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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.

Company Notebook

White Lion Brewery Moving into Tower Square

SPRINGFIELD — White Lion Brewery has signed a long-term lease to occupy 10,000 square feet of space at the former Spaghetti Freddy’s location in Tower Square. The space was vacant for close to 15 years, but will now house a full-scale production and packaging facility with a taproom. Brewing equipment and mechanicals arrived at Tower Square on Dec. 20. The ownership at Tower Square has taken another step to show its commitment to the city of Springfield by becoming a strategic equity partner in White Lion. The agreement provides further support and financial assistance during the brewery’s growth. White Lion acquired its brewing, mechanical, and refrigeration systems from Rooster Fish Brewing out of Watkins Glen, N.Y. The system will allow White Lion to brew approximately 10,000 barrels, or in excess of 100,000 cases, of beer annually from the downtown Springfield location. The company expects to invest approximately $1 million in the project, which includes expanding its independent distribution model and hiring up to 20 employees. The brewery is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

TommyCar Auto Group Adds Volvo Franchise

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group announced its ownership of the Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley dealership, formerly Pioneer Valley Volvo. Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, noted that Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will bring amenities that all TommyCar Auto Group dealerships offer, including Click.Drive.Buy, a new way to buy a car online; TommyCard Rewards, through which customers can earn 15% back of every dollar they spend; and efforts to support the local community; the company has contributed more than $4 million to local organizations, schools, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will commemorate the new ownership with an “Eat.Meet. Greet” event on Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Customers can get an early look at the long-awaited 2019 Volvo S60, hors d’ouevres from Seth Mias Catering, cocktails from Hitchcock Brewing, and giveaways.

Dress for Success Receives $10K for Mentoring Program

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts received a donation of $10,000 in continued support of its Margaret R. Fitzgerald mentoring program. This program was initially launched with a $10,000 donation from this anonymous family member in 2017, and this new donation is intended to continue and expand the success of the mentoring program. Fitzgerald was a secretary in the Physics department at Mount Holyoke College in the 1970s. The only woman who worked in the department, she became a point of support for the students enrolled in the exclusively male-led department. Affectionately called ‘Mom’ by many of the women enrolled in the department, the students looked to her for advice, help, counsel, and encouragement. She was known to intervene with certain professors to advocate on behalf of students when there were issues or problems. She reminded students that they were clearing the way for future generations of scientists. Because of her, many of the women achieved advanced degrees from prestigious universities all over the world. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is currently accepting applications for mentors interested in the Margaret R. Fitzgerald program. Contact Tantillo at (860) 638-8980.

Webster Bank Rated Best Overall Bank in Northeast

WATERBURY, Conn. — Webster Bank was named best overall bank in the Northeast in Bank Director’s annual RankingBanking study released late last month. The 2019 RankingBanking study identifies the top public U.S. retail and commercial banks between $10 billion and $250 billion in assets within each region — the South, the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast. In addition to placing first overall in the Northeast, Webster was also the top bank in the Northeast in three key categories: Best Technology Strategy, Best Board, and Best Small Business Strategy. The rankings were calculated using Bank Director’s proprietary algorithm, which incorporates more than 60 critical data points to measure banks’ relative strengths and weaknesses. The data points used were both qualitative and quantitative, including case studies and analyst opinions. Many factors went into Webster’s top rankings, including the bank’s high-level focus on digital banking and user experience, the diversity and expertise of its board, and its small-business loan growth and volume. “We also noted Webster’s robust selection of products and services tailored for small businesses, the fact that customers can apply for loan and deposit products online, and Webster’s ability to generate online loan decisions within 48 hours,” said Emily McCormick, Bank Director’s vice president of Research. Bank Director is a leading information resource for the directors and officers of financial institutions across the nation.

People’s United Foundation Gives $105,000 to Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, N.A., announced it awarded $105,000 to nonprofits located in Western and Central Mass. during its third grant cycle of 2018. Funding was allocated to 21 nonprofit organizations in support of activities that ranged from basic needs services and affordable-housing initiatives to education and workforce-development programs. Some of the grant recipients included the Literacy Project, the Gray House, YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Entrepreneurship for All, Roca, and Veterans Inc. In total, People’s United Community Foundation awarded $875,500 during its third grant cycle of 2018 to 171 organizations throughout the communities it serves in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The grants were disseminated in alignment with the foundations’ three areas of focus, including 43% to community and economic development, 37% to youth development, and 20% to affordable-housing initiatives. For a detailed list of organizations that People’s United Community Foundation supported during the final grant cycle of 2018, visit www.pucf.org.

Holyoke Community College Celebrates Success of Arrivals from Puerto Rico

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College recently celebrated the success of 30 evacuees who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and have just completed a five-month program to help them improve their English literacy skills, adjust to life on the U.S. mainland, and find jobs. The celebration and recognition ceremony was held on Dec. 20. The festivities included a feast of traditional Puerto Rican food for participants, their families, and program staff. The Puerto Rican New Arrivals Program started July 23. The HCC division of Business and Community Services offered the free ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) program specifically for residents of Puerto Rico who left the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and relocated to Western Mass. The classes were held Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and funded through a National Dislocated Worker grant administered by the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board in partnership with the MassHire Holyoke and MassHire Springfield career centers. The purpose of the program was to help individuals improve their English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills; adapt to U.S. culture; and successfully transition to jobs or continued educational opportunities. Classes included civic lessons from guest speakers including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and state Rep. Aaron Vega, who talked about local and state government.

Comcast Selected for Broadband Project in Town of Worthington

WESTBOROUGH — The Mass. Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) formally approved an award of $2.2 million to Comcast to support the construction of a broadband network in the town of Worthington. The grant, which was approved by both the MassTech Executive Committee and the MBI board of directors, followed a majority vote at Worthington’s town meeting in May choosing Comcast and supporting the construction of its advanced fiber network to deliver broadband to the town, including approval of a project coverage map. Comcast and Worthington also signed a formal cable franchise agreement on Dec. 11. The proposed broadband network will deliver expanded connectivity to more than 96% of Worthington’s residential and business premises once the project is complete. Under the grant agreement, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will provide an award of $2,213,809 from the Last Mile program, funds which will supplement Comcast’s capital investment in the construction of the Worthington network. The MBI will utilize Worthington’s original Last Mile allocation of $1,070,000, with the remaining funds coming from additional investments from both the Commonwealth and the town, utilizing an agreement which will allow the town to contribute year over year without having to use municipal bonds.

Smith Brothers Insurance Helps Local Children

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance sponsored 25 children in need this holiday season and raised $5,000 for the 2018 Holiday Bear Project. For 12 straight years, Smith Brothers’ team members donated money and time for this annual gift-giving program for needy public-school children. Team members individually sponsored a child, donated money, and coordinated company fundraising activities. Hundreds of gifts were purchased and wrapped for students ranging in age from 5 to 17. More than 10,000 public-school students have benefited from the holiday program since the Holiday Bear Project began in 1998. The Smith Brothers team also conducted a toy drive for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a food collection for a local food bank.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBancorp, MHC Closes on Acquisition of First National Bank of Suffield

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, has closed on its acquisition of the First National Bank of Suffield, effective Nov. 30. All the current branches of the First National Bank of Suffield opened and conducted business on Dec. 1 under the trade name First Suffield Bank, a Division of PeoplesBank. First Suffield Bank has four branches located in Suffield, West Suffield, East Granby, and Windsor Locks, Conn. PeoplesBank has 20 banking centers located throughout Hampden and Hampshire counties in Massachusetts. In connection with the completion of the acquisition, one member of the board of directors of First Suffield Bank will join the board of directors of PeoplesBank and the board of trustees of PeoplesBancorp, MHC, the parent company of PeoplesBank, and certain other directors of First Suffield Bank will be provided the opportunity to serve as corporators of PeoplesBancorp. The combined organization has approximately $2.8 billion in assets and $1.9 billion in deposits.

Berkshire Hills to Acquire SI Financial Group

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and SI Financial Group Inc. announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire SIFI and its subsidiary, Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co., in an all-stock transaction valued at $180 million based on Berkshire’s stock price as of the close of business on Dec. 10. Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $13.6 billion, including the $1.6 billion in acquired SIFI assets. SIFI reported $1.3 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits as of Sept. 30. This merger agreement increases Berkshire’s market presence with 18 branches in Eastern Conn. and five branches in Rhode Island, adding to Berkshire’s nine existing Connecticut branches.

MachineMetrics Announces $11.3 Million Funding Round

NORTHAMPTON — MachineMetrics, which equips factories with the digital tools needed to increase productivity and win more business, announced it has raised $11.3 million in Series A financing. Tola Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Hyperplane Venture Capital, Long River Ventures, Mass Ventures, Hub Angels, and Firebolt Ventures. With the new funds, the company will expand its data-science and product-development teams while accelerating global sales. MachineMetrics is a pioneer in industrial IoT (internet of things) technology. Its system is designed so customers can install it themselves without the need for expensive and time-consuming customization. Once installed, manufacturers can collect, visualize, and analyze data from any industrial machine. It automatically senses when there is a problem, even predicting some problems hours or minutes before they occur, and recommends solutions that reduce costly unplanned outages. In addition, MachineMetrics benchmarks a company’s machine performance against those of its peers to help guide future investments. Integrated into factories globally, MachineMetrics serves customers including Fastenal, Snap-On Tools, National Oilwell Varco, Gardner Denver, Continental, Saint Gobain, Shiloh Automotive, and SECO Tools.

NAI Plotkin Sells Historic Hampden Bank Building

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin, a leading commercial real-estate brokerage firm, announced it represented the seller in the sale of 1665 Main St., a 2,010-square-foot commercial building, formerly Hampden Savings Bank, located in downtown Springfield. The building was constructed in 1918 and has a glass ceiling with an ornate supporting structure, marble walls, and copper entrance. The asset sold for $285,000, although it last assessed for $127,600. Wilfredo Lopez of NAI Plotkin was the listing broker for the property. RLTY Development Springfield LLC secured the property and, as the new owner, plans to complete restoration of the original bank building and open a retail cannabis location. The building is also located directly across the street from the Paramount Theater and one block from the newly renovated Union Station. The next steps for the new owner will be to gain approval for the retail establishment by the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and the City Council.

Bay Path University Named Safest College in Massachusetts

LONGMEADOW — Campus safety is a top consideration for many individuals and their families when it comes to choosing a college to attend. Niche.com compiled a list of the safest college campuses in America, and Bay Path University ranked third out of nearly 1,500 reviewed. The university ranked first for safety in both Massachusetts and New England. “We do as much as we can to ensure that the Bay Path University campus is a safe place,” said Michael Giampietro, vice president for Finance & Administrative Services. “Campus safety is a top priority here. Our Longmeadow campus, in particular, is well-lit with emergency call boxes, and our staff performs routine building checks.” He also credited Bay Path’s small size, and the fact that students, facuty, and staff tend to know each other. “We’re also fortunate for our location in the very safe town of Longmeadow, where we work to maintain a good relationship with the local fire and police departments.” According to Niche.com, the 2019 Safest College Campuses ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. The site states that top-ranked colleges offer a safe and healthy environment with little or no campus crime, drugs, or alcohol usage. Specific factors considered include campus crime rate, local crime grade, student surveys on safety, residence-hall date violence rate, residence-hall rape rate, alcohol-related arrests, and drug-related arrests.

AIC Awarded Matching Grant from George I. Alden Trust

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester to be applied to the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences building project. George Alden established the George I. Alden Trust in 1912 for the purpose of maintenance of charitable or philanthropic enterprises, with specific interest in the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions. This grant is the largest ever given to AIC by Alden Trust and offers a unique and inspiring challenge: the funds will be realized only if the college’s alumni match the pledge within 18 months. “It is an all-or-nothing match,” said Heather Gawron, executive director of Institutional Advancement for AIC. “We must raise the full $150,000 in order to receive any of the matched funds. With the support of our alumni, we are confident that this prerequisite is achievable and will strive to meet our goal by September 2019.” Alumni interested in learning more about the Alden Trust challenge are encouraged to contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at (413) 205-3520, [email protected], or www.aic.edu/give/alden-grant.

The Channel Company Names NetLogix to Next-Gen 250 List

WESTFIELD — NetLogix announced that CRN, a brand of the Channel Company, named NetLogix to to its 2018 Next-Gen 250 list. The annual list identifies IT solution providers who have embraced emerging technologies and are setting the pace for the rest of the channel in their adoption. Those on the list have been able to meet their customers’ ever-changing IT needs in leading-edge technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, virtualization, mobility, business analytics, and business intelligence.

NetLogix is a network-management, cloud, and systems-technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions that ensure business integrity for small, medium-sized, and enterprise-level clients. The Westfield-based company designs, implements and manages IT solutions spanning computing infrastructure, enterprise management, VoIP, security, and cloud solutions.

Worcester State University, WNEU School of Law Forge Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — Worcester State University (WSU) and Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law have signed a 3+3 articulation agreement that allows undergraduate students attending Worcester State University to apply for admission to the private law school and begin their legal education during their senior year. The agreement shortens the time required for students to earn both a bachelor’s and law degree from seven years to six years. WNEU President Anthony Caprio, who codified the agreement on behalf of Western New England University at the signing ceremony, noted that “this collaborative arrangement with Worcester State University will open doors for more students to access high-caliber legal education with our special brand of individualized student attention.” The agreement means qualified Worcester State University students who successfully complete their major requirements in three years, leaving them with only free electives, will have a seamless transition to Western New England University’s law school during what would be their senior year. Credits earned during the first year of law school will count towards the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Three academic departments at Worcester State will offer an academic gateway into the program: Criminal Justice, History and Political Science, and Philosophy. Upon completion of three years of law school, students earn a juris doctor (JD) from WNEU. With an emphasis on practical lawyering skills, Western New England University’s juris doctor program combines rigorous coursework covering the theory and practical application of the law with extensive experiential opportunities in legal clinics and externships. A variety of concentrations allows individual students to customize their legal education to gain added experience in specific practice areas.

Briefcase

UMass Report Details Costs of Reporting Sexual Harassment

AMHERST — Employees who file sexual harassment complaints often face harsh outcomes, with 65% losing their jobs within a year, and 68% reporting some form of retaliation by their employer, according to new research from the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE). In their report, “Employer’s Responses to Sexual Harassment,” co-authors Carly McCann, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, and M.V. Lee Badgett analyzed more than 46,000 harassment claims sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) from 2012 to 2016. These cases represent only a small amount (0.2%) of the estimated 25.6 million experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace that occurred over this same five-year window. “Since the legal standards are high, it is not surprising that only a very few file a charge,” said McCann, a UMass Amherst doctoral student and CEE research assistant. “The good news in the report is that the EEOC clearly takes sexual-harassment discrimination charges seriously. These charges are more likely to be found legally plausible, and the charging party is more likely to receive benefits, than other discrimination charges. At the same time, only a minority receive any benefit, and a majority lose their job and experience employer retaliation, so not filing a charge may also make economic and social sense. There are often severe negative consequences to filing a charge, and most people who do file a charge receive no benefits.” Even among the 27% of cases that did result in a benefit, redress was typically unsubstantial. The most common benefit — and the result of 23% of total charges that proceed through the agencies’ processed cases — was financial compensation; however, the average settlement of $24,700 (with a median amount of $10,000) is unlikely to make up for the economic cost of job loss. The discrepancy between the average and median amounts is due in large part to a handful of high-profile cases. Large monetary settlements are very rare, with only 1% of those who received monetary compensation exceeding $100,000. Just 12% of the total charges led to managerial agreements to change workplace practices. As the report notes, this lack of accountability often engenders further incidents of harassment. “Most employer responses tend to be harsh both via retaliation and firing employees who complain,” said Tomaskovic-Devey, professor of Sociology at UMass Amherst and CEE founding director. “The very low proportion of employees who file sexual-harassment complaints is very likely to be related to employers’ typically punitive responses.” While these numbers represent averages across all cases filed with the EEOC or FEPAs, gender and race influenced both the number and outcome of cases. “Although they comprise 47% of the labor force, women file 81% of sexual-harassment charges,” McCann said. “Black women, in particular, report a disproportionality large percentage of workplace sexual-harassment charges; they account for 7% of the labor force but file 27% of sexual-harassment charges.” Following recommendations given by the EEOC, the authors advocate having workplaces address sexual harassment internally through better managerial training and programs that train employees to identify and address harassment incidents.

Employer Confidence Ticks Up in November

BOSTON — Business confidence in Massachusetts recovered slightly during November amid a swirl of contradictory economic indicators ranging from agitated financial markets to international trade tensions to steady-but-slowing growth in the Bay State. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index gained 0.6 points to 61.6 in November, ending a three-month slide that brought confidence to its lowest level in more than a year. The November reading was one point lower than in November 2017 and 2.5 points lower than at the beginning of the year. Increased optimism about the state and national economies balanced employer concerns about their own operations and hiring plans during November. The reading remained well within optimistic territory, but employers also clearly see risk on the horizon. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during November. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 2.4 points to 67.1, leaving it 1.9 points higher than in November 2017. The U.S. Index gained 2.1 points to 63.7, up 1.5 points from a year earlier. The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 0.4 points to 59.2, down 3.1 points year-to-year. The Employment Index slid 3.8 points for the month while the Sales Index was up 2.3 points. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.7 points last month to 62.6 and 0.8 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.1 points for the month and lost 1.1 points for the year.

Nexamp Expands Access to Solar Power in Western Mass.

BOSTON — Nexamp Inc. and HCG are working together to promote community solar projects totaling more than 21 megawatts across Western Mass., enough to power approximately 4,000 homes. The solar arrays provide the opportunity for residents, businesses, and municipalities to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on their annual electricity bills while supporting local, renewable electricity. The collaborative effort is known as Hampshire Renewables. Hundreds of local residents, nonprofits, and small businesses have already signed up through the Hampshire Renewables website or with HCG or Nexamp representatives. Customers who subscribe to Nexamp’s community solar projects through Hampshire Renewables will realize a guaranteed 15% discount on electricity from the solar projects delivered to their National Grid or Eversource utility bills. In Eversource/WMECo territory, projects are located in Amherst, Whately, Plainfield, and Hadley (Nexamp’s third project in Hadley). In National Grid territory, project locations include Palmer, Wales, Granby, Oakham, Winchendon, and Charlton (Nexamp’s third project in Charlton). Anyone interested in participating should visit hcg-ma.org/hampshire-renewables.

Florence Bank Asks Customers to Vote for Their Favorite Nonprofits

FLORENCE — Florence Bank customers have until Monday, Dec. 31 to vote in the Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program for one area nonprofit in Western Mass. they want the bank to support with grant funds. The program is a year-long initiative. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 customer votes before the year ends. Customers can vote online at www.florencebank.com/vote, or they can cast a ballot in person in one of the bank’s 10 branches in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Florence, Granby, Hadley, Northampton, Williamsburg and West Springfield. When Florence Bank presents the awards for the Customers’ Choice program next spring, it will be the 17th year the grant initiative has been helping local nonprofits make an impact in Western Mass. communities. Each year, the bank donates a share of $100,000 to more than 50 local organizations, and in 2019, the bank will surpass the $1.1 million mark in terms of grants made to community nonprofits. The program is unique, as the bank empowers its customers to decide which organizations will receive a portion of the grant funds. The grants program provides funds to a wide spectrum of organizations doing transformative work in the Pioneer Valley, including food pantries, therapy-dog organizations, elementary schools, and health support networks.

JA of Western Massachusetts Receives $5,000 Grant from Webster Bank

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, a local nonprofit organization that provides financial-literacy, entrepreneurship, and career-readiness education, was awarded a $5,000 grant from Webster Bank to support the JA: A Valued Added Authentic Learning Project, providing students with the tools to develop the 21st-century skills needed to become highly skilled, autonomous employees. Through its charitable-giving programs, Webster Bank focuses on helping a broad set of organizations build a strong and self-reliant community. Webster has a long history of supporting Junior Achievement and its efforts to deliver K-12 programs that foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy skills. Webster Bank employees volunteer to teach the JA curriculum at a variety of schools throughout the area. JA: A Valued Added Authentic Learning Project leverages the skills, talent, and educational and career opportunities of this region to create a cadre of role models from the community to weave multiple intersecting pathways for middle-grade and high-school students to engage with JA’s relevant curriculum and instructional materials, supplemental technology-driven simulations, job-shadow experiences, and competitions. The project’s goals are to improve students’ knowledge of financial literacy in order for them to make sound financial judgments in the future; boost students’ entrepreneurial skills; increase students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and raise awareness of career and post-secondary education and career opportunities in Western Mass.

Gaming Revenue Drops at MGM Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Gambling revenues dropped at MGM Springfield in the third month of operation, the Associated Press reported. The state Gaming Commission said the casino generated $21.2 million in revenues from gambling in November, down from October’s $22 million and September’s $27 million. The exact breakdown was $13,371,904 from slots and $7,876,010 from table games. MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis said the company is pleased with the casino’s overall performance, and that November represented “another solid month” for the property, which also generates revenues from restaurants, bars, a hotel, and other attractions.

Company Notebook

Hazen Paper Recognized at Manufacturing Award Ceremony

HOLYOKE — The state’s third annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony, sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus, was recently held at the State House in Boston. Hazen Paper was one of 58 manufacturers recognized for their success. Hazen is known worldwide for its holographic paper and manufacturing in Holyoke. Well-known examples its work include the Stadium Edition Super Bowl Program and the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Yearbook. Hazen started an apprentice program in 2007 to train the expert workers required for this high-tech factory. Hazen has hired and trained more than 50 apprentices in the last 10 years. In 2010, Hazen started an internship program with engineering students from Western New England University, several of whom now work full-time on the Hazen management team. Hazen has been proactive in helping to build the future workforce via the World Is Our Classroom program, whereby every fifth-grader in Holyoke public schools visits Hazen for a full day of teaching and tours. Hazen started the program in 2004, and an estimated 4,000 fifth-graders have participated since that time.

Big Y Foods, COCC Receive Employer of Choice Recognition

AGAWAM — Big Y Foods Inc. of Springfield and COCC of Southington, Conn. have been selected by the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) as Employer of Choice Award recipients for 2018. Employer of Choice awards recognize companies and organizations for developing workplaces that value employees, foster engagement, invest in employee development, and reward performance. Doing business for over 80 years, Big Y Foods is a family-owned supermarket chain with more than 11,000 employees throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. The chain prides itself on a culture of caring, which manifests itself in the form of workplace ‘huddles’ to celebrate employees who have gone above and beyond, and through the organization’s strong commitment to retain employees. Big Y stands out for its overall benefits, employee satisfaction, training and development, and recognition and rewards. One novel program, called Building Firm Foundations, is a collaboration in which employees help other employees with home-repair needs by utilizing their skills, expertise, and time. Projects have included building ramps, fixing decks and windows, landscaping, and more. Another initiative, called the 10 Foot Rule, combines a user-friendly customer-service model with a fun graphic reinforcing how to treat customers. The Big Y University and Big Y LIFE, an internal communication portal, are among the other employee-centric engagement offerings.

Kuhn Riddle Architects Certified as Woman Business Enterprise

AMHERST — Kuhn Riddle Architects announced that the firm was recently certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts grants the designation of WBE to businesses that demonstrate majority ownership and control of daily management and operations by women. Aelan Tierney, president of Kuhn Riddle Architects, sought the business designation after she became majority owner of the firm in January. She joined Jonathan Salvon and Charles Roberts, who became principals in 2010 when Chris Riddle retired. John Kuhn passed the torch of leadership and ownership to these three architects and will continue to work on selected projects at Kuhn Riddle Architects. Tierney will work on architectural project design while also focusing on new business growth and opportunities. “I see this designation as the continuing evolution of architecture — and of our society as a whole — as professions become more diverse and inclusive,” said Tierney, who has been an architect at Kuhn Riddle since 2005. “This is also as an opportunity for further growth of our firm. We have an immensely talented and capable staff; we are interested in partnering with other firms to take on much larger projects than we have to date. I am hopeful that this designation will open doors and break ceilings for us.”

Comcast Unveils New Xfinity Store at Holyoke Mall

HOLYOKE — Comcast recently staged a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of its newest Xfinity Store, which is located on the upper level of the Holyoke Mall. The 4,691-square-foot space is the first Xfinity Store in the region to open in a mall setting. Consumers will have the opportunity to explore, learn about, and interact directly with the latest Xfinity products and services, including Xfinity Mobile. In addition, the store offers a dedicated space where Comcast Business customers and prospects can discover cutting-edge business solutions and get connected with a local expert to discuss their business technology needs. Local officials and community leaders, including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, state Rep. Aaron Vega, City Council President Todd McGee, Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley, Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman, and Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce President Barry Feingold, came out to celebrate the grand opening and tour the new store.

American Women’s College at Bay Path University Recognized

LONGMEADOW — According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare occupations will add more new jobs than any other occupational group in the next decade, projecting overall growth of 18% by 2026. The American Women’s College at Bay Path University prepares graduates to help meet that growing demand with its online bachelor of science in health service administration program, which has just been recognized on a list of the 30 best in the nation by TheBestSchools.org. The site formulates rankings based on six informational categories: academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, financial aid, range of degree programs, and strength of online instruction methodology. The university’s degree program ranked 18th on the list. The American Women’s College’s digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning), uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps, and has been recognized with more than $5 million in support from industry thought leaders and organizations, as well as awards from national foundations, the federal government, and awarding agencies.

Burkhart Pizzanelli Delivers New Coats to More Than 250 Square One Children

SPRINGFIELD — The team at Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C. is doing its part to spread warmth to more than 250 children in need of winter coats this season. The local accounting firm organized a campaign through Operation Warm to purchase the new coats for children served by Square One. They were delivered to Square One on Dec. 4. “Being a strong community partner is an intergral part of our culture at the firm,” said Julie Quink, managing principal at Burkhart Pizzanelli. “As part of our commitment to the community that we work and live in, we believe giving back is important. Many of our clients share the same philosophy and joined our efforts, for which we are very appreciative. Partnering with Operation Warm to provide brand-new winter coats for the families served by Square One is one way for us to make a small difference in our community. We believe that all children should have opportunities to grow without worry.” Added Kristine Allard, chief Development & Communications officer for Square One, “to be able to provide our children with beautiful, brand-new winter coats does wonders for them. Not only does it help to protect them from the elements, but having a new coat of their own builds confidence and self-esteem.” Operation Warm is a national organization that provides new winter coats to children in need, helping to improve self-confidence, peer acceptance, school attendance, and overall wellness. Funding support comes from businesses and individuals within the communities they serve.

Bridgestone Retail Operations Presents Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke with New Van

HOLYOKE — Parents at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke agree that having reliable transportation is the biggest challenge to their children’s participation in after-school activities in Holyoke. Lack of reliable transportation is even more of a stressor for low-income families in need. With that in mind, Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO) surprised youth at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke with a brand-new, eight-passenger Toyota Sienna van, valued at $35,000. The van was recently presented by Joe DeAngelis, New England Region manager, and Scott Zimmerman, area manager for Bridgestone Retail Operations, to Eileen Cavanaugh, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club. The club will utilize the van to engage in experiential learning opportunities, take youth on field trips, visit colleges, increase volunteer opportunities for teens, and participate in more career-readiness activities. In addition to these benefits, the four satellite units located within Holyoke Housing Authority communities will now have more access to the main club. The van allows transportation to nearly 1,400 club members to and from the club.

TommyCar Auto Group Supports Unify Against Bullying

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group was the official partner for Unify Against Bullying for October in support of National Bullying Prevention Month. During the entire month of October, each dealership in the group — including Country Nissan, Country Hyundai, Northampton Volkswagen, and the new Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — donated $20 for every car sold. Thanks to customer involvement, TommyCar Auto Group was able to donate $4,200. “Bullying happens way more than it should, but we have the power to make a difference,” said Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group. “We need to continue to talk about bullying openly and freely, and not be scared to address the issues that happen to us, our family, our friends, or our co-workers. Unify is changing the culture within our communities and the way people are addressing bullying, and I knew we had to be a part of that.”

Company Notebook

Big Y Works to Sack Hunger

SPRINGFIELD — For the ninth year, all Big Y supermarkets are working to help feed the hungry within their local communities through Care to Share Sack Hunger, a large, reusable grocery bag filled with staple non-perishable food items for local food banks. Customers purchase a Sack Hunger bag of groceries for $10, and Big Y distributes the food to that region’s local food bank. In turn, the food banks distribute the filled sacks to area soup kitchens, food pantries, senior food programs, day-care centers, as well as many of its other member agencies. All of the donated sacks are distributed within the supermarket’s marketing area, so every donation stays within the local community. Since its inception nine years ago, more than 133,000 bags of food have been donated to area needy via Big Y’s Care to Share Sack Hunger Program. This year’s campaign runs through Wednesday, Dec. 26. As an additional option, customers may choose to purchase and donate a $10 ‘virtual bag’ at the register that will be used by the agencies to purchase turkeys or whatever is most needed. Online donations will also be accepted. Visit www.bigy.com/rs/giftcards for more information. As an added bonus, any customer donations made on Saturday, Nov. 17 will be matched by Big Y. All five food banks within Big Y’s marketing area are participating in Sack Hunger. These food banks, representing more than 2,100 member agencies throughout the region, include the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare of Greater Hartford, and the Connecticut Food Bank. Last year, Big Y customers donated nearly 22,000 bags of food to those in need, and the company hopes to beat that figure this year.

American Women’s College at Bay Path University Named Among Best Online Colleges

LONGMEADOW — Women have been completing their bachelor’s degrees at rates significantly higher than the national average since the inception of the American Women’s College at Bay Path University in 2013, thanks to its digitally enhanced learning model, SOUL (Social Online Universal Learning). This innovative approach to education has earned it recognition among the 2019 Best Online Colleges in America, as ranked by Niche.com, which ranked colleges based on the following categories: academic excellence, overall value, strength of faculty scholarship, campus quality, diversity, student life, student surveys on overall experience, safety, and location. The university placed 20th on a list of nearly 500 colleges and universities, and is the only New England-based institution to place in the top 20. The SOUL model uses data-driven intervention strategies to help mitigate achievement gaps, and has been recognized with more than $5 million in support from industry thought leaders and organizations. SOUL was developed after the American Women’s College was awarded a grant through the First in the World competition administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The four-year, $3.5 million award was used to develop and continually hone the program by improving educator access to learning data, allowing for targeted feedback and personalized guidance. SOUL has been recognized with several other grants and awards from national foundations, the federal government, and awarding agencies.

Bay Path Recognized Among Top MS in Accounting Programs

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) in accounting program has been named seventh on a list of the top 50 best in the nation, as ranked by OnlineMasters.com. In addition to this placement, Bay Path’s program was also recognized as the “Most Accelerated Program.” This is the program’s second placement on a national best-of list this year alone. According to the site, the review assessed academic quality, student success, and affordability. Researchers devoted more than 90 hours to analyzing every online master’s in accounting program in the U.S., and consulted 35 industry experts, hiring managers, current students, and alumni.

Veterans at Corps Logistics Build, Maintain ValleyBike Share System

SPRINGFIELD — As ValleyBike Share started taking shape in several municipalities in the Pioneer Valley this year, veteran-owned and operated service contractor Corps Logistics was tasked with building and maintaining the 48 stations and more than 200 bikes. Corps Logistics provides a military-grade approach to bike-share system implementation and operations. It works to find talented veterans that care about their community and the mission at hand. Many of its veteran employees come home with physical and emotional limitations, and Corps Logistics offers them the opportunity to continue the utilization of their talents and skills to better the lives of the community around them. Launched this past June, the ValleyBike Share system offers electric-assist bicycles to users. The service is available 24/7 and is ideal for errands, commuting, or recreation.

Ten Practice Areas at Bulkley Richardson Ranked Among ‘Best Law Firms’

SPRINGFIELD — Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News and World Report, has included Bulkley Richardson in its 2019 “Best Law Firms” list, ranking the firm in the top tier for 10 practice areas, the most of any Springfield law firm. They include bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, commercial litigation, corporate law, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white-collar, litigation: labor and employment, medical-malpractice law: defendants, personal-injury litigation: defendants, tax law, and trusts and estates law. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers. Bulkley Richardson has 13 of its lawyers included on the 2019 Best Lawyers list, the most from any Springfield law firm. Two of the firm’s partners, John Pucci and Liz Sillin, were also named 2019 Springfield Lawyer of the Year. The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations and peer reviews from leading attorneys in their field.

CBS Xerox Supports MHA’s Good to Go Program

SPRINGFIELD — CBS Xerox, an integrated provider of office-productivity systems, organized a donation drive to benefit Good to Go, a new initiative of MHA to supply every individual who arrives for emergency respite care with basic personal-care items, such as soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, undergarments, and socks. According to Patrick Roberts, nonprofit specialist and GEM representative for CBS Xerox, his company had been working with MHA as a business partner for about a year when the opportunity to do more presented itself. “We handle their printers and copiers and developed a way to manage that part of their business,” Roberts explained. “In coming up with the solution, we met a lot of their staff, and every time we had an interaction with someone at MHA, it was so positive. They invited us to their annual meeting, and I heard this incredible story from a client who at one time felt suicidal, but through counseling and the efforts of MHA, this person now feels like they are worth something. Now this person is doing so well. What a story. The experience cemented our desire to do more for MHA, and organizing a Good to Go drive was a good place to start.” The 25 staff members at the CBS Xerox office in West Springfield were joined by 100 staff at the company’s headquarters in Wethersfield, Conn., to collect donations. A truck with donations from Wethersfield drove to West Springfield to pick up donations collected there, then delivered it all to MHA in Springfield.

DiGrigoli School Honored by Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center

SPRINGFIELD — On the morning of Oct. 5, during the Western Mass Stand Down at the Greek Culture Center in Springfield, Paul DiGrigoli accepted an award from the Western Mass. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center on behalf of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology for its continued support of homeless and needy veterans in the community. The school, located on Riverdale Street in West Springfield, offers free haircuts to all veterans and active service members year-round, and has participated in several veteran-honoring events since opening its doors in 2002. The Western Mass. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center, headquartered on Franklin Street in Springfield, operates with the mission of serving veterans once out of uniform, regardless of race, gender, or nationality. Most recently, it built 20 apartments for homeless veterans in Springfield and has continually offered financial and job services, healthcare, clothing, and other support.