Company Notebook

Company Notebook

AIC to Launch Center for Financial Literacy and Economic Development

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal joined American International College (AIC) interim President Nicolle Cestero to announce a $1,050,000 earmark to launch a Center for Financial Literacy and Economic Development. The allocation was made possible through congressionally directed spending from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Neal included funding for this project in the FY 2024 spending bill that was signed into law by President Biden on March 9. The Center for Financial Literacy and Economic Prosperity at AIC is a transformative initiative that will bolster the financial well-being of Springfield residents. Funding will support the rehabilitation of an AIC campus building to house the center, underscoring its commitment to community development. This project seeks to combat financial illiteracy and empower economically disadvantaged individuals and families in Springfield by providing comprehensive financial education, research, and outreach programs. AIC’s longstanding dedication to accessibility and opportunity aligns seamlessly with the center’s mission to address economic disparities in the region. With the support of key stakeholders, including Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno and the Springfield Housing Authority, the center will offer free, multilingual services focusing on education, research, and community engagement. By fostering financial empowerment and economic resilience, the Center for Financial Literacy and Economic Prosperity at AIC aims to catalyze economic development in Springfield and beyond, driving sustainable progress and prosperity for all.


Ja’Duke Inc. Expands Programming into Greenfield

GREENFIELD — Ja’Duke Inc. owners Kimberly Williams and Nicholas Waynelovich announced their intent to expand their childcare, driving-instruction, and performing-arts program through the purchase and renovation of 270 Main St. in Greenfield. Formerly occupied by Greenfield Community College, this 25,000-square-foot facility has been vacant since 2020 and has remained unused even after Dave Mell purchased the building in January 2023. If approved, Ja’Duke plans to utilize the 270 Main St. site as a satellite location to its Turners Falls facility located at 110 Industrial Blvd., which currently houses seven of Ja’Duke’s businesses. After opening in 2004, Ja’Duke Inc. has grown to include driver’s education through the Ja’Duke Driving School, 75 weekly performance-art classes under Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts, 14 early-education and childcare classrooms through Ja’Duke Preschool, and dozens of performances hosted annually in Franklin County’s largest theater, Ja’Duke Theater. Additionally, owners Williams and Waynelovich operate Ja’Duke Backdrops, with an on-site coffee shop, Ja’Duke Café, and ice-cream shop, Ja’Duke Scoops. Williams and Waynelovich plan to focus the Greenfield site’s programming on childcare, driving, and performing-arts education. The 270 Main St. site would house 14 classrooms, accommodating 150 new childcare slots per day serving children ages 0-5. The basement floor will host Ja’Duke Driving School offices, which hopes of serving hundreds of new Franklin County drivers ranging from teens to adults. According to Williams, the third floor will hold Ja’Duke’s performing-arts classrooms. The proposed project would create at least 30 new jobs and significantly increase foot traffic in the downtown district.


Real Pickles Wins Good Food Award

GREENFIELD — Real Pickles, a worker cooperative based in Greenfield, has won a Good Food Award for its organic sauerkraut. The winners were announced on April 29 at the historic Portland Center Stage at the Armory in Portland, Oregon. Real Pickles co-op members Kristin Howard and Katie Korby received the award at the ceremony celebrating 218 of America’s best food crafters. In operation since 2001, Real Pickles produces organic, fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut, kimchi, dill pickles, and other traditional pickled foods. The co-op buys more than 450,000 pounds of certified organic produce each year, exclusively from Northeast family farms. The organic green cabbage used in the winning recipe was grown by area farms, including Atlas Farm in South Deerfield and Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vt. Other winners from New England include Stoneman Brewery in Colrain, Tavernier Chocolates in Brattleboro, Vt., and Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vt. The winners rose to the top in a tasting of 1,650 entries, then passed a rigorous vetting to confirm they meet Good Food Awards standards regarding ingredient sourcing and environmentally sound agricultural practices. In addition to purchasing from Northeast organic farms and distributing its products only within the Northeast region, Real Pickles’ commitment to sustainability includes operating out of an energy-efficient, solar-powered facility.


MSB Receives Highest Rating for Financial Strength, Stability

MONSON — Bank rating firm BauerFinancial Inc. announced that Monson Savings Bank has earned its highest, 5-Star Superior rating for financial strength and stability for the 57th consecutive quarter. Having maintained its financial strength and stability for more than a decade, Monson Savings Bank has also earned another designation as an Exceptional Performance Bank. Only banks that have earned and maintained this highest 5-Star rating for 10 years (40 consecutive quarters) or longer may claim this distinction. This latest rating was assigned in March 2024 based on Dec. 31, 2023 financial data.


Health New England Honors Tania Barber with Grant to Caring Health Center

SPRINGFIELD — In honor of Tania Barber’s eight years of service on the board of directors of Health New England (HNE), the not-for-profit health plan is donating $5,000 to Caring Health Center. Barber recently retired from the HNE board and is currently the president and CEO of Caring Health Center, the only federally qualified community health center in Springfield. The grant will focus on Caring Health Center’s new Tania M. Barber Learning Institute, which offers training for professions in the healthcare industry. The model of the Learning Institute, developed by Barber, pays students, often individuals from historically underrepresented groups, while they undergo training for jobs. Barber’s vision for the Learning Institute is to address systemic barriers affecting BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee communities in Springfield. She prioritizes hiring from within the community to respond to workforce shortages and disparities, like racial wealth gaps and barriers to access education. During her two decades at Caring Health Center, she has been committed to lifting others up.


Tenth Local Farmer Awards Help 100 Farms Make Improvements

AGAWAM — Checks of up to $2,500 have been sent to 100 Western Mass. farms that are recipients of this year’s Local Farmer Awards. Supporting a diverse range of farm operations and infrastructure projects, the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, in partnership with Big Y and the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, along with other funders, issued a record number of awards in the program’s 10th year. A team of independent reviewers read each of the 199 applications submitted this year. These reviewers selected 100 farms to receive a 2024 grant from the Local Farmer Awards. The capital projects include the purchase of an egg-washing machine, livestock pasture expansion, reusable harvest bins, a cover-crop flail mower for reduced tillage, mobile chicken coops, and many more. The program funders collectively contributed more than $230,000 this year to assist these local farmers. Funders include the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, Big Y, Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, PeoplesBank, Ann and Steve Davis, Charles and Elizabeth D’Amour, Barbara Deslauriers, Audrey and Chick Taylor, Andrews, Farm Credit East, Hood, the DeNucci Group at Merrill, Baystate Health, Country Bank, Eastern States Exposition, Three County Fair, bankESB, and Franklin First Federal Credit Union. Anyone interested in supporting the 2025 Local Farmer Awards should email Cari Carpenter, director of the program, at [email protected].


Cambridge College Launches MBA Degree in Spanish

BOSTON — Cambridge College has launched a master of business administration (MBA) degree program taught in Spanish for learners looking to delve into the rigor and complexity of graduate-level business courses in their native language. The MBA in Spanish is a 36-credit program delivered completely online. It can be completed in 18 months, with students devoting their focus to just one course per five-week session. As of 2021, it was estimated that 2.6 million Spanish speakers have recently (within the past five years) immigrated to the U.S.; 27% of them have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 37.7% of the entire U.S. population. Being multilingual an important asset in the global business sector. According to a recent survey by Schwartz Insurance and reported by the Financial Post, bilingual or multilingual employees, particularly those who speak Spanish, earn 5% to 20% more than their monolingual colleagues. In addition to all coursework being conducted in Spanish, Cambridge College also provides support and advising in Spanish. The MBA in Spanish program is currently accepting applications, and fall-term classes begin Sept. 2.


Berkshire Bank Foundation Contributes to 107 Nonprofits

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced that its foundation made $401,190 in philanthropic investments during the first quarter of 2024. The grants covered a wide range of projects that foster upward economic mobility, support overall well-being, and enhance opportunities for individual success in the communities the bank serves. The investments also support the company’s BEST Community Comeback program. In all, the Berkshire Bank Foundation gave 107 local nonprofits grants to assist with critical projects in the areas of education, youth, food insecurity, housing, healthcare, substance-abuse prevention, veterans, and employment. In addition, the foundation supports programs that align with Berkshire Bank’s Center for Women, Wellness, and Wealth.


Liberty Bank Funds Programs at Dress for Success Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD — The Liberty Bank Foundation, an extension of Liberty Bank’s commitment to the communities it serves, granted Dress for Success Western Massachusetts (DFSWM) $10,000 in support of its mission to provide professional attire and a network of support to help women thrive in work and life. The funding will help make possible DFSWM’s continuum of support, which helps underserved women and gender non-binary people in the community find not just any job, but sustainable career paths with upward mobility that will change their lives, the lives of their families for generations, and the community on whole. The continuum of support includes suiting for professional attire, the Foot in the Door workforce-readiness training, the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentorship Program, the Professional Women’s Group, and digital-literacy training in partnership with another local nonprofit Tech Foundry. In addition to its grant, Liberty Bank also provides financial-literacy programming covering basic budgeting, paths to homeownership, building and rebuilding credit, paying for higher education, and more.


Legacy Counsellors, P.C. Celebrates 30 Years in Business

EASTHAMPTON — On April 19, Legacy Counsellors, P.C. celebrated 30 years in business with a celebration at Springfield Country Club. In attendance were the firm’s two partners, Kevin Quinn and Michael Gove, as well as Legacy’s attorneys and support staff, clients, and professional partners such as CPAs, financial advisors, bankers, real-estate agents, and more. Everyone celebrated with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a slideshow of the firm’s memorable moments, raffle prizes, and a speech from Quinn, the firm’s founder. Also during the event, Quinn launched his new book, titled Everyone You Love, Everything You Have. Legacy Counsellors, P.C. is an estate-planning and real-estate law firm with offices in Easthampton, Ludlow, Amherst, Sturbridge, and Northampton, as well as Bloomfield, Conn. It offers services such as estate planning, real-estate transactions and landlord representation, supplemental needs planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, and more.