Mohegan Sun Increases Projected Project Cost
PALMER — Mohegan Sun has upped the projected cost of its Palmer gambling resort to nearly $1 billion with the addition of an indoor-outdoor water park and a second hotel, making the rural project the largest in the competition for the sole Western Mass. casino license. The project will probably include indoor surfing, a lazy river feature, and an extensive series of outdoor zip lines. The new $130 million to $150 million resort component, inspired by the Pump House water park at the Jay Peak resort in Vermont, will be developed by Boston-based Finard Properties, which has also joined with Mohegan Sun to build a retail complex at the development. Plans call for the second hotel to be connected to the water park and detached from the main casino hotel. The second hotel would have about 250 rooms. Mohegan Sun is one of three prominent gambling companies in the hunt for casino development rights in Western Mass. Mohegan is competing with MGM Resorts, which has proposed a casino and entertainment complex in downtown Springfield, and Hard Rock International, which has planned a casino and hotel resort on the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield. The state Gambling Commission is expected to choose the winning project in early 2014.
Springfield Symphony Orchestra Hires New Executive Director
SPRINGFIELD — The board of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced that it has hired Audrey Szychukski as the new executive director of the SSO. Audrey Szychulski will join the SSO on Aug. 1 upon leaving her current position as executive director of the Erie Philharmonic in Erie, Pa. Szychulski fills the vacancy created in January when long-time SSO Executive Director Michael Jonnes retired. SSO President Kristina Drzal Houghton noted that, “from our first round of résumé screening, and through every subsequent step of interviewing, reference gathering, and especially after spending time with her, Audrey has consistently stood out as our most promising candidate for this critical position. The executive board and I feel that we have found the right person to help us lead the SSO through our next period of success.” SSO Musical Director Kevin Rhodes was equally positive, commenting that “I could not be more excited to be welcoming Audrey to the SSO family. She will bring an energetic blend of skill, enthusiasm, and musical knowledge to the SSO. Trained as both an arts administrator and as a musician, I am really looking forward to the synergy that Audrey and I will develop as the Springfield Symphony begins its 70th-anniversary season and we guide the orchestra into its eighth decade.” The symphony will make a further announcement and formal introduction closer to Szychulski’s official start date. Peter Salerno, acting executive director of the SSO, will continue in that capacity until Aug. 1.
REB Head Bill Ward to Step Down This Fall
SPRINGFIELD — J. William “Bill” Ward, a longtime leader in the region’s workforce-development arena and president and CEO of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County (REB), will step down from his position at the end of this year or early 2014. Ward has served in his position with the REB for 32 years and was the driving force behind the organization’s leadership and innovation in a number of workforce initiatives, including the development of one-stop career centers FutureWorks in Springfield and CareerPoint in Holyoke, which serve 20,000 job seekers annually. In a career that has been primarily focused on creating access to employment and self-sufficiency for the region’s low-income citizens, it was under Ward’s leadership that the REB established the Minority Employment Program in the 1980s. This initiative found employment for approximately 500 people a year during the program’s existence. The REB opened the first competitively bid one-stop career centers in 1992, which were recognized by the National Alliance of Business as the “One-Stop Centers of the Year.” Ward launched the Center for Youth Internships and Employment to prepare disadvantaged youth for employment, and formed the Women’s Mentoring Partnership designed to help women transition from welfare to work, matching low-income women with professional women in the business world for mentorship and support. In 1992 he founded the Literacy Volunteer Network, which trained more than 400 volunteers to tutor adult learners in English-literacy skills. The LiteracyWorks initiative formed during his tenure has coordinated various literacy initiatives in the region. Under his leadership, an early-literacy initiative, Talk/Read/Succeed, achieved local and national funding while aiming to raise the literacy skills of young children living in Springfield Public Housing centers, a requirement for future economic success. The REB under his direction started a precision-manufacturing initiative designed to replace retiring workers in the industry with the next generation of machinists by strengthening training and outreach at vocational schools in the region. Ward has been recognized for taking a leadership role in promoting community justice and in 2010 received the Human Relations Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. In 2009 BusinessWest magazine honored him as a Difference Maker for his contributions to quality of life in the Pioneer Valley. His community service and engagement include service as board president of the Assoc. of Community Living, Abilities Unlimited/Kamp for Kids, and Partners for a Healthier Community. He also serves on the board of Friends of the Homeless of Greater Springfield. The REB board of directors has established a search committee to identify the organization’s next leader, and a successor will be selected by late this year. Information on the position can be found online at www.rebhc.org.
Construction Unemployment Falls to 10.8% in May
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the summer building season underway, the nation’s construction industry added 7,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.8%, which is down from 13.2% in April and the lowest rate since October 2008, according to U.S. Labor Department. Since May 2012, the industry added 189,000 jobs, or 3.4%. Despite gains in every other construction sector, the non-residential building sector lost 2,600 jobs for the month. Year-over-year, the sector added 15,300 jobs, or 2.3%. Non-residential specialty trade contractors added 1,200 jobs in May and netted 51,600 workers, or 2.5%, since the same time last year. Heavy and civil-engineering employment rose by 3,100 jobs in May and increased by 28,600 jobs, or 3.3%, from May 2012. In contrast, the residential sector added 900 jobs for the month and 18,100 jobs, or 3.2%, during the last year. Residential specialty trade contractors added 4,600 workers for the month and 76,300 workers, or 5.2%, on a year-over-year basis. Overall, the nation added 175,000 jobs as the private sector expanded by 178,000 jobs and the public sector shrunk by 3,000 jobs.