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Sections Supplements
How Do Banks Decide Where to Direct Their Charitable Giving?

Tom Brown

Tom Brown says bank executives and employees see charitable giving as part of their corporate responsibility.

Virtually all banks, particularly ones with deep roots in the communities they serve, make a point of giving to nonprofits and other organizations and events that benefit a wide variety of people; in fact, they’re required by law to disburse a specific percentage of their charitable assets each year. And with community needs so great, especially in sluggish economic times, banks must develop strategies to determine which causes to support. Those decisions are not always easy.

There’s a good reason why many nonprofits and other local causes approach banks for funding, said Tom Brown.
“That’s where the money is.”
But, more important, banks have also long established themselves as reliable, go-to donors for a host of community endeavors. Most banks have established foundations for that purpose and are required by law to donate at least 5% of those assets annually.
“The commitment of all the community banks in the Valley is important,” said Brown, senior vice president of retail banking at Easthampton Savings Bank (ESB). “In so many local projects, you’ll see that some bank is a lead sponsor. All community banks take that as our corporate responsibility.”
And the need, according to administrators at several area banks, has never been greater.
“This is a subject near and dear to my heart,” said Rick DeBonis, senior vice president of marketing at Hampden Bank. “We do a lot in the community with respect to supporting in terms of money and in terms of sweat and rolling up our sleeves. We’re very involved.
“We get requests on a daily basis, coming to me or someone else in the organization,” he continued, noting that banks must develop strategies to sort through what is often a sea of pitches. “We have certain guidelines we use, the first of which is the relevance to the bank’s mission statement and our overall objectives as a community bank.”
That means supporting causes that have a direct impact on the greatest number of area residents, said DeBonis, noting a few examples, including schools, youth athletic programs, and, increasingly, cultural events. “We’re looking for not just nonprofits, but things that bring the community together and could have a psychological benefit as well as a financial benefit, in many cases. It’s a broad spectrum of organizations and activities, and we are happy to be a part of it.”
Dena Hall, vice president of marketing and community relations at United Bank, said her institution focuses on specific areas of interest when sorting through grant requests, specifically education, health and human services, youth programs, and cultural programs.
“We will entertain proposals and review the proposals as a group and make decisions whether to fund it,” she said of United, which operates a foundation worth $5.5 million at last count — meaning a minimum annual disbursement of $275,000 to qualified nonprofits — and also a community-sponsorship budget that makes smaller donations to area causes and events.
In either case, “the organization has to operate in the communities we serve, and there are certain things we will not fund” — salaried positions, for example, seeing that the typical United grant of $5,000 to $10,000 wouldn’t cover a significant amount of a paycheck.
However, there have been larger contributions, including recent support of Baystate Medical Center’s ‘Hospital of the Future’ expansion project. “We felt the scope of that project was wide,” Hall said, and it covers a lot of the same areas where our customers live, and we felt it would benefit our customers in the region we serve, so we participated in this great campaign to give our region a wonderful new hospital.”
Doug Burr, senior vice president and director of marketing at Florence Savings Bank, said his bank’s giving is reflective of the communities it serves, so it contributes to 501(c)3 groups that do business in its market.
“We feel we should take on community needs,” he said. “We can’t take on national and international needs; we can’t make a difference there, but we certainly can make a significant impact here in the local community — with a local hospital, a local library, a local school. And we feel good about that.”
For this issue, BusinessWest visits several local banks to discover how they decide how to distribute a finite amount of money to deserving organizations — and why they consider it a crucial part of their community mission.

Getting the Vote Out
“Because of who we are and the fact that we’re a mutual bank, here since 1873,” Burr said, “one of our core principles really is community giving and taking care of our customers. We’ve always said that, being a mutual savings bank, we pay our dividends back to the community because we don’t have stockholders.”
With that reputation, he told BusinessWest, Florence Savings Bank is typically one of the first doors to get knocked on by organizations looking to boost capital campaigns or fund drives.
“Because we’re a local, community bank, we don’t have a really formal process for our giving program,” he said. “People who have a need sit down and talk to me, the guy that makes the actual decisions. That face-to-face can’t always be done in larger organizations, and it’s a real benefit.”
Nine years ago, FSB took that informal approach a step further, launching a program called Customers’ Choice Community Grants. That effort allows the bank’s customers to vote a share of $50,000 to their favorite local organizations, agencies, and schools. The money is allocated by percentage of votes; every organization that gets 1% of the vote gets a percentage of the money.
That often results in some good-natured lobbying among agency leaders, school principals, and others to persuade FSB customers to throw them a few votes — which, of course, serves as free advertising for the bank.
Burr said he and President John Heaps developed the idea as a way to determine if the bank’s giving patterns matched community priorities. For the most part, that has proven to be the case.
“It validated a lot of the giving we did in the past,” Burr said. “When I look at the top 100 vote-getters, they’re all organizations we’re familiar with and have helped. At first, I was amazed how many nonprofits are in our area — about 300 each got a vote — and it kind of answered our question, are we doing what customers would want us to do?”
The bank uses that data to shape the direction of its larger donations, he added, but it has also drawn new retail customers who appreciate the way the bank connects with its market communities through the voting program.
“It’s a powerful thing,” Burr said. “In one sense, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also powerful from a business-development perspective. And our employees feel good about the bank supporting these organizations; this is their home, and we’re helping our friends and neighbors as well as our customers.”

Narrowing the Field
All banks have to develop strategies for distributing philanthropic dollars, and many, like United and Hampden, narrow their focus to a few areas of interest.
“One of the biggest questions is, what has the potential to positively impact the community in the broadest way; what affects the most people?” DeBonis said, noting that his bank gets input not only from the organizations themselves, but in many cases from employees who sit on their boards.
“Mix all these together, and we make decisions as to what makes the most sense. Like I’ve said, the need has never been greater, and we have found that we cannot say yes to everybody; there have to be some particular guidelines with respect to how we allocate those funds.”
Brown, at ESB, agrees.
“It begins with requests, which come in from a lot of different sources,” Brown said. “We try to focus on local organizations, and for us, the three predominant areas of our contributions would be education, human services, and arts programs. But the focal point is local; we’re not usually contributing to large, national organizations, but instead local, grassroots, homegrown entities within our market.”
The other priority is an organization that will benefit a large group of people, he added. That opens the door to some national agencies, like the United Way, that support a wide range of local constituencies, but still leaves room for annual support of efforts like sports teams and school yearbooks, as well as one-time community events.
“When the town of Hadley had its 350th, we were major sponsors of that,” Brown said. “When Easthampton has its bear festival, we’re major sponsors of that. If a community is building a new playground, we may decide to sponsor that. We’ve always looked at this as our community dividend. It’s our responsibility, as a community bank, to give back.
“And it’s not always just about money,” he was quick to add. “Most of our 170 employees are involved in some way with some organization in the community, with a wide range of activities, from raking and shoveling on cleanup day to serving as a board chair or board member. Many organizations have told us that’s as important as writing a check. If you look at the employees of the bank, from the president to the tellers, you’ll find them active in the communities in which we operate.”

Stretching the Dollars
Hall said she and other decision-makers want to be sure that United Bank’s charitable efforts benefit the largest group of constituents and that the projects it funds are viable. “We’re never the only funder, but we’re looking for organizations with multiple funders and track records of success.”
Although United has funded and will fund smaller organizations with smaller grants, she said, it focuses mainly on organizations that can make a long-term impact on its communities — for example, funding a new emergency-rescue vehicle for the Red Cross, afterschool programs at the YMCA, or textbooks for Ludlow schools’ ‘literacy closet.’
Like many banks, Hall makes a point of sharing news of such grants in United’s publication, Yankee Connections, which only leads to further requests. “When it comes out, I get calls from organizations asking, ‘can I get your guidelines?’” She has also moved to communicating giving news on the bank’s Facebook page. “I feel like we’re talking to a whole new group of nonprofit organizations by publishing there.”
Which, of course, only leads to more decisions to make. While Hampden Bank was recently honored by the Western Mass. Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals with its 200 Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation award — for its support of Mercy Medical Center’s ICU and surgical center projects, among other efforts — DeBonis lamented that more worthy causes exist than the bank can support, even just in its market communities.
“There are some things out there that we’d love to fund and sponsor, but we have to look realistically at the cost of participation in relation to the overall dollars available,” he said.
He and others who spoke with BusinessWest understand all-too-clearly that the sluggish economy, just now emerging slowly from a crippling recession, has put the squeeze on nonprofits and other charitable causes, and the size of the average request has grown.
“It’s important for everyone to realize that every bank has a limit on what they can give away,” Brown said. “We try to meet these needs, but we’re trying to spread around a finite number of dollars. It’s not a bottomless pit of money, and we’re trying to be as equitable as we can and fair to everyone.”
These days, that’s just part of what it means to be a community bank.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Supplements
Innovative Business Systems Hones Its Pitch

IBS President Dave DelVecchio

IBS President Dave DelVecchio

In 20 years, Innovative Business Systems has evolved from a software-development firm to an outfit that businesses of all kinds rely on to manage their computer networks, data security, and a host of other high-tech needs. But as it celebrates this anniversary, IBS has launched a rebranding effort that aims to better-clarify what its services are, and why they are becoming increasingly necessary.

Dave DelVecchio says that the speed at which information technology advances can leave business owners confused, buffeted by buzzwords, and unsure of the value of an IT partner.
Innovative Business Systems Inc. has successfully built such partnerships for two decades, but DelVecchio, the company’s president, and his staff recently began to ask whether its customers and, perhaps more important, prospective clients really understand the need for its services.
“So many IT companies are so fixated on the ‘how’ that they can’t communicate the ‘why,’” he told BusinessWest. “We’re focused on helping businesses determine the why.”
Last year marked a 20th anniversary of sorts for this Easthampton-based IT sales and support firm (which launched in 1987 but didn’t officially incorporate until three years later). “And, as major milestones tend to be, that became a time for reflection,” DelVecchio said.
He explained that IT changes so much in a few years — “for some people, that’s a blink of an eye, but in our industry, it’s a lifetime” — that questions arose regarding how well IBS was delivering its message to the public.
“We weren’t sure we were doing an effective job communicating with prospects, clients, and the general public exactly what we do,” he explained. “Sometimes, we’re too close to it to communicate it ourselves.”
So the company launched a rebranding campaign, looking for a succinct way to communicate its range of services, and at the same time refreshing its logo. It enlisted an outside consultant for these tasks, and launched a new Web site earlier this month, presenting itself with the new tagline, “smarter technology for better business.”
“A lot of people historically have thought of companies like ours as computer repairmen, like they think of appliance repairmen or auto mechanics,” DelVecchio said. “That’s not what we do, or, it’s a very small subset of what we do.”
Rather, he said, “we help folks cut through the clutter of ever-changing technology, to find out what’s the right fit for a business, what’s applicable and what’s not, what fads stick and what’s a flash in the pan. We want to have conversations with them from a business perspective, not just a technology perspective. And we felt this tagline best encapsulates that.”

Gang of Five
Bill Tremblay began Innovative Business Systems in 1987 as a software-development outfit (more on that later), then sold the firm in 2003 to five employees — DelVecchio, Brian Scanlon, Scott Seifel, Ben Scoble, and Sean Benoit — who continue to run it today.
IBS handles PC sales, data analysis, networking, hardware and software support, repair, and maintenance services for businesses of all sizes. It built much of its business in the financial-services arena, working with banks and credit unions — both those with their own existing IT departments and those without — on issues including data access, information security, and disaster-recovery planning.
The rest of the IBS client list is comprised largely of small-to-medium-sized, privately owned businesses in a wide range of sectors, from health care to manufacturing, many of which are not large enough to have their own IT departments but view the need for constantly updated technology as a growing necessity.
“For many years, our niche was supporting banks and credit unions,” DelVecchio said. “But we’ve got multiple 10-employee companies running technology rivaling what the banks are running — remote offices, mobility suites, document imaging, hosting their own Web-based data applications, some of them being publicly accessible, and some in industries with strict security requirements.”
He said he gets annoyed when people assume that the need for the services IBS provides are always related to the size of the client. Instead, “the more technology-driven a business is, the better fit they are for us, regardless of size.”
One of the biggest issues IBS has dealt with in recent years has been access to data from various computers, company locations, or remotely. A related, and often equally important, consideration is data recovery, because it can be disastrous for a business to store information in one office only.
DelVecchio is especially excited about the company’s new data center in Marlborough, which will serve as a remote office, but, more importantly, as a disaster-recovery suite. In case of some event that renders a customer’s place of business unusable, IBS can transfer the contents of the client’s entire network to the Marlborough office, which is equipped with four workstations, in effect providing a location for that customer to continue to operate.
“From a solutions standpoint, this is huge,” he said. “In case of a localized disaster, like a fire, a flood, a sprinkler goes off at midnight and leaves the office knee-deep in water, this location is, in most cases, within an hour’s drive, so you have a place to function.”
Why Marlborough? Its distance is an asset, DelVecchio said, explaining that disaster-recovery suites should be close enough that the commute isn’t too onerous, yet far enough away to be clear of a regional disaster; 45 to 60 minutes away is ideal.
And while most businesses might never need the use of such a facility, many will, especially those in multi-tenant buildings, and should appreciate paying around $3,500 annually for a “a business continuity plan in a box,” he said.
“For tenants in a mixed-use, multi-tenant building, the odds of a localized disaster go up by a factor of 10. When you have a lot of tenants, all it takes is the tenant next door to plug up the drainpipe with grass and knock out the sprinklerhead, or put a candle too close to a curtain, to cause an issue. In multi-tenant buildings, we see this as an incredibly underused but much-needed solution.”

Down to Earth
Putting this sort of real-life face on often-complex technology is key to IBS’ new focus on communicating the big picture to clients, DelVecchio said.
He noted that Microsoft has been promoting ‘cloud computing’ — a term synonymous with Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to individual computers and other devices — “but if you ask 100 people what the cloud is, you get 100 different answers. The cloud can be a lot of things.”
He compared it to 15 years ago, when the commercial use of Internet technology was just exploding, and “cyber” became the hot buzzword, even though it wasn’t always used correctly. “We’ve developed our own cloud strategy to cut through that clutter.”
What businesses need to understand, he said, is what those buzzwords mean, and how the technology behind them can benefit their operations. He said some have predicted that 80% of all IT services will be cloud-based within five years, but feels that number may be a bit aggressive; he sees many firms using a hybrid approach. “Businesses might be running things like E-mail in the cloud and applications on premises, or vice versa. Determining the right mix for business is the foundation of what we do.”
No IT firm can be everything to all its clients, so IBS touts a number of ‘partners’ on its Web site — not formal partnerships, but related companies with whom IBS shares clients — that do a good job at what they do, and can benefit Innovative’s customers. “Building a strong partner network is something we take a lot of pride in; it takes a village to maintain an IT infrastructure, but we can be the hub that facilitates getting it done.”
Like companies of all sizes and in all sectors, IBS has endured a sluggish economy for the past few years, but felt it mainly in product sales, not consulting.
“In 2007 and 2008, most companies were investing in their business, with technologies like remote access and document-management solutions,” DelVecchio said. “When the economy slowed down, everyone went into a wait-and-see, maintenance mode; our revenue remained constant in 2009, but our material sales dropped 20%. People kept what they had; they weren’t upgrading. Over the course of 2010, though, we saw a consistent increase in projects.”
All the more reason to launch a rebranding effort — and make some hard decisions about the direction of the company.
“Every business has been forced to look at their balance sheet and take a look at expenses and figure out where they were getting value,” he said. “And if you’re not delivering value, should you be doing it?” In answering that question, last year, IBS phased out of the software-development business, which was the work on which the company was founded.
“Running a software-development business is a completely different model than running an IT service and consulting business,” said DelVecchio, noting that IBS’ full-time developer left the firm on amicable terms and continues to support all the clients for whom IBS had developed applications. “That allowed us to focus on our core business moving forward. After that decision, we focused creating branding for what our core business will be like in 2011 and beyond.”

Bottom Line
By all indications, that core looks healthy, he said, noting that, as clients started to order upgrades they had deferred during the recession, IBS saw a strong second half to 2010.
“Clients are back in the game,” DelVecchio said. “From a business outlook, I’m very positive about 2011. It appears that people have come out of their bunkers, and they’re ready to do business again.”
Whether in their offices, or in the cloud.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion
America’s Revival Begins in Its Cities

During economic downturns, we begin to fear that we are entering a permanent period of decline. But we can avoid that depressing prospect if we recognize that a revival will not come from federal spending or another building boom. Reinvention requires a new wave of innovation and entrepreneurship, which can emerge from our dense metropolitan areas and their skilled residents. America must stop treating its cities as ugly stepchildren, and should instead cherish them as the engines that power our economy.
America’s 12 largest metropolitan areas collectively produced 37% of the country’s output in 2008, the last year with available data. Per-capita productivity was particularly high in large, skilled areas such as Boston, where output per person was 39% higher than the nation’s metropolitan average. Boston also seems to be moving past the current recession, with an unemployment rate well below the national average of 9.8%.
Since 1948, the national unemployment rate has exceeded 9% only one other time: the grave 1982 recession. During the 1980s, we looked at Japan and saw an economy that seemed to be surpassing our own. Today, we watch with unease as China surges.
Yet American decline is not inevitable. During the 25 years after 1982, our real gross domestic product increased by 3.3% per year, which was also the rate of growth during the quarter-century before 1982. Our post-1982 growth involved massive economic restructuring. Manufacturing employment fell by 39% from its peak of 19.4 million jobs in 1979. The 1979-2009 manufacturing decline was more than offset by the 126% employment jump in professional and business services and the 184% increase in education and health jobs.
Boston offers a model of how cities can foster such transformations. In the 1970s, Boston seemed headed for the trash-heap of history. Manufacturing jobs had vanished, and social chaos ensued. But Greater Boston experienced three great decades, as a former industrial hub became a capital of the information age.
To succeed in the future, the country needs to produce a stream of new ideas, like personal computers, Facebook, and steerable catheters. We must produce goods and services innovative enough to command the high prices needed to cover high labor costs.
Such breakthroughs rarely come from solitary geniuses. The movie The Social Network hints at the messy, interactive process that created Facebook, which now has over 500 million users and is valued at about $40 billion. Mark Zuckerberg benefited from being surrounded by smart peers, whose ideas about social networking helped his company get started.
The roots of Boston Scientific reveal a similarly collaborative process that started in the basement of a Belmont church. The brilliant inventor (and spiritualist) Itzhak Bentov created a steerable catheter, catering to the demands of Boston’s medical community. Boston connected Bentov with John Abele, who brought his business vision and later connected Abele with other partners, who helped him create a medical-innovation behemoth.
Cities have long enabled economic creativity. Detroit in 1900 looked a lot like Silicon Valley in the 1960s, with an entrepreneur on every street corner. In that urban hotbed, innovators like Ford, Buick, and the Fisher Brothers supplied and financed each other — and borrowed ideas freely. The urban edge in engendering innovation explains why globalization and technology have made cities more, not less, important. While all workers in the Boston area benefit from the region’s human capital, the flow of knowledge seems strongest in the dense clusters of Boston and Cambridge.
For decades, the American dream has meant white picket fences and endless suburbs. But the ideas created in dense metropolitan areas power American productivity. We should reduce the pro-home-ownership bias of housing policies, such as the home-mortgage-interest deduction, which subsidize suburban sprawl and penalize cities. We should rethink infrastructure policies that encourage Americans to move to lower-density environments. Most importantly, we should invest and innovate more in education, because human capital is the ultimate source of both urban and national strength.
As we grope toward a brighter future, we must embrace our cities, and invest in the skills that are central to their success.

Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, is the author of the forthcoming book The Triumph of the City.

Opinion
Incentives — They’re a Necessary Evil

‘Corporate welfare.’
That’s the term used in some circles to describe the incentives — mostly in the form of state and local tax breaks, but they come in other forms as well — given to companies to locate in a community or remain there and expand their operations. It has a very negative connotation, and, in the eyes of many, it’s warranted.
Welfare, a term that’s being removed from the lexicon, at least in this state, and replaced with ‘transitional assistance,’ implies help to those who outwardly need it. Some would say that businesses, or at least the vast majority of them, don’t need and don’t deserve tax breaks and other assistance when very few companies, and no residents, get such help.
But this view does not reflect the current world in which we live and try to do business. Indeed, jobs are the lifeblood of every community, every region, every state, and, yes, every country, and the competition for jobs has never been more intense. Thus, incentives like those recently awarded by the state and the city of Springfield to Smith & Wesson and Titeflex (see story, page 6), and by the state to Qteros (now doing business in Chicopee), are certainly warranted, if not exactly popular.
States and economic-development regions are being quite imaginative, and generous, with incentives, especially in this economy and when so many former manufacturing centers are struggling. If these companies and others, such as Performance Food Group in Springfield when it was looking to expand in the city, did not get the tax breaks they requested, they would, in all likelihood, have gone elsewhere.
All this said, communities and states have a responsibility to award incentives wisely and fairly, with an eye toward helping a region, not an individual business. Most people remember when Springfield was handing out grants and attractive loans willy-nilly, to seemingly anyone who wanted to open a restaurant and had a business plan in hand — and they remember the consequences: unpaid loans and vacant storefronts.
Which is why we’re pleased to see that the state’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council has changed the rules when it comes to how it awards tax subsidies. These changes, which came in the wake of criticism that the state had squandered millions of dollars over the years on dubious projects, such as fast-food restaurants and retailers who probably would have opened in the Bay State anyway, were certainly overdue.
The new regulations, adopted early in 2010, limit which companies are eligible for subsidies, and give state economic-development officials more discretion over the awards. In short, priority is now given to manufacturers and companies at the cutting edge of new technology and processes (such as Qteros) and to opportunities for job growth in the so-called Gateway Cities, which include Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, and others in this region.
And these awards come with some heavy strings, such as the promise of new jobs and investments in these companies’ operations. So while time will ultimately tell what happens at Smith & Wesson, Titeflex, Qteros, and other companies in this region, the money spent by the state and the communities involved appears for now to be well-spent.
As we said at the top, business incentives — or that much-less-flattering term for them, corporate welfare — seem inherently unfair when residential taxpayers don’t receive breaks and many business owners stay in a region for decades, and sometimes expand several times, without asking for or receiving financial assistance.
But the reality is that these incentives are, indeed, necessary, and you might as well drop the word ‘evil’ that usually follows that term.
When you do the math, and divide the state tax subsidies awarded to Smith & Wesson ($6 million) by the number of jobs created (225), it’s about $26,000. That’s a lot of money for a job, but for a region that’s screaming for new employment opportunities, especially good-paying jobs in manufacturing, that price sounds like a bargain.
And a price well-worth paying — if, and only if, the conditions are right.

Features
Insurance Exec Has Modesty Element Fully Covered

Sam Hanmer President of FieldEddy Insurance Network

Sam Hanmer President of FieldEddy Insurance Network

Sam Hanmer could play football for Bill Bellichick.
Well … he could handle the pre- and post-game interviews with the media, anyway.
He sure sounds like one of the Patriots when he talks about his career, his life, and the things that define it. He’d much rather talk about the team than himself, and there’s an unassuming, ‘just-doing-my-job,’ ‘it’s-really-no-big-deal’ tone, or attitude, to much, if not almost all, of what he says. However, there’s a little more dry humor than most of the Patriots display.
Consider this comment when asked how he was able to exponentially grow what is now known as the FieldEddy Insurance Network in the 14 or so years after he took the reins as CEO soon after his father retired from the agency known as Field, Eddy and Bulkley:
“I think the thing I’ve done best is put together a really good team of people,” he started. “I want people to be smarter than me when they come here — which isn’t saying much, believe me; that’s not exactly a lofty goal. Together, this team gets it done, and they’ve enabled me to achieve a good work-life balance.”
There was similar modesty when he was talking about his athletic ability and proficiency in various sports.
Indeed, when asked if he was in an over-40 hockey league (he’s 48 and loves the game), he said, “no, but I’m certainly ready for one. I’m still in an over-30 league, and those guys are too fast for me. I’ve got to move on.”
On skiing: “I wouldn’t say I’m good at it … I’d leave it up to the people I ski with to say how good I am.” And on his exploits in triathlon competitions: “I just do the sprints, which is a half-mile swimming, 15 miles on the bike, and a three- or four-mile run,” he said, noting that these events progress markedly, distance-wise, with the so-called Olympic, half, and full, or ‘ironman,’ triathlons. “Each year I think I’m going to do an Olympic or a half, but haven’t gotten there yet; primarily, it’s the swimming that’s holding me back.”
Despite the understated tone to all these comments — and Hanmer’s insistence that his partner, FieldEddy President Timm Marini, who did spend some time playing for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins; his son, in training to be a marine biologist; or virtually anyone else would be a better profile subject for BusinessWest — there is an intriguing story here. Actually, several of them.
The first involves business, of course, and the expansion of FieldEddy well beyond its roots in downtown Springfield, an initiative that Hanmer orchestrated, and that continues today, although current market conditions have brought a temporary halt to the spate of acquisitions.
There’s also a strong track record of community involvement, especially with the YMCA of Greater Springfield, where Hanmer is in his fourth year as board chair and in the middle of his second search for an executive director with the recent departure of James O’S Morton for the Hartford YMCA.
Overall, there seems to be an attractive work-life balance that many business executives are still searching for. Indeed, thanks to that team he mentioned earlier, Hanmer was able to take Fridays off last summer and fall and spend more time at a home he purchased a few years ago in West Yarmouth. And with ski season now in full force, he’s thinking strongly about continuing that schedule into the spring.
The house on the Cape hasn’t helped Hanmer’s golf handicap — weekends there mean less time to play and practice — but he still gets out regularly enough, and there are those other sports, and even a fascination for ’60s and ’70s muscle cars, especially the Pontiac GTO.
“I’ve owned three of them — I’m a car nut,” he said, listing a ’65 tri-power, a ’65 four-barrel convertible, and ’67 hardtop, with a tinge of lament in his voice as he uses the past tense. “I’ll get another one … someday.”
For this, the latest installment of its Profiles in Business series, BusinessWest talks with a man who doesn’t like to talk about himself, but managed to do so just long enough to paint an interesting self-portrait.

Policy Statement
Hanmer was talking about the swimming leg of one of those sprint triathlons he’s taken part in, this one in Ludlow — but if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear he was expounding on the ultra-competitive world of insurance.
“The pack never really separates,” he explained, noting that there are dozens of people in a small stretch of water, kicking and clawing to gain some ground. “You get kicked in the face, punched in the face, and elbowed, and of course the anxiety level picks up; it gets a little crazy out there, a little wild.”
To some extent, though, FieldEddy has managed to gain some degree of separation. It now boasts more than 70 employees after acquiring several smaller agencies over more than a decade of aggressive expansion efforts, a crital mass that brings many competitive advantages. Still, this is a changing, ultra-challenging business sector, impacted most recently in the auto realm by a number of national online companies, such as Geico and Progressive, jockeying for position in a state that recently changed the rules to stimulate greater competition.
“It’s great for the consumers — they’ve seen up to a 20% reduction in their rates,” he explained. “The business has changed for us; it’s not necessarily good or bad, it’s just different. We’ve seen our share of the direct writers get a foothold here, but we’re starting to see that come back because they’re taking some rate increases.
“Geico has done a very soft launch in Massachusetts,” he continued, noting that that the company has been in the Bay State for more than a year, but has yet to make a lot of noise beyond its heavy marketing. “I’m just worried about what happens when they really want to pull the trigger.”
How Hanmer arrived at this position to reflect on, and react to, all these changes is an intriguing story. His father was the majority owner of a firm known then as Field, Eddy, and Bulkley, but Hanmer didn’t go to work for him upon graduation from UMass Amherst in 1984.
“I was interviewing at UMass for jobs, and went with the one that offered the most money,” he explained. “And that was with Liberty Mutual in Boston.”
Ironically, his girlfriend and future wife, Jenny, was working for the agency (she started part-time while they were both at UMass) when he ventured off to the Hub.
While Hanmer enjoyed his time in Boston — he said he spent many an afternoon and evening in the bleachers at Fenway — he soon returned to Springfield to get married and join Field, Eddy, and Bulkley.
He started in sales, but soon moved to the financial side of the business when the then-treasurer suffered a heart attack and had to leave the company for some time. He eventually gravitated back to sales and, in 1995 when his father retired, stepped into a leadership role.
And it wasn’t long before he started to capitalize on a trend within the industry — small, often mom-and-pop operations struggling to adjust to changes and technology began looking in earnest for exit strategies — to grow by acquisition.

Pedal to the Metal
Over the next dozen years or so, the firm acquired a number of agencies, some with familiar names known across the region and others with names known across the city or town in question. That list includes the Curtis and Hodskins agencies in Monson, Aliengena in Palmer, LDS in Three Rivers, Meadows in East Longmeadow, BPI in Springfield, Remillard in South Hadley, Buckley Bridge in Windsor Locks, and, most recently, Lawson, Marino & Bertera, another Springfield-based agency specializing in employee benefits.
When asked to evaluate his body of work with regard to growing the company, Hanmer was his usual modest self, almost Tom Brady-like.
“In the aggregate, it’s working,” he explained. “I’m not going to say all of those agencies are what I thought they were or that everything’s worked out exactly as I’d hoped, but for the most part, it’s worked, or it’s working; we’ve done well.”
Looking ahead, Hanmer said he continues to scan the horizon in search of new acquisition opportunities, but he’s not expecting additional expansion in the near term.
“There’s been a couple that have come across my desk,” he said, “but things are still pretty uncertain out there right now, especially in health care. And in personal lines, well … it’s really hard to put your finger on what might happen there. It’s a very competitive marketplace.”
In the meantime, he says his day-to-day job description at the moment involves working more on the business than in it — something else most area executives are striving to do. “But that’s difficult when you’ve been working in the business as long as I have,” he said.
Equally hard is achieving that desired balance between work, life, and community involvement, but Hanmer seems to found something approaching the right formula.
In addition to his lengthy stint as chair of the Y board — prolonged because successors due to succeed him have been unable to do so — Hanmer has donated time and energy to other agencies and causes. These include Bay Path College and the Springfield Museums, both of which he serves as a trustee, and Mason-Wright Retirement Community, where he’s a corporator.
He’s also a long-time member of an organization known as YPO, the Young Presidents’ Organization, a global network of young chief executives that currently boasts about 17,000 members in more than 100 countries. The local group acts as a de-facto board of directors for smaller companies that don’t have one, he explained, adding that roundtable discussions among members have helped him grow as a business leader and tackle some of the hard decisions he’s had to make over the years.
Hanmer also saves plenty of time for his family, especially his three children — Jessica, 25; John, 24; and Margo, 21 — and his two bulldogs, Bentley and Nola.
As for sports, as he said, he’s still in the over-30 league, playing left wing primarily, “but I go wherever they need me.” He’s also an avid skier and snowboarder — he sold his place at Mount Sugarbush and now rotates between Stratton, Okemo, Mount Snow, and, occasionally, Killington — and a triathlon veteran looking to get better in the water.
“I always thought I was a pretty good swimmer until I did one of these things; I found out in a hurry I wasn’t as good as I thought as I was,” he told BusinessWest, noting that the quality and quantity of competition usually leaves him playing catch-up when he gets out of the water and onto the bike.
“The good news with the swimming,” he continued, “is that it’s so short that being behind the pack means only about 20 seconds or half-minute, which you can make up on the bike, which is my best strength.”

Business Cycles
Time will tell if Hanmer graduates to an Olympic or half-marathon this year. He’s optimistic that will happen, but not exceedingly so.
He’s also not sure about the year ahead in insurance, where the economy continues to be a factor, and a green lizard and a woman named Flo are making things even more interesting in a business known for intense competition.
What is certain is that he will continue on in his understated way, giving credit to the team and essentially directing attention away from himself.
“That’s how I am — we just keep looking for ways to do things better and get ahead,” he said, sounding, again, like a certain hooded-sweatshirt-wearing football coach.

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

Building Permits Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of December 2010.

AGAWAM

Juliann Stillo
737 North St.
$9,000 — Install pre-made metal garage on concrete slab

Kiran Majmudar
916 Suffield St.
$20,000 — Add new banquet room to existing building

Parlay of MA Inc.
662 Springfield St.
$8,000 — Build first-floor bathroom

CHICOPEE

Rushing Waters Assembly of God
465 Granby Road
$12,000 — Install fiberglass steeple

EAST LONGMEADOW

Benton Professional
265 Benton Dr.
$90,000 — Interior build-out

United Methodist Church
215 Somers Road
$5,300 — Replacement windows

HOLYOKE

Jeffrey Cunningham
306 Race St.
$39,000 — Installation of a new rubber roof

LONGMEADOW

Bay Path College
524 Longmeadow St.
$1,185,400 — First- and second-floor alterations with addition on the side

Longmeadow Mall
789 Williams St.
$37,000 — Alterations of office space

St. Mary’s
10 Hopkins Place
$550,000 — New dwelling with two-car garage

Twin Hills Country Club
700 Wolf Swamp Road
$18,000 — New storage building

LUDLOW

St. Elizabeth Church
191 Hubbard St.
$5,700 — Reline chimney

Laser Point Partners
40 Westover Road
$8,700 — Alterations

SOUTH HADLEY

Big Y
44 Willimansett St.
$25,000 — New windows

Center Redevelopment
17 College St.
$76,000 — New roof on building 23

Fire District #1
144 Newton St.
$3,000 — New windows

SPRINGFIELD

Dave Ratner
1330 Carew St.
$3,000 — Interior renovations

WESTFIELD

Advance Associates
8 Turnpike Industrial Park Road
$200,000 — 60-by-125-square-foot addition to existing building

HB Smith Company
47 Industrial Park Road
$45,000 — Install new men’s room

Ronald Kaddy
32 East Silver St.
$12,000 — Replace outside fire escape

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Common Ground Restaurant
25 Park Ave.
$15,000 — Renovate basement of existing restaurant

Gogri Brothers, Inc.
3 Robin Road
$75,000 — Renovate 4,272 square feet of retail space

UITP
321 Main St.
$22,000 — New roof

Bankruptcies Departments

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

Akey, Terry G.
367 King Road
Athol, MA 01331
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Allard, Kate S.
PO Box 824
Ware, MA 01082
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Andrade, Marco P.
Andrade, Kristen M.
176 Longyard Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Barszewski, Daniel J.
89 Maple St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Bednarz, Thomas Edward
240 Three Rivers Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Benjamin, David A.
Benjamin, Stephanie L.
66 Fairman Road
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Betts, Charles E.
16 Leatherleaf Circle
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Bonney, Kenneth F.
13 Normandy Road
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/29/10

Boucher, Richard G.
1130 County Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Breault, Glenn Allan
17 Stewart Ave.
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Brierley, Jason William
27 Briggs St., 2d Fl.
Indian Orchard, MA 01151
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/20/10

Burnias, Manuel C.
11 Flynt Ave.
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/29/10

Campbell, Peter S.
Campbell, Lyida R.
263 Redlands St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Carme, Margaret R.
59 Congress St., Apt. 5
Greenfield, MA 01301
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Celentano, Nancy L.
101 Pinehurst Dr.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Champigny, David P.
23 Begley St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Cintron, Beatriz
35 Fruit St., F-62
Northampton, MA 01060
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Citlak, Ahmet
81 Bluebird Circle
Ludlow, MA 01056
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Clark, Howard James
86 Congress Ave., 3rd Fl.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/20/10

Cochrane, Charles William
Cochrane, Jennifer Leigh
15 Glenn Albyn St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Costello, Edward M.
53 Forest Glen Dr.
Florence, MA 01062
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/26/10

Cournoyer, Renata S.
28 Woodward Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Cousineau, Mary N.
58 Sanders St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Cruz, Lydia E.
577 Pleasant St. Apt 1
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/28/10

Demers, Daniel A.
Demers, Valarie A.
19 College St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/28/10

Denison, Annette L.
1026 Liberty St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Dron, Alan R.
167 West St.
Granby, MA 01033
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/29/10

Drowne, Lawrence E.
Drowne, Gwen E.
107 New Athol Road
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/25/10

Eberhart, Lisa Regina
P.O. Box 1223
Springfield, MA 01101
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Favreau, Michelle M.
279 Pleasant St.
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Fearfield, Amy M.
a/k/a Johnson, Amy
205 Deerfield St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Franck, Cathy A.
53 Empire St., Apt. P
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Garcia, Gregory
27 Continental St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Garcia, Jeritza
142 Bridge St.
Williamstown, MA 01267
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Gill, Venora
116 Spring St., Apt. 1
Springfield, MA 01105
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/20/10

Girard, John Francis
Girard, Melissa Violet
499 East Main St.
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Grueter, Derek A.
Grueter, April R.
PO Box 215
Warren, MA 01083
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Guilman, Jennifer A.
126 Eddy St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Gyeidu, Kofi
1 Hampton Ter.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Hanks, Sherry L.
23 Maple Ridge Dr.
Somers, CT 06071
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Harrison, Steven G.
21 Alan Dr.
North Adams, MA 01247
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Haskins, David J.
690 Silver Lake St.
Athol, MA 01331
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Hassenfratz, K. George
21 Plaza Ave.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Hazelton, Kathleen A.
185 Holtshire Road
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/25/10

Horton, Seth C.
95 Brown St.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/29/10

Hughes, Christopher Ryan
Hughes, Kelly Anne
a/k/a Moore, Kelly Anne
169 South St.
Chesterfield, MA 01012
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Iellamo, Jr., Paul A.
55 Windham Dr.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Jones, Jamieson F.
27 Amnity Place
Amherst, MA 01002
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Jones, Teikko E.
20 Kirk Dr.
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Kania, Todd A.
Kania, Pamela L.
18 Woodbridge Road
Chicopee, MA 01022
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/26/10

Kodreanu, Galina
6 Lemnos Lane
Springfield, MA 01119
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Krasheninnikov, Igor V.
105 River St. Apt 2.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Krasheninnikov, Yelena P.
105 River St. Apt 2.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Kratovil, Melissa L.
518 Broadway St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Lafrance, Melvin J.
6 Orchard St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Lamb, Sandra M.
268 Palmer Road, Lot 50
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Lambert, William J.
39 Chestnut St., Apt 215
Ludlow, MA 01056
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Lamere, Michael B.
Lamere, Sharon A.
a/k/a Richard, Sharon A.
1 Cheney St., Apt. 1
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/25/10

Langford, Roy G.
Langford, Ella Louise
a/k/a Johnson, Ella Louise
37 Sherbrooke St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Lazarev, Valentin
22 Pleasant St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Leahy, Erica R.
63 Hillview Road
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

LeBorgne, Dawn M.
a/k/a Cross, Dawn M.
a/k/a Toma, Dawn M.
93 Berkshire Ave.
Southwick, MA 01077
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Lemieux, Lisa A.
158 Clarendon Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Leutsch, Alfred V.
Leutsch, Kathleen R.
286 Buck Pond Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Mac Dougall, Scott A.
629 Main St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Mackenzie, Kevin J.
342 Southwick Road Apt B5
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Marchand, Stella L.
54 Merriam St.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Marinez, Richard
6 Sorrento Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

McCauslin, Christopher
29 Old Chester Road
Huntington, MA 01050
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

McCormick, Beverly A.
PO Box 840
Northampton, MA 01061
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Melnik, Sergey V.
Melnik, Victoriya A.
23 Dover St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/19/10

Orlosk, Arthur W.
159 Mallard Circle
Agawam, MA 01001
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Paige, Clifford F.
Paige, Sondra D.
122 Bates Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Pantos, Steven S.
Golemba, Susanne
Box 1120
Sturbridge, MA 01566
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Politakos, Marios
Politakos, Ekaterini
a/k/a Alvanos-Politakos, Ekaterini
21 Beauchamp St.
Springfield, MA 01107
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Powling, Lewis E.
Powling, Kay S.
132 Cheney St.
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/25/10

Prive, Douglas W.
Prive, Barbara Martin
50 Oxford St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Putnam, David F.
200 Dana Road
Orange, MA 01364
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/25/10

Rivera, Arnaldo
109 Ridgewood Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Rothschild, Lindsey Micaela
2 South Hampshire St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Royal, Bruce K.
Royal, Jeannette T.
64 Mystery Lane
Athol, MA 01331
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Ryan, Joshua A.
Ryan, Amber M.
167 West Main St.
Ware, MA 01082
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/16/10

Sager, Rachel
350 Meadow Road, Apt. 1
Agawam, MA 01001
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Santiago, Angel
PO Box 834
Northampton, MA 01061
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/29/10

Saunders, George Leroy
Saunders, Sheena Marie
29 Bumstead Road
Monson, MA 01057
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Schofield, Everett Clifford
Schofield, Andrea Renae
a/k/a Wright, Andrea Renae
139 Spencer Road
Oakham, MA 01068
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Scribner, Sandra Lee
115 Barker Road
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/27/10

Setsoafia, Thankgod Peter
115 Main St., Apt. 2R
South Hadley, MA 01075
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Shallcross, Bruce R.
8 Villone Dr. #5
Leeds, MA 01053
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Shewchuk, Wesley
68 Elmwood Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Shriver, Brian
Shriver, Marilyn
125 Meadowbrook Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Silva, Deanna Jeanne
a/k/a Johnson, Deanna Jeanne
91 Beacon Ter.
Springfield, MA 01119
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Smith, Jeffrey M.
15 Pineridge Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Steele, Mark A.
Steele, Mary Beth
295 Southwick St.
Feeding Hills, MA 01030
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Taylor, Margaret A.
429-431 East St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/18/10

Thayer, Candace A.
1130 County Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/22/10

Tolson, Daniel Lee
111 Garden St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Tolson, Kathleen Ann
a/k/a Stephenson, Kathleen A.
45 L2 Mercury Court
Arms Apartment
West Springfield, MA 01089
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Tremblay, Maryann
491 Bridge Road, Apt #332
Florence, MA 01062
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/24/10

Vazquez, Angel L.
Ocasio, Maria M.
21 Clifford St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Vedovelli, David A.
Vedovelli, Heidi V.
12 Albano Dr.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/30/10

Vreeland, Gregory D.
Vreeland, Shana K.
a/k/a McLaughlin, Shana K.
2 Conifer Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Wood, Tracie L.
a/k/a Dimascola, Tracie L.
224 South St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Yard, Shaquana M.
203 Dewey Ave.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/17/10

Zager, Anthony Michael
Zager, Peggy Marie
65A River Road
Gill, MA 01354
Chapter: 7
Filing Date: 11/23/10

Ziter, Christina Maria
9 Pearl St.
Adams, MA 01220
Chapter: 13
Filing Date: 11/16/10

DBA Certificates Departments

The following Business Certificates and Trade Names were issued or renewed during the month of December 2010.

AGAWAM

Crash Dynamics Reconstruction
36 Hemlock Ridge
Christopher Sanchez

M&J Goncalves Inc.
1192 Suffield St.
Mike Goncalves

Mobile One Locksmith
94 Florida Dr.
Stephen A. Ouellette

Schlaffer Chiropractic
192 Shoemaker Lane
Joseph Schlaffer

Sunkissed Spray Tanning
206 Brookfield Lane
Kaila Chianciola

Vozik LLC
22 Winthrop St.
Tatyana Shut

CHICOPEE

AJL Electric
95 St. Jacques Ave.
Flan Lubas

Bernie’s Service Station
1057 Montgomery St.
Daniel Bernashe

Daigle’s Truck Master Inc.
54 Fuller Road
Jeff Daigle

DMS Autobody & Collision
393 New Ludlow Road
Wesley D. Smith

Freedom Cycles
562 Chicopee St.
Jeff Heath

Nana’s Auto Service LLC
817 Front St.
Michael W. Asselin

Power On
115 Beauregard Terrace
Ruishan Yu

Vitaliy’s Auto Sales Inc.
374 Chicopee St.
Dmitry S. Gornik

GREENFIELD

Manna House
205 Main St.
Dwight Zeager

Stardust RES Publishing
353 Conway St.
Robert Sweeney

HOLYOKE

Computer Repairs & Accessories
254 Maple St.
Wanda I. Rodriguez

Frances Cakes & More
254 Maple St.
Frances Roman

Kendra’s Jewelry Shop & More
254 Maple St.
Kendra I. Velez

La Favorita Mini Market
156 High St.
Juan M. Almonte

Lady’s Underground
254 Maple St.
Luis Diaz

Let’s Talk
252 Maple St.
L’Sandra Sepulveda

Mercy Home Care
1236 Main St.
Jason Lee

Music Factory Express
595 Northampton St.
Charles Daviau

Retrophanatic Consignment Thrift Shop
146 High St.
Lorenzo Cox

Twin Stop-Homestead Inc.
625 Homestead Ave.
Rajendra I. Swadia

PALMER

D & M Auto Repair
1422 Park St.
David A. Bren

Daisychain Equine Assistance
20 West Ware Road
Sheryl Jyringi

SPRINGFIELD

Project Nine Graphics
59 Mayflower Road
Kyle Anderson

Proto EDM
182 Pinevale St.
John G. Picard

Racing Mart Fuels
685 Sumner Ave.
Rizk Abiassaf

Redbrick Books
797 Page Blvd.
Marcia J. Fuller

Scavengers Art Gallery
83 Tulsa St.
Delilah Rosa

Sheekan Inc.
182 Florida St.
Abdullah S. Abdul

Spark Center
563 Main St.
Laura A. Geryk

Speak Easy Accent Modifications
29 Mattoon St.
Erica I. Walch

Springfield Conservatory
869 Sumner Ave.
Pattricia Surniak

T & M Varietys & Accessories
6 Johnson St.
Theophilus E. Waldon

Telejobs-Workforce
73 Mobile Home Way
Edith I. Savoy

Thomas Midway Barber Shop
1106 State St.
Thomas Allen

Virtue Salon of Excellence
538 Page Blvd.
Eutrina Lynette

Walnut Convenience Store
108-112 Walnut St.
Rouel C. Christie

Wheeler Gas & Convenience
321 Walnut St.
Mohammad Rasheed

WESTFIELD

Friends of the Westfield Animal Shelter
63 Knollwood Dr.
Sandra Tracy

Hooper’s Books
20 Ridgeview Ter.
Tamra Pace-Hersh

O’Neill’s Quality Construction
144 Little River Road
Michael O’Neill

Scentsy Independent Consultant
29 Morningside Dr.
Jessica Castro

Shining Star Daycare
49 Montgomery St.
Brenda LeBlanc

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Baron Auto Sales
195 River St.
Timothy Roberts

Buttercups Bistro Traveling Personal Chef
81 Hayes Ave.
April Cantell

China House
164 Elm St.
Yan F. Zhao

Honey Bee Farms
753 Union St.
Alla Pchelka

Nursefinders of Springfield, MA
181 Park Ave.
Angela Moore

Departments Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

Bronner Monitor Inc., 7 Old Mill Road, Agawam, MA 01001. Raymond Bronner, same. Gas leak detection and prevention shut-off devices.
 
EAST LONGMEADOW

Bach Trucking & Transportation Inc., 174 Shaker Road, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Leonard Eremento, III, same. Towing company.
 
FRANKLIN

Ben Finn Consulting Inc., One Elizabeth Ave., Franklin, MA 02038. Benjamin Finn, same. Software consulting.
 
Concierge Clinical Solutions Inc., 7 Ledge St., Franklin, MA 02038. Jennifer Conley, same. Management consulting.
 
HADLEY

Jhype Marketing Inc., 35 Hockanum Road, Hadley, MA 01035. Fjodor Agranat, same. Internet advertising and marketing.
 
HAMPDEN

The Hampden Theater Guild Inc., 3 Hillside Lane, Hampden, MA 01036. Mark Giza, same. Community theater.

HOLYOKE

Casa DeFe Yhwh Jireh Inc., 508 South St., Holyoke, MA 01040. Ramon Antonio Crespo, 10 center St., Holyoke, MA 01040. Nonprofit established to preach the word of God.
 
Gringo Motorsports Inc., 452 Main St., Holyoke, MA 01040. Cory Taylor, 313 Silver Lane, Sunderland, MA 01375. Sales and service of automobiles and motor vehicles.
 
LPCR Sound Inc., 10 Hospital Dr., Holyoke, MA 01040. James Swierzewski, same. Rental equipment.
 
LEE

Grapes & Grains Inc., 205 Mandalay Road, Lee, MA 01238. Steven Hamilton Dixon, same. Liquor store.
 
LUDLOW
 
Defenders of the Defenseless Inc., 889 East St., Ludlow, MA 01056. Anna Maria Ribas-Dias, same.
 
NORTHAMPTON

Bamyan Media Inc., 184 Main St., Apt. 3BR, Northampton, MA 01060. Anna Elliot, same. Educational non-profit organization.
 
G.A.R. Trucking Inc., 30 Riverview, West Apt. 11, Pittsfield, MA 01202. Trucking company.
 
Holyoke Commercial Real Estate Inc., 5 Cedar St., Unit B, Northampton, MA 01060. Timothy Bay Thompson, same. Commercial real estate for sale or lease.
 
SOUTH HADLEY
 
Bedside Books Inc., 18 Susan Ave., South Hadley, MA 01075. Sarah Dybizbanski, 26 Susan Ave. 01075. Nonprofit organization established to provide books to neonatal care hospitals for parents to read to their children.
 
Furry Friends Pet Sitting Inc., 7 Lamb St., South Hadley, MA 01075. Mark Chapin, same. Pet sitting service.
 
SPRINGFIELD

Drapeau’s Inc., 40 Peekskill Ave., Springfield, MA 0119. Norman Drapeau, same. Transportation and delivery of freight goods and packages by common carrier.
 
E-Z Grocery & Fruit Market Corp., 68 Appleton St., Springfield, MA 011008. Guillermo Negron, same. Retail and wholesale of groceries and fruit.
 
Harris Contractor Inc., 86 Massreco St., Springfield, MA 01109. Diolinda Harris, same. Reconstruction, alteration and renovation.
 
I and U Corporation, 20 East St., Springfield, MA 01104. Umar Chaudhry, 228 Ramblewood Dr., Springfield., MA 01118. Gas station and convenience store.
 
M.A. Smith Investments Inc., 64 Tyler St., Springfield, MA 01109. Michael Smith, same. Properties for rent or lease.
 
WEST SPRINGFIELD
 
KS Cash Flow Consulting Inc., 41 Chester St., West Springfield, MA 01089. Kelley Schuhlen, same. Locating investors to purchase promissory notes and like documents held by individuals, and corporations.
 
WESTFIELD
 
Morray Inc., 9 Glenwood Dr., Westfield, MA 01028. Homer Foucher, same. Real estate investment.

Agenda Departments

Business Open Houses
Jan. 12, Feb. 9: The Scibelli Enterprise Center at the STCC Technology Park in Springfield will host two open houses titled “Growing Successful Small Businesses” from noon to 1 p.m. The events are offered to explain how the Enterprise Center is the regional hub for entrepreneurship for Western Mass. Small-business owners and service providers are encouraged to attend the open houses. For more information, call (413) 755-6109 or visit www.springfieldincubator.com.

National College Fair
March 6-7: The Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield is the setting for the Springfield National College Fair, slated from 1 to 4 p.m. on March 6 and from 9 a.m. to noon on March 7. Sponsored by the National Assoc. for College Admission Counseling, and hosted by the New England Assoc. for College Admission Counseling, the event is free and open to the public. The fair allows students and parents to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from a wide range of national and international, public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Participants will learn about admission requirements, financial aid, course offerings, and campus environment, as well as other information pertinent to the college-selection process. Students can register at www.gotomyncf.com prior to attending the event to receive a printed, bar-coded confirmation to use on-site at the fair as an electronic ID.

Company Notebook Departments

Berkshire Hills, Legacy Announce Merger
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and Legacy Bancorp Inc. recently announced a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire Legacy and its subsidiary, Legacy Banks, in a transaction valued at approximately $108 million. The merger of Legacy into Berkshire will create a combined institution with $4 billion in assets. This in-market merger will create efficiencies and market-share benefits for the combined banks, which both have branches in Western Mass. and Northeastern New York. Including Berkshire’s pending merger with Rome Bancorp, the combined bank will have more than 60 offices serving Berkshire County, the Pioneer Valley, New York, and Southern Vermont. Legacy has nearly $1 billion in assets and 19 branches, while Berkshire has nearly $3 billion in assets and will have 47 branches, including the Rome branches. Both banks are headquartered in Pittsfield and have histories stretching back more than 150 years serving the Berkshire County market. Michael P. Daly, Berkshire’s president and chief executive officer, noted in a statement, “this in-market combination will create a strong platform headquartered in Berkshire County for further growth of our Northeast regional franchise.”

Tighe & Bond Approved for Fisheries & Wildlife Projects
WESTFIELD — The Mass. Division of Fisheries & Wildlife recently prequalified Tighe & Bond to perform biological surveys, research, and testing at varied sites throughout the state. This approval allows the firm to participate in Fisheries & Wildlife bid opportunities in eight service categories that include: wetland delineation and soil surveys; engineering services; GIS and database projects; road and trail assessment and mapping; property boundary location and marking; natural community, restoration, natural-resource mapping, and management planning; plants and fungi; and reptiles and amphibians. The Division of Fisheries & Wildlife is part of the Mass. Department of Fish and Game, which awarded Tighe & Bond a master service agreement earlier in 2010 for ecological and river restoration through its Division of Ecological Restoration. Tighe & Bond was also recently prequalified for another two years to provide similar services to the Mass. Department of Transportation.

Bay Path Receives InternHero Award
LONGMEADOW — Annually, the Hartford-Springfield Economic Partnership (HSEP) recognizes students and colleges that promote HSEP’s InternHere.com program. This year, HSEP selected Bay Path College as the recipient of the 2010 College InternHero Award for its special support of InternHere and the large number of undergraduates who have benefited from the program. An initiative of HSEP, InternHere assists college students in finding internships. The Web site features more than 1,000 regional businesses and organizations that post internship opportunities. Students can search for internships and apply to opportunities online. Bay Path was recognized at HSEP’s 2010 State of the Region Conference on Dec. 9.

Berkshire Wind Completes $64.7M Financing
BOSTON — The Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp. (BWPCC) recently issued $64,705,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds to complete the financing for its Berkshire Wind Power Project, the largest wind project to date in Massachusetts. The 10-turbine, 15-megawatt project, located on Brodie Mountain in Hancock, is scheduled to begin operation in mid-February. All 10 turbines are fully erected, and remaining construction work involves completing electrical connections needed to deliver project electricity to the power grid. Proceeds from the 20-year bond issue will be used primarily to repay a $52.5 million, short-term loan taken by BWPCC to finance turbine purchases and preliminary construction activities. The bond issue, rated A by Fitch Ratings and A-minus by Standard & Poors, also will fund additional construction expenses, a debt-service reserve fund, and underwriting costs. The BWPCC is comprised of 14 state municipal utilities and the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. (MMWEC), all nonprofit, public-power entities. Through contracts with BWPCC and MMWEC, the municipal utilities will receive their respective shares of project output and be responsible for their proportionate share of debt service on the bonds. Once it is operational, the project will nearly double the state’s current 18.5 megawatts in windpower resources, which include more than 20 comparatively small projects ranging in size from 100 kilowatts to the 3-megawatt project operated by the Princeton Municipal Light Department, according to the state Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Web site. Wind speeds atop Brodie Mountain, one of the best inland wind sites in Massachusetts, average about 8 meters per second, making it a Class 6 wind resource on an American Wind Energy Assoc. scale of 1 to 7. The BWPCC project is expected to operate at a capacity factor of approximately 40% and produce more than 52,500 megawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power approximately 6,000 homes.

Adam Quenneville Receives National Recognition
SOUTH HADLEY — Adam Quenneville Roofing, Siding & Windows has received national recognition in Compass magazine. The magazine delivers monthly columns from the foremost industry experts in the fields of training, marketing, motivation, and more. In addition, Compass highlights the most accomplished contractors in the country and, in the latest issue, featured the local firm as the cover story. Labeled as an “innovator” and “revolutionary roofer,” Quenneville was also recognized for being a green company. Quenneville noted in a statement that “we’ve recycled over 2 million pounds of roofing shingles. One of the company’s goals is to save the planet one roof at a time.” The firm is located at 160 Old Lyman Road.

Chamber Corners Departments

Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield
www.myonlinechamber.com
(413) 787-1555
n Jan. 19: Professional Women’s Chamber 13th Annual Business Expo, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Max’s Tavern, MassMutual Room. Cost, Table Top: members $60, non-members  $90 (includes one lunch ticket). Cost, lunch only: members $25, non-members $35. For reservations, contact Lynn Johnson PWC liaison, at (413) 755-1310 or [email protected]
n Jan. 22: West of the River Chamber of Commerce Night at the Falcons, 7:30 p.m., MassMutual Center. Cost: $10. For reservations, call Chris Thompson at (413) 739-3344 ext. 109. 
 
Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield
www.springfieldyps.com
n Jan. 20: Third Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m., Panana’s Restaurant, Agawam. Cost: free for members, non-members $10. Includes food and cash bar.
 
Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
www.amherstarea.com
See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.
 
Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101
 n Jan. 19: Salute Breakfast, 7:15 to 9 a.m., MassMutual Learning & Conference Center, 350 Memorial Dr., Chicopee. Cost: members $18, non-members $25. For tickets, call the chamber at (413) 594-2101 or purchase online at www.chicopeechamber.org
 
Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce
www.easthamptonchamber.org
(413) 527-9414
n Jan. 13: Networking By Night Business Card Exchange, 5 to 7 p.m., hosted and sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Southampton, 17 College Highway, Southampton. Co-sponsor: Puffer Printing & Copy Center. Door prizes, hors d’ouevres, host bar. Cost: members $5, non-members $15.
n Jan. 27: Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary Dinner, 5 p.m., the Delaney House, 500 Country Club Road, Holyoke. Cranberry chicken and halibut combo luncheon. Cost: members $29.95, non-members $32.95. 
 
Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
www.holycham.com
(413) 534-3376
n Jan. 12: Winner Circle, 5 to 7 p.m., Yankee Pedlar, 1866 Northampton St., Holyoke. Sponsored by Holyoke Medical Center; Dowd Insurance; Resnic, Beauregard, Waite & Driscoll; PeoplesBank; Holyoke Community College; and Universal Plastics. 
n Jan. 19: Chamber After Hours, 5 to 7 p.m., hosted and sponsored by Homewood Suites, 375 Whitney Ave., Holyoke. Cost: members $5, non-members $10 cash. 
n Jan. 25: Computer Security Seminar, 8 to 11 a.m., Mass Mutual Conference Center, Chicopee
 
Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce
www.explorenorthampton.com
(413) 584-1900
n Jan. 12: January Arrive @ 5, 5 to 7 p.m., Volkswagen of Northampton, 968 Bridge Road, Northampton. Cost: $10 for members.
 
Northampton Area Young Professional Society
www.thenayp.com
(413) 584-1900
n Jan. 30: Bowl with a Purpose, 12 to 2 p.m., Spare Time, 525 Pleasant St., Northampton. Charity fund-raiser. Teams of four to six players. Registrants can register as a team or be placed on a team. Cost: $20 pre-registered, $25 at the door. Includes unlimited bowling during the event, shoe rental, pizza, and soda. For registration information, visit www.thenayp.com
  
South Hadley/Granby Chamber of Commerce
www.shchamber.com
(413) 532-6451
n Jan. 25: President’s Dinner, cocktails at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p. m., Willitts-Hallowell Center, Mount Holyoke College. Sponsors: premier members. Special guest speakers: TBD. Annual business meeting. Cost: $37. Check must be received by Jan. 21.

Court Dockets Departments

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

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT
F&M Landscaping v. Popeye Chicken & Biscuits
Allegation: Non-payment of snowplowing and sanding services rendered: $26,214.63
Filed: 12/6/10

GREENFIELD DISTRICT COURT
Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. v. Neu Tradition Millwork Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of trucking and freight-transportation services rendered: $2,708.49
Filed: 11/19/10

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Bonnier Corp. v. Webcloseout.com, Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of advertising services: $32,554.52
Filed: 11/23/10

Duke Concrete Products v. Northeast Mesa, LLC & Guilio Burra and Campanelli Westfield, LLC
Allegation: Non-payment of equipment provided and services rendered on construction project: $51,505.36
Filed: 11/22/10

Howard Remmich v. Medeiros/Williams Chevrolet Inc.
Allegation: Breach of warranty: $72,089
Filed: 11/14/10

Lisa Sotov v. Baystate Health Systems Inc., Aida Rivera, and Antonia Delgado
Allegation: Defendant disclosed confidential medical information, causing emotional distress: $25,000+
Filed: 11/19/10

Rafael Alicia v. Lorenver Po, M.D., et al
Allegation: Overdose of cholesterol medications, resulting in kidney failure: $44,317.92
Filed: 10/28/10

York International Corp. v. Statewide Mechanical Contracting Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of goods sold and delivered and services rendered: $100,564
Filed: 11/4/10

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Katie Davis and Christopher Wolcott, individually and as parents of Lucas Wolcott v. Edward J. Patton, M.D.
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $120,000
Filed: 11/29/10

NORTHAMPTON DISTRICT COURT
TBF Financial, LLC v. Davtam Insurance Associates Inc.
Allegation: Breach of lease agreement: $4,711.97
Filed: 11/22/10

SPRINGFIELD DISTRICT COURT
Brenda Aulet and Javier Hernandez v. Drive USA 2 Inc.
Allegation: Breach of warranty: $17,373.72
Filed: 11/9/10

Joseph Simons Division of the Bell Pump Service Co. v. Lessard Plumbing & Heating Co.
Allegation: Non-payment of goods sold and delivered: $10,924.68
Filed: 11/17/10

Leahy Press Inc. v. Wholesale Printing Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of goods sold and delivered: $14,701.95
Filed: 11/8/10

Neuro-Psychology Associates of Western Mass v. Cigna Corp.
Allegation: Failure to pay medical claims: $8,882.30
Filed: 11/16/10

Performance Food Group v. Cuisine of Mark Connolly Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of goods provided on credit account: $9,635.53
Filed: 11/23/10

United Rentals v. Behrend Construction Co. Inc.
Allegation: Non-payment of materials, equipment, and services rendered: $9,028.03
Filed: 11/9/10

Departments Picture This
Cutting the Ribbon

WNEC Campus

WNEC Campus

Western New England College celebrated the latest addition to its campus last month, the new, $40 million Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy designed to support learning and research. College President Anthony Caprio joined with hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and community leaders to mark the grand opening of the 127,000-square-foot facility. Caprio hailed the new center an exceptional learning environment that reflects WNEC’s growth and a greater emphasis on research by both faculty and students. “It is because of our entire community of talented and committed faculty, staff, students, trustees, alums, and friends that our university will continue to transform itself and the thousands of students we have incorporated into our dynamic journey,” he said. Below, Caprio and Board of Trustees Chair Kevin Delbridge, surrounded by faculty and staff, trustees, and local business and political leaders, cut the ceremonial ribbon.
WNWC staff

Caprio and Board of Trustees Chair Kevin Delbridge, surrounded by faculty and staff

The Pajama Project

Pajama Project

Pajama Project

Collecting clean, new sleepwear to benefit homeless children and families for the Pajama Project are (from left) Anthony Cignoli, president of A.L. Cignoli; Fr. Brennan, co-director at St. Francis Chapel; Don Anderson, owner of the Cruise Store; Aida Claudio, volunteer at St. Francis Chapel; and Mary Fallon, media director at Garvey Communication Associates Inc. Donations can also be dropped off at any Pride Station and Store. The collection runs through Jan 7.

Sections Supplements
Assistance Is Available to Those Who Qualify Financially

Hyman G. Darling

Hyman G. Darling

There are currently approximately 25 million veterans alive in the U.S., many of whom are not disabled. In addition, there are more than 9 million surviving spouses of veterans, many of whom will need long-term care or are currently receiving long-term-care benefits. The Veterans’ Administration has benefits available to assist veterans and their spouses with financial and other necessary services. Often these benefits allow a veteran or their spouse to remain at home rather than requiring assisted living or long-term care in a nursing-home environment.
This article will describe the various available options. It must be noted, however, that many services are available only to veterans who qualify financially and have honorable discharges.
A significant document that a veteran needs is the DD-214, or Separation from Service document. If it is missing, you are urged to apply to the Veterans’ Administration for a replacement copy so that, when the time comes that you need assistance with your care, you will have the required evidence of an honorable-discharge status.
One important benefit that you should be aware of is a service pension. The Veterans’ Administration (VA) provides a monthly cash payment to wartime veterans who meet active-duty and discharge requirements, who are either 65 years or older, or disabled. These veterans must also have a limited income or status requirement. Benefits are also available to a surviving spouse of the wartime veteran. At this time, the unmarried veteran may receive up to $985 per month while a married veteran may receive up to $1,291 per month, and a surviving spouse may receive up to $661 per month. There may be an additional payment available if the spouse is at home with dependent children. This is especially significant if there is a disabled child who is living at home and dependent on the parent for support, as this circumstance may increase the VA benefit further.
A slightly higher monthly payment may also be available to wartime veterans who are confined to their home for medical reasons. An unmarried veteran may receive up to $1,204 per month, and a married veteran may receive up to $1,510 per month. If there is a surviving spouse in the home, he or she may receive up to $808 per month, again, with additional benefits available in some cases if there are dependent children.
One of the most popular and most-frequently used benefits is called the pension with aid and attendance (A&A). This benefits veterans or spouses who require assistance to perform activities of daily living (ADL), or those residing in an assisted-living facility or nursing home. A&A offers the highest monthly payment. Usually a care manager, social worker, or admissions director at a facility will suggest that a veteran apply for this benefit. An unmarried veteran may receive up to $1,644 per month, and if married, they may receive up to $1,949 per month, while a surviving spouse may receive up to $1,056 per month. There are also additional funds available for a dependent child. It is noteworthy that this type of benefit is available to veterans who served during wartime, but did not necessarily serve directly in the war overseas, and this veteran must also be either disabled or over the age of 65.
To receive A&A benefits you also must have served 90 days of active duty, with at least 1 day beginning or ending during any period of war. After Sept. 1, 1980, the active-duty requirement increased to 180 days, and you must have been discharged under circumstances other than dishonorable. You must also be unemployable and reasonably certain that you will be unemployable in the future. In addition, you must suffer from a disability that makes it impossible for you to stay gainfully employed.
There are also additional tests to ensure that a veteran or spouse will qualify for benefits. At the current time, a married veteran and spouse may have no more than $80,000 in countable assets (this excludes a home and vehicle). A single veteran or surviving spouse must have less than this amount. This is somewhat of a guideline, and it is anticipated in the future that there will be stricter guidelines for determining eligibility.
Also, currently, there is no transfer penalty for gifting or transferring of assets for the purchase of an annuity or establishment of an irrevocable trust. However, any transfers are still countable for Medicaid purposes if you or your spouse need long-term care benefits in the future. It is very important that legal counsel is considered in this type of situation to be sure that all issues regarding gift taxes, Medicaid issues, veterans benefits, and all other estate-planning considerations are reviewed before any transfers are made irrevocably.
The veteran or the veteran’s spouse must have ‘income for veteran’s purposes’ that is less than the benefit for which you are applying. This amount, known as IVAP, is calculated by taking your gross income from all sources, less countable medical expenses. Countable medical expenses are considered those that are out of pocket and recurring on a continuous basis, and are expected to be paid throughout your lifetime. In the event that your IVAP is greater than or equal to the annual benefit amount, then you will not qualify for VA benefits.
If you or your spouse qualify for a regular pension and are housebound, your maximum allowable increases, as does the annual benefit amount. The VA defines housebound as being substantially confined to the home or immediate premises due to a disability that will likely remain throughout your lifetime. A veteran with no benefits who is housebound is eligible for benefits of up to $14,457 annually. A surviving spouse with no dependents who is housebound must have an IVAP of less than $9,696.
If the veteran or spouse is able to establish through medical evidence that they require the aid and attendance of another person to perform the ADLs, a special monthly pension may be provided. The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
• Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, or undressing;
• Being blind or nearly blind; or
• Being a patient in a nursing home.
In the event that the applicant or recipient of VA benefits is institutionalized, then a substantial portion of those funds would probably have to be paid to the long-term care facility that is providing the benefits.
The application process for special monthly pension benefits from the VA may be somewhat tedious and slow. While the VA is attempting to process applications more quickly, the current delay is anywhere from six months to a year. When filing an application, be sure to submit all information on time and in a single package, maintaining copies of all documents in your own file in the event that they are misplaced by the VA.
Remember to include your discharge paper (DD-214) with medical evidence, proof of medical expenses, verifications from physicians, a death certificate of a deceased veteran, marriage certificate, and the properly completed application. Once the application has been approved, benefits may be retroactive to the month after the month the application was received.
Time is of the essence in filing an application, so benefits may begin as soon as possible. Again, it is important to consider consulting an appropriate legal advisor, usually an elder-law attorney, or possibly an attorney who has been certified through the Veterans’ Administration, as only those who are certified may file appeals on behalf of a client.

Attorney Hyman G. Darling is chairman of Bacon Wilson, P.C.’s Estate Planning and Elder Law departments. His areas of expertise include all areas of estate planning, probate, and elder law. Darling is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prepare, present, and prosecute claims for veterans before the VA. He hosts a popular estate-planning blog at bwlaw.blogs.com; (413) 781-0560; baconwilson.com

Sections Supplements
Fifth Amendment

40under40-LOGO2011Nominations Sought for the Class of 2011

Since BusinessWest launched 40 Under Forty in 2007, it has recognized 160 young professionals who have made their mark across Western Mass. — not only for their career success, but their commitment to their communities. Now in year five, the 40 Under Forty program — which includes a must-read issue profiling the winners and an always-well-attended gala in the spring — has become one of the most anticipated events in the region’s business community, one that has nominees constantly setting the bar higher.

By JOSEPH BEDNAR

Jeff Fialky understands what it takes to succeed in business today.
An attorney with Bacon & Wilson, P.C., Fialky was chosen one of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty in 2008, in recognition of his career success and community involvement. He’s one of 160 young professionals throughout Western Mass. who have been honored in this way since the program’s inception in 2007.
But as president of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, he’s got a clearer perspective than most on the dedication it takes to succeed at a young age, because he sees it every day in fellow YPS members.
“In this economy, there are a lot of start-up entrepreneurs, a lot of young professionals working maybe twice as hard as they’d have to work in a better economy,” Fialky said. “It’s great that we can promote some of these individuals who have distinguished themselves from their peers.”
Now entering its fifth year with a call for nominations, BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty has captured the respect of the region’s business community and continues to demonstrate that Western Mass. is home to a creative, motivated, and successful group of young business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators — people who are redefining what it means to build successful businesses and serve their communities with whatever spare time they have left over.
“Clearly, YPS and 40 Under Forty have walked a parallel path,” said Fialky, noting that both came into being around the same time. “In that time period, YPS participants — meaning both the membership and officers and directors — have looked at 40 Under Forty with extremely high regard, as a competitive process, a reward, and a distinction in the community that is heavily sought after.”
Kate Campiti, BusinessWest’s associate publisher, is gratified to hear that 40 Under Forty has reached that kind of status in the local business community.
“It makes me proud that it’s something that people aspire to, and it does put them on the map,” she said. “It’s something they can use as a résumé builder, as a symbol of excellence.”
As the nomination process opens for the class of 2011, BusinessWest expects another flood of nominees from a broad range of careers; the 160 previous honorees have emerged from law, education, retail, health care, social services, finance, and many, many other fields. In all cases, they have been successful in business and active in civic volunteerism, the latter being a critical consideration when judging applicants.
As in the past four installments of 40 Under Forty, this year’s winners — chosen by a panel of judges comprised of area business leaders and previous honorees — will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest (always a must-read issue) and toasted at a gala reception in the spring.
Meghan Lynch, managing partner for Six-Point Creative Works and one of last year’s honorees, said she was impressed with the wide variety of industries and positions represented by the class of 2010.
In addition, “I was happy with the amount of community support at the event,” she said. “That was a fantastic networking event, and when I left I was proud to have been a part of it. I made quite a few contacts at the event, and the winners have been really good about reaching out to one another, making time to reconnect and get to know each other afterward. I was definitely impressed with a lot of other folks, and it was certainly a very good representation of the talent in the Valley.”
The nomination form can be found on page 35 of this issue. It will be reprinted in upcoming issues as well, and may also be printed from businesswest.com. The deadline for entry is Feb. 18.
Fialky says members of YPS take the nomination process seriously, as evidenced by the healthy number of society members chosen for recognition during the past four years. The same goes for Northampton Area Young Professionals, another group that’s typically well-represented in each class.
“I personally congratulate members of YPS who are 40 Under Forty honorees every year — I send out handwritten cards — and that number has increased exponentially over the past few years,” Fialky said. “It’s terrific that both the Young Professional Society and the 40 Under Forty have walked down these same paths.”
Campiti said the ever-increasing profile of the recognition program is cultivating a healthy sense of competition among area professionals.
“I think it’s making them more competitive with each other, and it is making the young up-and-comers think about their future and plan strategically how they will position themselves. That only makes the group stronger. To win, they really have to stand out.”
Fialky also embraces the competitive aspect of the event, saying that being chosen one of the 40 Under Forty is an honor worth striving for.
“The competition raises the bar for everyone,” he said. “Some folks have submitted nomination forms for a couple of years and haven’t been elected, and that only makes them think they need to work harder in the community and from a personal-branding standpoint. I think that’s great.”

Past 40 under Forty winners

Class of 2007
William Bither III, Atalasoft
Kimberlynn Cartelli, Fathers & Sons
Amy Caruso, MassMutual Financial Group
Denise Cogman, Springfield School Volunteers
Richard Corder, Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Katherine Pacella Costello, Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.
A. Rima Dael, Berkshire Bank Foundation of Pioneer Valley
Nino Del Padre, Del Padre Visual Productions
Antonio Dos Santos, Robinson Donovan, P.C.
Jake Giessman, Academy Hill School
Jillian Gould, Eastfield Mall
Michael Gove, Lyon & Fitzpatrick, LLP
Dena Hall, United Bank
James Harrington, Our Town Variety & Liquors
Christy Hedgpeth, Spalding Sports
Francis Hoey III, Tighe & Bond
Amy Jamrog, The Jamrog Group, Northwestern Mutual
Cinda Jones, Cowls Land & Lumber Co.
Paul Kozub, V-1 Vodka
Bob Lowry, Bueno y Sano
G.E. Patrick Leary, Moriarty & Primack, P.C.
Todd Lever, Noble Hospital
Audrey Manring, The Women’s Times
Daniel Morrill, Wolf & Company
Joseph Pacella, Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.
Arlene Rodriquez, Springfield Technical Community College
Craig Swimm, WMAS 94.7
Sarah Tanner, United Way of Pioneer Valley
Mark Tanner, Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Michelle Theroux, Child & Family Services of Pioneer Valley Inc.
Tad Tokarz, Western MA Sports Journal
Dan Touhey, Spalding Sports
Sarah Leete Tsitso, Fred Astaire Dance
Michael Vann, The Vann Group
Ryan Voiland, Red Fire Farm
Erica Walch, Speak Easy Accent Modification
Catherine West, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Michael Zaskey, Zasco Productions, LLC
Edward Zemba, Robert Charles Photography
Carin Zinter, The Princeton Review

Class of 2008
Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors
Matthew Andrews, Best Buddies of Western Mass.
Rob Anthony, WMAS
Shane Bajnoci, Cowls Land & Lumber Co.
Steve Bandarra, Atlas TC
Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, Hampden County Physician Associates
Delcie Bean IV, Valley Computer Works
Brendan Ciecko, Ten Minute Media
Todd Cieplinski, Universal Mind Inc.
William Collins, Spoleto Restaurant Group
Michael Corduff, Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House
Amy Davis, New City Scenic & Display
Dave DelVecchio, Innovative Business Systems Inc.
Tyler Fairbank, EOS Ventures
Timothy Farrell, F.W. Farrell Insurance
Jeffrey Fialky, Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Dennis Francis, America’s Box Choice
Kelly Galanis, Westfield State College
Jennifer Glockner, Winstanley Associates
Andrea Hill-Cataldo, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services
Steven Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council
Alexander Jarrett, Pedal People Cooperative
Kevin Jourdain, City of Holyoke
Craig Kaylor, Hampden Bank / Hampden Bancorp Inc.
Stanley Kowalski III, FloDesign Inc.
Marco Liquori, NetLogix Inc.
Azell Murphy Cavaan, City of Springfield
Michael Presnal, The Federal Restaurant
Melissa Shea, Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn
Sheryl Shinn, Hampden Bank
Ja’Net Smith, Center for Human Development
Diana Sorrentini-Velez, Cooley, Shrair, P.C.
Meghan Sullivan, Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn
Michael Sweet, Doherty Wallace Pillsbury & Murphy
Heidi Thomson, Girls Inc.
Hector Toledo, Hampden Bank
William Trudeau Jr., Insurance Center of New England
David Vermette, MassMutual Financial Services
Lauren Way, Bay Path College
Paul Yacovone, Brain Powered Concepts

Class of 2009
Marco Alvan, Team Link Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Gina Barry, Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Maggie Bergin, The Art of Politics
Daniel Bessette, Get Set Marketing
Brandon Braxton, NewAlliance Bank
Dena Calvanese, Gray House
Edward Cassell, Park Square Realty
Karen Chadwell, Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy, P.C.
Kate Ciriello, MassMutual Financial Group
Kamari Collins, Springfield Technical Community College
Mychal Connolly Sr., Stinky Cakes
Todd Demers, Family Wireless
Kate Glynn, A Child’s Garden and Impish
Andrew Jensen, Jx2 Productions, LLC
Kathy LeMay, Raising Change
Ned Leutz, Webber & Grinnell Insurance Agency
Scott MacKenzie, MacKenzie Vault Inc.
Tony Maroulis, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
Seth Mias, Seth Mias Catering
Marjory Moore, Chicopee Public Schools
Corey Murphy, First American Insurance Agency Inc.
Mark Hugo Nasjleti, Go Voice for Choice
Joshua Pendrick, Royal Touch Painting
Christopher Prouty, Studio99Creative
Adam Quenneville, Adam Quenneville Roofing
Michael Ravosa, Morgan Stanley
Kristi Reale, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Amy Royal, Royal & Klimczuk, LLC
Michelle Sade, United Personnel
Scott Sadowsky, Williams Distributing Corp.
Gregory Schmidt, Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C.
Gretchen Siegchrist, Media Shower Productions
Erik Skar, MassMutual Financial Services
Paul Stallman, Alias Solutions
Renee Stolar, J. Stolar Insurance Co.
Tara Tetreault, Jackson and Connor
Chris Thompson, Springfield Falcons Hockey Team
Karl Tur, Ink & Toner Solutions, LLC
Michael Weber, Minuteman Press
Brenda Wishart, Aspen Square Management

Class of 2010
Nancy Bazanchuk, Disability Resource Program,
, , Center for Human Development
Raymond Berry, United Way of Pioneer Valley
David Beturne, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County
Maegan Brooks, The Law Office of Maegan Brooks
Karen Buell, PeoplesBank
Shanna Burke, Nonotuck Resource Associates
Damon Cartelli, Fathers & Sons
Brady Chianciola, PeoplesBank
Natasha Clark, Springfield School Volunteers
Julie Cowan, TD Bank
Karen Curran, Thomson Financial Management Inc.
Adam Epstein, Dielectrics Inc.
Mary Fallon, Garvey Communication Associates
Daniel Finn, Pioneer Valley Local First
Owen Freeman-Daniels, Foley-Connelly Financial Partners and
, , Foley Insurance Group
Lorenzo Gaines, ACCESS Springfield Promise Program
Thomas Galanis, Westfield State College
Anthony Gleason II, Roger Sitterly & Son, Inc. and
, , Gleason Landscaping
Allen Harris, Berkshire Money Management Inc.
Meghan Hibner, Westfield Bank
Amanda Huston, Junior Achievement of Western Mass. Inc.
Kimberly Klimczuk, Royal, LLP
James Krupienski, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
David Kutcher, Confluent Forms, LLC
James Leahy, City of Holyoke and Alcon Laboratories
Kristin Leutz, Community Foundation of Western Mass.
Meghan Lynch, Six-Point Creative Works
Susan Mielnikowski, Cooley, Shrair, P.C.
Jill Monson, Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc.
, , and Inspired Marketing & Promotions
Kevin Perrier, Five Star Building Corp.
Lindsay Porter, Big Y Foods
Brandon Reed, Fitness Together
Boris Revsin, CampusLIVE Inc.
Aaron Vega, Vega Yoga & Movement Arts
Ian Vukovich, Florence Savings Bank
Thomas Walsh, City of Springfield
Sean Wandrei, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Byron White, Pazzo Ristorante
Chester Wojcik, Design Construction Group
Peter Zurlino, Atlantico Designs and Springfield Public Schools

Joseph Bednar can be reached
at [email protected]

Sections Supplements
Willie Ross Continues to Set the Tone in Education for the Deaf

Willie Ross School for the Deaf Executive Director Louis Abbate

Willie Ross School for the Deaf Executive Director Louis Abbate says people from school districts around the world have visited the campus to find out how it has been able to establish and maintain a ‘school within a school’ partnership with the East Longmeadow school system.

The Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow has always been ahead of its time.
“The school was founded in 1967 by a group of parents who were pioneers in the field of education,” said Executive Director Louis Abbate, adding that an epidemic of rubella in the early ’60s caused many children to be born deaf. “They were led by Willie’s parents, Barbara and Gene Ross, at a time when all deaf children went to residential schools. It was a very bold step, because a day program for deaf children was something that was unheard of. But these parents wanted their children home so they could be part of the family.”
Since that time, Willie Ross has continued to forge ahead in the field of education for the deaf with a number of innovative programs that have served as a model for other schools of its kind. They include an integrated approach to communication, frequent examination of its instructional approach, and the acknowledgement and understanding that students with hearing loss from different backgrounds and cultures have different needs best met by a multitude of options to ensure that they get the best education possible and become productive members of society.
For this edition, BusinessWest takes an indepth look at what Willie Ross has done to stay at the forefront and inspire other schools for the deaf and hard of hearing, not only in this country, but across the world.

First Steps
In the beginning, the school’s founders rented self-contained space within public-school classrooms.
“The parents of these deaf children wanted them in a hearing setting,” said Abbate. “This was a bold first step because no one in the history of special education thought it was a good idea or even possible. But they wanted to integrate their children.”
The founders faced many challenges, as they had to develop a curriculum and were on uncharted ground. But they were able to pool their resources and, in 1967, purchased the old Norway School in Longmeadow for $27,000. “The school had been built in 1917 and was quite dilapidated. But the lot included three acres and another building,” Abbate said.
These parents were active advocates for their children in the early ’70s, and their program had made such progress that local public schools began sending students with hearing deficiencies to Willie Ross. The state paid their tuition because the school was a nonprofit. In 1974, a shift came due to the adoption of Chapter 776, which shifted the responsibility of educating students with special needs from the state to the local community.
“There was a big push toward mainstreaming in 1974, which really began to give children with disabilities the right to a quality education,” Abbate explained. “And at that point, the school began to roll forward.”
However, since Willie Ross had always rented classroom space in public schools, it had enough experience to recognize that, “although it was our legacy to find opportunities for mainstreaming, it was not what some students needed. So we also offered a center-based model,” Abbate said. They also had rented classroom space for elementary students in East Longmeadow schools, for middle-school students in Longmeadow, and for high-school students in Longmeadow, and at the old William Dean Technical High School in Holyoke.
Abbate was hired in 1985, and he developed a partnership with officials in the East Longmeadow school system that he says was unique in the U.S. at that time.
“It took time, but it is amazing,” he said, noting that all students in public schools were moved to East Longmeadow, giving them the opportunity to make friendships that could continue throughout their schooling.
“It’s very interesting that, over the past 20 years, an entire generation has grown up with deaf students. They have developed wonderful friendships in an extremely welcoming and supportive environment,” Abbate said, adding that many students and East Longmeadow staff members have taken sign-language courses offered by Willie Ross.
The system developed by the partnership offers immersion and inclusion as a service for deaf and hard-of-hearing students when it is appropriate. East Longmeadow agreed that the students could be mainstreamed, with the caveat that Willie Ross would provide interpeters and staff to teach the classes. Willie Ross also does consultations for East Longmeadow students who have hearing loss.
In fact, the system of shared resources works so well that, although Willie Ross has students from 19 school districts, it has never had one from East Longmeadow.
“We were able to keep our corporate soverigenty even though we were in the public schools, as both systems worked cooperatively; everything was worked out legally to make it an optimal experience for all students,” Abbate explanined. “Because we can offer our students two campuses, we can provide them with a wide range of opportunities. It is all about changing our business plan to respond to the changing needs of students, which is what we have always tried to do.”
The system has been so successful that it has become a model that others strive to emulate.
“Within the last three years, we have had visitors from South Africa, China, India, Taiwan, and Trinidad who came to see how it is possible to link public-school opportunties with a private school. People can’t imagine how a program like ours can work,” Abbate said, adding that one obstacle is that private schools are concerned about their institutional identity, while the notion of having a school inside a school seems like an insurmountable challenge to many public schools.
“But I think this is the model of the future and is a very good use of physical resources,” Abbate said, adding that he recently met with officials from the Washington D.C. public school system as part of ongoing efforts at Willie Ross to help other schools across the nation establish satellite programs.
A trustee committee oversees the partnership. “They are committed to children, and the fact that this school was founded by parents gives us a different view,” Abbate said. “The fact that a group of parents were so committed to their children that they built a school for them is a legacy that needs to be rejuvenated and change as kids change. It’s part of the reason why we are one of the only schools in the country for the deaf which has a campus inside a public school. We look at ourselves as heirs of the legacy of our founders, as our philosophy is to educate one child at a time.”
Five years ago, the school revisted its mission and instituted an outreach and early-intervention team. Not only did they realize it was important to serve students as early as possible, children’s needs were changing due to advanced technology, which includes cochlear implants, surgically implanted electronic devices that can provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.
In addition, an increasing number of students came from homes where English isn’t the primary language. So administrators assembled a team of three leading educators of the deaf and worked with them to develop a new mission, which reflects the contemporary needs of their students.
“We came to the conclusion that one size doesn’t fit all, which meant more recognition of the value of different approaches,” Abbate said, adding that this is highly ununsual for a school that serves the deaf and hard of hearing. “We started out as an oral school, saw its limitations, introduced sign language in addition to voice, and continue to use both modalities,” he said.
Meeting operational costs is a challenge, however, even though the school’s teachers work at well below the public-school rate. “Our revenue is dependent on tuition from students, and the state has frozen the rate. This year it only went up 0.75%. Plus, we are not eligible for any stimulus money which poured into the state for public schools,” Abbate said.
But administrators continue to forge ahead with programs and modes of learning to best serve their students.
“We have been able to do a lot, but it is primarily due to the generosity of the community. They are very supportive of us, and we rely on their help more and more,” Abbate said. “We have three goals for our students — competitive employment, sheltered employment, or college. Most schools of our size only concentrate on one of these goals, so it is a lot for us to do. But having our East Longmeadow partnership is an enormous opportunity for our students.”

New Opportunities
The school recently completed a campus-enhancement project, which involved purchasing an overgrown acre of land adjacent to the property and developing it to enhance programs for students.
The new West Campus will be used for recreational, instructional, and athletic programs, as well as for school activities. It boasts an outdoor classroom, a walking/fitness track, a nature trail, an honor garden with plaques that celebrate deaf people who have made significant contributions to improve the lives of their peers, a basketball court, and playing fields.
The $500,000 project, funded by a capital campaign, also features a new multi-purpose room which will help the school provide more sophisticated services to students with cochlear implants and expand transition services for students graduating from high school.
Abbate said the school plans to have an after-school and summer program, and he’s happy that the board and staff members had the vision to look at the land “which was completely overgrown and littered with trash” and see its potential for their population of students, who range in age from 3 to 22. They went ahead with their vision when the land became available, and staff and students participated in decisions, such as choosing the deaf individuals who are commemorated on plaques in their Deaf Honor Garden.
“We are a nonprofit school, and it has always been a challenge to operate with limited resources, so I am grateful for the support and proud of what we will be able to offer students,” Abbate said. “The outdoor classroom puts us in the forefront of research-based education, and the property combines instructional and recreational opportunities that weren’t available before. It is a wonderful feeling to know that generations of students will be able to enjoy it.”

Sections Supplements
Elms College to Introduce M.B.A. with Three Concentrations

David Kimball and Kerry Calnan

David Kimball and Kerry Calnan say the new M.B.A. program at Elms College, slated to start in the fall, provides a solid growth opportunity for the school.


Kerry Calnan acknowledged there was already a crowded field when it came to M.B.A. programs being offered in this region — before Elms College decided to enter the mix with three offerings slated to make their debuts this fall.
To stand out in this field, programs have to be somewhat unique, provide intrinsic value to students, provide the skills needed in the modern workforce, and address the many changes that are taking place in the broad realm of graduate programs in business administration, said Calnan, director of the program, who believes that Elms has all that covered, convincingly.
“M.B.A students are younger, less likely to come from disciplines other than traditional business disciplines, and expect course-delivery methods that go beyond the traditional classroom model,” said Calnan, an accounting professor at the college. “Elms College’s M.B.A. will provide the flexibility and accelerated delivery expected by today’s students.”
Elaborating, Calnan said the new M.B.A. program will offer concentrations in accounting, health care leadership, and management, and will be delivered in an accelerated hybrid format, with 11-week terms that allow students to combine online and on-campus classes, or take the entire program online. The program also features a community-service component to engage students in solving business problems within their own community.
Looking at the sum of these parts, meaning the concentrations, community work, and other components, Walter Breau, vice president of Academic Affairs at Elms, said the 82-year-old college is “taking its foundational strengths and building on them.
“I’m always looking for strategic initiatives to move forward,” he continued. “We have very high-quality programs and a great reputation in the health care field, in nursing, autism, and other areas, and I see the business area as another center of high quality where we can leverage what we have into future programming.”
Noting that a high percentage of Elms students stay in this region upon graduation, Breau said the M.B.A. is considered another opportunity to “educate young people and keep them in the Pioneer Valley.”
Administrators are projecting, conservatively, that each concentration will attract at least 10 students for the fall semester, and they wouldn’t be surprised if that number is easily exceeded.
“The feedback we’ve been getting is tremendous,” said David Kimball, chair of the college’s Business and Law Division. “The Facebook inquiries have been off the charts, with alumni being very interested; some were in accounting, others want health care leadership … all three tracks are drawing interest.”
For this issue, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Elms’ new offerings, how school leaders believe they will advance the college’s mission, and why they believe these offerings will stand out in that increasingly crowded field.

Course of Action
Kimball told BusinessWest that M.B.A. programs have been talked about at the Elms for some time now. And often the discussions involved the school’s business and accounting students who were enjoying, and appreciating, their undergraduate experience at the Elms and asking if they could continue on there.
“As they would approach graduation, our students would ask about graduate programs they could do on campus,” he said, adding that these queries provided not only inspiration, but evidence of a solid core of potential students. “So there will be some retention of those students who want to stay and enjoy their experience here.”
For a number of reasons that he would articulate, Breau said school administrators and the board of directors decided that the time was simply right to forge ahead with a multi-faceted M.B.A. program.
Several factors played into this decision that the timing was right, said Breau, listing everything from the school’s strong track record in placing students in graduate programs, to changes in the accounting field (individuals are not being hired by most firms unless they have completed 150 credits of work, or a fifth year of education), to an expansion of the region’s health care sector and the subsequent need for more individuals with advanced degrees.
“Health care needs are only increasing here in Western Mass., and we have some tremendous health care facilities in this area,” he explained. “I see our program helping any of the health care enterprises in this region moving forward, because leadership is becoming an increasingly important component, and these institutions are looking for ways to not only keep their people but help them move up the ladder.”
As they moved forward with its M.B.A initiative, Elms administrators sought feedback from local business leaders in order to ensure that the offerings would provide the educational background and help develop the skills needed to succeed in today’s changing workplace, said Calnan.
“There’s an increasing need for advanced education in order to be more effective in the workplace, and our program fits the needs of the market,” she explained, adding that Elms administrators were influenced, and motivated, by acknowledged changes in graduate business administration degrees, as outlined in the popular book on that subject, Rethinking the M.B.A.
“Today’s M.B.A.s are very different from those in the past,” she noted. “We need to develop programs that will meet this new need, rather than continue on with the old philosophy of what an M.B.A. should look like.
“Today, you don’t see people from other disciplines, like engineering, getting into M.B.A. programs, at least as much as you once did,” she continued. “Now, it’s generally a business student, and they’re doing it when they’re much younger and with much less experience than they had in the past. So this program tries to blend both pieces, meaning the older, traditional approach and the new approach, along with a hybrid delivery.”
Calnan said one of the distinctions of the program, and a facet that will add value and thus drive enrollment, will be its faculty, most of whom are practitioners and experts from area businesses and nonprofits.
“We have a strong commitment to excellence, and we’ve worked very hard going after top executives in all fields to be a part of this program, and in two different ways,” she explained. “First, in an advisory capacity, and then as instructors, or partners with current instructors.
“For example, there’s a course in global political economy and its impact on social and ethical responsibility,” she continued, “and it will be taught primarily by a corporate mergers and acquisitions person from MassMutual, and it will be partnered with our own Theology department, where one of our professors will co-facilitate all of the discussions during the 11 weeks. So by partnering with corporate business and community members to be involved in delivering the program, as well as advising us as a college on curriculum and important trends going on in the world of business, those two pieces should help drive our enrollment in each of those tracks.”
To build awareness of the new programs and gauge interest, Elms administrators are using a broad range of marketing and communication strategies. These include the traditional — everything from billboards on I-91 to direct mail, to an open house and information session slated for Jan. 11 at the Alumni Library — to the new and non-traditional, including social media and especially Facebook.
“We’re getting a lot of very good response already — there are a number of current students who have expressed interest in staying on and getting an M.B.A. here,” said Kimball. “There’s been a good deal of excitement generated; we’re creating a buzz.”

School of Thought
Summing up what the new M.B.A. program means for the college, Calnan said that, in the simplest of terms, it is a tremendous growth opportunity and a chance to expand the mission.
“This will impact the school in a profound way,” she explained. “Graduate programs are a way for a college to sustain and grow — that’s where the growth potential lies.”
Time will tell if the school can indeed make its program stand out amid a strong field of competitors, but administrators believe they have offerings that will resonate within the marketplace and provide a degree of progress, literally and figuratively, for this Catholic institution.

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

Opinion
A Taxing Situation for Businesses

Massachusetts general law allows cities and towns to tax business properties at a higher rate than residential properties even though all properties are assessed the same way, at full and fair market value. While this practice dates back to 1984, there really isn’t any factual or sound reasoning for it other than to shift some of the property-tax burden off of residents and onto business. That said, 106 of the 351 communities in Massachusetts take advantage of this option, and some of them now have a business tax rate more than twice that of residents.
One other property tax faced by businesses but not residents is a tax on ‘personal property.’ This levy is assessed on objects ranging from the dentist or hairdresser’s chair to the local variety store’s cash register, all of which is taxed at the business-tax rate.
Businesses face many other fees, taxes, and costs, ranging from their annual license to workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and health care costs. All of these are either set or regulated on a regional or statewide basis, and therefore all would be using the same rate structure or tax table, as for unemployment insurance taxes. Let me note here that the per-employee cost of unemployment insurance is now the highest of any state. While these costs might cause an economic disadvantage to a Massachusetts business, they do not affect decisions on where to locate within the state.
Back to the local property tax that is set by an annual vote of elected officials. In the Greater Springfield area, five towns within the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield — East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Wilbraham — all have a single rate for both business and residents. At the hearing prior to the vote, residents often speak out, as in Longmeadow this year, asking for property-tax relief, meaning a shift of more taxes onto businesses. Those boards of selectmen have consistently seen the folly in doing that and realize that any shift at all would severely burden a sector so vital to a town’s makeup.
In three other communities — Agawam, Springfield, and West Springfield — it is a different story; all three have adopted a higher business rate. One should note that these communities are surrounded by the other communities mentioned above, and many of those communities do have land zoned for business and therefore have very competitive rates.
This year, in each of the three communities with two rates, the councilors heard from the business community that this rate is important to them, especially in their efforts to survive this difficult economy, keep their doors open, and maintain jobs. As you think of these words, picture the stores that make up the fabric of the community; the barber or hairdresser you go to, where you have your car serviced, where you run to pick up that item or gift you forgot about. One other way to understand the importance of this issue is to look at the vacant storefront that once had a business in it with two to five people employed there.
At one of the hearings, it was noted that the difference in tax rates between Springfield and Ludlow, two communities joined by a very short bridge, is such that a barber on the Springfield side of the bridge would have to perform almost 200 more haircuts than his counterpart on the Ludlow side of the bridge just to pay the increased taxes due to his location. Several other examples showed that, when you break down the tax burden by the square foot of a property, those similar businesses in cities with two rates were paying more than twice as much per square foot as those in single-rate communities.
So, the question is: are local property-tax rates really important to local businesses? They certainly are when businesses make decisions about where to locate, whether to employ that extra person, often from the neighborhood, or simply whether to keep the doors open. In advocating for a fairer split of taxes, it is the business community’s hope that they can survive, prosper, and grow, and, more importantly, that other businesses will come into the city or town and expand the tax base. That way everyone, businesses and residents alike, win.

Jeffrey Ciuffreda is vice president of Government Affairs for the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield; (413) 787-1555.

Opinion
Continuing a Proud Tradition

In the fall of 1995, BusinessWest created a new recognition program. Called ‘Top Entrepreneur’ (‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ was and still is copyrighted), it was launched to pay homage to the strong tradition of entrepreneurship in Western Mass., recognize its vast importance in the development of this region, and honor those who are continuing that tradition today.
Past winners have included Jeb Balise, president of Balise Motor Sales; Andrew Scibelli, then-president of Springfield Technical Community College and catalyst for the Technology Park on that campus; the Falcone family, founders of the Rocky’s Hardware chain; and the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department, chosen last year for its entrepreneurial exploits in the realm of regional economic development.
This year, the honoree is Robert Bolduc, founder and CEO of Pride, the large chain of stores that has become a significant part of the local business landscape. Bolduc, who started his operation with one small, full-service gas station in Indian Orchard, later to become one of the first self-service facilities in the region, grew it in every way it can be grown — from geography to the products on the shelves — and could have been honored at any time over the past 15 years.
He was our pick this year not merely for his body of work, although that was certainly a big factor — but also for the way in which he pressed on and continued to expand during the past few years, when most business owners in this region were hunkering down and merely trying to survive.
Bolduc’s story, which is chronicled starting on page 24, is an inspiring and effective way for us to re-emphasize the importance of entrepreneurship to the growth and vitality of this region. As we’ve said on many occasions, while it’s possible that one or more very large employers could be attracted to this region, thus spurring employment opportunities, it is far more likely that real and substantial growth will come organically from small ventures growing into larger employers.
History has shown this to be the case, including such stories as those of Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, who started small in Springfield before becoming one of the largest gunmakers in the world (and a company that, coincidentally, will soon be adding more than 200 new jobs); Milton Bradley, who reinvented toymaking; Michael Kittredge, who started Yankee Candle, and countless others.
These individuals all started with good ideas, but also had the skill, vision, persistence, courage, and, yes, healthy doses of luck to turn them into successful ventures that have contributed to the overall health and vibrancy of our region.
It is this tradition that we’re honoring with our Top Entrepreneur award, but we hope this recognition program does more.
Our other motivation in starting it was to inspire the colleges and business-development groups in the region to continue to find new ways to foster entrepreneurship. This means everything from educating elementary-school students that owning one’s own business is a very reachable, very worthwhile career option, to developing new facilities in which fledgling companies can get started and perhaps, if the individuals behind them have the wherewithal, get to the next level and beyond.
So as we honor Robert Bolduc for all that he and his team at Pride have accomplished, we also pay tribute to all those who carry on the tradition, and hope that these stories continue to fuel both the imagination and the spirit of entrepreneurship so vital to progress in the Pioneer Valley.

Cover Story Sections Top Entrepreneur
Fueling the Imagination: Pride Founder Bob Bolduc Stays Ahead of the Curve
Bob Bolduc, Top Entrepreneur for 2010

Bob Bolduc, Top Entrepreneur for 2010

Bob Bolduc said the concept came to him early last fall as he was pondering ways to say thank you to his ‘friends,’ a word he would use interchangeably with ‘customers’ early and often.

For years, Pride has offered free coffee on Christmas, New Year’s, and Veterans Day (Bolduc was in the Army and has a deep appreciation for all those who have served their country), but he thought it was time to take things up a notch — or several, as the case may be.

“Free coffee for the month of December,” he said slowly, as if to add emphasis and convey the enormity of this executive decision.

“A lot of people here looked at me funny, and some thought I was out of my mind,” he admitted while explaining the promotion that would involve the chain’s 24 stores, scattered across Western Mass. “That’s because we’re in the coffee business; it’s one of the things we do best, and it’s quite profitable.

“I can’t say how much it has cost us, but it’s expensive, very expensive,” he continued. “It’s worth it, though; it’s been fun, and it’s certainly created a buzz. This is a big cup we’re giving away — 16 ounces — not some dinky thing.”

With 10 days left in December, Bolduc could easily do the math concerning his coffee giveaway, and he was already declaring it a good business decision. And he should know, as he’s made quite a number of them in an entrepreneurial career that now spans nearly 40 years.

“There have certainly been some that haven’t worked out well,” he conceded with a hearty laugh, one of many that would punctuate his candid interview with BusinessWest. “But many have gone right for us over the years.”

Indeed, starting with his decision to get into the wholesale tire business in the early ’70s — and then out of it when the radial changed the landscape of that business by adding tens of thousands of miles to a tire’s lifespan — Bolduc has penned a number of success stories. And he’s made several of what he called ‘firsts,’ listing everything from the first fire-suppression system at a self-serve gas station to the first in-house Dunkin’ Donuts in this market; from cash acceptors at the fuel pumps to the first ethanol sold in Western Mass.

This body of work, as well as the indication that there’s plenty more to come, has earned Bolduc BusinessWest’s Top Entrepreneur Award for 2010.

“Bob Bolduc exemplifies what entrepreneurship — and this award — are all about,” said BusinessWest publisher John Gormally. “His career, most notably his work with Pride, has been characterized by risk-taking, having the vision to see the future of his industry, and getting there first in many cases, and simply being innovative; in many ways, he’s redefined the convenience store.

“We created this award to honor people who have those qualities — vision, innovation, and risk-taking,” he continued, “and he’s a very worthy recipient.”

Russell Denver, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, agreed, and praised Bolduc for his career accomplishments, as well as his recent aggressive steps in the face of the worst downturn in nearly 80 years.

“Here is a man who didn’t sit back during the last two or three years of difficult economic times,” he noted. “He charged forward and has dramatically redone most of his properties and built new properties. And he ended up increasing his employment levels in our communities.

store at the North End Bridge

Pride’s ‘free coffee for the month of December’ promotion, prominently displayed on the store at the North End Bridge, is one of many risks Bob Bolduc has taken during his career.

“What he has done to the troubled property that used to be Valley’s Steakhouse, and after that Razzles, has put a whole new face on Springfield as one enters from West Springfield,” Denver continued, referring to the latest Pride store just east of the North End Bridge. “Where there was a vacant building, an eyesore, is now a thriving business that employs about 70 people; it’s a stunning turnaround.”

And like most projects Bolduc has taken on since he first went into business for himself, the North End initiative involved a good deal of risk that he considers part and parcel to being a successful entrepreneur.

“If you don’t take risks … if you just play it safe, you’ll limit what you can do,” he said. “There are lots of risks and gambles in business; it’s not for the faint-hearted, and it never really stops.”

Pedal to the Mettle

BusinessWest sat down with Bolduc near the end of the work day (at least for most other people at Pride), a time he chose because the preceding hours were packed with more pressing matters.

The 90-minute conversation was interrupted, briefly, perhaps a dozen times by employees stopping by Bolduc’s office on the way out the door with questions, answers, updates, and agendas for the following day. When asked about what appeared to be micromanagement, Bolduc smiled and said, “show me a successful entrepreneur who is not involved in every aspect of his business.”

He then proceeded to say he’s better than he used to be when it comes to delegating responsibilities, but that he still considers even the smallest of details paramount to his operation and thus worthy of his time and attention.

“Every decision you make is important when you’re talking about your business,” he continued. “There are no small matters.”

This penchant for micromanagement is one of many aspects of Bolduc’s personality that come across loud and clear after only a few minutes of discussing business and society in general and watching him operate. Others include a real passion for what he does — this is a man who went on for five minutes about the quality of the breakfast sandwiches in his store and how proud he is of them — and both concern for and commitment to the city of Springfield (where he grew up), but also the broader subjects of education and parental involvement.

“Springfield has a serious education problem, there’s no question about that — 60% of kids drop out of high school, that’s a problem, and 60% of the fourth-graders can’t read to fourth-grade level,” he said. “That’s why we’re big supporters of early-childhood education and the early years, because it’s been proven that, if we don’t get kids started on the right track, and early, they will never make it.

“We need to get more people involved, and we need to convince some parents — I said some, not all — to get more involved in their children’s education, and make them do their homework, see that they get to bed on time and have a good breakfast, and inspire them to learn. On a bigger note, the whole country needs to do that; we need longer school days and longer school years, and we need to raise our standards — a lot — if we’re going to compete in the global economy.”

In many ways, the Pride chain and its various causes — from books to pajamas to toys — reflect Bolduc and his priorities, and it’s been that way since the beginning, or when he started down the path to entrepreneurship, which is the road he knew he would eventually take even as a mechanical engineering student at Notre Dame.

“I knew I wanted to be in business for myself some day,” he said. “I thought I had it in me, and my father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs.”

Born in Indian Orchard, Bolduc attended local public and parochial schools. After graduating from Notre Dame he went on to Purdue, where he earned an M.B.A. — and he’s put both degrees to good use. “I always enjoyed the engineering part as well as the business part.”

After graduate school, but before enlisting in the Army and eventually serving in Vietnam, he worked as a quality engineer at American Bosch. Upon returning from Southeast Asia in 1970, he briefly went to work at his father’s gas station in Indian Orchard before buying him out, thus becoming the third generation of the family to run that business.

In addition to running the station, he became a tire and auto-parts wholesaler, specifically a distributor for BF Goodrich and Continental, and became proficient enough at it to be chosen to address a national sales convention of Goodrich retailers at age 30.

As good as he was at tire wholesaling, Bolduc saw the handwriting on the wall with the introduction of the radial — and also foresaw changes that would cut out two layers of ‘middle’ people in this business — and thus sold off the venture. He then moved into an emerging field on the business landscape, one that he would ultimately help shape locally: the self-service gas station.

Priming the Pump

He started with one, again in Indian Orchard, in 1976, and continued to expand over the next 34 years, and counting.

In the process, he would not merely create a chain, but continually break ground when it came to the concept of marrying the self-service station with another emerging phenomenon, the convenience store.

Part of this matrimony was taking what was then a small store that sold bread, cigarettes, and dairy items (many people called them ‘milk stores’) and thinking outside that small box, he explained.

“We were the first chain in Western Mass. to put a Dunkin’ Donuts in our stores,” he went on, “and, later, we were the first to put a Subway in our stores — and then everybody copied both.

“We already had our own little deli shops, but when I saw the Subway concept, I said, ‘let’s give this a try,’” he continued. “And as for coffee and donuts, we were already making our own coffee, and buying a full line of products from the [former] Liberty Bakery. I sold cakes, donuts, everything; you could come in here and order a wedding cake from us, and people did.”

As he expanded the line of products and services inside the stores, Bolduc also expanded geographically, moving beyond his Springfield roots across the Pioneer Valley. “We expanded as we saw opportunities arise,” he explained, adding that many of his locations have been enlarged and renovated over the years to keep pace with his vision of what his stores should be offering.

“We’ve built and rebuilt our stores to keep up with the times and keep up with the changes we’ve made as a company,” he said. “I’ve rebuilt some stores four times as we’ve evolved from a full-service gas station to a gas-only self-service, to small stores, to large stores, and, now, to super-large stores that are able to pump fuel into as many as 20 vehicles at a time — cars and trucks.”

Bolduc said that, when many people think of the Pride name, they associate it with gasoline. He understands this — well, sort of, because this is how and why many trips to his locations begin or end. But he becomes somewhat animated as he stresses that his chain is about so much more than that.

Bob Bolduc, center, with his senior management team

Bob Bolduc, center, with his senior management team

And to get his point across, he proceeded down the roster of what is now in the Pride inventory, for lack of a better term. This would be 24 stores; a commissary that makes baked goods, those aforementioned breakfast sandwiches, and a host of other items for those stores; 10 Subways, making Pride the largest franchisee in the region; six Dunkin’ Donuts locations (those spaces are leased out to the corporation); two truck stops; one package store; two beer-and-wine stores; a trucking company; a construction company; and a commercial fueling station for local fleets.

Today, in addition to Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway locations, the larger Pride stores are, in essence, full markets complete, in some cases, with shopping carts, and, in all locations, prices he says can compete with supermarkets.

Indeed, beyond the sheer volume of locations is what’s in the stores, Bolduc told BusinessWest, that should compel people to think of this as more than just a chain of gas stations.

“We’re in the milk business,” he said, again with a large dose of pride in accomplishment. “We’re a dairy store; we sell milk $1 or $1.50 less per gallon than the supermarkets. And it’s so fresh, because we’re turning it over every day.

“In some of the stores, we changed the name to Pride Market,” he continued, going on, in great detail, as always, about what his locations now offer. “We now have major food areas with all kinds of coffee, hot and iced, and our own brand of sandwiches, subs, and bakery items — fresh-baked cookies and muffins every day.”

This emphasis on price and variety is just one way Bolduc says he’s trying to take the perceptions about convenience stores — especially the one about how people have to trade this convenience for higher prices — and turn them on their ear.

“People from several generations wouldn’t think to buy in a convenience store because the price was too high,” he said. “You buy here, and you can save money.”


What’s in Store?

When asked if he and others at Pride spend much time studying consumers as they go about designing, stocking, and staffing Pride stores, Bolduc shrugged his shoulders slightly as if to indicate ‘not really.’

He said much of the success that he or anyone else enjoys in retail comes from instinctively anticipating what his customers or ‘friends’ want — like free coffee for the month of December — and then providing it in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

This thought process has taken him from simply putting Subway franchises in his stores to adding full delis and his own baked goods, as he described.

It also led him to the cash acceptors, which, it would seem to some, but not Bolduc, would work against the larger overall mission to get people into his stores.

“This saves someone the trouble of coming into the store and standing in a line to pay someone for the gas,” he said. “If someone was going to come in, they would come in anyway; this is a great convenience for people, and it’s worked out very well.”

And it also represents one of the many risks Pride and especially Bolduc have embarked on over the years. He said his goal has always been to make these risks calculated, and to manage the many gambles he’s taken, while also working to continually move his operation forward and to new heights.

And he says this is always a difficult task, no matter how much practice one has at it.

“In this business, you have to be a high-risk taker, and you need to have a very strong stomach at times,” he explained. “You don’t get to build a chain of our size with the real estate we have without taking some gambles and putting serious money on the table.

“And then, of course, you have to make it work,” he continued. “And the same goes for other decisions you make; when you’re an independent operation like ours, there’s no fallback — if you make a mistake, there’s no one to catch you.”

As an example of this risk-taking, Bolduc sited the North End location in Springfield, the biggest in the chain. It’s known to many long-time, or very-long-time, residents as the Valley’s Steakhouse site, even though that restaurant has been closed for decades. Bolduc expressed hope that it will someday be known as the ‘Pride site.’

He said he acquired the property a decade or so ago, sensing there would be an opportunity, but going on with the intent of being patient until he knew the time was right.

“I wanted to be sure I could build and operate the kind of facility the site deserved,” he explained. “So I took my time developing it.”

Eventually, two years ago, just as the Great Recession was getting started, he decided to move ahead. Why then, when most business owners were hunkering down?

“I just decided that it was the right time,” he said. “How did I know … I can’t tell you that.”

Today, Bolduc, along with a young leadership team (comprised mostly of women), is mulling the next gambles and the next steps in the evolutionary process for the chain and the genre. And while Bolduc did indeed use the word ‘I’ quite a bit in his talk with BusinessWest, he stressed repeatedly that what he’s accomplished in 34 years has been a team effort.

“I’ve hired a lot of great people along the way,” he said. “I owe it all to them and couldn’t have accomplished all this without them.”

And, often in concert with that team, he continues to get involved in the Greater Springfield community and especially the City of Homes, with support for everything from Springfield School Volunteers to Square One to the Springfield Falcons.

He said that, like many who grew up in the city and have watched it struggle in recent years, he’s eager for a turnaround and doesn’t believe it’s far off. And, like many, he said part of the problem is a lack of self-confidence and a preoccupation with all things negative.

“Yes, we have problems; all cities do,” he said. “We need to work on those problems, especially those involving our schools, but all we hear, unfortunately, is the negative.”

The Bottom Line

Bolduc was non-committal when asked if he would be repeating his free-coffee promotion through December later this year.

As with many other aspects of his business, he knows, or probably knows, the answer to the question, but isn’t exactly eager to share it.

What he does know, and can share, but in a very vague way, is that he is going to continue to develop ‘firsts,’ and strive to remain at the forefront of the ongoing evolution of the convenience store/self-service gas station.

He’s not sure how many times he’ll have to tear down and rebuild or find new, often-innovative ways to assemble sites and create locations. But he’s quite sure he’s not done taking risks — “because that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”


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

Features

BUILDING PERMITS

 The following building permits were issued during the month of December 2010.


AMHERST

 Pioneer Valley Living Care Center
1 Spencer Dr.
$10,000 — Enclose existing balcony into new sunroom

 Peter Grandonico
41 Boltwood Walk
$3,000 — Pour new concrete floor for restaurant

 WD Cowls Inc.
116 Montague St.
$5,000 — Re-roof

 CHICOPEE

 Mass Mutual
350 Memorial Dr.
$11,600 — Strip exterior wood trim and replace

 GREENFIELD

 AR Sandri Inc.
400 Chapman St.
$268,000 — Construct a 48.6 KW ground-mounted photovoltaic system

 Greenfield Grille
30-44 Federal St.
$3,000 — Installation of a fire-alarm system

 Odyssey Holdings, LLC
1 Fisk Ave.
$60,000 — Replace roof

 Stoneleigh Burnham School
574 Bernardston Road
$9,750 — Re-shingle roof

 The Theodore Leonard House, LLC
116 Federal St.
$72,000 — Replace storm windows and exterior doors

 HADLEY

 CBR Realty Corporation
195 Russell St.
$25,000 — Tenant build-out of 1,360 square feet on second floor

 Knights Inn
208 Russell St.
$21,000 — 12’-by-24’ addition

 HOLYOKE

 Eric Suher
541-549 Main St.
$20,000 — Install new roof

 Thomas R. Rohan
329 Hampden St.
$16,500 — Remodel bathroom and new lights in bar area

 LUDLOW

 Baystate Gas
5 Ravenwood Dr.
$645,000 — Foundation

 Pieroway’s
20-28 East St.
$12,000 — Interior renovations

 NORTHAMPTON

 Big Y
158 North King St.
$77,000 — Construct interior walls for bathroom and office space

 Cooley Dickinson Hospital Inc.
30 Locust St.
$253,000 — Renovate central registration

 Forty Main Street Inc.
40 Main St.
$22,000 — Frame new wall for suite 206

 Millbank Place
351 Pleasant St.
$30,000 — Shingle roof

 Smith College
178 West St.
$30,000 — Rework roof eve and fascia

 SOUTHWICK

 T.J. Welch Inc.
622 College Highway
$35,000 — Construct spray booth for painting cars

 Town of Southwick
454 College Highway
$69,000 — Remodel auditorium stage in town hall

 SPRINGFIELD

 Chapin Center
200 Kendall St.
$16,000 — Re-roof

 Mercy Medical Center
299 Carew St.
$99,000 — Renovation for Lifepath Partners on the ground floor

 Smith & Wesson Corporation
2100 Roosevelt Ave.
$149,000 — Renovate and create new offices

 TFO Properties, LLC
18 Prescott St.
$10,000 — Re-roof

 WMECO/Northeast Utilities
300 Cadwell St.
$49,000 — Renovate women’s restroom and shower

 WESTFIELD

 Devcon Shops LLC
457 East Main St.
$71,000 — Alteration

 WEST SPRINGFIELD

 Pearson Daggett Development Company
46 Daggett Dr.
$49,500 — Replace existing roof

 Sullivan Associates Inc.
741 Main St.
$10,000 — Handicap ramp

 Town of West Springfield
26 Central St.
$867,000 — Replace 293 windows in the municipal office building

Company Notebook Departments

International EC Acquires MacDuffie School
SPRINGFIELD — Representatives of the MacDuffie School recently announced the planned sale of all school operations, not including the school’s city real estate, to International EC LLC, the group that acquired the former St. Hyacinth seminary campus in Granby in June. International EC is establishing an independent school in Granby and will absorb MacDuffie’s curriculum, corporate identity, intellectual property, furnishings, computers and business equipment, and faculty as it establishes a school serving grades 6 through 12 beginning next fall. The school, currently in its 120th year of operation, will continue as a day and boarding school. Massachusetts attorney-general approval is needed since the sale involves a nonprofit entity, the MacDuffie School, being acquired by a privately held company. Michael A. Serafino, chairman of MacDuffie’s Board of Trustees, noted in a statement that the acquisition “represents an exciting new chapter in MacDuffie’s history, offering the student body a larger campus with enhanced classroom space, outstanding boarding facilities, state-of-the-art technology, and athletic fields in a college-preparatory environment with high academic standards.” Serafino added that, in the highly competitive academic marketplace for private middle and secondary schools, “this move represents a chance to expand and promote the MacDuffie mission in a way that our current location, with space and infrastructure limitations, would not allow.” The sale of assets does not include the campus on Ames Hill Drive, and a workgroup has been established to ensure that the campus is maintained and secured after the school’s operations move to Granby. Efforts to prepare the campus for sale have started, according to Serafino. International EC, LLC has three managing partners — Craig Brewer, who currently oversees a large private high-school program for international students in the U.S.; Wayne Brewer, who is currently the CEO of International Student Exchange, and Dal Swain, the owner and president of FLS, which has a network of ESL schools for foreign students.

More Than 3,700 Sack Hunger at Big Y
SPRINGFIELD — In a chain-wide effort to help the hungry within their local communities, all Big Ys have initiated this year’s Sack Hunger program. The program consists of a large, green, reusable grocery bag filled with staple non-perishable food items selected by the food banks. Customers purchase a pre-assembled bag for $10, and Big Y then distributes the bags to that region’s local food bank. In turn, the food banks distribute the filled sacks to area soup kitchens, food pantries, senior food programs, day-care centers, as well as many of their other member agencies. All of the donated sacks will be distributed within the supermarket’s marketing area, so every donation stays within the local community. The Sack Hunger Campaign began Nov. 8 and will run through the rest of this year. So far, almost 4,000 bags have been sold. All five food banks within Big Y’s marketing area will be participating in Sack Hunger. These food banks represent more than 2,100 member agencies throughout the region. They are the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare of Greater Hartford, and the Connecticut Food Bank. The sacks include the following non-perishable Big Y items: corn flakes, long-grain rice, elbow macaroni, kidney beans, peanut butter, cut green beans, sweet peas, whole kernel corn, chunk light tuna, and quick oats. Sacks are available at all Big Y Supermarkets and Fresh Acres. Big Y hopes to provide at least 5,000 bags to area food programs by the end of the program.

WMECo Starts Construction on Reliability Project
SPRINGFIELD — Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) recently broke ground for the Greater Springfield Reliability Project, a $795 million transmission upgrade designed to strengthen the region’s power grid, meet mandatory reliability standards, and allow power to move more freely around the Greater Springfield and North-Central Conn. area. Construction on the project has started at the new Cadwell Switching Station in Springfield and at the existing Agawam Substation. Construction of the overhead transmission line in Massachusetts is expected to begin on existing rights of way in early 2011. The creation of approximately 1,000 jobs is anticipated at the peak of construction, while adding about $11 million in much-needed tax revenues to towns along the project route. The project includes work along 39 miles of an existing transmission right of way between Ludlow and Bloomfield, Conn. The 27-mile portion in Massachusetts includes new 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines, new and reconstructed 115-kV lines, two new switching stations, and several substation upgrades. In Connecticut, construction is expected to begin with a substation upgrade in Bloomfield in mid-2011, and construction of the overhead line is expected to begin in late 2011. The project is expected to be in service in 2013. For more information about the initiative, visit www.neewsprojects.com

LENOX Earns OSHA ‘Star’
EAST LONGMEADOW — LENOX has been recertified for an additional five years in the prestigious ‘Star’ Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) of the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). LENOX has maintained this elite health-and-safety certification for more than 10 years. OSHA’s verification for the Star certification includes an application review and a rigorous on-site evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. In 1997, LENOX became the first cutting-tool company in the country to receive this honor. Since then, LENOX has earned recertification in 2000, 2005, and now in 2010. Sites that make the grade must submit annual self-evaluations and undergo periodic onsite re-evaluations to remain in the programs. The plant, which employs 720 workers, manufactures power-tool accessories and blades including band-saw blades, hack saws, hole saws, utility knives, and reciprocating saw blades. The VPP promotes effective worksite-based safety and health, according to Mike Avery, director of safety and security for LENOX.

Langone’s Florist Opens at Tower Square
SPRINGFIELD — Brent Bertelli, owner of Langone’s Florist, recently signed a lease to take the former Longmeadow Flowers space located on the street level of Tower Square. This new endeavor is the second Langone’s Florist operation. The original store, located at 838 Main St., has been family-owned and operated since 1967. Bertelli said he hopes to expand the business and offer more products and services to the downtown clientele through the new location. Langone’s Florist offers custom florals, tropical plants, silk arrangements, seasonal décor, and a diverse collection of gifts.

Fallon Supports
Hunger-relief Programs
WORCESTER — Fallon Community Health Plan recently distributed more than $170,000 to dozens of designated food pantries and hunger-relief programs throughout Massachusetts. The donations represent the total net proceeds from its annual fund-raising event in September. This year’s record-breaking result is due to the participation of 96 organizations that generously contributed to the effort. Organizations specifically recognized for their donations include Booz & Co., CVS Caremark, the Revere Group, Epstein Becker & Green, Fallon Clinic, Acton Medical Associates, Beacon Health Strategies, Income Research & Management, and Protector Group. Fallon will support the following regional hunger-relief programs: Alliance to Develop Power, Springfield; Amherst Survival Center; Berkshire Community Action Council, Pittsfield; Christian Pentecostal Church, Holyoke; Elder Services of Berkshire County Inc., Pittsfield; Gandara Mental Health Center, West Springfield; Jubilee Cupboard, Ware; Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry, Chicopee; Open Pantry Community Services Inc., Springfield; Providence Ministries for the Needy Inc., Holyoke; Western MA Labor Action, Pittsfield; and the Westfield Food Pantry. Founded in 1977, Fallon is a national, not-for-profit health-care-services organization.

Baystate Rug and Flooring Receives Honor
CHICOPEE — Baystate Rug and Flooring was recently awarded the honor of being Mohawk Industries’ North American Flooring Store of the Year. Mohawk Industries awarded the firm the prestigious award based on criteria including sales, growth, marketing techniques, product knowledge, community service, and best practices. Baystate Rug competed regionally, winning the title of Northeast Flooring Store of the Year, before winning the national championship for all of Canada and the U.S. Joseph Montemagni, president of Baystate Rug, noted that, in order to qualify, “Mohawk evaluated our store’s business practices, our employees’ training, their product knowledge, and reviewed our commitment and involvement in our community.” Baystate Rug is a family-owned flooring company that specializes in retail and commercial flooring, installation, and decorating services. A diversified product selection includes carpet, ceramics, hardwoods, resilient, laminate, green flooring products, area rugs, and window treatments.

Bradley’s Paradies Shops Receive Awards
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Bradley International Airport’s prime retailer, the Paradies Shops, was recently honored with several awards recognizing its top-performing managers and first-class associates at the company’s annual management seminar and vendor show in Georgia. The seminar celebrates the accomplishments of managers and both customer-facing and support-level associates who exemplify the company’s mission statement “to exceed the expectations of the customers and business partners we serve.” The Paradies Shops has operated at Bradley for almost 25 years, serves 78,000 customers per month, and runs six retail stores at the airport. Its team at Bradley, led by General Manager Deb Donahue, received numerous awards, including Best Customer Service, Best 401(k) Participation, and the coveted Public Relations Award. These honors are considered qualifying awards and are the basis for the revered awards that recognize the best of the best within the company. Taking home the top honors as one of four Executives of the Year was Judy Heit, a regional merchandise planner based at Bradley. Additionally, Patty Tucker, also of Bradley International, was selected as one of three Assistant Managers of the Year. The Paradies Shops, a family business established in 1960, operates more than 500 stores in more than 70 markets across the U.S. and Canada.

Briefcase Departments

Smith & Wesson to Add 225 Jobs in Springfield; Net Sales Rise Slightly
SPRINGFIELD — In the third quarter, Smith & Wesson made the strategic decision to relocate its Thompson/Center Arms operations from Rochester, N.H. to the company’s facility here. Approximately 225 jobs are expected to be added to the local economy with the Rochester relocation initiative. This relocation is designed to provide the company with increased operational efficiencies through the optimization of the company’s manufacturing footprint and increased synergies generated in fixed, marketing, and administrative costs. The bulk of the $9 million of estimated cash outlays associated with the relocation will occur in the second half of fiscal 2011, and those outlays are expected to be recovered in approximately 24 months. The relocation is scheduled to commence in January and conclude by November 2011. In other news, Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. recently announced that total net sales of $96.3 million for the second quarter decreased $13.4 million, or 12.2%, from net sales of $109.7 million for the comparable quarter last year. Indications are that the consumer firearm market has moderated further following the significant increase that started in the company’s third quarter of fiscal 2009. In the second fiscal quarter of this year, sales in all handgun and tactical rifle product lines, except premium products, were flat or lower than in the prior year quarter due to a more competitive environment and a trend toward more value-oriented products. Hunting products were the exception and increased 26.3% over the prior year’s comparable quarter on improved sales of black-powder products and the company’s new bolt-action rifles.

AIM Index Off in November, Retains Most Gains
BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 3.2 points in November to 52.1, but held on to most of the gains from its record 7.7-point rise in October. The sub-indices based on selected questions or respondent characteristics all lost ground in November, though most gave back less than half of their October gains. The current index of conditions prevailing at the time of the survey was off 2.6 points at 50.6, while the future index of expected conditions six months ahead dropped 3.5 to 53.5. Andre Mayer Sr., vice president of communications and research for AIM, noted that employers are disappointed by the pace of recovery and are aware of considerable risk in the economy, but see conditions slowly improving and expect improvement to continue over the next six months. The Massachusetts Index of business conditions prevailing within the Commonwealth fell 2.6 points to 47.5, remaining above the U.S. Index of national conditions, which lost 5.8 (after a 12.3-point gain in October) to 43.0. On the year, the state indicator was up 9.0, its national counterpart up 6.3. Mayer added that survey respondents have rated the state’s economic climate better than the nation’s through this downturn and recovery. The monthly Business Confidence Index is based on a survey of AIM member-companies across Massachusetts, asking questions about current and prospective business conditions in the state and nation, as well as for respondents’ own operations. On the index’s 100-point scale, a reading above 50 indicates that the state’s employer community is predominantly optimistic, while a reading below 50 indicates a negative assessment of business conditions.

UMass Trustee Chairman Steps Down
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees Chairman Robert J. Manning stepped down as the leader of the 22-person UMass governance board on Dec. 8, saying it would be beneficial for the university to have new leadership as it enters a period of transition. Manning noted in a statement that the university is “embarking on a transition phase” that is significant to UMass, and as his term winds down at the end of this academic year, he cannot sign up for another five years. Manning, who has served as chairman of the board for three years, noted of his tenure, “it’s been a remarkable experience for me.” Manning added that he was stepping down from the chairmanship and from the board effective immediately. Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint the next chairman, according to Manning.

Poll: Strong Support for Resort Casino
PALMER — A recent public-opinion poll commissioned by Northeast Realty Associates and conducted by Market Street Research of Northampton shows overwhelming support for the establishment of a resort-style casino destination on acreage across from the Mass. Turnpike entrance on Route 32. The survey, conducted in mid-November, indicates 64.8% of Palmer residents support the development of a resort-style casino on land owned by Northeast Realty, while 30.3% are opposed with 4.9% undecided. Mohegan Sun currently holds a 99-year ground lease with Northeast to develop the property into a destination resort casino should gaming become legalized in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, the state House and Senate passed legislation calling for three resort casinos in the state, stipulating one of the venues for Western Mass. While final agreement on the legislation is stalled, Gov. Deval Patrick has consistently supported the development of three resort-style gaming venues, including a Western Mass. destination.

Spalding Hoophall Classic Teams Named
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College’s Blake Arena will be setting for the 10th annual Spalding Hoophall Classic Jan. 14-17, representing 46 teams from 17 states. The nation’s premier high school event will showcase its strongest field in its history with elite matchups including Dallas Lincoln High School (Dallas, TX) vs. Findlay College Prep (Henderson, NV), Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) vs. Milton High School (Milton, GA), and St. Patrick High School (Elizabeth, NJ) vs. Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV). Numerous games from the 2011 Spalding Hoophall Classic will be televised nationally. Other programs scheduled to participate include DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, MD), Christ the King High School (Middle Village, NY), St. Thomas More School (Oakdale, CT), and St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, NJ), coached by Bob Hurley, Sr., who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in August. The 2011 event continues its tradition of talented players by featuring more than 20 of the ESPNU’s Top 100 in the class of 2011.

Departments People on the Move

Tighe & Bond of Westfield recently promoted Christopher Bone, a Mechanical Process and Environmental Engineer, to Associate in recognition of his exceptional performance. He joined the firm in 1999 and has more than 17 years of project-management and engineering experience in providing municipal clients with innovative solutions for complicated water and wastewater challenges.
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Dan Cohn has joined CornerStone Telephone Co. as an in-market Account Executive.
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Hatch Mott MacDonald of Holyoke announced that Eliezer Barbosa has joined the firm as a Designer.
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Linda Syniec, CPA, has joined S. Reichelt & Co., LLC. Syniec has more than 25 years of public-accounting experience, specializing in tax services for private companies and high-net-worth individuals.
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Anne Mostue has joined public radio station WFCR and WNNZ as a reporter. Mostue will be based at WFCR’s Peggy and David Starr Broadcast Center in Springfield.
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Massachusetts Five Colleges Inc. announced the following:
• Herbert Bernstein, Professor of Physics at Hampshire College, Amherst, has been named a Five College 40th Anniversary Professor; and
• Debbora Battaglia, Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, has been named a Five College 40th Anniversary Professor.
A 40th Anniversary Professorship is an opportunity for veteran faculty members within the five campuses to share their expertise with students at other schools. During the three years of the professorship, each faculty member receives a research stipend, teaches at least three courses on other consortium campuses, and gives a public lecture on his or her work.
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Garvey Communication Associates Inc. of Springfield announced the following:

Caroline Scannell

Caroline Scannell

• Caroline Scannell has been appointed Accounts Analyst; and
Laura Chechette

Laura Chechette

• Laura Chechette has been appointed Public Relations Analyst.
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Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announced the following appointments to its Board of Trustees:
• William Dudley, Professor of Philosophy at Williams College. He has served on a range of college committees dealing with issues of educational policy, student and residential life, and diversity, and as an advisor to first-year students. He is a graduate of Williams, and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University;
• Shirley Edgerton, Residential Program Director for the Department of Developmental Services of Berkshire County. In addition to this work, she is the founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle of the Berkshires, based in Pittsfield, as well as Youth Alive step dance program, which uses the arts as a vehicle to engage young women in educational and mentoring programs. She also serves as a board member for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Herbert Lehman College at the City University of New York, and a master of Education from MCLA; and
• Susan Gold, a member of the MCLA Foundation Board of Directors. Gold is an active community volunteer with experience and expertise in development and fund-raising who has worked with a number of organizations in Berkshire County, including Northern Berkshire Health Systems, the REACH Community Health Foundation, and Images Cinema. She serves as a trustee of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. She has served as a member and officer of the MCLA Foundation Board of Directors, and co-chair of the Foundation Board’s ad-hoc Fundraising Committee. She earned a bachelor’s degree from American University.
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Leslie Lawrence has been named Director of Lending for the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund in Holyoke.
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David Rittenhouse has joined McCormick-Allum as manager of the electrical contracting division.
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Lisa Doherty, Co-founder, President, and CEO of Business Risk Partners of Windsor, Conn. has been named to Business Insurance magazine’s list of “Women to Watch 2010.” Working with producers nationwide and partnering with global specialty carriers, the firm underwrites and administers professional and management liability policies for more than 160 professions in businesses of all sizes. The annual “Women to Watch” issue profiles 25 women executives based on recent professional achievements, influence on the marketplace, and contributions to the advancement of women in business.
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Brenda D. Cuoco was recently recognized at Coldwell Banker for being a top producer within the Western Mass.area. She ranked 86th for units sold in Massachusetts and seventh for units sold within Western Mass.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services recently honored several area residents for their community work during its ninth annual business partnership breakfast in Springfield. Honorees were:
• Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr.;
• George Burtch, Vice President for Global Integration-Games at Hasbro;
• Jim Goodwin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Center for Human Development; and
• Tim Sneed, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Career Development Institute.
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Kristina Drzal Houghton, a Partner with Meyers Brothers Kalicka, has been named one of three “Women to Watch” in the 2010 Experienced Leader category by the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, in partnership with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. The annual awards program highlights the achievements of women in the certified public accounting profession in Massachusetts who have made significant contributions to the profession and their community, and who demonstrate leadership within their profession.
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Charles Epstein, Founder of The 401(k) Coach Program, was named to Legg Mason Inc.’s Retirement Advisory Council, a new think tank comprised of 14 retirement-industry leaders. The council will convene quarterly and examine the major challenges facing retirement products, service providers, and the best practices observed by the industry. Participants on the council include 401(k) plan providers, brokerage/financial-adviser leaders, retirement-plan advisers, and independent contribution-industry experts. Legg Mason, headquartered in Maryland, is a global asset-management firm with $677 billion in assets under management as of Oct. 31, 2010.
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Delania Barbee has been appointed Community Engagement Coordinator and Massachusetts Promise Fellow for the ACCESS Springfield Promise program. The program works to increase college aspirations, access, and success among city students. It also provides free financial-aid advising and scholarships to young people in Springfield.
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Sean Capaloff-Jones is the new Manager of Member Outreach for the UMass-Five College Credit Union. He will be responsible for member development and maintaining positive relationships with the credit union’s sponsor groups. He will also guide the credit union’s financial literacy program and community-outreach initiatives.
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Rebecca Wylde has joined radio station Rock 102 as host for the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift.
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William J. Noonan has been named Director of Security for the Springfield Museums.
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Robert P. Ziomek has been named Director of Major and Planned Gifts at Western New England College in Springfield.
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Theodora “Teddy” W. Woeppel has joined the Goodman Speakers Bureau as Director of Marketing and Communications. She will develop and implement all online and Web-based marketing efforts and strategies for the bureau. She will oversee print, direct mail, sponsorships, and special-event marketing to increase business opportunities among the company’s national client base.
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The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts announced the election of new members to its Board of Trustees:
• Amy Jamrog, Managing Director of the Jamrog Group in Northampton;
• George C. Keady III, Senior Vice President and Branch Manager of UBS Wealth Management in Springfield;
• Robert L. Pura, President of Greenfield Community College;
• Peter J. Daboul, Executive in Residence at Western New England College, Springfield, who will serve as Chairman of the foundation’s trustees; and
• Sanford A. Belden, retired President of Community Bank System, who will serve as Vice Chair.

Chamber Corners Departments

Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield
www.myonlinechamber.com
(413) 787-1555
n Jan. 5: [email protected], 7:15 to 9 a.m., Sheraton Springfield. Cost: members $20, non-members $30. For reservations, contact Diane Swanson, ACCGS events manager, at (413) 787-1555 or [email protected]
n Jan. 19: Professional Women’s Chamber 13th Annual Business Expo, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Max’s Tavern, MassMutual Room. Cost, Table Top: members $60, non-members  $90 (includes one lunch ticket). Cost, lunch only: members $25, non-members $35. For reservations, contact Lynn Johnson PWC liaison, at (413) 755-1310 or [email protected]
n Jan. 22: West of the River Chamber of Commerce Night at the Falcons, 7:30 p.m., MassMutual Center. Cost: $10. For reservations, call Chris Thompson at (413) 739-3344 ext. 109. 
 
Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield
www.springfieldyps.com
n Jan. 20: Third Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m., Panana’s Restaurant, Agawam. Cost: free for members, non-members $10. Includes food and cash bar.
 
Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
www.amherstarea.com
See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.
 
Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101
 
n Jan. 19: Salute Breakfast, 7:15 to 9 a.m., MassMutual Learning & Conference Center, 350 Memorial Dr., Chicopee. Cost: members $18, non-members $25. For tickets, call the chamber at (413) 594-2101 or purchase online at www.chicopeechamber.org
 

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce
www.franklincc.org
(413) 773-5463
 See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.
 
Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce
www.easthamptonchamber.org
(413) 527-9414
n Jan. 13: Networking By Night Business Card Exchange, 5 to 7 p.m., hosted and sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Southampton, 17 College Highway, Southampton. Co-sponsor: Puffer Printing & Copy Center. Door prizes, hors d’ouevres, host bar. Cost: members $5, non-members $15.
n Jan. 27: Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary Dinner, 5 p.m., the Delaney House, 500 Country Club Road, Holyoke. Cranberry chicken and halibut combo luncheon. Cost: members $29.95, non-members $32.95. 
 
Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
www.holycham.com
(413) 534-3376
n Jan. 12: Winner Circle, 5 to 7 p.m., Yankee Pedlar, 1866 Northampton St., Holyoke. Sponsored by Holyoke Medical Center; Dowd Insurance; Resnic, Beauregard, Waite & Driscoll; PeoplesBank; Holyoke Community College; and Universal Plastics. 
n Jan. 19: Chamber After Hours, 5 to 7 p.m., hosted and sponsored by Homewood Suites, 375 Whitney Ave., Holyoke. Cost: members $5, non-members $10 cash. 
n Jan. 25: Computer Security Seminar, 8 to 11 a.m., Mass Mutual Conference Center, Chicopee
 
Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce
www.explorenorthampton.com
(413) 584-1900
n Jan. 12: January Arrive @ 5, 5 to 7 p.m., Volkswagen of Northampton, 968 Bridge Road, Northampton. Cost: $10 for members.
 
Northampton Area Young Professional Society
www.thenayp.com
(413) 584-1900
n Jan. 30: Bowl with a Purpose, 12 to 2 p.m., Spare Time, 525 Pleasant St., Northampton. Charity fund-raiser. Teams of four to six players. Registrants can register as a team or be placed on a team. Cost: $20 pre-registered, $25 at the door. Includes unlimited bowling during the event, shoe rental, pizza, and soda. For registration information, visit www.thenayp.com
 
Quaboag Hills Chamber of Commerce
www.qvcc.biz
(413) 283-2418
See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.
 
South Hadley/Granby Chamber of Commerce
www.shchamber.com
(413) 532-6451
n Jan. 25: President’s Dinner, cocktails at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p. m., Willitts-Hallowell Center, Mount Holyoke College. Sponsors: premier members. Special guest speakers: TBD. Annual business meeting. Cost: $37. Check must be received by Jan. 21.
 
Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce
www.threeriverschamber.org
413-283-6425
See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.
 
Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618
See the chamber’s Web site for information on upcoming events.

10 Points Departments

You generally must include taxable fringe benefits in an employee’s gross income. Most are subject to income-tax withholding and employment taxes. Here are some of these taxable items to include:
1. Personal use of auto. The value of an employee’s personal use of a company-provided auto should be included as income. There are IRS guidelines to determine the amount of this calculation.
2. Value of life insurance if over $50,000. To the extent that the benefit of the life insurance exceeds $50,000, an amount as determined by IRS tables is a taxable fringe benefit.
3. Memberships in country club dues or other social clubs. If these payments are strictly for personal use by the employee, they are a taxable fringe.
4. Tickets to entertainment or sporting events. The value of the tickets for personal use should be included as taxable to the employee.
5. Discounts on property or services. The taxable portion is the extent to which the discount exceeds the cost of the product (or more than 20% of the price for services charged to customers.)
However, some fringe benefits are not taxable (or are minimally taxable) if certain conditions are met. Some of these items are as follows:
6. Services provided to your employees at no additional cost to you.
7. Certain minimal fringes, including an occasional cab ride if an employee must work overtime, or meals that you provide at eating places that you run for your employees if the meals are not furnished at below cost.
8. Qualified transportation fringes. These are subject to special conditions and dollar limitations, including transportation in a commuter highway vehicle.
9. Qualified moving-expense reimbursements. Reimbursed and employer-paid qualified moving expenses paid under an accountable plan are not includible in an employee’s W-2.
10. Use of on-premisis athletic facilities. If substantially all of the use is by employees, their spouses, or their dependents, this is not a taxable fringe benefit.
You should contact your tax advisor to determine the value of the taxable items to include, or to determine whether or not certain items are taxable.

Cheryl Fitzgerald

Cheryl Fitzgerald

Cheryl Fitzgerald is a senior tax manager with the certified public accounting firm of Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., in Holyoke; (413) 536-8510.

Departments Picture This

Send photos with a caption and contact information to: ‘Picture This’
c/o BusinessWest Magazine, 1441 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103
or to [email protected]

Art & Soles
Picture This 1Organizers of the Art & Soles project, which brought colorful, five-foot-high sneakers to downtown Springfield, staged the official gallery opening for the celebrated footwear on Dec. 13 at 1351 Main St. Many of the artists were in attendance, as well as project coordinators and friends of the arts. At left, Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, and Maryann Lombardi, director of Creative Economy at UMass Amherst and a program organizer, admire the works of art. Picture this 2Below left, Nancy Urbschat, left, owner of TSM Design and a project organizer, admires some of the sneakers along with Sue Bader, a life insurance consultant with Epstein Financial. Picture This 3Below, artist Misha Epstein with her sneaker, a tribute to the historic homes in the McKnight section of Springfield. A resident of that area, she called her sneaker “In My Neighborhood,” and along the bottom, the word ‘home’ appears in 23 languages.

After 5
Picture 4The Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield staged their annual holiday After 5 event in Tower Square on Dec. 8. The event was held outside the Festival of Trees, giving attendees a chance to see this year’s collection and enter the raffle to win one of the dozens of entries. Picture 5Far left, a visitor admires one of the trees. At left, Courtney Merrill greets visitors to the booth of Robert Charles Photography, one of the event’s sponsors.

Sections Supplements
Why Blocking Employee Access to Social Media Won’t Work

Christine Pilch

Christine Pilch

Many employers are fearful of opening up Pandora’s box and allowing employees access to social sites that may cause a distraction and reduce productivity. Well, if your employees carry cell phones, most of them already have access right in their pockets or purses, so your effort to block access is defeated before you even implement it.
Employers should try to understand that, first and foremost, social-media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs are communication tools. They offer your company a channel to listen, monitor, and engage with customers like never before. They open new sales outlets by introducing your product or service to an expanded group of prospects, and they help to build relationships by creating a human voice and face for your company by empowering employees to listen, care, and resolve issues.
There is a potential dark side, though. Companies risk employees conducting themselves unprofessionally, antagonizing irritable customers, and distributing incorrect information, which may damage your brand. In addition, you may fear that you’re actually providing your employees with toys to play with all day long instead of doing ‘real work.’
So how can an employer cash in on the tremendous potential benefits of social media while mitigating risk? Here are a few suggestions:

Monitor Brand Chatter
The conversations about your product or service are happening on social media whether or not you’re listening, so isn’t it better to know what people are saying about you? This gives you the opportunity to thank loyal customers for their praise, as well as solve problems that often turn unhappy customers into publicly satisfied ones. Ignoring social-media channels is essentially overlooking customer feedback.

Engage in the Conversation
Can you really afford to block access to any place where people are talking about your company? When employees use these communications tools, they ultimately bump into these conversations, whether deliberately or accidentally. This opens up an expanded, albeit perhaps informal brand-monitoring and customer-service channel.

Don’t Worry About Lost Productivity
Do your employees work exclusively 9 to 5, or do they regularly stay late, take work home, and read e-mail off-site? If your employees have the dedication to work outside the traditional box, your concerns about allowing them to check their Facebook page or watch a YouTube video at the office seem a little misdirected.
Remember that social media is a communication channel, and people typically utilize the path of least resistance when reaching out to a company, so social media makes it easy to get to the right person within an organization very quickly. Also, people are migrating to social media to share resources and problem solve, so if you block access, you’re preventing your employees from accessing people who can offer solutions and keeping them at the mercy of time-consuming, paid phone tech support.

Provide Guidelines and Trust Your Employees
Guide your employees in the appropriate use of social media. Remind them that they are representing your company and to refrain from negativity, profanity, and augmentative or confrontational conduct. Encourage them to listen to the chatter and not to be afraid to disclose their identities. Social media is about building relationships, and people don’t build relationships with companies, they build them with people.
You have to trust your employees, and the best way to guide social media efforts is to provide suggestions about how they can help you. Encourage them to report any negativity they bump into, or encourage them to jump in and offer to connect the customer with someone within your organization who can help. This can effectively turn your entire organization into a customer-service team.

The Viral Epidemic
The beauty of social media is that information often spreads virally. Consider the instant celebrity of Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent. Her audition earned her a soft spot across the globe almost overnight because the YouTube video was shared repeatedly across social-media channels. What did that do to viewership? Although few products or services can expect to gain that level of overnight notoriety, people’s choices are affected daily by recommendations made via social-media channels.
People like to share ideas and make recommendations. That’s how things go viral online, and social media provides an ideal vehicle because it’s so easy to share information. If your company is there, you can participate and respond.
Business is done, referrals are made, problems are solved, and chatter about brands happens every day on social media. If you block access, you’re missing out on amazing opportunities to develop relationships with potential customers, those who need help with your products, and people who are your best advocates. Worst of all, you’re handing potential business to your competition if they’re making it easier for customers to communicate than you are. Can you afford that? n

Christine Pilch is a partner with Grow My Company and a social-media marketing strategist. She trains clients to utilize LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and other social-media tools to grow their businesses, and she collaborates with professional service firms to get results through innovative positioning and branding strategies; (413) 537-2474; linkedin.com/in/christinepilch; facebook.com/
growmycompany; twitter.com/christinepilch;
youtube/user/christinepilch; growmyco.com

Sections Supplements
How to Ask an Employer for a Raise in a Difficult Economy

Thomas J. Fox is

Thomas J. Fox is

Regardless of economic conditions, rewarding good employees is an investment companies have to maintain. Recession or not, employers need to consider the consequences if their best employees leave. And, let’s be honest, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably on the list of good employees.
Although the job market is often tough to crack when you’re unemployed, those who do have jobs may find themselves in an interesting position. That’s because some businesses prefer to look only at people who are already employed. Although that sounds strange, let’s think about it. In a tough economy, most companies make their first cuts in areas that aren’t vital to their operations. The employees who survive are likely to have skills that are essential to the business.
So you still have a job, and you think you have a desirable skill set. How do you ask for a raise when the economy is struggling? The first thing to do is spend some time evaluating your current employer’s position. Some organizations have found it difficult to provide raises. They’re fortunate to be meeting their current payroll, and are just hoping to survive until things turn around. If this is your company’s situation, you’ll have to wait for your organization’s fortunes to improve, but, while you wait, work on broadening or developing the skills you have. You want to make your boss’s decision an easy one when the time comes.
You may learn that your company’s position is not all that bad. Some businesses have been building their financial reserves. As we emerge from the downturn, these companies are looking to expand their operations by adding key personnel. What better way to strengthen your company’s position than by luring vital employees away from your competitors? This atmosphere can create a unique bargaining opportunity for employees who are aware of the value they represent.
Before you ask for a raise, you also have to determine if your salary warrants an increase. You can get some perspective on your current pay by visiting Salary.com or any of the government’s compensation Web sites. If you’re already paid above your market pay rate, negotiating a raise can be difficult, though not impossible. There are a number of intangibles that you may bring to the table, often based on your years of experience. It is also important to remember that a successful negotiation is always based on your merit and not on why you need additional money. While your employer may care about you, providing additional salary to fund your chosen lifestyle is not their responsibility.
If your research indicates that you are undervalued, you then need to justify why you deserve a raise. One of the best ways to identify your value is to track your accomplishments. Keep a notebook, or a computer file, which summarizes your accomplishments, the date you achieved them, and a summary of the work completed, plus what you’ve learned. In our knowledge-based economy, you want to draw attention to the additional skills you’ve acquired since you were first hired. This would include any certifications, continuing education, industry or community awards, or any other activities that show you’ve grown as an employee. You’ll also want to document any cost savings you’ve achieved, how you’ve helped improve productivity, any important projects you’ve worked on, and other ways in which you’ve contributed more than your job required.
There is probably no best time to ask for a raise when the economy isn’t doing well. However, if you’re confident you have a case to make, there are a few things you should consider before approaching your employer. First, be cognizant of their time. If your boss’ schedule is hectic on a particular time of day, be sure to schedule an appointment outside of that time frame. Furthermore, you want to plan to ask for a raise before the annual budget is complete. After the budget is set, it may be difficult for your employer to allocate any additional funding for increased compensation. Finally, be mindful of the overall work environment. If things are particularly crazy, and people are juggling multiple tasks or racing to meet deadlines, wait until things die down.
You should also give some thought to what you’ll do if your employer declines your request, or agrees to a raise that isn’t exactly what you had in mind. Discuss your employer’s reasons, and ask what you can do over the next few months to improve your chances for increased compensation in the future. Don’t back them into a corner. Your attitude should clearly be, “how do I become a more valuable employee?” That should make their decision easier next time around.

Thomas J. Fox is the community outreach director at Cambridge Credit Counseling in Agawam. He is an AFCPE-accredited credit counselor, a CFC-certified educator in personal finance, and an NCHEC-certified housing counselor. He also hosts Your Money 2.0 (YouTube) and Money America (91.9 WAIC); (413) 241-2362; [email protected]

Sections Supplements
Do You Need Full-replacement Insurance on Your Building?

John E. Dowd Jr.

John E. Dowd Jr.

The owners of a new company found a building on the market for an affordable price, so they bought it. Built in the 1940s to manufacture aircraft for the war effort, the metal structure had a large open space. The company occupying this space was in the software-development business, and the building was much larger than it needed, but the price made it seem like a sensible move. However, the owners got a surprise from their insurance agent about property coverage.
Insurance companies base limits of insurance on the cost of replacing a building exactly as it was before the loss. The cost of reconstructing this old building was much higher than both its purchase price and that of other suitable properties. The company did not need that much insurance, and paying the higher premium for it would have been wasteful, so the owners asked the agent for alternatives. What if, they asked, we don’t rebuild our building as it was?
After a fire or some other catastrophe destroys a building, its owners may decide not to rebuild or replace with a similar structure for a number of reasons:
• As was the case with the software company, the current building’s design may be impractical. The company bought the building because of a good price, not because of its large open space. A software developer ordinarily does not need that much space; if it were to rebuild, it would almost certainly choose a smaller building with a different layout. Also, very old buildings often include materials that builders do not commonly use today, such as plaster and lathe. Reconstruction with these materials is expensive and often unnecessary for the continued operation of the business.
• The company may decide to consolidate the operations of two locations into one. The second location may have the capacity to absorb the first one’s operations, and management may feel that it will gain efficiencies by consolidating.
• Depending on the building’s age, it may not meet current building codes. The local government may require any new buildings to meet expensive new codes.
The standard business property-insurance policy states that the insurance company will pay ‘actual cash value’ — the cost of replacing the property minus an amount for depreciation. However, it offers the option of valuing a loss at replacement cost without deduction for depreciation. A business that chooses this option will need to purchase the amount of insurance equal to the cost of replacing the building “as is.”
The company will pay the difference between the actual cash value and the replacement cost only if the property owner actually rebuilds or replaces the property, and then only if he does so as soon as reasonably possible after the loss. The policy also provides a small amount of additional insurance (typically the lesser of 5% of the insurance on the building or $10,000) to cover the increased cost of construction resulting from changes in building codes.
Businesses like the software company, which do not need an exact replacement of their current buildings, should ask their agent about adding a ‘functional building valuation’ endorsement to their policies. It establishes a limit of insurance somewhere between actual cash value and full replacement cost, and allows the property owner to replace the building with one that fulfills the same function as the old one did, but at a lesser cost.
The discussion with the agent should also include increased ‘ordinance or law’ coverage to provide additional insurance for increased costs from new building codes. With the right attention to detail, a business can get the property insurance it needs without having to waste money on unnecessary coverage.

John E. Dowd Jr. is a fourth-generation principal of the Dowd Agencies, and one of three partners at the oldest insurance agency in Massachusetts with operations and management under continuous family ownership. The Dowd Agencies is a full-service agency providing commercial, personal, and employee benefits. It has four offices in Western Mass.; (413) 538-7444.

Sections Supplements
More Big-bank Customers Switch to Community Banks and Credit Unions

Jim Kelly has long touted the benefits of banking with a local institution.
“It’s important to do business with people you trust,” said Kelly, president of Polish National Credit Union. “When you run into a difficult situation, you can come into our credit union and talk to someone face to face. I think that’s important. It’s all about helping people.”
These days, that’s a message that resonates more than ever, as large, national banks have begun to see a trickle — perhaps a stream — of customers closing their accounts and moving them to smaller institutions.
“All our business is coming from other banks,” said Trent Taylor, chief operation officer and chief credit officer of NUVO Bank, which opened its doors for business just three years ago. “Everyone who comes in here has come from another bank. And the tellers out front are constantly seeing people come in because they’re tired of the fees, and they’re aggravated by their old bank.”
That aggravation is widespread. According to a Zogby survey earlier this year, almost 15% of respondents moved from a national bank to a community bank or credit union in the previous year alone. Reasons — and many people named more than one — ranged from lower service charges (36%) to better rate of return (32%) to convenience (20%). A full 60% added that they wanted to make a statement of protest against one or more policies of the large bank.
Some people feel that way but are hesitant to change, Taylor continued, but many feel the hassle of switching is worth it. “We can offer all the frills of the other banks, but none of the charges.”

Jeff Sattler

Jeff Sattler says the largest institutions don’t care whether they lose a $1,000 checking account, but community banks value those customers.

Jeffrey Sattler, NUVO’s president, argued that the largest banks not only don’t fret over losing customers in exchange for raking in more fees from those who stay, but actually want to shed some of those depositors.
“Every time a bank is acquired, change is inevitable, and as they get bigger, Western Mass. becomes a smaller percentage of the size of the bank,” he told BusinessWest. “The big banks are not the bad guys, but this is just not the market they’re interested in anymore. A $100 billion bank doesn’t have the same appetite for a $1,000 checking account; it’s just simple math. And they’re going to charge the fees and say ‘take it or leave it.’
“Bank of America is a trillion-dollar bank,” he continued. “They want that business to leave. But that’s our bread and butter. Our roots are here; we have no one else to answer to.”

Jumping Ship

John Heaps

John Heaps says national banks have been losing mortgage, commercial-loan, and retail business to smaller institutions.

John Heaps, president of Florence Bank, said he has seen movement from larger banks to smaller, local banks in three areas: mortgages, commercial loans, and retail banking.
“On the mortgage side, it’s clear that consumers and Realtors both like going to local banks because they can look people in the eye and know they’re getting the right product for their financial situation,” he said. “And they know that we, as well as other local banks, also service the loans. That’s huge; we don’t sell the servicing. If you have a question about your mortgage, you can come in and talk to us, and we’ll do what we need to do.”
That local presence is important to both borrowers and their agents, he continued. “If they have a need to modify the loan, like going interest-only, we can make a decision right here in this area. If they have an issue and need to talk to somebody, we’re right here. Realtors are also concerned with getting a relatively short turnaround time for a purchase.”
On the small-business side, Heaps continued, “you just can’t find people in this market area from the larger banks who are looking to make small-business loans. They don’t have the resources; all the people have been transferred to Hartford or Boston, and as a result, the local community banks have really picked up the pace.”
Heaps said he has heard chatter about whether banks are prepared to lend, but that it hasn’t been an issue for institutions based in Western Mass.
“Every single community banker I’ve talked to in this marketplace is willing to lend,” he noted, adding that most of the reluctance to pursue loans is on the borrowers’ side, partly due to uncertainty over the status of the extension of Bush-era tax cuts.
“There’s a reluctance among business people to invest, particularly until they know what the tax situation is,” Heaps said. “A significant number of borrowers have come to us with great ideas, but said, ‘as a small-business person, I don’t know what’s going to happen with my taxes.’ Keeping the tax rates in place for at least next year will have a more significant impact than people realize.”
Finally, on the retail side, Heaps said, many depositors in large banks have become weary of constant changes to the fee schedule designed to hit them with charges for everything from debit transactions to fraud alerts.
In fact, constantly changing fee schedules (rarely in customers’ favor) have chased many depositors away from national banks and toward community banks with much more stable charges (see story, page 28).
“That’s what we’re all about,” Polish National’s Kelly said. “We have some of the lowest fees in the area. We don’t need the money; we make a lot of bottom-line income, so we don’t have to charge a lot of fees. A lot of these large banks brag about how many households they have, but to customers, I don’t think ‘too big to fail’ is seen as a positive thing anymore.”
He said the public recognizes the role of megabanks — specifically questionable lending practices — that contributed mightily to the economic collapse of 2008, and the fact that this region’s community banks and credit unions never operated like that should be a selling point.
“Some of these large banks are going to try to regain their respectability in the industry, and we don’t have to do that,” Kelly explained. “We’ve always done the right thing. If you’re applying for a mortgage, you want to know more than whether you’re getting the best rate and not paying a lot of fees; you also want to be with a financial institution you can trust. These things didn’t come into play a few years ago; then, you were shopping for a rate, and that’s it.”
It’s no surprise, he said, that customers increasingly want to bank at institutions that embrace responsible practices no matter what the economic conditions.
“We’re not going to be able to predict the next recession, but we will have one at some point,” Kelly continued. “At the start of the Great Recession, when the market melted down, we not only maintained strong capital, but remained profitable, and didn’t see any impact on asset quality.”

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
With seemingly so many reasons to leave megabanks, Megan McArdle, business and economics editor at the Atlantic, recently explored the question of why some people choose not to leave. And she started with herself.
“I bank in two places: Navy Federal Credit Union and Citibank,” writes the Washington, D.C. resident. “NFCU is better in all ways except one: they don’t have a branch in D.C. That means that every time I want to make a deposit, I have to drive out to Virginia. So I tend to go there once every few months and put a bunch of cash in the bank for our regular or big expenses: car loan, wedding stuff, rent and utilities. But it is not a convenient place to do my everyday banking.”
She admitted that she stays with Citibank because it has a presence all over the country, and she’s moved her residence often over the past decade — not to mention business travel.
“America does have high rates of labor mobility, and a lot of people travel for work,” she concludes. “That’s going to favor national banks, which, in turn, lets them offer less-favorable terms to their customers. I’m paying for convenience. But frankly, it’s worth it.”
Still, an increasing number of customers insist that it’s not, and that they’d rather bank at the institutions that didn’t contribute to the financial meltdown, yet will have to pay in some ways for the mistakes of the megabanks. Heaps noted that, while about 30 new rules emerged from federal regulators in the wake of the Enron scandal, the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill passed earlier this year includes about 300.
“That’s what we’ve been living with; we’ve paid the price,” he said. “But now we’re starting to see consumer confidence picking up.” And that means more opportunities for big-bank customers who are starting to reconsider the value of the local touch.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at
[email protected]

Sections Supplements
For Many Locally, There Is Room for Cautious Optimism

Westover Road in Chicopee

Lym Tech Scientific will soon be moving into this building on Westover Road in Chicopee, an acquisition that is one of many positive signs for the local economy.

Kent Pecoy says he can always tell when a recession is coming to an end, not from a technical, economics-textbook definition, but from real-life experience. And he should know; he’s been through enough of them over a 30-year career.
He told BusinessWest that the evidence comes in the form of remarks and unspoken thoughts that come with conversations he has with prospective clients, specifically couples looking at major home-renovation projects or new-home-building initiatives.
“You sit with a couple, and whether it’s a remodeling job — a kitchen, family room, bedroom, whatever — or a new house, she’s saying, ‘we need to get this done,’ and he’s saying, ‘I’m not sure this is the right time to do it,’” said Pecoy, owner of Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction. “And she starts kicking him under the table, saying, ‘we can’t put this off any longer — the kids will be out of the house by the time we get this done.’”
While acknowledging that there is some stereotyping going on with this anecdote, Pecoy said it serves to make his point — that, during recessions, and especially this past one, couples will put off things as long as they can. The fact that the under-the-table kicking is prompting more husbands to say ‘yes’ to such projects means that many people really can’t wait any longer, but they also have the confidence to move ahead.
This is especially true with remodeling, he continued, adding that this segment of his business now accounts for far more than 50% of revenues, not the breakdown he’d like — he’d much prefer to build new, high-end homes — but he’s happy that at least one aspect of his operation is seeing an uptick, and that he’s getting more of his time-honored evidence that times are getting better.
Others involved in business and economic development say they don’t have such a tell-tale sign that a recession is winding down. For them, things are somewhat murkier. Indeed, there is still considerable uncertainty about if, when, and to what extent things will improve. There is, however, general agreement that 2010 was a real struggle, and the year ahead should yield some improvement, but this will be, by and large, a mostly jobless recovery.
“We predicted 2010 to be this kind of year; we were hoping it wouldn’t be, but we predicted it would be, in terms of land sales in our development corporations and general absorption of real estate,” said Allan Blair, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. “We thought there would be a slowdown in layoffs in 2010 and there was, but we also thought the job growth would be slow, and it was. So as disappointing as all this was, it wasn’t a surprise to us.
“It looks as though the layoff situation has bottomed out, so that jobs appear to be stable, but there are a lot of unemployed people out there who are going to be struggling to find employment equal to what they left,” he continued. “They’re going to have a hard time — it’s going to be a real struggle for a lot of people, which is going to create a lot of problems for our communities and our citizens. The government is spending what it can to retrain and reposition people, but the business environment isn’t responding fast enough to absorb them.”
Russell Denver, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, said some sectors have performed better than others in 2010, and that uneven performance will likely continue in the year ahead as players in different industries respond — or don’t — to the conditions.
“It’s been a mixed bag … there is not general economic growth spread evenly among the business community. It entirely depends on what sector you’re in,” said Denver. “I’ve heard that temporary employment agencies are having a good year, and some advertising agencies are having a good year, and some architectural firms are enjoying better times.”
“Companies are becoming much more efficient, much more productive, and, interestingly, the companies that are hiring are having a difficult time finding the right person,” he continued. “People attribute this to the fact that, even a few years ago, people were willing to leave one company to go to another; now, many of the people are hunkering down, afraid to leave for another position, because the grass is not always greener on the other side, and if there’s a layoff, they may not get employed again very quickly.”

Hire Ground
Looking back on 2010, Blair said that, while it came off as predicted — rather unremarkable in terms of real growth — there were some positive developments.
At the top of that list would be the groundbreaking for the high-performance computing center, a project that has many question marks in terms of overall impact, especially with jobs, but enormous potential to spark other economic development.
“The Holyoke high-performance computing center is something that we’re looking forward to understanding, as far as the economic impact is concerned,” said Blair. “But the fact that this is happening, and with those particular players, is encouraging to say the least, and we’re optimistic that we have something to rally around in terms of that digital technology cluster, and can see what we have here.”
Movement with regard to identifying clusters and facilitating their growth was another of the bright spots in 2010, Blair continued, noting the hiring of the EDC’s first ‘manager of cluster development,’ Michael Wright (see related story, page 6).
Still another was some signs of movement on absorption of some of the vast amounts of commercial and industrial inventory now on the market, a situation that is no doubt contributing to the lack of new building in the EDC industrial parks and similar facilities across the region.
Bill Wright, president of Lym Tech Scientific, a manufacturer of cleanroom wipes, is responsible for some of that absorption. His company, which has been based in several smaller buildings at the Cabotville Industrial Park complex in Chicopee, recently acquired the 78,000-square-foot building at 2245 Westover Road that was most recently home to Engineered Polymers, and is slated to move in next month.
Wright said the move was necessitated by the need for more space and also better space — the multiple floors at Cabotville are not conducive to efficient operations — but also by confidence that the company would continue its recent growth pattern.
“I hope the economy stays on track,” said Wright. “It appears to be a jobless recovery, but we seem to have found some pockets of business that work OK for us. It’s tough to make predictions about the local economy and employment, though.”
Indeed, it is, said Jim Barrett, manager partner for the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, who hears from clients every day about the economy and how it is impacting business.
‘Cautious optimism’ was a phrase Barrett used repeatedly as he talked about 2011 and his clients’ prospects for stability, growth, and additional hiring.
“Some people are up this year, but most all business owners are thinking hard about whether they should bring back people,” he told BusinessWest. “They’re paying people overtime, things are looking up, but credit is still tight, and there are outside factors impacting specific industries, like health care reform and medical practices; there are a lot of question marks.
“With certain sectors, like manufacturers and retailers, things are looking better, but they’re not yet ready to commit a lot of capital to expansion, because they’re just not sure,” he continued, hitting on one of the variables that will certainly define progress in the year ahead: business confidence. “Some of them are, but most people are still very cautious about spending, and that includes hiring.”
Elaborating, he said many of the staffing agencies the firm represents are reporting growth in 2010, which is a good sign for the overall economy. This uptick means that, while companies might be reluctant to bring people on full-time, they are adding temporary help or paying overtime, which are big steps in the right direction (see related story, page 22).
“Some employers have people working overtime, which is always a good sign,” he said. “They’re paying OT and using temps, which is one step before actually hiring someone. Instead of hiring the staff in anticipation of the work coming, people are waiting for the work to come in, and then they’re hiring staff and they’re augmenting with temporary help or overtime.”

Watch Words
Denver said he’s also observed some improvement in various sectors. Like Barrett, he’s buoyed by the improved health of staffing agencies, but also sees rays of optimism in the growth of some marketing agencies and even architectural firms.
The former indicates that companies that have cut back on their marketing — one of the first areas to be trimmed when times are tough — are putting some dollars back in that area. As for the latter, it provides some glimmers of hope for the construction sector, one of the hardest-hit industries in the region.
Overall, Denver said 2010 was not a year of big, positive headlines in the business community, but of many important success stories. He listed the high-performance computing center, construction of Baystate Medical Center’s $251 million Hospital of the Future, more progress on the State Street corridor in Springfield and also in the South End and downtown, and the start of construction of the new data center in the old Technical High School on Elliot Street.
Many of the positive developments in 2010 were funded, or assisted, with federal stimulus money, said Denver, adding that as this pipeline dries up, which it is expected to do in the months ahead, there may be a negative impact on recovery and the rate of same.
“Government propping up the economy was the story of 2010,” he said. “And now those funds are running out. What happens without federal stimulus, or far less stimulus money, may well be the most significant story of 2011.”
Evan Plotkin knows what he would like the biggest story of the year ahead to be — more visible evidence of progress in Springfield’s central business district, a goal that has become somewhat of a passion for the president of NAI Plotkin.
While noting that the commercial real-estate market remains sluggish amid some signs of improvement, Plotkin said 2010 was a year in which downtown revitalization efforts took steps forward, through everything from the retenanting of the old federal building to the popular Art & Soles program that brought dozens of colorful, five-foot-high sneakers — and some additional vibrancy — to the downtown.
And 2011 may yield more positive developments with projects ranging from revitalization of long-dormant Union Station to ongoing efforts to bring more market-rate housing in locations such as Court Square, the Bowles Building, and others.
“I’m excited that developments like Union Station are getting to a point where people are developing those properties,” said Plotkin. “There’s been a lot of talk, and it’s been very frustrating for many years, but we’re at the end of the discussion phase, and I think we’re at the point where we’re ready to pull the trigger and get started on some of these projects.
“If we convert some of the buildings downtown into market-rate housing, and if we start to do some of these other cultural things that people have been talking about for some time,” he continued, “we’re going to start to see a whole new Springfield emerge.”

The Finish Line
If Pecoy is right, and the recession is not just technically over but really behind us, then more wives will be kicking their husbands under the table in the months ahead, urging them to move ahead with major renovation plans.
Area business owners and economic-development leaders will be looking for these and other signs — real and metaphorical — over the course of a year that seems destined to be defined by more uncertainty.
But it will be one that should, by most accounts, anyway, bring some much- anticipated improvement for a region that is still, in many ways, digging out from the Great Recession.

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

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