MGM Springfield Breaks Ground on $800 Million Resort
SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts International hosted the groundbreaking of MGM Springfield — an $800 million casino resort slated to open in fall 2017 in downtown Springfield — on Tuesday. The event marked the start of the construction phase of this unique urban mixed-use development, the Commonwealth’s first destination casino resort. Hundreds of people were in attendance at the groundbreaking celebration, emceed by Kathy Tobin, former local news anchor and current director of Program Development at Friends of the Homeless. With the Zanetti School — severely damaged by the June 2011 tornado that tore through Springfield’s South End — as a backdrop, speakers highlighted the history of Springfield, the rebirth of the South End neighborhood, and the energy and optimism that is filling the region. “With every licensing milestone and every campaign victory, we have honored the potential of MGM Springfield,” said Jim Murren, MGM Resorts International chairman and CEO. “Today is even more special, though, as we put shovels in the ground to officially celebrate what we came here to do: put people back to work and begin a rebirth of the once-thriving urban center of Western Massachusetts.” The crowd, which included many state and local elected and appointed officials, gathered to hear from Murren, MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis, Mass. Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Revitalize CDC Associate Director Ethel Griffin. More than 30 construction workers representing various trades were at the site to honor the moment. Guests were treated to an interactive event, as they were asked to write their wishes for the future of the city of Springfield and Western Mass. Their wishes were then dropped into an MGM Springfield wishing well. MGM will put all the wishes into a capsule that will be placed in the resort foundation as construction begins. The outdoor event also featured a traditional first shovel of dirt as well as celebratory confetti blasts. In keeping with MGM’s commitment to engage local businesses, Springfield vendors Langone’s, AC Produce, and Palazzo provided décor and beverages. Zasco Productions of Chicopee provided the staging, risers, and sound and technical equipment. Taylor Rental of South Hadley provided additional tables and chairs. “The city of Springfield’s people welcomed us into their hearts and homes and trusted us with their hopes for the future,” Mathis said. “This property was designed with the input of residents who wanted more for their families and their community. Today is the day we start to realize that future as we activate the most robust construction site Springfield has ever seen.” 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.
WomenUpFront Launches Roundtable
SPRINGFIELD — In support of the growth and success of Pioneer Valley women presidents and the businesses they own, WomenUpFront is launching a new monthly roundtable for women business owners whose annual revenues have passed the $200,000 mark but have not quite reached $1 million. Sponsored by PeoplesBank and hosted at the Business Growth Center at Springfield Technology Park, WomenUpFront is looking for business owners from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties for this newest program, set to begin on Wednesday, April 15. WomenUpFront is bringing its successful model piloted in Berkshire County to the Pioneer Valley because there is a need to support women business owners of growing businesses. “There have been conversations over the years about starting this, but none has materialized until now,” said Cathy Crosky, founder and facilitator of WomenUpFront. “Scaling a business has its challenges, and this is a proven model that helps women business owners succeed. They really appreciate this kind of facilitated peer mentoring, too.” Joan Leahy, vice president of Marketing for PeoplesBank, said the bank “is proud to sponsor WomenUpFront and bring this important opportunity to area women business owners. As an organization that runs on innovation and collaboration, we know the benefits of mentoring, teamwork, and the free exchange of ideas. We support WomenUpFront because it will provide these entrepreneurs with many of the same opportunities and successes that we have enjoyed.” The roundtable provides a learning forum for owners to get out of the weeds of the day-to-day and look at their businesses more strategically. The objective is to help women accelerate their businesses to the next level and place their companies in a better position to access new opportunities and continue to prosper. Lasting and meaningful relationships are formed among the participants. “I’m thrilled that the Business Growth Center is hosting WomenUpFront,” said Marla Michel, director of the center. “Women business owners are focused, dedicated, and strong, and often have overcome many obstacles to get to where they are. WomenUpFront can help them learn skills and get advice in a very collegial environment to accelerate further success.” Monthly roundtable meetings will be held at the Business Growth Center the third Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon.
Tech Foundry Starts Recruiting New Class
SPRINGFIELD — Following a successful inaugural year, Tech Foundry has turned its focus to filling this year’s class of students, beginning with an open house on Wednesday, April 8 at its headquarters on the ninth floor of 1391 Main St., Springfield. The open house begins at 5:30 p.m., and prospective students and parents are encouraged to attend. In addition, the staff at Tech Foundry will be going into area schools and meeting with guidance counselors and other community influencers to drive as many applications as possible before the April 17 deadline to apply. Applications can be found at www.thetechfoundry.org. Founded by Paragus IT CEO Delcie Bean, Tech Foundry is a nonprofit education and job-placement program looking to transform underemployed and overlooked populations into a powerful and robust workforce in the information-technology field. With partners such as Mass Mutual, the Davis Foundation, UMass, and Baystate Health, it raised nearly $450,000 to get started. Tech Foundry aims to create a homegrown workforce for the many area businesses looking for tech professionals, and began the program this year with an inaugural class of high-school students. Upon completing the program and graduating high school, the goal is to place students in an entry-level IT job in the Valley in the $30,000-$40,000 salary range. In the long term, Tech Foundry aims to turn Western Mass. into a technology hub, attracting companies from all over the country to locate some of their high-tech jobs in the Pioneer Valley.
PVPC Receives Award from PolicyLink
SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), on behalf of LiveWell Springfield, is one of just six organizations across the country to receive an award from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and PolicyLink to advance affordable, accessible transportation policy. PVPC will use the funds to embed transit-equity principles into LiveWell Springfield, and will host local activities to engage, educate, and empower local leaders within communities of color to lift up the Equity Caucus agenda locally and federally. Specifically, PVPC is collaborating with Joseph Krupczynski and the Center for Design Engagement, Natalia Muñoz of Verdant Multicultural Media, and Evelín Aquino to expand the successful capacity-building sessions implemented in 2014 for emerging leaders in Springfield. (For a summary of this work, visit www.pvpc.org/content/new-video-building-skills-equity-and-engagement-planning). “When we completed our three-and-a-half-year, HUD-funded equity and engagement work last year, we knew we needed more funding to expand our capacity-building workshops,” explained Catherine Ratté, principal planner and section manager at PVPC. “Our civic-engagement goal is not just to engage individuals from under-represented groups, but also to create pathways for them into positions of power. Participation in democracy, especially from communities that are too often left out, brings important voices to the table and makes sustainable growth and development possible.” Equitable transportation investments are crucial to connecting people to jobs, educational opportunities, affordable housing, healthcare, and other basic needs. Through a coalition of more than 100 organizations, the Transportation Equity Caucus is charting a new course for transportation investments, focused on policies that advance economic and social equity in America. For more information, see www.equitycaucus.org. Live Well Springfield, a movement to promote healthy eating and active living, has been working for the last few years putting systems into action that support safe and friendly walking and biking. As part of LiveWell Springfield’s work in 2012-14, PVPC facilitated creation of the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Complete Streets Plan, implementation guide, Complete Streets policy draft, and Complete Streets buildout plan and map (www.livewellspringfield.org).
State Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.9% in February
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) released preliminary February 2015 estimates that show the Massachusetts total unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% from the January rate of 5.1%, a 0.2% decrease. Over the year, the unemployment rate fell by 1.1% from 6.0% in February 2014. The share of working-age residents employed or unemployed, also known as the labor participation rate, was 65.9%, an increase of 0.3% since January. Compared with February 2014, the labor participation rate increased a full percentage point over the year. February 2015 estimates show that 3,430,500 residents were employed and 177,300 were unemployed. Compared with February 2014, February 2015 had 34,400 fewer unemployed, the largest annual decrease in the number of unemployed since October 2011. Over the month, jobs were up 800, with a private-sector loss of 800. Since February 2014, jobs grew by 58,100, with 46,300 private-sector job gains. The sectors with the largest job gains over the year included education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services.
School Building Authority Announces Contest
BOSTON — State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, chair of the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA), and MSBA Executive Director Jack McCarthy announced the 2015 “My Ideal School” contest. The goal of the contest is to promote discussion among students and teachers about how thoughtful design and construction of schools in Massachusetts support student learning. The contest is open to all first-grade students currently attending a Massachusetts public school. Regional winners will receive a prize donated by Santander Bank. One grand-prize winner will have his or her “My Ideal School” contest picture featured on the cover of the MSBA annual report. All winners will be honored at an awards ceremony at the Massachusetts State House on May 27. Contest submissions must be postmarked by April 24 for consideration. More information can be found on the MSBA website at www.massschoolbuildings.org. The Mass. School Building Authority partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public-school facilities. Since its 2004 inception, the authority has made more than 1,500 site visits to more than 250 school districts as part of its due-diligence process, and has made more than $11.2 billion in reimbursements for school-construction projects across Massachusetts.
Most Patients Don’t Visit Nearest Emergency Room
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fewer than half of emergency-department (ED) visits are to the patient’s local emergency room, according to a new data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), FierceHealthcare reported. After analyzing data on ED visits between 2009 and 2010, Amy Brown and colleagues at the NCHS found the average visit involved an ED that was located 6.8 miles from the patient’s home, even though the nearest ED was on average only 3.9 miles from home. Overall, only 43.8% of visits were to the ED closest to the patient’s home. Researchers also looked at emergency visits within metropolitan statistical areas, which are regions that contain a core urban area with a population of 50,000 or more. Visits inside these areas were less likely than those outside to be to a different ED than the one closest to the patient’s home, according to Brown and her team. They also found that visits that took place at EDs further from patients’ homes occurred more often for older patients, at larger hospitals, and in EDs with longer waiting times within metropolitan statistical areas. Further study is needed to understand the determinants behind these statistics, Brown and her team wrote, particularly if demand for emergency care continues to increase, as it has since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.