Girls Inc. Unveils Plans for New Home in Holyoke
HOLYOKE — After a four-year search, Girls Inc. of the Valley unveiled what will become its new home — the former ‘O’Connell building’ on Hampden Street in Holyoke. At a press conference, Girls Inc. leaders announced that the nonprofit had acquired the property and has mapped out extensive renovation efforts and plans to open the new facility perhaps as early as a year from now. Girls Inc. Executive Director Suzanne Parker told those assembled that, as part of a strategic plan created more than four years ago, the nonprofit has sought a new home that will bring all its programs together under one roof and facilitate growth that will enable it to serve more girls in the Pioneer Valley. The search for such a facility has been a long and sometimes difficult undertaking, she noted, one that eventually brought Girls Inc. to the Hampden Street property, which was the longtime home to the O’Connell Companies, and later law offices after O’Connell built a new headquarters on Kelly Way in Holyoke. Girls Inc. closed on the property late last month, acquiring it for $790,000 with financing from PeoplesBank, said Parker, noting that extensive renovations to many portions of the property will bring the price tag for the project to roughly $3.5 million. A capital campaign — the Her Future, Our Future campaign, which has an overall goal of $5 million — was launched more than a year ago, she said, adding that funds raised through that campaign will be used to cover those costs. The site brings a number of benefits, said Parker, listing a 55-space parking lot and ample room — 16,000 square feet over two floors — for facilities that will include a cutting-edge STEM makers’ space, library, two multi-purpose rooms, a teen lounge, a kitchen and dining area, administrative offices, and more.
HCC Receives $1 Million Grant to Build New Engineering Program
HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a new engineering pathways program to help boost the numbers of Latinx and women engineers working in the field. The grant — $956,458 over four years — will allow HCC to design an accelerated, one-year engineering certificate program that will culminate in paid internships with high-tech research organizations such as the renowned Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. The money comes from the NSF’s program for Hispanic Serving Institutions and is intended to improve undergraduate education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. HCC has been a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, since 2016. Colleges and universities are recognized as HSIs when their Hispanic/Latinx enrollment exceeds 25%. HCC’s partners in the grant include Holyoke High School, Westfield High School, Western New England University, UMass Amherst, the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services, a national association called the 50K Coalition, and the Society for Women Engineers. The main goals of HCC’s new Western Massachusetts Engineering Pathways Program are to increase participation in engineering by members of groups historically underrepresented in the field, to revitalize HCC’s engineering programs to be more responsive to a diverse student body, and to ensure the program meets the needs of regional employers. Through the grant, HCC will hire an Engineering Pathways coordinator to recruit high-school students for the program. After students complete their coursework, they will be placed in paid internships. As a further incentive, each student in their final program course will receive a $1,000 stipend. The grant also calls for a review of HCC’s associate-degree program in engineering in consultation with HCC’s partners to increase employer engagement and improve transfer pathways to four-year institutions. In addition, the grant will facilitate the creation of a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers at HCC. Also in conjunction with the grant, HCC has joined the 50K Coalition, a national consortium of professional engineering societies whose goal is graduate 50,000 women engineers and engineers of color by 2025.
Big E Sets Single-day Attendance Record
WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Big E closed out its 17-day fair with a bang on its final weekend, drawing 177,238 patrons on Saturday, Oct. 2 — the largest single-day attendance in the event’s history. The total 17-day attendance was 1,498,774, short of the record of 1,629,527 set in 2019. This year’s fair set attendance records on three other days as well; Sept. 21 drew the best first-Tuesday crowd ever (56,769), Sept. 26 was the best-ever second Sunday (136,512), and Oct. 1 was the best-ever third Friday (113,827).
Western MA Food Processing Center Named Manufacturer of the Year
GREENFIELD — The Franklin County Community Development Corp.’s Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center (FPC) was named Manufacturer of the Year in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester state Senate district. The FPC was nominated to receive this award by state Sen. Jo Comerford through the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus, of which she is a member. Located in Greenfield, the FPC was established in 2001 and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in October. The center serves as an incubator space for new and growing specialty food businesses to manufacture their products. The FPC team has helped local businesses prototype and launch a wide variety of different products, including sauces, toppings, salsas, dips, syrups, and frozen meals. It has a wide variety of specialized equipment to help local farms add value to their produce. Additionally, the FPC provides one-on-one counseling and technical assistance to support business planning, product development, regulatory compliance, and more. Currently, the FPC has 50 clients and employs eight full-time staff. During the busy harvest season, it employs several part-time staff, including individuals through the re-entry program of Hampshire County House of Corrections. This harvest season, the FPC team made value-added products, like pickles, pestos, and salsas, for 18 farms and offered dry and cold storage services to another eight farms. The FPC is also home to Valley Veggies, as well as the only individual quick-freeze machine in New England, which processes local vegetables for schools, institutions, and retail. The Food Processing Center is continuously improving its manufacturing capabilities by investing in specialized food-processing equipment, much of which is funded by state and federal grant programs.
Uvitron International Receives ISO 9001 Certification
WEST SPRINGFIELD — Uvitron International Inc., a designer and manufacturer of high-performance UV light-curing systems and accessories, recently received ISO 9001 certification after demonstrating it met international standards of quality management and quality assurance. “Since we were founded in 1993, we have earned a reputation for manufacturing and selling a quality product supported by a high degree of product knowledge,” said Eugene Mikhaylichenko, Uvitron’s Sales and Marketing director. “This certification underscores our efforts to continue to build on this strong foundation.” 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. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent, non-governmental, international organization that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products, services, and systems. ISO 9001 standards are based on seven quality management principles: customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management.
Country Bank Recognized by Boston Business Journal for Charitable Giving
WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2021 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The magazine annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 9, 98 companies qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year, the honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more. Country Bank, which ranked 55th, employs 215 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. Staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering to a variety of nonprofits. Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, added that “we are honored to be recognized by the Boston Business Journal for Country Bank’s philanthropic efforts. As a community bank, it is our mission to help make a difference in the lives of others.”
Renaissance Investment Group to Open New Downtown Office
LENOX — Renaissance Investment Group, LLC is joining the growing business community in downtown Lenox with a new office at 45 Walker St. The group will leave its current building in the Lenox Commons and plans to move into the Walker Street space in November. Mill Town Capital is the new owner of the building. Renaissance and Mill Town have agreed on a 10-year lease during which Mill Town will serve as the landlord for the building and will fund property improvements. Mill Town also owns and operates the Gateways Inn and Restaurant at 51 Walker St. Mill Town, an impact-investment firm based in Pittsfield, owns and operates numerous properties in the Berkshires as part of its efforts to expand and improve quality of life in the area. The firm focuses on making impactful business investments and community-development efforts.
Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Awards Five $1,000 Scholarships
SPRINGFIELD — Five area students were each awarded a $1,000 Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship to advance their education by the law firm that bears his name. The Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship is awarded annually to a union member affiliated with the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation or their spouse or dependent. Applicants are asked to submit their high-school or college transcripts, written recommendations, a recital of recent community service, and an essay detailing the importance of the labor movement to their family. Winners of this year’s awards are Emma Cowles of Wilbraham, Samantha Franciosa of Granby, Emma Hayward of Pittsfield, Antonia Perakis of West Springfield, and Elizabeth Sarnacki of East Otis.
STCC Receives $7.35 Million to Enhance STEM Education
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has been awarded two grants worth more than $7 million from the U.S. Department of Education to boost student success among Latinx and low-income students in STEM fields, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced during a visit to STCC. The first grant, titled “Project Acceleration: Re-engineering Pathways to Student Success in STEM,” will run for five years for a total of $3 million. It will allow STCC to create a STEM studies program and develop support services to increase access to STEM careers. The grant is designed to increase enrollment and improve the graduation rates of Latinx and low-income students in STEM majors and help them continue with their studies instead of withdrawing from school. In addition, the grant will allow STCC to help reduce the time it takes male students of color, particularly Latinx, to complete studies. The grant falls under the federal Title V program, which was created to improve higher education of Hispanic students. The second grant announced by Neal is titled “STEM Access and Retention Strategies.” The five-year grant, totaling $4,352,559, will allow STCC to create and enhance support services for Latinx and low-income students. Services and programs supported by the grant include creation of STEM-focused first-year experience courses; utilization of proactive STEM advisors, which would involves bringing services to students rather than waiting for them to ask; and implementation of additional mental-health services. In recent years, STCC created a STEM Center that offers opportunities for tutoring and group study for all students. The college also provides mentoring and coaching. The new federal grant also will allow STCC to enhance professional development for faculty. STCC, the only technical community college in Massachusetts, is federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, with 30% of the students identifying as Hispanic. The city of Springfield suffers high unemployment and poverty. Fifty-six percent of STCC students receive federal Pell grants, which are awarded to students who display exceptional financial need. Hispanic and low-income students enter college with greater developmental math needs and lower retention and graduation rates, on average, than non-Hispanic and higher-income students. Only 11.4% of Hispanic and 14% of low-income students major in STEM. As part of the grant focusing on access and retention strategies, STCC will partner with UMass Amherst and Central Connecticut State University to expand transfer opportunities for students.
Springfield Museums Receive Shuttered Venue Operator Grant
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums welcomed U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Small Business Alliance Massachusetts District Office Director Robert Nelson to the Quadrangle green on Oct. 7 to announce a $1,200,000 Shuttered Venue Operator Grant (SVOG) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As part of the American Rescue Plan, the SVOG program provided more than $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues and was administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Springfield Museums shut its doors for four months, the first time this has happened in its 164-year history. “As a beloved community anchor and an important informal-learning hub, we were overjoyed to reopen in July 2020,” Springfield Museums President Kay Simpson said. “Our visitors make our museums alive with energy and potential, and we are so glad to have them back in our buildings. We are deeply grateful for the funds provided by the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, which will help us make up for the lost time during that four-month period.”
Springfield College, UMass Launch Accelerated Law Degree Program
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College and the University of Massachusetts Law School – Dartmouth have finalized a 3+3 agreement that will create new, accelerated opportunities for Springfield College students to attain a law degree. As part of the agreement, Springfield College pre-law students will spend three years working toward their undergraduate degree before enrolling at UMass Law, where they will begin taking law courses that fulfill their remaining undergraduate requirements while beginning their legal education. Springfield College Professor of History and Pre-Law Advisor Thomas Carty was instrumental in forging this pathway for Springfield College students with UMass Law. Students will earn their bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees in six years rather than the traditional seven. These accelerated degree programs allow students to apply credits earned during their first year of law school to their final year of college, saving students thousands of dollars in tuition payments and living expenses. Over the past five years, UMass Law ranks second in the nation, among nearly 200 ABA-accredited law schools, for enrollment growth, while maintaining the smallest first-year doctrinal course sizes among all Massachusetts law schools. UMass Law’s most recent ABA Standard 316 ‘ultimate’ (two-year) bar pass rate is 92% across all jurisdictions. UMass Law has twice been ranked among the best law schools in the country for its program of practical training. The law school also ranks second among all 15 law schools in New England for the percentage of students entering public service.
Jewish Family Service Receives Citizenship and Integration Grant
SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) has been awarded a competitive two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Integration Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This grant enables JFS to continue its work helping legal permanent residents become U.S. citizens. The fiscal year 2021 grants, which run through September 2023, will fund legal services for citizenship applicants and educational programs designed to deepen an applicant’s knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics. Since it began in 2009, the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has awarded more than $112 million through 513 competitive grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Now in its 13th year, the program has helped more than 290,500 lawful permanent residents prepare for citizenship. JFS is one of 40 organizations in 25 states to receive nearly $10 million in funding to support citizenship-preparation services. Now in its 13th year, the USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has helped more than 290,500 lawful permanent residents prepare for citizenship. A ‘permanent resident’ is a person authorized by the U.S. government to live and work in the country on a permanent basis. Jewish Family Service is a nonprofit social service agency that has developed both substantive legal and programmatic expertise during its 10 years of experience in citizenship and naturalization services.
State-of-the-art [email protected] Training Center Established
SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNE) College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP), a state-of-the-art optics/photonics training center, has been established through a grant of $2,581,109 from the Massachusetts Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM). [email protected] is part of a national effort to advance state-of-the-art manufacturing with the American Institute for Manufacturing (AIM) Photonics consortium. With the support of the grant funding, WNE partnered with Convergent Photonics in Chicopee and Springfield Technical Community College for the development of the new advanced-manufacturing center, located at Convergent Photonics. The LEAP lab, only the fourth of its kind in the state, will focus on product development, educational training, and collaborative research in the field of integrated photonics. The [email protected] facility features six instrumentation and prototyping workstations with capabilities including tunable lasers and optical power meters, polarimeters, and polarization controllers; optical-spectrum analyzers and free-space optics; electronic signal generators, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, and power supplies; and PCB fabrication using subtractive and additive techniques. The grant was part of the CAM Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M212), which has made a $100 million commitment to manufacturing innovation through its capital grant program and is collaborating on more than 60 projects connecting manufacturers with universities and companies. According to CAM, Massachusetts has made a substantial commitment to developing the Manufacturing USA infrastructure within the state’s academic, research, and manufacturing industry. Through the creation of sector-specific Manufacturing USA Centers, M212 will advance innovations and job growth within the state through cross-collaboration among companies, universities, national labs, government, incubators, accelerators, and other academic and training institutions. Funded through the M212 program, LEAP is designed to support AIM Photonics, an industry-driven, public-private partnership that focuses the nation’s capabilities and expertise to capture critical global manufacturing leadership in a technology that is both essential to national security and positioned to provide a compelling return on investment to the American economy.