Opinion

Businesses Should Follow MassMutual·s Lead

While there remains some disagreement about Springfield, it’s current state of health, and its prospects for the future, there is agreement on at least one thing: that this city would be in much more trouble — truly dire straits — without its leading corporate citizen: MassMutual.

Indeed, area business leaders can often be heard referencing this line of thinking — while discussing everything from local cultural treasurers to the region’s Class A office occupancy rate — and acknowledging that they’re glad they don’t have to imagine life without ‘Mother Mutual,’ as it’s called.

We raise the point because, through a combination of current events and seasonal happenings, the depth of the company’s contributions to Springfield and the surrounding region can — or should — be truly appreciated. And we take the opportunity to say that while people can be pleased and proud that they have the corporate giant in this area code, we would be wise never to take its generosity for granted.

Scan the pages of this edition of BusinessWest, or any edition, for that matter, and one can immediately grasp the importance of this Fortune 100 company to the City of Homes and the region that surrounds it. There are prominent examples of the company’s impact on the area, such as attaching its name to the new convention center that opened last month in downtown Springfield. Without that $5 million investment, the entire project might not have moved forward, and if it had, it would not have been the same facility.

There are also many smaller, but in many ways no lessimportant, examples of the company’s generosity and civic-mindedness, such as its gift of the latest display, ‘Jurassic World,’ for Bright Nights. Meanwhile, another area attraction, the Springfield Museums, received another $95,000 grant from the company for ‘Learning Together,’ a series of educational programs for Springfield public school students.

Beyond the monetary and in-kind gifts to the community, MassMutual has also had a profound impact on the region’s real estate market, repeatedly filling large vacancies in downtown Springfield office towers, while also rescuing properties such as the former Charles River Hospital building in Chicopee, which the company converted into a meeting and training center. The latest example of the company’s influence on the office market was the recent opening of its new offices in Enfield, in the former Phoenix complex.

If there is a downside to MassMutual’s generosity, it is that this region might in some ways be too dependent on it, or, worse, that it is starting to take the company’s largesse for granted.

What we would like is for other companies, and individuals as well, to be inspired by MassMutual and to follow its lead — to the greatest degree possible.

By that, we mean that companies don’t have to fund an entire new exhibit for Bright Nights. But they should recognize the importance of that attraction to both the city and the region’s efforts to expand its tourism sector — and support the project accordingly.

Likewise, they can assist institutions like the Springfield Museums, the city’s orchestra, the community’s higher education system, and unique assets like Forest Park.

MassMutual has taken a lead role in supporting each one, and has set an example worthy of emulating.

As we said, it is a combination of news items — from the first events in the MassMutual Center to the recent open house at the Enfield facilities to the Bright Nights announcement — that remind of us how fortunate Springfield is to have a corporate citizen like this. And if you think all Fortune 500 companies are like this, you need to think again.

MassMutual’s donations are almost always large in size, but they are inspired by a fairly simple mindset: that the company does business in Springfield, it takes from the region and benefits from it — and therefore it gives back.

If every business took that same attitude, maybe we would be so dependent on MassMutual — and maybe we wouldn’t spend so much time wondering, and worrying, about what life would be like without it.

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