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Company Notebook

MassMutual Reports Record $1.7 Billion Dividend Payout

SPRINGFIELD — MassMutual’s board of directors approved an estimated dividend payout of $1.7 billion for 2016 to its eligible participating policyowners — a nearly $100 million increase over 2015, and the fourth consecutive year it has reached a new record. The 2016 payout also reflects a competitive dividend interest rate of 7.1% for eligible participating life and annuity blocks of business, maintaining the same rate as both 2014 and 2015.  “Today is a special day where the commitment we’ve made our policyowners is brought to life through our annual dividend payout,” said Roger Crandall, MassMutual’s chairman, president, and CEO. “Through nearly our entire history, our policyowners have received an annual dividend regardless of what is happening in our world — whether it’s through world wars, pandemics, market crashes, and most recently, a historically low interest-rate environment where even three-month Treasury bills are yielding zero percent.” While dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has consistently paid them to eligible participating policyowners since the 1860s. The 2016 dividend marks nearly two decades that the company has consecutively announced an estimated dividend payout exceeding $1 billion. “As a mutual company, operating for the benefit of our policyowners and members, we are thrilled to share our collective and cooperative success,” Crandall said. “Our consistent payment of dividends is proof of the enduring financial strength and stability we provide, as well as the resiliency of our long-term strategy.” Among the key contributors to MassMutual’s dividend payout are its retirement-services and international insurance businesses, as well as its asset-management subsidiaries, such as Babson Capital Management LLC, Baring Asset Management Limited, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC, and OppenheimerFunds Inc. The estimated payout also occurs at a time when the company’s financial-strength ratings are among the highest in the industry and its total adjusted capital as of June 30, 2015 — a key indicator of overall financial stability — surpassed $17 billion for the first time in the company’s history. Of the estimated $1.7 billion dividend payout, an estimated $1.65 billion has been approved for eligible participating policyowners who have purchased whole life insurance. MassMutual had its ninth consecutive record year of growth in whole-life policy sales in 2014 with $418 million, and sales of whole life continue to be strong through the first three quarters of 2015. In addition to receiving the dividend payouts in cash, other ways whole-life insurance policyowners may use the dividends include paying premiums, buying additional insurance coverage, accumulating at interest, or repaying policy loans and policy-loan interest. “Whole life insurance enables people to plan for both the expected and unexpected events in their lives, whether it’s leaving a legacy for loved ones or using cash value to help fund a college education or fill an income gap in retirement,” said Michael Fanning, executive vice president and head of MassMutual’s U.S. Insurance Group. “We have provided millions of people with financial resources they can use to chart a course through these turbulent times, further proof that, whether bulls or bears are driving the market, policyowners have received their dividend payout from MassMutual.”

Bacon Wilson Selected Among U.S. News Ranking of Best Law Firms

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced the firm’s inclusion in the 2016 “Best Law Firms” rankings published by U.S. News – Best Lawyers. The full-service firm has been recognized with a Tier 1 Metropolitan designation for Springfield. Firms are selected for professional excellence, with tier rankings based on a meticulous assessment process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations as well as peer reviews from leading attorneys in their fields. Achieving a Tier 1 ranking indicates both quality law practice and expansive legal knowledge. This marks the sixth consecutive such honor for Bacon Wilson. Additionally, in August, four partners were named to the Best Lawyers in America 2016 list: Paul Rothschild, Stephen Krevalin, Michael Katz, and Jeff Fialky. Bacon Wilson’s managing partner, Stephen Krevalin, noted that the latest award is “among the most significant in our field. We are pleased and gratified to be counted among the 2016 Best Law Firms. For me, Bacon Wilson’s inclusion in this publication highlights the outstanding skills of our attorneys.” Bacon Wilson, P.C. is one of the largest firms in Western Massachusetts, with a total of 42 lawyers and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s main office is located in Springfield, with regional offices in Northampton, Amherst, and Westfield.

Holyoke Medical Center Breaks Ground on New ED, Office Building

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) broke ground recently on construction for a new, state-of-the-art Emergency Department that, when completed, will expand the current space from 8,500 square feet to approximately 22,000 square feet, as wel as a new, 16,000-square-foot medical office building. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2017. The Emergency Department will feature a new Crisis Center for Psychiatric Services, 40 treatment areas, multi-patient trauma rooms, advanced life-saving equipment, and a patient-navigation service. This will allow HMC to treat patients in a more efficient and dignified way. The medical office building will house a host of new services, including a comprehensive weight-loss center, sleep-apnea clinic, and other multi-specialty physician practices. These expanded services will address the current and emerging community health needs of Hampden County, including the sharp rise in obesity and diabetes rates, while also creating new jobs in Holyoke. “Today’s groundbreaking represents our strong commitment to providing tens of thousands of patients in the Pioneer Valley with access to convenient and compassionate life-saving care,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc. “HMC’s new Emergency Department and medical office building will offer the latest in medical technology, a broader range of emergency services, and highly skilled clinicians dedicated to serving our community.” Funding for the project is provided partially by the Commonwealth’s Health Policy Commission (HPC), through Phase 2 of the Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation Investment Program, also known as CHART, which aims to promote care coordination, integration, and delivery transformation to enhance Massachusetts community hospitals’ delivery of efficient and effective care. The $3.9 million grant supports the integration of new behavioral-health services in the Emergency Department. “Our partnership with community hospitals is a critical part of HPC’s efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost-containment and quality-improvement goals,” said David Seltz, executive director of HPC. “CHART hospitals were issued a challenge: propose initiatives that will put you on a path of transformation, while meeting the critical health care needs of your community. Today, I’m pleased to report that HMC exceeded that challenge. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Holyoke community to build a more coordinated and affordable healthcare system.” HMC’s award was the highest award for a single hospital in CHART Phase 2. HMC will leverage an innovative, multi-disciplinary high-risk-care team, known as the Behavioral Health Emergency Care Service, to support all patients with behavioral-health conditions in the Emergency Department. At the same time, this coordinated initiative will introduce robust care navigation in partnership with community-based organizations to ensure that patients receive targeted interventions, including those necessary to address the high incidence of complex, challenging social issues, and are referred to the right services for successful follow-through on individualized care plans. A portion of this investment will also support HMC’s efforts to redesign its Emergency Department, and will create a separate healing and therapeutic behavioral-health space in the emergency room designed to reduce patient anxiety, streamline patient flow, and improve overall quality of care in a safe and secure environment. Additional financing partners for the total project budget of $22.8 million include Valley Health Systems, MassDevelopment, People’s United Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and A.I. Wainwright. Last year, more than 42,500 patients visited Holyoke Medical Center’s Emergency Department, and the department will continue to serve the Greater Holyoke community throughout the construction phase of the project.

Country Bank Supports Local Senior Centers

WARE — Country Bank has been assisting local senior centers since 2011 with an annual donation of $2,000 each. This gift assists them with some of the expenses that may not be covered within their regular budget. A total of $166,000 has been donated over the last five years to local senior centers. “We have heard stories of our gifts helping to fund events such as veterans breakfasts, helping to put in a new floor, or, most recently, to assist with transportation costs to out-of-town medical appointments,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president. “One director explained that many seniors may forgo important medical appointments due to the difficulties involved with public transportation or their fear of driving in unfamiliar areas such as Springfield. We are so pleased that we can help in this way.” Country Bank serves Central and Western Mass. with 15 offices.

HAPHousing Recognized as NeighborWorks Green Organization

SPRINGFIELD — HAPHousing has been recognized as a NeighborWorks Green Organization for its comprehensive commitment to sustainable operations. To achieve this designation, HAP was required to demonstrate adherence to a set of green business practices across its operations and all of its program areas.
This is the fourth consecutive year that NeighborWorks America has recognized member organizations for their efforts to create healthier, energy-efficient environments for homeowners, renters, community residents and employees. To date, 81 of the 240 organizations in the NeighborWorks network have achieved this designation. HAPHousing’s green initiatives and programs include ensuring that its housing developments and offices are energy efficient, and distribution of information on energy conservation to clients, residents, employees, and the public. According to Peter Gagliardi, President and CEO of HAPHousing, “An increasingly vital part of our work in developing affordable housing in the region is the building and maintaining of sustainable projects and practices that are environmentally friendly. We take this designation seriously and with pride in our mission to build healthy communities where people thrive.”

STCC to Offer Certified Fiber Optics Technician Courses starting Dec. 7

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Workforce Development office will offer three Certified Fiber Optics Technician Courses starting Dec. 7.
The courses will cover a variety of topics for both those new to the field and experienced technicians. The Fiber Optic Training class combines theory and hands-on activities to prepare students to take the Certified Fiber Optic Technician exam sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association. The exam is administered and graded during the final class.
Students will learn how to identify fiber types; recognize various connectors used in fiber installation; and install, terminate, splice, and properly test installed fiber cable to existing standards. The program explores the history and future of fiber optics and fiber optics capabilities, and basic testing and troubleshooting.
Anyone interested in becoming a Certified Fiber Optics Technician is highly encouraged to sign up. The course fee includes study materials and text book, a CD, exam fees, plus a one year membership to Fiber Optics Association. In addition, STCC will offer Certified Fiber Optic Specialist Outside Plant (CFOS/O), Certified Fiber Optics Splicing Specialist Course (CFOS/S) and Certified Fiber Optics Specialist in Testing & Maintenance (CFOS/T).

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