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Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Falls Below 3% in April

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate for April was down one-tenth of a percentage point at 2.9%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,100 jobs in April. Over the month, the private sector added 4,000 jobs as gains occurred in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; financial activities; information; and other services. Trade, transportation, and utilities; manufacturing; and leisure and hospitality lost jobs over the month. From April 2018 to April 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 37,100 jobs. The April unemployment rate was 0.7% lower than the national rate of 3.6% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates indicate that, in April, the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell below 3% for the first time since December of 2000,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “Year to date, the Commonwealth’s economy has added 25,400 jobs, showing that, even with a low, 2.9% unemployment rate, Massachusetts employers continue to add jobs to help fuel their growth needs.” The labor force decreased by 3,200 from 3,843,500 in March, as 1,600 fewer residents were employed and 1,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped six-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 67.8%. Compared to April 2018, the labor-force participation rate is up 0.4%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; construction; and education and health services.

Manning Family Gift Will Advance Innovative Research at UMass

AMHERST — UMass Amherst alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane Manning, have committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program, which provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. It will allow the university’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) to support bold, promising researchers, providing resources for them to innovate in new directions and to develop real-world applications for their discoveries. The initiative will provide assistance to researchers and business students across campus through the critical early stages on the path to commercialization, such as ideation, proof of concept, and business development. Faculty will receive seed funding and engage in business training and mentorship from a number of campus units, including the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Isenberg School of Management. The first grant to be awarded from the Manning Innovation Program will support research on a topic that hits close to home for the Manning family, Stargardt disease. Both of the Mannings’ sons, Bradford and Bryan, have the disease, which causes loss of central vision. Currently, there is no treatment to delay or cure the disease. The two Manning brothers now run a clothing line called Two Blind Brothers, and they donate all of its proceeds directly to blindness research. Abigail Jensen, associate professor of Biology, will use a $40,000 grant to support her research on Stargardt disease and possible therapies using zebrafish. Her research seeks to identify how the disease works on a molecular level. Development of zebrafish with therapeutic mutations subverting Stargardt disease at the genetic level provides the first opportunity to discover the molecular mechanism of cone-photoreceptor degeneration and potential pathways for translation of research to therapeutic applications. In keeping with the university’s core values, the Manning Innovation Program will stimulate, recognize, and reward innovation. It will foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the college and enhance the spirit of collaboration among Isenberg School of Management advisors, science and technology researchers, and industry experts. Further, the Manning Foundation’s gift provides vital investment to support UMass as a partner of choice in advancing and applying knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society. The next wave in the application process for the Manning Innovation Program will result in a new round of applications being submitted by July 15. The review committee will notify recipients at the end of August, and the next round of projects could begin in September. Paul Manning, an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, most recently founded PBM Capital Group in 2010. PBM Capital is a healthcare-focused private investment group that looks for opportunities to use its entrepreneurial and operational experience to make high-growth pharmaceutical, molecular-diagnostic, gene-therapy, life-science, health and wellness, and consumer product investments. He was the anchor investor in Maroon Venture Partners, the first venture-capital fund at UMass Amherst. Created in 2017, the fund is a $6 million, for-profit investment vehicle created to support alumni, faculty, and student businesses in their early stages.

Communities Receive $647,000 for Middle-school Exploration Programs

BOSTON — American Student Assistance (ASA), a national nonprofit, announced it has awarded grants totaling $647,000 to seven Massachusetts school districts, including two in Western Mass., to fund career and interest exploration programs for middle-school students. The school communities, which will receive their funding over the course of three years, will begin implementing the programs in the 2019-20 school year. In Western Mass., Monson Public Schools will launch the Careers in the Middle program, providing students in grades 6 to 8 with classroom lessons, field trips, and events that will expose them to career-awareness opportunities. “Monson is thrilled to be chosen by ASA to partner to provide additional resources that focus on our middle grades,” said Robert Bardwell, director of School Counseling and School-to-Career coordinator. “This grant will give us the opportunity to do more for our middle-level students and collect data that tells us which activities are best to facilitate and encourage career development early on.” Meanwhile, Springfield STEM Academy will enhance and expand the Tech/Engineering Exploration program to expose students to new fields such as bioengineering, solar and wind engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. “Exposing students to biological, solar, wind, electrical, and mechanical engineering at a young age is a potential game changer for their rest of their lives,” Superintendent Daniel Warwick said. “It allows them to think about the wide array of STEM careers in real ways and opens the door to unlimited possibilities in this burgeoning field. We are extremely grateful that this ASA grant will help us provide this opportunity for our students.”

Employer Confidence in Massachusetts Falls in May

BOSTON — Employer confidence weakened in Massachusetts during May amid renewed trade tensions and concerns among companies about increased operating costs from paid family leave and other government mandates. The outlook among business leaders has moved in a narrow, overall optimistic range for much of 2019. However, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 3.2 points last month to 57.1, its lowest level since October 2016. The Index has declined 9.5 points since May 2018. All the constituent indicators that make up the BCI weakened during May, with the largest drop coming in employer views of conditions six months from now. The erosion of confidence during the past 12 months has been driven largely by caution about the national economy and concern among manufacturing companies. “The Business Confidence Index continues to reflect the Goldilocks economy in which we find ourselves — U.S. GDP growth is expected to remain at a modest level of 2% to 3%, and there is not much inflation or deflation. There are both encouraging signs and red flags,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Several employers participating in the survey said regulatory costs have become a significant concern. “The cost to operate has increased dramatically — higher wages, benefit costs, supply costs, and cost of compliance with all the new regulations coming out of the State House,” one employer wrote. Constituent indicators showed a broad-based retrenchment during May. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 2.3 points to 60.9, while the U.S. Index shed 3.3 points to 55.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 9.1 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 14.3 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, tumbled 4.5 points to 56.0. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 1.8 points to 58.2, 8.4 points lower than a year ago. The Employment Index declined 1.2 points for the month and 5.1 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9% jobless rate. AIM President and CEO John Regan, also a BEA member, said the national economic uncertainty comes at a time when Massachusetts employers are struggling with a series of expensive new employment-law mandates such as the state’s $1 billion paid family and medical leave program. “AIM has joined Raise Up Massachusetts and other groups in asking the Baker administration to delay the scheduled July 1 start of paid leave by three months to provide employers time to consider how much of the cost they will share with workers and whether they wish to opt out of the state system,” Regan said. “The delay is necessary to ensure a smooth rollout of this new entitlement.”

Opioid-overdose Death Rate Falls 4% in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The opioid-related overdose death rate in Massachusetts continues to decline, falling an estimated 4% between 2016 and 2018, according to updated figures rin the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For the first three months of 2019, preliminary data shows 497 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths. The decline in opioid-related overdose deaths is occurring despite the persistent presence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2018, fentanyl was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen. The presence of some stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, has also been increasing in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2017, while the presence of heroin or likely heroin in opioid-related overdose deaths has been declining since 2014. “While we remain encouraged that opioid-related overdose deaths have declined over the last two years, the epidemic continues to present very real challenges across Massachusetts that are made worse by the presence of fentanyl, cocaine, and amphetamines,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to provide the $266 million we proposed in our budget to support prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services in addition to $5 million for a new Regional Fentanyl Interdiction Task Force.” In 2018, the total number of confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths was 2,033. That’s 17 fewer deaths than the 2,050 confirmed and estimated in 2017. By comparison, there were 2,100 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. “The inroads we are making are also the result of our relentless focus on using data to drive our decision making around programs and policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We continue to focus our efforts on multiple strategies that are proven effective.”

Massachusetts Health Officials Report Second Case of Measles

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed that a case of measles was diagnosed in a child in Greater Boston on May 24. During the infectious period, the child was present in a number of locations in Quincy and Weymouth that could have resulted in exposure to other people. This second case of measles this year in Massachusetts has occurred in the context of a large national outbreak of measles and a very large international outbreak. “Lack of vaccination, combined with domestic and international travel, has resulted in the spread of measles nationally and internationally,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “Getting vaccinated is the best way for people to protect themselves from this disease.” DPH urges all those who do not know their measles immunization status to get vaccinated with at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Measles vaccine given within 72 hours of exposure may prevent measles disease, and vaccination beyond this window will provide protection from subsequent exposures. DPH, local health departments, and healthcare providers are working to contact individuals at high risk for exposure. Early symptoms of measles occur 10 days to two weeks after exposure and may resemble a cold (with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes), and a rash occurs on the skin two to four days after the initial symptoms develop. The rash usually appears first on the head and then moves downward. The rash typically lasts a few days and then disappears in the same order. People with measles may be contagious up to four days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears. People who have had measles, or who have been vaccinated against measles per U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, are considered immune.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests in Growth of Ludlow’s Manufacturing Sector

LUDLOW — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing $3.1 million in the town of Ludlow to help support of the growth of local manufacturing by improving Riverside Drive. The project, to be matched with $3.1 million in local funds, is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone and is expected to create more than 950 jobs and generate more than $90.6 million in private investment. “Improving Riverside Drive will support the needs of larger commercial and industrial users, which require reliable water and sanitary sewer systems, as well as electric and communication services, to be competitive in the regional and global economy,” Ross said. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone designation will further incentives businesses to invest in the area and develop the local economy.” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal noted that the investment will bring the Riverside Drive project at Ludlow Mills one step closer to completion. “I have visited the site many times and know how important this federal investment is to the town of Ludlow. The transformation of the former mill on the Chicopee River has been impressive, and I am pleased to have been an enthusiastic supporter of this business and housing venture from the start.” The Riverside Drive improvement project will include construction of approximately 4,500 feet of public roadway, including water and sewer lines and underground utilities, to provide safe and adequate access to new manufacturing space within Ludlow’s industrial area. This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). EDA funds the PVPC to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic -development road map to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Strengthens in April

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 2.4 points to 60.3 last month. Confidence remains well within optimistic territory, though still 3.9 points below its strong reading of April 2018. The April 2019 increase reflected growing employer optimism about economic prospects for the next six months and about the future of their own companies. All of the constituent indicators that make up the Index rose during April with one notable exception. The Employment Index fell 1.5 points to 54.4, suggesting that employer sentiment continues to be tempered by a persistent shortage of qualified workers. “The Business Confidence Index continues to show a conflict between short-term economic optimism and long-term concern about the prospect of finding enough appropriately skilled workers to run Massachusetts businesses,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The immediate news for employers is positive as economic growth in Massachusetts surged to an annual rate of 4.6% during the first quarter of 2019, and U.S. growth came in at 3.2%.” The constituent indicators showed a broad-based strengthening of confidence during April. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 1.5 points to 63.2, while the U.S. Index gained 2.8 points to 58.3. The Massachusetts reading has declined 0.9 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 5.6 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 3.1 points to 60.5. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 1.7 points to 60.0, still 5.1 points lower than a year ago. The decline in the Employment Index left that measure 5.4 points lower than in April 2018. One good sign for job seekers is that the Sales Index, a key predictor of future business activity, rose 3.9 points during the month.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Partners with Tech Foundry on Program for Students

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) and Tech Foundry partnered together for a leadership-development curriculum for the students participating in the 14-week IT-training program. At no cost to the students, Tech Foundry prepares a cross-section of the population to step into a sustainable career in the information-technology sector. The program provides a comprehensive computer-science curriculum that gives students the fundamental knowledge needed to work with a variety of programming languages, computer hardware, networking solutions, and more. Partnering with Leadership Pioneer Valley, Tech Foundry was able to offer leadership development and skills to the students. “I can definitely say that, as a result of working with LPV, our students’ skill sets and confidence increased by leaps and bounds. Lora was thoughtful and responsive from our first planning meetings designing the curriculum to establishing the schedule, to securing trainers and delivering the workshops to meet our unique program needs,” said Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez, executive director of Tech Foundry. “Interactive and engaging LPV sessions with Tech Foundry ranged from students creating an elevator pitch on video to team exercises building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows, to a creativity and problem-solving session rooted in improv-comedy techniques. We would highly recommend LPV to other nonprofits and companies, and look forward to a longstanding partnership.” LPV is also currently seeking applications for its LEAP Class of 2020. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley are encouraged to apply. The deadline for applications is Monday, July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

Scholarships Available for STEM Studies at HCC

HOLYOKE — Students enrolled full-time in chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, or other STEM fields at Holyoke Community College (HCC) may qualify for a National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship of up to $10,000 a year toward tuition and fees. Recipients of the scholarship become members of HCC’s STEM Scholars program and participate in field trips and benefit from other exclusive STEM-related events and activities each semester. The NSF STEM scholarship continues each semester students maintain good academic standing. Incoming and current HCC students are encouraged to apply. The application deadline for the 2019-20 academic year is Monday, July 15. Eligibility guidelines for the National Science Foundation STEM scholarship can be viewed at www.hcc.edu/scholarships, where there is also a link to the online application under ‘National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM.’ Applicants must be enrolled full time in a STEM program, demonstrate academic ability or potential, and demonstrate financial need, according to the guidelines. STEM disciplines include biological sciences, physical sciences, math, computer and information services, geosciences, and engineering.

Briefcase

Leadership Pioneer Valley Accepting Applications for LEAP Class of 2020

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is now accepting applications for enrollment in the LEAP class of 2020, a nine-month, regional leadership-development program that engages the Pioneer Valley’s most promising emerging leaders through learning and exploration. Participants are trained in leadership skills by experts in a classroom setting. They also attend in-depth field experiences across the region where they meet with local leaders and explore the region’s economy and culture. The LEAP program runs September through May. In its seven years, nearly 300 individuals representing more than 90 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated. The program has filled a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region. Fifty-three percent of alumni have a new leadership role at work, 64% have joined a new board of directors, and 99% made new meaningful connections. LPV is seeking applicants all over the Pioneer Valley, including Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties in different sectors. The program is made for those in nonprofits, businesses, and government who are eager to increase their leadership skills and take action to better the region. Applicants are considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying. Those who apply by June 1 will be eligible for $100 off of their personal tuition, and companies with three or more applicants by June 1 will receive 50% off one participant. The deadline for LPV class of 2020 applications is July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

First-quarter Profits Up Across MGM Resorts

LAS VEGAS — MGM Resorts International reported financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019. Consolidated net revenues increased 13% compared to the prior year quarter to $3.2 billion. MGM Springfield earned $9.38 million on $77.9 million in net revenue. That figure represents adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization, or EBITDA. “The first quarter came in slightly better than our expectations with consolidated net revenues up by 13% and adjusted EBITDA up 5%,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “Our Las Vegas resorts experienced broad and diversified customer demand. Our non-gaming revenues grew by 4%.” Net revenues increased 21% to $804 million, including $78 million in contributions from the opening of MGM Springfield in August and $37 million in contributions from the acquisition of Empire City Casino in New York in January. “We remain focused on achieving our 2020 targets of $3.6 billion to $3.9 billion in consolidated adjusted EBITDA and significant growth in free cash flow,” Murren said. “Our strategy to achieve these goals includes the continued ramping up of MGM Cotai [in Macau], Park MGM [in Las Vegas], and MGM Springfield, and the implementation of the MGM 2020 Plan. MGM 2020 is a company-wide initiative aimed at leveraging a more centralized organization to maximize profitability and lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

PVPC Releases Economic-development Strategy

SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) recently released its 2019 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and Pioneer Valley Plan for Progress Five-year Update, a blueprint for economic development in the region. The CEDS features a description of regional economic-development conditions and sets forth goals and objectives for the future, as well as a list of projects seeking the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Public Works funding in the next year. The report highlights the region’s continued decrease in unemployment, an improved workforce-talent pipeline, and increased early-education enrollment and high-school and community-college graduation rates, among others, as metrics illustrating the overall progress being made. The CEDS also lists many major committed projects of regional significance, such as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame renovations in Springfield, North Square at the Mill District in Amherst, and the One Ferry Street mixed-use development in Easthampton. A full digital copy is available at www.pvpc.org/plans/comprehensive-economic-development-strategy-ceds. Hard copies are also available upon request.

Briefcase

Springfield Regional Chamber Releases Legislative Agenda

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) 2019 Outlook has released its legislative agenda outlining the priorities of its more than 500 members for the legislative session and the major issues it will focus on to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs, and stimulate growth in the Greater Springfield region. The SRC’s 2019-20 legislative agenda touches upon key issues in the areas of healthcare, workplace issues, workforce development and education, tax policy, and energy. Creed said the cost of healthcare and access to it is the number-one priority of the business community. In support of this focus, Creed serves as a steering committee member of the Employer Health Coalition, an employer-led effort to use its collective influence to uncover solutions that drive real change in the healthcare delivery system and reduce cost. She the SRC will also focus its efforts on the ending of the temporary increase to the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC). To address the rising costs of MassHealth, the Legislature imposed a temporary assessment on businesses to cover these costs. Creed said the assessment was passed as a temporary measure, and the legislation dictates it to sunset at the end of 2019. Creed added that the SRC will also work to ensure mandated benefits be evidence-based and that their values exceeds their cost, while advocating for geographic equity in hospital reimbursements. She was part of the group that negotiated the legislative compromise which came to be known as the ‘grand bargain’ which enacted, among other things, a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. She said the SRC will remain actively involved in its implementation. In addition, the SRC will encourage reforms to independent-contractor laws. Advocating for a return to prior statutory language for treble damages and opposing changes to wage ‘theft’ laws are also part of the chamber’s advocacy work. Workforce development remains a priority for the SRC and its members. Creed said finding qualified workers is at a critical juncture to the growth of the region. She said that supporting innovation which not only expands educational opportunities but links it to labor-market demand will be key to helping businesses with this need. The SRC will also advocate for modernizing the state funding formula while coupling it with reforms. Creed noted that the SRC will continue its focus on the state budget and how revenues are prioritized and spent, including supporting the rebuilding of the Stabilization Fund, or ‘rainy day’ fund, and encouraging it only in dire circumstances; supporting adequate funding for programs to meet the unique needs of the region’s gateway cities; advocating for adequate funding for local aid; maintaining the state’s high bond rating; ensuring the revenues collected from cannabis taxation are appropriately spent; and opposing any increase in the income tax on business. Rounding out the SRC’s legislative agenda is energy, and to that end, the SRC will advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy which includes a balanced energy portfolio, development of alternative renewable energy sources, expansion of the supply of natural gas and conservation, and energy-efficiency measures.

Independent Hospital Systems Launch Mass. Value Alliance

HOLYOKE — A coalition of 10 independent Massachusetts health systems, including 14 community hospitals, have formed the Massachusetts Value Alliance (MVA) to enhance their efforts in delivering high-quality, patient-centered, and cost-effective care to their communities. The member hospitals of the MVA collectively represent the largest collaboration of independent healthcare providers in the Commonwealth, with a combined $3.1 billion in total revenue. The 10-member collaborative spans the breadth of Massachusetts geographically, and serves approximately 2 million people in their combined market areas. This alliance is unique in Massachusetts as the only collaboration of independent healthcare systems. The MVA was founded in 2016 by Emerson Hospital, Sturdy Memorial Hospital, and South Shore Health. Membership has continued to grow and now also includes Holyoke Medical Center, Berkshire Health Systems, Harrington HealthCare System, Heywood Healthcare, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, and Southcoast Health. The specific goals of the MVA include the development of group purchasing and shared service arrangements, identification and sharing of best practices to enhance each organization’s ability to affect and lower the total cost of care while enhancing quality of care, and support for the development of population-health-management and care-coordination skill sets and capabilities. To date, the MVA has worked to facilitate cost savings for its member organizations through group purchasing of services, including reference-lab services and employee health benefits. Other initiatives are underway, including several MVA hospitals working together on the selection and implementation of a common electronic-medical-record platform. The MVA is governed by a board of directors and operates on a shared decision-making platform. MVA member health systems remain competitive and independent, each maintaining their community focus.

Statewide Unemployment Holds Steady In March

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.0% in March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,100 jobs in March. Over the month, the private sector added 5,400 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; manufacturing; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; other services; financial activities; trade, transportation, and utilities; and information. Leisure and hospitality lost jobs over the month. 

From March 2018 to March 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts added 28,200 jobs. The March unemployment rate was eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.8% reported by the BLS. The labor force increased by 100 from 3,843,600 in February, as 1,700 more residents were employed and 1,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped five-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 67.9%. Compared to March 2018, the labor force participation rate is up 0.7%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; and education and health services.

Baystate Health Informs Patients of E-mail Phishing Incident

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health announced it has mailed letters to patients about an e-mail phishing incident that affected approximately 12,000 patients. On Feb. 7, Baystate Health learned of unauthorized access to an employee’s e-mail account and immediately launched an investigation. During the course of the investigation, it learned that nine employee e-mail accounts were compromised as a result of an e-mail phishing incident. “As soon as Baystate identified the unauthorized access, each account was secured,” said Kevin Hamel, chief Information Security officer for Baystate Health. “Baystate hired an experienced computer forensic firm to assist in this investigation.” The investigation determined that some patient information was contained in the e-mail accounts, including patient names, dates of birth, health information (such as diagnoses, treatment information, and medications), and, in some instances, health-insurance information, as well as a limited number of Medicare numbers and Social Security numbers. Neither patient medical records nor any of Baystate’s electronic-medical-record systems were compromised. Baystate is offering a complimentary one-year membership to credit-monitoring and identity-protection services for those patients whose Social Security numbers were exposed. “The integrity of our information systems and e-mail security is a high priority, and we are committed to maintaining and securing patient information at all times,” said Joel Vengco, senior vice president and chief Information officer for Baystate Health. To help prevent something like this from happening in the future, the health system required a password change for all affected employees, increased the level of e-mail logging (and is reviewing those logs regularly), and has blocked access to e-mail accounts outside of its network. It is also reinforcing its current, ongoing training and education of all employees focused on detecting and avoiding phishing e-mails. More information may be found on Baystate’s website at baystatehealth.org/phishing.

Valley Blue Sox Seek Volunteer Host Families

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox are currently searching for volunteer host families for the upcoming 2019 New England Collegiate Baseball League season. The Blue Sox are a nonprofit, collegiate summer baseball team that recruits baseball players from across the country. Players come to the Valley in hopes of enhancing their draft status and furthering their professional baseball careers. Volunteer host families offer Blue Sox players housing for the duration of the summer season, which runs from June 5 to August 1. Families who volunteer to host Blue Sox players will receive the following: paid general admission and concessions vouchers for all family members in the household at all 2019 Blue Sox home games, access to special team events, on-field recognition at the end of the 2019 season, and two tickets to the Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame induction banquet. Families are required to provide a private bedroom, which may be shared with another Blue Sox player, with proper bedding, linens, and towels. Questions regarding hosting Blue Sox players can be addressed to Blue Sox General Manager Chris Weyant at [email protected]

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Slips in March

BOSTON — Business confidence weakened slightly in March amid signs of both a cyclical global slowdown and persistent demographic factors limiting the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 0.3 points to 57.9 during March. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 5.6 points during the past 12 months. The decrease reflected employer concerns about economic prospects for the next six months. Those concerns outweighed growing optimism among manufacturing companies and rising confidence in the Massachusetts economy. The March survey took place as the government announced that Massachusetts created only 20,000 jobs during 2018 instead of the 65,500 previously estimated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average payroll job growth in Massachusetts fell from 1.3% in 2017 to 0.9% last year. The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord said employers remain concerned as Beacon Hill lawmakers undertake a broad discussion of how to fund expensive policy priorities such as transportation infrastructure, public education, and clean energy. He noted that AIM will be part of a group assembled by the state Senate to look at the Massachusetts tax code, adding that “Massachusetts must develop a fair strategy to address its spending needs without harming employers who are already struggling to implement a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program along with the rising cost of both health insurance and energy.”

Two Massachusetts Organizations Call for an End to Trashed Rivers

GREENFIELD — The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) and the Charles River Watershed Assoc. (CRWA), two national leaders in the effort to clean up the nation’s rivers, called on Massachusetts lawmakers to take legislative action on reducing trash before it reaches rivers. The two organizations pointed to a number of bills currently working their way through the Massachusetts State House that would, if approved, go a long way to reduce or eliminate trash that might otherwise end up in the state’s waterways. The proposed legislation includes measures to eliminate single-use plastic bags, restrict single-use plastic straws, and eliminate foam from food containers. “For years, thousands of volunteers from these two organizations have been doing their part to keep our rivers clean,” noted CRC Cleanup Coordinator Stacey Lennard. “Now we want decision makers at the state level to do their part in helping redesign our economy so there isn’t waste in the first place.” Added Emily Norton, CRWA’s executive director, “with environmental regulations being rolled back weekly at the federal level, it is more important than ever that we have strong protections for our waterways at both the state and the local levels. We need your help to make sure that happens.” CRC and CRWA also called on the public to join them in urging legislators to do their part by signing CRC’s petition telling manufacturers, businesses, and local government to lead the way on overhauling how plastic and other waste products are made and used, and to take greater responsibility in solving the trash crisis (visit www.ctriver.org/takeaction); joining the 23rd annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27-28, along the Connecticut River and tributary streams across the four-state watershed (visit www.ctriver.org/cleanup to learn more); and participating in the 20th annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon (www.crwa.org/cleanup).

Sportsmen’s Land Trust Announces New License Plate

BOSTON — A new Massachusetts passenger plate is now available at all full-service RMV locations for outdoor enthusiasts interested in wildlife conservation, habitat improvement, and guaranteed public access to Massachusetts land. The new “Habitat and Heritage” plate features a whitetail deer buck drawn by Springfield wildlife artist Edward Snyder. Proceeds from the plate will benefit the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sportsmen’s National Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established in 2007, dedicated to conserving and improving wildlife habitat for use by the public. With funds from the license plate, the Sportsmen’s Land Trust can further its mission to acquire open space and partner with other like-minded organizations to complete habitat improvement projects across Massachusetts. For more information, visit the special plates section of the Massachusetts RMV website, or e-mail the SNLT at [email protected].

BusinessWest Accepting Continued Excellence Award Nominations

SPRINGFIELD — BusinessWest is looking for nominees for its fifth Continued Excellence Award, and will accept nominations through Friday, May 3. The winner of the award will be unveiled at the magazine’s 40 Under Forty gala on Thursday, June 20. Four years ago, BusinessWest inaugurated the award to recognize past 40 Under Forty honorees who had significantly built on their achievements since they were honored. The first two winners were Delcie Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT, and Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president of Allergy and Immunology Associates of Western Mass. and chief of Allergy and Immunology at Baystate Medical Center. Both were originally named to the 40 Under Forty class of 2008. The judges chose two winners in 2017: Scott Foster, an attorney with Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas (40 Under Forty class of 2011); and Nicole Griffin, owner of Griffin Staffing Network (class of 2014). Last year, Samalid Hogan, regional director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013), took home the honor. Candidates must hail from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007-18 — and will be judged on qualities including outstanding leadership, dedicated community involvement, professional achievement, and ability to inspire. The award’s presenting sponsor is Health New England. The nomination form is available HERE. A list of the past 12 40 Under Forty classes may be found HERE. For more information, call Bevin Peters, Marketing and Events director, at (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

Briefcase

BusinessWest Accepting Continued Excellence Award Nominations

SPRINGFIELD — BusinessWest is looking for nominees for its fifth Continued Excellence Award, and will accept nominations through Friday, May 3. The winner of the award will be unveiled at the magazine’s 40 Under Forty gala on Thursday, June 20. Four years ago, BusinessWest inaugurated the award to recognize past 40 Under Forty honorees who had significantly built on their achievements since they were honored. The first two winners were Delcie Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT, and Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president of Allergy and Immunology Associates of Western Mass. and chief of Allergy and Immunology at Baystate Medical Center. Both were originally named to the 40 Under Forty class of 2008. The judges chose two winners in 2017: Scott Foster, an attorney with Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas (40 Under Forty class of 2011); and Nicole Griffin, owner of Griffin Staffing Network (class of 2014). Last year, Samalid Hogan, regional director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013), took home the honor. Candidates must hail from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007-18 — and will be judged on qualities including outstanding leadership, dedicated community involvement, professional achievement, and ability to inspire. The award’s presenting sponsor is Health New Enlgand. The nomination form is available HERE. A list of the past 12 40 Under Forty classes may be found HERE. For more information call Bevin Peters, Marketing and Events Director, at (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Jewish Nursing Home, Six Other Facilities Reach Settlement with State

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that the state reached settlements with seven nursing homes, including Jewish Nursing Home of Longmeadow, after an investigation found “systemic failures” at the facilities that led to the death or injury of some residents. About $500,000 in penalties were announced during a news conference Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported. The seven facilities will now be enrolled in strict compliance programs and must undergo safety and care-quality improvements. Settlements were reached with Jewish Nursing Home of Longmeadow (which received an $85,000 fine), Oxford Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Haverhill ($180,000), Wakefield Center in Wakefield ($30,000), the Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Everett ($40,000), Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Westboro ($37,500), Braemoor Health Center in Brockton, and Woodbriar Health Center in Wilmington. Synergy Health Centers, which owns Braemoor and Woodbriar, is banned from operating in Massachusetts for seven years. Synergy will pay between $100,000 and $200,000 in fines.

Phase 3 Complete at Atwood Professional Campus

NORTHAMPTON — A ribbon-cutting ceremony has been scheduled for Friday, April 5 at 1 p.m. at the site of phase 3 of the Atwood Professional Campus located at 15 Atwood Dr. in Northampton. This 66,000-square-foot, Class A, three-story professional office building compliments the existing office buildings located across the street at 8 and 22 Atwood Dr., immediately off exit 18 on I-91. Both previous buildings are fully occupied, with notable tenants including Cooley Dickinson Health Care Corp., Clinical & Support Options Inc., and New England Dermatology. The new building was erected at the site of the former Clarion Inn & Conference Center and is designed to appeal to professional and medical office tenants. The owners of Northwood Development, LLC — Edward O’Leary, Eileen O’Leary Sullivan, and Susan O’Leary Mulhern — developed this project. The construction of the building was completed in January 2019. The Hampshire County Probate and Family Court has leased 22,000 square feet in the new building consisting of the entire first floor along with a portion of the second floor. Cooley Dickinson Health Care Corp. has also leased 7,682 square feet on the second floor for medical offices, and construction for that space is currently underway. Development Associates of Agawam, the project manager and leasing agent for the project, has been developing commercial and industrial property throughout the Pioneer Valley for more than 35 years.

Employer Confidence Inches Up in February

BOSTON — Business confidence rebounded modestly during February as optimism about the state and national economies outweighed a darkening outlook among Massachusetts manufacturers. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index gained 0.5 points to 58.2 after dropping in January to its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 6.8 points during the past 12 months. The February increase was driven by a 3.4% jump in employer views of the state economy and a 3.3% rise for the national economy. The government announced last week that the U.S. economy grew at a 2.9% rate in 2018, matching 2015 as the biggest increase since the end of the 2007-09 Great Recession. “Employers remain generally optimistic about a state economy that continues to run at full-employment levels and a U.S. economy that is projected to grow by 2.2% this year” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. “At the same time, the erosion of confidence among Massachusetts manufacturers during the past 12 months raises some concern about the long-term sustainability of the recovery.”

Grant Funds Opioid-addiction Treatment in Two County Jails

AMHERST — In what could serve as a model for tackling one of the nation’s top public-health crises, a UMass Amherst epidemiology researcher is teaming up with two Western Mass. sheriff’s offices to design, implement, and study an opioid-treatment program for jail detainees in Franklin and Hampshire counties. Funded with a $1.5 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the three-year project aims to deliver medications to some 500 detainees who agree to treatment, and connect them to follow-up care through a comprehensive community re-entry program after their release. Elizabeth Evans, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and one of the grant recipients, will collect data from all the stakeholders to measure the project’s outcomes. “The idea is to distill the lessons learned into a playbook or guide that can be used in jails in Massachusetts and across the nation,” she said. “Evidence supports the use of medications to treat opioid-use disorder. This model signifies a willingness of the sheriffs to deliver care to reduce recidivism and to save people’s lives.” Evans will help Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, Assistant Superintendent Ed Hayes, and their staff expand and formalize the groundbreaking opioid treatment they began offering inmates in 2015 at the county jail in Greenfield. She also will work with Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane, Assistant Superintendent Melinda Cady, and their staff to implement the same program in the Northampton jail.

Hampden County Bar Assoc. Offers Two Law School Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — The Hampden County Bar Assoc. is now accepting applications for the John F. Moriarty Scholarship and the Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship. The John F. Moriarty Scholarship is available to any Hampden County resident who has been admitted to or is attending a certified law school for the 2019-20 academic year. Applicants must have been residents of Hampden County for at least five years. The deadline date for the John F. Moriarty Scholarship is May 31. The Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship is available to any veteran with an honorable discharge or a current member of the U.S. military who has been admitted to or is attending a certified law school in New England for the 2019-20 year. The deadline for the Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship is May 15. Both scholarships are based on merit and financial need. Applications and additional information are available by contacting Caitlin Glenn at the Hampden County Bar Assoc. at (413) 732-4660 or [email protected] or by visiting www.hcbar.org/about-us/scholarships/.

YouthWorks Program Seeks Employers to Participate in Summer-jobs Program

SPRINGFIELD — The MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board will hold a press conference on Friday, April 5 to launch its 2019 YouthWorks summer-jobs campaign. The event will take place at 1 p.m. at the Reed Institute, located at 152 Notre Dame St., Westfield. The agency’s goal is to place up to 800 youth in summer jobs. Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan will be joined by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos to announce the summer youth-employment initiative. Also in attendance will be state Sen. James Welch and state Reps. Joseph Wagner, John Velis, Jose Tosado, Aaron Vega, Carlos Gonzalez, and Bud Williams. Each year, thousands of YouthWorks applications are received for a few hundred jobs. Employer participation is paramount to ensure a successful summer for youth between ages 14 and 21. Youth employed through the YouthWorks summer-jobs program will earn $12 per hour, work an average of 125 hours over six weeks, and receive 15 hours of training in workplace-readiness skills and workplace safety. Employers who are interested in hiring a youth, becoming a YouthWorks worksite, or donating money to help pay the wages for a youth to work should contact Kathryn Kirby, manager of Youth Employment and Workforce Programs, at (413) 755-1359.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Slides to Begin 2019

BOSTON — Stabilizing financial markets and continued strong employment were not enough to brighten the outlook of Massachusetts employers during January as business confidence fell for the fifth time in seven months. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 0.9 points to 57.7, its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence has dropped 6.4 points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by a 7.3-point drop in employer views of the Massachusetts economy and a 2.4-point drop in opinions about the national economy. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but every element of the AIM Index is now lower than it was a year ago. A separate survey within the January Business Confidence Index found that, while 71% of Massachusetts employers have seen some effect from the U.S. government’s imposition of tariffs on goods form China and other nations, only 10% of companies characterize the effect as “significant” or a threat to the existence of their business. The most common consequence of the tariffs has been an increase in raw-material prices, followed by changes to the supply chain, supply interruptions, products affected by retaliatory tariffs, and loss of overseas customers.

1Berkshire Begins to Implement Berkshire Blueprint 2.0

PITTSFIELD — On Feb. 15, 1Berkshire launched the implementation phase of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, a strategic economic-development imperative. With more than 300 registered attendees packing the Colonial Theatre in downtown Pittsfield, 1Berkshire members, regional leaders, and elected officials from across the county shared this project, already two years in the making. The event was the culmination of more than 100 interviews, thousands of hours of work, and more than 20 months of planning and design. 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler kicked off the primary outline during the launch by recognizing that $1 billion in regional investments have been made in the Berkshires in just the last three years. Beginning the implementation phase of the Blueprint 2.0 entails a number of action steps, focused on five key industrial clusters, as well as other economic-landscape components and cross-cutting issues. Collectively, this work aims to unite all geographic corners of the county for a common goal of economic development and sustained growth.

Study Shows Economic Impact of Westover Air Show

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst economic impact study estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending. The findings confirm increased per-group spending and their impacts on the local economy even though attendance was significantly down; 2018 attendance was estimated to be around 63,475, down from the 375,500 estimated in 2015. The study was undertaken to understand the economic impact and to benchmark the findings of the 2008 and 2015 air shows for the Galaxy Community Council, a charitable corporation of veterans, local business people, and other citizens who work to support the Westover base. The project was completed by the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. The overall economic significance including respondents’ expenditures both within and outside the region of the air show for 2018 was estimated to be $4.02 million. However, when local attendees were removed, the direct economic expenditures from non-locals was estimated to be $2.67 million, and the direct and induced sales multiplier impact overall was estimated to be $4.3 million. This compares to an economic significance in 2015 that was $11.6 million and a local direct economic impact (including the sales multiplier) of $14.9 million. In 2008, economic significance was $8.2 million, and the direct economic impact was $12.3 million.

Holyoke Wins Grant to Create Services for Older Victims of Domestic Abuse

HOLYOKE — The city of Holyoke has been awarded a grant of $398,205 from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women for a period of three years to create and enhance services for older victims of domestic abuse. This will allow the city to create and design Project Combating Abuse in Later Life (CALL) to address domestic abuse for those aged 50 and older who reside in the city. Project CALL will partner with the Holyoke Police Department, the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, Womanshelter Companeras, and WestMass ElderCare and receive advanced training on abuse in later life from the Office of Violence against Women, then conduct training to law enforcement, service providers, and residents to enhance effective service. Project CALL will have an HPD Elder Affairs Officer team up with a victim advocate and conduct direct services and outreach to those designated as high-risk. This team will enhance victim safety by not only providing support and services to the victim, but finding community-based interventions for the abuser while simultaneously placing them on high-risk status and sharing their information with the CALL Task Force and across systems. The collaborative team aims to have contacts at points of abuse and arrests, and include direct support through the court process. This team will also be responsible for community-based monitoring, case management, and responding to emergency referrals and implementing safety plans for the victims. The CALL Task Force will also act as a wraparound support system responsible for identifying the underserved Spanish elderly population by developing, implementing, and distributing a safety-plan brochure in Spanish for elder victims of domestic violence.

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Decline for Second Straight Year

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by 4% in 2018 compared to 2017, marking the second consecutive year-over-year decrease in deaths, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That 4% decline follows a 2% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Fentanyl, however, remained a key factor in opioid-related overdose deaths; it was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present has been declining since 2016, falling to about 34% of opioid-related overdose deaths that had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. In 2018, preliminary estimates showed 1,974 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, or 82 fewer deaths than the 2,056 confirmed and estimated deaths in 2017. There were 2,099 confirmed deaths in 2016. “The decrease in overdose deaths provides some hope that our approach to combating the opioid epidemic is having an impact,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We must maintain an intense focus on this crisis and continue to expand opportunities to increase harm-reduction initiatives and expand treatment and recovery services.” While the report showed an overall decline in opioid-related overdose deaths, non-Hispanic black males experienced a 45% increase from 2016 to 2017 in the opioid-related overdose death rate.

Historic Restoration Begins at Old Hampshire County Courthouse

NORTHAMPTON — HCG announced the official start of the historic Hampshire County Courthouse restoration. This phase of the project consists of repairs to the roof, tower, as well as windows and masonry. The building is owned and occupied by HCG. Arlington-based Boston Bay Architects Inc. is overseeing the $1.8 million project, and Wesfield Construction Co. Inc. of New Hampshire won the bid for construction. The restoration will begin at the top of the southern facing tower with the replacement of terracotta roof tiles. Exterior repairs include masonry stone restoration and brick stabilization. The tower interior carpentry work will focus on roof, floor, stairs, and railings. At the completion of the tower, the work will continue down the southern façade with window repair and replacement to energy-efficient historical windows. In October 2017, the Baker-Polito administration announced the release of Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) funds to HCG for this current phase of repairs. In 2015, DCAMM released $500,000 for safety repairs to the building’s steps and roof. The Northampton Community Preservation committee has played an integral role in the plans for this phase of renovation, contributing $200,000 to the building restoration. Local Community Preservation Acts contributed an additional $10,000 from Hatfield and $8,000 from Goshen. Area banks have pledged $38,000, and the Hampshire Foundation Buy a Brick program provided $8,800 from local residents and businesses.

Briefcase

Nominations Open for Annual Ubora and Ahadi Awards

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums is seeking nominations for the 28th annual Ubora Award and the 10th annual Ahadi Youth Award. These prestigious awards — conferred by the African Hall Subcommittee — honor African-American people from Greater Springfield who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating commitment to fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts. The African Hall Subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The nomination deadline for both awards is March 31. True to the Swahili word that comprises its name, the Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. In 2018, the Ubora Award was given to Keshawn Dobbs, who leads the Springfield Boys and Girls Club Family Center. Named for the Swahili word for ‘promise,’ the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12. In 2018, the Ahadi Award was given to Karissa Coleman. The Ubora and Ahadi Awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in September. Nomination forms can be downloaded by visiting springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. Nominations may be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, c/o Valerie Cavagni, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.

Monson Savings Bank Accepting Applications for Scholarship Program

MONSON — The 2019 Monson Savings Bank Scholarship application is now available to graduating high-school seniors residing in Hampden and Wilbraham. Applications are available at the Hampden office at 15 Somers Road, Hampden and the Wilbraham office at 100 Post Office Park, Wilbraham. The purpose of the Monson Savings Bank Scholarship is to promote the attainment of higher education for graduating seniors who reside within the bank’s footprint. Three $2,000 scholarships will awarded. Graduating seniors must be planning to attend an accredited college, technical school, or certification program. Scholarship awards will be based on the applicant’s financial need, academic performance, and extracurricular activities during and after school, work experience, as well as music, arts, and/or sports programs. Monson Savings Bank is proud to be an integral part of its greater community. A candidate for this scholarship should have demonstrated a commitment to his or her community. Please include an essay outlining that service and the impact you achieved through your contribution. The deadline for application acceptance is April 5. The completed application and required supporting documents will be accepted by mail or electronically. If you have any questions, contact Donna Easton-Vicalvi at (413) 725-4560 or [email protected]

Big Brothers Big Sisters Announces Partnership with Camp Glow It Up

AMHERST — CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County announced a partnership with Camp Glow It Up, a new summer camp for women. The first weekend camp brings the fun and energy of a kids’ sleepaway camp to adults and will be held March 29-31 at Nine Mountain Retreats in Plainfield. The all-inclusive wellness camp features activities like fitness classes, yoga, hiking, group circles, a campfire, singalongs, arts and crafts, and a glow-in-the-dark dance party. Nutritious meals will be prepared by an in-house chef. The camp promises to highlight the power of women as individuals while also creating space for bonding among friends and strangers turned friends. The partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters means a portion of Camp Glow It Up’s proceeds will help fund a program to send girls involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County to their own summer-camp experiences. “We believe in our shared responsibility to invest in the next generation of women leaders, and together, we will forage a path toward empowerment of women and girls,” said Katie Lipsmeyer, the camp’s founder. Added Jessie Cooley, director of CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, “knowing Katie’s passion for helping to empower others, and the role that Big Brothers Big Sisters plays in igniting the potential of young people, it is exciting to think about the girls in our program who will benefit from empowering summer-camp experiences thanks to the generosity of Camp Glow It Up.”

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in December

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.3% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 5,600 jobs in December. Over the month, the private sector added 5,500 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; manufacturing; financial activities; and information. Construction and trade, transportation, and utilities lost jobs over the month. From December 2017 to December 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,800 jobs. The December unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates show an addition of 184,700 residents to the labor force during 2018 — the largest yearly increase in the labor force since the beginning of the series in 1976. These labor-force gains, alongside the 65,800 jobs added to the economy last year, are indicators of the continued strength of the job market in the Commonwealth,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force increased by 5,000 from 3,837,000 in November, as 8,800 more residents were employed and 3,800 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 68.1%. Compared to December 2017, the labor-force participation rate is up 2.8%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; other services; and education and health services.

HCC Secures Grant to Create Hotel Training Lab

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) secured a $35,000 grant to establish a hotel training lab on the second floor of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. The award, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker and other administration officials, comes from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant Program, which funds the purchase of new equipment for educational initiatives linked to workforce needs. The lab will be set up like a hotel reception area with front desk and adjoining guest room and equipped with up-to-date technology and software. It will be used for non-credit workforce-training programs as well as credit-based associate degree and certificate programs in Hospitality Management. The lab is expected to be up and running in February. The competitive Skills Capital Grants require institutions to partner with local businesses and align the curriculum to meet industry requirements. HCC’s partners include the Log Cabin Delaney House, the Tower Square Hotel Springfield, and MassHire career centers in Holyoke and Springfield. Over the past three years, HCC has been awarded nearly $400,000 through the Skills Capital Grant Program, including $127,741 in 2016 to expand and enhance its EMT Training Program and $229,500 in 2017 for kitchen equipment at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened in January 2018 on Race Street in the Holyoke Innovation District. This new round of Skills Capital Grants mainly targets educational programs for people who may need help overcoming barriers to employment — those who may be unemployed or underemployed, lack English proficiency, or do not yet hold college credentials and want to develop new skills.

UMass Amherst Study Looks at Drought, Virus Impact on Plant Roots and Soil Carbon

AMHERST — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded biogeochemist Marco Keiluweit, assistant professor of Soils and the Environment in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, along with his collaborators elsewhere, two grants to study how climate change affects the capacity of soils to remove carbon from the atmosphere and retain enough nutrients for food production. In particular, the teams will investigate climate-change-related effects of drought and virus infection in plants, and their interaction with soils. Keiluweit and colleagues received $200,000 and $300,000 exploratory research awards from DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program, which supports “high-risk, high-reward” research, the soil-chemistry expert says. Keiluweit’s collaborators include Zoe Cardon at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory, the principal investigator on one of the grants, and Malak Tfaily at the University of Arizona, Carolyn Malmstrom at Michigan State University, and William J. Riley at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Their drought-focused research will look at plants in an alpine watershed near Gothic, Colo., where root-soil interactions are key regulators of ecosystem carbon storage and downstream nutrient loadings, the researchers say. These areas have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, they point out. For this work, Keiluweit says he and collaborators will make “very fine scale measurements of what is happening at the interface between roots and soil” in both greenhouse and field experiments. They want to explore what they call “elusive mechanisms” driving root-soil interaction, which may mobilize a “vast pool of organic matter that has been stabilized by associations with minerals for centuries or millennia.” Such mechanisms are missing from conceptual and numerical models of carbon cycling in soils, they note.

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke Opens New Boxing Program Space

HOLYOKE — In its heyday, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke was the boxing capital of Massachusetts. Its boxing program attracted seasoned and novice fighters as well as spectators from all over the Commonwealth, as well as Connecticut, New York, and other surrounding states. Some of the more prominent names even included Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson. After years of planning and six months of buildout, the Boys & Girls Club opened its new boxing program space, equipped with a regulation, 20-foot boxing ring and a variety of punching bags and workout stations. The club will reintroduce the sport as a non-contact youth-development program for after-school and summer-camp members. All activities will focus on mentoring, character development, teamwork, and discipline. Coaches will include members of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, the Holyoke Police Department, and past club alumni.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Weakens in December

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers gave a big “bah, humbug” to the year-end economy as business confidence withered in the face of a government shutdown and the largest one-month stock-market decline since the Great Depression. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost three points to 58.6 during December, its lowest level since December 2016. Confidence readings have dropped five points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by an 8.6-point drop in employer views of the national economy, and a 4.7-point drop among manufacturing companies. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but less comfortably so than earlier in 2018. “The Massachusetts economy remains strong, with a 3.3% growth rate and an unemployment rate of 3.4%, but employers are increasingly concerned about factors such as financial-market volatility, a dysfunctional national political debate, and challenges such as the cost of providing health insurance to employees,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Bradley Adds New Non-stop Service to Raleigh-Durham, Orlando, Pittsburgh

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the debut in 2019 of new, non-stop service from Bradley International Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Orlando International Airport on low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, as well as the addition of non-stop service to Pittsburgh on Via Airlines. The service to Raleigh-Durham will commence on April 30 on an Airbus A320. It will operate seasonally on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The service to Orlando will commence on May 1 on an Airbus A321. It will operate seasonally on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The service to Pittsburgh will commence on July 22 on an Embraer ERJ145 with 50 seats. It will operate four times a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

 

Community Foundation Awards $665,200 to 45 Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) recently awarded $665,200 to 45 area nonprofits through its capital grant and capacity grant programs, two of the foundation’s six competitive grant-making programs that focus on improving and supporting quality of life for people in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. CFWM capital grants help local nonprofit organizations expand their impact by funding new and upgraded technology, equipment, and facilities. Capacity grants support local nonprofits to build their own organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency. Grant awards range from $4,500 to $40,000 and address community needs in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, and human services. More than 25 of the projects funded were supported by trusts administered by Bank of America. CFWM receives and reviews grant applications on behalf of Bank of America for four charitable trusts for which the bank serves as a trustee. Total grant awards by county are as follows: Hampden, $412,000, Hampshire, $144,400, and Franklin, $108,800. Capital grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: Ascentria Community Services, Baystate Health Foundation, Bethlehem House, Chester Theatre Company, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, Davenport Child Care, Franklin County Community Meals Program, Franklin Land Trust, Friends of the Montague Common Hall, Friends of the Springfield Public Library, Gardening the Community, Hilltown Community Health Center, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Holyoke YMCA, MHA, Multicultural Community Services of the Pioneer Valley, Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., Robert F. Kennedy Academy, Roca, Second Chance Animal Services, ServiceNet, Springfield Museums, Stanley Park, Tapestry Health Systems, Tolland Volunteer Fire Department, Valley Eye Radio, Willie Ross School for the Deaf, and Womanshelter Companeras. Capacity Grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: 1794 Meetinghouse Inc., Birthday Wishes, Brick House Community Resource Center, Cancer Connection, Double Edge Theatre Productions, Hilltown Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, Link to Libraries, Mary Lyon Education Fund, Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, Massachusetts Review, North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy, Northampton Education Foundation, Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute, and the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts.

Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, Big Y Announce Local Farmer Awards

AGAWAM — Starting Jan. 1, farmers in Western Mass. are invited to apply for Local Farmer Awards up to $2,500 toward equipment and infrastructure projects to help them complete in the marketplace. The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and with the support of other funders, is entering the fifth year of the awards program, which has helped more than 125 farmers carry out a total of 188 projects. Some examples of how the awards have been used include a high-efficiency vegetable washer, a walk-in cooler aging room, an egg washer, high tunnel irrigation, electric fencing, and a milkplan bulk tank. To be eligible, farms must have gross sales of $10,000 or above and either be a member of Berkshire Grow or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) or reside in one the four Western Mass. counties. Berkshire Grown and CISA share their passion for local farms by providing ongoing guidance and help with promotion of the of the Local Farmer Awards. The deadline for applying is Thursday, Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information.

Horace Smith Fund Offers Scholarship, Fellowship Funds

WESTFIELD — The Horace Smith Fund, now in its 120th year, has scholarship and fellowship money available for graduates of Hampden County public and private high schools. Scholarship awards of $12,000 are distributed as $3,000 annually and renewable each year until graduation. Fellowship awards of $15,000 are distributed as $5,000 annually and renewable for two additional years. Students must maintain at least a B average in college. Recipients are selected on a variety of criteria, including financial need, college entrance-exam scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, and recommendations. Of great importance is a personal, written account of why the student feels deserving of financial assistance. Fellowship applicants must also submit their transcripts and, if applicable, GRE or degree-specific test scores. All recipients must be full-time students and residents of Hampden County. Last year, $382,000 was awarded to 37 individuals. Scholarships were given to 26 graduating seniors from 13 Hampden County high schools. Five scholarships were also awarded to current college students to assist them in completing their undergraduate degrees. Six fellowships were given to college graduates pursuing graduate degrees, who had graduated from Hampden County high schools. Completed applications must be received either electronically or by mail to the Horace Smith Fund at 16 Union Ave., Suite 2K, Westfield, MA 01085 no later than March 15, 2019. Applications are available at local high-school guidance offices, college financial-aid offices, online at www.horacesmithfund.org, or by phoning (413) 739-4222.

Small Businesses Starting to Feel Impact of Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the partial government shutdown continues, small businesses across the country are starting to feel the effects of the shutdown, resulting in unnecessary uncertainty at the start of a new fiscal year. Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Assoc. for the Self-Employed, the nation’s leading advocate and resource for the self-employed and micro-business community, called on Congress and the White House to work together to end the shutdown on behalf of America’s small-business community. The Washington Post reported that, as of Dec. 22, the Small Business Administration stopped processing new small-business loans due to the government shutdown. Thousands of small-business owners across the country are unable to receive critical funding to start and grow their businesses because of the partial government shutdown. Even when full funding is restored, a backlog is likely. “The negative consequences of one of the longest shutdowns in U.S. history is now fully impacting our country’s small-business community,” said Hall. “From uncertainty around how the shutdown could impact delays in tax refunds small businesses were looking to invest from this year’s new tax law to the shuttering of the Small Business Administration impacting small-business loans, America’s small businesses are on the front lines feeling the adverse impact.  “The government shutdown has created additional uncertainty during a critical time when small businesses are starting a new fiscal year,” he continued. “Small businesses must continue to abide by their tax obligations, including paying quarterly tax estimates and adhering to all filing deadlines. However, the federal government is unlikely to keep their end of the deal by processing tax refunds on time and providing small businesses access to critical answers they may have to questions about filing for the first time under the new tax law.” During the shutdown, about 12% of IRS staff are expected to continue working, according to the agency’s lapsed funding contingency plan. This will result in the inability of such functions as staff being available to answer questions for small businesses filing for the first time under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act law going into full effect this tax year. It could also negatively impact the ability of IRS staff to process tax refunds in a timely manner, resulting in delays.