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Leadership 2016 Lauds 22 Graduates

SPRINGFIELD — Twenty-two business professionals graduated from the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Leadership 2016 in a ceremony on April 14 at the Springfield Sheraton. Sponsored by the MassMutual Financial Group with scholarship support from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, the program is a collaboration between the Springfield Regional Chamber and Western New England University to teach middle- and upper-level managers the crucial thinking and problem-solving skills needed to prepare participants to be effective leaders in service to the community and their workplaces. This year’s program, “Leadership Skills: For Personal, Organizational, and Community Development,” included an emphasis on strategies and techniques designed to create high-energy and high-involvement leadership, focusing on problem solving, learning to ask the right questions, and implementing creative and innovative solutions for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. “Notwithstanding the learning component, the Leadership program is unique in that it brings together people from different business backgrounds, providing an opportunity to view the various learning topics from different points of view, giving participants a greater appreciation of the lessons,” said 2016 graduate Youssef Fadel of New England Promotional Marketing. “The setting is casual and friendly, making it conducive to developing an atmosphere where one wants to learn and observe. You get to appreciate many aspects of leadership and come out with a specific plan for your own leadership journey. You can use what you learned in your professional, volunteer, or personal life.” Working alongside Western New England University professors, participants actively explored best practices of leaders; analyzed their own leadership, learning, and problem-solving styles; were challenged to think in new ways and to analyze their own strengths and organizational challenges within a dynamic economy; and explored task and interpersonal focus, negotiation orientation, and emotional intelligence, supplemented by self-diagnostics, experiential activities, and case studies. “The Leadership Institute offers a wonderful refresher on various leadership frameworks such as planning and problem solving. It helps you to stretch your mind to explore ways you can use your influence to help others. If you get the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Institute, I highly recommend it,” said 2016 graduate Gillian Palmer, business development and group sales coordinator with the Eastern States Exposition. Sessions included “Each Person’s Behavior Makes Perfectly Good Sense to Them: We Are All Different,” which explored how individuals differ in the ways they learn, communicate, lead, and follow, and “Leadership Who Get Things Done: The Power of Influence,” which focused on influence skills such as reading other people and adapting the message so it will be better-understood, understanding the six universal forms of influence, and developing political savvy. Since 1982, more than 900 area leaders have graduated from the institute. “TD Bank’s focus on continued development of our rising talent goes hand in hand with the goals of the Leadership program,” said Christine Moran, senior vice president and market commercial credit manager for TD Bank, who has sponsored many of these area leaders. “Year over year, we have seen our employees develop increased confidence and gain negotiation and influential skills to become stronger team members. These accomplishments keep us committed to the program, as we continually grow our next generation of leaders.” Members of this year’s class include: Bill Raimondi and Christopher Savenko, Baystate Health; Sean Nimmons, Big Y Foods Inc.; Gillian Palmer, Eastern States Exposition; Abby Getman, Food Bank of Western Mass.; Mahera Chiarizio, Ryan Howard, Terri Lombardo, Naida Lopez, and Shawn Teece, HCS Headstart Inc.; Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, Healing Racism Institute of the Pioneer Valley; Steven Facchetti and Tina Whitney, MassMutual Financial Group; Melissa Nelson, Medvest LLC (Doctors Express); Youssef Fadel, New England Promotional Marketing; Latora Godbolt, Ormsby Insurance Agency; Vickie Dempesy, Shriners Hospital for Children; Michael Ehmke and Christopher Scott, TD Bank; Julie Fregeau, the Republican; Marlene Johnson, United Personnel; and Mike Murray, Western New England University.

Employer Confidence Strengthens in March

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers grew more confident during March as turbulence in China and other key global markets subsided. At the same time, a significant gap has developed between the bullish outlook of service companies and a less optimistic view among manufacturers that is also reflective of national developments. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 1.4 points to 56.5 last month, its highest level since November and well above the 50 mark that denotes a positive economic outlook. The index for service companies and other non-manufacturers increased to 61.3, while the manufacturing index fell to 54.8, down 7.1 points from its level in March 2015. The results come a week after the state announced that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% during February and that employers added 14,400 jobs during the first two months of the year. “The good news is that the Massachusetts and U.S. economies have proven remarkably resilient in the face of weak growth globally that unsettled financial markets at the beginning of the year,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “What happens next? Employers here in Massachusetts appear to be generally optimistic about their prospects during the next six months, though the outlook among manufacturers remains muted by global uncertainty, weakening corporate earnings, the strength of the dollar, and rising credit risk.” The AIM Business Confidence Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative.

Law Reduces Barriers for People Convicted of Drug Offenses

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed bipartisan legislation passed unanimously by both branches of the Legislature to ease the transition for those convicted of drug offenses to re-enter society, hold employment, and care for their families by repealing the automatic suspension of drivers licenses and a subsequent $500 reinstatement fee for all drug convictions. “As the Commonwealth takes important steps to battle substance abuse and re-examine our criminal-justice system, I am pleased to sign legislation providing opportunities for those convicted of drug offenses and who have served their time to re-enter society, find and keep a job, and support their families,” Baker said. “Removing this significant barrier to re-entry reduces the prospects of recidivism as individuals continue treatment or recovery and gives them a better chance at getting back on their feet.” The legislation provides certain exceptions for drug-trafficking convictions and takes effect immediately. “We are proud to support this legislation that would ensure those who have paid their debts to society for drug offenses have the means to be productive citizens, capable of supporting themselves and their loved ones,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “I’m proud of our administration’s efforts and collaboration with the Legislature to counter opioid addiction, and ending the automatic license suspension is a reform that will help put people on a path that keeps them out of our criminal-justice system.”

Meehan Praises Baker, Legislature for Backing UMass Funding

BOSTON — UMass President Marty Meehan praised Gov. Baker and the state Legislature for approving funding to the system. “The support we are receiving from Gov. Charlie Baker and from the House and Senate will help to fuel our progress and success — and will have a real impact on the Commonwealth’s future,” Meehan said. A $158 million supplemental budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor includes $10.9 million for UMass. The funding, which relates to labor contracts, will be used for workforce purposes and will also fund $7 million in student scholarships, in addition to aiding the university’s overall pursuit of quality and excellence. Meehan praised Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, saying, “I am grateful to our state leaders for their commitment to UMass and to the cause of high-quality public higher education — a cause that is so critical to the Commonwealth and its citizens and will remain so for generations to come.” The Legislature’s action comes at a time when UMass is enjoying successes on many fronts, with its endowment, enrollment, and research output reaching record levels. Additionally, UMass has been named the top public university in New England, one of the best 20 public universities in the nation, and among the top 100 in the world, according to the 2015 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.

Springfield Named Among Best Cities for African-Americans

SPRINGFIELD — The City of Springfield has been named one of the “10 Best Cities for African-Americans, 2016” by Livability.com. The cities were selected based on basic indicators of livability including cost of living, healthcare availability, economic equality, commute time, access to parks, and safety. Editors looked for cities with higher-than-average and growing African-American populations, and where they are succeeding in terms of income, academic achievement, and home ownership.
Springfield is cited for its diverse economy and recovery from the financial recession of 2008, as well as ongoing economic development. Also noted are the strong presence of corporate headquarters, which offer employment opportunities and commitments to workforce diversity. Local nonprofit organizations are noted for leveling the educational and economic playing field for African-Americans through after-school programs for children, mentoring, housing, and parenting-skills training.
Livability.com notes that African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to stress the importance of a college education, and Springfield and the surrounding area is home to more than two dozen colleges and universities.
“In this age of reality TV, where negativity sells with some media outlets, especially in how they depict our urban American cities, it’s nice to know that our Springfield does and will continue to make good lists, too,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said. “We’ve always believed there is plenty of good that our diverse city has to offer.”

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