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Daily News

WARE — Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully announced the appointment of Maura McCaffrey, former CEO of Health New England, and Keith Blanchette, partner at Stolberg, Ebbeling and Blanchette, LLP, to its board of trustees at its recent annual meeting held at the AC Marriott in Worcester.

The bank also appointed five new corporators, including Nancy Crimmin, president of Becker College; Cherylann Gengel, co-founder of Be Like Brit; Michael Myers, president of the Worcester Railers; Peter Dawson, partner at Mirick O’Connell; and Mark Donahue, partner at Fletcher Tilton.

At the meeting, Country Bank reported its 2018 earnings resulted in record-breaking profits. Net income was reported at $12,853,000, with total assets increasing to $1,624,000,000. Deposit balances increased to $1,083,182,000, and total loans increased from the prior year to $1,240,421,000. Capital was reported at 14.06%, maintaining the bank’s position as one of the higher-capitalized banks in the Commonwealth.

“While each of our markets offer a unique value proposition, we are making strategic decisions to focus our efforts on the areas that will provide us with the most growth opportunities,” Scully said. “In 2018, Worcester business leaders provided Country Bank the opportunity to participate in the financing of several notable projects in the city, to include the $59,500,000 recapitalization of 100 Front Street, known as Mercantile Center, and the $16 million financing of Harding Green in Kelly Square.”

As part of its ongoing Worcester expansion, the bank partnered with the Worcester Red Sox as one of the team’s 21 founding partners in anticipation of its move to Worcester in 2021. The meeting’s keynote address included a video of the site of Polar Park narrated by Worcester Red Sox President Charles Steinberg, along with remarks regarding the team’s decision to relocate to Worcester and Country Bank’s partnership by Rob Crain, senior vice president of Marketing and Sales at Country Bank, and Jack Verducci, vice president of Corporate Partnerships from the Worcester Red Sox.   

In his remarks, Scully noted that the bank’s founding principles and core values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity continue to serve as the foundation for its success and community involvement 169 years since its founding in 1850.

“Back then, the founding fathers of Country Bank envisioned the role of the community bank to assist hard-working residents in providing for their families, growing their businesses, achieving their financial dreams, and enriching the local community,” said Scully, noting that those principles resulted in the bank providing more than $1 million in charitable donations and community support in 2018.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. will hold a Labor and Employment Law Conference on Tuesday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Springfield.

“The conference will deliver an in-depth review of some of the most challenging employment-law issues organizations, human-resources personnel, and management have faced over the past year, and will provide cutting-edge insights needed for surviving challenges on the horizon,” said Partner Marylou Fabbo. “We conduct this annual conference to help local businesses stay abreast of laws and regulations relating to labor issues. Topics we’ll address include the new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law and regulations and — especially in light of the ‘me too’ movement — why employers get sued for harassment.”

Breakout sessions will include “Paid Family and Medical Leave: Change Is Coming” “Wage and Hour Mistakes,” “Harassment, Discrimination, and Why Employers Get Sued,” “Labor and Employment Law Update,” “How to Handle Requests for Reasonable Accommodations,” and “How to Conduct an Internal Investigation.” Speakers and panel-discussion participants will include Skoler Abbott attorneys and other leaders in human resources and employment law.

A continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and luncheon are included with the conference, as well as time for networking and questions following the presentations. See the full agenda and register online at skoler-abbott.com/training-programs or call (413) 737-4753.

Daily News

ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) will hold an open house for its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center on Saturday, April 27. The open house will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature a tour of the center. Walk-ins are welcome.

Students completing certificate and degree programs at the college can begin a career with little to no debt. Companies in the area partner with ACC for paid internships and provide scholarships for many students.

Registration for summer and fall courses is now open. Visit www.asnuntuck.edu for information on how to register.

Daily News

HADLEY — On Monday, April 22, Paragus IT will hold a technology recycling drive to promote sustainability on Earth Day and to benefit Dakin Humane Society.

Paragus will take old, unwanted computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment and prepare them for reuse or make sure they’re properly disposed of. In exchange, they will collect $5 per piece of equipment — all of which will benefit Dakin Humane Society. 

“This is a great opportunity for local businesses and individuals to recycle their old technology while supporting a good cause,” said Paragus CEO Delcie Bean. “Earth Day is a time when we all come together to do our part to protect our planet and its creatures.”

Those looking to recycle equipment can drop it at Paragus IT in Hadley or Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City in Agawam between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The Lexington Group can also arrange for pickup from local businesses, with a minimum of five pieces of equipment and a minimum $50 donation. Interested businesses can contact Jillian Morgan at [email protected] or (413) 587-2666, ext. 199 to reserve a spot.

Daily News

AMHERST — Gov. Charlie Baker will be the featured speaker at the undergraduate commencement at UMass Amherst on Friday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The governor will address an anticipated crowd of about 20,000 family members, friends, and other guests as approximately 5,500 undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus.

“We are honored that Governor Baker will deliver this year’s commencement address,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “As a results-driven leader, he combines a concentration on thoughtful data analysis with an emphasis on building relationships that strengthen our Commonwealth. His support for UMass Amherst has provided our students the opportunity to flourish as they play an invaluable role in the state’s innovation economy.

“It’s no coincidence that, under the governor’s leadership, Massachusetts has achieved record employment, the highest percentage of citizens with healthcare, and an outstanding education system,” he went on. “At the flagship campus, we are proud of playing a role in providing high-quality, affordable education for our citizens.”

Before being elected governor in 2014, Baker served as a cabinet secretary under former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci. Baker helped lead efforts to reform and modernize state government, turn a billion-dollar deficit into a surplus, create a half-million jobs, and enact key education reforms.

Baker also was the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, turning the company around from the verge of bankruptcy and making it the nation’s highest-ranked healthcare provider for member satisfaction and clinical effectiveness for six consecutive years.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, a third-generation commercial real-estate firm based in Springfield, announced the promotion of Daniel Moore to vice president and leader of the company’s Brokerage division.

President and CEO Evan Plotkin praised Moore, a 12-year veteran of the firm, for his contributions to the company, his extensive experience in both brokerage and construction management, and his ability to both understand and exceed client expectations. “These are exciting times for NAI Plotkin,” he noted, “and Dan is exactly the right person to guide our brokerage division as it propels forward.”

Moore succeeds Bill Low as NAI Plotkin’s broker of record, as Low pursues other interests.

Daily News

CHICOPEE —  On Wednesday, April 24, HRMA of Western New England will present a program on Massachusetts’ new paid family leave legislation at the Castle of Knights in Chicopee.

This will be an informative and interactive discussion presented in a panel format. Panelists will review the overall parameters of the law, timelines for employer contributions and leave requests, best-practice tips for communicating this new legislation to employees, and more.

Joining the panel will be William Alpine, the new director of the state Paid and Family Leave Department, as well as several employers with locations in Rhode Island and New York, where similar legislation is already in place. They include Joanne Gloster, senior HR consultant at DMS; Kim Counter, director of HR at J. Polep; and Abigail O’Connell, senior counsel at Sunlife.

“It’s critical that we understand the current regulations in Massachusetts but also explore outcomes from other states that have already put this legislation in place,” said Myra Quick, president of HRMA of Western New England. “This is a very high-impact issue for all Massachusetts employers.”

The evening begins at 4:30 p.m. with registration and a buffet dinner, followed by the presentation from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. The program has been approved for both HRCI and SHRM credits. For more information, visit www.hrmawne.org.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Beginning Monday, April 29, the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class, sales licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. The course will be completed on May 30. Tuition is $400 and includes the book and materials.

The course curriculum includes property rights, ownership, condos, land use, contracts, deeds, financing, mortgages, real-estate brokerage, appraisal, fair housing, consumer protection, Massachusetts license law, and more.

Classes meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. at the association office, 221 Industry Ave., Springfield.

For an application, contact Joanne Leblond at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected], or visit www.rapv.com.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) 2019 Outlook has released its legislative agenda outlining the priorities of its more than 500 members for the legislative session and the major issues it will focus on to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs and stimulate growth in the greater Springfield region.

“Every other year, we survey our more than 500 members to gather feedback about the issues that are impacting their business, their success, their growth strategies,” said SRC President Nancy F. Creed. “We then determine our legislative priorities based on what matters most to them and this forms our advocacy roadmap for the coming year.”

Creed noted that more than 6,000 pieces of legislation haven been filed since the start of the legislative session in January, and the SRC has identified more than 600 bills that align with the SRC’s priorities and that could impact the regional business community. Through its Legislative Steering Committee representing industry or all types, sizes and geographies, the SRC researches, monitors and advocates as appropriate on each piece of legislation as it moves through the process.

The SRC’s 2019-2020 legislative agenda touches upon key issues in the areas of health care, workplace issues, workforce development and education, tax policy, and energy.

Creed said the cost of health care and access to it is the number one priority of the business community. “This is a critical issue for our businesses and so we will continue to serve as a watchdog and a voice for the region,” she stated. In support of this focus, Creed serves as a steering committee member of the Employer Health Coalition, an employer-led effort to use its collective influence to uncover solutions that drive real change in the health care delivery system and reduce cost.

Creed said the SRC will also focus its efforts on the ending of the temporary increase to the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC). To address the rising costs of MassHealth, the Legislature imposed a temporary assessment on businesses to cover these costs. Creed said the assessment was passed as a temporary measure and the legislation dictates it to sunset at the end of 2019. “The Legislature enacted this increase which has unfairly penalized our business community,” she said. “The law promised it would sunset the increase at the end of 2019 and we expect our elected officials to hold to that promise.”

Creed added that the SRC will also work to ensure mandated benefits be evidence-based and that their values exceeds their cost and advocating for equity in hospital reimbursements. “It makes no sense that our area hospitals get reimbursed less than hospitals in the eastern part of the state for the very same service,” she said.

Creed was part of the group that negotiated the legislative compromise which came to be known as the “grand bargain” which enacted, among other things, a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. She said the SRC will remain actively involved in its implementation. “This remains high on our radar,” said Creed.” With the law enacted, our overarching objective now is to ensure that we get this done right — that the regulations have clarity, the program is implemented with the least disruption to employers, and that both employers and employees understand their responsibilities. We cannot afford to get this wrong.”

In addition, the SRC will encourage reforms to the independent- contractor laws. “Our economy has changed and we should look to reforms to ensure we are keeping up with our changing economy, to encourage entrepreneurialism and incent business growth rather than hindering job creation,” she added. Advocating for a return to prior statutory language for treble damages and opposing changes to wage ‘theft’ laws are also part of the Chamber’s advocacy work.

Workforce development remains a priority for the SRC and its members. Creed said that finding qualified workers is at a critical juncture to the growth of the region. She said that supporting innovation which not only expands educational opportunities but links it to labor market demand will be key to helping businesses with this need. As well, she said the SRC will advocate for modernizing the state funding formula but coupling it with reforms. “We do not support writing a blank check,” she emphasized.

Creed noted that the SRC will continue its focus on the state budget and how revenues are prioritized and spent, including: supporting the rebuilding of the Stabilization Fund, or “Rainy Day” Fund and encouraging it only in dire circumstances; supporting adequate funding for programs to meet the unique needs of the region’s Gateway Cities; advocating for adequate funding for local aid; supporting the maintaining of the state’s high bond rating; ensuring the revenues collected from cannabis taxation are appropriately spent; and opposing any increase in the income tax on business.

Rounding out the SRC’s legislative agenda is energy, and to that end, the SRC will advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy which includes a balanced energy portfolio, development of alternative renewable energy sources, expansion of the supply of natural gas and conservation and energy efficiency measures. “We have the highest energy prices in the country coupled with a shortage of reliable energy, moratoriums right here in our own backyard halting out economic growth, and a costly dependence on coal and oil,” she said. “Renewables alone are not going to solve this problem.”

Creed stated that the legislative process can feel slow moving but it is purposeful. “Our process if meant to be thoughtful and deliberate so that all voices can be heard and considered and the best outcome can be determined,” she said. “And I am pleased that our area’s delegation works within that framework as well.”

Daily News

HARTFORD — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31. The company reported net income of $12.7 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, compared to net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018 (linked quarter) of $12.2 million, or $0.24 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $15.8 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2018.

“Despite the challenging operating environment, the United Financial Bancorp, Inc. team is focused on expanding and winning new client relationships, maintaining strong asset quality and ample capital, and providing superior customer service,” said William H.W. Crawford, IV, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Company and the Bank. “Having a talented and dedicated team of employees to serve the needs of our customers and communities continues to be a strong value proposition of the company and will protect and enhance franchise value.”

Assets totaled $7.34 billion at March 31, 2019, decreasing $16.9 million from $7.36 billion at Dec. 31, 2018. At March 31, 2019, total available for sale securities were $848.5 million, representing a decrease of $124.8 million, or 12.8%, from the linked quarter. The overall decrease was primarily due to sales of lower-yielding collateralized mortgage obligations and municipal securities at a gain during the quarter, and a portion of the proceeds were utilized to pay off maturing Federal Home Loan Bank advances. At March 31, 2019, total loans were $5.73 billion, representing an increase of $75.1 million, or 1.3%, from the linked quarter. Changes to loan balances during the first quarter of 2019 were highlighted by a $33.4 million, or 3.8%, increase in commercial business loans, a $21.1 million, or 1.1%, increase in investor non-owner occupied commercial real estate loans, a $15.6 million, or 3.8%, increase in other consumer loans, a $9.1 million, or 0.7%, increase in residential real estate loans and a $7.2 million, or 8.2%, increase in commercial construction loans.

Slightly offsetting the increased loan balances above were a $7.0 million, or 34.0%, decrease in residential construction loans and a $4.0 million, or 0.9%, decrease in owner-occupied commercial real estate loans from the linked quarter. Loans held for sale also decreased $62.6 million, or 79.5%, from the linked quarter. Total cash and cash equivalents increased $57.2 million, or 58.4%, from the linked quarter as a result of the aforementioned sale of investment securities.

Deposits totaled $5.66 billion at March 31, 2019 and decreased by $6.3 million, or 0.1%, from $5.67 billion at December 31, 2018. Decreases in deposit balances during the first quarter of 2019 were primarily due to a $97.4 million, or 5.6%, decrease in money market account balances and a $21.8 million, or 2.7%, decrease in non-interest-bearing checking deposits, largely due to seasonal outflows that are typical of commercial DDA accounts in the first quarter. Offsetting these decreases was a $61.0 million, or 7.1%, increase in NOW checking account balances and a $51.8 million, or 2.9%, increase in certificates of deposit balances.