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Company Notebook

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Issues Annual Corporate Green Report

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2020 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Through its green values and actions to support environmental sustainability, PeoplesBank believes it can help make the region a healthier place in which to live, work, and raise a family. The bank puts these values to work throughout the year through its charitable donations, volunteerism, support of green-energy projects, and construction of LEED-certified offices. PeoplesBank is also a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing, and the bank’s commercial lenders are recognized for their expertise in creating financing packages for green-energy power generation. To date, the bank has financed more than $188 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power-generation projects. Over 2019-20, PeoplesBank supported several green community projects in Western Mass., including the Center for EcoTechnology’s ‘eco fellows’ and more than 100 community-education events; the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Food for All campaign; e-recycle and shred day at the bank’s Suffield Banking Center; Grow Food Northampton; the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Local Farmer program and awards; scientific environmental education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment; a mobile farmers’ market that travels to underserved/food-desert areas of Springfield and surrounding communities; the Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River, which also includes hands-on participation by a team of volunteers from the bank; and ValleyBike Share, the region’s new bike-sharing program. Community banks, like PeoplesBank, are not generally known for building green offices, but PeoplesBank has a LEED Gold-certified office in Northampton, a LEED Gold-certified office in West Springfield, and a LEED Silver-certified office in Springfield. The LEED-certified office in Springfield, the first of its kind in the city, won a Green Seal from the city of Springfield. The bank will pursue a fourth LEED certification for its Pedlar Banking Center in Holyoke in the near future. Three PeoplesBank offices (Northampton, West Springfield, and 330 Whitney Ave. in Holyoke) have electric vehicle-charging stations. The bank also launched a “Choose to Reuse” campaign designed to eliminate the use of disposable paper products internally. PeoplesBank has traditionally commemorated Earth Day by giving away tomato plants and seeds at several banking centers throughout the region. Due to the extenuating circumstances this year, in lieu of those customer giveaways, a donation will be made to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to assist in its COVID relief outreach.

Contribution Clothing Supports Women-focused Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — Kelly Partridge, founder of Contribution Clothing, launched her mission-driven online boutique (contributionclothing.com) last June. The boutique, which retails women’s apparel and accessories, provides quarterly monetary donations to Western Mass.-based nonprofit organizations that have a vision of empowering women and girls as well as community support. Contribution Clothing is currently working to gift 15% of its net profits to the Care Center of Holyoke, a nonprofit organization that helps young mothers grasp how powerful they are, gives them tools to learn, and provides them with an exciting and engaging learning environment. Since its website launch, the boutique has provided monetary donations to Dress for Success, Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, Shriners, Girls Inc. of the Valley, and Safe Passage. In additional to the boutique’s quarterly contributions, Partridge, a Bay Path University alumna, has worked with the university to create the Contribution Clothing Scholarship Fund, which annually provides a Bay Path student with $500 toward tuition. The clothing line has also supported community-based events and fundraisers such as the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, the Women Empowered calendar for Girls Inc., and the Unify Against Bullying fashion show, where Partridge provided six different outfits to help raise awareness against bullying. Partridge’s goal for her business is to use her story and passion for social justice to make a positive impact within her community. She hopes to use fashion as a way of helping women feel confident and empowered.

MGHPCC Expands Access to Researchers Working on COVID-19

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC), operated by a consortium consisting of Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts system, announced it will provide access to outside researchers working on projects in which high-speed computing would accelerate resolution of the COVID-19 crisis. The MGHPCC’s member institutions are already heavily engaged in coronavirus-related research in areas that include understanding the fundamentals of the disease, contributing to the development of vaccines, treatment and tests, and public-health solutions. Much of this research, and most scientific academic research today, rely on high-performance computing. The MGHPCC, which is among the largest high-performance computing facilities in the country, is now expanding access to its storage and computational systems to academic and commercial enterprises beyond the facility’s member institutions. Total available capacity across all systems includes more than 200,000 CPU cores, 2,000 recent-generation GPUs, and 5 petabytes of temporary storage. The additional work will not impact day-to-day university needs. The MGHPCC consortium is also working with Mass Open Cloud and two of its sponsors, Red Hat and Intel, to launch a site that connects potentially impactful projects with people who have strong computing skills but are unable to work on their regular assignments due to travel restrictions.

Home City Development Wins Funds for Affordable-housing Renovations

NORTHAMPTON — Home City Development Inc. (HCDI), a Springfield-based affordable-housing development organization, was awarded $2.88 million and seven project-based vouchers by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Funds were awarded for renovations of New South Street Apartments, an 18-unit historic building located at 24-34 New South St. in Northampton. Project-based vouchers and supportive service funds will provide housing for seven homeless families. In addition, the city of Northampton awarded $50,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds for this project. Homeless households will be selected from the Three County Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry system. This system includes Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county emergency-assistance shelters and other assistance organizations. HCDI will provide case management and related support services for residents at New South Street Apartments, including those who were formerly homeless. HCDI is working with Architecture EL as project architect and Henry General Contractors as contractor. Renovation work is expected to begin this fall and take about nine months to complete. Home City Development Inc. is a nonprofit, resident-centered developer of multi-family and mixed-use properties in Western Mass. HCDI was founded as Better Homes Inc. in 1968 by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Over more than 50 years, HCDI has worked to facilitate community stability and growth in collaboration with numerous partners and residents.

Freedom Credit Union Makes $55,000 Donation to Fight Coronavirus Crisis

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU) announced a donation of $55,000 to be dispersed among several community organizations at the front lines of the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. FCU announced that the following slate of organizations will receive a portion of the $55,000 donation: Baystate Health Foundation; Mercy Medical Center; Cooley Dickinson Health Care; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; Hampshire Hospitality Group, whose Hampshire County Heroes feed first responders in Hampshire County; and Feed the Fight, an initiative of Peter Pan Bus Lines and area restaurants to feed healthcare workers and first responders in the community. Welch indicated that FCU will continue to assist the community throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these community donations, Welch said FCU has offered resources to its individual members intended to provide financial assistance or relief during the crisis, including online banking services and the new Freedom Relief Loan, which provides up to $10,000 to members dealing with consequences of the pandemic, including layoffs, furloughs, and bills. In addition, FCU’s Skip-a-Pay program allows members with a consumer loan — auto, mortgage, home equity, or home improvement — to defer payments up to 90 days. Members should contact their local branch for details. FCU can also work with member businesses needing financial relief on their specific circumstances. Business members should speak with the Member Business Lending department. For contact information, visit freedom.coop.

 

First American Insurance Agency Launches New Client Portal

CHICOPEE — First American Insurance Agency, an independent insurance firm, announced the launch of a new online customer portal designed to enhance service and support for its customers. The portal, called CSR24, enables clients to access insurance ID cards and insurance documents (including renewal paperwork), request policy changes, and more. Clients can also submit claim photos, such as a cracked windshield. For truckers, the portal allows the quick and straightforward download of certificates. The portal is accessible on any device via the agency’s website and requires a login and username. The agency will release a matching app later in the year.

Phillips Insurance Delivers Pizza, Food Boxes to Clients, First Responders

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance partnered with clients Fazio’s Ristorante of East Longmeadow and Simos Produce of Springfield to deliver pizza and grocery boxes to its clients and first responders. Phillips Insurance delivered dozens of grocery boxes from Simos Produce to clients so they could avoid going to the supermarket. In addition, Phillips and Fazio’s Ristorante delivered pizzas and grinders to first responders and heathcare providers, while Phillips Insurance delivered pizza and subs to the Chicopee Police Department in appreciation of all they do for the community. Phillips Insurance Agency was established in 1953 and is a full-service risk-management firm with a staff of 28 professionals.

Western Mass. Wedding Vendors Say ‘Thank You’ to Frontline Workers

HOLYOKE — The wedding industry is being hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Couples are being forced to restructure or delay their wedding plans, leaving wedding vendors struggling with the financial challenges of delayed business. Thankfully, the wedding industry is also one marked by resilience and camaraderie. That is why a group of Western Mass. wedding vendors has come together to give back and say ‘thank you’ to frontline workers. Spearheaded by local DJ Anthony Corlis from TC’s Disc Jockey Services with assistance from the Log Cabin/Delaney House meal-donation program, more than 75 meals will be delivered to employees of Stop and Shop in Westfield today, April 24, at 11 a.m. by Corlis and Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin/Delaney House. One of those employees just happens to be a Log Cabin groom who needed to reschedule his April 26 wedding. Meals were donated by Vivan B Photography, Events by Jackie M., Aliber Bridal Shops, Michelle Anne Hair Design, SHO Productions, Durocher’s Florist, Catherine Jindela, Kasey Richards of Mountain Rose Inn, TC’s Disc Jockey Services, and Log Cabin/Delaney House. Anyone looking to donate meals should visit delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

Wellfleet, EIS Group Partner on Innovative Insurance Solution

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet, a Berkshire Hathaway insurance company, and industry technology leader EIS Group are building a next-generation insurance-administration platform to meet the evolving demands of the employee-benefits market. In the complex voluntary-benefits landscape, brokers and their clients commonly work with multiple systems, fighting to integrate with carriers’ patchworked legacy systems. Whether it’s product sophistication, internal workflow monitoring, enrollment and third-party integration, or communications across multiple modules, carriers struggle to administer plans in a digitally unified way. Wellfleet Workplace entered the voluntary market last year, on a mission to be the digitally enabled carrier of choice. Partnering with EIS Group helps drive this differentiation by jointly creating an open-architecture and cloud-based software system designed to support the full broker and customer life cycle. The software provider’s cloud-based platform supports broker and customer life cycles, including rating and quoting, policy issuance and administration, and billing and claims management. Multi-channel touch points are easily created and managed through EIS Group’s digital-experience platform.

Pearson Wallace, Arbella Offer Premium Relief

AMHERST — Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, Arbella has committed to providing a 20% credit for three months on all personal auto policies until June 30. This is a per-vehicle refund that applies to existing and new policies from Pearson Wallace Insurance, said Alex Bennett, the agency’s vice president. Arbella Insurance also announced the Arbella Here. For Good. Give Back Program. Subject to approval by state regulators, Arbella’s personal auto customers will receive a credit equal to 20% of their auto premium for the months of April, May, and June. These savings would result in an estimated average of $60 per vehicle, and customers with multiple vehicles on their policy could see significant savings, Bennett noted.

Ascent Laser Aesthetics Introduces Innovative Hair-removal System

EAST LONGMEADOW — Ascent Laser Aesthetics, a medical spa located in East Longmeadow, has partnered with Cartessa Aesthetics to bring the hair-removal system Motux AX to the practice. Motux AX is the most effective laser wavelength for hair removal for the widest array of skin types, Dr. Kevin Coughlin said, adding that the procedure is virtually pain-free and significantly more comfortable than standard methods, while providing quicker treatment of large areas (less than five minutes) and fewer subsequent treatments to achieve optimal results. Through proprietary Moveo technology, risk of side effects is virtually non-existent.

EforAll Holyoke Launches Accelerator Program for Spanish-speaking Entrepreneurs

HOLYOKE — Continuing to expand its proven approach to help under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses, Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Holyoke announced that it is accepting applications for its new EparaTodos program in Holyoke, which will focus on supporting Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the Greater Holyoke community. EforAll’s free, one-year business-accelerator program helps under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses or nonprofits across a wide range of industries, including personal and professional services, food, manufacturing, and both online and traditional retail. The program offers a combination of immersive business training, dedicated mentorship, and access to a professional network. The organization typically offers its programs in person, but it is prepared to deliver classroom training and mentor sessions online if necessary. Among the businesses started by EforAll participants, 75% are owned by women, 56% are owned by people of color, 54% are owned by immigrants, and 56% are owned by people who were previously unemployed. EforAll is accepting applications for this new Spanish-language accelerator, as well as its English accelerator program (EforAll), through Wednesday, May 20 at 5 p.m. Interested applicants can learn more and apply at www.eforall.org, where they will find information in both English and Spanish. To support its new Spanish-language programming, EforAll Holyoke has hired a dedicated EparaTodos program manager, Gabriella Candelario. Before joining EparaTodos Holyoke, she worked with the Springfield Public Schools as a program coordinator. She can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook

Country Bank Donates $50,000 to First Responder Recovery Home

LUDLOW — To help the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department successfully operate the First Responder Recovery Home for COVID-19-diagnosed first responders, Country Bank announced it will contribute $50,000 to the efforts. The contribution from the Ware-based financial institution comes with the aim of inspiring other similar organizations to do what they can to assist the department’s effort to help the people who typically help others. The donation, which brings the overall community contributions above $87,000, will help ensure that every COVID-19-positive first responder who comes to stay at the facility has the food and comforts necessary for recovery. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened the First Responder Recovery Home this week to fill an unmet need in the Commonwealth of providing a safe haven for our doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, firefighters, and corrections professionals who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t safely go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. Located at the department’s Pre-Release Center on its campus in Ludlow, the refuge is provided free of charge, thanks to the department’s community supporters and partners. Cocchi and staff started accepting guests this week, with 84 single-occupancy rooms available. Anyone coming to stay must be healthy enough to care for themselves; however, a pool of voluntary medical professionals from the community, led by Ludlow physician Dr. Shaukat Matin, will be making rounds, and if someone needs more comprehensive medical care, the Sheriff’s Department will help coordinate transportation. Any doctor, nurse, police, firefighter, EMT, correctional professional, or military member can call (413) 858-0801 or (413) 858-0819 to request a room or ask questions. The facility needs the person’s full name, gender, and expected length of stay, among other information, and all correspondence will be kept confidential. Community partners include Country Bank, Anthony Ravosa and the 91 Supper Club, Charlie D’Amour and Guy McFarlane of Big Y Foods, Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores, Cesar Ruiz Jr. and Golden Years Home Care, Jim Brennan on behalf of the Edward J. Brennan Jr. Family Foundation, Anthony Cignoli of A.L. Cignoli Co., Jeff Polep of J. Polep Distribution Services, Jay Caron of Bee-Line Corp., Larry Katz of Arnold’s Meats, Andy Yee and Peter Picknelly, and Matin. Anyone wishing to contribute to the First Responder Recovery Home initiative can send tax-deductible donations to Criminal Justice Organization, 627 Randall Road, Ludlow, MA 01056, and write “First Responder Recovery Home” on the memo line.

Ohana School of Performing Arts Looks to Community for Support

CHICOPEE — The future of small businesses hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and despite uncertainty and disruption, one local dance studio stands firm in its mission: to spread peace and positivity through performance. Ohana School of Performing Arts, located at 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, had to make significant changes to its business model as social-distancing guidelines and safety initiatives were put into place. The studio transitioned to online classes and continues to support families with an interactive Facebook group for dancers and their families, where instructors share craft ideas, new dance moves, story time, and messages of hope and joy. “We are bringing 50 virtual classes to our studio family each week,” said Ashley Kohl, owner and creative director. She explained that teachers are recording classes from their own homes to ensure that the dancers are staying engaged and active. In addition to moving to virtual programming, Ohana also shifted tuition terms for the studio — pay what you can, if you can. Due to the stay-at-home advisory, which Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented until further notice, it is likely that Ohana will not be hosting its June performance, which is the studio’s only for-profit recital of the year. The funds from this performance are typically used to cover overhead costs in the summer months. In addition to the annual performance, Ohana hosts two charity performances as fundraisers for local nonprofits. To date, Ohana has donated more than $30,000 to various organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Willpower Foundation, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, We Love Riley Fan Club, Arik(q)ue, in addition to Ohana’s nonprofit, One Ohana Inc., that provides scholarships to dancers across the Pioneer Valley. The impact of lost revenue comes at a particularly challenging time, as the studio was forced to relocate last year, and the business had to secure significant loan funding. Without the consistent tuition and performance revenue, Kohl fears she may have to close Ohana’s doors. With that in mind, two of Kohl’s close friends, Danielle Barone and Tanyelle Duchesne, organized a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000. For more information on how to support Ohana School of Performing Arts, visit gofundme.com/we-are-ohana or ohanaperformingarts.com.

TommyCar Auto Group Donates $10,000 to Support Health Workers

NORTHAMPTON — TommyCar Auto Group — consisting of Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — announced it has donated a total of $10,000 to local healthcare workers through its “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” initiatives. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the doctors, nurses, and frontline medical workers at local hospitals, TommyCar Auto Group launched a two-part campaign to help support these local heroes. Members of the TommyCard Rewards loyalty program were able to donate up to 50 points to help the cause, making it easy to support the efforts without having to leave the safety of home to make an in-person donation. The points were then matched in dollars by TommyCar Auto Group. By early April, $5,000 was raised to provide meals to the Emergency Department staff at Baystate Medical Center. As of April 10, another $5,000 was donated to Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which is used to purchase needed equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and more. To learn more and follow the “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” campaigns, visit the Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars of Pioneer Valley Facebook pages.

Holyoke Company Tools Up to Manufacture Medical Face Shields

HOLYOKE — Walter Drake Inc., a Holyoke manufacturing company, has responded to the urgent need for medical face shields by healthcare systems. In a matter of days, workers have designed, prototyped, built tooling for, and manufactured a medical face shield of the type that is in desperate demand by hospitals, nursing facilities, and other essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Joseph Feigen, company president, announced that the face shield is called ‘Corona Shield’ for the time being, but will be renamed for permanent use in the healthcare field after the current pandemic ends. Walter Drake staff is now contacting dozens of hospitals around the country to deliver this badly needed personal protective equipment and to help ensure employment opportunities during this extended Massachusetts business shutdown. Established in 1962, Walter Drake Inc. primarily manufactures custom thermoformed packaging in the form of clamshells, trays, and blisters for medical, electronic, consumer, and industrial packaging applications.

MGM Springfield Donates Sleeping Cots, Outdoor Heaters

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced a donation of 160 portable sleeping cots and 16 outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. A portion of the cots will provide much-needed overflow support for the hospital, while the other portion of cots and the outdoor heaters will assist the city’s work to help the homeless population amid the COVID-19 crisis. “We are a strong community, but this is a challenging time, and MGM Springfield will continue to do what we can to support those impacted and those on the front line,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield. Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “I want to thank MGM President and COO Chris Kelley and his MGM team for stepping up in support of our city’s ongoing and continued efforts in responding to this coronavirus situation. These much-needed items will go a long way in assisting our city’s coronavirus response.” Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, added that “we are grateful to MGM Springfield for the generous donation of cots for use during the pandemic. This is another example of the local area’s remarkable community partnerships that assist our efforts to care for patients during this difficult time.”

UMass Amherst Food Scientist Helps Unravel COVID-19 Mysteries

AMHERST — With the rapid onset of smell and taste loss emerging as symptoms of COVID-19, scientists around the world — including a sensory expert at UMass Amherst — have united to investigate the connection between the chemical senses and the novel coronavirus. The wave of reports from patients and clinicians about anosmia, or smell loss, inspired the creation of the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers. Alissa Nolden, UMass Amherst assistant professor of Food Science, is among the 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data and cognitive scientists, sensory researchers, and technicians from 38 countries gathering data in a worldwide survey to unravel how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. Nolden was invited by a colleague at the National Institutes of Health to help develop strategies around measuring the sensory-related symptoms of the coronavirus. “Smell and/or taste loss may be an early indicator of COVID-19, as individuals appear to report loss of smell or taste prior to other symptoms,” she said. “We also want to better understand the mechanism behind taste and smell loss as a result of this virus.” Nolden noted that some people with COVID-19 who experience sensory losses may not have any other coronavirus symptoms. The researchers hope to learn more about this from the survey, since people with sensory symptoms alone are not likely to qualify for a COVID-19 test. “This has been a tremendous effort from collaborators from around the globe to gain a better understanding of the negative impact of COVID-19 on loss of taste and smell,” she said. “We hope to learn a lot about these symptoms and believe it will have a great impact on our understanding of the virus.”

Log Cabin, Delaney House Launch ‘Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need’

HOLYOKE — Many people and organizations are looking for ways to help others during this trying time. In that spirit, the Delaney House and Log Cabin have created the “Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need” meal-donation program. People can purchase meals at a discounted rate, which will then be distributed to local businesses with essential employees or community members struggling to gain access to fresh food during this difficult time. Some of the organizations that will receive these donations are Baystate Health System, Providence Ministries (Loreto House), Amherst Survival Center, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield first responders, Holyoke first responders, and many others. To donate, visit www.delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

MassHire Holyoke Career Center Continues to Offer Services Remotely

HOLYOKE — The MassHire Holyoke Career Center is letting the public known it is open for business remotely for new and current customers and members of the career center. Individuals can visit www.masshireholyoke.org to access information and staff contact numbers for career-counseling and job-search services. Staff members are available to answer questions and provide support such as résumé review and career counseling. These services are available in English and Spanish. Job postings are also available on the website. People with questions about job-seeker services can call (413) 532-4900 and leave a message, and a staff member will be in contact as soon as possible. People who need to file an unemployment claim can call (877) 626-6800 or visit www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits. Businesses can call (413) 654-1650, and a business service representative will be in touch.

Company Notebook

Community Foundation Grants $700,000 Through COVID-19 Response Fund

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the release of its first grants, totaling $700,000, to community organizations and nonprofits from its recently-established COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. The fund has raised $2,480,000 from local philanthropic and business organizations and over 50 individuals. The first round of funding to support local response to the crisis includes $190,000 to distribute food through the region’s system of food pantries; $120,000 to address the needs of vulnerable elders, including home-delivered meals; $120,000 to provide critical health services and outreach through the Valley’s federally designated Community Health Centers; $150,000 to provide shelter for those without homes and those impacted by domestic violence; and $120,000 to provide flexible supports to the region’s lowest-income families and individuals. Organizations receiving funding include Caring Health Center, Catholic Charities Agency – Diocese of Springfield, Center for Human Development, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Health Center of Franklin County, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of the Homeless (Clinical & Support Options), Greater Springfield Senior Services, Highland Valley Elder Services, Hilltown Community Health Center, Holyoke Health Center, LifePath, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, Safe Passage, ServiceNet, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Springfield Rescue Mission, Valley Opportunity Council, WestMass ElderCare, Womanshelter Companeras, and YWCA of Western Massachusetts. More grants are expected to be announced and released to respond to emerging needs. In subsequent phases, grants will be made to address needs of nonprofit organizations that have been financially impacted by the crisis. The Community Foundation welcomes additional donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. Donate online at communityfoundation.org/coronavirus-donations.

Fire Investigation Transfer Program Launched at STCC

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has a hot new program. Starting this fall, the college will offer a new option in the Fire Protection and Safety Technology department: fire investigation transfer. Students who choose this option will study fire behavior, fire operations, prevention, investigations, and criminal law through courses in fire science and criminal justice. Fire investigators often work for local, state, and federal agencies, but also pursue opportunities in the private sector. The program is offered in the evening only, which will give students who work more flexibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for fire inspectors and investigators are expected to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028. The median pay in 2018 was $60,200. Students who successfully complete the two-year program will receive an associate of science degree in fire protection and safety technology. To learn more about the program and to apply for the fall, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/fitr.as. Individuals with questions may contact Tenczar at [email protected] or call (413) 755-4596.

HCC President Pledges $10,000 to ‘Together HCC’ Campaign

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) President Christina Royal has issued a personal $10,000 challenge gift toward a new HCC campaign that is as much about building moral support in a time of great uncertainty as it is about raising money for students experiencing financial distress. As part of the HCC Foundation’s “Together HCC — A Campaign for Caring,” students, staff, faculty, alumni, relatives, and friends are being asked to use the hashtag #TogetherHCC to share stories and images on social media that show the strength of the college community in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Royal’s $10,000 challenge is not just a financial one. Instead, the goal is to gather 1,000 contributions of any kind toward the #TogetherHCC campaign. That includes monetary donations as well as social-media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as e-mail submissions that describe an inspirational tale or messages of encouragement relating to the ongoing pandemic. Besides scholarships, the HCC Foundation manages several funds that directly support students facing financial emergencies as well as those experiencing food and housing insecurity. These include the President’s Student Emergency Fund, which was established by Royal, and another that supports HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center, which manages the HCC Food Pantry.

Northampton Survival Center Updates Public on Services

NORTHAMPTON — While concern for staff, client, and volunteer health during the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced Northampton Survival Center to temporarily stop client visits to pick up food, the center anticipates resuming modified operations as soon as possible. Even though the building is closed, however, new community partnerships and initiatives have sprung into action. The center has teamed up with Community Action Pioneer Valley to begin distributing food out of Jackson Street School, a nearby location with ample, circular parking and cafeteria and refrigeration capabilities. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, food will be delivered by the Survival Center to the school, where a team of trained personnel will be able to create pre-bagged packages of nutritious food while maintaining safe distancing and other health precautions. On those same afternoons, bags will be carted outdoors under a tent, for quick drive-up intake and food transfer to clients safely in their cars. Another initiative between the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton delivers fresh produce and groceries every Tuesday to high-need sites including Hampshire Heights, Florence Heights, Meadowbrook, and the Lumber Yard on Pleasant Street. Food distribution at all four sites will work in tandem with the Northampton public-school system and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s new meal-delivery program for children, in order to amplify each other’s efforts to keep children and their entire families fed. Shelf-stable groceries will be paired with fresh produce purchased directly from local farms, as well as produce and other goods purchased from distributors via River Valley Co-op. To serve clients in the hilltowns, food is being brought from the Hilltown Pantry and Northampton Survival Center to the various Councils on Aging that serve the region. COAs in Chesterfield, Worthington, and Goshen have already begun distributing this food from their sites, and further outreach is being coordinated with the Hilltown Community Health Center and the Hilltown Community Development Corp. The center is exploring using a school classroom in Worthington as a mini-pantry, and fresh produce has been shared with the Maples senior housing in Worthington. Eggs from Northampton Survival Center have been shared with the MANNA hot meal program, and fresh produce and retail donations of bread and other items usually reserved for the center are now being shared with other food pantries in the area, via the center’s partners at the Food Bank.

Monson Savings Bank Donates $25,000 to Baystate Health’s Greatest Needs Fund

MONSON — Baystate Health has just completed construction of a rapid-response triage area outside of the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, allowing the hospital to better protect patients and medical staff from exposure to the virus as patients are being screened and tested. This new triage area is just one of the many large, unplanned expenses this health emergency has created. Additionally, the exploding demand for personal protection equipment for staff and myriad other needs to fight this outbreak are stretching resources and finances to the limit. Monson Savings Bank has donated $25,000 to Baystate’s Greatest Needs Fund. This gift will directly support resources needed at Baystate Health as it continues to address and prepare for the care the community needs during this worldwide pandemic.

UMassFive College Credit Union Offers Financial Resources, Support

HADLEY — As a local nonprofit financial cooperative, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union (UMassFive) is known for playing an active role in supporting and educating members and local communities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMassFive has launched a number of initiatives to continue supporting its membership and people in the local community. For example, UMassFive has joined forces with Log Rolling Catering to donate 350 meals to individuals and families in need, as well as those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Amherst Survival Center received 150 prepared meals for distribution to those in need, and another 200 meals went to the ER staff at both Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and UMass Medical Center in Worcester. In addition, UMassFive has pledged $1,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated another $1,000 to the local farming nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which will use the funds as part of its campaign to raise $50,000 for emergency loans to local farms. Credit-union members can also participate by making charitable donations in support of their local community through the UMassFive Buzz Points program, including options benefiting the Food Bank and the Amherst Survival Center. UMassFive is committed to answering questions and providing financial guidance to its members throughout this ongoing time of economic uncertainty. Members are encouraged to reach out for one-on-one phone consultations with credit union staff to better understand what options are available to them at this time. For instance, UMassFive is offering loan-payment deferral for up to three months on all qualified consumer loans. Members can visit www.umassfive.coop/emergency-relief to learn which loans qualify and to submit their emergency-relief payment-deferral requests through an easy-to-fill-out web form. As a way to make things a little easier for qualified borrowers who decide to take on some short-term debt to address their current needs, UMassFive has temporarily lowered the rate of all new personal loans to 5.99% APR for amounts of $2,000 or less. New and existing members can apply for this loan online at www.umassfive.coop/personalloan. After signing up (for new users) or logging in, applicants should select ‘fixed-term loan,’ then ‘loan special,’ and continue filling out the form until fully submitted. The credit union strongly encourages seeking alternative options before taking on additional debt.

Country Bank Donates $250,000 to Four Hospitals

WARE — Country Bank announced it has donated $250,000 to four local hospitals to help assist with the work they are doing for patients as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitals receiving donations include Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, and Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, noted that “these are challenging and ever-evolving times as we face uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community partner, we care deeply about our communities, and we wanted to support our local hospitals to help ease their financial burden as they continue to offer exceptional care to our friends and neighbors in the region.”

Providence Ministries Services Continue Through Pandemic

HOLYOKE — Providence Ministries will continue to offer essential support services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Executive Director Shannon Rudder shared precautions being made to ensure continuity of services while protecting program participants. Effective immediately, the following program shifts will occur: Kate’s Community Kitchen will provide warm, nutritious takeout meals; dining-room services will be suspended until further notice. Margaret’s Pantry will continue to welcome those in need of supplemental groceries to enjoy its community services. This includes both monthly guests along with anyone impacted by loss of work or simply realizing greater need at this time. Make an appointment by calling Brenda at (413) 536-9109, ext. 119. St. Jude’s Clothing Center will be closed until further notice to contain exposure, while the foodWorks culinary-training program will suspend current classes until further notice; the April 1 graduation will be rescheduled. Providence is taking every precaution to ensure its single-room-occupancy recovery housing spaces maintain cleanliness and overall health. It is difficult to ensure a true quarantine due to shared spaces, such as bathrooms and kitchens. At Loreto House, residents will suspend weekend passes and all planned workshops, no general public will be allowed entrance, a daily temperature check has been instituted, and any resident presenting symptoms and fever will be sent to the hospital or their primary-care provider. At both Broderick House and McCleary Manor, no outside visitors or overnight guests are permitted. No new residents will be admitted to any of these houses during this time. Each home has adequate cleaning products and hand soaps. Volunteers are asked to exercise caution and use their best judgement to continue in their service.

Girls Inc. Receives Grants from Baystate Health, Women Empowered

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a community-benefits discretionary grant of $5,000 from Baystate Health to Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Informed and In Charge” program, which is designed to teach healthy sexuality. Through “Informed and In Charge,” girls acquire the knowledge and skills for taking charge of and making informed decisions about their sexual health. Exploring values, practicing responses in different situations, and thinking about their futures helps girls identify ways and reasons to avoid early pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Meanwhile, Women Empowered, a group that strives to promote body positivity and acceptance for both adult women and future generations of girls, has donated $2,500 in proceeds of its Women Empowered calendar sales to Girls Inc. of the Valley. The receipt of this gift will support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s current research-based program offerings designed to empower girls, and will provide a boost in its annual fundraising efforts. The Women Empowered calendar features a diverse group of everyday women who have embraced their uniqueness, have overcome physical and mental obstacles, celebrate their bodies, and want to share their story to inspire others. This calendar provides the chance to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in order to teach other women and future generations to embrace the totality of who they are, and use their gifts, their beauty, and their stories to change the world. Everyone involved with the production of the calendar and all sponsors are women-owned businesses.

Amherst Area Tip Jar Launched

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) have launched the Amherst Area Tip Jar. Many locals would regularly be patronizing their favorite restaurants, bars, salons, coffeehouses, and other businesses that have been ordered closed or have shifted to take-out only, depending on the type of business, due to the COVID-19 crisis and related health and safety restrictions. The Tip Jar, first established in Pittsburgh, allows people to support local service industry staff and businesses. It allows them to send a ‘tip’ to their favorite business, which will share it with their staff — bartenders, servers, kitchen staff, stylists, aestheticians, mechanics, etc. The Amherst Area Tip Jar offers an option for these businesses and individuals to post their Venmo or PayPal information so that customers, family members, neighbors, and community members, near and far, can continue to support them using this open-source concept — a way to maximize social distancing while supporting these workers and small businesses. E-mail Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, at [email protected] or Gould at [email protected]m with any inquiries.

Big Y Announces Support for Five Food Banks

SPRINGFIELD — On March 16, Big Y World Class Markets donated $125,000 to three Massachusetts food banks and two in Connecticut in order to help them respond to the challenges they face in helping to feed others during these challenging times. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare, and the Connecticut Food Bank will each receive an immediate donation of $25,000. All Big Y stores also now have collection boxes to allow customers to make food donations for local pantries and shelters. As part of its recent 10th annual Sack Hunger/Care to Share program, Big Y also provided more than $11.5 million in food to area food banks, which amounts to a total of 5.7 million meals to help those in need throughout the region. In addition to Sack Hunger, it donates healthy food to these food banks six days a week throughout the year. Two-thirds of those 5.7 million meals include donations of meat and fresh produce, while bakery, non-perishable grocery items, frozen food, and dairy products account for the rest. In fact, these almost-daily donations have become a routine part of Big Y’s operations. These food banks depend upon this steady flow of food to feed those in need. Big Y also encourages support in any amount for area food banks right now. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts estimates that every dollar donated will provide four meals for those in need. Visit foodbankwma.org for more information. Additionally, Big Y donated $50,000 to the COVID-19 Response Fund hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The fund will provide flexible resources to Pioneer Valley nonprofit organizations serving populations most impacted by the crisis, such as the elderly, those without stable housing, families needing food, and those with particular health vulnerabilities.

Company Notebook

Bacon Wilson to Donate $25,000 for Firm’s 125th Anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that, in honor of its 125th anniversary year, the firm will donate $25,000 to various community organizations throughout the Pioneer Valley. Bacon Wilson will make five contributions of $1,250 for each quarter of 2020. After gathering suggestions from members of the firm, first-quarter contributions of $1,250 were awarded to:

• Michael J. Dias Foundation, which provides aid and education for individuals and families on substance abuse, and help for those battling the disease of addiction;

• All Out Adventures, which promotes health, community, and independence for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and their families and friends through outdoor recreation;

• Amherst Survival Center, which connects people to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts;

• Our Community Table: Westfield Soup Kitchen, a 100% volunteer organization dependent upon donations to provide a clean and safe environment to serve those in need; and

• Treehouse Foundation, an intergenerational community neighborhood where adoptive families and their children, older youth, and elders invest in one another’s health, dreams, and futures.

Bacon Wilson will announce recipients for the firm’s remaining quarterly giving in June, September, and December.

Eversource Energy to Purchase Columbia Gas of Massachusetts

BOSTON — Eversource Energy announced it has reached an agreement to purchase the Massachusetts natural-gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion from NiSource. The acquisition will bring Columbia Gas operations in Massachusetts under local ownership by the largest energy company in New England. Columbia Gas currently serves 330,000 natural-gas customers in more than 60 communities in Massachusetts. Eversource has 300,000 natural-gas customers and 1.5 million electric customers in 51 communities across the Commonwealth. Many communities that Columbia Gas serves with natural gas already receive electric service from Eversource. Under the asset-purchase agreement, liabilities related to the September 2018 gas distribution incidents in the Merrimack Valley will remain the responsibility of Columbia Gas’s current parent company, NiSource. Eversource plans to finance the transaction with a balance of new equity and debt that maintains its credit profile. The parties expect to close the transaction by the end of the third quarter 2020.

Isenberg Again Ranks First for MBA Online Education

AMHERST — For the fourth year in a row, the online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst topped the rankings of U.S. programs — and came out number three in the world — in the Financial Times survey. Isenberg has offered an AACSB-accredited MBA degree program entirely online since 2001, making it one of the most well-established and robust online degrees in the country. Currently, more than 1,100 students are enrolled in the program. In addition to its overall position in the 2020 Financial Times ranking, the Isenberg online MBA also stood out in a number of data areas, based on information collected by the publication from members of the 2016 graduating class. It ranked first in the world for salary increase, with alumni reporting that they earn 46% more now than they did when they graduated from the Isenberg MBA program; second in the U.S. for average current salary ($168,046); and first in the U.S. for value.

American International College Named To Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has again been named a Military Friendly School. VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that connects the military community to civilian employment and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, has released the 2020-21 Military Friendly​​ Schools list, providing a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data sources from federal agencies, veteran students, and proprietary survey information from participating organizations in order to help them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Institutions earning the Military Friendly​ School designation are evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the school. This year, fewer than 800 schools nationwide earned this prestigious designation. Methodology and criteria were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly​ ​Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the individual institution’s survey scores with the assessment of its ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Girls Inc. of the Valley Receives $500,000 Grant

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley announced plans for major expansion and the launch of its new campaign. The organization is in the early stages of an ambitious, comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future,” with three primary goals: to develop a permanent Girls Inc. home in downtown Holyoke; to expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and to extend the Eureka! STEM education program. To that end, it has received $500,000 in support from the Kendeda Fund, a private grantmaker based in Atlanta. This transformative gift will support the expansion of Girls Inc. of the Valley’s programs and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve. Girls Inc. of the Valley is launching this campaign to offer more girls fundamental support and research-based programming. These programs are designed to empower girls and present them with opportunities to navigate barriers they face in school and beyond.

Women’s Fund to Award $45,000 to Groups Addressing Sexual Violence

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced a spring grant cycle to fund organizations that are working to fight sexual violence in the Western Mass. region. Funding for this grant cycle is made possible by a grant the WFWM received from the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies (the Me Too Fund), housed at the New York Women’s Foundation. Joining the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of California, and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in this work, WFWM will carry out the Me Too Fund’s goal of ensuring ongoing philanthropic investments toward transforming the oppressive systems that produce structural inequalities of power that result in harassment and violence by making grants from this fund in and for the local community. Applications will be accepted from women- and girl-serving organizations in all four counties of Western Mass. through March 31. Projects funded by this grant from WFWM must focus on prevention and/or intervention of sexual violence and harassment. Visit mywomensfund.org for additional information or to apply.

GCAi Launches Videos for Peter Pan’s App Marketing and Perks Rewards Program

SPRINGFIELD — Riders on any Peter Pan bus right now will not only view a new app-marketing video but also a new Perks Rewards program video. In between the two marketing videos is a brief welcome message by company Chairman and CEO Peter Picknelly. Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) produced the three videos, which are already being shown on all routes in the Northeast Corridor. Each of them was produced by award-winning video producer Darcy Young, one of the only female video producers in the market. The concepts and scripts were developed by GCAi founder John Garvey. The app and rewards videos will be disseminated through digital marketing campaigns in specific markets on the East Coast in the near future. These videos are the third in a series of passenger videos produced by GCAi that began when Peter Pan Bus Lines separated from Greyhound Bus Lines in 2017. The videos can be viewed at gcaionline.com/video.

Webber & Grinnell Acquires Roger Menard Insurance Agency

NORTHAMPTON — Webber & Grinnell Insurance announced the acquisition of Roger Menard Insurance Agency at 241 King St., Northampton. “Roger and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we are fortunate to be able to continue his legacy of great customer service to his clients,” said Webber and Grinnell President Bill Grinnell. “Our office is only a quarter-mile down the street, so it will be an easy adjustment for his clients. We also represent the same insurance carriers as Roger Menard Insurance, which will make the transition go very smoothly. Menard added that “Webber and Grinnell is the premier insurance agency in Northampton, and I know my clients will be treated very well. I’ve truly enjoyed this business and the relationships I have developed along the way. But after 36 years, it’s time to do something different. I will still be available to answer any questions during the transition.”

DAISA Enterprises to Facilitate Healthy Children and Families Event

SOUTH HADLEY — DAISA Enterprises, a food-systems and community health strategy firm based in South Hadley, was selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to design and facilitate a convening of Healthy Children and Families grantees for 2020. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), based in Princeton, N.J., is the largest philanthropic foundation in the U.S. focused solely on health, striving to advance policy, system, and environmental changes that create the conditions to foster families’ opportunities to promote healthy child development. The Healthy Children and Families convening will be a forum for sharing lessons and leveraging insights among grantees, partners, stakeholders, and RWJF staff around strategies to achieve this goal and prioritize health equity. More than 100 health leaders are expected to attend this event this spring or summer.

Health New England a Finalist in Healthiest Employers Program

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England has been recognized as one of the 2019 finalists of the Healthiest Employers of Massachusetts, a nationally recognized awards program powered by the Springbuk Health Intelligence Platform. Applicants to the Healthiest Employers awards program were evaluated across six key categories, representing a holistic view of employee well-being: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communication and marketing, programming and interventions, and reporting and analytics. All companies that applied to the awards program were ranked according to the proprietary Healthiest Employers Index, a 1-100 rubric for employee well-being programming. Ranked second in the 100- to 499-employee size category in Massachusetts, Health New England was honored for its commitment to employee health and corporate health programming. As an award finalist, Health New England has demonstrated a strong commitment to the health and well-being of its team members.

Bay Path Earns ‘A’ Grade for Early Reading Courses

LONGMEADOW — The National Council on Teacher Quality released its scores for the 2020 Teacher Prep Review, ranking Bay Path University’s Early Reading course content in undergraduate, traditional, elementary-education programs with an ‘A’ designation. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, and more than one-third of American children are not able to read by the fourth grade, with black and Hispanic children being disproportionately affected. Successful reading instruction is essential to achieving educational equity, yet only seven programs in Massachusetts received an ‘A’ ranking. After reviewing course syllabi and required textbooks, programs were ranked based on the following criteria: the availability of explicit instruction on each of the five components of reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies; support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices; and evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests, and field work.

Scout Curated Wears Supports Dress for Success

SPRINGFIELD — Scout Curated Wears started out as a local business and quickly turned into a nationwide sensation with its signature item, which converts from a wrap bracelet to a necklace. But the company is equally proud of its commitment to give back 10% of its net proceeds to support women’s organizations. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is one of the nonprofits that benefits from the generosity of Scout Curated Wears and owner Lora Fischer-DeWitt. Women in the Greater Springfield community benefit from both a network of support and programs developed by Dress for Success. These programs, which are designed to be responsive to both women and employers, include the Foot in the Door workforce-readiness program; the Boutique, which provides women with professional attire for interviews and employment; the Margaret Fitzgerald One-on-One mentor program; and the Professional Women’s Group, designed to promote employment retention and career advancement. Fischer-DeWitt changes the lives of women who come through these programs by providing an annual contribution and by sponsoring Common Threads, an annual event celebrating of the accomplishments of women who have come through Dress for Success Western Massachusetts programs. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Springfield Sheraton.

Elms School of Nursing Ranks in Top 10 in State

CHICOPEE — The School of Nursing at Elms College ranks in the top 10 of “Best Nursing Schools in Massachusetts,” according to a recent ranking by registerednursing.org. To determine this year’s rankings, registerednursing.org researched the 40 nursing programs across the state and analyzed their students’ performance on the NCLEX-RN exam over the past five years. In 2019, Elms College nurses achieved a 97% pass rate on the exam, while the national pass rate was 91%. This is the third top-10 ranking for Elms College’s School of Nursing over the past year. It has been ranked in the top 10 of nursing schools in Massachusetts according to both nurse.org and niche.com.

Company Notebook

Red Sox Winter Weekend, Hoophall Classic Inject $7 Million into Economy

SPRINGFIELD — More than 10,000 people attended Red Sox Winter Weekend and the Hoophall Classic in Greater Springfield in January, and their economic impact on the region was significant, according to the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB), which calculated that approximately $7 million was injected into the local economy as a result of these events. Economic impact is calculated using a tourism-industry tool, inputting spending figures in categories like the number of attendees, room nights sold, venue rental, and the cost of food and beverages during the period. Visitor rooms were booked in downtown Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, and West Springfield. Red Sox Winter Weekend occupied space at the MassMutual Center and MGM Springfield, while the Hoophall Classic was held on the grounds of nearby Springfield College.

PeoplesBank Gives $75,000 to Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank presented $75,000 to Girls Inc. toward a $5 million comprehensive campaign with three primary goals: to build a permanent home in downtown Holyoke; expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and extend the Eureka! STEM education program. As a result of the campaign, Girls Inc. of the Valley will serve more than 1,000 girls each year with intensive, research-based programming designed to empower girls and provide opportunities to succeed in school and beyond. This partnership will help Girls Inc. of the Valley to expand its program offerings and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve, and contributes to the bank’s goals of community vibrancy and academic excellence. The need for qualified science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals in the workforce continues to grow, and women — particularly women of color — continue to be underrepresented in these fields. Girls Inc. of the Valley programs like Eureka! expose girls to the STEM fields and support them with mentors and guidance, specialized curricula, internships, and other hands-on opportunities to nurture their curiosity and interests. The “Her Future, Our Future” comprehensive campaign is designed to significantly move the needle on breaking the cycle of poverty and providing tangible opportunities for Pioneer Valley girls to achieve academic and personal success.

New England Business Associates Launches Learn to Earn Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — New England Business Associates (NEBA), a supported employment provider in Massachusetts and Connecticut, is celebrating the launch of its Learn to Earn initiative, thanks to a Kessler Foundation Signature Employment Grant that will fund the project for two years. The initiative, intended to introduce, train, and place four cohorts of employment candidates with disabilities to entry-level manufacturing positions, is the brainchild of NEBA CEO Jeannine Pavlak. The need for qualified employees to fill positions in the manufacturing industry is becoming critical; in many areas of the U.S., upwards of 35% of current manufacturing jobs will become vacant due to retirement by 2022. Pavlak, who is recognized nationally as a subject matter expert in disability employment, sees this as an opportunity. Manufacturing is not currently viewed as a typical pathway to gainful employment for people with disabilities, but there’s no reason it can’t become one. Learn to Earn will give identified candidates the initial training and skills needed to succeed in a manufacturing environment. Over the next two years, 48 candidates with disabilities and barriers to employment will be identified and receive Level 1 and 2 MACWIC manufacturing training and OSHA training, in partnership with MassMEP in Massachusetts and ConnStep in Connecticut. Candidates will also receive NEBA’s customized career-ladders training, designed to cater to individual needs in building employment skills. The goal of Learn to Earn is to place candidates in manufacturing positions that will allow them to earn a sustainable income, eliminate the need for public assistance, and foster growth and future promotions in the field. After placement, employees and employers will be given access to Tooling U-SME, a customized online platform with more than 800 manufacturing courses, allowing employers to identify and customize specific trainings for Learn to Earn employees. Those interested in learning more about the Learn to Earn initiative may e-mail inquiries to [email protected] or call NEBA at (413) 821-9200.

UMass Online Programs Highly Ranked Nationally

BOSTON — Online programs at UMass received high marks again in this year’s Best Online Programs rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Two UMass programs ranked within the top 30 in the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs category, with UMass Amherst ranking 23rd and UMass Lowell 29th. Amherst and Lowell were also the top two online bachelor’s programs in New England for the second consecutive year. In the same category, UMass Dartmouth ranked 113th, rising 10 spots over last year’s rankings, and UMass Boston ranked 93rd. UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell were also highly ranked in the new Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans category, coming in at 18th and 22nd in the nation, respectively. Three UMass online MBA programs rank in the top 100 nationally, with UMass Lowell placing 22nd, UMass Amherst 28th, and UMass Dartmouth 95th. In the Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans category, the same campuses perform even better, with UMass Lowell ranking 16th, UMass Amherst 22nd, and UMass Dartmouth ranking 53rd. Online programs at UMass have been steadily growing in recent years, with total revenues reaching a record-high $116 million in fiscal year 2019.

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Scholarship Applications

MONSON — The 2020 Monson Savings Bank scholarship application is now available to graduating high-school seniors residing in Hampden and Wilbraham. Applications are available at 15 Somers Road, Hampden, and 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 to graduating seniors who reside in Hampden or Wilbraham. 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, extracurricular activities during and after school, work experience, and music, arts, and sports programs. A candidate for this scholarship should also demonstrate a commitment to his or her community, and include an essay outlining that service and its impact. The deadline for application acceptance is April 6. The completed application and required supporting documents will be accepted by mail or electronically. Any questions should be directed to Donna Easton-Vicalvi at (413) 725-4560 or [email protected]

Five College Consortium Wins $2.5M Grant for Native and Indigenous Studies

AMHERST — Five Colleges Inc. has been awarded a $2.5 million, four-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help its member campuses transform how they approach Native American and indigenous studies (NAIS), with the goal of enhancing teaching, learning, and scholarship in the field. The grant is one of the largest made by foundation to the consortium to date, and is also one of the consortium’s largest grant awards from any funder in its 50-year history. The Five College campuses — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst — are located in the Kwinitekw (Connecticut River) Valley, which has historically been a crossroads of indigenous nations. Today it remains a central gathering place for NAIS scholars as well as for Native American and indigenous leaders, artists, writers, and activists. Called “Gathering at the Crossroads: Building Native American and Indigenous Studies at the Five College Consortium,” the effort will allow the campuses to develop and establish a set of new academic pathways for students interested in Native American and indigenous Studies — supported by new faculty, new courses, and new course modules — as well as create new advising structures to guide students through these academic options. The grant includes funding to bring a variety of scholars and indigenous experts to the campuses to collaborate in this work.

Land O’Lakes Taps Northstar Recycling for Innovative Sustainability Solutions

EAST LONGMEADOW — Like many major companies, Land O’Lakes has become increasingly committed to sustainability initiatives in recent years. For example, Purina Animal Nutrition, a Land O’Lakes subsidiary, recently set out to develop a cost-effective recycling solution for used Purina feed tubs, a difficult and logistically complex objective. Land O’Lakes called on Northstar Recycling, its recycling partner for all of the U.S. and Canada, to handle this challenge. Purina feed tubs present recycling issues because, by necessity, they need to be constructed of heavy, durable material — often rigid vplastics — to stand up to rough shipping conditions, inclement weather, and, of course, hungry animals. Another challenge was creating a process for collecting the used tubs from farmers across the country. After analyzing the plastics market and consulting with longstanding plastic-recycling partners, Northstar determined that plastic lumber manufacturers would have the greatest demand for the used Purina feed tubs. Northstar then selected the optimal partner and worked with Purina on the logistics of this pilot program to ensure smooth implementation. Additionally, working with a plastic lumber producer gave Purina the opportunity to create a unique and innovative customer experience and launch Project Re-Coop. Through this initiative, the plastic lumber made from recycled Purina feed tubs is used to construct floating chicken coops that protect chickens against flooding — a timely project, as Hurricane Florence alone killed an estimated 3.4 million chickens.

Company Notebook

Colony Hills Capital Buys Windfield Senior Estates, Windfield Family Estates

WILBRAHAM — Colony Hills Capital (CHC), based in Wilbraham, announced it recently purchased Windfield Senior Estates and Windfield Family Estates, a combined 160-unit multi-family apartment community located in nearby Hadley. It was purchased for $14,035,000 on Oct. 23. Built in 2002, the property consists of 80 independent senior apartments and 80 family apartments. The property was originally developed and financed using the LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) program and currently has income and rent restrictions on 80% of the units. The community is located just off Route 9 in close proximity to UMass Amherst. It is also within a mile of top retailers such as Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, LL Bean, and numerous restaurants and entertainment venues. Windfields also offers direct access to the Norwottuck Branch Rail Trail, part of the 104-mile Mass Central Rail Trail system. Colony Hills Capital is rolling out a capital-improvement plan that includes upgrades and remodeling to interior resident common areas, hallways, and office areas, as well as adding exterior amenities including a dog park; additional sitting, picnic, and garden areas; and grilling stations. There will also be a complete repaving of parking areas and interior roadways. Additionally, the company plans to make the community more energy-efficient, bike friendly, and environmentally conscious. Colony Hills Capital is a multi-family real-estate investment company that targets workforce, value-add investment opportunities located primarily in secondary markets in the Southeastern U.S. Since its inception in 2008, Colony and its affiliates have acquired more than 8,800 apartment in seven states.

Smith & Wesson Separates Firearms Business from American Outdoor Brands

SPRINGFIELD — Smith & Wesson plans to separate from the outdoor products and accessories businesses of American Outdoor Brands Corp. (AOBC). Smith & Wesson changed its name to American Outdoor Brands in 2016. Instead, the organization will include two separate companies: Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., which will encompass the firearms business, and American Outdoor Brands Inc., which will include the outdoor products and accessories businesses. “There have been significant changes in the political climate as well as the economic, investing, and insurance markets since we embarked upon what we believe have been our very successful diversification efforts,” said Barry Monheit, chairman of the board, in a press release. “We believe that separating into two independent public companies will allow each company to better align its strategic objectives with its capital allocation priorities. James Debney, currently president and CEO of American Outdoor Brands Corp., will lead American Outdoor Brands Inc., while Mark Smith, currently head of firearms manufacturing operations, will be CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands Inc.

HG&E Earns Recognition as Smart Energy Provider

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) has earned a Smart Energy Provider (SEP) designation from the American Public Power Assoc. for demonstrating commitment to and proficiency in energy efficiency, distributed generation, and environmental initiatives that support a goal of providing low-cost, quality, safe, and reliable electric service. Chris Van Dokkumburg, planning analyst at ‎Holland Board of Public Works and chair of the Energy Services Committee in Michigan presented the designations on Oct. 29 during the association’s annual Customer Connections Conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The SEP designation, which lasts for two years, recognizes public power utilities for demonstrating leading practices in four key disciplines: smart energy-program structure, energy-efficiency and distributed-energy programs, environmental and sustainability initiatives, and the customer experience. This is the first year the association has offered the SEP designation. HG&E joins a pioneering group of 60 public power utilities nationwide that received the inaugural SEP designation.

Marcus Printing Acquires ILS Business Services

HOLYOKE — Marcus Printing announced it has acquired ILS Business Services of West Springfield, strengthening the capabilities of both companies. Both Marcus Printing and ILS Business Services are local Western Mass. companies built on the shared values of providing exceptional customer service at excellent prices, said Marcus Printing President Susan Goldsmith. Marcus Printing was established in 1930 by Goldsmith’s grandparents, Phil and Sarah Marcus. ILS Business Services was founded by Bob and Irene Scalise in 1980, and their daughter, Amy Scalise, grew up around the business and officially joined the family business in 2014. Amy joins Marcus as the mailing manager, Bob will remain on board as a consultant, and the other ILS employees have joined the Marcus staff. The operations of ILS will move in the near future to the 33,000-square-foot Marcus Printing plant at 750 Main St. in Holyoke.

Pullman & Comley Opens First Massachusetts Office

SPRINGFIELD — Law firm Pullman & Comley, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary of practicing law, recently expanded into Springfield with an office in Tower Square at 1500 Main St. Pullman & Comley’s new Springfield office is its first in the Bay State, adding to offices in Bridgeport (where the firm was founded 100 years ago), Hartford, Westport, Stamford, and Waterbury, Conn., as well as an office in White Plains, N.Y. With nearly 100 attorneys, Pullman & Comley is one of the area’s largest law firms. The law firm’s expansion into Massachusetts gives its local clients — whom it has served for years — easy access to their lawyers. The lawyers in the Springfield office currently focus on legal matters relating to property tax and valuation, labor and employment law, and litigation. In addition, the firm’s Springfield location allows Pullman’s real-estate and public-finance attorneys, who often collaborate with the firm’s environmental, land-use, and energy practices, to serve the commercial real-estate industry in Western Mass. and bring their experience to local public and private development projects.

C&H Architects Celebrates 30 Years in Business

AMHERST — C&H Architects is celebrating 30 years of designing sustainable architecture. The firm’s work serves as an example of how, in a time of critical climate challenges, developers can add to the built environment in a way that improves the sustainability of future generations, rather than threatening it, partner Jesse Selman said. At their most basic level, buildings protect individuals from the elements. Beyond that, they shape the environment and provide texture to people’s lives. Buildings, however, are also one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for nearly 40% of all greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide — a statistic expected to double by 2050. In an effort to mitigate these impacts, there has been a steady increase in sustainable architecture — the design of buildings that work in harmony with the environment. C&H Architects has been at the forefront of this effort for the past 30 years. It designed the fifth-ever certified Living Building Challenge project in the world (and the first in New England) for Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station, the most rigorous performance standard for buildings available. The firm has designed more than 10 net-zero homes, the most recent of which won the top honor at AIA (American Institute of Architecture) Rhode Island in 2018, and includes a solar array that powers both the house and the car of its occupants. Founded in 1989 by Bruce Coldham to create architecture that responds to our rapidly changing climate and resources, the Amherst-based firm has served hundreds of clients with projects at every scale, from small residential renovations to large institutional construction. Today, the firm’s four partners — Tom Hartman, Garth Schwellenbach, Jesse Selman, and Elizabeth Morgan — carry on the tradition Coldham started, while constantly incorporating advances in building technology, materials, and practices.

EANE Names CIS Abroad 2019 Employer of Choice

AGAWAM — CIS Abroad of Northampton was selected as the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) Employer of Choice award recipient for 2019. The award was presented at EANE’s Employment Law and HR Practices Conference luncheon at the Sheraton Monarch Place in Springfield on Nov. 7. The Employer of Choice award recognizes companies and organizations for developing workplaces that value employees, foster engagement, invest in employee development, and reward performance. Past winners view the award as a cornerstone of their company credentials and often highlight the award in recruiting and retention, grants and funding applications, and business development. Many past winners have gone on to sit on the application review board to help select future winners of this award. CIS Abroad provides innovative education programs that broaden academic perspectives, promote global awareness, and encourage personal development while laying the foundation for student participants to become engaged world citizens.

Dillon Bodley & Associates Relocates in Amherst

AMHERST — Dillon Bodley & Associates, P.C., owned and operated by certified public accountants Brian Dillon and Catherine Bodley, recently moved its Amherst location to 196 North Pleasant St. to offer its clients more convenient parking and better access. The firm closed at its former location at 37 South Pleasant St. on Oct. 27 and reopened at the new address on Nov. 1. Dillon Bodley & Associates, P.C. provides a broad range of accounting and tax services, including tax preparation and planning engagements for individuals, small businesses, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. It also offers bookkeeping services to its business tax clients and provides consulting to small businesses and startups. The firm was located on South Pleasant Street for four years, with Bodley working on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Dillon working on Wednesdays during tax season. Services are provided on other days of the week and throughout the rest of the year by appointment. Dillon Bodley & Associates, P.C. also has a West Springfield office at 63 Myron St., which will move to 71 Park Ave., Suite C, on Dec. 4 to accommodate an increased number of staff members.

Teach Western Mass Awarded Grant to Develop Diverse Group of Teachers

SPRINGFIELD — Teach Western Mass was recently selected as a member of the Diverse Teachers cohort at ​NewSchools Venture Fund​, supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Teach Western Mass is one of 14 organizations in the cohort. Each cohort member is committed to enhancing the recruitment, development, and retention of underrepresented teachers (including Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American/Alaskan Native teachers). In addition to financial support, NewSchools will provide management assistance and create a community of practice for the cohort members. The TWM Residency is a customized credentialing program training new teachers to be effective in the classroom while building strong relationships in their school communities and developing standards-based and culturally relevant curriculum for students in the region’s highest-need schools.

Health New England Recogized for Worksite Health Promotion

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England, a regional health plan based in Springfield, was named a 2019 WorkWell Massachusetts Award Program Silver Level winner for exemplary worksite health promotion. The award recognizes Health New England’s achievements developing, implementing, and participating in corporate health-improvement and wellness programs. The Health New England Healthy Directions wellness program encourages overall well-being, helping employees focus on prevention, nutrition, and physical activity. With leadership support, Healthy Directions is able to offer engaging and evidence-based health tools and incentives. An easy-to-access online portal, onsite nutritional counseling, tread desks, healthy dining options, group fitness challenges, and intensive lifestyle-change programs are examples of Health New England’s dedication to creating an enjoyable and healthy work culture for all its employees. WorkWell Massachusetts Award is a corporate award program created by the Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA), a not-for-profit member organization dedicated to the advancement of worksite wellness programs. The award program’s criteria are based on the employers’ strategic planning and organizational support, program design and implementation, participant engagement, and measurements and evaluation.

Company Notebook

AIC Gets High Marks in College Salary Report

SPRINGFIELD — PayScale, a Seattle-based software company that performs compensation research, including pay-scale indices and employee engagement, recently released its 2019-20 College Salary Report, ranking American International College (AIC) 39th in the country for health science and nursing programs when considering salary growth. The annual report, based on the salaries of 3.5 million college graduates, provides estimates of early and mid-career pay for 2,500 associate and bachelor’s degree-granting institutions. For health science and nursing programs, PayScale examined 679 institutions offering four-year degrees. At number 39, AIC ranks in the top 6% of the colleges and universities reviewed. “We are very proud of the dedication, motivation, commitment, and diversity of the students in our health sciences programs, including nursing, exercise science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health, who strive to be the very best,” said Karen Rousseau, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Central to American International College’s mission is to provide access, opportunity, and inter-professional collaboration to scholars in the School of Health Sciences, which will serve them well in their career goals as they advance in their chosen fields.” PayScale pioneers the use of big data and unique matching algorithms to power the world’s most advanced compensation platform and continues to be the compensation market leader based on user reviews.

Square One Receives $25,000 Grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. The grant is part $1 million the Tufts Health Plan Foundation is donating to area nonprofits that are focused on health equity and the social determinants of health in honor of Tufts Health Plan’s 40th anniversary and its longstanding tradition of giving back to the community. “It is a true honor to be recognized by Tufts Health Plan Foundation in such a meaningful and generous way,” said Joan Kagan, Square One President and CEO. “Each and every day, our families are impacted by health disparities and social determinants of health. With these funds, we will continue to seek out creative and effective ways to support the physical, social, and mental health and well-being of our children and families.” The $25,000 grants — 10 in each of the states where Tufts Health Plan serves members — support a range of nonprofit organizations doing exemplary work to promote community health and wellness. “We recognize that nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of service and play a crucial role in building stronger and healthier communities for all of us,” said Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan. “These angel grants are a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Square One and other organizations addressing the economic and social conditions that influence the health of our diverse communities and helping them to keep up the great work they do.” The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has given more than $35 million to community organizations since 2008 and will give nearly $5 million in community grants this year.

KeyBank Recognized as a Leading Disability Employer

CLEVELAND — For the third year, KeyBank was recognized by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) as a Leading Disability Employer. “We are honored to accept this award from the NOD, a leader in inclusion for people with disabilities,” said Kim Manigault, chief Diversity and Inclusion officer. “Inclusion is intentional. This award reflects the work across many lines of business and partnerships that provide supportive experiences for people with disabilities who engage with and work for KeyBank.”

Jewish Family Service Receives $250,000 Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) has been awarded a competitive two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Assimilation Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This grant will allow JFS to expand its current citizenship program to better serve prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life in Hampden County. The fiscal-year 2019 grants, which run through September 2021, promote prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life by funding educational programs designed to increase their knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics. “Our country welcomes legal immigrants from all over the world who come to the United States, positively contribute to our society, and engage in American civic life,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Immigrants who assimilate, embrace our Constitution, understand our history, and abide by our laws add to the vitality and strength of this great nation. Through this grant program, USCIS continues to support efforts to prepare immigrants to become fully vested U.S. citizens.” JFS is one of 41 organizations in 24 states to receive nearly $10 million in funding to support citizenship-preparation services. Now in its 11th year, the USCIS Citizenship and Assimilation Grant program has helped more than 245,000 lawful, permanent residents prepare for citizenship. A ‘permanent resident’ is a person authorized by the US government to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Junior Achievement Wins Community Partner Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) was recognized recently by Massachusetts’ Department of Youth Services (DYS) for its work with local youth. DYS, the juvenile-justice agency for the Commonwealth, gave JAWM the 2019 Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Community Partner in the Western Region at a ceremony on Oct. 4 in Dorchester. JAWM, which provides workforce-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy programs to K-12 youth, was nominated by Sharon Bess, youth employment development specialist at the Center for Human Development (CHD) in Springfield. Bess wrote in her nomination that “Junior Achievement has allowed us to introduce career readiness and financial literacy in a unique way that leaves a lasting impact on our young people and creates a foundation toward positive change to their futures.” CHD is a nonprofit that delivers social and mental-health services to people in Western Mass. and Connecticut. “We’re honored to be recognized with this Community Partner award,” said Jennifer Connolly, president of JAWM. “Starting in 2005, our partnership with CHD helped establish their Exclusive Tees program by introducing local high-school students to the JA Be Entrepreneurial program and the JA Company program. Our partnership also established the Teen Reality Fair, which provides high-school students with information on career opportunities and introduces financial literacy in a hands-on, eye-opening fashion. It’s always a pleasure to work with the youth and the staff at CHD.”

Country Bank Receives Award for Marketing Video

WARE — Country Bank was recognized for its “Pioneers” video at the American Bankers Assoc. Bank Marketing Conference in Austin, Texas. “Pioneers” competed against hundreds of national video submissions, winning first place in its category. The winners were selected by bank marketing professionals who judged the entries based on creativity, production value, and overall messaging. “We were so honored to receive this award; ‘Pioneers’ truly portrays the hardworking communities that we serve in such an impactful way. The imagery captured local landscapes, people, and businesses, which resulted in a genuinely moving video for us,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president of Marketing at Country Bank. “The closing line, ‘even hard work needs a partner,’ supports the bank’s belief that relationships are life’s most valuable investments.” When the bank decided to create new videos last summer, it turned to its agency partner, Small Army, to develop a storyline that would truly represent both Central and Western Mass., she added. “We could not be more grateful to our agency for creating a true representation of Country Bank’s local communities.”

Employer Confidence Holds Steady in September

BOSTON — Business confidence remained essentially flat in Massachusetts during September despite a darkening outlook among manufacturers. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.2 points to 58.9 last month after retreating in August. The Index has lost 3.7 points since September 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. The September reading was weighed down by weakening sentiment among Bay State manufacturers. The Index’s manufacturing component dropped 2.4 points in September and 7.9 points for the year. The results mirrored the national Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, which fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. A separate report by IHS Markit showed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst quarter since 2009, though activity increased during September. The constituent indicators that make up the Index were mixed during September. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 0.6 points to 63.3, while the U.S. Index rose to 56.5. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 1.2 points and the U.S. reading has fallen 7.1 points during the past 12 months. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 0.5 points to 56.4, leaving it 4.4 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 0.8 points to 61.3 — 3.0 points lower than its reading of September 2018. The Employment Index rose a point for the month but remained down 3.1 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy. Non-manufacturers (61.9) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Large companies (60.2) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (59.9) or small companies (55.4), reversing a trend established during the summer. Companies in Eastern Mass. (62.6) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (53.8).

Company Notebook

Wellfleet Acquires National Guardian’s Student and Special Risk Business

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet, an insurance provider and a Berkshire Hathaway company, has agreed to terms with National Guardian Life Insurance Co. (NGL) to acquire through renewals its Student and Special Risk business. Much of that business is processed through Commercial Travelers Life Insurance Co. in Utica, N.Y., a wholly owned NGL subsidiary. Wellfleet will immediately assume responsibility for administrating NGL’s special-risk policies and collegiate accident and health insurance, which insures more than 26,000 students on approximately 100 campuses across the U.S. Wellfleet will maintain NGL’s Utica office, employing more than 30 insurance professionals. Completion of the transaction is subject to various conditions, including the receipt of required regulatory approval, and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019.

Elms College Announces 100% Hire Rate for Education Graduates

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced that all of its class of 2019 education licensure graduates — both undergraduate and graduate — have successfully landed jobs as teachers in their licensure fields or are pursuing advanced degrees. This is the sixth year in a row that the Elms College Education Division has reported a 100% hire rate for its graduates. Elms College allows education majors to specialize in elementary, early childhood, English as a second language, moderate special needs, or secondary education. Graduate students can work toward a master of arts in teaching degree in a variety of fields, including reading specialist, a master of education degree, or a certificate of advanced graduate study (CAGS). The college’s programs offer real-world, student-centric, pedagogical training that prepares teachers to serve as leaders in the changing field of education.

UMass Amherst Welcomes Largest-ever Entering Class

AMHERST — UMass Amherst will welcome the largest entering class in university history when students return to the Commonwealth’s flagship campus over Labor Day weekend. The size of the entering class, approximately 5,800 students, represents an increase of 790 compared to last year. This includes 4,300 in-state students, an increase of 800 over last fall. Massachusetts students represent 74% of the first-year class. Out-of-state enrollment remained strong at 1,500, including 470 international students. The university received a record 42,110 applications. Overall undergraduate enrollment this fall is projected to be 22,700. The academic profile of the class of 2023 is impressive. The average SAT score is 1292, and the average GPA is 3.90. The class also represents an increase in the number of ALANA (African, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Native American) students at 33%. The percentage of underrepresented minority students is 17%, matching last year’s number. Half of the incoming class is female. Commonwealth Honors College will welcome 660 students, up 35 students over last year. Their average SAT score is 1400. Along with the first-year class, nearly 1,050 transfer students will be arriving on campus this fall. The transfers include 380 community-college students enrolling through the MassTransfer program. MassTransfer guarantees admission to Massachusetts community-college students who complete a designated program with a GPA of 2.5 or above. The overall GPA for entering transfer students is 3.40.

Eversource Honored for Encouraging, Empowering Employees in the Military

BOSTON — Eversource Energy has been recognized with the nation’s highest honor recognizing support of employees in the military. Eversource was one of 15 companies selected from 2,500 nominations to receive the 2019 Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Eversource Chairman, President, and CEO Jim Judge and control-room supervisor Bill Gelinas accepted the Freedom Award at a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Eversource’s recruitment and military reserve policies make it one of the nation’s leading companies for veterans and other service members. Of Eversource’s 8,000 employees, more than 600 have served in the military. The energy company offers advancement programs that provide opportunities to apply military training in a supervisory level position. In addition, the Eversource Veterans Assoc., made up of employees who served their country, provides support and recognition to current veteran employees and raises funds to support military veterans throughout New England.

STCC, Bay Path University Announce Psychology Transfer Agreements

SPRINGFIELD — Officials from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Bay Path University will sign two agreements today at 1 p.m. creating an affordable pathway for female students with an associate degree from STCC to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bay Path. Under one articulation agreement, students who receive an associate degree in liberal arts/general studies (applied psychology option) can pursue a bachelor of arts in psychology from Bay Path. Under the second agreement, students who receive an associate degree in liberal arts transfer (human services/social work option) can pursue a bachelor of arts in psychology. Bay Path and STCC recognize that, for many students, the path to a bachelor’s degree may begin at a community college. Moreover, for STCC’s female students, diverse educational opportunities, including the advantages of enrolling in a women’s university to earn a bachelor’s degree, adds value to educational experiences. These agreements acknowledge that significance and are formed to enable the smooth transfer of STCC graduates to either the traditional undergraduate program or the American Women’s College of Bay Path University.

STCC Gateway to College Program Earns Recognition

SPRINGFIELD — The Gateway to College program at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) received a Program Excellence Award in recognition of exceeding all four benchmarks used to assess the performance of Gateway to College programs nationwide. Through Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school or who are significantly off track complete their high-school diplomas in college-based programs while simultaneously earning credits toward a post-secondary credential. STCC has hosted a Gateway to College program since 2013, and the program enrolled 67 students during the academic year when it received the award. In 2017 and 2018, the STCC Gateway to College program was recognized with a Graduation Achievement Award. This marks its first Program Excellence Award and represents one of only 11 such awards given to Gateway to College programs nationally. At the Gateway to College Directors Convening in New Haven, Conn. at the end of July, Achieving the Dream President Karen Stout and Executive Vice President Emily Froimson presented the award to STCC Gateway Program Director Katara Robinson.

Kresge Foundation Awards $100,000 to Public Health Institute of Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD — The Kresge Foundation awarded the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts a $100,000 grant to advance policy solutions aimed at improving climate resilience and equitably reducing health risks in low-income communities. The Springfield Climate Justice Initiative, a new project of the Live Well Springfield coalition convened by the Public Health Institute, is one of 15 community-based collaborations nationwide receiving grant funding as part of the planning phase of Kresge’s Climate Change, Health and Equity initiative. The Springfield Climate Justice Initiative will focus on planning and implementing strategies identified in the 2017 “Strong, Healthy, & Just: Springfield Climate Action & Resilience Plan” for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and improving climate resilience in Springfield. The planning will focus on developing front-line residents’ capacity to accelerate municipal action on the top greenhouse-gas emissions reduction strategies included in the Climate Action Plan. With this funding, the collaborators who worked together to develop the city’s “Strong, Healthy & Just” plan — the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Arise for Social Justice, and the city of Springfield — will work with partners from other sectors to develop multi-year work plans to address community-defined health and climate priorities.

Company Notebook

Tufts, Harvard Pilgrim Announce Plan to Merge

MASSACHUSETTS — Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan recently inked an agreement to merge, a marriage that would bring together the Commonwealth’s second- and third-largest insurers, creating a powerhouse to rival Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, will serve as CEO of the new organization. Michael Carson, president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, will serve as president, overseeing the organization’s diverse business lines and subsidiaries, according to a release. “Our communities and consumers today face four major hurdles in health care: affordability, access, quality of health, and a fragmented healthcare experience across various stakeholders and health systems. Through our shared vision, we believe we can tackle these issues and bring more value to the communities we serve,” said Croswell in a statement. The plan was unanimously voted on by the boards of both organizations. The new combined entity does not yet have a name. The deal would bring together Tufts Health Plan’s 2,841 employees and approximately 1.16 million members with Harvard Pilgrim’s 1,182 employees and approximately 1.16 million members. Together, the insurers will have members in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Elms College Will No Longer Require SAT, ACT Scores for Most Admissions

CHICOPEE — Starting with the class entering in the fall of 2020, Elms College will no longer require scores from standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT for admission to most majors. The move to a test-optional policy is intended to make higher education accessible to students from all backgrounds, including from underrepresented populations. Elms admission counselors will review applicants’ essays, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. They also will talk with prospective students to get to know them as full people. The test-optional policy will give all students, including those from underrepresented populations such as racial and ethnic minorities or those with economic disadvantages — groups who traditionally earn lower scores on standardized tests because of systemic social inequities — a greater chance to access the educational and experiential opportunities Elms offers. The School of Nursing at Elms will still require test scores, however, because nursing majors are required, upon graduation, to take the NCLEX exam to become licensed as nurses, and the college needs to know that its nursing students can succeed on such exams. Students or families with questions about test-optional admission, academics at Elms, or the application process are encouraged to contact the Office of Admission at (413) 592-3189 or [email protected] More information is also available online at elms.edu/testoptional.

UMassFive to Bring Employees Student-loan Repayment Benefits

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced it is bringing student-loan repayment benefits to its employees via a new partnership between Student Choice and FutureFuel.io. Student Choice teamed up with FutureFuel.io earlier this year to better help credit unions address the growing challenge of student-loan debt faced by the emerging workforce. Participating in this new perk allows credit unions to offer their employees and employees of select employee groups access to FutureFuel’s online portal of automated tools that can help reduce the impact of student debt.

Monson High School Golfers, Monson Savings Bank Support Shriners

MONSON — Monson High School graduate Cam Kratovil, sophomore Mason Dumas, and varsity golf coach Paul Nothe, in cooperation with Monson Savings Bank, teamed up to raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield. Kratovil and Dumas collected pledges for a marathon golf round they recently played at Quaboag Country Club. They were escorted in golf carts around the course by Nothe and his wife, Nicole, as they completed their goal of playing 100 holes between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon. All the money pledged to them will be given to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield. In addition, Monson Savings Bank sponsored the 2019 Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Quaboag Country Club on Aug. 17 and 18 to benefit the hospital.

Tighe & Bond Climbs in ENR’s Ranking of Environmental Firms

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a Northeast leader in engineering and environmental consulting, climbed six spots this year to number 142 on Engineering News Record’s (ENR) “2019 Top 200 Environmental Firms” ranking. ENR ranks its list of top 200 envi environmental firms nationally based on the percentage of their 2018 gross revenue from environmental services. Earlier this year, Tighe & Bond also climbed 19 spots to number on ENR’s “2019 Top 500 Design Firms” ranking, moving up a total of 38 spots in the past two years. ENR ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year. Tighe & Bond provides comprehensive engineering and environmental services to hundreds of public and private clients across the Northeast, with emphasis on the education, energy, government, healthcare, industrial, real-estate, and water/wastewater markets. A staff of 385 work from nine offices in five states.

People’s United Community Foundation Grant Boosts JA Summer Program

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, which provides workforce-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy programs to K-12 youth, recently received a $5,000 grant from the People’s United Community Foundation to support its Summer BEE (Business and Entrepreneurial Exploration) program for middle- and high-school students. The funds will be used to provide out-of-school educational experiences for youth from grades 6 to 12, focusing on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, career exploration/work readiness, and STEM education. The program includes in-class learning, hands-on learning, and experiential out-of-school learning experiences, such as lessons about the water ecosystem with presentations, videos, and techniques to test the water in the nearby Connecticut River. To learn problem solving, decision making and teamwork, students form companies, create a product, and market and sell the product, with the goal of earning a profit. Students have several opportunities to sell their products and pitch the companies to business people, family, and friends.

ESB Foundation Donates $5,000 to Hilltown Community Health Center

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the Easthampton Savings Bank Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the capital campaign for the John P. Musante Health Center of Hilltown Community Health Center. Located at 70 Boltwood Walk in Amherst, the John P. Musante Health Center provides accessible and affordable healthcare for primary and preventive medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare services. The center’s service area includes Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, Hatfield, Belchertown, Ware, South Hadley, Sunderland, South Deerfield, and Leverett.

WNEU Teams Up with Comcast to Offer Xfinity on Campus Service

SPRINGFIELD — Comcast announced it will bring its Xfinity on Campus service to Western New England University, allowing students to watch live TV and on-demand and recorded content on their IP-enabled devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The service is included with room and board for students living in on-campus housing. Xfinity on Campus offers more than 100 live channels and access to thousands of current TV shows and hit movies via Xfinity on Demand. While off campus, students can use the Xfinity Stream app to log in and access TV Everywhere programming that’s part of their subscription.

Eversource Upgrading Electric System in Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD — Eversource is investing $4 million in upgrades to electric-distribution systems in the towns of Plainfield, Cummington, Chesterfield, Worthington, Windsor, Savoy, and Dalton. These enhancement projects include replacing more than 130 utility poles with stronger, thicker ones and installing more than 21,000 feet of more resilient power lines. ‘Smart switches’ are also being added to the system to help restore power outages more quickly in the event they happen. These devices can limit the number of customers affected by an outage and restore power with computer-assisted technology from the energy company’s operations center even before sending a crew to inspect the line and make repairs. A major component of this upgrade project is connecting two electrical circuits, creating a loop. Once the two electrical systems are tied together, it will make substations on either end accessible when needed, boosting the company’s ability to deliver reliable power. Customers may experience short power interruptions during the project, so crews can safely perform the work. Any customers affected will be notified by the company in advance. The project is expected to be complete by this fall.

Holyoke Medical Center Expands Services in Westfield

WESTFIELD — Holyoke Medical Center announced expanded healthcare services in Westfield, including family medicine, women’s services, gastroenterology, walk-in care, and more. Holyoke Medical Group Family Medicine, an affiliate of Holyoke Medical Center, has relocated to 140 Southampton Road in Westfield. The office offers care for the entire family, including pediatrics, adult primary care, women’s health, and geriatric care. Dr. Thomas Graziano and Deborah Pisciotta, MS, PA-C, are accepting new patients. The office is open weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. To make an appointment, call (413) 535-4800. In addition to Holyoke Medical Group Family Medicine, Holyoke Medical Center plans to offer walk-in care, lab draw, imaging services, and physical therapy at the 140 Southampton Road facility starting this fall. Holyoke Medical Group Women’s Services also has an office in Westfield, located at 94 North Elm St., Suite 102, in Westfield. Holyoke Medical Center Gastroenterology will also open a new office at 94 North Elm St., Suite 206, in Westfield on Oct. 21.

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in July

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 2.9% in July, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 3,500 jobs in July. Over the month, the private sector lost 4,100 jobs as losses occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; and financial activities. Manufacturing jobs remained unchanged over the month, while trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; and information added jobs. Government added jobs over the month. From July 2018 to July 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 37,300 jobs. The July unemployment rate was eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point. The labor force decreased by 4,400 from 3,838,800 in June, as 2,100 fewer residents were employed and 2,400 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. 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 — dropped one-tenth of a percentage point over the month to 67.6%. Compared to July 2018, the labor-force participation rate is up one-tenth of a percentage point. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; education and health services; information; and leisure and hospitality.

SPARK EforAll Holyoke Seeks Volunteer Mentors

HOLYOKE — SPARK EforAll Holyoke is actively seeking volunteers to participate as mentors in this winter’s business-accelerator program. Accelerator mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and use their business and leadership experience to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of turning their idea into a growing business. Mentors work in teams of three and are matched with an entrepreneur based on schedule availability and the desire to work together. The team meets as a group to help reaffirm topics and themes raised during classes, while also strategizing with the entrepreneur on how to reach their specific goals during the program. This is a high-touch, year-long commitment. Mentor teams have 90-minute in-person meetings for three months and then meet once a month for the following nine months. Anyone looking for an interactive and meaningful volunteer opportunity and interested in learning more about EforAll should e-mail [email protected]

Court Upholds Dismissal of Class-action Special-ed Suit

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the Federal Appeals Court upheld the dismissal of a class-action suit that had been brought by special-education advocates against the city of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Court entered judgment on Aug. 8 affirming the decision of Judge Mark Mastroianni to dismiss the class action. The underlying suit alleged that the city of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools (SPS) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily segregating students with mental-health disabilities in a separate and inferior school, the Springfield Public Day School (SPDS). A student brought the suit on his own behalf and on behalf of a class of all students with a mental-health disability who are or have been enrolled at SPDS. Two associations, the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) and Disability Law Center (DLC), joined as plaintiffs seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, including an order that defendants provide the class plaintiffs with “school-based behavior services in neighborhood schools to afford them an equal educational opportunity and enable them to be educated in neighborhood schools.” The U.S. District Court, in an opinion by Mastroianni, denied class certification. The court later ruled that the associations had standing but granted the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the associations. The plaintiffs’ appeal challenges the district court’s denial of class certification. The city appeal argued that the district court erred in concluding that PPAL and DLC had standing. The Court of Appeals agreed that these organizations lack standing to pursue the claims in the complaint, and affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings as to PPAL and DLC on that ground. The case was argued by Deputy City Solicitor Lisa deSousa and attorney Stephen Holstrom, with whom City Solicitor Edward Pikula and attorney Melinda Phelps of Bulkley Richardson were on the brief.

Company Notebook Uncategorized

Big Y Breaks Ground on Expanded Distribution Center

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y is expanding its distribution center with a $40 million project that is set to fuel the growth of the supermarket chain for the next 20 years.

At the Big Y Store Support Center on Aug. 7, guest speakers, including Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno; Patrick Carnevale, director of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Western Mass. office; state Rep. Jose Tosado; and Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council, joined Charlie D’Amour, president and CEO of Big Y Foods, and many others in celebrating the beginning of the expansion. The now-189,000-square-foot facility is adding another 232,000 to bring the total to 425,000 square feet. The new space will have state-of-the-art refrigeration storage for fresh seafood from Boston, deli meats, salads, cheeses, fresh and local produce and flowers, as well as additional dry-product storage. Big Y is adding 32 full-time employees to meet the demands of the new facility, which is expected to support an additional 20 supermarkets.

The Creative Strategy Agency Celebrates 10 Years in Business

SPRINGFIELD — The Creative Strategy Agency Inc. (tCSA), a local digital marketing and advertising agency, celebrated its 10th anniversary in Aug. 9. Started by Alfonso Santaniello at age 24, tCSA has grown into a fully staffed agency servicing local and national clients in social-media marketing, advertising, and search-engine marketing. Santaniello established tCSA after getting laid off at the beginning of the recession in 2008, but wasn’t until he landed his first client, a national company that he took the leap to really pursue the business. In 2010, when most companies had yet to use video marketing or understand the influence of YouTube, Santaniello launched “Strictly Businews.” Over its run, this digital web talk show garnished more than 1 million views and an award. With the web series’ success, Santaniello’s clientele expanded from local to national as he signed on with businesses from Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Diego. After six years, the series ended in 2016. Over the course of 10 years, tCSA has worked within a wide range of industries, including restaurants, e-commerce, manufacturing, and nonprofits.

UMass Amherst Again Ranks First in Campus Dining

AMHERST — For the fourth straight year, UMass Amherst tops the rankings for Best Campus Food in the nation. The honor was revealed by the Princeton Review as part of its ranking of the top 20 colleges in 62 different categories for 2020. UMass Dining is the largest collegiate dining program in America and is a recognized leader among college dining programs because of its focus on quality ingredients and meals, customer service, student health and wellness, customization options, an appreciation of global influences and modern eating trends, and creating community on campus. UMass Dining serves more than 8 million meals per year. Locally sourced food plays a major component in its success. It has relationships with more than 100 local farms, spending $2.4 million annually with Massachusetts farmers and vendors and a total of $5 million in New England.

Sunshine Village Golf Tourney Breaks Fundraising Record

CHICOPEE — Sunshine Village held its 30th annual Sunshine Village Golf Tournament fundraiser on Aug. 7 at Chicopee Country Club in Chicopee, MA. The event sold out, with 38 teams participating. A reception with awards, raffles, and a silent auction followed at the Castle of Knights in Chicopee. Ernest Laflamme Jr., president of the board of directors and chair of the golf committee, congratulated Kellco Products for winning the tournament. A team from UNUM came in second, and a team from PeoplesBank placed third. On behalf of the board of directors, Laflamme and Executive Director Gina Kos thanked the many sponsors and volunteers that helped to raise the most funds of any year in the tournament’s 30-year history. To commemorate their dedication, a group of sponsors were given special recognition as Legacy Sponsors. They include Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, PeoplesBank, Westfield Bank, Charter Oak Financial, HUB International New England, Inter-All Corp., Kellco Products, Knights of Columbus Elder Council #69, Knights of Columbus Elder Council #4044, Polish National Credit Union, Siddall and Siddall, P.C., and USI Insurance. Other major sponsors included Caolo & Bieniek Architects Inc., Key Private Bank, Marcotte Ford, and Supreme Roofing. All proceeds from the fundraiser go toward ensuring that up-to-date technology, adaptive equipment, engaging activities, and professional-development opportunities are offered to the more 500 individuals served by Sunshine Village.

PV Squared Solar Recognized as a Top Solar Contractor

GREENFIELD — With renewable energy expected to be the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity generation for the foreseeable future, local solar installer and worker-owned cooperative PV Squared Solar is contributing toward this period of energy transition. The company has once again been recognized by Solar Power World magazine and was listed prominently among other solar contractors and developers across the country in the magazine’s 2019 Top Solar Contractors list. “It’s an honor to be recognized among the top solar energy companies in the region, let alone the nation. Our leadership within the solar industry over the years has been a significant point of pride, and we look forward to continuing that good work,” said General Manager Jonathan Gregory.

MassMutual Foundation Gives $1.5 Million to Way Finders

SPRINGFIELD — The MassMutual Foundation Inc. announced it will give Way Finders $1.5 million to help fund the organization’s new Housing Center currently being constructed in Springfield. This donation will enable Way Finders to serve even more people in the community who are facing homelessness or struggling to achieve financial security. Way Finders is in the midst of constructing a larger, more centrally located Housing Center at 1780 Main St. in Springfield that will be more easily accessible by transportation and the nearby Union Station complex, eliminating one of the greatest barriers to accessing services. The new facility will house all 160 of Way Finders’ Springfield-based staff and is slated to open its doors in April 2020. In 2018, Way Finders’ programs impacted the lives of more than 47,000 people, including thousands of children, through services including homelessness and foreclosure prevention, financial education, first-time-homebuyer workshops, and employment training. The total number of walk-in requests so far in 2019 has exceeded 2018 demand, demonstrating the growing need from the community and the crucial support the new Housing Center will provide.

MachineMetrics Achieves Amazon Web Services Industrial Software Competency Status

NORTHAMPTON — MachineMetrics, an industrial IoT platform for discrete manufacturing, announced it has achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Industrial Software Competency status. This designation recognizes that MachineMetrics has demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success building solutions for discrete manufacturing. These specialized software solutions enable companies in the discrete-manufacturing space to increase the pace of product innovation while decreasing production and operational costs in their value chain. Achieving AWS Industrial Software Competency differentiates MachineMetrics as an AWS Partner Network (APN) member that has delivered specialized solutions aligning with AWS architectural best practices for building the most secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient cloud infrastructure for industry applications. To receive the designation, APN Partners must undergo a rigorous technical validation related to industry-specific technology. AWS is enabling scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solutions from startups to global enterprises. To support the seamless integration and deployment of these solutions, AWS established the AWS Competency Program to help customers identify consulting and technology APN Partners with deep industry experience and expertise.

Tighe & Bond Again Named PSMJ Circle of Excellence Member

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond has been named as a member of the PSMJ Resources Inc. 2019 Circle of Excellence for second year in a row. The Circle of Excellence highlights successfully managed firms that demonstrate outstanding achievements in areas such as profitability, overhead management, cash flow, productivity, business development, and staff growth. Founded in 2006, the Circle of Excellence represents the top 20% of participants in PSMJ’s annual A/E Financial Performance Benchmark Survey, based on 13 key performance metrics. The annual survey is open to all firms in the industry, regardless of firm type, size, gross revenue, net revenue, practice area, or location.

Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee Receives $5,000 Grant from MassMutual Foundation

CHICOPEE — The Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee received a $5,000 grant from the MassMutual Foundation as part of a national Community Service Award (CSA) program. The Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee is one of 32 organizations nationally to receive an award. The MassMutual Foundation made the grant as a tribute to the volunteer efforts of Robert Houle, a MassMutual agent with Unity Financial & Insurance Group in Holyoke and an alumnus of the club. The mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee is to enable all young people reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. “We are grateful to receive this grant to help support the current programs and services provided at the club, which include art, athletics, homework help, and nutrition, to name a few,” said Jason Reed, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee. Added Houle, “I am very pleased that my dedication to the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee has been recognized by the MassMutual Foundation. This grant will provide much-needed funding to continue supporting the youth in our community.”

Work Opportunity Center Opens Community-based Day Service Facility

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Work Opportunity Center Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 23 at its newly acquired and renovated community-based day service (CBDS) facility located at 111 Park Ave. in West Springfield. Established in 1969, Work Opportunity Center (WOC) initially served its participants through a center-based work-service model. Community-based day services were added in the summer of 2014. On June 30, 2016, center-based work services were discontinued for all participants, and those services were converted to CBDS. As of July 1, 2019, there are approximately 84 individuals participating in WOC’s CBDS services. On July 1, 24 program participants and five staff members transferred from the WOC facility in Agawam to its newest facility in West Springfield. The CBDS program of enables individuals with developmental disabilities to enrich their lives and enjoy a full range of community activities by providing opportunities for developing, enhancing, and maintaining competency in personal, social, and community activities. Service options for individuals participating in the CBDS program include career exploration, community-integration experiences, skills development and training, volunteer opportunities with local nonprofits, health and fitness classes, socialization experiences, and support to enhance interpersonal skills, as well as the pursuit of personal interests and hobbies. The renovation of the 111 Park Ave. facility is supported by a $5,000 grant by United Bank in addition to a $1,000 grant from the Rotary Club of West Springfield.

STCC Wins Career Pathways Grant for Early-childhood Education

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will apply a $296,904 state grant to support a new, affordable professional-development program for early-childhood educators. The funding will allow STCC to roll out its Child Development Associate Plus program this fall. The program will help early-childhood educators obtain certification and become better-qualified to teach infants and toddlers as well as preschool-aged children. STCC announced in July that the college received the Early Childhood Education Career Pathways Grant, funded through the state Department of Early Education and Care. Those who may be interested in the program include center-based teachers, family childcare providers, and other early-care professionals who are working toward becoming qualified teachers of young children. The Career Pathways Grant provides a range of support for students in the program at STCC. Funding will pay for a new bilingual position, Early Childhood Education liaison. The person hired for the job will work closely with early-childhood students and will be able to speak Spanish and English. Additionally, the grant will be used to update an old computer lab. Students will have use of the state-of-the-art lab with access to wireless hotspots and computers to borrow if they don’t have one at home. Classes will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings, and the program is estimated to take one year to complete. Students can come to STCC on Wednesday night for tutoring or to meet with the liaison for support. Students who need extra support in math and English can take a free one-week boot camp prior to the start of the fall semester. STCC also will offer a prior learning credit, which means anyone who already has earned a CDA from another institution may qualify for college credit from STCC.

GCC Receives Continuation of Title III Grant Funding

GREENFIELD — In October 2016, Greenfield Community College (GCC) was awarded a $1.6 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to be disbursed over five years. This grant is part of the Strengthening Institutions Program, which helps institutions expand their capacity to serve low-income and at-risk students. This academic year will mark the fourth year of continued funding of GCC’s Title III grant. The aim of GCC’s Title III grant is to integrate academic-success coaching and career exploration into a structured first-year experience that supports students who have been shown to be most at risk for not continuing with their education. GCC’s focus has been on students who are the first in their family to attend college, are undecided about their major and career paths, and who place into at least one developmental-level course. The College & Career Compass program developed during the first two years of the grant offers new, current, and returning GCC students specialized advising focused on individual student needs, academic skill building, and incorporating career exploration into the academic planning process; a peer-mentoring program through which current students can share their experiences, individually and in small groups, to help other students survive and thrive at GCC; monthly academic-coaching workshops covering topics like study skills, using apps and other technology, career exploration, and avoiding procrastination; two one-credit elective courses at no cost: one focused on academic strategies for college success and the other on career exploration and planning (including four-year transfer opportunities); and a free, one-week refresher course for students who have been away from math and want to dust off their skills before the semester starts. The focus for the remaining two years of the grant is to hone and scale the Compass program to reach more students and inform advising practices across the college.

Company Notebook

Lovin’ Spoonfuls Launches in Hampden County

LONGMEADOW — Lovin’ Spoonfuls celebrated the launch of its food-rescue program in Hampden County yesterday at Longmeadow Open Pantry. With a goal to rescue and distribute fresh food that would otherwise be wasted, it will be delivering food to 17 partner nonprofits in Hampden County. Lovin’ Spoonfuls, established in 2010, serves nearly 40 cities and towns across Eastern Mass., focusing on perishable, nutritious food. Its rescues provide meals to more than 30,000 individuals every week. Partners in its move to Western Mass. include the Longmeadow Open Pantry, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Big Y, and Rachel’s Table. Lauren Palumbo, chief operating officer at Lovin’ Spoonfuls, noted that, between the organization’s six routes in Greater Boston and the MetroWest area, plus now Hampden County, it is rescuing more than 75,000 pounds of food each week.

Big Y Eliminates Plastic Bags at Checkouts

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Foods Inc. eliminated single-use plastic bags at the checkouts from its more than 80 supermarket and specialty store locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut starting Aug. 1. The grocer will offer discounts on reusable bags through the month of August as customers transition away from plastic.

Big Y has been complying with single-use plastic-bag bans in several Massachusetts communities since 2014. Coming off of recent changes to laws in various towns across the New England region, Big Y has moved up its 2020 timeline to eliminate single-use plastic at checkouts in all of its locations in order to streamline operations and to do its part to support sustainability. For those shoppers who do not bring their own shopping bags, beginning in August, a ten-cent charge per paper bag will be added to their bill. This fee is in an effort to promote the use of reusable bags instead of paper bags, which also cause harm to the environment.

People’s United Financial to Acquire United Financial

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — People’s United Financial Inc., the holding company for People’s United Bank, N.A., announced an agreement to acquire United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, in a 100% stock transaction valued at approximately $759 million. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and the approval of United Financial Bancorp shareholders. Established in 1858 and headquartered in Hartford, Conn., United Bank is a full-service community financial-services firm with $7.3 billion in assets. The bank has nearly 60 branch locations concentrated in Central Conn. and Western Mass., offering customers commercial, small-business, wealth-management, and consumer-banking products and services.

Seelye & Schulz PA CPAs to Merge with Melanson Heath

GREENFIELD — Melanson Heath announced the firm’s merger with longtime Nashua, N.H.-based accounting firm Seelye & Schulz PA CPAs. This merger aims to allow Seelye & Schulz PA CPAs and Melanson Heath professionals to continue to strengthen their position as a premier regional accounting, tax, and audit service provider. Partners Paul Seelye and Anthony Engaldo have joined Melanson Heath along with their team. The combined firm will operate under the name Melanson Heath. Scott Toothaker, managing principal of Melanson Heath, noted that “Seelye & Schulz PA CPAs is a highly respected CPA firm in our area. Our objectives, goals, and ethical standards mirror one another. The combined firm will continue to offer a blend of professional expertise and personalized service. We are committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations of not only our clients, but also our dedicated employees, and the betterment of our communities as a whole.”

Theory Wellness Wins Bid for Chicopee Dispensary

CHICOPEE — Theory Wellness, a craft cannabis company, has received a special permit from the city of Chicopee to move ahead with its plans for a medical and recreational cannabis dispensary at 672 Fuller Road. The company has been working with the city since the summer of 2018 and was selected to operate one of the four permitted dispensaries in the city during a competitive bidding process. Seven months after successfully transitioning its Great Barrington medical dispensary into recreational sales, Theory looks forward to commencing construction immediately on this new project. Its expansion into Chicopee will mark the third dispensary for the company, which currently has locations in Bridgewater and Great Barrington. The Chicopee site will be its second co-located storefront to support both medical and recreational cannabis sales. Theory expects to begin sales in November, and will soon begin construction on the new location, which has ample parking and is just minutes from both I-90 and I-291. The company anticipates hiring about 40 full-time employees and expects to generate tax revenues in the range of $250,000 to $500,000 per year for the city.

Berkshire Communicators Inc. Wins ATSI Award of Excellence

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Communicators Inc. has been honored with the ATSI 2019 Award of Excellence for the 15th straight year. This award is presented annually by the Assoc. of TeleServices International (ATSI), the industry’s trade association for providers of telecommunications and call-center services, including answering services and message delivery across North America and the U.K. Berkshire Communicators was presented with the award at ATSI’s annual convention in Dallas. Independent judges are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a six-month period. The scoring criteria includes response time, rep courteousness, accuracy, account knowledge, and overall impression of the call. Now a 15-time winner, Berkshire Communicators earned the Platinum Award. Berkshire Communicators is owned and operated by the Gore family of Lee and employs 20 full- and part-time personnel. The company operates 24/7/365, processing more than 600,000 calls per year and 6,200 alarm signals per day in its central alarm-monitoring station.

Elms College Establishes Graduate Admission Office

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced a new Office of Graduate and Continuing Education Admission to streamline the application process for graduate, post-baccalaureate, and continuing-education students. The new office will focus on the recruitment, admission, and enrollment for all graduate and continuing education programs at Elms College. Nancy Davis has been named director of the Office of Graduate and Continuing Education Admission. Davis, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Mount St. Mary’s University and an MBA from Elms College, most recently served as Business Development specialist for the college’s MBA program and Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership for more than three years. She previously worked as the director of Career Development at Elms for nearly five years, as director of Career Services at BHCI in Windsor, Conn., and as a technical recruiter, both for CMC Technical in Virginia and independently. Her team will include two graduate admission counselors. Undergraduate and transfer students will continue to work with the Office of Undergraduate Admission throughout the application, acceptance, and orientation process.

Basketball Hall of Fame Partners with Tickets for Less

SPRINGFIELD — The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced a new multi-year partnership with Tickets For Less as a secondary-market ticket provider for a number of Basketball Hall of Fame collegiate events. The partnership was facilitated by Learfield IMG College, the Basketball Hall of Fame’s sports-marketing partner for its collegiate event series. As an official sponsor, Tickets for Less will offer a secondary ticket marketplace for Hall of Fame collegiate events, allowing fans secure, fast, and convenient options to purchase tickets. Events offered by Tickets for Less in 2019 include the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Tip-Off Tournament and Women’s Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix, and three inaugural events: the James Naismith Classic in Toronto, the Al Attles Classic at the new Chase Center in San Francisco, and the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. For a full schedule of events and matchups, visit www.hoophall.com/events.

Company Notebook

Eversource Receives Award for Supporting Employees in the Military

BOSTON — Eversource Energy has been selected as a winner of the 2019 Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the government’s highest honor for a company for its support of employees who participate in the U.S. National Guard and Reserves. Eversource is one of only 15 companies nationwide that were selected among more than 2,400 nominations. The award is the result of the perseverance of Bill Gelinas, a control-room supervisor for Eversource in Berlin, Conn. Gelinas wanted to show his appreciation for the support he received from the company and its employees throughout his 15-year military service, which included four overseas deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Gelinas said he was deeply touched by the warmth and support he has received from his Eversource colleagues, especially during his numerous deployments. Each time he went overseas, he was overwhelmed by thoughtful care packages and almost daily encouraging e-mails from employees and company leaders. It also made him empathetic of other soldiers who didn’t have a support system like he did. The Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is administered by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program that since 1966 has promoted relations and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. The winning companies will be invited to Washington, D.C. to receive the award from the Secretary of Defense at a ceremony held at the Pentagon in August.

Holyoke Mall Celebrates 40th Anniversary

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mall marked its 40th anniversary on July 5. Since opening in 1979, Holyoke Mall has established itself as the largest shopping destination in Western Mass., currently offering more than 150 dining, entertainment, and retail destinations. Throughout the last 40 years, Pyramid Management Group has continued to adapt, evolve, and thrive in an ever-changing market. In 1995, the shopping center expanded, adding an additional 500,000 square feet, and welcomed big-box tenants such as Best Buy and Target. Traditionally located in free-standing or strip-mall locations, the addition of these anchor tenants began an industry-wide trend. Over the years, Holyoke Mall has welcomed Massachusetts’ first Hobby Lobby, and the Xfinity Store, Toys R Us, and Christmas Tree Shops’ first in-mall locations. The center also continues to attract and expand its dining and entertainment options, most recently adding 110 Grill, Flight Fit N Fun, Round1 Bowling & Amusement, and Sumo Japanese Steakhouse. Stores celebrating 40 years at Holyoke Mall include American Eagle, Foot Locker, Gap, GNC, JCPenney, Kay Jewelers, Motherhood Maternity, and the Greek Place.

Florence Bank a Winner in 2019 Banking Choice Awards

FLORENCE — Florence Bank accepted three of the four potential awards for banking excellence in Western Mass. and took part in a panel discussion at the Bank Best Expo! at MGM Springfield on June 28. As part of the 2019 Banking Choice Awards review by 278,359 independent consumers in a double-blind scientific study, Florence Bank came out on top in Western Mass. in almost every category. At the expo, Monica Curhan, the bank’s senior vice president and Marketing director, accepted two first-place awards, for customer service and overall quality, and a second-place honor for excellence in technology and tools. Curhan also sat on a panel of bankers whose institutions consistently rank at the top in independent consumer surveys to discuss best industry practices. She was joined by Stephen Lewis, president of Thomaston Savings Bank and chairman of the Connecticut Bankers Assoc.; Todd Tallman, president and treasurer of Cornerstone Bank in Massachusetts; and Mark Bodin, president of Savings Bank of Walpole in New Hampshire. The Banking Choice Awards recognize banks that receive the highest ratings from their own customers in four categories: customer service, technology, community contribution, and overall quality.

Different Leaf Magazine Announces Premiere Issue

NORTHAMPTON — July marks the publication of the premiere issue of Different Leaf magazine, a journal of cannabis culture. Targeted to readers 45 and over, Different Leaf’s editorial content covers the rapidly evolving cannabis industry in Massachusetts and makes it accessible for consumers who are new to cannabis and those looking for new ways to integrate it into their lives. Launching with a quarterly publication schedule, regular features in Different Leaf will include “Merch + More,” a roundup of cannabis products from Massachusetts and beyond including smoking accessories, THC and CBD products, and books. The back of the book contains practical, educational information on using cannabis for health and wellness, cooking, nutrition, fitness, sexuality, pets, and more. Features will look in depth at innovators in the industry, medical news, and social and cultural issues surrounding the legalization of cannabis. Different Leaf will depart from the more traditional publishing model of posting text-based content online and will instead launch a companion podcast series with the October issue. The podcast will expand on the topics in the print magazine and delve into issues and stories that don’t mesh with a print publication timetable. A calendar of events that tie into the print publication is also planned.

Bay Path’s Leadership and Organizational Studies Program Nationally Ranked

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s bachelor of arts (BA) in leadership and organizational studies (LOS) has been named among the top 20 online programs in the country, as ranked by thebestschools.org. According to the site, bachelor-degree programs in leadership and organizational studies were ranked based on several categories, including academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, range of degree programs, and strength of online-instruction methodology. Bay Path’s program, offered by its American Women’s College, was acknowledged for its accelerated degree program and its distinct Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders program. The BA in leadership and organizational studies at the American Women’s College offers 100% online or a combination of online and on-campus courses, with six different start dates per year. The program is offered in an accelerated version, and has the flexibility to be taken full-time or part-time. It also includes access to mentoring, tutoring, library resources, academic resources, and career services.

Miller Dyer Spears Selected as Architect for WSU’s Parenzo Hall Renovation

WESTFIELD — Miller Dyer Spears (MDS) has been chosen as the architectural firm to design Westfield State University’s (WSU) $40 million, multi-year Parenzo Hall renovation project. Following a request for proposals set forth by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Massachusetts Designer Selection Board (an autonomous, 11-member board) reviewed and selected Boston-based MDS from three finalists among more than 20 applicants. Westfield State received $21.25 million in state funding last year for the renovation of Parenzo Hall, the university’s oldest building, which opened in 1956. Nearly matching the state’s $21.25 million investment, WSU will invest approximately $20 million of university funds into the project. The renovations will create two new centers — the Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships and the Center for Student Success and Engagement. The Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships will leverage technology to serve as the nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to engage productively in online-hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The Center for Student Success and Engagement will address the student-outcomes goals of WSU’s Vision Project (increasing retention and graduation rates, and reducing the achievement gap). The project will also address the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. The center will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. In addition to the centers, several academic departments will be located in the renovated facility, including Education and Political Science.

AIC Celebrates Rex’s Pantry Garden with Ribbon Cutting

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently expanded its efforts to help serve the community with the official ribbon cutting for the Rex’s Pantry Garden. Rex’s Pantry was launched in December 2017 in an effort to provide the less fortunate in Springfield with hot meals, canned food, and other living necessities. Since its founding, Rex’s Pantry has served more than 2,000 meals and collected thousands of pounds of canned goods. Rex, a yellowjacket, is the AIC mascot. The Rex’s Pantry Garden, located on the AIC campus in the heart of the city, is the newest addition to the Rex’s Pantry initiative. The first harvest will include tomatoes and pumpkins. The tomatoes will be distributed to neighborhood residents, who often do not have the resources to purchase fresh produce. Pumpkins will be given to local children during the Halloween season. Until one month ago, the Rex’s Pantry Garden was a long-standing vacant lot, but the plot was transformed by the C&W Services grounds crew at the college. Local businesses also donated to the creation of the garden, including Associated Building Wreckers, C&W Services, Capone’s Pool Water, GMH Fence Co., Go Graphix, Ondrick Natural Earth, and Wallace Tree Service. Student-athletes and representatives from the AIC basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and wrestling teams, along with student groups — including IMPACT, a residential community for AIC students in pursuit of leadership experiences in and outside the classroom, and the Student Nurses Assoc. — have supported Rex’s Pantry by serving hot meals throughout the academic year. AIC staff and student volunteers will maintain the garden throughout the growing season.

Company Notebook

Wright-Pierce Opens Westfield Office

WESTFIELD — Wright-Pierce, an environmental/civil infrastructure engineering firm, announced the opening of an office in Westfield. “Opening the Westfield office is the next step in our strategic plan to better serve our expanding client base in Central and Western Massachusetts,” said Wright-Pierce President and CEO John Braccio. “We look forward to being an active community partner with municipalities throughout the region, helping to engineer environmentally sustainable and economically sound solutions to New England’s aging water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure challenges.” Thomas Hogan, regional group leader for Central and Western Massachusetts, will serve as office manager. Prior to joining Wright-Pierce, he served more than 20 years as an engineering consultant to Massachusetts municipal, institutional, industrial, commercial, and energy-sector clients. Wright-Pierce is an award-winning, multi-discipline engineering firm that has been providing water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure services since 1947. Employee-owned, Wright-Pierce’s more than 200 engineers and support professionals are strategically located in offices throughout New England and Florida.

Hampshire College Resolves to Admit Full Class for 2020

AMHERST — In a letter to the Hampshire College community, interim President Ken Rosenthal said the school is committed to admitting a full class for 2020, only a few months after the troubled institution decided to admit only a partial class this fall. “People have asked, why is the board confident they can enroll a new class next fall 2020 when they voted four months ago not to accept a full class for fall 2019 and spring 2020? What changed?” he wrote. “The answer is the remarkable, historic outpouring of support this spring from Hampshire alums, friends, and people who believe in our college. We are deeply grateful for the unprecedented energy and giving to secure an independent Hampshire.” Rosenthal said the college and its board are working on a number of fronts simultaneously. These include reinforcing its governance and leadership; defining and improving its value proposition; restructuring its business model so it is sustainable, and continuing to operate efficiently and reduce costs where possible; renewing its academic program; leading a successful fundraising campaign, including building the endowment; investing in improving the student experience on campus and upgrading campus facilities to benefit recruitment and retention; and continuing to participate fully in the Five College Consortium for the benefit of students and employees. The school is also making strides toward hiring a new president.

Open Square Creates Headquarters for VertitechIT

HOLYOKE — Architect John Aubin announced plans for the build-out of a company headquarters at his flagship mixed-use development, Open Square. Aubin is creating a new, custom-designed and custom-built workspace in his historic zero-net-energy development in Holyoke. The modern office environment will provide approximately 6,000 square feet of work and meeting space for 25 employees. Current tenant and national healthcare IT consultancy VertitechIT is expanding its presence at Open Square. The new space will also house employees of two sister companies — Akiro Consulting, a firm that facilitates medical practice transactions and acquisitions, and BaytechIT, an IT services provider to physician practices, clinics, and nonprofit healthcare companies. BaytechIT is a joint venture between VertitechIT and Baystate Health. The new space will allow collaboration between the three companies while giving each their own autonomy, said Greg Pellerin, VertitechIT’s chief operating officer.

Basketball Celebration Nets $7,500 for Five Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — A basketball event that celebrated the restoration of the court at the Greenleaf Community Center — just in time for summer pick-up games — netted $7,500 in donations for five area nonprofits. Roughly 50 area residents attended the festivities, which included a demonstration by a comedic basketball troupe called the Court Jesters. Several dozen adults and children took part in the Helping Hoops Challenge. As part of this game that benefited nonprofits, participants took shots at the basket from three designated points on the court — one that was kid-friendly for younger children.  The plan was to give each nonprofit $100 or $25 per basket, depending on the distance from the hoop. But Florence Bank and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were feeling generous during the event. John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank, ended the celebration by announcing that each nonprofit would receive $1,000 from the bank. Additionally, Jason Fiddler, vice president of Sales, Marketing and Partnerships for the Hall of Fame, offered $500 per nonprofit from his organization. The following nonprofits received the donations: Camp STAR Angelina, Dunbar Community Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Urban League of Springfield, and Open Pantry Community Services. The event was a celebration of the rejuvenation of the basketball court at Greenleaf Community Center, which is only a few miles from Florence Bank’s new Allen Street branch. The city of Springfield and Florence Bank each contributed $15,000 to repave and paint the court at the center for young people in the neighborhood. Two new hoops and backboards were also installed.

STCC Rolls Out Child Development Associate Plus Program

SPRINGFIELD — This fall, Springfield Technical Community College will launch a new certificate program to help early-childhood educators or school paraprofessionals take their careers to the next level. The Child Development Associate Plus (CDA Plus) certificate of completion is designed for educators who want to get their CDA credential and earn college credit at the same time. An individual with a CDA credential, which is nationally recognized, has demonstrated competency in meeting the needs of children and working with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth, said Nancy Ward, STCC’s Early Education and Care Pathways Grant and Activity director. The Career Pathways Grant, funded through the state Department of Early Education and Care, enables STCC to provide a range of support for CDA Plus students. STCC also has credit-earning opportunities available for educators who have earned their CDA credential or have acquired other skills in the field or from existing certifications. Students with a CDA credential can receive 17 credits toward an associate degree, Greco said. STCC has named experienced educator Aimee Dalenta as chair of the Early Childhood Education Department. Among her responsibilities, she will oversee the new CDA program.

Delaney’s Market Store Opens in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Owner Peter Rosskothen held a grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 19 at Delaney’s Market at 1365 Main St. in Springfield. Delaney’s Market is a retail store that features chef-inspired meals that are fresh and ready to serve with little effort. It also features a selection of beer and wine. The Delaney’s Market target audience is a busy individual or family who wants to eat a quality lunch or dinner at their home or office without the hassle of long prep times and/or high costs. Delaney’s Market Springfield will also feature delivery to its immediate area, as well as curbside pick-up. “We are so excited to be part of downtown Springfield,” said Roberta Hurwitz, general manager, who oversees operations and an eight-member team at the Springfield store. “The renaissance of the city is happening; we look forward to being a great citizen and neighbor.” This is the second Delaney’s Market store; its flagship store is located at the Longmeadow Shops in Longmeadow and has been open since 2016. Additional stores will open later this year, one in Wilbraham and one in Westfield.

Greenfield Cooperative Bank Reports FY 2019 Results

GREENFIELD — Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank (GCB) and its parent company, Greenfield Bancorp, MHC, shared the operating results of the bank’s latest fiscal year as announced at the 114th annual meeting of the bank on June 18. Tucker reported that FY 2019, which ended on March 31, was very successful, and the assets of the bank grew by $26.3 million (up 4.3%) over the prior year. Also in FY 2019, GCB originated more than $117 million in loans of all types, including $30.16 million in residential mortgages, $46.02 million in commercial real-estate/C&I lending, $28.31 million in municipal lending, $11.88 million in home-equity loans and lines, and $1.05 million in Mass Save zero-interest energy loans and Mass Solar loans. GCB had an increase of $11.4 million in deposits (up 2.14%) over the past year. Interest paid to depositors of GCB increased by $531,000 (23%) over last year. Total equity grew to $73.45 million. GCB’s tier 1 capital to average assets is 12%, and total capital to risk-weighted assets is 21.40%. The bank is considered well-capitalized by all regulatory definitions. The pre-tax operating income for Greenfield Cooperative Bank was up to $5.723 million for the year ended March 31, and the net income after taxes was $4.491 million. The bank also paid its fair share of federal and Massachusetts income taxes ($1.23 million) and local property taxes (more than $133,000) in the cities and towns where it has offices. As a result of these earnings and the fact that Greenfield Cooperative Bank targets its charitable and civic giving at 5% of the prior year’s pre-tax operating income, GCB and its employees were able to contribute $224,054 to 218 charities, community groups, school events, youth teams, and cultural events throughout both Hampshire and Franklin counties during the past fiscal year. This was a 13.8% increase over the prior year. Greenfield Cooperative Bank management noted it has received regulatory approvals for opening its new South Hadley location, and the bank expects to open the office by the end of 2019.

Company Notebook

MGM Springfield Receives LEED Platinum Certification

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts International announced that MGM Springfield has received the world’s first U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) New Construction Platinum level certification for a gaming resort. MGM Springfield, which opened in August 2018, is the company’s most recent development. Working closely with state and city officials, as well as the local community, MGM Resorts committed to designing and building a property that exemplifies the company’s values in support of environmental sustainability and positive social impact while honoring local history and architecture. A significant enabler of the LEED Platinum rating is the property’s new solar array, which will supply renewable electricity to the facility. In partnership with GE Solar, a subsidiary of General Electric based in Massachusetts, MGM Springfield will install a 1.13-megawatt solar canopy on the eighth floor, on top of the MGM Springfield garage. This array is expected to generate more than 1,600 megawatt hours of electricity, helping reduce the property’s annual carbon footprint by approximately 410 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Among its sustainable design and development elements, MGM Springfield redeveloped and revitalized a tornado-impacted site in the South End; integrated smart energy infrastructure and submeters through the facility to help monitor and control the property’s electrical and mechanical systems to support year-round energy efficiency; designed for significant on-site electricity generation; installed 50 electric vehicle-charging stations and 140 low-emitting fuel-efficient vehicle parking spaces in some of the most preferable locations of the guest and employee garages, to encourage the use of more environmentally preferable modes of transportation; diverted more than 95% of construction and demolition waste by weight from landfills during construction; selected products from manufacturers that disclose information about the ingredients in their products; used interior finishes such as paints, sealants, coatings, adhesives, carpeting, and composite wood products with low or no volatile organic chemicals and free of urea-formaldehyde, helping to create healthier spaces for guests and employees; and created a rainwater-harvesting system and underground cistern to capture, store, and treat rainwater onsite, allowing 100% of water for landscaping to come from this source. Working with community partners, the MGM Springfield development project includes multiple buildings within the city of Springfield, including a daycare facility, entertainment venues, and more. All aspects of this project have already achieved or are seeking a minimum of LEED Gold certification.

Bulkley Richardson Launches Craft Brew and Distillery Practice

SPRINGFIELD — With a growing number of clients in the space, Bulkley Richardson announced the launch of its Craft Brew and Distillery practice. The firm advises local craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries in all stages of development, from startups to established businesses. The firm’s attorneys possess a depth of expertise in the relevant areas of law to assist with startup and entity formation; state, federal, and local licensing; financing; distribution agreements; intellectual-property matters; real-estate matters and commercial leases; construction and expansion; mergers and acquisitions; business succession planning; and litigation. The Craft Brew and Distillery practice is led by attorneys Ryan Barry, Scott Foster, Michael Roundy, and Sarah Willey. To help launch this new practice, Bulkley Richardson has signed on as lead sponsor, alongside Berkshire Bank, of What’s on Tap Wednesday, the new, weekly outdoor beer garden featuring local breweries. The events are held on Wednesdays after work beginning June 5 through September 18, and will rotate locations among 1350 Main St., Duryea Way, MGM Springfield, Tower Square Park, and the Shops at Marketplace. Each week will feature live music, local food, and guest brewers. The firm will also sponsor the second annual Whip City Brewfest on Saturday, June 1 in Westfield to support the Amelia Park Children’s Museum. Roundy has been on the festival’s planning committee from the inception and is heavily involved in the planning of the event.

Tighe & Bond Climbs in National Design Rankings

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, one of the leading full-service engineering and environmental consulting firms in the Northeast, climbed 19 spots this year to number 222 on Engineering News Record’s (ENR) 2019 Top 500 Design Firms ranking. In the past two years, Tighe & Bond climbed 38 spots as the firm continues to grow its regional market. ENR ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year. “We are very excited to climb 19 spots in this national ranking, which we believe is the result of continuing to execute on our strategies of expanding in our regional markets along with attracting and retaining outstanding staff across the organization,” said Bob Belitz, president and CEO of Tighe & Bond. “Of course, we could not achieve these accomplishments without the trust our clients have in us to work on their behalf and deliver superb project outcomes.”

Wellfleet Relocating to Tower Square in August

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet, a Berkshire Hathaway company providing accident and health-insurance products, will relocate its national corporate headquarters to Springfield’s Tower Square in August. A press conference will be held on Friday, June 7 at 11 a.m. at the Tower Square ground-floor atrium. Wellfleet has outgrown its current office space on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. The new offices at Tower Square will give Wellfleet employees up to 80,000 square feet of class A office space and provide ample room for Wellfleet’s new and growing Workplace Benefits division. Formerly known as Consolidated Health Plans, the company rebranded as Wellfleet in January, uniting its insurance carriers and claims-administration organizations under one marketing name. Wellfleet has approximately 175 employees, 150 of whom work in Springfield; others work remotely or from satellite offices in Florence, S.C. and San Rafael, Calif.

GCC Awarded Grant to Improve Post-incarceration Workforce Outcomes

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College (GCC) has been awarded $17,000 from the Commonwealth Corp. as part of an Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development initiative to improve workforce outcomes among individuals returning to their communities after incarceration. The Program Design Capacity Building Grant is part of the Commonwealth Corp. Re-Entry Workforce Development Demonstration Program. The goal of the grant is to design a manufacturing workforce pipeline in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties that helps meet unmet manufacturing labor needs. The project aims to prepare returning citizens for careers in manufacturing by addressing systemic barriers to gainful employment for individuals post-incarceration. In order to achieve this goal, GCC will partner with manufacturing businesses, state and community agencies, and Holyoke Community College. Grant partners include four manufacturing businesses; Peerless Precision Inc., Sisson Engineering Corp., Deerfield Packaging Service Inc., and Sanderson McLeod Inc. Partner agencies include the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office and House of Corrections, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center, MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board, MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, Community Action Pioneer Valley, and Holyoke Community College.

GCC Foundation Awards $190,000 in Scholarships

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Community College (GCC) Foundation awarded 127 scholarships to GCC students at its 57th annual GCC Foundation scholarship awards ceremony. The awards totaled over $190,000, with an additional $100,000 to be distributed in the fall, all made possible by donor support of endowed and direct-funded named scholarships. The occasion is a time for members of the entire GCC community to come together to celebrate students’ academic achievements. Scholarship donors include private individuals, local businesses, corporations, faculty and staff, and alumni, and many were on hand to present their awards to the recipients. For a complete listing of the scholarships awarded, visit www.gcc.mass.edu/2019scholarships. Scholarships range in size and eligibility requirements, and include awards to students enrolled in credit-bearing certificate and degree programs, as well as participants in the college’s non-credit workforce-development programs. The Charlotte Waynelovich Scholarship is one example. Funded by Baystate Health and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in honor of her retirement, it was presented by Wanelovich to a GCC student in the associate degree in nursing program who lives in Franklin County. The GCC Foundation was founded in 1968. Since then, it has worked with those who wish to invest in the dreams of students who work, students who cannot afford tuition, and students who cannot travel to other educational institutions.

Florence Bank Pitches in on Community Center Upgrade

SPRINGFIELD — Florence Bank and the city of Springfield are working together to upgrade the basketball court at Greenleaf Community Center in time for summer, school vacation, and neighborhood pickup games. Work to repave and paint the court began earlier in May and is expected to be complete before school ends in June. Two new hoops and backboards will also be installed. Nearly two years ago, Florence Bank opened its first branch in Hampden County at 1010 Union St. in West Springfield, and last fall, a second branch opened at 1444 Allen St. Florence Bank and the city each contributed $15,000 to the project. A celebratory event will be held on Tuesday, June 18 from 6 to 8 p.m., with a rain date of June 19.

Company Notebook

Homewood Suites by Hilton Hadley Now Open

HADLEY — Homewood Suits by Hilton, part of Hilton’s All Suites portfolio, announced the opening of its newest property, Homewood Suits by Hilton Hadley. With 96 new suites, the hotel is the first extended-stay property in Hampshire County. Developed and owned by the Parmar Family and managed by Pioneer Valley Hotel Group, Homewood Suites by Hilton Hadley offers a combination of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom accommodations featuring fully equipped kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas. Guests are also provided amenities like complimentary hot breakfast, evening socials, wi-fi, and a grocery-shopping service. Located at 340 Russell St., Homewood Suites by Hilton Hadley also features an outdoor kitchen and grill area, fitness center, and indoor pool, as well as 695 square feet of flexible space for meetings and social events.

Hogan Technology Receives Top Industry Award

EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology recently received Technology Assurance Group’s (TAG) top award at the 19th annual TAG Convention held in Orlando, Fla. TAG, an international organization of independently owned managed-technology service providers in the U.S. and Canada, selected Hogan Technology as the winner of the TAG Champion Award. The award is based on the company’s ability to drive fellow TAG members’ growth and advancement. Hogan Technology offers an array of IT networking, voice, and video solutions all designed to increase customers’ profitability and productivity. The TAG Champion Award was accepted by Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology. “Our company’s goal is to always strive to be on the leading edge of technology,” Hogan said. “Through TAG, we learn best business practices for the betterment of the customers we serve. We believe in giving back to the members that have helped us along the way. We’re proud to have won this award among such a sophisticated group of managed-technology services providers.”

Registration Open for HCC Summer-session Classes

HOLYOKE — Registration is underway for summer-session courses at Holyoke Community College (HCC). Three- and four-credit summer classes at HCC are offered in two four-week sessions and one full-term, seven-week session — on campus, online, and blended. Summer session one begins June 3 (ending June 27 to July 3), while session two begins July 8 (ending Aug. 1-8). The full-term summer session begins June 3-4 (ending July 17-23). HCC’s comprehensive summer academic program comprises nearly 200 course sections in 38 academic areas, including accounting, American Sign Language, anthropology, art, biology, business administration, chemistry, communications, community health, criminal justice, culinary arts, earth science, economics, engineering, English, academic English as a second language, environmental science, forensic science, general studies, gerontology, health, health information management, history, human services, law, management, marketing, math, medical assisting, music, nutrition, philosophy, political science, SEM (science, engineering, and math), psychology, sociology, Spanish, and sustainability. A complete listing of course descriptions and summer-class schedules is available at hcc.edu/registration. To enroll, visit hcc.edu/apply. For more information, visit hcc.edu/admission or call (413) 552-2321.

STCC to Offer Summer Classes

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer five-week and 10-week on-campus and online summer sessions. Session one begins on June 3, and session two starts July 8. Academic subject areas include accounting, anthropology, biology, business, chemistry, criminal justice, economics, electronic systems, English, graphic communication and photography, history, information technologies, math, medical terminology, music, philosophy, physics, psychology, sign language, sociology, Spanish, and speech. Class schedules are available at www.stcc.edu/summer. Students can register online, by phone at (413) 755-4321, or in the Registrar’s Office, Student Learning Commons (Building 19), Room 169. Summer also presents an opportunity for high-school students to take free college classes and earn credit. Area high-school students are encouraged to enroll in STCC’s College Now dual-enrollment program to take summer courses. Students who begin during their junior year can enroll in up to eight free courses, which may be taken to fulfill high-school graduation requirements or to pursue an academic interest. Credits earned can also be used toward any STCC degree program. Interested students should speak with their parent or guardian and guidance counselor before the May 1 application deadline for session-one courses.

Springfield College AmeriCorps Program Receives National Funding

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College AmeriCorps Program will receive $1,133,274 in AmeriCorps funding spread out over the next three years from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency responsible for AmeriCorps and other national service programs. Springfield College is one 26 Massachusetts-based organizations that received federal funding, supporting 6,611 AmeriCorps members in their efforts to tackle ongoing challenges in early-childhood education, job readiness, and environmental conservation. For 22 years, the Springfield College AmeriCorps program has provided the city of Springfield and its public schools with student-support and academic-support specialists. Its staff and student volunteers provide mentoring, counseling, social-emotional reinforcement, direct interventions, and identification of risk factors that lead to dropping out of school. The Springfield College AmeriCorps program is the largest in Western Mass., with 56 total members. Springfield College AmeriCorps members have provided an average of more than 44,000 hours of service to more than 16 of Springfield’s public schools leading to student academic success in English and math, and improved results in early literacy skills, attendance, and behavior.

Paragus Technology Drive Raises $2,445 for Dakin

HADLEY — On April 22, Paragus IT teamed with Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City and the Lexington Group for a technology-recycling drive to promote sustainability on Earth Day and to benefit Dakin Humane Society. Paragus took old, unwanted computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment to prepare them for reuse or proper disposal. In exchange, it collected $5 per piece of equipment — all of which went to benefit Dakin Humane Society. Between drop-offs at Paragus IT in Hadley and Dave’s Soda And Pet Food City and pick-ups by the Lexington Group, the technology drive raised a total of $2,445 for Dakin Humane Society.

Company Notebook

New England Public Radio, WGBY Join Together to Create New England Public Media

SPRINGFIELD — New England Public Radio and WGBY Public Television announced they will join to create a robust new multi-media organization, New England Public Media (NEPM), with one of the largest newsrooms in Western Mass. With a goal of expanding public media offerings for the people of Western New England, NEPM will build on the strength of each organization to deliver the educational content, cultural and news programs, and community engagement that characterizes public media. Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of New England Public Radio, will become president of NEPM. Anthony Hayes, general manager of WGBY Public Television, will become chief operating officer and general manager of the new organization. NEPM will be an independently run organization with its own governing board. Combined, New England Public Radio and WGBY Public Television have 78 employees, and all current employees will be part of the new organization. NEPM’s enhanced newsroom will total about 21 and is expected to grow over the coming years. The WGBH Educational Foundation, which holds the broadcast license for WGBY, will invest $6 million over six years in the new venture. When combined with critical community support for NEPM, this investment will allow for new programming while ensuring in-depth local journalism remains the centerpiece of the combined organization. WGBH will have a seat on the NEPM board. UMass Amherst will continue to hold the broadcast license for WFCR 88.5FM, and along with the NEPR Foundation board, it has been actively involved in the negotiations that led to the creation of NEPM. The university remains deeply committed to supporting the growth of public media in Western Mass. and will have a seat on the NEPM Board. The support of the Five College Consortium has been a vital part of the history and long-standing excellence of WFCR (Five College Radio) and New England Public Radio since its inception. The executive director of the consortium, which includes Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges as well as UMass Amherst, will also serve on the NEPM board. Along with an expanded news service, NEPM will focus on new content creation including digital music streams, multi-platform and digital programming, and community engagement and education, in addition to the programs audiences now enjoy. A new daily radio program with a local focus will be among the first initiatives the new organization will undertake. Details will be finalized over the coming months with plans and final approval to be completed this summer.

 

Gov. Charlie Baker to Speak at UMass Amherst Commencement

AMHERST — Gov. Charlie Baker will be the featured speaker at the undergraduate commencement at UMass Amherst on Friday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The governor will address an anticipated crowd of about 20,000 family members, friends, and other guests as approximately 5,500 undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. “We are honored that Governor Baker will deliver this year’s commencement address,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “As a results-driven leader, he combines a concentration on thoughtful data analysis with an emphasis on building relationships that strengthen our Commonwealth. His support for UMass Amherst has provided our students the opportunity to flourish as they play an invaluable role in the state’s innovation economy. “It’s no coincidence that, under the governor’s leadership, Massachusetts has achieved record employment, the highest percentage of citizens with healthcare, and an outstanding education system,” he went on. “At the flagship campus, we are proud of playing a role in providing high-quality, affordable education for our citizens.”

Big Y Express Eliminates Plastic Bags

SPRINGFIELD — As part of the recent announcement of Big Y Foods Inc. to phase out single-use plastic bags at its checkouts, its Big Y Express Gas and Convenience locations became the first division in the 80-store company to eliminate these bags completely. Previously, Big Y Express in Lee was the only gas and convenience location without these bags as part of that town’s ordinance. Now, the other eight locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut have joined in this pursuit. Single-use plastic bags create an inordinate amount of waste. According to the EPA, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year. If not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm fish, marine animals, birds, and other wildlife. Big Y has been complying with single-use plastic-bag bans in five of its local communities in Massachusetts (Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton, and South Hadley) since 2014. The company also issued a pledge in January to eliminate all single-use plastic bags at its checkouts in 2020. The elimination of these bags at its Express locations is the first phase of the implementation for this pledge. Currently, there are several more towns with bans pending, such as Longmeadow and West Springfield. In addition, the legislatures of both Massachusetts and Connecticut are discussing statewide bans on single-use plastic bags.

Country Bank Reports Record Earnings, New Board Leadership

WARE — Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully announced the appointment of Maura McCaffrey, former CEO of Health New England, and Keith Blanchette, partner at Stolberg, Ebbeling and Blanchette, LLP, to its board of trustees at its recent annual meeting held at the AC Marriott in Worcester. The bank also appointed five new corporators, including Nancy Crimmin, president of Becker College; Cherylann Gengel, co-founder of Be Like Brit; Michael Myers, president of the Worcester Railers; Peter Dawson, partner at Mirick O’Connell; and Mark Donahue, partner at Fletcher Tilton. At the meeting, Country Bank reported its 2018 earnings resulted in record-breaking profits. Net income was reported at $12,853,000, with total assets increasing to $1,624,000,000. Deposit balances increased to $1,083,182,000, and total loans increased from the prior year to $1,240,421,000. Capital was reported at 14.06%, maintaining the bank’s position as one of the higher-capitalized banks in the Commonwealth. As part of its ongoing Worcester expansion, the bank partnered with the Worcester Red Sox as one of the team’s 21 founding partners in anticipation of its move to Worcester in 2021.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q1 Earnings, Dividend

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31. The company reported net income of $12.7 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, compared to net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018 of $12.2 million, or $0.24 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $15.8 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2018. “Despite the challenging operating environment, the United Financial Bancorp Inc. team is focused on expanding and winning new client relationships, maintaining strong asset quality and ample capital, and providing superior customer service,” said William Crawford, IV, president and CEO of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $7.34 billion at March 31, 2019, decreasing $16.9 million from $7.36 billion at Dec. 31, 2018. At March 31, 2019, total loans were $5.73 billion, representing an increase of $75.1 million, or 1.3%, from the linked quarter. Deposits totaled $5.66 billion at March 31, 2019 and decreased by $6.3 million, or 0.1%, from $5.67 billion at December 31, 2018.

HealthDrive to Acquire New England Geriatrics

WEST SPRINGFIELD — HealthDrive, a leader in delivering integrated specialty healthcare services to residents of long-term care, skilled nursing, and assisted-living facilities, announced it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire New England Geriatrics (NEG), a provider of comprehensive and quality psychiatric care for patients and their families. This acquisition will allow HealthDrive to expand its services as it seeks to create a leading multi-specialty healthcare platform for vulnerable populations. This is the first acquisition for HealthDrive as a portfolio company of Bain Capital Double Impact, the impact-investing business of Bain Capital. Financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed. NEG was founded on mission-driven principles in 1994 to provide mental-health services to underserved geriatric populations in Massachusetts. Today, the company serves more than 13,500 Massachusetts and Connecticut residents in over 129 long-term-care facilities, four managed inpatient geriatric psychiatric units, and one outpatient clinic through its dedicated network of mental-healthcare professionals. As consultants to the facilities and their primary-care physicians, NEG clinicians provide evaluation and diagnostic services, medication management, psychotherapy, behavior-management consultation, and evaluation of patients for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Steve Marcus, the current CEO of NEG, who will join HealthDrive as a senior adviser, added that “we selected HealthDrive as our partner because it is most aligned with our commitment to clinical excellence for the vulnerable population New England Geriatrics serves. We have worked side by side with HealthDrive providers in skilled-nursing facilities for many years, and it is apparent that the HealthDrive team truly understands the population that we at New England Geriatrics make our mission to serve. We are confident that, through our partnership with HealthDrive, New England Geriatrics will continue to offer the same great level of care that we have provided over these past 25 years.” The transaction is anticipated to close in the first half of 2019 and is subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.

UMassFive Among Recipients of Workforce Training Fund Grant

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced its selection as one of 68 Workforce Training Fund grant recipients in the state of Massachusetts chosen by the Baker-Polito administration. As a financial institution deeply invested in the communities it serves, UMassFive takes pride in supporting the local economy through providing quality service and products for its members, and by offering employment opportunities that encourage personal growth and career development. Accomplishing both of these goals means taking a real interest in the professional development of every employee and offering training opportunities so that any staff might become an expert in their chosen field. The $174,000 awarded to UMassFive will provide training for current and newly hired employees that focuses on technology-related mastery as well as leadership and management development in order to promote job growth, retention, and increased opportunity. This project is funded by a Workforce Training Fund grant from the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The grant program is administered by Commonwealth Corp.

Work Opportunity Center Cuts Ribbon on New Springfield Facility

SPRINGFIELD — Work Opportunity Center Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 8 at its newly purchased and renovated community-based day-services (CBDS) facility located at 73 Marketplace in Springfield. Established in 1969, Work Opportunity Center Inc. (WOC) initially served its participants through a center-based work-service model. Community-based day services were added in the summer of 2014. In June 2016, center-based work services were discontinued for all participants, and those services were converted to CBDS. As of March 14, 2019, there are approximately 84 individuals participating in WOC CBDS services. Last month, 34 program participants and six staff members transferred from the WOC facility in Agawam to its newest facility in Springfield. The CBDS program of supports enables individuals with developmental disabilities to enrich their lives and enjoy a full range of community activities by providing opportunities for developing, enhancing, and maintaining competency in personal, social, and community activities. Service options for individuals participating in the CBDS program include career exploration, community-integration experiences, skills development and training, volunteer opportunities with local nonprofits, health and fitness classes, socialization experiences, and support to enhance interpersonal skills as well as the pursuit of personal interests and hobbies. The renovation of the 73 Marketplace facility is supported by a $10,000 grant made by the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation along with a $5,000 grant from Westfield Bank toward the purchase of a new vehicle for program participants.

Company Notebook

MBK Recognized as Regional Accounting Leader

HOLYOKE — Accounting Today, a leading publication in the certified public accounting industry, has named Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. a regional leader in its top-100 listing in the March issue. Accounting Today’s annual ranking surveys the largest practices in both tax and accounting in 10 major geographic regions across the country. It employs a host of benchmarking data to evaluate the firms’ growth strategies, service areas, and specific client niches. MBK was recognized as a top firm in the New England region. “MBK is dedicated to our belief in the power and potential of Western Massachusetts,” said Managing Partner James Barrett. “We are very proud to have this local commitment recognized on a national level. Our staff works very hard to provide excellent service to our clients as well as resources and information to business owners and decision makers in our marketplace.”

Western New England Wins National Marketing Awards

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) was named among the top institutions in the nation in the 2018 Collegiate Advertising Awards and the 34th annual Education Advertising Awards, two programs designed to recognize higher-education organizations for excellence in communications, marketing, advertising, and promotion of their schools. Western New England University and its creative partner, Spark451, received a total of four Gold awards. The university’s centennial logo, created to commemorate 100 years, claimed gold in both competitions. The recently launched WNE: The Magazine of Western New England University claimed gold in the Collegiate Advertising Awards competition. The biannual publication explores stories drawn from a cross section of the university, highlighting faculty research, campus happenings, and alumni achievements. Meanwhile, the “What’s New at WNE?” brochure took home top honors in the brochure category. The annual publication shines the spotlight on the latest university developments, including new facilities, academic programs, and faculty and student accomplishments. 

Smith & Wesson Donates Proceeds from Game Dinner to Pioneer Valley USO

SPRINGFIELD — Smith & Wesson Corp. announced it has contributed more than $32,000 to the Pioneer Valley USO. Proceeds raised from the company’s annual game dinner have benefited the Pioneer Valley USO and its programs supporting American military personnel and their families for more than a decade. Armed-forces members and families access the USO for social, recreational, educational, and entertainment programs and services. At the annual event, Smith & Wesson game dinner attendees enjoy a variety of wild game dishes prepared by a team of dedicated volunteers. One of the most popular events of its kind, the dinner hosts nearly 500 guests, and this year featured menu items including pheasant, elk, bear, boar, moose, and venison. Led by Chef Norm Boucher from Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s culinary department, volunteers created dishes like antelope meatballs marinara, southern-style pulled boar, pot roast of Maine black bear, and wild bird pot pie. In addition to the food-preparation team, Smith & Wesson volunteers donated more than 500 personal hours to make the event a success. The game meat was donated by hunters affiliated with Smith & Wesson, Foggy Mountain Guide Service, and Linx Wildlife Management, among others. This year’s event included a limited number of sponsorships, giving local businesses the opportunity to show their support. Big-game sponsor Thorn Industries of Three Rivers, as well as other area businesses, provided additional support for the USO.

Governor Celebrates Opening of New Physical Sciences Building at UMass Amherst

AMHERST — Gov. Charlie Baker recently celebrated the opening of the new Physical Sciences Building (PSB) at UMass Amherst, a facility funded by the state that fosters and expands cutting-edge collaborative learning and research at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. “We were pleased to invest in the new Physical Sciences Building, which will serve as a hub for the natural sciences at UMass Amherst,” Baker said. “The facility’s expansion will help foster new research and career opportunities, which will help support the STEM workforce pipeline here in Massachusetts.” The 95,000-square-foot PSB opened this academic year after three years of construction and incorporates the reconstructed West Experiment Station, a 19th-century agricultural soils research laboratory and one of the university’s most historic buildings. Funding for the $101.8 million project included $85 million from the state and $16.8 million financed by the campus through the UMass Building Authority. The PSB provides offices, specialized laboratories, and approximately 130 laboratory benches for the Physics and Chemistry departments. The laboratories are constructed in a layout that can be reconfigured many times during the life of the building. Among other fields, the PSB supports scientific discovery in material science, condensed matter and nuclear physics, and organic chemistry. The faculty hosted in these facilities have collectively been awarded $127 million in grants and are working on the forefront of science.

Franklin First Federal Credit Union Honored with Community Hero Award

SPRINGFIELD — Franklin First Federal Credit Union was honored as a Community Hero at the Credit Union Heroes and Community Bank Heroes Awards Gala on March 28, hosted at MGM Springfield by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England and Centerpoint magazines. Wolf and Co., one of the nation’s leading tax, audit, and CPA firms, was the gala’s presenting sponsor. The gala recognized 18 community banks and credit unions from across New England for their creation of community partnerships and going beyond the call to aid their community. Franklin First was recognized for its partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County through the creation of a financial carnival designed to educate youth in the community about identifying, earning, and spending money. Franklin First organized several financial carnivals to coincide with mentoring sessions with local ‘bigs’ (Age 16-18) and ‘littles’ (ages 8-11) as a fun, educational alternative to their normal mentoring sessions. The carnivals involved a series of games designed to identify currency, separate wants from needs, recognize expenses, and experience financial gains and losses, all while tracking their earnings and expenses in a savings register to save up for a fun prize at the end of the night. Franklin First received Silver in the category of credit unions with less than $500 million in assets.

PeoplesBank Named Second-Fastest-Growing Bank In Massachusetts

HOLYOKE — The Boston Business Journal published its list of the fastest-growing banks in Massachusetts, and, following its acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield, PeoplesBank ranked second on the list. “About 50% of our growth came from the merger,” said Brian Canina, chief financial officer of PeoplesBank. “But the untold story is that the rest of that growth was organic. We attribute our organic growth to our mutual charter. We do not have to divert earnings to shareholders, so we can reinvest in our organization and the communities we serve. That means improved technology, better products and services — including rates and terms — as well as a level of investment in the community that is unmatched by our competitors.”

Bay Path Receives Truth Initiative Grant, Pledges to Go Tobacco-free

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University recently announced it is one of 48 colleges and universities to be awarded a grant from Truth Initiative to adopt a 100% tobacco-free or smoke-free campus policy. The effort is part of a national movement among students, faculty, and administrators to address smoking and tobacco use at college campuses throughout the U.S. Ninety-nine percent of all smokers start smoking before the age of 26, making college campuses a critical part in the fight against youth tobacco use. Since 2015, the Truth Initiative Tobacco-Free College Program, in partnership with CVS Health, has awarded more than $1.8 million in funding to 154 colleges and universities to prevent young adults from starting tobacco use, help tobacco smokers quit, and reduce everyone’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Bay Path University’s efforts are part of a growing trend to clean the air on campuses. Currently, more than 2,342 higher-education institutions in the U.S. have gone smoke- or tobacco-free.

Springfield College Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship Wins Grant

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship has been awarded a $265,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to assist in the creation of faculty-development opportunities focused on the implementation of real-time assessment procedures to help increase and maintain student academic success. The grant will allow the center to fund faculty from across departments and schools to engage in workshops on assessment, implement those strategies into their courses, and use the assessment data to evaluate program-learning outcomes. The goals are to improve the timelines of interventions when students are not meeting learning objectives and to move the class forward when all students are meeting those objectives. The center will coordinate the training and provide faculty with the ability to engage in scholarship around the development of these assessment procedures.

Company Notebook

Girls Inc. of Holyoke Is Now Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — Poised to boost its reach three-fold over the next five years, Girls Inc. of Holyoke has chosen a new name — Girls Inc. of the Valley — to embody its bigger, wider impact across Western Mass. The agency will keep its headquarters in Holyoke, said Executive Director Suzanne Parker at a press conference this morning at WGBY’s headquarters in downtown Springfield, and stay as committed as ever to the city of its origin. But with Girls Inc. members now hailing from Springfield, Chicopee, South Hadley, and other surrounding communities, a name change was certainly needed. Girls from area communities will continue to benefit from Girls Inc. of the Valley programs held at the Holyoke center headquarters on everything from literacy to leadership, said Parker, but the agency is also expanding into surrounding communities and has partnered to work inside 10 schools, including Springfield’s Chestnut Academy Middle School and Chicopee’s Bellamy Middle School and Dupont Middle School.

CommunicateHealth Celebrates 10th Anniversary

NORTHAMPTON — CommunicateHealth announced its 10th anniversary as a national consulting firm specializing in health information design. CommunicateHealth started as a consulting practice focusing on translating health information into plain language. Co-founders Xanthi Scrimgeour and Stacy Robison started the business in their Northampton attic. The couple quickly outgrew that space, eventually establishing an office on nearby Market Street. Over the past 10 years, the company has been successfully evolving into a full-service communications shop. The mission-based company works for some of the biggest names in healthcare and public health, including health-insurance companies, health systems, patient-advocacy groups, and government. They also take on projects for local hospitals and community organizations. CommunicateHealth is headquartered in Northampton with a second office in the Washington, D.C. area. It employs more than 65 employees across both offices. In 2018, the company recorded more than $12 million in sales.

Hazen Paper Co. Wins AIMCAL Product of the Year

HOLYOKE — Turning a simple box into an unusual ‘beauty and the beast’ packaging statement, Hazen Paper Co. was honored for the second year in a row with Product of the Year honors at the annual meeting of the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters, and Laminators (AIMCAL), held recently in Palm Beach, Calif. The winning entry was a folding carton titled “The Spirit of Innovation” for prestige luxury box maker Autajon Packaging USA, which featured a three-dimensional, jewel-toned snake and a female model whose face transformed from flawless to gorgeously reptilian when the box is tilted. The folding carton was made with precisely registered custom color-motion holography that reflects and refracts light to bring the snake’s sinuous curves to life and allows the woman’s face and eye to blaze with unexpected snake-like gleam. The box is embossed with a snakeskin pattern and finished with a soft-touch coating. Inside, a sea-green coating contrasts with the rich black exterior. Hazen also received a “Product Excellence” award for Benefit Cosmetics’ Hoola Quickie Contour Stick packaging, created with silver Ultracure acrylic-coated metallized polyester laminated to paperboard, offset-printed in transparent and opaque colors, and embossed. Judges rewarded the package for its extensive use of embossing, halftone reproduction, tight registration, and vivid green interior.

Complete Payroll Solutions Reports Record Growth

SPRINGFIELD — Complete Payroll Solutions announced it saw more than 100% year-over-year revenue growth compared to a year ago, setting a record pace of new customer acquisitions. The momentum reflects the company’s investment in its people and processes to better serve clients. This momentum is evidenced by several highlights from 2018, including four location openings in Wakefield, Mass., White Plains, N.Y., West Warwick, R.I., and Portsmouth, N.H.; 35 new employees across all offices and an expanded sales force with 10 additional salespeople, providing enhanced resources in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut; a new HR consulting division that delivers local, personalized HR solutions to clients; partnerships with industry leaders like BankRI, Brookline Bank, and First Ipswich Bank, along with the company’s continued relationship with Webster Bank; and the addition of iSolved, an HCM technology, to complement its existing platform, Kronos. Together, the solutions help clients with their workforce-management processes, including payroll, time and attendance, benefits, and HR to recruit, onboard, and manage employees. Founded in 2003 as a startup venture by owners with a long tradition in the industry, Complete Payroll Solutions now has 14 locations throughout the Northeast with 150 employees, and services over 6,000 clients across all 50 states.

Financial Times Ranks Isenberg’s Online MBA First among U.S. Programs

AMHERST — The online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has been ranked first in the U.S. and third in the world by the Financial Times. With one of the largest and most established accredited online MBA programs in the country, the Isenberg School of Management has provided online education opportunities for nearly 16 years. More than 1,100 students are currently enrolled in the program. The Isenberg School stood out in the Financial Times’ 2019 rankings in a number of areas. The online MBA program ranked first for increase in salary after earning an MBA, with a 39% increase; first in the U.S. for total salary; and first for percentage of female faculty, with 45%. Furthermore, the program ranked fifth in online interaction, which measures how well alumni rate interactions between students, teamwork, and availability of faculty. Isenberg’s online MBA program offers an expansive course of study, from business analytics, finance, and healthcare administration to marketing and sports management. Isenberg students come from all 50 states and around the globe, and include physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, and scientists.

Bay Path University Receives Grant for Student Internship Experiences

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University has been awarded $5,000 in grant funding support from the Charles H. Hall Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., trustee, for its project, “Impacting the Community: Fostering Social Justice Through Student Internships.” The foundation’s support will benefit Bay Path undergraduate students who are performing internships at nonprofits in Hampden County, including Square One, the Jewish Community Center, and Girls Inc., all of whom service at-risk children and youth. Bay Path requires its traditional undergraduate students to complete a three- or six-credit internship, research project, or field-work experience, depending on their major, to ensure they have the opportunities to develop the skills and competencies that will help them launch their careers. This funding, which will cover four internships, will help relieve the financial worry that unpaid internships can bring for students. Many Bay Path students hold part-time jobs to make ends meet, and adding an unpaid internship to the mix can be stressful.

BFMC Receives Grants for Community Film Fund

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative (BFMC) received two grant awards for its newly established Community Film Fund, which is a matching fund to help local nonprofit organizations create videos for their branding, marketing, fundraising, and social media. The grants were received from the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Feigenbaum Foundation, each in the amount of $2,500. In today’s world, video messaging is becoming increasingly important. Wordstream, an online advertising company, states that the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text, and an initial e-mail with a video receives an click-through rate increase of 96%. BFMC is in the process of raising $50,000 for this new initiative, which it expects to launch later this spring. BFMC is partnering with the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires to provide information to local organizations about this opportunity.

Springfield College Students Volunteer in Trinidad and Tobago

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College Physical Therapy Professor Kim Nowakowski led a group of graduate students in the health sciences at Springfield College on a global health service trip during spring break. For the third consecutive year, Nowakowski’s group, together with healthcare professionals from Trinidad and Tobago, provided a National Fall Prevention Program in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Fall Prevention program in Trinidad and Tobago was developed based on a needs assessment conducted with physiotherapists from Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited and the Physiotherapy Assoc. of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT). PATT is the sole professional body that represents all physiotherapists in Trinidad and Tobago. Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited was established in 2007 to provide quality healthcare in a friendly, compassionate environment that is geared towards facilitating healing and return to the function of living. Carla Rauseo, a 2005 alumna of the Springfield College physical therapy program who is a physical therapist and co-owner of Total Rehabilitation and a member of PATT, initiated the collaborative effort with Springfield College’s physical therapy program. Since the initiation of the program, the Stay Steady Foundation, a non-governmental organization, has been created to promote sustainability of the Stay Steady Fall Prevention Program, and the involvement of Springfield College has been instrumental to provide the screenings, Rauseo said.

Company Notebook

West of the River Chamber Foundation Funds Equipment at Agawam High School

AGAWAM — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce and its 501(c)(3) foundation presented Agawam High School with a check for $3,600 on Feb. 27 for the purchase of a Haas Simulator for its new manufacturing program. The West of the River Chamber Foundation (WRCF) has a mission to impact the local economy and area businesses by engaging in philanthropic work in the communities of Agawam and West Springfield. It recognizes that approximately 500 machinists’ jobs are vacant in the Commonwealth on any given day. This affects local business and industry because they cannot hire skilled machinists, and, therefore, machine shops cannot operate at maximum capacity. Lower productivity means lower incoming revenue. In an effort to alleviate this problem, the WRCF enacted a plan. It formed a focus group with the Agawam school system and the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative. The focus group’s efforts have resulted in programs, like the new Agawam High School program, implemented in its STEM program to introduce students to the vocation of a machinist. With the purchase of the new machines, the students will be able to learn trades that will provide them with lifelong skills and careers. Ace Precision, a manufacturing company in Agawam, has purchased two new simulators and donated a CNC machine towards this new program as well. Agawam High School has received more than $100,000 in community donations towards this new opportunity for its students.

Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts Earns 5-Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM), now celebrating its centennial anniversary, has earned a 5-Star Award from Junior Achievement USA for the third consecutive year. Junior Achievement organizations are judged on five categories: Student Growth/Year-over-Year % Change in Contact Hours; Surplus; Cash on Hand; Debt Ratio, and Current Ratio, defined as current assets divided by current liabilities. All chapters must meet the criteria for Surplus and at least one of the two student ratios, with the level of the star determined by how many of the other three standards are met. JAWM’s volunteer-delivered, K-12 programs foster work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to reach their potential. It provides turnkey solutions for businesses to engage students; rigorous and proven curriculum to educators for Massachusetts frameworks in English-language arts, mathematics, and social studies; and business-startup experience for teens. In addition, Junior Achievement provides educational programming for K-12 students that supports the newly signed law by Gov. Charlie Baker aimed at giving Massachusetts students the tools they need to navigate their financial futures, including milestones like buying a home and planning for retirement. The law allows state education officials to establish standards around financial literacy, which schools could incorporate into their existing curricula in subjects like math, business, and social sciences.

 

Allied Flooring and Paint Donates $5,000 to MHA

SPRINGFIELD — Allied Flooring and Paint made a $5,000 donation to support the work of MHA, which provides residential and support services to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and homelessness. “Allied has supplied and installed carpet, floors, and paint for MHA residences throughout the area for many years,” said Allied President Mario Tedeschi. “These are family homes for the individuals MHA serves, and I’m proud to help ensure they are comfortable, clean, and bright.” Kimberley Lee, vice president, Resource Development & Branding for MHA, noted that the donation will support MHA’s new outpatient clinic for emotional wellness, known as BestLife. “I’ve had opportunity to see first-hand the compassion and caring that MHA has for the clients they serve,” Tedeschi said. “I’m proud of my long-time affiliation with MHA and consider myself a champion of their work and a cheerleader as well.”

Company Notebook

Johnson & Hill Staffing Cops ‘Best of Staffing’ Honors

WEST SPRINGFIELD —  Johnson & Hill Staffing, specializing in administrative, professional, legal, and accounting and finance staffing in the Western Mass. and Northern Conn. region, announced recently that it has won ClearlyRated’s Best of Staffing Client and Talent Awards. Johnson & Hill achieved World Class status, a distinction reserved for firms who receive a 70% or higher net promoter score (on a scale running from –100 to +100). It received satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from 90.9% of its clients and 75% of its talent — significantly higher than the industry’s average in both categories. “At Johnson & Hill Staffing, we always strive to differentiate ourselves on service,” said Johnson & Hill President Andrea Hill-Cataldo. “We’re focused on relationships and the long term with our clients, and we push ourselves to offer the best possible experience to each candidate we meet. It’s very exciting to see our efforts recognized in this way.” All data is gathered through ClearlyRated and includes feedback both from clients and candidates Johnson & Hill has helped find jobs.

Mountain View Acquires Amherst Landscape & Design

CHICOPEE — Stephen Corrigan, of Mountain View Landscapes & Lawncare Inc., announced the recent acquisition of Amherst Landscape & Design Associates. Since 1976, Corrigan has spent the last 43 years offering landscape-maintenance and construction services throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and surrounding states. In 1979, Steve Prothers established Amherst Landscape & Design, providing the Pioneer Valley and beyond with creative design-build landscape installations. Focused on project development, Prothers will be dedicated to expanding the residential and commercial projects division of Mountain View Landscapes. Mountain View Landscapes and Amherst Landscape & Design have always held a strong belief that their team members are the cornerstone of the work that is accomplished and the success they achieve, Corrigan said.

SkinCatering Earns Women’s Business Enterprise Certficate

SPRINGFIELD — SkinCatering, LLC, an all-natural skincare brand with two spa locations in Springfield and Holyoke, announced it has been awarded the national WBENC Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certificate. WBENC’s certification validates that the business is 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women. “We are making purposeful strides to create the foundation to allow women to own a franchise location of SkinCatering concept spas,” said Leanne Sedlak, owner, chief visionary officer, and lead massage therapist. “I believe this certification is important for any woman considering going into business with us and opening their own SkinCatering branch.” The application process was rigorous, including on-site visits, as the WBENC certification standard is the most relied-upon certification of women-owned businesses, Sedlak said.

Chicopee Savings Foundation Awards $17,000 Grant to MHA

SPRINGFIELD — The Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation has awarded a $17,000 grant over two years to MHA Inc. to help upgrade and repair two of the nonprofit organization’s community-based residences for people with developmental disabilities. The scope of work provided through the grant targets two of MHA’s residential programs located in Chicopee and will provide a new wheelchair-accessible ramp and roof repairs. MHA’s developmental-disability homes based in Chicopee serve adults facing challenges such as severe developmental delays, cerebral palsy, autistic disorder, epilepsy/seizure disorder, and blindness.

Springfield College, YMCA Unveil Online Degree-completion Program

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper and YMCA President and CEO Kevin Washington recently signed a five-year agreement for an online degree-completion program, which provides staff, who have earned leadership certification through YMCA of the USA, an opportunity to turn that learning into college credits that can count towards their degree completion at Springfield College. The program’s participants represent the first class of students participating in full online courses at Springfield College. The inaugural class of 30 YMCA professionals representing the new degree-completion program recently visited the campus for their new-student orientation. The cohort will begin working toward earning their degrees through the Springfield College online courses starting immediately. These 30 students each received scholarship funding through a grant made possible by the Harold C. Smith Foundation.

Abington Bank to Merge with Pilgrim Bank, Expanding Hometown Financial Group

ABINGTON — Andrew Raczka, CEO of Abington Bank, announced that Abington Bank will merge with Pilgrim Bank, a member of Hometown Financial Group, MHC, the holding company that includes Easthampton-based bankESB. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year. Raczka will lead the merged bank as its CEO. Hometown Financial Group recently closed on its acquisition of Pilgrim Bank. “Pilgrim Bank was our entry point into the Eastern Massachusetts market,” said Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of Hometown Financial Group Inc. “From the start, we knew that finding the right mutual partner would be the key to our success with our acquisition of Pilgrim Bancshares Inc.” Following the transaction, Hometown Financial Group will have consolidated assets of $2.7 billion and 30 branches across Massachusetts and Northeastern Conn.

Bay Path Awarded Grant to Connect Adult Women with Jobs

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University was named a winner of a philanthropic funding contest by national nonprofit Strada Education Network. Bay Path was awarded $1,582,600 for a three-year project titled “Closing the Gaps: Building Pathways for Adult Women in a Technology-driven Workforce.” Implemented through the American Women’s College of Bay Path University, the project will address a critical national need for developing a digitally fluent workforce — applicable not only in cybersecurity and the tech sector, but in other fields as well — that is well-prepared with foundational 21st-century skills in digital technologies, coding, data science, and systems thinking, and the ability to apply these skills across different problems, settings, and industries. Bay Path will use its grant to undertake extensive employer research and engagement and to build capacity of the American Women’s College to scale enrollment of adult women and prepare them with core cybersecurity and information-technology competencies that meet the needs of employers, support them as they persist to degree completion, and assist them to successfully transition to careers in cybersecurity and IT-related employment.

ACC Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program Offers Opportunities for Free Tuition, Wage Reimbursement

ENFIELD, Conn. — Starting in March, Asnuntuck Community College is offering a new, free apprenticeship program that will provide employers an opportunity to both enhance their employees’ skills and receive wage reimbursements of up to $13,000 per participant. This two-year program has a $3,750 value per participant but will be entirely free for Connecticut businesses. The time commitment will be three hours per week (Mondays from 6 to 9 p.m.), with breaks for holidays and summer, and classes will occur evenings at Asnuntuck Community College. The Asnuntuck Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship will cover Applied Shop Math, Blueprint Reading (I and II), Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing, Overview of Mechanical Maintenance, Overview of Industrial Maintenance, OSHA 30 – General Industry, and Quality Control. Businesses seeking more information on this opportunity at Asnuntuck may contact Gary Carra at (860) 253-3128 or [email protected]

GCC Increases Job-related Technical Training in Region

GREENFIELD — Thanks to a recent Skills Capital Grant award from the Commonwealth, Greenfield Community College (GCC) will soon increase its capacity and upgrading its medical assistant certificate (MAC) program by offering additional training at its existing satellite location on the campus of Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School in Northampton. The Baker-Polito administration has awarded more than $52 million over the past three years through Skills Capital Grants across the Commonwealth. This round of grants focus on helping residents with barriers to employment, including those who are unemployed or underemployed, lack English proficiency, or do not have degrees or certificates and need new skills to obtain good-paying jobs. The grants cover a broad array of fields from construction and engineering to healthcare and hospitality. Greenfield Community College received $83,764 to purchase portable examination tables, patient simulation anatomical trainers, and medical instrument sterilization equipment. The expansion of GCC’s MAC program will provide greater access to technical education and training in Franklin and Hampshire counties to attract recent high-school graduates, incumbent workers looking to gain new skills, and displaced workers training for new careers in healthcare.

Company Notebook

White Lion Brewery Moving into Tower Square

SPRINGFIELD — White Lion Brewery has signed a long-term lease to occupy 10,000 square feet of space at the former Spaghetti Freddy’s location in Tower Square. The space was vacant for close to 15 years, but will now house a full-scale production and packaging facility with a taproom. Brewing equipment and mechanicals arrived at Tower Square on Dec. 20. The ownership at Tower Square has taken another step to show its commitment to the city of Springfield by becoming a strategic equity partner in White Lion. The agreement provides further support and financial assistance during the brewery’s growth. White Lion acquired its brewing, mechanical, and refrigeration systems from Rooster Fish Brewing out of Watkins Glen, N.Y. The system will allow White Lion to brew approximately 10,000 barrels, or in excess of 100,000 cases, of beer annually from the downtown Springfield location. The company expects to invest approximately $1 million in the project, which includes expanding its independent distribution model and hiring up to 20 employees. The brewery is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

TommyCar Auto Group Adds Volvo Franchise

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group announced its ownership of the Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley dealership, formerly Pioneer Valley Volvo. Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, noted that Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will bring amenities that all TommyCar Auto Group dealerships offer, including Click.Drive.Buy, a new way to buy a car online; TommyCard Rewards, through which customers can earn 15% back of every dollar they spend; and efforts to support the local community; the company has contributed more than $4 million to local organizations, schools, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will commemorate the new ownership with an “Eat.Meet. Greet” event on Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Customers can get an early look at the long-awaited 2019 Volvo S60, hors d’ouevres from Seth Mias Catering, cocktails from Hitchcock Brewing, and giveaways.

Dress for Success Receives $10K for Mentoring Program

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts received a donation of $10,000 in continued support of its Margaret R. Fitzgerald mentoring program. This program was initially launched with a $10,000 donation from this anonymous family member in 2017, and this new donation is intended to continue and expand the success of the mentoring program. Fitzgerald was a secretary in the Physics department at Mount Holyoke College in the 1970s. The only woman who worked in the department, she became a point of support for the students enrolled in the exclusively male-led department. Affectionately called ‘Mom’ by many of the women enrolled in the department, the students looked to her for advice, help, counsel, and encouragement. She was known to intervene with certain professors to advocate on behalf of students when there were issues or problems. She reminded students that they were clearing the way for future generations of scientists. Because of her, many of the women achieved advanced degrees from prestigious universities all over the world. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is currently accepting applications for mentors interested in the Margaret R. Fitzgerald program. Contact Tantillo at (860) 638-8980.

Webster Bank Rated Best Overall Bank in Northeast

WATERBURY, Conn. — Webster Bank was named best overall bank in the Northeast in Bank Director’s annual RankingBanking study released late last month. The 2019 RankingBanking study identifies the top public U.S. retail and commercial banks between $10 billion and $250 billion in assets within each region — the South, the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast. In addition to placing first overall in the Northeast, Webster was also the top bank in the Northeast in three key categories: Best Technology Strategy, Best Board, and Best Small Business Strategy. The rankings were calculated using Bank Director’s proprietary algorithm, which incorporates more than 60 critical data points to measure banks’ relative strengths and weaknesses. The data points used were both qualitative and quantitative, including case studies and analyst opinions. Many factors went into Webster’s top rankings, including the bank’s high-level focus on digital banking and user experience, the diversity and expertise of its board, and its small-business loan growth and volume. “We also noted Webster’s robust selection of products and services tailored for small businesses, the fact that customers can apply for loan and deposit products online, and Webster’s ability to generate online loan decisions within 48 hours,” said Emily McCormick, Bank Director’s vice president of Research. Bank Director is a leading information resource for the directors and officers of financial institutions across the nation.

People’s United Foundation Gives $105,000 to Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, N.A., announced it awarded $105,000 to nonprofits located in Western and Central Mass. during its third grant cycle of 2018. Funding was allocated to 21 nonprofit organizations in support of activities that ranged from basic needs services and affordable-housing initiatives to education and workforce-development programs. Some of the grant recipients included the Literacy Project, the Gray House, YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Entrepreneurship for All, Roca, and Veterans Inc. In total, People’s United Community Foundation awarded $875,500 during its third grant cycle of 2018 to 171 organizations throughout the communities it serves in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The grants were disseminated in alignment with the foundations’ three areas of focus, including 43% to community and economic development, 37% to youth development, and 20% to affordable-housing initiatives. For a detailed list of organizations that People’s United Community Foundation supported during the final grant cycle of 2018, visit www.pucf.org.

Holyoke Community College Celebrates Success of Arrivals from Puerto Rico

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College recently celebrated the success of 30 evacuees who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and have just completed a five-month program to help them improve their English literacy skills, adjust to life on the U.S. mainland, and find jobs. The celebration and recognition ceremony was held on Dec. 20. The festivities included a feast of traditional Puerto Rican food for participants, their families, and program staff. The Puerto Rican New Arrivals Program started July 23. The HCC division of Business and Community Services offered the free ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) program specifically for residents of Puerto Rico who left the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and relocated to Western Mass. The classes were held Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and funded through a National Dislocated Worker grant administered by the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board in partnership with the MassHire Holyoke and MassHire Springfield career centers. The purpose of the program was to help individuals improve their English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills; adapt to U.S. culture; and successfully transition to jobs or continued educational opportunities. Classes included civic lessons from guest speakers including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and state Rep. Aaron Vega, who talked about local and state government.

Comcast Selected for Broadband Project in Town of Worthington

WESTBOROUGH — The Mass. Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) formally approved an award of $2.2 million to Comcast to support the construction of a broadband network in the town of Worthington. The grant, which was approved by both the MassTech Executive Committee and the MBI board of directors, followed a majority vote at Worthington’s town meeting in May choosing Comcast and supporting the construction of its advanced fiber network to deliver broadband to the town, including approval of a project coverage map. Comcast and Worthington also signed a formal cable franchise agreement on Dec. 11. The proposed broadband network will deliver expanded connectivity to more than 96% of Worthington’s residential and business premises once the project is complete. Under the grant agreement, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will provide an award of $2,213,809 from the Last Mile program, funds which will supplement Comcast’s capital investment in the construction of the Worthington network. The MBI will utilize Worthington’s original Last Mile allocation of $1,070,000, with the remaining funds coming from additional investments from both the Commonwealth and the town, utilizing an agreement which will allow the town to contribute year over year without having to use municipal bonds.

Smith Brothers Insurance Helps Local Children

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance sponsored 25 children in need this holiday season and raised $5,000 for the 2018 Holiday Bear Project. For 12 straight years, Smith Brothers’ team members donated money and time for this annual gift-giving program for needy public-school children. Team members individually sponsored a child, donated money, and coordinated company fundraising activities. Hundreds of gifts were purchased and wrapped for students ranging in age from 5 to 17. More than 10,000 public-school students have benefited from the holiday program since the Holiday Bear Project began in 1998. The Smith Brothers team also conducted a toy drive for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a food collection for a local food bank.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBancorp, MHC Closes on Acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, has closed on its acquisition of the First National Bank of Suffield, effective Nov. 30. All the current branches of the First National Bank of Suffield opened and conducted business on Dec. 1 under the trade name First Suffield Bank, a Division of PeoplesBank. First Suffield Bank has four branches located in Suffield, West Suffield, East Granby, and Windsor Locks, Conn. PeoplesBank has 20 banking centers located throughout Hampden and Hampshire counties in Massachusetts. In connection with the completion of the acquisition, one member of the board of directors of First Suffield Bank will join the board of directors of PeoplesBank and the board of trustees of PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, and certain other directors of First Suffield Bank will be provided the opportunity to serve as corporators of PeoplesBancorp. The combined organization has approximately $2.8 billion in assets and $1.9 billion in deposits.

Berkshire Hills to Acquire SI Financial Group

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and SI Financial Group Inc. announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire SIFI and its subsidiary, Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co., in an all-stock transaction valued at $180 million based on Berkshire’s stock price as of the close of business on Dec. 10. Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $13.6 billion, including the $1.6 billion in acquired SIFI assets. SIFI reported $1.3 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits as of Sept. 30. This merger agreement increases Berkshire’s market presence with 18 branches in Eastern Conn. and five branches in Rhode Island, adding to Berkshire’s nine existing Connecticut branches.

MachineMetrics Announces $11.3 Million Funding Round

NORTHAMPTON — MachineMetrics, which equips factories with the digital tools needed to increase productivity and win more business, announced it has raised $11.3 million in Series A financing. Tola Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Hyperplane Venture Capital, Long River Ventures, Mass Ventures, Hub Angels, and Firebolt Ventures. With the new funds, the company will expand its data-science and product-development teams while accelerating global sales. MachineMetrics is a pioneer in industrial IoT (internet of things) technology. Its system is designed so customers can install it themselves without the need for expensive and time-consuming customization. Once installed, manufacturers can collect, visualize, and analyze data from any industrial machine. It automatically senses when there is a problem, even predicting some problems hours or minutes before they occur, and recommends solutions that reduce costly unplanned outages. In addition, MachineMetrics benchmarks a company’s machine performance against those of its peers to help guide future investments. Integrated into factories globally, MachineMetrics serves customers including Fastenal, Snap-On Tools, National Oilwell Varco, Gardner Denver, Continental, Saint Gobain, Shiloh Automotive, and SECO Tools.

NAI Plotkin Sells Historic Hampden Bank Building

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it represented the seller in the sale of 1665 Main St., a 2,010-square-foot commercial building, formerly Hampden Savings Bank, located in downtown Springfield. The building was constructed in 1918 and has a glass ceiling with an ornate supporting structure, marble walls, and copper entrance. The asset sold for $285,000, although it last assessed for $127,600. Wilfredo Lopez of NAI Plotkin was the listing broker for the property. RLTY Development Springfield LLC secured the property and, as the new owner, plans to complete restoration of the original bank building and open a retail cannabis location. The building is also located directly across the street from the Paramount Theater and one block from the newly renovated Union Station. The next steps for the new owner will be to gain approval for the retail establishment by the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and the City Council.

Bay Path University Named Safest College in Massachusetts

LONGMEADOW — Campus safety is a top consideration for many individuals and their families when it comes to choosing a college to attend. Niche.com compiled a list of the safest college campuses in America, and Bay Path University ranked third out of nearly 1,500 reviewed. The university ranked first for safety in both Massachusetts and New England. “We do as much as we can to ensure that the Bay Path University campus is a safe place,” said Michael Giampietro, vice president for Finance & Administrative Services. “Campus safety is a top priority here. Our Longmeadow campus, in particular, is well-lit with emergency call boxes, and our staff performs routine building checks.” He also credited Bay Path’s small size, and the fact that students, facuty, and staff tend to know each other. “We’re also fortunate for our location in the very safe town of Longmeadow, where we work to maintain a good relationship with the local fire and police departments.” According to Niche.com, the 2019 Safest College Campuses ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. The site states that top-ranked colleges offer a safe and healthy environment with little or no campus crime, drugs, or alcohol usage. Specific factors considered include campus crime rate, local crime grade, student surveys on safety, residence-hall date violence rate, residence-hall rape rate, alcohol-related arrests, and drug-related arrests.

AIC Awarded Matching Grant from George I. Alden Trust

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester to be applied to the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences building project. George Alden established the George I. Alden Trust in 1912 for the purpose of maintenance of charitable or philanthropic enterprises, with specific interest in the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions. This grant is the largest ever given to AIC by Alden Trust and offers a unique and inspiring challenge: the funds will be realized only if the college’s alumni match the pledge within 18 months. “It is an all-or-nothing match,” said Heather Gawron, executive director of Institutional Advancement for AIC. “We must raise the full $150,000 in order to receive any of the matched funds. With the support of our alumni, we are confident that this prerequisite is achievable and will strive to meet our goal by September 2019.” Alumni interested in learning more about the Alden Trust challenge are encouraged to contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at (413) 205-3520, [email protected], or www.aic.edu/give/alden-grant.

The Channel Company Names NetLogix to Next-Gen 250 List

WESTFIELD — NetLogix announced that CRN, a brand of the Channel Company, named NetLogix to to its 2018 Next-Gen 250 list. The annual list identifies IT solution providers who have embraced emerging technologies and are setting the pace for the rest of the channel in their adoption. Those on the list have been able to meet their customers’ ever-changing IT needs in leading-edge technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, virtualization, mobility, business analytics, and business intelligence.

NetLogix is a network-management, cloud, and systems-technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions that ensure business integrity for small, medium-sized, and enterprise-level clients. The Westfield-based company designs, implements and manages IT solutions spanning computing infrastructure, enterprise management, VoIP, security, and cloud solutions.

Worcester State University, WNEU School of Law Forge Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — Worcester State University (WSU) and Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law have signed a 3+3 articulation agreement that allows undergraduate students attending Worcester State University to apply for admission to the private law school and begin their legal education during their senior year. The agreement shortens the time required for students to earn both a bachelor’s and law degree from seven years to six years. WNEU President Anthony Caprio, who codified the agreement on behalf of Western New England University at the signing ceremony, noted that “this collaborative arrangement with Worcester State University will open doors for more students to access high-caliber legal education with our special brand of individualized student attention.” The agreement means qualified Worcester State University students who successfully complete their major requirements in three years, leaving them with only free electives, will have a seamless transition to Western New England University’s law school during what would be their senior year. Credits earned during the first year of law school will count towards the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Three academic departments at Worcester State will offer an academic gateway into the program: Criminal Justice, History and Political Science, and Philosophy. Upon completion of three years of law school, students earn a juris doctor (JD) from WNEU. With an emphasis on practical lawyering skills, Western New England University’s juris doctor program combines rigorous coursework covering the theory and practical application of the law with extensive experiential opportunities in legal clinics and externships. A variety of concentrations allows individual students to customize their legal education to gain added experience in specific practice areas.

Company Notebook

Epstein Financial Services Moves to East Longmeadow

EAST LONGMEADOW — Epstein Financial Services has relocated from Holyoke to a new, expanded office space on 12 Somers Road in East Longmeadow. Its new phone number is (413) 224-3606. Epstein Financial Services was renting its previous location in Holyoke and now owns its new office in East Longmeadow. Its square footage has increased by 50%. In addition to a new video studio used to film promotional and educational 401K Coach Program videos and promote clients’ businesses, the new location features plentiful and accessible parking, as well as larger conference and meeting spaces.

NAI Plotkin Sells 1492 Boston Road Property

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, an office of NAI Global, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it has sold 1492 Boston Road, which consists of a 9,697-square-foot commercial building, formerly the Smokey Bones Restaurant, and an adjacent 20,585-square-foot commercial building, currently occupied by Namco. The asset was sold to Restoration Worship Center/Centro de Restauracion Adoracion for $2.2 million and includes a total of 6.1 acres of land next to the Lowe’s shopping plaza. Bill Low and Stephen Picard teamed up to sell the property, which was on the market for years with several real-estate companies.

Harry Grodsky & Co. Marks 100th Anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — One of America’s largest mechanical contractors achieves a new milestone this month as Harry Grodsky & Co. Inc. officially celebrates its 100th anniversary. The family-owned firm will pay tribute to both the old and the new with its centennial event on Friday, Oct. 19 at MGM Springfield. The Grodsky story began in 1918, and for four generations the company has remained focused on solving complex problems. Grodsky’s 100th-anniversary event will highlight various stories that comprise the company’s history and culture, including noteworthy projects, past and current employees and business partners, and its ongoing commitment to the Pan-Mass Challenge.

Rays of Hope Grants $17,000 to Cancer House of Hope

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Rays of Hope, part of the Baystate Health Foundation, has made a grant to the Cancer House of Hope to support services for women affected by breast cancer. The grant, totaling over $17,000, will support integrative therapies at the Cancer House of Hope, including Reiki, massage therapy, a relaxation group, and support groups. Rays of Hope has been a strong supporter of the Cancer House of Hope, both financially and as a community partner, for a number of years. This grant is the most recent affirmation of this long-standing relationship. Last week, Cancer House of Hope dedicated a room in honor of Rays of Hope. In addition to Reiki, massage therapy, and support groups, the Cancer House of Hope also provides wigs and related services, access to mastectomy bras and forms, and yoga classes. All services provided at the Cancer House of Hope are free of charge to anyone affected by cancer.

Elms Offers Grants for Urban, Catholic Education

CHICOPEE — Elms College now offers two new educational grants to help incoming first-year students offset tuition costs. The Urban Education Grant and the Catholic Education Grant each award new students $2,000. Students attending Springfield, Chicopee, or Holyoke public schools in Massachusetts are eligible for the Urban Education Grant, which is open to students attending a Catholic high school anywhere in the country. To qualify for either grant, students must be currently enrolled at their respective public or Catholic schools at the time of their application to Elms College. All qualifying students will be automatically considered for these grants when applying to Elms. These new awards can be paired with other merit-based scholarships and financial aid offered by the college, but not with each other.

Company Notebook

Elms College Launches Student Leadership Institute

CHICOPEE — To expand its offering of leadership-development opportunities to all students, the Elms College will launch the Elms College Student Leadership Institute (SLI) at the start of the fall 2018 semester. SLI — run by the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership — encourages leadership development by hosting dynamic workshops and seminars; establishing mentoring relationships with faculty, staff, and students within the campus community; creating opportunities for community service by partnering with local organizations; and sparking discussions with peers about important personal and social issues. Fall 2018 SLI sessions include offerings centered around the college’s core values of faith, community, justice, and excellence. Participants may choose to attend individual sessions for personal enrichment, or take part in a series of sessions to earn a certificate in values-based leadership. This certificate is awarded to students who complete all eight of the SLI programs offered each year. The new institute is an extension of Elms College’s existing Sophomore Leadership Program, which will continue to be offered this year as a part of SLI to encourage second-year students to engage in deep development of their leadership qualities and potential. Through leadership programming, workshops, and activities, sophomores will self-reflect, develop skills, and make changes through action.

Colony Hills Capital Sells Mobile Five Portfolio for $134.3M

WILBRAHAM — Colony Hills Capital announced that it recently sold the 2,013-unit Mobile Five portfolio for $134,300,000. The sale of the multi-family apartment portfolio, purchased for $98 million in May 2013, produced a healthy, double-digit return for the firm’s investors. This sale is the latest example of Colony Hills’ ability to source investment opportunities to which it can add substantial value through strategic capital investments and optimizing on-site management. This profitable investment also highlights how Colony Hills can enter various markets and capitalize on opportunities that others may overlook. Colony Hills recognized that Mobile, Ala. was an underappreciated market for multi-family investments and purchased the portfolio prior to the arrival of major employers like Airbus, Whole Foods, SSAB, and Amazon, as well as the major expansion of Austal, USA. Colony Hills Capital is a real-estate investment company specializing in the acquisition and management of value-add multi-family properties. The investment targets are typically sourced ‘off-market,’ and at the time Colony Hills acquires them, they are underperforming relative to their peers in the marketplace. The Mobile Five portfolio was identified as an ideal investment by President David Kaufman, due to it being mismanaged, undercapitalized, and lacking a clear business plan. The portfolio consists of five separate communities comprising a variety of vintages and styles, which catered to a wide spectrum of renters. The properties are Yester Oaks (587 units), Crossings at Pinebrook (545 units), Windsor Place (384 units), Sandpiper Townhomes (253 units), and Pathways Apartments (244 units). The portfolio is also geographically diversified, from east of Interstate 65 to the western suburbs, and further diversified in product quality ranging from class-A to class-C apartments, demonstrating that Colony Hills has the capability to manage assets of varying classes and in diverse locations. While under Colony Hills’ ownership, the properties benefited from a $4 million capital-improvement program which focused on upgrading unit interiors, modernizing outdated clubhouses, adding resident amenities such as fitness centers and dog parks, and enhancing existing resort-size pools with new furniture and grilling centers. Colony Hills also rebranded the communities with new signage and landscaping, and added management systems to optimize the marketing and sales execution. As a result of these improvements, average rents rose considerably. The neighborhoods surrounding the communities improved as well. A new Whole Foods market moved in a short distance from Crossings at Pinebrook. The city of Mobile garnered a number of awards for the business climate created by the addition of Whole Foods, Airbus, Amazon, and SSAB.

Bay Path’s Online Liberal Studies Program Earns National Accolades

LONGMEADOW — The American Women’s College at Bay Path University has been helping women complete their bachelor’s degrees at twice the rate of the national average since its inception in 2013, thanks to its digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning). This innovative approach to education has placed its bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies among the 50 best in the nation, as ranked by TheBestSchools.org, which ranked colleges based on six major categories: academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, financial aid, range of degree programs, and strength of online instruction methodology. The university’s program placed 21st on the list, in which the editor highlighted the freedom it provides to students, particularly adult women who have other responsibilities, including family and work obligations, to design an academic program to suit their needs and schedule. The SOUL model uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps, and has been recognized with more than $5 million in support from industry thought leaders and organizations. SOUL was developed after the American Women’s College was awarded a grant through the First in the World competition administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The four-year, $3.5 million award was used to develop — and continually hone — the program by improving educator access to learning data, allowing for targeted feedback and personalized guidance. SOUL has been recognized with several other grants and awards from national foundations, the federal government, and awarding agencies.

PV Financial Group Makes $5,000 Donation to MHA

SPRINGFIELD — Ed Sokolowski, managing partner of PV Financial Group in Ludlow, presented a $5,000 donation to MHA on Sept. 6. “At PV Financial Group, we are committed to giving back to our community and demonstrating leadership through philanthropy,” said Sokolowski. “Instead of spending money on traditional marketing efforts, we choose instead to invest dollars directly into organizations that support the future growth of our community. MHA is close to our hearts because the organization’s ideals of integrity, respect, and compassion are directly aligned with our values at PV Financial Group. While our organizations may have different clients, we believe they all deserve to be treated with the same level of care.” Cheryl Fasano, president and CEO of MHA, noted that the funds will be directed to the agency’s efforts to launch a new outpatient behavioral-health clinic in Springfield this January.

First Connecticut Bancorp Issues Quarterly Dividend

FARMINGTON, Conn. — First Connecticut Bancorp Inc. announced that its board of directors has voted to pay its quarterly dividend of $0.17 per share. Dividends will be payable on Sept. 17 to all shareholders of record as of Sept. 7. First Connecticut Bancorp is the holding company for Farmington Bank, a full-service community bank with 25 branch locations throughout Central Conn. and Western Mass., offering commercial and residential lending as well as wealth-management services. Farmington Bank has assets of $3.3 billion.

Bay Path Recognizes Springfield JCC with Award

LONGMEADOW — Springfield Jewish Community Center was recognized with Bay Path University’s first-ever Community Partnership Spirit Award, which is bestowed upon an individual, team, or organization that has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the Bay Path community, students, and mission by playing an integral role in student success through mentorship, leadership, and fostering career development. The Springfield JCC was selected as this year’s award recipient from a pool of nominations submitted by faculty and staff at Bay Path throughout the spring. The process was thorough, requiring that nominations include a narrative explaining the impact of the partner on Bay Path’s mission and students. A selection committee reviewed submissions and made the final decision. “Students from our occupational therapy, psychology, and education programs have held internships, volunteered, and engaged in service learning projects with the organization,” Bay Path President Carol Leary said. “Most recently, our master’s in occupational therapy faculty and students collaborated with the JCC Kehillah program for individuals with special needs to develop a ‘SensiPlay’ program for children with various disabilities.”

Bulkley Richardson Launches Cannabis Practice

SPRINGFIELD — As the legalization of marijuana continues to roll out in Massachusetts, attorneys at Bulkley Richardson saw an opportunity to meet the unique needs of businesses within the cannabis industry. The firm assembled a group of cross-disciplinary lawyers to form a cannabis practice group. To help launch this new practice, Bulkley Richardson recently sponsored a conference, “That Cannabis Show,” at the MassMutual Center, where the firm’s panel discussed from a legal perspective how cannabis is both like and unlike any other business. The Cannabis Group is led by attorneys Scott Foster, chair of the business and finance group and co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), and Andy Levchuk, chair of the cybersecurity group and a 24-year veteran of the Department of Justice. The group also includes Ron Weiss, Kathy Bernardo, Mary Jo Kennedy, Sarah Willey, and Ryan Barry. “When doing business in a highly regulated industry, a rapidly changing legal landscape exists that requires a team of attorneys to collaborate across practice areas,” Foster said. “Bulkley Richardson understands the unique legal needs of cannabis businesses operating in Massachusetts and has developed a comprehensive practice group to specifically meet the many challenges within the cannabis industry.”

Company Notebook

American Women’s College Offers Food Industry Management Degree

LONGMEADOW — The American Women’s College at Bay Path University announced the launch of its bachelor of science degree in business: food industry management, now enrolling. The university’s fully online food industry management major prepares students for a wide array of positions within the industry. The program covers core business fundamentals and combines them with a solid foundation in food science. Business topics include accounting, marketing, operations, and management. The major areas of food science, such as food processing and safety, are also covered and have been adapted for flexible online learning through the university’s digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning), which uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne illness hits one in six Americans every year. That’s why Sara R. Milillo, senior academic director of the program, believes it’s more important now than ever for professionals in the food industry, all along the chain “from farm to fork,” to understand the business and safety principles for success. Milillo earned her Ph.D. in food science with minors in education and microbiology at Cornell University. She has authored numerous publications, including papers and book chapters, on food science and safety. Prior to being named senior director of Core Curriculum & Science at the American Women’s College at Bay Path University, Milillo served as director of math and science for the college.

Bay Path Named Among Fastest-Growing Colleges in Master’s Institution Category

LONGMEADOW — The Chronicle of Higher Education has recognized Bay Path University in its Almanac of Higher Education 2018-19 as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the U.S., currently ranked 13th in the category of private nonprofit master’s institutions, with a 118.1% growth rate over a 10-year period (2006-16). Bay Path was the only institution of higher education from Massachusetts on the list, and the only women’s college in New England ranked in this category. Bay Path offers a range of educational options in response to the shifting needs of prospective students and the changing 21st-century workplace. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2018 that cites the top 20 fastest-growing careers, several professions require master’s degrees, including marriage and family therapists, physician assistants, post-secondary nursing instructors, and genetic counselors, among others. Bay Path offers graduate degrees in these areas, and the recently launched MS in genetic counseling has earned distinction as the first all-online program of its kind in the country.

Holyoke Community College Readies New Biotech Center

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will open its new Center for Life Sciences on Sept. 4, for the start of the fall 2018 semester. The 13,000-square-foot facility, on the first floor of HCC’s Marieb Building, features a suite of new biotechnology classrooms and labs and what is believed to be the only ISO-certified instructional cleanroom at any Massachusetts community college and one of very few at any college or university in Western Mass. The cost of the $4.55 million project, including new equipment, was covered by a $3.8 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, supplemented by $750,000 from the HCC Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities Campaign, which also paid for the construction of the college’s Center for Health Education on Jarvis Avenue. Once it’s fully operational, the cleanroom will have a certification rating of ISO 8, which means air quality of no more than 100,000 particles per cubic foot. Inside the cleanroom will be a hooded biosafety cabinet where the sterility will increase to ISO 7, or no more than 10,000 particles per cubic foot. Grant funds and donations also paid for new equipment, including a high-end, research-grade, fluorescent microscope, like those used in the pharmaceutical industry; a micro volume spectrophotometer, used to measure small amounts of genetic material; and an electroporator for genetic engineering.

Blue Sox Named 2018 Perfect Game Collegiate Summer Team of the Year

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox have been named Perfect Game’s 2018 Collegiate Summer Team of the Year. Led by Manager and Director of Baseball Operations John Raiola, the Blue Sox paced the league with a 30-12 regular season record before winning all four of their postseason games en route to a second straight NECBL championship. Following the season, Raiola was named the recipient of the 2018 Joel Cooney Award, given to the NECBL’s Manager of the Year. Holyoke native and starting pitcher Endy Morales of Southern New Hampshire University) was named to the All-NECBL First Team. Morales posted a 5-0 record and a 1.12 ERA in 40 innings pitched. His lone postseason start came in Game 1 of the NECBL Championship Series, where he held the Ocean State Waves to one run over seven innings. Morales also received the Robin Roberts Award following the season, given to the league’s best starting pitcher. Starting pitcher Cooper Bradford (North Florida), first baseman Tyler Kapuscinski (Marist), closer Ricky Reynoso (Pacific), and shortstop Jaron Robinson (Murray State) were all named to the All-NECBL Second Team. The Blue Sox led the league with five All-NECBL selections this summer.

Holyoke Medical Center Expands Services in Chicopee

CHICOPEE — Holyoke Medical Center has expanded services to a new facility on Memorial Drive in Chicopee for primary and specialty physician services, lab draws, X-rays, ultrasound, and CORE physical therapy. The primary-care services, provided by HMC affiliate Western Mass Physician Associates, have already opened and began treating patients at 1962 Memorial Dr. in mid-June. This office relocated from 262 New Ludlow Road in Chicopee. The office is accepting new patients and will begin offering walk-in services this fall. To make an appointment, call (413) 552-3250. The Holyoke Medical Center lab-draw station relocated on Aug. 6 from 260 New Ludlow Road to an adjoining space of Western Mass Physician Associates at 1968 Memorial Dr. in Chicopee. In addition to lab services, this space will also offer X-ray and ultrasound services, which previously required patients to go to the hospital campus in Holyoke. HMC CORE Physical Therapy also opened today on Aug. 6, and is located within the same complex at 1970 Memorial Dr. This service relocated from 138 College St. in South Hadley, and will offer a renovated space and new equipment to support the rehabilitation needs of the community. To make an appointment, call (413) 532-9913.

Elms College Ranks in Top 30% Of ‘Best Colleges for Your Money’

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top 30% of colleges in Money magazine’s list of Best Colleges for Your Money 2018. To determine this year’s value rankings, Money reviewed each institution’s graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, and alumni earnings, in addition to 22 other factors. The colleges on the list each demonstrate educational quality, affordability, and alumni success. “The fact that Elms is the top-ranked school in the Greater Springfield area — ranked higher than nearly all other Western Massachusetts colleges — is a testament to our mission of transforming lives through education, which calls us not only to prepare students with a liberal-arts curriculum and professional studies, but also to remain affordable and therefore accessible,” said Harry Dumay, president of the college.

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UMass Amherst Surges in Ranking of Sustainable Universities
AMHERST — A national program that measures accomplishments in sustainability in higher education has placed UMass Amherst ninth in the nation, a leap of 20 places from the previous rating in 2015. The ‘gold’ rating from the Assoc. for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) program recognizes sustainability accomplishments in areas such as academics, research, engagement, operations, and administration. The rating is good for three years. The university scored a 75.77 to earn its gold rating, a significant increase from its score of 68.18 in 2015, which was also a gold. UMass Amherst is now rated ninth in the STARS Campus Sustainability Index among U.S. doctorate-granting institutions, up from 29th in 2015. To prepare the rating application, sustainability staff and others involved in ‘green’ campus efforts used an online sustainability evaluation tool to report data in the categories of academics, campus engagement, operations, and planning/administration. In a letter that was part of the reporting process, Subbaswamy cited a number of recent actions, including creation of the School of Earth and Sustainability; installation of the largest solar-power project of any college in New England; the design and construction of the John W. Olver Design Building, which is the largest and most technologically advanced academic contemporary wood structure in the U.S.; and the decision to be the first major public university to divest its endowment from direct holdings in fossil fuels.

Thunderbirds Donate $20,000 to Rays of Hope Foundation
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds recently presented a check in the amount of $20,000 to the Rays of Hope Foundation, the culmination of a second-year partnership with Baystate Health. The $20,000 was raised through ticket sales and jersey auctions from the Thunderbirds’ second annual Pink in the Rink game on March 10. A sellout crowd of 6,793, many of whom were dressed in pink, witnessed a moving pregame ceremony honoring breast-cancer survivors and battlers. In their two seasons partnering with Rays of Hope on Pink in the Rink night, the Springfield Thunderbirds have raised more than $30,000 for breast-cancer awareness and research. The Thunderbirds’ full 2018-19 schedule, including the date for the third annual Pink in the Rink, will be unveiled later this summer.

AIC Names New Health Sciences Facility for Frank Colaccino
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced that the new health sciences educational facility located at 1020 State St. in Springfield will be named the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences in recognition of Frank Colaccino, a 1973 alumnus of the college. Colaccino is the founder, president, and CEO of the Colvest Group in Springfield, a firm that specializes in land planning and development; commercial real-estate site selection; shopping center research, development, leasing, and management; and office-space rental and leasing services. While serving as chair of the board of trustees finance committee in 2005, Colaccino was instrumental in helping restore the college’s solvency after facing extreme financial jeopardy. In 2007, and again in 2015, he assumed the role of chairman of the board of trustees. Colaccino is the first alumnus in the college’s history to hold this position. Set to open this fall, the two-story, 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will house AIC’s new exercise science programs in addition to expanded occupational therapy and physical therapy offerings. Athletic training programs will be introduced beginning in 2021. Located in the geographic center of Springfield, the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences complements the ongoing redevelopment of downtown by extending revitalization efforts up the State Street corridor to the Mason Square/Upper Hill neighborhood.

Gándara’s ArtSong Reception Celebrates Young Artists, Performers
SPRINGFIELD — The fifth annual Gándara Youth Art Exhibit, ArtSong, hosted a gallery reception and silent auction on June 7 at the former federal building, 1550 Main St., Springfield. The family-friendly event featured youth paintings and live music performances. Youth artists in the ArtSong Arts Enrichment Program spent months working on their pieces as a part of their art therapy. Of the 65 pieces on display, created by youth ages 3 to 17, more than 10 Gándara Center residential DCF programs were represented at the show. Attendees were able to bid on all artwork on display. Event proceeds from the auction and T-shirts designed by one of the artists will directly support young artists by providing supplies to help sustain this unfunded art-therapy program. “It’s so inspiring to see what the youth created — not only for me, but also for the artists,” said Amy Porchelli, founder and director of ArtSong. “They really enjoyed the process of making art, and they got a true sense of accomplishment because they saw what they could do for the community as artists.” Porchelli said some of the artists were new to the program, and some have been in it for quite a while and came to the reception to perform music they had developed and recorded at the Gándara Center’s Holyoke Youth Development Center media lab studio.

Northeast Solar Installs Solar Array for Gardening the Community
HATFIELD — Northeast Solar announced that the new farm stand for Springfield-based nonprofit Gardening the Community, at 200 Walnut St. in Mason Square, is now being powered by a free solar-power array made possible in part by a collaboration with two area donors. The farm stand is the 11th free solar installation completed by Northeast Solar, and the list continues to grow as the company identifies more nonprofit organizations operating in the Pioneer Valley to work with. The nonprofit solar installations are part of the company’s larger mission under its commitment to the community program. Greg Garrison, president of Northeast Solar and a graduate of the Greenfield Community College (GCC) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program, started the company in 2010 after serving as a business consultant for the previous owner in 2009. Over the past year, Northeast Solar has been working with Garrison’s former GCC professor, Brian Adams, and Morey Phippen, a long-time social-service worker in Northampton, to bring free solar power to local community organizations. To date, Northeast Solar has installed free solar for DIAL/Self, ServiceNet, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, the Peace Development Fund, Dakin Animal Shelter, Nasami Farm, the Amherst Survival Center, Historic Northampton, and now Gardening the Community.

Easthampton Students Complete My Financial Future Program
EASTHAMPTON — Mary Rawls, vice president and co-CRA officer at Greenfield Cooperative Bank (GCB) and its Northampton Cooperative division, announced that 59 students at Easthampton High School have received certificates of recognition for the My Financial Future program being sponsored by the bank. Rawls noted that GCB partnered with EVERFI, a nationally recognized educational technology firm to provide the program at no cost to area high schools. My Financial Future is an interactive, online training program that prepares teachers to use online modules and teaches real-life skills to students so they are better prepared to handle their personal finances in the future. Module topics include how to prepare a budget, how to complete forms such as FAFSA for college aid, the differences between (and risks of) debit and credit cards, how to handle a checking account, and more. Greenfield Cooperative Bank started with just one school last September, and in its first school year the program has been expanded to four area high schools, with four more actively working with the bank and EVERFI to kick off their own classes. Greenfield Co-op has placed particular focus on connecting with the communities it serves by sponsoring schools in Franklin and Hampshire counties. If any other Franklin or Hampshire county school is interested in the program, they may contact Rawls at (413) 772-0293.

Steve Lewis Subaru Donates $52,225 to Dakin Humane Society
HADLEY — As part of its ongoing support of local communities, Steve Lewis Subaru recently presented a check for $52,225 to Dakin Humane Society in Springfield. From Nov. 16, 2017 to Jan. 2, 2018, during its Share the Love event, Subaru of America Inc. donated $250 to a charity of the customer’s choice for every new vehicle purchased or leased. The list of charities included ASPCA, Meals on Wheels America, Make-A-Wish, and the National Park Foundation. Dakin Humane Society was selected by Steve Lewis Subaru as its hometown charity choice. For the customers who chose Dakin, Steve Lewis Subaru added $25 per vehicle, putting each donation made to Dakin at $275. Subaru of America and its retailers hope to exceed a grand total of $115 million donated since the creation of Share the Love.

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First-ever Improv Theater in Region to Open in Hadley

HADLEY — Happier Valley Comedy announced the opening of the first-ever improv theater in Western Mass., to be located at 1 Mill Valley Road in Hadley. The local improv company will provide regular shows, classes, and professional and personal development services. It will be the only improv theater in the state outside of the Boston region. Happier Valley Comedy’s recent fundraising effort raised close to $27,000, making it possible to begin immediate construction of a 70-seat theater and classroom space in the new complex along Route 9 in Hadley. Pam Victor, Happier Valley founder and president, and General Manager Braidman plan to open the theater by June 25 in time to hold their weekly summer classes. When the stage is complete later this fall, Happier Valley live shows will move to the new space. By the end of the year, the calendar will expand to include shows every Saturday night. The Happier FAMILY Comedy Show will remain at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Starbucks Opens at Monarch Place

SPRINGFIELD — The latest edition to Springfield’s downtown, a full-service Starbucks on the corner of Main Street and Boland Way, opened on May 30. Starbucks at Monarch Place donated all proceeds from its first week of business to the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center to assist in the creation and installation of a new educational exhibit, bringing two exotic African cats to the city. The opening of Starbucks represents the final phase of the newly renovated plaza at Monarch Place and follows the grand opening of a United Bank branch next door on the ground floor of Monarch Place. Starbucks now occupies the front corner of the plaza, facing Main Street, with 30-foot-tall ceilings, and featuring a commissioned piece of artwork by renowned artist Llew Majia, a 400-pound, 10-foot medallion that celebrates the diversity of Latin American coffee-growing countries. Patrons can also enjoy outdoor music and café seating on the plaza while overlooking the newly restored water wall.

United Bank Announces Purchase of Six Branches

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Bank announced it has entered into an agreement with Webster Bank, N.A. of Waterbury, Conn. to purchase six branches located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. United Bank will assume approximately $120 million of branch deposits in the transaction, which is expected to close in the fall of 2018, pending regulatory approval. Under the terms of the agreement, the following six Webster Bank branches will be purchased by United Bank, and employees at those branches are expected to join the United Bank team: 50 Elm St., West Springfield; 1355 Boston Road, Springfield; 62 Center Square, East Longmeadow; 124B Boston Post Road, Waterford, Conn.; 654 Long Hill Road, Groton, Conn.; and 48 Franklin St., Westerly. Due to the close proximity of three branches in the Springfield market as a result of this transaction, United Bank will take the following actions at the time of the closing of the agreement, pending regulatory approval: United’s branch at 95 Elm St., West Springfield will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch across the street at 50 Elm St. Also, customers will continue to have access to the separate drive-up branch at 52 Van Deene Ave., West Springfield. United’s branch at 459 Main St. in Indian Orchard will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch at 1355 Boston Road, which is only one mile away from the Indian Orchard branch. United Bank’s branch at 94 Shaker Road in East Longmeadow will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch at nearby 62 Center Square. United Bank emphasizes that customers from the six branches included in this transaction do not need to do anything at this time. United will mail a package of information to the homes and/or businesses of all Webster customers from these branches in advance of the account and branch conversions, which are expected to occur in the fall of 2018.

WGBY Earns Emmy Nod for Opioid Special

SPRINGFIELD — WGBY’s The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue, which aired live on May 11, 2017, has been recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) Boston/New England Chapter, which nominated The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue for a regional 2018 Emmy Award in the category of Health/Science Program or Special. Executive Producer Tony Dunne and Carrie Saldo, the program’s host and producer, were both named in the nomination. Moderated by then-Berkshire Eagle reporter Saldo (now host of WGBY’s weekday public-affairs series Connecting Point), The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue was developed in partnership with the Center for Human Development (CHD) and featured a panel of Western New England locals, including Dr. Robert Roose of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital; Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni; Chantal Silloway, Adolescent Recovery Program director at Goodwin House; Danyel Zerella, a mother in addiction recovery; Jennifer Kimball, manager of the Public Health Program at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission; and Liz Whynott of Tapestry Health’s needle-exchange program. With a town-hall-style discussion, the program was broadcast live from the WGBY studio in Springfield. Panelists fielded questions and comments from in-person audience members as well as Twitter and Facebook users.

PVCU Recognized for Promoting Savings

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union was recognized for its efforts to encourage Americans and support its members to save money during America Saves Week and Military Saves Week. Pioneer Valley Credit Union was one of 15 banks, 17 credit unions, and five military-affiliated organizations recognized around the world. “Year after year, we work with our members to help them to achieve their financial goals and to become more savvy consumers,” said Anabela Grenier, Pioneer Valley Credit Union president and CEO. “America Saves is a wonderful program which works in concert with our philosophy to help members as they make their journey to a better financial future.”

Smith Brothers Insurance Named to President’s Clubs

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance, with local offices in Easthampton and West Springfield, was recently appointed to the Hanover Insurance Group’s President’s Club, an elite group of independent insurance agencies from across the country. Agencies named to the Hanover President’s Club are recognized for delivering outstanding value to their customers through insurance expertise and responsive service. Smith Brothers was one of only 140 independent agencies recognized with this distinction across the county. The Hanover partners with 2,100 independent agents nationwide. Meanwhile, Smith Brothers was also named to the Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group’s President’s Club. Each year, Jewelers Mutual recognizes top agents nationwide for their expertise in Jewelers Block, a specialized insurance coverage protecting the jewelry trade. Smith Brothers Insurance was one of 25 brokers throughout the nation named to Jewelers Mutual’s President’s Club.

American Benefits Group Recognized with Award

NORTHAMPTON — American Benefits Group (ABG), a provider of solutions in the health-benefits industry, has been recognized by healthcare-benefits payments giant Alegeus as the 2018 APEX Award winner for Operational Efficiency and Excellence. The award was presented at the Alegeus National Conference on May 16 in Orlando, Fla. ABG currently serves more than 1,300 employer plans in all markets, including several Fortune 1000 clients. The company has grown revenues by more than 300% since 2012. ABG was also previously recognized by Alegeus as the National Customer Service Champion in 2015. In conjunction with the award, Alegeus has made a $1,000 donation to the local charity or nonprofit of ABG’s choice. American Benefits selected local nonprofit Safe Passage, an organization that serves victims of domestic abuse. “They are just making a major move into a brand-new facility, so the contribution is well-timed,” ABG CEO and founder Robert Cummings said. “We feel Safe Passage is an organization that is doing life-changing and life-saving work.”

River Valley Counseling Center Opens New Easthampton Location

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Counseling Center celebrated the opening of its newest office location in Easthampton with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 29. Services available at the Easthampton location include individual, couple, family, and group psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and children. Clinicians help the client, couple, or family identify the concerns or issues that will become the focus of treatment. Both the client and clinician work together to determine the most effective treatment needed. The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is determined based on individualized treatment plans. River Valley also offers school-based therapy throughout all Easthampton Schools, a partnership formed in the fall of 2017. The Easthampton office is currently accepting new patients without a wait list and is conveniently located along the bike trail. For additional information, visit rvcc-inc.org or call (413) 540-1234.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Named Health Nonprofit Brand of the Year

TAMPA, Fla. — Shriners Hospitals for Children has been named 2018 Health Nonprofit Brand of the Year, based on the Harris Poll EquiTrend Equity Score. In addition, Shriners Hospitals ranked highest in trust in its category. The annual survey of brand equity, now in its 30th year, compares the brand health of thousands of brands from hundreds of categories, including eight for nonprofit organizations, based on consumer responses. Shriners is a leader in pediatric specialty care, especially in the areas of orthopaedics, burns, spinal-cord injury, and cleft lip and palate.

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Big Y Opens New Fuel Station on Cooley Street in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Foods Inc. recently opened its seventh Big Y Express gas and convenience store at 471 Cooley St. in Springfield. The other six Massachusetts stores can be found in Lee, Pittsfield, Hadley, Longmeadow, Wilbraham, and South Hadley. The new Springfield location boasts eight gas pumps and free air machines for tire inflation. Inside the store, selections include donuts, pastries, and store-baked muffins; Green Mountain Coffees; fresh fruit; gourmet sandwiches and salads; milk and numerous other cold beverages; as well as bread, candy, snacks, tobacco products, lottery, and ice. The store director of this location is Yanira Febus. There are currently seven employees, and Big Y is looking to hire one or two more. The site formerly operated as Ultra Gasoline, and all Ultra employees were encouraged to apply for a position with Big Y. The store will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Florence Bank Recognized at Banking Choice Awards

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently earned four industry honors at the first annual Banking Choice Awards in areas such as quality and service, with recognition based on an independent survey of customer feedback. At the event on April 26 at Boston’s Omni Parker House, Florence Bank ranked first in the Western Mass. region in Overall Quality, Customer Service, and Technology, and second in Community Contribution. “These rankings came from an independent survey performed by a recognized leader in tracking and measuring the customer experience,” President and CEO John Heaps said. “It’s nice to get recognition from those we aim to serve well. I couldn’t be prouder of our employees and this achievement.” Florence Bank employees were among staff from 33 banks across the state at the Banking Choice Awards, developed jointly by the Warren Group and Customer Experience Solutions.

Hazen Paper Earns Accolades with AIMCAL Product of the Year

HOLYOKE — The holographic Kat Von D “Metal Crush” limited-edition powder highlighter carton produced by Hazen Paper Co. was named Product of the Year at the 2018 annual meeting of the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL), held in Charlotte, N.C. Hazen also received Product Excellence awards for a Marc Jacobs “Decadence” perfume box and a Burmester Porsche “Music to Your Ears” brochure. “We’re always pleased when our customers obtain recognition for extraordinary packages that take advantage of our capabilities,” said John Hazen, the company’s president. “They challenge us to continue to develop new and better products. Together, we work to intrigue and delight consumers and improve revenues, while doing our part to operate conscientiously and sustainably.”

Elms to Launch Computer Science, Computer IT and Security Majors

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced that it will launch two new majors this fall, in computer science (CS) and computer information technology and security (CITS). The CITS major prepares students for careers as information technology (IT) professionals, providing a breadth of knowledge and the skills necessary to become IT technicians, system administrators, network administrators, and cybersecurity specialists. Required course topics for this major include databases, networks and security, system administration, digital forensics, hardware maintenance, cyber ethics, web design, and more. The CS major focuses on the design and development of software and the algorithms that make code work efficiently. Students will become proficient in C#, Javascript, HTML/CSS, SQL, and other programming languages. Required courses for this major will focus on programming, data structures and algorithms, databases, system administration, cyber ethics, web design, and more. “Our students are very excited about these new majors,” said Beryl Hoffman, associate professor of Computer Information Technology at Elms. “Computer-science graduates are in high demand, and computer security is one of the fastest-growing job markets within IT.” Both majors will include a professional internship that will give students real-life experience in computer science or computer information technology and security. Electives for both the CS and CITS majors will include artificial intelligence, game design, mobile-app design, graphic design, and video.

PetSmart Charities Awards $200,000 to Second Chance Animal Services

EAST BROOKFIELD — Second Chance Animal Services recently received a $200,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, toward the purchase and renovation of a new location for its Community Veterinary Hospital in Springfield. After five months of hard work and setbacks that included delays from extensive water damage in January, Second Chance celebrated its grand opening on May 23. Second Chance had been leasing a building on Belmont Avenue in Springfield, offering full-service veterinary care ranging from routine exams and vaccines to in-house blood testing and urinalysis, X-rays, spay/neuter surgery, dental surgery, and more. Its community veterinary hospitals provide high-quality veterinary service to all, with subsidized pricing for qualified households. Word spread throughout the community, and the growing demand for services quickly outgrew the space. The move to a new and larger location at 67 Mulberry St. in the heart of Springfield this month will allow Second Chance to meet the need for veterinary care.

Berkshire Theatre Group Feted by Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) was honored as Employer of the Year for “providing valuable employment opportunities for the members of Berkshire Pathways” at the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition’s annual Employment Celebration at the State House in Boston on April 3. Joanne Rosier, a BTG ticket-office associate, was also honored as a Clubhouse member and Berkshire Theatre Group employee. In addition, BTG received a congratulatory citation in recognition of its award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, offered by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. Berkshire Theatre Group also received a congratulatory citation from the Massachusetts Senate, offered by state Sen. Adam Hinds.

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Webber & Grinnell Acquires Ross Insurance

NORTHAMPTON — Ross Insurance agency of Holyoke has been acquired by Webber and Grinnell Insurance Agency of Northampton. Maureen Ross O’Connell will continue to manage the Holyoke operation at 150 Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke under the name of Ross, Webber and Grinnell Insurance. Kevin Ross plans on retiring sometime over the next 18 months. “Ross Insurance is synonymous with community and trust,” said Bill Grinnell, president of Webber and Grinnell. “We are thrilled to have their staff joining our team and enabling us to serve clients across the entire Pioneer Valley. Kevin and Maureen are incredible insurance professionals, and I look forward to Maureen joining our ownership group.” Added Ross O’Connell, “we feel that we found the perfect partner to continue the Ross family legacy. Webber and Grinnell has a long history of generous community support and exceptional customer service.”

Westfield Bank to Open Liberty Street Office

SPRINGFIELD — Westfield Bank announced it will open a full-service branch office at 1342 Liberty St. in Springfield in July. When it opens, the Liberty Street office, which currently has a 24-hour ATM, will be operated as a full-service branch featuring lobby and drive-up banking, a drive-up ATM, and banking specialists trained to assist customers with business banking, residential mortgages, and investment and insurance services (via Westfield Financial Management Services). Construction is already underway, with renovations expected to be completed in late June or early July. Roberta Lussier, who currently oversees the bank’s Tower Square office, will also manage the Liberty Street office. Westfield Bank plans to celebrate the opening of the Liberty Street office with special events and promotions, which will be announced at a later date.

Spacelabs Invests $720,000 in UMass Center Nursing Program

SPRINGFIELD — Spacelabs Healthcare, a Snoqualmie, Wash.-based medical-equipment manufacturer, recently unveiled a $720,000 investment in the UMass Center at Springfield’s nursing laboratory. The state-of-the-art Spacelabs equipment includes two Sonicaid fetal/maternal monitors, ambulatory blood-pressure monitors, multiple nursing monitors, and invasive cardiac outputs that will benefit the UMass Amherst College of Nursing’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, which serves as a pipeline for rained nurses into the region’s healthcare sector. The equipment will be primarily used by UMass Amherst nursing students in the accelerated program, which is based in Springfield.

Tighe & Bond Climbs in National Ranking

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a full-service engineering and environmental consulting firm, climbed 19 spots this year to No. 241 on Engineering News Record’s “2018 Top 500 Design Firms” ranking. In the past two years, Tighe & Bond climbed 34 spots as the firm continues to grow its regional market. The publication ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year.

Valley Blue Sox Announce New Ownership

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox announced that Hadley native Fred Ciaglo has taken over the reins as team owner and president from the departing Clark Eckhoff. Ciaglo has been a long-time part of the Valley Blue Sox, hosting players for the past seven years and as a bench coach for the last four years. He has been involved with baseball in the Valley since he was able to throw a ball, playing at Hopkins Academy in Hadley and then at Springfield College, helping pitch the Pride to the 1986 Northeast-10 championship when the school competed in Division II athletics. Ciaglo was a staple of the Tri-County Baseball League for more than 20 years, twice winning the league’s Wes Carr Trophy for best pitcher. He has taught and coached at Hopkins Academy since graduating from Springfield, coaching boys and girls basketball as well as baseball over that time; in addition, he spent a decade as Hadley Youth Baseball’s coaching coordinator and on the board of directors for the Cal Ripken level. Vice President and General Manager Hunter Golden will stay on with the team and remain in his role. Also returning this season will be Manager John Raiola, who will return for his fourth season as head coach, as well as pitching coach Jim Woods. Joining the coaching staff, former Blue Sox player Hezekiah Randolph will serve as hitting coach for the team.

Country Bank Donates $15,000 to Domestic Violence Task Force

WARE — Country Bank announced that it recently donated $15,000 to the Ware River Valley Domestic Violence Task Force to support its continued commitment to helping those in need in the Quaboag Hills Region. “Country Bank’s donation has been the foundation of all local domestic-violence services at Valley Human Services of BHN Inc. in the Quaboag Hills,” said Jac Patrissi, director of Domestic Violence Services at Valley Human Services. “Their funds have been the seed money and remain the match for programs now supported by municipal, state, and federal dollars. We literally would not have our team preventing and responding to domestic violence in our region without Country Bank.”

Berkshire Hills Bancorp Reports 63% Increase in Q1 Earnings

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported first-quarter 2018 net income of $25 million, a 63% increase over the 2017 first-quarter results of $15 million. This reflected the ongoing benefit of the company’s growth and expansion, together with the benefit of a lower federal tax rate resulting from federal tax reform. “We had a solid start to the year, delivering ongoing growth while integrating our new commerce operations,” CEO Michael Daly said. “With the benefit of greater efficiency, GAAP return on assets improved to 0.88%, and core return on assets improved to 1.04%. We expect continued momentum in the second quarter, where GAAP return on assets will improve to over 1.00% and core return on assets will improve to over 1.10%.” The board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.22 per common share to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 10, payable on May 24. The dividend equates to a 2.3% annualized yield based on the $37.88 average closing price of Berkshire Hills Bancorp common stock during the first quarter. The board also declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.44 per share for the preferred stock issued in conjunction with the Commerce acquisition, with the same record and payment dates as above. The quarterly common and preferred dividends were increased in the prior quarter by 5%.

Girls on the Run Nominated for Award

NORTHAMPTON — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) announced that Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts has been selected a finalist for the 2018 Nonprofit Excellence Award in the Small Nonprofit category. The Excellence Awards will be presented at the Massachusetts State House on Monday, June 4. The Small Nonprofit Excellence Award recognizes an organization making an outsized impact in its community despite limited resources. Girls on the Run inspires girls to be healthy, joyful, and confident, using an experiential, social-emotional curriculum that integrates running. In its third year of operation, Girls on the Run has 180 volunteer coaches, including teachers, parents, and community members operating at 54 school sites serving over 740 girls. To date, Girls on the Run has served more than 1,200 girls around Western Mass.

Chili Chocolate Chip Wins UMass Ice Cream Competition

AMHERST — The winning flavor in this year’s UMass Amherst student ice-cream competition is chili chocolate chip, as selected by judges in the fourth annual food-science event held on campus April 30. It will become the latest UMass student-created ice cream produced by Maple Valley Creamery of Hadley over the coming weeks, said owner Bruce Jenks. For the event, creamery staff, local chefs, and guest judges sampled original ice creams created by four teams of senior food-science majors vying for the honor of developing a new flavor for the UMass label. The three other entries in this spring’s competition were a butternut squash flavor with lemon zest, ginger, turmeric, and semi-sweet chocolate bits; a chocolate banana graham-cracker flavor; and a strawberry-basil flavor with dark chocolate pieces. The strawberry-basil, dubbed ‘summer blush’ by its creators, won the audience’s vote for best flavor, and Jenks said he may make a seasonal batch of it in the summer. Members of the winning chili chocolate chip team are Marina Gela, Gina Grimaldi, Rachael Montigny, Joshua Liao, Erica Snyder, and Jozxelle Tongson.

ESE Donates $240,000 to Big E/West Springfield Trust Fund

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Eugene Cassidy presented a donation of $240,198 to the Big E/West Springfield Trust Fund in a ceremony held at Town Hall on April 18. The amount, the largest to date since the fund’s inception in 1994, represents 1% of the Exposition’s gross revenues for 2017. Including this year’s gift, exposition contributions now total $3,999,669. During the presentation of this year’s check, Cassidy pledged a personal donation of $331 to bring the total to an even $4 million. Trustees of the fund are West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, Cassidy, and Attorney Mary Paier Powers. Grants in 2017 totaled more than $63,209 for 15 town organizations, schools, sports teams, and more.

Arrha Credit Union Awards Five Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Arrha Credit Union recently awarded five $1,000 scholarships to area students based on scholastic merit and civic achievement. To be eligible for the Anthony J. Serafino Scholarship, recipients must demonstrate scholastic achievement, be a high-school senior, be a member of Arrha or a student whose parent is a member, be active in extracurricular activities and community endeavors, and intend to attend a two-year or four-year degree-granting college or university. The 2018 recipients are A’Shaela Chaires from Williston Northampton School, Kimberly McLeod from Longmeadow High School, Patricia Moriarty from Phillips Exeter Academy, Owen Serafino from West Springfield High School, and Tamra Zippin from Minnechaug Regional High School. In addition to the scholarships, each student was given $100 to open an account with a debit card to jump-start their financial future on a positive note. “We wish each of our recipients the best of luck with their educational endeavors,” said Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union.

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CHI Insurance Opens Downtown Springfield Office

SPRINGFIELD — CHI Insurance Agency Inc. announced the opening of an additional office location in downtown Springfield. The office, located at 1684 Main St., is the former Joseph Chernaik Insurance Agency. The Springfield location is the fourth CHI office, with other locations in Holyoke, Westfield, and South Hadley. Auto insurance will continue to be offered, and additional insurance products have been added and are available out of 1684 Main St. In addition to new staff and updated systems, customers now have the opportunity to purchase coverages for home, business, life, and specialty lines. All locations are bilingual and offer complete insurance products. CHI services clients throughout the Pioneer Valley with all of their insurance needs, and represents most major insurance carriers.

Griffin Staffing Network Announces Expansion, Rebrand to ManeHire

EAST LONGMEADOW — Griffin Staffing Network, a certified woman- and minority-owned business, has undergone a company rebrand to ManeHire and unveiled its new logo, tagline — “connecting great companies with great talent” — and website, manehire.com, to support its expansion from a local boutique staffing agency to a full-service regional staffing agency serving the Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Washington, D.C. markets. Since 2013, Griffin Staffing Network has served a wide-range of local and regional clients operating in industries such as healthcare, financial services, insurance, manufacturing, and nonprofit, filling roles from entry-level to C-suite and everything in between.

PeoplesBank Issues 2018 Corporate Green Report

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2018 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of Earth Day 2018. During the past year, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank a winner of the Sustainable Business of the Year award. For the fourth year in a row, voters throughout Hampshire County named PeoplesBank the Best Local Green Business in the 2017 Daily Hampshire Gazette Readers’ Choice poll. The bank also continued a multi-year commitment of more than $65,000 in funding for green initiatives in Western Mass, and is a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing. The bank boasts three LEED-certified branches in Northampton, West Springfield, and Springfield; and it has installed electric-vehicle charging stations at its Northampton, West Springfield, and Holyoke offices.

L&A Fine Men’s Shop Cuts Ribbon in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — L&A Fine Men’s Shop, located at 159 State St., Springfield, hosted a ribbon cutting and open house April 19. Audrin Desardouin and Lillian Ortiz, husband-and-wife co-owners, opened the store in December and have been investing in inventory and undergoing training to become an official minority-owned business. Desardouin came to the U.S. from Haiti when he was 21 years old. A U.S. citizen, he has lived in New England for the past 30-plus years. Ortiz, who was born in Connecticut, is Puerto Rican. She works at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester as vice president of Enrollment and Student Engagement and Community Connections. Desardouin owned a men’s clothing store in Norwich, Conn. for 15 years. The new shop is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Awards Four Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union announced the recipients of its 2018 college scholarship program. Each year, PVCU selects four students to receive a $1,000 scholarship to help with college expenses; over the years, it has awarded $70,000 in all. The scholarships are named in honor of board of directors members who have dedicated their time and service to Pioneer Valley Credit Union and to the credit-union movement. Miya Walto of Smith Academy received the Maurice O’Shea Scholarship, John Fiester of Monson High School received the Richard Borden Memorial Scholarship, Janiya Dixon of Longmeadow High School received the Ignatius Collura Scholarship, and Fiona Cioch of Westfield High School received the Ted Klekotka Memorial Scholarship.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q1 Earnings

HARTFORD — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2018. The company reported net income of $15.8 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2018, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $9.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2017. Assets totaled $7.07 billion at March 31, 2018 and decreased $45.5 million, or 0.6%, from $7.11 billion at December 31, 2017. At March 31, 2018, total loans were $5.38 billion, representing an increase of $42.3 million, or 0.8%, from the linked quarter.

JA of Western Mass. Wins Grant from Wells Fargo

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts announced it was awarded a $7,500 grant from Wells Fargo. Funding from Wells Fargo will support the Pathways to 21st Century Skills Project to provide students with the tools to develop the 21st-century skills needed to become autonomous employees. The project’s goals are to improve students’ knowledge of financial literacy in order for them to make sound financial judgments in the future, increase students’ entrepreneurial skills, increase students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and increase awareness of career and post-secondary education and career opportunities in Western Mass.

Fuss & O’Neill Opens Downtown Springfield Office

SPRINGFIELD — Engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, which has locations throughout New England, recently held an open house at its new downtown Springfield office, 1550 Main St. The company’s move from its West Springfield office to downtown Springfield officially happened in January. “We are thrilled to be here in Springfield,” said Eric Bernardin, vice president at Fuss & O’Neill. “As an engineering firm, our job is to help create an environment that promotes and provides the groundwork for economic opportunity, civic involvement, and arts and entertainment. We are excited to be part of helping Springfield grow, and we look forward to the future.” The office space is owned by MassDevelopment, the public finance and economic-development authority of Massachussetts.

Smith Brothers Insurance Acquires Bailey Agencies

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance, LLC has purchased the assets of Bailey Agencies Insurance of Groton, Conn. Owned and operated by the Scott family since 1980, Bailey has been a long-term fixture on the Connecticut shoreline. Bailey Agencies Insurance has moved to the Smith Brothers office in Niantic, Conn., at 377 Main St. With headquarters in Glastonbury, Conn., Smith Brothers has offices throughout Connecticut as well as Massachusetts — including a branch in Easthampton — and New Jersey. John Scott IV, former Bailey Agencies Insurance principal, will continue his role as commercial-lines producer and, along with two other insurance professionals, will work from Smith Brothers’ Niantic office.

Berkshire Bank Honored for Social Responsibility

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that it received the 2017 Communitas Award for Leadership in Community Service & Corporate Social Responsibility. The Communitas Awards, administered by the Assoc. of Marketing and Communication Professionals, recognize businesses that give of themselves and their resources to their communities. The award recognized Berkshire Bank’s comprehensive corporate social-responsibility activities, including volunteer, philanthropy, and sustainability efforts, as well as responsiveness to community needs through products, services, and engagement activities. Annually, Berkshire Bank and the Berkshire Bank Foundation provide more than $2 million in financial contributions as well as scholarships to high-school seniors. In addition to financial support, the XTEAM, the bank’s employee volunteer program, provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours.

Florence Bank Presents Customers’ Choice Grants

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented $100,000 in awards ranging from $500 to $5,000 to 57 area nonprofits through its 16th annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program during an event at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park. The funds will support libraries, schools, police, fire departments, hospitals, hospices, and other organizations that benefit people of all ages, as well as animals and the environment. The bank reached the $1.05 million mark in terms of grants made over nearly two decades to 144 community nonprofits. The Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program is an annual offering founded in 2002, through which Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding.

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Blue Sox to Host 2018 NECBL All-Star Game

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox announced they will play host to the 2018 New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) All-Star Game this summer on Sunday, July 29 at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke. The league’s showcase event will be the third major NECBL event hosted by the Blue Sox in the past five years. The team last hosted the NECBL All-Star Game in 2014 and hosted the NECBL Championship Series this past August, winning their its NECBL championship in franchise history. The Blue Sox finished first in the NECBL in attendance for the second consecutive season and ranked ninth among all summer collegiate teams, outdrawing 204 affiliated minor-league and independent teams. The event will be sponsored by Trinity Health Of New England and Mercy Medical Center.

MGM Springfield Adds More Than 1,000 Jobs to Employment Website

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield recently announced it added 75 new postings representing more than 1,000 jobs to the resort’s website. There are about 2,400 open positions for hire today at MGM Springfield. This is the largest employment posting by the new resort, and one of the single largest hiring efforts in Springfield history. MGM Springfield will employ 3,000 employees when the $960 million luxury resort opens later this year in downtown Springfield. The expanded list includes job descriptions for new career opportunities not previously posted by the resort. Most of the new opportunities are in the food and beverage area, including cooks and servers. The entire list now includes a diverse array of jobs, including locksmiths, electronics technicians, carpenters, and painters. Many postings represent positions not traditionally associated with the casino industry, ranging from human resources and retail management to conference services. A full list of jobs and detailed descriptions is available at www.mgmspringfield.com/careers. The majority of jobs will be full-time positions with benefits. MGM Springfield established a goal to hire 35% of its workforce from the city of Springfield and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the region. For additional information about the available career opportunities at MGM Springfield, go online or visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center located at 1259 East Columbus Ave., third floor. The Career Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

PV Squared Joins Effort to Create Affordable Net-zero-energy Homes

GREENFIELD — PV Squared employees and students from Franklin County Technical School recently worked together to install a solar system on a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity home in Greenfield. This hands-on experience is essential for Franklin County Technical School students enrolled in the electrician program. With installers and licensed electricians from PV Squared acting as mentors, this project was both a learning experience for the students and an opportunity to create high-quality housing for a low-income family. PV Squared has been partnering with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity since 2010 to help make solar energy more accessible to lower-income households in the community. To date, it has worked with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity on eight projects in Franklin and Hampshire counties, specifically in the towns of Easthampton, Turners Falls, Amherst, Northampton, and Greenfield. All these solar PV projects have been completed through grant funding or through the donation of products and services by PV Squared at no cost to the homeowner. Each system was designed with net-zero-energy potential, which means that, depending on the energy use of the household, each homeowner could be meeting all of their energy needs with the solar array.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Donates $25,000 to Elder-care Unit

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union (PVCU), a not-for-profit financial institution, recently donated $25,000 to the new Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Seniors are the fastest-growing group in the U.S. population, and their health is declining. The elderly are three times likely to be hospitalized from chronic diseases. Many hospitals across the country haven’t prepared to treat the number of growing elderly patients nearing end of life. With that in mind, Baystate Medical Center created an acute-care unit specifically for treating the growing number of elderly patients. Since 2014, the program has cared for more than 500 senior patients.

Be Vital Wellness Opens Second Clinic in Wilbraham

WILBRAHAM — Stephanie Nascimento and Jeanette Wilburn, owners of Be Vital Wellness, LLC, recently expanded their weight-loss practice opening a second clinic in Wilbraham. Located at 2121 Boston Road, Unit N, in Wilbraham, the team specializes in medically derived weight-loss programs, weight-loss coaching, detox and cleansing, as well as various wellness services. In October 2011, Nascimento, a registered nurse, and Wilburn, a doctor of chiropractic, partnered in search of a business that promoted overall wellness and weight loss. After much research, they selected the Ideal Protein Protocol, a medically derived weight-loss method developed and refined for more than 20 years. They tested the program themselves and successfully lost a combined 30 pounds. Their weight loss inspired them to open their first clinic in Amherst; that clinic is now located in Hadley.

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HUB International Acquires Assets of Leitao Insurance

EAST LONGMEADOW — HUB International Limited, a leading global insurance brokerage, announced it has acquired the assets of Leitao Insurance Inc. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Located in Ludlow, Leitao is a multi-line insurance brokerage firm providing products in personal and commercial lines. The Leitao agency will join HUB New England with other local HUB offices in Ludlow (formerly Your Choice), South Hadley, Monson, and East Longmeadow.

CRRC MA Facility Wins Engineering Award

SPRINGFIELD — The CRRC MA rail-car manufacturing facility at the former Westinghouse site was honored as the state’s outstanding engineering achievement of the year by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts. Plaza Construction, which served as the design-build contractor for the property, accepted the award at a ceremony Wednesday. The $95 million project, spanning more than 204,000 square feet — not including the 2,240-foot test track — is the largest industrial investment in Greater Springfield in generations. The Chinese-owned company will start building new cars for the MBTA Orange Line in April, and for the Red Line later this year. In 2014, CRRC received a $566 million contract from the MBTA to build 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars at the Page Boulevard site. Two years later, the state ordered an additional 120 Red Line cars at a cost of $277 million, with production set to begin in 2022.

Hofbrauhaus Closing Doors After 83 Years in Business

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Hofbrauhaus owners Joe and Liz Stevens will close its doors for good on April 1, the couple announced on Facebook on Wednesday. “It is official — as of Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 (and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke), the Hofbrauhaus will be closing its doors for good,” they wrote. “We thank everyone for their patronage and support over the years, but we are ready to move on and make some big, wonderful, exciting, and maybe a little scary changes in our lives.’” Hofbrauhaus, the German restaurant that became one of the region’s most iconic eateries, first opened its doors in 1935.

United Bank Joins Connecticut Trolley Museum as Corporate Sponsor

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — The Connecticut Trolley Museum announced that United Bank has joined the museum as a corporate sponsor. The museum started its corporate sponsor program in 2016, and since then a number of area businesses have joined the museum to support its mission “to provide a historically accurate educational experience of the trolley era through the interpretation, preservation, restoration, and operation of an electric railway.” As its newest corporate sponsor, United Bank joins Sophia’s Restaurant, USA Hauling, Windsor Federal Savings, Collins Pipe and Supply, Simsbury Bank, Connecticut Lighting Centers, Get Listed Realty, and Allstate in support of the museum. The Connecticut Trolley Museum is located off of Route 140 in East Windsor, off exit 45 of Interstate 91. Businesses with an interest in becoming corporate sponsors may contact the museum at (860) 627-6540 or [email protected]

Ohana School of Performing Arts Supports Square One

SPRINGFIELD — The Square One family continues to expand, thanks to its latest partnership with Ohana School of Performing Arts. Ohana owner Ashley Kohl and her team are volunteering monthly to visit preschoolers at the Square One Tommie Johnson Child & Family Center in Springfield. All 150 children will receive lessons in creative movement and dance. “Studies have long pointed to the physical benefits of dance when it comes to keeping children fit and working to combat childhood obesity,” said Kristine Allard, chief development and communications officer for Square One. “More recent research also points to the benefits of dance from the standpoint of emotional, social, and cognitive development, which is a critical component of our work at Square One.” The volunteer support comes in conjunction with Ohana’s recent gift of $1,000 to support Square One’s work with children and families.

Thornes Marketplace to Renovate Front Entrance

NORTHAMPTON — Thornes Marketplace will begin a major renovation of its front entrance on Main Street the first week in April to make practical improvements as well as aesthetic ones that are historically accurate. Richard Madowitz, Thornes owner and property manager, stressed that work on the entryway — one of the last phases of a multi-year capital-improvement project — will be conducted from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The front entrance will remain open daily during regular business hours. After the project gets underway, Madowitz noted, visitors with questions or concerns can send feedback to [email protected] Photographs will be available on Thornes’ Facebook page, and news and updates will appear at thornesmarketplace.com. Over the past 10 years, Thornes Marketplace has undertaken a series of major renovations to improve and enhance the eclectic shopping center. Thornes has partnered with Keiter Builders Inc. and Emily Estes of Estes Architecture and Design for the renovations to the entranceway. McGee said the practical goal of the project is to improve accessibility and make the entrance more user-friendly by replacing the 30-year-old wooden doors with wider doors equipped with modern power operators compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Aesthetic improvements will include a raised, coffered ceiling; new, custom-stained oak doors; dramatic chandelier lighting; and new floor tiling. The Florence Bank ATM enclosure will also be renovated to fit the period.

Indian Motorcycle to Open Apparel Store at MGM

SPRINGFIELD — Indian Motorcycle, the Springfield-based pioneer of the American motorcycle industry, will debut the brand’s first-ever apparel store as an anchor tenant of MGM Springfield’s retail collection. The flagship location will open its doors at the MGM property later this year. The Indian Motorcycle store will offer items from the brand’s casual apparel line, the Indian Motorcycle 1901 Fashion Collection. This road-ready collection features graphic tees, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets inspired by Indian Motorcycle’s rich heritage. Indian Motorcycle jewelry and accessories also will be available for purchase. Mirroring the aesthetic of the store’s product lines, the space will feature an industrial-yet-modern vibe with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete and wood elements. Paying homage to its long-standing roots in the heart of Springfield, the location will open onto to the resort’s plaza.

AIC Joins Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) joined the Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities (HACU) as an associate member. HACU was established in 1986 with a founding membership of eighteen institutions. It now represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher-education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. While member institutions in the U.S. represent only 13% of all higher-education institutions nationwide, together these colleges and universities are home to two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU’s commitment to Hispanic achievement in education ranges from kindergarten through graduate school and into the work force of tomorrow. Key among the organization’s goals is to improve access to and quality of post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Viridi International Resorts Acquires El Silencio Lodge and Spa in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Viridi International Resorts SRL, a new upstart in the ultra-luxury boutique hotel and spa space, announced the acquisition of El Silencio Lodge and Spa from Grupo Isilita, San Jose, Costa Rica. El Silencio Lodge is a luxury eco-tourist resort located in the high-altitude cloud forest just one hour from San Jose in Bajos del Toro. El Silencio was recently voted the No. 2 Top Resort in Central America by Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Awards. El Silencio Lodge offers one of the best lodging and dining experiences in Costa Rica. The property’s 16 intimate casitas and six two-bedroom villas offers visitors a one-of-a-kind refuge from a busy world. The resort’s detached suites offer a private viewing deck of the surrounding cloud forest with traditional rocking chairs, and a private heated outdoor Jacuzzi. Viridi plans to add additional rooms and suites in the months and years ahead. The hotel’s Las Ventanas Restaurant offers traditional Costa Rican dishes in addition to an eclectic assortment of entrees and appetizers with organic farm-to-table produce and fresh fish from two on-site fish farms. Guests can actively participate in the culinary experience by fishing for rainbow trout (Costa Rican salmon), picking vegetables, collecting free-range chicken eggs, or venturing out to a community market before enjoying a fun-filled interactive cooking session with the resort’s head chef. A second on-site restaurant, Hierbabuena, is open weekends during high season and offers a more casual menu for family gatherings. Onsite activities at El Silencio include horseback riding, ziplining, waterfall repelling, fishing, yoga, and more than two miles of hiking trails, all located on 500 acres of a pristine Costa Rican cloud forest with three breathtaking waterfalls, including one nearly 200 feet tall, all flanked by two national parks to ensure a quiet and serene experience. The resort’s open space Esencia Spa offers a full array of rejuvenating treatments using indigenous Costa Rican rainforest oils and minerals. Viridi International Resorts SRL was founded by Boston-area media entrepreneur John Gormally with the goal of building a small to medium-sized luxury boutique hotel/spa group with properties throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and other highly sought-after destination spots across the globe. Akoya Hospitality LLC, New York, N.Y. acted as advisor to buyer. Resort Capital Partners of Charlotte, N.C. acted as advisor to the seller. The sale price was not disclosed.

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Baystate Academy Charter Public School Wins Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Academy Charter Public School received a grant to offer high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs from Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. More than 10,500 schools across the country offer PLTW programs to millions of students. According to Tim Sneed, executive director of Baystate Academy, “these funds will allow us to expand our biomedical sciences programs as we prepare students to enter the field of healthcare.” Baystate Academy is just one of 73 schools across the Commonwealth to receive the grant, which is supported by the Baker-Polito administration, the One8 Foundation, and Mass STEM Hub. “It is essential that we engage our students throughout their K-12 school years with hands-on lessons in science, engineering, computer science, technology, and math,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Baystate Academy will use grant funds to strengthen its PLTW program with biomedical science. Funds from the grant will also support teacher professional development and the purchase of materials and equipment that will be used in the hands-on, activity-, project-, and problem-based courses. “We are proud to partner with Baystate Academy to empower students to develop the in-demand knowledge and transportable skills to thrive in our evolving world,” said Vince Bertram, PLTW president and CEO.

Molding Business Services Announces Acquisition of Gros Executive Recruiters

FLORENCE — Molding Business Services of Florence has acquired Gros Executive Recruiters of Franklin, Tenn. Both firms provide recruiting and executive search services to the plastics industry. Molding Business Services (MBS) was founded in 1998, and during those 20 years, its recruiting division has focused almost exclusively on the injection-molding segment of the plastics industry. Gros Executive Recruiters was founded in 1989 and serves the packaging, plastics-processing, and plastics-machinery markets. MBS brings a deeper injection-molding network to Gros, while Gros provides MBS with penetration into the packaging and plastics machinery markets. Additionally, merging the two already-extensive industry databases produces a network of talent that will benefit the combined firms’ clients. Together, MBS and Gros have recruiting staff located across the U.S., in Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, Vermont, and California. “The synergies between the two firms are numerous, and our visions and goals couldn’t be better aligned,” said MBS President Jonathan Soucy. “We are excited about enhancing our reach and capabilities for our clients, especially at a time when the demand for talented individuals in our industry has reached critical levels.” Former Gros Executive Recruiters owner and industry veteran Dennis Gros has been appointed president of the combined recruiting business. “The combination of MBS’s recruiting division and Gros Executive Recruiters is great news for hiring managers and for professionals who seek a career change,” he said. “In combining our resources, we will offer new programs designed to energize hiring in the plastics industry.” Gros Executive Recruiters will become the sole recruiting brand of the combined entity and will operate as a molding business services company.

Radiothon Raises $245,367 for Children’s Hospital

SPRINGFIELD — Generous donors pledging their support of Baystate Children’s Hospital resulted in a grand total of $245,367 raised during this year’s 17th annual 94.7 WMAS Radiothon, which ran March 6-7. “The tremendous response from listeners to the 94.7 WMAS Radiothon is a testimonial to our talented staff of caregivers who are dedicated to improving the lives of children throughout the region,” said Dr. Charlotte Boney, chair, Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital. “It takes a team effort to hold a successful Radiothon even before the first telephone rings. We couldn’t do it without the many listeners who called in to pledge their support to our Children’s Hospital, or without the assistance of the volunteers, corporate sponsors, Baystate staff, and the Kellog Krew at 94.7 WMAS who all gave so generously of their time.” There is still time to make a donation to Baystate Children’s Hospital by visiting the Radiothon webpage at www.helpmakemiracles.org/event/wmas or texting WMASkids to 51555.

AIC Named to Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been named to the list of “Better for Veterans” organizations across the country, earning the 2018 Military Friendly School designation by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs. Now in its 16th year, the Military Friendly Schools list provides a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data sources from federal agencies, veteran students, and proprietary survey information from participating organizations in order to help them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the school. For the first time, student survey data was taken into consideration for the designation. More than 1,300 schools participated in the 2017-18 survey, with 849 earning the designation. “American International College is proud to assist those men and women who serve our country,” said AIC President Vince Maniaci. “The college recognizes the value of the many educational and leadership experiences that occur in the Armed Forces, and the excellent foundation that military experience provides. In turn, we give veteran students transfer credits for service in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, helping service members and veterans get a head start on earning their degrees.”

New Prosthetic Center Serves Amputees with Innovative Technology

SPRINGFIELD — O & P Labs recently opened the doors to the Prosthetic Center at 3500 Main St. in Springfield. The local prosthetic company has been serving Western and Central Mass., Northern Conn., and Southern Vermont for more than 30 years. Co-owners Jim Haas and Blaine Drysdale hosted Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and state Rep. Carlos González, along with team members, patients, medical care providers, friends, and family for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 15. González presented a citation to recognize O & P Labs’ “30 years of healthcare service to the people of Springfield, Mass. and your innovative assistance for patients to enjoy productive lives.” The grand-opening event honored the 700 patients with limb loss who have been served over the last ten years since Haas and Drysdale have owned the company. The decision to create this full-service practice space was in direct response to the needs of these patients. “I used to ride a bike [before my amputation], and I still do,” said Drysdale, a certified prosthetist. “We are dedicated to helping every patient through their individual process. That includes before, during, and after an amputation.” The state-of-the-art Prosthetic Center features real-life experiences including a bike trainer, ramp, solo step track system, parallel bars, private rooms, and more. “Our facility does not feel like a white-coat clinic,” Haas added. “We’re here to help people get on with their lives. We strive to empower our patients to reach their similar activity level as prior to limb loss and feel part of a community while doing it.”

Report: HCC Benefits Economy Significantly

HOLYOKE — Students who graduate from Holyoke Community College (HCC) with an associate degree will see an average increase in annual earnings of about $10,000 a year compared to those with only a high-school diploma, according to a new report that calculates the total economic impact of HCC on the Pioneer Valley at nearly $215 million annually. “By comparison,” the report says, “this contribution that the college provides on its own is almost as large as the entire arts, entertainment, and recreation industry in this area.” The analysis of HCC’s economic value was conducted by Emsi, an economic modeling firm whose clients include colleges and universities as well as some of the largest for-profit corporations in the U.S., such as Amazon and Coca-Cola. For this, Emsi based its conclusions on academic and financial reports from HCC, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and other surveys related to education and social behavior. The study, commissioned by the college, looked at data from 2015-16. For fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, 2016, the study found that the total economic impact of the college on the economy in the three counties of the Pioneer Valley (Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin) was $214.6 million, or about 0.7% of the region’s gross regional product. That number includes direct spending by the college’s 991 full-time and part-time employees as well as operational spending by the college itself, and accounts for a multiplier effect, which measures how that money works its way through the regional economy. The total also includes short-term construction projects and spending by students who relocate to the Pioneer Valley as well as spending by students who choose to remain in the area for college rather than go elsewhere. In FY 2015-16, HCC served 8,243 credit students and 3,024 non-credit students. The largest impact, though, comes from alumni — former students who continue to live and work in the region: $155.1 million, or enough to support 2,642 jobs, the report notes. The study also examined the economic benefits of HCC from a student’s perspective, noting that those who complete their associate degree could expect to earn an average of $9,600 more per year than those with only a high-school diploma. Put another way, for every $1 students invest in their education (out-of-pocket expenses, interest on loans, foregone income while in school), they will earn $3.2, an average return of 12.7%. The study also concludes that HCC represents a “a solid investment” for taxpayers, generating more in tax revenue than it takes in through state and local funding — $54.6 million compared to $31.6 million, or a benefit-cost ratio of 1.8, an average rate of return of 4.5%. Massachusetts also benefits as a whole from the presence of HCC in two major ways: increased prosperity from an expanding economic base and savings generated by the improved lifestyles of students, most notably in a reduction in medical costs through improved health, reduced crime, and lower employer contributions toward unemployment.

Country Bank Donates $656,000 to Area Organizations in 2017

WARE — Country Bank reported that it donated $656,000 to more than 400 organizations in 2017 through its Charitable Giving Program. Some of the recipients include the Ronald McDonald House, which received $30,000 to support its ‘home away from home’ for children and their families being treated at the Springfield area medical facilities, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which received $10,000 to help continue its mission of providing food to those in need. “Our mission is to grow mutually beneficial relationships with our customers, community, and staff. This is evidenced not only by our commitment to support these organizations with charitable contributions, but also with staff volunteer hours,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO. “In 2017, nearly 800 hours of personal time was given back by members of the Country Bank staff to their local communities. In addition to their volunteer hours, employees also raised more than $33,000 through their own charitable-giving events such as jean days, bake sales, and raffles.

The United Arc Hosts Annual Coffee & Conversation Event

TURNERS FALLS — On Feb. 23, the United Arc held its annual Coffee & Conversation event, an opportunity for legislators in Western Mass. to hear the stories of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. This year, the Coffee & Conversation event brought together experiences in seeking full community inclusion, from the joys of work to struggles against bullying and for full access to education, to the process of gaining acceptance at school and extracurricular activities. One of the speakers was Tonya Lanpher, parent of a child with autism and a family support specialist at the United Arc. “I think the hardest thing is that people just don’t understand,” she said. “If we can help people understand, then we can create full community inclusion. People don’t understand each other if they don’t spend time together. That’s why full community inclusion is so important.” Event attendees included U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; state Sen. Stan Rosenberg; state Reps. Steve Kulik and Solomon Goldstein-Rose; Jon Gould, aide to state Sen. Adam Hinds, and Chris Cappucci, research director for state Rep. Paul Mark. They shared their thoughts on full community inclusion and the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Athol Area Advocates for Families with Special Needs, and First Light Power Resources was a supporting sponsor. Other sponsors included 2nd Street Baking Co., Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, and Greenfield Savings Bank. John Howland, CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank, and Linda Ackerman, assistant vice president and branch manager of the Greenfield Savings Bank Turners Falls branch, were also in attendance. Founded in 1951, the United Arc provides services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, helping them achieve the universal goals of inclusion, choice, and independence.

Finck & Perras Reports Community Investments

EASTHAMPTON — Genevieve Brough, president of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc., recently announced that the firm invested roughly $40,000 in the wider community through sponsorships and donations to nonprofits in 2017. Organizations the company supported range from youth sports and recreation programs in Hampshire County to Riverside Industries in Easthampton, Link to Libraries, and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hampshire County. Brough passes on her philanthropic values to employees, encouraging them to take part in community activism and fund-raising. Finck & Perras has supported the United Way of Hampshire County for 19 years, for instance, encouraging employees take part in making regular donations by offering various incentive programs. Other organizations Finck & Perras supported in 2017 include the Academy of Music Theatre, Northampton; the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Springfield; Pathlight, Springfield; TedXEasthamptonWomen; Safe Passage, Northampton; the Northampton Family Fourth Celebration; Nonotuck Community School Inc., Northampton; Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Northampton; and Look Memorial Park, Florence.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Grants Nearly $2M in 2017

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that its foundation awarded a total of $1,995,462 in grants to nonprofit organizations operating in the bank’s footprint in 2017. The grants supported a variety of education and community-development initiatives as well as health, human-service, and cultural programs. In all, 556 organizations benefited from the funding. “Our grants impacted more than 5.8 million individuals in 2017 helping to enhance economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for members of our community,” said Lori Gazzillo, senior vice president and foundation director. The foundation offers multiple grant programs, each with their own guidelines, programmatic criteria, and desired outcomes. In 2018, the foundation will again accept proposals for education programs that help individuals become college-, career-, and job-ready. They also plan to accept proposals for economic-development programs that create thriving places to live, work, and raise a family. Applications for these grant programs are due by April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1. In addition to these two programs, the foundation will offer two requests for proposals focusing on nonprofit capacity and basic needs. Additional details about the foundation’s guidelines and application process can be found online at www.berkshirebank.com/giving.

Phillips Insurance Funds Scholarships to American Legion Boys State

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance Agency Inc. announced it is funding three scholarships to the 2018 American Legion Boys State at Stonehill College in June. The one-week, overnight program focuses on understanding one’s responsibilities and rights in the democratic process. Participants establish a mock government, complete courses in economics, and participate in elections. Founded in 1935, past participants include some of the most prominent names in the country, including former President Bill Clinton, movie critic Roger Ebert, and basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. Joseph Phillips, president of Phillips Insurance, noted that “my son Connor attended Boys State in 2016 and had a positive experience, so we decided to reach out … and provide the same opportunity to other students so they could benefit from this unique program and help prepare them for college and beyond.”

Company Notebook Departments

Big Y’s Growth Expands Distribution Center

SPRINGFIELD — It was in 1995 that Big Y expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Co. on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to 31 supermarkets throughout the region. Three years later, Big Y’s corporate headquarters and store support center moved to the same site. Fast-forward to 2018, when Big Y’s distribution now supports 70 supermarkets out of the same space, and it is easy to see the need for an expanded facility. The current 189,000-square-foot distribution center has 19 receiving bays and operates round the clock seven days a week with a staff of 92 moving product through this system. In 1995, 3.5 million cases of product were shipped each year from this facility. Even eight years ago, Big Y’s distribution-center team shipped out nearly 15 million cases to stores. By the end of last year, that number had increased to more than 20 million cases. Therefore, Big Y plans an expansion in order to provide capacity for the next 20 years, with includes plans for 20 new supermarkets. The company anticipates a total of 53 dock doors are needed to manage this growth, along with an additional 232,000 square feet of space for a total of close to 425,000 square feet. This expansion will improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all of stores and will require an additional 32 full-time employees at this site. Big Y has worked with Kevin Kennedy, Springfield’s chief Development officer, along with Mayor Domenic Sarno to develop a plan for this $35 million to $40 million project. In addition, Big Y is working with Springfield based Dennis Group, a local full service planning, architecture, engineering and construction management firm on this project. It is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

UMass Dining App Wins Two Awards

AMHERST — The UMass Dining mobile app has been recognized in the Web Marketing Association’s sixth annual MobileWebAwards competition as both the Best University Mobile Application and the Best of Show Mobile Application of 2017. The UMass Dining mobile app’s key features include up-to-date menus, operating hours, and contact information for all dining common locations, the ability to view real-time traffic updates for each location, having access to UMass Dining’s on-campus events information, and the ability to personalize one’s menu for dietary preferences and allergens. Each website and mobile application in this year’s MobileWebAwards competition were assessed based on creativity, impact, design, content, interactivity, ease of use, and the use of the medium. Each entry was evaluated in comparison to the websites and mobile apps within the same format in its industry and then judged for an overall standard of excellence.

United Personnel Wins 2018 Best of Staffing Awards

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has won Inavero’s Best of Staffing Client and Talent Awards for providing superior service to clients and job seekers. Presented in partnership with CareerBuilder, Inavero’s Best of Staffing winners have proven to be industry leaders in service quality based entirely on ratings by their clients and the employees they have helped find jobs. On average, clients of winning agencies are 2.3 times more likely to be completely satisfied. Job seekers who work with winning agencies are 1.7 times more satisfied with the services provided compared to those working with non-winning agencies. Focused on helping to connect people with the right job opportunities, United Personnel received satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from a significant amount of both clients and candidates placed in jobs, resulting in the recognition. These two awards are distinctions that fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada have earned.

Professional Drywall Construction Inc. Transfers Ownership

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Professional Drywall Construction Inc. (PDC) recently transferred ownership of the company to two of its employees. Ron Perry and Nick Shaink are now carrying on founder John Kendzierski’s legacy as a leading commercial drywall contractor in Southwestern New England. Former owner John Kendzierski will remain on the board of directors as a consultant. PDC will continue to operate from its West Springfield office, but in order to better serve the construction industry in Connecticut, it recently opened a second office in South Norwalk, Conn. The new location allows PDC to react more quickly to requests from Connecticut customers and provide additional on-site consultation in the Southern Conn. area. Affiliated with the carpenters and laborers union since 1997, PDC has grown to become a regional firm with more than employees, working in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. PDC is pre-qualified to work in both Massachusetts and Connecticut, and has a bonding capacity of up to $35 million, enabling it to accommodate virtually any size project.

PV Squared Welcomes Five New Worker-owners

GREENFIELD — PV Squared, a worker-owned cooperative and certified B Corp solar-installation company located in Greenfield, recently welcomed five new worker-owners to the ownership team. Each of the new worker-owners — Daniel Berry, Daniel Gomez, Doug Dedischew, Elliot Henry, and Ian Tapscott — has worked at PV Squared for at least two years before being promoted to worker-owner. PV Squared started with four co-owners in 2002 and has since grown to 44 employees, 24 of whom are worker-owners. There are thousands of worker-owned cooperatives around the world, and that number is growing. The cooperative model reflects a growing movement to create an economic and social alternative to ‘business as usual.’ In a worker-owned cooperative, the people who do the work make the decisions together, instead of having them handed down from an executive. It’s a think-on-your-feet model that allows workers to offer their perspective, suggest alternative methods, and affect real change in practices. PV Squared provides renewable-energy solutions to a wide range of clients, including business owners, commercial property owners, academic institutions, and homeowners in Western Mass. and surrounding regions.

MassMutual Foundation Gives $1 Million in Grants to Springfield Schools

SPRINGFIELD — The MassMutual Foundation Inc. — a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual — announced it is providing $1 million to expand the City Connects program into eight additional elementary schools throughout Springfield. This grant aligns with the foundation’s focus on supporting programs that broaden economic opportunity for students and their families by transforming the system of learning. It is also consistent with the company’s recent decision to expand and reinvest in Massachusetts. City Connects, a national program executed by the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, launched in five Springfield public schools in September 2011 and has tripled its reach and impact, serving 15 schools in 2017. The MassMutual Foundation grant will enable City Connects to reach a total of 23 schools. The program provides support for students based on their individual needs by addressing out-of-school challenges that affect student success, and leverages existing community resources and support services to optimize students’ readiness to learn. During the 2016-17 school year, City Connects served more than 5,000 Springfield students, and nearly 100 community partners provided support and services to meet these students’ unique strengths, needs, and interests. Research has shown that the City Connects program significantly improves students’ academic performance; some positive long-term effects include lower dropout rates, higher test scores, and less chronic absenteeism.

HNE Gives Food Bank $30,000 to Support Puerto Rican Evacuees

HATFIELD — The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts announced it has received a $30,000 grant award from Health New England to support Puerto Rican evacuees settling in Western Mass. following Hurricane Maria. The Food Bank has been collaborating with community organizations throughout the region to provide evacuees with their most basic need: food. The grant award will fund the food needs of the two designated welcome centers with the greatest influx of new people: Springfield Family Resource Center and Enlace de Familias Resource Center of Holyoke. Since evacuees began arriving in Western Mass. last October, the Food Bank has been working with these local organizations to ensure everyone has access to healthy food. It has been making weekly deliveries to Enlace de Familias to provide food for approximately 125 families per week. The provisions of canned fruit and vegetables, soup, rice, beans, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and other staples afford families nourishment as they get themselves settled. The Food Bank has also been delivering food weekly to the Springfield Family Resource Center. Additionally, its agency-relations team has been connecting families with other local partner feeding programs so they can continue to access healthy food, and SNAP coordinators have been on site in Holyoke, enrolling evacuees to receive federal SNAP food benefits.

Community Music School Wins Grant from MDRT Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Community Music School of Springfield (CMSS) through its Quality of Life Grant Program in honor of Jeanmarie Deliso, CFP. Through its global grants programs, the MDRT Foundation is committed to building stronger families and communities around the globe. This year, the MDRT Foundation will award more than $1 million in MDRT member-endorsed grants to more than 200 charitable organizations worldwide. Representing the MDRT Foundation, Deliso will present this grant to Community Music School of Springfield on March 23 at its board meeting. Trained in both music and special education, CMSS faculty work with Springfield classrooms to teach general music concepts in a way that is accessible to special-education students. The AMP Institute expands the reach of this work by training educators to use these methods in their classrooms.

Community Bank, N.A. Ranked Sixth in U.S. in Financial Performance

DEWITT, N.Y. — Forbes magazine recently ranked Community Bank, N.A. sixth in the nation for financial performance in a study analyzing 10 key metrics related to growth, asset quality, capital adequacy, and profitability for the nation’s 100 largest banks and thrifts. This is the seventh year running that Community Bank, N.A. has ranked among the top 15 banks on the list. Forbes began ranking America’s 100 largest publicly traded banks and thrifts after the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Community Bank, N.A. scored above all regional banks serving within the bank’s footprint.

Bumpy’s Natural and Organic Foods Moves to Agawam

AGAWAM — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce recently welcomed Bumpy’s Natural and Organic Foods to the Agawam community. Business owner Derryl “Bumpy” Gibbs and his sister Dishanda Robinson moved the retail store from Granby to the Agawam location last month. As the community becomes more health conscious, Gibbs felt the move was a good opportunity for Agawam and the surrounding region to “eat well, feel great, and save money” — the company’s slogan. It is a family-owned business looking to support healthy families. From an elaborate selection of herbal teas to shampoos to baby needs, Bumpy’s aims to meet the everyday needs of people looking to eat and live healthy, Gibbs said.

WFWM Receives Grant to Support Women’s Leadership Programs

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced it has received a $25,000 grant from Irving and Sulamith Blackberg Charitable Foundation, Stanley Waxler, Joan Waxlerm and Bank of America, N.A., co-trustees. The unrestricted funds will directly support women and girls in Western Mass. who are participating in the Women’s Fund’s signature leadership-development programs, the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) and the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI). Both programs are dedicated to serving local women and girls in their personal and professional leadership development. LIPPI is a non-partisan initiative that provides women with the tools, mentors, and confidence they need to become community leaders and elected officials. The program trains women in the nuts and bolts of impacting policy from a citizen perspective, and develops leadership confidence through 11 intensive workshops held in downtown Springfield over 10 months. YWI, a national, multi-sector project aimed at creating sustainable prosperity for young women, is a cooperative effort of eight women’s foundations across the U.S. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is leading the Springfield Partnership, a pilot program that aims to produce systems change in the region’s largest city.

Company Notebook Departments

Bay Path MS Program in Nonprofit Management Named to Top-10 List

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) program in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy has been named to the top 10 in the nation, as ranked by thebestschools.org. The university’s program has been recognized among the top online graduate nonprofit-management programs annually since 2014. This year, Bay Path ranked 10th on the list as one of just two New England colleges to make the cut. According to thebestschools.org, graduate-degree programs in nonprofit management were selected for the ranking based on academic excellence, types of courses offered, faculty strength, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the college’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs. The MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path University, open to men and women, is offered completely online or on campus, either full-time or part-time.

VVM Appoints Six Executives in Residence

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) announced the addition of six new executives in residence (EIRs) who will serve as guest educators and leaders to the 36 startup companies in the 2018 VVM Startup Accelerator program. The program provides intensive training, a network of skilled mentors, and funding that enables startup founders to establish and grow their businesses at a fast pace. EIRs represent experienced industry leaders, creatives, and strategists, as well as social-impact entrepreneurs from around the country. This first-ever group of EIRs will join the VVM staff team in providing day-to-day instruction over the course of four intensive, boot-camp-style weekends from February through May. The program culminates in the 2018 VVM Accelerator Awards at the MassMutual Center on Thursday, May 24. The EIRs include Bethany Martin, principal of B Martin Studio, mentor at Pilotworks, and faculty member at the Pratt Institute; Gustavo Bottan, co-founder and CEO of Opt4America senior mentor at MIT – Sandbox and the MIT CCLP Leadership Program; Joe Bush, executive director for the Worcester CleanTech Incubator; Steven Bellofatto, co-founder of ION Design and former adjunct faculty member at New York University in Manhattan, Department of Design & Digital Arts; Tanya Menendez, co-founder of Maker’s Row, and named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, People en Espanol’s “Most Powerful Latinas,” Business Insider’s “Coolest People in Tech,” and PopMechanic’s “25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream”; and Zaza Kabayadondo, director at Smith College for the Design Thinking Initiative and former program advisor at Stanford University’s Learning, Design, and Technology masters’ program.

STCC Biotech Program Wins Gold Level Endorsement

SPRINGFIELD — Graduates of the biotechnology programs at Springfield Technical Community College are well-prepared for careers in the life sciences, according to a leading science-education organization. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) endorsed STCC’s biotechnology associate degree and certificate programs at the Gold Level. MassBioEd concluded that graduates of the degree and certificate programs “are ready for the life-sciences workforce.” The STCC program met the core competencies defined by biotechnology industry and academic leaders who worked with MassBioEd, a nonprofit organization with a mission to build a life-sciences workforce in the region through educational programs that inspire students and engage teachers. Core competencies required for endorsement include following good laboratory practices, lab techniques, and exhibiting appropriate workplace behaviors, among other requirements.

Berkshire Hills Reports Q4 Operating Results

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported that fourth-quarter pre-tax income grew by 82% to $19.5 million in 2017 compared to $10.7 million in the prior year. This improvement was due to business development and the benefit of mergers, including Worcester-based Commerce Bancshares Corp. which was acquired on Oct. 13, 2017. Net income after tax was impacted by an $18 million non-core charge to income-tax expense resulting from federal tax reform enacted near year end. This reform is expected to benefit future earnings due to a lower statutory federal tax rate beginning in 2018. Net income after tax totaled $55 million in 2017 compared to $59 million in 2016. The tax charge noted above reduced fourth-quarter earnings per share by $0.40 and resulted in a fourth-quarter net loss of $0.06 per share in 2017, compared to a profit of $0.32 per share in 2016. Fourth-quarter core earnings per share improved by 4% to $0.58 in 2017, from $0.56 in 2016. The measure of core earnings excludes the above tax charge and also excludes other net non-core charges primarily related to merger costs. These costs in the fourth quarter of 2017 were mostly related to the Commerce acquisition, which increased assets by $1.8 billion, or 19%, to $11.6 billion at year end.

O & P Labs Opens New Prosthetic Center

SPRINGFIELD — O & P Labs announced the grand opening of its Prosthetic Center at 3500 Main St. in Springfield. The local prosthetic company has been serving Western and Central Mass., Northern Conn., and Southern Vermont for more than 30 years. O & P Labs is best known for its local, state-or-the-art fabrication lab, which allows patients to receive fittings, repairs, and adjustments quickly. The 3D printer decreases production time, and digital scanning technology creates highly customized prosthetic sockets.

Main Street Hospitality Sells Elm Street Market

STOCKBRIDGE — Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, announced the sale of Elm Street Market to Verson Inc., headed by brothers Rajesh and Rajeev Verma from New Jersey. New management took over operation of the market immediately when the sale was completed last month. The Elm Street Market, previously owned and operated by Main Street Hospitality, has been a local favorite and community staple for more than 20 years. “We stopped at Elm Street Market on our way to visit my son at college and immediately fell in love with the restaurant and Stockbridge,” said Rajesh Verma. “The market is a strong community anchor, and we intend to keep it that way, building on its existing strength and evolving its local food offerings over time.” Verson Inc. is a family-owned business that owns and operates a group of deli and catering shops in New York City. Verma plans to keep the current staff while adding more prepared foods to the menu.

Community Foundation Joins Partnership to Boost Arts, Creativity

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) and the Barr Foundation, a private foundation based in Boston, announced the launch of Creative Commonwealth, a partnership between Barr, CFWM, and four other Massachusetts community foundations. This new initiative is rooted in the belief that investments in arts and creativity build thriving communities, and it aims to promote the vital leadership role community foundations can play to advance the arts. Creative Commonwealth will pave the way for community foundations to deepen and grow support for artists and cultural organizations. Along with CFWM, the community foundations partnering with Barr on this effort are the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Essex County Community Foundation, and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has been awarded $500,000 over 24 months to pilot ideas that emerged from a planning process the foundation undertook in 2017, with funding from Barr to identify opportunities, needs, and priorities. CFWM efforts will focus on testing innovative ideas to connect arts to other sectors, providing training to build the capacity of small organizations and assessing the need for a regional arts hub to advance collaborative opportunities.

River Valley Counseling Opens Easthampton Office

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Counseling Center opened a new office location in Liberty Commons at 2 Mechanic St, Easthampton. The new office offers behavioral-health services for individuals and families. This new location follows five months after River Valley Counseling Center began offering school-based services within all of the Easthampton Schools. School-based therapy is outpatient therapy; however, these services are coordinated with the school to provide easy access to appointments for students and families and to assist with school-related problems as needed. Services available at the Easthampton location include individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and children. Clinicians help the client, couple, or family identify the concerns or issues that will become the focus of treatment. Both the client and clinician work together to determine the most effective treatment needed. The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is determined based on individualized treatment plans. For additional information or to schedule an appointment with River Valley Counseling Center, call (413) 540-1234.

Monson Savings Announces Public’s Choices for Giving

MONSON — For the eighth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2018. The top vote getter was Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts, followed, in order of votes, by Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Scantic Valley YMCA, River East School-to-Career, Link to Libraries, Rick’s Place, Academy Hill School, Behavioral Health Network at Valley Human Resources, and Monson Free Library.

Company Notebook Departments

MGM Springfield Moves to On-site Corporate Offices

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield has moved into new corporate offices at 95 State St., soon to be called One MGM Way. Located across from the Hampden County Superior Court, and adjacent to what will be MGM Springfield’s South End Market, the building will be home to members of the MGM Springfield executive and administrative teams. “Moving on site is a great way to kick off the year of our opening,” said Michael Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield. “We have a growing workforce, and this office space better suits our ever-expanding needs as this momentous year unfolds. It’s an exciting transition for all of us.” Like other elements of the property’s integrated downtown design, the 11-story building celebrates Springfield’s heritage while preserving its iconic past. Built in 1929, the building was designed in the classical revival style by Burton Geckler as an annex to 1200 Main St. It was formerly known as the MassMutual building at 95 State St., and has since undergone a complete renovation, including new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and finishes. MGM carefully conserved the exterior façade and maintained many of the lobby’s original features. “I am proud of the effort and care that our first-in-class construction team has put into preserving Springfield’s history throughout the property,” Mathis said. “This building is just one example of the many that will be unveiled this year.” Springfield firms Specs Design Group and Dietz & Co. Architects collaborated on the outfitting and design of the employee space with Las Vegas-based Friedmutter Group. Springfield-based Fontaine Bros. Inc. served as general contractor and stewarded the project through the construction phase. “As a company that has called Springfield home for over 85 years, we were excited to oversee construction of this critical portion of the MGM resort, and we are proud to have played a role in helping bring this unprecedented economic-development project to our city,” said David Fontaine Jr., vice president of Fontaine Bros. MGM Springfield’s new corporate offices boast collaboration and work areas, conference and meeting spaces, open cubicle areas, and private executive offices. The design scheme includes warm colors, reclaimed wood, and brick veneers throughout the space. The corporate offices will be located on floors two through eight. Approximately 50 employees have moved into the space. At full staffing, the area is expected to accommodate more than 300 employees. Activities at the approximately 85,000-square-foot employee offices will cover all aspects of the day-to-day operations for MGM Springfield. Anyone interested in learning about career opportunities should visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center, which will be open 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

ICNE Announces Addition of Eastman & Davis Insurance

AGAWAM — The Insurance Center of New England (ICNE) announced the addition of Eastman & Davis Insurance Agency Inc. in West Springfield to its growing company. “We are thrilled to not only have the Eastman & Davis Insurance clients join our agency, but also to have longtime employee Marilyn Loudon join the ICNE team as a personal lines account manager,” said William Trudeau, president and CEO of ICNE. Many ICNE clients have been with the agency for generations, Trudeau noted, so he understands what an important role Bill Eastman has played in the lives of his clients through the years. “I feel so honored that Bill trusts the ICNE team to take over the responsibility of caring for his clients.” Over the past several years, Eastman had been seeking out a business partner to ensure that his business would continue to thrive and that his clientele would be well-taken care of for decades to come. While Eastman & Davis clients may experience a few minor changes in process and procedures, the ultimate goal is to make the transition seamless. “When Eastman & Davis clients join ICNE, they will quickly learn that we are much more than an insurance agency,” Trudeau said. “We are a local team of insurance professionals who will get to know them personally and will always be there to answer their questions, review their policy, and help them make informed decisions to safeguard their family, home, car, and everything that is important to them.” As part of the transition, Eastman & Davis’ West Springfield office will be closing. However, for the convenience of clients, Marilyn Loudon will move to ICNE’s main office in Agawam, just five miles down the road from the current West Springfield location.

Speaker Sisterhood Announces Partnership with Baystate Health

SPRINGFIELD — Twenty-eight female medical providers from Baystate Health are set to begin a six-month pilot of a public-speaking training program uniquely crafted for women in academic medicine. The program is a collaboration between Women Advancing and Achieving in Medicine, a Baystate Health organizational resource group, and Speaker Sisterhood, a public-speaking training company for women founded by CEO Angela Lussier and headquartered in Holyoke. The program is focused on learning and practicing proven techniques to enhance participants’ communication so they are more effective and confident. The goal is for each participant to hone her own authentic voice so that she has greater impact both within her department and from behind the podium at major conferences. The program kicked off Jan. 10 and runs until June 6. “For years, I have noticed a lack of female speakers at many high-profile medical conferences, and I figured that there had to be a systemic way to change this, and our pilot project is a first step,” said Dr. Jeannette Wolfe, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at UMass Medical School’s Baystate campus. “We have partnered with Speaker Sisterhood to develop a very unique curriculum that addresses some of the specific challenges many women in academic medicine face in becoming recognized as source experts within their fields. I’m very excited about the potential of the program because creating a group of polished public speakers not only benefits those speakers, but also increases the regional and national recognition of Baystate Health.” Participants, who were nominated by their chairs and program directors, will meet monthly in a three-hour evening session. Each meeting will begin with a brief lecture covering topics ranging from effective storytelling to slide development to tips on how to break into conference speaking circles. Next, participants will move into their breakout groups of eight or nine women for hands-on experiential learning and practice giving speeches and feedback to each other. Each group has deliberately been created to include women from a mix of medical specialties and experience levels with the intention that this will help naturally facilitate beneficial networking and coaching within the groups. The pilot program is built upon the Speaker Sisterhood’s signature speaker development program, “The Secret Life of Speaking Up,” which was crafted to help professional women enhance their speech-writing skills, build on presentation effectiveness, and grow confidence while speaking. “We’ve been running this program for the last 18 months in various communities, and over 100 women have benefited from the Speaker Sisterhood curriculum. We’re excited to see the impact it will make in a hospital setting and in the medical community at large,” Lussier said. The aim of the pilot is to demonstrate its success though participants’ reports so that it can be expanded throughout Baystate Health and used as a template to benefit women in other academic centers.

The Drama Studio Secures Permanent Home

SPRINGFIELD — The Drama Studio was founded in 1987 by Steve Hays and a group of educators and parents who envisioned an institution where youth could study acting as seriously as they could study music. Located at 41 Oakland St. in Springfield, in close proximity to Forest Park, the Drama Studio had been a 30-year renter of space from St. Barnabas & All Saints Episcopal Church when the call came from the diocese that the building was no longer to be utilized as a place of worship. “When that call came, our board sprang into action,” Hays said. “Funds were quickly raised from a small group of generous donors, and thanks to the hard work of our board and the generosity of the diocese, we were able to negotiate a fair price. On December 22, 2017, we purchased the church and are thrilled to begin steps toward major renovation.” The mission of the Drama Studio is to enrich and validate the adolescent experience in this diverse community via excellence in a conservatory-style acting training program. It serves more than 250 students annually from the region. One alum, Gregory Boilard, of New York City, was involved with the Drama Studio from grade 6 until he graduated from Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham in 2010. He credits Hays with “shaping his childhood” and enabling him to land his dream job working in publicity for the Disney Theatrical Group on Broadway. While many alums have gone on to have careers in theater, film, and television, others attribute their success as lawyers, surgeons, administrators, teachers, and other professionals to the confidence they gained as students at the Drama Studio. The Drama Studio is one of a handful of after-school acting conservatories in the U.S. where young actors ages 6 to 18 can study intensively and advance through a theater curriculum before graduating from high school. It offers a coordinated program including both classroom and performance training with more than 25 after-school classes and six vacation camps. Two community outreach programs, DramaTours and TheaterReaders, currently serve more than 3,000 Springfield public elementary-school children each year.

River Valley Co-op Explores Potential Second Store Site

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Co-op has secured an option agreement for the potential purchase of the Easthampton property at 228 Northampton St. (formerly the Fedor Automobile Dealership) as a second store location. River Valley Co-op is a cooperatively owned grocery store with one location in Northampton. Since 2014, the cooperative business has been discussing a second store location with co-op owners, customers, and employees in order to accommodate its growth as well as furthering the mission of building a strong local food system. “We’ve been looking for a suitable location for a second store for several years to serve our community better,” said Andrea Stanley, board president. “Our goal is to expand our community-owned grocery business to further our local economic impact and build the resiliency of our local food system through year-round purchases to even more local farmers. We believe that Easthampton is an ideal match for River Valley Co-op. In fact, we have many co-op owners and vendors from Easthampton already, so we feel a strong connection to the community and look forward to expanding our working relationships even further with this project.” The option agreement gives the co-op a year to conduct its due diligence, planning, and fund-raising before exercising its exclusive right to purchase the property. River Valley Co-op’s leadership team met recently with Easthampton Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle to discuss the dynamics of the plan. “River Valley Co-op is a natural fit for Easthampton residents as consumers and job-seekers. High-quality food and jobs is a combination that is hard to beat,” LaChapelle said. “I had the opportunity to sit down with the River Valley team last week. They conveyed deep understanding of Easthampton and shared their plans with thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. As the co-op is ready to grow, Easthampton is ready to support that growth to ensure success for everyone.” Property owner Eddie Fedor said his family is enthusiastic about the potential of River Valley Co-op expanding in Easthampton. “This is a great location and will be very convenient for a lot of people. River Valley Co-op’s support of local farmers and other local vendors would make them a great addition to our community.” The co-op expects to employ 100 people in its Easthampton store. More than 95% of Northampton store employees are full-time with benefits and are represented by UFCW Local 1459.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q4 Results

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017. The company reported net income of $9.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $15.2 million, or $0.30 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $14.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016. Net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017 was $54.6 million, or $1.07 per diluted share, compared to net income of $49.7 million, or $0.99 per diluted share, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2016. On Dec. 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which, among other things, lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Companies must recognize the effect of tax-law changes in the period of enactment under the generally accepted accounting principles. This tax reform resulted in a $2.8 million negative net-income impact in the fourth quarter of 2017. Of the $2.8 million impact, $1.6 million flowed directly through the provision for income taxes, and was primarily related to a re-measurement of the company’s deferred tax asset. Additionally, there was a $1.2 million pre-tax adjustment related to the write-down of legacy United limited partnerships due to the aforementioned tax reform. Other significant events during the quarter included the  company surrendering $32.8 million of under-performing bank-owned life insurance policy value, resulting in a $2.4 million negative impact to the provision for income taxes. The company subsequently reinvested $30 million into higher-yielding product in early January 2018. “The United Bank team delivered strong loan and non-interest bearing deposit growth in the fourth quarter of 2017. Asset quality, capital, and liquidity remained strong and stable,” said William Crawford IV, CEO and President of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $7.11 billion at Dec. 31, 2017 and increased $137.7 million, or 2%, from $6.98 billion at Sept. 30, 2017. At Dec. 31, 2017, total loans were $5.34 billion, representing an increase of $134.2 million, or 2.6%, from the linked quarter. Changes to loan balances during the fourth quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $76.7 million, or 4.3%, increase in investor non-owner occupied commercial real-estate loans; a $24.9 million, or 9.3%, increase in other consumer loans; a $21.4 million, or 3.8%, increase in home-equity loans; and a $18.9 million, or 2.3%, increase in commercial business loans. Loans held for sale increased $24.7 million, or 27.6%, from the linked quarter, as the company increased the held-for-sale portfolio for delivery to third-party investors at the end of the quarter. Total cash and cash equivalents decreased $9.8 million, or 10%, from the linked quarter. Deposits totaled $5.2 billion at Dec. 31, 2017 and increased by $45.2 million, or 0.9%, from $5.15 billion at Sept. 30, 2017. Increases in deposit balances during the fourth quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $53.4 million, or 7.4%, increase in non-interest-bearing checking deposits, as well as a $77.3 million, or 4.5%, increase in certificates of deposit. Offsetting these increases was a $75.5 million, or 3.4%, decline in NOW checking and money-market deposits, largely due to seasonal withdrawals in municipal funds.

Company Notebook Departments

Hazen Paper Co. Honored with Holography Award

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. was recognized with an Excellence in Holography Award from the International Hologram Manufacturers Assoc. (IHMA) at its annual conference in Barcelona, Spain. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in pioneering innovative holographic products or techniques, as well as the best use of holography in commercial applications. Singled out from a record number of entries, Hazen was awarded Best Applied Decorative Packaging Product for its own promotional 2017 calendar and supporting brochure. The six-panel brochure and related poster/calendar each highlight different capabilities and product characteristics, though they both feature a dramatic image of a woman dressed in a gown of gold satin, who appears radiant and three-dimensional, thanks to custom Hazen Holography. According to the IHMA, the two are “a beautiful display of holographic art with many technical features.” The brochure, which showcases more than 50 holograms to inspire design and packaging innovators, was constructed of holographic film laminated to both sides of a paperboard cover stock. The film acts as a hinge at the folds and seals the stock, resulting in enhanced lay-flat properties and durability. Holography on the front is registered to print as well as to the holography on the back, without re-combine lines. The poster/calendar demonstrates Hazen’s large-format holographic capability and compatibility with green objectives, digitally printed on transfer-metallized Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product that uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate, none of the film, and is recyclable as paper. Film-free Envirofoil’s ultra-thin metallized layer also delivers exceptional lay-flat results on this oversized piece. The IHMA, a nonprofit organization registered in the United Kingdom, promotes the cooperation of over 100 of the world’s foremost holographic companies to maintain the highest professional, security, and quality standards in support of its customers. In 2016, the IHMA presented Hazen President John Hazen with the Brian Monaghan Award for Business Innovation. Hazen Paper has been a member of the IHMA since 2005.

Northampton Branch of Family Legacy Partners Announces Name Change

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton branch of Family Legacy Partners, led by Karen Curran and Molly Keegan, announced a company name change to Curran and Keegan Financial. The company’s office remains in Northampton. This name change allows the company to better reflect a personal promise to help guide clients’ financial futures. Karen Curran and Molly Keegan offer a combined 22 years of service as independent financial advisors, sponsor numerous community events, and serve on several local boards. Keegan is chair of the Hadley Select Board, and Curran sits on the boards of Safe Passage and Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Additionally, the company is beginning its fourth year by adding a new client-services associate, Kori Ferris. Ferris has 12 years of experience in higher education, and she most recently led the Office of Financial Aid at Weill Cornell Medicine. A resident of Greenfield, she joins the company with a focus on helping clients and advisors during the financial-planning and investment process.

Berkshire Hills Touts Employee, Community Investments

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc., the parent of Berkshire Bank, announced additional investments in its employees and communities following the recent passage of federal tax reform legislation. These investments include:

• Raising Berkshire’s minimum wage to $15 per hour;

• Providing a one-time bonus of $1,000 to more than 1,000 employees. This grant benefits all full-time employees below a certain compensation threshold, covering more than 70% of the bank’s workforce, and augments the $500 holiday bonus these colleagues received in the fourth quarter;

• Enhancing Berkshire’s investment in employee development and training programs to benefit employees and bolster the bank’s current offering at AMEBU – American’s Most Exciting Bank University; and

• Contributing $2 million to the Berkshire Bank Foundation, which supports charitable organizations, scholarships, and volunteerism across Berkshire’s local communities. This will bolster the foundation’s endowment and allow for increased local giving. Last year, it provided over $2 million to our local communities, complementing the employee volunteer program, which helps employees contribute more than 40,000 hours of volunteer service each year.

Country Bank Donates to Local Food Pantries

WARE — Community outreach has been a part of Country Bank’s mission since its inception in 1850. During this season of giving, the bank is supporting organizations whose missions are similar, helping friends and neighbors in area communities. In addition to the bank’s annual donation of $28,000 to its local food pantries, Country Bank recently made an additional $10,000 donation to both the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Worcester County Food Bank to help those in need. “With the spirit of the holiday season in mind, the greater need for food and shelter this time of year is critical. These donations were made on behalf of the banks’ employees, corporators, and trustees” said Paul Scully, Country Bank president and CEO.

TommyCar Auto Group Gives Back to Local Veterans

NORTHAMPTON — Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, recently presented Jack Collins, director of the Northampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center, with a check for $1,480. All three of the TommyCar Auto stores, Northampton Volkswagen, Country Nissan, and Country Hyundai, held the same promotion throughout the entire month of November. For every car sold, each dealership would donate $10 to the Northampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center. The stores were able to raise a total of $1,480. “Our veterans have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to protect and keep our country safe. As a business owner, it’s my obligation to give back to our veterans when our veterans give so much,” Cosenzi said. The Northampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides primary, specialty, and mental-health care to 120,000 men and women. The money donated will assist in several services and healthcare programs available for veterans.

Beetle Press Celebrates 20th Anniversary This Year

EASTHAMPTON — Janice Beetle, principal of Beetle Press, a public-relations and communications firm, recently announced she will celebrate 20 years in business in 2018. Beetle established the business in 1998 after working as a journalist for 15 years, first as a beat reporter for the Springfield Republican and then as a writer and editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. That training has helped her assist clients in connecting with the media via press releases. Beetle works with a diverse range of clients from the nonprofit and private sectors. She writes for and edits print pieces such as magazines and annual reports; creates editorial calendars that include print and online media channels; and supports digital-marketing efforts for clients, writing blogs, e-newsletters, and website content. In 2013, she introduced book development to her roster of services, and has since helped launch many authors’ publications. To mark the 20th anniversary for the business, Alison Winkler, a graphic designer native to Northampton who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., adapted the original Beetle Press logo design by Lisa Stowe of Florence, creating an anniversary version. For a number of years, Beetle promoted her business as a one-stop shop, offering writing, editing and graphic-design services. Today, she has returned to her roots, focusing on writing, editing and PR services. When clients need more comprehensive services, she partners with colleagues Ruth Griggs, a marketing strategist, and Maureen Scanlon, a graphic designer, in a collaborative called the Creative. Beetle holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Westfield State College. Since 2003, she has mentored dozens of interns from Westfield State and UMass Amherst. She now employs four former interns on a freelance basis: Shelby Ashline, a graduate of UMass; Shannon Grossman and Ashley Pond, graduates of Westfield State; and David Kennedy, a current Westfield State student. Clients of Beetle Press include Westfield State University, Glenmeadow, Florence Bank, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, Sports Travel and Tours, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Brattleboro Retreat’s Psychology Internship Program Accredited

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — The Brattleboro Retreat announced that its psychology internship program has been awarded a full seven-year accreditation from the American Psychological Assoc. (APA) Commission on Accreditation (CoA). APA-CoA is recognized by both the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the national accrediting authority for professional education and training in psychology. The Retreat launched its psychology internship program in 2011. Since then, 14 individuals have completed the year-long commitment, working 40 hours per week in various programs, including the Retreat’s uniformed service program, Birches Treatment Center, and pain management program as part of their doctoral training in professional psychology. The rigorous process of achieving APA accreditation required the Retreat to submit a detailed self-study designed to assess the internship program’s ability to meet APA accreditation requirements and also to gauge the Retreat’s overall ability to support a quality training environment. Following approval of the self-study, APA-selected site visitors conducted a two-day survey in late 2017 that included meetings with hospital administrators, faculty, and students. An accreditation determination was then made following an extensive APA committee review of all documents and findings.

Company Notebook Departments

AIC Offers Puerto Rico Relief Scholarship
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the opportunity for college students in Puerto Rico to continue their education at AIC at a greatly reduced cost. Through the Puerto Rico Relief Scholarship, the college anticipates that this temporary program will allow students to continue their studies while Puerto Rico rebuilds its infrastructure following the impact of Hurricane Maria. Students who have been displaced from Puerto Rico are invited to apply to AIC to continue their education for the spring 2018 or fall 2018 semester. Students will be offered a flat tuition rate of $10,000 per year. Individuals in this program will be able to apply for additional federal financial aid, which can assist in covering their remaining balance. The college will guide prospective students through the application and financial-aid process. “American International College was founded in 1885 to educate newcomers to the United States and prepare their children for citizenship and success,” said President Vince Maniaci. “Today, AIC boasts an extremely diverse and vibrant student body with a vision of access and opportunity for all. We are proud to take an active role in the Springfield community, including close ties to our Puerto Rican neighbors. With these things in mind, all of us — faculty, staff, and students alike — are aware of the devastation in Puerto Rico and want to provide assistance.” While some educational and residency restrictions may apply, students interested in learning more are invited to call the AIC admissions office at (413) 205-3700 or e-mail [email protected]

Family Business Center Welcomes PeoplesBank as Strategic Partner
AMHERST — The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley is a learning organization of more than 60 member companies, providing opportunities for improvement since 1994. An important resource it provides is the wisdom and experience of expert advisors, who are the center’s strategic partners. Beginning in January, the center welcomes PeoplesBank onto its team of experts, joining Meyers Brothers Kalicka, Bacon Wilson, Giombetti Associates, Epstein Financial Services, Charter Oak Financial, the Axia Group, Johnson & Hill Staffing, and BusinessWest magazine. “PeoplesBank is very happy to be a supporter of the great work of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley,” said Matthew Bannister, PeoplesBank’s first vice president of Marketing & Innovation. “Family businesses are the lifeblood of our community and our regional economy, and we recognize how valuable the services provided by the center are.”

Baystate Wing Hospital Awards Grants to Local Agencies
PALMER — Baystate Wing Hospital announced an investment of $43,226 in grants to benefit local social service, health, and educational programs to area community-based nonprofit organizations. “These grant investments represent Baystate Wing Hospital’s commitment to support and work with our community partners to focus on public-health-related programs and initiatives that reduce health disparities, promote community wellness, and improve access to care in our region,” said Michael Moran, president and chief administrative officer for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Mary Lane and Baystate Wing Hospital. Programs supported by the hospital’s grant investments include:
• Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., $30,000 to support the Quaboag Connector, addressing the serious lack of transportation to employment, education, healthcare, workforce training, shopping, and benefit services within and outside the region;
• The Ware High School Fire Science Program led by Ware Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Wloch, $7,034 toward the goal of improving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) care in the region; and
• Ware River Valley Domestic Violence Task Force, $6,192 to continue improved screening and response to those facing domestic and sexual violence in the Baystate Health Eastern Region.
“Our physicians, nurses, and staff all strive to improve the health of the people we serve through exceptional care and innovative health initiatives,” said Moran. “The Baystate Wing Corporation is proud to partner with area agencies to help us do this important work together to improve the health and well-being of our community.”

PeoplesBank Receives Green-business Award
HOLYOKE — The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank the 2017 Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year for mid-sized business in Western Mass. The bank has been a long-time leader in environmental sustainability, having built three LEED-certified offices and financed more than $145 million in wind, hydroelectric, and solar-energy projects. “As the largest mutual bank in the Pioneer Valley, we deliberately invest in environmental sustainability in our communities,” noted Thomas Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank. “That includes large-scale hydroelectric and solar projects, but also grassroots work with mobile farmers markets and local agriculture.” SBN was founded in 1988 as the nation’s first business trade association, with a mission of making business a vehicle for social, environmental, and economic change.

Bay Path Launches MS in Healthcare Management
LONGMEADOW — Healthcare today requires multi-dimensional leaders whose knowledge spans professional leadership, healthcare, science, and information technology. Coupled with the dynamic complexities of the healthcare system, increasing compliance regulations, technical advances, and higher costs, the demand for professionals who have expertise in both healthcare management and organizational leadership is rapidly rising. Medical and health service managers have strong career prospects, with projected employment growth of 17% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. To respond to this growing need, Bay Path University has launched a master of science (MS) degree program in Healthcare Management, now enrolling for February 2018. “As with all of our programs, the curriculum for the MS in Healthcare Management supports the candidate in developing his or her skills in decision making, communication and presentations skills, interpersonal relations, and being an agent of change — all of which are needed for key level management positions,” said Liz Fleming, associate provost and dean, School of Education, Human and Health Sciences. “We are proud to add it to our increasing catalog of undergraduate and graduate certificates and degree programs in health-related fields that have been shown to result in immediate job placements upon completion.” Healthcare administrators come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some may have direct patient-care experience, while others may have specialized in business, administration, public health, or a specific area of healthcare, including human resources. This program is designed for individuals with or without a related undergraduate degree who hope to shape the future of healthcare. Bay Path University’s MS in Healthcare Management, led by Terry DeVito, aims to prepare graduates for leadership roles in both traditional and non-traditional settings and industries including healthcare organizations and facilities, consulting, law, insurance and government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare informatics and analytics. The program is designed to address the multi-dimensional complexities facing the 21st-century healthcare industry as it transforms into a business model while maintaining the humanistic needs of patients’ individual needs. The curriculum is structured in a manner that embeds foundational information that prepares candidates for additional credentialing opportunities for professional career advancement. DeVito’s practice as a registered nurse, hospital administrator, and educator bring firsthand knowledge regarding quality in healthcare service delivery and the qualities required in leadership roles. To learn more about this program, visit www.baypath.edu/healthcaremanagement.

O&P Labs Steps Up Again to Fulfill Christmas Wishes
SPRINGFIELD — For many years, Orthotics & Prosthetics Labs Inc. of Springfield has been a Secret Santa to the children and youth of CHD. This year, Maria Burke of O&P Labs visited CHD’s main office in Springfield and left with a handful of ‘wish tags,’ each noting a specific holiday wish, that she took from the giving tree on display in CHD’s reception lobby. Following the company’s tradition, O&P gave their staff time to shop for the gifts together during work hours, then paid for the gifts and returned them to CHD. “We are delighted to again be the Secret Santa for the kids of CHD,” said Maria Burke of O&P Labs. “Every single staff member agrees that this ‘work activity’ is their favorite. We are grateful to CHD for reaching so many in need during this season and throughout the year.” Added Kimberley Lee, vice president of Development for CHD, “all the tags were hung by reception with care, in hopes that O&P Labs soon would be there … and they were there! It’s heartwarming to have O&P Labs return year after year to help make Christmas a happy occasion for children and youth by providing a holiday gift — everything from a teddy bear to a toddler bed. It’s fitting that a company whose business is helping people year-round makes a special effort during the holidays to help those most in need.” O&P Labs provides high-quality, physician-directed orthotic- and prosthetic-related services, including custom-made braces and prosthetic limbs fabricated on site, as well as off-the-shelf braces.

Robinson Donovan, Gray House Partner on Adopt-a-Family Program
SPRINGFIELD — Robinson Donovan, P.C. ‘adopted’ three families as part of the Gray House Adopt-a-Family Christmas program. During the event, the Gray House pairs local businesses with underprivileged families to fulfill Christmas wish lists for their children. “Robinson Donovan takes pride in giving back to our community,” said Nancy Frankel Pelletier, a partner with the firm. “We’ve made a commitment to donate to a charity in the surrounding area every month, and we couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up this amazing year.” Robinson Donovan stepped up this holiday season to join forces with the Gray House to help make Christmas wish lists come true for three families, who would otherwise struggle to put gifts under the Christmas tree. In addition to the Adopt-a-Family Christmas program, the Gray House hosts a general toy drive for children in the community, and with the help of local schools and shelters, it collected toys for an additional 500 children. Throughout the past year, Robinson Donovan provided donations to the following nonprofit organizations benefiting the Pioneer Valley, many of which members of the firm regularly volunteer for, including Providence Ministries Service Network, Friends of the Homeless Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Bay Path University, Cutchins Center for Children, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Hampden County, Community Legal Aid, Dakin Humane Society, the Gray House, Homework House, the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and Springfield Museums. “Robinson Donovan participates in many philanthropic events throughout the year, and staff consistently donate their time to those in need,” said attorney James Martin. “This is another opportunity where we can give back to those less fortunate. Christmas can be a stressful time for families, and our team strives to help ease the burden.”

Berkshire Bank Awards $14,000 to Jimmy Fund, Dana-Farber
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank, in partnership with New England Sports Network (NESN), has awarded a $14,000 grant to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Berkshire Bank Exciting Assists Grant Program. Dr. Pasi Janne, program director, Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, accepted the contribution from Gary Levante, Berkshire Bank’s assistant vice president of Community Engagement, during NESN’s broadcast of the Boston Bruins hockey game on Dec. 16. The Exciting Assists Grant program runs through March 31, 2018 and raises funds to support three charitable causes. Berkshire Bank’s Foundation provides $100 per hockey assist to the program. An assist is defined as a Boston Bruins player who shoots, passes, or deflects the puck toward a scoring teammate, or touches it in any other way which enables the goal. During the first portion of the season, the Bruins had 140 assists, resulting in a $14,000 grant from the Berkshire Bank Foundation. The Jimmy Fund, the first nonprofit beneficiary of the Exciting Assists Grant program, supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. In addition to the Jimmy Fund, two other nonprofit organizations will receive funding during the remainder of the season, including Bridge Over Trouble Waters, which provides life-changing services for homeless and high-risk youth (promotion period: Dec. 16 to Feb. 9); and Boston Cares, which mobilizes and trains individual and corporate volunteers to fill more than 20,000 volunteer spots annually in support of more than 165 Greater Boston schools and nonprofit agencies (promotion period: Feb. 10 to March 31).

AIC Launches Rex’s Pantry to Assist People in Need
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently launched Rex’s Pantry, a food and necessities pantry housed on the AIC campus to assist community members in need. On Dec. 22, the inaugural deliveries took place, with 100 Rex to the Rescue kits going to Friends of the Homeless on Worthington Street. The kits contained an assortment of hats, socks, gloves, and foot and hand warmers. Later, AIC personnel delivered 100 Rex to the Rescue kits to the Springfield Rescue Mission, containing boxed lunches, bottled water, snacks, and non-perishable food items. “This time of year is celebratory for many, but we cannot forget those who are homeless or who struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. While American International College reaches out to the community in many ways throughout the year, Rex’s Pantry is an opportunity for us to do more to help those in need of assistance,” said Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Jeffrey Bednarz. Later that day, AIC staff members stopped by Springfield Fire Department Station 8 and the Springfield Police Department with trays of lasagna in gratitude for first responders’ dedicated service to the college. The donations are a collaborative effort at AIC. Food was prepared by Chartwells Dining Services for Higher Education, a division of Compass – USA Foodservice. C&W Services and G4S, in charge of facilities and campus security, respectively, at the college, donated hats, socks, gloves, and warmers. The AIC Campus Bookstore provided backpacks to hold the contents of the Rex to the Rescue kits. Community members interested in donating non-perishable food items, toiletries, or other necessities to Rex’s Pantry are invited to call (413) 205-3231.

CHD Receives Planning Grant for Opioid Treatment, Recovery
SPRINGFIELD — RIZE Massachusetts, a statewide philanthropic initiative, chose the Center for Human Development (CHD) as one of six organizations throughout the state to receive $50,000 in design grants for its inaugural “Saving Lives, Improving Health: Redesigning Opioid Use Disorder Care” program. CHD was the only organization based in Western Mass. to receive funding. The goal of the grant program is to establish or expand systems of low-threshold, on-demand treatment to prevent death, support long-term recovery, and improve health and quality of life. An estimated 4% of people in Massachusetts have an opioid-use disorder, and 2,107 people died of an overdose last year. The six grant recipients will collaborate with dozens of different agencies and organizations within their communities to provide a more comprehensive system of care that will serve the most vulnerable populations throughout the Commonwealth. “It’s quite clear there is enormous potential and energy in Massachusetts to address the opioid epidemic in a thoughtful, innovative, and evidence-generating manner. This first round of design grant recipients all have proven track records of taking on tough healthcare challenges with creativity, compassion, and rigor,” said RIZE board chair Dr. David Torchiana, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare. The other five grant recipients are the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Community Healthlink in Worcester, and Lynn Community Health Center. The grantees proposed promising approaches to delivering care for people at greatest risk of opioid overdose and addiction, including the use of medication-assisted treatment. “We need a treatment model specifically focused on our rural geography and more resources to fight this crisis in Western Mass. This RIZE grant will provide a critical infusion of funds to the area,” said CHD President and CEO Jim Goodwin. RIZE Executive Director Julie Burns said the organization will evaluate the effectiveness of the design grants using shared measures and data protocols and will fund two-year implementation grants for the programs that demonstrate the greatest potential. Implementation grants will be awarded in June 2018.

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UMass Amherst Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Large Battery Project

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has been awarded a $1.1 million state grant from the Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage (ACES) project to work with Tesla Energy to construct a large battery at the Central Heating Plant on the west side of campus. The project involves a 1-megawatt/4-megawatt-hour lithium ion battery storage system that will be designed and constructed by Tesla Energy adjacent to the campus power plant. Working with Tesla and the UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE), the goal is to reduce peak energy demand on the Amherst campus and related costs. The battery storage system will provide power at times when it is purchased from the power grid, help optimize how the campus integrates its current mix of power generation, and provide a research site for clean-energy experts, researchers, and students. Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award of 26 grants totaling $20 million at an event in Marlborough. “The development and deployment of energy-storage projects will be vital to the Commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency,” he said. “Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.” Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services at UMass Amherst, noted that “not only will we see utility budget savings, our project will provide on-campus data to support research, and Tesla will provide $80,000 of educational initiatives for our students.” To meet the research goals, Tesla is contributing the funding for educational initiatives during the life of the 15-year project to pay for a range of educational opportunities for UMass Amherst staff and students, including paid internships, career mentorships, lectures, and curriculum development related to solar and energy storage. CEE will also study the operations and maximize learning from the battery-system operations. The campus currently gets 15 megawatts of power from co-generation at the Central Heating Plant and about 5 megawatts from solar voltaic generation as part of one of the most sophisticated power microgrids in the state. The battery storage capacity will be used to balance constraints on those sources and reduce instances when power is purchased from the outside power grid, campus officials say. It will also demonstrate the role that energy storage can plan within a system that has multiple sources of power. The battery system will also bring a new level of resiliency to the campus power grid that can operate independent of the electrical power system in the event of a large-scale power outage. The campus power system hosts the Mullins Center, a regional emergency shelter for Hampshire County and its population of 160,000 citizens. By charging the battery system during off-peak periods and discharging at times peak demand, such as early evening hours during winter months and middle to late afternoon during the summer months, it will help replace less efficient generators, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower costs. The UMass Amherst physical plant will operate the battery system, and Tesla will manage the design, permitting, construction, and maintenance of the battery system. UMass CEE will provide operations analysis and support as part of its research.

The Yoga Shop Opens First Massachusetts Location

LUDLOW — A pair of local women entrepreneurs opened the Yoga Shop in Massachusetts on Dec. 23 at 185 Miller St. in Ludlow. Allison Gomes and Liz Salvador, who found a love for yoga and endeavor to share it with the local community, are partnering with Annie Simard and Kim Charbonneau to open the Yoga Shop’s fourth studio in its first Massachusetts location. Located just off the Mass Pike, the Yoga Shop will offer Vinyasa-style yoga classes for all levels as well as teacher trainings, workshops, and retreats under the LivFree Power Yoga brand. LivFree Power Yoga classes utilize heat and a dynamic sequence of Vinyasa poses, one of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S., to teach fun, creative classes that leave participants feeling energized. “The Yoga Shop already has three great locations in Connecticut, and we couldn’t be more excited to grow our family and community in Ludlow,” said Simard, one of the the Yoga Shop’s founders. The Ludlow location is home to two spacious yoga studios and features a range of amenities including private changing rooms, yoga-mat storage, and a full retail boutique, Grace+GRIT, showcasing men’s and women’s activewear and a variety of accessories. A range of class package options are available.

Bradley Airport Recognized in Condé Nast Traveler

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Condé Nast Traveler has released the results of its 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, and Bradley International Airport has been recognized as the fifth-best airport in the U.S. with a score of 82.35. “We are very proud to have earned this prestigious recognition, and we thank not only the many travelers who voted for us, but all of the millions of passengers who choose Bradley for their travel needs on an annual basis,” said CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon. “This distinguished award from the travel community is a testament to our continuous growth and commitment to top-quality customer service at Bradley Airport. It motivates us to keep up the momentum and continue finding creative and innovative ways to meet and exceed our travelers’ expectations.” More than 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments, voting on a record-breaking 7,320 hotels and resorts, 610 cities, 225 islands, 468 cruise ships, 158 airlines, and 195 airports. The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running recognition of excellence in the travel industry. They were announced in the magazine’s November issue and are available online at www.cntraveler.com/rca.

Bay Path Reports on Recent Charitable Activities

LONGMEADOW — In the spirit of the season, the students, staff, and faculty of Bay Path University have been hard at work giving back to the community. The university kicked off its charitable activities this fall with its 2017 Charitable Fund drive in support of the United Way of Pioneer Valley and Community Health Charities. The university’s partnership with these organizations dates back at least 14 years, and in that time, a total of nearly $200,000 was donated by Bay Path faculty and staff. For 2017, the most substantial sum to date was raised: $20,634. “The Bay Path community never ceases to amaze me with their generosity,” said Keith Sbriscia, associate director of Human Resources, who runs the United Way and Community Health Charities fund-raiser. Both Community Health Charities and the United Way are umbrella organizations that represent other nonprofits through partnerships and raise funds on their behalf through workplace giving campaigns and engagement opportunities. Partner charities also have the opportunity to receive funding through grants. Community Health Charities raises awareness and resources for health and wellness by connecting more than 2,000 of the most trusted health charities across the U.S., reaching 17 million donors every year, through workplace giving campaigns, causes, wellness programs, employee engagement, and strategic partnerships. United Way of Pioneer Valley creates opportunities and improves lives in 25 cities and towns through the United Way Community Fund, and mobilizes people and resources to strengthen area communities by tackling complex issues and driving sustainable change. The Bay Path students are equally committed to supporting the community and have coordinated many student-driven efforts this fall, including, but not limited to, book, diaper, toy, and food drives and several other donations to meet the needs of local organizations. The annual book drive, which benefits a different charity each year, generated close to 1,000 book donations for the Homework House. The university’s annual Giving Tree hosted by the Education Club to make the holiday season merrier for children from the Greater Springfield area just wrapped up collecting gifts for families in need this holiday season. The canned-food drive to assist in restocking local food pantries that run out of goods during the holiday season, hosted by the university’s Student Government Alliance, is also underway. Further, Bay Path University has selected New North Citizens Council of Springfield as its holiday charity. “The devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is overwhelming, and many of the families and loved ones of students, faculty, and staff have been impacted by the catastrophic damage caused by the storm,” said Kathleen Halpin-Robbins, assistant vice president and director of Human Resources. As more and more families are leaving Puerto Rico to find shelter with family and friends in the continental U.S., many cities in New England are welcoming these families. New North Citizens Council (NNCC) has been designated by Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico as a welcome center for Puerto Rican evacuees in Springfield.

Valley Health Systems Supports 13 Families over the Holidays

HOLYOKE — Employees of Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, the Holyoke Visiting Nurse Assoc. & Hospice Life Care, Western Mass Physician Associates, and River Valley Counseling Center, have joined together to help support 13 families in need of assistance this holiday season. The families consist of 40 children and 12 adults and are affiliated with the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club and WIC.

OMG Roofing Products Introduces RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool

AGAWAM — OMG Roofing Products has introduced a plate-marking tool designed to help roofers improve rooftop productivity by quickly locating and marking RhinoBond Plates installed under thermoplastic membranes. The new RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool is lightweight, simple-to-use, and easy-to-maneuver. Simply roll the marking tool over a row of installed RhinoBond Plates. Every time it passes over a properly installed plate, the tool leaves a temporary mark on the surface of the membrane to identify the plate location. Plate marks are made with standard blue construction crayons and typically fade away within a few weeks. The plate-marking tool is compatible with all thermoplastic membranes regardless of type or thickness. In addition, the tool’s handle is reversible for quick direction changes, and lies flat for rolling under rooftop pipes and raised equipment such as air-handling units. Other benefits of the new system include powerful sweeper magnets mounted on the front and back of the chassis that pick up any metal debris on the roof. The tool is provided in a protective carrying case for easy handling and storage. “Many roofers understand the tremendous productivity and performance benefits that RhinoBond offers,” said Web Shaffer, vice president of marketing for OMG. “In fact, some roofers have reported productivity-rate improvements of up to 30%. To enhance the systems’ overall productivity offering, we wanted to make it even easier for roofers not only to find, but also to clearly ‘see’ the installed RhinoBond Plates beneath the membrane. The new RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool makes this possible.” The RhinoBond System is designed for use with TPO and PVC roofing membranes. The system uses advanced induction-welding technology to bond roofing membranes directly to specially coated plates that secure the insulation to the deck. The result is a roofing system with improved wind performance that requires fewer fasteners, plates, and seams, and zero penetrations of the new membrane.

Jean Kelley, Joe Malmborg Attend National Conference

NORTHAMPTON — Jean Kelley and Joe Malmborg, advisors of Kelley and Malmborg Investment Consulting Group in Northampton, recently attended a national educational conference for independent financial advisors. Hosted by Commonwealth Financial Network, the nation’s largest privately held registered investment advisor – independent broker/dealer, the October event drew 1,641 affiliated advisors, staff, guests, and sponsors from across the nation. Participants gathered in San Diego, where they connected and collaborated with peers, colleagues, and industry partners to strengthen their leadership skills and enhance the high-end service they provide to clients. With the theme, “Personal Currency: Human Connections/Patterns for Success,” the conference encouraged attendees to explore how the relationships that they build, nurture, and sustain — both professionally and personally — influence their success. Keynote speakers offered topical remarks tailored specifically to an advisor audience. In an informal ‘fireside chat,’ former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, joined by Commonwealth’s Joni Youngwirth, managing principal, Practice Management, offered insights about effective diplomacy. Albright outlined the real keys to diplomacy as the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and to have a clear understanding of what the other person wants. Ken Blanchard, author, leadership expert, and co-founder of international management training/consulting firm the Ken Blanchard Companies, spoke about the innate leader in everyone. International portrait photographer Platon brought the conference theme to life, sharing powerful personal stories about connecting on a human level with his subjects, including Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg. The conference concluded on a continued high note, with a closing event held at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. The attendees were treated to live entertainment, a grand tour of the facility, a BBQ, and practicing their batting skills at batting cages placed throughout the park.

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Vibra Hospital to Close Springfield Facility in March

SPRINGFIELD — Vibra Hospital, a 220-bed long-term acute care center on State Street, has filed notice with the state that it plans to close. The shutdown will occur in March, the hospital said in a press release. “We have struggled with this decision,” Gregory Toot, CEO of Vibra’s Springfield operations, said. “But reductions in healthcare reimbursement and changes in referral practices over the past 12 months have made continuing operations in this location unsustainable.” Vibra said its facilities in New Bedford and the Rochdale village of Leicester will remain open. Vibra’s Springfield facility has three units with approximately 90 patients: a chronic-care hospital unit, a behavioral-health skilled-nursing unit, and a Department of Mental Health (DMH) psychiatric unit. Vibra is working with the DMH and Department of Public Health to place patients in other facilities.

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Input on Charitable Giving

MONSON — For the eighth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank is asking the community to help plan the bank’s community-giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2018. “Every year we donate over $100,000 to nonprofit organizations doing important work in the communities we serve,” said Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank. “For several years now, we’ve been asking the community for input on which groups they’d like us to support, and we’ve been so pleased by how many people participate. We have learned of new organizations through this process, and we also just like the idea of asking our community for input. As a community bank, we think that’s important.” To cast their vote, people can visit www.monsonsavings.bank/about-us/vote-community-giving. There, they will see a list of organizations the bank has already supported in 2017 and provide up to three names of groups they’d like the bank to donate to in 2018. The only requirement is that the organizations be nonprofit and provide services in Hampden, Monson, Wilbraham, or Ware. The voting ends at 3 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2018. The bank pledges to support the top 10 vote getters and will announce who they are by the end of January.

Meredith-Springfield Associates Named Manufacturer of the Year

LUDLOW — Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc., a plastics manufacturer specializing in extrusion blow molding and injection stretch blow molding, was recently named ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ by the Commonwealth’s Manufacturing Caucus. President and CEO Mel O’Leary recently accepted the award alongside Director of Finance and Administration Edward Kaplan during a presentation at the Massachusetts State House.

Red Lion Inn Wins Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award

STOCKBRIDGE — Condé Nast Traveler recently announced the results of its 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, with the Red Lion Inn recognized as a “Top Hotel in New England” with a ranking of 29. “It’s an honor to be recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, and this award is particularly special because it reflects the opinions of our guests,” said Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, owner and operator of the historic inn. “This prestigious award speaks to the inn’s lasting character and our dedicated staff who make it feel like a home away from home for our guests.” More than 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments, voting on a record-breaking 7,320 hotels and resorts, 610 cities, 225 islands, 468 cruise ships, 158 airlines, and 195 airports. The Red Lion Inn, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America, has been providing food and lodging to guests for more than two centuries. The inn offers 125 antique-filled rooms and suites, four restaurants with formal and casual dining with locally sourced food, a gift shop featuring locally made items, a pub with nightly entertainment, and a range of amenities including wi-fi, a year-round heated outdoor pool, and in-room massage therapy and weekly yoga classes.

Cambridge College, ILI Announce Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — Cambridge College and the International Language Institute of Massachusetts (ILI) recently announced a partnership through the University Pathways Program. Through this partnership, international students in the University Pathways track receive the academic support and counseling they need to help them transition successfully to Cambridge College. ILI carefully selects its partner colleges and universities. Cambridge College was selected because of its program offerings and commitment to the adult-learning model. “I am so excited that we have formed this partnership,” said Teresa Forte, director, Cambridge College – Springfield. “Both organizations are committed to working with the adult community. ILI is an impressive organization, and this agreement will allow both schools to expand our international footprint and serve more students in need.” The partnership provides an opportunity for international students who attend and successfully graduate from the ILI to be exempt from taking the TOEFL exam for admissions at Cambridge College and its 13 other partner schools. Additionally, the institute offers free part-time afternoon and evening English classes at its downtown Northampton site. “We are so pleased to welcome Cambridge College to the University Pathways Program, and we look forward to working with the college in welcoming students from around the world for study in the United States. When strong, like-minded partners team up, the opportunities are limitless,” said Caroline Gear, executive director, International Language Institute of Massachusetts.

Chicopee Savings Foundation Endows Scholarship at WNEU

SPRINGFIELD — Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation recently pledged to establish an endowed scholarship available to undergraduate students at Western New England University. With a commitment of $50,000, a scholarship of $2,000 will be available annually beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation created the scholarship to support students in local communities. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to inbound students in pursuit of higher education who demonstrate exemplary scholastic achievement, drive, and integrity, and who meet the following criteria: a U.S. citizen and resident of Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke, Ludlow, South Hadley, Springfield, Ware, West Springfield, or Westfield who demonstrates financial need and is an incoming freshman with a high-school GPA of 3.5 or higher, or a transfer or returning student with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. The scholarship is renewable each year the recipient continues to meet the criteria. “Scholarship aid is among the highest funding priorities at Western New England University, and we are thrilled to have this new award established by our neighbors and friends at the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation,” said Anthony Caprio, president of Western New England University. “Providing financial assistance helps ensure that students are able to concentrate on their studies and focus on their futures more clearly.” In April 2016, it was announced that Chicopee Savings Bank would merge with Westfield Bank to form the largest bank headquartered in Hampden County. Both banks now do business under the Westfield Bank name, but the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation remains in place with its original philanthropic mission.

Elms College, University of Kochi Extend 20-year Exchange Program

CHICOPEE — Elms College signed an agreement on Nov. 29 continuing its international exchange program with the University of Kochi in Japan. The exchange relationship is celebrating its 20th year. Harry Dumay, president of Elms College, and Takahiro Ioroi, academic vice president of the University of Kochi — one of the original faculty members involved in starting the exchange program — signed the agreement in Dumay’s office at Elms. Every year, visiting students from Kochi spend nearly two weeks exploring life at Elms. The Kochi students stay in residence halls at Elms, study English, attend classes related to their majors, and take in local sights and cuisine. They participate in extracurricular activities — including bowling, shopping in Northampton, film screenings, and a karaoke party — that show them the fun side of American college life, and they host a Japanese festival each year to share their culture with the students of Elms. “We want to promote international education and exchange, because never, in our global society that’s always changing, has international education and exchange been as important as it is now,” said Marco Garcia, director of International Programs at Elms. During the visit, nearly 40 Elms students serve as ‘friendship partners’ for the Japanese students. These friendship partners participate in a three-hour training course to act as roommates, classmates, and partners in language and cultural activities. Friendship partners are one of the most important aspects of the program, Garcia said. “As the Japanese students come in, we want them to meet a diverse group of students here, so they have a deeper understanding of American life and culture. Our students are very diverse. And that’s really important, because we are a nation of immigrants, and understanding the strength of our diversity is very important.” In addition to Ioroi, the representatives from the University of Kochi are Dr. Joel Joos, a native of Belgium who is a professor of Japanese Cultural Studies and chair of the International Exchange Committee; and Mariko Hayashi, International Center associate.

WSU, GCC Announce Nursing-degree Partnership

NORTHAMPTON — The presidents of Westfield State University and Greenfield Community College announced and signed an agreement today that creates a hybrid (combined online and onsite) RN-to-BSN completion program between the institutions. Based online and at GCC’s newly opened Northampton satellite location, the program provides GCC’s associate-degree graduates and other area registered nurses a flexible, convenient, and cost-effective pathway to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from Westfield State. Students will take the majority of courses online and fulfill the limited on-site requirements at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. With a price tag of $10,800, its leaders say, the RN-to-BSN completion program is the most cost-effective in the area. Applications are currently being accepted for fall 2018 enrollment.

CHD to Serve More Youth with New Ware Office

WARE — CHD, which for many years has provided mental-health services to the Ware community, is establishing its first physical presence in Ware with an office at 2 South St. This will enable CHD to extend services in Ware as well as neighboring communities. CHD will begin accepting referrals for mental-health services for youth through CHD’s Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI). CHD’s CBHI services are for MassHealth members, who can access the services without a co-pay. “CHD has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the residents of Ware, but this will be the first time we have a facility located right in the town of Ware,” said Susan Sullivan, program director of CHD’s Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative, which includes the In-Home Services and Therapeutic Mentoring programs. “Our new facility at 2 South St. is fully staffed with six licensed clinicians, four therapeutic training and support staff, and three therapeutic mentors, all with multiple years of experience.” There are many behavioral symptoms that CHD’s CBHI services can help address, such as difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, depression and/or anxiety, challenging behavior at home, reports of in-class behavioral issues, substance use, sudden mood changes, and aggressive, suicidal, or homicidal behavior. According to Sullivan, CHD’s CBHI services are for any child who can’t have their mental-health needs met in a one-hour-a-week outpatient setting. “What differentiates CBHI from outpatient services is our services are designed for children and families who need a higher level of care,” she explained. “That’s why we go to them — to their home, to a location in the community, to team meetings at school, to court — wherever a family needs our support, as often as needed. There is no time frame that limits our work with children and their families. We continue our work as long as there is medical necessity and the family needs us. Someone from CHD is available every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. someone is on call. That is not the case with outpatient services.” Parents who are on MassHealth and who have concerns about their child’s behavior at home or at school can self-refer by calling CHD Central Registration at (844) CHD-HELP. There is currently no wait list for services, so children can be seen immediately. “Most people don’t realize that families can self-refer,” said Sullivan. “That call to CHD Central Registration gets families connected with people who know the world of mental-health services and can get them pointed in the right direction. Keep in mind that CBHI services are voluntary. It’s your choice to have CHD there, and you drive the treatment plan. We aren’t only working with the child, we work with everyone involved in their life who can have an impact, such as the people they’re living with and their extended family. The average age of the children we serve are between the ages of 8 and 13, but we serve youth from birth through age 21, and once an individual turns 21, CHD can help get them connected to services for adults.” Cities and towns covered through the Ware CHBI office include Hampden, Wilbraham, Ludlow, Monson, Palmer, Ware, Belchertown, Wales, Brimfield, Holland, Warren, West Brookfield, Hardwick, Barre, Brookfield, North Brookfield, East Brookfield, Sturbridge, New Braintree, Spencer, and Three Rivers. Additional cities and towns are also served through various locations throughout the Pioneer Valley.

DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology Honored by Modern Salon Media

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Modern Salon Media has named the 2017 class of “Excellence in Education” honorees in its seventh annual program recognizing leadership and best practices among cosmetology schools. DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology was chosen to represent excellence in the following categories: Community Involvement, Marketing, and School Culture. Modern Salon Publisher Steve Reiss announced the honorees during the recent American Assoc. of Cosmetology Schools 2017 convention in Las Vegas. Honorees were determined based on key criteria in each category, and grouped according to number of locations. Honorees were chosen in each category — one individual school location and a multi-location school organization. “We received applications from cosmetology schools across the country and look forward to celebrating all the 2017 Excellence in Education honorees and sharing their stories. It is truly a great time to pursue a beauty education and career, and the program at DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology exemplifies that fact,” Modern Salon Editorial Director Michele Musgrove said. Added Paul DiGrigoli, owner of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology, “I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of our students and staff for following the ‘three C’s,’ which we practice every day — culture, community, and customer service. These are our strongest values and beliefs at DiGrigoli.” Sharing stories of innovation, inspiration, and collaboration from a diverse group of leading schools is an important part of Modern Salon’s “Excellence in Education” mission, Musgrove explained. “We want to help spread the word about the exceptional work cosmetology schools are doing to help launch beautiful careers.”

HCC Awarded Grant to Expand Community Health Worker Program

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College has been awarded a grant of more than $400,000 from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to expand its Community Health Worker program in partnership with area employers. The four-year, $431,227 allocation will enable approximately 120 people to take a series of three credit-bearing classes to enhance their education and training as community health workers.The three classes — free for those accepted into the grant program — were selected in consultation with representatives from Behavioral Health Network and the Gandara Center, two regional, nonprofit behavioral-health agencies. “We’re partnering with BHN and Gandara, and they’re sending a bunch of their current staff who are already working in various capacities with clients,” said Rebecca Lewis, chair of HCC’s Foundations of Health program. “There’s been interest from a lot of different employers.”The grant was awarded through HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training division. HRSA is part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The initial cohort of 27 students will take the first of three required classes, “Core Competencies for Community Health Workers,” during the spring 2018 semester. That introductory course will be followed over the summer with the second, where students will have a choice of either “Children’s Behavioral Health” or a more general “Essential Health for Community Health Workers” course. The third class, to be completed in the fall, is a practicum with an area employer. Lewis said the state Department of Public Health currently has regulations pending for a state certification process for community health workers, and the three classes align with pending regulations. A second cohort of 30 students will begin in the fall when courses will be offered in the evenings and on Saturdays to make it more convenient for those currently working. Community health is an emerging healthcare field, and community health workers are typically employed by agencies to focus on underserved populations, conducting home visits and connecting clients with needed services. They are not nurses nor home health aides and do not provide medical care. “Historically, community health workers are bilingual and bicultural, and they’re from the communities that they serve,” said Lewis. Upon successful completion of the three-course series, students will receive a certificate of completion that can serve as a stand-alone community health worker credential. Or the nine HCC credits they earn can be ‘stacked,’ that is, applied toward a full Community Health Worker certificate (26 credits), an associate degree in Foundations of Health, or an associate degree in Human Services. “Some people might want to work in a more clinical healthcare setting, like working in a health center,” Lewis said. “Some people might want to work for a social-service agency.” Two years ago, HCC became the first area institution to start a Community Health Worker certificate program with an eye toward pending state regulations that would allow the college to apply to become an official training site.