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Briefcase

SPADC to End Management of Symphony Hall, CityStage

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp. (SPADC) said Monday it will no longer manage CityStage and Symphony Hall after its contracts expire at the end of 2018. “It is with great sadness, but also with a sense of accomplishment, we share the news that Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp. will cease operations at CityStage and Symphony Hall at the end of 2018 after a successful run in bringing entertainment to downtown Springfield for the past 20 years,” the organization posted on its website. “We are gratified to have played a role in bringing thousands of people to enjoy a diverse offering of high-quality entertainment at CityStage and Symphony Hall. Downtown entertainment is evolving, and we are proud of the contributions we have made in making the city an entertainment destination again.” The city of Springfield contracts for management of Symphony Hall, and the Springfield Parking Authority contracts for management of CityStage. Both entities are expected to discuss new requests for proposals for the two venues. MGM Springfield, which currently manages the MassMutual Center, could be an option to manage Symphony Hall and CityStage. MGM is currently obligated by its host-community agreement with the city of Springfield to book and underwrite at least three shows a year at the two venues. “Entertainment is a key component of the revitalization of downtown Springfield and the continued attraction of new visitors,” Talia Spera, executive director of entertainment at MGM Springfield, said in a news release Monday. “MGM Springfield will continue our conversations with the city leaders regarding the future of CityStage and Symphony Hall with the intent of supporting future dynamic performances in those venues.”

Cushman & Wakefield to Market Eastfield Mall Joint-venture Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — The ownership of Eastfield Mall in Springfield has appointed commercial real-estate-services firm Cushman & Wakefield to market a joint-venture partnership opportunity for the property’s mixed-use redevelopment. The 776,977-square-foot, enclosed regional shopping center sits on nearly 87 acres, providing scope and flexible zoning for a range of next-generation options. Eastfield Mall is currently 74% leased, with in-place net operating income offering interim cash flow while a redevelopment plan is put in place. Major tenants include Cinemark, Old Navy, Hannoush Jewelers, Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub, and Donovan’s Irish Pub, along with a non-owned Sears box that accounts for 254,446 square feet. The mall benefits from strong real-estate fundamentals, boasting a location along heavily trafficked Route 20 and access to downtown Springfield, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and interstates 291 and 91. Brian Whitmer, a member of the Cushman & Wakefield team serving as exclusive agent for the mall’s owner, Mountain Development Corp., noted that Eastfield Mall is well suited to become a mixed-use complex featuring a live-work-play atmosphere. “We expect this offering will attract an impressive level of interest from a diverse group of investors,” he said. “This is truly a distinctive opportunity given the many factors that support a successful repurposing.” That sentiment was echoed by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. “Malls all throughout our country are reinventing and redefining themselves to be more multifaceted,” he said. “My chief Development officer, Kevin Kennedy, and I will continue to assist our Eastfield Mall to restore the glory of the past toward a successful and diverse future.” The Cushman & Wakefield investment sales and retail specialists heading the Eastfield Mall assignment span two Cushman & Wakefield offices. They include Whitmer, Andrew Merin, David Bernhaut, Seth Pollack, and Kubby Tischler in East Rutherford, N.J.; and Peter Joseph, Brian Barnett, Steffen Panzone, Pete Rogers, and Ross Fishman in Boston.

Employer Confidence Strengthens During August

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers were equally confident about the national and state economies during August, breaking an eight-and-a-half-year run in which they were more bullish about the Commonwealth than the nation as a whole. The brightening view of the U.S. economy boosted overall business confidence as employers headed for the end of the third quarter. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index gained two points to 63.2 last month after tumbling more than five points during June and July. The gain left the Index two points higher than a year ago, comfortably within optimistic territory. Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the last time employers were more optimistic about the national economy than the state was during the nadir of the Great Recession in May 2009, when the AIM Massachusetts Index was 33.1 and the U.S. Index was 34.4. “The confluence of opinion reflects gathering optimism about the U.S. economy rather than any weakness in the Massachusetts business climate,” Torto said. “The Massachusetts Index rose 1.5 points during the year, but the U.S. Index soared 4.5 points during that same period.” Meanwhile, the Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations rose 2.4 points to 62.1, up 1.2 points from August 2017. The Employment Index gained 2.4 points to end the month at 57.0, while the Sales Index lost 0.8 points to 61.0. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 2.5 points to 66.1, leaving it 4.8 points higher than the year earlier. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 1.5 points during August, but remained down 1.0 point for the year.

Briefcase

Unify Against Bullying Accepting Grant Applications

SPRINGFIELD — Unify Against Bullying Executive Director Christine Maiwald announced that the organization is accepting grant applications online. The organization will be awarding $15,000 in microgrants, which can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000. Paul Mitchell and its Neon product line will award an additional $1,000 grant. “Our number-one goal is to inspire youth of all ages and to ignite their ideas as to how to prevent bullying,” Maiwald said. “We encourage parents, guidance personnel, teachers, administrators, and charity partners to also apply. Their programs must be dedicated to anti-bullying education and furthering the Unify mission: to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity.” In addition to providing the seeds for children to come up with ideas on how to prevent bullying, Unify’s high-school students attend events and are given the opportunity to speak with younger students on the value of celebrating differences. The students are also bringing education to their younger peers in school to explain what bullying is and the effects it has on an individual. The organization has a committee of volunteers who will select the applicant initiatives that best reflect and advance the organization’s mission.

Opioid Overdose Deaths Decline in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts have fallen steadily over the past three quarters even as the presence of fentanyl in overdose deaths reached an all-time high. The presence of fentanyl in the toxicology of those who died from opioid-related overdose deaths rose to nearly 90% in 2018, underscoring its impact as the driving force behind the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The report illustrates the changing nature of the epidemic, with cocaine now surpassing heroin in the toxicology for opioid-related deaths, beginning with the fourth quarter of 2017 (October through December). DPH officials reissued a June clinical advisory to all medical providers to warn them about the increase of fentanyl in cocaine. Overall, 2017 saw a 4% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths from 2016. The data also shows that the Commonwealth has experienced a 30% decline in opioid prescriptions since the launch of the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program (MassPAT) in August 2016. Between April and June 2018, searches by registered prescribers to MassPAT increased by 100,000 searches over the previous quarter, making it the largest increase in searches conducted in a single quarter.

Teach Western Mass Awarded License to Certify New Teachers

SPRINGFIELD — Teach Western Mass (TWM) was recently ​approved as a sponsoring organization for teacher licensure ​by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to train and certify new teachers in the region through the Teach Western Mass Residency. ​TWM completed a rigorous program-approval application process that demonstrated it is able to meet all the requirements for teacher-preparation programs, ​and expects to certify 20-50 aspiring special-education and ESL teachers annually to serve in partner schools in Holyoke and Springfield. Launched in 2015, TWM represents a network of 29 schools serving more than 11,000 students in Western Mass. Collectively, TWM and partner schools work to recruit, prepare, and support effective teachers in the region. The TWM Residency was established in 2018 in partnership with the nonprofit education organization TNTP and funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help build high-quality, diverse teacher pipelines for hard-to-fill teaching positions. An accelerated, affordable alternative to traditional certification programs, the program targets recent graduates, career changers, and professionals already in the education sector, including paraprofessionals and substitutes, seeking to earn their initial teacher certification. Once accepted into the program, participants will complete an intensive summer training and teach in classrooms under the guidance of an experienced coach. Their training is focused on the most important skills they’ll need to be successful in their first year of teaching and beyond. Only those who show that they’re on the way to mastering those core instructional skills at the end of training will be recommended for certification. The application for the 2019 cohort launches on Nov. 1​. Aspiring teachers can apply for the program by visiting ​www.teachwesternmass.com​.

Institute for Applied Life Sciences Boosts Industry Relationships

AMHERST — In addition to directing the Human Testing Center at UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), Michael Busa is managing the new class of research relationships emerging for the state’s largest public university campus, with corporate partners in biotech and healthcare. “It’s a new world for research academics,” said Busa, “because, even though we are a public university, when companies come to us looking for research support, they want to retain their intellectual property. There are new rules, and we now have an example of successfully navigating those new rules and relationships.” He is referring to a recent collaboration with Novartis that will see IALS researchers use the Human Testing Center’s living-science, sleep-monitoring, human-motion, and other facilities to evaluate behavior- and movement-monitoring technologies now in development. He says it is the first of what he expects to be many “big collaborations” between IALS and biotech and healthcare firms. Specifically for the Novartis collaboration, IALS researchers will assess the validity of a Novartis device in capturing detailed aspects of human motion and behavior such as walking, balance, and sleep. Busa, who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and training in mechanical engineering, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and physical activity, will work with kinesiologists Katherine Boyer, John Sirard, and Stuart Chipkin; neuroscientist and sleep expert Rebecca Spencer; and 10 supporting students and staff.

Briefcase

Gov. Baker Signs Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Legislation

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s and Dementia Act, a first-of-its-kind bill that unanimously passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. More than 130,000 people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts, and those individuals are being cared for by more than 337,000 family and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Assoc., Massachusetts will spend more than $1.6 billion in 2018 in Medicaid costs caring for people with Alzheimer’s. The governor signed the legislation shortly after approving $100,000 for public awareness about the disease in the most recent FY19 budget. There are five major areas of focus within the bill: establishing a comprehensive state plan to address Alzheimer’s disease within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, while also establishing a permanent advisory council to help coordinate government efforts and ensure that public and private resources are maximized and leveraged; requiring curriculum content about Alzheimer’s and other dementias be incorporated into continuing-medical-education programs required for granting the renewal of licensure for physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, and licensed nurse practitioners; ensuring proper notification of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis to the family or legal guardian and providing information on available resources to both the patient and family; improving cost-effectiveness and patient and caregiver experience in acute-care settings by requiring all state hospitals to implement an operational plan for the recognition and management of patients with dementia or delirium accountable to the Department of Public Health; and establishing minimum training standards for elder protective services social workers, to ensure protection from abuse and exploitation for elders with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Big Y Combats Opioid Crisis with Deterra System

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Pharmacy and Wellness Centers, along with all Big Y supermarkets, are now carrying the Deterra Drug Deactivation System at all stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is a drug-disposal pouch which allows people to easily and effectively dispose of unused or expired medications, even opioid painkillers, at home. Anyone can use a Deterra pouch to deactivate drugs, including pills, liquids, and patches. Each Deterra pouch contains activated carbon, which firmly bonds to pharmaceuticals, rendering them inert and unavailable for abuse. The Deterra pouch is the only environmentally sound, in-home drug-disposal system that permanently deactivates drugs. Big Y hopes to help combat the opioid crisis by stocking these deactivation kits in all its stores to provide customers with a safe and reliable way to keep unused medications from being diverted to abuse. Currently, the pouches are on sale for the introductory price of $3.99 for each pouch, which has the capacity to deactivate up to 45 pills, six ounces of liquid, or six patches.

Unemployment Holds Steady in July

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 3.6% in July from the June rate of 3.5%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,800 jobs in July. Over the month, the private sector added 5,900 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; manufacturing; and trade, transportation, and utilities. From July 2017 to July 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 66,800 jobs. The July unemployment rate was three-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job estimates show the Commonwealth has gained over 51,000 jobs since December and 213,600 jobs since January 2015. These job gains, alongside low unemployment rates and labor-force growth, are signs of the continued health of the Massachusetts labor market,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force increased by 27,100 from 3,758,900 in June, as 24,700 more residents were employed and 2,400 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point from 3.7% in July 2017. 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 — is up four-tenths of a percentage point over the month at 67.3%. Compared to July 2017, the labor force participation rate is up 1.8%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Flat During July

BOSTON — Confidence levels among Massachusetts employers were virtually unchanged during July as strong economic growth balanced persistent concerns about tariffs and escalating international trade tensions. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index dropped 0.1 point to 61.2 last month after tumbling more than five points in June. The drop left the BCI three-tenths of a point lower than a year ago, though still comfortably within optimistic territory. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during July. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth gained 2.3 points to 65.1, leaving it 1.9 points ahead of July 2017. The U.S. Index ended the month at 61.9, rising 1.9 points after sliding 9.3 points the previous month. The US Index was 4 points better than a year ago. July marked the 101st consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 0.1 point to 63.6. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 0.4 point. The Current Index gained 2.4 points during the year, while the Future Index lost 3.1 points. Employer views of their own companies weakened. The Company Index declined 1.5 points to 59.7, down 2.5 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 54.5, a 0.5-point decrease for the month and 1.2 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index lost 0.6 point for the month and 2.3 points for the year.

Bradley Launches Daily, Non-stop Service to St. Louis

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — This week, the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) launched its inaugural Southwest Airlines flight from Bradley International Airport to St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The new daily, non-stop service departs from Bradley at 11:10 a.m. (EST) and arrives at St. Louis Lambert International Airport at 12:45 p.m. (CST). The inbound flight leaves St. Louis at 4:25 p.m. (CST) and arrives at Bradley at 7:50 p.m. (EST). The service utilizes a Boeing 737. Southwest Airlines currently offers non-stop service from Bradley International Airport to Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa, St. Louis, and West Palm Beach. The airline first started flying out of Bradley in 1999.

Greater Holyoke Chamber, HCC Announce Leadership Holyoke 2018-19

HOLYOKE — Leadership Holyoke — a comprehensive community leadership and board-development program of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce — is back again. Leadership Holyoke utilizes a combination of classes and practical experiences to help local business people develop their leadership skills, increase their knowledge of the community, and acquire the skills needed to serve as board members and community leaders. The series is made possible by PeoplesBank and the Republican. The 2018-19 leadership series begins on Sept. 21, consists of eight seven-hour sessions, and concludes on May 8 with a graduation ceremony at Holyoke Community College with a specialty luncheon prepared by the college’s culinary program students. All sessions will be held on Fridays (except for the Boston State House trip) and take place at Holyoke Community College and other locations throughout the city. Each session will include a segment on organization and leadership skills and a segment on community needs and resources. Faculty members from Holyoke Community College will participate as instructors and facilitators, and community leaders will participate as speakers and discussion leaders in their areas of their expertise. Tuition of $600 per participant is due at the start of the course and includes the fee for a continental breakfast each week, a bus trip to Boston, and the graduation luncheon. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com or call the chamber with any questions at (413) 534-3376.

DPH: Job-related Injuries Often Lead to Opioid Misuse

BOSTON — The rate of fatal opioid overdoses varied significantly by industry and occupation from 2011 to 2015, with construction workers dying from opioid overdoses at six times the average rate for all Massachusetts workers, according to a report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Using available death-certificate data, DPH analyzed 4,302 opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts from 2011 to 2015 by industry and occupation to understand whether work, and specifically work-related injuries, might have contributed to opioid-use disorders. Overall, workers employed in occupations known to have high rates of work-related injuries had higher rates of fatal opioid overdoses. In addition, workers in occupations with lower rates of paid sick leave and higher job insecurity had higher rates of opioid overdoses. Construction and extraction workers (quarrying and mining) accounted for more than 24% of all opioid-related deaths among the working population. This occupation group had a high death rate — 150.6 deaths per 100,000 workers — and a high number of opioid-related deaths — 1,096 — during this time period. Despite the small number of workers employed in the farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, these jobs also had a high opioid death rate. While there were fewer deaths among this group (61) than in the construction occupations, the rate of opioid-related deaths — 143.9 per 100,000 workers — was more than five times the average rate of 25.1 per 100,000 for Massachusetts workers. Several other occupations also had rates of opioid-related overdose deaths that were significantly higher than the average rate for all Massachusetts workers. These included jobs in material moving; installation, maintenance, and repair; transportation; production; food preparation and serving; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; and healthcare support. Similar to findings for all opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, the majority — 77.3% — of deaths in this study were among males. However, there were several occupation groups where females had significantly elevated rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, particularly healthcare support and food preparation and serving.

Briefcase

Girl Scouts Seek Nominations for ToGetHerThere Awards

SPRINGFIELD — Do you know a champion for the next generation of female leaders? The Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts announced its new awards program honoring five professionals in Western Mass. The ToGetHerThere Awards gives area businesses and organizations the opportunity to honor a difference maker from within their ranks who has shown exceptional achievement in their profession, is an inspiration to their co-workers and young women, and has made contributions to their community. The nominated person must demonstrate role-model behavior in their professional career and represent the Girl Scouts’ mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. The nomination deadline is Friday, Sept. 1. The Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts will honor the winners at the ToGetHerThere Awards Luncheon on Friday, Nov. 2, at MGM Springfield. Nomination forms and requirements can be found at www.gscwm.org/en/events/special-events/TGHTA.html, or by contacting Melanie Bonsu, (413) 584-2602, ext. 3623, or [email protected] Nominations will be reviewed by a panel of business, community, and civic leaders who will then select the honorees. 

Unemployment Picture Mixed in Massachusetts in June

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in two labor market areas, increased in 21 areas, and remained the same in one labor market area in the state during the month of June, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. 

Compared to June 2017, the rates dropped in 15 labor-market areas, remained the same in four areas, and increased in five-labor market areas. Twelve of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded a seasonal job gain in June. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Pittsfield, and Framingham areas.  The Leominster-Gardner, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas lost jobs over the month. From June 2017 to June 2018, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton areas. The Peabody-Salem-Beverly area’s jobs level remained unchanged over the year, while the Framingham area lost jobs.

 

Young Women’s Initiative Awards Four Mini-Grants

SPRINGFIELD — A group of Springfield young women participating in the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) recently awarded four YWI mini-grants to nonprofits that serve the Springfield area. The project was in partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. In the past year, the YWI participants were charged with identifying and researching issues that are barriers to young women and girls in Springfield. They chose four key issues: women in leadership; rape culture; mental health; and economic, community, and workforce development. A partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts that provided grant funds allowed YWI to put out a call to Springfield-area organizations for projects that could address these issues through programming. Four grant applications were developed, and, after review, the YWAC chose to award funds to the Center for Human Development ($2,545), Girls Inc. of Holyoke ($2,515), Cambridge Credit Counseling ($2,515), and Springfield School Volunteers and Human in Common ($2,515). The 10-month YMI program is open to women between the ages of 14 and 24 who reside in Springfield. There is no tuition fee for this program, and accepted members are paid up to $900 in stipends for attending. Applications for the 2018-19 session are due on Sept. 21. More information is available at www.mywomensfund.org/ywi-program-details.

United Way, Peter Pan Launch Annual Stuff the Bus Program

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley and Peter Pan Bus Lines launched the annual Stuff the Bus campaign with a press-conference event on July 27 at the Holyoke Mall. The campaign will collect new school supplies through Aug. 16. The supplies will be distributed in new backpacks to children who are homeless in Chicopee, Holyoke, Springfield, Westfield, West Springfield, and South Hadley. Individuals are encouraged to donate the following age-appropriate supplies: pencil boxes, highlighters, binders, No. 2 pencils, erasers, binders, crayons, pens, glue sticks, rulers, two-pocket folders, and one-subject notebooks. Donations may be brought to the United Way of Pioneer Valley, 1441 Main St., Suite 147, Springfield, weekdays through Aug. 16, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Holyoke Mall, upper level, near Target, Aug. 11, noon to 2 p.m.; Western Mass News, 1300 Liberty St., Springfield, weekdays through Aug. 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; or Balise Kia, 603 Riverdale St., West Springfield, through Aug. 16, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Aug. 16 only, those who bring 20 or more items will receive a free ticket at Six Flags New England. This concludes the campaign, where donations can be made in conjunction with National Roller Coaster Day. Financial contributions are also welcome and will be used to purchase additional backpacks and supplies as needed. Contributions may be made online by clicking the ‘donate’ button at www.uwpv.org.

Sale of Chesterfield Scout Reservation Finalized

WESTFIELD — The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America announced the completed sale of the 186-acre Chesterfield Scout Reservation to a buyer who plans to maintain the property and continue to offer outdoor programs. The council has owned both Chesterfield and the Horace A. Moses Scout Reservation in Russell since the merger of two area councils in 2008. The camps are 25 miles apart, and the Moses Reservation is a nearly 1,300-acre property. The maintenance of both properties — buildings and grounds — was overwhelming, and following an 18-month property study, the decision was made to sell Chesterfield in 2014. David Kruse, CEO and Scout executive for the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the council will remain focused on dedicating its time and resources to the Moses Reservation. Proceeds from the Chesterfield sale will allow for continual investment in the Moses Reservation, which includes adding to the maintenance endowment and eliminating the council’s debt. Some of the improvements already made to Moses Reservation feature the addition of metal roofs and replacement of windows and rotting wood on several buildings. There has also been a significant investment in activities for campers.

Briefcase

Advertising Club Selects 2018 Pynchon Medalists

SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts’ trustees of the Order of William Pynchon announced their selection of four local residents as recipients of this year’s Pynchon medal. “Our choice of these four remarkable individuals represents a collective concern and dedication to the past, present, and future of our region,” said Mary Shea, chairman of the Pynchon trustees. Slated to receive the Advertising Club’s Pynchon Medal on Oct. 18 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke are: Craig Carr, one of the original incorporators of the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield; Sally Fuller, a tireless advocate for early childhood literacy; Robert McCarroll, a noted historic preservationist; and Ronald Weiss, who was instrumental in the creation of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The Advertising Club confers the Order of William Pynchon and the Pynchon Medal upon citizens of Western Mass. who have rendered distinguished service to the community. Recipients are nominated each year by members of the community, and are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon trustees, who are Ad Club’s current and five past presidents.

Employer Confidence Weakens During June

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers weakened considerably during June as tariffs, rising raw-material costs, and approval of paid family and medical leave in the Bay State raised concerns about business growth. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index dropped 5.3 points to 61.3 last month, its lowest level since August 2017. Confidence remains well within the optimistic range, but the June decline left the BCI slightly below its level of a year ago. Though analysts say the volatility in business confidence during May and June may reflect some statistical anomalies, the comments provided by employers on the monthly AIM survey suggest that companies are becoming increasingly concerned about a perfect storm of issues on the federal and state levels. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index all lost ground during June. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 7.2 points to 62.8, leaving it 1.4 points lower than in June 2017. The U.S. Index ended the month at 60.0, down 9.3 points for the month but 2.6 points better than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, declined 2.6 points to 63.5. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 7.5 points to 59.1. The Current Index gained 1.6 points during the year, while the Future Index lost 2.6 points. Employer views of their own companies also weakened. The Company Index declined 3.3 points to 61.2, down 1.2 points for 12 months. The Employment Index ended the month at 55.0, a 3.3-point decrease for the month and 3.1 points lower than a year ago. The Sales Index lost 2.9 points for the month and 0.2 points for the year. Manufacturing companies (62.5) were slightly more optimistic than non-manufacturers (60.2). Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (63.3) were more bullish than those in the west (58.7).

More Than $2 Million Announced for Collaborative Workspaces

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration and MassDevelopment announced $2,155,000 in funding for the third round of Collaborative Workspace Program grants, a MassDevelopment program that accelerates business formation, job creation, and entrepreneurial activity in communities by supporting infrastructure that fuels locally based innovation. Eligible organizations may apply for either seed grants to plan and study the feasibility of new collaborative workspaces, or fit-out grants to develop and expand existing workspaces. Through its first two rounds of grants, the Collaborative Workspace Program provided $3 million in funding to more than 50 organizations for the planning, development, and build-out of different types of collaborative workspaces. This new round includes $1.5 million from the Commonwealth’s capital budget and $655,000 from the Barr Foundation, the second installment of a three-year, $1,965,000 grant to the program to expand support for arts-related collaborative workspaces in the Commonwealth. Funding decisions are expected to be announced at the end of September.

MassDOT Announces $1.8M to Expand Industrial Rail and Freight

BOSTON — The state Department of Transportation recently awarded five grants totaling more than $1.8 million as part of the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP), which helps increase rail and freight access, economic opportunity, and job growth. IRAP is a competitive, state-funded, public/private partnership program that provides financial assistance to eligible applicants to invest in improvement projects in rail infrastructure access. State funding for these five projects will be matched by more than $2.4 million in private funds. Locally, $500,000 was awarded to the Western Recycling rail-spur project in Wilbraham. The project will allow an existing solid-waste-handling facility to load outbound waste into rail cars for shipment to out-of-state landfills. With the restoration of rail service to the site, the facility will start processing municipal waste, in addition to construction and demolition debris. The project includes the construction of one loading track and five storage tracks for a total of 6,000 feet of new track. With completion of the project, the facility will be served by more than 1,500 rail cars each year, eliminating 7,500 regional truck trips each year and supporting the creation of eight to 10 additional jobs at the facility. IRAP provides grants to railroads, rail shippers, and municipalities that identify a public benefit gained through improved rail transportation usage or economic growth that would be realized through improved access to rail assets. The other four grants went to projects in Littleton, Peabody, and Upton.

DPH Releases State Study Detailing Marijuana Use

BOSTON — A new, statewide study of marijuana use among Massachusetts residents found that about 21% of adults had used marijuana in the past 30 days, and the proportion of marijuana use was highest among 18- to 25-year-olds. The study, conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), was mandated by the Legislature as part of its revisions to the 2016 adult-use marijuana law. The purpose of the study was to investigate the patterns of use, methods of consumption, and general perceptions of marijuana; incidents of impaired driving and hospitalization related to marijuana use; and the economic and fiscal impacts for state and local governments. Among the study’s other highlights, smoking is the most common method of marijuana consumption, although more than 40% of marijuana users report using multiple methods of use. More than half of adults perceive marijuana to have slight or no risks and use marijuana for non-medical purposes. A survey of patients who use marijuana products for medical use suggests that the average person uses marijuana 24 days a month, with the majority using marijuana products for at least 21 out of the past 30 days. Among respondents that use marijuana, 34.3% reported driving under the influence. Overall, 7.2% of the adult population drove under the influence of marijuana in the past 30 days, and 11.3% of adults rode with a marijuana-using driver in the past 30 days. This is similar to estimates from a survey of medical marijuana patients that found approximately 10% of respondents drove under the influence in the past 30 days. The number of marijuana-related calls to the Regional Poison Control Center in Massachusetts has been increasing over time. The calls include incidents of unintentional exposures among children, with the majority of calls related to 10- to 19-year-old individuals, and/or exposure to dried marijuana flower. The proportion of calls increased after medical marijuana was available in the Commonwealth. Economic projections suggest that marijuana will increase Massachusetts state revenue by about $215.8 million in the first two years of retail sales. The increase will largely come from sales and excise taxes collected on retail purchases. Based on experiences from states with existing legalized adult use, sales-tax revenue is expected to be higher in the second year ($154.2 million), as compared to the first year ($61.6 million).

Google Announces $100,000 Sponsorship for FutureWorks

SPRINGFIELD — During its Grow with Google tour in Springfield, Google announced a sponsorship for FutureWorks Career Center totalling $100,000. The sponsorship will help FutureWorks deepen its available resources to prepare active job seekers with the digital skills necessary to obtain jobs and succeed in the workforce. FutureWorks will deploy Google’s Applied Digital Skills Curriculum its diverse group of youth and adult job seekers over the course of a year. Some of its staff will also be trained on Google for Jobs and teach active job seekers how to use the online platform to streamline their job search. Launched in October 2017, Grow with Google is the tech company’s new initiative to help create economic opportunities for Americans. The project is an extension of Google’s long-standing commitment to making information and technology accessible to everyone, and focuses on providing digital skills and learning opportunities to communities across the U.S.

Jugglers Convention Projects Economic Impact of More Than $1 Million

SPRINGFIELD — With 600 juggling enthusiasts from all over the world descending on Springfield last week for the 71st International Jugglers’ Assoc. (IJA) Annual Festival, the area’s hoteliers, restaurateurs, and retailers expected to see an impact in their cash registers. The six-day convention was projected to have an economic impact of $1,015,545, according to the Western Mass Sports Commission, a division of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The organizers are expecting 600 attendees, and two of our largest downtown hotels have 1,100 room nights booked as a result,” said Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This represents a strong economic shot in the arm for these properties. And we anticipate upbeat business at area eateries and shops as well. It’s a fun, terrific event to have coming into Western Mass.”

Briefcase

News of interest about the region’s business community

ValleyBike Launches Regional Bike-share Program

NORTHAMPTON — ValleyBike launched with a celebration and parade on June 28 at in Pulaski Park. ValleyBike is the first bike-share program in the Pioneer Valley and the first pedal-assist bike-share program in New England. The program allows members to pay for bikes by the trip, or join as a member for unlimited 45-minute rides by the day, month, or year. Partners include the communities of Amherst, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield, as well as UMass Amherst and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). ValleyBike was initiated by Amherst, Northampton, and the PVPC, and then quickly joined by Springfield, Holyoke, and South Hadley. The planning effort was led by the PVPC, which found the funding for planning. Leadership of the effort switched to Northampton for the implementation phase of the project. Residents may sign up at www.valleybike.org, with special founding membership opportunities for a limited time. “ValleyBike is yet another exciting example of how our region, and its cities and towns, are working collaboratively and proactively to shape a smart and sustainable future for us all,” said PVPC Executive Director Tim Brennan. “ValleyBike not only introduces a new type of shared mobility, but offers a creative and sensible way to improve our air and our health while capturing the benefits of modern-day pedal power.” ValleyBike has contracted with Bewegen Technologies and Corps Logistics to build and operate the system, and is funded by state and federal grants, Bewegen investments, community investments in station pads, user fees, and program sponsors.

State Awards $1,080,000 to Increase Access to Healthy, Local Food

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration awarded $1,080,000 to a joint partnership between the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund and Franklin County Community Development Corporation to create a sustainable program that creates quality jobs and increases food access for low-income residents throughout the state. The funding is awarded under the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (MFTP), a program launched by the Baker-Polito administration in 2017, which seeks to establish a financing infrastructure that increases access to healthy, affordable food options and to improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities statewide. The MFTP, funded through the administration’s FY 2018 Capital Investment Plan, provides funding through grants to community development financial institutions and community development corporations. This statewide program is designed to meet the financing needs to fresh food retailers and distributors that plan to operate in underserved communities where costs and credit needs cannot be filled solely by conventional financing institutions. With the funding, grantees may provide grants, loans, and technical assistance to support entities that have shown a meaningful commitment to sell fresh, affordable, and local products, with a preference for food grown, caught, or harvested in Massachusetts. Projects that are eligible for funding through the awarded financial institutions include the development, renovation, and expansion of supermarkets; commercial community kitchens; and commercial greenhouses.

Job Picture Continues to Improve in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 13 labor-market areas, increased in six areas, and remained the same in five labor-market areas in the state during the month of May, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to May 2017, the rates dropped in 23 labor-market areas and increased in one area. Fourteen of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded a seasonal job gain in May. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Worcester, Framingham, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas. The Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton area lost jobs over the month. From May 2017 to May 2018, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Worcester areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide-unadjusted unemployment rate for May was 3.3%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the month of May remained at 3.5% for the eighth consecutive month. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,200-job gain in May, and an over-the-year gain of 56,100 jobs.

 

Pioneer Valley Communities, PVPC Acting on Climate Change

SPRINGFIELD — Nine new Pioneer Valley municipalities recently joined six already working on Municipal Vulnerability Program (MVP) certification, bringing the total to 15 communities seeking greater resiliency in the face of climate change. That represents 35% of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s (PVPC) member municipalities — home to approximately 410,000 people, or more than 66% of the region’s population. In 2017, six pioneering municipalities applied for and secured MVP planning grants, and four of these six have now successfully secured action grants in the highly competitive first round of funding. Of these, Belchertown will assess stream crossings and culverts, Holyoke is learning from Hurricane Maria survivors how to adapt and care for vulnerable residents affected by extreme weather, Northampton is reducing storm damage by designing with nature, and Pelham aims to improve small-town resilience. Together, these 15 municipalities have secured $1,186,512 in state funding to plan for ($348,000) and adapt to ($838,512) the changing climate. The funding allows the PVPC to engage with local officials and community stakeholders, while leveraging its unique technical capabilities. Any of the 43 cities and towns of Hampden and Hampshire counties not currently engaged in MVP work, but interested, should contact PVPC Senior Planning Emily Slotnick at (413) 781-6045 or [email protected]

Briefcase

BusinessWest Accepting Nominations for Women of Impact Awards
SPRINGFIELD — BusinessWest has launched a new recognition program to honor a specific segment of the local population: women who are making an impact in and on this region. Nominees who score the highest in the eyes of a panel of three independent judges will be honored at a luncheon in December (date and venue to be determined). “We decided to create a special program recognizing women because, after careful consideration, we decided that this region needed one and that BusinessWest was the right organization to do it,” Kate Campiti, associate publisher and sales manager for BusinessWest, explained. “While women have certainly made great strides over the past several decades, and many women have made great achievements and broken through that proverbial glass ceiling, doing so remains a stern challenge for many.” ‘Women of Impact’ was chosen as the name for the program because, while nominees can be from the world of business, they can also be from other realms, such as the nonprofit community, public service, law enforcement, education, social work, the mentorship community, a combination of all these. Nominations for this honor, due on Aug. 3, should be written with one basic underlying mission: to explain why the individual in question is, indeed, a woman of impact. Nominations should explain, when applicable, how the nominee has made impactful accomplishments or contributions that have positively influenced business or the community; how the nominee demonstrates unwavering passion and commitment for an issue that has made a difference in the lives of others; how the nominee has influenced other women through her actions and contributions; how the nominee exemplifies qualities of spirit, service, compassion for others, or professionalism to achieve accomplishments, and how she may have overcome adversity in order to give back to the community; how the nominee has applied innovative thinking to push the boundaries and find new and better ways to do things; and how the nominee has consistently demonstrated exceptional and progressive leadership. Additional information and nomination guidelines are available at HERE. Nominations may be submitted HERE. For more information about this event, call Bevin Peters, Marketing and Events director, at (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Governor Baker Announces Western Mass. Rail Initiatives
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker joined Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, members of the Massachusetts Legislature, and local leaders at Union Station in Springfield on June 12 to announce a request for proposals for a consultant team to study the feasibility of east-west passenger rail service, the launch of a pilot for passenger rail service between Greenfield and Springfield, and one-seat service through Springfield to Hartford and New Haven, Conn. The RFP will enable the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to carry out an extensive study over approximately 18 months, analyzing many aspects and options for potential east-west passenger rail service. In addition to studying potential passenger service from Springfield to Boston, the study will look at potential origins farther west such as Pittsfield and Palmer. This will include engaging with stakeholders and evaluating the potential costs, speed, infrastructure needs, and ridership of potential passenger rail service throughout this corridor. The administration also announced that a term sheet has been finalized with the Connecticut Department of Transportation which will enable the start of passenger rail service between Springfield and Greenfield beginning on a pilot basis in spring 2019. Under the agreement, MassDOT will fund the cost and management of the pilot service, which will be operated by Amtrak and conclude in fall 2021. The pilot will provide two round-trips each day and make stops at stations in Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield. Southbound service will be provided in the morning hours, and northbound in the evenings. This pilot service will leverage the MassDOT-owned Knowledge Corridor, which is currently used by Amtrak’s Vermonter service, and the recently renovated Springfield Union Station. Meanwhile, the new 62-mile Hartford Line began operating on June 16, with trains running approximately every 45 minutes between Springfield and several cities and towns in Connecticut, including Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, and New Haven.

Greylock Works Transforming Mill with Help from MassDevelopment
NORTH ADAMS — MassDevelopment has provided a $1.1 million loan to Greylock WORKS LLC, the developer of the Greylock Mill, a former cotton-spinning mill campus in North Adams that Greylock WORKS is transforming into a mixed-use commercial development. The organization will use loan proceeds to continue renovations of the Weave Shed, which includes a 26,000-square-foot event venue and commercial kitchen where the owners have been producing regional festivals and dance parties, as well as hosting weddings and other private events. This loan builds on significant support from the state and MassDevelopment, including nearly $4 million in MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program funding for North Adams. The two awards enabled the city to complete public infrastructure improvements necessary for the development’s ongoing construction. The Greylock Mill is a 240,000-square-foot former cotton-spinning facility that stretches 700 feet along Route 2 in North Adams. Plans for the building’s campus include wholesale scaled artisanal food production, a boutique hotel, housing, and event space. The Baker-Polito administration, through MassDevelopment, has worked with the developer across numerous aspects of the project, providing pre-development funding and grants through the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, the Site Readiness Program, and the Collaborative Workspace Program.

Employer Confidence Surges in May
BOSTON — Business confidence surged during May to its highest level since the summer of 2000, driven by improving employer outlooks about the state and national economies. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 2.4 points to 66.6 last month after increasing modestly during April. The BCI has risen in five of the last six months and now stands 5.8 points higher than its level a year ago. Confidence remains well within the optimistic range. The only whiff of concern came in the index that measures hiring, which dropped 1.5 points for the month and 0.2 points during the year. Economists believe the weakness in the AIM Employment Index reflects the persistent shortage of workers in Massachusetts that has forced some employers to postpone expansions or to decline new business opportunities.

Springfield Dementia Friendly Coalition Receives Grant
SPRINGFIELD — The newly formed Springfield Dementia Friendly Coalition (SDFC) has been awarded a Dementia-Friendly Capacity Building Grant from the Massachusetts Council on Aging under a Service Incentive Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. The Council on Aging grant will enable the coalition to hold focus-group meetings over the coming months with local government and public officials, first responders, and members of the business community to make them aware of the issues facing individuals living with dementia, their friends, family, and care partners, to give an overview of the movement and elicit their thoughts and engagement in the initiative. In addition, the group will meet with those living with dementia and their care partners and expand the Dementia Friendly website, www.dementiafriendlycommunities.org. An estimated 5.7 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Nearly 60% of people with dementia live in their own communities, and one in seven live alone, creating an urgent need for communities to support people with dementia and their caregivers. SDFC partners include the Springfield Department of Elder Affairs/Council on Aging, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Greater Springfield Senior Services, the Alzheimer’s Assoc., Silver Life Care at Home, Chapin Center, El Grupo de Apoyo, and Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing. A calendar of upcoming events is available at www.dementiafriendlycommunities.org. For more information or to get involved, contact Scott-Mitchell at (413) 263-6500, ext. 6518, or [email protected], or Carol Constant at (413) 588-5184 or [email protected].

Briefcase Departments

MGM Springfield, PVTA Introduce ‘the Loop’

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) have joined forces to create the Loop — a new public transportation service linking downtown tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and arts and culture destinations to provide a more robust travel experience for Springfield visitors. Debuting Aug. 24 as part of MGM Springfield’s opening day, the Loop will connect Springfield’s most storied landmarks, including Union Station, the Springfield Armory, Springfield Museums, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and MGM Springfield. The Loop schedule is designed with visitors in mind. In addition to stops at cultural highlights, the shuttle also will make stops at MassMutual Center, Holiday Inn Express, Sheraton, Hampton Inn, and La Quinta Inn & Suites. The Loop will run Wednesdays through Sundays from Union Station from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and complete a full circuit in 60 minutes during the day and 40 minutes in the evening. Traveling on the Loop will be free. Sandra Sheehan, administrator with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, noted that the Loop will be operated with a zero-emissions electric bus as part of PVTA’s goal of providing sustainable transportation. As part of its host-community agreement, MGM Springfield will provide PVTA with financial support to operate and maintain the Loop. This includes maintenance and insurance of the vehicle, as well as the costs associated with the hiring, supervising, and compensating the driver.

 

Massachusetts Business Organizations Issue Plan to Reduce Healthcare Costs

BOSTON — Twenty prominent Massachusetts business organizations representing thousands of employers announced an initiative to save $100 million in healthcare costs by reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments. The newly formed Massachusetts Employer-Led Coalition to Reduce Health Care Costs will work with doctors, hospitals, and health insurers to reduce inappropriate use of emergency departments (EDs) by 20% in two years. State officials estimate that 40% of ED visits are avoidable, a pattern that costs $300 million to $350 million annually for commercially insured members alone. Coalition leaders Richard Lord, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF), say the group will help employers take a direct role in the health and healthcare of their employees and beneficiaries. Healthcare industry organizations — including the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Assoc., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Assoc. of Health Plans, and the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians — are committed to be strategic partners with the coalition. The coalition’s goal is to shift as many avoidable ED visits as possible to high-value, lower-cost settings to relieve crowded EDs, reduce the cost of care, and improve quality. Most ED use is necessary, appropriate, and in many cases life-saving. However, providers and payers broadly agree that shifting ED use for non-urgent health problems to more timely, appropriate settings will improve quality and patient experience, and lower the cost of care. Upper respiratory infections, skin rashes, allergies, and back pain are among the most common conditions for which Massachusetts patients seek care in the ED unnecessarily, and the cost of an ED visit can be five times that of care provided in a primary-care or urgent-care setting. The coalition will focus on four tactics for change:

• Work with employers to communicate information about avoidable ED use with employees and families so they can get the best possible care in settings such as primary-care practices, retail clinics, and urgent-care centers;

• Track and publicly report the rate of avoidable ED visits so employers, stakeholders, and the public may understand and tackle the scope of the issue;

• Work with labor unions, healthcare providers, health plans, employers, and employees to reward and encourage the appropriate use of the ED by aligning financial incentives, and bolster the availability of care in the community, especially during nights and weekends; and

• Advocate for policy changes that will advance new care delivery and payment models, such as accountable-care organizations, telemedicine, and mobile integrated health, which, combined, can improve access to timely care in the right setting.

Massachusetts Jobless Rate Holds Steady in April

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in April, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 6,100 jobs in April. Over the month, the private sector added 5,900 jobs, as gains occurred in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; financial activities; and trade, transportation, and utilities. Government also added jobs over the month. From April 2017 to April 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 47,600 jobs. The April unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force increased by 20,900 from 3,683,700 in March, as 19,700 more residents were employed and 1,300 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.9% in April 2017. 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 — is up over the month four-tenths of a percentage point at 66.0%. Compared to April 2017, the labor-force participation rate is up four-tenths of a percentage point. The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services. Meanwhile, the largest job gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Barnstable, Worcester, Lowell-Billerica-Amesbury, and Framingham areas.

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Continue to Decline in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths continued to decline overall year over year in Massachusetts, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The quarterly report found that, for the first three months of 2018, opioid-related overdose deaths declined by an estimated 5% over the first three months of 2017, according to preliminary data. The report also found that the total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths for 2017 is 2,016, which is 133 fewer deaths than the 2,149 estimated and confirmed deaths in 2016, or a 6% decline.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center Reaches Agreement with Nurses

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center recently announced it has reached agreement on a new five-year contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Assoc. (MNA) on behalf of BFMC registered nurses. According to Baystate Franklin officials, the hospital is committed to staffing models that maintain its flexibility to address individual patient care needs in a sustainable way. Baystate Health now has no open union contracts and has reached agreement on five union contracts within the past 14 months.

Briefcase Departments

State Receives $11.7 Million for Opioid Prevention, Treatment

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced that Massachusetts has received an $11.7 million federal grant to continue its public-health response to the opioid epidemic and bolster community overdose prevention, outpatient opioid treatment, and recovery services across the Commonwealth. This is the second consecutive year the state has received the funding, bringing the two-year total to $23.8 million. “The opioid and heroin epidemic have led to heartbreaking addiction and losses for too many families in the Commonwealth, and this critical funding will increase support for important services like recovery coaches and medication-assisted treatment,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. This grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the second round of funding authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in December 2016. The funds address the opioid crisis by increasing access to treatment, reducing unmet treatment needs, and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid-use disorder. It supports existing statewide services managed by the state Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services. In addition to this new federal funding, through administrative actions, the Baker-Polito administration will invest up to $219 million over five years from the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, starting in the fiscal year 2018, to meet the needs of individuals with addictions and/or co-occurring disorders. These funds will expand residential recovery services, increase access to medication-assisted treatment, add new recovery coaches and navigators, and implement a consistent clinical assessment tool throughout the treatment system. Since 2015, the administration has doubled spending to address the opioid crisis and added more than 1,100 treatment beds, including 748 adult substance-use treatment beds at different treatment levels, and certified more than 162 sober homes, accounting for an additional 2,184 beds.

Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone Awarding $5,000 in Scholarships

HOLYOKE — The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone in Massachusetts is sponsoring a nationwide essay contest focusing on innovative ways to prevent drunk driving. The three essay winners will receive $5,000 worth of scholarship prizes for education-related expenses. The essay contest is open to undergraduate college students and law-school students enrolled at accredited schools in the U.S. Essays must be between 500 and 1,000 words on the following topic: “How can we prevent drunk driving and promote safe driving among young motorists?” The winning essay will be awarded $2,500, second prize is $1,500, and third prize is $1,000. Each submission must include an essay as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx format); school transcript or proof of enrollment; applicant’s name, address, and phone number; school name and address; a two- to three-sentence bio; and a waiver form with a parent or guardian’s signature for applicants under 18. The application deadline is Aug. 15. Winners will be announced on Sept. 14. Applicants can view the rules of the contest and apply online at www.marksalomone.com/scholarship.