Webber & Grinnell Insurance Joins Alera Group
NORTHAMPTON — Webber & Grinnell Insurance announced that it has joined a national network of insurance agencies called the Alera Group. The Alera Group was formed by 24 agencies similar to Webber & Grinnell in 2017. Since then, it has added many others across the country and is now one of the largest independent insurance agencies in the U.S. Joining Alera allows Webber & Grinnell to tap into a wealth of best practices and insurance resources, enabling the company to better serve its diverse clientele. Examples include more insurance-carrier choices, the ability to converse with subject-matter experts, and having more resources to help hire and train employees. Joining Alera also provides a perpetuation plan for the agency. The agency’s staff and their roles are staying exactly the same, so clients will continue being serviced the same way they have been all along. Grinnell will also continue to lead the agency at the local level.
Dietz & Co. Architects Designated as Emerging Professional Friendly Firm
SPRINGFIELD — Dietz & Co. Architects Inc. has been designated by AIA New England as a 2021 Emerging Professional (EP) Friendly Firm. This program recognizes architecture firms that promote the advancement of emerging professionals through professional development and personal-growth opportunities. “Here at Dietz & Company, investing in the professional growth of our staff is the foundation of our firm culture,” Principal Jason Newman said. “We want our people to achieve their personal and professional goals, and we want them to feel supported and encouraged as they pursue them. This philosophy not only builds the confidence and the skills of our team, it helps us keep them as well.” Dietz & Co. Architects has been awarded this designation each year since 2019.
Hoops Star Marcus Camby Partners with White Lion
SPRINGFIELD — UMass and NBA star Marcus Camby has joined White Lion Brewing Co. in a strategic partnership. White Lion currently distributes a small independent portfolio of artisan brands in Massachusetts, primarily in the western part of the state. Camby’s goal is to help open new markets throughout New England and beyond, as well as release his own portfolio of beer brewed by White Lion. “White Lion continues to expand its community reach,” President Ray Berry said. “We have a proven track record and incredible community partners like the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds, and MGM Springfield, to name a few. I remember when Marcus electrified the region — just thinking about it brings back so many great memories. He loves our brand and what it represents. We are very excited and think we have a game winner.” Added Camby, “I am extremely impressed by the brewery’s commitment to the community and its approach to diversifying the craft-beer trade. I look forward to being a part of expanding the brand throughout the New England and Tri-State region. This is my home, and to be able to have a quality beer named after me, and be able to tell its story, is something I’m truly excited about.”
MassDevelopment Bond Boosts Springfield College Projects
SPRINGFIELD — MassDevelopment has issued a $106,675,000 tax-exempt bond on behalf of Springfield College, which will use proceeds to fund several capital projects.
The college will use $45,095,000 to build and equip a new environmentally friendly and sustainable, 76,000-square-foot health sciences building; this portion of the financing received the Green Bond designation by Kestrel Verifiers, which are approved verifiers accredited by the Climate Bonds Initiative. The college will use the remaining proceeds to build an academic quad and campus pavilion; renovate classrooms, residence halls, administrative buildings, and the existing health sciences building; improve a steam-plant facility; upgrade walking and running paths and outdoor seating; and refinance previously issued debt. The bond was sold through a public offering underwritten by Hilltop Securities Inc. “This major investment represents Springfield College’s commitment to its students, staff, and the entire Greater Springfield community,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said. “MassDevelopment is proud to lend a helping hand to support construction of a new health sciences building and significant upgrades to the college’s campus and academic facilities.”
Bradley International Airport Earns COVID-19 Health Reaccreditation
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — In recognition of its continued health and safety response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bradley International Airport has achieved reaccreditation from the Airports Council International (ACI) World Health Accreditation program. During the extensive accreditation process, ACI assesses the airport’s response and safety measures throughout the entire passenger journey in line with industry best practices. This includes evaluation of the airport’s cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing (where feasible and practical), staff protection, physical-layout modifications, passenger communications, and passenger-facility enhancements. The Connecticut Airport Authority voluntary initiated the reassessment after receiving its initial health accreditation from ACI in December 2020. In addition to surpassing these high industry safety standards, Bradley International Airport offers contactless access to the parking garage and surfaces lots through the airport’s free parking-rewards program; an opportunity to apply for TSA PreCheck at the airport’s enrollment site, which speeds up the screening process and also helps reduce touchpoints; and contactless meal ordering, allowing passengers to easily purchase food online for pickup on their journey through the airport. Additionally, the airport is continuing to offer voluntary COVID testing for passengers and airport employees in the main terminal’s baggage claim. Free COVID vaccinations and boosters are also available on certain days in the same location. A federal face-covering mandate is also in place for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.
NIH Grant Will Support Research in UMass Amherst Lab
AMHERST — Jianhan Chen, a UMass Amherst chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology professor, has received a five-year, $2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to support research in his computational biophysics lab aimed at better understanding the role of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) in biology and human disease. The grant falls under the National Institute of General Medical Sciences MIRA program, which stands for Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award. It’s designed to give highly talented researchers more flexibility and stability to achieve important scientific advances in their labs. “The MIRA award enables us to continue working on several central problems regarding the study of disordered proteins and dynamic interactions. The flexibility of this funding mechanism also allows us to follow new research directions as they emerge,” Chen said. Until relatively recently, it was thought that proteins needed to adopt a well-defined structure to perform their biological function. But about two decades ago, he explained, IDPs were recognized as a new class of proteins that rely on a lack of stable structures to function. They make up about one-third of proteins that human bodies make, and two-thirds of cancer-associated proteins contain large, disordered segments or domains. “This disorder seems to provide some unique functional advantage, and that’s why we have so much disorder in certain kinds of proteins,” Chen said. “These IDPs play really important roles in biology, and when something breaks down, they lead to very serious diseases, like cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.”
Happier Valley Comedy Offering Free Events to Local Nonprofits
HADLEY — After the year nonprofit organizations have had, who couldn’t use more happiness? Happier Valley Comedy offers the Free Happiness Program, through which nonprofits serving underrepresented, marginalized communities can apply for a free Happier Valley Comedy event, such as an improv show, a personal- or professional-development training session, a keynote, or a workplace-wellness event to be held either online or in person at a venue selected by the organization or Happier Valley Comedy’s theater and lounge in Hadley. The Free Happiness Program is one part of the comedy theater and training program’s ‘green-lining’ efforts, which aim to provide some balance for the historic, grossly unjust ‘red-lining’ of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities in the greater worlds of comedy, personal and professional development, wellness, and beyond. Preference is given to local organizations serving underrepresented, marginalized, and/or BIPOC individuals and communities. Organizations must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to qualify. The next round of applications are being awarded by Happier Valley Comedy’s board of directors in late February. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis at www.happiervalley.com/free-happiness.html.