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40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Superintendent of Operations, Westfield Gas + Electric; Age 33

Folks in Westfield don’t always see Greg Freeman during the best of times. But he’s always trying to make things better.

Freeman has been working with the city for the past decade, starting in the Engineering department, where he performed mostly clerical work, but rising up the ranks through a series of promotions to his current role as superintendent of Operations at Westfield Gas + Electric, overseeing more than 70 employees.

“Whether it’s someone building a new house or someone whose furnace fails in the winter, and we run a new gas line to the house, or the phone calls during the last storm that took out branches, and we got their power back up, we’re seen as very valuable to the town because of our quick response and reliability,” he explained.

Freeman, who earned degrees at Springfield Technical College, UMass Amherst, and Norwich University, oversees the general operations of both the natural-gas and electrical sides of the municipal utility, including construction, storm response, and regulatory compliance.

“I enjoy being part of the community I live in — that’s the biggest thing,” he said, with his community-outreach roles ranging from Dig Safe campaigns to safety and career presentations at local schools. “Almost every day is different, but helping people out and giving back to the community is nice.”

As the safety officer for WG+E, those civic engagements are especially meaningful. “Every year, we do a safety class with fifth-graders, things like how to notice a natural-gas odor or what’s not safe when you see downed wires. We try to get word out there as much as possible.”

Michael Erwin, an electrician and business owner who nominated Freeman for 40 Under Forty, noted that “Greg continues to work together with his team of colleagues to promote infrastructure improvements, foster safety culture, promote the success of future WG+E endeavors such as fiber, and is the embodiment of the term ‘community.’”

Through all of that, family is especially important to Freeman, who has four children, all under age 9, with his wife, Kelly.

“My biggest cheerleader is definitely my wife, and my family is my biggest accomplishment, and also my biggest motivator,” he said. “When I’m working a long day or I’m out on a storm for days on end, I always know I have a good group behind me, supporting everything I do.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

CEO, Wellness for the Culture; Age 32

Whitney Dodds is on a mission to shift the narrative on mental healthcare in black and brown communities. And she told BusinessWest that her inspiration was her own life experience.

“My lived experience as a black woman living here in the city of Springfield was such a traumatic background, and I didn’t really have an understanding of what therapy was and how to utilize it,” she recalled, adding that, if she had such an understanding of what was available and how safe it was, her early life would have been different — and better.

Dodds earned a degree in psychology from UMass Amherst and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from American International College. It was during her college years that she questioned why she didn’t have therapy and why she didn’t know what therapy was. It was then that she realized things needed to change; she knew not only that something needed to happen, but that she needed to be the one to make it happen.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing as the founder of Wellness for the Culture, a mental-health organization in Springfield.

“We offer individual and group therapy services — that is the meat of what we do,” she explained. “We also provide educational training and workshops to professionals. We have an internship program where we offer education for them as well to get into the field.”

On top of that, Wellness for the Culture offers wellness-track education, which includes things like yoga, mindfulness, and “just anything involved with healing — generational healing,” she explained.

Wellness for the Culture caters to marginalized populations, specifically black and brown populations, who are often apprehensive in seeking out therapeutic services based on safety and the history of abuse in therapeutic techniques and practices against people of color.

Outside of work, Dodds has three “amazing” boys to whom she enjoys being a soccer mom, basketball mom, and piano mom. She loves reading, as well as date nights with her husband. She adds that what keeps her sane is anything that she can do with her hands — particularly gardening. She also values the importance of self-care so that she can continue to do the important work that goes on at Wellness for the Culture.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Deputy Public Health Commissioner, City of Springfield; Age 34

When you hear someone referring to a “friend of the homeless,” they may be talking about Tiana Davis.

After working for years in healthcare, Davis changed her career path from direct patient care to public health. When she earned her master of public health degree with a concentration in community health education and health policy & management from UMass Amherst, she didn’t envision herself in her current position, but she’s found that she has a passion for service.

Davis, who first earned an associate’s degree at Springfield Technical Community College, oversees services for the Homeless Health Center, a federally qualified health center in the city of Springfield that provides quality primary healthcare, dental care, behavioral-health services, and comprehensive support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness within Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

She oversees the day-to-day operations relating to patient care, staff development, training, program data and collection, and billing. She also manages the contracts with community partners with whom she collaborates to provide services to individuals within the community. For instance, she works closely with Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Health.

Davis works tirelessly to ensure that people without housing are treated with dignity and respect by assuring that quality medical care is rendered. She has strengthened partnerships by cultivating relationships with open-door/open-pantry programs and the Friends of the Homeless program by helping to enhance their case-management systems.

As a consummate professional who takes her job very seriously, Davis led the Homeless Health Center organization through a site visit that was conducted by the Health Resources Services Administration, the department’s federal funding organization, and was extremely successful.

Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris noted that, during the pandemic, Davis’s ability to guide health services for the homeless was key to assuring that medical care for homeless population was rendered with steadfast consistency through that difficult period.

Davis received recognition from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) for staff-development programs. The citation acknowledges her commitment to public service, as well as her ongoing dedication to enhance the quality of services delivered to residents of the Commonwealth.

When asked what she does for fun outside of work, she replied, “I love gardening and eating. I like to explore different types of foods from various cultural backgrounds. I like trying different foods and going to different places to eat.”

 

— Elizabeth Sears

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Owner, Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop; Age 39

Lucy Damkoehler has always blended (that’s an industry term) her passion for baking with a desire to give back to the community.

But during the pandemic, these twin forces came together as never before, and in a very powerful way.

The program was called Take & Bake Meals. It started small, right after the lockdown in mid-March 2020, with Damkoehler, chef and owner of the suddenly sidelined Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop in Bernardston, making six chicken pot pies with the belief that elderly individuals and families coping with COVID could use them. Suffice it to say, she was right.

“I had these pies … I said, ‘I’m going to put this on Facebook, and maybe one or two people will want one.’ Within a half-hour, every one of them was sold, and I had 10 more people calling for them,” she said, adding that the pot pies, mac-and-cheese dinners, and other offerings would be dropped off on neighbors’ doorsteps, sent off to colleges, and brought to others in need of quick, nutritious meals. At the height of the program, she was making 50 to 60 meals a day.

And while Take & Bake Meals certainly helped those in the community, it gave a new and improved lease on life to Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop as well. Indeed, the pot pies have now become a staple for the business, and they have introduced it to new audiences that have become steady clients, enabling Damkoehler to add employees and grow her venture.

Take & Bake helps explain why Damkoehler is a 40 Under Forty honoree, but there is so much more to the story. She started baking at a very young age and took her first job at a bakery in Deerfield. She earned an associate of occupational studies degree at New England Culinary Institute, then moved to New York to work under Claudia Fleming at the Gramercy Tavern. She eventually settled in Washington and spent the next 12 years building her reputation as an industry leader.

Desiring to return home — and fulfill her dream of opening her own business, she launched Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop. In addition to those pot pies, it specializes in croissants, muffins, scones, cookies, and more.

As noted, Damkoehler is also active in the community, serving on the board of trustees for the Cushman Library in Bernardson. She’s also involved with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Franklin County Community Meals, and Empty Arms Bereavement Support.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Resource Development Director, West Springfield Boys & Girls Club; Age 30

You might call it coming full circle. Sort of. But not really.

When she comes to the stage to collect her 40 Under Forty plaque in mid-June, it won’t be the first time Sarah Calabrese has touched such an award.

Indeed, back in 2012, the West Springfield native, then a student at Holyoke Community College, was a communications intern at BusinessWest. One of her many duties that summer was to help coordinate and execute the 40 Under Forty event. She remembers handling a number of assignments, from helping with marketing pre-event to working the check-in desk and arranging the honoree plaques on the big night. She recalls something else, too.

“I remember saying, ‘wow, I hope I get this award someday,’” she told BusinessWest, adding that her experience during that internship helped propel her into what has become a career working in marketing, events, and fundraising.

She now wears all those hats and even a few more for the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club, which she serves as Resource Development director. She arrived at the club after stints with Western Mass News and later Comcast Spotlight, and said the shift to the nonprofit realm was sparked by a long-held passion to serve the community and help others.

“Working for corporate America was different, and I really enjoyed my position, but I missed my local connection; I missed my community and giving back to the community that I was a lifelong resident of, and that I live in,” she explained. “So it was a no-brainer when I saw the position open at the Boys & Girls Club. I have a huge, huge passion for working with youth.”

As noted, she wears many hats in this role, including marketing and the coordination of events, with both responsibilities becoming far more challenging during the pandemic. Displaying creativity and perseverance, she conducted many events virtually, enabling them to continue, successfully, in very challenging times.

Meanwhile, she carries out many of these same responsibilities for the West Springfield Rotary Club, which she currently serves as vice president. She is also involved with YPS and the West of the River Chamber.

And speaking of event planning, there’s one more big one she’s working on — her own destination wedding in Sicily, slated for July 2023, when she will tie the knot with Jack Dunphy, a West Springfield firefighter and paramedic.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director, Center for Social Justice, Western New England University School of Law; Age 39

From her early career, teaching elementary school in New York City’s Spanish Harlem with Teach for America, Ariel Clemmer has been passionate about changing lives.

“That was an amazing experience,” she recalled. “I was working with a community-based school, meaning most students lived next to the school in project housing. It was a small environment, and I was an outsider coming in, trying to shake up the system a little bit. That’s been true of most of my positions.”

While studying law, her initial plans were to be a public defender. In fact, immediately after graduation, she joined Bronx Defenders, representing low-income clients charged with crimes.

“From there, my career has taken kind of a winding path, but the common thread has been to help people and try to make the world a better place,” said Clemmer, whose passion for pro bono work saw her named one of the top 30 pro bono attorneys of 2014 by Legal Services of New York City.

What has stayed with her from her experiences in NYC was a burden for people who are struggling, especially those victimized by systemic inequities. She brought that passion to her recent role as pro bono director at the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and then to her current position, as director of the Center for Social Justice at Western New England University School of Law.

“Our mission is to advance justice through research, education, advocacy, innovation, and public engagement,” she said, and the center does so through initiatives like a sealing and expungement program to address harm caused to people of color by the war on drugs, a consumer-debt initiative to defend consumers facing wrongful credit-card collection actions, and a gender-affirming identification project that offers pro bono legal services to individuals who need help with gender-affirming name changes, birth-certificate amendments, and more.

“It’s an exciting time to be working in social justice and living out this mission through our programming,” Clemmer said. “I’ve always had the sense that the world would be a better place if everyone was allowed the same opportunities and treated equally, regardless of what makes them different. So many times in my life, I’ve seen that’s just not the case.

“When racial injustice happens, or other types of limitations are put on people because of disabilities or gender status or sexual orientation, it bothers me,” she added. “That’s why the work I do now is so meaningful. It enables me, every day, to work toward something better.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Communications Director, Office of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal; Age 31

Margaret Boyle remembers her first real taste of politics — and it didn’t exactly go down well.

When she was very young, her father was a Springfield city councilor. She would go along with him to campaign events and even appeared, somewhat reluctantly, in a few of his TV commercials.

“I always said, ‘this is not the life for me,’ she recalled, adding that things changed in a profound way when she arrived at Smith College, and especially when she enrolled in a class at UMass Amherst through the Five College Consortium.

It was called “The Politician and the Journalist,” and it was taught by Congressman Richard Neal. By the end of that semester, Boyle was asking Neal if she could intern in his office. He said ‘yes,’ and that put her on a path that has taken her to the position of Communications director in that office.

This is a big job with many different responsibilities, from issuing press releases to updating Neal’s website on a daily basis; from handling all the social media for the congressman to following up with members of the press doing stories on matters Neal is involved with.

“No two days are alike, which is what I like about this job,” she said, adding that she’s in Washington at least a day or two or month and spends considerable time with Neal visiting some of the 87 cities and towns that make up a massive district that covers parts of five counties.

In addition to her work with Neal, Boyle is very active in the community, especially in ways that honor the memory and legacy of her father, William J. Boyle, who eventually became first justice of the Springfield District Court.

Indeed, with her mother, Rose, brother Martin, and lifelong friends of her father, she founded the William J. Boyle Scholarship Fund to advance educational opportunities for Springfield high-school students. She also played a lead role in creating the annual Run Billy Run 5K road race and one-mile walk, which last year raised more than $35,000 for scholarships. She not only organizes it, she runs in it, thus honoring another legacy — going for runs with her father years ago.

Recently, Boyle joined the board of directors of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, and she is actively involved in fundraising efforts for the Susie Foundation, which provides families living with ALS with compassionate and enduring support services.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Vice President of Family Support Services, Square One; Age 37

Melissa Blissett brought a lot of personal items along for her 40 Under Forty photo shoot, and for a reason.

There are many things that are important to her, and she wanted to try to represent them all with one image.

She’s big into plants, and also reading. Family is a huge part of her life, and she brought along a portrait of the group, as well as a framed copy of one of her favorite quotes, and a pink elephant, which represents the sorority she belongs to — Delta Sigma Theta, an organization of college-educated women “committed to constructive development of its members and to public service, with a primary focus on the black community.”

There isn’t anything that directly represents her work as vice president of Family Support Services at Square One, but then again, all or at least most of those other items reflect what she does.

In short, her work is all about family, education, service to others, and helping others live the life they’ve always dreamed of while, as that quote goes, “remembering where you came from but never losing sight of where you are going.”

Blissett, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Lowell and a master’s degree in social work at Springfield College, told BusinessWest that while Square One is most associated with early-childhood education, the nonprofit has long understood the importance of supporting families. And it is her job to essentially coordinate and deliver that support, which comes in many forms.

“The parent is the child’s first teacher in general, so the goal is to provide educational support,” she explained. “We also want to provide and help them access resources within the community. We want to make sure that the child is safe, that the child is receiving adequate education, and that the family is getting the resources it needs to grow healthy children.”

Blissett first worked at Square One as an intern while working toward her master’s at Springfield College, and later joined the agency as Healthy Families and Supervised Visitation supervisor. She was later promoted to assistant vice president of Family Support Services and is now vice president of that department.

She is also an adjunct professor at Springfield College in the graduate department of Social Work and, as noted, very active with Delta Sigma Theta. She is also active at her church, Shiloh Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Springfield.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Host and Producer, New England Public Media; Age: 31

You could say Zydalis Bauer has been training for her career since second grade.

Back then, her class put on a news show as one of its projects and chose Bauer for the anchor role.

“From that moment, I had a natural curiosity to pursue media,” Bauer said. In 2008, straight out of high school, she became an intern at WGBY (now New England Public Media) through the Latino Youth Media Institute at the station. After pursuing other internships at NEPM while attending college, she was eventually offered part-time and then full-time employment.

“Since that first internship, I never really left,” she said.

When members of the Latino community said they wanted to hear their language on local TV, NEPM responded with its first bilingual series, Presencia, with Bauer as a co-host. Though her family is from Puerto Rico, her first language is English.

“I had always been self-conscious of my Spanish skills, but this was an opportunity to show that I didn’t have to be perfect to speak the language,” she said. The show set out to deliver engaging stories and has won two Telly Awards since it began.

“When Latinos are in the media, it’s too often about issues,” Bauer explained. “Presencia tells inspirational stories that show how much the Latino community in Western Mass. has to offer.”

Bauer’s success with Presencia led to co-host and producer roles on Connecting Point, NEPM’s magazine show on the arts and culture of Western Mass. Last year, she was offered the job as the show’s main host. Though she considers herself shy, she didn’t hesitate to take on the hosting duties.

“Something inside said follow your instinct, and your brain will figure it out later,” she said. “I’ve learned to follow my gut.”

Now a board member for Girls Inc. of the Valley, Bauer appreciates the opportunity to mentor young women in the community. “Girls Inc. is a great organization that helps young people build confidence from their elementary years through college.”

As a student, she took part in NEPM’s Media Lab workshops, and now she runs them.

“It’s come full circle, and now I am the facilitator,” she said, acknowledging those who took the time to help her along the way.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have mentors,” Bauer added. “My ultimate goal is to give back and open the door a little further for another individual.”

 

— Mark Morris

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Senior Vice President, UTCA Inc.; Age 37

Meghan Avery says that most people assume the name given the brewing company she co-owns with her husband, Mark, stems from what would be considered her day job as senior vice president with West Springfield-based Unemployment Tax Control Associates.

They would be wrong.

“My husband came up with the name Two Weeks Notice Brewing Company because, quite literally, he wanted the brewery to be a success so he could quit the job that he had,” she explained, adding that he was able to do just that and pursue his passion full-time.

But while her work in the unemployment tax realm wasn’t the source of a corporate name, it has become her passion, and her career, one in which she is following the lead of her mother — Suzanne Murphy, the company’s founder — in all kinds of ways, from her entrepreneurial energy to her commitment to giving back to the community.

At UTCA, Avery handles a wide range of responsibilities, including client services, all aspects of the Claims department, various HR functions, and management-education seminars offered to every client. She also supports the business-development side of the organization.

Meanwhile, at Two Weeks Notice Brewing in West Springfield, she wears an equally large number of important hats, handling finances, marketing, event planning, and brand development. And while all aspects of the company are in a growth mode, the event side of the ledger is really taking off, with the West Springfield location hosting gatherings for YPS, Toys for Tots, Parish Cupboard, the West Springfield Police Department, and the Susan B. Anthony Project, which offers services to those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. It has even hosted an “adult prom do-over,” which was … well, just what it sounds like — adults doing their prom over.

Sometimes, Avery’s two worlds come together, such as when she organized a free training for local breweries in Massachusetts and Connecticut to educate them about effective sexual-harassment policy and management of these issues in the brewery setting, training that was conducted with the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, an agency she partners with frequently in her role at UTCA.

Within the community, Avery is a certified victims advocate for those experiencing domestic and sexual violence. She and Mark have also recently partnered with Brave Noise, an organization geared toward eliminating sexism, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the brewing industry.

 

— George O’Brien

 

Company Notebook

State Awards $30 Million to STCC to Relocate Health Programs

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College has received $30 million in state funding to move healthcare programs out of an aging building on campus that has outlived its usefulness. Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award on Wednesday. College officials in December asked the state for the maximum amount of $30 million to vacate Building 20, which houses 18 degree and certificate allied health programs as well as the acclaimedSIMS Medical Center. STCC has secured $11.5 million from other sources for the $41.5 million project. The award announced by the governor comes from the state Division of Capital Management and Maintenance (DCAMM). Constructed in 1941, Building 20 is past its useful life and has a history of expensive emergency repairs. The healthcare programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation educate more than 700 students per semester and employ more than 120 faculty and staff. The STCC Board of Trustees committed $6 million from the college’s budget to the project. Trustees Chair Marikate Murren said, “We’re thrilled and grateful to Gov. Baker and DCAMM for their support to make this move possible. The relocation of the programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation will allow STCC to continue to prepare students for healthcare careers. The investment in this project represents an investment in the City of Springfield and the region. To best summarize the outlook for the College, Cook said, “I am delighted for our students and faculty as this ensures that STCC stays on the leading edge of healthcare education; the future of STCC is bright.”

 

Monson Savings Launches 150 Build-a-Bike Campaign

MONSON — The celebratory planning for Monson Savings Bank’s 150thanniversary continues, with the bank pledging to show extra support to nonprofits and have an extra level of community participation throughout the year. A large and very fun part of that support comes in the form of theMonson Savings Bank 150 Build-a-Bike Campaign. For this campaign, MSB will be purchasing more than $20,000 worth of children’s bicycles and helmets from the Family Bicycle Shop in East Longmeadow, with guidance from the shop’s owner Ray Plouffe. To gear up for the campaign, Monson Savings Bank has also teamed up with five local non-profits to identify children who are in need of a bicycle: the YMCA of Greater Springfield; the YWCAof Western Massachusetts; I Found Light Against All Odds; Educare Springfield; and the South End Community Center. Beginning this spring, MSB will be planning events hosted with each nonprofit. The bank’s team members will assemble the bikes, when possible alongside the very children who will be receiving them. Nonprofit employees will be welcomed to join the activity, and representatives from the Family Bicycle Shop will be on site to assist and ensure children are properly fitted with helmets and training wheels. Monson Savings Bank will provide and share a meal for attendees. “When exploring the various ways we could celebrate Monson Savings Bank’s 150thAnniversary, there were so many ideas,” said Dan Moriarty, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank.“We wanted to be sure to do something that would make a difference on many fronts and spread some joy. With the 150 Build-a-Bike campaign, we are able to connect with the vital community nonprofits and their leaders. Our team gets to work together on hands-on projects to further foster our culture of teamwork and community support. Plus, we are able to provide the children with the experience of building and riding a bike, a joy-filled activity, and something they otherwise might not have had the opportunity to experience. I could not think of a better way to commemorate our 150thAnniversary.” To see a full schedule of events for MSB’s 150th anniversary, visit www.monsonsavings.bank/anniversary.

 

Big Y Express Launches New Downtown Format

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y has announced plans to build a new concept Big Y Express Fresh Market at 1500 Main St. as part of Tower Square in Springfield. The new, 10,000-square-foot Big Y Express Fresh Market will be tailored to fit the needs of the city’s downtown community. Currently, there are workers and area residents who are eager to have access to delicious, nutritious and affordable offerings that are not currently available in a convenient way, said Colin D’Amour, senior director of Big Y Express. “Between the UMass classrooms, YMCA daycare, area office workers and downtown residents, many are looking for an option to meet their food needs.” While not a complete supermarket due to its size, this location will have a full assortment of items from each department, he said. The offerings will include prepared meals and sandwiches along with natural and organic products and everyday necessities. In addition, there will be an inhouse sushi chef preparing fresh sushi daily. “We are excited to bring an entirely new concept to downtown Springfield,” said D’Amour. “We know that there has been an appetite for Big Y’s fresh and local foods for many years now. We are confident that customers will enjoy our many offerings. We are working diligently with our contractors to establish a timeline for opening and are excited to be a part of the downtown community.”

 

Rocky’s Ace Hardware Purchases Nine New Stores in Ohio

SPRINGFIELD –Rocky’s Ace Hardware, one of the country’s largest family-owned Ace Hardware dealers, has purchased the nine Ohio-based Handyman Ace Hardware stores, which have been family-owned and operated since 1939. The new Ohio stores are located in Dayton, Fairborn, Xenia, Centerville, New Carlisle, Kettering, Springfield, and Miamisburg. Rocky’s Ace Hardware now has 47 locations in nine states. “It is very exciting for us to be expanding into a new state and continuing the family-owned values and service Handyman customers have come to expect,” said Rocky’s Ace Hardware President Rocco Falcone. “We are also family-owned and share many of the same values as Handyman, including putting the customer first in all business actions.”alcone noted that customers will see the same faces from Handyman at Rocky’s, and former owner David Grimes, who is retiring, will be integral in the transition. Falcone also said customers will benefit from some exciting changes over the next few months including expanded Ace Rewards features, product selection and online capabilities. “We plant roots in each of our neighborhood locations and intend to maintain this community focus in our Ohio stores,” he said. “We’re excited to be a part of the greater Dayton community.”

 

Baystate Health Awards $1 Million in Better Together Grants

SPRINGFIELD —Baystate Healthhas awarded $1 million in Better Together Grants to five community initiatives with partner organizations as part of itsCommunity Benefits Program. “Baystate Health is proud to invest our Determination of Need (DoN) Community Health Initiative (CHI) funding in the communities served by our four hospitals. It is an honor to partner with these very deserving local non-profit organizations over the next three years,” said Annamarie Golden, director, Community Relations for Baystate Health

This year’s recipients, who submitted requests for proposals in January 2022 include: Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation in partnership with the Town of Ware, The Care Center in partnership with Greenfield Technical Community College, Westfield State University in partnership with Springfield Technical Community College, Montague Catholic Social Ministries in partnership with The Brick House Community Resource Center, and the Western Mass. Training Consortium in partnership with the Bridge Program community organizations — The Recover Project, The Salasin Project and The Wildflower Alliance. “Baystate’s Community Benefits Program, in partnership with our hospital Community Benefits Advisory Councils (CBACs) and Grant Review Teams, is making investments through Better Together grants that will have lasting and meaningful impacts on health outcomes, health equity, and social determinants of health throughout the Pioneer Valley,” said Golden. Funding for the Better Together grants is made possible through the Mass. Department of Public Health’s (MDPH) Determination of Need (DoN) requirements related to the replacement of Baystate Medical Center’s Operating Rooms approved in November 2020. Although this project was unique to the hospital, Baystate Health’s goal is to equitably distribute the Community Health Initiative funds for grant making to all four Baystate Health hospitals. This was an intentional step toward health equity, recognizing that Baystate’s community hospitals historically have lower likelihood of accessing DoN CHI funds. The aim of the Better Together grant opportunity is to develop approaches that by targeting the social determinants of health, will improve people’s overall well-being and make our communities healthier places to live in, while complementing the health care system’s current offerings. In addition to funding the grantees, Baystate Health has also contracted with the Public Health Institute of Western Mass. to provide technical assistance and evaluation support to the grantee cohort over the next three years.

 

OneZo Opens in the Holyoke Mall

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mall has welcomed, OneZo, with its unique house-made boba, to the shopping center. Boba tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink with sweet balls or “pearls,” made from tapioca starch and can be made from milk tea, green tea or fruit tea. Established in Taiwan in 2015, OneZo was the first café in the world to make their own boba in-store.Their goal is to serve the freshest boba drinks and use their creativity to develop new boba flavors. Some of the more popular flavors include Brown Sugar Bubble Latte, Hong Kong Style Milk Tea, Strawberry Slush Milk Tea, Grapefruit Green Tea, and Thai Tea.

OneZo tea can be found in 17 countries and has several locations in Massachusetts including Quincy and Worcester.Holyoke Mall guests can experience freshly made bubble tea in their new location in Café Square.

 

CDK Global Named Presenting Sponsor for Tom Cosenzi Driving for The Cure Golf Tournament

HADLEY — The 14th Annual Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 27 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow, and will be joined by presenting sponsor, CDK Global. The 14th Annual Driving for the Cure Charity Golf supports neuro-oncology research in honor of Tom Cosenzi, a successful businessman and father of four who succumbed to brain cancer in 2009 at 52. Since its inception, this annual golf tournament has raised more than $1.3 million with its partnership with the Jimmy Fund, one of the largest organized golf programs in the U.S. All proceeds support Dr. Patrick Wen and his team of researchers in the Neuro-Oncology Department at Dana Farber Cancer Institute “My brother Tom and I started this charity golf tournament to honor the legacy of our dad,” said TommyCar co-owner, Carla Cosenzi. “His vision was that no other family would experience the pain that he and his family endured. It was Tom’s wish that his family and friends continue to raise money for Neuro Oncology Research so the burden of Cancer can be eliminated for patients and their families. We’re so thankful to CDK Global for their partnership and we are proud to be able to support the world class research that is ongoing at Dana-Farber.” The scramble style tournament features a “Tee off against Cancer” shotgun start. Players will enjoy 18 holes of golf at one of the area’s top private golf courses, lunch, on-course activities, an evening cocktail reception with live entertainment, a gourmet dinner, raffle prizes, and silent and live auctions. For more information on the Tom Cosenzi Driving For The Cure Charity Golf Tournament visit www.TomCosenziDrivingForTheCure.com.

 

Leadership Pioneer Valley Accepting Applications for LEAP Class of 2023

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is now accepting applications for enrollment in the LEAP class of 2023, a regional leadership-development program. This year’s class is expected to have a fully in-person experience. Applicants are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The LEAP program engages the Pioneer Valley’s most promising emerging leaders through learning, exploration, and connecting. Participants are trained in applied leadership skills by experts. They also explore critical community issues by connecting with local leaders and visiting businesses and local towns across the region. The upcoming program runs from September through May. In its 12th year, more than 350 individuals representing more than 125 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated. The program has filled a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region. Fifty-three percent of alumni have a new leadership role at work, 64% have joined a new board of directors, and 99% made new, meaningful connections. LPV is seeking applicants from all over the Pioneer Valley, including Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, representing different employment sectors. The program is made for those in nonprofits, businesses, and government who are eager to increase their leadership skills and take action to better the region. Applicants are considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying. The deadline for LPV class of 2023 applications is July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

 

Veritas Prep Charter School Establishes Teacher Diversification Fellowship Fund

SPRINGFIELD — Veritas Prep Charter School(VPCS) has been awarded $53,883from theMass. Teacher Diversification Pilot Program, a state-funded grant program that provides approximately $2 million in competitive funding to support local school and district efforts to strengthen and diversify existing teacher recruitment and retention programs. VPCS is using this grant to establish the Veritas Prep Teacher Diversification Fellowship Fund to help educators and aspiring educators who identify as people of color enter or remain in education by removing common financial barriers. Candidates can apply for access to funding for education, MTEL test fees, relocation assistance and tuition and loan reimbursement. New and current associate teachers and lead teachers are eligible to apply, and Teach Western Mass (TWM) residents can also apply for TWM tuition coverage. Recipients must commit to working at Veritas Prep middle or high school for three years. All recipients will receive access to free MTEL test preparation, if applicable. Launched in April 2019, the Massachusetts Teacher Diversification Pilot Program provides tuition assistance to support enrollment into an approved-educator preparation program and MTEL preparation and examination. Schools and districts may also use grant funds to enhance teacher recruitment and retention efforts. Educators and aspiring educators who identify as people of color can learn more about the Veritas Teacher Diversification Fellowship Fund and apply for support here: veritasprepma.org/teacher-diversification-fund/.

 

Former Landsdowne Dormitories Renovated into Apartments

WESTFIELD — Shawna Gutowski and Maritza Zavala, of the Slope to Shore Team of William Raveis Real Estate, announced that the former Landsdowne Dorms in Westfield have been fully renovated and are officially on the market for lease under the name Landsdowne Place. “We’re excited to make these beautifully-renovated apartments available in downtown Westfield, where residents can shop, experience downtown events, and enjoy quick access to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail right outside their door,” said Project Manager Anthony Leroux. The newly renovated apartments are a mixture of one bedroom/one bath and two bedroom/two bath units, which were formerly used as housing for Westfield State College students. The complex also features gym and laundry facilities on-site, as well as access to the bike trail. Apartment leases start at $1,400 per month and will require first, last, security, and credit check.

Banking and Financial Services

Smart Tax Planning for 2022

By Barbara Trombley

 

Most of you have probably just filed your taxes or an extension. Maybe you are shell-shocked by the taxes owed on unexpected capital gains, unemployment, or additional income picked up in the last year. Maybe you received a large refund, which means you are estimating a larger tax bill than is due.

It is not the time to close the drawer and forget. Smart taxpayers start planning right away for next year so that they are prepared for their 2022 taxes and have done all they can to minimize them.

The first task is to have a detailed discussion with your accountant to comprehend why you owed extra taxes this year or why you received a big refund.

If it’s the latter, you are having too much money withheld. If you expect your income to be the same in 2022, you can adjust your withholdings. If you are still working, call your payroll department and make a change. If you are retired, you are probably having taxes withheld from a few different sources — possibly Social Security, a pension, or investment distributions. Getting a big refund is not a good thing. Make a change to one or all so you aren’t giving the government an interest-free loan with your money. Also, do the same for state taxes.

Barbara Trombley

Barbara Trombley

“It is not the time to close the drawer and forget. Smart taxpayers start planning right away for next year so that they are prepared for their 2022 taxes and have done all they can to minimize them.”

If you owed money, have a clear understanding why. Many dual-income families enter a higher tax bracket when combing two salaries. Unless you fill out a new version of the W4, your payroll department may not be withholding enough. Also, in our new economy, many people have picked up side jobs. Unless you make quarterly estimated tax payments, you will have to pay the taxes owed on the additional income when you file. Talk to your accountant about making quarterly estimated tax payments. It is easier to fund a large tax bill over the course of the year instead of scrambling to find the funds. Also, you will avoid potential interest and penalties by having the correct amount of taxes paid throughout the year instead of in a lump sum in April.

Another common reason to have owed money for 2021 taxes was due to capital-gains distributions in non-retirement investment accounts. The stock market had a great year in 2021, and many mutual-fund companies realized gains on holdings. These are tough for the investor to plan for. If you have investment accounts that are not retirement-specific, you will see a 1099-Div form from the investment company each year. Dividends and interest may be predictable, but gains and losses, not so much. Taxable gains mean you were successful and made money in your investment account, and taxes are due.

Do you want to try to reduce your tax bill? Consider maximizing your retirement-plan contribution. In 2022, investors can contribute $20,500 to their 401(k), 403(b), or 457 with an additional $6,500 of catch-up contribution if over age 50. This is a great way to get a tax break (your contributions are deducted from your income before taxes are figured) and grow your assets. You will need to log in to your plan and adjust your withholdings to account for the increase, as the maximum contribution allowed was $19,500 in 2021. Contribution limits are also increasing for Simple IRAs, from $13,500 in 2021 to $14,000 in 2022, with a $3,000 catch-up contribution.

There are some notable changes in the 2022 tax year that may impact how much you will owe when figuring next year’s taxes. On the plus side, the standard deduction will slightly increase for all filing categories. Income thresholds for deduction phaseouts will also increase for traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. In addition, the federal lifetime estate-tax and gift-tax exemption for 2022 jumped from $11.7 million to $12.06 million — $24.12 million for couples if portability is elected when filing after the death of the first spouse. This is more than enough for most Americans.

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts estate tax is not nearly as generous. If you die as a Massachusetts resident, your heirs may have to pay an estate tax, which is calculated on the first dollar of estates that are over $1 million. Gov. Charlie Baker has current legislation that would exclude the first $2 million in assets when figuring the estate tax. This change is long overdue.

There are many other changes coming this year for taxpayers, and this article highlights just a few. If it impacts you, look up changes to child tax credits, earned-income tax credits, deductions for teachers’ expenses, and changes to the kiddie tax. Knowledge and planning are the keys to having a successful, uneventful 2022 tax season.

 

Barbara Trombley is a financial advisor and CPA with Wilbraham-based Trombley, CPA; (413) 596-6992. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Trombley Associates, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA tax, legal, or investment advice.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 106: April 4, 2022

George Interviews Ira Helfand, a retired emergency room physician at Mercy Medical Center and co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibilty’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Committee

 BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien interviews Ira Helfand, a retired emergency room physician at Mercy Medical Center and co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibilty’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Committee. The situation in Ukraine has brought new and needed attention to the matter of nuclear weapons and the need to make sure there they can never be used, said Helfand, as he discusses current efforts to bring attention to the issue and ultimate resolution to the growing problem. It’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

 

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Agenda

Cannabis-Industry Training Classes

Starting April 2: The Cannabis Education Center (CEC) at Holyoke Community College (HCC) will be running three cannabis-industry training programs. The CEC’s 12-hour, introductory Cannabis Core course will be held April 2-3 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. each day over Zoom. The Cannabis Core program provides an overview of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and is geared for people looking for general knowledge as they consider a cannabis career. During four three-hour sessions, students will interact with cannabis experts and guest speakers in reviews of the plant, various cannabis products, the endocannabinoid system, laws and prohibition, growing and plant care, labeling, packaging, testing, employment considerations, and more. The Cannabis Core program is a foundational course and a prerequisite for career track courses. Cannabis Extraction Technician training also begins April 2 and runs through April 23. The course meets weekly on Wednesdays over Zoom from 10 to 11 a.m., supplemented by self-paced online instruction. In this course, students will learn the basic fundamentals needed to work in a cannabis extraction laboratory: how to extract useful molecular components from cannabis and hemp using various techniques, including both solvent and solventless methods. Topics covered include good lab practices, health and safety metrics, extraction techniques, winterization, and dewaxing. Cannabis Culinary Assistant training begins April 19. Classes will meet in person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through May 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. Cannabis culinary assistants are responsible for cooking, baking, and infusing cannabis- or hemp-based products with extracts. The program is a 20-hour introductory course that provides an overview of cooking and baking techniques used to create edibles. The course reviews tools, equipment, food safety, standard recipes, and dosing, and provides discussions on infused oils, sauces, chocolates, ice cream, and more. Cannabis is not used in this program. Participants will be introduced to industry professionals, prepare for employment opportunities, and have the opportunity to earn SERV Safe certification. The cost of the Cannabis Core training is $599. Industry-specific course training is $799. Scholarships may be available to those who qualify. To register, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core.

 

UMass 5K Dash and Dine

April 9: After a two-year hiatus, UMass Dining Services will host its 11th annual UMass 5K Dash and Dine on campus starting at 9 a.m. The goal of the event is to promote health and wellness at the university while raising funds for the Amherst Survival Center. In total, UMass dining has been able to raise more than $50,000 for the Amherst Survival Center. The 5K features a USA Track and Field certified course to runners, walkers, and wheelchair participants. When race participants are finished, all are welcomed to have lunch at the award-winning dining commons on campus. The race fee is $10 for all UMass and Five College students, $15 for UMass Amherst faculty and staff, and $20 for the general public. Children age 8 and under may participate for free. This race fee includes registration and the complimentary meal. Online registration ends at midnight on Wednesday, April 6. Walk-up registration is available on race day. To register for the event or make a donation, visit runumass.com.

 

MOSSO Chamber Music Series

April 14: The Westfield Athenaeum continues its three-concert chamber music series at 7 p.m., with musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, known as MOSSO, providing the music. A woodwind quintet of MOSSO musicians will be showcased, and Guy McLain, executive director of the Westfield Athenaeum, will offer a pre-performance talk at 6 p.m., which is free to ticket holders. Ann Bobo, principal flute, and Nancy Dimock, principal oboe, will be joined by their colleagues Ian Greitzer, clarinetist, Ron Haroutunian, bassoonist, and horn player Robert Marlatt. The MOSSO season at the Westfield Athenaeum opened on March 10, and will conclude with a concert on May 19, with a program to be announced soon. Tickets for the concert cost $20 and must be purchased in advance at the Westfield Athenaeum during business hours, or online at www.westath.org. Audience members will be required to wear masks.

 

Eggstravaganza at the Zoo in Forest Park

April 16: The Zoo in Forest Park will host its annual Eggstravaganza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include grab-and-go stations for children with take-and-make activities, prize-filled Easter eggs, books, and candy while supplies last. There will also be animal encounters and enrichment to allow guests an up-close look at some of the animals, as well as free face painting and visits from Felix the Fox and Andy the Armadillo. Pre-registration is required to attend. No additional tickets will be sold at the door. Registration closes April 11 or when all tickets are sold. To purchase tickets, visit www.forestparkzoo.org/eggs.

 

Springfield Symphony Orchestra Spring Concerts

April 22, May 13: The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) Board announced two spring concerts will be hosted at Springfield Symphony Hall with former SSO Music Director Mark Russell Smith serving as guest conductor. Smith is music director and conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. He previously served as music director for the SSO from 1995 through 2000. He has worked as director of New Music Projects for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and artistic director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Minnesota, and has also served as music director for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Details about the concerts, program, and availability of tickets will be forthcoming and available at springfieldsymphony.org.

 

Social Justice Awards

April 23: Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKFS) announced that this year’s Social Justice Awards will honor the organization’s former President and CEO Ronn Johnson, who passed away in January. The organization also announced that the Justice Resource Institute has stepped forward as the first event sponsor. The 2022 Social Justice Awards will continue to be a virtual event this year and will begin at 11 a.m. Michael Weeks, president and CEO of the Providers Council, will be the keynote speaker. This year’s honorees are Barbara Gresham (education), Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr. (lifetime achievement), Bishop Talbert Swan II (race relations), CMSS and Eileen McCaffery (arts and culture), Doris Harris (health advocacy), First Church of Christ in Longmeadow UCC (faith-based initiative), MassHire Springfield and Kevin Lynn (economic development), and Thomas Morrow and Julius Lewis (entrepreneurship). Individuals and organizations interested in supporting Johnson’s work at MLKFS through sponsorship or a donation should contact Lenise Williams at (413) 736-3655 or [email protected], or visit mlkjrfamilyservices.org/donate.

 

Great Golf Escape

April 25: The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS) will host its annual Great Golf Escape tournament at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. YPS aims to engage the younger demographic in career development, networking, community involvement, recreational and social activities, and more. The cost for this event is $125 for YPS members, $500 for a YPS member foursome team captain, $135 for non-members, and $540 for a non-member foursome team captain. Check-in begins at 9 a.m. There will be prizes and a poker challenge throughout the event. The first-place team will also be able to select a charitable organization to receive a donation from YPS. Registration includes lunch, post-golf dinner, and giveaways. Members can register for the event at www.springfieldyps.com/events. This event is open to the public. However, YPS members will receive a free mulligan, entry into the door-prize raffle, and more. They’ll be offering golfers on-course hospitality, including ice-cream samples from Batch Ice Cream, sponsored by LiftTruck Parts & Service, and craft beer samples from Leadfoot Brewing. Major sponsors for this event include PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), F45 Riverdale, Marcotte Ford, and the John Glover Insurance Agency. Foursomes and sponsorships are still available by visiting springfieldyps.com/golf or e-mailing [email protected].

 

‘Rewire: Finding Purpose and Fulfillment After Retirement’

April 27: Holyoke Community College (HCC) will present a three-hour, in-person workshop focusing on life after retirement. “Rewire: Finding Purpose and Fulfillment After Retirement” will meet from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development on HCC’s main campus, 303 Homestead Ave. The workshop will be facilitated by former career counselor Barbara Foster. “Retirement is a major life transition, not unlike a major career change” Foster said. “People often fail to consider how they will find purpose and fulfillment in retirement. The average 65-year-old will remain active for 20 years or more after leaving a full-time job. The workshop will assist both pre-retirees and recently retired people to consider how they will spend the 2,000 hours a year they formerly spent at work. This could be volunteering, starting a new business, developing hobbies, seeking part-time work, or new learning experiences.” The workshop will offer a series of exercises and self-assessments, as well as time to reflect, brainstorm with others, and develop goals and a vision for this new chapter of life. Participants will also leave with an extensive list of resources to explore. Space is limited, so advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/rewire, or call (413) 552-2500 for more information. The cost is $39. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for all workshop participants, and masks must be worn in all HCC campus buildings.

 

Get Hired Job Fair

May 5: Holyoke Mall will host an in-person job fair from 3 to 6 p.m. on the lower level near Macy’s. Sponsored by Valley Opportunity Council, the Get Hired Job Fair is a convenient opportunity for Western Mass. employers to interview and hire workers, and to help job seekers connect with businesses who need their skills. Employers from a variety of industries will be in attendance looking for candidates at all skill levels. Several stores and venues at Holyoke Mall will also be in attendance to fill open positions. The event is free to attend for all job seekers. Employers that have already signed up to staff a table include MGM Springfield, Holyoke Medical Center, Springfield College, Trinity Senior Communities, and Valley Opportunity Council. Employers interested in participating in the upcoming job fair should contact Jim Geraghty, advertising representative for Holyoke Mall, at (617) 840-2998 or [email protected]. For full details regarding the job fair, visit www.holyokemall.com/event/get-hired-job-fair.

 

sheLEADS Conference

May 20: The Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce will host sheLEADS, a woman’s conference aimed at building a bold, brave community of women in the 413 with an eye on professional development and beyond. “This is a high-energy day filled with professional development, relationship- and leadership-building opportunities. Our focus is on providing attendees tools and connections that they didn’t have when they walked in,” said Moe Belliveau, the chamber’s executive director. The day begins at the Boylston Room in Easthampton at noon and ends with networking at Abandoned Building Brewery. In between, attendees can look forward to “Activating Your Leadership Strengths,” facilitated by Colleen DelVecchio of Colleen DelVecchio Consultants; “The Language of Leadership,” a panel discussion featuring Pia Kumar, chief strategy officer at Universal Plastics, Lynnette Watkins, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Health Care, and Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, CEO of Inclusive Strategies; and “Be Great Where Your Feet Are,” featuring keynote speaker Robyn Glaser Sr., vice president, Business Affairs for the Kraft Group. For tickets and details, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org.

 

 

 

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 106: March 28, 2022

George Interviews Julie Quink, managing partner of the West Springfield-based accounting firm Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

On the next installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Julie Quink, managing partner of the West Springfield-based accounting firm Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C. It’s tax season, so the two talk about new tax laws and what they mean to businesses and individuals, but they also discuss what has been called the ‘never-ending tax season’ and the many challenges facing accounting firms today. It’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

 

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Class of 2022 Special Coverage

View the Video of 2022 Celebration Here

Presenting Sponsors:

It’s been well over a decade since the first Difference Maker award was presented by BusinessWest.

Much has happened since then, but the Difference Maker award remains a constant — and a symbol of excellence and dedication to improving quality of life in this region.

Since the very beginning, this recognition program has shown conclusively that there are a great many ways to make a difference. And the class of 2022, the program’s 14th, makes this even more abundantly clear, as the stories clearly show.

The 2022 Difference Makers

Click on each NAME to read their story!

Tara Brewster

Vice President of Business Development, Greenfield Savings Bank


The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts


Heriberto Flores

President, New England Farm Workers’ Council


John Greaney

Retired State Supreme Court Justice; Senior Counsel, Bulkley Richardson

Ruth Griggs

President, Northampton Jazz Festival; Principal, RC Communications


Ted Hebert

Founder and Owner, Teddy Bear Pools and Spas


I Found Light Against All Odds and Its Founder and CEO, Stefan Davis


Roca Holyoke and Springfield

Click on each NAME to watch their Video!

Class of 2022

The Class of 2022 to Be Announced In the May 2 Issue of BusinessWest

BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in in 2007 to recognize this region’s rising stars, and it has since become a coveted honor throughout Western Mass., shining a spotlight on individuals who have excelled professionally, but also in their service to the community.

Nominations for the 16th annual celebration have closed, and the judges are hard at work evaluating more than 150 unique nominations, an indication that the pandemic has not slowed this program’s energy or importance to the region.

The class of 2022 — which will be profiled in the May 2 issue of BusinessWest and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala on June 16 — will, as usual, be chosen by five independent judges, who bring broad experience in entrepreneurship, business development, and civic engagement, among other traits, to their task. Here’s a quick look at each of this year’s judges.

Xiomara Albán DeLobato

Xiomara Albán DeLobato

Xiomara Albán DeLobato, a member of the 40 Under Forty class of 2021, currently serves as the chief of staff for the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC), where she facilitates the growth and development of the regional economy by encouraging, influencing, and sustaining capital investment and quality job growth in Western Mass. She has dedicated her career and community involvement in serving as an active change agent and steadfast advocate for equitable access to economic and academic opportunities in the region and beyond. She also serves as an active board member for Girls Inc. of the Valley, the Springfield Public Forum, and trustee for Veritas Prep Charter School.

Madeline Landrau

Madeline Landrau

Madeline Landrau, one of BusinessWest’s Women of Impact in 2021, joined MassMutual in 1996 and currently works on the Community Responsibility team as a Program Engagement Manager. She oversees the MassMutual’s Home Office Giving portfolio and associated relationship management, working with nonprofit organizations primarily in MassMutual’s home office community of Springfield. She’s the lead for LifeBridgeSM, MassMutual’s free life insurance program that offers free life insurance coverage to eligible parents for the benefit of their children’s education. Active in community affairs, Landrau has a devout interest in mentoring young Latinas, providing informal mentoring and coaching, guiding them to make sound decisions, develop socially and enhance their educational skills. She is the first Latina trustee of Westfield State University, where she serves as vice chair of the Investment Subcommittee of the Finance & Capital Assets Committee.

Ryan McCollum

Ryan McCollum, a 40 Under 40 winner in 2012, is the owner of RMC Strategies, which provides full service political consulting to candidates, elected officials, nonprofits and for-profit institutions. Born in Springfield, McCollum worked for several state senators before returning to Springfield to work as a project manager in the City’s Economic Development Department under former Mayor Charlie Ryan. He returned to Beacon Hill to work as the legislative director for the Office of Housing and Economic Development under Gov. Deval Patrick. An initial founder of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, he is on several area boards, including 16 Lyrics, Suit Up Springfield, Square One, Healing Racism Institute, ROCA, NCCJ and the marketing committee of the Springfield Museums. He sat on the Town of Longmeadow Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force, and also serves on the Boston based Rian Immigrant Center, which helps immigrants assimilate to our country. 

Chad Moir, president and CEO of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center in Easthampton, was honored by BusinessWest with both its 40 Under Forty and Difference Maker awards in 2021. A graduate of American International College and its Public Health program, Moir created DopaFit in 2015. The company uses exercise prograns to help people stop or slow down the progression of Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that increasingly robs the body of dopamine, which is released during exercise. Moir said he has always taken inspiration from the Muhammad Ali quote, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at PeoplesBank, has more than 18 years of experience working with business leaders to develop and implement people-management and talent-development strategies. She has a bachelor of Arts in Communications from Bridgewater State University and a masters of Human Resource Development from American International College. An active member of the community, she has served on many boards including the United Way of Hampshire County, Leadership Pioneer Valley and CHD. She is a reader for the Link to Libraries program and serves on the Service Above Self Annual Luncheon Committee for the Springfield Rotary and Basketball Hall of Fame.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 96: January 17, 2022

George Interviews State Senator Eric Lesser

Eric Lesser

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively, wide-ranging discussion with State Senator Eric Lesser. The two talk about everything from the prospects for high-speed rail finally becoming reality, to Lesser’s recent decision to run for lieutenant governor. There’s a lot to unpack, and it’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.

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Law

No Breach January

By Lauren C. Ostberg

 

Along with the widely reported cyberattacks on behemoths like LinkedIn and Facebook, 2021 also saw cyberattacks on local governments, small businesses, school systems, nonprofit organizations, and other smaller, more vulnerable targets. For more than a decade, Massachusetts has enumerated a set of administrative, physical, and technological safeguards designed to protect consumer’s personal information.

“This personal information is what you are obliged to safeguard; access, use, or compromise of this personal information by an unauthorized person constitutes a reportable breach.”

For more than a decade, you — a natural person, corporation, association, partnership, or other legal entity who uses, stores, or otherwise accesses personal information in connection with the provision of goods and services or with employment — have been required by law to put such safeguards in place.

Whether a genuine desire to comply with 201 CMR 17 or the breaches of 2021 motivates you, the new year is the perfect time to strengthen your cybersecurity position with three simple steps.

 

Inventory the Personal Information You Possess

Under applicable Massachusetts law, ‘personal information’ is a Massachusetts resident’s first and last name or first initial and last name combined with a Social Security number, driver’s license or state ID number, financial-account number, or credit- or debit-card number. This personal information is what you are obliged to safeguard; access, use, or compromise of this personal information by an unauthorized person constitutes a reportable breach. A useful first step in developing, or improving, your cybersecurity position, then, is compiling a list of every location where you keep this personal information.

Creating this list should make some security risks apparent — do you have Social Security numbers in your e-mail inbox, in an unlocked filing cabinet, or stored on the desktops of employees’ unencrypted laptops? In the event you experience a ransomware attack or another cybersecurity incident, knowing where personal information was stored can help you quickly determine whether the potentially compromised data contained ‘personal information’ and, thus, whether you have experienced a ‘breach’ reportable to regulators.

If you already have a well-developed written information security program (WISP) and feel confident in your cybersecurity posture, this step still applies to you. Reviewing and updating this inventory can (and should) be part of your annual review of that WISP’s scope and effectiveness.

 

Learn to Encrypt Personal Information

Massachusetts regulators require that personal information (when held by a person other than the consumer) be encrypted ‘in transit’ and ‘at rest.’ In transit refers to information when it is transmitted across networks — say, from one e-mail account to another. At rest refers to storage, on a flash drive, laptop, etc., or on an e-mail server.

If you comply with this regulation, an employee’s lost laptop or a compromised e-mail account will not impact consumers or raise the risk of identity theft because that sensitive information should be inaccessible to unauthorized parties. Encryption can be a simple process — in some cases, it’s a matter of a few well-placed clicks. Let this year be the one you figure it out.

If you have already enabled encryption on relevant devices and accounts, and have policies requiring the encryption of personal information, congratulations. After you pat yourself on the back, make sure your employees are aware of these policies and that they knew how and when to make use of these safeguards.

 

Train on Phishing

Massachusetts’s data-security regulations require employee training as both an enumerated administrative and technical safeguard. This is because internal policies regarding access to use of, and the transportation of, personal information required by 201 CMR 17 are of limited use if they are not consistently followed company-wide.

Similarly, the best malware protection and server encryption will not protect a business whose employees hand over the proverbial keys to the kingdom by providing their credentials or downloading malware by clicking a link in a phishing e-mail.

Because individuals responding to phishing e-mails is a known vulnerability, it is a useful place to start training. Phishing, which can take the form of e-mails or phone calls, is the fraudulent practice of attempting to obtain personal information or other valuable data from a person by pretending to be a reputable, and trusted, third party. Training employees to recognize, avoid, and report these scams is an initial step (and one endorsed by the FTC) to improving your cybersecurity hygiene.

While other safeguards in 201 CMR 17 and the Attorney General’s Compliance Checklist (like two-factor authentication) are important considerations, if you inventory your personal information, enable and use encryption, and train yourself and your employees to avoid phishing scams, you will be well on your way to a breach-free January and a compliant 2022.

 

Lauren Ostberg is an attorney in Bulkley Richardson’s cybersecurity group; (413) 272-6282.

Cover Story Economic Outlook

COVID Complicates Generally Optimistic Projections

A year ago, business and economic development leaders were looking beyond a surge in COVID to what they were seeing as better times — when the pandemic would be a thing of the past, the economy would rebound, and ‘normal,’ as in the life we experienced before March of 2020, would return. Most of that, especially the parts about COVID being over and returning to normal, didn’t happen. And that explains why, a year later, amidst another strong surge in COVID cases, there is quite a bit of optimism about the year ahead, but also some hedging of bets. This past year showed that we just can’t predict what will happen with this pandemic or with many of its side effects, everything from an unprecedented workforce shortage to inflation and supply chain woes, to a still white-hot housing market. In the stories that begin on page 16, area business leaders look ahead and project a year in which most all of the stern challenges from 2021, and especially the pandemic, will linger. But they also see a new and perhaps better chance to more effectively move on from COVID.

The Economy >>

Optimism Abounds, but Many Factors Make It Difficult to Project


The Region >>

There Were Glimpses of Progress in 2021, and More Are Expected


Small Business >>

Many Are Busy, But Challenges Linger as the New Year Dawns



Higher Education >>

Region’s Colleges, Universities Face More Stern Tests in 2022


Healthcare >>

The Prognosis Is for Another Year of Stern Challenges in 2022


Tourism >>

Sector Is on the Rebound, but Hospitality Still Faces Staffing Issues


Law Special Coverage

What Can Business Owners and Managers Expect in 2022?

This past year was a busy one on the employment-law front, with a number of new measures and mandates for employers to follow and some emerging trends, such as unionizing activities, to watch. As the new year dawns, these matters will continue to be at the forefront, and obviously bear watching.

By John S. Gannon, Esq. and Meaghan E. Murphy, Esq.

Last year, we saw legislators and employers trying to pivot from COVID-19 safety measures to more traditional labor and employment-law issues. However, with the Delta and Omicron variants wreaking havoc across the globe, businesses and lawmakers are once again looking for ways to stop the spread of the pandemic. Here are some labor and employment highlights from 2021 that are sure to impact employers in 2022.

John Gannon

John Gannon

Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan Murphy

Employer Vaccination Mandates

In September 2021, President Biden signed several orders requiring federal employees, federal contractors, and most healthcare workers across the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also instructed OSHA to develop an emergency temporary standard directing private employers with 100 or more employees to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates or require weekly testing for their unvaccinated employees. These mandates have been challenged in courts around the county, with varying results. For example, in early December, a federal court in Georgia issued a countrywide stay of the federal-contractor vaccine mandate.

The OSHA ‘shot-or-test’ rule was similarly blocked by one court late last year, but a few weeks later, a different court ruled in favor of the Biden administration and reinstated the emergency standard. It appears the U.S. Supreme Court will have to sort all of this out, and we expect they will rule on these issues early in 2022.

“Unionization campaigns at some of the country’s largest companies have been heating up.”

Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state mandates are in place for employees working in long-term care and assisted living, certain home-care workers, and executive-level state workers (including law enforcement). Legal challenges to the vaccine mandates were filed in Massachusetts courts, but to date all of them have failed.

 

Accommodations to Vaccination

In October, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released guidance making it clear that all employers, regardless of size or industry, can require that employees receive the COVID vaccine. There is one big caveat: federal and most state laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs, disabilities, or pregnancy-related reasons. These are commonly referred to as medical and religious exemptions. Employers that are considering a mandatory vaccination program should have policies explaining how these exemptions work, as well as exemption forms ready for employees to fill out.

 

Biden Administration’s Support for Unions

In June, President Biden appointed Jennifer Abruzzo as the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new general counsel. She quickly made clear her (and the new Democratic administration’s) pro-labor stance on various issues through a series of memoranda issued by her office. Not surprisingly, Abruzzo has vowed to undo much of the NLRB’s activity under former President Trump, which tended to be pro-business.

Unionization campaigns at some of the country’s largest companies have been heating up. Employees at a Starbucks in Buffalo, N.Y. voted to unionize. Starbucks has agreed to sit down at the table and bargain with the union. This is the first time organized labor has gained a foothold in one of Starbucks’ U.S. locations, but it certainly does not seem like it will be the last. Employees at Starbucks in several other states, including Massachusetts, Washington, and Arizona, are also seeking to unionize.

In addition, employees at an Alabama Amazon warehouse recently voted not to unionize, but the union trying to organize those employees alleged that Amazon intentionally interfered with its union-organizing efforts. In one of its biggest actions under President Biden, the NLRB announced that Amazon had committed to allow more room for employees to conduct union activity and to send an e-mail directly to current and former employees to inform them of their labor rights. It is the clearest example to date of how Democratic officials in this administration will seek to use federal power to help employees organize.

 

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, most Connecticut employees will be able to take paid time off to attend to personal and family health needs. Under the program, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid-leave benefits, and up to 14 weeks if an employee experiences a serious health condition that occurs during a pregnancy.

This program is similar to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which went live at the beginning of last year. The Department of Family and Medical Leave published data stating that the department approved 43,440 applications between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2021. Benefits totaling $167,915,781 were paid out during this time. This was before employees could take PFML to care for family members, which became available on July 1.

 

Employee Mobility: Tackling the Labor Shortage

A record 4.4. million Americans quit their jobs in September 2021. The high quit rates were commonly dubbed the ‘Great Resignation,’ and made it clear that Americans are switching jobs for better pay, starting their own businesses, or continuing to struggle with child care and school schedules.

As the pandemic lingers, it’s likely that the quit rates will remain high for the next several months. As a result, employers will need to raise wages and/or offer more lucrative benefit packages to attract and retain talent. Businesses should also consider offering employees who do not physically need to be in the office every day some sort of a hybrid work-from-home schedule, a model that has dramatically increased in popularity over the last year.

 

John Gannon and Meaghan Murphy are attorneys at the firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., in Springfield; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]; [email protected]

Opinion

Editorial

 

When you talk with people in business about COVID-19, and especially those early days, in March 2020, when the state and the country were shutting down, many will share a similar story that goes something like this:

“When we packed up our computers and went home, we thought it would be for a few weeks or maybe a few months, and then we’d be back — it would be over, and we’d be back to normal.”

Such thinking was certainly understandable. None of us had been through a pandemic before, and this is what we thought: we’ll stay home for a few weeks, hunker down, and then this will pass.

It didn’t take long to realize that those thoughts were unrealistic and perhaps naive. We soon came to grips with the fact that we had a longer wait for ‘normal.’ Much longer.

Nearly two years later, we’re still waiting, and the unfortunate truth is that this is still a long way from being over. Unfortunate, because we all desperately want and need for it to be over, and it isn’t.

“When we packed up our computers and went home, we thought it would be for a few weeks or maybe a few months, and then we’d be back — it would be over, and we’d be back to normal.”

These days, quite a few conversations begin with “I can’t believe we’re still talking about this,” or “I can’t believe we’re talking about this again.”

What we’re talking about are COVID cases rising, long lines for testing, and hospitals being pushed to and then beyond their limits. And in the business world, what we’re talking about, again, are postponed events, canceled business meetings, people avoiding restaurants and movie theaters, colleges not sure if they’ll be able to open their doors when the semester break ends in a few weeks, and area school systems not sure if they’re going to be able to open their doors and stay open, leaving parents wondering what they will do if they don’t.

Yes, we’re still talking about these things, or talking about them again. The COVID fight continues, and the end is nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, a workforce crisis continues, inflation is no longer talked about as ‘transitory,’ production and supply-chain issues persist, and the many businesses that stayed afloat with the help of government lifelines like PPP and the employee-retention credit will not have that net underneath them in 2022.

So why is there is so much optimism about the year ahead, as revealed in our special Economic Outlook section, starting on page 15? Maybe people are thinking that things simply must get better in 2022. Or that COVID has to finally run its course and will now cease controlling our lives.

Perhaps, but there are other reasons. We especially feel a sense that the region did, indeed, catch a glimpse of a post-COVID world in 2021, and it was a very encouraging experience.

It was a brief window, to be sure, and it came roughly between Memorial Day and just before Labor Day. The state had lifted virtually all of its restrictions on businesses, and people started doing things they hadn’t done in a while — like put their masks aside, go to a restaurant, gather as a family, go on a summer vacation, stage a Chamber After 5, or gather for a retirement party.

As noted, it was a brief window, and by the time the Big E staged its return and BusinessWest feted its 40 Under Forty class at the Log Cabin (both in late September), there was plenty of apprehension about a variant called Delta.

Now, there’s far more apprehension about another variant called Omicron, and there are serious questions, and trepidation, about what the first few weeks, or even the first few quarters, of 2022 will be like.

But amidst all that, there is a prevailing sense of optimism that we can finally see a lot more of what we saw during that brief window in the year ahead. We sense that the ingredients may finally in place for actually getting to that proverbial ‘other side’ of the pandemic.

We’re not there yet, and there are some rough weeks and perhaps months ahead, but the signs are there.

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