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Health New England Awards $400,000 to Three Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England (HNE) awarded $400,000 in grants to help three nonprofit organizations improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in Western Mass. The grants, made via HNE’s Where Health Matters grant program, will allow Wellspring Cooperative’s GoFresh Mobile Farmers’ Market, Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts, and the Care Center’s Roqué House Program to expand needed programs focusing on food, girls’ health, and supporting mothers seeking college educations, respectively. The Wellspring Cooperative’s GoFresh Mobile Farmers’ Market aggregates fresh local produce and delivers it through pop-up markets at low-income housing sites, senior centers, health clinics, and community organizations. The three-year, $150,000 grant will enable Wellspring to double the number of people it provides access to fresh, healthy, local foods; enact a pilot program to expand the GoFresh farmers market throughout winter (the current program operates from May to October), providing year-round access to health foods; partner with local health clinics to establish a food-referral program that meets the needs of patients with chronic conditions through education and access to healthy foods; and continue to support minority and immigrant farmers via the Wellspring Harvest greenhouse program in the Indian Orchard neighborhood. Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts helps girls develop essential social, emotional, and physical skills to successfully navigate life experiences and prepares them physically and mentally to participate in a celebratory 5K run. The two-year, $100,000 grant will enable the organization to double the number of chapters of the popular program and expand into Holyoke and Chicopee. The Care Center’s Roqué House Program provides stable housing for young parents, primarily women of color, working toward a college degree, as well as their children. The three-year, $150,000 grant will fund an artist in residence and counselor for families who live in Roqué House. Health New England’s Where Health Matters grant program, now in its fourth year, has invested $1.2 million in nonprofits in Western and Central Mass. Health New England also partners with each awardee via volunteering and advising to help them thrive.

 

Smith Brothers Insurance Acquires Oxford Insurance

EASTHAMPTON — Effective Nov. 1, Smith Brothers Insurance, with an office in Easthampton, has acquired Oxford Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency in Oxford. The acquisition expands the company’s footprint in Massachusetts and allows Oxford Insurance to maintain its local presence while leveraging the resources of Smith Brothers Insurance. Brian Ravenelle, who was CEO of Oxford Insurance, will become a partner of Smith Brothers Insurance and will stay fully engaged in client service, business development, and in serving clients with the same team of insurance professionals. All Oxford Insurance team members will be joining Smith Brothers. Smith Brothers Insurance has more than 200 team members in locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

 

HCC Named One of State’s Top Women-led Businesses

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been named one of the top women-led businesses in Massachusetts for 2021 by the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that supports female business leaders. The Institute’s 21st annual rankings of the “Top 100 Women-led Businesses in Massachusetts” were announced on Nov. 5 during a Zoom celebration attended by HCC President Christina Royal. Royal and HCC were ranked at number 50. The full list was published Nov. 6 in a special “Women and Power” edition of the Boston Globe Magazine. Royal has been the president of HCC since January 2017. She is the fourth president in HCC’s 75-year history and the first woman to hold that position. Also on the list at number 55 is HCC alumna and Westfield native Linda Markham, president and chief administrative officer of Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines, based in Hyannis. To compile the list, the Commonwealth Institute examined revenue or operating budgets for each organization as well as other variables, including number of full-time employees in the state, workplace and management diversity, and innovative projects.

 

YMCA of Greater Springfield Awarded $25,000 Comcast Grant

SPRINGFIELD — The YMCA of Greater Springfield, in partnership with Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, announced it received a $25,000 grant from Comcast to support digital-literacy programming and access to the internet at the YMCA’s North End Youth Center, which also features a Comcast Lift Zone. Comcast has installed more than 1,000 WiFi-connected Lift Zones across the country, with 64 located across Massachusetts. These Lift Zones, which are based in community centers like the YMCA of Greater Springfield, have helped students stay connected and get online to do their schoolwork and more. Free WiFi connectivity is essential to many youth in Springfield, including the teens the YMCA serves at its North End Youth Center on Dwight Street. “This grant from Comcast will support technology programming and digital skills training for teens here at our North End Youth Center technology lab,” said Dexter Johnson, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Springfield. “Our goal is to teach virtual coding and robotics in our after-school teen program, components of which include computer programming, information technologies, and video-game design.” The after-school teen programming at the YMCA is funded by community support and hosts more than 300 teens each year. There will be at least 60 openings available for teens to participate in the upcoming coding and robotics program.

 

Forbes Names Big Y Best-in-state Employer

SPRINGFIELD — For the third year in a row, Big Y has been recognized as a Forbes Best-in-state Employer for 2021. Forbes America’s Best-in-state Employers have been identified across all industries based upon an independent survey of employees who anonymously recommend their employers for this award. Employers such as Big Y have no knowledge of which employees are polled, nor do they have the ability to influence the results in any way. According to Forbes, employees are asked to rate their willingness to recommend their own employers to friends and family. Employees are also asked to give their opinions on a series of statements surrounding work-related topics such as working conditions, salary, potential for development, and company image regarding their current employer. Big Y’s award spans 25 different industries. Big Y has also been named among Forbes Best in State for Diversity, Forbes Best Employers for Women, and Forbes America’s Best Large Employers.

 

Springfield College Launches $50 Million Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College hosted an official kickoff event for Advancing Humanics: The Campaign for Springfield College on Nov. 12 at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Center Court. Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper officially introduced the comprehensive campaign, which supports the Springfield College Humanics philosophy, which is to educate the whole person in spirit, mind, and body for leadership and service to others. Cooper provided an overview of the campaign goal of $50 million. Advancing Humanics is being co-chaired by trustees Gregory Toczydlowski and Michele Megas-Ditomassi. Trustee emerita Helen Davis Blake, co-chair of the last Springfield College campaign, is serving as the honorary campaign chair. Gifts collected during the Advancing Humanics campaign will have a direct effect on every aspect of campus life, and the financial support will provide immediate assistance to the most critical needs of Springfield College, including scholarship resources for students and the new Health Sciences Center.

 

U.S. News Bestows Best Law Firm Designation to Three Area Firms

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. News & World Report selected three Springfield-based firms for its 2022 Best Law Firms listing. Bulkley Richardson was named a Best Law Firm in the Springfield region in the following 11 practice areas: bankruptcy and creditor debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, banking and finance law, commercial litigation, corporate law, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white-collar, litigation – labor and employment, medical malpractice law – defendants, personal injury litigation – defendants, tax law, and trusts and estates law. Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin has been recognized for Tier 1 metropolitan designations in Springfield in the areas of banking and finance law, bankruptcy and creditor debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, corporate law, elder law, and trusts and estates law. It is also recognized for Tier 2 metropolitan designations in Springfield in the areas of business organizations (including LLCs and partnerships) and tax law. Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. was awarded a Metropolitan Tier 1 ranking in employment law – management, labor law – management, and litigation – labor and employment. Law firms that are honored on the U.S. News Best Law Firms list are ranked based on a careful evaluation process that includes the collection of evaluations from lawyers and clients, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and other additional information that law firms provide as part of the formal submission process.

 

Freedom Commits $15,000 to BFMC’s New Department of Family Medicine

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union has made a $15,000 commitment — $3,000 per year over five years —to support a new family-medicine residency program designed to attract and retain young physicians to Franklin County. Led by founding Chair Dr. Robert Baldor, the Department of Family Medicine is a partnership between Baystate Franklin Medical Center and UMass Chan Medical School – Baystate. The residency will be housed at the Greenfield Family Medicine Practice at 48 Sanderson St., which is adjacent to Baystate Franklin Medical Center and easily accessible to the Greater Greenfield community. Family medicine physicians are trained to treat all members of a family, from children to adults and seniors, diagnosing and treating a wide range of ailments and providing preventive care. Four new residents will be welcomed annually into the three-year training program (12 in total). They will learn from the physicians at Baystate Franklin Medical Center and specialists from Franklin County and other Baystate Health facilities. The first class of four residents will arrive in June 2022. Freedom’s $15,000 donation is among $245,700 that has been donated in support of the hospital’s $4.2 million investment in creating a state-of-the-art clinical/teaching facility at 48 Sanderson St. Two education grants from the federal government will support the program as well, including a $750,000 Health Resources & Services Administration grant and an Area Health Education Center grant for $100,000.

 

Uvitron International Launches New, Enhanced Website

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Uvitron International Inc., a designer and manufacturer of high-performance UV light curing systems and accessories, recently launched a new website — uvitron.com — offering streamlined navigation and improved quoting capabilities, among other features. Uvitron was established as a developer and manufacturer of switch-mode power supplies for light curing systems, developing the first electronic arc lamp power supply. The company has since evolved into a total solutions provider of light curing systems and accessories. In addition to enhanced navigation and quoting capabilities, the new site also features more comprehensive product information, applications by industry, and information about services and capabilities, such as application analysis, sample testing, and demo units.

 

BHN’s Kamp for Kids Receives $5,000 Grant from Westfield Bank

WESTFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) announced it has received a grant of $5,000 from Westfield Bank’s Future Fund Program to benefit Kamp for Kids, the organization’s summer day camp for children and young adults with and without disabilities. Westfield Bank, a longtime supporter of BHN’s Kamp for Kids, established the Future Fund in 2002 as a response to overwhelming community needs and the shrinking sources of corporate philanthropy. It prioritizes funding to 501(c)(3) educational, recreational, cultural, and social-service programs that serve Westfield Bank’s market area. Grants made to Kamp for Kids provide camperships to youth with or without disabilities to ensure that all children, regardless of family income, are able to attend camp.

Company Notebook

Country Bank, WooSox Announce Community Giving Campaign

WARE — Country Bank and the Worcester Red Sox have announced a community giving campaign to support nonprofit leaders throughout the region. To kick off the campaign, dubbed “WooStars,” Country Bank recognized 11 local nonprofits at Polar Park, including Springfield-based organizations Friends of the Homeless, Ronald McDonald House, Christina’s House, and Habitat for Humanity, along with Worcester-based organizations the United Way, Why Me, Sherry’s House, Provision Ministry, St. John’s Food Pantry for the Poor, the Boys and Girls Club, and Habitat for Humanity. Each nonprofit was presented with a $5,000 check from Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. Representatives of the nonprofits also participated in a television commercial to support the campaign. Country Bank and the Worcester Red Sox Foundation will select nine additional nonprofit leaders who have stepped up to the plate to serve their community. The deadline for nominations is Aug. 15. Each winner will receive a $5,000 donation to their nonprofit and will be recognized at a presentation in Polar Park on Sept. 9. In addition, the bank has also launched a Most Valuable Teacher (MVT) campaign that recognizes the outstanding work teachers do every day to educate and support students. The public is invited to nominate a WooStar at www.countrybank.com/about-us/woostars or a Most Valuable Teacher at www.countrybank.com/personal/youth-accounts/most-valuable-teacher.

 

Fontaine Brothers to Tackle Court Square Project

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield-based Fontaine Brothers has been named the general contractor for the long-awaited rehabilitation of 31 Elm St. in Court Square in Springfield into a 74-unit apartment complex. Construction work on the $50 million project is expected to begin in the fourth quarter and take roughly two years to complete. The project represents a partnership between OPAL Development, WinnDevelopment, MGM Springfield, and MassMutual, with funding coming from a variety of sources, including $11.3 million in state and federal historic tax credits. In addition to the housing units, plans call for retail space and a restaurant on the ground level. The project is expected to employ 100 to 120 union construction workers.

 

Lee Bank Foundation Announces $64,500 in Community Funding

LEE — Lee Bank Foundation awarded $64,500 to eight Berkshire-area organizations in its second round of 2021 community grant awards. Recipients were awarded grants ranging from $2,000 to $12,500 to support their local programming. Organizations receiving funding include Berkshire Bounty, Berkshire County Historical Society, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Elizabeth Freeman Center Inc., Flying Cloud Institute, Music in Common, New Stage Performing Arts Center Inc., and Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires. To be considered for grant awards, applicants must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on funding organizations that work to bridge income and opportunity gaps in the region. The next application deadline is Sept. 1. Funding requests should reflect one or more of Lee Bank Foundation’s primary focus areas, which include education and literacy; food security and nutrition; economic growth and development; health and human services; mentorship, internship, and school-to-work initiatives; and arts and culture. Applicants may submit only one application in a 12-month period. Online applications and information can be found at www.leebank.com/community-impact/donations-sponsorships.html.

 

Market Mentors Receives Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification

SPRINGFIELD — Market Mentors, the region’s largest marketing, advertising, and public-relations agency, announced it has received certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women-owned businesses thrive and grow. WBENC certification provides Market Mentors with access to a vast network of support, including targeted business opportunities and increased visibility in corporate and government supply chains, education, and development programs. It is also an approved third-party certifier for the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business federal contracting program. WBENC certification validates that a business is at least 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women. One or more women must have unrestricted control of the business, a demonstrated management of day-to-day operations, and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise. To become certified, business owners undergo a thorough vetting process, including review of business documentation and a site visit. After working in media for more than a decade, Abdow founded Market Mentors in her home in 2003. Over the past 18 years, it has grown into a team of more than 20 professionals with multiple areas of expertise and breadth of experience across a range of industries.

 

WSU Receives $1.5M Grant to Increase Healthcare Access

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) Department of Social Work received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for its Integrative Behavioral Health (IBH) Equity Project. The project builds a specialized workforce within rural, medically underserved areas as well as among diverse and historically marginalized populations to address barriers identified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in social determinants of health. This HRSA award will be distributed over the next four years and will train 92 Westfield State graduate students in the master of social work (MSW) program in the following integrative behavioral-health specialties: child, youth, and family; health social work; substance use and addictions; and Latinx community health. These students will receive $920,000 in training stipends over the next four years. Westfield State President Linda Thompson, whose background is in nursing, health sciences, and public policy, noted that the IBH project continues the university’s growth in building important healthcare programs that meet the needs of the Commonwealth. The Field Education Team in Westfield State’s Department of Social Work established IBH/Integrated Primary Care and interprofessional training partnerships across Western and Central Mass. to train students to gain proficiency as they provide in-person and telehealth services to children, youth, and families as well as individuals living with addiction and mental-health issues. It is broadening to include organizations that serve the Spanish-speaking Latinx population. The IBH Equity Project will also increase linguistic and cultural access to social-work education by offering classes in Spanish to impact the structural health inequities that affect students and clients throughout the Pioneer Valley. WSU is the first institution in the area to offer social work courses in Spanish. The project advances the university’s progress toward an institutional goal of gaining the federal Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation. Achieving the designation is part of a larger commitment by Westfield State to address systemic racism and inequities on the campus, such as in its policies and practices.

 

Professional Drywall Construction Expands into New York State

SPRINGFIELD — Professional Drywall Construction Inc. (PDC), a commercial drywall company headquartered in Springfield, is expanding its footprint into New York State, having recently opened a new office in Malta on July 1. Leading the expansion is Randall Berkebile, who will serve as project executive and New York regional manager at the new branch. “We have been looking into expanding into New York for quite some time, and Malta is a great, centralized location to set up our new shop,” said Ron Perry, owner of PDC. “We brought Randall in to help establish our company in the capital district and beyond. His years of experience and deep contacts in the region will assist in us creating a strong foothold in the community.” Berkebile, a resident of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is a graduate of Ball State University. He has almost a decade of experience in construction-management roles and will be responsible for overseeing projects and growing the New York branch. PDC also has a branch office in Norwalk, Conn.

 

Public Art to Be Installed in Springfield’s Pynchon Plaza

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums and Springfield Cultural Partnership announced the artists chosen to augment the newly renovated Pynchon Plaza. The SPark! Igniting Our Community call resulted in many quality applications. The chosen artists include Roberly Bell (Pelham), artful seating; Lauren Celini (Springfield), utility art; Michelle Falcón Fontánez (Boston) and Alvilda Sophia Anaya-Alegría (Springfield), mosaic art; RT Woods (Springfield), fencing art; Beth Crawford Haydenville), 3D sculptural art; Jeffrey Lara (Springfield), 3D sculptural art; Make-It Springfield, library box; and Outdoor Musical Instruments (United Kingdom), sound sculpture (to be embellished by a local artist). The call was open to all artists, and special consideration was given to installations that include Springfield artists, artists of color, LGBTQA+ artists, and female artists. Funding of these eight projects comes from a combination of public and private monies, including a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program Grant and a City of Springfield Community Development Block Grant. The project is designed to engage city artists, residents, community stakeholders, and cultural institutions to actively participate to reimagine public art that celebrates Springfield’s citizens, culture, and historical legacies. Competitive proposals will be inspired by aspects of Springfield itself, including its historic and/or present-day people, cultures, places and landscapes, architecture, etc., and can be literal or creative, interpretive representations. The SPark! Art Committee included representation from the Springfield Cultural Council, Springfield Parks, the Apremont Quadrangle Civic Assoc., Skyview Downtown, and the Springfield Technical Community College Carberry Fine Arts Gallery.

 

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Slips in March

BOSTON — Business confidence weakened slightly in March amid signs of both a cyclical global slowdown and persistent demographic factors limiting the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 0.3 points to 57.9 during March. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 5.6 points during the past 12 months. The decrease reflected employer concerns about economic prospects for the next six months. Those concerns outweighed growing optimism among manufacturing companies and rising confidence in the Massachusetts economy. The March survey took place as the government announced that Massachusetts created only 20,000 jobs during 2018 instead of the 65,500 previously estimated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average payroll job growth in Massachusetts fell from 1.3% in 2017 to 0.9% last year. The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord said employers remain concerned as Beacon Hill lawmakers undertake a broad discussion of how to fund expensive policy priorities such as transportation infrastructure, public education, and clean energy. He noted that AIM will be part of a group assembled by the state Senate to look at the Massachusetts tax code, adding that “Massachusetts must develop a fair strategy to address its spending needs without harming employers who are already struggling to implement a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program along with the rising cost of both health insurance and energy.”

Two Massachusetts Organizations Call for an End to Trashed Rivers

GREENFIELD — The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) and the Charles River Watershed Assoc. (CRWA), two national leaders in the effort to clean up the nation’s rivers, called on Massachusetts lawmakers to take legislative action on reducing trash before it reaches rivers. The two organizations pointed to a number of bills currently working their way through the Massachusetts State House that would, if approved, go a long way to reduce or eliminate trash that might otherwise end up in the state’s waterways. The proposed legislation includes measures to eliminate single-use plastic bags, restrict single-use plastic straws, and eliminate foam from food containers. “For years, thousands of volunteers from these two organizations have been doing their part to keep our rivers clean,” noted CRC Cleanup Coordinator Stacey Lennard. “Now we want decision makers at the state level to do their part in helping redesign our economy so there isn’t waste in the first place.” Added Emily Norton, CRWA’s executive director, “with environmental regulations being rolled back weekly at the federal level, it is more important than ever that we have strong protections for our waterways at both the state and the local levels. We need your help to make sure that happens.” CRC and CRWA also called on the public to join them in urging legislators to do their part by signing CRC’s petition telling manufacturers, businesses, and local government to lead the way on overhauling how plastic and other waste products are made and used, and to take greater responsibility in solving the trash crisis (visit www.ctriver.org/takeaction); joining the 23rd annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27-28, along the Connecticut River and tributary streams across the four-state watershed (visit www.ctriver.org/cleanup to learn more); and participating in the 20th annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon (www.crwa.org/cleanup).

Sportsmen’s Land Trust Announces New License Plate

BOSTON — A new Massachusetts passenger plate is now available at all full-service RMV locations for outdoor enthusiasts interested in wildlife conservation, habitat improvement, and guaranteed public access to Massachusetts land. The new “Habitat and Heritage” plate features a whitetail deer buck drawn by Springfield wildlife artist Edward Snyder. Proceeds from the plate will benefit the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sportsmen’s National Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established in 2007, dedicated to conserving and improving wildlife habitat for use by the public. With funds from the license plate, the Sportsmen’s Land Trust can further its mission to acquire open space and partner with other like-minded organizations to complete habitat improvement projects across Massachusetts. For more information, visit the special plates section of the Massachusetts RMV website, or e-mail the SNLT at [email protected].

BusinessWest Accepting Continued Excellence Award Nominations

SPRINGFIELD — BusinessWest is looking for nominees for its fifth Continued Excellence Award, and will accept nominations through Friday, May 3. The winner of the award will be unveiled at the magazine’s 40 Under Forty gala on Thursday, June 20. Four years ago, BusinessWest inaugurated the award to recognize past 40 Under Forty honorees who had significantly built on their achievements since they were honored. The first two winners were Delcie Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT, and Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president of Allergy and Immunology Associates of Western Mass. and chief of Allergy and Immunology at Baystate Medical Center. Both were originally named to the 40 Under Forty class of 2008. The judges chose two winners in 2017: Scott Foster, an attorney with Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas (40 Under Forty class of 2011); and Nicole Griffin, owner of Griffin Staffing Network (class of 2014). Last year, Samalid Hogan, regional director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013), took home the honor. Candidates must hail from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007-18 — and will be judged on qualities including outstanding leadership, dedicated community involvement, professional achievement, and ability to inspire. The award’s presenting sponsor is Health New England. The nomination form is available HERE. A list of the past 12 40 Under Forty classes may be found HERE. For more information, call Bevin Peters, Marketing and Events director, at (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

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].

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Holds Steady in September

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.6% in September, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 6,200 jobs in September. Over the month, the private sector lost 6,000 jobs, although gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; and financial activities. The jobs level for other services remained unchanged over the month. From September 2017 to September 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 63,400 jobs. The September unemployment rate was one-tenth of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Last month, preliminary data indicates that there were 17,500 more employed residents and 1,500 fewer unemployed in the Commonwealth. The continued labor-force gains and an estimated addition of 48,800 jobs year-to-date are signs that our economy is attracting more residents to enter and gain employment in Massachusetts,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. The labor force increased by 16,100 from 3,806,000 in August, as 17,500 more residents were employed and 1,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. 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 — is up two-tenths of a percentage point over the month at 67.8%. Compared to September 2017, the labor-force participation rate is up 2.4%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and manufacturing.

Baystate Reports That Highly Contagious RSV Has Arrived in Area

SPRINGFIELD — It’s not just the cold and flu that parents need to worry about this fall and winter season. Pediatricians at Baystate Children’s Hospital are already seeing cases of the highly contagious respiratory syncytial virus, better known as simply RSV, which is most prevalent during the months of December, January, and February. “Over the past four years, nationwide data has shown that the RSV season has been arriving a couple of weeks earlier and lasting a few weeks later than in past years,” said Dr. Michael Klatte of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of these differences could be due to increased use of newer tests used to diagnose RSV; however, seasonality of viruses like RSV can also be influenced by many different factors, such as changes in population, climate, and pollution.” While RSV results in mild, cold-like symptoms for most — a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, and fever — it’s nothing to sneeze at for some and can lead to serious illness, especially for infants and older adults. “Parents, however, should not be overly alarmed,” said Klatte, who noted that only a small percentage of youngsters develop severe disease and require hospitalization. “Those hospitalized often have severe breathing problems or are seriously dehydrated and need IV fluids. In most cases, hospitalization only lasts a few days, and complete recovery usually occurs in about one to two weeks.” RSV is also the most common cause of bronchiolitis and viral pneumonia in children under one year of age. RSV can also affect older children, teenagers, and adults. Those who have a higher risk for severe illness caused by RSV include premature babies, adults 65 years and older, people with chronic lung disease or certain heart problems, and people with weakened immune systems. While several companies are now conducting vaccine trials, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the illness, and there is no antibiotic to help cure it. Low-grade fevers are common with RSV infections, and may come and go for a few days. If a child is having high fevers without relief for multiple days, or increased difficulty with breathing (such as wheezing, grunting, or ongoing flaring of the nostrils) is observed along with a child’s runny nose and cough, then a visit to the doctor is warranted.

Briefcase

Invesco, MassMutual Announce Strategic Partnership of Invesco, OppenheimerFunds

SPRINGFIELD — Invesco Ltd. and MassMutual announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement, whereby Invesco will acquire MassMutual asset-management affiliate OppenheimerFunds Inc. In turn, MassMutual and OppenheimerFunds employee shareholders will receive a combination of common and preferred equity consideration, and MassMutual will become a significant shareholder in Invesco, with an approximate 15.5% stake. This strategic transaction will bring Invesco’s total assets under management to more than $1.2 trillion, making it the 13th-largest global investment manager and sixth- largest U.S. retail investment manager, further enhancing the company’s ability to meet client needs through its comprehensive range of high-conviction active, passive, and alternative capabilities. “The combination with OppenheimerFunds and the strategic partnership with MassMutual will meaningfully enhance our ability to meet client needs, accelerate growth, and strengthen our business over the long term,” said Martin Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco. “This is a compelling, highly strategic and accretive transaction for Invesco that will help us achieve a number of objectives: enhance our leadership in the U.S. and global markets, deliver the outcomes clients seek, broaden our relevance among top clients, deliver strong financial results, and continue attracting the best talent in the industry.” “We have long held OppenheimerFunds’ people and strong investment performance track record in high regard,” Flanagan continued. “OppenheimerFunds’ culture and commitment to high-conviction investing complement our own, and the combination will create significant opportunities for the talented professionals of both companies.” MassMutual Chairman, President, and CEO Roger Crandall added that “MassMutual is excited for the next chapter in our successful asset-management strategy. Invesco is a highly regarded asset manager, and OppenheimerFunds has been an incredibly successful affiliate of MassMutual for the past 28 years. We look forward to participating in the future growth of the combined entity as a long-term partner and shareholder. This strategic combination positions us well to continue to benefit from a strong, diversified, global asset-management business, which will further strengthen our financial position and support our ability to invest in the long term, provide increased value to our policy owners and customers, and help us deliver on our purpose to help people secure their future and protect the ones they love.”

Report Evaluates Potential of New Water Technologies to Boost Jobs, Environment

AMHERST — The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has released a comprehensive study that evaluates the potential of developing a network of water-testing demonstration centers in the Commonwealth, including one at UMass Amherst. The centers would pilot new water technologies to position Massachusetts as a global leader in the water-innovation and energy-efficiency sector, providing significant business and employment opportunities. The report was released at the Innovations and Opportunities in Water Technologies Conference held at the Life Sciences Laboratories at UMass Amherst. The conference was sponsored by MassCEC and the Economic Development Council (EDC) of Western Massachusetts. Speakers included Martin Suuberg, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection; Stephen Pike, CEO of MassCEC; Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Mass. EDC; and Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst. The report calls for creating a network of three demonstration centers around the state. They would be located at the Wastewater Pilot Plant at UMass Amherst, the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center in Barnstable, and a pilot plant located at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Deer Island Treatment Plant in Boston Harbor. Establishing this network of water-technology demonstration centers could create jobs, lower energy costs, and optimize municipal operations in addition to supporting water-technology research, the study says. A successfully established test-bed network could serve existing Massachusetts-based water-technology companies, help attract new companies to the Commonwealth, advance new solutions to both local and global water challenges, and provide a strong foundation for innovation. The Amherst site is ideal for this work, Sullivan said. “UMass Amherst is already a leader in this sector. The campus is positioned to undertake further research and development that will support industry growth and help grow a talented workforce for related industries.” Authorization for an investment in water technologies was approved as part of the state’s 2014 environmental bond bill. Release of state capital funds for such an investment must be evaluated and approved by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

Company Notebook

Epstein Financial Services Moves to East Longmeadow

EAST LONGMEADOW — Epstein Financial Services has relocated from Holyoke to a new, expanded office space on 12 Somers Road in East Longmeadow. Its new phone number is (413) 224-3606. Epstein Financial Services was renting its previous location in Holyoke and now owns its new office in East Longmeadow. Its square footage has increased by 50%. In addition to a new video studio used to film promotional and educational 401K Coach Program videos and promote clients’ businesses, the new location features plentiful and accessible parking, as well as larger conference and meeting spaces.

NAI Plotkin Sells 1492 Boston Road Property

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, an office of NAI Global, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it has sold 1492 Boston Road, which consists of a 9,697-square-foot commercial building, formerly the Smokey Bones Restaurant, and an adjacent 20,585-square-foot commercial building, currently occupied by Namco. The asset was sold to Restoration Worship Center/Centro de Restauracion Adoracion for $2.2 million and includes a total of 6.1 acres of land next to the Lowe’s shopping plaza. Bill Low and Stephen Picard teamed up to sell the property, which was on the market for years with several real-estate companies.

Harry Grodsky & Co. Marks 100th Anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — One of America’s largest mechanical contractors achieves a new milestone this month as Harry Grodsky & Co. Inc. officially celebrates its 100th anniversary. The family-owned firm will pay tribute to both the old and the new with its centennial event on Friday, Oct. 19 at MGM Springfield. The Grodsky story began in 1918, and for four generations the company has remained focused on solving complex problems. Grodsky’s 100th-anniversary event will highlight various stories that comprise the company’s history and culture, including noteworthy projects, past and current employees and business partners, and its ongoing commitment to the Pan-Mass Challenge.

Rays of Hope Grants $17,000 to Cancer House of Hope

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Rays of Hope, part of the Baystate Health Foundation, has made a grant to the Cancer House of Hope to support services for women affected by breast cancer. The grant, totaling over $17,000, will support integrative therapies at the Cancer House of Hope, including Reiki, massage therapy, a relaxation group, and support groups. Rays of Hope has been a strong supporter of the Cancer House of Hope, both financially and as a community partner, for a number of years. This grant is the most recent affirmation of this long-standing relationship. Last week, Cancer House of Hope dedicated a room in honor of Rays of Hope. In addition to Reiki, massage therapy, and support groups, the Cancer House of Hope also provides wigs and related services, access to mastectomy bras and forms, and yoga classes. All services provided at the Cancer House of Hope are free of charge to anyone affected by cancer.

Elms Offers Grants for Urban, Catholic Education

CHICOPEE — Elms College now offers two new educational grants to help incoming first-year students offset tuition costs. The Urban Education Grant and the Catholic Education Grant each award new students $2,000. Students attending Springfield, Chicopee, or Holyoke public schools in Massachusetts are eligible for the Urban Education Grant, which is open to students attending a Catholic high school anywhere in the country. To qualify for either grant, students must be currently enrolled at their respective public or Catholic schools at the time of their application to Elms College. All qualifying students will be automatically considered for these grants when applying to Elms. These new awards can be paired with other merit-based scholarships and financial aid offered by the college, but not with each other.

Company Notebook

Gaming at MGM Springfield Generates $9.45M in August
SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that MGM Springfield generated $9,456,976.90 in gross gaming revenue between Aug. 23 and Aug. 31, its first week of operation. Slot machines generated $7,347,491.15 in revenues, while table games generated $2,109,485.75. Of that, or $2,364,244.23, will go to the state in taxes. MGM Springfield is taxed by the state on 25% of its gross gaming revenue. Under its host-community agreement, MGM pays the city of Springfield $17.6 million annually in lieu of taxes.

USI Insurance Services Acquires Gaudreau Group
WILBRAHAM — USI Insurance Services (USI), a world leader in insurance brokerage and risk management, announced the acquisition of the Gaudreau Group. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 1921, the Gaudreau Group is a commercial-insurance, employee-benefits, personal-risk, and financial-services firm insuring more than 6,000 businesses and families across 14 states. Jules Gaudreau, company president, represents the third generation of the Gaudreau family to lead the company. He will join USI’s New England regional management team as president of the company’s Springfield office.

Baystate Wing Opens New Emergency Department
PALMER — On Sept. 18, Baystate Wing Hospital opened its new, $17.2 million Emergency Department to patients. The new facility includes separate ambulance and public entryways and features 20 patient rooms, including critical care, behavioral health, and other dedicated specialty-care areas. Private rooms have replaced curtained bays to enhance patient privacy, along with dedicated space for behavioral-health patients. The new 17,800-square-foot facility will include sophisticated medical technology, including CT scan and radiology (X-ray) services. The Baystate Wing Emergency Department campaign has raised over $2.9 million to date. The overall cost of building and equipping the new emergency department at Baystate Wing Hospital is $17.2 million, with Baystate Health committing funding through capital investment and bonds. 

Polish National Credit Union Wins CFS/SPF Impact Award
CHICOPEE — Polish National Credit Union (PCNU) was recently awarded the Bronze CFS/SPF 2017 Impact Award at annual conference of CUSO Financial Services, LP and Sorrento Pacific Financial, LLC in San Diego. The conference is an opportunity for businesses to come together to share and discuss best practices as well as hear from industry experts. This award is given to a financial institution that demonstrates an excellent job of building awareness through branch marketing efforts. “As the investment industry becomes more competitive, financial institutions must be increasingly creative and resourceful when it comes to the promotion of their investment-services program,” said James Kelly, president and CEO of Polish National Credit Union. “Not only is our team receptive to our ideas, they are eager to participate and shed light on all the fantastic options there are for our members to reach their financial goals through PNCU Financial Services.”

Elms College Wins Grant for Project to Spark Girls’ Interest in STEM Fields
CHICOPEE — Elms College announced that its Computer Science department has been awarded more than $188,000 through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to fund a project designed to spark interest in computer science and related fields among middle-school girls in Holyoke. The project — which will include participants from UMass Amherst, Holyoke Codes, Girls Inc. of Holyoke, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke — will combine robotics, coding, and a simulated natural-disaster situation. The project, titled Girls Involved in Robotics Learning Simulations (GIRLS), was born after Beryl Hoffman, associate professor of Computer Science at Elms College, met Florence Sullivan, professor at UMass Amherst College of Education, at Holyoke Codes, an organization that provides opportunities for kids to get involved in coding, robotics, and technology. Hoffman and Sullivan aim to learn more about the role of immersive simulation scenarios in encouraging girls to take interest in and learn about computer science and robotics. In year one of the project, the team will finalize all materials and curricula, and test them in single-day workshops. In year two, the educational program will be implemented in partnership with Girls Inc. of Holyoke and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, with 40 to 60 female students expected to participate. In year three, the team will open the program to middle-school-aged boys, too, and analyze the outcomes of coed learning. As part of the grant project, Elms will offer three paid internships, one per year, to junior or senior computer science or CITS (computer information technology and security) majors.

Baystate Health, VertitechIT Partner to Launch baytechIT
HOLYOKE — Baystate Health and VertitechIT announced the formation of a new company to meet the increasingly complex IT needs of medical practices, clinics, and healthcare social-service organizations in the Western Mass. and Northern Conn. regions. BaytechIT is a first-of-its-kind independent joint venture, providing monitoring and management of information-technology networks, telephony, clinical engineering support, and other IT-related consulting and engineering expertise previously unaffordable to the local healthcare community. Already serving Baystate Health, its operating medical practices, and several large and mid-sized offices and clinics, baytechIT currently has 150 clients and manages/monitors more than 16,000 endpoint devices. BaytechIT will be headquartered in Holyoke with additional offices throughout Western Mass.

TWO Helps Enhance Skills of Medical Assistants
SPRINGFIELD — When Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates (WMPA) needed help enhancing the skills of their medical assistants, they partnered with Training & Workforce Options (TWO), which developed a curriculum and taught a 10-week class to 15 medical assistants from WMPA. The training was designed to prepare the workers for a national credentialing exam. The TWO course at Holyoke Community College (HCC) was a hybrid of classroom work and online learning taught by a medical assistant. An additional 25 medical assistants from Holyoke Medical Center Specialty Practices enrolled in a second round of training. TWO, a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College, is designed to deliver high-quality, custom training solutions to the business community to boost bottom-line performance and productivity. In addition to classroom learning, Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates developed and staffed a full-scale skills day for all trainees. The session included 10 hands-on stations covering clinical and administrative tasks such as checking vital signs, administering injections and medication, taking EKG measurements, and other competency tests.

Tighe & Bond Climbs in National Ranking of Environmental Firms
WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond climbed six spots this year to 148th on Engineering News Record’s (ENR) 2018 Top 200 Environmental Firms ranking. ENR ranks its list of top 200 environmental firms nationally based on the percentage of their 2017 gross revenue from environmental services. Earlier this year, Tighe & Bond moved up 19 spots to 241st on ENR’s 2018 Top 500 Design Firms ranking, up 34 spots in the past two years. ENR ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year.

Country Bank Sponsors Habitat for Humanity Build
WARE — Country Bank staff recently volunteered their time to assist the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity build a home for a local Springfield family. “Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity is blessed to have wonderful community partners like Country Bank who contribute the time, talent, and treasure needed to help families build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter,” said Jennifer Schimmel, executive director for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity. Added Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president, Community Relations at Country Bank, “when asked to support such a meaningful cause, the staff at Country Bank was eager to help with this project. The staff was truly grateful to be a part of making the dream of home ownership a reality for Joseph and Lakery and their family.”

HMC Physician Affiliate Changes Name
HOLYOKE — The Holyoke Medical Center provider affiliate, Western Mass Physician Associates, announced it is changing the name to Holyoke Medical Group as of Oct. 1. Four years after launching a new organization-wide logo and rebranding campaign, the Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems leadership recognize the disconnect still perceived by patients between Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates. “The name change will allow for the organization to have stronger brand awareness in the community,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems. “The new name also releases the belief that all clinicians are doctors. The future success of healthcare relies not only on our excellent physicians, but on the growing number of mid-level providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, expertly qualified to care for our community.” Holyoke Medical Group consists of two primary-care provider offices, a family medicine office, a pediatric office, and three women’s services offices with ob/gyn and certified nurse midwife care. Each office location is accepting new patients.

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