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Difference Makers Nominations Due Nov. 20

WESTERN MASS. — Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region? BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its eighth annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2016 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Friday, Nov. 20. Nominations can be completed online by visiting HERE and clicking ‘Our Events.’ Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region.

East of the River 5 Town Chamber Goes Independent

LONGMEADOW — The East of the River 5 Town Chamber of Commerce (ERC5) officially become an independent organization last month, following the merger of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC). The leadership of the ERC5 decided that dissolving its board and sharing its financial resources with a Springfield-based organization was not in the best interest of its membership. Instead, the 24-person board voted unanimously to maintain its independence and continue as a business association serving the towns of Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Hampden, and Ludlow. “When the ERC5 board met, all options were considered. In the end, it was clear that the businesses of our member towns needed and deserved direct representation,” said Dennis Lopata, ERC5 president. The ERC5 will continue its long-standing partnerships with the Western Mass. Economic Development Council and the newly formed SRC. For instance, the ERC5 will maintain a position on the SRC board and continue its partnership with the SRC on its three large regional events: Operation Outlook, the Beacon Hill Summit, and Super 60. Additionally, the ERC5 will hold three seats on the SRC legislative committee and offer a regional discount to its membership for those who would like to enjoy memberships with both organizations. “Our board has worked hard to strike a balance between independence and maintaining a partnership with the Springfield Regional Chamber,” said Lopata. “Although it’s important that our membership get direct representation in their respective towns, it’s also important that we continue to support efforts at the regional level. We believe our arrangement … does just that.” Added First Vice Chair Edward Zemba, “there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of the ERC5. This will be the first time in over 20 years that the ERC5 membership will have its own executive director. The membership will now have someone working exclusively on their behalf to ensure that they share in all of the benefits coming from the economic development taking place within our region.”

UMass President Praises Legislators for Funding Contracts

BOSTON — UMass President Marty Meehan praised the Massachusetts House for approving funding for UMass labor contracts when it passed a supplemental budget this week. “We appreciate the strong support that the University of Massachusetts continues to receive from the House of Representatives and commend Speaker Robert DeLeo, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey, and all members of the House for making a critical difference for the university that makes a difference in the lives of so many of our citizens,” Meehan said. The $360 million supplemental budget approved by the House includes $10.9 million in funding of labor contracts with faculty and staff working in the UMass system. “This kind of support allows us to recruit and retain faculty members who are among the very best in their fields and who make us the world-class academic and research institution that the Commonwealth deserves and needs,” Meehan added. The House action comes at a time when enrollment throughout the UMass system continues to rise, reaching a record 73,700, according to fall 2015 projections. Meanwhile, recent Thomson Reuters rankings place UMass as the 57th-most innovative university in the world, and the new World University Rankings rate UMass as the number-one public university in New England, the 24th-best public university in the U.S, and among the best universities in the world. The $10.9 million approved by the House would fully fund the first year of three-year contracts, covering 6,500 faculty and staff across the UMass system, the terms of which were prescribed by the Patrick administration. The salary increases were to have gone into effect during the 2014-15 fiscal year, but were delayed until Meehan authorized their payment last month, saying he intended to seek offsetting funding in the budget bill pending before the Legislature. The supplemental budget containing the funding for UMass now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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