Company Notebook

Company Notebook

Big E Breaks Attendance Record with 1.63 Million Guests

WEST SPRINGFIELD — A record number of visitors attended the 2019 Big E, breaking the Fair’s all-time high attendance figure, with a final tally of 1,629,527. The previous record, of 1,543,470, was set in 2018. During the fair’s run, the all-time ingle-day attendance record was also broken when 176,544 visitors attended on Saturday, Sept. 21. Five additional daily attendance records were set: Sept. 19, 85,698; Sept. 21, 176,544; Sept. 25, 89,124; Sept. 27, 112,988 and Sept. 28, 173,112. “As our event continues to grow, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we receive, and I want to thank everyone in this region who supports us by attending the Big E,” said Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition. “Your support allows our mission of agriculture and education to thrive, to grow, and to have a national impact.”

Bay Path Receives $5M Bequest, Largest in University’s History

LONGMEADOW — Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president for Development and Planned Giving at Bay Path University, announced that an anonymous donor has made a transformational gift of $5 million through planned giving. The bequest is the largest individual contribution to Bay Path in its history, and honors the donor’s unwavering commitment to the education and advancement of women. Under the terms of the bequest, a fund will be established to support scholarships, endowed faculty chairs, science and technology equipment, and development programs. “I speak on behalf of the entire Bay Path community that we are grateful for this generous bequest given in support of our mission,” said President Carol Leary. “Our benefactor has a strong belief in higher education and is an inspiration for all. Over the years, this person has also contributed to our annual One America trip for students, underwritten Labster — the online virtual laboratory program integrated within the science curriculum at the American Women’s College — and has supported many other initiatives. Our patron has been a champion for women.” A passionate advocate for women’s education, the donor believes strongly that education is the key to creating opportunities and providing career pathways for women at all ages and stages of their lives, and is particularly supportive of the American Women’s College, the first all-women online bachelor’s degree program in the country, Leary added.

Eversource Donates $2,500 to Fund MHA Support Groups for Veterans, LGBTQ Community

SPRINGFIELD — Eversource, New England’s largest energy-delivery company, presented a check for $2,500 to the Mental Health Assoc. (MHA) to fund access for military veterans and members of the LGBTQ community to support groups at MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health & Wellness Center. According to Sara Kendall, vice president of Clinical Operations for MHA, community members and friends can help individuals in a number of ways, but the support provided by a group of people who have had similar experiences is even more powerful. “Through shared experience, a veteran support group helps its members build a healthy, positive lifestyle through participating and understanding,” she said. “Being part of a clinician-facilitated group can help veterans work to overcome obstacles, build working relationships, and support individuals as they learn to self-navigate in the community. The benefits of support groups for individuals who identify as LGBTQ include feeling less lonely, isolated, or judged; gaining a sense of empowerment and control; improving coping skills and sense of adjustment; talking openly and honestly about their feelings; and reducing distress, depression, or anxiety.” For more information on these new support groups, call (844) MHA-WELL.

STCC Awarded $500,000 to Enhance Two Programs

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will apply $500,000 in state funding to enhance programs in health science and electrical engineering technology and better prepare students who are planning careers in these growing industries. Called the Skills Capital Grant, the funding allows STCC to acquire the newest technologies to educate students and expand career education opportunities. STCC will use the grant to boost the two programs by acquiring new medical patient-simulation training equipment, which allows a larger number of students to enroll in the health science program; and robotic arms for the electrical engineering technology program, which will provide hands-on experience on equipment students will encounter in advanced manufacturing facilities. STCC President John Cook said the investment in the programs will help fill a regional demand for trained workers in the fields of healthcare and electrical engineering technology. Christopher Scott, dean of the School of Health & Patient Simulation, noted that the grant will be used for equipment that directly helps students prepare for careers in the healthcare field. Rick Jagodowski, chair of the electrical engineering technology program at STCC, added that the grant will allow his department to provide students experience and training with robots commonly found in the fields of advanced and automated manufacturing.

PeoplesBank Named a ‘Top Corporate Charitable Contributor’

HOLYOKE — The Boston Business Journal has announced the region’s Top Corporate Charitable Contributors, and, for the 12th year in a row, PeoplesBank is among the companies included. Also this month, the bank has been named Best Local Bank for the seventh year and Best Mortgage Lender for the eighth year in the annual Reader Raves survey conducted by the Republican and MassLive. Through the bank’s Community Care Program, it has contributed millions of dollars to local nonprofit organizations that provide services to the residents of Hampden and Hampshire counties. In addition, associates devote an average of 10,000 hours to volunteer work each year to help local schools, teach financial-education classes, clean up parks, plant trees, and help revitalize neighborhoods. The Boston Business Journal’s Top Corporate Charitable Contributors list is composed of companies that gave at least $100,000 to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. PeoplesBank will be honored at the annual Reader Raves banquet presented by the Republican and MassLive at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

CDC Designates UMass Amherst a Flu Forecasting Center Of Excellence

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst biostatistician will receive up to $3 million in funding over the next five years from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to operate a UMass-based CDC Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, one of two in the nation. Nicholas Reich, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, whose flu-forecasting collaborative has produced some of the world’s most accurate models in recent years, leads a team that will work closely with the CDC, identifying new methods and data sources to sharpen the accuracy and improve communication of seasonal and pandemic flu forecasts. “We know there are a lot of groups that have done trailblazing work in this field, so it’s really a great honor to be selected,” Reich said. A research group from Carnegie Mellon University, led by Roni Rosenfeld, was chosen as the other CDC Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence. Rosenfeld’s group has collaborated closely with the Reich Lab at UMass Amherst as part of the FluSight Network, a multi-disciplinary consortium of flu-forecasting teams. Improving the precision of infectious disease forecasting is life-saving work. These new predictive tools could more effectively target the public-health response to a potential flu outbreak, helping to determine the timing for flu-vaccine campaigns, potential school closures, and travel restrictions, as well as the allocation of medical supplies and antiviral medications. They could also help hospitals make the most efficient staffing decisions. Reich is aiming to communicate more accessible and user-friendly information to the public, perhaps via a smartphone app. The UMass Amherst Center of Excellence includes collaborators Evan Ray, assistant professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Mount Holyoke College, who completed postdoctoral research at the Reich Lab; Caitlin Rivers, senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Anna Thorner, an infectious-disease specialist and the leader of the biosurveillance research team at UpToDate, an online clinical decision support resource; and BioFire and Quidel, two industry companies that run diagnostic tests for respiratory viruses. The companies serve as data providers for the UMass Center of Excellence, sharing anonymized test results from across the nation. In recent years, flu forecasters have been spreading a wide net for their models, using Google search trends, HealthTweets, and other non-traditional sources of information. Reich’s group uses ensemble methodology, incorporating 21 models in an open platform that shares data and coding to maximize forecasting capabilities. “Pooling the strength of many models together, collaboratively with multiple teams, results in a more consistent and more accurate forecast,” he explained.

Palm Beach Capital Invests in J. Polep Distribution Services

CHICOPEE — Palm Beach Capital Fund III, LP, through one of its investment entities, announced it has made an investment in Consumer Products Distributors, LLC (d/b/a J. Polep Distribution Services) and Rachael’s Food, LLC, collectively one of the nation’s largest full-line wholesale distributors to the convenience- and grocery-store industry. Financial terms were not disclosed. J. Polep has been in the distribution business for more than 120 year, and over the past several years, the company has expanded product lines to include fresh sandwiches, salads, and grocery items and has added programs and value-added services to better service the convenience-store retailer. The success of the company can be attributed to product diversification, dedicated employees, a loyal customer base, and a commitment to superior customer service, said Eric Polep, president and CEO. Mike Schmickle, partner at Palm Beach Capital, noted that his company’s strategy is to invest in solid management teams and assist them in their long-term strategic growth plans.

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