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Milestones In Business: Celebrating significant accomplishments

Ben Markens calls it simply the “huge business that no one knows about.”

He was referring to association management, a specific niche that the venture he started three decades ago, the one that bears his name, morphed into — and with substantial benefits for not only the company but the city of Springfield and the region as a whole.

Indeed, Springfield is now the home, meaning the physical headquarters and mailing address, for national associations representing everything from the manufacturers of cereal boxes to homeopaths.

As for the Markens Group, or TMG, as it’s called, since taking on management of the Paperboard Packaging Council in 2008, it has continued to grow its portfolio of association clients, add new members to its team of professionals, and become a great place to work — quite literally.

Indeed, TMG was recently named a ‘Great Place to Work’ by Forbes magazine in the small-business category. This is an honor that means a great deal to Ben Markens, who has always been a firm believer in the link between customer loyalty and employee satisfaction, and has managed his company in such a way that people have the chance to do their best, where their opinion matters, and where success can be shared.

This mindset is on display in the company’s reception area, decorated in part with hand-drawn portraits of TMG employees. These works of art convey the personalities of the specific team members, but also how these individuals have come together to make TMG a force within that business no one knows about.

All of this — from those portraits in the front lobby to the growing number of associations calling Springfield, Massachusetts home to the ‘Great Place to Work’ plaque — is what’s being celebrated as TMG marks a milestone: 30 years in business.

Also being celebrated are the many qualities that have made all this possible: Imagination, perseverance, teamwork, and a strong sense of community.

To explain how they got here, Ben Markens turned the clock back to early 1988, when TMG was a consulting firm focused primarily on the packaging industry and providing assistance with everything from costing to pricing to strategy.

“We helped leaders achieve their goals,” noted Markens, adding that many needed such assistance. “They didn’t get into this field because they liked packaging; they got into it because grandpa was in it, and they weren’t professionally trained managers. We tried to take them from being entrepreneurs to being leaders.”

A few decades later, these leaders were looking to TMG for a different kind of assistance, a different bundle of services.

“They were in the ditch,” said Markens, needing just a few words to get his point across, adding that the paperboard packaging industry leaders asked him to run their association.

He told them ‘no,’ noting that he had his own business to run. They went further into the ditch and repeated their request. This time, he said ‘yes,’ and essentially made running associations his business — or his new business, if you like.

Markens jokes that he still believes he invented the association-management-company model, even though he’s been told by many that it existed before TMG took over operations of the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC) in 2008.

And if he didn’t invent it, he has certainly improved upon it, recognizing that while members of an association may know their industry inside and out, they probably have little, if any, idea how to properly run an association.

So TMG manages it for them. “In the case of the PPC, there was a stunning turnaround; the association went from losing $1 million the year prior to TMG taking over management to an almost immediate turnaround, achieving financial stability through TMG and lowering dues to members.”

Results for other clients have been equally impressive, with TMG, which became an accredited association-management company in 2014, providing a large suite of services, including:

• Event Planning;
• Executive Director Services;
• Association Headquarters;
• Marketing and Communications;
• Speaker Management;
• Competition and Awards Management;
• Financial Management;
• Membership Services;
• Strategic Planning; and
• Website Design and Social Media.

Some associations need TMG to handle many of these services, while some require only a few, said Lou Kornet, vice president and chief of staff, adding that one of the company’s competitive advantages is flexibility and the ability to tailor a package of services to meet the specific needs of a client.

In short, TMG knows that one size doesn’t fit all.

TMG’s contract with the Paperboard Packaging Council stipulates that it could locate the association wherever it wanted, and Ben Markens chose his home — Western Massachusetts, and specifically, Main Street in Springfield. There are now several associations with that mailing address, and he expects that there will be many more in the years to come as word of TMG’s track record with successfully managing a host of associations spreads.

Such growth is expected because the model works, said Markens.

TMG has proven that in recent years, and as the company marks 30 years of growth and prosperity, it is poised to write exciting new chapters to its success story and add more hand-drawn portraits to the reception area.

Becoming a star performer and true leader in this huge business that no one knows about hasn’t come easily, but TMG’s way of doing business has now become a model of success — in a great many ways.

1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103
Phone: 413-686-9199 • markens.com

To feature your company, call 413-781-8600 for rate information.

Client Stories

A Trusted Advisor for Area Business


Gina Kos speaks from experience — more than 30 years of it — when she notes that one of the keys to successful management of any business or nonprofit is careful, responsible allocation of valuable resources.

“We have to make sure every dollar we have is spent wisely,” noted Kos, executive director of Chicopee-based Sunshine Village, adding that, for this reason, she carefully reviews all expenses and especially memberships in business associations, with an eye toward all-important return on investment, or ROI.

EANE President Meredith Wise, left, and Sunshine Village Executive Director Gina Kos.

EANE President Meredith Wise, left, and Sunshine Village Executive Director Gina Kos.

And those three letters explain why she’s never had to think twice about her membership with the Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE).

“Every year, when I open that invoice … I’m happy to pay it; they’re such an incredible resource and effective safeguard for the organization,” said Kos, who has spent the past 25 years leading Sunshine Village, a vibrant community where more than 400 adults with disabilities and their families come to connect, learn, contribute, and shine. “In addition to making the people we serve shine, we want to make our employees shine, and we’re able to do that with the wonderful relationship we’ve had with the Employers Association.”

Such sentiments are common among EANE members, who number more than 825 and cross all sectors of the business landscape, said Meredith Wise, long-time president of the association.

“We like to refer to ourselves as a one-stop source of valuable services for our members,” she explained, adding that, for more than a century, EANE has acted as both an extension of a member’s human-resources department and critical sounding board for decision makers. In these roles, it provides a broad range of resources and services, including:

• A host of training initiatives, including classes on such topics as “Advanced QuickBooks,” “Bullying in the Workplace,” “Employee or Independent Contractor,” “English for Speakers of Other Languages,” “Time Management for Managers,” and dozens more;

• The EANE Hotline, which provides immediate answers to questions regarding the full spectrum of human-resources, labor, and employment issues;

• Hugely popular EANE Roundtables, which provide an interactive learning opportunity and networking with peers;

• Live webinars, including the monthly “30-on-Third” Thursday series and a monthly HR Info series;

• Topical briefings on noteworthy happenings;

• HR Solutions on matters such as employee handbooks, affirmative action, and background checks; and

• A human-resources library that contains HR best practices and legal information from every state.

From left, Rick Caneschi, EANE Member Engagement Specialist; Patti D’Amaddio, Director of Strategic HR Solutions; and Kevin Matheny, Controller

From left, Rick Caneschi, EANE Member Engagement Specialist; Patti D’Amaddio, Director of Strategic HR Solutions; and Kevin Matheny, Controller

By taking full advantage of these and countless other resources and programs, area businesses and nonprofits can become employers of choice, said Wise, a critical advantage at a time when every business in every sector is challenged to find and retain top talent.

“We are that one-stop shop,” she said. “If it has anything to do with people — managing them, paying them, looking at benefits, compliance, managing them — we have the resources to help, either on staff or through the partners we work with.”

EANE Answers the Call

EANE calls it the ‘Hotline.’ Kos calls it “an affordable means for securing legal advice.” Wise notes that maybe it should be called an HR Information Line, because it’s certainly not just for emergencies.

Whatever words are used to name or describe it, the hotline is one of the most valuable and trusted services in the EANE portfolio.

More than 12,000 calls are placed each year, with callers receiving immediate answers to questions regarding issues ranging from leave-of-absence complexities to termination issues; from compensation and benefits to best practices.

From left, Michelle Depelteau, director of Human Resources at Sunshine Village; Allison Ebner, director of Member Relations for EANE; and Nichole Chilson, Human Resource Generalist.

From left, Michelle Depelteau, director of Human Resources at Sunshine Village; Allison Ebner, director of Member Relations for EANE; and Nichole Chilson, Human Resource Generalist.

Michelle Depelteau, director of Human Resources at Sunshine Village, has placed several such calls, and she sums up its value succinctly.

“The most important calls I make to the hotline come when we have a situation that’s been brewing for a while,” she explained. “And now we’re at a point where we have to make a strong decision, and we need to know, from a legal standpoint, is the road we’re heading down the one we should be on? The hotline acts as that confirmation for us.”

The hotline is just one of the many ways in which EANE provides that all-important ROI for the team at Sunshine Village. Kos offered what is just a partial list of services and programs provided by the agency:

• Compensation studies and a performance-based tool that has helped the agency to move the compensation of all employees to a “more competitive place”;

• Help to completely revise the personnel policy handbook, ensuring it is both compliant and user-friendly;

• Training; for example, EANE recently tailored a specific program for managers on leadership. “Their training has allowed us to improve how we communicate and what we communicate,” Kos explained;

• Forums of all kinds, including CEO forums, IT forums, CFO forums, and HR roundtables, where members of the Sunshine Village team have been able to engage in high-level discussions about regulations in those areas.

As Wise said, the EANE is a one-stop source for area employees, who understand that their employees are truly their most valuable asset and want to maximize that asset.

Sunshine Village turns 50 this year. This will be a celebration of many things, especially its belief that adults with disabilities can lead rich, meaningful lives, and its mission to help them do just that. The key to achieving that goal is a dedicated group of individuals working as a team.

A team that has come to rely on the Employers Association of the NorthEast to be that extension of its HR department, that critical sounding board.

And that’s why Gina Kos never hesitates when membership at EANE is up for renewal.

67 Hunt Street
PO Box 1070
Agawam, MA 01001


Client Stories

Learning Experience


As the population grows and ages, and the need for quality healthcare services grows, so too does the need for highly trained professionals to provide such care.

American International College has emerged as a regional leader in the ongoing work to not only train individuals for careers in healthcare, but fully prepare them to succeed in this ever-changing, increasingly challenging sector.

This is an assignment, or commitment, that the college approaches with a passion, a word chosen carefully by Cesarina Thompson, PhD, RN, ANEF, dean of the School of Health Sciences. It’s a passion for serving the community and for helping a diverse population of individuals — many of them first-generation college students — achieve their dreams of providing compassionate care and working on the cutting edge of medicine.

Cesarina Thompson

Cesarina Thompson

“We have a very distinctive collection of programs within the School of Health Sciences,” Thompson noted. “And they’re all under one roof, which makes us very unique.”

AIC has been adding to this roster of programs in recent years, and more additions are planned, she went on, because changing demographics and growing need for specific types of healthcare are demanding such steps — and the college is committed to meeting that demand.

“Students can come here and prepare themselves for a number of fields in health,” said Thompson, “from working with people when they’re healthy to keep them healthy, to working in the broad realm of sports, to direct, hands-on care, such as that provided by nurses and physical and occupational therapists.”

AIC’s programs include bachelor’s and master’s programs in Nursing (the nursing school was recently ranked among the top 50 in New England by Nursing Schools Almanac), a bachelor’s program in Public Health, a master’s program in Occupational Therapy, and a doctoral program in Physical Therapy.

New for this fall is an OTD (Occupational Therapy Doctorate) program, while programs in Exercise Science will be added in the fall of 2017, and a program in Athletic Training will be added in 2018.

“These are the fields that will be seeing growing demand for qualified professionals in the years to come, and advanced degrees will be needed to succeed in these fields,” Thompson noted. “AIC is committed to meeting these needs.”

And this commitment is what sets AIC apart!


A Unique Approach to Learning — Inside and Outside the Classroom

At American International College, it’s not just what students learn that’s important when it comes to preparing them for careers in healthcare — but how.

Indeed, Thompson noted that students are exposed to what she called the ‘continuum of care,’ meaning all facets of healthcare, not simply the specific field they’ve chosen, such as nursing or physical therapy.

“And this is very important,” she noted, “because, as technology advances, it is ever more important for professionals across a wide array of healthcare disciplines to communicate with one another and, yes, work with one another to provide needed care at the various stages of a patient’s life. Interprofessional work and interprofessional collaboration are a big focus today.”

At American International College, a diverse population of students is taught under one roof, with a decidedly hands-on approach to learning that enables students to learn not only the skills they will need to succeed in their chosen field, but to understand the various professional ‘languages’ used by others across the broad health spectrum.


At AIC, students across various fields are brought together in myriad ways so they can understand the continuum of healthcare, what other professionals do, and how they work with others.

“The focus is on learning what each of us does, what each person’s role is in caring for that patient, and what value each professional brings to the process of caring for a patient,” Thompson explained.

Also, healthcare providers and the populations they serve are becoming ever more diverse. AIC helps prepare individuals for this environment through an extremely diverse student population and outside-the-classroom work in one of the most diverse regions in the country.

This unique approach to learning is one of many factors that sets AIC’s programs apart and makes the school a regional leader in training the individuals who will provide quality healthcare for decades to come.

AIC is the right course for
those pursuing health careers.



Client Stories


Comfort. Professionalism. Respect.

Those are the three words, or principles, that define the care provided at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massaachusetts in Ludlow, and they make clear why this state-of-the-art facility stands apart from all others in this region.

John Hunt, MA, CCC-SLP, the new CEO of HealthSouth explains:

“The focus of inpatient rehabilitation is to increase and restore as much function as possible, and to limit the amount of care that a patient and his or her family or caregiver may need to help them return to a more-full life following a life-changing event.”

Bioness-NESS-H200-002To succeed in this mission, HealthSouth focuses on a higher level of care that is decidedly personal in nature and anything but the cookie-cutter approach that seems to define much of the inpatient rehabilitation provided today.

“We do not see our patients as a diagnosis,” Hunt explained, “but rather as a person with individual needs.”

This philosophy, which has been a defining characteristic at HealthSouth since it came to Ludlow two decades ago, explains why this facility — and the team of professionals working there — sets the standard when it comes to caring for those who have suffered stroke, traumatic brain injury, amputation, and other serious injuries and illnesses.

As an acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital, HealthSouth operates under the rigorous guidelines of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, patients and their families benefit from:

• An intensive therapy program tailored to the patient’s needs;
• A multi-disciplinary approach to the patient’s care;
• Frequent visits by rehab-trained physicians;
• Exceptionally trained therapists;
• Specialty-trained nurses;
• Weekly team conferences, family meetings,
and community outings.

“In my 30 years in rehabilitation, I have never seen a facility or a team quite like this,” said Hunt of his decision to join HealthSouth. “The pride that I see people taking each day is awe inspiring to say the least.”

That pride is the HealthSouth Difference.

And that difference is why you and your family should choose this exceptional facility for comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation.


State of the Art In Every Way

When HealthSouth decided years ago to build a new facility in Western Massachusetts, it made two fundamental decisions.

The first was to build in Ludlow, it’s home for more than 20 years. The second was to build the most advanced, most comfortable, most state-of-art facility of its kind in this region.

To say HealthSouth has succeeded in that mission would be an understatement.

Everything about this facility, built at the historic Ludlow Mills site in the center of this community, is not only state-of-the-art and LEED-Gold certified, but truly patient-focused and patient-friendly.

“That’s how you build a first-class facility, which is what we have done here,” said Hunt. “You focus on the patient and their family, and you never lose that focus. If you’re always thinking about the patients and their specific wants and needs, then you can build a rehabilitation hospital that stands apart.”


The ‘new’ HealthSouth does that, in many ways. Here are just a few examples:

• Private rooms. Each patient at HealthSouth gets his or her own room, something no other facility in this region provides. This assures respect and privacy, keys to an individual being comfortable as they recover from injury or illness;
• Private, large bathrooms equipped with showers;
• A large gymnasium equipped with the latest equipment designed to help speed one’s recovery from illness or injury and build self-esteem;
• A courtyard that acts as a park and therapeutic area featuring stairs, inclines, and a variety of surfaces — from gravel to sand — that patients with mobility issues will face when they return home.


In all these ways, and many more, the new HealthSouth represents the future of rehabilitation care — only it is available now.

However, a state-of-art facility is only part of the story.

“You can have the most beautiful building in the world, but if you don’t have the best nurses, the best therapists, and the best doctors, it doesn’t make a difference,” Hunt explained. “We have incredibly talented and versatile therapists, nurses, and physicians. This building lends itself to a great patient experience.”

And this is another big reason why you should choose HealthSouth.