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Difference Makers

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2019 Difference Makers
Thursday, March 28, 2019
5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
The Log Cabin, Holyoke

This program, initiated in 2009, is a celebration of individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. As previous classes have shown, there are many ways to do this: through work within the community on one or many initiatives to improve quality of life; through success in business, public service, or education; through contributions that inspire others to get involved; through imaginative efforts to help solve one or more societal issues; or through a combination of the above.

Our 2019 Difference Makers will be announced in the Feb. 4, 2019 issue of BusinessWest

Tickets are $75 per person/$750 for a table of 10.

Purchase Tickets Below:

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40 Under 40

40under40SMALLBusinessWest is now accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2019, a celebration of young business and civic leaders in the Western Mass., and an undertaking in which our readership will play a pivotal role. Indeed, the process of selecting this region’s 40 Under Forty begins with nominations. And we urge you be thorough, because 40 Under Forty is a nomination-driven process; the background material submitted on a given individual is the primary source of information to be weighed by the judges who will score the candidates.

Please take a few minutes and help us identify the region’s 40 Under Forty. For more information about 40 under Forty >>Go Here

Save the Date

The selected individuals will be profiled in the April 15th edition of BusinessWest and celebrated at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala on June 20, 2019.
For more information call (413) 781-8600

About the nomination form:

• Candidates should have achieved professional success and actively volunteer for civic and/or non-profit organizations.
• Only nominations submitted to BusinessWest on
this form will be considered.
• Fill out the nomination form completely.
• Photocopies are acceptable.
• Supporting information (i.e. résumé) may be sent to [email protected] Please include nominee’s name in subject line.
Deadline is February 15, 2019. No exceptions.
• Nominees must be under 40 as of April 1, 2019

Fill out the nomination form completely.
  • As of March 1
  • (job responsibilities, special projects, business-related affiliations)
  • (board involvement in community, state, or national organization, including trade associations)
  • (spouse, children if applicable)
  • Nominated by (your information):

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Seven individuals and one team will be inducted into the Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2019. They include Justine Siegal, Dana LeVangie, Karl Oliveira, Mike Laga, Jim Jachym, Mark Belanger, Candy Cummings, and the 2018 Pittsfield Little League team.

The class will be inducted at the Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, presented by Westfield Bank, on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at the La Quinta Inn and Suites Ballroom, 100 Congress St., Springfield.

The keynote speaker for the evening’s ceremonies will be Siegal, president and founder of Baseball for All, a nonprofit organization that empowers women to play, coach, and lead in baseball. Siegal became the first female coach of a Major League Baseball team in 2015, when the Oakland Athletics invited her to be a guest instructor for two weeks in the instructional league in Arizona.

This year’s class is the sixth since the inaugural banquet in 2014. Since its inception, 35 individuals and four teams who have represented and served the baseball community of Western Mass. have been honored.

Tickets for the banquet are $50, or $450 for a table of 10. Dinner and dessert are included. To purchase tickets, call (413) 533-1100 or visit valley-blue-sox.ticketleap.com/2019-hof.

Daily News

AGAWAM — Starting Jan. 1, farmers in Western Mass. are invited to apply for Local Farmer Awards up to $2,500 toward equipment and infrastructure projects to help them complete in the marketplace.

The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and with the support of other funders, is entering the fifth year of the awards program, which has helped more than 125 farmers carry out a total of 188 projects. 

“Big Y has been partnering with and supporting local farmers since we began over 80 years ago,” said Big Y president and CEO Charles D’Amour. “Our partnership with the Grinspoon Foundation provides one more way we help the local growers to thrive in our community.”

Some examples of how the awards have been used include a high-efficiency vegetable washer, a walk-in cooler aging room, an egg washer, high tunnel irrigation, electric fencing, and a milkplan bulk tank. Philanthropist and project founder Harold Grinspoon noted that “farmers don’t typically ask for help. They are genuinely appreciative of these awards and use the money in creative ways for projects to help their businesses.” 

To be eligible, farms must have gross sales of $10,000 or above and either be a member of Berkshire Grow or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) or reside in one the four Western Mass. counties. Berkshire Grown and CISA share their passion for local farms by providing ongoing guidance and help with promotion of the of the Local Farmer Awards.

 The deadline for applying is Thursday, Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Munich Haus will host its signature Game Feast events in the first quarter of 2019. The Game Feast is a buffet-style celebration that takes place in the upstairs banquet hall at the Munich Haus. The event will feature carving stations for venison, bison, elk, and mountain goat, as well as a buffet featuring kangaroo, alligator, and all of the Munich Haus favorites.

Game Feasts will be held on the following Saturdays at 6 p.m.: Jan. 19, Feb. 23, March 23, and April 27.

“We are happy to announce new Game Feast dates for our patrons,” said Patrick Gottschlicht, owner of the Munich Haus. “We have been selling them out lately and want to make sure everyone gets a chance to experience one. This is probably the most unique assortment of game at an event in the Valley.”

Tickets are $55 per person and can be purchased on the Munich Haus website or by calling (413) 594-8788.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — The Western Massachusetts chapter of Business Among Moms will host its January event on Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at 396 Main St., Easthampton.

The exercise mindset of ‘no excuses’ tends to have the opposite effect on women. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy set in, creating obstacles for reaching goals, which hinders their success both personally and in business.

As a personal trainer, business owner, and mother of two, Michelle Crean knows the demands on mothers and how important it is when setting goals — whether it be for health, family, or business — to understand how to not let setbacks derail one’s momentum. Crean will talk about how reframing your exercise mindset can help shape your vision for yourself and your business in the new year.

To register, click here.

Daily News

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group announced its ownership of the Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley dealership, formerly Pioneer Valley Volvo.

“This is a brand that we’ve been looking at for a long time because it fits in well with the other manufacturers we have in the group, plus it’s a great location, and it’s a perfect size for us,” said Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group. “We’re really attracted to Volvo and everything it stands for in terms of luxury and convenience it provides to customers, the value of the brand, and the safety of the vehicle.”

She added that Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will bring amenities that all TommyCar Auto Group dealerships offer, including Click.Drive.Buy, a new way to buy a car online; TommyCard Rewards, through which customers can earn 15% back of every dollar they spend; and efforts to support the local community; the company has contributed more than $4 million to local organizations, schools, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“Our focus moving forward is really going to be on customer satisfaction and convenience,” Cosenzi said.

Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will commemorate the new ownership with an “Eat.Meet. Greet” event on Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Customers can get an early look at the long-awaited 2019 Volvo S60, hors d’ouevres from Seth Mias Catering, cocktails from Hitchcock Brewing, and giveaways. For more information on the event, visit www.volvocarspioneervalley.com.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance sponsored 25 children in need this holiday season and raised $5,000 for the 2018 Holiday Bear Project. 

For 12 straight years, Smith Brothers’ team members donated money and time for this annual gift-giving program for needy public-school children. Team members individually sponsored a child, donated money, and coordinated company fundraising activities. Hundreds of gifts were purchased and wrapped for students ranging in age from 5 to 17.

More than 10,000 public-school students have benefited from the holiday program since the Holiday Bear Project began in 1998.

“All of us at Smith Brothers worked together as a group of passionate helpers to raise money, give of our time, have fun helping kids, and give back to our community. Helping others is our big purpose, throughout the year and especially during the holiday season,” said Joe Smith, president and CEO of Smith Brothers.

The Smith Brothers team also conducted a toy drive for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a food collection for a local food bank.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the eligible candidates for the class of 2019, including the addition of a new direct-elect category for women veterans. Click here for the full list of eligible nominees.

The women veterans direct-elect committee aims to recognize the historical greats of the women’s game who may be overshadowed by those in the contemporary women’s game, such as nominees from the WNBA or the present-day college game. Those considered must be retired from the game for 35 years or more and may be a player, coach, contributor, or team. Direct-elect committees were developed by the hall’s board of governors to ensure the election process is fair and equitable to all constituencies. Longstanding direct-elect categories still in consideration include early African-American pioneers, international, contributors, and men veterans.

A press conference announcing the finalists from the North American and women’s committee for the class of 2019 will be held during NBA All-Star Weekend, which is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 15 in Charlotte, N.C. The entire class of 2019, including those selected by the direct-elect committees, will be unveiled during the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis. Enshrinement festivities will take place in Springfield on Sept. 5-7.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — In Puerto Rico, before Hurricane Maria forced thousands to flee the devastated island, Maria Crespo Santos had been working as a medical technician in a pathology laboratory and blood bank. 

“I like to work with people,” she said recently. “I like to work in the medical field.”

The storm, however, had caused too much damage, and, like so many others, she left.

“It was horrible,” she said. “I don’t live in Puerto Rico; I survive in Puerto Rico.”

Crespo Santos, 58, moved to Western Mass. about a year ago. She now lives with her sister in Chicopee and works in retail, but thanks to a Holyoke Community College ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) program for Puerto Rican evacuees, she is on the road back to a career in the medical field. 

She was one of more than two dozen students recognized for completing the five-month ESOL program. With her improved English skills, Crespo Santos has already been accepted into a medical assistant training program at HCC that begins in February.

“It’s a pleasure and an honor to be part of this group,” she said at a Dec. 20 celebration that included a feast of traditional Puerto Rican food. “The teachers and advisers have a commitment to us, and I don’t quit. I have to follow my dreams. Follow my goals. I have challenges, but I try very hard.”

The Puerto Rican New Arrivals Program started July 23 and concluded Dec. 20 with a recognition ceremony and feast at HCC’s Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center (PAFEC) in downtown Holyoke. The HCC division of Business and Community Services offered the free ESOL program specifically for residents of Puerto Rico who left the island after Hurricane Maria and relocated to Western Mass.

Classes were held Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and funded through a National Dislocated Worker Grant administered by the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board in partnership with the MassHire Holyoke and MassHire Springfield career centers.

The program focused on much more than just English language skills, however. Students received lessons in computer literacy at the Gill Technology Center on the first floor of PAFEC, and they received job-search and résumé-development support from advisers at HCC and counselors at the MassHire career centers. 

Community integration and civic engagement was also part of the curriculum. Guest lecturers included state Rep. Aaron Vega and Holyoke mayor Alex Morse, who provided lessons on state and local government. Classes took field trips to the Holyoke Public Library, the Nuestras Raices farm, and Springfield Museums. 

The students came in with different levels of English-language skills, and they are heading in different directions. Some have found jobs; others will continue to participate in HCC’s regular, free ESOL classes; while some, like Crespo Santos, have enrolled in one of HCC’s workforce-training programs. Many have expressed an interested in continuing their education as students at HCC.

“I admire you so much for focusing on your next steps,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “Our purpose at Holyoke Community College is to serve the community, and you are part of our community. Thanks for being part of this, and as you move on, we hope you’ll think about the skills you need for the jobs you’re looking for and just know we are here to help.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced today that the City of Springfield filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, board members, and executives who caused the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic.

The civil complaint was filed in Hampden Superior Court on Dec. 18. The complaint alleges that Springfield, along with many other communities, is currently experiencing a stark increase in the number of residents who have become addicted to prescription opioids and heroin that has caused an increase in opioid overdoses. The complaint references a report that prescription opioids are now known to be the “gateway” drug to heroin; approximately 80% of current heroin users got their start with prescription opioids.

According to the complaint, unlike any other epidemic, the opioid epidemic is not natural, nor typical, but largely man-made. It has been created, fueled, and continues to expand by the persistent unlawful conduct of the defendant pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmaceutical wholesale distributors.

Echoing the allegations in the complaint, Sarno stated, “A pharmaceutical manufacturer should never place its desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers. Drug manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are accompanied by full and accurate instructions and warnings to guide prescribing doctors and other healthcare providers in making treatment decisions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have legal duties to tell the truth when marketing their drugs and to ensure that their marketing claims are supported by science and medical evidence. A pharmaceutical distributor of controlled substances has a legal duty to conduct its business lawfully, carefully, and in a manner that does not irresponsibly and unreasonably saturate a community with opioids.  Executives of a pharmaceutical company, have a legal obligation to ensure that their company conducts itself in a manner compliant with the law that is designed to protect rather than harm patients. Defendants broke these simple rules.” 

Springfield’s complaint was filed in conjunction with similar actions brought by Haverhill, Framingham, Gloucester, Salem, Lynnfield, and Wakefield, and the City of Worcester, all represented by Scott+Scott. Partner Judy Scolnick of Scott+Scott said, “we are honored to have been selected to represent Springfield in this important lawsuit. The dedicated employees of Springfield are doing all they can to try to ameliorate the devastation left in the wake of the defendant manufacturers’ and distributors’ greed-driven scheme to increase the sale of opioid pills.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm Bacon Wilson announced that attorney Christopher D. Pierson has joined the firm as counsel, together with associate Attorneys Ryan K. O’Hara and Elizabeth T. Mone.

Pierson is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully tried numerous cases to verdict in courts across Massachusetts. His practice encompasses all aspects of civil litigation, including commercial disputes, individual matters, and personal injury. He is a graduate of Northeastern University Law School and Gettysburg College.

O’Hara is an associate with the firm’s litigation team, where much of his work is focused on contract and business matters, land use litigation, and accidents and injuries. Prior to joining Bacon Wilson, O’Hara spent one year clerking for Justice C. Jeffrey Kinder of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Ryan graduated summa cum laude from Western New England University School of Law, and received his B.A. from Tufts University.

Mone, known as Liza, is an associate in Bacon Wilson’s estates and probate department, where she works on matters related to estate and asset planning, trusts, long-term care planning, and matters of guardianship/conservatorship. Prior to joining Bacon Wilson, she worked as a staff attorney for the New Hampshire Public Defender. Liza graduated magna cum laude from Boston College Law School, and received her B.A. from Middlebury College. She is licensed to practice in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Daily News

WESTBOROUGH  The Mass. Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) has formally approved an award of $2.2 million to Comcast to support the construction of a broadband network in the town of Worthington.

The grant, which was approved by both the MassTech Executive Committee and by the MBI Board of Directors, followed a majority vote at Worthington’s town meeting in May choosing Comcast and supporting the construction of its advanced fiber network to deliver broadband to the town, including approval of a project coverage map. Comcast and Worthington also signed a formal Cable Franchise Agreement on Dec. 11. The proposed broadband network will deliver expanded connectivity to over 96% of Worthington’s residential and business premises once the project is complete.

Under the grant agreement, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will provide an award of $2,213,809 from the Last Mile program, funds which will supplement Comcast’s capital investment in the construction of the Worthington network. The MBI will utilize Worthington’s original Last Mile allocation of $1,070,000, with the remaining funds coming from additional investments from both the Commonwealth and the town, utilizing an agreement which will allow the town to contribute year over year without having to use municipal bonds.

“The Last Mile program has made great progress in identifying and funding projects that will help close the connectivity gaps in these towns, through public-private partnerships like this, and through the Commonwealth’s support for municipal-owned networks in 20-plus towns,” said Governor Charlie Baker. 

As part of the grant agreement, the Commonwealth provided an initial disbursement of $20,000 for Comcast to complete field surveys in Worthington to determine which of the town’s residential premises were serviceable, helping identify the target of 96 percent of the total residential premises along public roads in the town. Following that assessment, Comcast presented its findings to the Worthington Select Board, which reviewed and approved the preliminary coverage maps, leading to the official signing of the Cable Television License Agreement between the town and Comcast. Under all public/private awards in the Last Mile program, local approval is a key step to state funds being awarded.

Daily News

BusinessWest is currently accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2019. The deadline for nominations in Feb. 15.

Launched in 2007, the program recognizes rising stars in the four counties of Western Mass. Nominations, which should be detailed in nature, should list an individual’s accomplishments within their profession as well as their work within the community. Nominations can be completed online by visiting www.businesswest.com, clicking on ‘Our Events,’ and then‘40 Under Forty.’

Nominations will be weighed by a panel of judges. The selected individuals will be profiled in the April 29 issue of BusinessWest, and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala on June 20 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

Daily News

AMHERST — Anne Massey, professor and Ruth L. Nelson Chair of Business at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, has been named dean of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. The appointment of Massey, who built her career at Indiana University, was made by John McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. 

“Anne Massey is an excellent choice to lead the Isenberg School,” McCarthy said. “Not only is she a leading scholar in information systems, but her varied senior leadership experience at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington makes her uniquely qualified to take Isenberg into its next chapter.”

Massey, the Isenberg School’s first female dean, succeeds Mark Fuller, who served in the position from 2009 to 2018 and is now vice chancellor for Advancement at UMass Amherst. She will assume her new duties in August. Isenberg is currently led by interim Dean Tom Moliterno.

“I am very excited to be part of a school with so much momentum and energy, and to join a diverse and vibrant research campus like UMass Amherst,” Massey said. 

At Wisconsin, Massey served briefly as dean of the Business school, and she has been leading a collaboration between the schools of Business, Engineering and Human Ecology with a focus on creating a new master of science degree in design and innovation that will launch in 2020.

Her efforts to develop cross-disciplinary programs started during her 22-year tenure at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, where she recently served as founding co-chair of the Intelligent Systems Engineering Program in the School of Informatics and Computing. In that role, she collaborated with faculty from that school and Kelley as well as the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the Maurer School of Law to design and implement a new undergraduate curriculum.

In 2012, Massey worked with Indiana University colleagues to create the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology, the nation’s first large, interdisciplinary initiative to support students, faculty, staff, and alumni in embracing technology across the university. “The center reflects my keen interest in making and leading relationships to advance research collaborations, education, and community building,” she said.

Massey also focuses on collaborations outside of academia. She spent six years during her time at Kelley serving as executive director for Information Management Affiliates, an industry-university cooperative involving more than 20 businesses and nonprofits.

Massey’s academic positions at Indiana University and Kelley included associate vice president for University Academic Affairs, associate vice provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, chair of Doctoral Programs, and founding chair of the Information Systems department. She has received several awards for teaching undergraduate and graduate business courses, including the Indiana University board of trustees’ Distinguished Teaching Award.

Her primary research focuses on innovation processes and strategies and the role of technology as an enabler of collaborative work. Her research has garnered federal, foundation, and industry funding, and her articles have been published in leading academic journals. Massey’s professional honors include being ranked in the top 2.5% of all information-systems researchers publishing in high-impact journals.

Massey earned her bachelor’s degree in management, a master’s degree in industrial engineering, and a Ph.D. in decision sciences from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Upon the passing last week of Audrey Geisel, widow of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the Springfield Museums remembered her as a champion of her late husband’s work and as a generous philanthropist. That generosity has had a deep and lasting impact on the Springfield Museums.

Following the death of Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss — in 1991, his wife, Audrey, authorized the Springfield Museums to create the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. More than 4 million people have visited the attraction since it opened in 2002. The sculpture garden — and its many visitors — inspired the creation of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, said Springfield Museums President and CEO Kay Simpson.

“The number-one request after the sculptures were installed was for a Dr. Seuss museum,” Simpson noted. “Audrey Geisel was integral to the Sculpture Garden, stepping forward with a $1 million donation that kicked off a major fundraising effort for the project. And she was also in full support of creating The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, granting us permissions to use Dr. Seuss assets. Audrey helped make it all happen. She wanted to honor Ted’s Springfield roots. Audrey was a great friend to the museums, and we are saddened by her passing.”

Audrey Geisel had a special relationship with Springfield. Not long after her marriage to Ted in 1968, the couple flew to Springfield to visit Ted’s father and oversee his move to a nursing home. It was her first visit to the city that had nurtured the creative genius of the man she had so recently married.

Close to 20 years later, Audrey and Ted returned to Springfield in 1986 to see an exhibition of his work that had been mounted at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. The exhibition included sketches and drawings from 14 of his books, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which is based on a real street in Springfield. The Springfield City Schools had launched “Seussamania,” a three-month program in reading and creative writing, and Ted promised to appear as part of the festivities. Ted and Audrey walked down Mulberry Street, and then-Mayor Richard Neal took them on a tour through Forest Park, where Ted’s father had been the long-time superintendent. Neal also presented Ted with a special memento: a weathered sign reading Geisel Grove, which children had found high in a tree near the Forest Park picnic grove frequented by the family in Ted’s youth and named in his honor. The sign now hangs in a gallery on the second floor of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.

During that time of Dr. Seuss birthday celebrations in 1986, David Starr, then chair of the Springfield Museums, sat next to Ted Geisel at a dinner and a struck up a friendship. Later, Starr proposed that a sculpture garden be created in Ted’s memory on the grounds of the Springfield Museums. Although Geisel initially demurred, Starr prevailed over time, and Ted agreed to help with this venture. An economic downturn delayed the project, and Ted died before the project was re-started.

Audrey took up the cause together with then-Springfield Museums President Joe Carvalho. Audrey Geisel stepped forward with a $1 million donation to jump-start the fundraising campaign. Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Audrey’s daughter, was chosen from among 35 other sculptors for her talent and for her ability to stay true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss’ original work. On May 31, 2002, six and a half years later, the sculpture garden opened to tremendous fanfare with Audrey, Lark, and many family members in attendance. 

Fifteen years later, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss opened its doors. Audrey’s daughters — Dimond-Cates and Leagrey Dimond — stepped forward to donate many of Ted’s personal items, including his drawing desk and chair, original artwork, and rare memorabilia, to the museum. Since the museum opened, the Springfield Museums have doubled attendance, and the project has generated a more than $16 million impact on the city of Springfield.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Due to the lapse of appropriations and the subsequent shutdown of the federal government, Springfield Armory National Historic Site is closed for the safety of visitors and park resources. 

Many other national park sites across the country will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures. Park roads, lookouts, trails, and open-air memorials will remain accessible to visitors, but emergency and rescue services will be limited.

Visit www.nps.gov and select “Find a Park” for additional information about access to other parks and sites in this area. However, note that, because of the federal government shutdown, National Park Service social media and websites are not being monitored or updated and may not reflect current conditions. 

For updates on the shutdown, visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Richard Venne, CEO of Viability, announced the appointment of Joseph Wendover as chief Human Resources and Diversity officer.

Wendover was previously the Corporate Field Inclusion manager at Walgreens Boots Alliance and was an active member of Viability’s board of directors before accepting his current position. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and his master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology from University of New Haven.

As the Corporate Field Inclusion manager for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Wendover successfully placed more than 250 people with disabilities into Walgreens’ Connecticut-based New England Distribution Center and developed a diversity program that was replicated throughout the division in 18 other centers. He also currently serves as board president for the Connecticut Business Leadership Network, a member of the Connecticut State Rehabilitation Council, and a member of the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He has more than 12 years of hands-on experience within human resources, diversity, and inclusion and 10 years of experience working directly with Viability as a board member and advocate.

Viability is a provider of human services, accredited by CARF and certified by Clubhouse International, the Department of Developmental Services, and the Department of Medical Assistance. Viability leverages community and employer partnerships to create opportunities for its members. With a staff of more than 500 individuals and 37 service locations across the country, Viability continues to be driven by the belief that every individual, no matter their ability, can be a valuable contributor to the community and workforce. Its service divisions include clubhouses, employment, community living, day programs, and transitional programs.

Cover Story

Forward Progress

 

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Features

High Stakes

NETA’s Leslie Laurie (left), regional director for Western Mass. and director of patient services, and Angela Cheek, dispensary manager.

NETA’s Leslie Laurie (left), regional director for Western Mass. and director of patient services, and Angela Cheek, dispensary manager.

It’s been an eventful six years since voters first approved marijuana sales to treat medical conditions back in 2012. From that vote sprang New England Treatment Access (NETA) three years ago, and last month, the dispensary became one of just two stores in Massachusetts selling cannabis products for adult recreational use as well. NETA’s co-founder says the company has proven itself to be a good neighbor and an economic driver — and promises to be even more so in what is certainly a bold new era for marijuana in the Bay State.

When Kevin Fisher came to Massachusetts to help launch a medical-marijuana dispensary, he was already a veteran of the industry in Colorado, with plenty of passion to boot.

Fisher’s family, like so many others, has been struck by cancer, he said, and the idea — first as owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies in Colorado and then, starting in 2015, as co-founder of New England Treatment Access (NETA) — was always to draw in people with chronic and even terminal illness who may consider cannabis a viable therapy.

By the time NETA opened its doors in Northampton and Brookline, the anecdotal evidence for the drug’s effectiveness had been well-established elsewhere, he noted.

“We knew patients were using these therapies for a broad range of conditions,” Fisher told BusinessWest, before praising the law crafted after voters approved legalized medical marijuana in 2012.

“In Massachusetts, they got it right. Instead of legislators playing physician, the law granted physicians the freedom to make recommendations as they saw fit. It was important to maintain the sanctity of that patient-physician relationship. And we wanted to make sure we would provide quality products for patients to meet that broad range of conversations with physicians.”

Now, another law has significantly altered NETA’s business model. On Nov. 20, the company’s Northampton site, as well as Cultivate Holdings, LLC in Leicester, became the first facilities in the Northeast to sell marijuana to the public for adult recreational use.

“We call the individuals who interact with customers our ‘customer service associates.’ We require vigorous training before they’re out on their own, interacting with customers.”

At a press event after the state’s Cannabis Control Commission gave the go-ahead, Amanda Rositano, NETA’s director of operational compliance, said the shop is “beyond thrilled to be a part of this historic moment when NETA Northampton finally gets to open its doors to adults over 21 to provide safe, legal, and regulated cannabis to the people of Massachusetts.”

It’s certainly a welcome shift for many in the Valley, but it comes with challenges — concerning consumer safety, public perceptions, even traffic on Conz Street, which backed up significantly at certain times in the days following Nov. 20. But Fisher said NETA has long been preparing to meet them.

Hannah Rosenbaum, one of NETA’s patient service associates

Hannah Rosenbaum, one of NETA’s patient service associates, with some of the ‘flower’ available for purchase.

Early on, for example, the organization brought in Leslie Laurie, former head of Tapestry Health and a long-time expert in public health in Western Mass., as its regional director. “She had expertise we could benefit from, a perspective on patients’ needs in Western Mass.,” Fisher said.

The founders also assumed — correctly, as it turned out — that the progressive culture in Northampton would prove welcoming to a dispensary that first sold cannabis products to a patients with prescriptions, and, now, to any adult with an ID.

“We felt [Northampton] was the place to go, and the process was pretty smooth,” he added. “I’m thankful for Leslie; she brought a credibility to our organization and the relationships we built with government and law enforcement. And we’ve only continued to build those relationships during the adult-use licensing, because they could appreciate the solid community partners we have been.”

Opening a medical-marijuana dispensary in Brookline, however, was a “whole different beast,” Fisher noted. “There were about 100 meetings required — some open to the media and the public, many with public officials … just meeting after meeting, a lot of hand-holding and reassurance. It was a very rigorous process.”

Despite that tougher road than the Northampton one, NETA felt affirmed when its license with Brookline came up for renewal after the first year. “The town said we didn’t even need to show up for the hearing; it was guaranteed. It made us feel like we had operated in the way we had promised.”

By contrast, Northampton was always a smoother fit, and is currently the only NETA site approved for recreational sales, as the licensing process continues in Brookline.

“A significant portion of the population embraces cannabis use,” Fisher said of the Paradise City, adding that NETA has never taken that goodwill for granted. “We did recognize the traffic and public-safety issues, and the fact that those needed to be carefully managed in a collaborative way.”

Time will tell if issues arise, of course, but for now, Fisher is pleased with the business — customers are still waiting in line most days — and NETA’s continued growth as what he calls a true community partner.

The Ayes Have It

In 2016, four years after the similar vote on medical marijuana, Massachusetts residents voted to legalize recreational sales to adults age 21 years and older. If they present a government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license, ID card, or passport) for verification, customers may purchase up to 1 ounce of ‘flower’ or 5 grams of concentrate. Certain potency restrictions, including a 5 mg serving-size limit for ‘edibles,’ apply to non-medical products.

“A significant portion of the population embraces cannabis use. We did recognize the traffic and public-safety issues, and the fact that those needed to be carefully managed in a collaborative way.”

However, Fisher was quick to note that, with the introduction of recreational sales, NETA’s medical-marijuana patients will remain the shop’s priority. Patients with prescriptions have their own lines, and at least 35% of each day’s inventory is reserved for patients. In short, the customer experience has not changed for people seeking to fill scripts.

As for those waiting in line for recreational sales, Fisher said it typically takes 20 to 30 minutes to get through, but technology is available to shorten the wait NETA uses a reserve-ahead app to view the daily menu, reserve an order online, and have it ready for pickup at a certain time later that day. In addition, for people looking to gauge the wait at any given time, NETA offers continuous live wait-time updates on its website.

It has also doubled customer service staff and remodeled the stores to offer nearly twice as many service stations.

Also ramped up are efforts to educate customers about cannabis products — a key factor, considering that many users are likely to be inexperienced.

“We call the individuals who interact with customers our ‘patient service associates,’” Fisher said, noting that he prefers that over the flip industry term ‘budtenders.’ “We require vigorous training before they’re out on their own, interacting with customers.”

That training — about two months worth — includes everything from understanding the core components of cannabis products to encouraging new users to ‘start low and go slow.’

“That’s a message we drive home again and again to our PSAs and our customers. There will always be more cannabis. So find out what works for you and what doesn’t, and start easy so you don’t have negative outcomes.”

In addition to the ‘low and slow’ guidance, NETA’s consumer-education materials emphasize elements like a ‘what product is right for me’ guide; advice against driving or using heavy machinery under the influence, public consumption, and traveling across state lines; a potency and tolerance tutorial, safe storage; and recognizing substance-abuse signs and identifying resources for additional help.

Recognizing that some of the opposition to legalized marijuana came from individuals concerned about products getting into children’s hands, all NETA product packaging is child-resistant and labeled with revised warnings and clear information to ensure that people can identify edible products as marijuana-infused and not safe for children.

In addition to training staff to emphasize responsible consumption when interacting with consumers, NETA has retained a full-time training coordinator to continuously develop and manage retail-staff training.

Understanding dosage levels is is important, Fisher said, as are reminders that the effects differ between smoking marijuana and ingesting edibles. In the latter case, “you could see a delayed onset, so don’t eat that whole bag if you don’t feel it’s working. That sounds like simple advice, but it’s a big deal for us.”

As it is for the Cannabis Control Commission, which encourages prospective customers to know the law and consume responsibly.

“This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” Chairman Steven Hoffman said last month. “To get  here, licensees underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections, and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets  up and running. As patrons look forward to visiting Massachusetts stores, we hope they will do their part by first familiarizing themselves with the law and understanding what is required of responsible consumers.”

Growing Concerns

Beyond Northampton and Brookline, Fisher said, NETA’s cultivation facility in Franklin — which has nearly doubled its capacity in anticipation of adult use — continues to invest heavily in research and is developing a pipeline of products designed to improve customers’ experiences and address specific medical conditions and symptoms.

And, make no mistake, even though adults can buy cannabis products without a doctor’s prescription, he added, it still makes sense to receive and renew certification as a patient — not just because of the lessened wait to be served, but because patients also avoid the 20% tax on adult-use sales, and can access a yearly voucher program to help offset the cost of being certified.

He’s also excited about the potential in Massachusetts, considering the scientific and medical resources available locally, to continue researching the benefits of marijuana from a medical perspective. “Clearly, we’re going to get more research; we have some of the brightest minds in the world of healthcare here in Western Mass.”

NETA’s products for sale include not just smokeable flower, but marijuana-infused capsules, lozenges, lotions, chocolate, and much more.

NETA’s products for sale include not just smokeable flower, but marijuana-infused capsules, lozenges, lotions, chocolate, and much more.

Overall, Fisher is a believer in the benefits of this industry, in terms of healthcare, quality of life, and economic benefits, like taxes paid and workers hired. The company employs close to 600 people, more than 100 in Western Mass. alone.

“Billions of dollars are spent yearly in this country [on marijuana], so by regulating it, there’s economic impact that can be realized, taxes to be paid, safety measures put in place … you’re not in someone’s car in an alley.”

And for adults who have no particular health condition but simply want to partake as an escape from life’s stresses, well, he believes there are far worse alternatives for that.

“That’s not to encourage broader consumption of cannabis, but let’s normalize it so parents can talk to their kids about it,” he told BusinessWest. “In Colorado, where it’s a mature industry, the youth rates have gone down. It’s just less cool for kids. There’s more open dialogue. Parents are having more discussions about it.”

And, he was quick to add, that guy selling pot on the corner, in states where it remains illegal, doesn’t check an ID like a responsible dispensary does.

“We’re bringing it from the darkness into the light and realizing a lot of positive outcomes,” he said. “On balance, this is a good thing.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Health Care

The Eyes Have It

Dr. Camille Guzek-Latka

Dr. Camille Guzek-Latka shows a patient an image of her eye and any signs of disease that might be present.

When people think of diabetes, they might think of complications like cardiac disease, but they may not consider what elevated blood-sugar levels can do to their eyes over time. In truth, regular vision exams are a must for diabetics, who are at higher risk of certain conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, that can seriously damage one’s vision. Like diabetes itself, the key to minimizing the risk is often simply diligent lifestyle management.

It’s no secret that diabetes is a growing problem in the U.S., with more than 30 million Americans suffering from this condition that affects blood-sugar levels and leads to a host of complications, from heart disease and stroke to kidney disease, foot ulcers, and eye damage.

It’s that last one that often catches people off guard, said Dr. David Momnie of Chicopee Eyecare.

“A few red flags do go up when we examine patients with diabetes,” he said, explaining that a diabetic eye exam always includes a careful examination of the retina through a dilated pupil, looking for a condition known as diabetic retinopathy (more on that later).

“We also carefully examine the iris for tiny vessels that don’t belong there. We call this condition neovascularization. And we also also look for changes in the lens of the eye, called cataract, and for signs of glaucoma, as both of these conditions occur more frequently in people with diabetes.”

According to the American Diabetes Assoc., about one-fourth of people with diabetes are undiagnosed, which is problematic on many levels, one of which is that diabetics need to have their eyes checked more often — at least once a year — than the general population.

“What’s alarming to us is seeing more young adults and people in their 20s and 30s with type 2 diabetes. The culprit is invariably weight. It’s a global phenomenon as people are spending more time indoors and less time being physically active.”

And, as noted, it’s a condition that’s becoming more prevalent. In Massachusetts alone, diabetes incidence has risen from 3.9% of all residents 25 years ago to about 9% today.

The day BusinessWest visited Chicopee Eyecare early in the afternoon, Dr. Camille Guzek-Latka said she had already seen four patients that day with diabetes — unsurprising because, as a practice that has been around for decades, many patients are older.

“People are living longer, so it’s not surprising to see more people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s diagnosed with diabetes,” Momnie said. “But what’s alarming to us is seeing more young adults and people in their 20s and 30s with type 2 diabetes. The culprit is invariably weight. It’s a global phenomenon as people are spending more time indoors and less time being physically active.”

Yet, not all overweight people develop diabetes, he added, so there are obviously other factors involved — in some cases, there are genetic reasons why the beta cells of the pancreas stop producing enough insulin.

Dr. David Momnie says a key part of seeing diabetic patients is educating them about lifestyle factors that go into their eye health.

Dr. David Momnie says a key part of seeing diabetic patients is educating them about lifestyle factors that go into their eye health.

“Since the likelihood of developing complications of diabetes like cardiovascular, kidney, and eye problems increase over time,” he added, “young people developing diabetes are more likely to have these problems down the road.”

But with early detection, Guzek-Latka said, patients have a good chance of holding off many of the complications, including eye damage, because they can get a head start on controlling their blood sugar with medications and lifestyle changes.

“We tend to spend a little more time with our diabetic patients,” Momnie added, “because we need to have a frank discussion about lifestyle changes like weight control, a well-balanced diet, and quitting smoking.”

I Can’t See Clearly Now

When diabetes does cause eye damage, it’s often in the form of a disease called diabetic retinopathy, which is caused when too much sugar circulating in the blood damages the tiny retinal blood vessels in the retina, which is like the film of a camera.

“Elevated glucose levels cause damage to blood vessels. The most vulnerable vessels, the ones that show the earliest damage, are the smallest ones that lie farthest from the heart, such as those that supply the fingers, toes, kidneys, and eyes,” said Dr. Andrew Lam, an ophthalmologist at New England Retina Consultants, as well as an attending surgeon at Baystate Medical Center.

Diabetic retinopathy, he explained, is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74. “Treating this condition can be one of the most fulfilling, and frustrating, conditions that a retinal specialist encounters.”

“Elevated glucose levels cause damage to blood vessels. The most vulnerable vessels, the ones that show the earliest damage, are the smallest ones that lie farthest from the heart, such as those that supply the fingers, toes, kidneys, and eyes.”

The two most common eye problems that result from diabetic retinopathy are vitreous hemorrhage and macular edema. Vitreous hemorrhage, or bleeding in the eye, typically results from the formation of neovascular blood vessels in the retina.

“The growth of these vessels is actually the eye’s natural response to the lack of normal blood supply in diabetic eyes, but they are bad because they are apt to leak and bleed,” Lam said, noting that doctors can try to stop the proliferation of neovascular vessels with a laser treatment, and sometimes with injections of a medicine called Avastin.

“But when major bleeding in the eye does occur, it can severely affect a patient’s vision — sometimes taking away almost all the vision,” he went on. “The good news is that our techniques performing vitrectomy surgery to remove the blood are very good, and some of our most grateful patients are those whose vision has been restored after a vitreous hemorrhage has been cleared.”

Diabetic macular edema can be a more frustrating condition to treat, Lam said. This occurs from leaking blood vessels causing swelling in the macula of the eye, the part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. This in turn causes vision loss and distortion.

Dr. Andrew Lam says diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 — and it’s increasing in prevalence.

Dr. Andrew Lam says diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 — and it’s increasing in prevalence.

“If we can reduce or eliminate the edema, the patient’s vision often improves, but this is sometimes hard to do,” he explained, noting that weapons in the battle can include eye injections with medicines such as Avastin, Eylea, or steroids, or even laser treatments.

“But the problem is that these treatments don’t always work that well, or for very long,” he went on. “Some patients respond quickly and do well, but others have persistent macular edema and blurry vision, even after repeated treatments.”

Guzek-Latka noted that 7.7 million people in the U.S. had diabetic retinopathy in 2010, a number projected to double to 14.6 million by 2050. Because diabetic retinopathy is progressive and does not cause symptoms until vision loss occurs, she stressed that annual exams are recommended, with more frequent follow-ups if retinopathy is detected. Her practice sends reports on ocular health to the patient’s primary-care physician and schedules appointments with a retinal specialist, like Lam, when necessary.

“One of our problems is that we cannot cure the underlying disease: diabetes,” Lam said. “Still, we fight diabetic retinopathy as diligently and as well as we can. I tell my patients to consider this a life-long battle that requires constant vigilance and sometimes many treatments over time. They must also strive to maintain the best blood-sugar control they can.”

Indeed, he noted, diabetic retinopathy can be managed — and sometimes vision loss can be regained — with treatments, but there is no cure because there is no cure for diabetes itself.

“Early detection, monitoring, and treatment of diabetic retinopathy certainly improve the chance that a patient will enjoy good vision throughout their lifetime,” he continued. “It is important that all diabetics have at least an annual eye exam to detect early signs of retinopathy before it becomes vision-threatening.”

Momnie and his team often use a digital retinal camera to take a picture of any diabetic retinopathy that they find, especially if it’s progressing — and not just because it’s beneficial to them in diagnosing and treating it.

“We also want to get the patient involved in managing their diabetes,” he said. “Seeing the actual damage to their retina is often an incentive to better manage their blood sugars.”

Guzek-Latka agreed. “I find it helpful to show people these pictures because, if you show a person a picture of what’s going on for them, it’s like night and day. It’s a powerful tool not only to document what they’ve got, but to educate them.”

Another instrument for tracking people with diabetic retinopathy is an OCT, which stands for optical coherence tomography, which is a scan that produces a cross-section image of the retina, so they can tell if there is any macular edema. “Any time a diabetic patient has reduced vision, we need to rule out diabetic macular edema, and the OCT gives us that information.”

Early Detection Is Key

Lam said there are many other possible manifestations of diabetes in the eye, including cataracts, neovascular glaucoma, tractional retinal detachment, and optic nerve swelling. These are treated in various ways, sometimes surgically. As the only retina practice in Western Mass., he noted, New England Retina Consultants sees many patients with diabetic retinopathy every day.

Momnie stressed that diabetic eye conditions don’t always present with dramatic symptoms at first. “There are some potentially blinding eye conditions that can develop in people with diabetes without symptoms like blurred vision. And yet, these conditions are treatable if caught early enough.”

Tight blood-glucose control is the key to significantly reducing the incidence and severity of diabetic eye disease, he went on, adding that people with diabetes should discuss with their primary-care physician how to keep their levels in an acceptable range.

Like diabetes itself, some people are at increased risk for developing diabetic eye disease, including women with diabetes who are pregnant, people who have had diabetes for a long time, and cigarette smokers those who simply don’t have their blood sugars under control. African-Americans and Hispanics are also at a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Eye appointments for diabetic patients can run slightly over the expected time, Momnie told BusinessWest, but it’s not the exam itself that takes longer. “It’s the time we spend talking to the patient at the end of the exam. We want to discuss prevention with lifestyle changes and the importance of knowing certain numbers like their hemoglobin A1C.”

The A1C is a three-month average of a diabetic’s blood sugar; a reading between 5.7 and 6.4 typically indicates prediabetes, and higher indicates diabetes. “We don’t like to see it above 7.0,” Momnie said. “Generally, the lower the A1C, the better.”

As part of lifestyle changes, Momnie discusses with patients what is known as the glycemic index of carbohydrates, which ranks carb-laden foods by how quickly they break down into simple sugars in the body. Carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index, like oatmeal and whole-wheat pasta, take longer to break down, and are better than foods like potatoes and bread, which have a higher glycemic index. It’s all part of a series of decisions diabetics need to make, he said, to keep their numbers down and complications — like eye damage — at bay.

“Early detection, optimal glucose control, appropriate follow-up care, and timely treatment of diabetic eye disease are key to guarding against loss of vision,” Guzek-Latka said, adding that, occasionally, she will look at someone’s eyes and detect diabetic retinopathy, and then begin asking about other symptoms, and it turns out the patient wasn’t aware they were diabetic. Once they know, however, they can do something about it.

“If you know, you have so much control over what you can do,” she said. “But there are so many people that don’t know they have it that are walking around. If we can catch some of those and steer them in the right direction, that’s a big deal for that individual.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Commercial Real Estate

Warming Trend

A confluence of factors — from the opening of MGM Springfield to the dawn of the cannabis era in Massachusetts — have fueled heightened interest in real estate in downtown Springfield. Brokers report that the level of activity — inquiries, showings, leases, and sales — is the highest they’ve seen in recent memory.

Freddy Lopez Jr. says there’s a rather complex algorithm, as he called it, when it comes to locating a cannabis dispensary in Springfield.

Such a facility can’t be within 500 feet of a school, he noted. Or within 300 of another dispensary. Or within 50 feet of a Class A residence. And there are many other restrictions, as well as a host of hurdles to clear locally and with the state, just to get the doors open.

But this rather high degree of difficulty doesn’t seem to be stopping many people from trying to get in the game in downtown Springfield — and at other locations within the city, said Lopez, a broker with Springfield-based NAI Plotkin.

He said he’s lost count when it comes to how many properties he’s shown to various parties, and noted that the interest is constant and only increasing, as desire to be part of the cannabis wave, if you will, intensifies.

“There’s a lot of interest across the area, but the hot spots are downtown, and especially locations near the casino,” said Lopez, who recently brokered the sale of 1665 Main St., once the headquarters of Hampden Bank, to a party (RLTY Development Springfield LLC) interested in converting it into a dispensary. “There’s a lot of competition for good sites.”

1665 Main St., recently sold to a party interested in converting it into a cannabis dispensary. Evan Plotkin, left, and Freddy Lopez Jr. of NAI Plotkin, which brokered the sale.

The Main Street property, located across from the Hippodrome and a block from Union Station, was most recently assessed at $127,600, but sold for $285,000, a clear sign of the times and an indicator of how hot the race to secure locations for cannabis facilities can, and probably will, become.

“People are jockeying for position right now,” said Lopez, adding that some parties are securing options, some are leasing, and others, like RLTY, are going ahead and buying properties in anticipation of winning a coveted license.

But the cannabis industry is only part of the story when it comes to growing interest in Springfield and especially its downtown, said Mitch Bolotin, a principal with Colebook Realty, based in the heart of downtown.

MGM Springfield has certainly had an impact as well, spurring interest in various forms of development, from retail to housing. But there have been many other positive developments as well, from the relocation of the Community Foundation of Western Mass. to a location on Bridge Street, to the renovation of Stearns Square, to an improved outlook on the part of many when it comes to public safety.

“There are a number of factors driving this,” said Bolotin late on a Friday afternoon after a day of showing various properties, referring to a surge in interest and activity in Springfield and its downtown. “I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years now, and this is the strongest I’ve ever seen it.”

Mitch Bolotin says MGM Springfield is just one of many factors stimulating the most activity seen in the downtown Springfield market in recent memory.

Mitch Bolotin says MGM Springfield is just one of many factors stimulating the most activity seen in the downtown Springfield market in recent memory.

Demetrius Panteleakis expressed similar sentiments. The president of Macmillan Group LLC, now based in Tower Square, said the last quarter of this year has been extremely busy, and he expects that pattern to continue.

“I haven’t seen an October-November-December period as busy as this one — this is usually a slower time,” he noted. “There is a lot of movement; things are very robust right now.”

For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest looks at why things are heating up in the downtown market and what this warming trend means for 2019 and beyond.

Where There’s Smoke…

Lopez said he has a number of anecdotes that capture the soaring level of interest in Springfield and its impact on the real-estate market.

One of his favorites concerns a party calling to inquire about securing a luxury apartment in downtown Springfield. Lopez explained that the city doesn’t really have any of those, much to the disappointment of the caller.

“This person was looking to do some investing in Springfield, and I think he wanted to use this apartment as a base — he could meet people there,” Lopez explained, adding that this phone call, all by itself, speaks volumes about how the commercial real-estate market is heating up in the city, and also how widespread the interest is.

Indeed, while there are many local parties interested in investment and/or development opportunities, the callers and visitors are also coming from well outside the 413.

“We’re getting calls from developers and investors in Boston, Rhode Island, New York City, and beyond,” he said, noting that many of these calls involve potential housing developments. “People who have never set foot in Springfield now have an interest in the city, and that’s very encouraging.”

That interest comes in many flavors, said those we spoke with, adding that the cannabis industry, and a strong desire to join it, are sparking many of the inquiries.

But these robust times are manifesting themselves in many ways.

Bolotin noted that he recently secured a lease for a new food-service business on Bridge Street. He couldn’t give specifics, but said the deal involved one of the vacant storefronts on that street, damaged first by the natural-gas blast and later by explosions triggered by a water-main break.

It’s an example of the strong interest in the market that he noted earlier, arguably the most activity he’s seen in recent memory.

“We’re seeing a lot of positive signs in the marketplace in terms of activity and interest, leases, and sales,” he said, adding that this vibrancy is reflected in everything from higher occupancy rates in the buildings managed by Colebrook — and there are many in the downtown, including the TD Bank Center and the Fuller Block — to how many showings of properties he’s conducted in recent months.

Overall, Bolotin, like others we spoke with about this, said there is considerably more positive energy concerning the downtown than there has been in some time. MGM deserves some credit for this, he noted, but there are many other factors as well, from the developments on and around Bridge Street to the renovation of the Fuller Block, to less apprehension about public safety. “The attitude is much more positive than it’s ever been.”

He noted that Patricia Canavan, president of United Personnel, who moved her business onto Bridge Street, Katie Alan Zobel, who relocated the Community Foundation to that same area, Tom Dennis, owner of the Dennis Group, who purchased and renovated the Fuller Block, among other buildings downtown, and Martin Miller, general manager of WFCR, who moved his operation from Amherst into the Fuller Block, are all examples of people investing in the downtown, and through, their actions, inspiring others to do so.

Panteleakis has also seen considerable optimism and less apprehension about public safety. “You don’t hear as many concerns about safety,” he said. “Before, safety was a real issue — it kept some people from coming downtown. But you don’t hear that much anymore.”

Meanwhile, housing has become a huge area of interest, in part because of MGM and the needs of its huge workforce, but also because of rising activity levels in general and growing anticipation that the city will soon become, if it isn’t already, a landing spot for younger people and empty-nesters alike.

Evan Plotkin, a principal with NAI Plotkin and long-time champion of downtown Springfield, noted the purchase of the former Willys-Overland building in the so-called ‘blast zone’ by Boston-based Davenport Advisors LLC, and that company’s acquisition of the old Registry of Motor Vehicles site, possibly for the same use, as harbingers of things to come.

“I’m seeing a lot of developers coming in looking to develop residential,” he said. “I see tremendous potential for new developments in parts of our city that have been stagnant for a long time, including areas on the fringes of downtown and in the downtown itself.”

Joint Ventures

While interest in potential housing development grows, the cannabis industry is the source of much of the activity downtown.

The brokers we spoke with said they’ve been showing multiple sites to groups interested in all facets of this business, from cultivation to retail. And while sites across the city are being explored — as many as 15 sites might become licensed in Springfield — the downtown is becoming the focal point.

“Things have been crazy for the past two years when it comes to this business,” he said, adding that he’s brokered the sale of sites for marijuana-related businesses in Holyoke and Easthampton. “Now, the focus is shifting to Springfield and the downtown area; people are trying to line up sites.”

Lopez concurred, noting that there is a broad mix of local, national, and even international companies looking to start a cannabis dispensary or cultivation site in this region, with many focused on Springfield and an initiative known as the Opportunity Zone Program.

Created as part of the U.S. Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, the program provides incentives for investment in low-income communities, like Springfield. Individuals and groups looking to develop in these designated geographic areas can gain favorable tax treatment on their capital gains, said Lopez, adding that he has worked with several owners and investors in the city’s Opportunity Zone.

The purchase of 1665 Main St. falls into this category, he said, noting that the acquisition is a good example of investors jockeying for position through options, leases, or outright purchases.

And the race for cannabis locations should provide a substantial boost for owners of properties downtown, said Plotkin, noting that prices are moving higher as interest grows, in a movement that echoes what happened when MGM Springfield and other casino-industry players jockeyed to enter this market.

“When you were dealing with a casino developer, like MGM or the other parties interested in Springfield, there was what we all referred to as the ‘casino rate,’” he explained. “They’ll pay more for real estate than the average buyer will.

“In the case of a marijuana dispensary, because the business is so lucrative, they will pay a lot more rent per square foot,” he went on, noting that a ‘marijuana rate’ is taking shape. “Rents that may have been $15 a square foot a year ago … for a marijuana shop, we’re taking about $20 to $25 per square foot, and in some cases more, depending on where it is.”

As for what the cannabis industry might mean for Springfield, Plotkin, who has traveled extensively, expressed some hope that the city might someday become somewhat like Amsterdam, a city famous for its culture, nightlife, and countless shops selling marijuana, other drugs, and related paraphernalia.

“I think Amsterdam is a great example of just how the very liberal nature of that city has led to incredible street life in that town that’s very safe,” he said. “Amsterdam is a great city, one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and maybe we can learn from its example.”

Bottom Line

Whether Springfield can become anything approaching Amsterdam — as a tourist destination or cannabis hotspot — remains to be seen.

For the time being, it is a hotspot when it comes to its commercial real-estate market.

There is interest and activity unlike anything that’s been seen in decades, and the consensus is that this pattern will likely continue and perhaps even intensify.

Springfield and its downtown have become the right place at the right time.

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

Economic Outlook

Forward Progress

Rick Sullivan says the region has considerable momentum carrying over in 2019, and it comes from most all sectors of the economy.

Rick Sullivan says the region has considerable momentum carrying over in 2019, and it comes from most all sectors of the economy.

Momentum.

Webster defines that word in several ways, including this one: ‘strength or force gained by motion or through development of events.’

Over the past few years, and especially in 2018, there was a good deal of motion and quite a few singular and ongoing events that have made this region stronger and created quite a bit of momentum, said Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. (EDC).

And this movement has been across a number of sectors and most all area communities, not just Springfield, although that’s where it is easily most visible and palpable.

“We’re seeing a great deal of momentum across the region,” he said. “And it’s across the board — manufacturing, healthcare, higher ed, tourism.”

Elaborating, he cited just a few examples of this momentum, starting with the most obvious:

• MGM Springfield opened its doors on Aug. 24, but it began to impact the regional economy long before that, through the filling of more than 2,000 jobs, proving a boost for area hotels (see related story, page 27), inspiring movement toward additional market-rate housing projects in and around the downtown, and even awarding life-changing vendor contracts with several area businesses, from a bus company in Chicopee to a dry cleaner in the Forest Park section of Springfield.

• Eds and meds. The region’s two main economic drivers, education and healthcare, are thriving and becoming ever-larger contributors to economic development in the region, he said, noting, on the education side, that the region’s community colleges continue to find ways to step up and help meet workforce needs and provide specific skills needed in the workplace.

• The cannabis industry. This intriguing new era in Massachusetts history is impacting everything from the commercial real-estate market to traffic in downtown Northampton, where a dispensary became just one of two sites in Massachusetts selling marijuana for recreational use.

• A host of other forces are at play in downtown Springfield, ranging from new tenants on Bridge Street to the revitalization of Stearns Square; from a new Starbucks (actually, two of them; there’s also one at MGM) to soaring interest in new housing projects; from new train service coming into Union Station to the opening (soon) of the Innovation Center.

“When I’m out downtown, I generally have to wait in line to get lunch — and I’m happy to do it. That’s a good thing; it means the economy is doing well.”

• Progress continues with developing new sources of jobs in fields such as cybersecurity (Bay Path University and UMass Amherst are becoming regional and even national leaders in that field) and water technology — a $3.9 million demonstration center is set to open at UMass Amherst within the next two years.

• The construction industry, usually a bellwether for the economy, remains sound, with many companies reporting they have ample jobs on the books for the coming. “The phones have been ringing — and that’s always a good sign,” said Tim Pelletier, president of Ludlow-based Houle Construction.

Sullivan has another, far more personal measure of progress and momentum. “When I’m out downtown, I generally have to wait in line to get lunch — and I’m happy to do it. That’s a good thing; it means the economy is doing well,” he told BusinessWest, noting that there is considerably more foot traffic in the central business district, and many businesses are benefiting from this.

Yes, there are some challenges to contend with, and even a few possible storm clouds on the horizon; workforce issues are impacting most all sectors, and they could stifle the growth of some companies (see related story, page 22), and most economic analysts are predicting a slowdown (but not a recession) in 2019.

But for the most part, there is momentum and continued cause for optimism, even as question marks grow in number.

‘Stable’ is the word Tom Senecal uses when he talks about the local economy, and in most ways, ‘stable’ is good.

‘Stable’ is the word Tom Senecal uses when he talks about the local economy, and in most ways, ‘stable’ is good.

“Several sectors are doing very well — education, construction, multi-family housing, green energy, and others,” said Tom Senecal, president and CEO of Holyoke-based PeoplesBank, who spoke from the perspective of his own bank, which saw roughly 8% growth this calendar year, and what he’s seen and heard anecdotally.

Senecal said he’s seen a noticeable slowing of residential real-estate business over the past month to six weeks, after a strong start to the year — a development probably linked to rising interest rates — but overall, as he said, the local economy is chugging along nicely.

Keith Nesbitt, vice president and Commercial Banking Team leader at Community Bank’s Springfield location, agreed.

“I would describe what’s happening in Western Mass. as transition against a backdrop of real stability,” he said, using ‘transition’ to mean many things, from the beginning of the casino era to the passing of many businesses from one generation to the next. “There’s a lot of certainty around those well-established, mature businesses that we have in this region. And those businesses that haven’t been around as long but are growing … they’re pretty solid, and they’re pretty confident.”

Banking on It

Both Senecal and Nesbitt put that word ‘stable’ to use early and quite often as they talked about the local economy and what they’re witnessing.

And in most all respects, ‘stable’ — and ‘steady’ and ‘predictable,’ words that were also used — is good, Senecal noted, adding, as many others have over the years while analyzing the local market, that while this region hasn’t soared like some others, including Boston, where the commercial and residential markets are white hot, that means it isn’t susceptible to the dramatic falls that those cities and regions also see.

“Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, we don’t see the highs and lows economically; we’re sheltered a little bit,” he explained. “We have a very stable economy when it comes to healthcare, education, and our nonprofit sector — those are three stable industries that keep Western Mass. insulated from the highs and lows.

“I would equate ‘stable’ to ‘predictable,’” he went on. “And for a small business, predictability is a huge part of job growth and just economic growth in general for small business.”

His own business moved forward with several initiatives in 2018, including the acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield and the start of work to convert the former Yankee Pedlar restaurant into a new and intriguing branch. And he said many businesses had the requisite confidence to move ahead with their own growth initiatives, be it through workforce expansion, new facilities, or new business lines.

And he expects this stability to continue into 2019, although possible, if not probable, additional interest-rate hikes (the Fed was set to vote on one as this issue went to press) could bring uncertainty, and therefore greater cautiousness, to the fore.

“Anything that stays stable and is predictable is good for economic development, and anything that is unpredictable is a slowdown in economic development,” he said, adding that there is uncertainty regarding everything from interest rates to the trade war.

“I would equate ‘stable’ to ‘predictable.’ And for a small business, predictability is a huge part of job growth and just economic growth in general for small business.”

Like Sullivan, though, Senecal said MGM has provided a boost to the local economy in several ways — through the jobs it has created and its contribution to greater vibrancy downtown. And it is just one of the many factors contributing to the improved picture locally.

Others include the steady performance of education and healthcare and movement toward creating new sources of jobs.

Sullivan cited the work being done at Bay Path and UMass Amherst in cybersecurity — Bay Path recently entered into a partnership with Google, for example — and creation of the water-technology demonstration center as developments to watch.

“Those are jobs of the future, and there’s real excitement about what can develop,” he noted. “There are now some partnerships with large companies, like Google, and tremendous promise.”

Elaborating, he said that, across the region, colleges and universities are playing key roles in providing individuals with the hard and soft skills to thrive in today’s technology-driven economy, and thus, they’re playing a major role in economic development.

Examples abound, from Holyoke Community College’s new culinary-arts facility, which is helping to meet the needs of individual employers like MGM and a growing field in general, to Greenfield Community College and its efforts to train workers for the manufacturing sector, to Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College working together with MGM to create the Casino Career Training Institute.

“What it comes down to is that economic development for this region, and across the country, for that matter, is all about workforce — developing, finding, and retaining talent,” he said. “And the good news for us is that we have a very robust higher-ed presence — four-year public and private, and the community colleges as well — and the future is bright.”

Returning to the subject of downtown Springfield, he said that, in addition to that waiting in line for lunch, he’s seen other signs of vibrancy and, most importantly, interest on the part of developers in investing in that area.

“We’ve had a number of investors express interest in possible hotels and potential housing, both market-rate and workforce-housing projects,” he noted. “And those are discussions that may not have beem happening in … pick a time period — five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this.”

Keith Nesbitt describes what’s happening in this region economically as “transition against the backdrop of stability.”

Keith Nesbitt describes what’s happening in this region economically as “transition against the backdrop of stability.”

Nesbitt concurred, and noted that, while the multi-family housing segment of the commercial real-estate market is heating up — it has been for some time — there is movement across the spectrum, much of it fueled not only by MGM, but by a promising outlook for the future.

“Long-time property owners are realizing that now is the time to realize value, so they’re putting those properties on the market,” he said of multi-family units but also other holdings. “And those that are speculating on the future are generally thinking that now is the time to get into the market based on some of those other transitions that are going on. So the commercial real-estate market has been very consistent.”

Steady As She Goes

“Consistent.’ ‘Stable.’ ‘Predictable.’ ‘Steady.’

Those are the words you hear most often in discussion of the local economy today and what is likely to happen in 2019.

There is a good amount of uncertainty in the air regarding everything from trade balances (or imbalances, as the case may be) to interest rates to the political scene in Washington.

But locally, stability and momentum seem to be the prevailing forces.

And they should enable the region to build on that momentum in the year ahead.

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

Features

Expanding His Horizons

Peter Rosskothen

Peter Rosskothen has plans to dramatically expand his Delaney’s Market concept, and he will start in downtown Springfield.

When asked about the long-awaited opening of MGM Springfield last August, Peter Rosskothen, whose various businesses compete against the resort casino on a number of levels, said, among other things, that he was “excited about the excitement” permeating the city’s downtown.

And he hinted broadly that he might soon be part of it.

In a few more months, he will be, opening the second location of his Delaney’s Market concept in a soon-to-be-vacated coffee shop at 1365 Main St., just a few hundred feet from the casino. He plans to open more of these facilities, which offer a variety of prepared meals to go, in Wilbraham and Westfield sometime in 2019, but for now, his time and energies are focused on getting the doors open in Springfield.

Indeed, the serial entrepreneur, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, the Delaney House restaurant, the adjacent D. Hotel & Suites, and more, believes his concept, launched in Longmeadow 18 months ago, is the right product at the right time, and that downtown Springfield is the next right place.

“I wanted to be part of what was happening in downtown Springfield,” he told BusinessWest. “I believe this concept will work at that location. I think there is a need for this, and it will be a nice addition to the landscape there.”

Rosskothen said he’s long been thinking about expansion into Springfield — and other locations — and narrowed his search to 1365 Main St. late last summer, just as the casino was opening its doors.

That location is within a few hundred feet of several office towers, he noted, adding that the thousands of people working in those buildings fall within the broad constituency he’s targeting with this concept.

“I wanted to be part of what was happening in downtown Springfield.”

Specifically, he’s focused on busy people — and that’s just about everyone these days — both young and old who want to eat healthy, restaurant-quality food (but not at restaurant prices), but are challenged to find the time and inclination to prepare it themselves.

But he expects that those working in Springfield will become just part of his customer base. Indeed, like other close observers, he senses that the already-sizable population of people living in the downtown area will be growing in the years to come as the city becomes a more popular settling place.

“We’re going to be where people work, but also where some people live and where more people will be living in the years to come,” he noted. “There’s a lot happening in Springfield; the pieces are coming together. There is more to do, and soon there will be more places to live. And as more people come to live here, there will be more support businesses and more things to do. We’re starting to see it.”

As for the Delaney’s Market concept, Rosskothen said he did a good amount of due diligence before opening the location in Longmeadow. That research, and his own instincts, told him it was a business model with merit, one that would meet a sizable need that was not being met.

Roughly 18 months after opening, the facility is selling about 150-200 meals a day on average, verifying that need for such a service, he went on.

“The Longmeadow store is doing quite well — I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t,” he told BusinessWest. “But we had to teach a lot of people the concept — you have to explain to people that we have freshly prepared meals for takeout, and we have about 80 different choices.”

The success of the Longmeadow location may mitigate the need for a similar learning process at the downtown site, he went on, adding that he will be aggressive in efforts to get the word out about Delaney’s Market and all that goes into the concept.

That includes patrons being able to pick up a bottle of wine or some microbrews as they make their dinner selection, doing some one-stop shopping.

And he believes this same model will succeed in downtown Springfield as well, and he’s adding another wrinkle — delivery, which he believes will be a popular option for those working in nearby office towers or living downtown.

Indeed, delivery is a becoming a trend among restaurants, and there are new ventures such as Uber delivers that bring meals right to one’s home or office, said Rosskothen, adding that those initiatives, and his, are simply response to what consumers are demanding.

As for expansion beyond Longmeadow, Rosskothen said he expects to move forward with locations in Westfield and Wilbraham and have four sites operating by the end of 2019.

For now, though, he is focused on Springfield — and not just being excited about the excitement, but being a big part of it.

— George O’Brien

Economic Outlook

Running out of Gas?

Bob Nakosteen projects a slowdown for the economy, but not a recession.

Bob Nakosteen projects a slowdown for the economy, but not a recession.

What’s that old saying about death and taxes? It notes that they are the only real certainties in this world.

Actually, there’s another one: when it comes to the economy and making plans for the future, business owners and consumers certainly don’t like uncertainty.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of that commodity at the moment, and the volume may only be growing. Indeed, there is political uncertainty — lots and lots of that — and uncertainty about the housing market. And the trade war with China. And with the workforce — the nation as a whole is at or near full employment, and business owners and managers across all sectors are asking out loud where the workers are going to come from (see related story, page 22). There’s uncertainty about the stock market, except that there’s considerable amounts of turbulence (we’re certain about that). And about interest rates and what will happen with them. And about whether the tax cuts introduced a year ago will continue to be a source of economic fuel (although the consensus seems to be that they won’t be).

Add it all up, and, as we said, there is a lot of uncertainty out there.

Certainly enough to likely cause a slowdown in the economy, but not a recession in the technical sense of that word, said Bob Nakosteen, a professor of Economics at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and a frequent voice in BusinessWest’s annual Economic Outlook.

“When there’s uncertainty, businesses tend to pull in their horns, and consumers, by and large, do the same; they wait until there’s more certainty about what they can expect,” said Nakosteen, adding that, instead of a growth rate between 3.5% and 4%, which is what the country and this region saw in 2018, both are probably looking at 2% to 2.5% for next year.

Again, that’s not a recession, but it is a slowdown.

Like Nakosteen, Karl Petrick, an associate professor of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Western New England University, is predicting that this is what the nation, this state, and this region will see.

Note the future tense.

“When there’s uncertainty, businesses tend to pull in their horns, and consumers, by and large, do the same; they wait until there’s more certainty about what they can expect.”

“I really don’t think the slowdown has started yet. But I think it’s coming,” he said, adding quickly that there are signs things are cooling off somewhat.

He pointed to robust sales in the days and weeks following Thanksgiving as solid evidence that many Americans still have the confidence to spend. But a few months of severe turbulence on Wall Street, large amounts of political uncertainty, and a host of other factors will eventually erode some of that confidence, he added.

Karl Petrick says various forces, from turbulence on Wall Street to political uncertainty, will soon start to generate more cautiousness on the part of consumers and business owners.

Karl Petrick says various forces, from turbulence on Wall Street to political uncertainty, will soon start to generate more cautiousness on the part of consumers and business owners.

“We’re starting to see people become more cautious,” he noted. “They start to see what’s going on, they start to look at their 401(k) statements — even if they’re fairly young, they start to look at such things — and we’re going to start to see people be more cautious. And if and when that happens, companies start to become more cautious, too, because they start to see their markets dry up a bit.

“The momentum will carry into 2019, but unless we see some more certainty, that momentum will peter out into 2020,” he told BusinessWest. “The earliest a recession could happen is 2020, but there’s a lot of time between now and then to avoid that.”

For this issue and its Economic Outlook focus, BusinessWest talked with Nakosteen and Petrick about the proverbial big picture.

On-the-money Analysis

As he talked about the state of the economy and what is likely to happen in 2019, Nakosteen acknowledged that some economists are, in fact, using the dreaded ‘R’ word as they look into their crystal balls.

He’s not ready to join them — yet. But he said there are more than enough signs that a slowdown is coming — if it hasn’t arrived already.

Starting with the housing market.

“The housing market is clearly slowing down, and it is so important to so many segments of the economy and so many parts of the country,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s not well-recognized, but we’ve had a period since 2012 of one of the most sustained increases in housing prices in our history; in fact, it comes close to matching what happened during the price bubble [of 2007-08]. The difference is that there isn’t this froth around it, and there isn’t this huge toxic-credit buildup.

“I don’t see this as a danger to the economy in terms of it exploding and dragging us into a recession,” he went on. “But I do see a slowdown affecting the overall economy and the economy of this state.”

Beyond the housing market, there are other signs, or indicators, of whitewater, including the trade war, if it can be called that, with China, Canada, and other countries.

Nakosteen said this region doesn’t produce many, if any, of the products directly affected by rising tariffs, but this area is affected indirectly because its precision manufacturers provide links in the supply chains that are impacted by the tariffs.

Petrick agreed. “We need to find some stability when it comes to our trade relationships,” he said. “Trade wars are not good for anybody.”

There’s also diminishing impact from the tax cuts implemented a year ago — “those cuts gave the economy a sugar high, but almost everyone thinks that effect will dissipate in 2019,” said Nakosteen — as well as all that turmoil on Wall Street.

Indeed, as of this writing, the S&P was in negative country after being up more than 8% for the year a few months ago — and there wasn’t much time left in 2018 to get onto the plus side.

Then there’s the workforce issue. While things are bad in this region in terms of employers finding good help (see related story, page 22), they’re much worse in other markets, including Boston, said Nakosteen.

“One of the things going on in this state is that we’re running out of workers, especially in the eastern part of the state,” he noted. “For the past 18 months, we’ve hired a lot of people, and no one’s quite sure where they’ve come from. And at some point, the labor-force constraint is going to be binding to our economy, and that’s going to slow things down; it’s going to be like squeezing a rock.”

But the biggest issue heading into 2019 is the one that’s fueling some of the problems listed above — growing uncertainty about the economy, the markets, jobs (GM announced plant closings and significant layoffs, for example), trade, and more.

This uncertainty generally leads to greater cautiousness, which manifests itself in several ways, said those we spoke with, starting with the obvious, such as slowdowns in home sales and other significant purchases.

Some signs are perhaps less obvious, such as the roller-coaster ride on Wall Street, said Petrick, adding that, when there is uncertainty, or no clear trends, the market becomes far more “news-driven,” as he called it, which manifests itself in wild swings, sometimes over the course of just a few hours, as news breaks.

“These big swings happen with the smallest provocation because people want to react to something,” he explained. “And whatever comes up on the news wire is what they’re reacting to.”

Reading the Tea Leaves

Looking at the proverbial big picture, Petrick said political uncertainty and economic uncertainty pretty much go hand-in-hand.

“That’s how we’re wired,” he said, adding that about the only thing that appears certain for 2019 is ongoing uncertainty.

Nakosteen agreed.

“Business decisions, as well as household decisions, regarding big-expense items such as cars, appliances, and houses, depend in large part — not totally, but in large part — on expectations of the future: ‘am I going to lose my job?’ ‘Am I going to get a raise?’ ‘Is my product going to keep selling?’ ‘Are my suppliers going to be disrupted?’”

Like he said, in many cases, they will hold off on such purchases until there is more uncertainty.

And as things are looking now, it might be a pretty long wait.

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

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

On the heels of one home run for recreation and tourism, Hartford, Conn. is hoping for another — well, not a home run, exactly. More like a goal, which is appropriate in a city that has set plenty of them in recent years.

On the heels of the Hartford Yard Goats, the double-A baseball team that’s been selling out games for two years at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Connecticut’s capital city will soon welcome the Hartford Athletic, a professional soccer team that plays in the United Soccer League.

But it’s not just the team itself causing excitement, but the development projects surrounding it. The state invested $10 million in Dillon Stadium in the Coltsville section of the city, while an entity known as Hartford Sports Group put up $7 million toward the renovation and the team’s startup.

Mayor Luke Bronin points out that, along with the restoration of the Colt Armory complex for commercial and residential use, the Hooker Brewery tasting room, planned upgrades to Colt Park, and the designation of the Coltsville National Historic Park, refurbishing Dillon Stadium and bringing in a soccer team is yet another feather in the cap of a venerable neighborhood on the rebound.

Then there’s Front Street, the downtown entertainment and restaurant district that began to see significant development a decade ago, and is now adding even more apartments and retail. A $23 million project will add 53 apartments and nearly 11,000 square feet of shop and restaurant space. That comes on the heels of Front Street Lofts, a 121-apartment development that is largely leased, and the 2017 opening of the University of Connecticut’s new downtown campus across Arch Street.

“We’ve engaged our large corporate partners in a way they haven’t been engaged in many years. In a very short period of time, we’ve moved the ball a long way down the field toward building a really vibrant innovation ecosystem.”

In fact, a recent wave of apartment construction downtown has added almost 900 units since 2013, with hundreds more to come.

“We want to make sure we have a lovely, vibrant downtown, and the core of that strategy is getting a critical mass of residential housing downtown,” Bronin told BusinessWest. “The other piece is the targeted neighborhbood redevelopment projects, especially in the three areas of Upper Albany, Blue Hills, and Coltsville.”

Hartford at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1784
Population: 123,243
Area: 18.1 square miles
COUNTY: Hartford
Residential Tax Rate: $74.29
Commercial Tax Rate: $74.29
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $20,820
Family Household Income: $22,051
Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: Hartford Hospital; Hartford Financial Services Group; St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center; Aetna
* Latest information available

And Parkville, for that matter, one of Hartford’s more ethnically diverse neighborhoods, a mixed-use community on the west side that boasts a thriving artistic community, and has seen recent additions like Hog River Brewing, a brewery and taproom, among other activity.

Bronin is justifiably excited about all of that, but he’s even more intrigued by a big picture in Hartford that has been marrying economic and real-estate development to some cutting-edge workforce development — all of which has Hartford well-positioned to become a model of innovation and a true 21st-century city.

Start Me Up

“Besides the real-estate development and continuing progress and momentum here, an innovation ecosystem that has been growing in Hartford over the past 18 months,” Bronin said. “We put together a strategy that really focused on building on the strength of our core industries: insurance, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare.”

For example, Hartford InsurTech Hub is an initiative created by a group of executives from the Hartford area, including insurance carriers and other related firms, municipal officials, and community stakeholders. It was established to attract new talent and technology to Hartford and provide entrepreneurs with the support, resources, and industry and investor connections they need to help grow their business.

“We’ve engaged our large corporate partners in a way they haven’t been engaged in many years,” Bronin said. “In a very short period of time, we’ve moved the ball a long way down the field toward building a really vibrant innovation ecosystem here.”

In addition, Stanley Black and Decker moved its innovation center to downtown Hartford, partnering with Techstars on a mentorship-driven accelerator that attracts promising additive-manufacturing startups to the city.

“If you told people two years ago that Hartford would be home to both Techstars and the [InsurTech] accelerator, they would have doubted it,” the mayor added. “But those are two significant developments — and they don’t stand alone.”

“We’ve engaged our large corporate partners in a way they haven’t been engaged in many years. In a very short period of time, we’ve moved the ball a long way down the field toward building a really vibrant innovation ecosystem here.”

Launched in 2017, Upward Hartford transformed 34,000 square feet in Hartford’s iconic Stilts Building into a co-working space which soon became a community hub, home to entrepreneurs who connect and collaborate with fellow innovators and startups.

“Upward Hartford, a homegrown incubator and co-working space, has grown rapidly. They’ve brought dozens of startups through the doors in a very short time,” Bronin said. That’s impressive in itself, he said, but moreso in the potential for these young enterprises to partner with larger, more established companies, making it more likely they’ll set down roots in Hartford.

Meanwhile, Infosys, a global leader in consulting, technology, and next-generation services, will open its Connecticut Technology and Innovation Hub in Hartford and hire 1,000 workers in the state by 2022. The facility will have a special focus on insurance, healthcare, and manufacturing.

“I’ve always believed, with the strong corporate community we have and the corporate leaders in those three sectors, there’s a lot of potential,” Bronin said. “But the pace of progress has exceeded even my expectations.”

Time to Score

In short, Hartford is a city on the rise, the mayor noted, and not in a haphazard way; the developments happening in both real estate and the innovation economy spring from a carefully considered vision.

He said economic development will continue to focus increasing the number of residential units downtown, growing the number of medical and educational facilities, and adding new transportation options. The latter has been boosted by expanded commuter rail service this year between New Haven and Springfield, with Hartford one of the key stops — a boon for people who choose to live or work downtown.

One might say that’s another home run in a city that’s seen many of them lately — whether or not the Yard Goats are in town.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Economic Outlook

The Employment Picture

As the job market tightens, Meredith Wise says, it becomes an employees’ market, with business owners increasingly having to pay for talent.

As the job market tightens, Meredith Wise says, it becomes an employees’ market, with business owners increasingly having to pay for talent.

Meredith Wise says it’s probably not a recent addition to the business lexicon. But it was certainly new to her when she heard it the first time.

‘Ghosting’ is the phrase in question, and it refers to a situation where an individual applies for a job, is given an offer, accepts the offer, passes a drug test, is given a starting date, accepts the starting date, and when it comes … he or she just doesn’t show up for work.

“That individual doesn’t feel the need or have the courtesy to call the company and say, ‘I’m not going to take the job; I have another opportunity that’s going to be better for me’; they just don’t show up,” said Wise, executive director of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE), adding that, when she first heard the term from one of her members, she thought it was an aberration and certainly not a common occurrence.

Suffice it to say that she has been corrected on that viewpoint at several of EANE’s monthly member roundtables over the past year or so.

“When I first brought it up I said, ‘oh, this can’t really be happening — this isn’t something people would do,’” she recalled, flashing back several months. “I expected pushback and people saying, ‘no, that doesn’t happen to me.’ Instead, there was agreement around the table that it is happening — a lot.”

Wise said this pattern of ghosting, which is happening in many sectors and at all rungs of the ladder — from entry-level service jobs to senior engineering positions — might be a form of role reversal when it comes to the employment process, and a very clear sign that this is an employees’ market.

“When employers get applicants, there are many times when they don’t communicate back to people; they don’t say, ‘thanks for applying, but we don’t have anything at this time,’” she explained. “As a candidate, you feel your résumé or your application has gone into a black hole. And it almost feels to me like the candidates are turning the tables on employers and saying, ‘I’m not going to get back in touch with you, and I’m just going to do what’s best for me.’”

Bryan Picard, president of Springfield-based Summit Careers Inc., agrees with Wise’s take and can certainly verify the overall tightness of the market, at least through most of this year — and the ghosting phenomenon.

To capture it, he cited the example of a company in Northampton trying to fill a basic warehouse position, with the emphasis on trying.

“We had to fill that same position six or seven times,” he explained, “because the first five people just didn’t show up for the job, and this is a position paying $5 an hour more than the average. There were so many opportunities for strong candidates to go somewhere else, they just didn’t show up.”

Finally, Summit decided to send several people to this client at the same time with instructions to pick the one it liked most — on the theory that at least one of them would show. And a few did, actually.

Meanwhile, the firm has strongly advised its clients to condense the overall hiring process — especially the period between when one is offered a job and when one starts — to hopefully keep would-be employees from becoming ghosts.

“The reality is that minimum wage went to $12 an hour four months ago. There are still companies paying $11 an hour, but the vast majority of them are paying more than what the minimum wage is because they know it’s required.”

All this is part of life in the current employment market, one that is expected to continue into 2019, in most ways and in most sectors — although Picard is seeing some signs of a slowdown in manufacturing (more on that later), and economists, in general, are projecting that the pace of expansion will slow in the year ahead.

“Overall unemployment numbers should stay steady into the first quarter of 2019, said Larry Martin, director of Business Services and Market Research for the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, noting that unemployment was quite low — 4% to 5% — across the region this year. “We see things being steady in the first quarter without any major shifts or changes — we should remain fairly flat.”

Wise agreed, and said flat means more challenging times for employers. Indeed, for now and the foreseeable future, the laws of supply and demand clearly favor employees, she said, with business owners adjusting, out of necessity, with slightly higher wages and better benefits.

“Employers are now sometimes having to buy talent,” she explained. “The applicant pool just isn’t what it was, and to lure people away from their current employer, they may need to be paying a few dollars per hour more to get people to come.”

For this issue and its Economic Outlook 2019, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the employment market and what employers can expect in 2019. For the most part, it is more of the same.

Work in Progress

Picard told BusinessWest that, although the minimum-wage hike to $12 an hour — the first in a series of incremental increases contained in the so-called ‘grand bargain’ legislation — doesn’t become law until Jan. 1, practically speaking, it went into effect long ago.

“The reality is that minimum wage went to $12 an hour four months ago,” he said. “There are still companies paying $11 an hour, but the vast majority of them are paying more than what the minimum wage is because they know it’s required.”

Bryan Picard says he’s seeing a slight slowdown in manufacturing, but overall, the job market remains tight.

Bryan Picard says he’s seeing a slight slowdown in manufacturing, but overall, the job market remains tight.

And this upward movement on wages, at least on the lower end, is yet another sign of how tight the labor situation is and how this is an employees’ market. And while there is speculation on just how long it will stay that way, employers for the moment face a number of challenges, and are responding accordingly, said Wise, who said it starts with the applicant pool, or what passes for one, in many cases.

“Employers are finding real problems with the applicants — they’re just not getting the volume of applicants they used to get, and the people they are getting just don’t have, in many cases, the qualifications and the skills that they’re looking for.”

But the problems certainly don’t end there, Wise said, adding that a huge issue for employers is finding applicants that can pass a drug test. The percentage of applicants that can’t would surprise some, but certainly not anyone working in human resources today, she told BusinessWest.

And if they do have the skills and they can pass a drug test … that generally means that they have many opportunities to choose from and are a solid candidate to become a ghost.

“When we would get candidates of a higher caliber that we would send on a temp-to-perm type of position, the challenge we saw was that they didn’t just have one job offer, they had five job offers,” said Picard. “And the companies that were really struggling starting bringing up their pay scales.”

Indeed, in response to all this, wages are increasing, but the pace of increase is still sluggish, as the chart on page 24 shows.

“I think wages are slightly higher, but wage growth is, overall, very slow,” said Wise, adding that there are several reasons for this, including the fact that retiring Baby Boomers are being replaced by less-experienced, lower-paid employees. Also, pay increases at the top end of wage earners are smaller increases for lower-wage earners, resulting in a lower overall average increase.

Beyond ‘paying for talent,’ to whatever extent they are doing so, employers are also responding to the tight market by altering their hiring policies and practices in some ways to keep good talent from going elsewhere and thus becoming ghosts.

“These trends are forcing employers to go back to what might be considered best practices,” Wise explained, noting, as one example, that after having an applicant accept an offer, the company in question is working harder to stay in touch with that applicant until they arrive for work, asking if they have any questions or just staying in communication with them.

Meanwhile, others are sending soon-to-be employees what she called “swag bags” or “swag items” such as a jacket with the company’s logo on it or a mousepad or other items as a gesture designed to show that the individual is valued.

Meanwhile, and as noted earlier, companies are being advised to condense the hiring process, especially the period between when one is hired and when that individual is slated to start work.

“If there is someone good that you want to put in a position, you put them in right away,” said Picard, adding that he went to far as to encourage clients to skip or accelerate the interview the process, hire promising candidates, and essentially interview them after they were hired.

Hire Power

If all this seems a world apart from what was happening only a few years ago, it is, said Picard, adding that conversations he had with colleagues in this field from across the country revealed that this past year, and especially this past summer, was among the most difficult times anyone could remember when it came to securing qualified help for clients.

“They said it was the worst summer they’d seen in … forever, or at least 50 or 60 years, and that’s understandable with unemployment being at an all-time low,” he said, adding that, while things were not that bad in this market, employers in many markets struggled to find and keep talent.

That’s certainly been the case with precision manufacturing, one of the specific sectors that Summit specializes in.

“Every single company out there right now is looking for CNC machinists,” he told BusinessWest. “Many have more work than they can get out the doors, or more sales orders than they have people to fill them.”

“Employers are finding real problems with the applicants — they’re just not getting the volume of applicants they used to get, and the people they are getting just don’t have, in many cases, the qualifications and the skills that they’re looking for.”

The $64,000 question heading into the new year concerns how long things will stay this way.

As noted earlier, Picard said he has witnessed a slowdown when it comes to some segments of the manufacturing sector, and somewhat easier going when it comes to finding employees for those clients.

“I think things are changing; a lot of times, manufacturing is a leading indicator for what’s going to happen with the economy,” he explained. “The summer was very tight, but now, probably over the past month and a half, things were not as tight. We’re seeing very qualified, strong candidates that are coming through that four months ago … well, we would be begging for someone with half the talent that we’re seeing right now.”

Elaborating, he said he projects that 2019 will be “an interesting year” for his company and a less-busy one for some of his clients, especially those in manufacturing, and he comes to that conclusion mostly by comparing numbers from the fourth quarter this year compared to last year.

“In the fall of 2017, we were very busy, and I brought on someone to help in November,” he recalled. “I said, ‘this is our slowest time of the year, it’s a great time to come on, we’ll be able to do some coaching, things will be nice and easy.’ About January, she said, ‘when is it going to slow down again?’ because it never did.”

This year, it has, and Picard says it may be a sign of what’s to come in the year ahead.

Martin, meanwhile, is projecting essentially the status quo when it comes to the employment market — in manufacturing and most other sectors.

“For manufacturers, it’s going to be steady going, and they are going to need skilled help because of the individuals who are retiring,” he explained. “That’s not going to slow down whatsoever.”

He noted that the region essentially absorbed the arrival of MGM Springfield and its hiring of more than 2,000 people without major disruption to most sectors of the economy, even the broad culinary field, primarily because of proactive steps in anticipation of that seismic event.

“There was a lot of foresight and forecasting done in advance of MGM,” he explained. “There were a lot of new partnerships established, especially with the community colleges to help meet specific needs, such as those in culinary.

“Several sectors were impacted — culinary, retail, financial services, and others — but enough forecasting was done ahead of time to prepare for MGM’s arrival,” he went on. “And a lot of companies planned ahead and internally provided financial encouragement or other types of encouragement for existing staff.”

The challenge moving forward will be with the inevitable churn that the casino complex will experience, he went on, adding that while MGM, working with those partners he mentioned, had enough employees to get the doors open, it must now deal with ongoing turnover and the task of keeping workers in the pipeline.

Learning on the Job

As he talked about the job market and what may come in 2019, Picard concurred with Wise when she talked about many workers not exactly being courteous when it comes to taking better offers and instead becoming ghosts.

Likewise, he said all this amounts to a kind of payback, if you will, for how employers act when the laws of supply and demand are tilted in their favor.

He warned, however, that too much moving around and a great many lines on a résumé may come back to … well, haunt those ghosts when things change and the market is not so tight.

For now, though, it’s an employees’ market and will be for the foreseeable future, and employers looking to land good talent quickly and easily likely have a ghost of a chance of doing so.

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

Economic Outlook

Right Place, Right Time

John Doleva shows off the Basketball Hall of Fame’s renovated theater, one of many improvements at the hall.

John Doleva shows off the Basketball Hall of Fame’s renovated theater, one of many improvements at the hall.

They call it the ‘need period.’

There are probably other names for it, but that’s how those at the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) refer to the post-holiday winter stretch in this region.

And that phrase pretty much sums it up. Area tourist attractions and hospitality-related businesses are indeed needy at that time — far more than at any other season in this region. Traditionally, it’s a time to hold on and, if you’re a ski-related business, hope for snow or enough cold weather to make some.

But as the calendar prepares to change over to 2019 — and, yes, the needy season for many tourism-related businesses in the 413 — there is hope and optimism, at least much more than is the norm.

This needy season, MGM Springfield will be open, and five months into its work to refine and continuously improve its mix of products and services. And there will also be the American Hockey League (AHL) All-Star Game, coming to Springfield for the first time in a long time on Jan. 28 (actually, there is a whole weekend’s worth of activities). There will be a revamped Basketball Hall of Fame, a few new hotels, and some targeted marketing on the part of the GSCVB to let everyone know about everything going on in this area.

“The last half of 2018 has been great, and we’re very optimistic — our outlook for tourism is really positive for 2019. Certainly, MGM is a factor — it’s a huge factor, it’s a game changer — but it’s just part of the story.”

So maybe the need period won’t be quite as needy as it has been.

And if the outlook for the traditionally slow winter months is brighter, the same — and more — can be said for the year ahead, said Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, noting that expectations, based in large part on the last few quarters of 2018 and especially the results after MGM opened on Aug. 24, are quite high for the year ahead.

“The last half of 2018 has been great, and we’re very optimistic — our outlook for tourism is really positive for 2019,” she told BusinessWest. “Certainly, MGM is a factor — it’s a huge factor, it’s a game changer — but it’s just part of the story.”

Elaborating, she said MGM is helping to spur new development in this sector — one new hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, opened in downtown Springfield in 2018, and another, a Courtyard by Marriott, is set to open on Riverdale Street in West Springfield — while also filling more existing rooms and driving rates higher.

Indeed, occupancy rates in area hotels rose to 68.5% in October (the latest data available), up nearly 2% from that same month in 2017, and in August, they were up 5% (to 72.6%) over the year prior.

Meanwhile, room revenue was up 4.6% in October, from $113 a night on average in this region to $119 a night, and in August, it went up 7.2%.

And, as noted, MGM is just one of the reasons for optimism and a bright outlook in this sector, Wydra said. Others include the renovated hoop hall, yearly new additions at Six Flags, and the awesome drawing power of the Dr. Seuss museum on the Quadrangle.

An architect’s rendering of the renovated third-floor mezzanine at the Basketball Hall of Fame, which includes the tributes to the inductees.

An architect’s rendering of the renovated third-floor mezzanine at the Basketball Hall of Fame, which includes the tributes to the inductees.

For 2019, the outlook is for the needle to keep moving in the right direction, she said, noting that some new meetings and conventions have been booked (more on that later); Eastec, the massive manufacturing trade show, will be making its biennial pilgrimage to this region (specifically the Big E); the Babe Ruth World Series will again return to Westfield; and the AHL All-Star weekend will get things off to a solid start.

John Doleva, president of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a member of the executive board of the GSCVB, agreed.

“With MGM now in the marketplace and being active, there does appear to be a lift, much more of an excited spirit by those that are in the business,” he noted. “Everybody is saying that, at some level, their business is up, their interest in visitation is up — there is a general feeling of optimism.”

Getting a Bounce

Doleva told BusinessWest that MGM opened its doors toward the tail end of peak season for the hoop hall — the summer vacation months. Therefore, it’s too early to quantify the impact of the casino on attendance there.

But the expectations for the next peak season are quite high, he went on, adding that many MGM customers return several times, and the hope — and expectation — is that, on one or several of those return trips, guests will extend their visit far beyond the casino’s grounds.

“Once people return a few times, they’re going to be looking for other things to do,” he said. “I definitely feel a sense of excitement and anticipation, and I’m definitely looking forward to next summer when it’s the high-travel season, and really get a gauge for what the potential MGM crossover customer is.

“Conversely, there are probably individuals that would probably have the Hall of Fame on their list of things to do,” he went on, “and now that there’s more of a critical mass, with MGM right across the street, I think we rise up on their to-do list.”

But MGM’s arrival is only one reason for soaring expectations at the hall, said Doleva, adding that the facility is in the middle of an ambitious renovation project that is already yielding dividends.

Indeed, phase one of the project included an extensive makeover of the lobby area and the hall’s theater, and those steps have helped inspire a significant increase in bookings for meetings and events.

Mary Kay Wydra says 2019 is shaping up as a very solid year for the region’s tourism industry.

Mary Kay Wydra says 2019 is shaping up as a very solid year for the region’s tourism industry.

“Our renovations have led to a great number of facility rentals for events that are happening in our theater, our new lobby, and Center Court,” he said, adding that the hall was averaging 175 rentals a year, and will log close to 240 for 2018. “Before, the theater wasn’t a hidden gem, it was just hidden; it was like a junior-high-school auditorium — it was dark, it was gray, it had no life. Now, it’s a great place to have a meeting or presentation like a product launch.”

Phase 2 of the project, which includes a renovation of the third-floor mezzanine, where the Hall of Fame plaques are, and considerable work on the roof of the sphere, will commence “any minute now,” said Doleva, adding that the work should improve visitation numbers, but, even more importantly, revenue and profitability.

The improved numbers for the hall — and the optimism there concerning the year ahead — are a microcosm of the broader tourism sector, said Wydra, adding that a number of collaborating factors point toward what could be a special year — and a solid long-term outlook.

It starts with the All-Star Game. The game itself is on a Monday night, but there is a whole weekend’s worth of activities planned, including the ‘classic skills competition’ the night before.

“Even with the average daily rate going up and occupancy growing, we still have that need period — which is true for all of Massachusetts,” she noted. “When you have an event like the All-Star Game in January, that really helps the hotels and restaurants.”

Additional momentum is expected in May with the arrival of EASTEC, considered to be New England’s premier manufacturing exposition. The three-day event drew more than 13,000 attendees last year, many of whom patronized area restaurants and clubs, said Wydra, adding that MGM Springfield only adds to the list of entertainment and hospitality options for attendees.

The Babe Ruth World Series is another solid addition to the year’s lineup, she noted, adding that the teams coming into the area, and their parents, frequent a number of area attractions catering to families.

Analysts say MGM Springfield has a far-reaching impact on the region’s tourism sector, including higher occupancy rates at area hotels and higher room rates.

Analysts say MGM Springfield has a far-reaching impact on the region’s tourism sector, including higher occupancy rates at area hotels and higher room rates.

Meanwhile, the region continues to attract a diverse portfolio of meetings and conventions, said Alicia Szenda, director of sales for the GSCVB, adding that MGM Springfield provides another attractive selling point for the 413, which can already boast a host of amenities, accessibility, and affordable hotel rates.

In June, the National Assoc. of Watch and Clock Collectors will stage its 75th annual national convention at the Big E, she said, an event that is expected to bring 2,000 people to the region. And later in the summer, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts will bring more than 900 people to downtown Springfield.

Those attending these conventions and the many others slated during the year now have a growing list of things to do in this region, said Wydra, who mentioned MGM, obviously, but also the revamped Hall of Fame; Six Flags, which continues to add new attractions yearly (a Cyborg ride is on tap for 2019); and the Dr. Seuss museum, which is drawing people from across the country and around the world.

“The Seuss factor is huge,” said Wydra. “It’s a big reason why visitation is up in this region. Seuss is a recognizable brand, and the museum delivers on the brand, and they keep reinventing that product.”

Staying Power

This ‘Seuss factor’ is just one of a number of powerful forces coming together to bring the outlook for tourism in this region to perhaps the highest plane it’s seen.

Pieces of the puzzle continue to fall into place, and together, they point to Western Mass. becoming a true destination.

As noted, even the ‘need period’ is looking less needy. The rest of the year? The sky’s the limit.

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

Opinion

Editorial

A year ago this time, we were writing how the pieces would soon start to fall in place for Springfield and this region as a whole and how there would be the start of a snow-ball effect regarding the city and heightened interest as it as a place to live, work, and invest in.

Well, 12 months later, the snowball is starting to take on some size and move at a pretty good clip, making the outlook for 2019 considerable bright locally, even as the picture nationally is becoming increasingly clouded by question marks (see related stories beginning on page 16).

In a way, there are two stories when it comes to the economy: nationally, there is considerable apprehension regarding a slowdown — what’s happening in Wall Street is a perfect example — even though most economic indicators, everything from unemployment rates to demand loans, remain solid.

It will be up the Fed, as well as investors and other constituencies, to sort things out at an intriguing time, when there is growth and doubt — both in very large quantities.

Meanwhile, locally, the region, and especially Springfield, seem to be on the cusp of something momentous, maybe even historic.

Those quoted in the stories comprising the Economic Outlook 2019 section speak of not merely optimism (there’s been lots of that over the years), but interest and activity. Tourism officials talk of rising occupancy rates and hotel-room rates and interest in developing new hotels. Meanwhile, commercial real-estate brokers and managers talk of interest in this market that they haven’t seen in decades — if ever.

Investors are looking at sites for everything from housing developments to cannabis dispensaries and everything I between.

It’s not as simple as ‘if you build it, they will come,’ but in many ways it is.

And what we’re building is a vibrant, livable, accessible city (and region) that people and businesses want to be part of. We have a long, long way to go, but more of those aforementioned pieces are falling into place, and more should come in the next few years.

MGM Springfield was certainly a big piece. It brought jobs, foot traffic, and interest in Springfield from people who might have had to look at a map or rely on the GPS system in the car to find it.

But there are many other pieces as well: Union Station and enhanced rail service are making it easier to get to the city; renovation of Stearns Square, Riverfront Park, and other facilities will make Springfield more livable; businesses and institutions moving into the downtown and investing there are prompting others to consider following suit; and an improved police presence is contributing to less apprehension about public safety — not to mention the many colleges now populating downtown, the ongoing remaking of Tower Square (White Lion Brewery will soon be moving in), the cannabis industry, and more.

When things like this start to happen, a city becomes more saleable as a place to live, and we’re seeing considerable interest in development of market-rate housing in and around downtown.

And when more people start to make the city their home address, more businesses — more restaurants, more clubs, some cannabis dispensaries, and more service-related ventures — will follow.

And then more people will want to relocate here, and more businesses will follow. That’s the theory, and in practice — and in some cities, like Cambridge, Lowell, and others — it works.

Will it work here? Perhaps. The signs are there. The pieces are falling into place, and the snowball is starting to take on size.

If 2018 was a year to build some momentum, then 2019 will be a year to capitalize on it. Big time.

Opinion

Editorial

Looking back, 2018 was, overall, a year of progress and accumulated momentum for the Greater Springfield region. As the calendar turns, we have a short wish list for 2019:

• Continued success for MGM Springfield. Not everyone is a big fan of gambling, but everyone should want this facility to not only succeed, but continue to grow and expand its influence. Most all of the things we wanted to happen with this casino — thousands of jobs, more vibrancy downtown, a boost to the convention and meetings market, and people loading ‘Main Street, Springfield, Mass.’ into the car’s GPS — have happened, and things we didn’t want to happen — traffic jams, turmoil in the labor market, and damage to other businesses — really haven’t happened. Let’s hope this pattern continues into the new year and beyond.

• More progress with helping the unemployed and underemployed get into the game. In most all respects, the economy is solid, and individual sectors are doing well. Employers are still struggling to find good help. But the regional unemployment rate remains higher than the national average, and many are still on the sidelines when it comes to the job market because they lack the needed hard and soft skills. Several area agencies and institutions, especially the community colleges, are aggressively attacking the problem, and it is our wish that these efforts generate some real results in the year to come, because, in many sectors, the only thing holding them back is securing enough talent to get the work done.

• More work to aggressively market this region and the many good things happening here. Yes, we know that Greater Springfield has come a long way since the dark days when a receiver controlled the City of Homes and its downtown was essentially dead as a doornail. But the rest of the region and the country don’t. We could wait for the New York Times and the Boston Globe to tel the story (they might get around to it someday), but we should probably tell it ourselves through targeted marketing, as other cities (New York) and states (Michigan) have done. We don’t need a catchy phrase, but we do need to get the word out. The Economic Development Council has recognized this as a priority and we hope to see some progress made in 2019.

• Continued efforts to inspire and mentor entrepreneurs. We’ve said this many times before, but need to keep emphasizing the point. The most logical way to create jobs and revitalize individual cities and their downtowns is not by luring large companies, but by building from within, by promoting entrepreneurship and then mentoring those who go into business for themselves. Yes, it takes longer, and for every Google — and we’re probably not going to get a Google — there are hundreds of ventures that fail to take flight. But we have to keep trying to build from within. We’ve made great progress in this realm through the efforts of Valley Venture Mentors and many others, and we have to continue building on the foundation that we’ve laid.

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]
A photo essay of recent business events in Western Massachusetts December 25, 2018

Cutting the Ribbon

Hundreds of dignitaries, including Gov. Charlie Baker, joined Springfield Technical Community College administrators, faculty, students, and trustees (past and present) for a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, otherwise known as Building 19 when it was part of the Springfield Armory complex. Actually, several speakers who took the podium joked that the $50 million facility should simply be called ‘the Ira’ for short. The renovated historic building will now serve as a one-stop hub for student services and activities.

Rubenzahl, president of the school from 2004 to 2016 and visionary for the Building 19 project, cuts the ribbon

Rubenzahl, president of the school from 2004 to 2016 and visionary for the Building 19 project, cuts the ribbon

Baker, right, with current STCC President John Cook

Baker, right, with current STCC President John Cook

Rubenzahl chats with students Karolyn Burgos-Toribio and Mohammed Gabriel

Rubenzahl chats with students Karolyn Burgos-Toribio and Mohammed Gabriel

Building 19 opened in the mid 1800s, and has served the college in a number of ways over the years

Building 19 opened in the mid 1800s, and has served the college in a number of ways over the years

Rubenzahl addresses those gathered for the ceremonies, with Cook and Baker to his right

Rubenzahl addresses those gathered for the ceremonies, with Cook and Baker to his right

 

Banking on Worthy Causes

The Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. (MBA) announced that the MBA Charitable Foundation set a new record in its annual year-end community grant season. The 45 grants in 2018 total $163,000. The foundation has now provided gifts totaling approximately $2.5 million over its 22-year history. Among the awards is $5,000 to United Way of Pioneer Valley’s Thrive Financial Success Program (below), $5,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (middle), and $5,000 to Girls Inc. of Holyoke (bottom).

 

‘Your Friends Are My Friends’

More than 200 women recently attended WillPower Foundation’s “Your Friends Are My Friends” holiday brunch at Hadley Meeting House. The annual fundraiser raised more than $12,000 for grants for families with loved ones with different abilities throughout Western Mass. An art auction with pieces created by supporters of WillPower was the highlight of the event.

Sharon Dufour of LUSO Federal Credit Union and Kim Anderson with art they won at the auction.

Sharon Dufour of LUSO Federal Credit Union and Kim Anderson with art they won at the auction.

 

Food for Thought

Arrha Credit Union President Michael Ostrowski (pictured at far left) recently recognized Ludlow High School honor students for collecting $7,159.50 in non-perishable food items and donations for Springfield Open Pantry. Arrha sponsors the School Challenge, through which area students raised $22,982.91 this year. To show appreciation, Arrha donated $1,000 to Ludlow High School community efforts. The Springfield Open Pantry is an emergency food kitchen that serves more than 30,000 people each year.

Court Dockets

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

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Michael D. Facchini d/b/a Facchini Law Firm v. Law Offices of Mark E. Salamone

Allegation: Failure to pay reasonable attorney’s fees as compensation for work done on file: $3,575

Filed: 11/1/18

David Rossi v. Pezzetta Co. Inc. and John Pezzetta

Allegation: Breach of contract, fraud/deceit: $16,700

Filed: 11/23/18

PALMER DISTRICT COURT

Margaret Slitzky v. Stacy’s Cleaners Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing personal injury: $2,000

Filed: 12/3/18

WESTFIELD DISTRICT COURT

Harry Van Wart Painting Inc. v. Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction Inc.

Allegation: Failure to pay for painting contractor work: $10,550

Filed: 11/7/18

Jessica Bushey v. Pioneer Valley Inspections, LLC

Allegation: Misrepresentation, negligence, and breach of contract: $16,000

Filed: 11/28/18

Alan Stepanik d/b/a Al Stepanik Greenhouses v. Ana Realty Corp. d/b/a Lambert’s Deli o/k/a the Deli at Rainbow Square

Allegation: Breach of contract: $6,060

Filed: 12/10/18

Agenda

NAMI Night with the Springfield Thunderbirds

Jan. 5: Saturday, Jan. 5 will be NAMI Night with the Springfield Thunderbirds hosting the Providence Bruins at the MassMutual Center. The action begins at 7:05 p.m., and tickets cost $15. Between periods, there will be a chuck-a-puck contest with the winner (if there is one) receiving a cash prize and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of chances to win going to NAMI Western Massachusetts. For game tickets, visit springfieldthunderbirds.formstack.com/forms/nami_night or namiwm.org/events.html. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Western Massachusetts is dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for individuals and families affected by mental illness through support, education, and advocacy. According to statistics, one in four Americans will face a mental-health problem every year.

Western Mass. Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Banquet

Jan. 31: Justine Siegal, the first female coach in the history of Major League Baseball, will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame induction banquet. The ceremony, hosted by the Valley Blue Sox, will take place at 7 p.m. at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 100 Congress St., Springfield. Siegal is the president and founder of Baseball for All, a nonprofit organization that empowers women to play, coach, and lead in baseball. She earned her doctorate in sport and exercise psychology from Springfield College, where she served as an assistant coach for the baseball team from 2008 to 2010. She also coached youth baseball. In 2009, Siegal became the first female coach of a professional men’s team when she worked as the first-base coach of the Brockton Rox in the independent Canadian American Assoc. of Professional Baseball. In 2011, she became the first woman to throw batting practice to a big league team, the Cleveland Indians. She also has served as a batting-practice pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and New York Mets. In October 2015, Oakland invited her to serve a two-week stint as guest instructor in the instructional league in Arizona, making her the first female to coach in the major leagues. Siegal will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2019. This year’s class is the sixth since the inaugural banquet in 2014. Since its inception, 35 individuals and four teams who have represented and served the baseball community of Western Mass. have been honored. Tickets for the banquet are $50, or $450 for a table of 10. Dinner is included, and every guest will receive a pair of tickets to a 2019 Blue Sox home game. To purchase tickets, call (413) 533-1100 or visit valley-blue-sox.ticketleap.com/2019-hof.

‘Building a Company People Crave to Work For’

March 12: The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley is looking for business owners or key managers who would contribute to a presentation called “Building a Company People Crave to Work For.” Several years ago, Jack Stack, father of the Great Game of Business and open-book management, said, “build a great company — because a great company can’t help but make great products.” But what does it take to make a company great? The presentation will be made up of people from businesses with strong policies, attractive cultures, and impressive numbers of high potential employees rising through the ranks. Attendees will hear how they did it, and learn how to adopt anything that would work for their own companies. Get in touch at fambizpv.com.

Chamber Corners

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• Jan. 5: Chicopee Chamber Night at the Springfield Thunderbirds, 7:05 p.m., at the MassMutual Center, Springfield. An evening of fun for the entire family at a discounted price, this is also Throwback Night, and the Springfield Thunderbirds will be sporting Springfield Indians jerseys when they play the Providence Bruins. Series sponsored by Polish National Credit Union. Tickets start at $16 for members. Sign up online at www.chicopeechamber.org/events.

• Jan. 15: CEO Power Hour Luncheon featuring Carla Cosenzi of Country Nissan/Hyundai, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by the Collegian Court. A quarterly luncheon series where CEOs tell of how they rose to their positions. Series sponsored by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $30 for members, $35 for non-members. Sign up online at www.chicopeechamber.org/events or call (413) 594-2101.

Jan. 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by the Castle of Knights, Memorial Drive, Chicopee. Sponsored by Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, PeoplesBank, Spherion Staffing, and Insurance Center of New England. Annual meeting. Chief greeter: Kevin Kober of Polish National Credit Union. Keynote speaker: Cidalia Inacio of Westfield Bank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events or call (413) 594-2101.

• Jan. 30: Annual HR Update, 8:30-10:30 a.m., hosted by Hampton Inn, Memorial Drive, Chicopee. Join this presentation with attorney John Gannon of Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., one of the leading labor and employment law firms serving employers in New England, for a discussion aimed to prepare you to enter the New Year with a better understanding of state and federal laws employers need to be aware of in 2019. Series sponsored by Westfield Bank. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events or call (413) 594-2101.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• Jan. 31: Celebrate Success, 5-8 p.m., hosted by Northampton Country Club, 135 Main St., Leeds. Sponsored by Polish National Credit Union, Finck & Perras, and Taylor Real Estate. The event honors milestone achievers, salutes annual award recipients, and gives a preview of where the chamber will head in 2019. Cost: $40 per person, which includes dinner. Pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

• Jan. 7: January Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Shortstop Bar & Grill, 99 Springfield Road, Westfield. Join us for our monthly Mayor’s Coffee Hour with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. This event is free and open to the public. Sign up online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events or call the chamber at (413) 568-1618 to register so we may give our host a head count.

• Jan. 14: January After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Roots Aquatics and Fitness Center, 217 Root Road, Westfield. Refreshments will be served, and a 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber’s scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Sign up online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events. For sponsorships or more information, call the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• Dec. 13: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Trinity Pub/Irish House Restaurant, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. You must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief intro and company overview. The only cost to attend for members is the cost of lunch. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. Please note, we cannot invoice you for these events. Register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

People on the Move
Thomas Kettle

Thomas Kettle

In a first for both institutions, Holyoke Community College (HCC) and Westfield State University have jointly hired a dedicated, full-time director to oversee emergency management and operations planning on each campus. As director of emergency preparedness and response, Thomas Kettle will split his time 60-40 between Westfield State and HCC while maintaining offices on both campuses. An emergency-management specialist, Kettle comes to the new position after serving since 2013 as the fire-safety specialist at Brown University, where his job included support and training in emergency planning and operations. He started his new position on Dec. 10. Kettle is a former infantryman and section sergeant in the U.S. Army. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire science from Providence College and, earlier this year, completed his master’s degree in emergency management from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He will report to the vice presidents for Administration and Finance at each institution. Among his duties, he will be responsible for updating and expanding existing emergency operation plans at both schools.

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David Fernandes

David Fernandes

David Fernandes has joined Polish National Credit Union as retail operations manager. He has more than 11 years of retail banking and management experience. He has taken on an array of roles during his career, including retail banking officer, branch manager, and mortgage loan specialist, which has provided him with widespread knowledge of the industry. Fernandes is a graduate of American International College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has held communication and community assignments with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce, where he is chair of the membership committee; the Chicopee Portuguese American Club, where he is a member of the scholarship committee; and the Gremio Lusitano Portuguese Club of Ludlow, where he is on the executive board. Fernandes is also a Ludlow Special Police officer and treasurer, completing countless hours of community service. He assists with organizing community events and maintains the finances of the association. In 2010, he graduated from the Basic Reserve/Intermittent Academy and has his Western Mass. Chiefs of Police Assoc. certification.

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Pamela Stobierski

Pamela Stobierski

Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) named Pamela Stobierski chair of its board of directors. Stobierski has been a trustee of the bank since 2008 and most recently has been serving on the executive board of directors and as chair of the trust committee. She takes on the board chair position following the death this past spring of the prior chair, Edward Margola. Following her graduation from Smith College in 1983, Stobierski obtained her juris doctorate from Suffolk University in 1988 and became a partner with her husband, John Stobierski, in Stobierski and Connor, one of the largest law firms in Greenfield. Her law practice has been concentrated in elder law, estates, and real estate. Recently, she became ‘of counsel’ to the firm to give greater attention to her duties as chair of the GSB board. Stobierski is a member of the Franklin County Bar Assoc., the Real Estate Bar Assoc. of Massachusetts, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the South Deerfield Women’s Club, and a member and a former vice president of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Assoc. of Deerfield. Her community-service record also includes previously serving as an executive committee member of the Franklin County Bar Assoc. and as treasurer of the Pioneer Valley Symphony.

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Karly Grimaldi

Karly Grimaldi

OMG Inc. named Karly Grimaldi to the newly created position of Sales & Operations Planning manager. She reports to Geri McCarthy, director of Operations. “OMG has established a strong S&OP forecasting tool which various functions in the business utilize,” said Dewey Kolvek, senior vice president of Operations. “In her new position, Karly will capitalize on the tool to help these functions drive process improvements within their organizations.” Grimaldi started with OMG in 2011 as a sales and marketing assistant for the Roofing Products Division. Most recently, she has been an S&OP analyst, helping to design and launch the initial sales and operations planning tool. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information management and communications, both from Bay Path University.

•••••

Jose Delgado

Jose Delgado

Jose Delgado, a Springfield native who has been active in local and statewide government affairs for most of his professional career, was appointed to the Holyoke Community College (HCC) board of trustees by Gov. Charlie Baker. Delgado is director of Government Affairs for MGM Springfield and a former aide to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. Born and raised in Springfield, Delgado graduated from Central High School before attending Westfield State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a minor in business management. Earlier this year, he completed his MBA from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Since graduating from Westfield State in 2008, Delgado has also worked as a program coordinator for the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce, a field operations supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau, and a pre-admissions advisor and recruitment coordinator for University Without Walls at UMass. As a volunteer, he has served as vice chair of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade committee and is a founding board member of Suit Up Springfield. In 2014, he was named one of the 40 Under Forty by BusinessWest.

•••••

Richard Venne, CEO of Viability, announced that Patty Morey Walker, former mayoral candidate in Greenfield, has accepted the position of program manager in Viability’s Greenfield office. Morey Walker was also president and CEO of Walker, West and Associates. As founder of this insurance consulting firm, she oversaw program development, product development, and marketing. She received her bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation from Springfield College and master’s degree in rehabilitation from Boston University, and was a 2014 graduate of Western Massachusetts Women’s Fund’s Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact. In addition to her multiple years of experience in the insurance-technology field, Morey Walker has several years of experience in the human-services field, including positions working in residential homes for individuals with intellectual disabilities, a residential treatment center for girls in the Department of Youth and Family System, a recreational program for children with development disabilities, and a work center for adults with intellectual challenges. She looks forward to returning to the human-services industry and aims to utilize her skills from past experiences in both the public and private sector to help Viability achieve its mission of supporting individuals with disabilities and other societal disadvantages in reaching their full potential. In addition, Viability announced the recent promotion of three current staff members: Kristin Rotas, director (Holyoke); Jennifer Pisano, associate vice president (Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island), and Gregg Thompson, vice president (Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island).

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Thomas Hogan

Thomas Hogan

Wright-Pierce, a multi-disciplinary engineering firm, announced that Thomas Hogan has joined the firm as regional group leader for Western and Central Mass. Bringing a diverse skill set to Wright-Pierce’s growing Massachusetts operation, Hogan has more than 20 years of experience working with municipal, institutional, industrial, commercial, and energy-sector clients. He has served as a consultant to municipalities throughout Massachusetts, conducting site-plan reviews and providing expert testimony, master planning and design, permitting, materials testing, and construction inspection and administration. He has successfully permitted complex projects through local, state, and federal agencies throughout New England, and is considered a leader in implementing stormwater best management practices, dam improvements, and watershed protection measures. Hogan’s technical expertise in the energy sector includes project management of deepwater dredging for a hydroelectric generating facility, renewable-energy-source development, and a combined heat and power plant for a regional medical center, significantly increasing its utility crisis backup operations capability.

•••••

HCC Foundation Inc., the nonprofit fundraising arm of Holyoke Community College, recently added five new members to its board of trustees. At its annual meeting on Dec. 4, the foundation board voted in Kevin Green, a member of the Westfield Financial Management Services team at Westfield Bank; Tiffany Cutting Madru, vice president of Business and Marketing for C&D Electronics in Holyoke; Meghan Parnell-Gregoire, vice president and Business Lending Center manager at PeoplesBank; Tim Wegiel, assistant vice president and Electronic Banking officer at PeoplesBank and an HCC alumnus; and Alicia Zoeller, an attorney and deputy administrator for the city of Holyoke’s Office of Community Development. Also at the annual meeting, John “Jay” Driscoll, a partner in the law firm of Resnic, Beauregard, Waite & Driscoll in Holyoke, was elected board chair; and Corey Murphy, president of First American Insurance Agency in Chicopee, was elected vice chair. The HCC Foundation marked its 50th anniversary in 2018. This year, the foundation has already provided nearly $1 million to the college in grants as well as funds earmarked for athletics, the HCC Library, music, classroom technology, and other equipment. In addition, the foundation awards more than $200,000 each year to students for academic scholarships.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBancorp, MHC Closes on Acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, has closed on its acquisition of the First National Bank of Suffield, effective Nov. 30. All the current branches of the First National Bank of Suffield opened and conducted business on Dec. 1 under the trade name First Suffield Bank, a Division of PeoplesBank. First Suffield Bank has four branches located in Suffield, West Suffield, East Granby, and Windsor Locks, Conn. PeoplesBank has 20 banking centers located throughout Hampden and Hampshire counties in Massachusetts. In connection with the completion of the acquisition, one member of the board of directors of First Suffield Bank will join the board of directors of PeoplesBank and the board of trustees of PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, and certain other directors of First Suffield Bank will be provided the opportunity to serve as corporators of PeoplesBancorp. The combined organization has approximately $2.8 billion in assets and $1.9 billion in deposits.

Berkshire Hills to Acquire SI Financial Group

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and SI Financial Group Inc. announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire SIFI and its subsidiary, Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co., in an all-stock transaction valued at $180 million based on Berkshire’s stock price as of the close of business on Dec. 10. Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $13.6 billion, including the $1.6 billion in acquired SIFI assets. SIFI reported $1.3 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits as of Sept. 30. This merger agreement increases Berkshire’s market presence with 18 branches in Eastern Conn. and five branches in Rhode Island, adding to Berkshire’s nine existing Connecticut branches.

MachineMetrics Announces $11.3 Million Funding Round

NORTHAMPTON — MachineMetrics, which equips factories with the digital tools needed to increase productivity and win more business, announced it has raised $11.3 million in Series A financing. Tola Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Hyperplane Venture Capital, Long River Ventures, Mass Ventures, Hub Angels, and Firebolt Ventures. With the new funds, the company will expand its data-science and product-development teams while accelerating global sales. MachineMetrics is a pioneer in industrial IoT (internet of things) technology. Its system is designed so customers can install it themselves without the need for expensive and time-consuming customization. Once installed, manufacturers can collect, visualize, and analyze data from any industrial machine. It automatically senses when there is a problem, even predicting some problems hours or minutes before they occur, and recommends solutions that reduce costly unplanned outages. In addition, MachineMetrics benchmarks a company’s machine performance against those of its peers to help guide future investments. Integrated into factories globally, MachineMetrics serves customers including Fastenal, Snap-On Tools, National Oilwell Varco, Gardner Denver, Continental, Saint Gobain, Shiloh Automotive, and SECO Tools.

NAI Plotkin Sells Historic Hampden Bank Building

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it represented the seller in the sale of 1665 Main St., a 2,010-square-foot commercial building, formerly Hampden Savings Bank, located in downtown Springfield. The building was constructed in 1918 and has a glass ceiling with an ornate supporting structure, marble walls, and copper entrance. The asset sold for $285,000, although it last assessed for $127,600. Wilfredo Lopez of NAI Plotkin was the listing broker for the property. RLTY Development Springfield LLC secured the property and, as the new owner, plans to complete restoration of the original bank building and open a retail cannabis location. The building is also located directly across the street from the Paramount Theater and one block from the newly renovated Union Station. The next steps for the new owner will be to gain approval for the retail establishment by the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and the City Council.

Bay Path University Named Safest College in Massachusetts

LONGMEADOW — Campus safety is a top consideration for many individuals and their families when it comes to choosing a college to attend. Niche.com compiled a list of the safest college campuses in America, and Bay Path University ranked third out of nearly 1,500 reviewed. The university ranked first for safety in both Massachusetts and New England. “We do as much as we can to ensure that the Bay Path University campus is a safe place,” said Michael Giampietro, vice president for Finance & Administrative Services. “Campus safety is a top priority here. Our Longmeadow campus, in particular, is well-lit with emergency call boxes, and our staff performs routine building checks.” He also credited Bay Path’s small size, and the fact that students, facuty, and staff tend to know each other. “We’re also fortunate for our location in the very safe town of Longmeadow, where we work to maintain a good relationship with the local fire and police departments.” According to Niche.com, the 2019 Safest College Campuses ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. The site states that top-ranked colleges offer a safe and healthy environment with little or no campus crime, drugs, or alcohol usage. Specific factors considered include campus crime rate, local crime grade, student surveys on safety, residence-hall date violence rate, residence-hall rape rate, alcohol-related arrests, and drug-related arrests.

AIC Awarded Matching Grant from George I. Alden Trust

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester to be applied to the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences building project. George Alden established the George I. Alden Trust in 1912 for the purpose of maintenance of charitable or philanthropic enterprises, with specific interest in the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions. This grant is the largest ever given to AIC by Alden Trust and offers a unique and inspiring challenge: the funds will be realized only if the college’s alumni match the pledge within 18 months. “It is an all-or-nothing match,” said Heather Gawron, executive director of Institutional Advancement for AIC. “We must raise the full $150,000 in order to receive any of the matched funds. With the support of our alumni, we are confident that this prerequisite is achievable and will strive to meet our goal by September 2019.” Alumni interested in learning more about the Alden Trust challenge are encouraged to contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at (413) 205-3520, [email protected], or www.aic.edu/give/alden-grant.

The Channel Company Names NetLogix to Next-Gen 250 List

WESTFIELD — NetLogix announced that CRN, a brand of the Channel Company, named NetLogix to to its 2018 Next-Gen 250 list. The annual list identifies IT solution providers who have embraced emerging technologies and are setting the pace for the rest of the channel in their adoption. Those on the list have been able to meet their customers’ ever-changing IT needs in leading-edge technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, virtualization, mobility, business analytics, and business intelligence.

NetLogix is a network-management, cloud, and systems-technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions that ensure business integrity for small, medium-sized, and enterprise-level clients. The Westfield-based company designs, implements and manages IT solutions spanning computing infrastructure, enterprise management, VoIP, security, and cloud solutions.

Worcester State University, WNEU School of Law Forge Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — Worcester State University (WSU) and Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law have signed a 3+3 articulation agreement that allows undergraduate students attending Worcester State University to apply for admission to the private law school and begin their legal education during their senior year. The agreement shortens the time required for students to earn both a bachelor’s and law degree from seven years to six years. WNEU President Anthony Caprio, who codified the agreement on behalf of Western New England University at the signing ceremony, noted that “this collaborative arrangement with Worcester State University will open doors for more students to access high-caliber legal education with our special brand of individualized student attention.” The agreement means qualified Worcester State University students who successfully complete their major requirements in three years, leaving them with only free electives, will have a seamless transition to Western New England University’s law school during what would be their senior year. Credits earned during the first year of law school will count towards the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Three academic departments at Worcester State will offer an academic gateway into the program: Criminal Justice, History and Political Science, and Philosophy. Upon completion of three years of law school, students earn a juris doctor (JD) from WNEU. With an emphasis on practical lawyering skills, Western New England University’s juris doctor program combines rigorous coursework covering the theory and practical application of the law with extensive experiential opportunities in legal clinics and externships. A variety of concentrations allows individual students to customize their legal education to gain added experience in specific practice areas.

Briefcase

UMass Report Details Costs of Reporting Sexual Harassment

AMHERST — Employees who file sexual harassment complaints often face harsh outcomes, with 65% losing their jobs within a year, and 68% reporting some form of retaliation by their employer, according to new research from the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE). In their report, “Employer’s Responses to Sexual Harassment,” co-authors Carly McCann, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, and M.V. Lee Badgett analyzed more than 46,000 harassment claims sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) from 2012 to 2016. These cases represent only a small amount (0.2%) of the estimated 25.6 million experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace that occurred over this same five-year window. “Since the legal standards are high, it is not surprising that only a very few file a charge,” said McCann, a UMass Amherst doctoral student and CEE research assistant. “The good news in the report is that the EEOC clearly takes sexual-harassment discrimination charges seriously. These charges are more likely to be found legally plausible, and the charging party is more likely to receive benefits, than other discrimination charges. At the same time, only a minority receive any benefit, and a majority lose their job and experience employer retaliation, so not filing a charge may also make economic and social sense. There are often severe negative consequences to filing a charge, and most people who do file a charge receive no benefits.” Even among the 27% of cases that did result in a benefit, redress was typically unsubstantial. The most common benefit — and the result of 23% of total charges that proceed through the agencies’ processed cases — was financial compensation; however, the average settlement of $24,700 (with a median amount of $10,000) is unlikely to make up for the economic cost of job loss. The discrepancy between the average and median amounts is due in large part to a handful of high-profile cases. Large monetary settlements are very rare, with only 1% of those who received monetary compensation exceeding $100,000. Just 12% of the total charges led to managerial agreements to change workplace practices. As the report notes, this lack of accountability often engenders further incidents of harassment. “Most employer responses tend to be harsh both via retaliation and firing employees who complain,” said Tomaskovic-Devey, professor of Sociology at UMass Amherst and CEE founding director. “The very low proportion of employees who file sexual-harassment complaints is very likely to be related to employers’ typically punitive responses.” While these numbers represent averages across all cases filed with the EEOC or FEPAs, gender and race influenced both the number and outcome of cases. “Although they comprise 47% of the labor force, women file 81% of sexual-harassment charges,” McCann said. “Black women, in particular, report a disproportionality large percentage of workplace sexual-harassment charges; they account for 7% of the labor force but file 27% of sexual-harassment charges.” Following recommendations given by the EEOC, the authors advocate having workplaces address sexual harassment internally through better managerial training and programs that train employees to identify and address harassment incidents.

Employer Confidence Ticks Up in November

BOSTON — Business confidence in Massachusetts recovered slightly during November amid a swirl of contradictory economic indicators ranging from agitated financial markets to international trade tensions to steady-but-slowing growth in the Bay State. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index gained 0.6 points to 61.6 in November, ending a three-month slide that brought confidence to its lowest level in more than a year. The November reading was one point lower than in November 2017 and 2.5 points lower than at the beginning of the year. Increased optimism about the state and national economies balanced employer concerns about their own operations and hiring plans during November. The reading remained well within optimistic territory, but employers also clearly see risk on the horizon. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during November. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 2.4 points to 67.1, leaving it 1.9 points higher than in November 2017. The U.S. Index gained 2.1 points to 63.7, up 1.5 points from a year earlier. The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 0.4 points to 59.2, down 3.1 points year-to-year. The Employment Index slid 3.8 points for the month while the Sales Index was up 2.3 points. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.7 points last month to 62.6 and 0.8 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.1 points for the month and lost 1.1 points for the year.

Nexamp Expands Access to Solar Power in Western Mass.

BOSTON — Nexamp Inc. and HCG are working together to promote community solar projects totaling more than 21 megawatts across Western Mass., enough to power approximately 4,000 homes. The solar arrays provide the opportunity for residents, businesses, and municipalities to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on their annual electricity bills while supporting local, renewable electricity. The collaborative effort is known as Hampshire Renewables. Hundreds of local residents, nonprofits, and small businesses have already signed up through the Hampshire Renewables website or with HCG or Nexamp representatives. Customers who subscribe to Nexamp’s community solar projects through Hampshire Renewables will realize a guaranteed 15% discount on electricity from the solar projects delivered to their National Grid or Eversource utility bills. In Eversource/WMECo territory, projects are located in Amherst, Whately, Plainfield, and Hadley (Nexamp’s third project in Hadley). In National Grid territory, project locations include Palmer, Wales, Granby, Oakham, Winchendon, and Charlton (Nexamp’s third project in Charlton). Anyone interested in participating should visit hcg-ma.org/hampshire-renewables.

Florence Bank Asks Customers to Vote for Their Favorite Nonprofits

FLORENCE — Florence Bank customers have until Monday, Dec. 31 to vote in the Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program for one area nonprofit in Western Mass. they want the bank to support with grant funds. The program is a year-long initiative. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 customer votes before the year ends. Customers can vote online at www.florencebank.com/vote, or they can cast a ballot in person in one of the bank’s 10 branches in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Florence, Granby, Hadley, Northampton, Williamsburg and West Springfield. When Florence Bank presents the awards for the Customers’ Choice program next spring, it will be the 17th year the grant initiative has been helping local nonprofits make an impact in Western Mass. communities. Each year, the bank donates a share of $100,000 to more than 50 local organizations, and in 2019, the bank will surpass the $1.1 million mark in terms of grants made to community nonprofits. The program is unique, as the bank empowers its customers to decide which organizations will receive a portion of the grant funds. The grants program provides funds to a wide spectrum of organizations doing transformative work in the Pioneer Valley, including food pantries, therapy-dog organizations, elementary schools, and health support networks.

JA of Western Massachusetts Receives $5,000 Grant from Webster Bank

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, a local nonprofit organization that provides financial-literacy, entrepreneurship, and career-readiness education, was awarded a $5,000 grant from Webster Bank to support the JA: A Valued Added Authentic Learning Project, providing students with the tools to develop the 21st-century skills needed to become highly skilled, autonomous employees. Through its charitable-giving programs, Webster Bank focuses on helping a broad set of organizations build a strong and self-reliant community. Webster has a long history of supporting Junior Achievement and its efforts to deliver K-12 programs that foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy skills. Webster Bank employees volunteer to teach the JA curriculum at a variety of schools throughout the area. JA: A Valued Added Authentic Learning Project leverages the skills, talent, and educational and career opportunities of this region to create a cadre of role models from the community to weave multiple intersecting pathways for middle-grade and high-school students to engage with JA’s relevant curriculum and instructional materials, supplemental technology-driven simulations, job-shadow experiences, and competitions. The project’s goals are to improve students’ knowledge of financial literacy in order for them to make sound financial judgments in the future; boost students’ entrepreneurial skills; increase students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and raise awareness of career and post-secondary education and career opportunities in Western Mass.

Gaming Revenue Drops at MGM Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Gambling revenues dropped at MGM Springfield in the third month of operation, the Associated Press reported. The state Gaming Commission said the casino generated $21.2 million in revenues from gambling in November, down from October’s $22 million and September’s $27 million. The exact breakdown was $13,371,904 from slots and $7,876,010 from table games. MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis said the company is pleased with the casino’s overall performance, and that November represented “another solid month” for the property, which also generates revenues from restaurants, bars, a hotel, and other attractions.

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Jenna M. Serra Inc., 36 Frasier Dr., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Jenna M. Serra, same. Applied behavior analysis.

LBH Insurance Inc., 200 North Main St. Suite 7, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Leon Blake, 21 Oak Grove Ave., Springfield, MA 01109. Insurance sales, services and consulting.

LUDLOW

John A Portelada Electrical Contractor Inc., 168 Lockland Ave., Ludlow, MA 01056. John A. Portelada, same. Electrical contracting.

PITTSFIELD

Marsall Smart Cleaning Inc., 124 E Housatonic St., Apt Back, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Osmar Sales, same. Cleaning and maintenance.

Medialytics Inc. 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 10, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Andrew Waplinger, same. Online software.

SPRINGFIELD

JC Rehab Solutions Inc., 28 Wood End Road, Springfield, MA 01118. Juan Cabrera, same. Asset management.

Laporte Auto Transport Inc., 65 Belmont Ave., Springfield, MA 01108. Carl Laporte, same. Transportation.

Love Nails Inc., 1349 Allen St., Springfield, MA 01118. Chunri Zhao, same. Nail and day spa services.

LT Construction Inc., 18 Fremont St., Apt 1, Springfield, MA 01105. Luis Bano Tixe, same. Construction company.

M & B Tour Inc., 85A Mill St., Springfield, MA 01108. Jian-Hui Li, same. Charter bus.

WESTFIELD

McClellan Construction Inc., 98 Berkshire Dr., Westfield, MA 01085. Donald J. McClellan, same. Commercial construction services.

WILBRAHAM

Law Offices of John F. Soja P.C., 2022 Boston Road, Wilbraham, MA 01095. John F. Soja, same. Law practice.

DBA Certificates

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the month of December 2018.

CHICOPEE

Boujee Babe Co.
14 Hope St.
Iean Sorrell, Maria Neault

Chicopee Falls Polish Home Assoc. Inc.
27 Grove St.
Marian Zieliuski

CHS AFJROTC
820 Front St.
Kyle Bate

Clean Up Services
52 Stanley Court
Jose Mendez Osuna

Giguere’s Appliances
200 Exchange St.
Jeffrey Dean

Happy Nails and Spa
591-F Memorial Dr.
Jian Oh

In Vogue Salon
665 Prospect St.
Sophia Parnicky

No Luck Apparel
89 Royal St.
Joseph Brow

Sofia Cleaning Services
30 Tremont St.
Valtair Candido de Souza

Vet51-Tactical
89 Woodcrest Circle
Louis Harrison Sr.

Yohanan Messianic Bookstore
450 Memorial Dr.
John Serrano

DEERFIELD

Beauty Nails
6A Sugarloaf St.
Hong Yen Vo

Country Strong Fitness
90 Steam Mill Road
Brennan McKenna

EAST LONGMEADOW

Hancock Signature Decks & Remodeling, LLC
18 Rolling Meadow Lane
Kenneth Hancock

Kings & Queens
168 Shaker Road
Edmund Post

Life Flow Wellness
51 Prospect St.
Nancy Allen

Right at Home
51 Prospect St.
Jose Cid

Rocket Boy Cat Sitting
103 Day Ave.
Mark Chapin

EASTHAMPTON

Better Bike, LLC
69 Ferry St.
Kevin Murray

Electrical Experts
28 Pleasant St.
Timothy Hodnicki

The Lift – a Salon
116 Pleasant St., Suite 130
Christel Parent, Kristina Galiatos-Dwyer

HADLEY

Hadley Tax and Financial
229 Russell St.
Robert Lowney

Timess Caverns
148 Russell St.
Tanner Wilson

HOLYOKE

Flight Fit n Fun
50 Holyoke St., G-213
Flight Fit ‘n Fun, LLC

Salon Iris
232 Lyman St.
Iris Febo

TJ Maxx #1244
33 Holyoke St., Unit 5
The TJX Cos. Inc.

LONGMEADOW

Julia Mitchell Design
34 Greenacre Dr.
Julia Mitchell

Metamorphosis Massage and Wellness
167 Dwight Road, Suite 102
Kristie Nathanson

LUDLOW

Bon-Chien Pet Grooming
26 Kirkland Ave.
Bonnie DelViscio

NORTHAMPTON

KMC Landscaping & Snow Removal
209 Glendale Road
Kevin Childs

The Majestic Saloon
24 Main St.
Philip Peake, Michael Prosciak

OnCall Healthy Living Program
51 Locust St.
James Carroll, Michael Stevens, Louis Durkin

Pie in the Sky Berry Farm
Fair Street Ext.
Fred Beddall

Pleasant Journey Used Cars
5 Fulton Ave.
John Davey Jr.

Posture Revolution
39 Main St., #32
Pamela Smith

The Wealth Transition Collective
140 Main St., Suite 400
Joe Malmborg, Jean Kelley, Greg Sheehan

PALMER

5 Star Enterprises
37 Smith St.
Gail Sterner

Property Brokers of America
53 Commercial St.
Thomas Moser

Rainbow Gardens
3023 Foster St.
Nancy Golas

Reliable Results Plus, LLC
11 Maple Terrace
Marie Teixeira

Rick’s Parkside Drive-in
1189 Park St.
Frederick Giuliani

R.J.N. Handyman
10 Elizabeth St.
Ryan Novia

Sew Bizzie Quilting
4109 Main St.
Diana Doane

Stolar Realty Inc.
2001 Calkins Road
Christopher Stolar

Target Engineering/Target Health
111 Woodland Heights
Norman LeClair, Gail LeClair

Tranquility Central
1385 Main St.
Brittiney Moynahan

Yankee Flea Market
1311 Park St.
Keith Walker

Zack’s Repair Service & Used Cars
1624 Park St.
Rosemarie Gagnon

SOUTHWICK

Comprehensive Foot Care Inc.
627 College Highway, Unit 3
John Swuerzewski

Gristmill Café
610 College Highway
Donald Elton Sr.

VCA Southwick Animal Hospital
498 College Highway
Thomas Fuller

SPRINGFIELD

Basketball of Springfield
35 Westminster St.
Justin Cotton Jr.

C & R Instalclean
211 Starling Road
Christine Becher

Carpio Tax Service
603 Sumner Ave.
Katy Carpio

Get Virtual View
41 Mattoon St.
Anatoli Vishnyakov

Gizela Transportation
34 Laurelwood Lane
Gediminas Manerskas

Gregory L. Braden Research
354 Birnie Ave.
Gregory Braden

La Primera Iglesia Elahim
113 Orchard St.
Carmen Rodriguez

Lheelly Distribution
82 Somerset St.
Lus Alberto Lewis

Love You Jewelry
63 Coleman St.
Joan Postell-Porter

Lozada’s Auto Repair
111 Farnham Ave.
Samuel Lozada

Movers Delight
21 Clifford St.
Movers Delight

One Mile Realty
78 Chauncey Dr.
Pierre Baiyee

Phenomenal Looks Hair Salon
394 Dickinson St.
Ysabel Santana

WinnResidential – Forest Park
91 Longhill St.
Winn Managed

World Tae Kwon Do Training
461 Sumner Ave.
Chang Choi

WESTFIELD

Adam & Co. Landscapes & Design
43 Deer Path Lane
Adam Midura

Cleopatra Tanning and Massage
43 Southwick Road
Cleopatra Tanning and Massage

Jessica Roy, UCSW
45 Broad St.
Jessica Roy

Mi Ranchito Tex Mex Restaurant
69B Franklin St.
Mi Ranchito Tex Mex Restaurant

Mike’s Barber Shop
148 Elm St.
Mike’s Barber Shop

WEST SPRINGFIELD

360 Auto Sales
44 Exposition Terrace
Petro Levchyk

Berkshire Group
76 Van Horn St.
Gary Webster

Best Price Auto
758 Union St.
Anatoliy Shvetsov

Father and Son Auto Body Work Inc.
89 Bosworth St.
Ivan Hrytskenich

Friendly’s #847
1094 Riverdale St.
Catherine Smith

The Lawn Division
81 Oakland St.
Thomas Silva

Nescor
148 Doty Circle
Sharon Tariff

SLCB Consultants
101 Belmont Ave.
Leon Roswess

The Rail Yard
874 Memorial Ave.
Lori Rindels

Welcome Inn
2041 Riverdale St.
Patel Pravinbhai

WILBRAHAM

The Homegrown Studio
44 Springfield St.
Alessandra Mele

Natural Healing and Wellness Palmer, LLC
2442 Boston Road, Unit B
Jason Warchelak

Bankruptcies

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

Auger, Eric J.
Sciola-Auger, Danielle W.
22 Alice Ave.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018

Bombardier, Ronald L
a/k/a McKay, Charlene L.
a/k/a Atkinson, Charlene L.
24 Stratford Ave.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018

Dessources, Marie K.
616 Armory St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 13
Date: 11/19/2018

Eak, Robert J.
16 Malone Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 13
Date: 11/16/2018

Holman, George R.
7 Russell Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/20/2018

JB II Construction
Bilotta, James William
P.O. Box 411
East Otis, MA 01029
Chapter: 13
Date: 11/20/2018

Orduz, Gabriel
60 Grenada Terrace, 1st Fl.
Springfield, MA 01108
Chapter: 13
Date: 11/16/2018

Magner, Kyle Ross
86 Woodlot Road
Amherst, MA 01002
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018

Macias , Dyanne M.
a/k/a Talbot, Dyanne
P.O. Box 3
Buckland, MA 01338
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018

Ruiz, Christina
Diaz, Christina
50 Oak Grove Ave.
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/20/2018

You-Me-Sign, L.L.C.
Baneway Industries, LLC
A Dog’s Way
Bane, Michael Tracy
313 Crest Lane
Granville, MA 01034
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018

Young, Peter
Young, Kathleen
107 Woolworth St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Chapter: 7
Date: 11/19/2018