Home Sections Company Milestones Archive by category 2019



It was early 1984, and 24-year-old entrepreneur John Gormally had an observation, then a question, and, eventually, the ultimate answer.

The observation was that most urban areas and regions had journals covering the local business community. The question was, in essence, ‘why doesn’t Western Massachusetts have one?’

The answer came in two parts — Gormally’s conclusion that the region certainly needed one, and the product he launched.

It’s now called BusinessWest, but only relative old-timers will recall that it was originally known as the Western Mass. Business Journal.

Then, as now, the publication was the most trusted, most comprehensive source of information on the local business community. Its pages were filled with articles on people, businesses, trends, developments.

It’s the same today, but BusinessWest and its sister publication, Healthcare News, launched in 2000, have gone well beyond the printed word in their efforts to inform, inspire, and even entertain its audience of local decision makers.

Indeed, over the past several years, the publications have added several recognition programs. These include 40 Under Forty, created to identify rising stars across the region; Difference Makers, a program with a name that says it all; Healthcare Heroes, a program devoted to that all-important sector of the economy; and Women of Impact, which recognizes the contributions of a still often-overlooked constituency.

There have been other additions, including the annual Resource Guide, an invaluable resource for the community; daily news blogs to provide more accessibility to important information; educational seminars, including the recent Future Tense series; special publications such as Cool Stuff, focused on employment opportunities in the manufacturing sector; and much more.

BusinessWest has come a long way in 35 years, but it has never wavered from its original mission and reason for being — to meet a critical need within the four counties of Western Mass.


Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) has grown and changed tremendously since it was founded in 1979, but it remains a friendly, flexible, family-owned business that puts the customers’ needs first, said President Paul Whalley.

WCA is a technology sales and service organization that partners with customers to reduce their costs and increase their efficiency through technology, said Whalley, adding that it accomplishes this by providing unbiased presales consultation, exceptional pricing, outstanding, product preparation, delivery, deployment and maintenance services anywhere in North America.

Since the beginning, WCA has been servicing corporations and educational institutions headquarted in New England, New York, and their remote locations throughout North America, he noted. The company has extensive experience with corporations of all sizes, educational institutions from kindergarten to college, as well as local and state government.

WCA performs services for some of the largest and most prestigious companies in New England and New York including EMC, TJMAXX, Marshalls, Friendly’s, Bertucci’s, Westfield State University, Providence College, the cities of Boston, Springfield, Warwick, R.I., and nearly 3,000 other customers.

As a result of its rapid growth, Ingram Micro, the largest distributor of technology products in the world, recognized WCA as one of their fastest growing ‘solution providers’ in the industry. WCA is also one of the largest Lenovo, Dell, Aruba, and HP solution providers in the Northeast.

Today, WCA’s corporate office is located in our new 62,500-square-foot state-of-the-art office building located at One Whalley Way in Southwick. WCA employs more than 140 computer professionals at its two business locations, serving a customer base of more than 30,000 customers. They provide hardware, software, programming, technical, networking, and training services.

WCA remains a family-owned business completely focused on providing the best service available anywhere in the United States.
As its celebrates its 40th anniversary, one thing that will not change moving forward, said Whalley, is its commitment to customer satisfaction and ability to provide the best technology products and services in the region.


bankESB is marking its 150th birthday this year, and there is much to celebrate, especially a century and a half of being a true hometown bank.

“For all of those years, the bank has been dedicated to providing its customers with a wide range of innovative products and services,” said Dena Hall, bankESB Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “Today, bankESB is a one-stop shop for individual and commercial banking and financial services. The bank has been growing and expanding to better serve customers, including recently adding three commercial bankers, and increasing its staff in human resources, cash management, and mortgage services. Customers looking to buy a home or refinance have the option of applying for a loan either in-person with a mortgage professional or online.”

With the opening of a branch on Sargeant Street in Holyoke, bankESB has 11 branches throughout the Valley. Besides Easthampton, where it has two locations, branches are also located in Agawam, Belchertown, Hadley, South Hadley, Southampton, Westfield, and two in Northampton. And a 12th branch is scheduled to open in Amherst in 2020.

In short, the bank has grown and evolved over the years, but it remains true to the charter on which it was launched.

Indeed, a mutual bank, bankESB’s mission is to remain loyal to its customers, employees and the communities it serves, not stockholders, said Hall, adding that the bank’s mission is reflected in its values of charitable giving and volunteerism. From large organizations like Cooley Dickinson Hospital to local

Little League teams, the Easthampton Saving’s Bank Charitable Foundation has donated close to $2 million over the past five years.

Recent contributions to local nonprofits include the Hampshire Regional YMCA’s Renew and Restore Project, Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Big Enough Initiative, and Northampton Survival Center’s “Partners in Doing Good Business” program.

bankESB employees can also be found volunteering their time for a myriad of charitable projects and events throughout the Pioneer Valley, so much so that the Boston Business Journal recently ranked the bank as a “Top Corporate Charitable Volunteer” in Massachusetts.

“It’s important for us to be that community partner,” said Hall. “We’re focused on how we serve our customers, how we serve our communities, and how we treat our employees.”

These efforts have culminated in Forbes Magazine naming bankESB to its 2019 Best n-State Bank list, two years in a row.

“This recognition is particularly special because we live and work by a set of core values, so I’m proud to say this award really goes to our employees,” said Matthew Sosik, President & CEO of bankESB and CEO of Hometown Financial Group, the bank’s parent company. “The commitment they bring to their job each day and the service they provide to our customers and communities is what sets us apart from other banks.”

As Hall and Sosik noted, as bankESB marks its sesquicentennial, there is plenty to celebrate.


Peter Pan Marks 80 Years of Rolling Together with Firestone Tires

In 1939, just six years after Peter C. Picknelly started Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, he reached an agreement with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to lease Firestone tires for a period of one year.

That was the beginning of a partnership that kept the two companies rolling together for the next 80 years.



That lease was signed on August 11, and six decades to the day later, Bridgestone America’s Inc. marked the occasion by presenting the Picknelly family with the original tire lease contract. Twenty years later, another anniversary, the 80th was marked, and there was much to celebrate.

“When my grandfather Peter C. Picknelly sealed this important partnership with Harvey Firestone in 1939, they could only imagine how many miles these two companies would travel together,” said Peter A. Picknelly, chairman & CEO of Peter Pan. “Our agreement with Firestone was groundbreaking in the industry. It was the first agreement in the U.S. for a bus company to actually lease tires from Firestone as opposed to buying tires, and we’re the longest bus-company partnership Firestone has ever had.

“Now, 80 years later, we are still proud to share the road with a longtime leader in the tire industry,” he went on. “Together, over the 80 years, Peter Pan and Firestone have carried passengers more than 600 million miles on Firestone tires. That’s 2,514 trips to the moon and 24,094 times around the Earth. Safety is Peter Pan’s number one priority and Firestone Tires have delivered that promise with precision and consistency.”

In the original contract signed by Peter C. Picknelly and Harvey Firestone, Firestone agreed to supply enough tires to equip 10-passenger Chevrolet buses and five 19-passenger Beck buses on a cost-per-mile basis. As the buses became larger and heavier, Firestone tires evolved to meet Peter Pan’s needs.

“Passengers can take comfort in knowing they are riding on the most modern fleet with the safest tires on the road today — this is a huge safety factor,” said Picknelly. “And the reason we lease is that as soon as the tires show any signs of wear, we replace them with eight new tires; our competitors who own their tires will run them until they show considerable wear and are far less safe.”

Today, Peter Pan Bus Lines carries more than 4 million passengers throughout the northeastern United States with hubs in Springfield, Cape Cod, Boston, Hartford, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and beyond.

Looking down the road, as they say in this business, beyond logging millions of additional miles on Firestone tires, Peter Pan is expanding its fleet, adding new routes, hiring more drivers, and utilizing technology, including a new app, to serve more customers and improve service to all riders.

The new routes are on Cape Cod and between New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., said Picknelly.

As for technology, a revamped website and the new app make it easier to buy tickets online, said Picknelly, adding that the app logs previous purchases, recognize trends, and enables the consumer to rebook a schedule with one click.

“We’re the fastest-growing bus line in America,” said Picknelly, adding that this was said about the company back when it first started putting Firestone tires on its buses, and it’s still true today.



Mark Proshan says that, scattered among the hundreds of items on the showroom floor at Lexington Group, one can still find a few of the office chairs that were popular, if that’s the right word (probably not) when the company was launched 30 years ago.

“They’re akin to Medieval torture devices — it’s like sitting on a rock,” he joked. “The evolution of the chair has been quite dramatic, but then … these days, we’re telling everyone to stand up, not sit down.”

With those comments, he made it clear that despite what some may think, office furniture evolves and changes with the times. And for three decades, Lexington Group has stayed on the cutting edge of these changes.

And while being current is important for this company that specializes in new, refurbished, and used office furniture, cubicles, workstations, and interior design solutions, staying true to the values and operating principles that have guided the company from the beginning is even more important.

“At the end of the day, the fundamentals and doing things the right way to get a desired result for your customer is what it’s all about,” he said. “And when you’re done with that, it’s about doing as much good as you can as a business to give back to the community you’re working with. And that’s we’ve been doing.”

He summed up 30 years in business — and what’s to come next — this way.

“If, in your gut, you truly believe that what you’re doing is right, and that you’re doing it for the right reasons, the rest will likely work itself out.”

Suffice it to say that things have worked themselves out for Lexington group.



It all started in 1919, when Paul Balise went into business fixing farm equipment in his garage in Hadley.

The company that still bears his family name has come a long way and evolved considerably since. The fourth-generation family-owned and operated business is now one of the largest automotive dealer groups in New England and the country.

Today, Balise is a billion-dollar company that employs more than 1,500 associates at more than 30 locations throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Owner Jeb Balise, Paul’s grandson, attributes this growth, evolution, and the ability to celebrate the company’s centennial to remaining true to the values and principles on which the company was founded. Then, as now, the foundation of the company is “great associates and great customers,” he said.

One of the primary guiding principles, or core values, at Balise is — and always has been — to exceed customers’ expectations and create an environment where people feel comfortable working and doing business, said Jeb Balise. Since the start, the company has been guided by these tenets:

The mission is to continually exceed the expectations of customers and associates;

The goal is to be the benchmark for excellence in every aspect of the business. Balise is dedicated to delivering exceptional service and value;

The promise is to create an environment of mutual trust and respect; to promote personal and professional growth; to foster teamwork and associate involvement; and to demand from ourselves the highest ethical standard.

The commitment to this mission makes this company a place where people want to work and do business. This is why “You’ll do better at Balise!” is a phrase that applies to customers and associates alike.

For 100 years, the Balise family has prided themselves on finding new and better ways to serve their customers and communities — a philosophy that is not only great for business, but a surefire way to cultivate passion among associates, said Jeb Balise. “When you put the customer first, growth is inevitable.”

In today’s competitive market, serving the customer is more than simply making a sale, he went on, and this is why Balise continually strives to be a one-stop-shop for all of one’s automotive needs.

In addition to the company’s 26 new and used car dealerships across Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Cape Cod, and Southern Connecticut, Balise has expanded over the years to include collision repair centers, full-service car washes, a finance company, and an insurance agency.

Along with the centennial celebration, exciting changes are on the horizon for the Balise Auto Group, including plans for a new Balise Mazda location opening in the South End of Springfield early next year, he said, adding that Balise is excited to be part of the revitalization of Springfield and to continue giving back to the community that welcomed it a century ago.

So much has changed in 100 years, he noted, but what matters most, the company’s guiding principles, haven’t.


There’s a reason why chambers of commerce, throughout their history, have taken a minute or two at their regular breakfast meetings to recognize their members celebrating important birthdays or key developments in their history.

And that reason is … milestones are certainly worth celebrating.

Indeed, as anyone in business will tell you — and they undoubtedly have — while launching a new venture is anything but easy, staying in business is much, much more difficult.

Especially when we’re talking about staying in business for 100 years or 50 or even 20. All one really needs for perspective is to think about all the businesses and nonprofits that cannot make such claims.
Staying in business for even a decade or two almost always requires perseverance, imagination, some daring, some sacrifice, the ability to look around the proverbial corner, and, yes, luck.

All of the above, and especially that last ingredient can and usually are required because there are myriad things that can keep a company or an institution from reaching some of the milestones being marked on the pages that follow.

Just a partial list includes a serious recession — or two, or three, or four; the lack of a ‘next generation’ to carry things on; developments that seem to come from nowhere — everything from digital photography to the automobile itself (yes, the car destroyed a good number of buggy-whip-manufacturing businesses in Westfield); from those red boxes dispensing videos in the supermarket or pharmacy, to the chain pharmacy itself.
Yes, staying in business is extremely difficult, and that’s why milestones are celebrated.

And while celebrating years and significant developments, companies use such occasions to reflect not only on what has happened, but what can happen moving forward. It is the same reason why the country is stopping to celebrate everything from the moon landing to Woodstock this year.

People are stopping not just to note that 50 years has gone by since those events, but to ponder how those developments have changed the landscape since.
And so it is with milestones being celebrated by companies in this region and on the pages that follow. These institutions are marking not just the passage of time, but how a company like Balise Motor Sales or a ground-breaking development like the Bay Path University Women’s Leadership Conference can change the landscape, literally and also figuratively.

And in many cases, as you’ll see, what allows companies and institutions to survive and thrive for years and decades is not only a willingness to adapt and the ability to adapt, but also a resolve to remain true to the mission and the principles that were there in the beginning.
So it is with BusinessWest magazine, which is celebrating its own milestone — 35 years since it was launched by John Gormally, a man who has become a serial entrepreneur.

There has been considerable change, but what hasn’t changed is the mission of providing comprehensive, reliable, sometimes entertaining business news.
The stories on the pages that follow have similar threads. Many things have changed over the years, but what’s really important is what hasn’t changed.
And that’s a big part of celebrating a milestone.