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Community Foundation Gives $341,000 Through Innovation Grant Program

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ (CFWM) Innovation Grant Program has awarded a total of $341,000 to three change-making nonprofit organizations to continue creating innovative solutions around critical issues facing the region. CFWM’s Innovation Grant Program was launched in 2016 to encourage nonprofits to develop and execute novel ideas in partnership with other entities, as well as allow organizations to construct inventive solutions with measurable impact. In January 2018, CFWM awarded first-year funding to Five Colleges Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity to implement innovative projects that were refined and tested during a planning period in 2017. Now entering their third year of funding, these grantees are seeing the tangible impact of their work. Twenty paraprofessionals of color are making their way toward receiving their licensure to become a full-fledged teachers, food-insecure patients are being identified and referred to healthy-food opportunities, and small homes have been built and are being occupied by first-time homebuyers. Five Colleges Inc. will continue to develop its “Paradigm Shift” initiative and bring in new partners. This initiative is focused on creating a more diverse teacher workforce in Western Mass. by helping para-educators of color overcome obstacles to obtaining licensure to become teachers in area schools. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will spend its third year expanding and analyzing the impact of its Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative that conducts and tracks food insecurity screening and social-service referrals at the Holyoke Health Center and its Chicopee location. Additionally, it will partner with WestMass ElderCare and Springfield Senior Services to address the food needs of patients who screen positive for food insecurity and have a specific medical condition. Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity will continue with a third year of its “Big Enough: the Small Home Revolution in Western Mass.” initiative, which aims to launch more individuals and families into the middle class by empowering them to become first-time owners of small, simple, affordable, energy-efficient homes.

MBK Donates $10,000 to MHA for Crisis-intervention Training

SPRINGFIELD — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., (MBK) recently made a $10,000 donation to the Mental Health Assoc. Inc. (MHA) to fund non-violent crisis-intervention training for MHA’s direct-care staff. “To train in non-violent crisis intervention is an important professional-development opportunity for MHA staff,” said Cheryl Fasano, president and CEO of MHA Inc. “MHA does not use physical restraint in any form, so our staff members need skills to safely de-escalate and manage challenging behaviors in a non-violent manner. Our training curriculum from the Crisis Prevention Institute goes further by also helping better equip our staff to prevent difficult situations from escalating.” The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization committed to best practices and safe behavior-management methods that focus on prevention. Since 1980, more than 10 million professionals around the world have participated in CPI training programs.

HCC Extends Scholarship Application Deadline

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has extended by two weeks the deadline to apply for scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. The new application deadline is Wednesday, April 8. Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible for scholarships, which are awarded through the HCC Foundation, HCC’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. Awards totaling more than $200,000 are available for incoming, continuing, and transferring HCC students. Applicants need only to fill out a single online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students and students transferring to other institutions, scholarships based on financial need, scholarships for students in specific majors, scholarships for residents of certain communities, and scholarships that recognize academic achievement. For the 2019-20 academic year, the HCC Foundation awarded $223,000 in scholarships to 231 students. To begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships. Questions should be directed to the HCC Foundation office at (413) 552-2182 or Donahue 170 on the HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

PTK Honor Society Presents ACC with Awards During Virtual Ceremony

ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College’s Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society was recognized as being the Most Distinguished Chapter for the New England Region during a virtual awards ceremony held last weekend. The chapter and its members were awarded other honors during its first-ever virtual ceremony. These awards included Distinguished College Project Award and Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award. The chapter elected to do its Honors in Action project within a Politics of Identity theme. Working with various departments at the college, as well as outside agencies, including the Jordan Porco Foundation, the students concentrated on the issue of mental-health awareness. They also established an interactive exhibit on mental-health issues at Asnuntuck, with a digitized version, titled “Art|Mind,” available for those who could not make it to campus. The college project focused on getting information into the hands of students through campus brochures and during the college’s orientation. Asnuntuck student Victoria Orifice was awarded first-place honors for being the Distinguished Chapter Officer.

Beta Gamma Sigma at WNEU Earns Highest Chapter Recognition

SPRINGFIELD — For the third consecutive year, the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) Chapter at Western New England University earned the “highest honors” designation for its campus engagement and programming for the 2018-19 academic year. According to Beta Gamma Sigma CEO Chris Carosella, earning highest honors “is indicative of a campus where academic excellence is highly valued and where the faculty and chapter leaders work diligently to enhance Beta Gamma Sigma’s stature on campus.” One indicator of this engagement is participation at the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS), which chapter President Tessa Wood and Secretary Kathryn Wells attended last year. The GLS enables delegates to participate in professional-development workshops and share best practices with student leaders from other BGS chapters worldwide.

Junior Achievement of Western Mass. Receives Five Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts has been awarded one of Junior Achievement USA’s highest honors: the Five Star Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize staff and boards of JA areas that meet Junior Achievement’s national standards in operational efficiency and through strong representation of the JA brand. Recipients must demonstrate growth in student impact and superior fiscal performance. Achievement against these criteria is certified through JA USA and audited financial statements. Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, which serves more than 13,000 students throughout Western Mass. and Vermont, will be presented with the award in July at Junior Achievement USA’s National Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Robinson Donovan Moves to Expanded Northampton Location

NORTHAMPTON — Robinson Donovan, P.C., a full-service law firm, announced it has moved from its previous Northampton office to a more expansive location at 351 Pleasant St. The firm’s phone number, (413) 732-2301, remains the same. “We wanted to make things as convenient as possible for our growing list of clients in Hampshire County,” Partner Michael Simolo said. “We can now meet with them more comfortably. The response from clients has been very positive.” Partner Jeffrey Trapani, added that “our new office in Northampton has plenty of meeting space, free parking, and easier access. Quite a few of our attorneys live in Hampshire County, so having an expanded office in Northampton makes sense for us operationally as well and helps us better serve our clients throughout the Pioneer Valley.”

Behavioral Health Network Receives $15,000 Grant from Country Bank

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from Country Bank, which will fund direct services for BHN’s domestic-violence programs in Ware. Country Bank’s grant to BHN will be used for innovative support and advocacy services for domestic-violence survivors, which includes partnering with Country Bank employees in offering the economic-freedom initiative known as Money School. BHN’s Money School program is an award-winning, trauma-informed financial-independence initiative designed to create long-term safety and economic security for survivors of domestic violence. The grant will also be used to provide prevention-education work in local schools, and for interruption and prevention services for perpetrators of domestic violence.

Springfield WORKS Programs to Benefit from State Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield WORKS leads local employers, educators, community leaders, and job seekers in developing innovative solutions to meet the economic needs of area residents and local businesses. A founding member in the Springfield WORKS collaboration, Springfield Partners for Community Action, recently received a second $50,000 award from the Baker-Polito Community Services Block Grant Special Projects Fund to support Springfield WORKS financial-wellness strategies. This award comes on the heels of a recent $100,000 Baker-Polito Urban Agenda Grant to Springfield WORKS and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. The funds will enable families to achieve economic stability as they navigate workforce-development training into a career pathway.

Company Notebook

Bay Path University Names Sandra Doran Its Sixth President

Sandra Doran

LONGMEADOW — The Bay Path University board of trustees announced today that Sandra Doran has been selected by unanimous vote to become the sixth president of Bay Path effective June 30. She will succeed Carol Leary, who retires in June following her 25-year presidency of Bay Path. Doran’s appointment is the culmination of a comprehensive, 10-month, national search process. “Sandy Doran is a charismatic leader who cares deeply about women’s education and is passionate about access to education and student success,” said Jonathan Besse, board chair. “She has an impressive and broad background in a variety of complex organizations, all of which flourished greatly under her leadership.” Doran is currently president of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. As president, she led an inclusive and aggressive strategic planning process that resulted in a transformation of the college as evidenced by unprecedented growth in enrollment and fundraising. “I am humbled by the trust the board has placed in me to continue the spirit of innovation here at Bay Path,” Doran said. “The visionary nature of President Leary is inspiring and unprecedented in higher education, and I look forward to working with the Bay Path faculty and staff to build on her legacy. Serving our students, and providing them with a superior learning experience, gives us all great joy. I look forward to engaging with all members of our community, students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and our business and philanthropic partners.” Doran holds a juris doctor degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Methodist University. Before serving at Salem, Doran was CEO at Castle Point Learning Systems (CPLS), a company that develops innovative teaching and learning technologies incorporating artificial intelligence and adaptive learning algorithms to provide better student outcomes in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Prior to her position at CPLS, she was president of the American College of Education in Indianapolis, where she grew the organization into the fifth-largest graduate school of education in the country, serving more than 5,000 adult and non-traditional students. Her professional experience also includes positions at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey as an entrepreneur-in-residence, as well as at the New England Board of Higher Education as national policy director. Early in her legal career, she transitioned into higher education, joining Lesley University in Cambridge in 2004 as chief of staff, vice president, and general counsel. Doran currently serves as chair of the board for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation and on the board of the Online Learning Consortium. She was named the Triad Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO, and Power Player of 2019.

AIC to Offer Graduate Program in Cannabis Science and Commerce

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will offer a master of science program in cannabis science and commerce beginning in the fall of 2020, the first of its kind in this region. The 30-credit, hybrid graduate program is designed for individuals interested in a career in the cannabis industry and will provide students with an understanding of the science, business, and legal issues associated with the cannabis industry. The program offers education in the areas of basic science, including chemistry, horticulture, cultivation, uses, and delivery systems; business management, marketing, and operations; and federal and state laws and policies. According to a March 2020 jobs report issued by Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis website, over the past four years, legal cannabis has supported nearly a quarter of a million jobs. That equates to a 15% annual uptick in employment. For more information regarding the AIC’s master of science program in cannabis science and commerce, visit www.aic.edu/cannabis.

MGM Springfield Revenues Rebound in January

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that gross gaming revenue (GGR) at MGM Springfield totaled $20.6 million in January, up from $18.9 million in December, which was its worst-ever full month. Meanwhile, the Encore Boston Harbor casino recorded $48.6 million in GGR in January, down from $54 million in December, while Plainridge Park Casino posted $11.1 million in January, an almost $900,000 increase from December and its first monthly uptick since last spring. MGM Springfield’s January GGR totaled included $14.9 million from slot machines and $5.7 million from from table games. The facility named a new president and chief operating officer following December’s poor numbers, replacing Michael Mathis with Chris Kelley.

Country Bank Donates More Than $900,000 in 2019

WARE — Country Bank reported its donations to area nonprofits totaled $905,049 last year. Throughout 2019, more than 500 organizations in the communities the bank serves received donations, including the Children’s Trust, Ludlow Community Center Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, Project Bread, and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, among many others. Recognizing the importance and overwhelming need to help organizations that address hunger, Country Bank provided monetary donations exceeding $100,000 to food programs throughout the region. The recipients of these funds included Friends of the Homeless, Springfield Rescue Mission, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as well as many local food pantries. In addition, Country Bank’s employee charitable giving program raised more than $30,000 in 2019 through events such as jeans days, bake sales, and raffles, and employees volunteered more than 1,000 hours of personal time at various events within the bank’s communities.

Bank of America Entrusts More Than $22 Million to Community Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — After collaborating with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) for 29 years, the Bank of America in May transferred three trusts totaling more than $22 million to the Valley-wide grant funder. The move brings CFWM’s total earned assets from roughly $153 million to $175 million and bolsters its role as an enduring philanthropic leader in the Pioneer Valley. Founded in 1990, CFWM administers a charitable endowment consisting of more than 600 separately identified funds totaling approximately $175 million. Some of these charitable assets are unrestricted and used to meet emerging and changing needs in the region. Others support named nonprofit organizations or provide financial support to college-bound students. Still others are donor-advised, offering flexibility to donors in timing, amount, and beneficiary of their giving. Last year, CFWM awarded $7.3 million in grants to nonprofits and $2.2 million in scholarships and interest-free loans to more than 770 area students. The Bank of America funds will continue to support a wide variety of organizations for generations to come, from grassroots community food pantries to region-spanning arts programs — and will preserve the original donors’ wishes to support their communities in perpetuity. The three trusts transferred from the bank to the foundation are the Eugene A. Dexter Charitable Fund, established in 1944; the Nan and Matilda Heydt Fund, established in 1960; and the Valley Charitable Trust Fund, established in 1960. All three were originally created to support and serve charitable organizations and interests with a focus on Springfield and Hampden County.

Eversource Earns Award for Using Smart Technology to Reduce Peak Energy Usage

BOSTON — An Eversource program that pays customers to use less electricity during high-demand periods has received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Residential Program Design & Implementation by the Assoc. of Energy Services Professionals. The award recognizes the company’s ConnectedSolutions demand-response program, which leverages customer-owned devices, such as wireless thermostats, battery storage, and electric-vehicle chargers, to reduce electric use during peak periods, when the cost and greenhouse-gas emissions of electricity in New England are at their highest. More than 9,000 customers have enrolled in the volunteer demand-response program in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Customers allow their devices to automatically communicate with Eversource during regional peak energy periods, resulting in a short reduction of power or, in the case of batteries, a reduction of the stored energy. Residential customers with eligible connected wireless thermostats, battery storage, or electric-vehicle chargers can participate and earn incentives ranging from $20 to more than $1,000 a year. The energy company anticipates that, at full enrollment, the collective ability to call on these customers during high-demand periods could have the environmental equivalent effect of taking 20,000 homes off the grid.

EforAll Holyoke Seeks Mentors for Summer Business Accelerator

HOLYOKE — EforAll Holyoke is actively seeking both English- and Spanish-speaking volunteers to participate as mentors in the summer 2020 business accelerator program. Accelerator mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and use their business and leadership experience to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of turning their idea into a growing business. Mentors work in teams of three and are matched with an entrepreneur based on schedule availability and the desire to work together. The team meets as a group to help reaffirm topics and themes raised during classes, while also strategizing with the entrepreneur on how to reach their specific goals during the program. This is a high-touch, year-long commitment. Mentor teams have 90-minute, in-person meetings for three months and then meet once a month for the following nine months. Anyone interested can e-mail [email protected] for more information.

Company Notebook

Red Sox Winter Weekend, Hoophall Classic Inject $7 Million into Economy

SPRINGFIELD — More than 10,000 people attended Red Sox Winter Weekend and the Hoophall Classic in Greater Springfield in January, and their economic impact on the region was significant, according to the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB), which calculated that approximately $7 million was injected into the local economy as a result of these events. Economic impact is calculated using a tourism-industry tool, inputting spending figures in categories like the number of attendees, room nights sold, venue rental, and the cost of food and beverages during the period. Visitor rooms were booked in downtown Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, and West Springfield. Red Sox Winter Weekend occupied space at the MassMutual Center and MGM Springfield, while the Hoophall Classic was held on the grounds of nearby Springfield College.

PeoplesBank Gives $75,000 to Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank presented $75,000 to Girls Inc. toward a $5 million comprehensive campaign with three primary goals: to build a permanent home in downtown Holyoke; expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and extend the Eureka! STEM education program. As a result of the campaign, Girls Inc. of the Valley will serve more than 1,000 girls each year with intensive, research-based programming designed to empower girls and provide opportunities to succeed in school and beyond. This partnership will help Girls Inc. of the Valley to expand its program offerings and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve, and contributes to the bank’s goals of community vibrancy and academic excellence. The need for qualified science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals in the workforce continues to grow, and women — particularly women of color — continue to be underrepresented in these fields. Girls Inc. of the Valley programs like Eureka! expose girls to the STEM fields and support them with mentors and guidance, specialized curricula, internships, and other hands-on opportunities to nurture their curiosity and interests. The “Her Future, Our Future” comprehensive campaign is designed to significantly move the needle on breaking the cycle of poverty and providing tangible opportunities for Pioneer Valley girls to achieve academic and personal success.

New England Business Associates Launches Learn to Earn Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — New England Business Associates (NEBA), a supported employment provider in Massachusetts and Connecticut, is celebrating the launch of its Learn to Earn initiative, thanks to a Kessler Foundation Signature Employment Grant that will fund the project for two years. The initiative, intended to introduce, train, and place four cohorts of employment candidates with disabilities to entry-level manufacturing positions, is the brainchild of NEBA CEO Jeannine Pavlak. The need for qualified employees to fill positions in the manufacturing industry is becoming critical; in many areas of the U.S., upwards of 35% of current manufacturing jobs will become vacant due to retirement by 2022. Pavlak, who is recognized nationally as a subject matter expert in disability employment, sees this as an opportunity. Manufacturing is not currently viewed as a typical pathway to gainful employment for people with disabilities, but there’s no reason it can’t become one. Learn to Earn will give identified candidates the initial training and skills needed to succeed in a manufacturing environment. Over the next two years, 48 candidates with disabilities and barriers to employment will be identified and receive Level 1 and 2 MACWIC manufacturing training and OSHA training, in partnership with MassMEP in Massachusetts and ConnStep in Connecticut. Candidates will also receive NEBA’s customized career-ladders training, designed to cater to individual needs in building employment skills. The goal of Learn to Earn is to place candidates in manufacturing positions that will allow them to earn a sustainable income, eliminate the need for public assistance, and foster growth and future promotions in the field. After placement, employees and employers will be given access to Tooling U-SME, a customized online platform with more than 800 manufacturing courses, allowing employers to identify and customize specific trainings for Learn to Earn employees. Those interested in learning more about the Learn to Earn initiative may e-mail inquiries to [email protected] or call NEBA at (413) 821-9200.

UMass Online Programs Highly Ranked Nationally

BOSTON — Online programs at UMass received high marks again in this year’s Best Online Programs rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Two UMass programs ranked within the top 30 in the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs category, with UMass Amherst ranking 23rd and UMass Lowell 29th. Amherst and Lowell were also the top two online bachelor’s programs in New England for the second consecutive year. In the same category, UMass Dartmouth ranked 113th, rising 10 spots over last year’s rankings, and UMass Boston ranked 93rd. UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell were also highly ranked in the new Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans category, coming in at 18th and 22nd in the nation, respectively. Three UMass online MBA programs rank in the top 100 nationally, with UMass Lowell placing 22nd, UMass Amherst 28th, and UMass Dartmouth 95th. In the Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans category, the same campuses perform even better, with UMass Lowell ranking 16th, UMass Amherst 22nd, and UMass Dartmouth ranking 53rd. Online programs at UMass have been steadily growing in recent years, with total revenues reaching a record-high $116 million in fiscal year 2019.

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Scholarship Applications

MONSON — The 2020 Monson Savings Bank scholarship application is now available to graduating high-school seniors residing in Hampden and Wilbraham. Applications are available at 15 Somers Road, Hampden, and 100 Post Office Park, Wilbraham. The purpose of the Monson Savings Bank scholarship is to promote the attainment of higher education for graduating seniors who reside within the bank’s footprint. Three $2,000 scholarships will awarded to graduating seniors who reside in Hampden or Wilbraham. Graduating seniors must be planning to attend an accredited college, technical school, or certification program. Scholarship awards will be based on the applicant’s financial need, academic performance, extracurricular activities during and after school, work experience, and music, arts, and sports programs. A candidate for this scholarship should also demonstrate a commitment to his or her community, and include an essay outlining that service and its impact. The deadline for application acceptance is April 6. The completed application and required supporting documents will be accepted by mail or electronically. Any questions should be directed to Donna Easton-Vicalvi at (413) 725-4560 or [email protected]

Five College Consortium Wins $2.5M Grant for Native and Indigenous Studies

AMHERST — Five Colleges Inc. has been awarded a $2.5 million, four-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help its member campuses transform how they approach Native American and indigenous studies (NAIS), with the goal of enhancing teaching, learning, and scholarship in the field. The grant is one of the largest made by foundation to the consortium to date, and is also one of the consortium’s largest grant awards from any funder in its 50-year history. The Five College campuses — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst — are located in the Kwinitekw (Connecticut River) Valley, which has historically been a crossroads of indigenous nations. Today it remains a central gathering place for NAIS scholars as well as for Native American and indigenous leaders, artists, writers, and activists. Called “Gathering at the Crossroads: Building Native American and Indigenous Studies at the Five College Consortium,” the effort will allow the campuses to develop and establish a set of new academic pathways for students interested in Native American and indigenous Studies — supported by new faculty, new courses, and new course modules — as well as create new advising structures to guide students through these academic options. The grant includes funding to bring a variety of scholars and indigenous experts to the campuses to collaborate in this work.

Land O’Lakes Taps Northstar Recycling for Innovative Sustainability Solutions

EAST LONGMEADOW — Like many major companies, Land O’Lakes has become increasingly committed to sustainability initiatives in recent years. For example, Purina Animal Nutrition, a Land O’Lakes subsidiary, recently set out to develop a cost-effective recycling solution for used Purina feed tubs, a difficult and logistically complex objective. Land O’Lakes called on Northstar Recycling, its recycling partner for all of the U.S. and Canada, to handle this challenge. Purina feed tubs present recycling issues because, by necessity, they need to be constructed of heavy, durable material — often rigid vplastics — to stand up to rough shipping conditions, inclement weather, and, of course, hungry animals. Another challenge was creating a process for collecting the used tubs from farmers across the country. After analyzing the plastics market and consulting with longstanding plastic-recycling partners, Northstar determined that plastic lumber manufacturers would have the greatest demand for the used Purina feed tubs. Northstar then selected the optimal partner and worked with Purina on the logistics of this pilot program to ensure smooth implementation. Additionally, working with a plastic lumber producer gave Purina the opportunity to create a unique and innovative customer experience and launch Project Re-Coop. Through this initiative, the plastic lumber made from recycled Purina feed tubs is used to construct floating chicken coops that protect chickens against flooding — a timely project, as Hurricane Florence alone killed an estimated 3.4 million chickens.

Agenda

Healthcare Heroes Gala

Oct. 17: The third annual class of Healthcare Heroes will be honored at the Sheraton Springfield from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Healthcare Heroes, a recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched in 2017 by HCN and BusinessWest. The program was created to shed a bright light on the outstanding work being done across the broad spectrum of health and wellness services, and the institutions and people providing that care. The class of 2019 was profiled in the Sept. 2 issue of BusinessWest and on businesswest.com. Tickets cost $90 or $900 for a table of 10. To reserve a spot, visit www.businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes-2 or e-mail [email protected] Healthcare Heroes is sponsored by American International College and Baystate Health/Health New England (presenting sponsors), Behavioral Health Network, Comcast Business, and Development Associates (partner sponsors), and Bulkley Richardson, Design to Finish, Elms College, Keiter Builders, Loomis Communities, and Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health (supporting sponsors).

Disability Awareness Month

Oct. 17, 22: In honor of National Disability Awareness Month in October, Gina Kos, executive director of Sunshine Village, invites the community to attend several events in partnership with local organizations throughout the month. In the spirit of inclusivity and acceptance of differences, these events will bring awareness and celebrate the unique abilities and creativity of the people served by Sunshine Village. To kick off the month, Sunshine Village will host “Collections: An Art Reception Featuring Artists With Distinct Abilities” on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Chicopee Public Library, 449 Front St., Chicopee. Artists will be available to discuss their artwork, and light refreshments will be available. In addition, art will be on display in the community room of the library throughout the month of October. On Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Sunshine Village will team up with Ohana School of Performing Arts for a showcase dance performance at the Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee, 580 Meadow St., Chicopee. Through a partial grant from Health New England, Sunshine Village brings Ohana instructors into its programs to share the joy and wellness benefits of dance. Light refreshments will be available.

‘The Emerging Cannabis Industry in Western Mass.’

Oct. 21: Holyoke Community College (HCC) and its social-equity vending partner, Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN), have scheduled the first of what both organizations expect to be an ongoing series of educational and networking events designed to spur investment, economic growth, and job creation in the nascent cannabis industry in Western Mass. “The Emerging Cannabis Industry in Western Mass.” will be held on Monday, Oct. 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Room on the third floor of the HCC Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. The event will include data sharing and a panel discussion featuring key figures in the region’s cannabis industry. The event is free and open to all and will be of particular interest to anyone who is or wants to get involved in the cannabis industry in Western Mass. Panelists will include Mark Zatryka, CEO of INSA; Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions; Marcos Marrero, director of Planning and Economic Development for the city of Holyoke; and Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, executive director of SPARK EforAll Holyoke. The discussion will be moderated by Kate Phillips, director of Education for C3RN.

Unify Against Bullying Awards, Fashion Show

Oct. 21: Unify Against Bullying announced it will award $21,000 in microgrants to 22 recipients at its combination grant awards ceremony and all-inclusive fashion show. The event, which coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month, will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Those who attend will have an opportunity to meet all 22 grant recipients and talk with each of them about the work they are doing to combat the pervasive bullying issue. To purchase tickets, visit www.unifyagainstbullying.org and go to the events page and click on ‘tickets.’

Business Woman of the Year Celebration

Oct. 24: The Women’s Business Owners Alliance of the Pioneer Valley (WBOA) will hold its 2019 Business Woman of the Year Celebration at 5:30 p.m. at the Delaney House in Holyoke. Patricia Banas, owner and president of Latka Printing in Westfield, will be named the 2019 Business Woman of the Year, an honor given to a member who has contributed to WBOA in a significant way and is a role model who inspires other women to be successful. Also during this event, the WBOA will recognize its 2019 Outstanding New Members: Lori Novis, owner of Mango Fish Art in Easthampton, and Andrea Kennedy of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicopee. The celebration will carry a Roaring Twenties theme and will include live entertainment provided by Steve and Roxann Bailey. The Baileys will offer a dance demonstration and a dance lesson for attendees to learn about styles from the period. For more information or tickets, visit www.wboa.org or contact Carleen Fischer Hoffman, event chair, at (413) 525-7345 or [email protected].

Employment Law & Human Resource Practice Conference

Nov. 7: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced its annual Employment Law & Human Resource Practice Conference will be held on Thursday, Nov. 7 the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place. Ben Eubanks, principal analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory and the author of Artificial Intelligence for HR: Use AI to Build a Successful Workforce will be the keynote speaker. In his session, “Artificial Intelligence for HR,” he will cover how artificial intelligence (AI) works at a basic level and how it is infiltrating people’s daily lives at work and home. This session will cover key ways AI can support HR functions, the diversity and inclusion argument for AI at work, and the five human skills of the future that AI alone can’t replace. Several sessions are scheduled throughout the day, including presentations from the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family Medical Leave, the Department of Labor, and Springfield law firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser. In addition to compliance-based training, there are sessions on the agenda to help employers invest in best practices for growing their businesses through video as a means of employee engagement and skill-development plans for their workforce. A complete agenda with the full roster of presenters and topics is available at www.eane.org/elhr. The cost for the program is $360 per person with discounts for three or more. Register at www.eane.org/elhr or (877) 662-6444. The program will offer 5.75 credits from the HR Certification Institute and SHRM.

Boys & Girls Club Black Tie & Sneakers Gala

Nov. 8: The Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee will host its eighth annual Black Tie & Sneakers Gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. Presented by Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation and Westfield Bank, this event serves the club as its largest fundraiser of the year. Guests will enjoy a sit-down dinner, dancing, and silent and live auctions. They will have the opportunity to bid on auction items including a trip to Costa Rica, gift baskets, Adirondack chairs, jewelry, gift certificates, and more. Guests will also see a short production on the impact the club has on its members. This year, the mistress of ceremonies will be Michelle Wirth from Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, and the auctioneer will be John Baran of WWLP-22News. An Aura photo booth from Absolute Photo Booths, a signature cocktail, and a contest for best sneakers will be introduced this year. Guests can enter the contest as they arrive, and the top three will walk the runway for the audience to decide first place. Each year, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee selects members of the community to receive recognition for their support and interest in the mission of the club and the members it serves. This year, the club will recognize Pilgrim Interiors Inc. with its Donald & Lois Prescott Founders Award. About 300 people are expected at this event, which begins at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $50. To attend, e-mail Lynn Morrissette, Marketing & Development director, at [email protected].

Women of Impact Luncheon

Dec. 4: BusinessWest will present its second annual Women of Impact Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at Sheraton Springfield. The keynote speake will be Lisa Tanzer, president of Life Is Good. The 2019 Women of Impact honorees will be announced in the Oct. 14 issue of BusinessWest. Tickets cost $65 per person, or $650 for a table of 10. To purchase tickets, visit www.businesswest.com/women-of-impact or e-mail [email protected] The Women of Impact program is sponsored by Country Bank and TommyCar Auto Group (presenting sponsors), Comcast Business (supporting sponsor), New Valley Bank & Trust (speaker sponsor), and WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield (media sponsor).

HMC Annual Gala

Nov. 23: Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) will host its annual gala at the Log Cabin. All proceeds will benefit Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, Holyoke Medical Group, Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care, and River Valley Counseling Center. The annual gala will feature a complimentary cocktail reception; a seven-course chef’s dinner, each with its own wine pairing; a silent auction to support Valley Health Systems; award presentations; and dancing to music performed by the O-Tones. Holyoke Medical Center has selected Dr. M. Saleem Bajwa to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and hard work on behalf of Holyoke Medical Center and the local community for more than 40 years. Also being recognized are select members of the Valley Health Systems staff who exemplify exceptional care in the categories of Best Physician, Best Caregiver, Best Supporting Employee, and Best Leader. Tickets for this black-tie-optional gala are $125 per person and can be purchased at www.holyokehealth.com/gala19 or by calling the Development Office at (413) 534-2579.

Briefcase

Springfield Regional Chamber Releases Legislative Agenda

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) 2019 Outlook has released its legislative agenda outlining the priorities of its more than 500 members for the legislative session and the major issues it will focus on to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs, and stimulate growth in the Greater Springfield region. The SRC’s 2019-20 legislative agenda touches upon key issues in the areas of healthcare, workplace issues, workforce development and education, tax policy, and energy. Creed said the cost of healthcare and access to it is the number-one priority of the business community. In support of this focus, Creed serves as a steering committee member of the Employer Health Coalition, an employer-led effort to use its collective influence to uncover solutions that drive real change in the healthcare delivery system and reduce cost. She the SRC will also focus its efforts on the ending of the temporary increase to the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC). To address the rising costs of MassHealth, the Legislature imposed a temporary assessment on businesses to cover these costs. Creed said the assessment was passed as a temporary measure, and the legislation dictates it to sunset at the end of 2019. Creed added that the SRC will also work to ensure mandated benefits be evidence-based and that their values exceeds their cost, while advocating for geographic equity in hospital reimbursements. She was part of the group that negotiated the legislative compromise which came to be known as the ‘grand bargain’ which enacted, among other things, a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. She said the SRC will remain actively involved in its implementation. In addition, the SRC will encourage reforms to independent-contractor laws. Advocating for a return to prior statutory language for treble damages and opposing changes to wage ‘theft’ laws are also part of the chamber’s advocacy work. Workforce development remains a priority for the SRC and its members. Creed said finding qualified workers is at a critical juncture to the growth of the region. She said that supporting innovation which not only expands educational opportunities but links it to labor-market demand will be key to helping businesses with this need. The SRC will also advocate for modernizing the state funding formula while coupling it with reforms. Creed noted that the SRC will continue its focus on the state budget and how revenues are prioritized and spent, including supporting the rebuilding of the Stabilization Fund, or ‘rainy day’ fund, and encouraging it only in dire circumstances; supporting adequate funding for programs to meet the unique needs of the region’s gateway cities; advocating for adequate funding for local aid; maintaining the state’s high bond rating; ensuring the revenues collected from cannabis taxation are appropriately spent; and opposing any increase in the income tax on business. Rounding out the SRC’s legislative agenda is energy, and to that end, the SRC will advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy which includes a balanced energy portfolio, development of alternative renewable energy sources, expansion of the supply of natural gas and conservation, and energy-efficiency measures.

Independent Hospital Systems Launch Mass. Value Alliance

HOLYOKE — A coalition of 10 independent Massachusetts health systems, including 14 community hospitals, have formed the Massachusetts Value Alliance (MVA) to enhance their efforts in delivering high-quality, patient-centered, and cost-effective care to their communities. The member hospitals of the MVA collectively represent the largest collaboration of independent healthcare providers in the Commonwealth, with a combined $3.1 billion in total revenue. The 10-member collaborative spans the breadth of Massachusetts geographically, and serves approximately 2 million people in their combined market areas. This alliance is unique in Massachusetts as the only collaboration of independent healthcare systems. The MVA was founded in 2016 by Emerson Hospital, Sturdy Memorial Hospital, and South Shore Health. Membership has continued to grow and now also includes Holyoke Medical Center, Berkshire Health Systems, Harrington HealthCare System, Heywood Healthcare, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, and Southcoast Health. The specific goals of the MVA include the development of group purchasing and shared service arrangements, identification and sharing of best practices to enhance each organization’s ability to affect and lower the total cost of care while enhancing quality of care, and support for the development of population-health-management and care-coordination skill sets and capabilities. To date, the MVA has worked to facilitate cost savings for its member organizations through group purchasing of services, including reference-lab services and employee health benefits. Other initiatives are underway, including several MVA hospitals working together on the selection and implementation of a common electronic-medical-record platform. The MVA is governed by a board of directors and operates on a shared decision-making platform. MVA member health systems remain competitive and independent, each maintaining their community focus.

Statewide Unemployment Holds Steady In March

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.0% in March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,100 jobs in March. Over the month, the private sector added 5,400 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; manufacturing; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; other services; financial activities; trade, transportation, and utilities; and information. Leisure and hospitality lost jobs over the month. 

From March 2018 to March 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts added 28,200 jobs. The March unemployment rate was eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.8% reported by the BLS. The labor force increased by 100 from 3,843,600 in February, as 1,700 more residents were employed and 1,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped five-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 67.9%. Compared to March 2018, the labor force participation rate is up 0.7%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; and education and health services.

Baystate Health Informs Patients of E-mail Phishing Incident

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health announced it has mailed letters to patients about an e-mail phishing incident that affected approximately 12,000 patients. On Feb. 7, Baystate Health learned of unauthorized access to an employee’s e-mail account and immediately launched an investigation. During the course of the investigation, it learned that nine employee e-mail accounts were compromised as a result of an e-mail phishing incident. “As soon as Baystate identified the unauthorized access, each account was secured,” said Kevin Hamel, chief Information Security officer for Baystate Health. “Baystate hired an experienced computer forensic firm to assist in this investigation.” The investigation determined that some patient information was contained in the e-mail accounts, including patient names, dates of birth, health information (such as diagnoses, treatment information, and medications), and, in some instances, health-insurance information, as well as a limited number of Medicare numbers and Social Security numbers. Neither patient medical records nor any of Baystate’s electronic-medical-record systems were compromised. Baystate is offering a complimentary one-year membership to credit-monitoring and identity-protection services for those patients whose Social Security numbers were exposed. “The integrity of our information systems and e-mail security is a high priority, and we are committed to maintaining and securing patient information at all times,” said Joel Vengco, senior vice president and chief Information officer for Baystate Health. To help prevent something like this from happening in the future, the health system required a password change for all affected employees, increased the level of e-mail logging (and is reviewing those logs regularly), and has blocked access to e-mail accounts outside of its network. It is also reinforcing its current, ongoing training and education of all employees focused on detecting and avoiding phishing e-mails. More information may be found on Baystate’s website at baystatehealth.org/phishing.

Valley Blue Sox Seek Volunteer Host Families

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox are currently searching for volunteer host families for the upcoming 2019 New England Collegiate Baseball League season. The Blue Sox are a nonprofit, collegiate summer baseball team that recruits baseball players from across the country. Players come to the Valley in hopes of enhancing their draft status and furthering their professional baseball careers. Volunteer host families offer Blue Sox players housing for the duration of the summer season, which runs from June 5 to August 1. Families who volunteer to host Blue Sox players will receive the following: paid general admission and concessions vouchers for all family members in the household at all 2019 Blue Sox home games, access to special team events, on-field recognition at the end of the 2019 season, and two tickets to the Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame induction banquet. Families are required to provide a private bedroom, which may be shared with another Blue Sox player, with proper bedding, linens, and towels. Questions regarding hosting Blue Sox players can be addressed to Blue Sox General Manager Chris Weyant at [email protected]

Company Notebook

MBK Recognized as Regional Accounting Leader

HOLYOKE — Accounting Today, a leading publication in the certified public accounting industry, has named Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. a regional leader in its top-100 listing in the March issue. Accounting Today’s annual ranking surveys the largest practices in both tax and accounting in 10 major geographic regions across the country. It employs a host of benchmarking data to evaluate the firms’ growth strategies, service areas, and specific client niches. MBK was recognized as a top firm in the New England region. “MBK is dedicated to our belief in the power and potential of Western Massachusetts,” said Managing Partner James Barrett. “We are very proud to have this local commitment recognized on a national level. Our staff works very hard to provide excellent service to our clients as well as resources and information to business owners and decision makers in our marketplace.”

Western New England Wins National Marketing Awards

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) was named among the top institutions in the nation in the 2018 Collegiate Advertising Awards and the 34th annual Education Advertising Awards, two programs designed to recognize higher-education organizations for excellence in communications, marketing, advertising, and promotion of their schools. Western New England University and its creative partner, Spark451, received a total of four Gold awards. The university’s centennial logo, created to commemorate 100 years, claimed gold in both competitions. The recently launched WNE: The Magazine of Western New England University claimed gold in the Collegiate Advertising Awards competition. The biannual publication explores stories drawn from a cross section of the university, highlighting faculty research, campus happenings, and alumni achievements. Meanwhile, the “What’s New at WNE?” brochure took home top honors in the brochure category. The annual publication shines the spotlight on the latest university developments, including new facilities, academic programs, and faculty and student accomplishments. 

Smith & Wesson Donates Proceeds from Game Dinner to Pioneer Valley USO

SPRINGFIELD — Smith & Wesson Corp. announced it has contributed more than $32,000 to the Pioneer Valley USO. Proceeds raised from the company’s annual game dinner have benefited the Pioneer Valley USO and its programs supporting American military personnel and their families for more than a decade. Armed-forces members and families access the USO for social, recreational, educational, and entertainment programs and services. At the annual event, Smith & Wesson game dinner attendees enjoy a variety of wild game dishes prepared by a team of dedicated volunteers. One of the most popular events of its kind, the dinner hosts nearly 500 guests, and this year featured menu items including pheasant, elk, bear, boar, moose, and venison. Led by Chef Norm Boucher from Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s culinary department, volunteers created dishes like antelope meatballs marinara, southern-style pulled boar, pot roast of Maine black bear, and wild bird pot pie. In addition to the food-preparation team, Smith & Wesson volunteers donated more than 500 personal hours to make the event a success. The game meat was donated by hunters affiliated with Smith & Wesson, Foggy Mountain Guide Service, and Linx Wildlife Management, among others. This year’s event included a limited number of sponsorships, giving local businesses the opportunity to show their support. Big-game sponsor Thorn Industries of Three Rivers, as well as other area businesses, provided additional support for the USO.

Governor Celebrates Opening of New Physical Sciences Building at UMass Amherst

AMHERST — Gov. Charlie Baker recently celebrated the opening of the new Physical Sciences Building (PSB) at UMass Amherst, a facility funded by the state that fosters and expands cutting-edge collaborative learning and research at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. “We were pleased to invest in the new Physical Sciences Building, which will serve as a hub for the natural sciences at UMass Amherst,” Baker said. “The facility’s expansion will help foster new research and career opportunities, which will help support the STEM workforce pipeline here in Massachusetts.” The 95,000-square-foot PSB opened this academic year after three years of construction and incorporates the reconstructed West Experiment Station, a 19th-century agricultural soils research laboratory and one of the university’s most historic buildings. Funding for the $101.8 million project included $85 million from the state and $16.8 million financed by the campus through the UMass Building Authority. The PSB provides offices, specialized laboratories, and approximately 130 laboratory benches for the Physics and Chemistry departments. The laboratories are constructed in a layout that can be reconfigured many times during the life of the building. Among other fields, the PSB supports scientific discovery in material science, condensed matter and nuclear physics, and organic chemistry. The faculty hosted in these facilities have collectively been awarded $127 million in grants and are working on the forefront of science.

Franklin First Federal Credit Union Honored with Community Hero Award

SPRINGFIELD — Franklin First Federal Credit Union was honored as a Community Hero at the Credit Union Heroes and Community Bank Heroes Awards Gala on March 28, hosted at MGM Springfield by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England and Centerpoint magazines. Wolf and Co., one of the nation’s leading tax, audit, and CPA firms, was the gala’s presenting sponsor. The gala recognized 18 community banks and credit unions from across New England for their creation of community partnerships and going beyond the call to aid their community. Franklin First was recognized for its partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County through the creation of a financial carnival designed to educate youth in the community about identifying, earning, and spending money. Franklin First organized several financial carnivals to coincide with mentoring sessions with local ‘bigs’ (Age 16-18) and ‘littles’ (ages 8-11) as a fun, educational alternative to their normal mentoring sessions. The carnivals involved a series of games designed to identify currency, separate wants from needs, recognize expenses, and experience financial gains and losses, all while tracking their earnings and expenses in a savings register to save up for a fun prize at the end of the night. Franklin First received Silver in the category of credit unions with less than $500 million in assets.

PeoplesBank Named Second-Fastest-Growing Bank In Massachusetts

HOLYOKE — The Boston Business Journal published its list of the fastest-growing banks in Massachusetts, and, following its acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield, PeoplesBank ranked second on the list. “About 50% of our growth came from the merger,” said Brian Canina, chief financial officer of PeoplesBank. “But the untold story is that the rest of that growth was organic. We attribute our organic growth to our mutual charter. We do not have to divert earnings to shareholders, so we can reinvest in our organization and the communities we serve. That means improved technology, better products and services — including rates and terms — as well as a level of investment in the community that is unmatched by our competitors.”

Bay Path Receives Truth Initiative Grant, Pledges to Go Tobacco-free

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University recently announced it is one of 48 colleges and universities to be awarded a grant from Truth Initiative to adopt a 100% tobacco-free or smoke-free campus policy. The effort is part of a national movement among students, faculty, and administrators to address smoking and tobacco use at college campuses throughout the U.S. Ninety-nine percent of all smokers start smoking before the age of 26, making college campuses a critical part in the fight against youth tobacco use. Since 2015, the Truth Initiative Tobacco-Free College Program, in partnership with CVS Health, has awarded more than $1.8 million in funding to 154 colleges and universities to prevent young adults from starting tobacco use, help tobacco smokers quit, and reduce everyone’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Bay Path University’s efforts are part of a growing trend to clean the air on campuses. Currently, more than 2,342 higher-education institutions in the U.S. have gone smoke- or tobacco-free.

Springfield College Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship Wins Grant

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship has been awarded a $265,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to assist in the creation of faculty-development opportunities focused on the implementation of real-time assessment procedures to help increase and maintain student academic success. The grant will allow the center to fund faculty from across departments and schools to engage in workshops on assessment, implement those strategies into their courses, and use the assessment data to evaluate program-learning outcomes. The goals are to improve the timelines of interventions when students are not meeting learning objectives and to move the class forward when all students are meeting those objectives. The center will coordinate the training and provide faculty with the ability to engage in scholarship around the development of these assessment procedures.

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].

Agenda

Real-estate Sales Licensing Course

Feb. 20 to March 25: The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class sales licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. Tuition costs $400 and includes the book and materials. The course curriculum includes property rights, ownership, condos, land use, contracts, deeds, financing, mortgages, real-estate brokerage, appraisal, fair housing, consumer protection, Massachusetts license law, and more. Classes meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. at the association office, 221 Industry Ave., Springfield. For an application, contact Joanne Leblond at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected] or visit www.rapv.com.

‘Living Contemplatively in a Busy World’

March 3: Elms College will host a day of reflection titled “Living Contemplatively in a Busy World” on Sunday, March 3 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Decice Hall at the Marian Center, 1365 Northampton St., Holyoke. “This day of reflections, personal exploration, and prayer invites you to respond, from the busy-ness of your days, to God’s desire for deeper life with you,” said Virginia Collins-English, a certified spiritual director, retreat director, writer, and psychotherapist who will lead the day of reflection. All are welcome, including those who are ‘spiritual but not religious,’ those who feel marginalized by the church, and those of all faiths. Attendees should bring a bag lunch. Beverages and dessert will be provided. Sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and the Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies, this event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, call (413) 265-2575 or e-mail [email protected]

 

Outlook Luncheon

March 4: Margaret Carlson, columnist for the Daily Beast, will be the keynote speaker at the Springfield Regional Chamber’s annual Outlook luncheon, to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm. at the MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. Presented by Health New England, the Springfield Regional Chamber Outlook is the area’s largest legislative event, attracting more than 700 guests and presenting expert speakers on local, state, and federal issues. The event is sponsored by platinum sponsors Eastern States Exposition, Eversource, MassMutual Financial Group, and United Personnel; and gold sponsors Bulkley Richardson and Berkshire Bank. Program/reception sponsors are Comcast, Mercy Medical Center, BusinessWest, the Healthcare News, and the Republican, with Zasco Productions as sound sponsor. Carlson was formerly chief political columnist for Bloomberg News and White House correspondent for Time. She appeared on CNN’s Capital Gang for 15 years. Speaking about the federal outlook will be U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, whose new role is chair of the powerful, tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He will provide his insights into the committee’s work, the 116th Congress, and front-burner issues facing the American people. In addition, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy will offer the state outlook. Tickets cost $60 for Springfield Regional Chamber members and $80 for general admission. Reserved tables of 10 are available. Reservations must be made by Wednesday, Feb. 20 by visiting www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or e-mailing [email protected] No walk-ins will be accepted, and no cancellations will be accepted once the reservation deadline has passed.

Difference Makers

March 28: BusinessWest launched its Difference Makers program in 2009 to celebrate individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. The class of 2019 was profiled in the Feb. 4 issue and will be feted at the Difference Makers Gala on March 28 at 5 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Tickets are on sale now for $75. To reserve a spot, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected] The presenting sponsor is Baystate Health/Health New England, and other event sponsors include Royal, P.C., Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., Development Associates, Tommy Car Auto Group, and Viability Inc.

Women’s Leadership Conference

March 29: In celebration of women everywhere knocking down doors and breaking through glass ceilings, Bay Path University will host its 24th annual Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. This one-day event, which has become the region’s prime women’s leadership event for professional networking and enrichment, will challenge women seeking to make career or life changes to look at the power within to make their dreams a reality, and to dare to ask “why not me?” instead of “why me?” Delivering the keynote address will be award-winning actress, dancer, and singer Rita Moreno, one of only four women who have achieved the EGOT, the grand slam of entertainment-industry awards, by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Throughout her 70-year career, Moreno has had memorable roles in the musical films The King and I and West Side Story, and in 2004 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Mel Robbins, a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, life strategist, internationally recognized social-media influencer, and one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the world, will deliver the conference’s luncheon keynote. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Confidence Project, a media and digital learning company working with Fortune 500 brands to help employees build habits of confidence and courage. The conference’s opening keynote speaker will be announced soon. In addition to the three keynote speakers, breakout sessions focused on reimagining the narrative around women in leadership will be led by Cy Wakeman, drama researcher, global thought leader, New York Times best-selling author, and president and founder of Reality-Based Leadership; Kim Meninger, certified executive and leadership development coach and president and founder of Executive Career Success; Dr. Kristina Hallet, board-certified clinical psychologist, and associate professor of Psychology at Bay Path, executive coach, and best-selling author; and Kim Lear, founder of Inlay Insights, storyteller, writer, and researcher. For further information on the conference and to register, visit www.baypathconference.com.

Springfield Art Stop

April 26: The Springfield Cultural Partnership (SCP) announced the return of Art Stop, a pop-up gallery/street festival hybrid, from 5 to 8 p.m. The SCP is partnering with venues downtown to open galleries in unexpected spaces simultaneously. Additionally, several existing Springfield art galleries along this year’s route will also participate as stops along the Art Stop. Between the galleries, which will have the typical artist talks and receptions, there will be street performances. Art Stop was designed to activate underutilized community spaces with colorful art, create economic opportunity for artists, and bring communities together. Galleries will all be located in downtown Springfield. Each individual gallery opening will have an reception with the artist on site to both sell and talk about their work. This year, the SCP has also partnered with several downtown restaurants that will offer a discount on food to Art Stop attendees who present their Art Stop ‘passport’ on April 26. The SCP, along with organizing the curation of art in the pop-up spaces, is hiring unique buskers to encourage attendees to walk from place to place. Guides will be strategically placed to guide attendees along the Art Stop route. The performers will showcase an array of dance, music, and entertainment. All locations are within a walkable area.

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in December

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.3% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 5,600 jobs in December. Over the month, the private sector added 5,500 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; manufacturing; financial activities; and information. Construction and trade, transportation, and utilities lost jobs over the month. From December 2017 to December 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,800 jobs. The December unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates show an addition of 184,700 residents to the labor force during 2018 — the largest yearly increase in the labor force since the beginning of the series in 1976. These labor-force gains, alongside the 65,800 jobs added to the economy last year, are indicators of the continued strength of the job market in the Commonwealth,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force increased by 5,000 from 3,837,000 in November, as 8,800 more residents were employed and 3,800 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 68.1%. Compared to December 2017, the labor-force participation rate is up 2.8%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; other services; and education and health services.

HCC Secures Grant to Create Hotel Training Lab

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) secured a $35,000 grant to establish a hotel training lab on the second floor of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. The award, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker and other administration officials, comes from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant Program, which funds the purchase of new equipment for educational initiatives linked to workforce needs. The lab will be set up like a hotel reception area with front desk and adjoining guest room and equipped with up-to-date technology and software. It will be used for non-credit workforce-training programs as well as credit-based associate degree and certificate programs in Hospitality Management. The lab is expected to be up and running in February. The competitive Skills Capital Grants require institutions to partner with local businesses and align the curriculum to meet industry requirements. HCC’s partners include the Log Cabin Delaney House, the Tower Square Hotel Springfield, and MassHire career centers in Holyoke and Springfield. Over the past three years, HCC has been awarded nearly $400,000 through the Skills Capital Grant Program, including $127,741 in 2016 to expand and enhance its EMT Training Program and $229,500 in 2017 for kitchen equipment at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened in January 2018 on Race Street in the Holyoke Innovation District. This new round of Skills Capital Grants mainly targets educational programs for people who may need help overcoming barriers to employment — those who may be unemployed or underemployed, lack English proficiency, or do not yet hold college credentials and want to develop new skills.

UMass Amherst Study Looks at Drought, Virus Impact on Plant Roots and Soil Carbon

AMHERST — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded biogeochemist Marco Keiluweit, assistant professor of Soils and the Environment in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, along with his collaborators elsewhere, two grants to study how climate change affects the capacity of soils to remove carbon from the atmosphere and retain enough nutrients for food production. In particular, the teams will investigate climate-change-related effects of drought and virus infection in plants, and their interaction with soils. Keiluweit and colleagues received $200,000 and $300,000 exploratory research awards from DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program, which supports “high-risk, high-reward” research, the soil-chemistry expert says. Keiluweit’s collaborators include Zoe Cardon at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory, the principal investigator on one of the grants, and Malak Tfaily at the University of Arizona, Carolyn Malmstrom at Michigan State University, and William J. Riley at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Their drought-focused research will look at plants in an alpine watershed near Gothic, Colo., where root-soil interactions are key regulators of ecosystem carbon storage and downstream nutrient loadings, the researchers say. These areas have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, they point out. For this work, Keiluweit says he and collaborators will make “very fine scale measurements of what is happening at the interface between roots and soil” in both greenhouse and field experiments. They want to explore what they call “elusive mechanisms” driving root-soil interaction, which may mobilize a “vast pool of organic matter that has been stabilized by associations with minerals for centuries or millennia.” Such mechanisms are missing from conceptual and numerical models of carbon cycling in soils, they note.

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke Opens New Boxing Program Space

HOLYOKE — In its heyday, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke was the boxing capital of Massachusetts. Its boxing program attracted seasoned and novice fighters as well as spectators from all over the Commonwealth, as well as Connecticut, New York, and other surrounding states. Some of the more prominent names even included Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson. After years of planning and six months of buildout, the Boys & Girls Club opened its new boxing program space, equipped with a regulation, 20-foot boxing ring and a variety of punching bags and workout stations. The club will reintroduce the sport as a non-contact youth-development program for after-school and summer-camp members. All activities will focus on mentoring, character development, teamwork, and discipline. Coaches will include members of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, the Holyoke Police Department, and past club alumni.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Weakens in December

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers gave a big “bah, humbug” to the year-end economy as business confidence withered in the face of a government shutdown and the largest one-month stock-market decline since the Great Depression. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost three points to 58.6 during December, its lowest level since December 2016. Confidence readings have dropped five points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by an 8.6-point drop in employer views of the national economy, and a 4.7-point drop among manufacturing companies. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but less comfortably so than earlier in 2018. “The Massachusetts economy remains strong, with a 3.3% growth rate and an unemployment rate of 3.4%, but employers are increasingly concerned about factors such as financial-market volatility, a dysfunctional national political debate, and challenges such as the cost of providing health insurance to employees,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Bradley Adds New Non-stop Service to Raleigh-Durham, Orlando, Pittsburgh

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the debut in 2019 of new, non-stop service from Bradley International Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Orlando International Airport on low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, as well as the addition of non-stop service to Pittsburgh on Via Airlines. The service to Raleigh-Durham will commence on April 30 on an Airbus A320. It will operate seasonally on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The service to Orlando will commence on May 1 on an Airbus A321. It will operate seasonally on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The service to Pittsburgh will commence on July 22 on an Embraer ERJ145 with 50 seats. It will operate four times a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

 

Community Foundation Awards $665,200 to 45 Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) recently awarded $665,200 to 45 area nonprofits through its capital grant and capacity grant programs, two of the foundation’s six competitive grant-making programs that focus on improving and supporting quality of life for people in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. CFWM capital grants help local nonprofit organizations expand their impact by funding new and upgraded technology, equipment, and facilities. Capacity grants support local nonprofits to build their own organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency. Grant awards range from $4,500 to $40,000 and address community needs in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, and human services. More than 25 of the projects funded were supported by trusts administered by Bank of America. CFWM receives and reviews grant applications on behalf of Bank of America for four charitable trusts for which the bank serves as a trustee. Total grant awards by county are as follows: Hampden, $412,000, Hampshire, $144,400, and Franklin, $108,800. Capital grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: Ascentria Community Services, Baystate Health Foundation, Bethlehem House, Chester Theatre Company, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, Davenport Child Care, Franklin County Community Meals Program, Franklin Land Trust, Friends of the Montague Common Hall, Friends of the Springfield Public Library, Gardening the Community, Hilltown Community Health Center, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Holyoke YMCA, MHA, Multicultural Community Services of the Pioneer Valley, Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., Robert F. Kennedy Academy, Roca, Second Chance Animal Services, ServiceNet, Springfield Museums, Stanley Park, Tapestry Health Systems, Tolland Volunteer Fire Department, Valley Eye Radio, Willie Ross School for the Deaf, and Womanshelter Companeras. Capacity Grants were awarded to the following programs and organizations: 1794 Meetinghouse Inc., Birthday Wishes, Brick House Community Resource Center, Cancer Connection, Double Edge Theatre Productions, Hilltown Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, Link to Libraries, Mary Lyon Education Fund, Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, Massachusetts Review, North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy, Northampton Education Foundation, Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute, and the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts.

Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, Big Y Announce Local Farmer Awards

AGAWAM — Starting Jan. 1, farmers in Western Mass. are invited to apply for Local Farmer Awards up to $2,500 toward equipment and infrastructure projects to help them complete in the marketplace. The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and with the support of other funders, is entering the fifth year of the awards program, which has helped more than 125 farmers carry out a total of 188 projects. Some examples of how the awards have been used include a high-efficiency vegetable washer, a walk-in cooler aging room, an egg washer, high tunnel irrigation, electric fencing, and a milkplan bulk tank. To be eligible, farms must have gross sales of $10,000 or above and either be a member of Berkshire Grow or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) or reside in one the four Western Mass. counties. Berkshire Grown and CISA share their passion for local farms by providing ongoing guidance and help with promotion of the of the Local Farmer Awards. The deadline for applying is Thursday, Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information.

Horace Smith Fund Offers Scholarship, Fellowship Funds

WESTFIELD — The Horace Smith Fund, now in its 120th year, has scholarship and fellowship money available for graduates of Hampden County public and private high schools. Scholarship awards of $12,000 are distributed as $3,000 annually and renewable each year until graduation. Fellowship awards of $15,000 are distributed as $5,000 annually and renewable for two additional years. Students must maintain at least a B average in college. Recipients are selected on a variety of criteria, including financial need, college entrance-exam scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, and recommendations. Of great importance is a personal, written account of why the student feels deserving of financial assistance. Fellowship applicants must also submit their transcripts and, if applicable, GRE or degree-specific test scores. All recipients must be full-time students and residents of Hampden County. Last year, $382,000 was awarded to 37 individuals. Scholarships were given to 26 graduating seniors from 13 Hampden County high schools. Five scholarships were also awarded to current college students to assist them in completing their undergraduate degrees. Six fellowships were given to college graduates pursuing graduate degrees, who had graduated from Hampden County high schools. Completed applications must be received either electronically or by mail to the Horace Smith Fund at 16 Union Ave., Suite 2K, Westfield, MA 01085 no later than March 15, 2019. Applications are available at local high-school guidance offices, college financial-aid offices, online at www.horacesmithfund.org, or by phoning (413) 739-4222.

Small Businesses Starting to Feel Impact of Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the partial government shutdown continues, small businesses across the country are starting to feel the effects of the shutdown, resulting in unnecessary uncertainty at the start of a new fiscal year. Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Assoc. for the Self-Employed, the nation’s leading advocate and resource for the self-employed and micro-business community, called on Congress and the White House to work together to end the shutdown on behalf of America’s small-business community. The Washington Post reported that, as of Dec. 22, the Small Business Administration stopped processing new small-business loans due to the government shutdown. Thousands of small-business owners across the country are unable to receive critical funding to start and grow their businesses because of the partial government shutdown. Even when full funding is restored, a backlog is likely. “The negative consequences of one of the longest shutdowns in U.S. history is now fully impacting our country’s small-business community,” said Hall. “From uncertainty around how the shutdown could impact delays in tax refunds small businesses were looking to invest from this year’s new tax law to the shuttering of the Small Business Administration impacting small-business loans, America’s small businesses are on the front lines feeling the adverse impact.  “The government shutdown has created additional uncertainty during a critical time when small businesses are starting a new fiscal year,” he continued. “Small businesses must continue to abide by their tax obligations, including paying quarterly tax estimates and adhering to all filing deadlines. However, the federal government is unlikely to keep their end of the deal by processing tax refunds on time and providing small businesses access to critical answers they may have to questions about filing for the first time under the new tax law.” During the shutdown, about 12% of IRS staff are expected to continue working, according to the agency’s lapsed funding contingency plan. This will result in the inability of such functions as staff being available to answer questions for small businesses filing for the first time under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act law going into full effect this tax year. It could also negatively impact the ability of IRS staff to process tax refunds in a timely manner, resulting in delays.

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