Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College announced that President Michelle Schutt has appointed April Parsons as the next vice president of Academic Affairs at GCC.

Parsons brings more than a decade of leading academic teams, as well as more than 20 years of experience in teaching in classrooms, including in high schools, community colleges, and universities.

“Dr. Parsons clearly understands the unique challenges facing GCC as we work toward diversifying our enrollment streams while meeting the needs of our region,” Schutt said. “April has the knowledge and passion for the essential work of community college, including credited courses, workforce programs, and community education.”

Parsons joins GCC during a time of growth and programmatic expansion at the institution. She will be a key part in the GCC’s Guided Pathways work, which will help improve the educational pathways students take to ensure their success while also reducing the amount of credits they take but can’t use in their education, saving students both time and money.

In addition, GCC has improved its wraparound support services for students to help them succeed, which include access to student emergency funds, career and internship services, tutoring, disability services, a food pantry, a fitness center and a technology lending library that will be outfitted with laptops for students who need one thanks to a $100,000 gift from the GCC Foundation.

“I am honored to have been chosen by President Schutt and the GCC community to become the new vice president of Academic Affairs,” Parsons said. “GCC’s vision to create ‘a more equitable, just, vibrant, and resilient world through education’ resonates with me as an educational leader, and I am excited to be part of a college so deeply rooted in service to our local community here in Franklin and Hampshire counties.”

Parsons holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a certificate in women’s and gender studies, as well as an master of education degree in language education. Most recently, she taught as a professor of English at Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC) and chaired the Department of Arts and Humanities. She also led a redesign of NCCC’s English curriculum and was a faculty lead through the NECHE regional accreditation process.

Beyond Parsons’ professional roles, she’s also active in the community. She volunteers time at her local library working to expand literacy programs, and has helped the institution acquire and implement National Endowment for the Arts grant funding to conduct these efforts.

She also works closely with incarcerated individuals, both in a professional and volunteer capacity. She recently served as the lead faculty member on a partnership between NCCC and the Connecticut Department of Corrections that helped bring college education to incarcerated individuals. She is a volunteer for the Prison Yoga Project, which brings yoga lessons into the prison community.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Michael “Mick” Corduff announced that he is stepping into the role of chief operator and executive chef of the Log Cabin, Delaney House, and D. Hotel & Spa, all in Holyoke. He is replacing Peter Rosskothen, who has sold all his shares in the company to Corduff and his new business partner, Frank DeMarinis.

“I am very excited to lead our amazing team, a team that has the best proven hospitality track record in the market,” said Corduff, who is also excited about the opportunity to work with his wife, Dana Corduff, who is joining the D. Hotel management.

Both Peter and Linda Rosskothen will step down from their day-to-day activities within the company. The business focus for Peter will be Delaney’s Market, an independent company with stores in South Hadley, Westfield, Longmeadow, and Wilbraham.

“Both Linda and I have lived an unbelievable dream with this great group of employees and this amazing business, but the time has come to let it flourish further without us,” Rosskothen said. “We consider Mick a brother, and we know that, under his management, the business will only get better.”

Linda and Peter Rosskothen will stay involved in supporting Mick and Dana Corduff, as well as their new partner, in any way needed.

DeMarinis is the president of Sage Engineering & Contracting Inc. in Westfield, and is a local developer, builder, owner, and manager of more than 25 commercial real-estate properties in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He is also the founder and owner of Roots Sports complexes in Westfield and East Longmeadow and Roots Learning Centers.

Corduff and DeMarinis plan to combine their skills to develop and grow the business to new locations.

“Our hotel and spa, restaurant, and event venue are uniquely positioned to continue benefiting from each other, synergies that no other locally owned and run company has in the area,” Corduff said. “I am proud of our brilliant team and look forward to further growing with them.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Zoo in Forest Park invites guests on a trip around the world at Wine Safari on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The fundraiser, which supports the care of the 225-plus animals that live at the zoo, pairs wines from around the world with animals from the same region, allowing guests to ‘travel’ from country to country, sampling the wine and meeting the animals that hail from that area.

While the Zoo is known as a family-friendly institution, this one is just for the adults.

“Wine Safari provides a unique experience for adults and allows them to explore the zoo in a different way than when they visit with their family,” said Gabry Tyson, Development manager at the Zoo in Forest Park. “It’s the perfect excuse to hire a babysitter and enjoy a Thursday night out.”

Guests must be age 21 or older to attend. The $50 ticket includes wine samples from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (while supplies last), hors d’oeuvres, and coffee; animal encounters; and keeper talks from members of the zoo’s animal care and education teams. There will also be a raffle with prizes from the Boston Bruins, Spirit of Springfield, Max Hospitality, and other local businesses and organizations.

“Wine Safari is always so much fun, and is a great way to spend time with your favorite animals while drinking some phenomenal wines from around the world,” said Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the Zoo in Forest Park. “All of the money we raise at Wine Safari supports our animal residents over the winter months, helping us provide food, bedding, heat, vet care, and everything else our animals need while our gates are closed to the public.”

Advance tickets are required to attend, and IDs will be checked at the door. Tickets are limited and are on sale now at www.forestparkzoo.org/winesafari.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Wealth Transition Collective (TWTC) recently announced two additions to its firm. Ashley Hopkins has joined the firm as director of Client Services & Operations. In her role, she will be responsible for new business implementation and five-star concierge service to firm clients. She has more than six years of experience in the financial-services industry.

“Ashley has already had a profound impact on the firm and our clients,” TWTC CEO Greg Sheehan said.

Jennifer Cooke joined the Wealth Transition Collective as a retirement-plan advisor. In her role, she is responsible for all 401(k), 403(b), cash-balance and defined-benefit plan business, including employee education. She helps her clients stay in compliance with ERISA standards for employer-sponsored retirement plans. With more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of the retirement-plan business, she acts as a co-fiduciary on retirement plans for business owners throughout New England.

Cooke is a certified retirement-plan specialist, a certified plan fiduciary advisor, and an accredited investment fiduciary.

“The depth of knowledge and experience that Jennifer brings with her to the firm in this niche market is unparalleled,” Sheehan said. “To add this suite of services to the firm offerings certainly gives us a differential advantage in the marketplace.”

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

A.J. Crane

A.J. Crane acquired the ‘carpentry’ building at Ludlow Mills with the goal of having it redeveloped, with a restaurant being the preferred use.
Staff Photo



As he led BusinessWest on a tour of what’s known as the ‘carpentry building’ at the Ludlow Mills complex, A.J. Crane walked up a deteriorated but still solid set of stairs to the second floor, and then to the row of new windows looking out on the Chicopee River, maybe 150 feet away, the riverwalk in front of it, and a stretch of land before the walk on which a patio could be built.

“Imagine the possibilities,” he said, adding that he certainly has, and that’s why he acquired the property from Westmass Area Development Corp., which purchased the mill in 2011, with the intention of renovating it and then leasing it out, perhaps to a restaurateur — the master plan for the mill complex calls for one at this location — although he doesn’t really know what the market will bear at this point.

What Crane, president of Chicopee-based A. Crane Construction Co. (and a Westmass board member) does know is that nothing can be built that close to the river today. Well, almost nothing; this property is grandfathered, so it can be developed. And that’s a big reason why he took on this risk — the property has been vacant for decades and needs a considerable amount of work for any reuse — and has invested heavily in its renovation.

But there’s another reason as well.

“I just wanted to be a part of this,” he said, waving his hand in a sweeping motion to encompass the sprawling mill in front of him.

‘This’ is the transformation of the mill complex, once home to a jute-manufacturing facility that employed thousands and played a huge role in the town’s development, into, well, a community within a community, one that is already home to residents and businesses of various kinds, and, perhaps someday, in the former carpentry shop, a restaurant.

This transformation is an ongoing process, one that was projected to take 20 years when Westmass acquired the property 12 years ago, and may take another 20 still, said Jeff Daley, president and CEO of Westmass, noting, as Crane did, that the pieces to the puzzle are coming together.

And as Daley and Jeff LeSiege, vice president of Facilities and Construction at Westmass, conducted a walking tour, they pointed to several of these pieces — from the ongoing renovation of the landmark ‘clocktower building’ (Building 8) into 95 apartments to the construction of two new parking lots; from extensive water, sewer, and electrical work to new businesses such as Movement Terrain, which boasts an obstacle course and an Astroturf arena (more on all this later).

Jeff LeSiege, left, and Jeff Daley

Jeff LeSiege, left, and Jeff Daley stop by one of two large parking lots being created at Ludlow Mills.

Then there’s the clocktower itself, which is slated for renovation, said Daley, adding that he’s not sure when the last time the clock — which is on the town seal and the masthead of the local newspaper — worked, but “it’s been a very long time.”

Transformation of the mill, which has been well-chronicled by BusinessWest over the past dozen years, is the story in Ludlow. But not the only story.

Another is a possible charter change making the community a city and changing its form of government from the present Board of Selectmen to one of several options, including a town manager/Town Council format, a mayor/City Council alignment, or perhaps a mayor/manager/council arrangement.

“I do know there is a great shortage of available land and available buildings at this time, and I think we’re going to have some good interest in the property.”

The town has hired the Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management to guide it through this process, said Town Administrator Marc Strange, adding that a charter-review committee will gather in the coming weeks and meet consistently for roughly a year, with a charter to be presented to town-meeting voters in October 2024, with a new form of government possible by the middle of 2025.

Meanwhile, there are some infrastructure projects moving forward, especially an ambitious streetscape-improvement plan for the East Street corridor, which leads into Ludlow Mills.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Ludlow and its many developing stories.


No Run-of-the-mill Project

Hanging on a wall on the ground floor of Ludlow’s Town Hall is a large aerial photograph of the section of town beside the Chicopee River, circa the 1920s.

Glancing at the image, the enormity of the mill complex — then even larger than it is today — comes clearly into focus, literally and figuratively.

The mills were, the many respects, the heartbeat of the community and an economic force, a supplier of jobs and vibrancy. And over the past several years, they have become that again, with new developments seemingly every year.

The latest, and most visible, of the latest developments is the ongoing renovation of the L-shaped clocktower building, including replacement of the hundreds of large windows that provided needed light for the mill workers.

Town Administrator Marc Strange

Town Administrator Marc Strange says a change of government is needed in Ludlow.

The upper floors will be converted into nearly 100 apartments on the upper floors, with 48,000 square feet of space on the ground floor set aside for commercial development, Daley said, noting that this commercial space, to be built out to suit the needs of tenants, would be appropriate for a number of uses, including as home to support businesses for the growing number of people living in the mill as well as the surrounding area.

The apartments will be available for lease next July, he added, noting that there should be considerable demand for the units given both a regionwide housing crunch and a six-year waiting list for units in nearby Building 10, the first of the mill buildings to be redeveloped into housing.

Other developments at the mills include $2.1 million to replace water and sewer piping to connect to the two dozen old stockhouses on the property, all of which are sporting new roofs, he said, as well as construction of two new, and sorely needed, parking lots.

One of these lots, with 150 spaces, is nearing completion, with landscaping and other finishing touches to be completed, while the other, located across Riverside Drive from the carpentry building and expected to feature another 75 spaces, is in the early stages of construction.

Ludlow at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1774
Population: 21,002
Area: 28.2 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $19.51
Commercial Tax Rate: $19.51
Median Household Income: $53,244
Median Family Income: $67,797
Type of Government: Town Council, Representative Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Hampden County Jail and House of Correction; Encompass Rehabilitation Hospital; Massachusetts Air National Guard; Kleeberg Sheet Metal Inc.
*Latest information available

“These parking facilities are for tenants and visitors alike,” Daley said, adding that parking is a critical need as more of the spaces within the complex are developed.

Meanwhile, work continues on the carpentry building, a 13,200-square-foot brick structure between Riverside Drive and the Chicopee River. Crane told BusinessWest it had probably been on the market for 20 years, and really came onto his radar screen four years ago.

He described it as a solid investment opportunity — albeit one requiring a large investment on his part — but also a chance, as he said, to be part of the larger story of the mill’s transformation into a community, and a destination.

“I couldn’t afford any of the larger buildings, so I bought a smaller building that I thought could be an important part of what we’re doing here,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of this.”

Every day, he said, dozens of walkers, joggers, and runners on the riverwalk will stop and ask him about the building’s next life. He tells them he’s not sure, but he’s anxious to find out.

Crane said he has replaced the roof and is currently putting new windows in. When that work is completed, he will begin entertaining options to lease the property, with a restaurant certainly among those options.

“I’m open to … whatever,” he told BusinessWest. “I bought the building knowing you could never build that building again so close to the water.”

There are many spaces still to be developed, Daley said, including the massive (500,000 square feet) Mill 11, the largest building on the property, as well as the greenspace at the eastern end of the property given the informal name ‘the back 40’ (acres) and the formal name Millside Commercial Park. A MassWorks grant has been received to build a road and cul-de-sac through that property, and the project recently went to bid.

“That will open that back acreage for development, and we’re excited that this is moving forward as well,” he said, adding that he expects the road to be ready by June of next year.

Officially, there will be roughly 38 acres of land available to sell or lease, he went on, adding that there should be considerable demand.

“I think that, once it gets out on the street to bid, we’re going to get a lot of inquiries,” he said, noting that there will six different lots of varying sizes, including one large lot that can accommodate a 250,000-square-foot building. “I do know there is a great shortage of available land and available buildings at this time, and I think we’re going to have some good interest in the property.”

As for the preferred uses, Daley said manufacturing is at the top of that list due to the job-creation potential, but the market will ultimately determine what happens with that acreage.

“We’re focused on maximizing our downtown area, through development, through infrastructure improvements, through aesthetic improvements — however we can do it.”

“We’re certainly going to work to make sure it’s a good fit, not only to the mills, but to Ludlow,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re not just going to take anyone willing to buy it; it’s got to be a business development that fits the makeup of what we’re trying to accomplish at the mills.”


Progress Report

Strange came to Ludlow as town administrator in the spring of 2022, marking a course change for the former director of Planning and Development for Agawam and selectman in Longmeadow.

He told BusinessWest that he saw the position in Ludlow as an opportunity to take a leadership position in a community and use his various skill sets to effect change in this community of roughly 21,000 people.

“I love municipal government,” he said. “I know it sounds cliché, but it gives you a chance to impact people’s lives every day in a way that you can’t at the state level or the federal level. I just fell in love with that.

“I started thinking about opportunities to become a town manager or town administrator,” he went on, adding that he was a finalist for the same position in East Longmeadow when he was chosen as a finalist in Ludlow, and ultimately chose the latter.

“Ludow is a great fit for my personality and a great opportunity for growth, both for me and the town,” he went on, acknowledging that these are certainly intriguing times for the community, especially when it comes to a potential, and likely, change in the charter, something he believes is necessary, as well as the Ludlow Mills project and the many developments there.

“A change in government is much needed,” he said. “We’re no longer a town; we’re a 21,000-person city.”

And a growing one, he noted, adding that the mill project will continue to bring more new businesses and residents to the city, and vibrancy to that section in particular.

With that in mind, the town is blueprinting extensive infrastructure improvements to the East Street corridor, from the mills to Ludlow Country Club, Strange noted, and expanding its District Improvement Financing area, which is currently just the footprint of the mills, to East Street.

Conceptual plans are being prepared for the East Street area, he said, noting that one calls for a “modern, loud-colored concept,” one has a “more urban feel,” while another has more green infrastructure, with planters and a “more earthy feel.”

The various options will be presented to the Board of Selectmen, who will make the final decision, he said.

Overall, Ludlow is largely built out, with the notable exception of the mill complex, Strange said, adding that, moving forward, considerable energy is focused on improving what would be considered the downtown area — that section just over the Route 21 bridge connecting Ludlow with Indian Orchard — so it may better serve the growing number of residents in that area, and also perhaps serve as a destination.

“We’re focused on maximizing our downtown area, through development, through infrastructure improvements, through aesthetic improvements — however we can do it,” he said. “We do have a budding, or increasing, population of residents down at the mills; they have their condos and the riverwalk, but what kind of other amenities can we provide for them? That’s our focus and our goal right now.”


Bottom Line

As Daley noted, the clock in the famed tower hasn’t worked in a very long time.

Getting those hands to move again is one of many intriguing developments in this community, one, in many respects, whose time has come.

Home Improvement

Tracking a Turnaround


Annual expenditures for improvements and repairs to owner-occupied homes are expected to decline at an accelerating rate through the first half of 2024, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

The LIRA projects that year-over-year spending on homeowner improvements and maintenance will shrink by 2.7% through the first quarter of next year and by 5.9% through the second quarter, following a slowdown in growth that began in the final quarter of 2022.

“Home-remodeling activity continues to face strong headwinds from high interest rates, softening house price appreciation, and sluggish home sales,” said Abbe Will, associate project director of the Remodeling Futures Program. “Annual spending on homeowner improvements and repairs is expected to decrease from $486 billion through the second quarter of this year to $457 billion over the coming four quarters.”

Carlos Martín, project director of the Remodeling Futures Program, added that “ongoing reductions in household moves will cause a decline in the remodeling and repair activity that typically occurs around the time of a home sale. The magnitude of the impact may be offset if owners who are locked into their current homes with ultra-low mortgage rates continue to renovate to meet changing needs or take advantage of new federal incentives for energy-efficiency retrofits.”  

The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) provides a short-term outlook of national home-improvement and repair spending to owner-occupied homes. The indicator is designed to project the annual rate of change in spending for the current quarter and subsequent four quarters, and is intended to help identify future turning points in the business cycle of the home-improvement and repair industry. Originally developed in 2007, the LIRA was re-benchmarked in April 2016 to a broader market measure based on the biennial American Housing Survey.

The Remodeling Futures Program, initiated by the Joint Center for Housing Studies in 1995, is a comprehensive study of the factors influencing the growth and changing characteristics of housing renovation and repair activity in the U.S. The program seeks to produce a better understanding of the home-improvement industry and its relationship to the broader residential construction industry.

The “Improving America’s Housing 2023” report, also issued by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, noted that the pandemic spurred home-improvement spending that dropped once infection rates decreased and individuals were able to leave their homes and return regularly to public spaces.

“The widespread adoption of working from home, spectacular growth in home equity and saving rates, and the continued aging of the housing stock lifted the home-remodeling market to an unprecedented height of nearly $500 billion in 2021,” the report noted.

“Growth in market spending involved households at all income levels and projects of all sizes, but with disproportionate surges in home improvement among middle-income homeowners doing moderately priced projects, many of which involved their own labor.

That trend has shifted. Deane Biermeier, a housing-market expert and general contractor, recently told Forbes that the softening trend will be with us for some time.

“Homeowners spent a great deal in the past couple of years on home renovations,” he noted. “The wave didn’t have much of a chance of lasting very long. It’s not surprising … that the combination of higher borrowing costs and economic uncertainty will continue to have a negative effect on the renovation market.”

Biermeier explained that the steep increase in home renovation spending during COVID-19 was a direct result of forced time spent at home and was not an increase that would have been seen otherwise, so the slowing over the last few years is more of a leveling back to normal than a true decrease. But he is hopeful that home-renovation spending will eventually increase again.

“I don’t see home-improvement spending increasing any time soon,” he told Forbes. “My hope is that home-renovation spending will level off and stop falling by the end of 2024.”

Home Improvement

Restoring History


The National Park Service named the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s (PVPC) 501(c)(3) subsidiary, the Pioneer Valley Regional Ventures Center Inc., as one of only 13 awardees nationally to receive a Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant.

The $750,000 grant will allow the state-designated regional planning agency to work with the Ventures Center to develop a subgrant program and select individual projects in rural communities for physical preservation projects that will contribute to economic vitality. It is the first time a Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant has been awarded to a Massachusetts organization.

“From our cities to our rural towns, we know economic development is often spurred when we reinvest in places that reflect the history of community and pay tribute to the people who came before us,” PVPC Executive Director Kimberly Robinson said. “We are grateful to the National Park Service and its Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant program for providing the resources necessary to reactivate historic buildings in rural towns that will create 21st-century opportunities for growth.”

Through the Pioneer Valley Regional Ventures Center, PVPC staff will provide subgrants to competitively selected preservation and rehabilitation projects on National Register-listed anchor historic buildings in 40 communities with fewer than 12,500 residents in Hampden and Hampshire counties and parts of Worcester County. The focus is on properties that are significant to the community and, when rehabilitated, will contribute to local economic development.

Subgrant awards of up to $100,000 will be given to work in compliance with the secretary of the Interior’s standards for the rehabilitation of historic properties to conduct pre-planning; roof repair or replacement; exterior rehabilitation, such as painting, repointing, or historic siding restoration; structural repairs; window and door restoration; and life and safety improvements, including fire suppression and ADA compliance.

Eligible owner-applicants may be private, public, or nonprofit. There will be no match required. Applications will be evaluated based on population, regional distribution, variety of project type, community and economic-development potential, pre-planning to determine project needs, and the capacity of the active, local working group. A preservation restriction will be required on a property that receives funding.

These grants mark the fifth year of funding for the program honoring the late Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont for nearly 40 years. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is the state-designated regional planning agency for the 43 cities and towns of Hampden and Hampshire counties.

Banking and Financial Services

Kicking Off a Campaign


Cooley Dickinson Hospital announced last week that it has received a $100,000 gift from Greenfield Cooperative Bank to support the expansion and renovation of its 50-year-old Emergency Department. The bank’s donation also serves as the kickoff gift for a $1,000,000 challenge opportunity.

“This incredibly generous gift in support of the Emergency Department is an investment in our shared commitment to a healthy Pioneer Valley,” said Dr. Lynnette Watkins, president and chief operating officer of Cooley Dickinson Health Care. “We are honored and grateful to Greenfield Cooperative Bank for this gift of support, which will benefit their customers, our patients, and our collective communities by providing access to the region’s top providers and leading healthcare services in a newly renovated and expanded Emergency Department.”

The gift will support the $26 million expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation effort to allow Cooley Dickinson to meet the ever-evolving emergency-medicine needs of the community it serves. To accomplish this goal, the hospital has embarked on an ambitious and comprehensive fundraising campaign, with nearly $7.2 million has been raised to date.

“Cooley Dickinson Hospital is a vital part of the health of our neighbors in the Valley,” said Tony Worden, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank. “This donation is a way for us to show our support for the hospital and the people it serves. Many of our staff, family, and friends have needed to receive care at the Emergency Department. We are grateful for the work that the hospital does, and we are thrilled to help them continue their mission.”

Worden added that “Greenfield Cooperative Bank is committed to giving back to the community, and we believe that supporting our local hospital is one of the best ways to do that. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we want to do our part to make it a healthier place.”

Diane Dukette, Cooley Dickinson’s chief Development officer, noted that the generosity of Greenfield Cooperative Bank will have a transformational impact as the kickoff gift for the $1 million Harold Grinspoon Foundation Challenge, which launched on Sept. 1.

Through Aug. 31, 2024, she noted, every new cash donation to Transforming Emergency Care: The Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department will be matched 50%, up to $1 million, by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation. “When successful, that means that we will raise up to an additional $2 million for this campaign.”

Cooley Dickinson is expected to serve 40,000 Emergency Department patients this year. That care will be provided in a 1970s-era building that was designed for 17,000 patients annually and is currently 40% undersized. A shortage of space means some patients are treated in hallways. The Emergency Department also needs to expand its services to care for an aging population (triple what it was just 10 years ago). In addition, the expansion will provide additional beds for people experiencing mental-health emergencies.

The two-year project calls for adding 6,600 square feet of space, including nine new patient rooms; eight behavioral-health beds, which can ‘flex’ as patient needs arise; and a family waiting area. In addition, a computerized tomography (CT) scanning machine, which provides timely access to diagnostic imaging, will be added to the Emergency Department.

“This campaign is critical to the health of our community,” Dukette said. “In the newly renovated Emergency Department, patients will see a nurse when they arrive, they will be treated in single patient rooms that allow for privacy, and a central nurses’ station means our clinicians can respond better to patient needs. Overall, this is about making the Emergency Department as efficient and up-to-date as possible to enable our talented providers to take the best possible care of their patients. We are so truly grateful for Greenfield Cooperative Bank for stepping forward and supporting Cooley Dickinson Hospital so generously.”


Courses of Action


This is the third article in a monthly series examining how area colleges and universities are partnering with local businesses, workforce-development bodies, and other organizations to address professional-development needs in the region. One college will be featured each month.

Jeff Hayden

Jeff Hayden says professional-development initiatives have become an important part of the mission at HCC.

Communication. Teamwork. Networking. Listening.

Jeff Hayden acknowledged that, to many, these sound like buzzwords in discussions about the workplace and how to succeed within it — or about how companies can become more productive and achieve continuous improvement.

But in reality, these are just some the skills that individuals must possess if they want to thrive in their chosen career and move up the ladder within it. And they are the qualities that businesses large and small must stress if they want to prosper in an increasingly global, intensely competitive business climate — and if they want to successfully compete for talent and retain it.

And these are just some of the skill sets — some broad, some very specific — that help define a full roster of professional-development programs at Holyoke Community College (HCC), which Hayden serves as vice president of Business and Community Services.

“Those words, like teamwork and communication, feel like buzzwords, but in reality, those are the places where employee satisfaction and productivity find their nexus,” he said. “It’s really a unique spot where one can see the gain for the company, but also the gain for themselves.”

These touchpoints run through the portfolio of programs at HCC, the Commonwealth’s oldest community college, which include everything from a non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course to a women’s leadership lunch series; from certificate programs in residential interior design and medical interpreting to two new HR workshops on “Leveraging Assessments with the New World of Work” (more on these later).

In each case, the motivation is the same, Hayden said — to help individuals advance and enable companies to be efficient and productive, and also recruit and retain employees when businesses in all sectors are still struggling to do so.

“We put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.”

“We take a broad approach to professional development at HCC,” he explained. “We do certificate and training programs in management, leadership, and IT, and then we have a number of programs aimed specifically at careers, like our introduction to bookkeeping or, in the IT field, an introduction to networks.

“We have a certificate in business communication, which is online, and also one in innovation and critical thinking,” he went on. “There are a number of areas, and depending on the needs and interests of the individual, we can accommodate many other things they may be looking for.”


Getting Down to Business

Hayden, who came to the college after many years working for the city of Holyoke in economic-development roles, said HCC — like all the region’s community colleges — plays a critical role in workforce development in the region. And that role extends well beyond providing the traditional two-year degree programs which, in the case of HCC, often lead to transfer to four-year programs.

Indeed, it extends to continuing education, non-credit programs, and initiatives that, as he said earlier, involve professional development for the individual and initiatives aimed at helping businesses of all sizes become more competitive and productive.

“Oftentimes, when we think of workforce training, especially at community colleges, we tend to focus on occupational skills,” he explained. “And although those are necessary, they’re often related to specific tasks. So we put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.

“And in some sense, increasing productivity and increasing employee satisfaction are companions in that same effort,” he went on. “Sometimes we think of them as separate; when we think about how to make sure our employees are happy and satisfied, we go to the issue of compensation, instead of focusing on the issue of job satisfaction, having pride in one’s work, and ownership of the project or service they provide. So we try look at professional development as a way to broaden the scope or mindset of the employee and have them look at the picture in terms of just not making something or doing a service, but having that be part of their own career goals and pathway.”

With these goals in mind, the college has offered a women’s leadership lunch series featuring area women business leaders talking about their success formulas, Hayden said, adding that this series, staged over six lunches, will likely return in the spring of 2024.

Overall, the college is continuously monitoring the business community and the workplace, he explained, with an eye toward creating programs to address emerging needs and challenges.

Such is the case with the new HR workshops on assessments, which will be led by Lynn Turner, president of CORE XP Business Solutions Inc.

“These are designed to help organizations understand how to leverage assessments within the future of work — how to assess and evaluate employees in a way that increases productivity and increases teamwork, communication, and employee satisfaction,” Hayden said, noting that there will be two workshops, with participants having the option of signing up for one or both. They are designed for entrepreneurs, HR personnel, and managers at small companies that don’t have their own HR departments,

The first will focus on the changing dynamics of the future of work, understanding the value of assessments within a talent strategy, and gaining exposure to different assessment tools. The second will focus on best practices for assessment implementation, leveraging assessments for talent acquisition and development, driving engagement and retention through assessments, and creating a customized roadmap for leveraging assessments.

Overall, the professional-development programs at HCC are blueprinted to assist individuals as they look to enter or advance within the workforce, but also meet identified needs within the business community for specific skills, Hayden said, noting that these twin ambitions are the motivation behind such programs as a 12-hour educational cannabis core program that provides an overview of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and is designed for individuals looking for general knowledge as they consider a career in that sector, and the non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course, the need for which has become increasingly apparent given recent trends.

“There is growing need for bookkeepers in the region, especially at smaller companies; many nonprofits, for example, are looking for people who can help on that end,” he said, adding that the program is geared toward individuals looking to enter that field, but also incumbent workers looking to acquire more skills in that realm.

There are many such programs being offered the school, he said, noting that HCC offers a number of online certificate programs, most of them focused on business management and administration, such as an offering in nonprofit management featuring a simulation component, another in business communication, and others in innovation and critical thinking, data analytics, and project management.


Work in Progress

Summing it all up, Hayden said professional development at HCC is a huge part of the school’s mission and its evolving role when it comes to both workforce development and economic development.

The portfolio of programs and initiatives is, like the business community and the workforce itself, ever-changing. But the goal remains the same: it’s about helping area employees, job seekers, business leaders, and companies get where they want to go.