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Courtesy of https://www.business2community.com/

In everything we do as brands, context matters. Beyond the basic actions taken to protect employees and businesses during a crisis, brands can either help or hinder our collective experience. So when a cultural moment shifts as dramatically as it has in the face of COVID-19, it’s important that brands address the issue with tact, empathy, and mindful marketing.

That said, when it comes to current and planned campaigns, marketing teams face unique challenges during a crisis. While it’s still early in the quarantine, we’ve already been asked to help our clients adjust their communication approaches. Thus, we thought it might be useful to share some of our general guidelines for marketing protocol during these challenging times.

How to Do Empathetic Marketing During a Crisis
Here, we’ve assembled our top tips for addressing your marketing approach during a crisis.

While every brand is different, we see this as a basic action plan that can help brands of all sizes make the right choices and avoid serious mistakes.

Of course, we’re always open to more ideas about how to address sensitive times thoughtfully. If you have more tips or thoughts, please share them in the comments. Otherwise, we hope you find these tips helpful.

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Marketing Tips Uncategorized

Courtesy of WordStream.com

You own a small auto shop in Worcester, MA. Things are going well, but you can’t shake the feeling that you could be growing fasterReferral marketing isn’t bringing you as much business as it used to, and you don’t have the time or the resources to run a commercial on local TV.

So, you decide that it’s time to get serious about digital marketing. To get a high-level sense of where you currently stand, you do a quick Google search for your shop’s name. Much to your chagrin, you find this on the search results page:

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Home Improvement Uncategorized

Advice — on the House

Andrew Crane holds up a prototype of one of the reusable bags attendees will receive at the 2020 Home and Garden Show.

By Mark Morris

Sometimes the online approach isn’t the most efficient way to tackle a project.

“If you’re looking to hire a landscaper, for example, you could look all over the internet and be dissatisfied,” said Andrew Crane, executive director of the Home Builders and Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts (HBRAWM).

Instead, he suggests conducting a search at the Western Mass Home and Garden Show, where consumers can speak directly with local landscapers and myriad other professionals.

Crane’s organization sponsors the annual event, which is now in its 66th year. Held at the beginning of spring, this year’s edition is scheduled for March 26-29 at the Eastern States Exposition grounds in West Springfield.

Originally, the event served as a venue for tradesmen in the association to familiarize each other with their craft. Over time, the show evolved, putting more emphasis on consumers, and has grown to the point where more than 350 exhibitors reserve space every year.

Exhibitors at the show can help consumers with everything from replacing a faucet to building an entire home — and everything in between. Innovations in building products, as well as home-related services such as Realtors and insurance agents, all have a presence at the home show.

Todd Hickman, Steve Sgroi, and John Collins will use the show to introduce a new segment of their business, Home Service Electrical.

Regarding that landscaper search, at press time, four landscapers had reserved booths at this year’s home show. For landscape projects that involve ‘hardscape’ (incorporating stone work into a landscape design), 14 different vendors of this specialty have signed on.

BusinessWest caught up with several different exhibitors to this year’s show, representing a wide range of industries. Their home-show experience varies from nearly two decades to a couple of first-time exhibitors, but they all share an enthusiasm about the opportunity to connect with people during the event.

Room to Grow

Stuart Fearn, president of Safeco Foam Insulation, marks his 17th home show this year. “Since day one, the home show has proven to be a home run for my business,” he said, adding that he sees his main job at the show as educating people about spray-foam insulation, and it’s a worthwhile effort.

“We get a lot of business and awareness from the home show,” he noted. “It helps people know we exist, and we will often get calls up to six to nine months after the show when they need insulation.”

For nearly two decades now, remodeling has remained a strong trend in home projects. Whether someone is updating their current home or purchasing an older home to modernize, Crane said demand remains strong for windows, siding, and many other products that will fit into existing homes.

Scott Fleury, business development director for Kelly-Fradet Lumber in East Longmeadow, sees the home show as an opportunity to put consumers in touch with the best people for their remodeling projects. The current president of HBRAWM, Fleury has been a part of the home show for 10 years. Kelly-Fradet often displays kitchen, bath, and outdoor deck products it sells primarily through contractors.

Painters Christopher Grenier and Jillian Forcier inspect the results of their recent work in a Northampton home.

“Often a homeowner will come to our booth with a project, and we are able to walk them right to a contractor who is also at the show,” he said. “On the flip side, contractors will bring people to our booth to show them the products we carry that apply to their project.”

Lori Loughlin, showroom manager for Frank Webb Home in Springfield, has taken part in the show for the past five years. Loughlin, vice chair of the organizing committee for the event, said her company sees an almost immediate return on its investment.

“Initially we see a big spike in sales right after the home show,” she said adding that the impact of the event often continues throughout the year. “People will come in as late as Christmas time and tell me they saw us at the home show.”

Christopher Grenier, owner of Grenier Painting and Finishing, reserved a booth at the home show last year for the first time. He enjoyed the experience so much, he is now on the event’s organizing committee.

Grenier noted that customers who need painting services often ask him for referrals about flooring, plumbing, and other services. He gladly recommends other members of the association to help customers find the right person for the job.

“I’ve recommended other painters when a customer needs someone who specializes in painting cabinets, for example,” he said. “We’re not in competition; it’s more of a camaraderie.”

One of the key benefits he sees to having a booth at the show is the ability to give people individual attention for their projects.

“When I’m asked why people should go to the home show, my response is, you’re going to find local people you can trust,” he noted.

Loughlin agreed and said that, because people can touch the products in her company’s booth, it helps them recognize quality kitchen and bath fixtures. When products like these are researched and then bought online, there’s no tactile experience, and service after the purchase is often lacking.

“Our customers know they can call us if there is ever a problem,” she said.
“There’s no sending things in the mail; we’ll just take care of it right here.”

As in past years, most booths will be located in the Better Living Center and the adjacent Young Building. New this year, the space between the two buildings will be used as a “contractor’s village” for products that exhibit better outside.

Scott Fleury helps Kelly-Fradet Lumber get all decked out for the show.

PV Squared Solar, a residential solar-energy installer, will forego the traditional booth setup indoors and will instead set up a solar-powered trailer in the contractor’s village to run electrical devices off the grid.

Anna Mannello, marketing coordinator for PV Squared, said that, as a first-time exhibitor, the home show presents a great way to connect with people in the community.

“PV Squared Solar is based in Greenfield, so we’ve done most of our business in Franklin and Hampshire counties,” she said. “While we’ve done a few installations in Hampden County, this will be an opportunity to increase our exposure to lots of new people.”

Mannello hasn’t yet finalized what appliances they plan to demonstrate, but during the four days of the show, attendees will be able to connect to PV Squared’s trailer to charge their phones using solar power.

It’s one thing to be a first-time exhibitor, and it’s quite something else to launch a new business at the home show. That’s how Todd Hickman, president of Hickman and Sgroi Electric, is approaching his inaugural exhibit.

While his company is an established residential, commercial, and industrial contractor, he and his partner, Steve Sgroi, are introducing Home Service Electrical, a membership-based, comprehensive approach to homeowner electrical needs. Instead of waiting for an emergency, Hickman said the service starts with a full inspection of the home’s electrical system to prevent familiar problems, such as losing power while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

When a service call is needed, a professional technician in a fully stocked van will be expected to solve most problems in one visit. Each service has a standard price, so the consumer knows upfront what the job will cost. The home show represents an opportunity to introduce this different concept for electrical service.

“We’re creating a brand, so it’s important to educate the public on who we are, the image we present, and to assure people that we plan to be here for generations to come,” Hickman said.

Sgroi, vice president of Hickman and Sgroi, said their goal for the home show is simple, and it’s one shared by many, on one level or another.

“We hope to schedule inspections and grow the business until we are overwhelmed,” he said, while Hickman quickly added, if that happens, the business will gladly expand to meet the demand.

The Finish Line

For many years, HBRAWM provided plastic bags for show attendees to collect information from exhibitors. Crane proudly noted that the plastic bags are gone and have been replaced this year with reusable cloth bags, similar to those found in supermarkets.

“It’s one small way our members can be part of the solution to improving our environment,” he said. The bag will include a map showing all booth locations and a guide with contact information on all the HBRWM members.

“If you have a specific project, the map and guide will help you navigate the show to get the information you need,” Crane said. “If you don’t have any projects and you want a social experience, then you can just walk around, and you’ll have a great time.”

He concluded that other home shows have come and gone in the area, but ‘the original’ home show is here to stay. “After 66 years, it’s now a piece of Western Mass. history.”

The Western Mass Home and Garden show will be open Thursday and Friday, March 26-27, from 1 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free. Veterans and active military with ID are admitted free on Thursday only. Discount coupons for every day of the show are available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com.

Picture This Uncategorized

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]


A Visit from the First Lady

On Feb. 21, Massachusetts First Lady Lauren Baker paid a visit to Square One’s Tommie Johnson Child & Family Center, where she spent the afternoon learning about Square One’s work with children and families in the region. She was greeted by Square One educators, therapists, and children, who welcomed her with songs and gifts for the children Baker engages with in her work with the Wonderfund of Massachusetts.

 


Advocating for Community Colleges

James Lombella (left), North-West regional president of Connecticut Community Colleges, and Eileen Peltier (right), dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education for Asnuntuck, Northwestern Connecticut, and Tunxis community colleges, traveled to Hartford in February to represent the 12 Connecticut community colleges as part of a 2020 Skills Summit organized by the National Skills Coalition. Lombella and Peltier met with staff from the office of state Sen. Richard Blumenthal and state Rep. Joe Courtney (center) to provide updates on the community colleges and seek support for Pell grants for students in non-credit programs that provide industry licensure and credentials.


Grand Opening

Brenda Cuoco & Associates Real Estate Brokerage celebrated its grand-opening ceremony on Feb. 8. The office opened for business in Wilbraham in November. State Rep. Angelo Puppolo presented Cuoco, who has been a real-estate agent for 15 years, with a House of Representatives citation.

The brokerage team, from left, Amy Beaulieu, MaryKate Caron, Paula Lynch, Alyssa Stout, Brenda Cuoco, Tammy Sandomierski, Kathleen Brenner, Paige Belcastro, and Cori Bessette

 

From left: Puppolo, David Cuoco, Brenda Cuoco, Marco Cuoco, and Antonio Cuoco

 


Giving Back to the Community

Community Bank N.A. announced that its annual charitable giving reached more than $2.6 million in 2019 through sponsorships, donations, and grants, with its branches across Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont donating to more than 2,500 local organizations. In Massachusetts, it supported a variety of organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield, the YMCA of Greater Springfield, Springfield Rescue Mission, Open Pantry Community Services, Way Finders, Gardening the Community, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County, and (pictured) the Western Regional Office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC).

From left: Community Bank N.A. Springfield Branch Manager Gilbert Nieves, Commercial Banking Team Leader Keith Nesbitt, MSBDC Regional Director Samalid Hogan, MSBDC Client Services Coordinator and Office Manager Lynn Shedd, and MSBDC Senior Business Advisor Anita Elisaon.

 

 


Art History

Tower Square unveiled a James Kitchen sculpture in its Center Court on Feb. 26. The 11-foot-high sculpture, titled “Tower Squares,” is comprised of intricate, stacked blocks, a la Dr. Seuss, filled with parts and pieces recycled from Springfield’s past. Visitors will discover a 1940s Indian motorcycle seat, pipe wrenches invented by Solymon Merrick in 1835, a clip-on ice skate patented by Everett Barney in the 1800s, a basketball hoop, ice tongs, hammers, gears that turn, doorbells that ring, faucets, and much more. The entire installation is interactive, inviting children and adults to explore its components. The statue will be a permanent feature of the building.

 

 


 

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This Agency Gets IT

Anthony Ciak and Jackie Fallon say building relationships with clients and candidates is key to finding the right fit for both parties.

Finding the right candidate for a job can be a difficult task. In the tech industry, finding someone who not only has the technical skills, but also the right personality for the position, is especially challenging. That’s why FIT Staffing was established — to help companies find the right people to fill these positions, and keep them for the long haul.

Putting a square peg into a round hole just doesn’t work out.

Jackie Fallon says this goes for putting people in jobs as well. If a candidate is not the right fit for a position, things won’t work out in the long run.

Unfortunately, she says many large staffing companies habitually try to do just that — make people fit in positions where they aren’t meant to be in order to increase their numbers and help their bottom lines.

This is one of the reasons why Fallon started FIT Solutions, a technology-focused staffing company that digs deeper — much deeper — to find the right fit, for clients and candidates alike.

Fallon, president of the company, is a former engineer and employee at one of those larger staffing companies. She told BuisnessWest that she started FIT back in 2004 because she felt the Western Mass. area was underserved by the national staffing companies, and that smaller organizations that had IT needs were being overlooked.

So, she went into business for herself to change that.

“We don’t want to put people in positions that they’re not going to be successful at. We take a good, long time with our candidates and assessing what they want to do.”

The mission at FIT Solutions is to provide value to both candidates — those seeking jobs in technology, and the company’s commercial clients, those seeking employees for their open technology positions — and to do it in a thorough manner.

“We don’t want to put people in positions that they’re not going to be successful at,” said Fallon. “We take a good, long time with our candidates and assessing what they want to do.”

Division Manager Anthony Ciak emphasized the difference between FIT and larger staffing companies, adding that creating a solid fit requires more than simply looking at what’s on paper to figure out where a person might belong.

“I think that, with the larger staffing companies, maybe moreso in the IT space, it’s all about numbers,” he said. “They want to get quick placement to get numbers up, and, in the long run, that really doesn’t help anyone.”

He maintains that finding the perfect match always goes well beyond just the technical skills a candidate has. It comes down to finding the right culture and personality fit.

“Tech skills aside, sometimes it’s more about putting a hiring manager and a candidate in the same room and seeing how the sparks fly,” said Ciak, adding that good communication and chemistry are big parts of the process. “What a lot of people are looking for is a good teammate.”

One of the most common stereotypes surrounding those in the tech industry is that people are unsocial and unwilling to interact with others, but Ciak says the opposite is true, and clients look for someone who will work well with their teams.

That’s why FIT focuses on forming long-term relationships with candidates and clients so they can find the right fit for both parties.

Tech Talk

In fact, all this is spelled out loud and clear in the mission statement of the company: “to provide industry insight alongside quality staffing solutions delivered with sincerity, trust, and friendliness for our partners and candidates.”

“Our goal going into a chat with a candidate is to let them know that it’s not just about the job we might be talking about at that moment,” Ciak said. “It’s building a foundation for that opportunity and then anything else further down the line.”

In order to fill positions for clients, those at FIT often reach out to candidates they talked to months or maybe years ago. A suitable fit may not have been found back then, said Fallon, but candidates remember the service they received and are generally happy to come back for another try.

“I think that, with the larger staffing companies, maybe moreso in the IT space, it’s all about numbers. They want to get quick placement to get numbers up, and, in the long run, that really doesn’t help anyone.”

“We go back to the candidates we already have in the pipeline,” she said. “That’s our goal, to get people that we’ve already met, and we already understand what they’re looking for and make that match.”

She added that, frankly, the candidates who have résumés out on job sites like Monster or Dice are being pursued by everyone else in the industry, making it more difficult to reach them.

One thing Fallon hopes will help expand the company’s candidate pool is its recent merger with Marathon Staffing, a $70 million regional agency. Despite the reputation national staffing agencies have, she’s confident that it will help bring more more resources into the Western Mass. area.

“It gives us more bandwidth as far as options with our candidates,” she explained, adding that Marathon didn’t have an IT division, which is where FIT comes in.

Another attribute that helps FIT stand out from competition is its vetting process. Fallon said one of the best compliments the company has ever received came from a hiring manager who told her that, whenever they get a résumé from her, they know it’s a good candidate.

To explain the significance of this for the company, Ciak recalls the story of a client who was looking to fill a position at its location in Franklin County. Geographically, those at this firm knew they were going to have a harder time filling the position because of its location, and after a few months of frustration went by, they had to get creative and think outside the box.

They reached out to a female candidate who — on paper, anyway — had progressed into a few other roles that weren’t directly related to the job they needed to fill. But when FIT reached out to her, they found out that she wanted to get back into that kind of position.

When they presented her as a candidate, the decision maker for the client was reluctant to meet her. But FIT didn’t give up.

“We had a conversation with the hiring manager about trying to help them understand why we felt this person may be a good fit for the role,” said Ciak, adding that the decision maker agreed to a phone call with the candidate. As it turns out, they found she was a perfect match for what they were looking for.

“I think it was a good example of how it wasn’t about what was on the résumé … it was about a lot of the stuff in between the lines,” Ciak said. “Yes, they have to be able to do the job technically, but it’s so much more than that.”

Quality over Quantity

Using this operating mindset, the company has sustained a significant pool of candidates to reach out to, including a database of roughly 20,000 people. And it is constantly looking to make this pool even wider and deeper.

As just one example, the team recently visited Western New England University’s computer science club to talk to the seniors and other students about job opportunities in the area, how to go about looking for a job, interview preparation, salary information, and more. They also attend job summits, workshops, and other similar events to not only be a presence in the community, but also to ensure that they are constantly learning in an ever-changing industry.

“The more that we’re aware of how things are changing, the more we can impress on the candidate the importance of keeping up with technologies, too,” Ciak noted. “A lot of our clients expect the same. They expect folks to keep up with the latest and greatest and to stay educated and to challenge themselves with new technology.”

This, along with a mission to find the right fit for a candidate and client, is what makes FIT Solutions stand out from the competition. It’s what landed them on the ITS63 list as the only Western Mass. vendor, and it’s also what keeps clients and candidates in the area staffed and employed.

“It really comes back to providing value to our candidates and our clients,” Fallon said, “and being a trusted adviser to both of them.”

Kayla Ebner can be reached at [email protected]

Tourism & Hospitality Uncategorized

Katie DiClemente says the openness of the meeting spaces at the Sheraton is one of the biggest selling points for people looking to stage conventions.

Sheraton Springfield Takes Steps to Stand Out in the Marketplace

Stacy Gravanis acknowledged the obvious when it comes to the convention and meetings market in the Northeast, and the country as a whole — there is no shortage of competition.

And in this climate, the assignment is also obvious — to find a way, or several ways, as the case may be, to stand out in this crowded marketplace.

The Sheraton Springfield has been doing that since it opened more than 30 years ago, said Gravanis, general manager of the facility, and it keeps looking for new, innovative, and, well, cool ways of continuing that practice. Cool as in a Ding-Dong cart. Indeed, the nostalgic summertime staple, sometimes seen patrolling neighborhoods and often seen parked at pools and lakes, became part of the landscape at the downtown Springfield landmark during the first week in August.

It was parked on the grounds, providing a unique opportunity to cool down during what has been an oppressive summer to date — for guests and downtown workers alike. And it became another way to bring value and something different to visitors, said Gravanis, who told BusinessWest that this is all part of the work to not only stand out — as important as that is — but also to help build relationships and turn customers into repeat customers, a critical assignment in this industry.

One of the stops on the Sheraton’s ice cream truck tour was MGM Head Start in Springfield.

“The goal is to find that connection to them and build loyalty,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the Ding-Dong cart is just one example of programs, products, and services that go into the connection-building process.

Katie DiClemente, assistant director of Sales and Marketing for the Sheraton agreed. She said that conventions and meetings comprise a large slice of the business at the Sheraton, one where building relationships and generating repeat business is essential.

DiClemente noted that the facility hosts dozens of convention groups a year, such as the Pancretan Association of America, which was in town from June 28 to July 3 and brought 475 people to the hotel. Meanwhile, its assorted meeting spaces host a wide array of gatherings, from company retreats and annual meetings to team-training sessions, to educational seminars.

The hotel’s portfolio of facilities and its unique layout (more on that later) are attractive selling points, she said, as is the region and its many attractions.

Both Gravanis and DiClemente said an already attractive mix of attractions, from Six Flags to the Dr. Seuss museum, has been significantly bolstered by MGM Springfield, which they expect to help bring new convention business to the 413.

For this issue and its focus on meetings and conventions, BusinessWest talked with Gravanis and DiClemente about the Sheraton’s ongoing work to stand out in the market, and how it is creating new flavors of customer service — figuratively but also quite literally.

Getting the Scoop

One of the largest facilities of its kind in the region, the Sheraton boasts 325 hotel rooms, more than 36,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom and eight meeting rooms on the third floor, six meeting rooms on the second floor, and two additional meeting rooms on the fourth floor, leaving plenty of space for large conventions.

DiClemente says the 10,000 square foot ballroom can hold up to 1,000 people depending on the type of event, with a 500-person cap for a banquet-style event.

But size is not the only attractive quality. Indeed, DiClemente said the setup of the meeting spaces at the Sheraton Springfield is unlike most other hotels.

“The flow of our space is something that definitely attracts people to our hotel,” she told BusinessWest. “We’re not a conference-style hotel where you’re walking down a long hallway and going to your meeting rooms and finding it that way. We’re an atrium style, so if your meeting room is on the second floor, you can look down and see where you need to go. The natural light shines through the atrium.”

This natural light, and all that comes with it, has attracted a number of groups to the Sheraton — and Greater Springfield. The Pancretan Association of America (PAA), a national organization comprised of members who support and perpetuate Cretan culture through scholarship, educational, cultural, and philanthropic programs for those in the United States, Canada, and Crete, is an example of the how the region and the hotel are drawing local, national, and even international groups.

And bringing them here is a collaborative effort, said Gravanis, adding that the hotel works closely with the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB), keeping in daily contact with Director of Sales Alicia Szenda.

“We have a really great relationship with her being the director of sales,” said DiClemente. “If the convention center has a lead where they need overnight rooms, that’s sent to the [GSCVB] and Alicia is that middleperson between the MassMutual Center and the hotels in the area.”

Once that lead is sent out to the hotels, they bid on the piece of business, which is sent directly to Szenda. Of course, this region is usually competing against several other cities in for the right to host specific conventions, which brings us back to that notion of standing out — and building relationships.

Again, the Ding-Dong cart was just part of it.

Aside from the ice cream runs, Gravanis said the hotel staff works to stay in touch with clients — be they groups or individuals — through birthday and anniversary cards and other touch points to build a relationship and, hopefully, a long-term relationship.

“Whether it’s a local client or a client out of a different city, it’s so important to build that relationship with them and that’s something we do every day,” said DiClemente. “It’s really a top priority for our sales team.”

Gravanis added, again, that the area itself is a huge selling point for the Sheraton, and it is becoming more so through the addition of MGM Springfield, which has the potential to bring a wide array of meetings and conventions to the city, many of which will require large amounts of hotel rooms and other facilities.

Staying Power

Since it opened nearly three decades ago, the Sheraton has been one of the key players in the region’s large and important hospitality sector.

It has been one of the important pieces in the puzzle when it comes to the infrastructure needed to bring meetings and conventions, and, therefore, revenue and vibrancy, to the region.

It has maintained this position by being innovative and always finding ways to stand out. And the Ding-Dong cart, as cool as it is, is just the latest example.

Kayla Ebner can be reached at [email protected]

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Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]

Giving Back

Timm Marini, president of HUB International New England, recently presented a check for $5,000 to the Mental Health Assoc. (MHA). Marini has also committed to a $5,000 donation to MHA for 2020. “HUB International New England embraces the value of the communities where our customers and employees live and work, so we give back by supporting community-focused organizations that do good things to help others. MHA is an organization that we have supported for many years and continue to support because of the important work they do helping vulnerable people,” said Marini (pictured with Kimberley Lee, vice president, Resource Development & Branding for MHA).

Music to Their Ears

Phillips Insurance Agency Inc. recently donated $5,000 to the Berkshire Hills Music Academy (BHMA) in South Hadley, which offers a post-secondary transition program, as well as a long-term graduate program for young adults with intellectual challenges. Its educational model infuses music with an empirically based curriculum to promote skills for independence. Karen Phillips of Phillips Insurance (left) presented the check to Michelle Theroux, executive director of Berkshire Hills Music Academy, at the annual spring concert held at the Bernon Music Center on the BHMA campus.

 

City of First Socks

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno showed his support for Upscale Socks owner Lenny Underwood recently, and bought the first pair of his ‘City of First’ socks, depicting the city skyline and a basketball, representing the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The socks can be purchased online at www.upscalesocks.com, as well as the Springfield Regional Visitors Center located at 1319 Main St.

 

 

Chamber Corners Uncategorized

FRANKLIN COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.franklincc.org

(413) 773-5463

Sept. 17: Business After Hours at the United Way of Franklin County’s Taste & Toast ’Round the County, 5-8 p.m., hosted by Franklin County Fairgrounds. Join us at the historic Round House at the Franklin County Fairgrounds for the United Way of Franklin County’s Taste & Toast tournament. Mixologists are invited to face off for the chance to be named the ultimate in crafting cocktails. Register at (413) 772-2168 or uw-fc.org.

Sept. 27: Monthly Breakfast and United Way Kickoff, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Franklin County Technical High School, 82 Industrial Blvd., Turners Falls. The United Way of Franklin County is kicking off its 2019 campaign. Learn about the upcoming campaign and how you can participate. Sponsored by Melanson Heath. Cost: $15 for members, $20 general admission. Register at [email protected] or franklincc.org.

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

Aug. 21: Party on the Patio Chamber Open House, 4:30-7 p.m., sponsored by Westfield Bank, Polish National Credit Union, and PeoplesBank. Networking, international foods from favorite Chicopee restaurants, cash bar, and live music. Cost: $25 or two for $40. Register at www.chicopeechamber.org/events.

Sept. 12: Business After Hours, 4:30-6:30 p.m.. hosted by the Red Fez. Sponsored by Polish National Credit Union. Networking fun at a Chicopee staple, featuring a full Portuguese buffet and cash bar. Space is limited for this annual event. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Register at www.chicopeechamber.org/events.

Sept. 18: Salute Breakfast: “Maintaining the Work-Life Balance,” 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by MassMutual Learning and Conference Center, Chicopee. Sponsored by Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, N. Riley Construction Inc., Polish National Credit Union, USI Insurance Services, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Featuring state Rep. Aaron Vega (chief greeter) and Kathy Anderson of Holyoke Medical Center (keynote speaker). An interactive opportunity for small businesses and startups to learn how to tap into state and local support. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Register at www.chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

Sept. 12: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Nini’s Ristorante, 124 Cottage St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Polish National Credit Union. The event will include food provided by Nini’s, a cash bar, and business-to-business relationship building. This event is free to members and their employees; however, pre-registration is required. Non-members are invited for $20. For more information and to register, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber at (413) 527-9414.

Sept. 27: “Women and the Art of Risk,” 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., hosted by the Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. This year’s women’s leadership event will feature workshops, discussions, and career-development opportunities, all led by distinguished women from the Pioneer Valley. Hear personal and professional stories of how taking calculated risks led these women to new adventures and made them stronger leaders. Keynote speaker: Jody Kasper, chief of Police, city of Northampton. Cost: $119, which includes breakfast and lunch. A table of 10 may be purchased for $875. Pre-registration is required. No tickets will be sold at the door. For more information and to register, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.northamptonchamber.com

(413) 584-1900

Aug. 21: Dazzle and Dine Holiday Menu Preview Party, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Inn on Boltwood. Planning your holiday party? Mix and mingle with the inn’s team, take a tour of its event spaces, and enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a sampling of entrées, and live entertainment. Reserve your holiday party early to receive special discounts and perks. Cost: $20 per person. For more information and to register, visit northamptonchamber.com.

Sept. 11: September [email protected], 5-7 p.m., hosted by Northampton Survival Center. Come when you can, stay as long as you can. A casual mix and mingle with friends and colleagues. Cost: $10 for members, $12 for non-members. For more information and to register, visit northamptonchamber.com.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

Sept. 9: Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by the Arbors, 40 Court St., Westfield. Join us for coffee with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested so we may give our host a proper head count. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events or call (413) 568-1618.

Sept. 16: After 5 Connections, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Polish National Credit Union, 1 Parkside Ave., Westfield. Refreshments will be served, and a 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free to both chamber members and non-members. For more information, call the chamber at (413) 568-1618, or register online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events.

Sept. 21: September Breakfast, 7-9 a.m., hosted by the 104th Fighter Wing ANG, 175 Falcon Dr., Westfield. Platinum event sponsor: Baystate Noble Hospital. Gold sponsor: Westfield Gas & Electric. Silver sponsor: A Plus HVAC Inc. Bronze sponsors: Behavioral Health Network/the Carson Center, Governor’s Center, and the Arbors. For sponsorships or registration questions, e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 568-1618. Cost to attend: $28 for members, $43 for non-members. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

 

Sept. 4: Rise & Shine Business Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by Sheraton Springfield, One Monarch Place, Springfield. Sponsored by United Personnel (breakfast series sponsor) and Wolf & Co. Featuring Josh Kraft, president of the New England Patriots Foundation and Nicholas president and CEO of the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs, on “Taking Social Justice Beyond Social Media.” Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door) or $35 general admission in advance ($40 at the door). To register, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

Sept. 4: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Partners Restaurant, Agawam. Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events, hosted by various businesses and restaurants, that bring members and non-members together to network in a laid-back atmosphere. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members. For more information about this event, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

Sept. 17: Legislative Breakfast, 7-9 a.m., hosted by Crestview Country Club, Agawam. Presenting sponsor: Health New England. A panel of legislators, featuring state Sens. James Welch and Donald Humason and state Reps. Nicholas Boldyga and Michael Finn, will provide updates from Beacon Hill, followed by a question-and-answer session. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For sponsorships or to register online, visit www.westoftheriverchamber.com. For more information on ticket sales, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected].

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.

Briefcase Uncategorized

Employer Confidence Surges During July

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers shrugged off mounting evidence of an economic slowdown during July and expressed growing confidence in both the state and national economies. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 4.4 points to 62.0 last month, reaching its highest level since September. The Index has gained 0.8 points during the past 12 months and remains comfortably within optimistic territory. The confidence surge was driven by optimism in the Massachusetts economy and a strengthening outlook among manufacturers. The July confidence survey was taken before President Donald Trump touched off financial-market gyrations last week by announcing another round of tariffs on Chinese products. The constituent indicators that make up the Index all increased during July. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth surged 7 points to 68.2, while the U.S. Index rose 4.6 points to 62.6. The Massachusetts reading has risen 3.1 points, and the U.S. reading 0.7 points, during the past 12 months. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 4.6 points to 60.8, leaving it 2.1 points higher than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 4.2 points to 63.2, virtually even with its reading of July 2018. The Employment Index gained 1.9 points for the month and 0.2 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy facing a demographic challenge as Baby Boomers leave the workforce. Non-manufacturers (63.6) were more confident than manufacturers (60.5), who remain concerned about the consequences of tariffs and trade tensions. Small companies (65.2) were more confident than large companies (58.9) or medium-sized companies (62.3). Companies in Eastern Mass. (63.3) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (59.8).

UMass Amherst Economists Examine How Minimum-wage Increases Impact Job Growth

AMHERST — Economists at UMass Amherst, along with colleagues from University College London and the Economic Policy Institute, have found that the overall number of low-wage jobs remained essentially unchanged over the five years following increases to the minimum wage, and that affected low-wage workers overall saw a wage gain of 7% after a minimum-wage increase. These spillovers extended up to $3 above the minimum wage and represent around 40 percent of the overall wage increase from minimum wage changes. The authors also found that, within the scope of minimum wages they studied — which range between 37% and 59% percent of the median wage – there was no evidence of job losses even at the higher end of this scale. These findings, the researchers say, suggest minimum wages are mostly having the intended effect of raising bottom wages with little adverse, unintended consequences on jobs. The research into the impacts of 138 prominent state-level minimum-wage changes in the U.S. between 1979 and 2016 was conducted by Arindrajit Dube, professor of Economics at UMass Amherst; Doruk Cengiz, a doctoral student in Economics at UMass Amherst; Attila Lindner of University College London; and Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute. Their report, “The Effect of Minimum Wages on Low-Wage Jobs,” was published in the August edition of the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

State Designates Agawam High School for New Innovation Pathway Program

AGAWAM — Agawam High School is one of four schools, including Atlantis Charter School in Fall River, Brockton High School, and Burlington High School, that will launch new Innovation Pathway programs this fall to give students skills and experience in particular industries through college courses and internships after recently receiving official designation status from the state departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education, the Baker-Polito administration announced. More than 1,000 students are expected to be enrolled in these college and career pathways when the new programs are fully enrolled. Twenty-five high schools in the Commonwealth now have Innovation Pathway programs designated by the state. Agawam High School is launching an Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Pathway that will serve 466 students when fully enrolled. The school is partnering with the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board and multiple employer partners, including the Western Mass. Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Assoc., Peerless Precision, Governor’s America Corp., Mechanical Plastics, OMG Roofing Products, Ben Franklin Manufacturing, EBTEC Corp., and DFF Corp. Students will take courses at Springfield Technical Community College. Launched in 2017, Innovation Pathways give students experience in a specific high-demand industry, such as information technology, engineering, healthcare, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing, through coursework and internships at local area employers. Students earn college credits, at no cost to them, and gain insight as to whether the field is something they want to pursue in college or as a career.

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