Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 188: November 20, 2023

Joe Bednar Interviews the owner of Ohana School of Performing Arts, Ashley Kohl

It’s no wonder Ashley Kohl has adopted a philosophy of author Gabby Bernstein: “obstacles are detours in the right direction.” Because Ashley, the owner of Ohana School of Performing Arts, has encountered more than her fair share of obstacles. But by turning them into triumph, she’s created a growing space for people of all ages and abilities to discover dance — and themselves — in a safe, uplifting environment. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Ashley talks with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about her career journey, the importance of creating positive experiences through dance, and where Ohana is headed next. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELDBusinessWest’s 2024 Book of Lists will be published soon. Companies in all sectors are encouraged to check their listing by clicking here and sending changes and updates to BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar at [email protected]. Businesses not currently listed on a chart are also encouraged to email their listing information for inclusion.

To reserve ad space in the 2024 Book of Lists, email Kate Campiti at [email protected].

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has appointed Lidya Rivera-Early to the newly created position of executive director of Government Relations and Springfield Partnerships.

Rivera-Early brings more than 25 years of leadership, development, and managerial experience to the position, most recently as director of Community Engagement at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). She will draw on her established relationships in the public and private sectors to serve as liaison between UMass Amherst and the city of Springfield.

Based at the UMass Amherst Center at Springfield, located at Tower Square, the new position was created to enhance the Springfield-UMass partnership, which is built on a commitment to cultural and economic equality and opportunity. Rivera-Early will work with legislators, city officials, the business community, nonprofit leaders, and university colleagues to connect UMass Amherst’s academic, research, and economic-development mandates with the city of Springfield. This includes cultivating relationships with community stakeholders, developing and strengthening partnerships with regional business executives, and identifying state and federal resources to support the partnership’s strategic goals.

At STCC, Rivera-Early served in various roles over the past decade, working to deepen relationships with community partners and collaborating across campus and with outside organizations on educational and career-development initiatives. She also served as a liaison between college departments and regional and statewide stakeholders and represented the college on various boards and in the community.

Prior to her role at STCC, she was Section 3 program manager for the city of Springfield, where she was responsible for administrative and technical duties managing, coordinating, and administering the city’s Section 3 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Previously, she served as grants coordinator/manager for the Springfield Housing Authority, overseeing all grant-funded programs for the agency.

Rivera-Early received a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s degree in organizational management and leadership in human services from Springfield College. She is a graduate of Leadership Pioneer Valley and is the recipient of several notable awards and honors, including the Massachusetts Latina Excellence Award. She serves on the boards of a number of community organizations, including the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley and the newly formed Dora D. Robinson Women’s Leadership Council.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank, announced that Maureen Buxton has been appointed to the role of business specialist, assistant branch manager. She will be based out of the bank’s 1342 Liberty St. location in Springfield and will assist in managing all areas of the branch, including customer service, retail and business product sales, employee development, and general operations.

For the past 31 years, Buxton has worked in the banking industry, holding multiple roles in local community banks and credit unions, including branch manager and mortgage loan officer positions. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Westfield State University.

Buxton is very involved in her community, serving as a chairperson on the Chicopee Parks and Recreation Commission and the Chicopee Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. She also serves as treasurer for the Cigars4Soldiers Committee and is a member of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Road Race Committee.

In 2013, Buxton received the President’s Award at a local community bank, a prestigious award recognizing her outstanding performance and customer service. The following year, she received the Paul Harris Honoree award from the Rotary Club of Chicopee.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s October total unemployment rate was 2.8%, up 0.2% from the revised September estimate of 2.6%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 800 jobs in October. This follows September’s revised loss of 2,600 jobs. The largest over-the-month private-sector job gains were in education and health services, other services, and construction. Employment now stands at 3,782,700. Massachusetts gained 721,100 jobs since the employment low in April 2020.

From October 2022 to October 2023, BLS estimates Massachusetts gained 77,100 jobs. The largest over-the-year gains occurred in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; and construction.

The state’s October unemployment rate of 2.8% was 1.1% lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by BLS.

The labor force grew by an estimated 5,600 from the revised estimate of 3,716,000 in September, as 500 fewer residents were employed and 6,200 more residents were unemployed over-the-month. Over-the-year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down by 1.0%.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents age 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased by 0.1% to 64.5% over-the-month. Compared to October 2022, the labor-force participation rate was down 0.3%.