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Briefcase

Leadership Pioneer Valley Accepting Applications for LEAP Class of 2020

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is now accepting applications for enrollment in the LEAP class of 2020, a nine-month, regional leadership-development program that engages the Pioneer Valley’s most promising emerging leaders through learning and exploration. Participants are trained in leadership skills by experts in a classroom setting. They also attend in-depth field experiences across the region where they meet with local leaders and explore the region’s economy and culture. The LEAP program runs September through May. In its seven years, nearly 300 individuals representing more than 90 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated. The program has filled a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region. Fifty-three percent of alumni have a new leadership role at work, 64% have joined a new board of directors, and 99% made new meaningful connections. LPV is seeking applicants all over the Pioneer Valley, including Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties in different sectors. The program is made for those in nonprofits, businesses, and government who are eager to increase their leadership skills and take action to better the region. Applicants are considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying. Those who apply by June 1 will be eligible for $100 off of their personal tuition, and companies with three or more applicants by June 1 will receive 50% off one participant. The deadline for LPV class of 2020 applications is July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

First-quarter Profits Up Across MGM Resorts

LAS VEGAS — MGM Resorts International reported financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019. Consolidated net revenues increased 13% compared to the prior year quarter to $3.2 billion. MGM Springfield earned $9.38 million on $77.9 million in net revenue. That figure represents adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization, or EBITDA. “The first quarter came in slightly better than our expectations with consolidated net revenues up by 13% and adjusted EBITDA up 5%,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “Our Las Vegas resorts experienced broad and diversified customer demand. Our non-gaming revenues grew by 4%.” Net revenues increased 21% to $804 million, including $78 million in contributions from the opening of MGM Springfield in August and $37 million in contributions from the acquisition of Empire City Casino in New York in January. “We remain focused on achieving our 2020 targets of $3.6 billion to $3.9 billion in consolidated adjusted EBITDA and significant growth in free cash flow,” Murren said. “Our strategy to achieve these goals includes the continued ramping up of MGM Cotai [in Macau], Park MGM [in Las Vegas], and MGM Springfield, and the implementation of the MGM 2020 Plan. MGM 2020 is a company-wide initiative aimed at leveraging a more centralized organization to maximize profitability and lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

PVPC Releases Economic-development Strategy

SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) recently released its 2019 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and Pioneer Valley Plan for Progress Five-year Update, a blueprint for economic development in the region. The CEDS features a description of regional economic-development conditions and sets forth goals and objectives for the future, as well as a list of projects seeking the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Public Works funding in the next year. The report highlights the region’s continued decrease in unemployment, an improved workforce-talent pipeline, and increased early-education enrollment and high-school and community-college graduation rates, among others, as metrics illustrating the overall progress being made. The CEDS also lists many major committed projects of regional significance, such as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame renovations in Springfield, North Square at the Mill District in Amherst, and the One Ferry Street mixed-use development in Easthampton. A full digital copy is available at www.pvpc.org/plans/comprehensive-economic-development-strategy-ceds. Hard copies are also available upon request.

Company Notebook

New England Public Radio, WGBY Join Together to Create New England Public Media

SPRINGFIELD — New England Public Radio and WGBY Public Television announced they will join to create a robust new multi-media organization, New England Public Media (NEPM), with one of the largest newsrooms in Western Mass. With a goal of expanding public media offerings for the people of Western New England, NEPM will build on the strength of each organization to deliver the educational content, cultural and news programs, and community engagement that characterizes public media. Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of New England Public Radio, will become president of NEPM. Anthony Hayes, general manager of WGBY Public Television, will become chief operating officer and general manager of the new organization. NEPM will be an independently run organization with its own governing board. Combined, New England Public Radio and WGBY Public Television have 78 employees, and all current employees will be part of the new organization. NEPM’s enhanced newsroom will total about 21 and is expected to grow over the coming years. The WGBH Educational Foundation, which holds the broadcast license for WGBY, will invest $6 million over six years in the new venture. When combined with critical community support for NEPM, this investment will allow for new programming while ensuring in-depth local journalism remains the centerpiece of the combined organization. WGBH will have a seat on the NEPM board. UMass Amherst will continue to hold the broadcast license for WFCR 88.5FM, and along with the NEPR Foundation board, it has been actively involved in the negotiations that led to the creation of NEPM. The university remains deeply committed to supporting the growth of public media in Western Mass. and will have a seat on the NEPM Board. The support of the Five College Consortium has been a vital part of the history and long-standing excellence of WFCR (Five College Radio) and New England Public Radio since its inception. The executive director of the consortium, which includes Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges as well as UMass Amherst, will also serve on the NEPM board. Along with an expanded news service, NEPM will focus on new content creation including digital music streams, multi-platform and digital programming, and community engagement and education, in addition to the programs audiences now enjoy. A new daily radio program with a local focus will be among the first initiatives the new organization will undertake. Details will be finalized over the coming months with plans and final approval to be completed this summer.

 

Gov. Charlie Baker to Speak at UMass Amherst Commencement

AMHERST — Gov. Charlie Baker will be the featured speaker at the undergraduate commencement at UMass Amherst on Friday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The governor will address an anticipated crowd of about 20,000 family members, friends, and other guests as approximately 5,500 undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. “We are honored that Governor Baker will deliver this year’s commencement address,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “As a results-driven leader, he combines a concentration on thoughtful data analysis with an emphasis on building relationships that strengthen our Commonwealth. His support for UMass Amherst has provided our students the opportunity to flourish as they play an invaluable role in the state’s innovation economy. “It’s no coincidence that, under the governor’s leadership, Massachusetts has achieved record employment, the highest percentage of citizens with healthcare, and an outstanding education system,” he went on. “At the flagship campus, we are proud of playing a role in providing high-quality, affordable education for our citizens.”

Big Y Express Eliminates Plastic Bags

SPRINGFIELD — As part of the recent announcement of Big Y Foods Inc. to phase out single-use plastic bags at its checkouts, its Big Y Express Gas and Convenience locations became the first division in the 80-store company to eliminate these bags completely. Previously, Big Y Express in Lee was the only gas and convenience location without these bags as part of that town’s ordinance. Now, the other eight locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut have joined in this pursuit. Single-use plastic bags create an inordinate amount of waste. According to the EPA, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year. If not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm fish, marine animals, birds, and other wildlife. Big Y has been complying with single-use plastic-bag bans in five of its local communities in Massachusetts (Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton, and South Hadley) since 2014. The company also issued a pledge in January to eliminate all single-use plastic bags at its checkouts in 2020. The elimination of these bags at its Express locations is the first phase of the implementation for this pledge. Currently, there are several more towns with bans pending, such as Longmeadow and West Springfield. In addition, the legislatures of both Massachusetts and Connecticut are discussing statewide bans on single-use plastic bags.

Country Bank Reports Record Earnings, New Board Leadership

WARE — Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully announced the appointment of Maura McCaffrey, former CEO of Health New England, and Keith Blanchette, partner at Stolberg, Ebbeling and Blanchette, LLP, to its board of trustees at its recent annual meeting held at the AC Marriott in Worcester. The bank also appointed five new corporators, including Nancy Crimmin, president of Becker College; Cherylann Gengel, co-founder of Be Like Brit; Michael Myers, president of the Worcester Railers; Peter Dawson, partner at Mirick O’Connell; and Mark Donahue, partner at Fletcher Tilton. At the meeting, Country Bank reported its 2018 earnings resulted in record-breaking profits. Net income was reported at $12,853,000, with total assets increasing to $1,624,000,000. Deposit balances increased to $1,083,182,000, and total loans increased from the prior year to $1,240,421,000. Capital was reported at 14.06%, maintaining the bank’s position as one of the higher-capitalized banks in the Commonwealth. As part of its ongoing Worcester expansion, the bank partnered with the Worcester Red Sox as one of the team’s 21 founding partners in anticipation of its move to Worcester in 2021.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q1 Earnings, Dividend

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31. The company reported net income of $12.7 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, compared to net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018 of $12.2 million, or $0.24 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $15.8 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2018. “Despite the challenging operating environment, the United Financial Bancorp Inc. team is focused on expanding and winning new client relationships, maintaining strong asset quality and ample capital, and providing superior customer service,” said William Crawford, IV, president and CEO of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $7.34 billion at March 31, 2019, decreasing $16.9 million from $7.36 billion at Dec. 31, 2018. At March 31, 2019, total loans were $5.73 billion, representing an increase of $75.1 million, or 1.3%, from the linked quarter. Deposits totaled $5.66 billion at March 31, 2019 and decreased by $6.3 million, or 0.1%, from $5.67 billion at December 31, 2018.

HealthDrive to Acquire New England Geriatrics

WEST SPRINGFIELD — HealthDrive, a leader in delivering integrated specialty healthcare services to residents of long-term care, skilled nursing, and assisted-living facilities, announced it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire New England Geriatrics (NEG), a provider of comprehensive and quality psychiatric care for patients and their families. This acquisition will allow HealthDrive to expand its services as it seeks to create a leading multi-specialty healthcare platform for vulnerable populations. This is the first acquisition for HealthDrive as a portfolio company of Bain Capital Double Impact, the impact-investing business of Bain Capital. Financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed. NEG was founded on mission-driven principles in 1994 to provide mental-health services to underserved geriatric populations in Massachusetts. Today, the company serves more than 13,500 Massachusetts and Connecticut residents in over 129 long-term-care facilities, four managed inpatient geriatric psychiatric units, and one outpatient clinic through its dedicated network of mental-healthcare professionals. As consultants to the facilities and their primary-care physicians, NEG clinicians provide evaluation and diagnostic services, medication management, psychotherapy, behavior-management consultation, and evaluation of patients for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Steve Marcus, the current CEO of NEG, who will join HealthDrive as a senior adviser, added that “we selected HealthDrive as our partner because it is most aligned with our commitment to clinical excellence for the vulnerable population New England Geriatrics serves. We have worked side by side with HealthDrive providers in skilled-nursing facilities for many years, and it is apparent that the HealthDrive team truly understands the population that we at New England Geriatrics make our mission to serve. We are confident that, through our partnership with HealthDrive, New England Geriatrics will continue to offer the same great level of care that we have provided over these past 25 years.” The transaction is anticipated to close in the first half of 2019 and is subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.

UMassFive Among Recipients of Workforce Training Fund Grant

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced its selection as one of 68 Workforce Training Fund grant recipients in the state of Massachusetts chosen by the Baker-Polito administration. As a financial institution deeply invested in the communities it serves, UMassFive takes pride in supporting the local economy through providing quality service and products for its members, and by offering employment opportunities that encourage personal growth and career development. Accomplishing both of these goals means taking a real interest in the professional development of every employee and offering training opportunities so that any staff might become an expert in their chosen field. The $174,000 awarded to UMassFive will provide training for current and newly hired employees that focuses on technology-related mastery as well as leadership and management development in order to promote job growth, retention, and increased opportunity. This project is funded by a Workforce Training Fund grant from the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The grant program is administered by Commonwealth Corp.

Work Opportunity Center Cuts Ribbon on New Springfield Facility

SPRINGFIELD — Work Opportunity Center Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 8 at its newly purchased and renovated community-based day-services (CBDS) facility located at 73 Marketplace in Springfield. Established in 1969, Work Opportunity Center Inc. (WOC) initially served its participants through a center-based work-service model. Community-based day services were added in the summer of 2014. In June 2016, center-based work services were discontinued for all participants, and those services were converted to CBDS. As of March 14, 2019, there are approximately 84 individuals participating in WOC CBDS services. Last month, 34 program participants and six staff members transferred from the WOC facility in Agawam to its newest facility in Springfield. The CBDS program of supports enables individuals with developmental disabilities to enrich their lives and enjoy a full range of community activities by providing opportunities for developing, enhancing, and maintaining competency in personal, social, and community activities. Service options for individuals participating in the CBDS program include career exploration, community-integration experiences, skills development and training, volunteer opportunities with local nonprofits, health and fitness classes, socialization experiences, and support to enhance interpersonal skills as well as the pursuit of personal interests and hobbies. The renovation of the 73 Marketplace facility is supported by a $10,000 grant made by the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation along with a $5,000 grant from Westfield Bank toward the purchase of a new vehicle for program participants.

Agenda

Food Truck Fridays and Derby de Mayo Weekend

May 3-5: MGM Springfield will kick off a weekend of festivities with the launch of Food Truck Fridays and Derby de Mayo Weekend at Armory Square. Derby de Mayo Weekend kicks off at 11 a.m. on Friday with a performance by local cover band Feel Good Drift, lawn games, and bites from the inaugural Food Truck Fridays event. Guests can also enjoy TAP Sports Bar’s signature outdoor beer garden, which will be open for the first time this season. On Saturday, Armory Square will transform into an outdoor viewing party for the Kentucky Derby as it plays live on the 330-square-foot marquee screen. The event also will feature live music and MGM Springfield’s three food trucks. The party continues Sunday starting at 1 p.m. with a Cinco de Mayo fiesta complete with a mariachi band and custom tequila bar. Every week throughout the spring and summer, Food Truck Fridays will bring local eats to downtown Springfield from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The culinary bonanza will include three original concept food trucks from MGM Springfield, serving tacos, gelato, and Asian-inspired dishes. A variety of other popular food trucks from across the region, such as Wahlburgers, Hot Oven Cookies, and Say Cheese, will be offered on a rotating schedule. In addition to MGM’s three food trucks, opening day of Food Truck Fridays on May 3 will include Wahlburgers of Boston; Holyoke Hummus; Hot Oven Cookies, Palazzo, and Sweet Chili’s, all of Springfield; Say Cheese of Worcester; Liberty Rock Tavern of Milford, Conn.; and Kona Ice of Stamford, Conn.

Blessing of the Animals

May 4: Trinity United Methodist Church will give special recognition to horses at its 12th annual Blessing of the Animals service at 4 p.m. on the front lawn at 361 Sumner Ave., Springfield. Two equine organizations, Blue Star Equiculture and Whispering Horse, will bring horses to the event and will give presentations on the work they do. The event is free, and and people are invited to bring their pets for a blessing. All pets and their owners are welcome. Blue Star Equiculture of West Brookfield is a working horse sanctuary that offers care and shelter to 27 retired, disabled, and homeless draft horses, many of whom might otherwise end up facing poor living conditions or even slaughter. The sanctuary is an official retirement venue for carriage horses from large cities around the country. Blue Star Equiculture’s younger, healthy horses do community work, assisting with farming, logging, law enforcement, competitive pulling, and other activities. The organization also finds good homes for horses that are suitable for adoption. Whispering Horse of East Longmeadow offers equine-assisted therapy to help children and adults with physical or mental challenges. Clients who benefit from these services include those with autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, brain trauma, oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD, and numerous other conditions. Specially trained equine therapists work with clients to help them achieve cognitive, physical, emotional, educational, social, or behavioral goals. Working with seven horses, Whispering Horse presently provides services to 45 clients.

Elder-law, Estate-planning Series

May 6, 13, 20: Attorney Karen Jackson of Jackson Law, an elder-law and estate-planning firm, will teach a series of classes highlighting the latest developments in elder law and estate planning at Holyoke Community College (HCC). The six-hour course, called “Elder Law and Estate Planning: What You Need to Know,” will be presented on consecutive Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. Jackson will present comprehensive subject matter on what she calls “The Core Estate Plan,” in which she will explain core documents and provide stories and examples. 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. The second session will address four areas: trusts, the probate court process, Medicare hot topics, and options for community care and home care. Jackson will provide pertinent information and details about each to assist attendees in planning now. In the third and final session, Jackson will introduce the various Medicaid programs that provide long-term skilled-nursing home care in Massachusetts and the financial assistance associated with each. While participants may attend only one session of their choosing, they must still pay the full course cost of $89. To register, call (413) 552-2500 or visit www.hcc.edu/bce.

Labor and Employment Law Conference

May 21: Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. will hold a Labor and Employment Law Conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Springfield. “The conference will deliver an in-depth review of some of the most challenging employment-law issues organizations, human-resources personnel, and management have faced over the past year, and will provide cutting-edge insights needed for surviving challenges on the horizon,” said Partner Marylou Fabbo. Breakout sessions will include “Paid Family and Medical Leave: Change Is Coming” “Wage and Hour Mistakes,” “Harassment, Discrimination, and Why Employers Get Sued,” “Labor and Employment Law Update,” “How to Handle Requests for Reasonable Accommodations,” and “How to Conduct an Internal Investigation.” Speakers and panel-discussion participants will include Skoler Abbott attorneys and other leaders in human resources and employment law. A continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and luncheon are included with the conference, as well as time for networking and questions following the presentations. See the full agenda and register online at skoler-abbott.com/training-programs or call (413) 737-4753.

JA Inspire Career Exploration Fair

May 28: Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM), now celebrating its centennial anniversary, will host the JA Inspire Career Exploration Fair from 8 a.m. to noon at the MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. “We will host more than 500 students from seventh through 11th grades, who will have the opportunity to explore diverse career options at interactive booths featuring colleges, universities, trade schools, apprenticeship programs, companies, local law enforcement, and public-safety organizations from throughout Western Massachusetts,” said Jennifer Connolly, president of JAWM. The JA Inspire program provides students with the opportunity to learn about careers from industry representatives in time to begin planning for high-school coursework and better prepare themselves for life after graduation. The program consists of four in-class lessons, plus the career exploration fair, all designed to engage students and help them explore education and career pathways, showcase careers in Western Mass. with a focus on high-wage and high-demand industries, and connect students with industry representatives who can share career advice and offer interactive exhibits during the career fair. Exhibitor space is still available at no charge. Exhibitors will present interactive and engaging career stations, while providing volunteer mentors to staff the career stations throughout the event. To reserve a career station, contact Connolly at (413) 747-7670 or [email protected] To learn more about the event, visit jawm.org/events or call (413) 747-7670.

Community Action Awards

June 13: Springfield Partners for Community Action will present a night of celebrating those in action within the community. The Community Action Awards will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Springfield Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. It will be a night of speakers, awards, handing out scholarships to Community Scholarship winners, and a silent auction for guests to participate in. Ticket purchase is available at communityactionevent.eventbrite.com. Springfield Partners for Community Action is the federally designated community action agency of Springfield whose mission is to provide resources that assist those in need to obtain economic stability and ultimately create a better way of life. For more information on the event, contact Natalia Arocho at (413) 263-6500, ext. 6516, or [email protected].

40 Under Forty Gala

June 20: BusinessWest will present its 13th annual 40 Under Forty Gala, a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2019, which is profiled in this issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Also, the fifth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Tickets cost $75 per person, and tables of 10 are available. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected] PeoplesBank is the presenting sponsor, Health New England is the Continued Excellence Award sponsor, and WWLP-22 News is the media sponsor. Other sponsors include the Isenberg School of Management, MP CPAs, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, Live Nation, MGM Springfield, Comcast Business, and YPS of Greater Springfield (partner).

‘Thrive After 55’ Wellness Fair

June 21: State Sen. Eric Lesser announced that he will host the third annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair in partnership with Health New England, Springfield College, and the Center for Human Development (CHD). This year’s fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Field House on the campus of Springfield College, 263 Alden St., Springfield. The fair is free and open to the public. With more than 70 local organizations ranging from health and fitness to nutrition and elder law, the annual fair will connect residents of the Greater Springfield area with information and resources to help them thrive. The event will feature several educational seminars which will highlight areas of interest for attendees, including estate planning and elder law, scam avoidance, and diet and nutrition. Heart Song Yoga Center of East Longmeadow will return for a third year with an interactive demonstration of chair yoga and movement. The free program includes a boxed lunch, hundreds of raffle prizes, and access to information and experts. To RSVP, call Lesser’s office at (413) 526-6501 or visit senatorlesser.com/thrive.

Company Notebook

West of the River Chamber Foundation Funds Equipment at Agawam High School

AGAWAM — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce and its 501(c)(3) foundation presented Agawam High School with a check for $3,600 on Feb. 27 for the purchase of a Haas Simulator for its new manufacturing program. The West of the River Chamber Foundation (WRCF) has a mission to impact the local economy and area businesses by engaging in philanthropic work in the communities of Agawam and West Springfield. It recognizes that approximately 500 machinists’ jobs are vacant in the Commonwealth on any given day. This affects local business and industry because they cannot hire skilled machinists, and, therefore, machine shops cannot operate at maximum capacity. Lower productivity means lower incoming revenue. In an effort to alleviate this problem, the WRCF enacted a plan. It formed a focus group with the Agawam school system and the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative. The focus group’s efforts have resulted in programs, like the new Agawam High School program, implemented in its STEM program to introduce students to the vocation of a machinist. With the purchase of the new machines, the students will be able to learn trades that will provide them with lifelong skills and careers. Ace Precision, a manufacturing company in Agawam, has purchased two new simulators and donated a CNC machine towards this new program as well. Agawam High School has received more than $100,000 in community donations towards this new opportunity for its students.

Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts Earns 5-Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM), now celebrating its centennial anniversary, has earned a 5-Star Award from Junior Achievement USA for the third consecutive year. Junior Achievement organizations are judged on five categories: Student Growth/Year-over-Year % Change in Contact Hours; Surplus; Cash on Hand; Debt Ratio, and Current Ratio, defined as current assets divided by current liabilities. All chapters must meet the criteria for Surplus and at least one of the two student ratios, with the level of the star determined by how many of the other three standards are met. JAWM’s volunteer-delivered, K-12 programs foster work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to reach their potential. It provides turnkey solutions for businesses to engage students; rigorous and proven curriculum to educators for Massachusetts frameworks in English-language arts, mathematics, and social studies; and business-startup experience for teens. In addition, Junior Achievement provides educational programming for K-12 students that supports the newly signed law by Gov. Charlie Baker aimed at giving Massachusetts students the tools they need to navigate their financial futures, including milestones like buying a home and planning for retirement. The law allows state education officials to establish standards around financial literacy, which schools could incorporate into their existing curricula in subjects like math, business, and social sciences.

 

Allied Flooring and Paint Donates $5,000 to MHA

SPRINGFIELD — Allied Flooring and Paint made a $5,000 donation to support the work of MHA, which provides residential and support services to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and homelessness. “Allied has supplied and installed carpet, floors, and paint for MHA residences throughout the area for many years,” said Allied President Mario Tedeschi. “These are family homes for the individuals MHA serves, and I’m proud to help ensure they are comfortable, clean, and bright.” Kimberley Lee, vice president, Resource Development & Branding for MHA, noted that the donation will support MHA’s new outpatient clinic for emotional wellness, known as BestLife. “I’ve had opportunity to see first-hand the compassion and caring that MHA has for the clients they serve,” Tedeschi said. “I’m proud of my long-time affiliation with MHA and consider myself a champion of their work and a cheerleader as well.”

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Slides to Begin 2019

BOSTON — Stabilizing financial markets and continued strong employment were not enough to brighten the outlook of Massachusetts employers during January as business confidence fell for the fifth time in seven months. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 0.9 points to 57.7, its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence has dropped 6.4 points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by a 7.3-point drop in employer views of the Massachusetts economy and a 2.4-point drop in opinions about the national economy. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but every element of the AIM Index is now lower than it was a year ago. A separate survey within the January Business Confidence Index found that, while 71% of Massachusetts employers have seen some effect from the U.S. government’s imposition of tariffs on goods form China and other nations, only 10% of companies characterize the effect as “significant” or a threat to the existence of their business. The most common consequence of the tariffs has been an increase in raw-material prices, followed by changes to the supply chain, supply interruptions, products affected by retaliatory tariffs, and loss of overseas customers.

1Berkshire Begins to Implement Berkshire Blueprint 2.0

PITTSFIELD — On Feb. 15, 1Berkshire launched the implementation phase of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, a strategic economic-development imperative. With more than 300 registered attendees packing the Colonial Theatre in downtown Pittsfield, 1Berkshire members, regional leaders, and elected officials from across the county shared this project, already two years in the making. The event was the culmination of more than 100 interviews, thousands of hours of work, and more than 20 months of planning and design. 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler kicked off the primary outline during the launch by recognizing that $1 billion in regional investments have been made in the Berkshires in just the last three years. Beginning the implementation phase of the Blueprint 2.0 entails a number of action steps, focused on five key industrial clusters, as well as other economic-landscape components and cross-cutting issues. Collectively, this work aims to unite all geographic corners of the county for a common goal of economic development and sustained growth.

Study Shows Economic Impact of Westover Air Show

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst economic impact study estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending. The findings confirm increased per-group spending and their impacts on the local economy even though attendance was significantly down; 2018 attendance was estimated to be around 63,475, down from the 375,500 estimated in 2015. The study was undertaken to understand the economic impact and to benchmark the findings of the 2008 and 2015 air shows for the Galaxy Community Council, a charitable corporation of veterans, local business people, and other citizens who work to support the Westover base. The project was completed by the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. The overall economic significance including respondents’ expenditures both within and outside the region of the air show for 2018 was estimated to be $4.02 million. However, when local attendees were removed, the direct economic expenditures from non-locals was estimated to be $2.67 million, and the direct and induced sales multiplier impact overall was estimated to be $4.3 million. This compares to an economic significance in 2015 that was $11.6 million and a local direct economic impact (including the sales multiplier) of $14.9 million. In 2008, economic significance was $8.2 million, and the direct economic impact was $12.3 million.

Holyoke Wins Grant to Create Services for Older Victims of Domestic Abuse

HOLYOKE — The city of Holyoke has been awarded a grant of $398,205 from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women for a period of three years to create and enhance services for older victims of domestic abuse. This will allow the city to create and design Project Combating Abuse in Later Life (CALL) to address domestic abuse for those aged 50 and older who reside in the city. Project CALL will partner with the Holyoke Police Department, the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, Womanshelter Companeras, and WestMass ElderCare and receive advanced training on abuse in later life from the Office of Violence against Women, then conduct training to law enforcement, service providers, and residents to enhance effective service. Project CALL will have an HPD Elder Affairs Officer team up with a victim advocate and conduct direct services and outreach to those designated as high-risk. This team will enhance victim safety by not only providing support and services to the victim, but finding community-based interventions for the abuser while simultaneously placing them on high-risk status and sharing their information with the CALL Task Force and across systems. The collaborative team aims to have contacts at points of abuse and arrests, and include direct support through the court process. This team will also be responsible for community-based monitoring, case management, and responding to emergency referrals and implementing safety plans for the victims. The CALL Task Force will also act as a wraparound support system responsible for identifying the underserved Spanish elderly population by developing, implementing, and distributing a safety-plan brochure in Spanish for elder victims of domestic violence.

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Decline for Second Straight Year

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by 4% in 2018 compared to 2017, marking the second consecutive year-over-year decrease in deaths, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That 4% decline follows a 2% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Fentanyl, however, remained a key factor in opioid-related overdose deaths; it was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present has been declining since 2016, falling to about 34% of opioid-related overdose deaths that had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. In 2018, preliminary estimates showed 1,974 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, or 82 fewer deaths than the 2,056 confirmed and estimated deaths in 2017. There were 2,099 confirmed deaths in 2016. “The decrease in overdose deaths provides some hope that our approach to combating the opioid epidemic is having an impact,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We must maintain an intense focus on this crisis and continue to expand opportunities to increase harm-reduction initiatives and expand treatment and recovery services.” While the report showed an overall decline in opioid-related overdose deaths, non-Hispanic black males experienced a 45% increase from 2016 to 2017 in the opioid-related overdose death rate.

Historic Restoration Begins at Old Hampshire County Courthouse

NORTHAMPTON — HCG announced the official start of the historic Hampshire County Courthouse restoration. This phase of the project consists of repairs to the roof, tower, as well as windows and masonry. The building is owned and occupied by HCG. Arlington-based Boston Bay Architects Inc. is overseeing the $1.8 million project, and Wesfield Construction Co. Inc. of New Hampshire won the bid for construction. The restoration will begin at the top of the southern facing tower with the replacement of terracotta roof tiles. Exterior repairs include masonry stone restoration and brick stabilization. The tower interior carpentry work will focus on roof, floor, stairs, and railings. At the completion of the tower, the work will continue down the southern façade with window repair and replacement to energy-efficient historical windows. In October 2017, the Baker-Polito administration announced the release of Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) funds to HCG for this current phase of repairs. In 2015, DCAMM released $500,000 for safety repairs to the building’s steps and roof. The Northampton Community Preservation committee has played an integral role in the plans for this phase of renovation, contributing $200,000 to the building restoration. Local Community Preservation Acts contributed an additional $10,000 from Hatfield and $8,000 from Goshen. Area banks have pledged $38,000, and the Hampshire Foundation Buy a Brick program provided $8,800 from local residents and businesses.

Briefcase

City of Springfield Files Opioid Lawsuit

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the city of Springfield filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, board members, and executives who caused the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic. The civil complaint was filed in Hampden Superior Court on Dec. 18. The complaint alleges that Springfield, along with many other communities, is currently experiencing a stark increase in the number of residents who have become addicted to prescription opioids and heroin, which has caused an increase in opioid overdoses. The complaint references a report that prescription opioids are now known to be the gateway drug to heroin; approximately 80% of current heroin users got their start with prescription opioids. According to the complaint, unlike any other epidemic, the opioid epidemic is not natural, nor typical, but largely man-made, and that it has been created, fueled, and continues to expand by the persistent unlawful conduct of the defendant pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmaceutical wholesale distributors. Springfield’s complaint was filed in conjunction with similar actions brought by Haverhill, Framingham, Gloucester, Salem, Lynnfield, Wakefield, and Worcester.

Clean-energy Industry Adds More Than 1,500 Jobs Statewide

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) announced the state’s clean-energy sector has continued its trend of upward growth, adding more than 1,500 workers to the clean-energy workforce between 2017 and 2018. The figures, released as part of MassCEC’s 2018 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report, found the industry now employs more than 110,700 workers in the Commonwealth, an increase of 1.4% since 2017 and 84% since 2010. The clean-energy industry saw robust growth in its contribution to Massachusetts’ gross state product (GSP), increasing 15% between 2017 and 2018 to contribute more than $13 billion to the statewide economy, making up about 2.5% of the GSP. The report found the clean-energy industry employs residents in every region of Mass. and makes up about 3.1% of the Massachusetts workforce. Other findings show that installation-related jobs are the largest source of clean energy employment, making up 30,057 jobs, followed closely by sales and distribution with 27,471 jobs. The fastest-growing component of the clean-energy workforce was engineering and researching, adding more than 2,400 jobs, a 2.7% increase.

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in November

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.4% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicates Massachusetts added 4,600 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 4,600 jobs as gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and information. Financial activities, construction, other services, and manufacturing lost jobs over the month while the jobs level in leisure and hospitality remained unchanged. From November 2017 to November 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 60,500 jobs. The November unemployment rate was three-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force increased by 4,200 from 3,832,800 in October, as 8,300 more residents were employed and 4,000 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 68%. Compared to November 2017, the labor force participation rate is up 2.7%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; information; and education and health services.

Bradley Welcomes Frontier Airlines, with Non-stop Service to Denver

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the expansion of Bradley International Airport’s roster of airlines with the addition of low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines. The airline will debut its inaugural service with a non-stop route to Denver. The service will commence on March 28, 2019, on an Airbus 320. From Denver International Airport, the flight will leave at 7 a.m. (MST) and arrive at Bradley International Airport at 12:50 p.m. (EST). The flight will then depart Bradley at 1:40 p.m. (EST) and land in Denver at 4:07 p.m. (MST). It will operate Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

Briefcase

Gaming Commission Releases October Revenue Figures for MGM Springfield, Plainridge

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that the month of October at Plainridge Park Casino (PPC) and MGM Springfield generated approximately $35.8 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR). MGM Springfield generated $14.623 million in revenue from slots and $7.6 million from table games. PPC, an all-slots facility, generated $13.5 million in revenue. MGM Springfield paid a total of $5.56 million in taxes on that revenue, while PPC paid $6.6 million, for a total of more than $12.2 million. PPC, a category-2 slots facility, is taxed on 49% of GGR. Of that total taxed amount, 82% is paid to local aid, and 18% is allotted to the Race Horse Development Fund. MGM Springfield, a category-1 resort casino, is taxed on 25% of GGR; those monies are allocated to several specific state funds as determined by the gaming statute. To date, the Commonwealth has collected approximately $285.5 million in total taxes and assessments from PPC and MGM since the respective openings of each gaming facility, the commission said.
 

Employer Confidence Drops During October

BOSTON — Business confidence in Massachusetts declined to its lowest level in 17 months during October as the uncertainties that roiled global financial markets seeped into employer outlooks. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 1.6 points to 61.0 last month, the fourth decline in the last five months. The reading remains well within optimistic territory, but the BCI now sits 1.7 points lower than its level of a year ago and at its lowest point since May 2017. Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the October decline is noteworthy because of large declines in employer confidence in their own operations, and among manufacturers. “Fears about slowing growth, trade wars, and rising interest rates buffeted financial markets this month, and some of those same fears, combined with an increasingly acrimonious midterm election, affected employers as well,” Torto said. “The good news is that the fundamentals of the economy remain strong. MassBenchmarks reports that the Massachusetts economy grew at a 3.3% annual rate during the third quarter, and the national economy added 250,000 jobs last month.” The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were almost all lower during October. The one exception was the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, which rose 0.2 points to 64.7. Confidence in the state economy has declined 0.4 points since October 2017. The U.S. Index lost 2.0 points to 61.6, leaving it 0.9 points lower than a year ago. The Company Index, measuring employer assessments of their own operations, dropped 2.0 points to 59.6, down 2.4 points year-to-year. The Employment Index lost 0.3 points during October, while the Sales Index tumbled 3.1 points to 57.4. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 1.0 point last month to 63.3 and 0.3 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 2.1 points for the month and 3.2 points for the year. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also a BEA member, agreed that international trade friction and uncertainty about the duration and scope of new tariffs are clouding employer views of an otherwise solid economy. “Concerns about trade and tariffs are likely to influence employer decisions as we move toward the end of 2018 and into the New Year. Hopefully, the results of the midterm elections will shed some light on the direction of trade policy moving forward.”

 

UMass Study: Pedal Desks Could Improve Health of Workplace

AMHERST — A recent pilot study by kinesiologists at UMass Amherst found that pedaling while conducting work tasks improved insulin responses to a test meal. Investigators led by Dr. Stuart Chipkin found that insulin levels following the meal were lower when sedentary workers used a pedal desk compared to a standard desk. In addition, work skills were not decreased in the pedaling condition. Chipkin and colleagues concluded that pedal desks “could have the potential to achieve public and occupational health goals in sedentary work environments.” They pointed out that physical inactivity and sedentary work environments have been linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease through insulin resistance and other mechanisms. Results appear in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Chipkin, an endocrinologist who studies the impact of physical activity and medications on insulin sensitivity and skeletal muscle metabolism at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences, explained that, instead of approaching the problem by trying to squeeze intermittent activity into a largely sedentary work routine, “we chose to consider integrating physical activity into the workday.” He and colleagues felt that the alternatives now available for office workers — standing desks and treadmill desks — are not feasible to use for whole shifts and may even pose some barriers, such as standing too long. By contrast, a pedal desk can be used in a seated position at the user’s own pace for as little or as much time as the worker chooses. Though there are currently no commercial pedal desks on the market, Chipkin and colleagues were able to use a prototype Pennington Pedal Desk co-invented by UMass Amherst kinesiology researcher Catrine Tudor-Locke, a co-author who did not determine study design or have any contact with participants or study data. For this work, the researchers recruited 12 overweight or obese full-time sedentary office workers — six men and six women — and tested them in two conditions, pedaling at self-selected light-intensity pace for two hours, and working while seated for two hours at a conventional desk. In both conditions, participants performed computer-based tasks and were tested on mouse proficiency, typing speed and accuracy, reading comprehension, and concentration/attention. The participants also provided blood samples after eating a light meal for analysis of metabolic responses of glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids, a link between obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Chipkin and colleagues reported that pedal-desk use required significantly less insulin to maintain glucose concentrations compared with using the standard desk.

 

Travelers Aid Begins Service at Bradley International Airport

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) and Travelers Aid announced that Travelers Aid International has begun serving the passengers of Bradley International Airport as the operator of the guest-service volunteer program at the airport. Travelers Aid now operates the Information Center in Terminal A on the lower level, which is the baggage-claim level. There are currently 45 volunteers, and Travelers Aid will be recruiting additional volunteers in order to better serve the airport’s passengers. The center’s current hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Mary Kate Doherty, an experienced volunteer manager, has been retained by Travelers Aid to manage and expand the program. Bradley International Airport will be the 18th airport in the Travelers Aid Transportation Network, which also includes four North American railroad stations and a cruise terminal. In the coming months, Travelers Aid will be reaching out to the residents of the region seeking additional volunteers. Doherty said Travelers Aid will be seeking anyone, both students and adults, interested in assisting a traveler with their questions. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities should contact Doherty at (860) 500-8582 or [email protected].