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Company Notebook

Westfield Bank, Chicopee Savings Bank to Merge

WESTFIELD — Westfield Financial Inc., the holding company for Westfield Bank, and Chicopee Bancorp Inc., the holding company for Chicopee Savings Bank, announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement. The merger will create the largest locally managed bank in Hampden County and the second-largest bank in terms of deposit market share in the county. The combined company will have total assets of $2.1 billion, tangible equity of over $215 million, and 21 branch locations serving customers throughout Western Mass. and Northern Conn. “We are excited to combine with such a strong partner as Chicopee,” said James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank. “As we have gotten to know Bill Wagner and his team over time, we have been pleased at the commonality of our cultures, operating models, and the customer-service focus of our two institutions. Although headquartered in the same county, we currently serve two distinct customer bases, which, when combined, will complement each other tremendously. A merger of our two banks will be extremely favorable for the shareholders, customers, employees, and communities of both institutions.” Following completion of the transaction, Hagan will be president and CEO of the combined company, and Donald Williams will be chairman of the Board. William Wagner, chairman, president, and CEO of Chicopee, will join the executive management team of Westfield, and will become vice chairman of the board of directors. Four additional board members of Chicopee will also join the board of Westfield. Following closing, the combined bank will do business under the Westfield Bank name, with the holding company to be renamed Western New England Bancorp. The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation will remain in place with its original philanthropic mission in the Greater Chicopee area unchanged. “Westfield is the ideal partner for Chicopee,” Wagner said. “This is the first in-market merger our community has seen in over 25 years and, as such, will not result in a significant outflow of resources or shift the focus of our franchise elsewhere, but rather will intensify and strengthen our combined ability to serve our local markets, consumers, and businesses that make both Westfield and Chicopee successful. I look forward to our future together as a combined institution and to the substantial impact our bank will have in Western New England.” The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both Westfield and Chicopee. Closing is anticipated to occur during the fourth quarter of 2016, subject to approval by the shareholders of both companies, receipt of required regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions. “Westfield has a strong reputation in commercial business lending to large-scale customers that will enhance our lending platform and ability,” Wagner said. “Moreover, the larger lending limit, breadth of product mix, and deep and sophisticated support functions will allow our bank to be a major competitor in Western New England for years to come.”

UMass Amherst Joins Advanced Fibers Initiative

AMHERST — UMass Amherst is a research partner in Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA), a new, $317 million public-private partnership announced by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. UMass Amherst is the only public university in New England participating in the MIT-led partnership, which includes 31 universities, 16 industry partners, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators across 28 states. The partnership won a national competition for federal funding to create the nation’s eighth Manufacturing Innovation Institute. It is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles. UMass Amherst’s involvement in AFFOA draws on research expertise in its departments of polymer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and the College of Information and Computer Sciences. “Through the combination of our polymer science, roll-to-roll nano-manufacturing, and electrical-engineering expertise, UMass Amherst is well-equipped to make important contributions to the development of new functional fabrics as part of the AFFOA team,” says Mike Malone, vice chancellor for Research and Engagement. “We expect to conduct research in a range of areas that have important military and commercial applications, including fiber-integrated sensors, energy generation and storage systems, thermal camouflage, optical and photonic components or fibers, fiber-integrated antennas, fiber/fabric surface modifications, and the incorporation of chemical, biological, and physical functionality onto woven fabrics and non-woven and flexible substrates.” As part of the initiative, the university is committing up to $1 million in matching funds to support AFFOA projects, process development, and education and workforce training over the first five years of operation.

Gove Law Office Relocates Northampton Office

NORTHAMPTON — Gove Law Office announced it has moved its Northampton office into larger space at the historic Old School Commons Building located at the corner of New South Street and Main Street in Northampton. “With this move to the Old School Commons, Gove Law gains an office identity that reflects our strong Hampshire County presence and accommodates our recent and future growth plans,” said Michael Gove, founder and owner of Gove Law Office. “Both geographically and architecturally, this stunning new space supports the firm’s leading practice areas.” Gove Law Office, with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, is a bilingual firm with attorneys who provide guidance to clients in the areas of business representation, commercial lending, residential and commercial real estate, estate planning, probate and family law, criminal and civil litigation, personal-injury law, and bankruptcy.  For more information, visit www.govelawoffice.com.

Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Opens at Elms

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the launch of its new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to expand business-education offerings at the college through a hands-on, real-world approach. “In this time of a rapidly emerging entrepreneurial society, we need to create a flexible structure to accommodate not only degree work but also certificate programs, workshops, consulting services, and other assistance needed to make sure that entrepreneurs are equipped not only to start a business but, more importantly, to sustain it over time,” said Elms College President Sr. Mary Reap. The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership was developed with that goal in mind. Reap and Elms faculty have worked closely with focus groups comprised of area businesses and officials to assess the specific needs of the local business community. Amanda Garcia, assistant professor of Accounting, was appointed director of the CEL in January. “We have an opportunity to provide hands-on learning experience,” Garcia said. “That was one of the major things that came out of the focus groups: ‘we need it to be real, and we need it to be hands-on.’” To that end, the CEL will incorporate Lean Launchpad, a startup methodology in which new businesses receive immediate feedback from customers in the marketplace during the business launch. “We know that the majority of businesses fail in the first five years, and a big cause of that is due to not understanding specific core business concepts or the marketplace needs,” Garcia noted. The Lean Launchpad model allows startup owners to learn as they grow their businesses and react to market demands. The CEL’s academic offerings will include an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship, which will launch this fall. “We also plan to integrate it into an entrepreneurship track in our MBA,” Garcia said, “and we will explore the needs in the marketplace around business-growth strategies and programming related to business growth and mergers and acquisitions.” The entrepreneurship track will join existing accounting, healthcare leadership, and management tracks in the Elms MBA program. “Elms College also has a mission to give back to the community,” Garcia said. “We know that economic development and entrepreneurship is a big part of making our community better, so we’re planning to offer workshops and Lean Launchpad boot camps on weekends, to help people flesh out their ideas. We are also planning programming to help them learn what to do once they flesh out those ideas.” The CEL will also partner with the college’s nursing and science programs. “I see great opportunity in collaborating with the Elms Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the development of an interdisciplinary healthcare leadership program for master’s-prepared and certified nurse practitioners, as well as master’s-prepared clinical nurse leaders who seek the doctor of nursing practice,” said Dr. Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing. “We believe that the Lean Launchpad is an excellent methodology, well-matched for nursing and healthcare, and an extraordinary learning opportunity for these advanced nursing students.” Added Garcia, “for our biomedical technology program, we’re looking to incorporate Lean Launchpad in bringing research to commercialization. It’s one thing to have research, and it’s another thing to commercialize it and make money off of it.”

Tighe & Bond Secures Award for Excellence

WESTFIELD — The American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts presented Tighe & Bond and Borrego Solar Systems with a Silver Award for the 3.5-megawatt North Adams E Street solar photovoltaic (PV) system during its 2016 Engineering Excellence and Awards Gala. Held on March 16 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, this annual competition and event recognizes recent engineering achievements that demonstrate the highest degree of merit, ingenuity, complexity, and client satisfaction. Tighe & Bond, a New England leader in civil and environmental engineering, teamed with Borrego Solar Systems to develop a solar PV system on top of the closed E Street landfill in North Adams. Completed last year, the new solar system is one of the largest of its kind in Western Mass. Its output, when combined with power being purchased from two other nearby PV sites, makes the city 100% solar-powered. All of its municipal buildings and facilities are running on clean, renewable energy. Borrego Solar Systems estimates that the array offsets 2,989 tons of carbon annually, the equivalent of removing 630 cars from the road or the amount sequestered by 2,450 acres of U.S. forests in a year. Tighe & Bond provided site design, permitting, and construction administration for this project that sits on approximately 11.7 acres of the 31-acre capped landfill. Additional project features included the construction of access roads and the installation of ballast trays with concrete blocks to support the photovoltaic panel racks and solar panels. It also included equipment pads for the inverters and transformers, as well as a variety of other electrical infrastructure and support features. Borrego Solar Systems was the developer of the solar system, and Syncarpha Capital is the system owner.

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