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HCC Campus Center Begins $43.5 Million Renovation

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is about to embark on a two-year, $43.5 million renovation project that will transform the look, feel, and organization of the campus. The HCC Campus Center is scheduled to close Feb. 3, 2017, and construction will begin soon after. When it reopens in 2019, college officials say, the building will be a place that truly lives up to its name. Originally known as G Building, the sloping, three-story concrete structure sits in the middle of the campus between an intermittent stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC Courtyard. Since it opened in 1980, the Campus Center has been plagued by water leaks. Projects that would have waterproofed the building have been delayed since at least 2008. “The main impetus for this is to get the building watertight,” said interim HCC President Bill Fogarty. “Then we also wanted to do things that will improve the operation of the building and make it a real campus center.” The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance is in charge of the project. Walsh Brothers Construction of Boston has been hired as the general contractor. The state has already allocated $8 million for the current fiscal year to begin the project, with the remainder of the funding to follow, Fogarty said. The key features of the project include squaring off the building’s sloping façade and giving the entire building given a new exterior shell that will make it both weathertight and energy-efficient. The squaring off and the addition of large windows on its eastern side will give the building a look that complements the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, which opened in 2003. About 9,000 square feet of space will be added to the current 58,727. A glass atrium will be added to the west side of the building, covering a set of double stairs that descend from the lower courtyard into an area known as the ‘pit’ that now serves as the main entrance to the food court and cafeteria. On the east side of the building, the open balcony on the second floor will be enclosed, adding extra interior space to the student dining area. The first floor of the Campus Center, on the side facing Homestead Avenue, will become the new ‘front door’ to the campus, accessed by a bridge to be built over a restored Tannery Brook. HCC Admissions, Assessment Services (college placement testing), and the ACT Center (Advising, Career and Transfer Affairs) — now in the Frost Building — will relocate to a new Welcome Center. Admissions will have a dedicated parking lot, and a separate, college-funded project will reconfigure traffic flow, creating a new bus drop in the front of the campus. The Campus Store (formerly the College Bookstore) will move from the first floor to the second floor, on the same level as the food court and cafeteria. The second floor will include programs and departments focused on student engagement, including Student Activities, Student Clubs, and Multicultural Academic Services (MAS), which are being relocated to the building from other parts of the campus.

AIC Awarded Grant from Davis Educational Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been awarded $186,400 over three years in support of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship. The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Stanton Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. In an effort to strengthen and bring together student support services in one accessible location on campus, AIC created the Center for Academic Success (CAS) in 2008 with support from Davis Educational Foundation and others. CAS offers a number of student-support programs, including mentoring and advising, a writing program, tutoring, and support for first-generation college students. The AIC Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship (CETLS) is designed to complement the efforts of CAS by enhancing a vibrant academic culture at AIC. The mission of CETLS is to provide all faculty members with opportunities to achieve and be recognized for teaching excellence, be supported in scholarship, and grow through collaboration and community. When CETLS was created in 2014, a regular schedule of workshops and grants for travel to conferences on teaching and learning were offered to AIC faculty for the first time. CETLS now offers a variety of opportunities for faculty development.

Berkshire Medical Group Joins Berkshire Health Systems

PITTSFIELD — In a move that will help to ensure continued and expanded access to primary care and infectious disease services in the Berkshires, the Berkshire Medical Group has joined the Berkshire Health Systems Physician Practice organization. Berkshire Medical Group, an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease practice, includes Paula Aucoin, MD, Rebecca Caine, MD, Prakash Darji, MD, Jason Kittler, MD, Michael McInerney, MD, Sharon Rawlings, MD, Amy Cassotta, ANP-BC, Helen Majchrowski, FNP/C, and Wanda Torres, ANP-BC. The practice has been renamed Berkshire Internists of BMC, and will remain at its existing location in the BMC Medical Arts Complex in Pittsfield, with few if any noticeable changes for patients. This partnership helps to stabilize the physician practice and ensure continued and expanded access to critical primary care and infectious disease services. Growing changes in healthcare policy and in the health insurance reimbursement system have challenged the viability of private physician practices. Healthcare systems like BHS are increasingly relied upon to ensure current and future access to critical services for the community by investing in physician practices and ensuring they have the necessary support systems and financial stability and investment to succeed in the long-term. By becoming part of the BHS physician practice group, Berkshire Medical Group can not only continue to serve its patients, but has the enhanced ability to expand through the support of Berkshire Health Systems’ comprehensive physician recruitment program, which has successfully expanded critical patient access to primary care and specialties across the Berkshires.

JGS Lifecare Opens Michael’s Café

LONGMEADOW — JGS Lifecare opened Michael’s Café at the Sosin Center for Rehabilitation on Dec. 12, the first day residents moved into the new rehab center. The kosher café offers classics like grab-and-go sandwiches on rye bread, bagels, baked goods, salads, and soup, as well as specialty items like ‘Converse Street potatoes,’ shakshuka, and slow-simmered corned beef, which will be available on Wednesdays. “We hope it will be a community gathering space for residents, guests, and families to meet, enjoy a meal, and gather with friends,” said Alexis Girhiny, director of Food Services at JGS Lifecare. The kosher café is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Frankel, who was an outspoken advocate for Project Transformation, an initiative of reimagining and improving how care is delivered across the JGS Lifecare family of services. “Naming the café in his honor is a permanent tribute not only to Frankel’s extraordinary commitment to the care of our elders at the highest standards, but also his vision for JGS Lifecare for generations to come,” said Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of Philanthropy for JGS Lifecare. The work of several local artists is displayed in the café and throughout the Sosin Center. Artists include Lewis Bryden, Diana Cote, Heidi Coutu, Laura Eden, Peiliang Jin, Cindy Lutz Kornet, Laura Radwell, and Jim Rosenthal.

STCC Honored for Reducing Greenhouse-gas Emissions

SPRINGFIELD — The state named Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) a 2016 Leading by Example Award Winner in the higher-education category for its efforts to advance energy efficiency and sustainability on campus. Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recently recognized STCC and other state agencies, public colleges, municipalities, and public-sector individuals for their leadership in promoting clean energy and environmental initiatives with the 10th annual Leading by Example Awards. The Leading by Example program — a division of the Department of Energy Resources — coordinates clean energy and environmental opportunities at facilities owned and operated by the Commonwealth. “As a member of the Greater Springfield community, we believe it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and promote the use of clean energy and sustainable practices,” said Joseph DaSilva, STCC’s vice president of Administration and chief financial officer. “We are proud of the accomplishments we have made so far. We continue to develop and implement new initiatives regularly. All of our initiatives are not only environmentally necessary, but also save us a great deal of money operationally.” According the Department of Energy Resources, STCC was recognized for its progress and creative approach to reducing its carbon footprint. STCC has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions more than 40% percent since 2011. The college is implementing several sustainability efforts, including energy efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, and a green building renovation. Highlights of STCC’s clean-energy efforts include upgrading the heating system in fiscal year 2014, saving an estimated $200,000 a year; adding insulation, upgraded windows, and installed LED lights across campus to address efficiency challenges in historic buildings; connecting the curriculum of the Architecture and Building Technology Program to the historic building-renovation project targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver certification; switching to single-stream recycling in 2015, and upgrading containers and signage; reducing use of disposable water bottles with six bottle-filling stations on campus; implementing a double-sided printing requirement, reducing paper waste and saving an estimated $14,000 a year in printing costs; and streamlining the campus shuttle route to save fuel and reduce emissions.

WNEU College of Pharmacy Hosts Chinese Pharmacists

SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy recently welcomed six Chinese pharmacists to the university as part of the Pharmacy Education and Clinical Pharmacy Practice Training Program, a partnership with Yale New-Haven Hospital and the Chinese Pharmacological Society – Division of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Research (CPS-TDM). The program allows international pharmacists to spend one month at the WNEU College of Pharmacy to learn about doctor of pharmacy education, and five months at Yale New-Haven Hospital to learn about the practice of pharmacy in the U.S. The program represents a new opportunity for international collaboration at Western New England University, and is managed by Dr. Shusen Sun, director of International Pharmacy Programs and board member of CPS-TDM. The Chinese pharmacists attend College of Pharmacy didactic lectures, case discussions, interactions with students on clinical rotations, and faculty-development seminars. A variety of lectures and topics of discussions are offered, including pharmacy admissions process, accreditation standards and outcome assessment, curricular design, mission and vision development, experiential education, pharmacists as educators, and leadership development in pharmacy practice. The visiting pharmacists also have opportunities to interact with faculty to discuss research and clinical practice.

WNEU School of Law Sweeps ABA Competition

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law entered the American Bar Assoc. (ABA) Region 1 Negotiation Competition with three two-person teams this fall. A total of 16 law-school teams from throughout New England and New York competed at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford. After two days of intense competition, the three WNEU teams finished in first, second, and third place, sweeping the competition. The teams included law students Thomas Holman and Joseph Masse in first place, Kimberly Roche and Matthew Minniefield in second place, and Rachna Khanna and Egzon Beha in third place. “I learned the importance of creative problem solving in negotiations,” Roche said. “Sometimes you have to go beyond typical solutions and find a creative, alternative solution that both clients will accept.” The university teams that placed first and second in the ABA Region 1 competition will go on to compete nationally in Chicago in February. Assisting Professor René Reich-Graefe in coaching the teams were law alumni Sandra San Emeterio, Mark Borenstein, Cara Hale, and Chris Rousseau. “I’m so very proud of all the Western New England students,” San Emeterio said. “My fondest memory of law school is the time I spent on the negotiation team. Best of luck in Chicago, and I hope to get the opportunity to work with you again.” In the 2015 ABA competition, the School of Law team of Rousseau and Emily Dubuc went on to compete in the finals in San Diego.

Reap Talks Leadership with Young Professionals

CHICOPEE — Elms College hosted a leadership luncheon for the Young Professional Society (YPS) of Greater Springfield on Dec. 7. The keynote speaker at the event was the college’s president, Mary Reap. In her lecture, Reap discussed the importance of recognizing opportunities, even unexpected or perhaps at-first unwelcome ones, and taking advantage of them to further one’s career goals. She also talked about developing diplomacy and perseverance, banishing self-doubt, and learning from mistakes. YPS is a group of young professionals who work and live in Western Mass., particularly around the Greater Springfield area, bringing them together to exchange ideas, share common interests, and become the Pioneer Valley’s leaders of tomorrow. The group aims to represent the region’s corporate, nonprofit, and cultural interests by engaging a younger demographic in several distinct areas, including business and career development, networking, cultural and community involvement, educational opportunities, volunteerism, and recreational and social activities. The lunch series, formerly called the CEO Luncheon Series, is meant to highlight prominent local business owners who are successfully working in the city.

HCC Offers Free Culinary-hospitality Training to the Unemployed

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is using a $190,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to train unemployed and underemployed people for new jobs in the culinary and hospitality industry. The program is free to participants, who must commit to attend classes every day for nine weeks, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The course teaches them fundamental culinary skills and exposes them to a wide variety of careers in hospitality, including hotel operations. “It’s a hands-on opportunity to try out a lot of things and find out what their interests and aptitudes are,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, HCC’s assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development. “Another key part of the program is that, when it ends, they have to let us help them find a job.” The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced the grant earlier this year. Commonwealth Corp., a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education, and workforce organizations, administers the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund. Students graduate from the program with four key credentials: ServSafe and OSHA-10 certifications, which show they have been trained in safe food handling and workplace safety; TIPS certification, which allows them to serve alcohol; and a National Career Readiness certification, which demonstrates they possess fundamental workplace skills. The first cohort of students started in October and will celebrate their graduation today, Dec. 15, as they prepare and serve a noontime meal for family and friends at Food 101 Bar & Bistro in South Hadley. The restaurant is owned by chef Alan Anischik, who serves as the main instructor for the program. Most of the classes meet at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke. Last week, in preparation for the graduation celebration, the class met at Food 101. In addition to cooking techniques, the program offers lessons in customer-service etiquette, workplace communication, conflict resolution, product purchasing and receiving, and food and wine pairing. During the course, students had the opportunity to attend a job seminar with representatives from MGM Resorts to learn about future employment opportunities at the casino now under construction in Springfield. They also participated in speed interviews with local employers from the restaurant and hotel industry. The next program cohort begins March 23. Anyone interested should contact Milissa Daniels at (413) 552-2042.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Melanie Gagnon, a working student who is in real estate sales, sees a new program at Springfield Technical Community College as a terrific opportunity to take her career to a higher level.

“I personally don’t want to devote my life 100% to just selling houses,” said Gagnon, 36, of Springfield. “I don’t want to be residential. I want to be a part of bigger things, and this helps.”

What types of bigger things? That could mean possibly working as a community or regional planner, or taking a job that requires emergency planning such as when a city is devastated by a natural disaster.

Gagnon is one of four students currently pursuing a degree through a new STCC major called Real Estate Planning and Sustainable Development. Professor Warren Hall, department chair in the Architecture and Building Technology program at STCC, developed the option for students like Gagnon and others who have an eye on a career in sustainable community development, architectural design or a related field.

Real Estate Planning and Sustainable Development provides students with necessary training and an affordable path to a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree, said Hall, who served for seven years on the Planning Board in Pelham and also was Pelham’s commissioner to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

Hall said the new program was designed in response to changes in the building and planning industry.

“The fact is with so much of what we do today we need to look through that lens of sustainability,” Hall said. “That’s something the industry has been stressing.”

“Sustainability” in community development refers to the concept of planning to meet not only the current needs of residents, but to ensure adequate resources are available for future generations. Hall teaches students to consider factors such as the environmental impact of community development. Sustainable development also considers the social impact involved with urban growth and sprawl.

Real Estate Planning and Sustainable Development is one of three options in STCC’s Architecture and Building Technology program. The others are Architecture and Project Management. The new option officially starts in fall 2017.

The Real Estate Planning and Sustainable Development major was created for students who plan to complete at least their bachelor’s degree after earning their associate degree from STCC. After earning a bachelor’s degree, students may choose to explore career options, but they also might decide to continue their academic studies in a variety of graduate-degree programs, such as Master of Architecture, Master of Design Studies or Master of Regional Planning.

Hall highlighted one of the exciting and affordable options his students can choose: They can continue to earn their master’s in regional planning through a unique “2+2+1” agreement between STCC and the UMass at Amherst.

Students complete two years at STCC and then transfer to UMass or Westfield State University for another two years to receive a bachelor’s degree. After earning the bachelor’s degree, they would enroll in a one-year master’s in regional planning program at UMass.

“These students can have a master’s degree in regional planning in five years. That’s amazing,” Hall said.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The state named Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) a 2016 Leading by Example Award Winner in the higher-education category for its efforts to advance energy efficiency and sustainability on campus.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recently recognized STCC and other state agencies, public colleges, municipalities, and public-sector individuals for their leadership in promoting clean energy and environmental initiatives with the 10th annual Leading by Example Awards.

The Leading by Example program — a division of the Department of Energy Resources — coordinates clean energy and environmental opportunities at facilities owned and operated by the Commonwealth.

“As a member of the Greater Springfield community, we believe it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and promote the use of clean energy and sustainable practices,” said Joseph DaSilva, STCC’s vice president of Administration and chief financial officer. “We are proud of the accomplishments we have made so far. We continue to develop and implement new initiatives regularly. All of our initiatives are not only environmentally necessary, but also save us a great deal of money operationally.”

According the Department of Energy Resources, STCC was recognized for its progress and creative approach to reducing its carbon footprint. STCC has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions more than 40% percent since 2011. The college is implementing several sustainability efforts, including energy efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, and a green building renovation.

Highlights of STCC’s clean-energy efforts include upgrading the heating system in fiscal year 2014, saving an estimated $200,000 a year; adding insulation, upgraded windows, and installed LED lights across campus to address efficiency challenges in historic buildings; connecting the curriculum of the Architecture and Building Technology Program to the historic building-renovation project targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver certification; switching to single-stream recycling in 2015, and upgrading containers and signage; reducing use of disposable water bottles with six bottle-filling stations on campus; implementing a double-sided printing requirement, reducing paper waste and saving an estimated $14,000 a year in printing costs; and streamlining the campus shuttle route to save fuel and reduce emissions.

“As Massachusetts works to reduce energy costs, usage, and emissions, our state, municipal, and public partners continue to set an impressive example for others to follow,” Baker said. “The foresight to embrace energy and environmental innovations throughout the Commonwealth’s cities, towns, universities, and other locations saves taxpayers and ratepayers millions.”

Added Polito, “Massachusetts’ colleges, universities, and municipalities are on the front lines of energy and environmental innovation. Our administration is committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth continues to be an example for the positive benefits of adopting clean energy and environmental practices.”

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Jennifer Tabakin

Jennifer Tabakin says Great Barrington wants to partner with a developer interested in a historic reuse of a former school in Housatonic Village.

Two years ago Christopher Rembold described investment in Great Barrington as a “rising wave.”

That surge has continued to gain force, and today Rembold says the wave has arrived, as major projects downtown come to fruition that were spurred in part by a $5.2 million renovation of Main Street that was finished this summer and includes new drainage, sidewalks, traffic signals, and landscaping.

“Recently permitted and planned private investment has totaled close to $70 million over the past year, and we’re seeing the type of growth we wanted to encourage,” said the town planner. “Many places talk about forming public-private investment partnerships, but it has actually happened here; there is a lot of activity going on and a lot of opportunity.”

He noted that the town’s goal has been to build a foundation for economic growth centered in its downtown area.

Now that the Main Street project is complete, Bridge Street will become the next focus, and a $2 million renovation will begin next spring, funded by a MassWorks grant that will replace crumbling sidewalks, improve poor drainage, and address deterioration not conducive to business.

In addition, the town and the Mass. Department of Transportation have partnered and will spend $2 million on the Bridge Street Bridge; plans are also progressing on a $9 million to $10 million upgrade of the sewer-treatment plant to accommodate investment and meet new environmental standards.

The work hasn’t been completed yet, but developers have already sprung into action, and a number of major projects on Bridge Street have been permitted (more about those later) that will preserve historic structures, retain the town’s charm, and add not only market rate and affordable housing, but new retail and office space.

Town officials attribute the willingness to invest in Great Barrington to a number of factors: its excellent schools, award-winning Fairview Hospital, two colleges, unique shops and eateries, abundant recreational opportunities, beautiful open space, and generations of families and business owners who have made it their home and care deeply about the community.

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin told BusinessWest that all the private investments being made are by developers who live in Berkshire County and recognize the value of Great Barrington as the hub of South County.

“We’re a small town with a lot of amenities that you would only expect to find in a metropolitan area; we have an excellent school district and a significant number of theaters, yoga studios, and restaurants downtown,” Tabakin noted. “We also have historic architecture, unique local businesses, and a very active Chamber of Commerce that encompasses 13 communities. Many people come here to work, shop, eat, and enjoy our cultural activities. The number of people who work here every day is greater than the number of residents in town.”

Although growth has surged and is expected to be ongoing, officials note it has been carefully crafted and is in complete alignment with the town’s master plan, created several years ago to preserve Great Barrington’s small-town feel and charm while supporting investments centered around its downtown.

“One of the priorities of the master plan was to cluster new residential and commercial space in the center of town, which allows us to preserve open space in the surrounding rural and scenic areas,” said Tabakin. “We’re seeing that implemented, which is very exciting.”

Reuse of Historic Sites

Bridge Street will see new life in the coming years due to a number of new projects.

For example, Chrystal and Vijay Mahida plan a $25 million historic renovation of the former Searles School at 79 Bridge St. that will transform the four-story property into an 88-room, four-star hotel called the Berkshire, and create 30 new full-time jobs when it opens in 2018.

“We have a limited amount of hotel and conference space, and the new hotel will fill the gap while preserving the historic façade of the school, which is downtown and two minutes from our Town Hall and theaters,” Rembold said, adding that the couple lives in Great Barrington and own the Fairfield Marriott Hotel in town.

“It’s an excellent project because it will bring additional businesses into town, support existing and future businesses, and have a real fiscal impact due to the hotel and meal taxes it will generate,” he continued.

 

Many places talk about forming public-private investment partnerships, but it has actually happened here; there is a lot of activity going on and a lot of opportunity.”

 

Another major project at 100 Bridge St. will be built on a brownfields site that the Community Development Corp. has been working to clean up for two decades.

Nearly 50 units of affordable housing have been permitted on the eight-acre site, and there are plans to build a public park on two acres in a future phase of the project.

“Not only is there a real need for affordable housing here, there is support for it,” Rembold noted. “Some towns take a negative view, but Great Barrington has made affordable housing fit. We hope families will move into the new downtown units and be able to walk to work and the grocery store.”

Benchmark Development, based in Lenox, also has plans for a new project that will include the Great Barrington Co-Op Market at 42 Bridge St.

“The Co-Op has been busting at the seams for several years,” Rembold said, noting that the owners want to stay in town and will be the anchor tenant in the new, three-story building that Benchmark plans to erect. Their permit application is expected to be submitted this month.

“The project will allow us to retain jobs and create new ones,” he continued, adding that the co-op will be on the ground floor, retail shops will occupy the street floor (the land slopes), and 22 one- and two-bedroom apartment units will be built on the upper floor. A second phase of the project, which is not expected to kick off for about two years, could add 36 additional apartments, which would increase residential living spaces within walking distance of downtown.

“It’s a story of public investment in infrastructure that created a positive environment, which encouraged private investment,” Tabakin said.

Another major historic renovation recently permitted at 47 Railroad St. involves a $4 million renovation of the existing downtown building.

47 Railroad LLC plans to convert the former restaurant and bar on the first floor into three units of retail space, and build an addition in the back that will house two stores.

The second floor will become home to seven market-rate apartments, and the third floor will have five apartment units and a rooftop garden that will be accessible from the hallway.

Ancillary Growth

Housatonic is a small village within Great Barrington that is home to about 1,000 residents as well as the Monument Mills Complex that offers breathtaking views of the Housatonic River, Monument Mountain, and Flag Rock.

“The village is a historic gem, and all of the mills are partially occupied by businesses that are leaders in their field, such as Country Curtains,” Tabakin said.

But there is still space available, and the town is seeking a developer to partner with on an historic adaptive reuse of a three-story, 20,000-square-foot former elementary school with an adjacent parking lot in a way that will benefit the local economy.

“We hope it will become an anchor building that will spur further development in the mills,” Tabakin said, noting that businesses ranging from a dance studio to artists’ studios recently moved into the complex.

The town will continue to facilitate investment and has upgraded roads and passed new zoning that preserves the historic area while accommodating new, mixed-use development. In addition, Great Barrington recently received close to $2 million in grants to preserve the stock of affordable housing in the village and make more infrastructure improvements, and the state will begin rehabilitating the Park Street Bridge in coming weeks.

“We’re trying to set the stage for growth in Housatonic like we did in our downtown so it can blossom, and we are already seeing it happen on a smaller scale,” Rembold told BusinessWest.

To that end, a mill owner on the north side of the village is working to secure historic tax credits for a mixed-use development in the structure’s 250,000 square feet, and a historic church and old train station have become world-class recording studios.

“Housatonic is a very small, quiet area with historic charm and interesting architecture,” Tabakin said. “People have lived there for generations and care about the community.”

Historic Charm

Great Barrington officials are pleased that the growth that is occurring in their town aligns with what the community wants.

“People come to the Berkshires because of its beautiful scenery, so preserving it is important. But we also want to preserve history, which includes our buildings and downtown; they are reasons why people want to visit and live here,” Rembold said.

Tabakin concurred. “All of the ongoing projects are preserving and enhancing what is unique about Great Barrington. There was a lot of pent-up desire while people were waiting for Main Street to be finished, and building owners have been making improvements since it was finished.”

The Bridge Street public and private projects promise to generate another wave of enthusiasm, and as residents move into new housing, dine in new eateries, and shop in new retail stores, the tide can only continue to rise.

Great Barrington at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 7,014
Area: 45.2 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $14.60
Commercial Tax Rate: $14.60
Median Household Income: $45,149
Family Household Income: $75,238
Type of government: Open town meeting
Largest Employers: Fairview Dialysis Center; Fairview Hospital; Kutsher’s Sports Academy; Prairie Whale
Latest information available

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Michael Sundell and Mayor Karen Cadieux

Michael Sundell and Mayor Karen Cadieux say the new Mill 180 Park is a unique venue that provides people with a place to relax, have fun, and enjoy nature free of charge.

It’s a park like no other.

To begin with, it’s inside an old mill building and filled with a seemingly endless array of large, leafy edible plants that are used to prepare foods in the open restaurant that sits in the park’s center. The plants are grown hydroponically, or without soil, and are nourished with lights and a special mineral solution.

There are spaces inside the park’s 14,000 square feet to suit every mood: private and communal seating areas, a mushroom house designed to be an enclosed area for meetings and other gatherings, an amphitheater built for lounging and conversation, and the multi-level Hamptonaeum, which park owner Michael Sundel says is a modern version of space set aside centuries ago by towns and cities to promote learning.

The park, which opened Sept. 7, has already put down roots in the community, and on a recent day families were enjoying the golf putting area, ring toss, bocce, and two cornhole games in a space where Sundel hopes to start cornhole leagues this winter.

To make things even better, the park is open seven days a week, there is no admission charge, and everything — except the food in the restaurant — is free.

Indeed, Mill 180 Park in Easthampton is a new concept and pilot that Sundel created to give children and adults a place to do things they would normally enjoy in an urban yard on a year-round basis.

“I wanted to give people the sense that they are in nature in a place that is educational, fun, and relaxing,” he told BusinessWest, adding that his background is in software and he hopes he can sell the idea and expand the park in the future.

It’s a quiet place filled with relaxing sounds, created through a process known as weatherbending; the sounds change constantly according to elements such as the local weather, the time of day and time of year, and the cycles of seeding, growing, maturing, and harvesting in the hydroponic gardens.

Visitors have been treated to live music on Friday nights, birthday parties have been held there, and so has a Democratic Committee meeting, among other meetings. And the park has applied for one of the eight new all-alcohol liquor licenses Easthampton has granted to stimulate business downtown and in the Mill District.

Mayor Karen Cadieux loves the park, has attended events in it, and sees it as an exciting addition to a multitude of projects that have been taking place in Easthampton.

“We are just buzzing with economic growth and have had eight ribbon-cuttings in the last month alone,” she said, noting that the grand-opening events took place at diverse businesses ranging from Mill 180 Park to a new club where people can play table tennis, an interior-design studio, an art studio, a laser and cosmetic-surgery center, and a manufacturing facility.

Some of the businesses are new ventures, others chose to move to the city, and still others changed their location within Easthampton because they needed room to expand.

But they all speak to the vitality of a city that has transformed its mills, created a thriving arts district, and become a destination, thanks to public and private investments and partnerships thoughtfully forged between the city and its business community.

For this edition, BusinessWest continues its Community Spotlight series with a look at what is happening in Easthampton and the factors that have led to what Cadieux calls “a whirlwind of economic activity.”

Reinventing Space

Developer Mike Michon, who is responsible for the revitalization of Mill 180, purchased it after deciding in 2008 to move his family to Western Mass.

They were living on the South Shore, and he looked at sites in Springfield and Holyoke before finding Mill 180, which he purchased largely due to its location.

“I did a demographic study before I moved here, met people in City Hall, and thought it was a nice place to do business. Everyone in town has been very supportive,” he said.

The mill was in really bad shape when he bought it, but the fact that it faces Mt. Tom and has a pond, bike path, and park behind it appealed to him.

“I thought it would be a great place for mixed-use development,” Michon said, adding that it took a year to put the deal together, but he found the city “very developer-friendly” as he obtained the permits needed to move forward.

Today, in addition to the new indoor park, Mill 180 is home to the Conway School of Landscape Architecture, a number of software and advertising companies, a machine shop, and an insurance company, all of which occupy the first two floors.

The mill’s third floor contains 24 high-end, market-rate apartments with beautiful views. The final units were completed in June, and although rents are as high as $2,400 per month, they were all pre-rented before they were finished.

Phase 3 of the six-mile section of the Manhan Rail Trail that runs through Easthampton behind the mills was recently completed and is expected to bring foot and vehicular traffic to tenants, include new breweries with outdoor patios facing the bike path, and all types of businesses.

Phase 3 included a new, 1.4 million-square-foot, lighted parking lot that runs behind all of the mill buildings; walkways that provide access from the bike path to the parking lot; and a retaining wall that separates the parking area from the rail trail.

Michon said the changes and new parking lot are a wonderful example of a very successful public-private venture that was funded by three major MassWorks grants.

Cadieux noted that the Pleasant Street Mills Project started with work by the city so the fire department could access the back of the building.

But it quickly morphed into a larger project: the mills were rezoned for mixed use, and the city worked closely with the Pleasant Street owners.

Michon played an important role, as he recognized in 2010 that more parking was needed, and after talking with legislators, he and another mill owner spent a significant amount of money upgrading their spaces.

The magnitude of the project also led Eversource (formerly WMECO) to upgrade the electric lines going into the buildings.

“It’s something they had not planned to do for 10 years, but they were inspired by the project and the fact that the mill owners invested money to do renovations at the same time,” Cadieux said.

Today, thanks to three substantial MassWorks grants, three of the revitalized, 19th-century brick mill buildings have been connected, there is a main public entryway behind them, and the expanded parking lot that ties the back of the mills to the Manhan Rail Trail, Lower Mill Pond, and CCC Park, on the other side of the rail trail behind the mills, was finally finished several weeks ago.

“It’s incredible to get grants for three years from the state, but it’s because of our success story,” Cadieux said. “It’s an example of state dollars put to use at their best.”

Diverse Growth

The majority of change taking place in Easthampton is occurring in the Mill District and the Cottage Street Cultural District, which was one of the first cultural districts approved by the state.

Cadieux said three grand openings were staged over the past month in the Keystone Mill Building at 122 Pleasant St., where ongoing renovations have been made to suit tenants.

Design House 413 Kitchen Showroom recently held a grand opening in the building, and so did New England Felting Supply and KW Home, which both moved from the former Majestic Theater building on Cottage Street because they needed room to expand.

Cadieux said the space they had occupied was filled immediately by Off the Map Tattoo, another Easthampton business which had outgrown its space, but wanted to stay in the city and was able to consolidate its operations under one roof in its new location at 82½ Cottage St.

“We were really excited that Off the Map found the space they needed because we didn’t want to lose the business,” Cadieux said, noting that, in addition to offering tattoos and tattoo removal, the business hosts guest artists, offers a wide array of special events and educational seminars, and has other locations in Colorado and Italy.

Another unusual new business — Zing! Table Tennis Club — also opened in the past few weeks in a 3,800-square-foot space at 122 Pleasant St.

Cadieux told BusinessWest that the ribbon cuttings are expected to continue, because an entirely new business is waiting to open in the Keystone Mill Building.

Easthampton officials approved a 27,000-square-foot medical-marijuana cultivation and dispensary/retail store in March that will be operated by Hampden County Care Facility Inc. and is expected to create 50 new jobs. At this point, the company is waiting for state approval to open.

However, the mills are not the only area where growth is occurring. A ribbon cutting was held several weeks ago at the Button Building on 123 Union St. when Dr. William Truswell, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon, moved his Aesthetic Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Center from Northampton to Easthampton.

“The Button Building was purchased several years ago by Five Star Building Corp., has been completely renovated, and is almost filled to capacity,” Cadieux said.

In addition, on Sept. 23, two artists opened Spot 22 in the Cottage Street Cultural District. Amy Johnquest, who makes custom-painted banners under the BannerQueen moniker, is sharing the space with photo dealer Stacy Waldman, who collects and sells vintage snapshots, photographs, and ephemera under the name House of Mirth, and the business is expected to bring a new element to the thriving area.

“We’re very lucky to be able to maintain our economic diversity,” Cadieux said.

She attributes the accelerated growth that has taken place in the city over the past few years to the single tax rate, the vibrancy of the community, and the unusually strong partnerships that exist between the city and its businesses.

But they have been carefully forged, and the mayor is doing all she can to facilitate growth.

For example, whenever a business is interested in moving to Easthampton she sets up a meeting with city officials, that include the fire and police chiefs, the city planner, a health agent, and representatives from the Building Commission and Department of Public Works, who sit down with the business owner and let them know what they need to do before they go in front of the regulatory board.

“It has worked out very well; businesses are attracted to a thriving community, and that’s what we are,” Cadieux said.

The city also updated its website several months ago, making it more user friendly as well as comprehensive, and published a Small Business Permitting Guide in June.

And in June, the mayor staged a so-called ‘Listening Session’ for the entire business community, and their concerns were taken into consideration in a review undertaken by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to determine if ordinances need to be changed to keep the city competitive with surrounding communities.

“I wanted to find out if we are over-regulated, under-regulated, and if we are really competitive,” Cadieux said, adding the report was just completed.

Moving Forward

Dramatic changes that have occurred in Easthampton in recent years include the revitalization of the mill area and the fact that the city has become a place known for the arts, thanks to Cottage Street’s designation by the Mass Cultural Council as a Cultural District.

“That area is thriving and filled with artists, restaurants, and businesses. We’ve been working on the downtown area for many years and it’s an amazing build out,” Cadieux said, noting the addition of three breweries and the $945,000 Nashawannuk Pond Promenade Park which was finished last year and boasts a boardwalk, three handicapped boat ramps, and an area for fishing, have made Easthampton a destination location.

“It’s all a continuum of how we have been rebuilding the community; there is so much going on here that it is difficult to focus on any one thing,” Cadieux said.

Which makes Mill 180 Park even more important, because it provides residents with an unusual place to relax, have fun and enjoy the beauty of nature — albeit, inside.

Easthampton at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1809
Population: 16,036
Area: 13.6 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential Tax Rate: $15.59
Commercial Tax Rate: $15.59
Median Household Income: $57,134
Family Household Income: $78,281
Type of government: Mayor, City Council
Largest employers: Berry Plastics; Williston Northampton School; National Non Wovens; October Co.

* Latest information available

Education Sections

A New Test

John Cook

John Cook

John Cook, who only recently became ineligible for BusinessWest’s Forty Under 40 program, took the reins at Springfield Technical Community College last month. Beyond youth — he’s not that much older than many students on this historic campus — he brings energy and a leadership style grounded in being a good listener.

As one passes through the ornate main entrance to Springfield Technical Community College, to the right is a small parking lot with a few reserved spaces. John Cook’s name is on one of them.

Well, not literally, but there is certainly a spot set aside for the president of the institution, a title Cook assumed just a few weeks ago. But he has made up his mind that he won’t be using it.

Instead, he might, like some of the college’s students themselves, try to find a spot reasonably far up the steep Pearl Street hill, several hundred yards away from that choice space, and walk through the campus to the main administration building.

He fully understands that this is a symbolic gesture, and one that certainly won’t impact the school’s persistent parking issue/challenge/problem — whatever one chooses to call it — in any significant way.

But he nonetheless considers it an important gesture because it indicates how he intends to manage — by listening closely and responding to what he hears. Far more meaningful answers to the parking situation will eventually become reality, he told BusinessWest, and in the meantime, he intends to be part of the solution is some small way — and also do some more listening while getting from Pearl Street, or wherever he finds a spot, to Garvey Hall.

“During the interview process, people asked about my style, my approach, and for me that’s a very difficult question,” he said while answering essentially the same question when put to him by BusinessWest. “Because for me, a lot of that approach is demonstrating appreciation for others and being a good listener. And it’s hard when you’re asked the question and are asked to respond, because what I really want to do is go around and ask questions of other people and give them a chance to be heard.”

The young Cook — he only recently became ineligible for BusinessWest’s Forty Under 40 program — has been doing plenty of listening for the past six months or so, through that interview process and then during his first few weeks on the job, and he’s intent on continuing that habit.

In fact, he has already put in motion some plans to open the lines of communication between himself and a host of constituencies — and keep them open. One involves blocking off time each week for open office hours — they started last week — while the other entails scheduling what he calls ‘town-meeting’ sessions.

The former, as the name implies, is time when his office door is open, literally and figuratively, to anyone who wants to go through it. That includes faculty, staff, students, and “the community,” he said, adding that he’ll make himself available from noon to 1, but also in the early evening (5:15-6:15) for those who would be on campus those hours.

From left, John Cook, state Sen. Eric Lesser, and STCC trustee Eric Hagopian

From left, John Cook, state Sen. Eric Lesser, and STCC trustee Eric Hagopian, president of the Mass. Center for Advanced Design & Manufacturing, tour ‘Building 19,’ the future home of STCC’s Learning Commons.

As for the town meetings, these will involve the entire college community, he explained, and will feature an open, interactive format, one where he will share the microphone and welcome input.

“Rather than having me stand and deliver for a period of time,” he explained, “we’ll have our vice presidents up there giving updates on critical projects, and we’re going to take questions.”

Cook, most recently the vice president of Academic Affairs at Manchester (N.H.) Community College (MCC), takes the helm in Springfield during a milestone moment in the school’s history — a year-long 50th anniversary celebration. And while acknowledging that this might be a good time to look inward and set new goals, he said this occasion is better suited for reaffirming established goals and recommitting the institution to its simple, but at the same time complex, mission statement: ‘STCC supports students as they transform their lives.’

I didn’t look at many schools, and in my search, this was the only one where there seemed to be an early match, an early fit. I’m lucky that STCC and I found one another.”

Support comes in many forms, obviously, but mostly in the realm of helping students arriving at the historic campus — carved out of the Springfield Armory — see their way through to graduation or whatever goal they set when they enrolled.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked at length with STCC’s new president about new his career challenge and the start of the school’s proverbial next 50 years.

Setting the Scene

To say that Cook’s office on the second floor of Garvey Hall takes on a Granite State look and feel would a large understatement.

Parked against one wall is his first pair of skis (they’re wooden and considerably older than he is, although he doesn’t know exactly how old). Meanwhile, photos of snow-capped peaks adorn other walls, and a map of New Hampshire, where he had spent the sum of his professional career, hangs behind his desk.

“It provides a sense of place,” he said of this collection. “Where we went to college matters, and where we grew up matters. These are little reminders of where I’m from.”

But while his office speaks of where he’s been personally and professionally and provides that sense of place, he says he feels right at home with what he can see outside his windows, as well.

And by that, he was referring to everything from the community college atmosphere, to the similarities between MCC and STCC (more on those later), and even to the century-and-half-old buildings that give the school its unique flavor.

“I have a real healthy appreciation for historic structures,” he explained with a laugh, using those words in reference to both architecture and the high cost of upkeep. “Because I’ve helped to renovate two antique houses, both dating to the late 1700s. These buildings (at STCC), they’re oldies, but goodies; you just can’t build that kind of character any more.”

These were just some of the many motivating factors that prompted Cook to zero in on STCC as an attractive landing spot as he initiated his quest for a college president’s job — a search that began only a year ago, or just after the ink was dry on his doctorate diploma, earned at the University of New Hampshire. (A Ph.D. is considered almost a pre-requisite for presidents’ jobs today).

Elaborating, Cook said that while he wasn’t sure if his next career challenge would (or should) be a chief academic officer’s position at a larger institution or a presidency, he certainly felt qualified — and ready — for the latter.

Especially at a community college, because of work in everything from new-degree-program development to efforts to forge pathways — from high school to college, and then from MCC to four-year institutions.

Those are just some of the accomplishments listed on his resume, which notes that upon graduating from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and then earning a master’s degree in community/social psychology at UMass Lowell, Cook started his career at Granite State College, part of New Hampshire’s public university system, as a research and evaluation coordinator in 2000. He would later become faculty coordinator at the school, and eventually serve as assistant dean of Faculty.

In 2012, he became vice president of Academic Affairs at MCC, a small community college (at least when compared to STCC) with just under 3,000 students and 55 full-time faculty.

At MMC, he took a lead role in the development of a number of new dregree and certificate programs across several academic realms, including Health Science, Life Science, Robotics, and Cyber Security. He also collaborated with a number of parties to create early-college pathway programs for high schools, encouraged faculty to embrace STEM pathways, and worked to build a culture that, as he put it, “embraces data and an analytical approach to decision-making.”

With this background, buffeted by that aforementioned doctorate, as well as some strong encouragement from MCC President Susan Huard, Cook began looking at college president positions. And as things turned out, he didn’t have to look very long or hard before coming across an opportunity that seemed worthy of that adjective ‘perfect,’ both professionally and personally (this job allows him to remain very close to his two young children from a previous marriage, who are still living in New Hampshire).

“I feel very fortunate — people who have been there, people who have been presidents of multiple institutions tell me that often, you’re looking for months, sometimes years, for the right institution,” he told BusinessWest. “I didn’t look at many schools, and in my search, this was the only one where there seemed to be an early match, an early fit. I’m lucky that STCC and I found one another.”

By that, he meant that he identified the school as the focal point of his quest for a president’s job, and the search committee, following an intense, six-month exploratory and interview process, deemed him the best candidate to take it into the next half-century, following the 12-year tenure of Ira Rubenzahl, who succeeded Andy Scibelli, who spent 21 years in the president’s office.

Those two leaders have taken the school to new and lofty heights, said Cook, adding that he considers it his responsibility to continue and build upon this legacy.

Course of Action

Looking back on the lengthy search process for STCC’s next president, Cook said he was asked a number of intriguing questions during several interviews — and, as might be expected based on what he said earlier, he had several for those on the other side of the table.

STCC during its 50th anniversary

John Cook takes the helm at STCC during its 50th anniversary, a time, he said, to recommit to its message of helping students succeed.

One of them was a rather direct query about what members of the search panel were looking for in the next leader of the school. Words and phrases that came back repeatedly were ‘accessible,’ ‘approachable, ‘forward-thinking,’ and someone willing to be a “champion” for the school and community colleges in general.

He intends to be all of the above with actions that go well beyond giving up his parking space.

For starters, he noted his open office hours and planned town meetings, as well as that leadership style of listening and demonstrating appreciation.

Through such initiatives, and with such skill sets, Cook feels he’s ready and able to lead efforts to address the many challenges facing the school moving forward and outlined in a recently drafted strategic plan. They include:

• That aforementioned parking problem. It’s not exactly a recent phenomenon, in fact the challenge is in many respects as old as the school. But it remains a constant and is always a consideration with the next item on the list;

• Enrollment. It soared during the Great Recession, as it did at all area public schools, but has retreated since, for reasons ranging from a vast improvement in the economy to smaller high school graduating classes;

• The ongoing restoration and renovation of the structure known as Building 19, a huge, 700-foot-long former storage house for the Armory that is being converted into a campus center that will host a wide array of offices and programs. Conceived and nurtured by Rubenzahl, the project will reorient the campus and shift most activity from the main administration building to ’19,’ as it’s called, on the north side of the campus;

• Continuing the collaborative efforts between STCC and Holyoke Community College, forged by Rubenzah and his counterpart at HCC (now also retired) Bill Messner. Formerly, and in many ways still, rivals (at least when it comes to enrollment and athletics), the schools have come together on many projects in recent years, especially the TWO (Training and Workforce Options) program that has helped area companies develop talented workers and close a recognized skills gap. Cook said it will be one of his priorities to continue the collaborative efforts and initiate new ones.

But the broader, overriding assignment will be to certainly carry out the school’s mission and help students succeed, he said, adding there are many elements to this equation.

Indeed, the college needs to not only help students with academics and put them on a track to success, but keep them on it.

“Some of it, in fact a big part of it, is life — how do we help students with those issues, not just education,” Cook explained, noting that many STCC students cannot be described with that industry term ‘traditional.’ “They’re working a lot, they’re raising families, there’s transportation issues; all those things influence our students, regardless of their age.”

Cook said that the recently announced Commonwealth Commitment program would certainly help with this assignment.

The initiative incentivizes individuals (through rebates on tuition and fees and a $30,000 cap on the cost of a four-year degree) to enter a community college, graduate in two and half years or less, move on to one of the state universities or UMass campuses, and wrap up a baccalaureate degree in no more than four and a half years.

“This really helps incentivize students to not just go part time,” he explained. “If you can find the wherewithal to go full time, you’re going to earn that associate’s in two years, tuition has been frozen for you, and that really helps see them through to that bachelor’s.”

Thus, the program also further escalates the role community colleges are playing in preparing individuals for today’s technology-based economy, he noted, adding that these institutions are ready for, and well-suited for, this heighted responsibility.

“One of the things community colleges, and especially STCC, have is the ability to respond quickly and nimbly to changing needs within the community,” he explained. “If a community college partner says ‘we have a need,’ we can help with that assessment, and sometimes, in a short time, have a training program ready for them.”

Hot Spot

Returning to the matter of where his car will reside, Cook acknowledged, again, that his gesture was not intended to solve the problem.

“We’ve got creative an innovative ways to put that spot to better use,” he explained. “It’s one spot for our hundreds of staff and faculty and thousands, but it’s not much for me to park on Pearl Street and walk on over.”

By doing so, he gets to demonstrate his sensitivity to the issue, and, more importantly, do something he likes much more than answering questions: Asking them.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Agenda Departments

Classes on Elder Law, Estate Planning

Sept. 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 3: Attorney Karen Jackson, owner and senior attorney of Jackson Law, an elder-law and estate-planning firm, will teach a series of three classes highlighting the latest developments in elder law and estate planning at Holyoke Community College on three consecutive Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m.Jackson said each class is a standalone presentation; those who are unable to attend on Sept. 19 are welcome to attend one or both of the subsequent sessions.Through stories and real examples, Jackson will present comprehensive subject matter on these topics: “The Core Estate Plan,” “The Probate Process, Start to Finish,” and “Medicare, Community Care Programs, and MassHealth Planning.”In the first session, Jackson will explain each document in the core estate plan. She will discuss the problems that can occur when proper documents are not prepared before a loss of mental capacity or physical health or before sudden loss of life. She will also provide an overview of the different types of trusts that can be considered in estate planning, including supplemental needs trusts, revocable trusts, and irrevocable trusts.The second session will address the probate-court process. Jackson will discuss the different types of probate, explain how to determine which assets must go through probate after a death, and what estate planning can be done now.In her final session, Jackson will introduce the various Medicaid programs that provide community and long-term skilled nursing care in Massachusetts and the financial assistance associated with each. She will also address hot topics in Medicare law, supplemental-needs trusts, and new developments in significant elder-law issues.The cost is $85 per person and covers all three classes; participants cannot pay for individual sessions. To register, call Holyoke Community College at (413) 552-2500 or visit www.hcc.edu/bce.

Mutts & Mimosas

Sept. 25: Dakin Humane Society will present its fourth annual Mutts & Mimosas fund-raising event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Quonquont Farm & Orchard in Whately, rain or shine. Guests are encouraged to bring their dogs to the brunch, which will feature a make-your-own-mimosa bar, live music, a raffle and silent auction, apple picking, dog-walking trails, and other fun activities. The food will be catered by Seth Mias, and an optional dog meal is available for $10. Event attendees are asked to bring dry or canned cat food to support Dakin’s pet food-bank program. Tickets are $50 per person and can be ordered online at www.dakinhumane.org or by calling Event Manager Gina Ciprari at (413) 781-4000, ext. 136. “Mutts & Mimosas is such a fun and unusual gathering, and it’s become a tradition among Dakin supporters and dog enthusiasts,” said Dakin Executive Director Carmine DiCenso. “People really embrace this event because it gives them the chance to have fun with their dogs, and Quonquont Farm offers an ideal and relaxing setting. Mutts & Mimosas is a very important benefit for the homeless animals we care for, and each ticket sold helps us extend our services to more animals and their people.” Finck and Perras Insurance Agency Inc. of Florence and Easthampton is the corporate sponsor for Mutts & Mimosas. Media sponsors include 94.7 WMAS, Bear Country 95.3, the Republican, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and the Recorder.

Spirit of the Written Word

Sept. 29 to Dec. 8: Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Oncology Department will offer a free writing workshop, Spirit of the Written Word, for Western Mass. residents touched by cancer. The 10-week workshop will take place on Thursdays, Sept. 29 through Dec. 8 (no class on Nov. 24), from 6 to 8 p.m., at Artspace, 15 Mill St., Greenfield. Attendees are encouraged to promote their own healing and experience the therapeutic benefits of group writing. No writing experience is required, and all sharing is voluntary and confidential. Refreshments will be provided. Facilitating the workshop is Pam Roberts, a writer, artist, and certified yoga instructor who is also a breast-cancer survivor of more than 20 years. An ordained graduate of the IM School of Healing Arts in New York City, she has been leading writing workshops for people affected by cancer and loss for more than 11 years. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Roberts found writing to be an important part of her healing process. She believes deeply in the transformative and healing power of writing within a safe and supportive workshop environment. The workshop is being sponsored by BFMC Oncology and is grant-funded by Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Wheeling for Healing Bike/Walk/Run Event supporting cancer services at BFMC. The Spirit of the Written Word writing workshop is limited to 12 participants, and registration is required. To register, or for more information, contact Roberts at (413) 625-2402 or [email protected] Information is also available in the Oncology Department at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

‘Holyoke Renaissance: Rising from the Ashes’

Through Oct. 29: During September and October, Wistariahurst is hosting a new exhibit titled “Holyoke Renaissance: Rising from the Ashes.” Three area artists are showcasing architecture as art in a joint exhibition celebrating the renaissance of the city of Holyoke. The exhibit by artists Debra Dunphy, Nancy Howard, and Kristine Villeneuve-Topor features various views of the old industrial city of Holyoke and its architectural designs. Holyoke is currently undergoing a transformation that is renewing much of the downtown after suffering urban blight for decades. Works on display include local landmarks and streetscapes from around the city and are presented to shine a light on the beautiful art and architecture in the city. The exhibit will run through Saturday, Oct. 29. Gallery viewing hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission to the gallery is available for a $3 suggested donation.

Northeast Training Institute

Oct. 4-5: The International Business Innovation Assoc. (InBIA), in partnership with the Assoc. of Cleantech Incubators of New England (ACTION), will host a two-day Northeast Training Institute at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke. Four courses will be offered for the professional development of incubator managers or those exploring the development of an incubator or accelerator program in their community. Those who should consider attending include  business incubation and acceleration professionals, university administrators and faculty in entrepreneurship, community influencers and chamber of commerce of leaders, and economic-development leaders. Join other participants from around the region for these world-recognized training programs and hear about development plans for the Holyoke Innovation District. Learn more at www.actionnewengland.org. E-mail Joan Popolo at [email protected] with any questions.

CSO Spaghetti Dinner

Oct. 5: In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, Clinical & Support Options (CSO) Green River House and Quabbin House Programs will host a spaghetti dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Moose Lodge on School Street in Greenfield. CSO believes that mental-health issues are important to address year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Health Awareness Week provides a time for people to come together and share stories of recovery and hope and to spread the message that your total health matters. Program Manager Kim Britt knows how important events like these are to reducing mental-health stigma. “The purpose of this event is to bring awareness and educate the community and to change individuals’ perception about mental illness,” she said. “Individuals who experience mental illness are not what the media portrays. The truth is, one in four adults experience mental illness in America each year. People who experience mental-health challenges are just like you and I. They’re able to lead healthy, meaningful, and productive lives. Although the road to recovery is a journey, recovery is possible.” Raffles, entertainment, and mental-health information will be paired with a traditional spaghetti-dinner menu. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 3 and up, and free for children under 3. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. For questions or to purchase tickets, call the Green River House at (413) 772-2181 or Quabbin House at (978) 544-1859.

Workshop on Conducting a Workplace Investigation

Oct. 13: In your job, are you responsible for conducting investigations into employee conflicts? Allegations of harassment? Employee theft? If so, Royal, P.C.’s workshop on workplace investigations is for you. Recent state and federal court decisions underscore the importance of conducting thorough investigations. In this workshop, attendees will learn about such topics as selecting an investigator, conducting an effective interview, dealing with confidentiality issues, and taking interim actions. Among those who may be interested in attending are HR professionals, CFOs, CEOs, and anyone in a management position who is responsible for handling investigations. This workshop will apply to the first-time ‘investigator’ as well as the most seasoned ones. The workshop will take place from 8 to 9 a.m. at Royal, P.C., 270 Pleasant St., Northampton. The cost is $30 per person. Mail your payment and make your check payable to Royal, P.C., 270 Pleasant St., Northampton, MA 01060. Advance registration is required, and seating is limited. E-mail Ann-Marie Marcil at [email protected] to register or with any questions about this workshop.

Western Mass. Business Expo

Nov. 3: Comcast Business will present the sixth annual Western Mass. Business Expo at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast hosted by the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, lunch hosted by BusinessWest, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Express Employment Professionals, Health New England, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, MGM Springfield, and Wild Apple Design. WMAS is the event’s media partner. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $725. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100. For more Expo details as they emerge, visit www.wmbexpo.com.

Departments People on the Move

Robinson Donovan, P.C., a full-service law firm based in Springfield, announced that seven attorneys were honored by The Best Lawyers in America© for 2017. They are:

• Attorney Jeffrey Roberts, Managing Partner at the firm, in the practice area of corporate law and trust and estates. Roberts graduated from Colgate University (Bachelor of Arts, 1968) and Georgetown University (Juris Doctor, 1974).

• Attorney Jeffrey L. McCormick, a Partner at the firm, in the practice areas of personal injury litigation — defendants and personal injury litigation — plaintiffs. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts (Bachelor of Arts, 1970 and Master of Education, 1971) and Seton Hall University (Juris Doctor, 1975).

• Attorney James F. Martin, a Partner at the firm, in the practice areas of franchise law and real estate law. Martin attended Georgetown University (Bachelor of Arts, 1975 and Juris Doctor, 1978).

• Attorney Nancy Frankel Pelletier, a Partner at the firm, in the practice area of personal injury litigation — defendants. Notably, she was named a 2017 Best Lawyers in America© Lawyer of the Year, for her practice of personal injury litigation in Springfield. Pelletier is a graduate of Boston College (Bachelor of Arts, 1981) and George Washington University (Juris Doctor, 1984).

• Attorney Patricia M. Rapinchuk, a Partner at the firm, for her practice in employment law and management in Springfield. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College (Bachelor of Arts, 1979) and the University of Connecticut (Juris Doctor, 1989).

• Attorney Carla W. Newton, a Partner at the firm, in the practice area of family law. Newton is a graduate of Lesley College (Bachelor of Arts, 1972), Suffolk University (Juris Doctor, 1980) and Boston University (Master of Laws, 1990).

• Attorney Richard M. Gaberman, of Counsel for Robinson Donovan, P.C., in the practice areas of corporate law, real estate law, tax law and trusts and estates. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts (Bachelor of Business Administration, 1960), Boston College (Bachelor of Laws, 1963) and Boston University (Master of Laws in Taxation, 1968).

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. Over 79,000 leading attorneys are eligible to vote and more than 12 million votes have been received to date on the legal abilities of lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

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The Gaudreau Group Insurance and Financial Services Agency announced that Judy Davis has joined its Employee Benefits team. Davis has more than 25 years of experience in the corporate employee benefits industry, with a focus on designing and implementing benefits plans and services for organizations large and small.

She joins The Gaudreau Group after having spent 11 years as Vice President of Sales in the Employee Benefits Division at Insurance Center of New England in Agawam.  Prior to her time at Insurance Center, Davis was Vice President of Employee Benefits at Banknorth (now USI) Insurance Agency in Springfield.

“I’m very proud to have joined an organization that exemplifies the same high standards of exceptional customer service and integrity that I have provided my clients for over 25 years,” says Davis.

Jules Gaudreau, President of The Gaudreau Group added, “Judy is a great addition to our industry-leading Employee Benefits division. With the largest staff in the region, robust compliance programs, and high-tech employer and employee software solutions on her side, Judy will deliver real, impactful results to our clients.”

Davis is the recipient of several accolades and awards, including the 2013-2014 Top Woman in Insurance in the “Top 25 Women to Watch” in Western Mass., as well as the 2015 “Friend of Stavros” award from Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, MA.  She has served on several Chamber of Commerce boards and committees in the Western Mass. area.

•••••

Spherion Staffing Services, a local recruiting, staffing, and workforce-solutions provider, recently honored West Springfield franchise owner Brian Houle with the company’s 2016 Excellence in Safety Award. The annual award recognizes the Spherion owner who maintains the lowest workplace-injury rate among placed employees during the previous year and consistently demonstrates a safety-first mentality. Through an emphasis on safety protocols and a commitment to ensuring employees understand and adhere to workplace regulations, Houle and his team improved their year-over-year injury frequency rate by nearly 20%. Houle frequently participates in panels and calls to relay new safety-improvement best practices, and implements new strategies to ensure compliance with changing legislative regulations. “Ensuring the safety of our employees is of paramount importance to Spherion, and Brian Houle epitomizes our commitment to providing a secure a comfortable work environment,” said Sandy Mazur, division president of Spherion. “Brian and his team go above and beyond to identify opportunities to drive even greater workplace efficiency through safety. We are thrilled to honor their accomplishments and willingness to lead by example in achieving exceptional customer service.” Houle joined Spherion in 2013, and has since grown the West Springfield branch to include a team of four dedicated staffing and recruiting experts.

•••••

Jeffrey Lomma

Jeffrey Lomma

The Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce announced that Jeffrey Lomma has joined the chamber team as member services director. He will be responsible for ensuring the continuous and steady growth of the chamber’s membership by building and maintaining a comprehensive and aggressive membership recruitment, retention, and service program. He will also develop and manage programs and services that grow member businesses, service member needs, and increase the overall value offered to members. Lomma comes to the chamber with nearly 10 years of experience in sales, business development, and customer service. As a former Springfield Regional Chamber ambassador and past treasurer for the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, he is well-versed in chamber management and member services. Lomma has been with Westfield Bank since 2007, most recently serving as a branch manager. Among his many client relationship responsibilities, he worked with local community members and nonprofits to support community-reinvestment initiatives and played a pivotal role in growing the location’s portfolio. Lomma also served as a business specialist for the bank, where he helped lead the small-business sales-training program, managed customer relationships, and assisted in opening a banking center in a new market in Enfield, Conn. A former board member with the Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp. and the Springfield Hockey Heritage Society, and committee member with the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield, Lomma currently serves as a member of the board of directors for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts and on the Greater Springfield Senior Services Money Management Program Advisory Council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University.

•••••

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., a labor and employment law firm serving employers in the greater Springfield area, today announced that four attorneys were honored by The Best Lawyers in America© for 2017:

• Ralph F. Abbott Jr. was listed in Best Lawyers in the categories of Arbitration, Employment Law — Management, Labor Law — Management, and Mediation. A partner since 1975, Abbott is known throughout the legal community for his work representing management in labor relations and employment-related matters, providing employment-related advice to employers, assisting clients in remaining union-free, and representing employers before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Abbott also has numerous credits as an author, editor, and teacher, and a record of civic and community involvement. He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers consecutively, since 1989.

• Jay Presser, was listed in Best Lawyers in the categories of Employment Law — Management, Labor Law — Management, and Litigation — Labor and Employment law. Presser has more than 35 years of experience litigating employment cases. He has successfully defended employers in civil actions and jury trials and handled cases in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, wage hour, FMLA, ERISA and defamation. He has won appeals before the Supreme Judicial Court and the First and Second Circuit Courts of Appeals and represented employers in hundreds of arbitration cases arising under collective bargaining agreements. He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers every year since 1991.

• John Glenn was listed in Best Lawyers in the categories of Arbitration, Employment Law — Management, and Labor Law — Management. He has been a partner of the firm since 1979 and spent his career representing management in labor relations and employment-related matters. In addition to providing employment-related advice to employers, he assists clients in remaining union-free and represents employers before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He has extensive experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements, representing employers at arbitration hearings and before state and federal agencies. Prior to joining Skoler, Abbott & Presser, Glenn was employed by the National Labor Relations Board in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has served as an adjunct professor of labor law at Western New England University School of Law and is a member of the American Academy of Hospital Attorneys. He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers repeatedly, since 1995.

• Timothy Murphy was listed in Best Lawyers in the categories of Employment Law — Management, Labor Law — Management, and Litigation — Labor and Employment. A partner in the firm, Murphy joined Skoler, Abbott & Presser after serving as general counsel to an area labor union and serving as an assistant district attorney for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office. His practice includes labor relations and employment litigation, as well as employment counseling. A native of the Springfield area, Murphy is a graduate of the Western New England University School of Law. He is a frequent contributor to business and human resource publications and a contributing author to the Massachusetts Employment Law Letter. He has been selected by his peers and listed by Best Lawyers every year since 2013, and was named the Best Lawyers 2015 labor and employment law “Lawyer of the Year” in Springfield.

•••••

Two Sullivan Hayes & Quinn, LLC attorneys have been named Lawyer of the Year for 2017 by The Best Lawyers In America. Selection, which is based on professional evaluations by other attorneys, honors only one attorney in each professional practice area and community. Meghan Sullivan is Lawyer of the Year for Labor Law – Management, the fifth year in the past six years that she has been selected for that honor. Gordon Quinn was honored for Litigation – Labor and Employment. Additionally, Sullivan’s accomplishments for clients resulted in her being named to The Best Lawyers in America for Employment Law – Management and Labor Law – Management and Litigation – Labor and Employment. Quinn was selected by The Best Lawyers in America for his work in Employment Law – Management and Labor Law – Management, and Litigation – Labor and Employment. Again named to The Best Lawyers In America was Fred Sullivan, who has now been included for more than 20 consecutive years.  He was named for his work in Employment Law – Management and for Labor Law – Management. Sullivan Hayes & Quinn represents employers in a variety of Western Mass. industries and throughout the Northeast in employment- and labor-law issues.

•••••

Stephan Chase, president of Fuel Services Inc. in South Hadley, was recently re-elected to serve a second two-year term as Massachusetts state director of the National Propane Gas Assoc. (NPGA) board. Chase has been President of Fuel Services for more than 25 years. The company has evolved over the years, adding additional service areas and new fuels to the mix. His commitment to the propane industry extends to educating consumers on the benefits of this type of energy. He is also an active board member and the incoming secretary for the New England Propane Gas Assoc., a board member of the BBB of Central and Western MA, and a Navy veteran, having served on the USS Little Rock. “As the leader in the fuel industry in Western Massachusetts, I am honored to be re-elected as the Massachusetts state director for the NPGA. It is a position I accept with great pride,” Chase said. Richard Roldan, president and CEO of NPGA, addeed that Chase’s re-election is evidence of his support and desire to continue to actively participate in the work of the NPGA. “His service to the association is greatly appreciated,” Roldan said. The National Propane Gas Assoc. is the national trade association representing the U.S. propane industry. Its memberships include small businesses and large corporations engaged in retail marketing of propane gas and appliances. Currently, the NPGA consists of approximately 2,800 memberships from companies in all 50 states.

•••••

Fourteen lawyers from area law firm Bulkley Richardson were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2017.

Bulkley Richardson had the most honorees of any law firm in Springfield, with 12 of its 14 selected lawyers based in its Springfield office.

Three of the firm’s honorees were also named Springfield “Lawyer of the Year” in specific practice areas:

• William Hart was named the Best Lawyers® 2017 Springfield Trusts and Estates “Lawyer of the Year”;

• John Pucci was named the Best Lawyers® 2017 Springfield Criminal Defense (White-Collar) “Lawyer of the Year.” Pucci was also recognized in the area of Criminal Defense (General Practice); and

• Ellen Randle was named the Best Lawyers® 2017 Springfield Family Law “Lawyer of the Year.”

The following Bulkley Richardson lawyers were also selected for the 2017 edition of Best Lawyers®:

• Peter Barry — Construction Law;

• Michael Burke — Medical Malpractice Law (Defendants); Personal Injury Litigation (Defendants);

• Mark Cress — Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Corporate Law;

• Francis Dibble Jr. — Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense (White-Collar); Litigation (Antitrust, Labor and Employment, Securities);

• Daniel Finnegan — Administrative/Regulatory Law; Litigation (Construction);

• Robert Gelinas — Personal Injury Litigation (Defendants);

• Kevin Maynard — Commercial Litigation; Litigation (Banking and Finance, Construction);

• David Parke — Corporate Law;

• Melinda Phelps — Medical Malpractice Law (Defendants); Personal Injury Litigation (Defendants);

• Donn Randall — Commercial Litigation;

• Ronald Weiss — Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law; Tax Law

•••••

Keith Minoff was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in the 2017 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of commercial litigation and corporate law. Minoff represents businesses and individuals throughout Western Massachusetts in the areas of business litigation and employment law.

He received his law degree with honors from George Washington University in 1983 and has been a practicing attorney for more than 30 years. Minoff maintains a law office in downtown Springfield.

•••••

Bacon Wilson announced that four partners have been selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017.

Michael Katz was selected for bankruptcy and reorganization, Paul Rothschild for plaintiff’s litigation, Jeffrey Fialky for commercial and finance, and Stephen Krevalin received the honor for family law for the fifth consecutive year.

Founded in 1895, Bacon Wilson, P.C. is one of the largest firms in the Pioneer Valley, with 42 lawyers, and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s offices are located in Springfield, Amherst, Northampton, and Westfield.

•••••

The board of directors of the Professional Women‘s Chamber (PWC), a division of the Springfield Regional Chamber, has elected its officers to lead the division: Laurie Cassidy as President; Tracy Sicbaldi as Acting Vice President; Caron LaCour as Treasurer; Jeannie Filomeno as Assistant Treasurer; and Liz Rappaport as secretary. Janet Casey serves as Past President.

Cassidy is the executive director of the West Springfield Council on Aging/Senior Center and has served in that position since 2010. Prior, she served with the Greater Springfield Senior Services as its area agency on aging director and its regional ombudsman director. She has extensive volunteer experience, currently serving as a member of the Sisters of Providence Health System Board of Trustees, Mary’s Meadow Board of Trustees, West Springfield commission on Disabilities, and West Springfield Garden Club. She is also the secretary and treasurer of the West Springfield Emergency Planning Committee and Medical Reserve Corps and associate member of the West Springfield Veterans Council. She has been a member of the PWC since 2011.

Sicbaldi is an accountant with Overland Solutions Inc. and has more than 30 years of banking experience and six years as a municipal treasurer. She joined the PWC in 2006 and has served as its treasurer, vice president, and president.

LaCour is a Certified Public Accountant working with Burkhart Pizzanelli P.C. She focuses on taxation of individuals, businesses and nonprofit corporations. This is LaCour’s first term on the PWC board and is active on its scholarship, woman of the year and program committees. She is also actively involved with Rays of Hope and the Red Thread Network.

Filomeno is the human resource manager at Marcotte Ford Sales, Inc., her family business where she has worked since graduating college. She has served on the PWC board for three terms, served as the co-chair of its mentoring program and is a member of its scholarship committee.

Rappaport is a third-generation property manager at Century Investment Company.  Prior to joining the family business, she served in a marketing and brand management role at WF Young.  In addition to the PWC, Rappaport is actively involved with the Jimmy Fund taking a leadership role in several fund-raising activities each year.

Casey, principal and founder of Marketing Doctor, served as the PWC president for the past two years.

Board members Jacquelyn Bangs, senior account manager for EMC; Marikate Murren, director, training and workforce development for MGM Springfield; and Gillian Palmer, business development and group sales coordinator for the Eastern States Exposition, will round out the executive committee.

The PWC supports the female professional through networking opportunities, provides scholarships for nontraditional students returning to the workforce and mentors students through a partnership with Springfield Technical Community College.

•••••

VertitechIT, a nationally known healthcare leader in the design and implementation of hyper-converged network architecture, has promoted Gerry Gosselin to the position of Vice President, Engineering. Having formerly served as the company’s Director of Technical Operations, Gosselin brings with him more than eighteen years of programming and network engineering experience.

“Gerry’s wealth of early experience as a programmer shines through in his infrastructure design skills,” said VertitechIT Chief Operations Officer Gregory Pellerin.  “As health system IT departments across the country adopt a software-defined approach to networking and storage, we’re confident that Gerry will further our leadership position in the industry.”

Gosselin will oversee VertitechIT’s team of senior engineers and architects in determining technology, scope, and level of effort for all company projects. He joined the company in 2013 and has developed high-level IT experience in network engineering, monitoring and management, virtualization, system administration, and systems integration.

•••••

Link to Libraries Inc. announced the addition of new members to its executive board:

• Gail Baquis is a graduate of the University of Maine with a degree in journalism. She has been a volunteer with Link to Libraries since its inception in 2008 and has been the project director for the LTL Read Aloud programs and the RAP – Reading Any Place for Homeless Youth program.

• Tammy Trudeau is a graduate of University of Massachusetts.  She has been involved with numerous fund raising events for Link to Libraries and other local organizations.

• Kelly Dawson, CPA, Audit Manager for Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P. C. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts. Her professional affiliations include the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants.

• Amy Scott is the Founder of the marketing firm Wild Apple Design Group in Wilbraham and is best know for website design success in non-profit, education and for profit sectors. She is a BusinessWest Forty Under 40 Alum.

• Laura McCarthy, Attorney is an associate at Bacon Wilson, P. C. where she practices bankruptcy, corporate law, commercial and residential real estate and other transactional matters. She is a graduate of Boston University School of Law.

• Dr. Jennifer Stratton has been teaching students from the kindergarten to graduate level for more than 15 years. She is certified as a reading specialist and holds a doctoral degree from AIC in education. In addition to teaching, Jen hosts a blog (JenStratton.com) where she shares the sports stories of athletes who play adaptive sports and authors children’s books about Paralympians.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — During September and October, Wistariahurst will host a new exhibit titled “Holyoke Renaissance: Rising from the Ashes.” Three area artists will showcase architecture as art when they present their work in a joint exhibition celebrating the renaissance of the city of Holyoke. The exhibit by artists Debra Dunphy, Nancy Howard, and Kristine Villeneuve-Topor, will feature various views of the old industrial city of Holyoke and its architectural designs.

Holyoke is currently undergoing a transformation that is renewing much of the downtown after suffering urban blight for decades. Works on display will include local landmarks and streetscapes from around the city and will be presented to shine a light on the beautiful art and architecture in the city.

The exhibit will run from Saturday, Sept. 10 through Saturday, Oct. 29. Gallery viewing hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. An opening reception is planned for Sunday, Sept. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m., and will be free and open to the public. Admission to the gallery is available for a $3 suggested donation.

Daily News

HOLYOKEVertitechIT, a nationally known healthcare leader in the design and implementation of hyper-converged network architecture, has promoted Gerry Gosselin to the position of Vice President, Engineering. Having formerly served as the company’s Director of Technical Operations, Gosselin brings with him more than eighteen years of programming and network engineering experience.

“Gerry’s wealth of early experience as a programmer shines through in his infrastructure design skills,” said VertitechIT Chief Operations Officer Gregory Pellerin.  “As health system IT departments across the country adopt a software-defined approach to networking and storage, we’re confident that Gerry will further our leadership position in the industry.”

Gosselin will oversee VertitechIT’s team of senior engineers and architects in determining technology, scope, and level of effort for all company projects. He joined the company in 2013 and has developed high-level IT experience in network engineering, monitoring and management, virtualization, system administration, and systems integration.

Sections Technology

Doing More with Less

By Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw

Now that we’ve begun the process of normalizing relations with our neighbors to the south, those of us in the IT world could learn a few things by talking with a Cuban auto mechanic.

Take a walk in Havana, and you’ll find dozens of pre-1960 automobiles looking shiny and new, but held together with duct tape and a tailpipe fashioned from a Cold War-era Soviet tank. For decades, Cuban mechanics have been forced by necessity to do more with less, compromising on features while focusing on efficient use of resources.

So what’s the tie to IT?

It’s no secret in just about every industry that seatbelts are being tightened. Increased government regulations, automation, the ‘Internet of things,’ and the ever-increasing threat posed by cybercriminals are putting downward pressure on IT departments to ‘make it work,’ but for less. IT budgets are leaking oil, and CIOs are finding it harder and harder to find the mechanic and the manual to fix it. The bottom line is that everyone is being asked to find ways to do more with less.

Here are a few ideas that may help.

“IT departments are inherently inefficient,” said Mike Feld, interim CTO at Baystate Health and CEO of consulting firm VertitechIT. “But if we simply looked at standardizing the tools we use, we could save time, money, and resources that would make even the most jaded bean counter sit up and take notice.”

Most large and mid-size businesses have literally hundreds of applications sitting on servers in data centers and cloud environments across their infrastructure.

The collection has grown organically over the years as software developers play the never-ending game of ‘can you top this?’ And while all may have their own unique qualities, many applications can perform many of the same functions (while we continue to use just a fraction of the features built into them). The result is more expense, more manpower needed to service them, and capital dependence to keep things current.

You may need to compromise on features, but reducing the number of vendors and making broader use of a smaller number of products can have a dramatic bottom-line impact. Feld suggests you “ask yourself if 95% of what I want from these 12 areas work with a couple of products, rather having a dozen different products fulfilling 95% of my needs.”

The standardization and weeding-out process can also have a trickle-down effect on personnel resources. More efficient programs and processes free up people to be redeployed to work on projects that have been neglected for lack of available time and manpower.

On the architecture side, standardizing computing, network, and storage on commodity hardware using software-defined methodologies will also offer up significant savings. Hyper-convergence makes your network more efficient (cutting storage costs in half by using virtual instead of traditional storage methods) and allowing for the elimination of personnel silos as teams of people dedicated to each area now work as one.  It also makes them more effective, reducing service provisioning and delivery time from days and weeks to, in some cases, just hours.

In Cuba, doing more with less is a way of life. There’s an IT lesson in there somewhere.

Steve Shaw, vice president of marketing & communications at Vertitech IT, has spent more than three decades in the marketing and communications industries; [email protected]

Environment and Engineering Sections

Sustaining Success

CET

From its inception in 1976, the Center for EcoTechnology has always responded to the needs of businesses when it comes to being more energy-efficient and reducing waste. But in many ways, the nonprofit has also been an innovator, introducing green-business concepts years before they would be considered mainstream. At a time when energy supply and climate change remain serious concerns, CET’s leaders believe the pace of change in this field will be even more intense over the next 40 years — and they’re helping to raise the next generation to meet those challenges.

In many ways, the 1970s was the birth of the modern environmental movement. The decade saw the first Earth Day, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and legislation in the form of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Energy Act.

And, of course, it was the decade when Americans wondered when they would run out of gas.

“We were a reaction to the oil crisis of the ’70s,” said John Majercak, president of the Center for Ecotechnology (CET), the Northampton-based nonprofit celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “Everyone was worried about energy security.”

Instead of just fretting over this new normal, CET’s founders had an idea: to examine technologies and practices that could improve energy efficiency for businesses and reduce their environmental impact, all while increasing profits and raising quality of life.

John Majercak

John Majercak

“We started in the time of the oil embargo, and dependence on foreign oil was a major concern,” said Associate Director Nancy Nylen, who has been with CET since 1982. “There were environmental concerns as well, but this was before the conversation about climate change. Yet, the solutions were very similar. From the start, we were finding an intersection between what’s helpful for the environment and what’s practical and affordable so it can be adopted.”

At first, CET focused on energy conservation, in particular partnering with utility companies on the relatively new concept of ‘energy audits,’ whereby a consultant visits a home or business to talk about ways in which their building or operation could be revamped to save on energy costs.

“We were right on the cusp of that happening across the country,” Nylen said. “In Massachusetts, CET was really the one that got that started, the concept of going through a building and assessing opportunities for reducing energy and identifying waste. That was a new concept, and it was educational for the people; they really appreciated it. I run into people who remember us coming into their building 30 years ago.”

Other early initiatives included the development of a passive solar greenhouse at Berkshire Botanical Garden and Project SUEDE, a program that taught solar energy, energy-conservation theory, and carpentry to unemployed people, who then installed 31 solar space-heating systems in low-income households.

“We were looking to help people and businesses reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, and right from the start we were providing this information in a technical-assistance role and through one-on-one workshops and information sessions,” Nylen told BusinessWest. “We were much smaller then — four people, just a tiny organization working on a couple of programs.”


Go HERE for a chart of Environmental Services in the region


CET still conducts energy audits, helping homeowners and businesses understand the value of sustainable systems and educating them on the incentives available to make changes. But the organization, which now employs some 75 people, has become much more, expanding its mission into a host of new opportunities, from composting and food-waste reduction to recycling building materials through its EcoBuilding Bargains store in Springfield, just to name a few.

“If you look at what’s happened over the past 40 years, the pace of change has really accelerated; the whole environmental space has blown up,” Majercak said. “It’s really exciting and creates a ton of opportunities. It also means we have to keep on our toes to make sure we’re working in areas of the most need. Looking at the next 40 years, the pace of change will be even faster.”

For this issue’s focus on environment and engineering, BusinessWest visits with the leaders of a nonprofit that has been a leader, innovator, and model for the growing green-business industry, and how they expect their work to continue to evolve.

CET’s fellowship program,

From left, Claire Cuozzo, Brittney Topel, Kelsey Colpitts, Coryanne Mansell, and Diana Vazquez, the 2015-16 cohort of CET’s fellowship program, spent 10 months gaining experience to help them prepare for a career in the environmental field.

Dollars and Sense

CET has long used the slogan “we make green make sense,” stressing the intersections between environmental awareness, good business sense, and positive community impact. That goal has always been shaped in part by events outside the Commonwealth.

Take the ‘garbage barge’ of 1987, the vessel that carried 3,168 tons of New York trash — originally headed for a methane-production project in North Carolina but then rejected by that state’s officials — along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, with no place to land.

“With the garbage barge, waste management and recycling became a huge issue,” Majercak said. “It galvanized the media and policy makers and organizations like CET, who started saying, ‘let’s do something about it.’ We worked to get the first recycling bylaws in the city of Springfield, and we helped towns and residents set up their first recycling programs. We also started working with businesses around recycling.”

Those efforts have grown significantly over the years, including a program — funded by the state Department of Environmental Protection — called RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts, through which CET offers technical advice and assistance to companies regarding recycling and composting waste.

“We’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of businesses across Massachusetts,” he said. “We help them set up or improve their recycling or composting programs.”

That work is more important after the state passed a law in 2014 limiting the amount of food waste businesses may dispose of. “We’ve done some award-winning work in Massachusetts in places like Big Y, Whole Foods, and Stop & Shop, as well as lots and lots of restaurants and food manufacturers,” Majercak said. “We’re now doing similar work in Connecticut and looking to take it across New England.”

Nylen referred to such efforts as “innovating and mainstreaming,” the effort to identify the next big need or trend in green business and help popularize it. For Lorenzo Macaluso, it’s more about showing companies how such practices benefit them and their customers.

“For businesses, we’re really adept at understanding their needs and adapting opportunities for them, and then being a neutral solutions finder for them, whether we’re talking about recycling, composting, or energy-efficiency work,” said Macaluso, CET’s director of Green Business Services. “We’re not there to sell them on a product — we’re not going to install a specific type of boiler; we’re not going to compost the food waste ourselves. What we will do is say, ‘here are your options, here are the business implications, the costs, and the incentives.’”

In doing so, CET has worked with companies ranging from small shops to large entities like Big Y and Titeflex.

Nancy Nylen

Nancy Nylen says CET was born from a desire to help people reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, and that goal is still a driving force today.

“We’ve been working with Big Y for over 20 years, way before it was cool,” Macaluso said. “They’re now recycling and composting at all their stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and when you factor in the avoided costs of trash disposal and a little bit of revenue from the materials they’re recycling, it’s like a $3 million annual boost to the bottom line. For them, that’s a big deal. They’re also able to take that information about their savings — how they’re not throwing things into the trash, how much greenhouse gas they’re saving  — and share it with their customers.”

That public-information aspect is important for many CET clients, who recognize the popularity of green practices in what has long been a very progressive region. “They want to share the good work of what they’re doing. They can use that to market themselves, or just market internally, sharing the information with their employees.”

The bottom line benefits in other ways as well, Macaluso added. Insulation upgrades, air-quality improvements, and other efforts can also improve employee comfort, which in turn helps with productivity.

“Green business is now half of what we do. There’s so much potential in the commercial space,” Majercak said. “It’s a benefit to their business, and something their customers and shareholders expect. This whole world of greening your business has become pretty much mainstream. Not every business is going green, but the idea that it should happen is pretty well accepted.”

Second Life

Another success story at CET has been EcoBuilding Bargains, which began life as the ReStore in 2001 before undergoing a move and rebranding five years ago.

In its first incarnation on Albany Street in Springfield, the ReStore dealt in recycled building materials, aiming to save builders and do-it-yourselfers money while reducing the burden on landfills. A move to Warwick Street in 2011 involved a $900,000 energy retrofit on the existing building on that site — an example of CET practicing what it preached.

Those improvements began on the exterior of the building, including a white roof to deflect heat, and insulated panels lining the building that interlock in a way that seals out all air leakage. EcoBuilding Bargains also ‘superinsulated’ its roof, using insulation donated from MassMutual when that company installed a solar array on its roof.

In addition, the 3 million-BTU, oil-fired boiler in the basement was replaced with a 500,000-BTU gas unit, while infrared tube heaters located throughout the structure heat building occupants but not the air. The efficiency extends to lighting as well; much of the store features sensor-controlled lights that maintain a low level when no one is around them, but become brighter when someone walks in.

CET4RestoreMost importantly, though, EcoBuilding Bargains has met an ambitious goal set when it moved, doubling the amount of materials it recycles (and keeps out of landfills). Over the next couple of years, it will seek to increase that figure by another 50%.

“There’s a lot of opportunity — lots of stuff being thrown away, a lot of people on a budget who want to fix their homes affordably,” Majercak said. “What’s different now is that reuse is becoming trendy. This new generation of homeowners in their 20s and 30s really like this style of ‘upcycling’ and believe in the mission of upcycling. So we’re getting the bargain-hunting, weekend-warrior type of shopper, but also the mission-style shopper, too.”

CET has also found success in its Go Green Campaign, a three-year effort (2014-16) to help 80,000 people take green actions, reduce energy usage equivalent to taking 40,000 homes off the grid, lowering carbon emissions equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road, and creating $100 million in lifetime energy and waste savings for residents and business owners.

“A number of years ago, we decided to focus on measurable impact, to see if we’re doing a good job or not, and also to get people excited about working with us,” Majercak told BusinessWest. “We’ll meet or exceed all these goals by the end of the year. People say, ‘does it really make a difference if I start up a recycling program or change the lights in my house?’ Yes, it adds up over time; it makes a huge difference. And we’ll have new goals at the end of the year.”

These numbers are important because demonstrating impact is the most effective way to build public support for CET’s work, he went on. “They want to know we’re making good investments, and this is one way we can make the case to the community that supports us.”

The center is also making an effort to raise up the next generation of green innovators, through a fellowship program it launched five years ago. Five fellows per year — recent college graduates from across the U.S. — are chosen to work with CET for one year and receive training in environmental science, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and other aspects of green business. They’ve gone on to work at similarly minded nonprofits, and also corporations looking to go green.

“We see it as a way to develop tomorrow’s leaders. This generation is actually going to be responsible for how we deal with climate change,” Majercak said. “They’re super-bright, super-motivated, and when you interact with them, it gives you hope for the future. It’s a very exciting program.”

Nylen agreed. “We started with them doing primarily education and outreach. But it became clear they were really interested in different aspects of what we were doing at CET, helping with green businesses, helping with EcoBuildingBargains,” she said. “We saw it as a way to bring a new set of eyes to our work and be a training ground for new leaders. It’s been quite rewarding.”

Greener Landscape

Majercak is gratified when he surveys the business landscape in Massachusetts and recognizes how ingrained environmental concerns and energy efficiency have become in the Bay State, in industries ranging from architecture and construction to healthcare and food service.

“We love working here. We’re very fortunate to be where we are, with the amount of community support we get and the participation in the things we offer,” he said. “It’s a really phenomenal business community here in the Valley and Western Mass., and Massachusetts and New England in general — very forward-thinking and supportive of our work and very actively engaged, and that’s important because organizations like us need to show it’s possible so our work can be replicated elsewhere. And that’s certainly happening; people call from all over the country.”

Nylen agreed. “We’ve been in an environment in Massachusetts where policy has been beneficial to promoting energy efficiency, and we help bring that to different target audiences, whether homeowners or businesses.”

Majercak knows there’s plenty left to do. For one thing, the next 20 to 30 years will likely see more building retrofitting than new construction. Then there’s the looming threat of climate change, which, if the direst models come to pass, will force everyone to move more quickly toward more sustainable practices.

“If we want to be in a place where we have a low-carbon or no-carbon economy, that’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of innovation,” he said. “It’s going to take not just technology or policy, but getting it to work in the marketplace, getting people to actually practice the behavior, get businesses to make the change.

“It doesn’t matter whether you believe in climate change, or care,” he added. “Everyone knows that wasting energy is not a good thing. Businesses care about the bottom line. Homeowners don’t want to spend too much money. We do a lot of work educating the public on what the benefits are.”

The changing needs of businesses when it comes to green practices lends Nylen’s work a certain freshness, even after 34 years with CET.

“I feel fortunate to do this work as my profession, and to work on each of our new initiatives as they come along. That’s kept me really interested,” she said.

“I’ve always felt we were relevant, but it seems the work we do now is more urgent than ever before,” she added. “Whether we’re reducing costs, reducing waste, or reducing impact on the environment, we can usually find something that addresses what people are interested in. We meet people where they are.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Commercial Real Estate Sections

Developing Interest

Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson

As Eric Nelson takes the reins at Westmass Area Development Corp., the agency’s ambitious Ludlow Mills project, which features economic-development opportunities on several levels, is entering an intriguing new stage. Meanwhile, Westmass is moving aggressively to answer the question ‘what’s next?’ — meaning everything from development of new sites to creation of a development-services arm to provide technical assistance to area cities and towns.

While he was pursuing his master’s degree in landscape architecture at UMass Amherst, Eric Nelson developed a keen interest in land planning and economic development, and eventually wrote his thesis on the adaptive reuse of historic mills.

Specifically, his work concentrated on the town of Uxbridge in the Blackstone River Valley south and east of Worcester, and several mills that had drawn the attention of the National Park Service, which would eventually create a national heritage corridor in the area marketed under the slogan “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

One of Nelson’s focal points was the famed Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge, which had a long history of manufacturing military uniforms, including those worn by Union soldiers during the Civil War. His work involved making recommendations to the park service on where and how to invest resources for this heritage corridor. It was rather involved work with many key considerations.

“You were looking at factors such as access, transportation, recreation, the integrity of the buildings, the opportunity for tourism, the opportunity for economic development, and much more,” he explained.

Fast-forward 25 years, and Nelson is tackling these very same issues again — this time on a much different stage and with much different stakes.

Indeed, as the recently named president and CEO of Westmass Area Development Corp., Nelson is overseeing a project with striking similarities to what he encountered in Uxbridge — the ongoing efforts to revitalize the Ludlow Mills, which Westmass acquired in 2011.

This initiative blends elements of economic development, which comes in many possible forms, as we’ll see, as well as access and recreation (a riverwalk is being created), and repurposing of a wide array of different buildings on the property.

“There are many similarities between the Blackstone Valley and Ludlow Mills — and a host of other mills in this region,” he explained. “In many instances, they’re on a river, and in a lot of cases, they’re brownfield sites; there are a great many challenges to reuse of these properties.”

But Ludlow Mills is only one piece of the Westmass portfolio, and one aspect of Nelson’s work to increase the agency’s presence in the region and its impact on overall economic development.

There are other properties to be developed, he told BusinessWest, including the Chicopee River Business Park, which has been a lingering source of frustration for Westmass and remains mostly vacant two decades after it opened. But Nelson sees reason for optimism.

“It’s a great location — it’s only two minutes from the Mass Pike, and it’s right off Route 291,” he said, adding that Westmass is considering a change to its strategic focus on the property, with a shift toward attracting potential suppliers to CRRC MA’s subway-car-manufacturing facility, now taking shape less than mile down the road.

aerial shot of Ludlow Mills

This aerial shot of Ludlow Mills shows the many different elements to this project — from mill redevelopment to river access to green acreage.

Beyond development of its properties, though, Westmass has become more aggressive, if that’s the right word, in efforts to become a resource for other agencies and entities involved in economic development, he noted.

As an example, Nelson cited the ongoing efforts to revitalize the property on Race Street in Holyoke known as the Cubit, because it takes that shape. This project has a number of players, he went on, including the state, the city, Holyoke Community College (which is relocating its culinary arts program there), and private developers. Westmass, and specifically now-former President and CEO Kenn Delude, has been lending technical assistance to bring the initiative together.

“We’re putting together what we call a development-services side of the house,” he explained. “A lot of area towns have resources, but they don’t have the staff; we can be of assistance to them with various development projects.”

For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest talked at length with Nelson about his vision — for Westmass, Ludlow Mills, the Chicopee River park, and much more, and how he intends to bring it all into focus.

View to the Future

As he talked with BusinessWest in the conference room at the facilities housing Westmass at Westover Metropolitan Airport, Nelson paused to reference a stunning aerial photo of the Ludlow Mills project on one wall.

As he talked, his hand moved over various components of the project — from the land where the new HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts now sits (the photo is several years old) to the mill that Winn Development will soon be converting into senior housing; from the so-called Clock Tower building, for which Winn recently announced an ambitious mixed-used project, to the dozens of small block houses, some of which have since been razed; from the intended path of the riverwalk to 47 acres of undeveloped land on the property that constitutes still another key component of the initiative.

The exercise was effective in communicating everything from the importance of the project to the region to what it represents as a career opportunity.

“This is an extremely interesting project with lots of elements and moving parts,” he said. “And it’s significant on many levels — for the town, for the region, for job creation … it’s great to be part of this.”

Nelson, who came to Westmass in 2011 specifically to move the Ludlow Mills project off the drawing board, brings to his new assignment a broad résumé of job experience, with stints in everything from education to landscaping.

He started as a public-school teacher in Amherst, a job he eventually lost to budget cutbacks, and then went into business for himself in landscape construction, specifically the installation of patios, walkways, decks, and other features.

It was that work that eventually took him to UMass and pursuit of his master’s degree. After earning it, he went to work for SVE (Southern Vermont Engineering) Associates, a professional consulting firm specializing in engineering, surveying, and landscape architecture, rising in the ranks to senior project manager and director of the Greenfield office.

He was attracted to Westmass, and a vice president’s position there, specifically by the Ludlow Mills project, which appealed to him on a number of levels, but especially the promise to exercise many of his passions — from landscape architecture to economic development — in one project.

“Westmass was looking for someone to carry the vision out,” he explained. “And the job requirements meshed well with my background, talents, and interests.”

As president and CEO of Westmass, Nelson will see his time and energy parceled in several different directions — geographically and otherwise.

Indeed, the agency owns industrial parks in Agawam, East Longmeadow, and Hadley that are full or mostly full, and Chicopee River, which remains a mostly blank canvas, but one Nelson believes could finally become filled in.

One area has already become home to a solar farm, he explained, and efforts to make a parcel near Route 291 more visible from the highway should generate some momentum.

“I think that will generate a lot of interest because people driving by there don’t realize they can site their building there,” he said of that site work. “And I think that if we can get one company in there, others will follow.”

But Ludlow Mills is getting most of the headlines — and the bulk of Nelson’s attention at the moment.

Winn’s Clock Tower building project comprised the main announcement at the recent Developers Conference staged by the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., and many other components of the project are coming together.

Mill-10-Interior-Before

These before-and-after photos show progress being made in the work to convert one of the Ludlow Mills structures into senior housing.

These before-and-after photos show progress being made in the work to convert one of the Ludlow Mills structures into senior housing.

The property is no longer a brownfields site from a technical standpoint — most all contaminants have been remediated — and extensive infrastructure work, including new water and sewer connections, have made the complex far more appealing to developers.

Overall, the site has enormous potential for many different kinds of development, from the senior housing already taking shape to manufacturing, office, and even retail, he explained, adding that, with its various structures and green spaces, it can handle the needs of growing enterprises.

“We have small spaces that startups can rent,” he explained, “and when they get to the point where they need a manufacturing facility, we have the opportunity to offer them a piece of property they can build on.”

Ludlow Mills is roughly five years into a 20-year redevelopment effort, said Nelson, adding that the ongoing challenge is to determine the best uses for various properties moving forward, and facilitating efforts to develop them.

As one example, he returned to the aerial photo and pointed to one of the mills, this one with low (seven-foot) ceilings, which will ultimately make redevelopment quite challenging. Perhaps the best course for that structure is to raze it and create parking for other projects, he explained, adding that this is one of many decisions that will have to be made in the years to come.

Building Blocks

As he talked about Ludlow Mills, Nelson said this project wasn’t yet on ‘auto pilot,’ a phrase he used to describe a point where most pressing issues have been resolved and matters come down to attracting the development community to the property.

But it’s getting close.

And that means more of the agency’s time and energy can be put toward the intriguing question of what comes next.

There are many components to that answer, said Nelson, who started by saying that this region will soon have more inventory of land and properties to develop.

That’s because absorption of existing buildings, a trend (one less expensive than building new) that emerged and then accelerated in the years following the Great Recession, has continued unabated. And that inventory is dwindling.

“The economics of building new were not going to pencil out, because people were able to go buy an existing building at a big discount,” he explained, adding that this fundamental shift in many ways inspired a change in strategies at Westmass, one that prompted a unique project like Ludlow Mills rather than additional industrial-park development.


Go HERE for a listing of available Commercial Real Estate properties for sale and lease in Western Mass.


But if the pendulum isn’t already swinging back, it’s apparent that it soon will, to one extent or another, he went on, adding that, while the green space at Ludlow Mills can address some of the additional demand that will emerge, more land will be needed, for projects of all sizes.

“We’re at a curve in the road,” Nelson explained. “We need to plan ahead, and we need to start aggregating sites and getting sites ready, knowing that it takes three years to get them ready for building.”

He didn’t give any specifics about where the agency is currently looking for land that could be aggregated, but did say the search is on, and, as in years past, it will be undertaken with diligence and imagination.

Meanwhile, another answer to what comes next is that aforementioned development-services arm, which Nelson believes holds vast potential — for Westmass, but especially the region and individual communities.

He circled back to the Cubit project, and Holyoke Community College’s request for Westmass’ support, as an example of what’s possible.

“The leaders at HCC do what they do well — they run a college,” he explained. “But this is not their area of expertise, so they turned to us for help in deciding which building to go into, finding an architect, negotiating a lease, and, more importantly, going for grant funding.

“This meshed well with our skills and talents, and it’s job creation,” he went on, referring to the opportunities awaiting graduates of the culinary arts program. “I see this as a model that Westmass can develop for towns that don’t have staff.”

Milling About

Nelson admits that he pretty much lost track of his master’s thesis subject, the Stanley Woolen Mills. He did some research, though, and reported that progress was being made in redevelopment of those landmarks for new uses.

He has his own project to keep tabs on now, one that is in many ways similar to those Blackstone Valley initiatives, and in all ways important to the future of this region.

What was once a project undertaken in pursuit of a degree is now essentially his life’s work, a project that is well, a textbook example of generating economic-development activity.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

AIC to Make SAT, ACT Scores Optional Next Spring

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will become one of the first local institutions of higher education to become SAT- and ACT-optional beginning in the spring semester of 2017. This will include all applicants for all majors. A growing trend nationally, more than 850 schools, including big names such as George Washington, Wesleyan, and Fairfield universities, are now test-optional. Thirty-five schools in Massachusetts are on board. In a study conducted by the National Assoc. for College Admission Counseling, college performance was evaluated for more than 100,000 students at 33 test-optional colleges. It was determined that the differences in college performance of those students who submitted SAT scores and those who did not were negligent in terms of grade point averages and graduation rates. The study also found that those students who did not submit SAT scores were more likely to be first-generation-to-college applicants, minority students, women, Pell grant recipients, and students with learning differences. “Moving to test-optional admissions is core to our mission of educational access for first-generation students and students from underserved backgrounds,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admission Jonathan Scully. “We’re invested in our students’ success and recognize that standardized tests don’t typically serve those populations well. There is a direct correlation between test scores and economic resources. Students who have the financial means to afford test preparation will do better than those who don’t. We shouldn’t be basing our admission decisions on test scores. It’s important to look at the whole student.” A multi-year study at AIC determined that high-school success — good grades in rigorous courses — is two to three times more predictive of retention and college success than standardized test scores.

Zweig Group Names Tighe & Bond a ‘Best Firm to Work For’

WESTFIELD — Based on the survey results of its 2016 “Best Firms to Work For” ranking, Zweig Group recently named Tighe & Bond one of the best civil-engineering firms to work for in the nation. This annual awards competition is based on business-practice data collected from numerous participating firms across the country, including feedback solicited through an employee survey. Zweig Group — a provider of management information and expertise to engineering, architecture, and environmental-consulting firms worldwide — sponsors the program that recognizes the top firms leading the way in creating a work place that inspires, motivates, and rewards employees. The competitive ranking that results is based on comprehensive evaluations of factors such as firm culture and workplace practices, employee benefits, career development and growth opportunities, compensation, performance and recognition, as well as recruiting and retention rates. All firms that apply for this prestigious ranking and recognition are evaluated against each other, not a set standard. “Zweig Group has recognized Tighe & Bond several times as one of the best engineering firms to work for in the nation, and it is always a significant honor. It also exemplifies our ongoing commitment to create a working environment where all of our employees feel valued, and where they can see their contribution to the overall mission and success of the firm and our clients,” said Tighe & Bond President and CEO David Pinsky. “Our ability to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented staff is crucial to providing the high-quality, responsive services that our clients have come to expect and deserve.” Zweig Group will recognize Tighe & Bond, along with the other winners, during the 2016 Zweig Group Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in September. This is the industry’s largest and most comprehensive business conference for leaders and aspiring leaders of architectural, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Giving Tops $1.1M in 2016

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that its charitable foundation awarded $1,120,862 in grants from Jan. 1 through June 30 to nonprofit organizations across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. In addition to supporting organizations within the foundation’s funding focus areas of education, community, and economic-development projects, it also donated to youth, cultural, and human-service organizations that provide vital services to the community. Berkshire Bank Foundation Inc. plans to award more than $1.8 million this year to nonprofit organizations across the bank’s service area. In total, 365 nonprofits received grants from the foundation during the first half of 2016, including Berkshire County organizations 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance Foundation, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Family YMCA, and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity; and Pioneer Valley organizations Baystate Health Foundation, Brightside for Families & Children, Chicopee Neighborhood Development Corp., and ReGreen Springfield.

MARX Events Announces Second Annual Dream Wedding Giveaway

EAST LONGMEADOW — For the second straight year, MARX Events, along with dozens of participating vendors, will award a U.S. veteran or active service member a free wedding. The giveaway aims to honor the service and sacrifice of the military and create a special atmosphere for a military couple as they embark on the next chapter of their lives together. The nomination process is now open. Community members may nominate themselves or someone they know by submitting either a written or video story to www.marxdreamwedding.com. This second annual MARX dream wedding includes a free wedding-venue space with food and beverage for 50 participants, complimentary flowers and photography, wedding dress, rehearsal dinner, and full entertainment services provided by MARX alongside many other services and providers. Participating vendors and sponsors include Chez Josef, the Delaney House, Operation: Love My Dress, Formal Affair, Pete’s Sweets, Pop’s Biscotti, Durocher Florist, Deluxe Limo, Mikkie Viereck, CJC Lighting & Events, Tanya Constigan Wedding Planning, Robert Charles Photography, Wedding Day Sourcebook, WMAS, Western Mass News, Smith & Wesson, and With Love Jacquelyn. The wedding ceremony will take place at Chez Josef in Agawam, and the rehearsal dinner will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke in April 2017. The top three finalists will be announced on Veterans Day, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 20. “This is our way, each year, to give back to the men and women of our military who give so much for us,” said Mark Ashe, managing partner of MARX Events.

AIC Awarded Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has received a one-time $347,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) in support of the college’s Nursing Education Achievement Program (NEAP). HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to healthcare for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. HRSA programs span across America, providing direct healthcare to 23 million people, particularly those who live in underserved inner cities and rural communities. In addition, HRSA provides scholarships and programs to encourage greater minority participation in the healthcare professions. In partnership with Baystate Medical Center, the Western Mass. chapter of the National Assoc. of Hispanic Nurses, and the Western Mass. Black Nurses Assoc., NEAP will provide professional nurses to mentor participating students along with implementing multiple evidence-based supports that will strengthen the ability of economically and educationally disadvantaged students to pass their courses, graduate, and move into the workforce. “It is an honor for American International College and the Division of Nursing to be awarded this grant, which recognizes AIC’s dedication and success in diversifying our community’s nursing workforce,” said Dean of Health Sciences Cesarina Thompson.

3D Printer Makes Orthopedic Boot for African Penguin

CROMWELL, Conn. — Local organizations banded together to support STEM education in Connecticut while making a positive difference in the community. The ACT Group, Mystic Aquarium, and Mystic Middle School, with assistance from 3D Systems, designed and produced an orthopedic boot for Purps, an African penguin and life-long resident of the aquarium. In 2011, Purps was left with a non-functional flexor tendon following an altercation with another penguin on exhibit. Since then, she has been wearing a traditional hand-casted boot to support her injury. While the traditional boot adequately immobilized, supported, and protected her injury, it posed some concerns for the veterinarian staff at the aquarium. The moldable plastic material it was made of deteriorated quickly, forcing the veterinarian staff to reproduce the boot frequently, a very time-intensive process. The collaboration between local organizations began when Sue Prince, library media specialist at Mystic Middle School, started an innovation lab with the goal of introducing students to 3D technology. She applied for and won a grant from the Stonington Education Fund and used the funds to purchase a 3D printer for the lab. Prince worked in conjunction with Kelly Matis, a member of Stonington Education Fund’s community board and director of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. Matis, aware of the diverse applications of 3D technology, shared the need for a new orthopedic boot for Purps with Prince. Eager to help and put the 3D printer to use for a great cause, Prince contacted the ACT Group to inquire about assistance with computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D scanning. Nick Gondek, ACT Group’s director of Additive Manufacturing, led his team in demonstrating state-of-the-art 3D technology to Prince and her students. These demonstrations gave the students of Mystic Middle School invaluable hands-on experience using technology from 3D Systems and allowed the ACT Group to provide technical expertise through the course of the project. The ACT Group’s assistance was a crucial part of the successful design of Purps’s boot, ultimately completed by the students of Mystic Middle School.

Architecture Sections

Blueprinting a Growth Pattern

Robert Stevens

Robert Stevens

Tessier Associates has been in business since Warren Harding was in the White House and Prohibition was the law of the land. No architecture firm can survive that long — and through all those twists and turns in the economy — without being resilient and resourceful, and the Tessier firm has been both. In recent years, for example, it has been diversifying its portfolio, complementing a dwindling amount of public-school work with projects in higher education and other sectors, and now has a steady supply of work in the pipeline.

The photos, sketches, and blueprints adorning the front entranceways and conference rooms at architecture firms usually tell a story — or, to be more precise, a big part of the story.

Indeed, collectively, these images become a highly visible, although not always organized, chronicling of a company’s history, examination of its portfolio, and window into its past, present, and, in some ways, its future.

This is definitely true at Tessier Associates, the nearly-century-old firm that has long been doing business out of a large storefront on the second floor at Tower Square in downtown Springfield. The photos in the front lobby and hallway leading to the production areas speak to the company’s proud history, which has included everything from dozens of school projects to a number of new churches and a host of commercial buildings, including bank branches, which became a prolific niche for a number of years (more on that later).

The main conference room offers more of the same, but specifically a look at more recent history — and a very necessary diversification of the portfolio to reflect changing times when it comes to designing new public schools, additions, and renovations.

“It’s much more difficult to get school projects today. There are fewer of them out there, and the selection process is now out of Boston — the rules have changed,” said Robert Stevens Jr., long-time principal with the company, noting that, while local school systems once did the hiring of an architect for a project, now those decisions are the purview of the Mass. School Building Authority.


Go HERE for a list of Architecture Firms in the region


This explains why the conference room still features photos and drawings of some of the firm’s school projects — including Lenox Middle/High School, which actually dates back to the late ’90s, and Hampshire Regional High School, newer work but still more than a decade old — but far more wall and easel space is now devoted to work with area colleges and businesses, which have become a far larger and more reliable pipeline of projects.

There are several images, for example, of a new dining commons being planned by Western New England University. Curved, and featuring large amounts of glass and a host of different and unique dining areas, the structure currently taking shape on the drawing board reflects a heightened interest in food and food service at institutions of higher learning, said Stevens.

“Food is a big deal now, and it’s important when it comes to recruiting students — you have to be on the cutting edge of this,” he explained. “These facilities now require a lot of social space, a lot of dining opportunities, a number of seating arrangements, and some quiet space; there’s a lot that goes into these now.”

The walls tell of other recent projects at Bay Path University and Springfield College, and also the Big E, which is exploring possible renovations to several of its historic buildings, including the coliseum (see related story, page 6). Stevens noted that such private-sector work is both necessary and, at the moment, at least, steady enough to keep the firm busy and in a contemplative mode when it comes to expansion and bringing on more staff.

dining commons at Western New England University

One of the Tessier firm’s renderings of the planned dining commons at Western New England University.

Still, like many in businesses across virtually every sector of the economy, Tessier has some doubts about the staying power of the current expansion, if one chooses to call it that, and noted that there are risks to bringing on more staff, especially in a sector as vulnerable to swings in the economy as this one.

He believes the economy is improving, but, like most others, would like to see more solid evidence that the upswing is real.

“We could be hiring others, and we probably should be,” he explained. “When you’re leery about whether the economy is really improving, you tend to hold back, even when you think you need to hire.”

For this issue and its focus on architecture, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at … well, the walls and easels at Tessier Associates and at what they reveal about where the company has been, and where it’s going.

Designs on Diversification

Tracing the history of the company, Stevens said it was started by Henry Tessier in 1923, who was still working part-time when Stevens joined the firm in the mid-’80s.

“Henry worked until he was in his mid-90s,” he recalled. “He obviously liked what he did — he was still coming into the office every day.”

Under the tutelage of Tessier and later his son, Bob, and fellow partners Doug Engebretson, who retired in 2012, and Stevens, the firm developed a number of niches within the broad realm of architecture, including everything from churches to those aforementioned bank branches.

The former remains a source of some work, said Stevens, noting that the portfolio includes several projects in this category, including the new Immaculate Conception Church in Holyoke, St. Patrick’s Church in Springfield, Nativity Church in Holyoke, and Holy Name Church in Springfield.

As for those bank braches, they were a solid source of work decades ago as area institutions sought to develop a presence in many of the emerging suburbs.

“There was a period of time just after I came here when we really did nothing but bank branches,” he said, noting that, in those days — and perhaps not so much now — architects could, and did, get creative with design of the teller lines and other elements of those structures to give them individuality.

But the firm’s main bread and butter starting in the mid-’80s was public-school projects, said Stevens. The portfolio includes initiatives across this region and beyond, with most of them in response to growing populations and/or a need to replace or modernize aging infrastructure. The list includes additions and renovations at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield, Commerce High School in Springfield, and JFK Middle School in Northampton, as well as new construction at Quarry Hill Elementary School in Monson and Grafton Elementary School in Grafton, among many others.

But by 2004, the pipeline of school projects dwindled to a trickle as the state all but stopped funding schools and changed the formula for how such initiatives were funded. By the time conditions changed and money started flowing more freely, the selection process for architects had changed, adding another layer to the challenge of landing such projects. The last one the firm handled was Hoosic Valley Regional Middle and High School in Cheshire in 2012.

With school work dwindling and prospects for improvement in that realm dim, the firm has done what it has always done since Warren Harding was in the White House and Babe Ruth was leading the American League in home runs, said Stevens — create a diversified portfolio and adjust its focus to where the work happens to be at a given time.

Indeed, an architecture firm cannot survive 93 years and an untold number of economic twists and turns, including both the Great Depression and Great Recession, without being flexible, resourceful, and resilient, and the Tessier firm is deserving of all those adjectives.

Drawing on Experience

Recently, for example, the firm has garnered a number of projects in higher education, tapping into one of the pillars of the region’s economy.

“We’ve been relying mainly on private work in recent years,” said Stevens, “and we’ve been successful in getting some nice projects. We’ve done a lot of work at area colleges and universities.”

Perhaps the signature initiative in this realm is the $30 million Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy building on the Western New England University campus, undertaken in 2009. “That was a significant project for us, coming right after the recession,” Stevens explained.

But there have been many others, including several projects at Bay Path University, including, most recently, renovation to some of the science labs. There has also been work at Springfield College, Elms College, and other schools.

The Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy

The Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy building at Western New England University is one of Tessier’s signature projects.

Meanwhile, there have been other forms of commercial work, including an office addition and renovation project for UniFirst Corp., a Wilmington-based supplier of uniforms and provider of related services that has a facility in Springfield, as well as another site in New York that the Tessier firm is also working on.

Those projects and others have provided Stevens with a sense that the economy is improving, that business owners are becoming more confident about the immediate future, and that this scenario may continue for some time.

And this sentiment wasn’t present in the years immediately after the Great Recession, even when analysts were saying the economic picture was brightening and businesses in many sectors, including those in the broad realm of construction, should see some trickle-down.

“Things were questionable in the few first years after the recession ended — I would hear that the economy was improving, but we weren’t feeling it,” he explained. “But at this point, it seems like there’s more activity.

“We have backlog — you can see enough work out for a year or two,” he went on, “and that’s pretty unusual for recent years.”

This is what he tells builders who will call and ask him what he thinks and what he knows — calls that come often, because, historically, architecture has been an accurate barometer of the economy; when firms are busy, that’s a good sign, and when they’re not … well, no explanation needed.

“The climate is improving,” he said in conclusion. “I’m feeling much more optimistic than I was a few years ago.”

Lines of Business

Tucked in a corner of the Tessier firm’s conference room is an aerial photo of the Elms College campus, complete with the wellness center the company designed.

Stevens couldn’t pinpoint the date of that project, but did know that it was some time ago. That was an acknowledgement that what’s on the walls and easels of such firms don’t exactly (or always) reflect current events.

But those items tell a story, or, as noted earlier, the story.

In this case, it’s one of a history of creativity — both on the drawing board and in business itself — and resiliency.

In other words, Tessier has developed a blueprint for surviving and thriving in changing times.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Departments People on the Move
Tejas Gandhi

Tejas Gandhi

Tejas Gandhi, the former chief administrative officer at Navicent Health in Macon, Ga. — where he led the organization through an era of positive change and restructuring, contributing greatly to its financial recovery — has been named chief operating officer at Baystate Medical Center. His appointment became effective June 13. Gandhi fills a position left vacant by Nancy Shendell-Falik, who for two years served in the dual position at Baystate Health as chief operating officer and senior vice president/chief nursing officer for Baystate Medical Center, prior to being named president of Baystate Medical Center and senior vice president of Hospital Operations for Baystate Health in October 2015. “Dr. Gandhi is a true change agent, whose culture-building skills and talents in the area of continuous process improvements will be an asset in leading Baystate Medical Center and supporting Baystate 2020, our health system’s strategic plan,” said Shendell-Falik. “His adherence to core values and accountability in all actions, as well as his advocacy of transparency, especially in his own interactions, will make him a key member of the Baystate Health family.” Gandhi, with 15 years of professional experience in healthcare administration, comes to his new position from a hospital similar to Baystate Medical Center — a 637-bed teaching hospital affiliated with Mercer University School of Medicine, a Level I trauma center and three-time Magnet designated hospital for nursing excellence nationwide. Prior to joining Navicent Health in 2013, Gandhi was employed by Virtua Health in Marlton, N.J., the largest comprehensive healthcare system in Southern New Jersey, where he helped change the overall culture to one of continuous process improvement, resulting in cost savings and key improvements for the organization. During his 10 years there, Gandhi oversaw the process-driven planning process for a new $618 million replacement hospital and regional ambulatory center, also leading successful initiatives to improve clinical safety and quality outcomes, as well as patient satisfaction and employee engagement. Gandhi attended the University of Bombay, India, where he received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He later received a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a doctorate in health administration and leadership from Medical University of South Carolina.

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In a visit to the governor’s Western Mass. office in Springfield recently, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced Michael Knapik, a former state senator and state representative from Westfield, as the office’s new director. Knapik will be a primary liaison between the administration and constituents and communities in Western Mass. “With more than two decades of experience representing Western Mass. constituents, Mike is exceptionally qualified to lead our Springfield office,” Baker said. “Operating the office is one of the many essential tools we use to maintain an important relationship with the people, local leaders, and municipalities of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties.” Added Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, “Mike will be an asset to both the administration and those serviced by the Springfield office. I look forward to working closely with him in his new role to continue building upon the strong relationships our administration has cultivated in the western part of the state.” Knapik said he is “excited to join the Baker-Polito administration and begin working with people across Western Massachusetts again. Western Massachusetts has a lot to offer, and I look forward to playing an active role in our communities and the overall conversation with the rest of Massachusetts on behalf of the administration.” Knapik served Westfield and 11 surrounding communities in the state Legislature for 22 years, first as a representative from 1991 to 1994 and then as a senator from 1995 to 2013.

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Kevin Maltby

Kevin Maltby

Bacon Wilson announced that attorney Kevin Maltby is now president of the Hampden County Bar Assoc. (HCBA) after taking the oath of office Wednesday in front of his partners and peers at the association’s annual meeting and membership dinner at the Springfield Sheraton. “I am enormously grateful to the members of the bar association for their confidence in me, and gratified to follow in the footsteps of my partners at Bacon Wilson, including past presidents Paul Rothschild, Hyman Darling, and Michael Ratner,” Maltby said. “I consider it an honor to be counted among their ranks. So many Bacon Wilson attorneys have, over their lengthy careers, given their time and legal skills to serve the Hampden County Bar.”

Michael Katz

Michael Katz

Michael Ratner

Michael Ratner

Paul Salvage

Paul Salvage

Also in attendance was attorney Michael Katz, who took office as chair of the bar’s Bankruptcy Section, while attorneys Michael Ratner and Paul Salvage were each honored for their 50 years of membership. Maltby has a long history of service and involvement with the Hampden County Bar Assoc. He has served on the bar’s board of directors each year since 2012. He was honored with the HCBA’s Access to Justice Pro Bono Publico Award for 2012 for his vision and implementation of the Springfield District Court Lawyer for the Day program. Additionally, in 2013, he received the Community Service Award from the Mass. Bar Assoc. Maltby is a member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism. He has extensive jury-trial and courtroom experience, and is a former prosecutor for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. He is also an adjunct professor of Legal Studies at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, where he teaches litigation, advanced litigation, criminal law, and evidence. He earned his law degree from Suffolk University Law School in 2001, and his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from UMass in 1998. In 2014, he was a recipient of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty distinction, and has been a named a Super Lawyers Rising Star for seven years, since 2009.

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The Westmass Area Development Corp. board named Eric Nelson the new president and CEO of the private, nonprofit, industrial- and business-development corporation that offers master-planned land resources at Chicopee River Business Park, Hadley University Business Park, Deer Park in East Longmeadow, and the historic Ludlow Mills. Nelson succeeds Kenn Delude, who is retiring after 10 years as president and CEO of the organization. Nelson has more than 30 years of experience in site development and design and has consulted on numerous industrial and commercial site-development projects. His background also encompasses financing development and creating public-private partnership agreements. Having served as senior vice president of Westmass for the past two and a half years and with Westmass since 2011, Nelson has conducted regular meetings with industrial and business prospects interested in Westmass properties, conducted pre-development site analysis and research, headed the process of zoning and building permits, and was responsible for project budgets and grant applications. According to John Maybury, Westmass board chair, “Westmass has been fortunate to have someone of Kenn Delude’s unique skills at the helm of the organization. We are equally fortunate to have Eric Nelson, who worked alongside Kenn for the past five years, making for a smooth transition. Eric has worked closely with Kenn and is intimately involved with all of Westmass’ industrial land resources in the region and in particular the Ludlow Mills preservation and redevelopment, an exciting project which is quickly approaching $100 million in investment and represents significant economic development for the region.” Maybury said Delude would continue to provide support to Westmass and the Ludlow Mills project through the transition in a consulting role as needed. Nelson is a registered professional landscape architect and holds U.S. Green Building Council LEED AP certification. He earned his master’s degree in landscape architecture from UMass Amherst.

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Madeline Presz

Madeline Presz

JGS Lifecare has named Madeline Presz executive director of Spectrum Home Health & Hospice Care. Presz is responsible for overseeing the daily operation of the home health and hospice program, including supervision of the team, financial performance, and delivery of quality care, as well as providing direct care. Presz brings 22 years of clinical experience in healthcare to this position. She is a registered nurse, certified in hospice and palliative care, gerontological nursing; and IV therapy, central line and TPN therapy. Before joining Spectrum, Presz served as executive director of the Loving Care Agency in Springfield. In this role, she was responsible for the clinical and operational programming for two pediatric and three adult home-care offices/teams.  Prior to that, she served as regional director of Clinical Operations for Life Choice Hospice in Auburn. She was also a clinical director/administrator at Solamor Hospice in Auburn and a clinical director of Allegiance Hospice in Shrewsbury. Presz has also served as director of Nursing at Wingate in East Longmeadow, and she started her career as assistant director of Nursing at Chestnut Hill Rehab in East Longmeadow. Presz has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Elms College, graduating summa cum laude, and an associate degree in nursing from Springfield Technical Community College. She is also a member of the Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society for nurses.

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Mary-Beth Cooper

Mary-Beth Cooper

Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper has been appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to serve on one of three special commissions created under the landmark opioid legislation signed into law earlier this year. Cooper and the other appointees to the commission were sworn in by the governor recently at the State House. Cooper will serve on the special commission to study the incorporation of safe and effective pain treatment and prescribing practices into the professional training of students that may prescribe controlled substances. This special commission is tasked with developing recommendations to ensure future prescribers have an understanding of certain fundamental issues relative to the opioid epidemic, including pain treatment, pain-treatment planning, safe prescribing practices, and prescription monitoring. The appointed commission will submit recommendations on or before Dec. 1. “I’m honored to serve on this commission, representing our outstanding healthcare-preparation programs at Springfield College,” said Cooper. “I’m excited about the diversity of the commission, which includes family members of those who have struggled with opioid use, current healthcare providers, other educators, and committed community members all wanting to be a part of solutions to the opioid crisis.” Joining Cooper as appointees to the special commission are Todd Brown, vice chairman of the School of Pharmacy at Northeastern University; Dr. Nitigna Desai, director of Addiction Psychiatry at Bedford Veteran Affairs Medical Center and director of the Substance Abuse Service Line at New England Healthcare; Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of the Dimock Community Health Center; Brad Ulrich, regional vice president for Walgreens; and Joan Vitello-Cicciu, dean of the UMass Graduate School of Nursing.

•••••

Brian Risler, Farmington Bank’s assistant vice president and mortgage sales manager for the Western Mass. region, has been named 2016 Affiliate of the Year by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV). The announcement was made during the association’s recent annual awards banquet on June 8. The award is the highest form of recognition given by the RAPV to an affiliate member who has shown outstanding service and devotion to the organization during the past 17 months in the areas of affiliate-related association activity, community service, and business activity. Risler has served in many capacities for the RAPV, including co-chair of its Education Fair & Trade Show, which was the association’s largest and most heavily attended event of the year. Risler also served on the Government Affairs Committee of the Mass. Assoc. of Realtors (MAR), advocating for private property rights and promoting MAR’s legislative agenda and positions on key issues. As affiliate of the year, Risler was also recognized for his involvement in the community. For instance, he has been a guest speaker for HAPHousing, the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in Western Mass., educating first-time homebuyers on the fundamentals of residential financing and how best to advocate for themselves as consumers. At Farmington Bank, Risler has more than 16 years of experience in residential mortgage banking in Massachusetts. Risler received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from Stonehill College in Massachusetts.

•••••

Elias Acuna, a real estate agent with Maria Acuna Real Estate in Springfield, has been named the 2016 Realtor of the Year by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV). The announcement was made during the association’s annual awards banquet held recently at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. As the highest honor given to a member, the Realtor of the Year award is bestowed upon one person who has shown outstanding service and devotion to the 1,650-member organization during the past 17 months in the areas of Realtor activity, community service, and business activity. A Realtor since 2004, Acuna serves on the association’s board of directors, finance committee, strategic planning committee, and young professional’s network committee, where he was chairman in 2015. He is a co-presenter at the bimonthly new-member orientation promoting involvement and member benefits. Acuna is a frequent technology instructor, teaching topics such as real-estate apps and social-media practices. At the state level, he is a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Assoc. of Realtors (MAR). He is the chairman of the Mass. Assoc. of Realtors young professional’s network committee and a member the MAR diversity committee. He participated along with 400 Massachusetts Realtors in the 2015 and 2016 Realtors Day on Beacon Hill to lobby on behalf of home ownership and private property rights. He attended the 2015 Massachusetts Assoc. of Realtors Convention and Trade Show.

•••••
Berkshire Bank announced that Kathryn Dube, first vice president, wealth business development leader, was honored by the United Way of Pioneer Valley as Volunteer of the Year for the 2015-16 season. Dube joined the United Way of Pioneer Valley board of directors in 2007 and committed to this position until 2017. As an affiliate of the United Way, she has also held other titles, such as chairperson of the allocations and impact committee, chairman of the board, and founding member of the Women’s Leadership Council in Western Mass. in 2013. The award is based upon leadership, community engagement, and core values, among other essential qualities. The United Way of Pioneer Valley granted the award to Dube on June 22 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

•••••

Greenfield Cooperative Bank and its parent company, Greenfield Bancorp, announced that the following seven directors were re-elected to three-year terms as directors of the bank and Greenfield Bancorp, MHC:
•Attorney Robert Carey, a principal in the Greenfield law firm of Curtiss, Carey, Gates & 
Goodridge, LLP, re-elected as clerk of the bank;
Kevin O’Neil, president of Wilson’s Department Store in Greenfield, re- elected chairman of the board;
Keith Finan, chief financial officer of Deerfield Academy;
• Attorney Daniel Graves, owner of the Law Offices of Daniel Graves in Greenfield;
• Attorney Peter MacConnell, principal in the law firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C., re-elected as a corporator for a 10-year term;
John Kuhn, principal in the firm of Kuhn-Riddle Architects in Amherst, re-elected as a corporator for a 10-year term; and
Robb Morton, CPA, principal in the accounting firm of Boisselle, Morton & Associates, LLP located in Hadley, also re-elected as a 
corporator for a 10-year term. Re-elected to 10-year terms as corporators of Greenfield Bancorp, MHC were Barry Roberts, president of Roberts Builders Inc.; Margarita O’Byrne Curtis, head of school at Deerfield Academy; and Douglas Clarke, retired after many years with Western Massachusetts Electric Co., now Eversource.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Based on the survey results of its 2016 “Best Firms to Work For” ranking, Zweig Group recently named Tighe & Bond one of the best civil-engineering firms to work for in the nation. This annual awards competition is based on business-practice data collected from numerous participating firms across the country, including feedback solicited through an employee survey.

Zweig Group — a provider of management information and expertise to engineering, architecture, and environmental-consulting firms worldwide — sponsors the program that recognizes the top firms leading the way in creating a work place that inspires, motivates, and rewards employees.

The competitive ranking that results is based on comprehensive evaluations of factors such as firm culture and workplace practices, employee benefits, career development and growth opportunities, compensation, performance and recognition, as well as recruiting and retention rates. All firms that apply for this prestigious ranking and recognition are evaluated against each other, not a set standard.

“Zweig Group has recognized Tighe & Bond several times as one of the best engineering firms to work for in the nation, and it is always a significant honor. It also exemplifies our ongoing commitment to create a working environment where all of our employees feel valued, and where they can see their contribution to the overall mission and success of the firm and our clients,” said Tighe & Bond President and CEO David Pinsky. “Our ability to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented staff is crucial to providing the high-quality, responsive services that our clients have come to expect and deserve.”

Zweig Group will recognize Tighe & Bond, along with the other winners, during the 2016 Zweig Group Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in September. This is the industry’s largest and most comprehensive business conference for leaders and aspiring leaders of architectural, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Westmass Area Development Corp. board named Eric Nelson the new president and CEO of the private, nonprofit, industrial- and business-development corporation that offers master-planned land resources at Chicopee River Business Park, Hadley University Business Park, Deer Park in East Longmeadow, and the historic Ludlow Mills.

Nelson replaces Kenn Delude, who is retiring after 10 years as president and CEO of the organization. Nelson has more than 30 years of experience in site development and design and has consulted on numerous industrial and commercial site-development projects. His background also encompasses financing development and creating public-private partnership agreements.

Having served as senior vice president of Westmass for the past two and a half years and with Westmass since 2011, Nelson has conducted regular meetings with industrial and business prospects interested in Westmass properties, conducted pre-development site analysis and research, headed the process of zoning and building permits, and was responsible for project budgets and grant applications.

According to John Maybury, Westmass board chair, “Westmass has been fortunate to have someone of Kenn Delude’s unique skills at the helm of the organization. We are equally fortunate to have Eric Nelson, who worked alongside Kenn for the past five years, making for a smooth transition. Eric has worked closely with Kenn and is intimately involved with all of Westmass’ industrial land resources in the region and in particular the Ludlow Mills preservation and redevelopment, an exciting project which is quickly approaching $100 million in investment and represents significant economic development for the region.”

Maybury said Delude would continue to provide support to Westmass and the Ludlow Mills project through the transition in a consulting role as needed.

Nelson is a registered professional landscape architect and holds U.S. Green Building Council LEED AP certification. He earned his master’s degree in landscape architecture from UMass Amherst.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Mayor Richard Alcombright

Mayor Richard Alcombright says recent developments like the expansion of Mass MoCA are raising North Adams’ profile as a destination.

Mayor Richard Alcombright says North Adams used to be a little mill town that people had to drive through to get to Stockbridge, Williamstown, or popular spots in Southern Vermont.

“But over the last decade, we’ve become a place to stop and are really finding our way to becoming a destination,” he told BusinessWest, adding that there are many projects in various stages of completion that will only enhance the city’s growing popularity.

The $65 million, third-phase expansion of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), which will double its footprint, adding 130,000 square feet of gallery space and enhancing the outdoor courtyard space, is expected to be finished next year. The work is taking place on the south end of the campus of the former Sprague Electric factory, whose 16 acres of grounds and 26 buildings with an elaborate system of interlocking courtyards and passages was transformed into the museum in 1999. When the renovations are complete, the North Adams museum will be the largest of its kind in the country.

Mass MoCA has had a regional economic impact of $24 million annually, and drew more than 160,000 visitors last year alone. The numbers are expected to increase, especially since the $100 million renovation and expansion of the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute two years ago in nearby Williamstown continue to grow and have helped strengthen North Adams’s position as a destination for arts and culture.

Alcombright calls the two institutions “cultural bookends,” and said the expansions have boosted confidence in the city and inspired private investments on a scale not seen in decades.

Indeed, Salvatore Perry and Karla Rothstein of Latent Productions in New York City had no plans to invest in North Adams until they drove through the town two years ago to pick up their daughter from a New Hampshire camp.

They had never been to the Berkshires and planned to visit the Clark, as it’s called, but when they spotted the Cariddi Mill (originally known as the Greylock Mill) that stretches 700 feet along Route 2 in North Adams on 7.8 acres, their plans underwent an abrupt change.

The couple has focused on developing properties with unrealized potential in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but seeing the former cotton mill that was for sale led them to scrap plans to see a concert at Mass MoCA that night.

Instead, they did some research, met with the owner and broker the next day, and purchased the 240,000-square-foot property for $750,000. “The building is a magnificent structure, and as architects, the potential was immediately apparent to us,” Perry said.

The next year was spent conducting research to determine the best potential use for the property and list any challenges that would be involved in rehabbing the site.

The couple formed a new limited-liability company called Greylock Works, which reclaimed the property, and work began last October in an area known as the Weave Shed. The goal was to transform it into a 32,000-square-foot event space, and although it was not finished, it was introduced to the public via a New Year’s Eve Party that attracted 600 guests.

Site foreman Joe Boucher said the space will be complete in July, and pointed out the newly installed wall-to-wall windows facing the street and the unusual sawtooth construction which floods the space with light.

“It will hold 1,000 people and is a resource that doesn’t exist in the region,” Perry noted.

The next phase of the project will involve the renovation of an adjacent, 32,000-square-foot area that will be turned into a retail food hub or artisanal food incubator, with a butcher shop, bakery, cheesemakers, and a restaurant situated off of a main interior corridor. Each business will have a small area for retail operations and also have room to conduct wholesale operations to help sustain a flow of year-round revenue.

“The focus is to bring activity, great jobs, events, and fantastic food production to this portion of the site,” Perry said, adding that renovating the event space and food incubator will cost between $5 million and $6 million.

When that portion of the mill is finished, plans will be implemented to build a hotel, amenities for it, residential condos, and a park on the rest of the property.

Renewed Interest

In addition to cultural offerings, North Adams has an endless panorama of hiking trails, and the Hoosic River, which runs directly through the city’s downtown, is one of few area waterways that supports wild brown trout.

Alcombright said other draws include the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and the fact that North Adams and Williamstown, which is home to the Clark and Williams College, are linked by Route 2 has led the communities to piggyback on projects whenever they can.

Another project based on private investment between the two has begun at the site of the former Redwood Motel on 915 State Road in North Adams. It was built in the ’60s and was in a state of disrepair until it was purchased last April for $350,000 by a group that includes Boston developers, a Brooklyn publisher, and a musician from the band Wilco.

Project Manager Eric Kerns said the group formed an LLC called Beyond Place for the project, and initially planned a creative renovation of the 18-room motel. But the vision has grown, and the parties have assembled nearly 50 acres of property, including the 65,000-square-foot Blackinton Mill site north of the motel and 45 acres of former industrial land contiguous to it. The plan is to connect the properties and build a resort that will appeal to Millennials and young families in Brooklyn, Boston, and other communities.

“They’re primed to discover the Berkshires as a tourist destination,” Kerns said of the younger demographic. “Although the area has a lot for them, including music, art, and outdoor recreation, most hospitality properties are still targeting a much older demographic.

“We want to create a home for the next generation of Berkshire visitors,” she went on, “and plan to take a familiar site and reorient it back from the road toward the river and prioritize what new generations are looking for.”

A house that sits on the motel property will be renovated and turned into a central lodge, and an old farmhouse to the east on the newly purchased grounds will also be reimagined.

“This project is moving forward at an accelerated rate, and the goal is to have all 47 rooms completed a year from now when Mass MoCA completes its third phase of renovation; we feel that an economic renaissance is happening between North Adams and Williamstown, and we are at the center of it,” he continued, adding that a profound confluence of the Appalachian Trail, the Mohawk Trail, and the Hoosic River can be found on the property.

Thomas Krens, who once directed the Guggenheim Museum in New York and its overseas satellites, and was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Mass MoCA, has proposed another project for North Adams: a $20 million model-railroading and architecture museum in Western Gateway Heritage State Park that has a footpath directly across from Mass MoCA’s south gate.

“The idea has been very, very well received by the state, the community, and the private sector,” Alcombright said, adding that the museum — which would be twice as large as the Miniatur Wunderland, a model-railway attraction in Hamburg, Germany that is presently the largest of its kind in the world — is expected to bring another 200,000 to 300,000 visitors to North Adams each year.

The Hoosic River Revival is another endeavor that promises to enhance North Adams and bring new life downtown by a radical revision of the existing flood-control system. A plan has been designed that will protect the city while making the waterway a focal point and promoting recreation along it that will enhance the city’s cultural and economic vitality.

The existing flood-protection system was built in the ’50s. It is bordered by a chain-link fence, runs through two and a half miles of the downtown area, and contains 45-foot-wide, three-sided concrete panels that are 10 to 15 feet high, which make it impossible for fish to live in that section of the river.

The project was spearheaded by resident Judy Grinnell in 2008, and since that time a dedicated coalition, which formed a nonprofit three years ago, has raised a total of $800,000 (including $575,000 from the state) for the revival.

“The river is an integral part of our downtown,” Grinnell noted, explaining that two branches bisect and merge at the end of the last building on the Mass MoCA complex.

The importance of the project was driven home when Hurricane Irene hit in 2011 and the river rose within two feet of the floodwalls.

“It was opportunistic that we started this project when we did because the system is aging. It is not going to flood any time soon, but three of the 20-foot panels have fallen in over the past 15 years, and six are leaning,” Grinnell noted, adding that officials are working with the Army Corps of Engineers, and a plan has been created that will include community gardens, a bike path, and other amenities designed to bring people downtown.

Last year the state Legislature appropriated $8.75 million for the project as part of an environmental and energy bond bill, and the nonprofit received $500,000 to design a half-mile section as a pilot project, which is in the approval process.

“The Hoosic River revival is an ecological project, but it’s also an economic-development project,” Grinnell said, citing other cities such as Providence, R.I., and San Antonio, Texas, where access to the riverfront has helped spur revitalization and create vibrant downtowns.

Changing Landscape

When Alcombright took office in 2010, North Adams had a $2.3 million budget deficit with $100,000 in reserve. Today, the city is in a much different position, and for the last two years has had a balanced budget with $1.6 million in reserve.

The mayor said taxpayers bore the brunt of the problem, but thanks to new projects underway, the city’s future is on a fast track to success.

A $30 million renovation of the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School that transformed it into Colgrove Park Elementary School was completed last winter, and the building opened in January. Nearly 80% of the cost is being reimbursed by the state, and the new school will add to the city’s appeal.

“We managed to sustain ourselves through the bad times, have built our way back up, and are starting to see growth; we’re on the upside of the hill and are starting to feel some excitement,” the mayor noted as he spoke about Mass MoCA and the private investments taking place.

Perry agreed. “North Adams is at a turning point,” he said. “When we decided to invest here, the regional hospital was shutting its doors, and now, almost two years later, it’s phenomenal to see the optimism and investments private developers are planning alongside major institutional achievements by places such as Mass MoCA and Williams College.”

 

North Adams at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1878
Population: 13,354 (2014)
Area: 20.6 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $17.39
Commercial Tax Rate: $37.93
Median Household Income: $41,531 (2013)
Family Household Income: $52,202 (2013)
Type of government: Mayor; City Council
Largest Employers: Crane & Co.; Northern Adams Regional Hospital; BFAIR Inc.
* Latest information available

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Douglas Albertson

Douglas Albertson says Jessica’s Boundless Playground is just one important addition to Belchertown’s recreational culture.

Douglas Albertson says Belchertown officials are in the midst of several major planning initiatives that have converged with the goal of addressing the community’s needs, setting the stage for future growth, and connecting the former Belchertown State School with the town center and Lampson Brook Farm property that borders the edge of the state school and was once part of it.

“Belchertown is poised for the next round of development, and the Planning Department is getting ready for what will come. But we’re making sure that what we do is what the community desires,” the town planner told BusinessWest, adding that making areas contiguous in the town is the main focal point within that vision.

An assisted-living facility called Christopher Heights of Belchertown, to be built by the Grantham Group LLC and contain 83 units, 40 of them affordable, has been approved on the old state school property, but the group is waiting to receive low-income housing credits before breaking ground for the project.

Four buildings have been demolished to make room for the facility, and this year the second phase of demolition on the property has begun with the abatement of the multi-story former auditorium, which will be torn down when it is complete.

The master plan for the former state school created by MassDevelopment contains space for retail shops, offices, and live/work/play units for artisans, but there is a need for connectivity between that acreage and other parts of the town within walking distance, including the town common, the public-schools complex, the police station, the senior center, and businesses and apartments to the north.

To that end, Albertson applied for and received a grant from the American Institute of Architects and the New England Municipal Sustainability Network, which sent a ‘sustainable-design and resiliency team’ comprised of five experts in engineering, architecture, community design, sustainability, and planning to the town. After spending three days in the community gathering input, which included a public forum that attracted close to 70 residents, they conducted research and follow-up interviews, and looked at available development sites. The team’s final set of recommendations is not complete, but the initial report notes that piecemeal planning done in the past needs to be pulled together in a cohesive manner that will fill in gaps that exist.

“The plan is all about the larger community and providing cohesion,” Albertson said.

Selectman Nicholas O’Connor is also helping to plan for the future, and has enlisted aid from more than a dozen people on town departments and boards. He told BusinessWest that, although he hopes the former state school property will someday attract new businesses, retail operations, and restaurants, business owners and entrepreneurs need a reason to want to come to Belchertown.

O’Connor was elected last May, is the liaison for the town’s human-services group that includes about 15 organizations, and believes that adding agritourism and recreational opportunities will help attract businesses and result in visitors who could help them to thrive.

“We get a lot of vehicular traffic, but it is not stopping here,” he noted. “We are land-rich and have so many beautiful places to hike and fish that we should be able to capitalize on that, which would help to create a more fertile business environment.”

O’Connor and other officials believe building a new sports complex large enough to host tournaments would bring more visitors to town, and the Cultural Council wants to create a performance and community space for concerts, drama productions, and other gatherings which could also make a difference. They would, in theory, both benefit residents and draw people into vibrant spaces that could give new businesses and restaurants an opportunity to germinate and do well.

Old-school Thinking

O’Connor cites the former Lampson Brook Farm property as a prime spot to add a sports complex as well as the playing fields that the Recreation Department says the town needs, especially since they will lose some of the ones they have when the old state school is developed.

Obtaining ownership of the property would be timely, because the farm used to be part of the old state school, and Gov. Charlie Baker recently said he wants it removed from the state surplus rolls.

“It contains hiking trails that we can’t use right now due to no-trespassing signs,” O’Connor said.

The town is also hoping to purchase the defunct Patrick Center on 47 State St. near the public-school complex, which has been vacant for more than a decade, for recreational use. It is going through a value assessment and consists of a 4,400-square-foot building on 5.4 acres.

The Norwottuck Rail Trail ends a few miles from Lampson Brook, and O’Connor says if it could be extended through the farm property into the MassDevelopment site, it would provide a connection that would allow people to get from one area to the other more easily.

“The goal is to create a pedestrian zone,” he explained, adding that the town is also petitioning the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to extend the existing bus route to the courthouse.

Residents are doing their own work to fill in gaps and make Belchertown more accessible and attractive, and the completion of Jessica’s Boundless Playground about 16 months ago on school property off Route 202 across from the police station serves as a prime example. It is fully accessible, contains exercise stations for adults and state-of-the-art play equipment for the small set, and was named in honor of 19-year-old Jessica Martins, who had Rett syndrome and died in 2009 from the H1N1 or ‘swine flu’ virus.

Her mother, Vicki Martins-Auffrey, formed Team Jessica with a group of friends. It raised $600,000 for the park over a five-year period (which included $200,000 in Community Preservation Act funds). In addition, close to $400,000 in volunteer labor was donated, with help coming from local businesses and 200 volunteers from the community who built the playground in two days.

“We had to turn people away,” said Martins-Auffrey, adding that the idea for the boundless playground came from Drew Gatesman and Mike Seward, who contacted her and suggested the park be named after her daughter. “The response to this was incredible. It seemed like we made the impossible happen, as a lot of people didn’t think we could ever do it.”

In addition, several hundred residents have completed four ‘walk audits’ to identify areas around State Street, Route 9, and Route 202 that need improvement and are home to many apartments and shops.

Albertson said town officials recommended installing sidewalk curbs, wheelchair ramps, and other enhancements that could help pedestrians navigate the area more easily. As a result, signs have already been put up to identify crosswalks, and as the state school property is developed, pedestrian accessibility will remain an area of focus.

The town is also planning on making improvements to the section of Route 202 between the state school property and the public school complex, and Albertson said officials hope to implement the state’s Complete Streets policy in the area, which would make it eligible for additional state funding that could pay for new sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and other amenities.

“It’s a great time to do some planning for this in addition to developments at the state school,” Albertson said, adding that, as that property gets developed, it may fuel investments by businesses situated along the nearby commercial zone on Stadler Street.

He noted that a large commercial lot owned primarily by Pride that sits to the west has real potential for development. Pride purchased the 46-acre parcel in 2005, and a few businesses have been established there, including a physician office building, Tractor Supply, and Planet Fitness. The Eastern Hampshire District Courthouse also sits on six acres, leaving 28.5 acres open for development.

The Town Common is about a mile from the courthouse and is included in the larger planning area, and Albertson said the idea is to create a sense of cohesion between it and the area along Route 202 that runs from the old state school to the public school complex.

Infrastructure work is also nearing completion on Route 181 and is expected to be finished in the near future. “It has been rebuilt and was in the works for well over 10 years,” the town planner continued, noting that the roadway has been widened, new sewer lines have been installed, and drainage repairs have been made.

Development is also occurring in the form of a large commercial solar-energy project that was recently approved and will be built toward the end of the year by Nexamp on land that includes a sand pit and a Christmas tree farm situated between Franklin and North Liberty streets.

“We were one of the first green communities, and clean energy is part of our value system,” Albertson said, noting that a previously approved solar farm off Springfield Road has been completed and is expected to go online in the near future.

Businesses are also growing, and Albertson said Universal Forest Products LLC has purchased abutting property with plans to expand.

Forward Movement

Creating cohesion between the town common and the area along Route 202 that is bordered by the public schools complex and the state school on each end is a project that will take time.

But O’Connor and Albertson, along with a supporting cast of officials and active residents, are committed to fulfilling that goal.

“There is connective tissue that overlays everything,” O’Connor said, “and what we have planned is something we need to do not only for ourselves, but to position the town as an attractive place where businesses can grow and thrive.”

 

 

Belchertown at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 14,735
Area: 52.64 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential Tax Rate: $17.97
Commercial Tax Rate: $17.97
Median Household Income: $76,968
Family Household Income: $80,038
Type of government: Open Town Meeting; Board of Selectmen
Largest Employers: Hulmes Transportation Services; Belchertown High School; Super Stop & Shop
* Latest information available

Landscape Design Sections

Going Yard

Amherst Landscape & Design Associates

One of Amherst Landscape & Design Associates’ many hardscape projects.

After several lean years during the recession, followed by the slow revival of the home-building and commercial-construction sectors, landscape designers are finally feeling like their industry is surging, with customers jumping on trends ranging from outdoor kitchens to landscape lighting to sustainable elements. A mild winter meant an early start for these professionals, who are optimistic the brisk business will continue throughout 2016.

It’s a simple question, just four words. But it speaks volumes about the optimism area landscape designers feel about the 2016 season.

“The golden question we’re hearing is, ‘when can you start?’ Not ‘let me get back to you,’ but ‘when can you start?’” said Stephen Roberts, president of Stephen A. Roberts Landscape Architecture & Construction in Springfield. “We haven’t heard those words much the last eight years, but we’re starting to hear them. People want to pull the trigger and go.”

That’s not to say the last few years haven’t been positive. Since the lean times caused by the Great Recession, the landscape-design business, like other construction trades, has been on an upward arc. But something seems different — even more positive — this year, Roberts said.

“We’ve seen an uptick in calls coming in, contracts have been signed already, and the backlog is stacking up,” he noted. “It seems stronger than the past few years.”

He admits the unseasonable winter — one in which the Pioneer Valley totaled well under two feet of snow and bare lawns, not mounds of snow, dotted the landscape throughout much of January and February — had something to do with that.

“Of course, we had the mild winter; last year, there was still plenty of snow on the ground at this time, and people weren’t thinking about landscaping,” he said when he spoke with BusinessWest at the start of April. “This year, with hardly any snow, people have been looking at their dreary landscape all winter and thinking about what to do.”

The warm weather also allowed for an early start to work, Roberts said. “We were able to get out much earlier because the ground wasn’t frozen; we could start excavating and preparing for construction. And because we got out into the community earlier, people saw the trucks, and that generated even more action.”

Steve Prothers, president of Amherst Landscape & Design Associates, senses similar optimism in the air.

“It’s exciting. There’s a lot of energy out there, a lot of excitement for the new season,” he said. “Of course, that’s true after every winter, regardless of the severity; come spring, people are excited to be outdoors, and they look to landscaping to make their property a beautiful and desirable place to hang out.”

Still, the mild winter and early onset of warm weather — give or take a couple late-season accumulations that melted quickly — gave landscapers about a four-week start on the time they usually start cranking up, which is typically mid-April.

“From what I can tell, this is going to be a very busy year,” he said. “That shows there’s a lot of construction going on. Landscaping is always the result of a lot of physical building and remodeling, and it’s kind of a snowball effect. We can’t help but benefit. As they go, we go. When they’re down in flow, so are we. I’ve been doing this for 37 years, and maybe we’re a little insulated in this region, but we’re still affected by the ups and downs of the national and local economy.”

Roberts agreed that a strong flow of work among both commercial contractors and home builders over the past few years has definitely trickled down to landscapers.

“A lot of new construction is getting ready for landscaping,” he explained. “When the engineers are first getting busy, we’re usually two years out from them. But you’re seeing contracts being signed now for the landscape phase.”

At Home Outdoors

As a specialist in hardscaping, Prothers is in a good spot these days, as that aspect of landscape design has been on an upward track since the recession began to fade and people began reinvesting in their homes in earnest.

“We’re seeing a lot of landscape construction from people who are remodeling or expanding and want to expand their outdoor living rooms, using walkways, patios, gazebos, pergolas … anything that makes the space more inviting to hang out or entertain.”


Click HERE for a chart of area landscape design companies


He said water features and outdoor firepits have become especially popular with customers, not to mention kitchen areas where families can cook and dine outdoors — in some cases, poolside. Others are hardscaping around hot tubs and better connecting the poolside experience to the overall landscape — in both cases, making pools and hot tubs part of the entire outdoor-living experience, rather than standalone spots to enjoy a dip or a soak. “People want to feel like they’re spending vacation time in their backyard.”

Roberts agreed that demand remains strong for outdoor living rooms, cooking areas, and firepits. “Those are still high up on the want list for a lot of customers. And the trend is more toward gas features, which are easier to operate.”

Beyond the cooking aspects, he added, homeowners have moved well beyond lawn chairs and favor durable and weatherproof outdoor furniture. “They want to create comfortable, casual spaces. They want to gather and relax in a little more upscale environment than what they’ve had in the past.”

Steve Roberts and his dog, Max

Steve Roberts and his dog, Max, enjoy a moment at the firepit on the Elms College quadrangle, which his company gave a significant makeover recently.

They’re also increasingly looking to install artistic landscape lighting, also known as architectural lighting, a niche popular in the South that is coming into its own in the Northeast. As opposed to powerful floodlights, landscape lighting uses a variety of smaller accent lights to highlight the features of a home and yard.

“Outdoor lighting is being requested a lot more, with the LED lights available now,” Roberts said. “Those are more energy-efficient, and more people are gravitating toward them than in the past. They’re coming up earlier in the conversation, instead of something being added on in the future; people are asking for lighting up front.”

All these features reflect national landscaping trends, according to Corinne Gangloff, media relations director for the Freedonia Group, which studies landscaping trends. She writes that, “as part of the outdoor living trend, homeowners create outside kitchens and living rooms, and businesses extend outdoor areas to expand their seating space. Urban communities increasingly create ‘parklets,’ small green spaces that may feature flower beds, container gardens, walking paths, water features, seating, bird-watching opportunities, and statuary. Some communities have used these parks as a way to address the issue of abandoned homes in blighted neighborhoods, tearing down the structures and replacing them with this type of public green space.”

Other trends in this $6.3 billion industry, according to the organization’s 2016 survey, include heating elements, pavers, and environmental concerns, driving the popularity of solar-powered features, water conservation, and recycled materials.

“Sustainability is a growing concern and desire for homeowners,” writes Jill Odom, associate editor of Total Landscape Care. “As houses get renovated to conserve energy, yards will be redesigned to conserve water. There are plenty of design options that can be used to achieve this, but the two main options will be low-water-use plant material and better irrigation systems.”

Practical features are popular too, Roberts noted. “A lot of people want to add gardens and grow vegetables and fruit. I think there’s definitely a trend toward having some type of edible landscape aspects to their properties, even if it’s just an herb garden, just to have something to pick and throw on a salad. We see that as kind of a trend.”

Heating Up

While the hot choices in landscaping features might vary from customer to customer, Prothers told BusinessWest, the professionals working in the field report similar levels of enthusiasm for what the spring and summer of 2016 will bring after that remarkably mild winter.

“If it’s not overwhelming, it’s certainly steady work,” he said, noting that customers are starting to think about their spring plans sooner — as in the previous winter or even fall — and booking their projects instead of waiting, as they might have in past years. “They realize these jobs have a schedule, so they want to lock them in, and they’re thinking in advance.”

There are plenty of reasons for that, he added, but in general, people have a little more money to spend right now, and they want to invest it in their homes — specifically, in extending their homes outside. “There are a lot of larger renovation jobs taking place, which is great, but also a lot of older landscapes that were installed 30, 40 years ago, and are tired and need a little attention. People want something that’ll go the rest of distance they’re in their homes — or help them resell their homes.”

The almost complete lack of snow this year, while a relief for the average Massachusetts homeowner weary of long, harsh winters, did pose some stress to landscapers — Roberts included — who turn to snow removal during the cold months. But he’s not complaining about the flip side.

“We rely on that winter income for our overhead, and to give us a little cash going into the spring, and that money wasn’t there this year,” he said. “But, luckily, things are on the upswing now.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Technology

Model Business

3DprintingDPart

3D printing is hardly a new development, but its applications have rapidly expanded over the past decade as companies use it to produce both inexpensive design prototypes and large runs of manufactured parts. Connecticut-based ACT Group has been at the forefront of this revolution regionally, selling and servicing 3D-printing equipment for a wide range of clients in myriad industries. Its success mirrors that of a technology that, clearly, is no longer flying under the radar.

 

When it comes to the capabilities and applications of 3D printing, Nick Gondek said, “the sky’s the limit.” Which is why he’s glad his company, ACT Group, has established a strong presence in that field.

Specifically, the firm — based in Cromwell, Conn. and formerly known as Advanced Copy Technologies — sells and services 3D printing equipment to a wide range of clients in fields as diverse as aerospace, medicine, and shoe manufacturing.

The company’s bread and butter, said Gondek, the company’s director of Additive Manufacturing and applications engineer, is a process called rapid prototyping, by which manufacturers can produce individual 3D models of potential products much more quickly and cost-effectively than previously possible.

Take, for example, ACT’s clients in shoe manufacturing, which include Timberland, New Balance, and Puma. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — can produce full-scale models of new designs, which can be easily modified numerous times at little cost, compared to making changes after manufacturing a large run.

Nick Gondek

Nick Gondek

“The technology has been around for some time, but flew under the radar,” said Gondek, whose parents, Greg and Cindi Gondek, purchased the company in 1999, when it focused solely on office-equipment supply. “Now it’s got everyone’s attention.”

They rebranded as ACT Group a couple of years ago to reflect a broadening in scope, including the company’s rise to prominence in the 3D-printing world.

“Five or six years ago, my father was traveling in Europe and was introduced to 3D printing,” Nick Gondek said. “After doing some research to better understand the clientele, he saw opportunity in this industry, on the service side of things.”

3D-printing technology allows users to create three-dimensional, solid objects using a computer-aided design (CAD) program. With a 3D printer, companies can now print a single part, or even complete product, in a matter of hours, when it used to take months. The technology can be used to create both precise, durable prototypes and final products for businesses of all sizes.

“We have a good customer base,” said Gondek, noting that ACT also services clients of 3D Systems, one of the nation’s premier 3D-printing companies, in the Northeast region.

The testimonials and success stories, as shared by Gondek with BusinessWest, are numerous. Daniel Copley, research and development manager at Parker Hannifin, which engineers products for industrial, hydraulic, and aerospace applications, said the company’s in-house 3D-printing capabilities reduced lead time for its prototypes as well as the number of iterations needed, and are saving some $250,000 a year in the cost of prototype parts.

Other clients have similar stories of efficiency and cost savings. Powermate, USA, a provider of power-supply-converting solutions, reports that prototype models of its products can be created in a half-day, with a 65% cost reduction over traditional production.

Meanwhile, John Reed, master prototype specialist at Black & Decker, noted that, “while a design may look good on the computer screen, there is really no substitute for actually holding something in your hand.”

Toby Ringdahl, computer aided design manager for Timberland, cited a dramatic reduction in prototype costs and turnaround time, resulting in more prototyping, better designs, and increased revenue, noting that 3D printing has succeeded in “compressing our design cycles, lowering our costs, and helping us produce better products for our customers.”

Expanding Scope

The 3D-printing process begins with a concept, which is digitally modeled using CAD software — in effect, creating a virtual blueprint of the object to be printed. The program then divides the object into digital cross-sections so the printer is able to build it layer by layer.

The manufacturer then chooses a material, which is sprayed, squeezed, or otherwise transferred onto a platform. The 3D printer makes passes over the platform, much like an inkjet printer, depositing very thin layers of material (each about one-tenth of a millimeter) atop each other to create the finished product.

ACT Group

ACT Group was formerly known as Advanced Copy Technologies, which focused solely on office equipment before expanding its scope, including its recent success with sales and service of 3D-printing equipment.

ACT first specialized in servicing this equipment for its client companies, but, not long after, saw opportunity in the sales of 3D printers, incorporating that end of the business as well.

Increasing numbers of manufacturers are turning to 3D printing, not only for prototyping, but for design, tooling, and delivery of parts and products. Cindi Gondek told Forbes that jewelers can use it to create new pieces, while museums can use it to reproduce rare items for study or display, just to name two applications that might not seem obvious at first.

3D printers can produce precision parts with impressive accuracy in a variety of materials, Nick Gondek said, including plastics, ceramics, wax, and metals.

Invisalign braces, manufactured by Align Technology, are a good example of a rapid-prototyping application most people have heard of, he went on. They are built using CT scanners and 3D printing techniques to fabricate a product that’s different for each user — to the tune of 17 million sets per year.

“Invisalign has a very unique production capacity. They have mastered customized production; every person’s braces are specific to that patient. They 3D print all the models and basically build a retainer over the custom-made molds,” he noted. Without the rapid prototyping allowed by 3D-printing technology, this process — and product — would be much more expensive and labor-intensive.

In fact, the broad field of medicine provides fertile soil for 3D printing, Gondek said, starting with the education and training of future doctors and other medical professionals.

“We have technologies that mimic the properties of human bone for pre-surgical practice, with students cutting bones, drilling bones … and we now have technology to mimic tissue as well, so we can cover them,” he explained.

The technology is also used for designing patient-specific braces and implants to mend broken bones and aid in surgery, Gondek added. “In the news, there’s a lot of talk about printing human tissue. No machine can print organs today, but that’s something that might become a possibility in five or 10 years.”

One ACT client is Maimonides Bone and Joint Center, which produces a 3D color bone model quickly and accurately from a CT scan. This 50% scale model helps doctors discuss medical issues with patients and assists with surgery practice sessions. “I found the 3D model invaluable in patient education, surgical planning, and physician training,” said the company’s Dr. Howard Goodman.

Meanwhile, Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine developed a full-color 3D model of the F protein, which aided in the development of new perspectives on how respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) works, which promises to aid in vaccine research. “Even with prior access to stereo-3D monitors and professional graphics cards, nothing compares to a full-color, physical 3D model,” said Dr. William Ray, principal investigator and faculty member.

From the Ground Up

Additive manufacturing is also revolutionizing the architecture, engineering, and construction world, Gondek said, producing scale models of buildings faster and at lower cost than before, and allowing designers to make earlier decisions and reduce time to market.

Andrew Chary of Andrew Chary Architect PLLC, another ACT Group client, characterizes 3D printing as a natural outgrowth of building information modeling (BIM), which generates digital representations of buildings in the design phase. “BIM doesn’t reach its full persuasive potential on a computer screen,” he said. “The model comes to life when you hold a 3D print in your hands.”

The dominant material for prototyping is a liquid plastic that turns into a solid when exposed to UV light, Gondek explained. A ceramic material is typically used to mimic human bone, and any number of metals may be used when manufacturing industrial parts.

The move into 3D printing required some major shifts at ACT. The equipment involved in that realm is so different from the traditional office products the company sells that a dedicated team was established for 3D sales, service, and support. They were sent to MIT for professional education in the latest processes. “We couldn’t have their traditional 2D salespeople sell this equipment,” he explained. “The applications are too diverse.”

Thus, ACT Group continues to keep up with the latest 3D printing technology — a rapidly expanding field.

“We do our homework to a high extent so the customer fully understands the capacities as well as the limitations. We can’t be everything to everyone,” Gondek said. “But this is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Departments People on the Move
Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider has been named a shareholder at Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C. His practice is focused on corporate law, mergers and acquisitions (including international business transactions), land use, and commercial real estate. He is a member of the Massachusetts and Connecticut bars. Schneider is a past member of the Longmeadow Conservation Commission and past vice president and director of the Children’s Chorus of Springfield Inc. He was also a BusinessWest 40 Under Forty honoree in 2014 and a judge for the 40 Under Forty class of 2015. He earned his law degree, magna cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in 2007. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College in 1997. Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C. is one of the largest law firms in Western Mass., providing a wide range of legal services including litigation, corporate, probate, real estate, taxation, estate planning, and intellectual property law.

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Monson Savings Bank (MSB) announced the following:

Kevin Hicks

Kevin Hicks

Dina Merwin

Dina Merwin

Kevin Hicks has been promoted to Vice President, Information Technology Officer. Hicks joined MSB in early 2015 as assistant vice president, information technology officer. He has more than 16 years of experience managing a financial-institution IT department. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the bank’s technology infrastructure as well as security. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with a minor in psychology from UMass; and

Dina Merwin has been promoted to Vice President, Compliance and BSA officer. Merwin began her career at MSB in June 2013 as a compliance officer and was quickly promoted to assistant vice president, compliance and BSA officer. She has more than 20 years of experience in community banking. She is responsible for coordinating all regulatory changes throughout the bank, improving processes that enhance efficiency and compliance, as well as ensuring adherence to all rules and regulations. She is a graduate of the ABA National School of Banking at Fairfield University.

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Raj Parikh

Raj Parikh

Raj Parikh has joined American International College (AIC) as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. Prior to joining AIC, he was professor of Accounting and Finance and dean of the Walker College of Business and Management at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. Parikh has more than 30 years of experience as an academic executive and five years as a financial executive. Prior to joining AIC, he served as a senior-level administrator at several universities, including Mercyhurst, Southern Oregon University, Delaware State University, Wilmington University Delaware, and St. Bonaventure University. He also served as the commissioner for academic accreditation for the government of the United Arab Emirates. In addition to expanding programs and increasing enrollments, he has led or been actively involved in strategic planning, budgeting, and academic prioritization. He has led accreditation efforts at several institutions. Parikh co-authored World Accounting, a three-volume treatise on international accounting which is updated semi-annually. He has presented his research in accounting, finance, and organizational leadership at several regional and national conferences, in addition to being an invited guest speaker. Parikh is passionate about higher education, international education, and improving access to traditional students and working adults. As an academic entrepreneur, he has successfully engaged in a variety of ventures, such as establishing and enhancing branch campuses, increasing enrollments and retention, creating new academic programs, and establishing programs in international locations in partnership with local institutions. “In coming to AIC, I was intrigued by the opportunity to use my experience as a dean to help the college climb to even higher levels of academic excellence,” he said. “I am sincerely honored to join President [Vincent] Maniaci’s leadership team and look forward to this opportunity to make a difference.” A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Parikh completed graduate work in chemical engineering. He received a Ph.D. in accounting and finance at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, he is a certified managerial accountant (CMA), a certified financial manager (CFM), and a chartered financial analyst (CFA). For obtaining the highest score in the nation on the CMA examination, he was awarded the Robert Bayer Gold Medal.

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Robert Harrison, principal architect and founder of Harrison Design Associates, announced that Mark Eichorn and Robert Viel Jr. have joined the firm as both architectural designers and project managers. “I am pleased to welcome Mark and Robert to our team. They each bring a wide range of experience in residential and commercial design and detailing,” said Harrison. “In their new positions, they will enhance and carry forward Harrison Design’s tradition of architectural innovation and our singular focus on creating structures that tell a story and that inspire, delight, and surprise our clients.” Eichorn brings more than 20 years of experience in the design and building industry. His expertise encompasses all phases of work for residential and commercial architectural-design projects, from drafting and code compliance to design and construction administration. His prior experience as an architectural project manager includes eight years with Pamela Sandler AIA in Stockbridge and three years at William Caligari Interiors/Architecture in Great Barrington. He is a 1992 graduate of Vermont Technical College, where he studied architectural and building engineering technology. Viel joins Harrison Design with more than 19 years of experience in the architectural and interior-design professions. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1999 from the Wentworth Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Boston. He most recently served for five years as sole designer/draftsman at Kohl Construction in Hadley, while also managing his own architectural-design studio in Springfield. Prior to that, he was employed for 10 years at Pamela Sandler AIA as senior designer, job captain, and draftsman.

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Tighe & Bond recently hired Principal Engineer Wayne Bates to better serve its clients in the Greater Boston area. He will work out of the firm’s Westwood office. Bates specializes in water and wastewater treatment technologies with a focus on industrial wastewater treatment, process improvement, waste minimization, EH&S compliance, and sustainable manufacturing strategies. He has almost 30 years of engineering and environmental, health, and safety consulting experience, and is also a certified Envision sustainability professional. He holds licenses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Bates is also an adjunct professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and serves on the board of directors for the Center for Business Sustainability at WPI. In addition, he serves on the town of Ashland’s sustainability and water-policy committees, and is a sustainability facilitator for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “We are happy to welcome Wayne to our growing team of experts,” said David Pinsky, president and CEO of Tighe & Bond. “His expertise will benefit our Greater Boston-area clients greatly as they seek process improvements, EH&S compliance, and sustainable-manufacturing strategies.” Bates earned his Ph.D in environmental/civil engineering from WPI. He also holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Northeastern University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UMass Dartmouth.

Departments People on the Move
Attorney Kenneth Albano

Attorney Kenneth Albano

Bacon Wilson announced that Attorney Kenneth Albano will assume the role of Managing Shareholder, effective Jan. 1, 2017. For the remainder of 2016, he will share the role with Bacon Wilson’s current managing shareholder, Stephen Krevalin, who has led the firm for the past 15 years, during which time Bacon Wilson has become one of the largest regional, full-service law firms in Hampden and Hampshire counties. “I am thrilled at the choice of attorney Albano as my successor,” Krevalin said. “Ken was the unanimous choice among the shareholders, and I have every confidence that he will do a phenomenal job as the firm’s next managing shareholder.” Albano is a senior partner and a member of the firm’s corporate, commercial, and municipal practice groups. In addition to his legal practice, he is active in the community, chairing the board of the March of Dimes Western Mass Division and serving on the board of the New England Chapter of the March of Dimes. He is a board member with Behavioral Health Network, where he has served for over 20 years. He also works with the American Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish, and the ALS Assoc. Last June, Albano was honored with the Massachusetts Bar Assoc. Community Service Award in recognition of his volunteer work. Bacon Wilson, P.C. boasts total of 43 lawyers and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s offices are located in Springfield, Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, and Westfield. For more information, visit www.baconwilson.com.

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Elyse Merrigan

Elyse Merrigan

Sevane Khatchadourian

Sevane Khatchadourian

Mila Renkas

Mila Renkas

Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. (MBK) announced the hiring of three new associates: Elyse Merrigan, MSA, Sevane Khatchadourian, and Mila Renkas.
Merrigan is an Associate in the Tax department. She previously held a career as a trial paralegal with a regional law firm. However, based on her strong aptitude with numbers, she decided to pursue the necessary advanced education that would allow her to transition into the field of public accounting. She is a graduate of the Commonwealth College at UMass Amherst and recently earned her master’s degree in accounting from Western New England University. She joined the Mass. Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as a student during her graduate studies and is currently a candidate to sit for the CPA exam.
Khatchadourian is beginning her career in public accounting in the Audit and Accounting (A&A) practice at MBK. As an A&A Associate, she will help service a wide variety of A&A clients throughout the year. She graduated from Westfield State University in 2015 with a bachelor’degree in business management with a concentration in accounting, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in accounting at the same school. As a current graduate student, Sevane is a student member of the MSCPA and AICPA.
Renkas, who is also an A&A Associate, brings five years of bookkeeping experience and fluency in three languages to her new position. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Elms College in 2015 and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in accounting at Westfield State University. She has been recognized for her significant academic achievements though her membership with various honors societies and scholarships, including the Western Mass Women magazine scholarship.

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Stuart Jones

Stuart Jones

Springfield College announced the hiring of Stuart Jones as Vice President for Enrollment Management, effective April 1. An enrollment-management professional in higher education for more than 20 years, Jones was vice president for Enrollment Management at Trine University in Angola, Ind. since 2013. Prior to that role, he was vice president for Enrollment Management at Averett University in Danville, Va. and dean of Enrollment and executive director of the Student Success Center at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. At Springfield College, Jones will work to further strengthen the college’s competitive position through enrollment growth in traditional undergraduate and graduate programs. He has a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and public communications from Purdue University, a master’s degree in divinity and theology from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and a Ph.D. in higher education leadership from Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

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Toby Grader

Toby Grader

Bob Pion Buick GMC recently welcomed Toby Grader to the team. Grader has worked in the auto industry for more than 25 years and is a GM certified service manager. He took time off to open his own restaurant, but is now excited to start a new chapter at Bob Pion Buick GMC. “I enjoy the challenge of working in the auto industry. Helping people find the car of their dreams and making them happy is very rewarding,” he said. “Being in the auto industry for over 25 years, you make a lot of friendships. It makes the hard work worthwhile.”

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Jennifer Butler

Jennifer Butler

Attorney Jennifer Butler has joined Royal, P.C., the management-side only labor and employment law firm, and will focus her practice in labor law and complex employment litigation. With her experience, Butler counsels companies on the multitude of state and federal employment laws impacting them, including employment discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour law, disability and leave law, workplace safety, OSHA, affirmative action, and contract negotiations. Her other preventive work includes drafting employee manuals; preparing non-disclosure, non-solicitation, and non-compete agreements; and conducting management training. Butler is a graduate of Norwich University and Western New England University School of Law.

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Monson Savings Bank (MSB) announced the following:
Kylie LaPlante has been promoted to branch manager of the bank’s Ware office. She began her career at Monson Savings in 2011 as a customer service associate in Wilbraham and quickly rose to customer service associate supervisor. In 2015, she moved to the Ware branch as assistant branch manager and now to branch manager. She is a graduate of Assumption College with a bachelor’s degree in business management;
Clare Ladue has been promoted to Commercial Loan Officer. Ladue, formerly one of MSB’s retail banking officers, has more than 20 years of experience in banking. She is a graduate of the Mass Bankers New England School of Financial Studies, holds numerous professional certifications, and is active in several community organizations.

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Keith Nesbitt

Keith Nesbitt

Keith Nesbitt has joined the Springfield office of NUVO Bank as Regional Commercial Credit Officer. Nesbitt, joins NUVO, a division of Merchants, bringing a vast wealth of knowledge with 11 years of experience in commercial lending, portfolio management, and credit administration in regional and community banking institutions. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia, his master’s degree from Georgia State University, and his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. He is also a candidate for the chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation and will sit for the CFA Level III exam in June. Nesbitt is a high-school and college football official and a member of the Western Massachusetts Football Officials Assoc. and the Eastern Assoc. of Intercollegiate Football Officials.

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Margo Jones

Margo Jones

The 2016 Jury of Fellows from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) elevated 149 AIA members to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to their profession. Margo Jones, principal of Jones Whitsett Architects (formerly Margo Jones Architects), was nominated and elected to the College of Fellows in recognition of her leadership in the field and her service to the communities of Western Mass. Jones, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has practiced architecture in Greenfield for more than 30 years. As principal of her own design firm since 1984, she has designed numerous award-winning schools, public projects, and significant historic-preservation projects, including Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, several projects at the Bement School in Old Deerfield, renovations to the Ted Shawn Dance Theater at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, and, most recently, the renovation of Colegrove Park Elementary School in North Adams, a project currently being considered for a Massachusetts Historic Commission Preservation Award. Jones has also served on the board of directors of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Architects, and the board of directors of the Western Mass. chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Out of a total AIA membership of nearly 88,000, fewer than 3,200 members are distinguished with the honor of fellowship. Jones will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the AIA convention in Philadelphia in May.

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J. Polep Distribution Services announced the promotion of Eric Polep to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Polep has been with the company since 2002, most recently as director of sales. Over the past 14 years, he has worked his way up through the company, working in warehouse-control positions, cutting and stamping cigarettes, warehouse inventory, and as equipment delivery representative, field sales representative, and district manager. He has also played a key role in building and transforming J. Polep’s technology marketing and sales capabilities, in the process simplifying store managers’ everyday duties.

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Name Net Worth announced the hiring of Pam Thornton as Chief Operating Officer. Thornton has had an extensive career in the human-resources field, beginning in 1996 with LEGO Systems Inc. in Enfield, Conn. There, she was able to acquire hands-on experience with recruitment, interviewing, and training of year-round and part-time field personnel. Additionally, she was responsible for employee relations, benefits administration, and staff performance management. She also served in a management role with K2 Sports, where she hired a field merchandising staff of 100 employees. She was also business development manager for United Personnel, a woman-owned staffing firm in Springfield, and most recently served as a member of the HR legal team with the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast. Name Net Worth, a startup app launched by Jeremy Casey and currently in beta testing, is a connective platform that leverages trusted relationships to measure and strengthen personal and professional networks, allowing the ability to measure the success of connections and easily manage follow-ups. The company was accepted to the Valley Venture Mentors accelerator program and has received investment capital.  Thornton serves on the board of directors for the Human Resources Management Assoc. of Western New England and leads its membership effort. She is a past president and served on the board of directors for the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. She has also held her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification from the Society for Human Resource Management since 2003.

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Cumulus Springfield announced that Bridget Lynott is back in radio and on 94.7 WMAS weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. She is also the promotion director for 94.7 WMAS and 1450 WHLL. “I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember … that love of music brought me to radio,” said Lynott, whose previous stints on the region’s airwaves include time at 1250 WARE, 560 WHYN, and 97.9 WPKX. “Growing up a shy kid, it was a shock for others to hear me on the air … but like an actor that delivers lines every night without fear, radio is my stage, and I love it. It is such an exciting time to be back on the air in the Springfield market and working with an incredible team.”

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Robert Harrison, principal architect and founder of Harrison Design Associates, announced that Mark Eichorn and Robert Viel Jr. have joined the firm as both architectural designers and project managers.

“I am pleased to welcome Mark and Robert to our team. They each bring a wide range of experience in residential and commercial design and detailing,” said Harrison. “In their new positions, they will enhance and carry forward Harrison Design’s tradition of architectural innovation and our singular focus on creating structures that tell a story and that inspire, delight, and surprise our clients.”

Eichorn brings more than 20 years of experience in the design and building industry. His expertise encompasses all phases of work for residential and commercial architectural-design projects, from drafting and code compliance to design and construction administration. His prior experience as an architectural project manager includes eight years with Pamela Sandler AIA in Stockbridge and three years at William Caligari Interiors/Architecture in Great Barrington. He is a 1992 graduate of Vermont Technical College, where he studied architectural and building engineering technology.

Viel joins Harrison Design with more than 19 years of experience in the architectural and interior-design professions. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1999 from the Wentworth Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Boston. He most recently served for five years as sole designer/draftsman at Kohl Construction in Hadley, while also managing his own architectural-design studio in Springfield. Prior to that, he was employed for 10 years at Pamela Sandler AIA as senior designer, job captain, and draftsman.

Landscape Design Sections

Painting Pictures with Light

Illumascape Lighting

Illumascape Lighting

When some people think of outdoor lighting, they may think of floodlights and porchlights — but many more options are available in the emerging world of architectural lighting, which accents the details of front and backyards, melding safety and security with atmosphere and aesthetics. Designing and installing these systems is both art and science, say experts in the field, who are always gratified by the ‘wow’ factor when homeowners flip the switch.

After 23 years as a graphic designer in the sign-making industry, Rob Larkham decided to design and install landscape lighting for a career — a job that requires long hours of manual outdoor labor.

“Everything we’re doing is by hand. It’s labor-intensive,” said the owner of Illumascape Lighting in South Hadley. “But at night, when we turn the switch on, it’s a rewarding moment.”

Larkham is actually the second owner of Illumascape. Phil Costello, who founded the business, was one of Larkham’s customers, and when he was nearing retirement, he approached the graphic designer, believing he would be a good choice to take over the landscape-lighting company. So Larkham came on board four years ago and took over the reins a couple years after that.

“He saw me as a hard worker with an artistic eye — because, what we do is paint pictures with light,” Larkham said of why the opportunity appealed to him. “If it weren’t for the artistic end of it, I wouldn’t have made the transition. You’re outside digging ditches all day, but then you get to the end of the day, when it’s dark, and you flip the switch and get that ‘wow’ moment.”

Landscape lighting, also known as architectural lighting, has long been popular in warmer climes, but in the Northeast, most homeowners have been satisfied with porchlights and maybe a floodlight out back. But, increasingly, they’re seeing the aesthetic value in the variety of techniques available from companies like Illumascape and numerous landscape-design firms.

As Larkham explained, landscape lighting is the permanent placement of lighting fixtures in the outdoor environment, with the aim of highlighting the form, texture and definition of landscape plantings as well as enhancing the architectural features of the home. In contrast to one or two floodlights, architectural lighting may utilize dozens of smaller, strategically placed fixtures to accent the details of a home and yard.

Rob Larkham

Rob Larkham says customers choose architectural lighting for both aesthetic and security reasons.

“It’s still really in its infancy here,” he told BusinessWest, adding that customers choose landscape lighting for two reasons: to add beauty to their property and for security. “A well-lit home is less likely to be broken into than the house next door. Plus, you’re more likely to slip on dark stairs and dark sidewalks.”

Gary Courchesne, owner of G&H Landscaping in Holyoke, said the emergence of energy-efficient LED diodes has made landscape lighting more popular, because people see the long-term value in what, admittedly, can be a hefty up-front investment.

He explained that a transformer installed in the yard converts the 120-volt household current to 12 volts, and the LED diodes reduce the energy drain even further. “From an energy standpoint, you’re getting the benefit of cost savings. That’s key for people.”

He and Larkham both noted how the fixtures are designed to direct each beam in a specific direction, with techniques ranging from uplighting and downlighting to path lighting and ground lighting.

“In other instances, we use well lights buried in the ground that give that upward lighting effect,” Courchesne explained. “You may have ornamental plants, which you want to show off and shed a little more light on.”

Added Larkham, “I just think people are seeing the value in it, whether it’s beauty, safety, security, or curb appeal. People are spending more time in their backyards. I really think the growth in this industry will be extensive.”

Professional Touch

The key to successful lighting, Courchesne said, is professional design. He noted that a flood of low-voltage lighting kits hit retail stores over the past decade, and many people bought them, were unsatisfied, and didn’t think about it again. That’s because they didn’t have a skilled designer and installer on their side.

“When people buy a big-box store kit, they’re compelled to use every light in it. But, in the instance of low-voltage lighting, less is more. You don’t want your sidewalk or shrubbery to look like a runway. You want it to highlight, accent, and provide adequate light for pedestrians and the security element.”

With homeowners in the Northeast investing more money in their properties in recent years, he went on, many are now becoming aware of professional landscape-lighting design, which is ubiquitous down South.

Larkham said customers run the gamut from contractors building a new house and including landscape lighting in the initial design to homeowners who have been in their homes 25 years or more and have an itch to do something new and dramatic with their outdoor space.


Go HERE to download a PDF chart of area landscape design firms


“Sometimes it’s a complete landscape remodel — a landscape architect may be doing the whole backyard and will call me and say, ‘hey, we’d really like to do landscape lighting in this remodel.’ That said, I’ve gone out and done simple installations of five path lights, and, on the other end, 200-light installs.”

In other words, although architectural lighting is a high-end product in the world of landscape architecture, there’s typically something for every budget. Larkham said he often works within someone’s budget for an initial installation, but might put in a larger transformer if a client expresses interest in adding to the design later. “Maybe they’ll do the front of the house this year, and the backyard next year.”

With a budget in hand, Larkham then draws on his artistic side. “That’s my job as a designer — I show up, meet with client first, figure out what they’re looking to do on their property, and come up with a design using the proper fixtures.”

small, strategically placed lights bring out the details

This Illumascape project demonstrates how small, strategically placed lights bring out the details of a house and yard.

For example, the same kind of tree could be lit using completely different techniques, depending on the yard.

“We’ll go out and do a lighting demonstration before we ever sign a contract, with about 100 demonstration lights, to show you what the final product might look like,” he said. “We don’t have clients come out until it gets dark so we have that ‘wow’ moment. More than nine times out of 10, they come out and say, ‘wow, we had no idea.’”

In many cases, he added, a customer’s neighbors may have architectural lighting, but when someone sees it on their own property, it’s a much more impactful experience.

“You have to look at the key elements of what people are trying to accent and highlight, then decide how to use the lights,” Courchesne said. “Some people want it on the front door to highlight a wreath, using it as a spotlight. In some cases, they want to flood the area with some light. But the whole key is subdued lighting, not offensive lighting.”

He told BusinessWest that the results are gratifying.

“Some of the comments I hear are, ‘can you believe my house now?’ I hear that time and time again. I would say 75% of the folks who buy landscape lighting, accent lighting, buy it for the aesthetic value. The other 25% also want it for the security value because lights deter a burglar; they’d rather go to a house that’s dark as opposed to a house that’s lit up.”

Left to Their Own Devices

As landscape lighting becomes more prominent in the Northeast, customers are accessing some high-tech features not previously available. Residential Lighting magazine noted that, while low-voltage LED lighting is the key industry driver these days, linking lighting systems to smartphone apps, to control them remotely, is also a hot trend.

Other systems are timed to come on automatically, Larkham said, so that, “in the winter months, when it’s dark when you pull into the driveway, the house is warm and inviting already. That’s nice. Floodlights tend to be Fenway Park bright; obviously, what we’re doing is soft and subtle. That’s really what we’re looking for.”

Gary Courchesne

Gary Courchesne says the goal of any landscape-lighting project is subdued, artistic light.

Courchesne also stressed the importance of subtlety in a lighting plan. He said today’s LEDs can bathe their target with a soft, warm, white glow, as opposed to the harsh blue light with which some people associate earlier LEDs.

“Not everyone can afford this,” he stressed. “It’s cost-effective from an operational perspective, but there’s capital investment involved for a quality system. Like anything else, you truly get what you pay for.”

Larkham added that, as time goes on and LEDs become more universal, costs should come down, and are already starting to creep in that direction, which is a good sign for homeowners who want to add a little artistry to their landscapes.

“It’s becoming more popular, it seems the technology is advancing every year, there are always new things happening,” he concluded.

In other words, the future is bright.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

GREENFIELD — The 2016 Jury of Fellows from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) elevated 149 AIA members to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to their profession.

Margo Jones, principal of Jones Whitsett Architects (formerly Margo Jones Architects), was nominated and elected to the College of Fellows in recognition of her leadership in the field and her service to the communities of Western Mass.

Jones, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has practiced architecture in Greenfield for more than 30 years. As principal of her own design firm since 1984, she has designed numerous award-winning schools, public projects, and significant historic-preservation projects, including Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, several projects at the Bement School in Old Deerfield, renovations to the Ted Shawn Dance Theater at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, and, most recently, the renovation of Colegrove Park Elementary School in North Adams, a project currently being considered for a Massachusetts Historic Commission Preservation Award.

Jones has also served on the board of directors of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Architects, and the board of directors of the Western Mass. chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Out of a total AIA membership of nearly 88,000, fewer than 3,200 members are distinguished with the honor of fellowship. Jones will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the AIA convention in Philadelphia in May.

Departments People on the Move

PeoplesBank announced the promotions and appointments of nine associates.
• Matthew Bannister has been appointed to Vice President, Corporate Responsibility. He possesses more than 30 years of brand management and corporate social-responsibility experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from UMass Amherst. His prior experience includes advertising, public relations, and event marketing for top advertising agencies and major nonprofit organizations;
• Paul Hillsburg has been promoted to Vice President, PeoplesFinancial and Insurance Services. With more than three decades of financial, sales, and business-development experience, he first joined the bank in 2008 and previously served as assistant vice president, PeoplesFinancial and Insurance Services. He holds an associate degree in business management from Springfield Technical Community College. He holds Series 7 and Series 66 licenses.
• Kristen Hua has been promoted to Vice President, Secondary Market. She possesses more than a decade of banking experience. She first joined the bank in May 2001 and previously served as assistant vice president, secondary market. She holds an MBA from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and a bachelor’s degree from Providence College. She also is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies;
• Craig Kaylor has been appointed to Vice President, Compliance. He brings more than a decade of banking and financial experience to his new position, where he will be responsible for overseeing all compliance regulations and policies. He holds a juris doctor degree from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and a bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany, SUNY;
• Denise Lamory has been promoted to Vice President, Commercial Loan Administration. She possesses close to four decades of banking experience. She first joined the bank in August 1976 and previously served as assistant vice president, commercial loan administration. She holds several business and financial certificates from the Western Massachusetts Institute of Management Education Inc. and Holyoke Community College;
• Trisha Leary has been promoted to Vice President, Internal Control. She possesses more than a decade of financial experience. She first joined the bank in 2013 and previously served as risk oversight officer. She holds a master’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.
• Karen Sinopoli has been appointed to Vice President, Controller. She brings a decade of banking and audit experience to her new position, where she will be responsible for maintaining and supervising the financial record of the bank in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. She holds a master’s degree in accounting from the Isenberg School of Management at the UMass Amherst and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pennsylvania State University;
• Donna Wiley has been promoted to Vice President, Regional Manager. She possesses close to four decades of banking experience. She first joined the bank in 1979 and previously served as assistant vice president, regional manager. She holds an associate degree in business administration from Holyoke Community College and graduated with honors from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. School for Financial Studies; and
• Brian Rheaume has been promoted to assistant vice president, information technology. He possesses more than a decade of information-technology experience. He first joined the bank in 2002 and previously served as information technology officer supervisor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from Westfield State University and is an A+ certified professional IT technician.
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Kathleen McCormick and Peter Mirante have been appointed to the Berkshire Community College board of trustees. McCormick is a partner with McCormick, Murtagh & Marcus, a law firm in Great Barrington. She joined the firm in 2004 and was named partner in 2009. Her focus is on residential and commercial real estate, land use and permitting, construction law, business law, and estate planning. She previously clerked for First Justice David Kopleman in the Norfolk County Probate and Family Court and later served as an associate with the litigation firm Herlihy, Thursby & Herlihy in Boston. She has worked for well-known companies such as the Boston Celtics, the Jane Blalock Co., and Reebok International. McCormick holds a juris doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Assoc., the Berkshire County Bar Assoc., and the Real Estate Bar Assoc. of Massachusetts. She is dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged youth and is an active community member serving on boards of numerous charitable organizations. Mirante, who has worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years, is senior vice president of Branch Administration at Greylock Federal Credit Union in Pittsfield. He joined Greylock in 1998 and has served in numerous management positions. Prior to joining Greylock, he worked for Patten Corp. and then Berkshire Bank.
Mirante holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the former North Adams State College. He has a long history of community service and currently serves on the boards of the Northern Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Family & Individual Resources, Berkshire Compact for Education, and North Adams Parks & Recreation. Darlene Rodowicz, who was recently reappointed board chair by Gov. Charlie Baker, noted that “the new board members bring a wealth of knowledge from their respective roles in the community. We are happy to have them join the BCC board of trustees as we continue to advance the mission of the college.”
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Local law firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C. announced that attorney Steven Schwartz is the recipient of the Distinguished Advisor in Philanthropy Award. The award is presented annually by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in partnership with the Estate Planning Council of Hampden County and the Pioneer Valley Estate Planning Council. Each year, the award’s recipient may recommend a Hampden, Hampshire, or Franklin county charity of their choice to receive a $1,000 grant. This year, Schwartz has decided to recommend the grant be made to the Children’s Study Home in recognition of its 150 anniversary. Schwartz concentrates his practice in the areas of family-business planning, mergers and acquisitions, corporate law, and estate planning. His practice involves representation of principals in family-business planning (including exit planning for business owners), representation of individuals and corporations in the purchase and sale of business enterprises, strategic planning for the future of clients’ businesses, and providing advice on alternatives in financing through loans and venture capital.
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Pope Francis High School announced that John Goda, Athletic Director for Holyoke Catholic High School, has been appointed to the Athletic Director position for Pope Francis High School. The creation of Pope Francis High School was announced in 2015 when Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski revealed that Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School would merge into a new school, named in honor of the current Pope. While the official merger will take place to coincide with the next academic year, 2016-17, there has already been a joining together of the athletic programs. Goda, a 1987 graduate of Cathedral, started his career with Holyoke Catholic as a teacher in 1994, and took over as athletic director in 2003. Since the merger of Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic was announced, Goda has worked alongside Cathedral Athletic Director Joe Hegarty to oversee the combined athletic programs for Pope Francis High School. Hegarty recently vacated his position at Cathedral, and Goda will assume the role.
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Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) announced the appointment of Phillip Candito to the position of Vice President of Business Development, where he is leading marketing and development efforts and focused on growing the organization. Candito worked as director of Business Development at the Eastern Connecticut Health Network in Manchester, Conn. for 10 years before coming to HMC. Previously, he served St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. as director of Rehabilitation Services and Occupational Medicine, and as a physical therapist. Earlier, he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut; worked in television, video, and stage production for 10 years in Connecticut and New York City; re-enrolled at UConn and earned a degree in physical therapy, which he practiced for 10 years; then attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to earn his graduate degree.
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TD Bank has named Karl Mirke assistant vice president, store manager of the location at 90 Main St. in North Adams. He is responsible for new-business development, consumer and business lending, managing personnel, and overseeing the day-to-day operations at the store, serving customers in Berkshire County, including North Adams, Clarksburg, Adams, Cheshire, Stamford, and Readsboro. Mirke has 11 years of retail banking experience. Prior to joining TD Bank, he served as assistant branch manager at Citizens Bank in Pittsfield. He is a 2003 graduate of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.
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Aaron Smith, P.C., a certified public accounting firm, announced that certified public accountant Bernard “Buzz” Travers III will assume the role of managing director. In that role, Travers will provide leadership and direction to achieve the goals of the firm. He will oversee day-to-day management and will continue to cultivate the talents of all accountants and staff at Aaron Smith. Travers joined the firm in 1999 as a tax specialist. He is a certified public accountant in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. His areas of expertise include corporate, individual and fiduciary income tax; state and local income and sales and use taxation; federal and state tax audits; mergers and acquisitions; estate and gift taxation; nonprofit taxes; and bankruptcy taxation. In addition, he has assisted numerous business owners in the sale and purchase of businesses. He received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bentley University and his juris doctor from Western New England University School of Law. He is past president of the Estate Planning Council of Hampden County Inc., past president of the Field Club of Longmeadow Inc., an officer and director of the Sportsmen’s National Land Trust Inc., and past treasurer of the Longmeadow High School hockey and lacrosse booster clubs.
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Bob Barna has joined Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) as a consulting architect. Barna was employed by VMWare as a senior consultant for the last 16 months and has 19 years of experience in the IT industry. He spent 17 of those years as the senior systems engineer at Competitive Computing. He has earned numerous VMware certifications and has extensive experience in design enablement, developing business requirements and identifying use cases, architecture design, environment build, product pilot, documentations and knowledge transfer, and more. Barna joins a team at WCA that also includes another former VMWare employee, Dan Sullivan, who joined VMWare shortly after it was founded and, in his seven years there, served customers all over New England and New York as a VMware systems engineer, VMware account executive, and partner business manager. Sullivan, who now holds the role of senior solution architect at WCA, is a 39-year veteran of the IT industry, with a background that combines technical expertise and sales skills.
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EMA Dental announced that Dr. Colleen Chambers has joined the practice as its newest associate. Chambers completed her undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Connecticut and went on to earn her DMD at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. She was awarded the School of Dental Medicine Alumni Research Fellowship for her research with alveolar bone and implant integration using rh-PDGF-BB. She completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she focused on esthetics, general dentistry, and complex implant dental treatment. Chambers is proud to have had the opportunity to provide dental care to underserved communities at the CT Mission of Mercy, Remote Area Medical Services in Wise County, Va., and as part of a dental service trip to Honduras. She is a member of the American Dental Assoc., the Massachusetts Dental Society, and the Valley District Society.
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Caroline Gear has been named executive director of the International Language Institute (ILI) of Massachusetts, located in Northampton. Gear joined ILI in 1986 as a Spanish and ESOL instructor, and in 1989, she became the school’s director of programs. In that capacity, she has been ILI’s primary coordinator with numerous partners, including area businesses, partner colleges and universities, the U.S. State Department, the Fulbright Scholars program, and the U.S. Commercial Service. She has written several articles on assessment and evaluation and regularly presents on teacher training and supervision, both regionally and nationally. Gear earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish from State University of New York at Potsdam and her masters’ degree in Spanish literature from Michigan State University. In addition to her years at ILI, she has worked in Peru, Mexico, and Spain.
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Lee Bank announced that Wendy Healey has been named to the position of Senior Vice President, Community Banking, and David Harrington has been named to the position of Vice President, Commercial Lending. Healey joins Lee Bank with experience in both the retail-banking and financial-technology sectors. She most recently served as senior vice president in charge of retail, sales, and marketing at Torrington Savings Bank. Prior to that, she was an independent financial services consultant while pursuing an MBA, and has held senior management roles at COCC Inc., a lead provider in core technology to the financial industry; Sovereign/Santander Bank; and People’s United Bank in Connecticut. As senior vice president in charge of community banking, Healey’s focus will be on existing and new customer relationships, as well as the design and fulfillment of new products and packages of services to meet customer needs. She will oversee policies, future business planning, and long-range strategic goals for her department and is responsible for the overall administration of compliance, including policy and procedures, monitoring, review, training, and board reporting. Harrington brings more than 18 years of experience in product and operations management. He most recently served as multi-life new business operations manager at Guardian Life Insurance Co. in Pittsfield. Prior to that, he was employed as product and project manager, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual Financial Group, and senior product line manager, disability and long-term-care insurance at Berkshire Life Insurance Co. As vice president of commercial lending, Harrington is responsible for developing and maintaining Lee Bank’s commercial-lending activities and expanding existing customer relationships in conjunction with the bank’s strategic goals.
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Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) recently welcomed three new members to its board of trustees: Steven Grande, Franklin Quigley, and Macarthur Starks Jr. Grande is president of Meridian Industrial Group, LLC in Holyoke and Springfield. He also serves on the Holyoke Taxpayers Assoc. is vice chair of the advisory committee at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, chairs the Mayor’s Industrial Development Advisory Council, serves on board of directors for the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Massachusetts, is a member of the advisory board for William J. Dean Technical High School; and is president of the board of directors for the Western Massachusetts National Tooling and Machining Assoc. Grande holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice from American International College. Quigley, an STCC alumnus, serves on the STCC foundation board and is a member of the presidential search committee. He is the president of FD Quigley and Associates, an organization specializing in providing project-management services to commercial retail developers; is a member of the state board of directors for Special Olympics; and is a retired referee of the American Hockey League. Starks, a senior finance and leadership professional, is an assistant vice president/change agent at MassMutual Way Center of Excellence, at MassMutual Life Insurance Company. Starks also serves as board chair and treasurer of FutureWorks Career Center in Springfield. A graduate of STCC (‘88), Starks received a master’s in management information systems and a bachelor of arts in accounting from Western New England University.

Daily News

SOUTHWICK — Bob Barna has joined Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) as a consulting architect.

Barna was employed by VMWare as a senior consultant for the last 16 months and has 19 years of experience in the IT industry. He spent 17 of those years as the senior systems engineer at Competitive Computing. He has earned numerous VMware certifications and has extensive experience in design enablement, developing business requirements and identifying use cases, architecture design, environment build, product pilot, documentations and knowledge transfer, and more.

Barna joins a team at WCA that also includes another former VMWare employee, Dan Sullivan, who joined VMWare shortly after it was founded and, in his seven years there, served customers all over New England and New York as a VMware systems engineer, VMware account executive, and partner business manager. Sullivan, who now holds the role of senior solution architect at WCA, is a 39-year veteran of the IT industry, with a background that combines technical expertise and sales skills.

“Over the past six years, we have invested over $20 million to reach our goal of becoming one of the five best IT engineering firms in New England and Upstate New York. Barna is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Paul Whalley, vice president of Whalley Computer Associates.

Added Barna, “I am extremely happy to join a family-owned organization that values customer relationships and ensures the solutions we help deliver enable them to succeed in utilizing technology to meet their desired business outcomes.”

WCA has been a leading technology provider for more than 37 years, servicing customers of all types and sizes throughout New England and Upstate New York. WCA is ranked in the top 0.1% of all solution providers in North America and services more than 3,000 customers with more than 140 local technology professionals.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Software Logic, one of the East Coast’s leading Microsoft platform provider companies, has been acquired by Massachusetts-based VertitechIT as it continues expansion of its healthcare IT consultancy.

Already a nationally recognized leader in the design and implementation of hyper-converged architecture and VDI, the new company adds additional hybrid cloud and monitoring management systems expertise to its strategic and tactical offerings.

“No one understands the integration and importance of hybrid cloud solutions like Azure and monitoring management products like System Center better than the talented staff at Software Logic,” VertitechIT CEO Michael Feld said. “Our healthcare clients are demanding expertise that will allow them to operate more efficiently and economically, and the integration of our two companies will allow us to provide a single-stop solution to meet those needs.”

Software Logic co-founder Scott Stumpf has been named chief technology officer of VertitechIT, while co-founder and President Mike Machulsky has been appointed vice president of sales.

“Our two companies have worked closely together as members of the StabilITy Alliance for several years,” Machulsky said. “Joining forces will allow us to grow our presence with leading healthcare systems and Fortune 1000 enterprise clients across the country.”

While the two companies will immediately combine staff, technical, and administrative resources, the Software Logic and VertitechIT brands will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. Corporate headquarters will remain in Western Mass. with additional offices in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Cover Story

Assignment: Springfield

Laura Masulis

Laura Masulis says working on initiatives to increase foot traffic downtown is among her goals.

Before last spring, about all Laura Masulis knew of Springfield was what she could see off I-91 as she drove back and forth to Wesleyan. But when she was chosen as one of MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative fellows, and the city was selected to be granted such an individual, she got off the highway, took a much closer look, and became intrigued, to say the least. A match was made, and now she’s heavily involved in all efforts to make downtown a destination.

Laura Masulis grew up in Nashville, which is known worldwide for its music industry and, in recent decades, a burgeoning healthcare sector. But for most of her adult life, she’s had what she called a soft spot for “old industrial cities.”

That sentiment helps explain why she considers her current assignment, as a so-called Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) fellow working in Springfield for MassDevelopment, a “match made in heaven.”

Indeed, Springfield’s long history as a manufacturing hub and current work to reinvent itself certainly resonated with Masulis as she was rating potential landing spots within the statewide TDI program as part of a matching process similar to the one experienced by graduating medical-school students.

“We rate them, and they rate us,” said Masulis, 28, as she talked about how she interviewed in Springfield, Lynn, and Haverhill, and officials in those communities ranked the various candidates as much as the candidates ranked potential destinations. “I ranked Springfield first, and they ranked me first, so it was pretty simple.”

But there was more than an industrial heritage that convinced Masulis that she wanted Springfield to be her home, figuratively and quite literally — she recently purchased a home in the Forest park neighborhood — for at least the three-year duration of her assignment.

There was also its many forms of diversity — Masulis majored in Latin American studies and economics in college — as well as the architecture downtown, cultural attractions, and, most importantly, vast potential for improvement.

“I was amazed by how visually beautiful the city was, in both the downtown and the neighborhoods — that surprised me,” she noted. “I was moved by the architecture, excited about the diversity of the community, and intrigued by all that’s happening; it’s definitely an exciting time for this city.”

Her general assignment is Springfield, but, more specifically, it’s a several-block area downtown that it is now called the Innovation District — a name that is slowly working its way into the lexicon but is still used almost exclusively by elected officials and development leaders. Perhaps more importantly, it has been designated by MassDevelopment as a TDI District, with the focus squarely on the first two words in that acronym — ‘transformative’ and ‘development.’

MassDevelopment literature outlining the TDI initiative defines that phrase this way: “transformative development is redevelopment on a scale and character capable of catalyzing significant follow-on private investment, leading over time to transformation of an entire downtown or urban neighborhood, and consistent with local plans.”

There are 10 TDI projects in various stages of progression across the Commonwealth, including those focused on the so-called TOD District in Holyoke, the Tyler Street District in Pittsfield, the One Lynn District in Lynn, the Merrimac Street Transformative District in Haverhill, the North River Neighborhood in Peabody, Downtown Gateway in Brockton, and the Theater District in Worcester.

In Springfield, the TDI District stretches, for the most part, from Main Street to just east of Chestnut Street, and from Bridge Street to Lyman Street. It includes the city’s entertainment district, Apremont Triangle, Stearns Square, the park located on the former Steiger’s site (now known as Center Square), and the so-called ‘blast zone,’ those blocks heavily damaged by the November 2012 natural-gas explosion.

As part of efforts to transform the identified districts, the Gateway cities can apply for what’s known as a ‘mid-career fellow’ to help develop and implement strategic initiatives. Springfield, Lynn, and Haverhill prevailed in the spirited competition for the first three fellows to be funded by MassDevelopment (three more will be assigned in 2016), and that brings us back to Masulis and that matching process.

Her assignment, which started in May, dictates that she works closely with several local development-focused agencies, including the city’s Economic Development Department, the Springfield Business Improvement District, DevelopSpringfield, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and others, and thus she’s been involved in a number of recent initiatives.

These include everything from movie nights at Stearns Square over the summer (The Princess Bride was among the films shown) to the recent pop-up Downtown Springfield Holiday Market; from Valley Venture Mentors workshops to public stakeholder meetings (the latest was on Dec. 17); from a project at Market Place involving UMass landscape architecture students (see related story, page 41) to the recent City2City trip to Chattanooga, Tenn. (her thoughts on that excursion later).

She said much has been accomplished, but much more obviously needs to be done to transform the district into a place people will not only want to visit, but also live in and start a business in.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Masulis about her assignment, the TDI District, and her thoughts on what the future might bring for the City of Homes — now her own home.

Developing Story

Masulis did her undergraduate work at Wesleyan University in suburban Middletown, Conn. But she’s spent the past several years working and going to school in Boston (she earned a certificate in nonprofit management and leadership at Boston University), and, as mentioned earlier, she grew up in Nashville.

So she’s used to streets teeming with people, and is thus well-acquainted with the energy — as well as the sense of security — that such a critical mass provides.

And those are two of the things she noticed were largely missing during her visits here early on — and are still missing, for the most part. She noted that the clubs along Worthington Street can be crowded — and parking spots hard to find throughout the entertainment district — on weekend nights, but her impression is that the streets are seemingly, and somewhat alarmingly, empty too much of the time.

“I was moved by the fact that there was so little foot traffic,” she told BusinessWest. “At night, you only feel unsafe because there’s no one around. That was sort of an eerie thing to experience when I first got here.”

It’s not officially written into her job description, but doing something about that quiet on the streets, the lack of foot traffic, is a very big part of why she’s here.

And that goal has been at the forefront of many of those efforts described earlier, from the movies in the park to the holiday market. But there is obviously much more to this assignment than announcing such events with chalk on downtown sidewalks, as Masulis could often be seen doing over the past several months.

Indeed, the work involves strategic planning, developing partnerships to carry out initiatives identified in those plans, meeting with the key stakeholders, and, overall, creating and maintaining a buzz about downtown and, more specifically, the TDI District.

Springfield’s Transformative Development Initiative District

Springfield’s Transformative Development Initiative District encompasses several blocks in the city’s entertainment district and so-called ‘blast zone.’

Masulis brings to these various duties a diverse background that includes work with social-service agencies and small businesses. She’s served as a program assistant for the Center for Women and Enterprise and as a business analyst for the Public Consulting Group, and also co-founded the still-operating Lawrence BiciCocina, a community bike and board workshop in Lawrence (another of those old industrial cities) to promote healthy lifestyles, sustainable and low-cost transportation, youth leadership development, and job training.

Most recently, she’s been a senior project manager for Interise, the Boston-based venture that stimulates economic growth in lower-income communities by helping established small-business owners grow and expand their ventures.

She said this background meshed effectively with what Springfield and its TDI District perhaps most needed — small-business recruitment, retention, and development efforts — and this contributed to those ‘match made in heaven’ sentiments.

Masulis admitted that, prior to last spring, about all she knew of Springfield was what she could see from I-91 as she traveled on that road to get to Wesleyan nearly a decade ago. When the city became one of the finalists to be assigned a fellow, she said she got off the highway for a weekend visit that focused on the downtown and the TDI District itself.

As she mentioned, she was somewhat unnerved by the lack of foot traffic — “sort of creepy” was another of the phrases she used to describe it — but looked past it to its many attributes and considerable growth potential, something she says many of those who live and work in the city have a much harder time doing.

“People from the outside can often appreciate the many assets of a city more than the people who are there every day,” she explained. “And I definitely experienced that with Springfield.”

What’s in Store?

As she talked about her assignment, Masulis said it is unique, in many respects, with regard to others within the broad realms of economic development and urban planning. Getting more specific, she said that, while there are certainly many meetings to attend — she didn’t attempt to guesstimate how many she’s been part of since arriving — her work mostly involves implementation, which is what she likes most about it.

And there is plenty of implementation to do, considering the various initiatives taking place in the city and the many partner agencies she works with. Which means that the calendar is full and each day is different.

“It’s an interesting role because I’m doing 15 things at once,” she explained. “I’m working with projects involving the Pioneer Planning Commission on the walkability of downtown and signage and pedestrian infrastructure. And the next meeting I’m at, we’re talking about recruiting restaurants for the district, and at the next meeting, I’m talking with property owners about improvements that need to be made and how they’re going to finance those.

“I’m meeting with residents who are talking about how they wish there was better lighting on their street,” she went on. “It’s a broad spectrum of issues and initiatives, and every day is a complete mix of things. And while geographically I’m very focused on this one district of downtown, all the issues are interconnected to the city and the region, so I wind up being part of these broader initiatives and conversations.”

As for the TDI District itself, Masulis said the basic mission is to make it a destination — or much more of a destination — for a wide array of constituencies. These include people looking for a place — or places — at which to spend a night out, individuals who want to do some shopping, entrepreneurs looking for a location to launch or relocate a hospitality-related enterprise, and people looking for a place to live. And she’s working with the various partner agencies to anticipate and meet the needs of those and other groups.

“This is an entertaining, dining, innovation district that has seen a couple of major investments made, but a lot of it has yet to be built out,” she said, citing the stunning transformation of the Fuller Block as an example of the type of development that could — and hopefully will — happen at dozens of buildings and vacant lots within the district.

“That’s a perfect model for what could happen to buildings across the district,” she said of the property, which now houses National Public Radio, the Dennis Group (an engineering company), and a host of other tenants. “And there have been others that have not been rehabbed, including those in the blast zone, on the extreme end.”

One of the keys to making such redevelopment happen is successful recruitment of new businesses, she said, adding that such work represents just one component of her work involving small businesses. Another is working with those that are already located within the district, she noted, adding that, while attracting new ventures is critical, so too is making sure existing ventures can thrive and thus serve as models for others.

“I’m doing on-the-ground work with the established businesses there — making sure they know what’s going on and have awareness of the various resources available to them,” she said. “And there’s also the work of recruiting businesses from around the region who could potentially open another location in Springfield.

“But I’m also part of the conversation about building out the small business and entrepreneurship pipeline in the region,” she went on, “and for filling in the gaps and having a more cohesive umbrella regarding all the resources available. We need to pull those together more tightly and in a more user-friendly way than what’s currently in place.”

The Right Place and Time

Still another factor that made Springfield a desirable landing spot, said Masulis, was the fact that her three-year assignment — which could go much longer — coincides with an obviously intriguing chapter in the city’s history and reinvention process.

one of 10 across the state

Springfield’s TDI District is one of 10 across the state identified by MassDevelopment.

Beyond the elephant in the room — the $900 million MGM Springfield, which is scheduled to open its doors around the time Masulis’ three-year tenure wraps up — there are other initiatives, including the redevelopment of Union Station, the construction of a subway-car manufacturing plant in the east side of the city, a wave of entrepreneurial energy that manifests itself in the form of the various Valley Venture Mentors initiatives, the new innovation center downtown, and much more.

And Masulis feels privileged to be in a position to not just watch it happen, but play a role in how events transpire, especially with regard to the entrepreneurial piece of the puzzle.

“I feel very lucky to be coming in at this point,” she told BusinessWest. “I definitely recognize that there’s been a huge amount of work and sweat equity already put in to developing this entrepreneurship culture; I’m just here to provide some additional capacity to help keep it moving forward.”

As for the bigger picture — and where Springfield and its TDI District might be three years from now, or 10, or 20 — Masulis, acknowledging that she was taking that outsider’s perspective, even with eight months of work downtown under her belt, takes a decidedly optimistic view.

“Regardless of what happens with MGM, there is already a lot of positive energy in the city, and that includes the innovation and dining space,” she said, referring to the real estate within the TDI District that comprises her primary focus. “There’s a lot of momentum when it comes to the anchors that are already in place that we really want to build upon; what we want to do is fill storefronts with positive activity.”

The pop-up Downtown Springfield Holiday Market was an example of this, she said, adding that the initiative, based in the ground-floor space of the building most still know as Harrison Place, was designed to increase foot traffic while also giving retailers, who take on temporary, or pop-up space, a chance to try on downtown Springfield and see if the shoe might fit.

“That’s one strategy to get more retailers to come downtown and try it out,” she explained. “For us, the plan is to then transition them into longer-term leases in more permanent locations. In five years, we want to see a lot more foot traffic on the street, not just on workdays, but also at night and on weekends. The goal is fewer vacant storefronts and more people utilizing the green spaces that are already there.”

Masulis said she’s heard all about how vibrant Tower Square was decades ago, and also about Johnson’s Bookstore, Forbes & Wallace, Steiger’s, and all the other retail now relegated to the past tense. She said the goal moving forward isn’t about restoring the past, but creating something different, equally vibrant, and more reflective of the changes that have taken place over the past four decades.

“We have a very different community than we had 30 years ago,” she noted. “What’s going to be in the future is not going to be a perfect replication of what was.”

She acknowledged that the task of getting more people to live and do business downtown is a complicated process — people won’t live in the area until there are things to, and there won’t be things to do unless there are people living in and coming to the area. But she believes progress will come on both fronts, and this will generate continued progress.

“You need to work on both things at the same time,” she said of the commercial and residential aspects of the equation. “And you have to find a couple of risk takers who are willing to come out early before the proven model.”

She said the Chattanooga trip, while energizing, certainly, provided ample evidence of how much work remains to be done, but also how much progress Springfield has already made, especially with regard to creating opportunities and closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, something Chattanooga has not done as well.

When asked if Springfield could host a similar program now, or when it might be able to do so, Masulis said that, in many respects, she believes the city is already there, but that, in a few years, it will have many more success stories to put on display.

“In five years, Springfield will look very different, and I really hope that we’ll be in a position where people want to visit this city and we’re able to show that not only do we have these flashy projects that have been very successful, but we’ve made real strides in reducing inequality as well.”

At Home with the Idea

Those words ‘we’ll’ and ‘we’re,’ while seemingly innocuous, are rather telling when it comes to this fellowship and how Masulis looks upon it.

She’s not just someone working in Springfield on a project funded by MassDevelopment. OK, she is, but rather quickly, she’s become an integral part of the multi-faceted effort to revitalize and reinvent one of the old industrial cities she’s so fond of. And she’s using words like ‘we’re’ and ‘we’ll.’

More than that, she’s already talking about how that house in Forest Park may be home for much longer than three years.

In the meantime, she’s in the middle of something special — a match, as she said, that was seemingly made in heaven.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections

Purposeful Design

Kevin Rothschild-Shea

Kevin Rothschild-Shea at a residential project site.

Kevin Rothschild-Shea launched his architecture firm seven years ago, just as the economy was starting to sour. But, though a combination of diversity, flexibility, and a commitment to service, he has seen his business not only survive, but grow. It helps that he’s got a number of what he calls “socially responsible” jobs under his belt, as he has a passion for working with clients who serve people in need.

Kevin Rothschild-Shea has designed buildings for a wide variety of residential and commercial clients, but he takes particular pride in projects with a social benefit.

Take the child-care center his firm, Architecture EL, designed in Chicopee for the Valley Opportunity Council. “They’re very excited to see a new building replacing a very small, old, out-of-date structure,” he said of the partially state-funded project. “For us, it’s a nice little job, but for them, it’s a big project that’s been a long time coming.

“It involved creating a space that’s bright and clean — not just a room, but a room that creates an opportunity for learning and positive experiences,” he went on. “For some of these kids, it’s the nicest place they’ll get to go all day.”

He also cited the E. Henry Twiggs Estates, a 75-unit affordable-housing project in the Mason Square neighborhood of Springfield. The client, Home City Housing, is a “great organization with the goal of maintaining affordable housing for people in the area. That’s a really significant project that we’ll be drawing through the wintertime, and we hope to start construction in late spring or early summer.”

Meanwhile, “we did some work with the Community Survival Center in Indian Orchard — space planning, space analysis,” Rothschild-Shea explained. “They’re an organization that continues to grow and provides a great service to people in need. I feel fortunate I’ve been able to work with them.”

Rothschild-Shea uses the word ‘fortunate’ often, occasionally applying it to the success of his own company, which he launched in 2008, into the teeth of an economic meltdown, followed by a lengthy recession. But he says he’s happy to be very busy today.

“The economy is typical of Western Massachusetts — there seem to be hot spots,” he said. “I’ve been busy while other people have been slow, and I’ve been slow while I’ve seen others swamped. It’s hard to get a read on it. So maybe I should just keep working.”

That said, “we’ve been pretty fortunate. We’ve had a good variety of work and great clients, and we were fortunate to survive the recession, and not only survive, but we managed to grow,” he went on, noting that the company has expanded from a two-person operation in 2013 to five employees today, and recently moved into new offices that effectively doubled its physical space. “That’s a good sign of our growth and the work we have on our plate.”

Bold Beginnings

Rothschild-Shea has told the story of how he loved helping out around the house as a child, which inspired him to pursue a creative, hands-on career. After graduating from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, he took a job with a small architecture firm for 18 years before deciding to strike out on his own. “I just jumped in feet first and said, ‘let’s get to work.’”

A rendering of the new Valley Opportunity Council early-education center in Chicopee.

A rendering of the new Valley Opportunity Council early-education center in Chicopee.

Architecure EL — the acronym stands for Environment Life — was built on the idea of direct design. It’s more common than ever, in fact, to partner with owners and contractors in the design and construction of a building, whereas, a decade ago, those elements were bid separately. “The construction-management type of partnership atmosphere is much more common than we saw in the past.”

Setting up shop in East Longmeadow, he said, many customers assume the EL is an acronym for the town, “but the reality is, we want to be environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and design the best space we can that’s comfortable to work and live in.”

Meanwhile, the industry — reflected in both customer demands and Massachusetts codes — is increasingly making green-friendly building the standard, not the rule, he said. “The codes require pretty high-performing buildings as a baseline. But from there, we always want to do better.

“When we were starting out, our simple approach was to do good design that was responsive to our environment, sensitive to the world we live in, whether that means making homes energy-efficient or salvaging materials and recycling building products.”

That’s the ‘E’ in a nutshell. The ‘L’ stands for life, and is a more amorphous idea, but just as important. “That’s the whole experience — making a space comfortable, whether it’s your house or office or truck-repair center. The core is making it rewarding to work or live in that space.”

Rothschild-Shea has weathered varying economic climates, he said, by focusing on personal service — working closely with clients from design conception through construction and occupancy — but also on flexibility and diversity, taking on most any type of proposal.


Download a PDF chart of area architecture firms HERE


“We are pretty diverse for a small practice — everything from small studies and accessibility projects and single-family additions and renovations right on up to significantly scaled commercial and residential work,” he said.

For example, this past year saw the completion of Marcotte Ford’s commercial truck center in Holyoke, a 17,000-square-foot, 160-bay facility unlike any in Western Mass., he noted. “It can handle pretty much any vehicle — a lot of municipal and police work, SWAT vehicles, ambulances, right on up to big transport vehicles like retirement homes have.”

As part of the Ford’s ‘landmark design’ program, Rothschild-Shea’s firm will also handle Marcotte’s next job, which is giving its main showroom a facelift, expanding some office space, and completely renovating the service center.

“We’re also continuing to do small office improvements for the Insurance Center of New England,” he noted. “We worked with their Agawam branch a year or so ago, and now we’re doing some improvements at an office in Gardner.”

A rendering of one of the affordable-housing units

A rendering of one of the affordable-housing units at the E. Henry Twiggs Estates, a Springfield project set to begin construction in 2016.

Architecture EL also designed Hatfield’s town offices, with an opportunity to bid on additional work coming up in the next year or two. The firm designs plenty of residential work as well, including a recent project on the Connecticut River for a retired couple, replacing a small cottage.

Whatever the job, Rothschild-Shea said, “the core of it is good service. Being small, we’re able to be responsive and efficient and more economical with our time than perhaps a larger company.”

Problem Solver

When asked what drives him the most, Rothschild-Shea paused for a moment before answering simply, “the problem solving.”

“For me, whether I’m designing a house or a service center, success lies in coming up with solutions — whether it’s creating an economical space, or one that’s energy-efficient, creative, comfortable, whatever. It’s taking the physical constraints and the site constraints and massaging that into a successful solution.

“That’s the core of what we do,” he went on. “All the imagery and design and final product are byproducts of solving a problem. That’s the core of good service — understanding the problem and solving it in a creative architectural fashion.”

It’s easier to focus that passion on each job now that the economy has improved, the construction industry is warming up, and architects are focused on more than survival.

“We’re seeing some great municipal work happening recently — maybe not as many schools as before, but there’s a fair amount of public work out there,” he said. “The economy seems to be strong and moving, and we’re looking forward to more of that socially responsible work we’ve been fortunate enough to do. We’re certainly looking forward to expanding on that, whether it’s affordable housing or things like the Survival Center.”

Meanwhile, phase two of the Twiggs project is coming online as well — just one more opportunity for Rothschild-Shea to do well for clients that are doing good.

“I’m fortunate I get to jump on board with these organizations that existed long before I did, and help support their missions,” he told BusinessWest. “There are still a lot of gaps in the economy, and so many people continue to struggle, and it’s nice to help fill in those gaps.”

After all, “people have to live and work in what we draw,” he went on. “So it’s a responsibility on a lot of levels; it’s not just a contract, per se. It is a nice feeling, like we’re making a difference.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections

Lighting the Way

spray-chalk displays

The spray-chalk displays drawing people to the Holiday Market are one way to make an impact downtown with little cost.

Frank Sleegers wants his classroom to extend far beyond the UMass campus.

“For these students, it’s not just the work they do to get grades, but they actually care about what they do; they see their work is important and can make an impact,” said the urban design professor at UMass Amherst.

He was speaking of a recent project by a group of landscape architecture students, who worked with the Springfield Central Cultural District to improve the downtown pedestrian walkway known as Market Place and attract more activity there.

Morgan Drewniany, director of the Cultural District — an organization launched in 2014 to cultivate arts and activities and generate interest downtown — said the student “interventions,” as she and Sleegers called the work, involved bringing light to Market Place with paper lanterns and using spray-chalk designs on downtown sidewalks to get people thinking, and talking, about Market Place as a destination.

The short-term project was intended to coincide with the opening of the Downtown Springfield Holiday Market, a joint project of the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) and the Cultural District intended to boost retail sales downtown during the holiday season by bringing artists and vendors to spaces located between 1331 and 1391 Main St. and throughout Tower Square.

“One group of students incorporated spray chalk, directing people to the Holiday Market and Market Place itself as well, and really getting people talking about walking and walkability downtown,” Drewniany told BusinessWest. “The other group utilized a series of paper lanterns to bring light to the space, to create more of a welcoming environment, somewhere people really want to linger and spend more time checking out the shops.”

A third group project is working on a longer-term project downtown to be unveiled this spring, she added, giving no details but calling it “an innovative, moveable park.”

Market Place, also known as Market Street, is a pedestrian-only walkway running parallel to Main Street from Falcons Way to Harrison Avenue. A bustling space in the days of Johnson’s Bookstore, today, the walkway typically gets little use except as a cut-through between the downtown towers and the MassMutual Center.

Drewniany said Sleeger’s students had been working on city-improvement ideas for several years through the Office of Planning and Economic Development, a partnership supported with a small Community Development Block Grant. Since its formation, the Cultural District now oversees the projects, which typically take place twice a year, during the fall and spring semesters.

“This year the city planner was able to loop me into the students, to really make their plans a reality,” she said. “Whereas a lot of the students’ ideas in the past had been incorporated into future city plans, we were able to do an independent project where students were able to see their ideas realized. The city has the capacity to make things happen in a few years; we, as a cultural district, are able to focus on it and make it happen in a couple of months.”

Real-world Experience

Sleeger said the Springfield projects usually involve undergraduate students in the fall and graduate students in the spring.

“We’ve worked in a number of neighborhoods that needed some help, that were disadvantaged, where sidewalks were crumbled, things like that,” he told BusinessWest. “Last year, we did an intervention downtown with high-school students from Putnam [Vocational Technical Academy]. Because the city liked our approach, we were able to do some short-term interventions.”

Indeed, last spring, students from the UMass Graduate Urban Design Studio — after consulting with Springfield residents, city Planning and Economic Development officials, the Cultural District, Focus Springfield, small entrepreneurs, and Putnam students — staged six installations throughout downtown Springfield using what Sleegers calls ‘tactical urbanism,’ an emerging form of urban design that seeks to enliven cities with temporary interventions that are inexpensive and easy to install.

The ongoing partnership between the UMass program and the city is “a great idea that also educates the students who come to Springfield,” Sleegers said. “They see what’s here — a city with great potential. We can do something with very little money that has a high impact. That’s typical of other cities as well; parts of the country are struggling, and cities don’t have big bucks, but we can make them better.”

For discussions of longer-term improvements, students have worked with entities ranging from planning officials to the SBID to DevelopSpringfield. In one project, they developed ideas to enhance safety at the X neighborhood in Springfield, aiming to improve pedestrian crossing and making aesthetic enhancements.

“We’re proud of these contributions, and we have a great working relationship with the city,” Sleegers said, noting that the Springfield Design Center — which opened in Court Square in 2009 as a collaboration among UMass programs in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, Architecture and Design, and Agriculture — is now housed in the UMass Center at Springfield, located in Tower Square.

“We continue to work on other ways to make our work more visible,” he said. “These interventions have positive effects, and we get a great response.”

Art and Commerce

Sleegers said too many people have yet to discover the potential of downtown Springfield, and that his students are only helping to showcase it. “Our conversations with the shop owners of the Holiday Market were most inspiring. Their presence transformed the place immediately. I want to get our students involved and embraced. These experiences make them grow and succeed.”

Drewniany said she would like to see the connection between the Cultural District and UMass continue to grow.

“For Springfield to continue its growth and success, we really need to capitalize on all the relationships we have, and work with students who have some real ideas to help bring us to the next level of being a really innovative city,” she said, calling her organization “economic development through arts and culture,” which includes landscape design.

“Young people — and employers who have employees who are young — are really looking at the amenities a city has, not just how cheap rent is. They want to see we have galleries, that we have cool events happening, public art you can walk around. We really see that as something necessary for the future of the city.”

In a sense, those luminarias and chalk designs are just another way to light the path to that goal.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism

Steeped in History

Wistariahurst

Kate Preissler says she wants history to come alive for Wistariahurst visitors.

Throughout its history, the property now known as Wistariahurst Museum — which draws guests for myriad events and individuals who simply enjoy stepping into the past — has been referred to as one of the “showplaces in Holyoke.” The museum’s director says she wants to make history fun, and the visitor count — up to 14,000 annually — suggests she’s succeeding at her goal.

Throughout its history, the property now known as Wistariahurst Museum has been referred to as one of the “showplaces in Holyoke.”

Indeed, during the holidays, the former home of silk manufacturer William Skinner and his wife, Sarah, is truly a sight to behold with its enormous curved stairway draped with holiday garland and Christmas trees twinkling throughout its 22 spacious rooms where lofty ceilings and elaborately detailed architecture speak to a bygone era.

Tickets were sold out weeks in advance for performances of “Nutcracker & Sweets” staged by the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet, which ran Dec. 11-13. The annual event captures the magic of the holidays in the spacious Music Room that Belle Skinner, daughter of William and Sarah, built to house a collection of musical instruments after her parents’ deaths.

“This season’s performance of the Nutcracker was set in Holyoke, rather than Russia, and there were references in it to the city’s history. The father figure was cast as William Skinner, and his daughters Belle and Katharine were also depicted,” said Museum Director Kate Preissler.

Although the event is extremely popular, December is actually a quiet time for Wistariahurst, which stages a plethora of programs throughout the year that appeal to children, families, adults, and people of varying interests.

“The Nutcracker is our biggest holiday event, but we’re owned by the city of Holyoke, and our mission is preserving the history of Holyoke and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits, and special events,” Preissler told BusinessWest, adding that, over the past decade or so, those events have shifted from museum tours and formal affairs to a wide variety of offerings.

For example, last month Holyoke Wellness Coordinator Julia Wilkins began holding strength-training classes for city employees in the Music Room, while a few weeks later an elegant event called Winter Festivitea 
was held in the same space, and guests sat at elegantly decorated tables and sipped tea while they were entertained by live music.

“We are complex and use the physical space to provide as much value as we can,” Preissler said, as she conducted a tour through two of the home’s three stories, including a visit to the Leather Room with its leather wallpaper, a noteworthy library, Belle’s bedroom, the conservatory where a stained-glass peacock window is believed to be a Tiffany original, the dining room next door with two fireplaces, and the grand, sweeping staircase Belle added to the home.

Kate Preissler
Kate Preissler says Wistariahurst, donated to the city of Holyoke by the Skinner family, has become a real community asset.

“We hold a wine tasting here in February, and our annual gala takes place in June in the gardens,” Preissler noted. “It’s our primary fund-raising event, and people come outfitted in period dress and dance to live music in Belle’s Music Room. Last year it was held on a beautiful night at sunset, and you could see people throughout the garden in ’20s clothing who were probably imagining what it would have been like when the Skinner family lived here.”

The museum greets 12,000 to 14,000 visitors a year, and most come for events, rather than tours of the home. About 15 wedding ceremonies take place in the Music Room each year, and some couples hold their receptions in tents on the manicured grounds.

“We’re an exclusive venue for people looking for a historic place to get married in; Wistariahurst offers an intimate and beautiful setting,” Preissler said, adding that photos are often taken on the grand staircase, and harpists, classical guitarists, and pianists have been hired to play before and after ceremonies.

There are also seasonal holiday teas and a Mother’s Day Tea, which Preissler said give people an opportunity to have fun in the museum.

“Last fall we held a Mad Hatter Tea which was really popular. It attracted a lot of people who had never been here before, and many came in costume,” she noted. “They enjoyed a formal tea in the Music Room, played croquet on the lawn, and did crafts. It was a multi-generational event that was meant to be a way for kids and families to relax and enjoy themselves here.

“There is always the feeling of being in a historic home where Belle Skinner entertained her guests, but it’s important for our visitors to have fun,” she went on, repeating the word that she used frequently to describe what goes on inside Wistariahurst today.

Links to the Past

Curator and City Historian Penni Martorell said William Skinner emigrated to the U.S. from England in 1874. “He was a skilled silk dyer and established a silk-manufacturing and dyeing business on the Mill River in Haydenville,” she noted.

Penni Martorell

Penni Martorell says Belle Skinner took a real interest in the gardens of Wistariahurst and added a rose garden and Japanese tea house.

The business was destroyed when the river flooded following a dam breach in 1874, and Skinner relocated the operation to Appleton Street in Holyoke. He also relocated his Haydenville home, which had been designed by William Fenno Pratt, who also designed Northampton City Hall and other noteworthy structures. “Skinner had the home dismantled and moved to Holyoke,” Martorell said.

His second wife, Sarah, was an avid gardener, and although photos from 1875 show the home surrounded by barren grounds, her letters and diaries are filled with references to the plantings and trees she established on the site, which include the renowned wistaria vines that still bloom profusely every May.

They became widely acclaimed for their beauty, and their flowering was reported in local papers, which eventually led to the home’s name.

After William and Sarah died, their two unmarried children — Ruth Isabelle (“Belle”) and her brother William — inherited the home and used it as a summer residence.

“They entertained quite frequently, and Belle added onto the home,” Preissler said, including the addition of a sweeping staircase so she could make a grand entrance at parties, as well as the magnificent Music Room to house her collection of antique musical instruments.

“Belle’s collection was well-known and contained a spinet reputedly owned by Marie Antoinette and a Stradivarius violin,” Preissler added. “It was donated to Yale University and resides there today.”

The home and grounds remained in the family until 1959, when Katharine Skinner Kilborne, the youngest child of William and Sarah Skinner, and her heirs donated Wistariahurst to the city of Holyoke for cultural and educational purposes.

It operated as a museum under the auspices of the Holyoke Public Library for many years, but today a private foundation called Historic Holyoke at Wistariahurst supports its programming, events, and communications.


Click HERE to download a PDF chart of area tourist attractions


“The annual operating cost is $200,000, and the city pays $170,000 of that amount, while the remainder comes from fund-raisers, membership programs, and donations,” Preissler said, adding that the facility has two full-time employees, three part-time employees, and a large, dedicated staff of volunteers.

Martorell said a lot goes on behind the scenes.

“We have a docent program, and the collections we house are an important part of Holyoke’s history. They include letters, photographs, records of businesses, the Skinner family’s collection of correspondence, and records for Skinner and Sons Manufacturing, as well as the Carlos Vega Collection of Latino History in Holyoke,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the Vega collection was established in 2012 and is significant because nearly 50% of Holyoke’s population is Latino.

The museum also houses a textile collection containing many Skinner silk and satin wedding gowns and period clothing, and the archives are used by the Five College community and local genealogists.

“We want to use the past to inspire residents and visitors and give them new perspectives on life,” Preissler said. “History doesn’t have to be boring. People understand it better when it is presented in a way that allows them to be active participants, and our goal is to have them leave feeling that they want to come back and experience more.”

To that end, a Pumpkin Glow was held in October. Teens from the city and professional artists carved faces and designs on a large number of pumpkins, which became an outdoor exhibit that was viewed by about 250 people.

“The pumpkins were lit in the gardens at dusk, and a lot of families and people who had never been here before came to see them,” Preissler said. “It’s the combination of activities that gives us our identity, and we try to provide opportunities for different interests. For example, we hold a historical lecture series as well as Family Fun Days.”

Concerts are staged inside and outside Wistariahurst on its beautiful grounds that have been restored over the past decade. “They provide a lot of green space that is open to the public at no charge from dawn to dusk,” Preissler continued. “The gardens were inspired by designs created by Sarah Skinner and the three acres contain a beautiful rose garden, an azalea garden, 53 types of trees, 43 types of hosta and our signature wisteria, which was planted in the 1880s and grows up the side of the house. People come here to read books or walk the grounds; families bring picnics and we have had kids playing tag in the roses. It’s a particularly magical place for children where they can run around, feel safe and have fun.”

Martorell said the museum also houses a gallery that exhibits works by local artists that change every two months. In 2016 the facility will host a landscape show staged by Holyoke Art League and a spring program titled ‘Nuestras Abuelas de Holyoke,’ which is Spanish and translates to “our grandmothers.”

It will include photos and oral histories of residents and will be put on by curator Waleska Santiago and invited guests, she noted. “There will also be an exhibit by students from Holyoke Community College and a Rotary collection that will put on display from our archives.”

Preissler noted that Wistariahurst wants to become known as a premiere cultural venue, so it strives to hire exceptional musicians and performances.

“We’re planning a curated music series for next year and have brought musicians here that have a distinct sound that is new and fresh in the area,” she said, adding that performers have included jazz musician Michael Sheridan, gypsy music from the Roma culture performed by The Bohemian Quarter, and banjo music played by Cynthia Sayer.

“We are supported by the community, so it’s important for our programs to improve the quality of life and involve things that people can enjoy and respond to,” she added.

Bright Future

Preissler said the programming at Wistariahurst has evolved in conjunction with events held at other historic homes and museums. “There is a realization that we need to have more participatory experiences where visitors are actively engaged,” she noted.

Next year a member of the board of directors, a grandson of Katherine Skinner and the last living descendant to live in Wistariahurst as a child, will give a number of guided tours. In addition, there will be plenty of fun-filled events to round out the agenda.

“We will continue work to engage our audiences in new ways,” Preissler continued.

Which is exactly what Belle Skinner did when she built rooms in Wistariahurst to house her collections and entertain guests in a grand style.

So, the tradition of transforming Wistariahurst to bring it into the present will continue long after the holiday season is over in a home resplendent with history that sits quietly right in the heart of Holyoke.

Commercial Real Estate Sections

Reason to Smile

Stacy Building

Stacy Building

The new logo for Taylor Street Dental doesn’t picture anything, well, dental. No mouth, no teeth, no dental chair or examination equipment.

It’s a building. An important building, said Dr. David Peck.

“We wanted to meld this old, historic building with our dental practice — meld them together, old and new,” he said of the logo, but also of his practice itself, which for 30 years had been known simply as David I. Peck, DMD and been housed in a storefront on Worthington Street, in downtown Springfield’s club district.

But he was looking to move, and became intrigued by the Stacy Building a block away — its striking architecture, solid bones, and storied history, but also its proximity to where he had been treating patients for three decades.

“I knew I wanted to move the practice into another building, to expand and gain more space,” Peck told BusinessWest. “I started looking in the city. I could have gone to the suburbs — Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham — but I’ve been downtown 30 years, and I really believe my success is due to the city of Springfield — due to all my patients, past and present, who had no problem coming to downtown Springfield. I felt like it was time to pay it forward by building them an office where they’re comfortable and happy and feel great about the surroundings.”

He found it in the Stacy Building on Taylor Street, which he bought in 2013 from Plotkin Associates and now houses 3,700 square feet of dental space on the fourth floor — a striking top-level office boasting plenty of exposed brick, chestnut beams and columns, skylights, and barn-style sliding doors.

“We wanted to keep all the old parts of the building that are so beautiful — the large windows, the wood beams and columns,” he explained. “Construction always takes longer than you expect, but we finally moved in this past August.”

One aspect of the project that caused delays was making sure the building was completely handicapped-accessible, including installation of a new, larger elevator cab that opens to both the lobby of the building and at ground level; previously, the lobby was accessible by stairs only.

“We wanted to make sure all my patients, young and old, could get from the ground floor to the fourth-floor office,” Peck said. “We now have handicapped accessibility to all four floors.”

Dr. David Peck

Dr. David Peck, owner of Taylor Street Dental and, now, the Stacy Building that houses it.

That’s just one element that pleases him about the building, which still houses NAI Plotkin on the first floor and two marketing agencies on the second. The third floor has 2,500 square feet of space yet to be leased, in addition to some conference space for Taylor Street Dental.

“The building looks as good as it does because of the hard work of Laplante Construction in East Longmeadow,” Peck said. “They were pivotal in the design and construction and successful outcome of this building. We owe them a debt of gratitude for doing such an amazing job.”

Old and New

The Stacy Building is best-known as the place where brothers Charles and Frank Duryea built the first American gasoline-powered car in 1893. Within a few years, they were making 13 cars a year there.

“The building was in good condition, but I knew I wanted the dental office on the fourth floor, which was small offices, so we demoed the third and fourth floor, modernized it, sandblasted the brick to keep the aesthetics of the brick, kept the beams and the wood columns, and cleaned up the molding around the large windows.”

The space now boasts nine treatment areas, up from five on Worthington Street, and Peck is looking to add staff — he currently employs 11, including two other dentists — to make use of the additional space.

“We renovated all new — we didn’t even bring any of our existing equipment over,” he said, referring to state-of-the-art devices like CT scanners, medical lasers for treatment of soft tissue, and movie-projecting goggles for patients to wear during their procedures. “We wanted all brand-new equipment.”

The construction work isn’t totally complete, however, as exterior façade work will continue in the spring. But the Stacy Building has taken a big step into the 21st century, with a new, more efficient HVAC system, a new fire-alarm system, and new lighting.

“We totally converted the entire building to LED lighting. My daughter, a civil engineer, said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to go LED and be as green as you can.’ So, as a tribute to my daughter, I changed out all the fluorescent lights in the whole building.”

Peck’s patients have already expressed approval of the new office.

“Let me tell you — when patients come here, their mouths drop open. They love it. They say, ‘as comfortable as I felt with you in the other office, Dr. Peck, I’m so much more comfortable here in the new office.’ They say when they come in, they feel even more relaxed, more comfortable, more at peace. When you go to the dentist, you’re nervous, but they feel like they’ve come into a spa environment; their anxiety and nervousness is at a much lower level. They come in and say, ‘it’s just like a spa. I want to sit here and never leave.’”

Those are compliments he relishes.

“It’s just a nice feeling. That’s what I want to do. With any business establishment, you want to provide the very best for your patrons, customers, patients,” he said, adding, “my wife, Susan, was very much involved in helping me design this. We have a partnership; we’ve been married for 35 years, and we just love designing together. I thank my wife for helping me make this place such a success, and something that’s so beautiful for my patients.”

exposed brick and beam features

Dr. David Peck wanted to keep the exposed brick and beam features of the Stacy Building.

Those patients visit Peck for a full range of general, cosmetic, and implant dentistry, he explained, adding that he designed his practice as a one-stop site for dental needs — and, now, a coffee bar with USB chargers.

Those are the sort of funky touches that appeal to a downtown Springfield clientele, one that doesn’t necessarily need a storefront window to draw them in. Parking is plentiful, he added, from validation at a neighboring parking garage to on-street spaces to a small lot dedicated to Taylor Street Dental. “We try to give patients every reason to come to us.

“I bought this place because I wanted to stay in Springfield,” he went on. “It’s a gorgeous building. Just look at it from the outside — I love the way the building looks in springtime, when the trees bloom. It is an absolutely gorgeous building, and with the architecture, the way the brick is laid, the façade, and even the windows, I fell in love with the building.”

Positive Story

Peck’s clear affection for his location explains the logo. “This melding of the dental practice with the historic building creates — as corny as it sounds — a marriage made in heaven,” he told BusinessWest. “It feels great when I come in here. It’s amazing, the beauty they were able to build into it back then, without the heavy machinery we have now. I love coming in here every day.”

The Duryea Historical Society sent Peck a plaque for the office, and when he schedules a grand-opening celebration, he’s going to try to get some Duryea descendants to join in, if only to celebrate another success story in a city seeing more of them these days.

“There’s a perception that Springfield is unsafe. But I’ve been here 30 years; I’ve walked out at 12, 1 in the morning. I’ve never had a problem,” he said. “I love Springfield, and Springfield loves us. I think about times when people felt more positive about the city they work and live in, but they should appreciate what they have here in Springfield. We have museums at the Quadrangle, the Basketball Hall of Fame, MGM wants to come in … these are all positive things. It’s a beautiful city, so let’s start appreciating what we have and stop bashing it.”

That’s why he refuses to discount the City of Homes, but rather continue to support it — with a highly visible investment in the future of its downtown.

“I’ve seen other business around downtown Springfield that had no interest in staying, but not Taylor Street Dental,” he said. “We’re here to stay for the long term.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Luxury Living Sections

Personal Space

Rick McCullough

Rick McCullough learned plenty of lessons from his father, who launched what is now a second-generation home-construction business 60 years ago — among them hard work, integrity, and an emphasis on personal relationships. It’s that hands-on quality of his work that McCullough counts among the most enjoyable aspects of his job — not to mention an economy that has shed some lean years and is roaring with new life as families once again invest in high-end, custom homes.

Richard McCullough runs a successful home-building company, but he still refers to it as “my dad’s business.”

That’s because he grew up around R.A. McCullough Inc. — the construction firm launched by his father during the 1950s — and, along the way, picked up plenty of inspiration and lessons for his future career as the second-generation president of this Longmeadow-based family business.

“He first sold houses for other builders as a Realtor, and as he looked at what people were building, he said, ‘I can do this, and I can do it better,’” McCullough told BusinessWest. “So he purchased some raw pieces of land and developed them, and just built the company from there over the decades.”

After he graduated from college in 1995, he went into his father’s business full-time.

“Before that, I was out in the field, doing the grunt work, but after college, I graduated to the office,” he said — a decision that wasn’t always set in stone. “My dad was this amazing businessman, builder, and developer, but I didn’t seriously consider it until I got older. During my college years, I began to see [construction] as a natural fit for me.”

As one of the region’s most prominent builders of high-end and custom residences — typically 3,000 square feet and up — McCullough says he enjoys the hands-on aspect of dealing with clients and helping them turn their design visions into reality.

“I love helping them make decisions around building custom homes,” he said. “And I find there’s less miscommunication when I’m hands-on. I don’t get that phone call saying, ‘so-and-so didn’t call me back; what’s going on?’ There are fewer surprises that way. But I really do enjoy every aspect of this business, everything that’s involved in building homes, from the design through the end result.”

For this issue’s focus on luxury living, McCullough talks with BusinessWest about the changing nature of what a custom home is — and why he enjoys keeping up with those changes.

Beyond the Floor Plan

Make no mistake, he explained — ‘custom’ has meant different things over the decades.

“For example, in the ’80s, bigger was better, and customizing didn’t mean quite what it does nowadays. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, there wasn’t a whole lot of custom millwork, for example, unless it was in the ultra-high end. People today are less concerned about size and more about quality, what goes into it, the finishes.”

Today’s home buyers seem more educated and sure of the touches they desire in a home. As he walked along Bridle Path Ridge in Somers, Conn., a small development of high-end homes his company developed, he explained that, while the exteriors reflect a consistent — but not copycat — look, the interiors are very different, based on their buyers’ preferences.

“The houses’ architecture matches — you can tell it’s the same builder — but they’re very different from each other,” he said. “I love the challenge of creating something different. Sometimes they’ll see a house next door to where they want one built, and they’ll say, ‘that’s what I want.’ Well, we can do that floor layout, but let’s do something unique and something that won’t be a carbon copy of your neighbor.”

Those differences encompass everything from materials to finishes to subtle stylistic changes. “We can mix it up a little bit without going crazy — we’re not going to build a contemporary next to a colonial. It’s a different flavor while staying in the same realm of style.”

As for interior layout, customization today is largely a reflection of the family’s lifestyle.

“It’s really about customizing to an owner’s needs,” he said. “Where is the focus? It’s normally still through the kitchen, through the family room, areas where you spend the vast majority of the time, for ease of entertaining. Or you might want areas for a child to be close to the main part of the house, but have their own separate area.”

Home buyers are always going to focus on price — a home is likely their biggest investment — but McCullough said square footage doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Plenty of people say, ‘what’s the price per square foot,’ but what’s in the house? People think going from 3,500 to 2,500 square feet translates very easily from a cost-per-square-foot standpoint, but if you’re spending, say, 175 per square foot on a 3,500-square-foot home and you want to go to a smaller footprint, you’ll probably have the same size kitchen, same number of bathrooms, same finishes — so you’re going to spend more money per square foot.”

Particularly in the high-end housing market, he added, it’s important to keep an eye on a home’s future marketability. “You say you want only three bedrooms. Well, at least leave space to have a fourth bedroom — over the garage, unfinished. Marketability-wise, that adds a little value for the next person who’s going to buy it down the road.”

Priorities have shifted somewhat for homeowners in the realm of energy efficiency, McCullough said, noting that airtight construction and energy options like geothermal heating are becoming more popular.

He also noted that technology has impacted the features that high-end homebuyers are looking for today — and not just in the realm of home entertainment.

“People want things to be automated now; they want their lighting systems working off their smartphones. Controlling your heating and cooling from outside your home — that’s a relatively new thing in our industry, and you can’t underestimate that part of the business and how much that will grow.”

Bridle Path Ridge in Somers, Conn

Bridle Path Ridge in Somers, Conn. is one of McCullough’s recent developments of high-end, custom homes.

That goes for retrofitting existing homes as well, he added, a process made easier these days by the emergence of wireless technology.

“Cable companies are offering security systems — 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have guessed that would be happening. We have complete home automation … lights, thermostat, cameras you can view on a smartphone,” he went on. “There are so many apps, so many security systems. And it’s evolving so fast. Once you get these systems installed, things will change even more. It happens quickly.”

Ups and Downs

With the homebuilding industry on the upswing, McCullough is happy the recession years are well behind.

“That was an incredible challenge, and something that definitely left a mark on every developer, builder, and remodeler. Some fared better than others, but it was a rough recession,” he said, adding that it was difficult to tell when the tough times would end, challenging developers who wanted to time their investments.

“If a developer saved money throughout the recession, they might have been able to pick up properties, be opportunistic as they prepared for a turnaround, but the turnaround took longer than we thought. Developers were thinking, ‘we’ll have another year or two of this,’ but it lasted a little longer,” he explained. “There’s no book to go to on how to play it. It changed our industry somewhat, and hopefully we don’t forget the lessons of what we went through.”

As a recent past president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Mass. — an organization that advocates for contractors on the legislative level and educates consumers about companies and services — McCullough was in regular contact with builders during the extended downturn and came away impressed by their resilience.

“Everyone kept their heads up, even though it was obviously tough,” he said. “It’s a tough industry. We all know it. But our membership has significantly increased recently, which tells you where the economy is.”

The word he chose to describe the current mood? “Euphoric.”

“The market hasn’t fully recovered; we may not reach the level of the early to mid-2000s, when things were flying. But it was so bad for so long, and everything is good right now, in my mind — everything from existing home sales to remodeling to new construction.”

That’s partly because many potential buyers were just waiting out the storm but never ditched their plans for a new residence.

“A lot of people doing that work now had the money to do it, but had a lot of uncertainty — ‘will I get my investment back if I spend a premium on a major remodel or a new home?’ You don’t do that unless you have some view of the future that’s positive. It’s been great getting back into the swing of things after so long a downturn.”

The year has been so positive for the industry, in fact, that even the cold months will be productive in many corners.

“I normally see the vendors and the subcontractors I work with go into seasonal adjustments, down periods heading into winter,” McCullough said. “But people are staying busy through the holidays. Not everyone believes contractors work through the holidays because of the frozen ground, and they wonder whether that’s a good time to have something done. But it’s busier now than it’s been in years.”

Two Hats

McCullough’s father continued to work in real estate in the ’70s, at a good-sized brokerage firm called McCullough & Taft Realty — a tradition the junior McCullough continues today as a real-estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Longmeadow.

“I’ve been a real-estate agent, where I’m helping a client negotiate with a builder, and I look over the specifics of the contract. It’s an interesting perspective, being more on the outside.”

But there’s something special about being on the construction side.

“I love being hands-on and engaged in every aspect of the project; that’s something I enjoy,” he said, noting that, even though the company has fluctuated in size over the years, he’s always stayed closely involved in projects — an emphasis on relationships he learned from his father.

“My dad was so honest and straightforward,” McCullough said. “I’ve told people he was no rocket scientist, but he worked hard, and his integrity was at the forefront of everything he did. And that’s the way I choose to follow. In the old days, everything was done on a handshake, and it’s nice to feel like we can do that in certain circumstances.”

That’s why he tells people R.A. McCullough is his father’s business.

“To me, it’s more about maintaining the same standards he had. That definitely builds the passion with me — wanting people to be happy, wanting people to have a good experience. It’s definitely not about the money. It’s about everything my dad stood for.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Museum School at the Springfield Museums is currently offering courses and experiential learning opportunities for both children and adults. Spaces are still available for fall courses and trips. Gift certificates are also available, and make unique and memorable gifts during the holidays.

All courses are led by experienced and supportive instructors, in topics tied to the museums’ collections and special traveling exhibits. Fall courses for young people include explorations in astronomy and health science, and courses that feature parental involvement, like ‘candy chemistry’ and a creative-writing workshop for home-schooled children and their parents.

Offerings for adults during the fall session include lectures in “Art & Architecture in the Year 1500: Italy, Inca & Asia,” as well as drawing, painting, and sculpting classes. There are also holiday-themed courses in the culinary arts (“Harvest Festivals”), floral design, and classes in the use of origami to create ornaments and gift boxes. Many courses are one-day offerings, allowing even the busiest adults to participate.

Adult travel opportunities are also being planned, including excursions to see the ancient ruins of Peru, the national parks of the Old West, and the French Riviera and Provence.

For complete course descriptions, travel itineraries, fees, and to register, visit springfieldmusuems.org under the ‘Learn and Travel’ tab, or call (413) 263-6800, ext. 377 or 382.

Architecture Sections

Peace of Mind

Magazine Commons represents an important measure of independence

Joan Ingersoll says Magazine Commons represents an important measure of independence for its residents, who are clients of the Mental Health Assoc.


When an apartment complex owned by the Springfield-based Mental Health Assoc. was destroyed in the 2011 tornado that touched down in the city’s South End — displacing 14 MHA clients who lived there — the architects at Studio One certainly empathized, because their offices were wrecked as well.

“We really could relate,” said Christopher Novelli, one of those architects. “These people lost their homes. It’s an emotional experience. We lost our office, and Greg Zorzi, our principal, had an apartment above our office, so he lost his home as well.”

So Zorzi and his team took plenty of satisfaction in designing Magazine Commons, the new, 16-unit apartment building on Magazine Street that replaces the former residential complex on Union Street. The new structure, set to open in November, was built next to the MHA’s headquarters on Worthington Street, in the city’s McKnight district, on a formerly blighted parcel.

“We had a building on Union Street that we’d operated for 30 years, but it was completely destroyed,” said Joan Ingersoll, president and CEO of the MHA, which provides residential and support services that promote independence, community engagement, and wellness for people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, homelessness, and other challenges. “The people scattered; some relocated in other towns, and others stayed in Springfield.”

Several will be returning this fall to Magazine Commons, which is a success story on multiple levels, said Novelli, referring to its importance to the MHA and also its development on a brownfield site the city had been anxious to clean up for some time.

“There were contaminated soils, and it was unusable for building,” Novelli said. “The city owned it for years and issued several RFPs, but there were no takers on the property. Finally, the MHA came in.”

For this issue’s focus on architecture, BusinessWest talked with Novelli and Ingersoll about how the $4.6 million project came together, and how the new building will improve the lives of its tenants.

Home Again

In the aftermath of the tornado, residents of the destroyed complex dispersed to temporary housing, Ingersoll said, but, four years later, the MHA had no problem filling the 17,000-square-foot Magazine Commons with former Union Street residents as well as new clients.

“Some people are moving in from a group home, so this is their first opportunity to live independently,” she noted. “Some already live independently, so this is a different opportunity for them; they’re excited to move in. A couple of people had been in and out of different places and had periods of homelessness, and this is brand-new, stable housing.”

Chris Novelli (right, with Greg Zorzi)

Chris Novelli (right, with Greg Zorzi) says Magazine Commons achieves two goals: to restore housing to those who lost it in the tornado, and to help revitalize a neighborhood by replacing a brownfield site with a building that complements the architecture of its environs.

Darnella Johnson, one of the individuals preparing to move in, told BusinessWest she expects it to be comfortable and safe, and appreciated its proximity to a bus line — an amenity Ingersoll said is important to clients seeking to hold down employment.

Vincent Littlejohn is one of those. “I’m looking to get a job, and living close to a bus line will help me get to a job and my [support-group] meetings,” he said, noting that he, like Johnson, is currently living in a group home and is looking forward to a new measure of independence once interior construction is complete.

The facility, built by N.L. Construction in Ludlow, includes four apartments on the first floor and six apartments each on the second and third floors. The design also includes common space as well as office space for MHA staff.

“It has a community room for skill-building opportunities like cooking lessons, classes, and gatherings for social opportunities,” Ingersoll explained. “The staff offices are on the first floor — but this is not a staffed residence; the staff are outreach staff. All the residents have a certain number of hours the staff spends with them on things they need assistance with — managing medications, going to doctor appointments, teaching them how to take public transportation, how to manage money. Some of the staff will have the building as their home base, but they don’t sleep there.”

Novelli said the interior design reflects the needs of people who live independently but still face challenges.

“The people that will live there are all capable of self-preservation, all capable of living on their own. It’s not an assisted-living facility,” he explained. “There is some extra reinforcement in the bathrooms and some higher-durability finishes — rather than using carpet, it’s all tile in the living room, so it cleans up easily.”

Another challenge was fitting the building’s exterior into the historical context of the McKnight neighborhood — typically a priority for Studio One, which has plenty of experience designing housing complexes.

“We did a study of existing housing sites, and didn’t want to replicate them,” said Novelli. “But we wanted to make sure it fit in, as far as the exterior detailing, the massing of the building, and the proportions. We had several neighborhood meetings with people in the McKnight district.

“Some of the items in the original design were cut due to budget, but we were able to keep most of the proportions they wanted,” he went on. “All 16 are one-bed units, 550 square feet with large kitchens that open to living rooms.”

Studio One’s design also complied with — and in many cases exceeded — the city’s stretch codes, which mandate strict standards for energy efficiency, he added.

“We’re going beyond that with highly efficient mechanical systems, the building envelope, and thermal details,” he said, noting that such codes are becoming industry standard in many types of buildings, just as homeowners and developers are increasingly understanding the eventual cost savings. “The main concern has always been the bottom line rather than the long term. But people are starting to realize that, if you invest money at the start, you end up saving more money.”

Community Asset

Ingersoll was quick to note that Magazine Commons represents not just a housing complex, but a $4.6 million investment in the neighborhood, including sidewalks, lighting, neighborhood stabilization, and brownfield development. And it’s not an investment in just 16 current residents, but for dozens, even hundreds more over the coming decades, all of whom are trying to get to a more secure place in life, she added.

The MHA’s development team presented the plans to the McKnight Neighborhood Council in April of 2013, at which time the council voted to support it. The project has received financial support from the city of Springfield, the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the Mass. Community Development Assistance Corp., the state Department of Mental Health, MassDevelopment, the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and People’s United Bank.

With about $2 million in insurance money in hand from the tornado, the multiple funding partnerships meant the MHA had to finance only about $750,000 of the overall cost. Designated a HUD 202 project for people with disabilities, the apartments are subsidized, with residents paying no more than 30% of their income and HUD picking up part of the rental cost, Ingersoll noted.

“HUD told us we could rebuild in Springfield when we got the subsidies transferred over to the new project,” she explained. “We’ve been working with the city since then to identify and agree on the land, which was, fortunately, right next door to our main offices. The land was a pretty big parcel, but it was blighted and needed cleanup. We bought it for a dollar from the city, and we were able to revitalize the whole block.”

Novelli said the design included a specialized foundation system called a geo-pier, which densifies soil underneath a structure, so it can be built on what otherwise would be considered unsuitable soil.

Despite the challenges — or perhaps because of them — he and Zorzi are gratified to help the MHA rebuild a key component of its services. Founded in 1960, the agency operates 21 sites throughout Greater Springfield and serves more than 400 people annually through its residential and outreach programs.

Magazine Commons will be staffed weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., making the location next to MHA headquarters ideal for both residents and staff, Ingersoll added.

“It’s pretty unbelievable for the people moving in there,” she told BusinessWest. “I’ve had the opportunity to go in with some clients for the first time. When they see it, they become so excited. They think the units are beautiful. It’s a great opportunity for them.”

After all, she added, good housing is often a critical step in helping people procure good jobs and a brighter future. “It’s often the foundation for everything else in life.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Women in Businesss

Creating a Sounding Board

Cathy Crosky

Cathy Crosky says women owners benefit from having a sounding board comprised of peers navigating similar issues and challenges.

Attorney Paula Almgren says she knows she’s a much better, much smarter businessperson now than she was before she joined a group called WomenUpFront about 18 months ago.

She credits the Pittsfield-based organization, which launched three years ago and is composed of fellow small business owners, with everything from helping her take basic, common-sense steps, such as creating a website for her practice, to developing an appetite for risk taking, including a book she’s planning to write on one of her specialties — navigating community-based care.

“I’ve taken a lot of actions I might not have taken, or would have taken longer to implement, if I wasn’t part of this group,” she said, citing the website as just one example. “And you become accountable to the group; if you say you’re going to do it, you have to do it.”

And yet, Almgren literally can’t wait until she can stop attending the monthly meetings of this group.

Indeed, there is a ceiling regarding annual revenues for membership in this intriguing group — $1 million — and Almgren, who started her practice in 1996, intends to break her way through it sometime soon.

When she does, she’ll be able to ‘graduate’ to a group called the Women Presidents Organization (WPO), which has pretty much the same basic mission statement and MO as WomenUpFront, but is obviously for those with larger ventures and often different challenges.

Transitioning to membership in WPO is the unofficial, usually unannounced ambition of WomenUpFront members, said Cathy Crosky, an executive coach and organizational transformation consultant with Charter Oak consulting group in Williamstown who conceptualized and now leads both organizations.

Paula Almgren

Paula Almgren

She told BusinessWest there are many stories like Almgren’s still being written in Berkshire County. They involve women who have found a comfort zone — not to mention myriad learning opportunities — in a group of roughly a dozen that she described early and often as a “sounding board.”

It is now Crosky’s ambition to replicate the success of the Pittsfield group in Hampden County. She noted that statistics clearly show that more women are choosing entrepreneurship as a career path, and the Greater Springfield area is certainly no exception to this rule.

Like the Pittsfield WomenUpFront group, the one planned for Hampden County will be limited to first-stage companies — it is not intended for startups, said Crosky, adding that it is focused on business, not networking, although there is certainly some of the latter as well.

“The idea behind the group is to help women to get beyond the day-to-day challenges and look at the business more purposefully and more strategically,” she said, adding that, to help meet that goal, she has brought in experts on subjects ranging from employment law to time management to address members. “It’s a deep dive into business issues and challenges, and it’s a learning group.”

For this issue and its focus on women in business, we take an in-depth look at the success achieved by WomenUpFront in Pittsfield, and how Crosky plans to make this concept more of a regional phenomenon.

Getting Down to Business

Unlike most members of the Pittsfield WomenUpFront group, Pam Sandler’s immediate goals do not include graduation to WPO.

That may eventually happen, she said, but at present, she’s comfortable with the revenue patterns being generated by the Stockbridge-based architecture firm she launched more than 30 years ago that bears her name and specializes in both residential and commercial work.

Pam Sandler

Pam Sandler says women have to juggle their lives differently than men do, which leads to unique challenges balancing business and other obligations.

“I was different than other women in the group — I really didn’t want to grow my business; I thought I was stretched as far as I could be stretched,” she said, adding that, generally speaking and economic downturns aside (they traditionally hit this sector very hard), she can generate as much work as she wants and needs to handle. “I was, and still am, far more interested in working smarter — I was getting pretty burned out.”

And, like Almgren, she believes she’s already made significant progress with that goal. As evidence, she cited the fact that she’s not burning as much midnight oil, and not because she has fewer projects on the books.

“I don’t work as many hours as I used to because I don’t have to — I’m working smarter,” she told BusinessWest. “I have less stress, and I’m more focused on the big picture — and I owe much of that to my once-a-month fix.”

That fix, as she called it, WomenUpFront, was in many ways inspired by WPO, said Crosky, adding that she was approached by several women who knew they could benefit from such a group, but didn’t fit the revenue criterion.

Like WPO, the new group was designed to be a forum where common issues and problems can be discussed confidentially, she went on, adding that members soon discover that, whatever challenge they’re facing, they’re certainly not unique, or alone, in that fight.

“The demands of running a business are increasingly more challenging,” Crosky told BusinessWest. “The roundtable provides an opportunity for women to share some of these challenges they have that are similar and offer support, best practices, and ideas — and learn from each other.”

Almgren concurred. “I find that there’s a lot of problem solving in the group — every time I go, I learn something new,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s really helpful as a business owner to be able to talk about what’s working and not working with your business and share ideas with other women business owners.”

Crosky noted that, while some business groups have certainly enjoyed success with a mixed-gender format, the women-only structure of this group appeals to many because of the commonality of issues and a generally shared outlook on business and how to manage.

“Many women report feeling much more comfortable in a women-only group because women lead differently than men and the challenges that women face in the marketplace are different,” she explained. “There’s also the challenge of balancing work and their personal lives, because they do have primary responsibility for children and aging parents, despite the changes in role definition.”

Sandler agreed.

“I find that women have to juggle their lives differently than men do,” she said. “I have three children, and I have to organize their lives and my work at the same time, which has been a real challenge.”

Crosky announced her intentions to form a Pioneer Valley chapter of WomenUpFront in the spring, with the support of the Business Growth Center and PeoplesBank, which have offered to provide meeting space and other forms of assistance.

She’s been working since then to recruit the eight to 10 women entrepreneurs she needs to launch. She knows they’re out there, but she also knows that most individuals who can use help are also those who find it most difficult to commit the time required to be an active participant in such a group.

If she can get a few minutes with a prospective member, she advises them it’s necessary to make the time.

Meeting of the Minds

Crosky said there is no firm timetable for starting the Pioneer Valley chapter of WomenUpFront.

The task of making women aware of the organization and its benefits and convincing them to commit the requisite time and energy is ongoing.

Overall, she believes expanding the concept across the Valley will help individual business owners meet their goals, but also benefit the region in its quest to encourage entreprebeurship and create jobs.

“Not everyone wants to grow beyond $1 million, but everyone wants to be more efficient and stabilize their business,” she said. “And that’s what we’re here for.”

For more information on WomenUpFront, call (413) 822-1263.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

Paragus IT Acquires Applied Software Technologies

HADLEY — Paragus IT has continued its pattern of active growth with its first acquisition: West Springfield-based Applied Software Technologies. Prior to the acquisition, AST provided IT services to businesses in the region and beyond for more than 20 years. “We are very happy to welcome the staff and clients of Applied Software Technologies into the Paragus family,” said Paragus CEO Delcie Bean. “They are a great company, and we’re excited that we will be able to give their clients the opportunity to maintain their relationships with the people they know while also having access to the resources we are able to offer as the largest IT provider in Western Massachusetts.” The acquisition of AST is the latest in a strong trend of growth for Paragus. Since Bean founded the company at age 13, Paragus has grown from a one-man operation to a regional leader in business computer service, consulting, and information-technology support. Inc. Magazine has ranked Paragus as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. for four years running. With a 650% growth rate over seven years, Paragus is the second-fastest-growing outsourced IT firm in New England. “We have every intention of acquiring more businesses as we continue to expand our market and services, but it has to be the right deal,” Bean noted. “What matters to us is that the customers, both our current ones and the ones being acquired, are always benefited by the transaction. We refuse to compromise on quality and service. Second-best just isn’t good enough.”

Dave’s Soda and Pet City Highlighted by National Retail Federation

AGAWAM — The National Retail Federation’s ‘Retail Across America’ team recently stopped by Dave’s Soda and Pet City in Agawam to film for NRF’s Retail Across America campaign. They talked with Dave Ratner, who has been involved with the organization for many years, about his work advocating for Massachusetts retail stores on Capitol Hill. According to the NRF, Bay State retailers support 920,000 jobs, and retail contributes nearly $58 billion to the state’s economy. A film crew spoke with Dave’s employees about their jobs — their favorite part of their job, what their typical day involves, etc. The footage will be used to put together a glimpse into surprising jobs in retail. Retail Across America is part of the NRF’s award-winning “This is Retail” campaign, which brings together retailers, universities, and students with state retail associates, legislators, and opinion leaders. The NRF launched the program to highlight life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. Dave’s Soda and Pet City is one of two businesses chosen to represent Western Mass. retailers on NRF’s road trip through four New England states. Dave’s Soda and Pet City is a mini-chain of seven superstores with more than 100 employees.

TommyCar Auto Group Donates Used Vehicle for Fire-rescue Training

NORTHAMPTON — Country Hyundai and Northampton Volkswagen recently provided a used vehicle to the Northampton Fire Department for rescue training. Firefighters spend countless hours training and honing their skills to ensure they are prepared for any emergency. The vehicle will be put to work in upcoming training exercises in which firefighters will utilize their extrication equipment on the vehicles, also known as the Hurst Tool or the Jaws of Life. “Ensuring firefighters have the latest training is critical to the safety of this community,” said Carla Cosenzi, president of Country Hyundai and Northampton Volkswagen, two dealerships in the TommyCar Auto Group chain. “We’re proud to be able to help in such a meaningful way, knowing so many people will ultimately benefit.” Added Bill Schuetze, captain and training officer for the Northampton Fire Department, “we really want to thank Country Hyundai and Northampton Volkswagen for the generous contribution. We will get a lot of use out of this car to train our firefighters on rescue efforts.” Country Hyundai and Northampton Volkswagen hope to have an ongoing relationship with the Northampton Fire Department and be able to offer more vehicles in the future.

Monson Savings Bank Announces New ‘Back to Banking’ Program

MONSON — As part of its ongoing efforts to improve financial literacy and capability, Monson Savings Bank (MSB) has introduced Fresh Start Checking accounts. These accounts are designed for people who might not otherwise be able to open a bank account based on their prior banking history. At the same time, MSB understands that life happens, and there are times when maintaining financial soundness may be difficult. Through the use of the Fresh Start Checking account, the “Back to Banking” program is designed to educate customers on money management, how to maintain accounts in good standing, and work toward paying off any unpaid account balances at other banks. As part of the program, free education materials are provided to customers through the National Endowment for Financial Education. The education modules include “Money Management — Control your Cash Flow,” “Borrowing — Use, Don’t Abuse,” “Earning Power — More Than a Paycheck,” Investing — Money Working for You,” “Financial Services — Care for Your Cash,” and “Insurance — Protect What You Have.” Another benefit of this program is a pay-as-you-bank option, which is designed to help customers pay down prior financial debts. With a companion savings account, funds can be set up to automatically transfer from checking to savings on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. According to President and CEO Steve Lowell, “at Monson Savings Bank, we have become increasingly concerned about financial literacy and the fact that many people lack the money-management knowledge and skills they need to ensure long-term stability for themselves. Our new “Back to Banking” program is another way in which we help individuals within our communities become more financially secure.”

GZA GeoEnvironmental Awards Grant to Gardening the Community

SPRINGFIELD — GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., a leading environmental and geotechnical engineering consulting firm, has awarded a $2,500 Shareholder’s Grant to Gardening the Community (GTC) in Springfield, based on an application from Anja Ryan Duffy, a professional landscape architect in the Springfield office of GZA. GZA bestows four roughly $2,500 grants each year to organizations whose specific programs would best benefit from the award. The Shareholder’s Grant program was established to support employee volunteerism and charity work in the firm’s communities and throughout the world. Duffy proposed Gardening the Community as a recipient of the GZA Shareholder’s Grant to assist in the development of the organization’s new Walnut Street site, a project for which she has volunteered her landscape-architecture services. Gardening the Community is a food-justice organization engaged in youth development, urban agriculture, and sustainable living to build healthy and equitable communities. In her grant application, Duffy said the Walnut Street project location is a 0.6-acre abandoned lot which “for decades has been an eyesore and served as an illegal dumping ground.” GTC purchased the site in July 2014 with the vision of transforming it into a “vibrant, green space which would also help feed the neighborhood and provide service and leadership opportunities for local youth.” The GZA Shareholder’s Grant will help fund the placement of fencing and perimeter plantings along the Walnut Street site. Duffy has been with GZA for nearly eight years. Her areas of specialization include site design, planting design, low-impact development, and graphics. A graduate of UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, she is an avid gardener and started a community garden in her former apartment complex.

Kingdom Master Jewelers Opens in Holyoke

HOLYOKE — Kingdom Master Jewelers, is a family-run business operated by Gabriel Serrano and Idoel Ortiz Jr., opened its doors today at 2020 Northampton St. in Holyoke. Previously a Hadley-based business since 2012, Serrano and Ortiz have become specialists in buying precious metals such as gold, diamonds, and silver, and have more tham 25 years of experience in custom-making one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Kingdom Master Jewelers formally ran jewelry gallery repair shops for Kay, Hannoush, Jared, and many other jewelers in the area.

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