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Company Notebook

Big E Breaks Attendance Record with 1.63 Million Guests

WEST SPRINGFIELD — A record number of visitors attended the 2019 Big E, breaking the Fair’s all-time high attendance figure, with a final tally of 1,629,527. The previous record, of 1,543,470, was set in 2018. During the fair’s run, the all-time ingle-day attendance record was also broken when 176,544 visitors attended on Saturday, Sept. 21. Five additional daily attendance records were set: Sept. 19, 85,698; Sept. 21, 176,544; Sept. 25, 89,124; Sept. 27, 112,988 and Sept. 28, 173,112. “As our event continues to grow, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we receive, and I want to thank everyone in this region who supports us by attending the Big E,” said Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition. “Your support allows our mission of agriculture and education to thrive, to grow, and to have a national impact.”

Bay Path Receives $5M Bequest, Largest in University’s History

LONGMEADOW — Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president for Development and Planned Giving at Bay Path University, announced that an anonymous donor has made a transformational gift of $5 million through planned giving. The bequest is the largest individual contribution to Bay Path in its history, and honors the donor’s unwavering commitment to the education and advancement of women. Under the terms of the bequest, a fund will be established to support scholarships, endowed faculty chairs, science and technology equipment, and development programs. “I speak on behalf of the entire Bay Path community that we are grateful for this generous bequest given in support of our mission,” said President Carol Leary. “Our benefactor has a strong belief in higher education and is an inspiration for all. Over the years, this person has also contributed to our annual One America trip for students, underwritten Labster — the online virtual laboratory program integrated within the science curriculum at the American Women’s College — and has supported many other initiatives. Our patron has been a champion for women.” A passionate advocate for women’s education, the donor believes strongly that education is the key to creating opportunities and providing career pathways for women at all ages and stages of their lives, and is particularly supportive of the American Women’s College, the first all-women online bachelor’s degree program in the country, Leary added.

Eversource Donates $2,500 to Fund MHA Support Groups for Veterans, LGBTQ Community

SPRINGFIELD — Eversource, New England’s largest energy-delivery company, presented a check for $2,500 to the Mental Health Assoc. (MHA) to fund access for military veterans and members of the LGBTQ community to support groups at MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health & Wellness Center. According to Sara Kendall, vice president of Clinical Operations for MHA, community members and friends can help individuals in a number of ways, but the support provided by a group of people who have had similar experiences is even more powerful. “Through shared experience, a veteran support group helps its members build a healthy, positive lifestyle through participating and understanding,” she said. “Being part of a clinician-facilitated group can help veterans work to overcome obstacles, build working relationships, and support individuals as they learn to self-navigate in the community. The benefits of support groups for individuals who identify as LGBTQ include feeling less lonely, isolated, or judged; gaining a sense of empowerment and control; improving coping skills and sense of adjustment; talking openly and honestly about their feelings; and reducing distress, depression, or anxiety.” For more information on these new support groups, call (844) MHA-WELL.

STCC Awarded $500,000 to Enhance Two Programs

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will apply $500,000 in state funding to enhance programs in health science and electrical engineering technology and better prepare students who are planning careers in these growing industries. Called the Skills Capital Grant, the funding allows STCC to acquire the newest technologies to educate students and expand career education opportunities. STCC will use the grant to boost the two programs by acquiring new medical patient-simulation training equipment, which allows a larger number of students to enroll in the health science program; and robotic arms for the electrical engineering technology program, which will provide hands-on experience on equipment students will encounter in advanced manufacturing facilities. STCC President John Cook said the investment in the programs will help fill a regional demand for trained workers in the fields of healthcare and electrical engineering technology. Christopher Scott, dean of the School of Health & Patient Simulation, noted that the grant will be used for equipment that directly helps students prepare for careers in the healthcare field. Rick Jagodowski, chair of the electrical engineering technology program at STCC, added that the grant will allow his department to provide students experience and training with robots commonly found in the fields of advanced and automated manufacturing.

PeoplesBank Named a ‘Top Corporate Charitable Contributor’

HOLYOKE — The Boston Business Journal has announced the region’s Top Corporate Charitable Contributors, and, for the 12th year in a row, PeoplesBank is among the companies included. Also this month, the bank has been named Best Local Bank for the seventh year and Best Mortgage Lender for the eighth year in the annual Reader Raves survey conducted by the Republican and MassLive. Through the bank’s Community Care Program, it has contributed millions of dollars to local nonprofit organizations that provide services to the residents of Hampden and Hampshire counties. In addition, associates devote an average of 10,000 hours to volunteer work each year to help local schools, teach financial-education classes, clean up parks, plant trees, and help revitalize neighborhoods. The Boston Business Journal’s Top Corporate Charitable Contributors list is composed of companies that gave at least $100,000 to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. PeoplesBank will be honored at the annual Reader Raves banquet presented by the Republican and MassLive at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

CDC Designates UMass Amherst a Flu Forecasting Center Of Excellence

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst biostatistician will receive up to $3 million in funding over the next five years from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to operate a UMass-based CDC Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, one of two in the nation. Nicholas Reich, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, whose flu-forecasting collaborative has produced some of the world’s most accurate models in recent years, leads a team that will work closely with the CDC, identifying new methods and data sources to sharpen the accuracy and improve communication of seasonal and pandemic flu forecasts. “We know there are a lot of groups that have done trailblazing work in this field, so it’s really a great honor to be selected,” Reich said. A research group from Carnegie Mellon University, led by Roni Rosenfeld, was chosen as the other CDC Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence. Rosenfeld’s group has collaborated closely with the Reich Lab at UMass Amherst as part of the FluSight Network, a multi-disciplinary consortium of flu-forecasting teams. Improving the precision of infectious disease forecasting is life-saving work. These new predictive tools could more effectively target the public-health response to a potential flu outbreak, helping to determine the timing for flu-vaccine campaigns, potential school closures, and travel restrictions, as well as the allocation of medical supplies and antiviral medications. They could also help hospitals make the most efficient staffing decisions. Reich is aiming to communicate more accessible and user-friendly information to the public, perhaps via a smartphone app. The UMass Amherst Center of Excellence includes collaborators Evan Ray, assistant professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Mount Holyoke College, who completed postdoctoral research at the Reich Lab; Caitlin Rivers, senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Anna Thorner, an infectious-disease specialist and the leader of the biosurveillance research team at UpToDate, an online clinical decision support resource; and BioFire and Quidel, two industry companies that run diagnostic tests for respiratory viruses. The companies serve as data providers for the UMass Center of Excellence, sharing anonymized test results from across the nation. In recent years, flu forecasters have been spreading a wide net for their models, using Google search trends, HealthTweets, and other non-traditional sources of information. Reich’s group uses ensemble methodology, incorporating 21 models in an open platform that shares data and coding to maximize forecasting capabilities. “Pooling the strength of many models together, collaboratively with multiple teams, results in a more consistent and more accurate forecast,” he explained.

Palm Beach Capital Invests in J. Polep Distribution Services

CHICOPEE — Palm Beach Capital Fund III, LP, through one of its investment entities, announced it has made an investment in Consumer Products Distributors, LLC (d/b/a J. Polep Distribution Services) and Rachael’s Food, LLC, collectively one of the nation’s largest full-line wholesale distributors to the convenience- and grocery-store industry. Financial terms were not disclosed. J. Polep has been in the distribution business for more than 120 year, and over the past several years, the company has expanded product lines to include fresh sandwiches, salads, and grocery items and has added programs and value-added services to better service the convenience-store retailer. The success of the company can be attributed to product diversification, dedicated employees, a loyal customer base, and a commitment to superior customer service, said Eric Polep, president and CEO. Mike Schmickle, partner at Palm Beach Capital, noted that his company’s strategy is to invest in solid management teams and assist them in their long-term strategic growth plans.

Company Notebook

UMass Amherst Ranks 24th in U.S. News Rankings

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has climbed into the top 25 of the nation’s premier public universities, coming in 24th among the approximately 130 public institutions ranked in the “Best Colleges 2020” guide published by U.S. News & World Report. The Commonwealth’s flagship campus moved up two slots this year. With student success, graduation rates, and other key metrics on the rise, the university continued its ascent as one of the fastest-rising, top-tier public-research universities in the country, advancing from 52nd in 2010 to 24th in 2020. For six years running, UMass Amherst has been ranked in the top 30 public universities. UMass Amherst also ranks 64th in the U.S. News & World Report Best National Universities category, moving up six places from last year’s rankings among 312 public and private institutions rated by U.S. News. The U.S. News rankings are based on a variety of weighted factors: graduation rate, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, graduation and retention rates, social mobility, alumni giving, financial resources, student selectivity, and high-school counselor ratings.

 

UMassFive Voted Best Credit Union in Poll

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union has once again been honored with the title of Best Credit Union in the Valley Advocate’s annual reader voting poll, extending its streak in the number-one position to 13 years in a row. The credit union was also favored in multiple categories in the Hampshire Gazette’s Reader’s Choice poll, where it took home the titles of Best Credit Union for the sixth year in a row, the Best Place to Get an Auto Loan, and Best Financial Planning. Jon Reske, vice president of Marketing, attributes UMassFive’s success in the polls to a company culture centered on personalized experience that has created a loyal community of members.

Hampshire College to Reinvent Its Academic Program This Fall

AMHERST — Hampshire College announced a major effort to reinvent its pioneering academic program, engaging its campus community and 12,000 alumni in ongoing meetings this fall and promising to publish a plan by November. The initiative, called Hampshire Launch, marks the college’s 50th anniversary next year and the launch of its second half-century. The effort is led by President Ed Wingenbach and supported by a campus planning group, who are facilitating weekly meetings with students, faculty, and staff, as well as virtual meetings with alumni. The intensive community discussions will lead to board of trustees action on a plan in October. The college is exploring new academic and financial models as it creates a vision and roadmap for its future, an effort critical to its admissions recruiting and fundraising. The goal is to produce an inspiring, realistic plan, which also exemplifies its identity and reputation as an experimenting college and presents a model for others in higher education. The academic plan will be accompanied by a sustainable financial plan.

Third Delaney’s Market Opens in Wilbraham

WILBRAHAM — The third Delaney’s Market store opened on Tuesday at 2030 Boston Road, Wilbraham. Delaney’s Market is a retail store that features chef-inspired meals that are fresh and ready to serve with little effort. It also features a selection of wine and craft beers. Delaney’s Market strives to assist the busy individual or family that wants to eat a quality lunch or dinner at their home or office without the hassle of long prep times and/or high costs. The first Delaney’s Markey store opened in 2016 at the Longmeadow Shops in Longmeadow. The Springfield location opened just two months ago downtown on Main Street. One more store will open later this year in Westfield.

Elms College Ranks Highly in Northern Region, Social Mobility

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top half of schools in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of Best Regional Universities (North). Elms College improved significantly in the 2020 rankings, moving to 86th among regional universities in the northern U.S. region, up from 99th in 2019. Elms College also was named in the top 20% (37th) among Regional Universities (North) in a new category, Top Performers on Social Mobility, which ranks schools for enrolling and graduating large proportions of students who have received federal Pell Grants. U.S. News ranks Elms College as a university because of changes to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s basic classification system and the number of graduate programs Elms offers. The Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in U.S. higher education.

Springfield College Earns Top-20 Ranking from U.S. News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College has advanced into the top 20 in its category in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. In the Best Regional Universities – North category, Springfield College is ranked 19th. This year’s position represents a continuing rise in the rankings for Springfield College over the last 10 years. The college’s overall Best Colleges score has increased each year since the 2011 rankings. Also, Springfield College has moved up in the rankings in nine of the last 10 years, including jumping up nine spots from last year. The college has moved up 48 spots from its ranking in 2011. The college’s constant ranking in the top tier in its category is spurred by improved graduation rates and improved retention of first-year students. The ratings are based on such variables as peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, class size, alumni giving, and student-faculty ratio. Springfield College was also ranked 15th in its category of the U.S. News Best Values rankings that showcase colleges with high quality and a lower cost, up four spots from last year. This is the fourth consecutive year that Springfield College has been listed in the Best Values category, which takes into account a college’s academic quality and net cost of attendance. Springfield College was also ranked once again in the U.S. News A+ Schools for B Students category. Colleges in this category have strong ratings and accept a significant number of students with non-stratospheric transcripts.

Country Bank Recognized for Charitable Giving

WARE — Each year, the Boston Business Journal celebrates Massachusetts corporations and nonprofits for their contributions in giving back to communities in Massachusetts. During this year’s celebration held on Sept. 5, Country Bank was recognized as one of the Top Charitable Contributors in 2019 and received a Corporate Citizenship Award. A total of 105 companies were recognized during the evening; Country Bank ranked 62nd with total donations of $1 million to various nonprofits within the region. Country Bank employs 235 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2018, staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering more than 1,100 hours in community service.

UMass Amherst Startup a Winner in Technology Transfer Contest

AMHERST — Ernest Pharmaceuticals, a startup venture based at UMass Amherst’s Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS), is one of four companies to win $2,500 from the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) in a business-pitch poster competition in Boston. This recognizes the groundbreaking young biotech firm as it brings its research on programmed bacteria that deliver anti-cancer treatment to tumors from lab to market. Ernest Pharmaceuticals CEO and bioengineer Nele Van Dessel presented the poster at MTTC’s 12th annual Massachusetts Life Sciences Innovation Day; the company was one among 30 vying for four prizes. She said she and co-founder Neil Forbes, a professor of Chemical Engineering at UMass Amherst, believe the company’s association with IALS has been a crucial factor in its steady success. Van Dessel, who earned a Ph.D. in bioengineering at home in Belgium, came to UMass Amherst looking specifically for Forbes after she read all his published papers on what she calls his unconventional but effective use of Salmonella bacteria to deliver cancer-busting compounds to kill metastatic breast cancer tumors from inside. Forbes named the company after his grandfather Ernest, who died of prostate cancer. Since co-founding Ernest Pharmaceuticals with Forbes, Van Dessel has talked with a large number of oncologists to learn where the greatest need is in cancer treatment today, in particular which metastatic diseases are the hardest to treat. In this way, she and Forbes identified an urgent need for new tools to treat metastatic liver, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. Also benefiting from the UMass Amherst – IALS Business Innovation Fellows program, Ernest and three other campus startups received Small Business Innovation Research phase I grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health in 2018, bringing them into this year with significant funding.

United Way of Pioneer Valley Announces Thrive To Go!

SPRINGFIELD — The United Way of Pioneer Valley announced the expansion of its successful Thrive Financial Success Centers with Thrive to Go!, a mobile version of the same one-on-one financial coaching that has been available in Holyoke, Westfield, and Springfield. This free program served 585 low- to moderate-income residents of Hampden County last year and, with Thrive to Go!, aims to reach even more residents in a wider area within the United Way service footprint. At Thrive, the client works one-on-one with a financial coach, who offers assistance with setting financial goals, opening bank accounts, budgeting, building credit and credit repair, reviewing credit reports, debt reduction, building assets, referrals to social services, and assistance with income-support applications. Thrive provides services in a bundled, sequential manner so that clients can build on their knowledge for their future successes and goal completion.

Company Notebook

Springfield College Criminal Justice Program Partners with Secret Service

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Criminal Justice program recently agreed to a partnership with the U.S. Secret Service to identify and guide first-year students and sophomores toward a career with the Secret Service. Led by John Mazza, U.S. Secret Service senior special agent; and Raj Karira, U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge of talent and employee acquisition and global recruiting, the agents will meet with individuals and small groups of students during the academic year offering guidance and support so students can navigate the application and hiring process. Both Mazza and Karira visited Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Gary Berte’s Introduction to Criminal Justice class during the spring semester to meet with students and answer any questions they had regarding a career with the Secret Service. Mazza is a former recruit officer for Berte, and Mazza gained his emergency medical services management training at Springfield College. Springfield College Criminal Justice program graduates are prepared for graduate school or careers in national, state, and local government, law enforcement, and community mediation.

Greenfield Cooperative Bank Offers Equity-building Assistance to Homebuyers

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Cooperative Bank and its Northampton Cooperative Bank Division has been selected to participate in the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Equity Builder Program, which assists local homebuyers with down-payment and closing costs as well as homebuyer counseling and rehabilitation assistance. The $3.6 million program provides grants to financial institutions to assist households at or below 80% of the area median income. Borrowers are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in assistance on a first-come, first-served basis. Buyers must also complete a homebuyer-counseling program. Greenfield Cooperative Bank is eligible to receive up to $150,000 in 2019 through the Equity Builder Program depending on availability of funds. Since 2003, the Equity Builder Program has awarded more than $38.8 million in funds, assisting 3,512 income-eligible households to purchase a home. Credit approval and other conditions apply. For more information, contact Greenfield Cooperative Bank’s Residential Loan Origination Department at (413) 772-5000, ext. 490.

Florence Bank Recognizes 11 Individuals for Service, Gives $5,500 to Nonprofits

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently announced its 11 Community Champions for 2019. As part of its Community Champions Sweepstakes program, the bank offered each of the 11 champions a $500 grant to be donated to a nonprofit of their choice. In all, 218 nominations were cast at Florence Bank’s 11 branches for 11 champions, and Florence Bank granted a total of $5,500 to 11 nonprofits in Hampshire and Hampden counties, and beyond. As part of the sweepstakes, customers in each branch were invited to cast one vote in their neighborhood branch for a person in their community who goes above and beyond to ensure that residents are safe, healthy, and happy. Voting took place from April 15 through May 6. Winners were selected at random from all the nominees in each branch. The winners had the privilege of selecting an area nonprofit to receive a $500 grant. The 11 branch champions and the nonprofits they chose to support with the $500 grant are: Springfield: Myles Callender, Revitalize Community Development Corp.; West Springfield: Allen Howard, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield; Granby: Gayle Bradley, LukeStronger Inc.; Belchertown: Jim Phaneuf, the Jimmy Fund; Amherst: Naz Mohamed, who split the award evenly between Amherst Community Connections, Amherst Survival Center, and the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership; Hadley, Gary Glenn, Newman Catholic Center at UMass Amherst; King Street, Northampton: Jane Lyons, Friends of Children; downtown Northampton: Diane Porcella, Northampton Neighbors; Easthampton: Robin Bialecki, Easthampton Community Center; Florence: Jacob Fine, Pioneer Valley Workers Center; and Williamsburg: Sue Labrie, Goshen Firefighters Assoc.

Revenues at MGM Springfield Rise in May

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield reported an uptick in total gambling revenues in May, taking in $22,285,565.57, compared to $21,818,086.34 in April. The past three months were the casino’s three best, revenue-wise, since September 2018, its first full month of operations.

Of the May revenues, $6,182,892 came from table games and $16,102,673 from slot machines. “We continue to be pleased with our performance. We’re capturing market share and growing loyalty,” President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Mathis said. “May was an especially rewarding month for us.”

Berkshire Bank Packages More Than 50,000 Meals for Rise Against Hunger

WESTFIELD — Berkshire Bank employees recently came together to package more than 50,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger, to be sent to nations where starvation is a key concern. The donation was a part of the bank’s annual Xtraordinary Day of Service, where the bank closes its offices early to empower employees to volunteer in their local communities. The event is in its fourth year. The volunteer work for Rise Against Hunger was one of 37 projects completed as a part of Xtraordinary Day. More than 90% of Berkshire Bank’s workforce participated in the event, totaling more than 6,000 hours of volunteer work in a single day throughout the bank’s footprint.

Company Notebook

UMass Ranks Among Best in World for Patents Awarded

BOSTON — Solidifying its reputation as a world-class research and innovation leader, UMass ranks 37th on the “Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Patents in 2018” list released by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and the Intellectual Property Owners Assoc. (IPO). This is the sixth consecutive year UMass has landed on the prestigious list, and the university rose eight places in this year’s rankings. With 58 patents awarded in calendar year 2018, UMass ranks first among public universities in New England, third overall in New England, and 30th overall in the U.S. “These rankings reflect the significance and the entrepreneurial opportunity of the research enterprise at UMass,” President Marty Meehan said. “Every day, our renowned faculty are unlocking new discoveries and creating new intellectual property with the possibility of creating new products and companies right here in Massachusetts.” In addition to patent awards, UMass filed 203 invention disclosures, executed 32 licensing deals, and launched eight startup companies in fiscal year 2018. “These 58 patents, and the jump in our ranking, are an excellent indicator of the strength of our entrepreneurial activity,” said Katie Stebbins, vice president for Economic Development in the UMass President’s Office. “What these numbers show is that UMass is one of the best in the world at developing world-class research and delivering it to the marketplace.” UMass is the fourth-largest research university in New England, with more than $650 million in annual research and development. Founded in 2010, the NAI is a nonprofit organization of universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions with more than 4,000 members. The IPO is a trade association of owners of patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets founded in 1972. The NAI and IPO have published the “Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Patents” report annually since 2013. Rankings are compiled by calculating the number of utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which list a university as the first assignee on the issued patent.

The University of Massachusetts also ranked 71st on the Reuters list of the “World’s Most Innovative Universities.” The Reuters ranking highlights the educational institutions doing the most to “advance science, invent new technologies, and help drive the global economy.”

Baystate Medical Center Awarded $3,949,912 from Mass. Life Sciences Center

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Medical Center has been awarded $3,949,912 in grant funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) in a competitive program designed to sustain the Commonwealth’s competitive edge in advancing human health. “This support will expand our capacity to perform efficient and compliant clinical trials by building a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) at Baystate Medical Center, speed medical advances, and make novel treatments available to our diverse patient population,” said Dr. Peter Friedmann, chief Research officer for Baystate Health and associate dean for Research at UMass Medical School – Baystate. Baystate is among 11 hospitals, colleges, and other institutions to receive a total of $30.95 million in capital-grant funding to support the state’s global leadership in the life-sciences sector. There were 45 applications. The funding, provided through the MLSC’s Competitive Capital Program, is designed to support advances in human health, accelerate innovation in the areas of clinical and translational research, and expand the capacity of life-sciences development and job growth across the Commonwealth. The MLSC’s Competitive Capital Program invests capital dollars through a competitive process in high-potential economic-development projects that promise to make significant contributions to the state’s life-sciences ecosystem. The program aims to address funding gaps in capital dollars, industry support, and federal funding for educational institutions, incubators, research institutions, and workforce-training programs, while also catalyzing private and philanthropic investment to match state investment and preparing the life-sciences workforce of the future.

Springfield College School of Social Work Participates in Study Abroad in Romania

SPRINGFIELD — For the second consecutive year, Springfield College School of Social Work Professor Karen Clark-Hoey is leading a short-term study-abroad program in Romania, where she had lived and worked under Peace Corps and Fulbright from 1994 to 1997. Clark-Hoey will travel with 17 social work students from the Springfield and Worcester campuses for experiential learning on the study of social work in Romania more than 25 years after inception. “This trip is an opportunity for our students to learn firsthand from the social-work educators who first launched the profession in the early years following Romania’s 50 years of communism, and for them to gain an understanding of what it took to build systems of care for vulnerable populations across the practice spectrum where none had existed before,” Clark-Hoey said. The visitors will be working with the Department of Social Work at Babes-Bolyai University, where they will receive instruction from faculty, meet and share experiences with Romanian social work students, and make site visits to various agencies. Along with the experiential learning opportunities, the group will enjoy cultural experiences, including a visit to forests and castles deep in the region of Transylvania, a visit to Bridal Veil Falls, and participation with Outward Bound Romania, a nonprofit organization specializing in outdoor activities, both educational and recreational, that was founded in 1993 as an independent member of the internationally recognized Outward Bound International.

Ross Webber and Grinnell Moving to New Location

HOLYOKE — Ross Webber and Grinnell Insurance and Webber and Grinnell Employee Benefits are moving their offices down the street from 150 Lower Westfield Road to 98 Lower Westfield Road, Holyoke. The third-floor office suite located above Pier One has recently been remodeled to accommodate the transition. “Our team is very excited about our new space,” said Bill Grinnell, president of the agency. “It has wonderful natural light and a very contemporary feel. It also gives us enough space to continue to grow the agency, and, being at the crossroads of I-91 and I-90, it’s an easily accessible location for our clients. We’ll continue our office hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.” Webber and Grinnell purchased Ross Insurance in May 2018 and moved its employee-benefits company to the Holyoke location last November.

Hogan Technology Offers SD-WAN as a Service to Small, Mid-sized Customers

EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology, a leading managed-technology-services provider, announced that it now offers SD-WAN as a service to its small to mid-sized business customers (SMBs). SD-WAN is a leading technology; according to research firm Gartner, “by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will deploy SD-WAN technology in their branches.” The reason for the technology’s rise in popularity is due to its simultaneous capacities to increase productivity within an organization while also reducing the total cost of ownership. SD-WAN is an acronym for software-defined networking in a wide-area network (WAN). SD-WAN simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by separating the networking hardware from its control mechanism. This concept is similar to how software-defined networking implements virtualization technology to improve data-center management and operation. A key application of SD-WAN is to allow companies to build higher-performance WANs using lower-cost and commercially available internet access, enabling businesses to partially or wholly replace more expensive private WAN connection technologies such as multi-protocol label switching. SMBs that need to scale up or scale down quickly, or need to run multiple remote offices or would like greater visibility into their networks, can benefit greatly from this technology.

Berkley Human Services Selects Smith Brothers as Regional Representative

EASTHAMPTON — Berkley Human Services, a leading provider of insurance and risk-management services for social services across the U.S., has selected Smith Brothers Insurance to represent it in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Smith Brothers, which has offices in Easthampton and West Springfield and is headquartered in Glastonbury, Conn., is an independently operated, top-100 broker in the U.S., withd has offices throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. “For decades, we have had great relationships with many of the W.R. Berkley companies,” said Joe Smith, president and CEO of Smith Brothers. “The addition of Berkley Human Services in our social-services specialty will enhance our growth plans, and, with our home base in Hartford County and expansion in Massachusetts and New York, we look forward to helping these organizations help others.”

Valley Health Systems Employees Donate Clothing to Dress for Success

HOLYOKE — Employees of Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, Holyoke Medical Group, Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care, and River Valley Counseling Center, generously donated clothing to benefit Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts on May 16. A Holyoke Medical Center van was filled with women’s professional clothing, shoes, and accessories and delivered to the Dress for Success Boutique, located at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield. Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts collects new or gently used, freshly dry-cleaned or laundered suits, scrubs, business-appropriate apparel, shoes, and accessories for women. “Doing a clothing drive was very generous of River Valley Counseling Center and Valley Health Systems,” said Margaret Tantillo, executive director of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts. “The clothing ultimately helps a woman secure employment and helps her become financially independent.”

Company Notebook

Westfield’s New Baseball Team Unveils ‘Starfires’ Name, Logo

WESTFIELD — The latest entry in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League unveiled its name and logo on Wednesday night at an event held at the Shortstop Bar and Grill in Westfield. The Westfield Starfires will begin play in the summer of 2019 at Bullens Field in Westfield. The team name pays homage to the city of Westfield’s deep connection with the Air National Guard stationed at Barnes Airport. The name is derived from the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, a first-generation jet aircraft of the U.S. Air Force. The F-94 was the first operational USAF fighter equipped with an afterburner and was the first jet-powered all-weather fighter to enter combat during the Korean War in January 1953. The Westfield Starfires were founded by local entrepreneurs Christopher Thompson and Donald Moorhouse, and are now part of the FCBL’s seven-team circuit. Since 2011, the Futures League has experienced a meteoric rise to become one of the top summer collegiate leagues in the country. Season-ticket packages and merchandise for the new franchise are available now through westfieldstarfires.com.

GreatHorse Named Northeast’s Golf Course of the Year

HAMPDEN — The National Golf Course Owners Assoc. (NGCOA) recently recognized GreatHorse, the golf and lifestyle club in Hampden, as Regional Golf Course of the Year for the Northeast Region. The award recognizes those courses that epitomize exceptional course quality and management excellence, make important contributions to their communities and the game, and serve as models of operations to their peers. “We’re honored to receive such a prestigious award from the NGCOA,” said Guy Antonacci, owner of GreatHorse. “This national recognition is a testament to how far we have come in the four short years since we opened our doors, and we are excited to continue our growth in the years ahead.”

Michael’s Party Rentals Receives National Recognition

PALMER — Michael’s Party Rentals recently received a national accolade at the 2019 American Rental Assoc. (ARA) annual convention and trade show in Anaheim, Calif. The ARA is the international trade association for equipment-rental businesses and manufacturers and suppliers of rental equipment, with members in every U.S. state, every Canadian province, and more than 30 countries worldwide. Michael’s Party Rentals was acknowledged with a Presidents Image Award from ARA. It was a co-recipient along with True Value Rental of Rollinsford, N.H., representing Region One, which covers all of New England and New York. The honor is given to a business facility or store celebrating its commitment to improving the rental-industry image through a remodeling, rebuilding, or renovation project. The award was in response to Michael’s Party Rentals’ new showroom, which opened in July 2016.

United Bank Earns Accolades

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Bank announced that Greenwich Associates, the leading global provider of data, analytics, and insights to the financial-services industry, honored United with its 2018 Greenwich Excellence Awards for Middle Market Banking and Small Business Banking. Specifically, United Bank earned the 2018 Greenwich Excellence Awards for Overall Satisfaction in Middle Market Banking and Overall Satisfaction and Branch Satisfaction in Small Business Banking. Greenwich Associates, after evaluating more than 600 banks, determined that United Bank was among a select number of banks performing at a differentiated level relative to its peers. To qualify for consideration for these national awards, each winning bank had to have a minimum of 50 clients that responded to the survey. In addition, the Small Business Banking accolade was based on more than 14,400 interviews with businesses with sales of $1 million to $10 million across the country. For Middle Market Banking, the ranking was derived from more than 14,400 interviews with businesses with sales of $10 million to $500 million across the country.

 

Pathlight Moves to

Bigger Quarters in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — Pathlight, a local organization that supports people with developmental disabilities and those with autism throughout Western Mass., is moving from its longtime space on North Street in Pittsfield to bigger quarters at 75 South Church St. The move, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21, allows Pathlight to better support its programs in the Berkshires. Pathlight’s Autism Connections as well as its Shared Living and Adult Family Care programs are growing in response to community demand. Autism Connections offers workshops, social-skills groups, and support groups, as well as recreation opportunities, to people with autism and their caregivers. The program’s autism specialists also work individually with families in their homes. In Pathlight’s Shared Living and Adult Family Care programs, a community member shares their home and provides support for a person with an intellectual disability or autism. The new office space features a large activity room, several meeting rooms, and a kitchen. The space will host community activities, including education workshops on a host of issues, social-skills groups for people with autism, and support groups for families caring for a person with autism. In the future, Pathlight plans to offer recreational and performing-arts classes for children and teens of all abilities.

Country Bank Donates $1M

to Local Charities in 2018

WARE — Country Bank reported that donations for 2018 exceeded $1 million. Through the bank’s established charitable-giving program, support is provided to local nonprofits throughout the region; in 2018, more than 400 organizations received generous contributions from the program. Among the organizations that received donations, the Salvation Army, the YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Springfield Rescue Mission, Friends of the Homeless, and the USO of Pioneer Valley each received $5,000, while the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Christina’s House each received $10,000. The bank also teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build a home in Springfield last September. Country Bank also has an employee charitable-giving program that raised more than $30,000 in 2018, through events such as jeans days, bake sales, and raffles.

Governors America Corp. Partners

with CTEC to Develop Workforce

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Governors America Corp. has, over the last few years, hired seven past and/or current students from the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC), a half-day high-school vocational and technical training facility located in West Springfield. CTEC services students from nine communities in and around Hampden and Hampshire counties with 11 program offerings. Governors America Corp. is a leading provider of engine-governing and system controls to manufacturers and power providers worldwide. The new hires mainly come from CTEC’S Machine Technology program and have worked directly on the manufacturing floor, operating computer numerical control machines. CTEC has also provided Governors Corp. with support in its Information Technology department. This mutually beneficial partnership has enabled students to apply the skills that they have learned in one of the area’s premier manufacturing environments and provided Governors Corp. with a reliable source of pre-screened talent that has enriched its staff and production.

Company Notebook

Community Bank N.A. Reopens Springfield Branch

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Bank N.A. Springfield branch recently celebrated its grand reopening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Local dignitaries, customers, community members, and Community Bank N.A. team members gathered to celebrate the completion of the branch’s renovations. Located within Tower Square, the renovated branch will offer Springfield customers enhanced and expanded services, including a 24-hour ATM and a night drop. At the celebration, Community Bank N.A. leaders also announced the results of a community vote between three nonprofits to receive a portion of the bank’s $12,500 commitment to give back to the Springfield area. Springfield Boys & Girls Club received the majority of the community vote and was presented with a $7,500 donation. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County and YMCA of Greater Springfield each received a $2,500 donation. The Community Bank N.A. Springfield branch began renovations in early October 2018 to add convenient features for customers. The branch will house nine team members and offer customers a wide range of services, including checking and savings accounts, commercial business, and mortgages.

Travel Kuz Provides Services at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta

GILL — Travel Kuz, a motorcoach charter company based in Gill, sent six of its luxurious motorcoach buses to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. The Travel Kuz buses and drivers were used in Atlanta for VIP and dignitary transportation, which included the special guests of each team and the athletes’ families. In addition to last year’s Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Travel Kuz has also provided transportation services at Super Bowl XLI in Miami in 2007, and at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc., doing business as Travel Kuz, is a fifth-generation family business that has been providing school-bus and luxury motorcoach transportation for more than 90 years. The company operates more than 150 vehicles employing 136 local residents in Franklin County and Southern Vermont.

MassDevelopment Boosts Patriot Armored Systems

LEE — MassDevelopment has issued a $2,646,000 tax-exempt bond on behalf of Patriot Armored Systems Holding LLC, a real-estate entity affiliated with glass manufacturer Patriot Armored Systems. Patriot Armored Systems currently leases 45,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space at 100 Valley St. in Lee. The company’s real-estate entity will use bond proceeds to buy the building and construct a 7,500-square-foot addition, allowing Patriot Armored Systems to expand its manufacturing operations and hire 13 additional employees. Berkshire Bank purchased the bond. Founded in 1992, Patriot Armored Systems manufactures laminated, customized protective glass systems by purchasing glass as a raw material and melding it with bonding compounds. The company specializes in bullet-resistant glass and security glazing and offers an array of glass types, including architectural, ballistic, and bullet-resistant glass. Patriot Armored Systems serves a broad customer base, manufacturing customized products for various military operations, law enforcement, government buildings, banks, hospitals, retail businesses, vehicles, and homes.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Record Earnings

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018. The company reported net income of $12.2 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $16.3 million, or $0.32 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $9.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017. Net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018 was $59.9 million, or $1.17 per diluted share, compared to net income of $54.6 million, or $1.07 per diluted share, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017. “In the fourth quarter of 2018, United Financial Bancorp Inc. delivered annualized linked quarter loan growth of 9% and deposit growth of 12%, while maintaining pristine asset quality and a strong balance sheet,” said William Crawford, IV, CEO and president of the company and the bank.

Pride Cuts Ribbon on New Hadley Location

HADLEY — Pride Stores held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 23 at its newest store, located at 25 Russell St. in Hadley. The new store offers a wide range of services, including an expanded dining area, a café and bakery, fresh deli and grill, Subway, a convenient drive-thru lane, as well as a separate room for beer and wine sales. It’s the first Pride to offer Chester’s Chicken for fresh fried chicken and family meals. The site also includes 12 charging stations for Tesla vehicles. Pride also donated five cents from every gallon of gasoline purchased that week to the Hadley Library Fund, a local nonprofit that is raising funds to support the building of the new Goodwin Library slated to break ground this summer.

Eversource Recognized for Energy-efficiency Programs

BOSTON — Homeowners, renters, and business owners across Massachusetts are always looking for ways to reduce expenses, and that includes energy costs. In recognition of its efforts to help these customers better manage their energy, Eversource was recognized by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) with Exemplary Energy Efficiency Program awards for both its Home Energy Services (HES) program and Franchise Customer Initiative in Massachusetts. The national award recognizes the best utility programs across the country. ACEEE’s national review evaluates and recognizes exemplary programs in areas such as direct customer energy savings, cost-effectiveness, customer service, innovation, and expansion potential. Eversource’s HES program takes a fuel-blind approach and provides in-home energy assessments, turnkey facilitation of weatherization measures, and 0% financing to help homeowners or renters retrofit their homes with cost-effective, energy-efficient measures. Since 2016, the energy saved through Eversource’s HES program in Massachusetts is enough to power approximately 6,000 homes for a year, and the greenhouse-gas emission reductions are equivalent to taking 1,062 cars off the road for a year.

Berkshire Theatre Group Receives Universal Participation Designation

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) announced it was the recipient of the Mass Cultural Council’s (MCC) Universal Participation (UP) Designation. The UP initiative seeks to break down barriers that prevent civic participation in the cultural sector of Massachusetts. The UP designation provides peer networking, leadership platforms, access to grants, promotional opportunities, and professional development for organizations demonstrating inclusive practices. Through the MCC Innovation and Learning Network and the UP designation, the goals of the UP initiative are to support the growth and development of organizations that embrace inclusivity as core to their mission and recognize the power of design to anticipate and accommodate patrons, staff, volunteers, and students. BTG received this designation through providing training to the staff, board, and volunteers about inclusion; engaging users and experts to steward institutional needs to facilitate program and policy development; and implementing innovative accessible practices.

Hazen Paper Co. Launches 2019 ‘Space’ Calendar

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. is sharing a futuristic view of holography with its 2019 calendar, titled “Space – the Infinite Frontier.” Hazen Holography creates the illusion of motion and dimension on two-dimensional printed items by reflecting and refracting light at different angles. Revolving around the design concept of concentric circles, the calendar depicts a view of space from within a space capsule and a rocket launch. The poster/calendar incorporates several new holographic effects, including circular pillars, which resemble a sun-like orb pulsating with prismatic color that appears concave or convex, depending upon the viewer’s perspective. It also features holographic radial burst, a ray of light beams that alternates from monochrome to a rainbow of colors. The 18-by-24-inch poster/calendar was created to showcase Hazen’s wide-format tableau. This capability enables production of materials up to 52 inches wide without recombine lines, providing designers greater creative freedom. The custom Hazen hologram on 10-point board, coated on both sides, was finished with four-color printing plus opaque white. Hazen is known for the holographic stadium edition NFL Super Bowl program and the holographic enshrinement yearbook for the Basketball Hall of Fame. It is the most vertically integrated producer of holographic paper and film in the U.S., with a holographic lab and design studio on its Holyoke manufacturing campus. To receive a calendar, e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 538-8040.

Berkshire Hills Bancorp Reports Q4 Results

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported GAAP net income of $14 million, or $0.31 per common share, in the fourth quarter of 2018. The non-GAAP measure of core earnings totaled $29 million, or $0.63 per share, during this period. Both GAAP and core EPS totaled $0.70 in the prior quarter. The benefit of higher net interest income in the fourth quarter was offset by lower fee income and higher expense. Core EPS is net of non-core charges, which totaled $0.32 per share after tax in the fourth quarter and included merger-related expenses and other items, including costs related to the restructuring of the company’s banking systems provider relationships. Fourth-quarter financial highlights included 2% loan and deposit growth, 3.41% net interest margin, 60.3% efficiency ratio, 0.17% net loan charge-offs/average loans, and 0.28% non-performing assets/assets. “Core earnings for the year were in line with our original plan, and fourth quarter core earnings also met our expectations before the impact of the government shutdown on SBA-related fee revenue,” CEO Richard Marotta said. “During 2018, our teams made great strides integrating our Eastern Massachusetts acquisition and developing organic business across our footprint. Loan growth was consistent throughout the year, and deposit balances increased with the benefit of higher activity in the fourth quarter. Our internal capital generation supported our balance-sheet growth, and our credit performance and asset quality remain strong.” The board of directors voted to increase the quarterly cash dividend by $0.01, or 5%, to $0.23 per common share to shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 14, 2019, payable on Feb. 28, 2019. Effective on the same dates, the board also increased the quarterly cash dividend on preferred stock by 5% to $0.46 per share.

Teach Western Mass Receives $250,000 Grant from Barr Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — Teach Western Mass has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Barr Foundation that will allow the education nonprofit to make investments in strategic planning and capacity-building efforts. Launched in 2015, Teach Western Mass is a nonprofit organization focused on improving the volume, quality, and diversity of teacher candidates in Western Mass. Teach Western Mass (TWM) leads regional teacher-recruitment campaigns in collaboration with school and district partners. As a result, it is the primary source of job opportunities for prospective teachers in Western Mass., while also offering a high-quality, diverse talent pool for partner schools. In the last two years, TWM partner schools have accelerated hiring timelines and increased the percentage of incoming teachers who self-identify as people of color to 40%. Teach Western Mass also offers four innovative and regionally based teacher-training programs that seek to address persistent talent and hiring challenges faced by partner schools, which include both district and charter schools.

Way Finders Awarded $140,000 Grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — Way Finders Inc. was awarded a two-year grant for $140,000 from Tufts Health Plan Foundation to advocate for equitable infrastructure and improved public safety in Springfield. This is one of 11 new community investments totaling more than $1.2 million that reflect the foundation’s commitment to advancing policies and practices that support healthy aging, including addressing gaps in oral health, nutrition, housing, transportation, and community safety. Through this grant, Way Finders will increase the capacity of low-income, older people who are advocating for policy and system changes in Springfield. These older people will lead efforts to address the built environment and community safety. The project leverages Way Finders’ existing Resident Health Advocate programming and its relationships with LiveWell Springfield and the Massachusetts Senior Action Coalition to enable the development of a robust advocacy infrastructure for the city.

Company Notebook

Smith Brothers Insurance Merges With the Partners Insurance Agency

EASTHAMPTON — Effective Jan. 1, Smith Brothers Insurance, with offices in Easthampton and West Springfield, and the Partners Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency located in Vestal, Owego, and Waverly, N.Y., have merged together. This merger expands the Smith Brothers Insurance footprint into upstate New York, where the Partners will maintain local presence while leveraging the resources of Smith Brothers Insurance, one of the nation’s top 100 independent brokers. Owners of the New York offices — Don Patterson, Bill Soprano, Phil Wiles, John Carlin, Michael Constantine, and Chris Hutchings — will stay fully engaged in client service and business development. Constantine will run the New York region, continuing to serve clients with the same team of insurance professionals who have also become employees of Smith Brothers Insurance.

Florence Bank Opens Second Branch in Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD — Florence Bank opened its second Hampden County branch at 1444 Allen St. in Springfield on Dec. 19. “We’re very pleased to be expanding our presence in Springfield,” said John Heaps Jr., Florence Bank’s president and CEO. “Our focus is on providing great customer service and helping to reinvigorate the community.” The Allen Street branch has an open floor plan with two teller pods and innovative technology for quick cash handling. The location will also feature a drive-up ATM with SMART technology for easy depositing and a comfortable waiting area inside with a coffee bar and free wi-fi. Nikki Gleason serves as branch manager for the new location. Other employees include Candice Somar, assistant branch manager; Bianca Hyde, customer service representative (CSR) and teller operations manager; Mario Nascimento, CSR and senior teller; Magdalis “Maggie” Sierra, CSR and senior teller; and Carolyn Ware, community relations director. In August 2017, Florence Bank opened its first branch in Hampden County at 1010 Union St. in West Springfield. The Springfield branch marks the second of several anticipated branches in the region, Heaps said.

WNEU Announces $35 Million ‘Campaign for Our Second Century’

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced plans for a comprehensive fundraising campaign designed to enrich the student experience inside and outside the classroom. Named the Campaign for Our Second Century, the philanthropic endeavor launched publicly on 1/9/19 — a nod to the university’s founding year of 1919. Western New England University aims to raise at least $35 million in private support for a range of priorities that will build on the institution’s historic first century and shape its future progress. Those priorities fit into five overall fundraising objectives: growing scholarship aid, building and enhancing campus facilities, creating impactful opportunities for student life, boosting academic initiatives and experiences, and strengthening the President’s Fund for Excellence. Current and future Western New England students will be the direct beneficiaries of the most ambitious fundraising effort in the university’s history. The number-one priority of the campaign is to increase student aid through donor-funded scholarships. In recent years, full-time undergraduate enrollment has grown to record levels, with more than 98% of students receiving financial aid through scholarships, grants, and loans. The university has already secured more than $29 million in new gifts and commitments to advance Western New England during the campaign’s pre-launch phase, which began in 2016. Lead gifts were made by two of the university’s most ardent supporters — Kevin Delbridge ’77 and Janet Johnson Bullard ’69, both university trustees who are serving as the campaign’s honorary chairpersons. To date, more than 4,000 individual alumni, friends, and foundations have made commitments. Each gift made to WNEU during the campaign counts toward its goal. This is Western New England’s second comprehensive campaign. Private philanthropic support is not intended to replace university sources of revenue, but rather provide the margin that enables greater access to scholarship support, state-of-the-art technologies, outside-the-classroom experiences, faculty development, and other critical learning services. For details about the Campaign for Our Second Century, visit wne.edu/campaign.

Community Chooses Recipients of Monson Savings Bank Philanthropy

MONSON — For the ninth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2019. The top vote getters include Wilbraham United Players, Scantic Valley YMCA, the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Fund, Rick’s Place, River East School-to-Career, Greene Room Productions, Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts, Link to Libraries, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and Old Post Orchestra.

HealthSouth Rehab Hospital Unveils New Name, Brand

LUDLOW — HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts has unveiled its new name and brand as part of its management company’s name change and rebranding initiative. As of Jan. 1, the inpatient rehabilitation hospital is known as Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts. It will continue to provide the same post-acute care for patients overcoming a variety of major illnesses and injuries. Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth Corp. launched its new name and brand on Jan. 1, 2018 and will be transitioning its 130 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and 273 home-health and hospice locations serving 36 states and Puerto Rico through 2019. All of the company’s post-acute-care service locations in Massachusetts migrated to the Encompass Health name and branding last week.

Advocacy Network Donates $17,000 to Whole Children

HADLEY — The Advocacy Network, a local organization with a mission to promote and protect the health, human rights, and safety of people with developmental disabilities, recently donated $17,000 to Whole Children. The donation was one of the last acts of the group, which announced it is dissolving after more than 60 years of work. The late Benjamin Ricci, an Advocacy Network member, was the father of Belchertown State School patient Robert Ricci. He filed a class-action lawsuit against the school in 1972, claiming that its residents were living in horrific conditions. The judge assigned to the Belchertown case, Joseph Tauro, who died in November, spearheaded a major overhaul of Massachusetts’ state facilities as a result of the lawsuit, which ultimately ended in the closing of the institution. Amherst resident Bob Ricci, the man named in the lawsuit against Belchertown, came to Whole Children with members of the Advocacy Network to deliver the check to director Maggie Rice. Whole Children was started in 2004 by a group of parents looking for after-school programs for their children with intellectual disabilities or autism. It joined with Springfield-based Pathlight in 2010 and has expanded to serve some 600 adults, teens, and children each year in a variety of recreation, performing-arts, and enrichment programs.

SmartDollar Names OMG Inc. Company of the Year

AGAWAM — The statistics are alarming: 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. At work, stress over finances can take a toll on employee performance and impact productivity. Almost 10 years ago, OMG Inc. saw this as a factor limiting employee success and took action. OMG used SmartDollar, the financial-wellness program created by money expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey, to teach employees how to take better care of themselves financially. More than 300 employees have taken advantage of the program to create a financial plan for themselves and their families. Using SmartDollar, the average OMG participant has paid off more than $8,000 in debt and saves more than $5,000. Collectively, participants have achieved a positive swing of almost $1 million through debt reduction and savings contributions. As a result, SmartDollar recognized OMG as its 2018 Company of the Year.

Company Notebook

Hazen Paper Recognized at Manufacturing Award Ceremony

HOLYOKE — The state’s third annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony, sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus, was recently held at the State House in Boston. Hazen Paper was one of 58 manufacturers recognized for their success. Hazen is known worldwide for its holographic paper and manufacturing in Holyoke. Well-known examples its work include the Stadium Edition Super Bowl Program and the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Yearbook. Hazen started an apprentice program in 2007 to train the expert workers required for this high-tech factory. Hazen has hired and trained more than 50 apprentices in the last 10 years. In 2010, Hazen started an internship program with engineering students from Western New England University, several of whom now work full-time on the Hazen management team. Hazen has been proactive in helping to build the future workforce via the World Is Our Classroom program, whereby every fifth-grader in Holyoke public schools visits Hazen for a full day of teaching and tours. Hazen started the program in 2004, and an estimated 4,000 fifth-graders have participated since that time.

Big Y Foods, COCC Receive Employer of Choice Recognition

AGAWAM — Big Y Foods Inc. of Springfield and COCC of Southington, Conn. have been selected by the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) as Employer of Choice Award recipients for 2018. Employer of Choice awards recognize companies and organizations for developing workplaces that value employees, foster engagement, invest in employee development, and reward performance. Doing business for over 80 years, Big Y Foods is a family-owned supermarket chain with more than 11,000 employees throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. The chain prides itself on a culture of caring, which manifests itself in the form of workplace ‘huddles’ to celebrate employees who have gone above and beyond, and through the organization’s strong commitment to retain employees. Big Y stands out for its overall benefits, employee satisfaction, training and development, and recognition and rewards. One novel program, called Building Firm Foundations, is a collaboration in which employees help other employees with home-repair needs by utilizing their skills, expertise, and time. Projects have included building ramps, fixing decks and windows, landscaping, and more. Another initiative, called the 10 Foot Rule, combines a user-friendly customer-service model with a fun graphic reinforcing how to treat customers. The Big Y University and Big Y LIFE, an internal communication portal, are among the other employee-centric engagement offerings.

Kuhn Riddle Architects Certified as Woman Business Enterprise

AMHERST — Kuhn Riddle Architects announced that the firm was recently certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts grants the designation of WBE to businesses that demonstrate majority ownership and control of daily management and operations by women. Aelan Tierney, president of Kuhn Riddle Architects, sought the business designation after she became majority owner of the firm in January. She joined Jonathan Salvon and Charles Roberts, who became principals in 2010 when Chris Riddle retired. John Kuhn passed the torch of leadership and ownership to these three architects and will continue to work on selected projects at Kuhn Riddle Architects. Tierney will work on architectural project design while also focusing on new business growth and opportunities. “I see this designation as the continuing evolution of architecture — and of our society as a whole — as professions become more diverse and inclusive,” said Tierney, who has been an architect at Kuhn Riddle since 2005. “This is also as an opportunity for further growth of our firm. We have an immensely talented and capable staff; we are interested in partnering with other firms to take on much larger projects than we have to date. I am hopeful that this designation will open doors and break ceilings for us.”

Comcast Unveils New Xfinity Store at Holyoke Mall

HOLYOKE — Comcast recently staged a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of its newest Xfinity Store, which is located on the upper level of the Holyoke Mall. The 4,691-square-foot space is the first Xfinity Store in the region to open in a mall setting. Consumers will have the opportunity to explore, learn about, and interact directly with the latest Xfinity products and services, including Xfinity Mobile. In addition, the store offers a dedicated space where Comcast Business customers and prospects can discover cutting-edge business solutions and get connected with a local expert to discuss their business technology needs. Local officials and community leaders, including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, state Rep. Aaron Vega, City Council President Todd McGee, Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley, Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman, and Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce President Barry Feingold, came out to celebrate the grand opening and tour the new store.

American Women’s College at Bay Path University Recognized

LONGMEADOW — According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare occupations will add more new jobs than any other occupational group in the next decade, projecting overall growth of 18% by 2026. The American Women’s College at Bay Path University prepares graduates to help meet that growing demand with its online bachelor of science in health service administration program, which has just been recognized on a list of the 30 best in the nation by TheBestSchools.org. The site formulates rankings based on six informational categories: academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, financial aid, range of degree programs, and strength of online instruction methodology. The university’s degree program ranked 18th on the list. The American Women’s College’s digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning), uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps, and has been recognized with more than $5 million in support from industry thought leaders and organizations, as well as awards from national foundations, the federal government, and awarding agencies.

Burkhart Pizzanelli Delivers New Coats to More Than 250 Square One Children

SPRINGFIELD — The team at Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C. is doing its part to spread warmth to more than 250 children in need of winter coats this season. The local accounting firm organized a campaign through Operation Warm to purchase the new coats for children served by Square One. They were delivered to Square One on Dec. 4. “Being a strong community partner is an intergral part of our culture at the firm,” said Julie Quink, managing principal at Burkhart Pizzanelli. “As part of our commitment to the community that we work and live in, we believe giving back is important. Many of our clients share the same philosophy and joined our efforts, for which we are very appreciative. Partnering with Operation Warm to provide brand-new winter coats for the families served by Square One is one way for us to make a small difference in our community. We believe that all children should have opportunities to grow without worry.” Added Kristine Allard, chief Development & Communications officer for Square One, “to be able to provide our children with beautiful, brand-new winter coats does wonders for them. Not only does it help to protect them from the elements, but having a new coat of their own builds confidence and self-esteem.” Operation Warm is a national organization that provides new winter coats to children in need, helping to improve self-confidence, peer acceptance, school attendance, and overall wellness. Funding support comes from businesses and individuals within the communities they serve.

Bridgestone Retail Operations Presents Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke with New Van

HOLYOKE — Parents at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke agree that having reliable transportation is the biggest challenge to their children’s participation in after-school activities in Holyoke. Lack of reliable transportation is even more of a stressor for low-income families in need. With that in mind, Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO) surprised youth at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke with a brand-new, eight-passenger Toyota Sienna van, valued at $35,000. The van was recently presented by Joe DeAngelis, New England Region manager, and Scott Zimmerman, area manager for Bridgestone Retail Operations, to Eileen Cavanaugh, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club. The club will utilize the van to engage in experiential learning opportunities, take youth on field trips, visit colleges, increase volunteer opportunities for teens, and participate in more career-readiness activities. In addition to these benefits, the four satellite units located within Holyoke Housing Authority communities will now have more access to the main club. The van allows transportation to nearly 1,400 club members to and from the club.

TommyCar Auto Group Supports Unify Against Bullying

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group was the official partner for Unify Against Bullying for October in support of National Bullying Prevention Month. During the entire month of October, each dealership in the group — including Country Nissan, Country Hyundai, Northampton Volkswagen, and the new Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — donated $20 for every car sold. Thanks to customer involvement, TommyCar Auto Group was able to donate $4,200. “Bullying happens way more than it should, but we have the power to make a difference,” said Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group. “We need to continue to talk about bullying openly and freely, and not be scared to address the issues that happen to us, our family, our friends, or our co-workers. Unify is changing the culture within our communities and the way people are addressing bullying, and I knew we had to be a part of that.”

Company Notebook

Big Y Works to Sack Hunger

SPRINGFIELD — For the ninth year, all Big Y supermarkets are working to help feed the hungry within their local communities through Care to Share Sack Hunger, a large, reusable grocery bag filled with staple non-perishable food items for local food banks. Customers purchase a Sack Hunger bag of groceries for $10, and Big Y distributes the food to that region’s local food bank. In turn, the food banks distribute the filled sacks to area soup kitchens, food pantries, senior food programs, day-care centers, as well as many of its other member agencies. All of the donated sacks are distributed within the supermarket’s marketing area, so every donation stays within the local community. Since its inception nine years ago, more than 133,000 bags of food have been donated to area needy via Big Y’s Care to Share Sack Hunger Program. This year’s campaign runs through Wednesday, Dec. 26. As an additional option, customers may choose to purchase and donate a $10 ‘virtual bag’ at the register that will be used by the agencies to purchase turkeys or whatever is most needed. Online donations will also be accepted. Visit www.bigy.com/rs/giftcards for more information. As an added bonus, any customer donations made on Saturday, Nov. 17 will be matched by Big Y. All five food banks within Big Y’s marketing area are participating in Sack Hunger. These food banks, representing more than 2,100 member agencies throughout the region, include the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare of Greater Hartford, and the Connecticut Food Bank. Last year, Big Y customers donated nearly 22,000 bags of food to those in need, and the company hopes to beat that figure this year.

American Women’s College at Bay Path University Named Among Best Online Colleges

LONGMEADOW — Women have been completing their bachelor’s degrees at rates significantly higher than the national average since the inception of the American Women’s College at Bay Path University in 2013, thanks to its digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning). This innovative approach to education has earned it recognition among the 2019 Best Online Colleges in America, as ranked by Niche.com, which ranked colleges based on the following categories: academic excellence, overall value, strength of faculty scholarship, campus quality, diversity, student life, student surveys on overall experience, safety, and location. The university placed 20th on a list of nearly 500 colleges and universities, and is the only New England-based institution to place in the top 20. The SOUL model uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps, and has been recognized with more than $5 million in support from industry thought leaders and organizations. SOUL was developed after the American Women’s College was awarded a grant through the First in the World competition administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The four-year, $3.5 million award was used to develop and continually hone the program by improving educator access to learning data, allowing for targeted feedback and personalized guidance. SOUL has been recognized with several other grants and awards from national foundations, the federal government, and awarding agencies.

Bay Path Recognized Among Top MS in Accounting Programs

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) in accounting program has been named seventh on a list of the top 50 best in the nation, as ranked by OnlineMasters.com. In addition to this placement, Bay Path’s program was also recognized as the “Most Accelerated Program.” This is the program’s second placement on a national best-of list this year alone. According to the site, the review assessed academic quality, student success, and affordability. Researchers devoted more than 90 hours to analyzing every online master’s in accounting program in the U.S., and consulted 35 industry experts, hiring managers, current students, and alumni.

Veterans at Corps Logistics Build, Maintain ValleyBike Share System

SPRINGFIELD — As ValleyBike Share started taking shape in several municipalities in the Pioneer Valley this year, veteran-owned and operated service contractor Corps Logistics was tasked with building and maintaining the 48 stations and more than 200 bikes. Corps Logistics provides a military-grade approach to bike-share system implementation and operations. It works to find talented veterans that care about their community and the mission at hand. Many of its veteran employees come home with physical and emotional limitations, and Corps Logistics offers them the opportunity to continue the utilization of their talents and skills to better the lives of the community around them. Launched this past June, the ValleyBike Share system offers electric-assist bicycles to users. The service is available 24/7 and is ideal for errands, commuting, or recreation.

Ten Practice Areas at Bulkley Richardson Ranked Among ‘Best Law Firms’

SPRINGFIELD — Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News and World Report, has included Bulkley Richardson in its 2019 “Best Law Firms” list, ranking the firm in the top tier for 10 practice areas, the most of any Springfield law firm. They include bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, commercial litigation, corporate law, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white-collar, litigation: labor and employment, medical-malpractice law: defendants, personal-injury litigation: defendants, tax law, and trusts and estates law. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers. Bulkley Richardson has 13 of its lawyers included on the 2019 Best Lawyers list, the most from any Springfield law firm. Two of the firm’s partners, John Pucci and Liz Sillin, were also named 2019 Springfield Lawyer of the Year. The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations and peer reviews from leading attorneys in their field.

CBS Xerox Supports MHA’s Good to Go Program

SPRINGFIELD — CBS Xerox, an integrated provider of office-productivity systems, organized a donation drive to benefit Good to Go, a new initiative of MHA to supply every individual who arrives for emergency respite care with basic personal-care items, such as soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, undergarments, and socks. According to Patrick Roberts, nonprofit specialist and GEM representative for CBS Xerox, his company had been working with MHA as a business partner for about a year when the opportunity to do more presented itself. “We handle their printers and copiers and developed a way to manage that part of their business,” Roberts explained. “In coming up with the solution, we met a lot of their staff, and every time we had an interaction with someone at MHA, it was so positive. They invited us to their annual meeting, and I heard this incredible story from a client who at one time felt suicidal, but through counseling and the efforts of MHA, this person now feels like they are worth something. Now this person is doing so well. What a story. The experience cemented our desire to do more for MHA, and organizing a Good to Go drive was a good place to start.” The 25 staff members at the CBS Xerox office in West Springfield were joined by 100 staff at the company’s headquarters in Wethersfield, Conn., to collect donations. A truck with donations from Wethersfield drove to West Springfield to pick up donations collected there, then delivered it all to MHA in Springfield.

DiGrigoli School Honored by Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center

SPRINGFIELD — On the morning of Oct. 5, during the Western Mass Stand Down at the Greek Culture Center in Springfield, Paul DiGrigoli accepted an award from the Western Mass. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center on behalf of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology for its continued support of homeless and needy veterans in the community. The school, located on Riverdale Street in West Springfield, offers free haircuts to all veterans and active service members year-round, and has participated in several veteran-honoring events since opening its doors in 2002. The Western Mass. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center, headquartered on Franklin Street in Springfield, operates with the mission of serving veterans once out of uniform, regardless of race, gender, or nationality. Most recently, it built 20 apartments for homeless veterans in Springfield and has continually offered financial and job services, healthcare, clothing, and other support.

Company Notebook

Bay Path Partners with Google for Applied Computing Series

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University announced a new collaboration with Google to offer computer science, data science, and machine-learning courses to its undergraduate students. Bay Path is one of only four colleges and universities and the only women’s college selected nationally to collaborate with Google to pilot all three offerings in its new Applied Computing Series. These courses aim to increase undergraduate access to quality data science and machine-learning education by leveraging new technologies and teaching styles. The Applied Computing Series teaches the foundations of computer and data science through hands-on, project-based course content, topically designed to attract students who might not consider themselves destined for a technology career. The most advanced of these offerings, the Applied Machine Learning Intensive, will be a 10-week summer program designed to offer non-computer science majors a crash course in data engineering and machine learning. All the courses leverage tools and techniques used at Google and in the wider tech industry, while also teaching the non-tech skills needed for success in every industry, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, and the ability to communicate and network.

NSF Selects UMass Amherst as Innovation Corps Site

AMHERST — The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it has selected UMass Amherst to be one of its national network of Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Sites. The program is intended to increase research commercialization and campus startups while enriching existing innovation infrastructure. Organizers hope to help new ventures bring economic development and jobs to the region. Kenneth Carter, professor of Polymer Science and Engineering and a faculty inventor, leads the site as its principal investigator. His co-principal investigators are Robert MacWright, director of the campus’s Technology Transfer Office, and Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. NSF funds I-Corps Sites to nurture and support mixed teams of students, faculty, and mentors who learn together and explore translation of their tech concepts into the marketplace. The award will provide training and funding to 24 teams per year beginning with a cohort of 12 in the spring of 2019. The I-Corps organizers expect most participants to be graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, or recent graduates, but the program is open to undergraduate participation as well.

Comcast Now Largest Provider of Gigabit Internet in U.S.

SPRINGFIELD — Comcast announced it is the nation’s largest provider of gigabit broadband, with the ultra-fast Xfinity Gigabit Internet and Comcast Business Gigabit services now available to nearly all of the company’s 58 million homes and businesses in 39 states and the District of Columbia. This availability includes nearly 100% of Comcast Internet serviceable households in Western Mass., including the communities of Agawam, Amherst, Bernardston, Buckland, Chester, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Granby, Granville, Greenfield, Hatfield, Hardwick, Holyoke, Huntington, Longmeadow, Monson, Montague, Northfield, Northampton, Palmer, Pelham, Shelburne, South Hadley, Southwick, Springfield, Sunderland, Ware, West Springfield, Westfield, Westhampton, Whately, and Williamsburg. This national deployment represents the fastest rollout of gigabit speeds to the most homes in the country. Comcast has increased speeds 17 times in 17 years and doubles the capacity of its broadband network every 18 to 24 months.

Springfield College to Deliver Fully Online Programs in 2019

SPRINGFIELD — The New England Commission on Higher Education has granted Springfield College approval to offer distance-education programming. Springfield College will launch its first fully online programs in January 2019. Fully accredited online programs will be available to students in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with programs including a bachelor of Science in human services, with concentrations in criminal justice, early childhood education, substance-use disorder counseling (addictions), as well as community youth development; and a leadership MBA with a concentration in nonprofit management. The online courses are offered via the learning management system Brightspace by D2L, a state-of-art network that makes online learning highly interactive, social, and engaging.

$1.6M Grant to Benefit HCC, Community Health Centers

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is the lead partner in a project that will bring $1.6 million in federal grant money to the Pioneer Valley to train community health workers in the battle against opioid addiction. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded HCC $400,000 over two years to add as many as 36 seats per year to its existing community health worker program. In addition to core studies in community health, students in the program will receive specific instruction and training in addiction and substance-abuse disorders. Also, HCC’s three regional partners — Holyoke Health Center, Community Health Center of Franklin County, and the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services — will each receive separate $400,000 grants to support on-site practical training of those students. The course of study will include three classes, free to all participants. The first cohort will begin in spring 2019 with “Core Competencies for Community Health Workers,” followed by “Introduction to Addiction Studies” in the summer of 2019, and concluding with a 125-hour practicum at one of the three health centers in the fall of 2019.

Elms Students Mentor Ninth-graders at JA Event

SPRINGFIELD — More than 50 students from Elms College volunteered to serve as mentors at a JA Economics for Success event hosted by Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts on Oct. 10. The event was held at Putnam High School in Springfield. The JA Economics for Success event offered ninth-grade students practical information about personal finance, as well as the importance of identifying education and career goals based on a student’s skills, interests, and values. Through a series of six 45-minute sessions, students learned how to explore their skills, interests, values, and the world of work to make informed education, career, and life decisions. They also developed their knowledge of personal finance so they can apply strong financial-management skills regardless of their income. The program was designed to correlate with state social studies, English, and math standards, as well as to the Common Core state standards in English/language arts and mathematics. The Elms College students were on hand to act as mentors, guiding the ninth-graders through the sessions and helping them learn important life skills, including decision making, planning, spending, and more.

Chicopee Businesses Step Up for School Trip

CHICOPEE — Students at Fairview Veterans Memorial Elementary School were not happy when they learned their field trip to the New England Aquarium in Boston was going to be cancelled due to lack of funding. In fact, many of them were crying. That’s when Marty Topor, owner of Central Oil, decided to step in and see what he could do. Over the course of an afternoon, he reached out to Bob Pion Buick/GMC and E.J. O’Neill Insurance Agency to enlist them in a fundraising effort to put the field trip back on track. Within a few hours, the three businesses had pooled together enough money to pay for the two buses needed to transport the 100 students to Boston for a day at the aquarium on Thursday, Nov. 1.

Berkshire Bank Wins Award for Employee Volunteerism

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank was recently named a winner of PR Daily’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards in the Employee Volunteer Program category. Berkshire Bank was chosen from a wide pool of entries to receive first prize in the category for the ingenuity and impact of its XTEAM volunteer program. Berkshire’s nationally acclaimed employee volunteer program provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours. Last year, 100% of Berkshire’s employees nationally donated 40,000 hours of service to benefit community organizations. Berkshire also closes down its offices each June for its Xtraordinary Day of Service, providing all employees with an opportunity to go out in the community and volunteer as a team. In 2018, Berkshire employees completed 74 service projects that ultimately benefited more than 500,000 individuals.

PV Squared Named Cooperative of the Year for Principle 7 Leadership

GREENFIELD — PV Squared, a worker-owned cooperative helping Western Mass. and Southern Vermont go solar since 2002, was recently named Cooperative of the Year for Principle 7 – Leadership in Community at the 2018 U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) annual conference. The award was given to PV Squared “for receiving national recognition in their field with company accreditation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, an accreditation awarded to companies that meet a rigorous set of standards regarding installation, employee training and qualification, safe work practices, and customer accountability, as well as their work to provide solar power to communities in Puerto Rico through their work with Amicus Solar Cooperative.” Each year, USFWC recognizes standout cooperatives and cooperators that are making a difference and leading the way toward workplace democracy.