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Episode 143: January 3, 2023

George Interviews Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. The two talk about everything from Amherst’s strong comeback from the pandemic, which hit its hospitality, college-town economy very hard, to the prospects for chambers of commerce in the post-COVID world. It’s all must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local 413 and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

 

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Daily News

HADLEY — Curran & Keegan Financial of Hadley has returned as the lead sponsor of the 2022 Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Gift Card Match with a $2,500 investment in the Amherst Area Gift Card program. Encharter Insurance, bankESB, and the Amherst Business Improvement District are joining in with their support to make this year’s $6,000 Holiday Gift Card match a reality, creating a $12,000 direct reinvestment in local businesses.

“If we have learned nothing else over the past couple of years, community matters,” said Molly Keegan, CPA and co-owner of Curran & Keegan. “We are happy to play a part in encouraging everyone to support their friends and neighbors by keeping holiday shopping local.”

Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, added that “we are thrilled that Curran & Keegan could return this year to lead the match which inspired other partners to join in. They all understand the value of small businesses and their positive social and economic impact in our communities … supporting our small businesses contributes to our local economy, creates jobs, and preserves our community. They know how easy it is to get distracted and shop online at the big-box stores, so they are helping you choose local.”

Curran & Keegan demonstrated its support of small business as a leader in supporting the Amherst Area Chamber’s Winter Pivot Micro-Grant program at the beginning of last year. Now it is building on that commitment to support the local economy’s growth out of this pandemic two years in a row.

The match enables the Amherst Area Gift Card program to sell 240 $50 gift cards for $26 each ($1 service charge per card). The match will be sold exclusively at the Visitor Information Center at 35 South Pleasant St. in Amherst starting at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, and the typical office hours are weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Only two gift cards will be sold per person or per family. Sales will be in-person only on a first-come, first-served basis, and there will be no advance sales.

The launch of this year’s Holiday Amherst Area Gift Card match day on Dec. 1 kicks off Amherst-wide holiday events focused on supporting local, including A Very Merry Maple Lighting on Friday, Dec. 2 beginning at 3 p.m. at the North Common in downtown Amherst; Merry Day, with 20% off at participating restaurants and retail stores, on Saturday, Dec. 3; and a Sip & Shop Stroll on Thursday, Dec. 15.

Daily News

HADLEY — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce announced the return of its Launching Women series with a pair of workshops collectively titled “Beyond COVID: Leadership Self-assessment Tools,” set for Friday, Oct. 14 from 8:30 to 11 a.m. at Venture Way Collaborative.

“Your Amherst Area Chamber is honored by the partners making the return of Launching Women possible,” msaid Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director. “COVID had a disproportionate impact on women in the workforce. Let’s hit reset together.”

The morning will include the following workshops and discussion:

The first workshop, “The Whole Woman and Her Impact on the World,” will be presented by Leslie Saulsberry, CEO of the Whole Institute. An executive coach of senior global, academic, government, political, and executive leaders, she teaches visionary women how to shift their mindset, establish lifestyle practices, and dive deep into reflective work so they know intuitively what it feels like to live and lead in joy.

The second workshop, “Building TRUST in the Workplace,” will be presented by Jessi Kirley, founder of Jkirley Collective and a strategic thought partner who helps leaders and organizations discover what’s possible and helps to create workplaces of dignity and high performance. She will discuss different scenarios of trust in the workplace, identifying key conditions that foster it and the leadership competencies needed to create a culture of trust and accountability.

Launching Women Workshop sponsors are Applied Mortgage and Encharter Insurance. This is a two-in-one workshop. The pricing is $25 for members and $35 for non-members. Fee support is offered, and all are welcome. Registration is open at amherstarea.com. Email Pazmany with any inquiries at [email protected].

Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce announced the return of the 19th annual A+ Awards celebration to be held on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the UMass Student Union Ballroom, celebrating “This Is What’s Next.” Each year, the chamber bestows A+ Awards to individuals and organizations that enrich the life of the community through their work in education, business, and civic engagement across its service area of Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, and Sunderland.

Nominations for the 2022 A+ Awards are open for one more week and can be made online only through Sept. 9 at amherstarea.com. The A+ Award categories are:

• The Lifetime Achievement/Legacy Award recognizes an individual or business for their outstanding contributions to the Amherst area over their career and the lasting impact their work will have on future generations.

• The Leader in Innovation Award recognizes entrepreneurs who craft creative solutions and redefine the way Amherst lives, works, and learns.

• The Leader in Sustainability Award recognizes a business, organization, or individual for their contribution to creating a sustainable Amherst, preserving and ensuring its vitality for future generations.

• The Young Professional Award honors a young professional who has a positive presence and has made a significant impact in the Amherst area.

• The Community Service Award honors a business, nonprofit, or individual that has benefited the lives of the Amherst area community through their work and outreach.

• The Chamber MVP is an individual who truly embodies the mission of the Amherst Area Chamber as a convener, connector, and catalyst for business and community development.

PeoplesBank returns as the presenting sponsor of the program and is an Amherst Area Chamber Platinum Chamber Champion partner. BusinessWest continues as media partner for this annual event.

Sponsorships and advertising opportunities are still available for the celebration. Email Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, with any inquiries at [email protected].

Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce announced that Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association will stage a celebration marking its 20th anniversary and new location on May 18. 

The open house will begin at 3 p.m. with tours of the new location and opportunity to meet the CAIA team. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served. To assist with planning, RSVP’s are encouraged. Please email: [email protected] 

In acknowledgment of the move, Ruth Carolyn, chief operating officer for the CAIA Association said that the new location is the perfect fit for the organization today. “As we celebrate our 20th year as an association, we are delighted to be back in the center of Amherst, where our mission took flight in 2002. It is exciting for us to occupy such a beautiful space in the center of a town, so well-known for its support of community. We will be very proud to welcome members and staff from around the globe to our new headquarters’ location.” 

The CAIA Association is a global professional body dedicated to creating greater alignment, transparency, and knowledge for all investors, with a specific emphasis on alternative investments. 

“As a chamber, we are honored to celebrate CAIA’s mission and their new move to downtown Amherst along with their 20-year commitment to their roots in Amherst while expanding globally across 100 countries,” said Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is a true example of living locally and thinking globally.”  

Daily News

HADLEY — Curran & Keegan Financial of Hadley is leading the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Holiday Gift Card Match with a $5,000 investment in the program. BankESB has also joined the effort with an additional $1,000 match.

“Now more than ever, we need to support our local businesses by encouraging local patronage,” said Molly Keegan, CPA and co-owner of Curran & Keegan. “Forget the big mail-order internet retailers and embrace the joy of shopping in our friends’ and neighbors’ stores. Local jobs matter; local commerce matters. Shop early and shop local.”

Beginning on Friday, Dec. 3 (not before), the community will be able to purchase $25 gift cards (with an additional $1 processing fee) that will be doubled in value due to this match. There is a limit of two per person. The match is available only on $25 gift cards purchased. Thus, for a $26 purchase, the buyer receives a $50 gift card. The match will be sold exclusively at the chamber’s Visitor Information Center at 35 South Pleasant St., Amherst.

“Our Amherst-area businesses continue to experience financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director. “The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce launched the gift-card program at the height of our pandemic in an effort to buoy them and help them keep their doors open. As severe understaffing continues to plague our businesses, we knew we had to activate the purchase power of buying local. There was no better time than the holiday season to reinforce our call to support local all season long than announcing two generous businesses who have joined together to create a $6,000 match — Curran & Keegan Financial and BankESB. We could not be more grateful for their leadership support.”

Curran & Keegan demonstrated its support of small business as a leader in supporting the Amherst Area Chamber’s Winter Pivot Micro-Grant program at the beginning of 2021, and is building on that commitment to support the local economy’s emergence from the pandemic.

The Amherst Business Improvement District is also hosting the return of the Red Ticket event. For every $25 gift card purchased while the match lasts, the buyer will receive two red tickets toward the Red Ticket drawing for one of four cash prizes of $250 or one for $1,000, on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at Kendrick Park.

 

Daily News

HADLEY — Hampshire Mall and PiNZ are partnering with the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce to host the chamber’s September After Five networking event at PiNZ on Wednesday, Sept. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Everyone is invited to come out for a night of networking and team building by engaging in some friendly competition with social activities like ping-pong, billiards, axe-throwing, bowling, and arcade games. Attendees will also be able to sample food from PiNZ’s new holiday menu and book their holiday parties at a discounted rate. A cash bar will be available.

“Our Amherst Area Chamber is thrilled to be able to return to PiNZ to host an evening of networking after nearly a year of closure,” said Claudia Pazmany, executive director. “Together, we will celebrate reconnection, reopening, and rebuilding.”

The featured local nonprofit for the evening will be Community Action Pioneer Valley. Tickets are $10 for chamber members and $15 for non-members. Advanced registration is available by clicking here.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will team up with the Mill District and host Mercedes-Benz of Springfield to present a family-friendly drive-in movie, Toy Story 4, at the Mercedes-Benz of Springfield dealership on Friday, May 21. Gates open at 7 p.m., and the movie begins at 8:30 p.m.

“This is an opportunity to bring people from across Western Mass. together for an evening of fun for the whole family, all with safe distancing measures in place,” said Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

Proceeds from the event will benefit UMass For The Kids (FTK), which encourages collaboration between students, UMass Amherst, and the Amherst community by working to raise awareness and funds for local patients and families at Baystate Children’s Hospital, in connection with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“It is our pleasure to host the Amherst Chamber benefiting UMass FTK for our first event in over a year,” said Mercedes-Benz of Springfield owners Peter and Michelle Wirth. “Hampden and Hampshire county coming together once again.”

Click here to purchase tickets online. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce 2020 A+ Awards Show will be held virtually and broadcast live from Hadley Farms Meeting House on Thursday, Nov. 12, with PeoplesBank serving as presenting sponsor.

Each year, the chamber gives A+ Awards to individuals and organizations that enrich the life of the community through their work in education, business, and civic engagement in Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, Sunderland, and the Pioneer Valley as a whole.

“In this year, it feels more important than ever to recognize our leaders who have led differently and pivoted to create new economic opportunities during the most challenging of times we will likely experience in our lifetimes,” said Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber. “These are the heroes of the time, and they deserve our recognition.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes Betsey McInnis for her leadership of 19 years as a board member and lead volunteer of Family Outreach of Amherst and the lasting impact her volunteer work will have on future generations.

The Leader in Innovation Award recognizes Phoenix Fruit Farm of Belchertown for being instrumental in cultivating relationships with other local businesses to improve the economic climate of Belchertown.

The Leader in Sustainability Award recognizes Kestrel Land Trust of Amherst for its work to create a sustainable Amherst area by preserving 583 acres while celebrating 50 years serving as a major force in forest land protection, farmland conservation, and expanding outdoor recreational space in Amherst and throughout Hampshire County.

The Young Professional Award honors Ash Crawford for being defined as the ‘epitome of innovation and entrepreneurship’ in the Amherst area. As director of Operations at Amherst Coffee, Crawford helped the business adapt to the new reality of COVID-19 through an online marketplace, a safe and efficient takeout service, and a weekly sidewalk bar.

The Community Service Award honors Mercedes-Benz of Springfield for its outreach efforts through its Driven by Community platform, through which the lives and jobs of the Amherst-area community benefited greatly, especially at this difficult time.

The Chamber MVP is Lisa Eugin of Encharter Insurance and an Amherst Area Chamber ambassador, who embodies the mission of the chamber as a convener, connector, and catalyst for business and community development.

New this year is the COVID Hero, a nonprofit or individual who provided essential support services, went above and beyond, and took initiative to put others before self to benefit the greater good. Live voting will take place to choose a winner from the following organizations and individuals: Amherst Survival Center, Arizona Pizza, Bistro 63, Mary Beth Ogulewicz of the Amherst Senior Center, Rebekah Demling of ARPS PGO, and Wheelhouse Catering.

Also new this year, David Jeffway, owner of Sharper Vision, will create video tributes for each awardee.

A virtual access pass to the view the live awards show costs $20, or a $50 VIP package includes the virtual access pass, a $25 Amherst-area gift certificate, a hard copy of the 2020 A+ Awards Journal, and sponsor gifts. Registration is open, and A+ Award dinner sponsorships and ads are still available for the virtual extravaganza; for more information, visit amherstarea.com. E-mail Pazmany at [email protected] with any inquiries.

COVID-19 Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, along with presenting sponsor Pearson Wallace Insurance, launched a three-part series for small businesses on the reopening of the economy, featuring local experts.

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis and related health and safety restrictions being lifted with each phase of reopening Massachusetts as laid out by the Baker administration, we are working in concert to provide optimal support for a recovery plan,” said Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber. “As a chamber in the time of COVID-19, we have been working on a theme of ‘response, reopening, recovery.’ Every step we have taken has been in response to the changing health and economic climate due to COVID-19, then putting wheels in motion toward proactively preparing for reopening and recovery, and this program falls in line at the right time.”

The three-part series begins with “The Business of Returning to Work: Reopening with Confidence” today, June 3, from 10 a.m. to noon, presented by Thomas Reidy, Kathryn Crouss, and Meaghan Murphy, attorneys with Bacon Wilson, P.C.

“Property and Casualty Insurance Returning to Work Considerations: Reopening with Confidence” will follow on Wednesday, June 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., presented by Beth Pearson and Alex Pearson Bennett of Pearson Wallace Insurance.

The series concludes with “New Changes to PPP Forgiveness: How Does This Affect Your Loan Repayments?” on Wednesday, June 17 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., presented by Brandon O’Donnell, CPA with Boisselle, Morton & Wolkowicz, LLP, along with a commercial-loan officer at bankESB.

“This is important for us to host because we know our local businesses are incredibly challenged and are operating without a compass in these uncharted and stormy waters,” Pearson said. “We have brought together a team who can provide legal, accounting, and insurance direction for considerations for opening and keeping their staff and customers safe.”

E-mail Pazmany at [email protected] with any questions.

COVID-19 Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) have launched the Amherst Area Tip Jar.

Many locals would regularly be patronizing their favorite restaurants, bars, salons, coffeehouses, and other businesses that have been ordered closed or have shifted to take-out only, depending on the type of business, due to the COVID-19 crisis and related health and safety restrictions.

The Tip Jar, first established in Pittsburgh, allows people to support local service industry staff and businesses. It allows them to send a ‘tip’ to their favorite business, which will share it with their staff — bartenders, servers, kitchen staff, stylists, aestheticians, mechanics, etc. The Amherst Area Tip Jar offers an option for these businesses and individuals to post their Venmo or PayPal information so that customers, family members, neighbors, and community members, near and far, can continue to support them using this open-source concept — a way to maximize social distancing while supporting these workers and small businesses.

“Like all of us, our concerned members have been forwarding ideas to help our small businesses, and this is the one that stuck,” says Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. “We saw organizations galvanizing to support our nonprofit members and some small-business solutions — not nearly enough — but we recognized a void here and felt this was a population that was vulnerable that needed to be provided for.”

Gabrielle Gould, executive director of the Amherst BID, added that “this virtual tip jar is for local people who work at our businesses. This is a way we might be able to help our businesses help their laid-off staff. It’s not the solution, but it is an idea that has been used in other communities to help connect people to the businesses they care about and support.”

Chamber and BID member Shalini Bahl Milne of Downtown Mindfulness expressed the essence of the Tip Jar by posting on Facebook, “not a complete solution, but every dollar and thought counts. It lets our businesses know that we care! I know that kindness is contagious.”

E-mail Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, at [email protected] or Gould at [email protected] with any inquiries.

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