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Springfield Partners for Community Action is celebrating 55 years in action with a celebration to recognize the work being done by individuals and organizations within their community.

Springfield Partners for Community Action is hosting the Community Action Awards on June 13th, 2019 at 6:00 PM at the Springfield Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. This year’s event will hold a silent auction to raise funds to help keep programs and services free to the community. There will be keynote speakers that have witnessed the change and growth in Hampden County, and awards presented to individuals working hard for a future to better their lives and that of their community. We will also be awarding scholarships to our Community Scholarship recipients and rolling out a new project that we have been in the works.

Please join us for this night of celebration by registering at https://communityactionevent.eventbrite.com.

Company Notebook

Girls Inc. of Holyoke Is Now Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — Poised to boost its reach three-fold over the next five years, Girls Inc. of Holyoke has chosen a new name — Girls Inc. of the Valley — to embody its bigger, wider impact across Western Mass. The agency will keep its headquarters in Holyoke, said Executive Director Suzanne Parker at a press conference this morning at WGBY’s headquarters in downtown Springfield, and stay as committed as ever to the city of its origin. But with Girls Inc. members now hailing from Springfield, Chicopee, South Hadley, and other surrounding communities, a name change was certainly needed. Girls from area communities will continue to benefit from Girls Inc. of the Valley programs held at the Holyoke center headquarters on everything from literacy to leadership, said Parker, but the agency is also expanding into surrounding communities and has partnered to work inside 10 schools, including Springfield’s Chestnut Academy Middle School and Chicopee’s Bellamy Middle School and Dupont Middle School.

CommunicateHealth Celebrates 10th Anniversary

NORTHAMPTON — CommunicateHealth announced its 10th anniversary as a national consulting firm specializing in health information design. CommunicateHealth started as a consulting practice focusing on translating health information into plain language. Co-founders Xanthi Scrimgeour and Stacy Robison started the business in their Northampton attic. The couple quickly outgrew that space, eventually establishing an office on nearby Market Street. Over the past 10 years, the company has been successfully evolving into a full-service communications shop. The mission-based company works for some of the biggest names in healthcare and public health, including health-insurance companies, health systems, patient-advocacy groups, and government. They also take on projects for local hospitals and community organizations. CommunicateHealth is headquartered in Northampton with a second office in the Washington, D.C. area. It employs more than 65 employees across both offices. In 2018, the company recorded more than $12 million in sales.

Hazen Paper Co. Wins AIMCAL Product of the Year

HOLYOKE — Turning a simple box into an unusual ‘beauty and the beast’ packaging statement, Hazen Paper Co. was honored for the second year in a row with Product of the Year honors at the annual meeting of the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters, and Laminators (AIMCAL), held recently in Palm Beach, Calif. The winning entry was a folding carton titled “The Spirit of Innovation” for prestige luxury box maker Autajon Packaging USA, which featured a three-dimensional, jewel-toned snake and a female model whose face transformed from flawless to gorgeously reptilian when the box is tilted. The folding carton was made with precisely registered custom color-motion holography that reflects and refracts light to bring the snake’s sinuous curves to life and allows the woman’s face and eye to blaze with unexpected snake-like gleam. The box is embossed with a snakeskin pattern and finished with a soft-touch coating. Inside, a sea-green coating contrasts with the rich black exterior. Hazen also received a “Product Excellence” award for Benefit Cosmetics’ Hoola Quickie Contour Stick packaging, created with silver Ultracure acrylic-coated metallized polyester laminated to paperboard, offset-printed in transparent and opaque colors, and embossed. Judges rewarded the package for its extensive use of embossing, halftone reproduction, tight registration, and vivid green interior.

Complete Payroll Solutions Reports Record Growth

SPRINGFIELD — Complete Payroll Solutions announced it saw more than 100% year-over-year revenue growth compared to a year ago, setting a record pace of new customer acquisitions. The momentum reflects the company’s investment in its people and processes to better serve clients. This momentum is evidenced by several highlights from 2018, including four location openings in Wakefield, Mass., White Plains, N.Y., West Warwick, R.I., and Portsmouth, N.H.; 35 new employees across all offices and an expanded sales force with 10 additional salespeople, providing enhanced resources in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut; a new HR consulting division that delivers local, personalized HR solutions to clients; partnerships with industry leaders like BankRI, Brookline Bank, and First Ipswich Bank, along with the company’s continued relationship with Webster Bank; and the addition of iSolved, an HCM technology, to complement its existing platform, Kronos. Together, the solutions help clients with their workforce-management processes, including payroll, time and attendance, benefits, and HR to recruit, onboard, and manage employees. Founded in 2003 as a startup venture by owners with a long tradition in the industry, Complete Payroll Solutions now has 14 locations throughout the Northeast with 150 employees, and services over 6,000 clients across all 50 states.

Financial Times Ranks Isenberg’s Online MBA First among U.S. Programs

AMHERST — The online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has been ranked first in the U.S. and third in the world by the Financial Times. With one of the largest and most established accredited online MBA programs in the country, the Isenberg School of Management has provided online education opportunities for nearly 16 years. More than 1,100 students are currently enrolled in the program. The Isenberg School stood out in the Financial Times’ 2019 rankings in a number of areas. The online MBA program ranked first for increase in salary after earning an MBA, with a 39% increase; first in the U.S. for total salary; and first for percentage of female faculty, with 45%. Furthermore, the program ranked fifth in online interaction, which measures how well alumni rate interactions between students, teamwork, and availability of faculty. Isenberg’s online MBA program offers an expansive course of study, from business analytics, finance, and healthcare administration to marketing and sports management. Isenberg students come from all 50 states and around the globe, and include physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, and scientists.

Bay Path University Receives Grant for Student Internship Experiences

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University has been awarded $5,000 in grant funding support from the Charles H. Hall Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., trustee, for its project, “Impacting the Community: Fostering Social Justice Through Student Internships.” The foundation’s support will benefit Bay Path undergraduate students who are performing internships at nonprofits in Hampden County, including Square One, the Jewish Community Center, and Girls Inc., all of whom service at-risk children and youth. Bay Path requires its traditional undergraduate students to complete a three- or six-credit internship, research project, or field-work experience, depending on their major, to ensure they have the opportunities to develop the skills and competencies that will help them launch their careers. This funding, which will cover four internships, will help relieve the financial worry that unpaid internships can bring for students. Many Bay Path students hold part-time jobs to make ends meet, and adding an unpaid internship to the mix can be stressful.

BFMC Receives Grants for Community Film Fund

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative (BFMC) received two grant awards for its newly established Community Film Fund, which is a matching fund to help local nonprofit organizations create videos for their branding, marketing, fundraising, and social media. The grants were received from the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Feigenbaum Foundation, each in the amount of $2,500. In today’s world, video messaging is becoming increasingly important. Wordstream, an online advertising company, states that the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text, and an initial e-mail with a video receives an click-through rate increase of 96%. BFMC is in the process of raising $50,000 for this new initiative, which it expects to launch later this spring. BFMC is partnering with the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires to provide information to local organizations about this opportunity.

Springfield College Students Volunteer in Trinidad and Tobago

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College Physical Therapy Professor Kim Nowakowski led a group of graduate students in the health sciences at Springfield College on a global health service trip during spring break. For the third consecutive year, Nowakowski’s group, together with healthcare professionals from Trinidad and Tobago, provided a National Fall Prevention Program in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Fall Prevention program in Trinidad and Tobago was developed based on a needs assessment conducted with physiotherapists from Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited and the Physiotherapy Assoc. of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT). PATT is the sole professional body that represents all physiotherapists in Trinidad and Tobago. Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited was established in 2007 to provide quality healthcare in a friendly, compassionate environment that is geared towards facilitating healing and return to the function of living. Carla Rauseo, a 2005 alumna of the Springfield College physical therapy program who is a physical therapist and co-owner of Total Rehabilitation and a member of PATT, initiated the collaborative effort with Springfield College’s physical therapy program. Since the initiation of the program, the Stay Steady Foundation, a non-governmental organization, has been created to promote sustainability of the Stay Steady Fall Prevention Program, and the involvement of Springfield College has been instrumental to provide the screenings, Rauseo said.

Picture This

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Smile for the Camera

Sandra Costello, owner of Sandra Costello Photography, cuts the ribbon to the opening of her new photography studio in the Eastworks Building in Easthampton on Feb. 17. Surrounded by family, friends, and clients, Costello celebrated her new space for capturing portraits of women, families, high-school seniors, and professionals. (Photo by Ryan Williams)

Sandra Costello, owner of Sandra Costello Photography, cuts the ribbon to the opening of her new photography studio in the Eastworks Building in Easthampton on Feb. 17. Surrounded by family, friends, and clients, Costello celebrated her new space for capturing portraits of women, families, high-school seniors, and professionals. (Photo by Ryan Williams)



Image Conscious

Michael’s Party Rentals recently received a national accolade at the 2019 American Rental Assoc. (ARA) annual convention and trade show in Anaheim, Calif.  The company was acknowledged with a Presidents Image Award, given to a business facility or store celebrating its commitment to improving the rental-industry image through a remodeling, rebuilding, or renovation project. The award was in response to Michael’s Party Rentals’ new showroom, which opened in July 2016. Pictured: Melissa Sullivan (left) and Michael Linton accept the award.

Michael’s Party Rentals recently received a national accolade at the 2019 American Rental Assoc. (ARA) annual convention and trade show in Anaheim, Calif. The company was acknowledged with a Presidents Image Award, given to a business facility or store celebrating its commitment to improving the rental-industry image through a remodeling, rebuilding, or renovation project. The award was in response to Michael’s Party Rentals’ new showroom, which opened in July 2016. Pictured: Melissa Sullivan (left) and Michael Linton accept the award.


Supporting Seniors

Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) recently pledged to donate $25,000 to the Friends of River Mills Senior Center in Chicopee. The donation will be spread over the course of five years in $5,000 installments. The check was presented during the Financial Elder Abuse Workshop sponsored by the credit union on Feb. 7. This donation will be used for the addition of programs and activities for the seniors. Pictured, from left: Alfred Picard, president of Friends of River Mills Senior Center; Jim Kelly, President and CEO of PNCU; Sherry Manyak, executive director of Friends of River Mills Senior Center; Michael Sugrue, executive vice president of PNCU; and Kevin Kober, director of Retail at PNCU.

Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) recently pledged to donate $25,000 to the Friends of River Mills Senior Center in Chicopee. The donation will be spread over the course of five years in $5,000 installments. The check was presented during the Financial Elder Abuse Workshop sponsored by the credit union on Feb. 7. This donation will be used for the addition of programs and activities for the seniors. Pictured, from left: Alfred Picard, president of Friends of River Mills Senior Center; Jim Kelly, President and CEO of PNCU; Sherry Manyak, executive director of Friends of River Mills Senior Center; Michael Sugrue, executive vice president of PNCU; and Kevin Kober, director of Retail at PNCU.

Picture This

Business Community Photo Essay February 2019

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Family Fun Day

Link to Libraries recently staged its Family Fun Day at Mill 180 in Easthampton. The event was a celebration of reading and a fun way to engage children of all ages in that all-important activity.

Link to Libraries board member Tammy Trudeau welcomes guests

Link to Libraries board member Tammy Trudeau welcomes guests

Longmeadow High School Key Club volunteers, from left, Emily Ibrahimov, Meghan Desrosiers, Sara Creapo, Kate Gelinas, Shirley Yuan, Abby Chiz, Olivia Anderson, and Miranda Vellenga

Longmeadow High School Key Club volunteers, from left, Emily Ibrahimov, Meghan Desrosiers, Sara Creapo, Kate Gelinas, Shirley Yuan, Abby Chiz, Olivia Anderson, and Miranda Vellenga

Meghan Desrosiers with two attendees

Author Megan Dowd Lambert, from Amherst, reads aloud to children

Meghan Desrosiers with two attendees

Meghan Desrosiers with two attendees

the children’s musical group Little Roots performs at the event

the children’s musical group Little Roots performs at the event

State of Entrepreneurship

On Feb. 7, Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), in partnership with the Western Mass. Economic Development Council’s Entrepreneurship Committee, presented the annual “State of Entrepreneurship in the Valley.” Staged at the recently opened Valley Venture Hub on Bridge Street in Springfield, the event brought together a host of players that collectively comprise the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and featured a number of entrepreneurs speaking to the effectiveness of the ecosystem in helping them turn ideas into businesses.

A host of area leaders involved with VVM, the ecosystem, and entrepreneurship in general cut the ceremonial ribbon on the Valley Venture Hub

A host of area leaders involved with VVM, the ecosystem, and entrepreneurship in general cut the ceremonial ribbon on the Valley Venture Hub

Gregory Thomas, executive director of the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst, networks with Ray Berry, founder of White Lion Brewery

Gregory Thomas, executive director of the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst, networks with Ray Berry, founder of White Lion Brewery

Kristen Leutz, CEO of VVM, offers some remarks

Kristen Leutz, CEO of VVM, offers some remarks

Roy Chan, a student at UMass, campus director of the Hult Prize, and past Innovation Challenge participant

Roy Chan, a student at UMass, campus director of the Hult Prize, and past Innovation Challenge participant

Sheila Coon, founder of Hot Oven Cookies, tell the audience how the ecosystem has helped promote entrepreneurship in the region

Sheila Coon, founder of Hot Oven Cookies, tell the audience how the ecosystem has helped promote entrepreneurship in the region

The band Turgeon Quintet entertains after the formal program

The band Turgeon Quintet entertains after the formal program

Picture This

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Asnuntuck Community College

Going Digital

In an effort to provide students with relevant skills for the workplace, Asnuntuck Community College has adopted eLABJournal, a software solution from Bio-ITech, a division of Eppendorf. eLABJournal is an intuitive and user-friendly application that is designed for laboratories in academic teaching and research labs as well as in commercial settings. Students using this platform in the classroom will gain valuable experience in electronic notebook and inventory/data management, which will better prepare them for their careers. Here, Asnuntuck student Samantha Fox is photographed in one of the college’s labs working with eLabJournal. Asnuntuck Community College’s Foundation provided the funding, through a mini-grant, for this software.





The West of the River Chamber of Commerce

Open for Business

The West of the River Chamber of Commerce recently welcomed Box Paper Scissors to the Agawam community. The store, which opened in late December and is owned by Bryant Whitsett, offers a wide variety of products and services, including key cutting, notary, DVD transfer, office supplies, conference-room rental, space to sell and promote local products and services, shipping, mailbox services, faxing, and more. A grand-opening celebration was staged Jan. 17. Here, Whitsett is seen with employee Delaney Tanzer.





North Brookfield Savings Bank

Meeting a Need

North Brookfield Savings Bank (NBSB) recently thanked the community for the overwhelming success of its annual toy drive, during which the bank accepted thousands of donations of new and unwrapped toys and collected monetary donations in jars at its branch locations. Pictured are the Cindy Fountain (left) and Patty Ostrout of NBSB with officers from the North Brookfield Police Department, whose Toys for Joy program was one of many partnering organizations in the drive.





Officials from Holyoke Community College and Westfield State University

Nursing Degree Partnership

Officials from Holyoke Community College and Westfield State University signed a dual-admission agreement that streamlines the process for students who want to continue their nursing educations at Westfield after earning an associate degree in nursing at HCC. The RN-to-BSN completion program partnership was announced during a ceremony at HCC’s Center for Health Education on Jarvis Avenue, home to the college’s RN (registered nurse) and LPN (licensed practical nursing) programs and medical simulation center. From left: Diane Prusank, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Westfield State University; Ramon Torrecilha, president of Westfield State University; Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College; and Monica Perez, vice president of Academic Affairs at Holyoke Community College.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

Margaret Kerswill (left) and Laureen Vizza

Margaret Kerswill (left) and Laureen Vizza in front of their Main Street shop, Mutability in Motion.

Margaret Kerswill has a couple of good views of Stockbridge’s business community. One is as president of the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce. The other is from her storefront window on Main Street.

“I think there’s a real appeal that’s well-defined in our town’s tagline, which is ‘a quintessential New England town.’ It feels small; it feels intimate,” said Kerswill, co-owner with her wife, Laureen Vizza, of Mutability in Motion, a downtown store that sells crafts handmade by artisans from across the U.S., many of them local.

“There’s a connection between people in town,” she went on. ‘When you walk through town in the morning, just about everyone says ‘good morning’ to you. There’s a very nice atmosphere about Stockbridge.”

Still, outsiders often peg the community as a tourist destination — which is certainly is — and not much else, and are surprised to find a bustling local economy that doesn’t shut down during slow tourism seasons.

“I know being in my shop, a lot of the visitors who come, who have never been here, are often surprised to see businesses stay open year-round,” Kerswill said. “When they visit other tourist areas at the beginning and end of the season, a lot of those restaurants and shops close down. We’re a small town, so most of our foot traffic is in the summer season, but we’re still here year-round, serving local regulars.”

Still, Stockbridge relies heavily on tourism and visitorship for economic development. With a population of just under 2,000 — ranking it in the bottom sixth in the Commonwealth — the community doesn’t have a deep well of residents or businesses from which to draw tax revenue, but it does boast a widely noted series of destination attractions, from Tanglewood to the Norman Rockwell Museum; from the Berkshire Theatre Festival to Berkshire Botanical Garden.

Other attractions continue to emerge as well, including the oft-delayed Elm Court project by Travaasa Berkshire County, which will turn the historic Elm Court Estate into a resort featuring 112 hotel rooms, a 60-seat restaurant, and a 15,000-square-foot spa.

The property, which sits on the border of Stockbridge and Lenox on Old Stockbridge Road, was constructed in 1886 as a summer cottage for William Douglas Stone and Emily Vanderbilt, completed a series of renovations in 1919, and evolved into an inn in the ’40s and ’50s, hosting dinners, events, and overnight accommodations. It was eventually placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project to renovate it began six years ago when Front Yard purchased the estate from the Berle family, who had run a boutique, wedding-oriented hotel there from 2002 to 2009. Eight neighbors appealed the 2015 approval of the resort by the Lenox Zoning Board of Appeals, but the Massachusetts Land Court eventually ruled in favor of the developer, Front Yard LLC. This past summer, Front Yard asked the Stockbridge Select Board for — and received — an extension of the permit which would have expired last month. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

Meanwhile, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is developing a $33 million construction project at Tanglewood, a four-building complex that will house rehearsal and performance space for the Tanglewood Music Center as well as a new education venture known as the Tanglewood Learning Institute — the first weatherized, all-season structure at Tanglewood, which the BSO plans to make available for events beyond the summer months.

“We really are an amazing cultural center here, between the visual arts and handcrafted arts and crafts,” Kerswill said. “We’ve got music, dance, and theater with amazing summer-stock casts. On one hand, we have the feel of country living, but we have the convenience of Manhattan two hours away, Albany 45 minutes away, Boston two hours away, and all the culture in our immediate area. It’s remarkable. That’s why I’m here — the culture and the arts.”

Community Ties

As chamber president, Kerswill leads a member base that’s smaller than most chambers, but “strong and loyal,” as she called it.

“We do some chamber-related functions to connect,” she said, “and we also have tri-town chamber mixers with people from Lenox and Lee, where we get together and share experiences in an informal setting over cocktails for a couple hours.”

Margaret Kerswill

Margaret Kerswill

“We really are an amazing cultural center here, between the visual arts and handcrafted arts and crafts. We’ve got music, dance, and theater with amazing summer-stock casts.”

The chamber also presents an annual event to honor members and businesses, alternating between an individual one year and a company the next. On top of that, it puts on two major events. One is the three-day Main Street at Christmas festival — slated this year for Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 — which brings thousands of people into town with activities for families and children, concerts, caroling at the Red Lion Inn, and self-guided house tours. On Sunday, Main Street closes down for several hours, antique cars are brought in, and the strip transforms into a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

That follows a summer arts and crafts fair each August, a weekend-long event that always sells out its vendor capacity, she said. “There’s no entry fee for patrons, and people freely walk around and come and go as they please. That brings a lot of people to town, at a time when summer is winding down and there’s less traffic.”

Stockbridge at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1739
Population: 1,947 (2010)
Area: 23.7 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $9.76
Commercial Tax Rate: $9.76
Median Household Income: $48,571
Median Family Income: $59,556
Type of government: Town Administrator; Open Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Austen Riggs Center; Tanglewood; Red Lion Inn
* Latest information available

Not wanting to rest on its laurels when it comes to its status as a desirable town for tourists and residents alike, a visionary project committee was formed by Stockbridge officials several years ago to develop recommendations that could be implemented over the next 20 years. The committee issued a report in 2016 titled “Planning a Way Forward.”

That report noted that residents value the town’s cultural institutions and historic buildings; its open space, recreation sites, and walking trails; and its downtown (although many would like to see additional shops and services, as well as more parking). Meanwhile, they want to see smart housing growth that takes into account the community’s aging population, as well as additional transportation options and better accommodation of walkers and bicyclists.

As a result, the document envisioned a Stockbridge in 2036 that mixes the traditional strengths of tourism, culture, and creative economy with green- and technology-based businesses, food production from local farmers, and agri-tourism. The ideal community would also be less auto-reliant, expanding pedestrian networks, bicycle infrastructure, and regional bus and ride-sharing services.

The report also predicts a socially and economically diverse population that provides equally diverse housing options, from apartments and condominiums to smaller single-family homes, co-housing projects, and historic ‘Berkshire cottages.’ These include a mix of sustainable new construction and repurposed buildings, including the preservation of older homes, along with an increase of people living close to the town center, including mixed-use buildings with apartments over shops to support downtown businesses.

While the overall vision may be ambitious, it encompasses the sorts of goals a town of Stockbridge’s size can reasonably set when looking to move into its next era.

Blast from the Past

Kerswill, for one, is happy she and Vizza set up shop in Stockbridge — right next to the Red Lion Inn, in fact, which is in many ways the heart of the downtown business culture.

“It’s a great experience being in downtown in Stockbridge,” she told BusinessWest. “We don’t have any chain stores or restaurant franchises. We are all independently owned, and the chances are good, when you pop into one of our stores, that you’re going to be meeting the owner. It becomes a very personal experience because of that.”

As for the Red Lion itself, “it’s cozy and intimate,” she went on, “and they’ve modernized with things that people expect, like wi-fi, but you still get a real, old-fashioned experience, and I think people really crave that. I know I do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]