Company Notebook

Company Notebook

Elms College Launches Student Leadership Institute

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

Colony Hills Capital Sells Mobile Five Portfolio for $134.3M

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

Bay Path’s Online Liberal Studies Program Earns National Accolades

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

PV Financial Group Makes $5,000 Donation to MHA

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

First Connecticut Bancorp Issues Quarterly Dividend

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

Bay Path Recognizes Springfield JCC with Award

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

Bulkley Richardson Launches Cannabis Practice

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

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