Daily News

SPRINGFIELDBusinessWest is currently accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty class of 2023. The deadline for nominations has been extended to Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Launched in 2007, the program recognizes rising stars in the four counties of Western Mass. Nominations, which should be as detailed and thorough as possible, should list an individual’s accomplishments within their profession as well as their work within the community.

Nominations can be completed online at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-nomination-form. Nominations will be weighed by a panel of judges, and the selected individuals will be announced and profiled in the May 1 issue of BusinessWest and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala on June 15. Event sponsorship opportunities are available.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — MassHire Holyoke’s Recovery Ready Workplace initiative will present Pillars of the Community Workforce, a new initiative funded by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program, with a live event to kick off the initiative today, Feb. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Summit View Banquet and Meeting House, 555 Northampton St., Holyoke.

State Sen. John Velis will be the emcee for the event. Several Western Mass. legislators, including state Sens. Jake Oliveira and Adam Gomez and state Rep. Patricia Duffy, will also be present to take the Recovery Ready Workplace Pledge in this public forum. Members of the community are invited to attend by registration only. Click here to register.

Pillars of the Community Workforce (PCW) will broaden MassHire Holyoke’s (MHH) successful re-entry and recovery programming by expanding capacity for services in the community. PCW’s service design is a boots-on-the-ground approach with a mobile community lab of 15 devices, which will allow for employment services including digital literacy, financial literacy, and job-readiness skills trainings on site with community partners. Moreover, the enhanced community presence will re-introduce one-on-one services where they are most needed.

PCW will also allow MHH to expand outreach to the business community with the Recovery Ready Workplace initiative (RRW). Since MassHire Holyoke launched the RRW in March 2022, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive. Nine organizations have already taken the pledge to become a Recovery Ready Workplace, and many others have expressed interest or are in the beginning stages of the process. Additions to the list include the city of Holyoke and the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, offering the opportunity to advance advocacy, education, and support to employers who provide the cornerstone to any individual’s recovery from substance-use disorder: employment.

MassHire Holyoke’s goal is to roll out the RRW initiative throughout the state of Massachusetts so that businesses begin to shape a cultural norm that eliminates the stigma associated with addiction and substance-use disorders and promotes a healthy, thriving workforce.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Pillars of Community Workforce initiative or becoming a Recovery Ready Workplace should contact Ramona Rivera-Reno, executive director of MassHire Holyoke’s Re-entry and Recovery Program at (413) 427-3498 or [email protected].

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recognized on the Forbes magazine list of America’s Best Midsize Employers 2023. This award is presented by Forbes and Statista Inc., a statistics portal and industry-ranking provider. The awards list was announced on Feb. 15 and can be viewed at forbes.com.

Berkshire Bank is the only Massachusetts-based bank, and one of four banks in New England and New York, on the midsized employer banking and financial services list.

“For more than 175 years, Berkshire Bank has been focused on making a positive impact for both our employees and the communities we serve. We are honored to be part of this ranking, which acknowledges the importance of working in a great environment where employees are engaged and help drive our vision to be a socially responsible community bank,” said Jacqueline Courtwright, executive vice president and chief Human Resources and Culture officer at Berkshire Bank.

Forbes and Statista selected the America’s Best Employers 2023 through an independent survey applied to a sample of approximately 45,000 American employees working for companies with more than 1,000 employees in America. Across 25 industry sectors, 1,000 employers have been awarded: 500 large employers and 500 midsize employers. The evaluation was based on direct and indirect recommendations from employees that were asked to rate their willingness to recommend their own employers to friends and family. Employee evaluations also included other employers in their respective industries that stood out either positively or negatively.

Daily News

NORTH ADAMS — Matthew Gibson, associate professor of Economics at Williams College, will give a talk titled “Economics of Climate Change” on Wednesday, March 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the MCLA Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation, Room 121. This event is free and open to the public as part of MCLA’s Green Living Seminar series.

Gibson is a research affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics who works in environmental and labor economics, particularly time use, wage determination, air pollution, and flood risk. He received his PhD from the University of California San Diego.

MCLA’s annual Green Living Seminar Series continues through April 19, presenting a series of lectures on the theme of “Capitalism and the Environment.” Every semester, the Green Living Seminar Series centers around a different topic that’s timely and relevant to current sustainability issues.

The 2023 series is a presentation of the MCLA Environmental Studies Department. Podcasts will be posted online following each presentation at www.mcla.edu/greenliving.

Daily News

HATFIELD — The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts received a community-impact grant from KeyBank Foundation in the amount of $225,000, payable over three years. The funding will support the Food Bank’s goal of increasing the availability of culturally appropriate food at its 25 Mobile Food Bank distribution sites.

The Mobile Food Bank delivers a truck full of free fresh and non-perishable groceries from the Food Bank’s warehouse directly to a community site for immediate distribution to residents. The program reaches underserved populations throughout Western Mass. that do not have access to healthy foods, including families, seniors, and children. Much of the Food Bank’s culturally appropriate inventory for underserved communities must be purchased with funding raised from private foundations, businesses, and individuals.

“KeyBank is committed to partnering with community organizations whose mission it is to improve the lives of underserved populations and neighborhoods where we do business,” said Matthew Hummel, KeyBank Connecticut and Western Massachusetts market president. “The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts works tirelessly to reach the populations having the highest rates of food insecurity and poverty, including some of the most culturally diverse areas in the state. We are proud to support their Mobile Food Bank program to help reach all residents in need with nutritious and culturally sensitive food supplies.”

KeyBank Foundation grants are made under Key’s National Community Benefits Plan established in 2017, which has already delivered more than $29 billion in lending and investments across the bank’s national footprint supporting affordable-housing and community-development projects, home and small-business lending in low- and moderate-income communities, and philanthropic efforts targeted toward education, workforce development, and safe, vital neighborhoods.


View from the Top

From left, Web Shaffer, Hubert McGovern, and Dewey Kolvek on one of the plant floors at OMG Inc.

From left, Web Shaffer, Hubert McGovern, and Dewey Kolvek on one of the plant floors at OMG Inc.

The past three years — spanning the pandemic and all the ways it has impacted industry, from supply chains to workforce challenges — have been rough on businesses of all kinds.

But for OMG Inc., it’s been a different story.

“I want to say three-quarters of the business is re-roofing,” said Web Shaffer, senior vice president and general manager of the firm, which encompasses two main divisions: OMG Roofing Products and FastenMaster. “So, while it’s not entirely recession-proof, when your roof goes, you can patch it for a little while, but you can only do that for so long.”

OMG President Hubert McGovern agreed. “You either get a bucket, or you get a new roof.”

And the bucket isn’t the ideal choice for a large company — think of an Tesla factory, a Target store, or an Amazon warehouse — with plenty to protect under that roof.

Meanwhile, 2020 found people stuck at home, not going on vacation, and, in many cases, investing in their homes, said Dewey Kolvek, OMG’s senior vice president of operations. “During the pandemic, it was crazy, with everybody battening down the hatches. A lot of people were at home, looking around, and saying, ‘you know, maybe we should remodel our bathroom. Maybe we should remodel the kitchen. Oh, let’s put a deck out in the back.’”

OMG Roofing Products, which manufactures and supplies roofing fasteners, adhesives, and rooftop drains, pipe supports, and solar mounts, as well as proprietary installation technology for the flat-roofing market; and FastenMaster, which develops fastening and adhesive products used by remodelers, deck builders, residential framers, home builders, and floor installers, both benefited from this environment.

“We’re not making basic drywall screws or something like that. If we have a new product, it’s got to have a feature, a benefit, a patented intellectual property, and something the customer wants.”

And during a time of global supply-chain issues in 2021 and 2022, “we grew out of control, and we couldn’t keep up,” McGovern said. “These last two years have been record years for the company because of the demand. It’s finally starting to settle, but we’ve been under the gun to produce as much as possible, as fast as possible, for probably two and a half years.”

Kolvek recalls it all vividly. “For a period there, we were on 24/7 for two months, just to try to put a dent in it. It was brutal.”

OMG is no stranger to growth spurts. After launching in 1981 as Olympic Fasteners, by 1987 it was manufacturing 100 million fasteners a year. In 1993, the company became Olympic Manufacturing Group — hence the OMG acronym — and in 1997, it was acquired by Handy & Harman, which was later taken over by a public company called Steel Partners. Throughout its history, OMG has grown about 10% a year, on average, through organic growth, constant product development, and a series of acquisitions.

Today, OMG boasts more than 650 employees — about 450 of them at its Agawam campus, which spans 480,000 square feet over a half-dozen buildings — and records about $400 million in annual sales. Its three other plants are located in Addison, Ill., Charlotte, N.C., and Rockford, Minn., in addition to field salespeople located across the U.S. and overseas. The company estimates that around 65% of all commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings in the U.S. that have been built or reroofed within the past 25 years have one or more of its products on their roof.

“The good news about roofing is, people need roofs,” McGovern said. “So if you have a decent building, you’re not willing to let it just deteriorate; you’re going to get a new roof if you need it. Or you’re going to have a lot of buckets and be running around like a chicken with your head cut off every time it rains.”


Hot Stuff

During BusinessWest’s recent visit to OMG’s factory in Agawam, Shaffer pointed out a Chinese advertisement for RhinoBond, the first non-penetrating, induction-based roof-attachment method in North America, which OMG introduced in 1999.

“RhinoBond is a global leader in induction heat welding, and a leading-edge technology in the commercial roofing industry,” he noted. “So we make stuff in Western Mass. and export it to places like China, which is pretty cool. It usually goes the other way.”

McGovern said OMG has a family of about 20 patents on its induction roofing technology, which uses heat to meld the roofing membrane to a fastener plate without having to puncture the membrane with a screw. “It’s a different way of doing roofing — and we lead the market with that.”

On an aerial photo of the Agawam campus, he pointed out a building dedicated to research and development that houses about 30 employees, mainly engineers, who work on developing new products. Over the years, the company’s developments have included TrapEase, the first composite deck screw that does not mushroom; OlyBond Insulation Adhesive, a two-part, low-rise polyurethane foam; OlyBond500 canisters, a new method of applying adhesive, and many more.

OMG’s patented heat-induction system

This flat roof will use OMG’s patented heat-induction system, which requires no screws to pierce the membrane.

“A lot of the growth has come from looking at our customers and saying, ‘what else can we sell these guys that will help them build a better roof?’” Kolvek said. “And that’s where you see our drains come in, or the solar mounts and other things. Those accessories have helped grow the business, as well as new technologies that cannibalize some of our original product line or allow a more premium solution to builders.”

Shaffer agreed. “We’re really getting out there to the customer and saying, ‘how can we help you? What are your challenges you’re facing?’ And maybe we can bring a solution to the table.”

FastenMaster in particular has been introducing new products at a brisk pace, as evidenced by an innovation award it received from Home Depot in November, for its Cortex Hidden Fastening System, which is used to build a deck with fully hidden hardware and fasteners. That kind of continuous development is possible only by staying atop and even spearheading industry trends, McGovern said.

“Some of the technology is changing, but we’ve changed some of the technology with our products,” he noted. “And we’re not making basic drywall screws or something like that. If we have a new product, it’s got to have a feature, a benefit, a patented intellectual property, and something the customer wants.”

“We’re in Western Mass., and we’re all vying for the same pool of workers. So what makes you different than someone else you’re competing against for that same labor?”

Clearly, customers do want them — not only domestically, but in a place like China that’s known much more for its imports to the U.S. than its exports from stateside manufacturers. “You don’t see that a lot in any industry — maybe in some more high-tech ones,” Kolvek said. “But in the construction industry, there’s a lot more imported product. So we have to be different — and better. That’s the bottom line.”

And when OMG develops a successful product, similar products will follow, as with the OlyBond canisters. “We introduced that technology to roofing and, it took off — tens of millions of dollars of sales in a very short period of time,” McGovern said. “Now everybody has a canister technology.”

OMG’s Cortex Hidden Fastening System

Last year, Home Depot gave one of its three innovation awards to OMG’s Cortex Hidden Fastening System.

“In business, that’s what happens,” Shaffer added. “If you’re successful like Tesla, well, somebody else is going to come out with electric cars. They’re not going to let you just do that forever. So you’ve got to move on and innovate again, which is what that whole R&D building is all about.”

And being first to market is important when operating on a global scale, McGovern said. “Then it’s everyone else playing catch-up.”

A key element in OMG’s success has been its embrace of lean manufacturing concepts, Kolvek explained.

“We have a pretty robust continuous-improvement program where we want all employees to be engaged with that thought: what is a better way? How do I improve efficiencies? Can I work safer? Can I work faster? You know, really just instilling people to understand the principles of driving the waste out of everything that we do. There’s always an alternative, and we have to pursue that to stay competitive and stay out in front.”

Shaffer agreed. “How do we compete globally from Western Massachusetts, which is not an industrial region? It’s the innovation plus lean operations keeping costs down and improving that value proposition to the end user. Managing costs and innovating — that’s how we succeed here in Western Mass.”

Focus on People

McGovern said the importance of employees is also reflected in initiatives ranging from tuition reimbursement and financial-wellness programs to company picnics, subsidized healthy meals, and physical-wellness programs such as yoga, massage therapy, and a gym and fitness trainer on site.

“These are all things that enhance people’s lives, that aren’t necessarily attached to the working piece of the company. But if people feel better about themselves, if they’re financially well, if they’re physically well, then we know they’re going to be a better employee. We win, and they win.”

Such efforts are even more important at a time when businesses of all sizes struggle to recruit and retain talented workers.

“It’s a huge issue. That’s why we spend a lot of time and money on it,” McGovern said. “We want the best employees, and we want them to stay. And it’s not an easy market.”

The goal has been to create an employee-centric culture, Kolvek added, and the proof of that model’s success is OMG’s continued growth.

“Management will walk the floor every day, in different areas of the company, just to find the pulse: ‘what are your challenges? What can I help you solve? Do you need anything from me?’ Maybe we’ve got to make an investment somewhere, and who better to highlight that than the person who’s dealing with that challenge day in and day out?

In addition, “you have to differentiate yourself from your competition,” Kolvek said. “We’re in Western Mass., and we’re all vying for the same pool of workers. So what makes you different than someone else you’re competing against for that same labor? If you have employee programs where people see value and benefit, they’re going to be more inclined to come here, stay here, and make a career here.”

Accounting and Tax Planning

The Goal Is Efficiency


Financial reporting isn’t all about profits. Not-for-profit entities can also benefit from implementing formal accounting processes. From preparing budgets and monitoring financial results to paying invoices and handling payroll tax, there’s a lot that falls under the accounting umbrella. Are these tasks, and others, being managed as efficiently at your organization as they could be?


Start with Invoicing

A good first step toward accounting-function improvement is creating policies and procedures for the monthly cutoff of recording vendor invoices and expenses. For instance, you could require all invoices to be submitted to the accounting department within one week after the end of each month. Too many adjustments — or waiting for employees or departments to weigh in — can waste time and delay the completion of your financial statements.

Another tip about invoices: it’s generally best not to enter only one invoice or cut only one check at a time. Set aside a block of time to do the job when you have multiple items to process.

You also may be able to save time at the end of the year by reconciling your balance-sheet accounts each month. It’s a lot easier to correct errors when you catch them early. Also, reconcile accounts payable and accounts receivable subsidiary ledgers to your statements of financial position.


Think Through Data Collection

Designing a coding cover sheet or stamp is another way to boost efficiency. An accounting clerk or bookkeeper needs a variety of information to enter vendor bills and donor gifts into your accounting system. You can speed up the process by collecting all the information on the invoice or donor check copy using a stamp. Route invoices for approval in a folder that lists your not-for-profit’s general-ledger account numbers so that the employee entering data doesn’t have to look them up each time.

The cover sheet or stamp also should provide a place for the appropriate person to approve the invoice for payment. Use multiple-choice boxes to indicate which cost centers the amounts should be allocated to. Documentation of the invoice’s payment should also be recorded for reference. And your development staff should provide the details for any donor gifts prior to your staff recording them in the accounting system.


Optimize Accounting Software

Many organizations underuse the accounting software package they’ve purchased because they haven’t invested enough time to learn its full functionality. If needed, hire a trainer to review the software’s basic functions with staff and teach time-saving tricks and shortcuts.

Standardize the financial reports coming from your accounting software to meet your needs with no modification. This not only will reduce input errors, but also will provide helpful financial information at any point, not just at month’s end.

Consider performing standard journal entries and payroll allocations automatically within your accounting software. Many systems have the ability to automate, for example, payroll allocations to various programs or vacation-accrual reports. But review any estimates against actual figures periodically, and always adjust to the actual amount before closing your books at year end.


Ongoing Review

Accounting processes can become inefficient over time if they aren’t monitored. Look for labor-intensive steps that could be automated or steps that don’t add value and could be eliminated. Also, make sure that the individual or group that’s responsible for the organization’s financial oversight (for example, your CFO, treasurer, or finance committee) promptly reviews monthly bank statements and financial statements for obvious errors or unexpected amounts.


This article was prepared by Whittlesey, one of the largest regional accounting firms in New England, specializing in the areas of accounting, audit, advisory, and technology.


Guessing Game


NordPass, a password manager that provides users with an encrypted password vault, recently released its annual report on the most commonly used — and, therefore, most easily cracked — passwords.

The most common password globally? That would be ‘password.’ The rest of the top five: ‘123456,’ ‘123456789,’ ‘guest,’ and ‘qwerty.’

In the U.S., ‘guest’ takes the top spot, followed by ‘123456,’ ‘password,’ ‘12345,’ and ‘a1b2c3.’

Clearly, not a lot of effort is going into creating such passwords, and it doesn’t take a hacker much time — mere seconds, actually — to defeat them.

Popular films and TV shows also rank among the past year’s most popular passwords, including ‘batman,’ ‘euphoria,’ and ‘encanto.’

“While the worst passwords might change every year, human beings are creatures of habit,” NordPass notes. “Every year, researchers notice the same pattern — sports teams, movie characters, and food items dominate every password list.”

Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create strong, secure passwords.


Make Your Password Long and Strong

That means at least 12 characters. Making a password longer is generally the easiest way to make it stronger. Consider using a passphrase of random words so that your password is more memorable, but avoid using common words or phrases. If the service you are using does not allow long passwords, you can make your password stronger by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.


Don’t Reuse Passwords

Use different passwords for different accounts. That way, if a hacker gets your password for one account, they can’t use it to get into your other accounts.


“While the worst passwords might change every year, human beings are creatures of habit. Every year, researchers notice the same pattern — sports teams, movie characters, and food items dominate every password list.”


Use Multi-factor Authentication When Possible

Some accounts offer extra security by requiring something in addition to a password to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The something extra you need to log into your account fall into two categories: something you have, like a passcode you get via an authentication app or a security key; or something you are, like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.


Consider a Password Manager

Most people have trouble keeping track of all of their passwords. The longer and more complicated a password is, the stronger it is, but a longer password can also be more difficult to remember. Consider storing your passwords and security questions in a reputable password manager. To find a reputable password manager, search independent review sites, and talk to friends and family for ones they use. Make sure to use a strong password to secure the information in your password manager.


Pick Security Questions No One Else Can Guess

If a site asks you to answer security questions, avoid providing answers that are available in public records or easily found online, like your zip code, birthplace, or mother’s maiden name. And don’t use questions with a limited number of responses that attackers can easily guess, like the color of your first car. You can even use nonsense answers to make guessing more difficult — but if you do, make sure you can remember what they are.


Change Passwords Quickly If There’s a Breach

If a company tells you there was a data breach where a hacker could have gotten your password, change the password you use with that company right away, and on any account that uses a similar password. And if someone is using your information to open new accounts or make purchases, report it and get help at identitytheft.gov.


Bottom Line

“Passwords are the locks on your account doors,” the FTC notes. “You keep lots of personal information in your online accounts, including your email, bank account, and your tax returns, so you want good protections in place.”