-management, pavement-management, sustainability, and climate-change projects. She leverages her background in civil engineering for designing and architecting targeted asset-management solutions for her clients.

“We are happy to welcome Cris to our growing team of experts,” said David Pinsky, president and CEO of Tighe & Bond. “Her expertise will benefit our communities and clients greatly as they become increasingly focused on asset management to prioritize and properly budget improvements within the constraints of limited funding.”

Perez earned her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Tufts University. She received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums have announced the schedule for the final two weeks of its annual Summer Spectacular Family Series, which runs through Aug. 14.

Every Monday through Friday, families visiting the Quadrangle will find a schedule packed with hands-on art and science activities, live reptile demonstrations, and family entertainment for all ages. All programs and performances are free with admission unless otherwise noted. The 2015 premier sponsor is MassMutual; the Summer Spectacular is underwritten by the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Charles H. Hall Foundation.

On Friday, Aug. 7, the museums will offer free general admission to all visitors as part of the Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday program. This year, 70 museums and cultural institutions across Massachusetts will participate in the program. Since its inception in 2009, Free Fun Friday has drawn more than 800,000 visitors to venues throughout the Commonwealth, with more than 165,000 people taking part last year alone. The free admission on Aug. 7 does not include planetarium tickets or special exhibit fees, and the museums are not able to accommodate groups on Free Fun Fridays.

The centerpiece of the six-week series is the array of top-tier family performers from around the Northeast, appearing in the Davis Auditorium every Wednesday through Friday at 11 a.m. This year’s slate includes a mini-residency by the Puppet People, who will perform every Thursday during the Spectacular, as well as shows by family favorites like the Nields and a host of others. A full schedule of performers is posted at www.springfieldmuseums.org. Featured performers during the final two weeks of the Spectacular include:

• Wednesday, Aug. 5: Jeff Danger Science Ranger performs “The Physical Science Show”;

• Thursday, Aug. 6: The Puppet People perform “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”;

• Friday, Aug. 7: Keith Johnson presents “Bubbleology: The Secret World of Bubbles” (two shows, 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.);

• Wednesday, Aug. 12: “Folk Rock Family Music” by the Nields;

• Thursday, Aug. 13: The Puppet People perform “The Elephant Child”; and

• Friday, Aug. 14: Magician Steve Lechner presents “The Cabinet of Scientific Curiosities.”

Fun and educational presentations are offered every week during the Spectacular, starting with live animal demonstrations by Forest Park’s Zoo on the Go program from 1 to 2 p.m. every Monday. More live animal programs featuring reptiles from the Springfield Science Museum’s Solutia Live Animal Center take place on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m.

Young visitors to the Science Museum during the Family Series can enjoy science, math, and technology activities every Monday through Friday at the Curiosity Corner, presented in conjunction with the exhibit “Curious George: Let’s Get Curious!” (additional fee applies). Fans of Curious George can meet the mischievous monkey on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (check Welcome Center for location).

The six-week Spectacular also features activity and dress-up stations available daily from noon to 4 p.m. in the Hasbro Games Art Discovery Center at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, and a hands-on History Cart with artifacts from years past at the Wood Museum of Springfield History on Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m. There are also daily planetarium shows (additional fee required) and impromptu science demonstrations by the Roving Scientist at the museum’s Family Science Adventures Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

General admission is free for members and Springfield residents with proof of address, and covers admission to all four Springfield Museums and most Summer Spectacular activities. General admission is $18 for adults, $12 for seniors and college students, $9.50 for children 3-17, and free for children under 3 and museum members. For more information, call (413) 263-6800, ext. 322.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Holyoke Community College campus will be swarming with police activity Aug. 7, as law enforcement personnel provide demonstrations of their work for HCC’s Criminal Justice Academy, concluding two months of summer programming for area youth.

The Criminal Justice Academy Field day will cap a one-week intensive program designed to introduce area middle-schoolers to crime scene investigation and forensic science.

Field Day will include demonstrations from the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) bomb squad, the Chicopee police K-9 unit, and, weather permitting, a Massachusetts State Police helicopter.

Retired Granby Police Chief Lou Barry, HCC Class of 1973, runs the CJ academy, with assistance from HCC staff and other local police personnel.

In addition to the CJ Academy, HCC’s Summer Youth programming continues this week (July 27-31) with Youth Soccer, Lego Robotics, Youth Fencing, and Baking and next week (Aug. 3-7) with Science, Math and Technology for Girls, American Sign Language and Deaf Culture, and Beginning Web Design.

Daily News

HADLEY — The Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, and Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce will host an informational session of the new earned-sick-time law on August 6 at the Hadley Farms Meeting House, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The Attorney General’s Office is presenting information sessions to educate employers and employees about the new measure, which went into effect July 1. These sessions, offered statewide and online, will provide guidance on implementation, explain employers’ and employees’ rights and responsibilities, and provide opportunities to get specific questions answered.

Information on the law may be found on the Attorney General’s Earned Sick Time web page: www.mass.gov/ago/earnedsicktime. This informational session is free and open to the public.