MGM Springfield Wins Casino License
SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts International received a unanimous vote from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) approving an agreement to award MGM Springfield a license to operate a resort casino in downtown Springfield. This is the first approval of a casino license in the Commonwealth. The commission’s decision comes after an extensive, two-year process of hearings and background investigations culminating in a final week of hearings and deliberations. MGM formally announced its interest in a resort casino in Springfield in August 2012. At one time there was a field of five companies vying for the sole Western Mass. casino license. The MGM Springfield site is located on approximately 14.5 acres of land between Union and State streets, and between Columbus Avenue and Main Street. Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, called it “a great day for Springfield, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and MGM. We’re proud of what our talented team and our many dedicated city and community partners have accomplished together. We thank the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for its thorough vetting process and look forward to continuing our work with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and other Springfield and Western Mass. elected officials and governmental leaders, along with residents and businesses of Springfield and the region, as we move this project forward.” Murren was joined by MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle and MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis for the decision at the MassMutual Center. The crowd gathered included elected officials; civic, business, and community leaders; and MGM Springfield supporters. MGM Springfield, an $800 million investment, is designed to ignite an urban revival. MGM and its professional partners worked painstakingly to put together a design that celebrates the history of Springfield while moving the Gateway City into a new era of commerce and economic opportunity. The integrated resort casino is designed to enhance the entire urban center of Springfield. The mixed-used development project calls for a 25-story, 250-room hotel with world-class amenities, including a spa, pool, and roof deck; 125,000 square feet of gaming space with 3,000 slot machines, 75 gaming tables, a poker room, and a high-limit VIP gambling area; about 55,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space that will accommodate 15 shops and restaurants; and a multi-level parking garage. Plans also envision a high-energy dining, retail, and entertainment district with an eight-screen cinema, bowling alley, and outdoor stage. This will be developed by Davenport Properties of Boston, in partnership with MGM on land now occupied by the tornado-ravaged South End Community Center and Howard Street School. Michael Mathis, MGM Springfield president, said, “MGM is very grateful to the MGC and, most importantly, to our supporters. Today’s decision says yes to jobs, yes to downtown revitalization, and yes to opportunity and hope. We have been, and will continue to be, a committed partner to the city and the Commonwealth. We have worked hard to develop the strong relationships necessary to create a world-class urban casino resort proposal that will anchor a renaissance for an important gateway city and the region around it. We now look forward to that becoming a reality.” MGM Springfield will bring 3,000 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs to downtown Springfield. MGM has established a hiring goal of 35% of the workforce from the city of Springfield and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the region. Additionally, MGM Springfield has entered into surrounding-community agreements with neighboring communities providing for tens of millions of dollars. However, all casino projects in the Commonwealth still face the threat of a ballot repeal of the casino law, now that the Supreme Judicial Court has allowed the question to appear on the November ballot. Because the repeal effort hangs in the balance, the MGC and MGM entered into an agreement to award the single Category 1 (resort-casino) license available for Region B (Western Mass.) contingent on the outcome of the repeal matter. The future date allows the postponement of the licensing and related fees until the repeal question is resolved. “The City of Springfield deserves a brighter economic future,” Mathis said. “Its residents spoke loudly when they voted yes for MGM Springfield in a July 2013 referendum. A successful repeal would mean the loss of good jobs, new economic development, and a needed revenue stream. It would also eliminate the opportunity to recapture billions of dollars currently lost to neighboring states. MGM is ready to help the Commonwealth achieve these worthy goals.”
SJC Approves November Referendum on Casinos
BOSTON — On June 24, the state Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for a repeal of the state casino law in November’s election. In a unanimous vote, the SJC ruled that Attorney General Martha Coakley was wrong to reject the anti-casino ballot question last year. “We conclude that the attorney general erred in declining to certify and grant the requested relief so that the initiative may be decided by the voters at the November election,” the court said in a lengthy decision written by Justice Ralph Gants. The ruling paves the way the way for what experts predict will be a protracted — and expensive — campaign that will certainly draw significant national interest. Commenting on the court’s decision, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno stated, “I appreciate the due diligence and consideration the SJC has given to this case. Going forward, we will proceed like we did last year before our local referendum and present the facts on what this means to not only Springfield but to Western Mass. and the entire Commonwealth.” He argued that the two main keys to knocking down poverty and public-safety issues inurban America are education and jobs. “People are hungry to work. MGMSpringfield is a massive jobs-generation project. It also means $50 milliondollars in local vendor procurement opportunities and the redevelopment of the downtown area heavily affected by the June 1, 2011 tornado.” He added, “The entertainment attractions that MGM Springfield will offer to all of New England will not only bring new life and vibrancy to Western Mass., but help to repatriate over a billion dollars currently leaving Massachusetts to other resort destinations. We are prepared and optimistic that, once the voters of the Commonwealth see and hear all the facts, we will prevail.” Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, also weighed in on the decision in a preparedstatement. “MGM Resorts has spent three years collaborating and talking with the people of Western Mass. on the value of a casino resort as a unique economic-development catalyst,” he said. “We are confident that our urban revitalization project in Springfield, one of the Commonwealth’s most prominent gateway cities, is something to which all Massachusetts voters can relate. It is a comeback story in progress with hardworking people eager to grow jobs and get back to work. We are fully prepared to extend this message to a larger audience through a statewide campaign to educate the voters on the enormouseconomic benefits that would be lost to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth in a repeal.”
DevelopSpringfield Announces Grant for State Street Improvements
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced that it has awarded a $25,321 grant for facade improvements to the 886-892 State St. property owned by Lorilee I, LLC. Building tenants include the new restaurant Q Smokin’ Good Food. The grant is made possible under DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per storefront for exterior improvements to first-floor businesses located on State and Main streets in Springfield. Improvements to this space included renovations to three separate storefronts, two which were combined to create the new restaurant space. The recently awarded funds were used to revitalize and repair the existing façade and included new windows, doors, and signage. The grant is supporting a substantial investment for improvements to the building by the property owners. Q, featuring homemade southern barbeque, opened in mid-May. “We are grateful for DevelopSpringfield’s support of our façade renovations. We are a family-run business and are thrilled to bring our love of great southern barbecue to the neighborhood,” said Craig Spagnoli, Q co-owner. “We’ve already received great feedback from folks who have appreciated the visible improvements to the building and have also enjoyed our food. We serve both lunch and dinner, along with takeout, and look forward to serving this community.” The project shows a strong commitment to reinvestment and revitalization along the State Street corridor. It is also an example of initiatives recommended in the State Street Redevelopment Program and the Rebuild Springfield Plan to focus on strategic redevelopment in this area. For more information on the Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, visit www.developspringfield.com and click on ‘programs,’ or contact Jay Minkarah, DevelopSpringfield President and CEO, at (413) 209-8808 or [email protected]
Northampton Jazz Festival Seeks Additional Funding
NORTHAMPTON — Facing the loss of a major sponsorship, the founders and organizers of the fourth annual Northampton Jazz Festival are looking to the community for financial support so that September’s full slate of offerings can continue to be held free of charge. This year’s festival is slated to begin Tuesday, Sept. 2 with various events held each day of the week, leading up to the Saturday, Sept. 6 main festival event from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in downtown Northampton. Musicians on tap will include some of the “most cutting-edge players, mostly from the New York scene,” said Tom Reney, host of WFCR’s Jazz a la Mode radio show. Rick Gifford, a founding member of the board of directors, said the cost of the festival is about $35,000 per year: $15,000 for the musicians and another $20,000 in maintenance and set-up costs. This year, the festival lost an annual $10,000 sponsorship from a large corporation due to a change in its funding priorities. Gifford and fellow festival board members are hoping to close the gap with new business sponsorships as well as private donations, which they are seeking from the community at large for the first time. “We’re determined to continue to make it a free concert for participants,” Gifford said. “All of the music that is supported by our sponsors and patrons of the arts is designed to allow people of any walk of life with an interest in jazz to come to the jazz festival and not worry about buying a ticket. Northampton is all about inclusion. That is the mission of the Jazz Festival, too.” To help close the gap, organizers held a private fund-raising party on June 4 in Northampton, raising more than $3,500 and bringing the total needed down to $11,500. “Supporting the festival is supporting the vitality of the region. I am committed to do what I can to continue to keep free and open jazz alive in this Valley,” said Allen Davis, founder of the Davis Financial Group, LLC, in Hadley and a patron of the festival. Willie Hill, director of the Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst, added that “we must dig as deep as we possibly can to support jazz and pass it on to our children and the next generation, or it will die as an American art form.” Events begin Tuesday, Sept. 2 with a performance by vocalist Giacomo Gates at the Northampton Jazz Workshop at the Loft at the Clarion Hotel at 7:30 p.m. Next, Wednesday, Sept. 3 and Thursday, Sept. 4 are Jazz and Food Nights at Popcorn Noir in Easthampton and Sierra Grill in Northampton, starting at 6 p.m., and on Friday, Sept. 5, the ‘Northampton Jazz Strut’ will give music lovers a chance to explore different venues across downtown Northampton and hear a number of local and regional jazz performers. At Saturday’s signature Northampton Jazz Festival event, featured performers will include Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, the Steve Davis Quintet and the Champian Fulton Quartet, the Seamus Blake Band, FlavaEvolution, the Miro Sprague/Marty Jaffe Group, and Hendrik Meurkens/Scott Mullet with the Green Street Trio. The festival will also feature the 12-Mile Meal event (12milemeal.com), a battle between three local chefs who are given locally raised ingredients and must cook a dish on the spot with those ingredients. Participating in this year’s challenge will be Xavier Jones of Viva Fresh Pasta of Northampton, Brian Graham of Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst, and Chef Casey Douglass of Galaxy Restaurant/Lounge in Easthampton. For more information, visit northamptonjazzfestival.org or contact Gifford at (413) 582-7925. Contributions can be sent to Northampton Jazz Festival, P.O. Box 641, Northampton, MA 01060.
Massachusetts Adds 9,100 Jobs in May
BOSTON — The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary estimates show that Massachusetts added 9,100 jobs in May and the total unemployment rate dropped 0.4% from the April rate to 5.6%. Over the month, jobs were up 9,100, with private-sector jobs up 8,800. Since May 2013, Massachusetts has added a net of 49,700 jobs, with 51,300 jobs added in the private sector and 300 added in the public sector. The total unemployment rate was down 1.4% from the May 2013 rate of 7%. Not only are Massachusetts jobs above the April 2008 high point before the latest recession, they also exceed the February 2001 pre-recession job level. BLS also revised its April estimates downward to a 2,000-job loss from the 1,600-job loss previously reported for the month. Meanwhile, nationally, employers added 217,000 jobs in May, pushing total employment to 138.4 million, or slightly above the previous peak reached in January 2008 as the recession got underway, the Labor Department reported. The six-plus years it took to fully recover the jobs represent the longest unemployment slump since World War II. The unemployment rate, which held steady at 6.3% in May, remains well above the 4% to 5% levels that preceded the recession, a sign that the economy has not generated jobs quickly enough to keep up with population growth.
Advertising Club Seeks Pynchon Nominations
SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts is seeking nominations for the 99th annual William Pynchon Award, the area’s oldest community-service recognition program. Established in 1915, the award honors individuals from all walks of life who go beyond the call of duty to enhance quality of life in Western Mass. communities. Social activists, philanthropists, educators, clergy, physicians, journalists, and business leaders have received the award in years past. To nominate an individual, submit a one-page letter explaining why the nominee should be considered. Please include brief biographical information, outstanding accomplishments, examples of service to the community, organizations he or she is or has been active in, and the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of at least three people who can further attest to the nominee’s eligibility for induction into the Order of William Pynchon. All nominees will be considered and researched by the Pynchon trustees, comprised of past and present presidents of the Advertising Club. Nominations must be submitted by end of business on Friday, July 11 to: William Pynchon Trustees, Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, P.O. Box 1022, West Springfield, MA 01090, or by e-mail to [email protected] The 2014 Pynchon medalists will be announced on Friday, Sept. 12. The Pynchon awards dinner and ceremony will be held on Thursday, Nov. 20 at Chez Josef in Agawam.
Leadership Pioneer Valley Graduates Class of 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The 2014 class of Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) graduated on June 5 in ceremonies at the Smith College Conference Center. Prior to getting their certificates, the 35 participants in the 10-month program presented their accomplishments from working in six teams on issues facing the region. Each project was submitted by a local nonprofit or past LPV team. Three of the projects were continuations from prior years, and the nonprofit partners included Peace Jam of New England, STCC’s Latino Success Project, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Project topics included increasing access to higher education, attracting and retaining young professionals, publicizing regional history, engaging young people in leadership, and connecting local colleges and universities to the regional food bank. Each team offered expertise and energy to make a difference on community challenges from throughout the region. Each team project afforded experiential-learning opportunities and the chance to furthercommunity trusteeship while making a real impact in the region. Teams also had to collaborate with their partners to reach their own goals and meet the expectations of the nonprofit partners. Each participant participated in day-long monthly sessions from October until May, featuring seminar-style leadership-development sessions and hands-on field experiences in communities throughout the Pioneer Valley. Through the program, they refined their leadership skills, gained connections, and developed a greater commitment to community trusteeship and cultural competency. The culturally diverse class of 35 men and women represent nonprofit, private, educational, and public organizations throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. The 2014 graduates are: Sherill Acevedo, Baystate Medical Practices; Jasmine Amegan, Westfield State University; Kerri Bohonowicz, Community Health Center of Franklin County; Amy Britt, Tapestry Health; Ronda Carter, Health New England; Christina Casiello, MassMutual; Jenny Catuogno, Gaudreau Insurance; Tammy-Lynn Chace, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce; Eliza Crescintini, Children’s Study Home; Geoffrey Croteau, MassMutual Charter Oak Insurance & Financial Services; Nasheika Durham, YMCA of Greater Springfield; Andrew Fletcher, Holyoke Community College; Kelsey Flynn, MassMutual; Valerie Francis, Health New England; Meghan Godorov, Mount Holyoke College; Cynthia Gonzalez, Greenfield Cooperative Bank; Richard Griffin, City of Springfield’s Economic Development Department; Rachel Jones, Springfield Technical Community College; Kevin Jourdain, Sisters of Providence Health System; Diane LeBeau, Westfield State University; Yamilette Madho, Big Y Foods Inc.; Matthew Kullberg, WGBY; Rosemarie Marks-Paige, Health New England; Josiah Neiderbach, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission; Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield’s Office of Housing; Beena Pandit, MassMutual; Lee Pouliot, City of Chicopee; Jennifer Sanchez, Springfield Technical Community College; Isabel Serrazina, Springfield Housing Authority; Nicole Skelly, United Bank; Kyle Sullivan, John M. Glover Insurance; Colin Tansey, Specialty Bolt & Screw; Todd Weir, First Churches of Northampton; Christopher Whelan, Florence Savings Bank; and Jonencia Wood, Baystate Health.
State Requires Utilities to Modernize Electric Grid
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration announced that the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has issued two groundbreaking orders requiring Massachusetts electric-distribution companies to modernize the electric grid, building on the Commonwealth’s national leadership on energy efficiency and renewable energy. With these orders, Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to require electric-distribution companies to take affirmative and far-reaching steps to modernize the electric grid. “The grid-modernization order builds on Gov. Patrick’s commitment to strategic investments in innovation and infrastructure, and creates jobs,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett. “By implementing grid modernization, Massachusetts will once again be leading the nation in the clean-energy revolution and enabling customers to participate in how and when they consume energy.” The DPU’s order requires each utility to develop and implement a 10-year grid-modernization plan, to be updated regularly. The DPU determined grid modernization will provide several benefits, including empowering customers to better manage and reduce electricity costs; enhancing the reliability and resiliency of electricity service in the face of increasingly extreme weather; encouraging innovation and investment in new technology and infrastructure, strengthening the competitive electricity market; and addressing climate change and meeting clean-energy requirements by integrating more clean and renewable power, demand response, electricity storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles, and providing for increased amounts of energy efficiency. The companion order on time-varying rates recognizes that the cost of electricity changes dramatically over the course of a day and year. Currently, most customers pay a flat rate.