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Wahlburgers Opens at MGM Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Wahlburgers announced that its restaurant at MGM Springfield is now open to the public and ready to serve guests. The Wahlburgers MGM Springfield team is looking forward to becoming a part of the community and providing guests with an exciting dine-in experience as well as offering takeout. The popular casual dining concept founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, and the subject of A&E Network’s Emmy-nominated reality show for 10 seasons, will feature a chef-inspired menu that brings guests its signature lineup of burgers along with entrée salads, sandwiches, and more. The restaurant’s full bar will offer a large selection of craft cocktails, wines, and local beers. Wahlburgers Springfield MGM is located at 1028 Main St., at the corner of Main and Union streets in downtown Springfield. The 4,900-square-foot restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner. In honor of the late family matriarch, Alma Wahlberg, the chain’s Springfield location includes a special ‘Alma’s table.’ This design element is adorned with photos from her childhood through her adult life, along with snapshots of her family members. Those who join the WahlClub rewards program by downloading the Wahlburgers app will have access to exclusive promotions, earn points for every dollar spent, and redeem rewards for free food and merchandise. Online ordering and delivery are also available via the Wahlburgers app.

 

One-day HCC Campaign Raises $122K for Student-support Programs

HOLYOKE — Led by auto dealer Gary Rome, trustees, alumni, and friends, Holyoke Community College raised $122,000 for student-support programs last month during its one-day “Together HCC: Drive to Change Lives” campaign. Organizers had set a goal of 150 donors for the 24-hour fund drive on April 27. The final tally was 295. Rome, an HCC Foundation board member, had issued a donation challenge of $10,000 if the campaign met its goals of securing 150 new donors and 1,000 social-media posts using the hashtag #TogetherHCC. He presented a check to HCC officials at his Holyoke dealership on May 4. In addition to Rome, Peg Wendlandt and Gary Wendlandt, Jim Izatt, Dylan Pilon, trustees Robert Gilbert and Charlie Epstein, HCC Foundation board member Mike Roundy, and the HCC Alumni Council all posed match and challenge gifts for the campaign. Alumnus Myke Connolly, owner of Stand Out Truck, donated the use of his mobile billboard. In addition to his #TogetherHCC donation, Connolly created the Stand Out Truck Celeste Berger Annual Scholarship at HCC to be awarded this spring to a current HCC student of marketing, business, or entrepreneurship.

 

Monson Savings Bank Supports Shriners Mini Golf Tournament

MONSON — As part of its efforts to support the health, happiness, and overall well-being of local children, Monson Savings Bank has embraced Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield as a continued community partner, with MSB making its second donation to the children’s hospital this year. Monson Savings Bank President and CEO Dan Moriarty met with Stacey Perlmutter, director of Development for the hospital, and special guest Fezzy Bear, the Springfield Shriners’ adored ambassador, to present the bank’s $1,500 donation to the Shriners’ Putting for a Purpose Mini Golf Tournament. Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield is a pediatric hospital that specializes in treating orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal-cord injuries, urology, cleft lip, and cleft palate. The children’s hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient levels of care, with services including rehabilitation, fracture care, and sports health and medicine. Shriners provides treatment to children regardless of families’ financial capabilities and relies on donations from events, like its fund-raising Putting for a Purpose Mini Golf Tournament, to provide expert care to children. This year’s event is set to take place Sept. 9-11 at Stony Falls Miniature Golf at McCray’s Farm in South Hadley.

 

Healthtrax Physical Therapy Opens in West Springfield

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Healthtrax Physical Therapy recently opened its third clinic combining restorative clinical treatments inside Healthtrax Fitness, 155 Ashley Ave., West Springfield. Treatments are provided by physical therapist Brian Ferreira. Working as a physical therapist since 2006, he is a certified in manual therapy and earned his master’s degree in physical therapy at the University of Hartford. He is experienced in advanced manual-therapy skills and outpatient orthopedics. Services not only target the current issues (pain, weakness, etc.), but address underlying movement impairments, and treating these biomechanical dysfunctions results in better, more sustainable outcomes for each patient based on medical history, co-morbidities, and goals of therapy, Ferreira noted. The scope of diagnoses the center can treat includes low back and neck pain, rotator-cuff tendinitis, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, knee and hip pain, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, spinal stenosis, hand and thumb pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc and joint disease of the spine, nerve pain and sciatica, poor balance and unsteady gait, and general deconditioning due to disease or illness. Open to the public and Healthtrax Fitness members, Healthtrax Physical Therapy treats patients of all ages and abilities, including adult and youth athletes, pre- and post-operative patients, workers’ comp injury patients, motor-vehicle accident patients, children with orthopedic conditions, and those needing work conditioning or hardening.

 

BFAIR Partners with Boston College School of Social Work on Project

NORTH ADAMS — BFAIR partnered with the Boston College School of Social Work on a project with graduate students this spring as part of its “Creating and Sustaining Social Enterprises” course. This course focuses on important concepts and stages in considering revenue-producing programs in a nonprofit setting to add financial stability. Students are involved in basic data gathering and analysis and organize their conclusions in a business plan for the enterprise effort. As such, they conducted a brief survey to provide BFAIR with information regarding its service that provides employment for people with disabilities and is beneficial to the environment. BFAIR’s Bottle and Can Redemption Center, located in North Adams, helps the community by providing residents with a way to exchange redeemable bottles and cans for cash while remaining true to its mission. The culmination of the course resulted in an expansion of BFAIR’s Bottle and Can Redemption Center in the form of a pop-up service working with the North Adams Housing Authority, Berkshire Housing, and the city of North Adams. The pop-up service will give these locations the opportunity to redeem or donate their bottles during certain timeframes during the week at six different locations in North County starting in June.

 

Bradley International Airport Adds New Non-stop Destinations

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Bradley International Airport is one of the launch airports for Breeze Airways. The newly founded carrier announced its official, national debut with the rollout of a route network across the U.S. At Bradley, it will launch four new non-stop destinations this summer, including Charleston, S.C. (currently operating), and Columbus, Ohio; Norfolk, Va.; and Pittsburgh (all beginning July 22). The new non-stops will operate on a single-class Embraer aircraft, with a two-by-two seat configuration. Breeze Airways offers booking flexibility that includes no change or cancellation fees for flights changed or canceled up to 15 minutes before scheduled departure. The CAA also announced that Bradley has launched new non-stop service to Minneapolis with Sun Country Airlines. The service to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport operates twice a week. In September, Sun Country Airlines will also be launching new non-stop service from Bradley International Airport to Orlando, Fla.

 

Carr Hardware TV Spots Win Gold Telly Award

PITTSFIELD — Carr Hardware announced that its “Dewitts” advertising campaign, created by Clayson Creative, has won a Gold Telly Award for 2021 in the business-to-consumer category. In the ads, the Dewitts are the world’s worst do-it-yourselfers and are in constant need of help from the experts at Carr Hardware. See their latest videos at shop.carrhardware.com/the-dewitts. The Telly Awards, the world’s largest honor for video and television content across all screens, has announced this year’s winners, including Jennifer Garner’s “Pretend Cooking Show” series, RadicalMedia’s “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” documentary series, Partizan’s “Fantastic Voyage” campaign, and the Clayson Creative/Carr Hardware “Dewitts” campaign. Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards are judged by the Telly Award Judging Council, a group of leading video and television experts from some of the most prestigious companies in entertainment, publishing, advertising, and emerging technology, such as WarnerMedia, NBC News, Framestore NY, and Vimeo, to name a few. Carr Hardware plans to bring more Dewitts videos to its customers in the upcoming year.

 

SSO Musicians Say Leaders Show Lack of Commitment to Future

SPRINGFIELD — In a recent letter to supporters and the media, a group representing Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) musicians leveled a number of complaints at SSO leadership, claiming that the lack of a 2021-22 concert schedule, failure to replace departed Executive Director Susan Beaudry or renew the contract of Music Director Kevin Rhodes, and a dispute over the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement have put the future of the organization in doubt. Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) alleges that the SSO board of directors’ executive management committee has effectively shut down the organization. MOSSO noted that the SSO board has essentially eliminated artistic leadership by minimizing Rhodes’ role and putting off renewing his contract, which expired on May 31, and has launched no national search for Beaudry’s successor. For the time being, Development Director John Anz is serving as interim executive director. According to MOSSO, the SSO board’s solution to current financial challenges has been to eliminate staff positions and drastically reduce the number of performances and players performing. MOSSO maintains that the board’s own endowment and fundraising reports show that SSO finances are improving and that, instead of cutting performances, the SSO should continue growing its successful development program, start applying for grant funding (as have similar performing organizations), and turn over management of the SSO to an executive director with a proven track record of success. The SSO board claims that the 2021-22 season cannot be planned in the absence of a successor to the 2017-20 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), but MOSSO notes that federal law requires that the terms of an expired CBA remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

 

River Valley Counseling Center Wins $50,000 Technology Makeover

HOLYOKE — River Valley Counseling Center (RVCC) announced it has been awarded a $50,000 technology makeover from Insight Enterprises and Intel. RVCC is one of three winners in the Connected Workplace Makeover Contest, which was created to help businesses address the effects of aging technology. As a winner, RVCC will receive IT consultation from Insight and $50,000 worth of new 11th Gen Intel Core Processor devices, including Intel vPro Platform PCs built for business. The contest targeted small and mid-sized companies of fewer than 1,000 employees that have been particularly strapped for resources or may be struggling to adapt IT systems and processes to the shifting marketplace amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The contest focused on three areas of critical IT needs: productivity; updating tools, particularly for remote work; security; and total cost of ownership. More than 1,200 U.S. organizations submitted contest entries sharing why they needed a workplace makeover. RVCC was named the winner in the productivity category. Intel Evo vPro PCs will allow RVCC to service clients in a timelier manner, roll out better telehealth options, stay secure, and be HIPAA-compliant. Over the next month, Insight and Intel will be conducting on-site consultations with RVCC to help the team identify the best technology upgrades for their clinic located at 303 Beech St. in Holyoke. It is expected that productivity based at this location could improve by up to 25% by replacing poorly running computers, including some still running on Windows Vista.

 

Holyoke Medical Center Opens Two New Behavioral-health Units

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center opened and began providing care in two new behavioral-health units on June 1. The new units are located in the main hospital at 575 Beech St., Holyoke, and consist of one 16-bed adult behavioral-health unit and one 18-bed geriatric behavioral-health unit. These units are in addition to the 20-bed adult behavioral-health unit that has been serving the community since 1989. “Holyoke Medical Center has always been committed to providing the care and services that meet the needs of our community. As an independent community hospital, we are also able to adapt quickly as those needs change,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems. “The construction for these two units started in January of this year, when the veterans staying with us since April 2020 were able to return to the Soldiers’ Home. In less than five months, our team was able to transform and build two state-of-the-art units, designed specifically to support the needs of the growing number of behavioral-health patients throughout our region.”

Cover Story

The Rising Cost of … Everything

To understand what’s happening in today’s global economy, one UMass economist said it’s helpful to picture it as a grid filled with connected nodes. When one of those nodes — manufacturing, distribution, shipping, you name it — is disrupted, the impact is felt by everyone. These days, those disruptions are occurring across the supply chain, and for many different reasons, causing costs to soar — both for businesses and their customers. It’s a major concern with no simple solution, and some worry that rising prices may derail what is otherwise looking like an economy in recovery.

When people sit down at a restaurant, Bryan Graham says, they don’t usually consider how their favorite meals and ingredients get there. They just expect them to be there.

It’s not always a smooth process, and the last couple months, especially, have been a challenge.

“There have been shortages on everything — things you wouldn’t think about, everything from the beverage side to the food side,” said Graham, regional manager for the Bean Restaurant Group, which boasts a family of 11 eateries throughout the region, from Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst to the Boathouse in South Hadley to the Student Prince in Springfield.

And those shortages have a financial impact, he went on. “Increases in prices have gone through the roof — to the point where we’ve moved some things off the menu because we can’t keep up with the prices; we’re losing money.”

The company has taken to switching menu items or brands of ingredients to keep up with price fluctuations, Graham added. “We’d always purchase one brand of canned tomatoes or one brand of ketchup, but we’re seeing brands being short, so we have to switch brands to get by without running out of product day to day.”

It makes for an odd market, he said. “You place your order, and you don’t really know if it’s all coming in until you open the truck and you’re short one or two items.”

It’s not something customers typically notice — until their favorite appetizer is suddenly unavailable. “Ninety percent of our customers are really understanding. The other 10% are like, ‘what do you mean I can’t have this?’ Unfortunately, we don’t want to charge you $40 for 10 chicken wings. Most people are pretty good about it.”

Bryan Graham says high food prices have forced the occasional menu change

Bryan Graham says high food prices have forced the occasional menu change because the Bean Restaurant Group doesn’t want to pass exorbitant costs to customers.

Nationally, food prices rose 0.4% in April, both at restaurants and on grocery shelves. Prices are up 2.4% from May 2020.

But it’s not just food. Rising prices for … well, almost everything have become one of the leading economic stories of 2021. One reason is a positive of sorts — the economy is reopening at high speed. Unfortunately, in some cases, supply chains have been slow to respond to growing consumer demand.

For example, American steel manufacturers all but shut down production last spring as the pandemic took hold and the economy imploded. But as the recovery ramped up, mills were slow to resume full production, creating a massive steel shortage, one that has severely impacted building costs.

Meanwhile, sawmills also shut down lumber production last spring to brace for a housing slump that never arrived — and now, with the housing market on fire, both in new construction and home improvement, lumber shortages have sent consumer prices soaring. In fact, the median sale price of existing homes nationwide surged by 17.2% in March to a record $329,100.

Anna Nagurney, the Eugene M. Isenberg chair in Integrative Studies at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, said soaring prices in construction are a natural result of home-improvement activity increasing during the pandemic, while home buying never really slowed.

“People haven’t been traveling or anything, so they’ve been improving their homes, building decks, and so on,” she said. “Now we’ve seen the price of lumber has escalated dramatically in the last couple of months.”

The pandemic messed with supply and demand in unexpected ways, but now that the economy is reopening and consumers want to go out and spend (and, in many cases, have been saving those stimulus checks for that purpose), supply has run into a number of roadblocks, from the slow ramp-up of the lumber and steel industries to serious delays in freight shipping (more on that later) to a shortage of workers putting additional strain on businesses.

“People want bigger homes, better homes, they have more money, the federal government has been pretty good to people … there’s just much more demand for products,” Nagurney said.

Anna Nagurney

Anna Nagurney

“People haven’t been traveling or anything, so they’ve been improving their homes, building decks, and so on. Now we’ve seen the price of lumber has escalated dramatically in the last couple of months.”

She noted that the Trump administration was more overt about pursuing trade wars, and while back-and-forth tariffs haven’t been as much of an issue lately, the U.S. is still not on great terms with China, which significantly impacts the cost of steel, aluminum, and rare-earth metals. “The geopolitics is scary.”

Gas prices are on the rise as well, which impacts every sector of the economy, said Peter Picknelly, chairman and CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines.

“Rising fuel has an effect on everyone — people have to ship things, produce things … it’s not just gas, but everything we buy,” he said. “Chicken and beef and produce, they all need machinery to harvest; that’s all fuel. You have to transport it; that’s all fuel. Rising fuel costs are a significant hit to the average consumer.”

 

Easing the Burden

In the case of lumber, the shortage has been exacerbated by existing tariffs. In the spring of 2017, the Trump administration hit Canada with tariffs of up to 24% on lumber. During the final months of his presidency, those tariffs were slashed to 9%, but the National Assoc. of Home Builders is calling on the Biden administration to temporarily remove the 9% tariff on Canadian lumber to help ease price volatility.

Supply-chain issues aren’t helping, from the six-day Suez Canal shutdown in March to clear the container ship Ever Given to the cyberattack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline earlier this month, to a critical shortage of shipping containers worldwide, particularly in Asia. Companies are waiting weeks for containers to become available and paying premium rates to secure them, causing shipping costs to skyrocket.

Peter Picknelly says fuel prices affect more than the transportation sector he works in

Peter Picknelly says fuel prices affect more than the transportation sector he works in, impacting everything from manufactured goods to the processing and delivery of food.

“The containers are not where they’re supposed to be,” Nagurney said. “It’s like a puzzle. We need to move them. That’s one of the reasons we can’t get some of the goods from China, like furniture. The prices of shipping containers have gone up as a result because they’re not where they should be.”

Margeaux MacDonald knows that well. As imports manager for East Coast Tile, which supplies Best Tile in Springfield, she is dealing with significant delays in bringing material in from Europe and Asia.

“There are huge delays right now,” she said. “We could have a booking on an actual boat and might not have a container to put the material in. Or, we’ve been bumped from boats because the vessel is overbooked. It’s frustrating — it’s taking four weeks, depending on where the stuff is. In Portugal, the booking is awful; it’s taking forever to get on the boat.”

The backups are affecting shipping costs — significantly. As one example, she cited a container from Turkey that currently costs four times as much to book as it did only a few months ago. “That’s just to pay for the container to get on the ocean carrier.”

Not all locations have gone up as dramatically, MacDonald added, noting that rates from Italy have more or less doubled — not as bad as the Turkey situation, but not ideal. “And we’re not the only ones seeing delays,” she said, citing a company she works with that’s trying to get a container of material from Brazil to New York, and has been delayed more than a month.

“I’m relatively new in this position, but I’ve definitely picked the brains of veterans across the industry, and a lot of people have said to me, ‘I’ve never seen this — I’ve been in the industry for 25 years, and I’ve never seen the volume and delays coming right now.’”

“I’m relatively new in this position, but I’ve definitely picked the brains of veterans across the industry, and a lot of people have said to me, ‘I’ve never seen this — I’ve been in the industry for 25 years, and I’ve never seen the volume and delays coming right now.’”

The problem doesn’t end when the product is shipped, she added. With huge backups in ports, truckers are sometimes waiting hours to load, and instead of hauling two or three loads a day, they might get only one. And returning empty containers to port has become more difficult as well. All these factors raise prices down the supply line. “There are a lot of moving pieces.”

It’s helpful to think about supply chains holistically to convey what’s going on, Nagurney said, describing the global economy as a grid of connected nodes representing manufacturing sites, warehouses, freight service providers, distribution centers, and demand points. A disruption at any of those nodes reverberates throughout the grid — and the economy has endured many such disruptions over the past year, on both the supply and demand sides.

“We’ve seen all sorts of shocks — supply shocks, different kinds of demand shocks, and, more recently, what’s happening with freight issues, from port congestion to the Ever Given blocking freight in the Suez Canal.

“With lumber, some of it has to do with higher tariffs on Canadian lumber,” she went on. “We don’t have containers in the right places to ship lumber. Freight costs are going up, and there’s all sorts of demand on imports from Europe.”

In short, things are chaotic right now, and that globally connected grid is under plenty of stress.

 

Inflation Spikes

Which brings us back to rising prices on, again, almost everything. U.S. consumer prices in April increased 4.2% from a year earlier, more than the 3.6% economists had predicted, and the largest 12-month increase since September 2008.

The biggest driver of last month’s inflation jump, CNN reported, was a 10% increase in used cars and trucks, which accounted for more than one-third of the overall inflation increase. Over the past year, used-car prices rose 21%, due in large part to a spike in demand — as people sought to travel last year without relying on public transit — just as car manufacturers were closed or running at diminished capacity.

Other factors in April’s inflation report include rising costs for furniture — a casualty of the shipping backlog — and hotels, airline tickets, and recreational activities, a trend that speaks to growing demand among Americans to get back to normal life.

Restaurants are feeling that demand, and are struggling, in many cases, to staff up to meet it.

“More places are reopening, and restrictions are being lifted,” Graham said. “That goes to supply and demand — demand was down for so long, and now it’s back up.”

However, he noted, federal unemployment benefits have kept service workers — who are in some cases, being paid more for not working — away from available jobs.

Bob Bolduc knows this story well. The CEO of Pride Stores said he recently shuttered four stores because he didn’t have anyone to staff them — and he blames unrealistically generous unemployment benefits.

“We’ve been competing with the government for 15 months now, and we’re not getting through to them,” he said. “The real story is how much the government is paying, and how that’s driving prices up unrealistically.

“We’re all paying the same people, for the same labor, two to five dollars an hour more than we normally do, and the definition of inflation is when you pay a lot more but don’t get anything more for it,” he went on. “The biggest factor is that we’re competing with the government for labor — the government is paying people to stay home, and we’re trying to get them to come back to work.”

The frustration is palpable, Bolduc said. “People say they can’t get a job, but we offer them jobs, and they don’t show up. They just want to come in and apply to say they applied. And nobody checks; they’re just giving it away. It’s been that way for 15 months now, and it’s worse than you realize. People have no idea.”

State officials have heard such complaints from business owners, however, and announced last week that, starting in mid-June, Massachusetts will more diligently require proof of genuine job-search activity as a condition of accessing unemployment benefits.

At the same time, Bolduc said, “other prices are going crazy — on everything. Convenience items and food are up at least 10%, maybe pushing 15%, and I don’t see an end in sight.”

For some industries, rising prices can be a benefit.

“We always view our largest competitor as passenger automobiles,” Peter Pan’s Picknelly said. “Historically, when fuel starts going over $3.50, we see a significant increase in passengers because it’s just too expensive for people to travel, so they look for alternatives in the bus.”

If anything, rising fuel prices — married to a desire among people to get away this summer — has benefited Peter Pan’s business, Picknelly explained, noting that Cape Cod trips are almost 100% booked, while he sees similar interest in destinations like New York and Washington, D.C. The reason is that people are looking to travel a little closer to home — in range of a drive, not a flight — and see bus travel as an affordable, low-stress option.

High gas prices should also benefit the company’s commuter buses by making public transit more attractive, he said, noting that the average city bus gets about 280 passenger miles to the gallon, as opposed to about one-tenth of that for cars.

 

The Struggle Continues

That makes for an environmentally friendly byproduct of a challenging economic season. And Nagurney doesn’t separate the economy from the environment — in fact, she believes business and industry leaders need to adopt techniques from disaster management because climate change remains a factor in the global economy.

“Things aren’t going to get better — we’ll see more storms, more floods, more hurricanes, sea levels rising, even more things like the fires we had on the West Coast. Climate change will lead to a greater frequency of natural disasters, and that will affect global supply chains, and it’ll take longer to get products.”

For now, though, most businesses are just focused on when the short-term stress will end. And no one really knows the answer to that.

“In January, we thought this will probably last until March,” MacDonald said of the shipping delays. “In March, we heard it might fizzle out by the summer. We’re almost to summertime, and I’m releasing things from Spain that can’t get a booking until the beginning of July.

“And we’re seeing a huge increase in sales, too,” she added. “There’s a huge need in the United States, and we’re trying to pump as much material as we can into the States, but it’s a struggle.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

 

Agenda

Junior Achievement Golf Tournament

June 4: Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) announced it will hold its 23rd annual golf tournament at the Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. In addition to the golf tournament, participants can enjoy online bidding for the auction through June 3 and live bidding at the event on June 4. Social-distancing regulations will include requiring players to wear masks in common areas, providing each player with their own cart, and a scramble format with all putts inside three feet conceded, with flags remaining in the holes. Businesses can sponsor the tournament and will receive a prize package valued at over $200. The package includes a $100 gift card to the pro shop, buy-two/get-two passes for Crumpin-Fox or Fox Hopyard Golf Club in Connecticut good through the 2022 season, and other gifts, such as Yankee Candle items. If they prefer, sponsors can opt to receive a voucher for their foursome valid through the 2022 season. In addition to a round of golf, an auction, and a raffle, golfers will enjoy a gourmet boxed breakfast at 10 a.m. and lunch served on the course around noon. To learn more about registration and sponsorship opportunities, visit jawm.org/annual-golf-tournament.

 

Fresh Paint Springfield

June 5-13: Fresh Paint Springfield, the mural festival that began in 2019 in downtown Springfield and transformed large, exterior walls into art, will be returning to Springfield on June 5-13. This year’s festival will feature new murals in downtown Springfield and in Mason Square. Among the murals that will be part of Fresh Paint 2021 are “Pioneers Past and Present,” which will be painted by local portrait painters in Mason Square, and the repainting of a historic mural on the Mosque 13 building on State Street. For news and updates about this year’s festival, visit www.freshpaintspringfield.com.

 

Asnuntuck Foundation Golf Tournament

June 15: Asnuntuck Community College’s foundation and Aerospace Components Manufacturers will host a golf tournament fundraiser — the program’s 13th annual tournament and the first year the fundraiser will be held at Tunxis Country Club in Farmington, Conn. Proceeds from the event will benefit to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Asnuntuck, which features leading-edge technology and has educated more than 9,000 students since 1998. Additional sponsors committed to the tournament include Air Industries Group/Sterling Engineering, Aerospace Alloys Inc., Aeroswiss, Advance Welding, Pilot Precision Products, Kaman Precision Products, Willington Nameplate, Accu-Rite Tool and Manufacturing Co. Inc., and Jarvis Surgical Inc. Golfers will pay $150 for 18 holes of golf. The entry fee also includes a cart, goody bags, and two drink tickets. The day will also include a barbecue lunch and fountain drink, along with dinner and an ice cream sundae bar. Golfers will have a chance at door prizes, and awards will be presented to top golfers during the dinner portion of the evening. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. with tee-off at 1 p.m. Golfers will play with a ‘shamble,’ which is a modified scramble. This format has each golfer hit their tee shot, and the group picks the best one and plays their own ball from there. The best score on the hole is recorded, allowing everyone to feel like they contributed and not putting pressure on any one golfer. Visit birdease.com/amtgolf to register and learn about sponsorship opportunities. For more information, contact event coordinator Joshua Ware at [email protected] or (203) 228-2768.

 

Healthcare Heroes Nominations

Through June 24: In the spring of 2017, the Healthcare News and its sister publication, BusinessWest, created a new and exciting recognition program called Healthcare Heroes. It was launched with the theory that there are heroes working all across this region’s wide, deep, and all-important healthcare sector, and that there was no shortage of fascinating stories to tell and individuals and groups to honor. That theory has certainly been validated. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of heroes whose stories we still need to tell, especially in these times, when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many types of heroes to the forefront. Nominations will be accepted in seven different categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider, Health/Wellness Administrator/Administration, Emerging Leader, Community Health, Innovation in Health/Wellness, Collaboration in Health/Wellness, and Lifetime Achievement. The Healthcare Heroes event is presented by Elms College. Nominations can be submitted at businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/nominations. For more information, contact Jennifer Godaire, Marketing and Events Director, at (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or [email protected]

 

40 Under Forty Gala

Sept. 23: In light of Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent announcement that most, if not all, restrictions on events will be lifted effective Aug. 1, BusinessWest has made the decision to move its annual 40 Under Forty gala, originally scheduled for late June, to Thursday, Sept. 23 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. The class of 2021 was introduced to the region in the magazine’s May 12 issue, and the profiles may read online at businesswest.com. Additional details on the Sept. 23 gala will be forthcoming. Tickets, which will go on sale in June, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Special Coverage Technology

Bringing a Message to Life

From left, Kathryn Taccone, Karen Webb, and Will Colón discuss a project.

From left, Kathryn Taccone, Karen Webb, and Will Colón discuss a project.

Will Colón, Kathryn Taccone, and Karen Webb all took different paths to a career in animation, but when the opportunity arose to launch their own company, they were certainly of one mind. That’s because they’re believers not only in the potential of animation in the business and nonprofit worlds, but that it’s still an underused tool, with plenty of room to grow. Four years after its inception, Open Pixel Studios is proving their conviction to be true.

Remote work might be all the rage right now, but it’s nothing new to the three partners at Open Pixel Studios.

“The future of work is working remotely, having the systems to do that, working with multiple people across different disciplines across the same project — all in a remote environment,” said Will Colón, co-owner of the animation studio he, Kathryn Taccone, and Karen Webb opened in 2017. These days, they work with freelancers across the U.S. to create content for business and nonprofit clients.

“We were doing the remote thing for quite a while before the pandemic hit,” Colón added. “The pandemic really raised the stakes on whether we were doing this correctly — it put us to the test a little bit. But there was almost no shift; our business did not waver at all.”

In some ways, COVID-19 actually provided more opportunity.

“What ended up happening was more people asked us for more work,” he went on. “Normally, a production requires filming and video and people in a studio or on a production set. Those roles diminished overnight, and everyone said, ‘what else can we do? Instead of having people on a screen, or talking heads, let’s do animation instead.’ It was a really big boost to our company.”

And it’s not all remote, even during the pandemic, Taccone was quick to note. “We pride ourselves on being able to communicate with clients in a way that’s comfortable for them. Sometimes clients prefer to be in person, and sometimes it’s totally fine sending e-mails. We try to match how the project is managed, and the way we communicate, to their personalities, so everyone is comfortable.”

Using animation for marketing and messaging is nothing new, Colón said, citing the well-known example of Walt Disney producing animated shorts for every branch of the U.S. military during World War II, putting beloved characters to work rallying support for the war effort.

“I don’t think the things we’re doing are much different than Walt Disney creating content during World War II. Those were ‘explainer videos,’ talking through the points the military wanted to talk about. So this isn’t new technology. What’s new is the application.”

Meaning, while animation has been a mainstay during the internet age — as part of websites, mobile games, and in movies and television — it remains underused by businesses. Colón, Taccone, and Webb are hoping to change that.

At one of Open Pixel’s production stations, well-communicated concepts become animation.

At one of Open Pixel’s production stations, well-communicated concepts become animation.

“A lot of businesses haven’t realized they can do amazing things,” Colón said. “Our job as a studio is to introduce businesses to animation for the first time.”

And do it, for the most part, remotely.

“We have 20 freelancers across the country, and I’ve met only a few in person,” he noted. “We’ve always been remote, always done Zoom calls, always done projects managed through cloud-based solutions. It’s been a breeze, and that’s a testament to our process. We were one of the first ‘pandemic industries’ pre-pandemic. We were ready for it.”

Now, they’re ready to move the needle even further when it comes to the power of animation in the business world.

 

Crossing Paths

Colón’s journey to the world of animation began at Hampshire College, where, during his first year in 2009, he tried to get into an advanced computer animation class, but was rejected by the instructor, Chris Perry, because he had no experience.

But after Colón excelled at an introductory course in the field, Perry — a Pixar veteran who served as a technical director on A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo — accepted him into the advanced course.

“As I moved from the basics to more advanced stuff, I didn’t know how much I would love it, that I’d lose myself in the work, forget about time, and really enjoy the process more than the results,” Colón recalled. “I knew this was something I could go into.”

After college, he returned to the Boston area and worked at special-effects company Zero VFX, but desired a move back into animation, and landed a job at Anzovin Studio in Florence in 2013.

Characters created for a piece on Behavioral Health Network’s Crisis Healthline.

A project for Amherst College’s bicentennial

Animated messaging advocating for changes in tobacco laws

Webb, who had attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and worked for a time in Los Angeles and San Diego, eventually moved to Western Mass. to work at Perry’s independent studio, Bit Films — and later started working at Anzovin Studio, where she met Colón.

Their company took shape after Anzovin decided to shift his business model into animation tools, while the production team, where Colón and Webb worked, was spun off into a separate entity. The pair then decided to go in a different direction, by launching their own studio.

Taccone’s passion for animation was sparked by a high-school trip to Pixar Animation Studios in California. She later studied animation at UMass Amherst and met Colón while taking class at Hampshire, where he was the teaching assistant. After a stint at HitPoint Studios, she worked at Anzovin from 2014 to 2016, then moved to California to work in the games industry, for EA and Toys for Bob. But in 2017, she returned to Western Mass. to help Colón and Webb launch Open Pixel.

“We decided to go into a different realm, building something new that was going to be ours,” Colón said. “Kathryn came back from California, and that was the beginning of our journey.”

Speaking of journeys, hearing Taccone describe the process of moving a concept to a finished product, it’s striking how much work happens before the actual animation begins.

“A client will come to us with an idea of the message they’re trying to send; typically they’ll have a call to action associated with that message,” she explained. “We take this from the initial script phase — whether we write it ourselves or the client provides it — and bring it into an audio-visual script, which allows us all to be on the same page with what will happen with the story.”

This all happens before visuals are actually created, she added. In other words, clear communication is key — not just with the target audience, but between all the players in creating the animation, and at every stage.

“We make a choice at the concept stage whether or not something should be represented through iconography, text, characters, or just backgrounds,” she added, noting that just using animated words can often be as powerful as talking characters. “Often we’ll use a blend of those things.”

Once the concepts are established, next comes discussion of style, tone, and other elements. Then storyboards are created, laying out the content from start to finish — again, so everyone involved can envision the final piece and make changes before the actual animation begins.

“When we do the animation,” Taccone said, “we hire voice-over artists, we do music and sound effects — again, depending on the client’s needs, but all serving the purpose of matching the tone and style and direction to the story we’re trying to tell.”

While many corporate clients rely on Open Pixel’s work in their employee training videos and modules as well as marketing, a particularly feel-good part of the team’s mission is working with nonprofits on messaging that will draw more attention and support. Nonprofit leaders aren’t always natural salespeople, Colón noted, and he and his team can help them hone their message and educate the public.

“They’re trying to make the world a better place; that’s their mission,” he said. “We’re helping them close the gap between the audience and their mission. We use animation to explain what they’re doing.”

In the end, Taccone said, even the most eye-catching animation isn’t a success if it doesn’t meet the client’s needs. “In a way, the communication is sometimes more important than the art. We’re trying to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

 

Mission Accomplished

For Colón, such work is especially gratifying considering that, early in his career, he never thought about running a business. But his former employer, Raf Anzovin, encouraged that growth — and, in fact, encouraged him and Webb to branch out on their own.

“I feel like the people I met along the way influenced me in continuing this work. If those people weren’t there, we wouldn’t be around,” Colón said.

Achieving the studio’s goals in Western Mass. — a region that has been steadily growing its reputation for innovation and technology — is especially satisfying, he said. Clients run the gamut from large corporations to small outfits, and the remote nature of the work allows Open Pixel to take on projects from Boston to the West Coast.

He’s also particularly proud that the company is certified as a majority women-owned business. Noting that the history of animation has not always been a friendly one for women, he hopes Open Pixel inspires other women to pursue this field.

Through it all, he, Taccone, and Webb hope to continue to expand the work they do, but also become a destination to start a career.

“In the future, we want to be a jumping-off point for folks getting out of college,” he said, noting that it’s natural for talented graduates to depart the Five Colleges and look for jobs in New York, Los Angeles, or Boston. To encourage them to start their careers closer to home, Open Pixel has developed a pipeline of interns from Amherst College and Hampshire College. “Not only can you learn the tools here, this can be an entry point into the field.”

As for those tools, they’re much more affordable and accessible than they once were,” Colón said. “You can get a license and run a studio from your home office. But what makes us special is our process and our back end, our ability to push animation further than where it currently is right now.

“So much of it is in entertainment — games and movies,” he went on, “but we’re seeing a shift toward companies creating advertising campaigns utilizing animation because it’s so limitless. You can create anything you like. That’s what we see — unlimited creative expression.”

And always in the service of the client, Taccone added.

“We pride ourselves on being a studio that takes time to understand the balance between the client’s needs and our artistic identity. That way, we all enjoy the process as we go through it.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook

Bulkley Richardson Launches Blockchain, Cryptocurrency Group

SPRINGFIELD — Bulkley Richardson recently launched a Blockchain and Cryptocurrency practice group to provide solutions for businesses adopting blockchain technology in a complex and changing regulatory landscape. The group’s attorneys have broad-based experience in key areas affecting blockchain technologies, including financial services and banking, intellectual property, securities regulation, emerging businesses, corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, taxation, and digital privacy and cybersecurity. Blockchain technologies like cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are changing the way businesses operate. The rise of the blockchain has spurred a wave of innovation that is disrupting the market and spawning new areas of the digital economy. As blockchain innovation continues to grow and evolve, so do the legal, regulatory, and business challenges. The Blockchain and Cryptocurrency practice group includes attorneys Mark Cress, Dan Finnegan, Scott Foster, Bart Galvin, Lauren Ostberg, Ron Weiss, and Sarah Willey. With a cross-disciplinary approach, Bulkley Richardson aims to assist clients in capitalizing on new business opportunities and meeting the challenges in this rapidly evolving industry.

 

Whalley Computer Associates Named One of Tech Elite 250

SOUTHWICK — Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) has once again been named to the Tech Elite 250 list comprised of solution providers in the U.S. and Canada that have made the investments necessary to earn the highest level of certifications from the largest and most prestigious manufacturers of technology products and services, such as Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Microsoft, Nutanix, VMware, HPI, and HPE, to name a few. CRN, a brand of the Channel Company, named WCA to the Tech Elite 250 in 2016 and 2019 as well. WCA’s engineering team has earned about 125 certifications with nearly 30 different manufacturers by numerous dedicated engineers. Founded in 1979, WCA has been providing IT solutions and services to customers throughout New England and upstate New York for 42 years. While it boasts a diverse customer base from small customers to numerous Fortune 100 companies in a wide array of industries, WCA is one of North America’s leading technology solution providers to healthcare, retail, finance, K-12, higher education, and government agencies on both the state and local levels.

 

Darby O’Brien Advertising Launches Catch & Keep Initiative

SOUTH HADLEY — For more than 40 years, Darby O’Brien Advertising has created and executed innovative branding, advertising, and political campaigns. In recent years, clients have increasingly asked the agency to bring its same out-of-step approach to another important area of business: recruiting. Many businesses, especially in technology and manufacturing, are facing unique challenges in today’s job market. Many have plenty of well-paid positions open but are unable to find the right candidates to fill them. Then, when they find the right people, it can be a challenge to keep them. Traditional headhunters and online hiring services often fall short, offering boilerplate approaches to a problem that needs customized solutions — and offering no follow-up. The agency decided to launch Catch & Keep after developing successful recruiting campaigns for clients including VSS CNC Machining, the Mental Health Assoc., Paragus IT, and Berkshire Real Estate. Case studies and more information on Catch & Keep can be found at darbyobrien.com/recruiting.

 

National Science Foundation Grants $649,000 to WNEU

SPRINGFIELD — The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Western New England University (WNEU) $649,111 for a five-year grant to offer scholarships to students. The target populations are students who are high achievers in high school whose family demonstrates they will benefit from financial aid. The grant will create a community-outreach program to increase the number of high-school and middle-school students entering and succeeding in STEM fields. The grant, titled Sustainable Pathways to Success for Low-income STEM Students Emphasizing Research and Innovation, was awarded to Jingru Benner, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and a team of educators from the university including Dean Hossein Cheraghi, Michael Rust, and Anthony Santamaria from the College of Engineering; Raymond Ostendorf from the College of Arts and Sciences; and Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing. Benner will serve as principal investigator and project director. The project will increase the number of high-school students who have access to enroll in the WNEU Mechanical Engineering program. The grant provides funding for an annual need-based scholarship that will be added on top of each student’s WNEU merit scholarship and can be combined with the university’s Women in Engineering or FIRST Robotics Scholarships. In addition, the grant will fund critical resources for students in the program to receive targeted support to help them successfully graduate.

 

Elms College Athletics to Join GNAC This Fall

CHICOPEE — Elms College and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference announced that the Blazers’ GNAC core membership will begin this fall with the upcoming 2021-22 academic year. Last October, both the institution and the league office issued a joint announcement indicating Elms would join the GNAC with the 2022-23 academic year; however, that timeline has since been adjusted. Elms had been a member of the New England College Conference since 2007, claiming 19 league championships while leading the way in All-Academic selections. The Blazers’ swimming and diving programs have been associate members of GNAC since 2006, last competing at the 2020 GNAC championships just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Now all 17 sport programs will compete in the same conference, including baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, as well as men’s and women’s volleyball. GNAC Commissioner Joe Walsh, the conference office, and current members are working diligently to make scheduling adjustments to accommodate the Blazers’ programs, as Elms will now begin its GNAC journey this fall with men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, and women’s volleyball.

 

MCLA Receives $28,000 Grant from Massachusetts DHE

NORTH ADAMS — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has received a $28,720 Higher Education Innovation Fund Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which recently announced a slate of $1.7 million in grants for the state’s public colleges. These grants fund initiatives that help colleges work toward racial equity in Massachusetts public higher education. The grant will allow the MCLA Department of Public Safety to work with a consulting firm specializing in improving police departments’ relationships with their communities. The consultant will work with MCLA to develop an interactive training module for the Department of Public Safety with the goal of increasing cultural competency and engagement of its officers and staff with the MCLA community. Most of the grant proposals funded by DHE seek to provide faculty and staff equity training for transforming campus pedagogy, syllabi, curriculum, and campus life, with the goal of making the institution a truly nurturing environment for students of color.

 

UMass Board of Trustees Approves In-state Tuition Freeze for 2021-22

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts board of trustees voted to approve UMass President Marty Meehan’s proposal to freeze tuition for all in-state undergraduate and graduate students at UMass Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell for the 2021-22 academic year. The vote marks the second consecutive year of tuition and mandatory fee freezes at UMass for in-state undergraduate and graduate students. The Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell campuses also froze out-of-state student tuition. The net price of a UMass education — price minus financial aid — remains consistent with other New England public land-grant universities and 31% below peer private institutions. In addition to a tuition freeze, the university increased its institutionally funded financial aid to a record high of $352 million this fiscal year. This aid, which is funded directly by the university, accounts for 40% of the total aid UMass students receive and is comprised primarily of scholarships and grants. Since 2015, institutional aid has increased by $116 million, or 49%. At least 25% of UMass students at each campus receive Pell Grants. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund is projected to provide $23 million to UMass to further support students, and last year’s CARES Act provided $23 million in direct aid to students. These grants are not considered or included as financial aid.

 

Brenda Cuoco & Associates to Open Second Branch in Longmeadow Shops

LONGMEADOW — Brenda Cuoco & Associates Real Estate Brokerage announced the addition of a new flagship office location opening soon in the Longmeadow Shops. The office is currently under construction, with a target opening date of May 1, and will be located at 714 Bliss Road, adjacent to Starbucks. The addition will support the steady and sustained growth that the brokerage has seen in the last several years and will complement the existing office located at 2442 Boston Road in Wilbraham. The brokerage will also actively recruit top-performing agents to help serve this new community. The firm sold 164 properties last year with a volume of $46.8 million.

 

AIC to Name Renovated Basketball Locker Room in Honor of Frank Oppedisano

SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) men’s basketball locker room will enjoy a much-needed makeover with help from friends in the community. Earlier this year, a group of alumni expressed an interest in doing something meaningful to help AIC men’s basketball in memory of their friend and former teammate, Frank Oppedisano, class of 1967. In addition to their fundraising effort, AIC Athletics engaged alumni and supporters during Athletics Giving Week last month. Donors were asked to consider giving to a general fund or team of their choice, with proceeds from the campaign earmarked to benefit student-athletes and athletic programs at the college. The new locker room will offer additional locker space, new flooring, and Yellow Jacket branding throughout, and will be named in honor of the Springfield native who was a four-year member of the basketball program. Before his passing in March 2020, Oppedisano was a regular at AIC men’s basketball home games and routinely provided congratulations after a win or unconditional support in defeat.

 

Bradley Debut Non-stop Service to Atlanta on Frontier Airlines

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the debut of non-stop service from Bradley International Airport (BDL) to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on Frontier Airlines. The service will commence on June 11 and will operate four times per week. To view flight times and booking information, visit www.flyfrontier.com. With the debut of non-stop service to Atlanta, Frontier Airlines will now offer five non-stop destinations from Bradley International Airport this summer. The airline’s other destinations include Denver, Miami, Orlando, and Raleigh-Durham.

 

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AMHERST

Amity Street Alliance for New Arts Inc., 70 Columbia Dr., Amherst, MA 01002. Roman Yakub, same. It is the intent of this corporation to help artists, musicians, writers, and other creative individuals, to stage performances, display exhibits and carry on other cultural and educational activities for the public, and, in general, to do every other act necessary, incidental or appropriate to accomplishment of any of the above purposes.

CHICOPEE

Massachusetts Truck & Tractor Pullers Association Inc., 150 Fair St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Natalie Cowles, same. To maintain a non-profit organization in order to conduct tractor and trailer pulls and the like at fairs and other venues, including organizing and providing trucks and trailers for all classes, setting up competitions and events, and doing any and all other business related thereto.

NORTH ADAMS

Roots Teen Center Inc., 43 Eagle St. North Adams, MA 01247. Courtney Randall, same. To educate, engage, encourage, and empower youth; and to engage in any other lawful business that a non-profit or charitable corporation is permitted to engage under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

PITTSFIELD

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Professionals Association Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100 Pittsfield, MA 01201. Yvette P. Ladd, 2344 Christiansburg Pike NE, PO Box 763 Floyd, VA 24091. The corporation shall be organized and operated exclusively as a business league, not organized for profit, and no part of the net earnings which shall incur to the benefit of any private member thereof, or individual as those terms are used in section 501 (c) (6) of the internal revenue code of 1986, as amended (the “code”). Notwithstanding any provision of these articles, this corporation shall not support or engage in any program or activity not permitted to be carried on by a corporation exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(6) of the code.

Strong Little Souls Inc., 113 Elaine Dr., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Madison A. Quinn, same. Helping families with children affected by cancer. The corporation is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, and scientific purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code, or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code.

Tech Kitchen Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100 Pittsfield, MA 01201. Graeson Coughenour, same. The purpose of organization includes but is not limited to: Collection and disassembly of electronic equipment for the purpose recycling all components and materials that can be reused. In addition said organization is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, and scientific purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c) (3) of the internal revenue code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code.

SPRINGFIELD

Premier Building & Remodeling Inc., 1464 State St., Springfield, MA 01109. Anthony Nelson, same. Construction company.

Ratchette Industries Inc., 483 Forest Hills Road, Springfield, MA 01128. Andrew Racette, same. Plumbing and heating installation.

Shousha Inc., 8 Leyfred Ter., Apt. 1R Springfield, MA 01108. Abdilrahman Abdi, same. Long-distance trucking.

WARREN

SC Peters Restoration Inc., 61 O’Neil Road, Warren, MA 01083. Shaun Christopher Peters, same. Handyman services.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Letendre Painting & Consulting Inc., 28 Herrman Road, West Springfield, MA 01089. Daniel Letendre, same. Professional coating consultants.

Ruslan Express Incorporation, 72 Jenson Circle, West Springfield, MA 01089. Ruslan Shvetsov, same. Transporting goods.

Satellite Auto Delivery Inc., 188 Riverdale St., Floor 2 West Springfield, MA 01089. Ruslan Malancea, same. Trucking.

WILBRAHAM

Unity Tech Solutions, Inc., 5 Sherwin Road, Wilbraham, MA 01095. Kevin Farrell, same. Staffing and recruiting service.

WILLIAMSTOWN

New Europe Review Inc., 54 Hall St. #2 Williamstown, MA 01267. Paul Olchvary, same. This corporation is organized to operate exclusively as a charitable organization with charitable literary and educational purposes.

Spoon Incorporated, 160 Water St. #25 Williamstown, MA 01267. David Little, same. Sale of food and beverages at retail.

Features

NFTs and Cryptocurrency

By Bart Galvin

 

Digital assets such as Bitcoin and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are transforming global capital markets and the art world, with market capitalization reaching $2 trillion and digital artworks packaged through NFTs regularly selling for millions of dollars. As these assets gain prominence in the marketplace, it is increasingly important to understand why these assets appeal to investors, how they represent value, and how they function under the hood.

 

NFTs and Digital Art

NFTs have exploded in popularity in the past year, with notable examples like CryptoPunks, which are collectible, algorithmically generated pixel artworks, as well as the works of Mike Winkelmann (known professionally as Beeple), who recently sold a piece of NFT art at a Christie’s auction for $69 million.

Bart Galvin

An NFT is a unique digital token representing an interest in something else, which could be a piece of art, a share of stock, a stream of royalties, or even, in the case of Unisocks, entitlement to a physical pair of socks. NFTs are ‘non-fungible’ because, unlike cryptocurrencies, they aren’t interchangeable — your NFT corresponds to the specific entitlement or right to the underlying thing.

The eye-popping price tags of many digital-art NFTs poses the question: what exactly are you buying when you purchase an NFT? In its most basic form, an NFT is simply verifiable proof that you are the purchaser of whatever the NFT represents. But the devil is in the details. The rights granted by an NFT are entirely up its creator, so some NFTs have strict terms and conditions that prohibit exhibitions or commercial use of the art, while others might grant you the copyright in the work.

 

Cryptocurrency and the Rise of Bitcoin

Bitcoin has been the most prominent cryptocurrency since its introduction in 2008, but many other cryptocurrencies exist, such as Ethereum, an important part of many ‘smart contracts,’ and Tether, which is pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar. Bitcoin accounts for about half of global cryptocurrency market capitalization.

At the end of March, the price of one Bitcoin was approximately $60,000. Unlike a cryptocurrency like Tether, the value of Bitcoin can fluctuate wildly. Indeed, it has increased tenfold in the past year, dwarfing its previous peak of $17,000 in December 2017. The value of Bitcoin is determined almost entirely by what purchasers believe it is worth, and investors speculate on that value, driving price fluctuations. These price fluctuations can have a snowball effect, whereby widespread speculation in Bitcoin that drives the price upward can lead investors to believe Bitcoin will be adopted more widely, leading to further speculation that its value will increase.

 

Why Do People Care?

Cryptocurrencies and NFTs represent a fundamentally new way of transacting. The reason is in the revolutionary qualities of their underlying technology: the ‘blockchain.’ A blockchain can be thought of as a tamper-resistant digital store of data, constructed using computer cryptography and distributed among participants over the internet. Here’s what makes the blockchain special, and why people are jumping on board.

First, the blockchain allows parties to transact without intermediaries. No banks or clearinghouses are needed to execute or verify transactions since the underlying technology ensures that transfers are reliable, practically irreversible, and publicly verifiable.

“In the world of blockchain technology, Bitcoin and digital-art NFTs are the tip of the iceberg. There are already countless blockchain-based technologies, and new ones are invented every day.”

Second, blockchain transactions are not limited by jurisdictional or national boundaries. The transaction’s terms are dictated by computer code, not local law. Perhaps more importantly, the code is self-enforcing, which limits opportunistic behavior. Parties do not need to appeal to the judicial system to enforce an agreement because it happens automatically.

Third, blockchains are not subject to a central point of control or a central point of failure. Blockchains work by interconnecting users running the same software over a peer-to-peer network on the internet. No one party controls the blockchain. All new transactions are shared over the network, and they become final only when a majority of users determines that the transaction is valid. If a user doesn’t own the digital asset they’re trying to transfer, or tries to transfer it twice, the transaction will be rejected.

Fourth, blockchain transactions are publicly visible and verifiable. A blockchain serves as a ledger of transactions and all the transactions that came before them, allowing anyone to view and verify the trail of activity occurring over the network.

Fifth, blockchains allow parties to transact pseudonymously (not quite anonymously), without needing to trust or even know each other. All you need to know is your counterparty’s digital address or ‘wallet.’ And because transactions are practically irreversible and verified by the consensus of the network, the opportunities for fraud are heavily curtailed.

 

The Future of Blockchain Technologies

In the world of blockchain technology, Bitcoin and digital-art NFTs are the tip of the iceberg. There are already countless blockchain-based technologies, and new ones are invented every day. The blockchain is highly flexible and has tremendous untapped potential for consumer transactions, private contracts, corporate structuring, securities and derivatives, and even public administration. If your business is not using the blockchain yet, it’s only a matter of time.

 

Bart Galvin is an attorney at Bulkley Richardson, where he is a member of the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency practice group; (413) 272-6200.

Sports & Leisure

Buy the Buy

Dave DiRico

Dave DiRico says many people who discovered or rediscovered golf in 2020 are coming back to buy new equipment in 2021.

Dave DiRico says his shop is usually busy in late March and early April as golfers gear up for a new season.

This year, the look and feel have been different, and for many reasons. Golf got an unexpected and much-deserved boost last year when it became one of the few organized sports people could take part in. And it’s received another boost from the fact that Americans have been saving money as perhaps never before, and many of them have also been receiving stimulus checks from the government.

Add it all up, and March and April have been even busier than normal, said DiRico, owner of Dave DiRico’s Golf & Racquet, adding that, for now, he doesn’t see many signs of slowing down.

“We’re seeing it at all levels, all age groups, starting with the seniors,” he said. “They didn’t travel as much over the past year. They haven’t gone out to dinner; they didn’t go on their spring golf trip to Florida. And we’re seeing more of those people buying clubs — and that’s generally not our soft spot.”

That soft spot would be younger professionals and junior golfers, he went on, adding that these people are buying clubs, too, often with the help of the government.

Meanwhile, large numbers of people took up the game last year, or found it again after drifting away from it for whatever reason. Many of these people bought used equipment last year — so much that inventories dwindled significantly — and this year, they’re coming back for new clubs.

“Most of them are deciding to continue to play — they enjoyed it,” DiRico said. “And they’re trading in their used equipment for new stuff — because they intend to stay with it.”

The surge in play and its impact on the retail side of the game is reflected in the numbers. In the third quarter of 2020, for example, retail sales of golf equipment exceeded $1 billion for the first time ever for that period, according to Golf Datatech, an industry research firm. Meanwhile, Callaway Golf Co., which manufactures golf balls in Chicopee, reported a 20% surge in sales in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The problem some players are encountering, though, is limited inventories of new equipment. Indeed, the golf manufacturers, like those who make cars and countless other products, are experiencing supply-chain issues and difficulties getting the materials they need. This has led to sometimes lengthy waits for ordered clubs to be delivered.

“There’s such an increased demand with new golfers across the country that they’re all running out of equipment,” he explained. “They can only manufacture so much, and the demand is far more then they projected. Some companies can’t get shafts, others can’t get grips — you can’t make a golf club unless you have all the components.

“We have a few companies that are great — they’ve managed to stay ahead of this, and they’re doing very well,” he went on. “But then, we have some other companies … you have to wait 15 weeks to get a set of irons.”

Doing some quick math, DiRico said this will translate into delivery sometime in June, far longer than golfers anxious to get their hands on new irons or a new driver want to wait.

But, overall, this would have to be considered a good problem to have — if such things actually exist in business.

Only a few years ago, the golf industry was in a sharp decline, with membership down at most clubs, tee times readily available at public facilities, and racks full of new equipment for which there wasn’t strong demand. Things have changed in a hurry, and DiRico and others hope most of these trends — not the current supply-and-demand issues, certainly — have some permanence to them.

 

—George O’Brien

Estate Planning

Staying Ahead of the Scams

By Julie Quink

 

With the continued intensity created by the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners and individuals have continued to be victims of fraudulent activity as the scams and schemes are continually changing and increasing in number.

At a time of significant economic stress and uncertainty, the barrage of ever-changing fraudulent attempts and attacks becomes increasingly difficult to manage and prevent. Fraudsters have also become very creative in their methods of gathering sensitive information to commit fraud, so it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what might be coming next in the form of an attack.

Since the onset of the pandemic, these schemes have continued to include filing fraudulent unemployment claims. As practitioners, we have also noticed an increase in stolen identities, whether it be by the interception of documents containing personal information or through online access.

As professionals who work with clients to implement best practices and detection techniques, we fall victim to fraud attempts as well. The most recent fraud attempts include continued false unemployment claims and theft of identities through mail interception.

 

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims

The filing of fraudulent unemployment claims is not a new fraud scheme. However, the repeated attempts at compromising employee data and filing of fraudulent claims in other states has increased.

Fraudsters have taken to heart the saying, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Some businesses have seen repeat attempts at fraudulent claims filed against the business using the same employees but citing different reasons for filing for unemployment, such as break in service or lack of work.

Further, claims are being filed for employees in different states. The fraudster is using an employee’s information to file in a state in which the employee does not live or work to gain access to unemployment benefits in the state where they live. It has become a vicious cycle.

“The most recent fraud attempts include continued false unemployment claims and theft of identities through mail interception.”

States have tightened controls and verifications to try to manage these fraudulent claims, but the tightening of controls comes with a cost. Employees who have been victims of fraudulent claims in the past may have a more challenging time filing for unemployment as their account has now been flagged. The ease of filing online for these people has now become complicated and time-consuming as they try to navigate the unemployment system.

The continued monitoring of a business unemployment account to prevent and detect fraudulent activity and responding to fraudulent claims can be time-consuming. If fraudulent claims are paid against an employer account, it can impact the employer’s experience rate and unemployment account if not identified quickly.

This is not a new area of fraud, but the methods that fraudsters use to gain access and apply is ever-changing.

 

Identify Theft

Fraudulent unemployment claims are an example of identity theft. It is believed that some of the personal information used in filing fraudulent unemployment claims has come from data breaches. However, creative methods of accessing personal information have now encompassed intercepting hard documents.

Another area of data interception, with which we have had personal experience, is through the mail. If a fraudster is not able to access personal information through electronic means, why not try the good old-fashioned way, through the U.S. Postal Service or another carrier?

Intercepting mail is a scheme that seems to be on the rise. In one such case of which we are aware, information was intercepted prior to arrival at its intended location. Between the time it was initially mailed and the time it finally arrived at its location, the sender’s identity was stolen, and a loan was opened in their name, unbeknownst to them. The fraudster intercepted tax documents, which had personal identifying information, and secured a fraudulent loan. Ultimately, the fraudster, realizing that the mail was in a tracked envelope, secured the package with significant amounts of tape and forwarded it to the final destination.

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service is diligent in investigating suspected mail theft, from both internal and external sources. Because of its commitment to finding and detecting mail fraud, the office has devoted the Office of Investigations to handle complaints and fraud.

The impacts of identity theft for a business owner or an individual can be far-reaching. Significant impacts can include compromising credit and financial hardship, compromising legal relationships and documents, and compromising tax filings.

Perhaps one of the most significant impacts may be the feeling of violation, distrust, betrayal, or even embarrassment created by the theft of identity. The unwinding and unpacking of identity theft can be a time-consuming and emotional process for business owners and individuals.

 

Takeaways

What we know is that fraud schemes are changing faster than business owners, individuals, and technology can keep up. Whether the fraud scheme is a recurring scheme or a new and improved scheme, the importance of diligence, communication, and monitoring should not be discounted.

Communication with employees about fraudulent schemes involving unemployment and mail, along with continued monitoring, are best practices in keeping information safe and secure.

 

Julie Quink is managing partner with West Springfield-based Burkhart Pizzanelli; (413) 734-9040.

Opinion

Cannabis Business Is Riding High

Back in November — only two years after adult-use marijuana became legal in the Commonwealth — the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reported sales had surpassed $1 billion, and the state had collected some $200 million in taxes from the adult-use windfall. At the time, employment in the adult-use cannabis field in Massachusetts was approaching 6,000. It’s likely significantly higher now.

The COVID-19 impact? Not much, really. Except during those weeks from March through early May 2020, when most businesses of all kinds were closed to the public, dispensaries have reported steady revenues right through the pandemic. While the supply-chain issues and other economic impacts that followed in the wake of COVID did slow the pace of progress at some projects in various stages of development, customers are still lining up to get into the shops currently open.

In short, some industries are more resilient amid shifting economic tides — and public-health emergencies, it turns out — than others, and cannabis has proven, so far, to be one of them.

One lingering question, however, is how the rapid proliferation of dispensaries and other cannabis businesses will impact sales at each individual shop — in other words, will supply begin to outstrip demand and make this a riskier or less desirable industry to enter than it was a year ago?

To hear the business owners themselves tell it, the answer is no. Take Northampton, for example. Both Noho-based business owners we spoke with for this issue’s cannabis focus say that city has become such a destination for cannabis that each new enterprise just adds a little more texture to a robust ecosystem — and draws in even more customers from outside.

After all, if a city is known for its restaurants, no one ever says there are too many, or that it’s a bad idea to open another.

The heightened competition has, of course, forced new business owners to think critically about how to best stand out from the crowd, and the stories starting on page 29 are good examples of how they’re doing exactly that.

Cannabis has been a boon for the state’s coffers, no doubt about it. But it continues to be a strong driver of employment as well, one with a still-undefined ceiling. And it’s begun to add real vibrancy to the economy and lifestyle of communities that have been welcoming hosts.

In short, this is still fertile soil. After a year of economic news that hasn’t always been bright, that’s something to celebrate.

Agenda

‘Friday Focus’ Panel

April 9: The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) master of business administration (MBA) program will present a free virtual panel at noon on entrepreneurship and small business in the time of COVID-19, as part of its “Friday Focus” panel series examining the pandemic’s impact on business and economic development. Moderated by MCLA Director of Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Joshua Mendel, this series features local business leaders, MBA program alumni, and faculty from MCLA’s Business Department. To register, visit mcla.edu/mba. All events will take place virtually and are free and open to the public. This event will also be streamed to the MCLA Facebook page and will be archived on the MCLA YouTube channel for later viewing. MCLA’s MBA program is a part-time, accelerated program designed to meet the needs of the working adult learner. Most courses meet through a combination of online and face-to-face instruction and blend classroom experience with practical, hands-on fieldwork. In addition, the program offers diverse academic programming and provides a high return on investment. MCLA’s MBA program accepts applications throughout the year, and new students may begin the program in the fall, spring, and summer.

 

‘National Security Priorities in Biden’s First 100 Days’

April 15: “National Security Priorities in Biden’s First 100 Days” will be the topic of a discussion by Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law Dean Sudha Setty on Thursday, April 15 at noon. The cost for this virtual event, presented by the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, is $10 (free for students). Setty will discuss various national-security priorities of the Biden administration, including investigations into domestic terrorism, anticipated policy changes regarding targeted killings, and foreign-policy priorities. Setty became dean of the School of Law in 2018 and has served on the faculty since 2006. She is the author of National Security Secrecy: Comparative Effects on Democracy and the Rule of Law, the editor of Constitutions, Security, and the Rule of Law), and has written dozens of articles on national-security law and policy. The April 15 event is sponsored by Glenmeadow, Sir Speedy, and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. For more information and to register, visit the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts website at www.wacwestma.org.

 

Alumni Achievement Award Nominations

Through April 23: When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region — individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community — and celebrate their accomplishments. In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award (formerly the Continued Excellence Award). As the name suggests, it is presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon his or her track record of accomplishment. To nominate someone for this award, visit BusinessWest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty-alumni-achievement-award. The deadline is Friday, April 23 at 5 p.m., no exceptions. The 2020 honoree will be announced at the 40 Under Forty gala in June. Candidates must be from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007 to 2020. A list of 40 Under Forty Alumni can be found at BusinessWest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty.

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

Through April 23: Springfield Partners for Community Action announced it will award a number of $1,000 scholarships that can help recipients with tuition and alleviate the cost of going back to school and investing in bettering themselves. All applicants must be Springfield residents, and income-eligibility guidelines may apply. Scholarships will be awarded to those attending accredited/licensed schools in Massachusetts. Applications must be received by April 23. Late entries will not be considered. If selected, recipients must be available to attend an awards event (most likely virtual) in June. Visit www.springfieldpartnersinc.com/whatwedo/scholarshipsprogram for the application form and information on how to apply.

 

Series on Workplace Violence Prevention

April 27, May 26, June 30: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) and its training partners from Protective Advanced Safety Services (PASS), will present a three-part training series at EANE’s Agawam training center for regional employers on workplace violence prevention. The first workshop is slated for 3 to 5 p.m. Session topics include “Who’s Coming to Work,” “CALM: De-escalation Strategies,” and “Hire Right, Fire Smart.” All three sessions are designed to equip employers with the tools and knowledge they need to keep their workplaces safe from violence, including microaggressions, employee-relations escalations, and the worst-case scenario: an active shooter. Space in this training series is limited to 10 participants as EANE is following state guidelines on social distancing and capacity limits. The cost for the program is $331.50 for all three sessions. Interested parties can reach out to Allison Ebner at [email protected] or call (413) 789-6400 for more information.

 

VA Healthcare Virtual Summit

May 24-26: The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) announced plans for the IDGA VA Healthcare Summit. BusinessWest is sponsoring this event, at which attendees will have the opportunity to meet with the leaders positioned to provide substantive change across the department, with a particular focus on advancing patient advocacy and experience, digital transformation, community and vendor engagement, e-learning, the VA’s innovation ecosystem, and more. IDGA’s summit will highlight these areas across the agenda, as well as include enabling VA initiatives currently underway to advance the most critical needs for veterans across the U.S. This year’s agenda, developed through indepth research by IDGA, covers a range of topics, including VHA innovation ecosystem initiatives, VA telehealth capabilities, financial management and business-transformation efforts, and a deep dive into clinical delivery. For more information and to view the agenda, visit www.idga.org/events-veteransaffairshealthcare-spring. To join and receive a 20% discount, register at bit.ly/3sts2FV and quote code VAH_HCN. All federal, state, and local government, as well as military and law enforcement, can attend at no cost.

 

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

CHICOPEE

Lee’s Taekwondo at Springfield Inc., 82 Main St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Suhyun Lee, 109C Mill St. Springfield, MA 01108. Taekwondo martial arts studio.

EASTHAMPTON

Lamar Audio Inc., 191 Northampton St., Suite 1448, Easthampton, MA 01027. Anthony Timmons, same. Audio recordings for radio, production, education.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Mowen Inc., 185 Millbrook Dr., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Kathleen Sabella, same. Wholesale and retail sales.

PELHAM

Counslr Inc., 46 Arnold Road Pelham, MA 01002. Joseph Leonard, same. Therapist service agency.

PITTSFIELD

Local Touch Tours, Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Anne-Marie Mascaro, 108 Cayenne St. West Springfield, MA 01089. Experiential tours through internet platform.

N.A.H.N. Innovations Corp., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Nangwaya Wilson, same. Invent and sell advanced innovations.

SOUTH HADLEY

K2K Corp., 17 Bridge St., South Hadley, MA 01075. Vasantlal A. Shah, 188 Sumner Ave., Springfield, MA 01108. Gas station with convenience store and package stores.

SOUTHAMPTON

Malanson Excavating Inc., 4 Lead Mine Road, Southampton, MA 01073. Craig Malanson, same. Excavation.

SPRINGFIELD

HL Equity Corp., 2058 Parker St., Springfield, MA 01028. Zhi Huang, same. Online sales and distribution.

Ibrahim Enterprises Inc., 876 State St., Springfield, MA 01109. Ibrahim Aden Mohamed, 33 Lincoln St., Apt. 22, Lynn, MA 01902. Operation of a specialty retail grocery store.

L&G Signs & Designs Corp., 1 Allen St., Suite G3 Springfield, MA 01108. Leroy Davidson, 69 Marshall St. Springfield, MA 01109. Company provides sign designs and installations service.

Metrocare of Springfield Homecare Inc., 125 Liberty St., Suite 402 Springfield, MA 01103. Alex Eydinov, 27 Lyman St. 605 Springfield, MA 01103. Homehealth care.

WARREN

Country Floral & Gift Inc., 5 Knox Trail Warren, MA 01082. Michelle M. Jasmin-Cox, same. Retail sale of floral products.

WESTFIELD

Emirhan Inc., 73 Elm St., Westfield, MA 01085. Doganay Koc, 23 Pine St. Ludlow, MA 01056. Fast food.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

NFP Holdings, Inc., 492 Prospect Ave., West Springfield, MA 01089. Nina D. Fountain, 30 Montgomery Acres Road, Montgomery, MA 01089. Holding company.

WILBRAHAM

Islandgrafics Inc., 393 Main St., Wilbraham, MA 01095. Robert Landgraf, same. Seller of travel and advertising.

 

Cover Story

Lessons Learned from COVID

It’s been said time and again that, for businesses large and small, the pandemic provided a number of learning opportunities. Companies learned new ways to do things — mostly out of necessity — while also learning that the ‘old’ way may not be the best way. Meanwhile, the pandemic provided opportunities that didn’t exist before — especially when it comes to hiring — and accelerated the pace of needed change. All that means the landscape has been altered for the long term.

Drew DiGiorgio, president and CEO of Wellfleet

Drew DiGiorgio, president and CEO of Wellfleet, in the company’s mostly unoccupied space in Tower Square.

They’re called ‘insurance bibles.’

That’s the name those at HUB Insurance have attached to the large binders — some of them containing 700 pages or more, in the case of large commercial accounts — that tell clients everything, as in everything, about what’s in their policy, what’s covered, what isn’t, and on and on.

As he held one up, Timm Marini, president of HUB International New England LLC, noted that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, bibles only came in the printed variety. Now, if a client wants one — and some of them don’t — a digital file is sent, in part because a client can’t pick one up, and HUB can’t drop one off.

And, by and large, things will stay this way, said Marini, noting that COVID has shown those at the company that they don’t need to kill trees and use up expensive toner to provide a client with their insurance bible.

“Now, you can do it all electronically,” he explained. “And you probably could before COVID, but COVID made us do it more.”

This is just one of the many things companies large and small have learned during the pandemic, lessons that will carry over to the time when COVID is referred to in the past tense. Others involve everything from not having to scan documents for tax preparers to not necessarily limiting a candidate search to those living in the 413, to not having people travel to a conference on the other side of the state if they can instead take it in via Zoom.

“It’s a mix, but many certainly want to come back. They’re lonely … they actually want to work in more of a community setting.”

In a word, the pandemic has shown area businesses and nonprofits that they have more options than maybe they thought they had, when it comes to how and where people work and just how things are done.

For this issue and its focus on the modern office, we talked with a number of business owners and managers about what’s been learned over the past 12 months or so and how COVID has actually made companies more efficient and enabled them to reduce costs in some areas. The observations were telling.

“The audit side of our practice generally required teams of people here to go visit on site at other locations,” said Sarah Rose Stack, Marketing & Recruitment manager at the Holyoke-based CPA firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka. “Because of COVID, we learned we could do these remotely, which is something we’ve never done; this was a first-time experience not just for us, but for people in our industry. We’ve learned that it’s fine, it is efficient, and with some businesses, we’ll keep doing it this way moving forward.”

Timm Marini holds up an ‘insurance bible’

Timm Marini holds up an ‘insurance bible’ — the printed variety. Those at HUB have had to send digital documents during the pandemic, and that trend will continue into the future.

For Springfield-based Wellfleet, now with offices in Tower Square, the pandemic has provided ample evidence that employees in many positions can work effectively and remotely, and this enables the company to expand its horizons when it comes to hiring.

“You can expand your pool when it comes to workforce; we can hire someone not from the Springfield area and have them be successful with the tools that we’ve developed,” said Drew DiGiorgio, the company’s CEO, adding that the company has already hired some people from other parts of the country. Meanwhile, it is working on plans to have other employees work a hybrid schedule, with some days in the office and others remotely.

Chuck Leach, president and CEO of Lee Bank, said that, prior to COVID, HR Director Susie Brown and IT Director Drew Weibel were already hard on work on plans to position the bank to be more flexible with its workforce in terms of where and how it worked. The pandemic served to accelerate that process.

“Even though we’re Lee Bank, a lot of our employees come in from other markets,” he noted, adding that these lengthy commutes prompted talk and then creation of plans for remote work and hybrid schedules. “We were already thinking about it, and COVID forced us to be more deliberate in our approach and our policies and procedures.”

But even with these options in place and far more flexibility with work schedules than ever before, the bank is tilting strongly toward having people work on site — with some exceptions — and it’s also seeing most of its employees want to come back, which is another thing companies are learning as they work their way through COVID.

“It’s a mix, but many certainly want to come back,” Weibel said. “They’re lonely … they actually want to work in more of a community setting. They want to come back, but some find it easier to work at home until the school situation is worked out and their children are back in the classroom.”

Stack agreed. “When the shutdown first happened, everyone was excited to work from home, so a lot of people exercised that option, and some people have found they’re more efficient from home, cutting out that commute,” she said. “But while some still work from home, the majority of people, like 97% of the people at MBK, choose to come into the office every day because they don’t want to work from home.”

Work in Progress

DiGiorgio said it’s somewhat frustrating to walk around his company’s offices in Tower Square.

More than 200 employees moved into the well-appointed space covering three full floors in the late summer of 2019, only to see pretty much everyone pack up and go home to work in mid-March.

“We love it — we wish we could be in it more,” he said with a laugh. “It’s great space — open-floor design, all the things you probably don’t want with COVID. It will be great to get back to it.”

Indeed, that’s a lot of fairly expensive (for this market) downtown Springfield real estate that is not being used. But DiGiorgio doesn’t dwell on matters that are out of his control.

Instead, he’s more focused on what the future will look like — and applying all the lessons learned during the pandemic.

As for that real estate … he said this is a growing company that took three floors with the intention of perhaps soon absorbing a fourth. Need for that additional space is less likely now, he acknowledged, but the company will still need the space it’s now leasing because he fully expects most of his employees to be back in that space.

But not all will have to come back, he went on, and some, as he noted, will never have to sit at a desk there.

“We have, over the past year, hired people in Florida, Tennessee, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Upstate New York … we have a pretty remote workforce,” he said, adding that some of these hires took place before COVID because the tools were in place, but the pandemic has highlighted how effective people can be working remotely, and thus, as he said, broadened and deepened the talent pool.

“We have a billing person who’s in Tennessee. I feel more comfortable now that she can hire people in Tennessee or wherever she needs to; they may not need to be in Springfield, which is what our initial thought was. COVID has opened up our thinking to where we hire people.”

Marini agreed. “We have employees in Wisconsin who work for New England,” he explained. “We have people who decided to move to Florida and still work for New England. We had a little of that before COVID, but what we realized was that, with our ability to get our automation up and running, our digital offerings, that really expanded our talent pool; there have been some relocations during COVID and some new hires during COVID that are not Western Mass.-based. And we have some people in Western Mass. who work for some of our Eastern Mass. locations and even one in New York.”

COVID has reinforced this premise, as it has many others, while accelerating some trends and pretty much forcing companies to do some things they never considered before.

Like those virtual audits at Meyers Brothers Kalicka.

Stack said the firm’s teams have undertaken a number of them, while, in other cases, it has adopted a hybrid approach for some audits, going to the client site for some of the work while handing the rest remotely. Thanks in large part to COVID, there are now several options for handling such work, she said, adding that other lessons have been learned and other new ways of doing things revealed.

“On the tax side of our practice, we used to have clients in the building all day, every day, from February 1 through tax day, and now, maybe three people a day drop off their boxes of papers; the vast majority of people just e-mail us their material,” she explained. “They’re happy with it, it’s efficient, and it saves us a step. Instead of having to take tons and tons of paperwork and scan it into our digital system, it’s already coming to us in that format.

“We used to have to hire a scanner for tax season — a whole person whose job was to take all this paper that people would drop off and scan it,” she went on. “We didn’t have to hire a scanner this season, and that was definitely a positive change.”

Will Dávila, executive director and CEO of the Children’s Study Home in Springfield, said the pandemic has led to positive change in many forms at his agency and most all businesses and nonprofits. He echoed others when he said that COVID has served to heighten the awareness of how technology can be used to improve efficiency and save time, such as when traveling to conferences or meetings in other cities.

Will Dávila, executive director of the Children’s Study Home

Will Dávila, executive director of the Children’s Study Home, says his agency has learned a number of lessons during the pandemic, many of them involving better use of technology.

“We now have more of a comfort level with working remotely and working via Zoom,” he said, adding that this technology existed long before COVID, but few businesses took full advantage of it. “The lesson for us, and I’m not sure we have it completely figured out yet — it will likely take us some time — is that we can do more with technology than we thought we could before. I’ve been in places where we would talk about technology and teleconferencing and telehealth, and people would balk at it. And now, we’ve been forced to take another look, and we’ve embraced it.”

Looking ahead, he said that, while most people look forward to the day when they can gather and attend conferences and meetings in person, they know there are options — there’s that word again — and they won’t be hesitant to take full advantage of them if the circumstances permit.

Caution Signs

As he walked with BusinessWest through HUB’s headquarters facility on Shaker Road in East Longmeadow, Marini pointed to a number of unoccupied workstations, some of them marked off with the yellow ‘caution’ tape usually associated with crime scenes and construction sites. Such tape can be seen throughout the suite of offices, he said, noting that the space — which was occupied by just over 50 employees prior to the pandemic — has hosted around seven a day on average, with a high of 14, by his count.

Sectioning off such areas became part of life during COVID, he noted, adding that there are myriad ways the pandemic changed the landscape for the company. Overall, there’s been a huge shift; a place once teeming with employees and visiting customers now sees very few of either.

And that has brought challenges — and some opportunities, mostly in the form of learning how to do things remotely and without reams of paper. As he talked about these opportunities, Marini gave a nod — sort of, anyway — to an organization his business works closely with, obviously: the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

“Even the Registry of Motor Vehicles here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has become more digitized, more automated, and more flexible, and that’s something I never thought I’d see after 33 or 34 years of doing this,” he told BusinessWest, adding that, in some ways, his company has been inspired by the RMV, as it automates and digitizes many processes that once involved paper and in-person sessions.

As for the challenges, they came in waves, Marini explained, from equipping everyone to work at home, which was expensive and difficult logistically, to helping employees cope with everything from feelings of isolation to simply filling their days with work, even though they were home.

CHuck Leach

Chuck Leach

“Even though we’re Lee Bank, a lot of our employees come in from other markets. We were already thinking about it, and COVID forced us to be more deliberate in our approach and our policies and procedures.”

“We were too accessible when we were home, so there were no breaks for our people,” he explained. “We started having big conversations and hiring professionals to come in to coach us to make sure we took breaks and that there was separation between home and work.”

What will things look like several months from now, especially if the pandemic continues to ease? Marini isn’t exactly sure, but he acknowledged that he spends a lot of time thinking about it and working with corporate to prepare for that day.

He does know that more business will be handled virtually in the future, and there will be little, if any, need for those printed insurance bibles.

As for employees, like others we spoke with, he expected that they will come back, because the company wants them back, but also because they want to be back in that office setting.

Such sentiments were echoed by many of those we spoke with. They noted that it seem logical that, after getting a taste of working at home, many employees would prefer that option, but what employers are generally seeing is the opposite reaction.

“People are sick of remote everything,” said Stack, noting that Meyers Brothers Kalicka has a younger team within the audit department that could do its work from home, but instead it has reserved the firm’s huge boardroom for the past six weeks so the members can work together, but safely and well spread out.

“They have music playing on Spotify every time you walk in there,” she said. “They just want to be in the same space — they think they’re more efficient that way, and they can ask questions of each other faster and stay on track better because they’re all together. It’s not something we told them they had to do; they’ve chosen to do it.”

Dávila agreed, although he noted that he has some employees who are quite happy working at home, and are “working on it” when it comes to returning to the office. By that, he meant he’s offering some flexibility on this matter and not rushing anyone back who doesn’t want to rush back.

“I think it’s partly generational — people who have been in the field for 15 or 20 years or more and are used to those in-person interactions, they’re used to having that time by the water cooler when they’re getting a cup of coffee. I consider those valuable interactions that help with morale,” he told BusinessWest. “But we also have younger staff who are very comfortable with technology and embrace the idea of working remotely.”

But, ultimately, they will come back, probably by the end of the calendar year. “I don’t want to say absolutely not,” he said when asked about hybrid arrangements that offer a mix of remote and in-office work. “But my preference is that we get people back to a schedule where they can see each other and interact.”

Lee Bank’s Susie Brown agreed. “When it comes to Lee Bank, I think everyone enjoys being together,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of people who are unwilling to come back; those that are unwilling are those that have other challenges at home with their children.”

Bottom Line

COVID is far from over, and there are certainly more lessons to be learned as companies large and small continue to cope with an unprecedented challenge.

But it’s already evident that this battle has prompted changes that will live on long after the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. As they were forced to do things differently, companies learned that, in many cases, these different ways are better than the old ways.

Like the insurance bible. Clients, at least some of them, will still need one. But they won’t need to thumb through 700 pages of printed material to find an answer.

COVID has changed all that — and it keeps on changing the landscape.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Modern Office

Flexible Thinking, Nimble Action

By Susan Robertson

To survive the pandemic, companies were forced to adapt very quickly to radically new circumstances. Even large organizations — where it’s typically difficult to shift directions quickly — managed to accomplish it. Leaders discovered that, when required, their organization could act much more quickly and nimbly than they normally do.

So, the obvious questions are: what was different? And how can you ‘hardwire’ this flexibility into your organization so it continues to be stronger in the future?

 

What Was Different?

All humans have a set of cognitive biases, which are mental shortcuts used for problem solving and decision making.

To be clear, cognitive biases are not individual or personal biases. They are a neuroscience phenomenon that all humans share. It’s also important to understand that they operate subconsciously; they affect your thinking in ways that you don’t realize.

You have two different thinking systems, commonly known as system 1 and system 2, sometimes referred to as thinking fast and thinking slow.

System 1 is the intuitive, quick, and easy thinking that we do most of the time. In fact, it accounts for about 98% of our thinking. It doesn’t require a lot of mental effort; we do it easily, quickly, and without having to think about the fact that we’re thinking.

System 2 thinking is deeper thinking, the kind that’s required for complex problem solving and decision making. This deeper thinking requires more effort and energy; it literally uses more calories. Since it’s less energy-efficient, our brain automatically and subconsciously defaults to the easier system-1 thinking whenever it can to save effort.

Cognitive biases result when our brain tries to stay in system-1 thinking, when perhaps it should be in system 2. The outcome is often sub-optimal solutions and/or poor decision making. But we don’t realize we have sub-optimized because all of this has happened subconsciously.

In typical circumstances, several of these cognitive biases conspire to make us perceive that continuing as we are — with only slower, incremental changes — seems like the best decision. It feels familiar, it feels lower risk … it just feels smarter. Choosing to do nothing different is, very often, simply the default. It frequently doesn’t even feel like we made a decision; instead, it feels like we were really smart for not making a potentially risky decision.

But during the pandemic, changing nothing, or changing very slowly, were simply not options. This particular situation was so unique that our brains didn’t have the choice to stay in short-cut system-1 thinking. System-2 thinking was required. Since we consciously realized we must change — quickly — our brains literally started working harder, in system 2, and the normal cognitive biases weren’t a factor.

 

How Can We Be More Nimble in the Future?

The key to maintaining flexible thinking and nimble behavior is to not allow our brains to fall into the trap of cognitive biases. Obviously, since these are intuitive and subconscious responses, this is not an easy task. But there are proven ways in which we can better manage our brains. Here are a few ways to start.

• Knock Out the Negativity Bias. This is the phenomenon in which negative experiences have a greater impact on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors than positive experiences. So you are much more highly motivated to avoid the negative than you are to seek out positive. The way this manifests in your daily work is that you are much more prone to reject new ideas than to accept them, because rejecting ideas feels like you’re avoiding a potential negative.

Respond to “yes, but…” with “what if…?” This requires a dedicated and conscious mental effort, by everyone on the team, to monitor their own and the team’s response to new ideas. Every time “yes, but…” is uttered, the response needs to be, “what if we could solve for that?” This reframing of the problem into a question will trigger our brains to look for solutions, instead of instantly rejecting the idea.

• Short-circuit the Status-quo Bias. The status-quo bias is a subconscious preference for the current state of affairs. We use ‘current’ as a mental reference point, and any change from that is perceived as a loss. As a result, we frequently overestimate the risk of a change, and dramatically underestimate the risk of business as usual.

When weighing a choice of possible actions, be sure to overtly list “do nothing” as one of the choices, so you are forced to acknowledge it is a choice. Also include “risk” as one of the evaluation criteria, and force the team to list all the possible risks. Then comes the difficult part: remind the team that their subconscious brain is making them perceive the risks of doing nothing to be lower than the reality, so they should multiply the possibility of each of those risks.

• Curtail the Curse of Knowledge. In any subject where we have some expertise, we also have many subconscious assumptions about that subject. Under normal circumstances, this ‘curse of knowledge’ (these latent assumptions) limits our thinking and suppresses our ability to come up with radically new ideas.

Rely on advisors who don’t have the same curse of knowledge. In other words, seek out advice from people outside of your industry. When evaluating ideas or actions, these outsiders won’t have the same blinders that you have, so they will likely have a more clear-eyed view of the benefits and risks.

The bad news is that cognitive biases are always going to be a factor in our problem solving and decision making; they’re hardwired into us. The good news is that, with some dedicated and continuous mental effort, we can mitigate them and become nimbler in the face of change.

 

Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with more than 20 years of experience coaching Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, she brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity; www.susanrobertson.com

Agenda

Difference Makers

April 1: BusinessWest will celebrate its Difference Makers class of 2021 with a virtual celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC. Like the Women of Impact celebration in January, this event will be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves. RSVP at live.remo.co/e/difference-makers-2021. The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

 

Institute for Trustees

Starting April 7: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) announced it is partnering with the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) in presenting the 2021 Institute for Trustees, an annual conference inviting nonprofit leaders to gather together for educational workshops and networking opportunities. Building on the success of BTCF’s 2018 Board Leadership Forum and designed for board leaders and executive directors, the event features 24 virtual workshops from leading nonprofit experts and opportunities to connect with hundreds of peers equally committed to their leadership roles. This partnership is part of a broader effort between BTCF and ECCF to leverage resources in support of building capacity and leadership within the nonprofit sector, given the challenges facing organizations due to the pandemic and its economic consequences. The Institute for Trustees kicks off on April 7 with a keynote address by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, titled “Leading for Nonprofit Impact Amid Unprecedented Challenge.” Beginning April 9, workshops and opportunities to connect with fellow attendees through topic-driven, informal peer discussions will be spread over the course of four weeks. Workshop topics include racial equity, endowment building, crisis planning, governance, advocacy, finance, and much more. To register for the program, visit eccf.org/ift. Registrations will be accepted at a discounted early-bird rate of $110 until March 7. After that, registration will cost $130 and will close April 7.

 

Winnie Film Festival Tour

April 9-11: The Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC), located in Holyoke, is hosting a virtual fundraising event featuring the 2021 Winnie Film Festival Tour. This film fest will feature exclusive, world-premiere short documentary films that celebrate the healing powers of the horse. Attendees will enjoy two hours of inspiring and heartwarming films anytime from 5 p.m. on Friday, April 9 until 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 11. A fee of $25 is requested to register, and participants will be provided a link to stream to any smart device, such as phones, tablets, and TVs. Binge in one sitting, or stretch the viewing out over the entire weekend — the choice is yours. To register for this virtual event, visit tecriders.org. Gary Rome Hyundai is the exclusive event sponsor. TEC has been closed during the pandemic but hopes to open later this year. Proceeds from this event will help feed and care for its stable of horses and provide necessary materials needed for a safe reopening. The Therapeutic Equestrian Center empowers children and adults with physical, emotional, and developmental needs to live their best lives. Through a range of individually designed, equine-assisted programs, lessons, and recreational activities, TEV enhances the bodies, minds, and spirits of riders, creating a stronger, more compassionate and inclusive community in which every member is encouraged and able to thrive.

 

Country Bank Shred Day

April 10: Country Bank is partnering with PROSHRED Security for its annual Shred Day to allow the public to discard their documents safely and securely. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 1.4 million identity theft reports in 2020, and that number continues to rise. Country Bank offers this free shredding service to the public because it understands the importance of helping consumers keep their identity safe. All visitors are asked to practice social distancing and will be required to wear a mask. Country Bank’s free Community Shred Day will take place at the following branch locations: 155 West Street, Ware, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.; 2379 Boston Road, Wilbraham, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; 1084 Main St., Leicester, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and 37 Worcester Road, Charlton, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Items to consider for shredding include old documents, tax returns, bank statements, receipts, bills, or anything that contains personal, identifiable information.

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

April 10: Holyoke Community College (HCC) is partnering with Pam Victor, president and founder of Happier Valley Comedy, to offer “Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness,” a Zoom workshop, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The cost of the class is $99. To register, visit hcc.edu/happiness. Victor, a comedian and improv facilitator who prefers the title ‘head of happiness,’ will lead participants on an experiential exploration of happiness and resilience building to enhance their joy and ease at work and home. She will share stress-relieving exercises and techniques to help people bring more well-being, laughter, gratitude, and play into their daily lives. Happier Valley Comedy, based in Hadley, is the region’s first and only comedy theater and training program.

 

Nominations for Ad Club Creative Awards

Through April 18: The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts invites the community to apply for its 2021 Creative Awards. The club has simplified the rules and eliminated physical entries entirely, due to COVID-19 restrictions. As always, Ad Club members will receive a discounted rate; members will receive a personalized discount code via e-mail. Participants will have the opportunity to virtually meet the agencies, marketing departments, and freelance artists behind the work. Award winners will be announced at the Ad Club’s Creative Awards show scheduled for Thursday, May 20. Categories that qualify participants for entry include advertising, copywriting, design, interactive and web media, photography, video and motion, and student work. Visit www.adclubwm.org/events/creativeawards2021 for the guidelines and application form, or contact the Ad Club at (413) 342-0533 or [email protected].

 

Alumni Achievement Award Nominations

Through April 23: When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region — individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community — and celebrate their accomplishments. In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award (formerly the Continued Excellence Award). As the name suggests, it is presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon his or her track record of accomplishment. To nominate someone for this award, visit businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty-alumni-achievement-award. The deadline is Friday, April 23 at 5 p.m., no exceptions. The 2020 honoree will be announced at the 40 Under Forty gala in June. Candidates must be from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007 to 2020. A list of 40 Under Forty Alumni can be found at businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty.

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

Through April 23: Springfield Partners for Community Action announced it will award a number of $1,000 scholarships that can help recipients with tuition and alleviate the cost of going back to school and investing in bettering themselves. All applicants must be Springfield residents, and income-eligibility guidelines may apply. Scholarships will be awarded to those attending accredited/licensed schools in Massachusetts. Applications must be received by April 23. Late entries will not be considered. If selected, recipients must be available to attend an awards event (most likely virtual) in June. Visit www.springfieldpartnersinc.com/whatwedo/scholarshipsprogram for the application form and information on how to apply.

 

VA Healthcare Virtual Summit

May 24-26: The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) announced plans for the IDGA VA Healthcare Summit. HCN is sponsoring this event, at which attendees will have the opportunity to meet with the leaders positioned to provide substantive change across the department, with a particular focus on advancing patient advocacy and experience, digital transformation, community and vendor engagement, e-learning, the VA’s innovation ecosystem, and more. IDGA’s summit will highlight these areas across the agenda, as well as include enabling VA initiatives currently underway to advance the most critical needs for veterans across the U.S. This year’s agenda, developed through indepth research by IDGA, covers a range of topics, including VHA innovation ecosystem initiatives, VA telehealth capabilities, financial management and business-transformation efforts, and a deep dive into clinical delivery. For more information and to view the agenda, visit www.idga.org/events-veteransaffairshealthcare-spring. To join and receive a 20% discount, register at bit.ly/3sts2FV and quote code VAH_HCN. All federal, state, and local government, as well as military and law enforcement, can attend at no cost.

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Fortini Construction & Remodeling Inc., 46 Center Square East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Mathew L. Fortini, 138 Feeding Hills Road, Westfield, MA 01085. Home construction and remodeling.

Via Appia Ristorante, Inc., 46 Center Square East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Jorge Alexander Gomez, 21 Bruce St. Springfield, MA 01119. Restaurant.

DALTON

My Fantasy Band Inc., 609 Main St. Dalton, MA 01226. Elizabeth A. Sharp, same. Online entertainment.

LANESBORO

Walter Tool Distributor, Inc., 30 Scott Road, Lanesboro, MA 01237. Jeffrey M. Walter, same. Tool sales.

LEE

Hare Krishna Inc., 155 Summer St., Lee, MA 01238. Gaurang Panwala, same. Wholesale.

LENOX

Sadhi Corp., 659 Prospect St., Apt. A1, Chicopee, MA 01020. Ankit Patel, same. Package store.

PITTSFIELD

G.B. Cleaning Services Inc., 483 Tyler St., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Gladis M. Bravo, same. House and office cleaning.

GetLofty Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Caribell Burgos, 405 Newbury St., Apt. B Springfield, MA 01104. Bakery.

SANDISFIELD

Charles Pease Plumbing & Heating Inc., 31 South Main St., Sandisfield, MA 01255. Charles A. Pease, 102 South Main St. Sandisfield, MA 01255. Plumbing and heating services.

SPRINGFIELD

J & E Transport Inc., 100 Garvey Dr., Springfield, MA 01109. Anibal Collazo, same. Transportation.

J & L Transport Express Inc., 172 Davis St., Springfield, MA 01104. Maria Pagan, same. Trucking.

Majestic Barber Shop Inc., 51 Willow St., PO Box 2622 Lynn, MA 01901. Misael Colon Andino, 74 Monmouth St., 1st Fl. Springfield, MA 01109. Barber shop.

S & F Investors Inc., 254 Worthington St., Springfield, MA 01103. Dominga Vasquez-Pujols, 63 Wilson St. Springfield, MA 01104. Restaurant.

WESTFIELD

R & W Transport, Corp., 549 Russell Road Unit 6C Westfield, MA 01085. Wilmary Martinez, same. Transportation.

VikVik Transportation Inc., 23 East Silver St. Westfield, MA 01085. Viktor Babinov, same. Trucking.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Best Out of State Movers Inc., 203 Circuit Ave., Suite 104 West Springfield, MA 01089. Michael Peri, same. Moving & storage services.

WILBRAHAM

Firefly Landscapes, Inc., 278 Soule Road, Wilbraham, MA 01095. Brian Tassinari, same. Landscaping.

WILLIAMSBURG

Ambika, Inc., 35 Main St. Williamsburg, MA 01096. Aarti D. Patel, 431 East St. Easthampton, MA 01027. Liquor Store.

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]


 

Supporting Students

Jane Schwartzberg and James Machia, advanced manufacturing and technology students at Asnuntuck Community College, were each awarded a $2,500 scholarship through a 3M grant. The scholarships are available to students entering or currently enrolled in programs in mechatronics, advanced manufacturing technology, robotics, or industrial maintenance. Schwartzberg and Machia are pictured standing behind the Festo Mechatronics Learning System that 3M donated to Asnuntuck.

 


 

Tackling Tough Issues

Springfield College doctor of physical therapy (DPT) student Xavier Gibson was selected as one of two finalists in the annual physical therapy essay contest co-sponsored by the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy Consortium for the Humanities, Ethics, and Professionalism and the Journal for Humanities in Rehabilitation. Gibson’s essay — which highlights his responsibilities and obligations as a DPT student of color, the only student of color in his cohort, to come to terms with addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in society and inequalities in healthcare — will be published in the JHR’s fall 2021 issue.

 


 

In the Bag

JGS Lifecare was selected as the nonprofit beneficiary of the Big Y Community Bag Program for the month of March at the Big Y located in Longmeadow. JGS Lifecare will receive a $1 donation every time the $2.50 reusable “Big Y Cares” Community Bag is purchased at this location during March, unless otherwise directed by the customer through the giving tag attached to the bag. “We are thrilled to receive the support of our local Big Y and our community,” said Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of Development and Communications at JGS Lifecare (pictured).

 


 

Agenda

Pynchon Award Nominations

Through March 19: The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts is seeking nominations from throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties for the Pynchon Award, which recognizes Western Mass. citizens who have rendered distinguished service to the community. To nominate an individual, submit a one-page letter explaining why the nominee should be considered. Include biographical information, outstanding accomplishments, examples of service to the community, organizations in which the individual is or has been active, and the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of at least three people who can further attest to the nominee’s eligibility for induction into the Order of William Pynchon. Nominations must be submitted by March 19 to William Pynchon Trustees, Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, P.O. Box 1022, West Springfield, MA 01090-1022, or by e-mail to [email protected]. The 2021 recipients will be announced in June, with an awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for the fall.

 

Ubora, Ahadi Award Nominations

Through March 31: The Springfield Museums is seeking nominations for the annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award. These prestigious awards — conferred by the African Hall Subcommittee — are awarded to African-American people from Greater Springfield who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating commitment to the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts. The nomination deadline for both awards is March 31. The Ubora and Ahadi awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in the fall. True to the Swahili word that comprises its name, the Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. Named for the Swahili word for promise, the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12. Nomination forms can be downloaded by visiting springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. Nominations may be e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, c/o Valerie Cavagni, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.

 

Fundraising Walk in Remembrance of Dave Stawasz

April: Western New England University (WNEU) faculty, colleagues, family members, and students are invited to participate in a commemorative event in memory of Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications Dave Stawasz, who passed away peacefully on Jan. 28, surrounded by his family, after a courageous two-year battle with stage-4 colorectal cancer. Stawasz was a graduate of South Hadley High School and Syracuse University. His early career was as a news producer at WWLP and then later at WFSB. He joined the university in 2004. Steps for Stawasz is a virtual walk taking place throughout the month of April in his honor. Participants will log as many virtual steps as they can during the month by either walking or running while collecting donations along the way through friends and family sponsorships. By signing up, participants will receive a link to share on social media. From there, participants can create a personal giving page to collect donations and update progress. Details and instructions can be found at runsignup.com/race/ma/springfield/stawasz. Interested individuals can also make a direct donation on the website without participating in the walk. All proceeds will go directly to the Stawasz family.

 

Institute for Trustees

Starting April 7: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) announced it is partnering with the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) in presenting the 2021 Institute for Trustees, an annual conference inviting nonprofit leaders to gather together for educational workshops and networking opportunities. Building on the success of BTCF’s 2018 Board Leadership Forum and designed for board leaders and executive directors, the event features 24 virtual workshops from leading nonprofit experts and opportunities to connect with hundreds of peers equally committed to their leadership roles. This partnership is part of a broader effort between BTCF and ECCF to leverage resources in support of building capacity and leadership within the nonprofit sector, given the challenges facing organizations due to the pandemic and its economic consequences. The Institute for Trustees kicks off on April 7 with a keynote address by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, titled “Leading for Nonprofit Impact Amid Unprecedented Challenge.” Beginning April 9, workshops and opportunities to connect with fellow attendees through topic-driven, informal peer discussions will be spread over the course of four weeks. Workshop topics include racial equity, endowment building, crisis planning, governance, advocacy, finance, and much more. To register for the program, visit eccf.org/ift. Registrations will be accepted at a discounted early-bird rate of $110 until March 7. After that, registration will cost $130 and will close April 7.

 

Nominations for Ad Club Creative Awards

Through April 18: The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts invites the community to apply for its 2021 Creative Awards. The club has simplified the rules and eliminated physical entries entirely, due to COVID-19 restrictions. As always, Ad Club members will receive a discounted rate; members will receive a personalized discount code via e-mail. Participants will have the opportunity to virtually meet the agencies, marketing departments, and freelance artists behind the work. Award winners will be announced at the Ad Club’s Creative Awards show scheduled for Thursday, May 20. Categories that qualify participants for entry include advertising, copywriting, design, interactive and web media, photography, video and motion, and student work. Visit www.adclubwm.org/events/creativeawards2021 for the guidelines and application form, or contact the Ad Club at (413) 342-0533 or [email protected].

 

Alumni Achievement Award Nominations

Through April 23: When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region — individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community — and celebrate their accomplishments. In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award (formerly the Continued Excellence Award). As the name suggests, it is presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon his or her track record of accomplishment. To nominate someone for this award, visit businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty-alumni-achievement-award. The deadline is Friday, April 23 at 5 p.m., no exceptions. The 2020 honoree will be announced at the 40 Under Forty gala in June. Candidates must be from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007 to 2020. A list of 40 Under Forty Alumni can be found at businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty (scroll to the bottom). Past winners include: 2020: Carla Cosenzi, president, TommyCar Auto Group (40 Under Forty class of 2012), and Peter DePergola, director of Clinical Ethics, Baystate Health (class of 2015); 2019: Cinda Jones, president, W.D. Cowls Inc. (class of 2007); 2018: Samalid Hogan, regional director, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013); 2017: Scott Foster, attorney, Bulkley Richardson (class of 2011), and Nicole Griffin, owner, ManeHire (class of 2014); 2016: Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president, Allergy & Immunology Associates of New England (class of 2008); 2015: Delcie Bean, president, Paragus Strategic IT (class of 2008).

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

Through April 23: Springfield Partners for Community Action announced it will award a number of $1,000 scholarships that can help recipients with tuition and alleviate the cost of going back to school and investing in bettering themselves. All applicants must be Springfield residents, and income-eligibility guidelines may apply. Scholarships will be awarded to those attending accredited/licensed schools in Massachusetts. Applications must be received by April 23. Late entries will not be considered. If selected, recipients must be available to attend an awards event (most likely virtual) in June. Visit www.springfieldpartnersinc.com/whatwedo/scholarshipsprogram for the application form and information on how to apply.

 

VA Healthcare Virtual Summit

May 24-26: The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) announced plans for the IDGA VA Healthcare Summit. HCN is sponsoring this event, at which attendees will have the opportunity to meet with the leaders positioned to provide substantive change across the department, with a particular focus on advancing patient advocacy and experience, digital transformation, community and vendor engagement, e-learning, the VA’s innovation ecosystem, and more. IDGA’s summit will highlight these areas across the agenda, as well as include enabling VA initiatives currently underway to advance the most critical needs for veterans across the U.S. This year’s agenda, developed through indepth research by IDGA, covers a range of topics, including VHA innovation ecosystem initiatives, VA telehealth capabilities, financial management and business-transformation efforts, and a deep dive into clinical delivery. For more information and to view the agenda, visit www.idga.org/events-veteransaffairshealthcare-spring. To join and receive a 20% discount, register at bit.ly/3sts2FV and quote code VAH_HCN. All federal, state, and local government, as well as military and law enforcement, can attend at no cost.

 

Home Improvement Special Coverage

Backyard Experience

 

By Mark Morris

On a Thursday in February while snow fell on the region, Bob Schwein was answering a steady stream of phone calls at Drewnowski Pools.

Sure, some calls were from people who use their spas year-round, but many more inquiries were to schedule swimming-pool openings.

“Swimming-pool owners know that if they want to schedule a pool opening for Memorial Day, when thousands of other people want to open their pools, they need to schedule now,” said Schwein, sales manager for Drewnowski.

Early spring is typically when he receives calls to replace vinyl pool liners and to repair or renovate pools made from gunite, a concrete product used for many inground pools. “Repairs to gunite pools can take weeks, and people don’t want to interrupt the middle of their swimming season, so we usually schedule these early in the year.”

With his business growing over the last five years, Schwein said backyard pools are not what they used to be, particularly inground pools (see photo above).

“It used to be a rectangle with a three-foot concrete walk around the pool and a fence surrounding it by itself in the yard,” he noted. “Now, the pool is part of an entire backyard experience.”

That trend — toward creating an experience right outside the back door — is one that many different types of outdoor-improvement contractors can attest to, particularly during the era of COVID-19. BusinessWest spoke with several who said people are spending more money on their homes simply because they are spending more time at home.

The oft-heard story is that people were encouraged to only go out when necessary, and those who were fortunate enough to work from home during this time have been able to save some money, while also becoming more acutely aware of repairs and renovations they may have been putting off. As a result, many contractors reported their most successful year of business in 2020.

As many of the pandemic restrictions continue, people are not sure how long they will continue to work and attend school from home. It reminds Brian Rudd, owner of Vista Home Improvement, of the uncertainty that emerged during a different historic time.

“After 9/11, we saw people start to nest, and they began to see their home as their kingdom,” he said. “Since the pandemic, the desire to nest at home has happened to an even larger degree.”

“Right now, people are addressing the aesthetics of their houses because they are home more and able to address these things now.”

And they’ve been increasingly looking outside the home, not just inside. After a record year in 2020, Rudd reported that even more customers want new siding and new windows. “Right now, people are addressing the aesthetics of their houses because they are home more and able to address these things now.”

It’s not unusual for customers to call Dave Graziano, landscape project manager for Graziano Gardens, to replace old, overgrown plantings with new ones. Last year was different because, along with replacing old plantings, customers wanted to make other improvements to their property.

“Whether it was adding a big patio or simply hanging flower baskets, people wanted to create more outdoor living space, no matter how large or small their yard might be,” he said.

Brian Campedelli, president of Pioneer Landscaping, said his business doubled in 2020 because people decided to invest in their homes rather than vacations. “The money they would have spent on vacation instead went into their backyards, where we helped them create an outdoor entertainment area.”

Both Graziano and Campedelli noted that firepits have become one of the most popular additions to the backyard.

“While we build a lot of circular firepits, people are getting creative and asking us for square or triangular pits to match the seating they have around it,” Campedelli said.

A worker with Pioneer Landscaping places patio stones.

A worker with Pioneer Landscaping places patio stones.

Once considered only for warmer climates, outdoor kitchens are also a growing part of his business, with many designs incorporating a pizza oven.

“In the past, people would not build outdoor kitchens because of the short season to use them, but I don’t hear that as much anymore,” he said. “I think people are just going for it.”

 

Dive Right In

‘Going for it’ is an increasingly common mindset when it comes to buying an inground pool as well, Schwein noted.

While Drewnowski sells inground and above-ground pools, installation is handled by its parent company, Juliano Pools of Vernon, Conn. As busy as Juliano was last year, many who wanted pools couldn’t get them, due to higher demand than normal combined with shortages of materials and labor. Schwein said 2021 is off to a good start because those who couldn’t purchase last year can do so this year.

“We have a spillover of people from last year and new people who have decided to buy a pool this year, so I’m positive that combination will mean another banner year,” he told BusinessWest.

For years, many believed that houses with inground pools would be tough to sell. The red-hot real-estate market since last spring seems to have made that concern a moot point. Many first-time homebuyers are also first-time pool owners who are calling Schwein for advice on how to maintain their inground asset.

“From what I’ve seen, people are not afraid to buy a house with an existing pool. In fact, to many, it’s a selling point,” he said. While a typical home inspection does not cover the condition of a swimming pool, Drewnowski has pool inspectors available to help prospective buyers understand what they are getting.

With less inventory in the housing market, Rudd observed that many people choose to upgrade the house they have. By the same token, when people do purchase a home, they often come to see him, armed with plans.

“From what I’ve seen, people are not afraid to buy a house with an existing pool. In fact, to many, it’s a selling point.”

“When people move, they improve. And when they don’t move, they improve,” he said with a laugh.

Sprucing up a house isn’t complete until landscaping provides the final touch. In addition to landscaping services, Graziano Gardens has a retail store for those who want to tackle backyard projects themselves. Graziano saw new faces in the garden center last year, resulting in what he termed a “mini-explosion.”

“We sold out of trowels, shovels, gloves, watering cans, things we’ve never sold out of before,” he said. Also hard to come by were grown items such as hanging baskets, vegetable plants, and even evergreen hedges. “It seems like people just wanted to fill in that spot.”

Brian Campedelli says customers are looking for more creativity in firepit design.

Brian Campedelli says customers are looking for more creativity in firepit design.

Dry, warm temperatures early last spring, combined with parents and kids cooped up in their homes, might have led to a shortage in pool heaters. Schwein said he took many calls from exasperated parents who bought a heater and opened their pool earlier than usual to get their kids outside and squeeze a few more months out of the swimming season. That logic was fine until manufacturers ran into COVID issues and Schwein could no longer get them.

“The demand was high, and the supply was low,” he said. “Heaters are something that would normally take six days to get, but last year we ran into three-month delays.”

The pandemic also forced several contractors to find new ways to do business. A summer ritual for many involves periodic trips to the local swimming-pool retailer with samples of pool water to make sure the chemical balance keeps the water clean and safe. When COVID first hit, Schwein said, customers were no longer allowed into his store. “We had to change our business model.”

Specifically, customers left water samples outside the door where employees would test the sample and call the customer with a list of what chemicals were needed. After completing the transaction over the phone, an employee would deliver the chemicals to the customer’s house. Schwein admits it put a strain on his staff and customers, but everyone adjusted well.

“Our customers were able to get what they needed, but the way we had to do everything was different.”

When the pandemic first hit, Rudd and his staff were forced to become familiar with 10 years of new technology in less than three months. Beyond Zoom meetings, Vista consultants used satellite technology to measure houses for roofs and siding when they could not visit a client in person. While skeptical in the beginning, he now calls the technology “amazing.”

Dave Graziano says his garden center sold out of many popular plants last year.

Dave Graziano says his garden center sold out of many popular plants last year.

“I’m from the days of using a tape measure and a pencil, so at first I took comparison measurements to make sure the satellites were accurate,” he said. “It’s scary how accurate they are.”

Rudd enjoys using computer-design tools to give homeowners a good idea of how their space will look with improvements.

“We take a picture of the house, upload it into one of our applications, and change the house right in front of them,” he explained. “It leads to great interaction with the client and lets them have control of their purchase, with us there to guide them.”

Campedelli said it’s difficult for clients to envision a dramatic renovation of their backyard, so computer design goes a long way toward sealing the deal.

“Once they see the design, they want to move forward,” he noted, adding that, once the job is done, he enjoys how thrilled customers are with the result. “It changes their lives in a positive way.”

 

Getting Ahead

With spring around the corner, contractors are preparing for another busy year. Schwein pointed out that his phone is ringing now because customers have learned from the pandemic.

“Last year, people were patient and understood slowdowns due to COVID issues, so they are calling now because they don’t want to hear the COVID excuse this year,” he said.

After a busy 2020 as both a contractor and a retailer, Graziano’s main takeaway from last year was that people want to make their properties into their own oasis.

“Whether they do it themselves or they hire a landscape professional, I think that trend will continue through this year,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s got what he called a “good problem” — figuring out how many more shovels and watering cans to order for 2021.

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]

 


 

We’ll Drink to That

Ed Sunter, president of the Hampden County Estate Planning Council of Springfield; Julie Quink, treasurer; and John Arnold, past president, recently presented a check for $1,400 to Terry Maxey, executive director of Open Pantry of Springfield. In the second annual fundraiser, council members were invited to participate in a wine and beer tasting sponsored by Baystate Brewing Co. of Sturbridge, Progression Brewery of Northampton, White Lion Brewery of Springfield, and  Hardwick Winery.  Members enjoyed beer and wine samples in their homes and offices. Pictured, from left: Sunter, Arnold, and Maxey.

 


 

Investment in the Future

The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Program at Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) has received $15,000 in grant funding from the Gene Haas Foundation to use for student scholarships for tuition and books. The scholarship will be managed by the ACC Foundation, and awards will be given based on need and merit. Pictured, from left, are students Nina Rattray, Emma Mack, and Jonathan Paskewitz.

 

 


 

Young Woman of Impact

BusinessWest Editor and Associate Publisher George O’Brien and Sales Manager and Associate Publisher Kate Campiti recently presented Evelyn Humphries, a student at Longmeadow High School, with a plaque recognizing her as the inaugural People’s Choice Young Woman of Impact. The public chose Humphries from among five deserving nominees, honoring her impressive track record of service to the community, especially during the pandemic. The social-media-driven program was a popular addition to this year’s Women of Impact celebration, held on Jan. 28. Below: Humphries with her mother, Gina

 


 

 

Special Delivery

On Jan. 28, the Rotary Club of Springfield distributed 6,000 disposable personal protective masks to the city of Springfield. Mayor Domenic Sarno joined with Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and John Perez, president of the Rotary Club of Springfield, on the front steps of City Hall for the PPE distribution. In total, 20,000 masks were donated to organizations serving Springfield’s residents, including the Gray House, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Open Pantry Community Services, the MLK Community Center, the New North Citizens Council, Square One, and Gandara Mental Services of Springfield.

 


 

Opinion

Editorial

The story of restaurants during the pandemic has not been a good one.

While that may be the most obvious of observations, it’s still important to keep at the forefront of any discussion of this industry — because restaurateurs will spin the past year as positively as they can. “We discovered a strong market for takeout.” “Outdoor dining was an unexpected success we’ll stick with.” “Our loyal customers tell us they can’t wait to dine out again.”

But don’t confuse those sentiments — which testify to the grit and resourcefulness of the region’s many dining establishments — with good news. There is no good news. Among the restaurant owners we spoke with for this issue, total sales over the past year have been significantly curtailed — in some cases halved, or worse.

Yes, they’ve done what they could to hang onto their dedicated staffs, with much-appreciated help from Paycheck Protection Program loans and state and local grants. And the pivots they made — one told us it was like opening a new restaurant every week — are admirable, as they were willing to change menus on the fly, install takeout and delivery, set up outdoor dining, and take any number of other steps to survive.

Some have not. And even among those that have, no one had a good year, and some are hanging by a thread. That 25% indoor capacity restriction, however needed to keep people safe, is just not going to cut it through a New England winter. That 9:30 p.m. curfew, only recently lifted, might pose an inconvenience to customers, but for a restaurant owner, those extra hours could be the difference between paying their bills and … well, not.

The economic impact on the region is massive; according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Assoc., the Bay State’s restaurants generated $18.7 billion in sales in 2018, while employing almost 350,000 workers. Meanwhile, every dollar spent on table-service dining contributes $1.87 to the state economy. And in a place like Hampshire County, where restaurants are such a key part of the culture and economy of Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, and other communities, the damage of 2020 — which is clearly extending into 2021 — is even more dire.

A Pioneer Institute report lists a few steps local and state governments can make to ease the strain a little, from allowing alcoholic-beverage takeout and delivery on a permanent basis to allowing restaurants to sell fresh produce, meats, and other whole foods during the pandemic to compete with grocery stores; from prioritizing local permitting for food trucks owned by restaurants to allowing outdoor seating in parking lots and on sidewalks, as happened last summer in downtown Northampton.

But none of these steps, or the pivots restaurants have already made, will solve the main issue — that, even at reduced capacity, diners aren’t filling tables right now, and might not until they feel it’s safe, and that gets into vaccine distribution, a whole other story.

In the meantime, why not do what you can? Order more takeout. Buy more gift cards. Sit down for a meal if you feel safe doing so; area restaurants have been transparent about their sanitization procedures. And, once the COVID fog lifts and restaurants can open more fully, support them as much as possible.

The loss of more restaurants in Western Mass. would be a blow to our economy and a culture that values good food. But mostly, it would be a blow to some good, smart people who are tired of pivoting — but continue to do so, just to stay alive.

 

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]

 


 

Recognizing 45 Years

Jim Conroy (left) and Jeff Gonyer (right) were recently recognized by President Eric Forish for their 45 years of service as Forish Construction team members. Conroy is a Massachusetts-licensed construction supervisor, and Gonyer is a Massachusetts-licensed hoisting and heavy-equipment operator, and also a federally licensed CDL driver.

 


 

 

Cold-weather Concerns

As the weather turns colder, many homeless individuals do not have functioning coats and cannot afford new ones. Led by team leader Fran Murphy, Meyers Brothers Kalicka recently conducted a coat drive within the office and collected 50 new and gently used coats to be donated to the Springfield Rescue Mission.

 


 

 

Page-turning News

Monson Savings Bank President and future CEO Dan Moriarty recently met with Hope Bodwell, library director of the Monson Free Library, to present a $1,000 donation of behalf of the bank. The donation was made following the public voting results of the 2021 Monson Savings Bank Community Giving Initiative.

 

 


 

 

Suit Your Socks

Lenny Underwood, owner of Upscale Socks, recently met Nikki Burnett (left), executive director of Educare Springfield, to donate 333 pairs of socks to the early-childhood education center, following the “Suit Your Soles” campaign in which Underwood matched a donation for every pair of socks purchased from Nov. 18 to Dec. 18.

 


 

Agenda

Dental Radiology Course

Feb. 1-17: Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is accepting applications for an intensive, two-week dental radiology certificate training for dental assistants, the only program of its kind west of Boston. This hybrid (online and clinical component) course, which opens Feb. 1 at 9 a.m., trains dental assistants in the fundamentals of dental radiography. The labs will be held Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., on Feb. 8 and 10 and Feb. 17 and 17. Participants must successfully complete the first two modules before the first lab on Feb. 8, and must successfully complete the last two modules by Feb. 17. Offered through the Workforce Development Center at STCC, the course explores the basics of dental radiography, which includes X-ray physics, effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection, image receptors, digital radiography, dental radiographic anatomy, and intra- and extra-oral radiographic procedures. Dental assistants who enroll in the program will gain experience exposing digital radiographs and correctly mounting them using a digital mount. This experience will be gained by hands-on exposure on a manikin and hands-on placement on both a manikin and a lab partner. A final laboratory competency consists of exposure and evaluation of a full-mouth series on a live patient selected by the student. For more information about the course and to enroll online, visit stcc.io/radiology.

 

COVID-19 Vaccine Community Webinars

Feb. 1, 8, 15: Trinity Health Of New England experts will continue its weekly series of educational webinar presentations, “COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know.” The Monday-evening series, which began Jan. 11, run for one hour, from 6 to 7 p.m. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation with Dr. Syed Hussain, chief clinical officer of Trinity Health Of New England. These sessions are free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register for an upcoming session, visit trinityhealthofne.org/vaccine-webinar.

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

Feb. 6: Past year got you down? Need a brighter outlook for 2021? Holyoke Community College has a class for you. HCC is partnering with Pam Victor, president and founder of Happier Valley Comedy, to offer a Zoom workshop titled “Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness” from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Victor, a comedian and improv facilitator who prefers the title ‘head of happiness,’ will lead participants on an experiential exploration of happiness and resilience building to enhance their joy and ease at work and home. She will share stress-relieving exercises and techniques to help people bring more well-being, laughter, gratitude, and play into their daily lives. The cost of the class is $99. To register, visit hcc.edu/happiness.

 

Phlebotomy for Healthcare Workers Class

Feb. 8 to March 2: Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer a 60-hour training for healthcare workers who want to become a certified phlebotomist. The class, open to anyone licensed in various medical fields in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, runs Feb. 8 through March 2, with the exam offered on March 5. Class hours are 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Labs for the course will be held in person on the STCC campus. All students must wear masks and adhere to STCC COVID-19 procedures. The non-credit course, offered through the Workforce Development Center at STCC, prepares students to take the exam to become a certified phlebotomist in Massachusetts. The class is designed to teach workers in certified healthcare positions to draw blood for diagnostic procedures. Anyone interested in taking the class should have a current healthcare certification in at least one of the following healthcare roles (those with certification in other healthcare fields may be eligible): certified nursing assistant (CNA), emergency medical technician (EMT), patient care technician (PCT), certified medical assistant (CMA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), certified electrocardiogram technician (CET), and certified dental assistant (CDA). To enroll online and learn more about this course, visit www.stcc.edu/wdc/healthcare and click the ‘Phlebotomy Certification for Healthcare Workers’ link.

 

People on the Move

Nikki Burnett

Gillian Hinkson

Gillian Hinkson

Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy

Karin George

Karin George

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced two new Trustees: Nikki Burnett, executive director of Educare Springfield, and Gillian Hinkson, victim witness advocate for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, CFWM also elected a new trustee chair, Paul Murphy, and vice chair, Karin George. Burnett began her role as executive director of Educare Springfield in August 2019. For more than 20 years, she has pursued her passion of empowering her community and building equity. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts and on its race and equity subcommittee; on national committees for the Educare Learning Network, including its educare policy work group and collaborative fundraising advisory board; and on the Baystate Community Benefits Advisory Council. She is also one of the founders of the Faith Based Health Advocates Alliance. In addition to her position with the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, Hinkson is an independent business owner of a health and wellness company. She is dedicated to educating the community on the importance of living a balanced life through exercise, well-balanced eating habits, and mindfulness. She is a member of CFWM’s education committee and a CFWM scholarship reviewer; is a Ward Five Democratic Committee member; and serves on the board of directors for the League of Women Voters and Art for the Soul Gallery. She also serves as a Democratic state committeewoman and is the co-chair of the affirmative action and outreach subcommittee, and has also served as campaign manager for local political candidates. Murphy is retired legal and administrative counsel of Amherst College and serves as a trustee of Baystate Health. He was previously a partner of Foley Hoag LLP, a Boston-based law firm. His previous board work was with the WGBH Educational Foundation, Tufts Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Hillside School, as well as New England Public Media, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Boston Architectural College, and the Partnership Inc. Murphy was appointed as a CFWM trustee in 2015, served as chair of the distribution committee for two years, and is a member of the committee on trustees and executive committee. George is a principal and co-owner of Washburn & McGoldrick Inc., a global consulting firm focused on fundraising, communications, strategic planning, alumni engagement, training, and board development in education and educationally related nonprofits. She previously served as vice president for Advancement at Smith College and vice president for Development at Vassar College. George was appointed as a CFWM trustee in 2013, served as a member and the former chair of the CFWM education committee, has volunteered as a scholarship reviewer since 2009, and is a member of the committee on trustees and executive committee.

•••••

Heather Arbour

Heather Arbour

Monson Savings Bank (MSB) recently announced the promotion of Heather Arbour to the role of BSA officer and compliance manager. In her new role, Arbour is responsible for overseeing MSB’s Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money-laundering programs and ensuring compliance with banking regulations. Additionally, she manages the Retail Operations department. Arbour has been with Monson Savings Bank for 13 years, previously serving in the role of compliance and BSA manager. She is currently enrolled in the New England School of Financial Studies and will be graduating in the spring from Springfield Technical Community College with a business administration degree. A volunteer and co-treasurer for the Monson and Palmer Salvation Army and a dedicated parent volunteer for the Monson Parent Teacher Student Assoc., Arbour also serves on the Monson Savings Bank pandemic reopening preparedness committee.

•••••

Webber and Grinnell Insurance recently hired Reynolds Whalen as its director of Culture and Communication. This new position focuses on company culture, sponsorships, community engagement, and helping advance the agency further into the digital age of marketing and communication. Reynolds comes to the job from his role as founder and executive director of Performing Arts Abroad, based in Easthampton, where he built the business with a focus on creativity, core values, and efficiency through integrations. He serves on the board of the International Language Institute in Northampton and is active in the Pioneer Valley theater scene as an actor and creative collaborator. Reynolds holds a bachelor’s degree in African and African-American studies and drama from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s degree in education from Hunter College in New York City, and a master’s degree in African studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

•••••

Eugene Cassidy

Eugene Cassidy

Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of Eastern States Exposition (ESE), was elected chairman of the International Assoc. of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) during the organization’s annual business meeting. Cassidy will serve in this international leadership role for 2021, spearheading the direction of the international group of fairs. The IAFE currently has 911 member fairs and affiliated organizations worldwide. The theme for IAFE 2021 is “Grow Fair Strong,” with a focus on growing as in all things agriculture, but also the growth in fairs and the economies they impact in the wake of the pandemic. Cassidy joined ESE as director of Finance in 1993 and was named executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2011. He assumed the position of president and CEO in 2012 and is the exposition’s seventh CEO in its 105-year history. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration and accounting from Western New England University. He serves as vice chairman of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, treasurer of the Western Massachusetts chapter of Legatus, treasurer and board member of MassHire Hampden County, member of the Springfield Technical Community College Foundation board, finance board member at St. Mary’s Parish, and board member at St. Thomas the Apostle School. He is also accredited as a certified fair executive by the IAFE and has served the organization as treasurer, second vice president, and first vice president before assuming his role as chairman.

•••••

Colin D’Amour

Colin D’Amour

Christian D’Amour

Christian D’Amour

The board of directors of Big Y Foods Inc. announced the promotion of two third-generation D’Amour family members. Colin D’Amour has been named senior director of the Big Y Express Gas & Convenience Stores division, and Christian D’Amour is director of E-commerce. Both appointments represent new and expanding divisions within the company. Colin’s responsibilities include oversight of store operations, site selection, site acquisition, and day-to-day responsibility for product procurement, including fuel for the division. Previously, he served as senior manager of Procurement within Big Y’s Real Estate and Development team, as well as a member of the real-estate committee, where he remains involved in evaluating viable expansion opportunities across all operating formats. In addition, he oversees multiple programs and initiatives with Topco Associates, a Chicago-based, member-owned cooperative. A graduate of Boston College, he holds personal decorations from his military service, including both the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation and Achievement Medals. Christian is responsible for Big Y’s e-commerce platform, which currently includes relationships with Instacart for grocery home deliveries and DoorDash for prepared-meal home deliveries. In addition to these services, he will be launching Big Y’s MyPicks Online ordering, in which customers will be able to order groceries online for curbside pickup or home delivery. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Michael’s college in Vermont and spent a semester studying at the National University of Ireland at Galway.

•••••

Erica Flores

Erica Flores

Skoler, Abbott & Presser announced that attorney Erica Flores has been named a partner in the firm. Flores, who has been with the firm since 2013, focuses her practice on employment litigation in state and federal courts and agencies, representing employers in class-action lawsuits and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation actions. Flores is a regular contributor to the Massachusetts Employment Law Letter on a variety of topics. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts and Hampden County bar associations.

•••••

NAI Plotkin announced it has welcomed David Moore as a new commercial real-estate associate in its Brokerage Services division. Moore brings extensive experience in both commercial and residential real estate, as well as project management. After a notable career as vice president and general manager of the Mt. Tom Ski Area, Moore joined Allyn & O’Donnell Realty, where he gained valuable experience in the real-estate industry, including the selection of cell-tower sites. “I have known Dave for over 50 years, and I am thrilled that he will be joining our team. Adding someone with Dave’s knowledge and background allows us to assist our clients during this challenging time and to continue a forward momentum,” said Dan Moore, vice president of Brokerage Services. Dave Moore will serve new clients from NAI Plotkin’s office located on the 14th floor at One Financial Plaza, 1350 Main St., Springfield.

•••••

Monte Horst

Monte Horst

As part of its ongoing efforts to drive growth and value, OMG Roofing Products named Monte Horst vice president of Sales and Marketing. Horst is responsible for developing and executing the division’s overall sales and marketing strategies to support the three business units: Fasteners, Adhesives & Solar, and Metal Accessories. In this role, he will work closely with the company’s Marketing Communications and Customer Service departments. He reports to Peter Coyne, senior vice president and general manager of OMG Roofing Products. Horst holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Arlington and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska.

•••••

Joanne Marqusee

Joanne Marqusee

Joanne Marqusee, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson since 2014, announced she will leave that role to become chief integration officer for Wellforce, a growing healthcare system in Eastern Mass. that includes Tufts Medical Center, four community hospital sites, a broad provider network, and a homecare/hospice agency. At Wellforce, she will be responsible for developing and enhancing system-wide services to support operational excellence and growth. Marqusee joined Cooley Dickinson following its affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the larger Mass General Brigham (MGB) system. She oversaw the creation of a behavioral-health pod in the Emergency Department, the opening of a new Breast Center, and substantial expansion in provider practices across a range of locations and specialties. She will also be remembered for her diversity, equity, and inclusion work, starting with LGBTQ programs and more recently launching a comprehensive anti-racism plan. In addition, she has frequently spoken out on important public-health and policy issues, particularly those that affect marginalized communities. Prior to her tenure at Cooley Dickinson, Marqusee, a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, was COO of MelroseWakefield Healthcare (formerly Hallmark Health) and spent 16 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she consistently was promoted to positions of greater responsibility, including vice president of Access; vice president of Ancillary, Support and Community Services; and senior vice president of Operations. She is a board member of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Assoc. and serves on the steering committee of Extraordinary Women Advancing Health Care. In addition to her roles in Massachusetts, she previously worked for the New York State Department of Health in the Division of Health Care Financing, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., and the New York City Office of the Mayor.

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

Becket

Becket Village Kitchen Inc., 30 Washington St., Becket, MA 01223. Jill Weinberg, same. Restaurant.

BELCHERTOWN

Heavy Timber Craft Co., 325 Gold St., Belchertown, MA 01107. Christina Gudmand, same. Timber frame construction.

TeeTee Press Corp., 203 Packardville Road, Belchertown, MA 01007. Michael Weisser, same. Publishing books.

EASTHAMPTON

Furs’ A Flyin’ Inc., 69 Ferry St., Suite 19, Easthampton, MA 01027. Mary-Kate E. Murray, same. Pet grooming and pet day care business.

Overlord Inc., 122 Pleasant St., Suite 234, Easthampton, MA 01027. James R. Witmer II., 3 Franklin St. Easthampton, MA 01027. Property management.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Golden Years Staffing Inc., 46 Center Square, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Cesar Ruiz Jr., 96 Windham Dr. East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Medical staffing agency.

FLORENCE

Hatfield Construction Inc., 35 Main St. Florence, MA 01062. Jill Keiter, same. Construction.

PITTSFIELD

Nathan Cintron Inc., 100 North St., Suite 317, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Nathan Cintron, same. Holdings.

QCS Staffing Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Stephen Trigg, same. Recruitment services.

Today’s Limousine Inc., 703 West Housatonic St., Suite 21 Pittsfield, MA 01201. Michael Rosenthal, 16 Hiawatha Dr. Clifton Park, NY 10265. Sedan service, limousine service, van service, bus service — transportation service.

WR Investments Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Wander Rodriguez, same. Investments.

SPRINGFIELD

Move Athletics Inc., 573 Plumbtree Road, Springfield, MA 01118. Roger St. Onge Jr., same. Physical therapy, wellness, and performance training.

Teamwork Painting Corp., 1 Federal St., Building 103, Springfield, MA 01105. Lewis Boynton, 110 Preston St. Windsor, CT 06095. Painting contractor.

US IT Consultant, Inc., 78 Silver St., 3rd Floor, Springfield, MA 01107. Victor Aguayo, same. IT consultant services and software reseller.

Y & J Transportation Inc., 127 Spring St., Apt. 3B, Springfield, MA 01105. Yamarko A Villa, 77 Moore St. Providence, RI 02907. Delivery transportation.

TOLLAND

Littlefield Landscaping Inc., 1437 Burthill Road, Tolland, MA 01034. Kevin David Littlefield, same. To provide landscaping services.

WESTFIELD

Simply Electrifying Inc., 85 Skyline Dr., Westfield, MA 01085. William Poehlman, same. Lighting supplies.

Slavik Transportation Inc., 85 Otis St., Westfield, MA 01085. Vyacheslav Sidoryuk, same. Trucking.

Company Notebook

Thunderbirds Announce Suspension of 2020-21 Season

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds announced that they are one of three AHL franchises that have elected to opt out of play for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The decision, made in conjunction with their NHL affiliate, the St. Louis Blues, was based on numerous safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and will allow the organization to turn its full focus toward the 2021-22 season. The Thunderbirds will maintain their status as active members of the AHL and return to play next season. “Over the past few months, we have worked tirelessly with the St. Louis Blues to explore every possible avenue for returning to play this season,” Thunderbirds President Nate Costa said. “Unfortunately, due to health and safety concerns, travel logistics, new player-supply rules, and other considerations, the Blues and Thunderbirds collectively determined that it was in the best interests of all parties to opt out for this season. Given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts, it has also become clear that we will be unable to host fans at our games in the foreseeable future. As an independently owned franchise, our foremost obligation is to ensure that our team is financially viable for the long term, something that is not possible without game-day revenue.”

 

Hazen Paper Wins Award for 2020 Holographic Calendar

HOLYOKE — The International Hologram Manufacturers Assoc. (IHMA) recently named Hazen Paper’s 2020 holographic calendar Best Applied Decorative/Packaging Product at the Excellence in Holography Awards 2020. Featuring a fire-breathing dragon with three-dimensional scales, the oversized calendar utilized an array of innovative holographic techniques to create a decorative design the IHMA called “outstanding.” These holographic designs included Hazen-Lens behind the months of the year, gray-motion for the sky background, color-motion for the dragon, and two-channel color-motion lenses and fire-motion lenses to animate the flames. The calendar was originated entirely within Hazen’s state-of-the-art holographic lab and manufactured in Hazen’s Holyoke facility on Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product. Made with renewable energy, transfer-metallized Envirofoil is made with less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate, a recycled film carrier that is reused again and again, and is repulpable as paper after de-inking. It was offset-printed using UV-cure inks with customized opaque white by AM Lithography of Chicopee.

 

Tighe & Bond Named Finalist for Engineering Excellence Awards

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond Inc. has been recognized by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA) as a 2020 Engineering Excellence Award Finalist (Gold Award). Tighe & Bond, in conjunction with a team of subconsultants and property owner ENGIE North America, transformed the site of the Mt. Tom coal-fired power plant into the state’s largest community solar and energy-storage facility. In 2014, the Mt. Tom coal-fired power plant in Holyoke stopped operations, and ENGIE North America began the task of decommissioning and closing the power-plant site. This undertaking involved demolition of the coal-fired plant and remediation of many areas of the property. A portion of the site was also used for renewable-energy generation and energy storage to benefit the region and the city of Holyoke. The project team aided with the decommissioning design of the property and worked to obtain a complex array of environmental and land-use permits for the entire project for future industrial and commercial redevelopment. The Tighe & Bond environmental team developed the remedial design for the power plant and the associated coal ash management on the property. The largest component of the property restoration included risk-based evaluations and various capping strategies to address coal ash that has been deposited over much of the property. The successful coal-ash closure approach resulted in preserving and protecting nearby waterways, including the Connecticut River and Kennedy Brook, as well as more than 50 acres of vegetated forest and associated rare and endangered species habitat. For the solar project, the project team provided permit-level design and engineering support as well as construction-period design for the energy-storage system. This project developed the largest community solar project in Massachusetts and the largest utility-scale energy-storage installation in the Commonwealth.

 

UMass Amherst Grad Students Receive Financial Support

AMHERST — The economic and research hardships stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic have strained campuses around the country, including UMass Amherst. Especially hard-hit are graduate students in the sciences, as their research opportunities and funding trajectories have been greatly reduced by COVID-19 public-health restrictions. In response, the university’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) created the Graduate Student Fellowship Fund this fall to provide additional funding to graduate students who need to extend their work for another year, and to make available innovations in data collection for those who are unable to conduct in-person experiments. The largest gift to the fund so far has come from alumni and long-time supporters Richard and Barbara Mahoney, who contributed $100,000 in early December. The contribution has sparked additional donations from donors who recognize the value of graduate-student research in the college and want to support those students. Graduate students are at the core of the research enterprise on campus, putting in thousands of hours to run experiments, collect data, and analyze findings. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many graduate students have lost the opportunities they previously had to spend much-needed time in labs or out in the field. More than 1,000 graduate students are working toward degrees across CNS.

 

Florence Bank Donates Nearly $100,000 in 2020 to Ease Food Insecurity

FLORENCE — Florence Bank donated nearly $100,000 in 2020 to support a new food-distribution collaborative and nine other longtime nonprofits with a mission to feed people who are battling food insecurity in the Pioneer Valley. The gifts have been made since March to organizations in all corners of the region, including the hilltowns, to help ease the economic strain brought on by COVID-19. In the spring, Florence Bank donated $50,000 to the Community Food Distribution Project created jointly by the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton to help fund emergency food distribution in the early months of the pandemic. The new collaborative makes food staples available through on-site distributions at nearly a dozen local sites. Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton established the organization in partnership with Community Action Pioneer Valley, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the city of Northampton, and Northampton Public Schools. Grow Food Northampton and the Northampton Survival Center each received $25,000 from the bank. Since May, Florence Bank has also made the following gifts to these local nonprofits: Amherst Survival Center, $10,000; Springfield Rescue Mission, $10,000; Easthampton Community Center, $7,500; Chesterfield Community Cupboard, $5,000; the Gray House Market of Springfield, $5,000; Easthampton Congregational Church, $2,500; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as part of Monte’s March, $1,000; Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry of Chicopee, $1,000; and Open Pantry Community Services Inc. of Springfield, $1,000. Florence Bank also nominated Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen to receive a $5,000 award from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. Charitable Foundation, which the nonprofit has accepted.

 

Nursing Schools Almanac Names AIC Among Best Schools for Nursing

SPRINGFIELD — Nursing Schools Almanac has released its 2020 rankings of the best nursing schools in the U.S. In collecting data on more than 3,000 institutions nationwide, only 20% made the list of the best nursing schools in each geographic region. The nursing program at American International College (AIC) was named in both the New England and Massachusetts categories, placing 45th in the region and 21st in the state. Each school was evaluated on three dimensions: the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, and student success, particularly on the NCLEX licensure examination. Nursing Schools Almanac combined the assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. According to Dean of Health Sciences Karen Rousseau, “while the demand for healthcare professionals grows each year, at no time has that need been more critical than now. The School of Health Sciences at American International College provides access to educational opportunities that develop a diverse network of skilled individuals who provide comprehensive nursing care in a variety of settings and who are able to demonstrate leadership in evidence-based practice to promote continuous improvement in the quality and safety of healthcare.”

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AGAWAM

Homepro Handyman Service Inc., 67 Hunt St. Suite 107 Agawam, MA 01001. Demyan Volkov, 7 Rising Corner Road, Southwick, MA 01077. Handyman services.

PS Remodeling Inc., 31 Editha Ave., Agawam, MA 01001. Pavel Stakhnyuk MA, same. Remodeling.

Rinemil Liquor Corporation, 525 Shoemaker Lane, Agawam, MA 01001. Navin K. Patel, same. Retail package store.

AMHERST

Elateq Inc., 31 Salem Place Amherst, MA 01002. Ljilana Rajic, same. Develop, deploy, and maintain sustainable technologies for water treatment and purification systems.

CHICOPEE

The Corner Pocket Billiard Hall Inc., 39 Pheasant Way, Chicopee, MA 01022. Christopher J. Rogers, same. Billiard hall/bar.

The Healing Coop, Inc., 334 Britton St. Chicopee, MA 01020. Saskia Cote, same. Alternative therapy space and retail.

J C Trucking Inc., 109 Church St., Unit 2, Chicopee, MA 01020. Jonathon William Chartier, same. Trucking service.

GREENFIELD

Sabelawski Financial Group Corporation, 1 Village Green, Greenfield, MA 01301. Edward P. Sabelawski, same. Taxes and investments.

HAMPDEN

JCDC Construction Inc., 205 Chapin Road, Hampden, MA 01036. Corey Chenevert, same. Construction.

HOLYOKE

PH Select Inc., 10 Hospital Dr., Suite 306, Holyoke, MA 01040. John J. Swlerzewski, same. Research, manufacture, and distribution of consumer health and hygiene products.

LONGMEADOW

Counselink, Inc., 175 Dwight Road, Suite 306 Longmeadow, MA 01106. Joseph Leonard, 46 Arnold Road, Pelham, MA 01002. Mental health services.

Moving Specialist, Inc., 162 Field Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Lori Conte, same. To operate a moving and packing company.

NORTH ADAMS

The Yellow Door Restaurant Inc., 66 Main St. North Adams, MA 01247. Thomas Krens, 25 Fort Hoosac Place, Williamstown, MA 01267. Food and beverage sales and service.

NORTHAMPTON

Bardwell Creative Inc., 9 ½ Market St., Northampton, MA 01060. Kenneth Butler, same. Business consulting.

Golden Age Sounds Inc., 32 Masonic St., Northampton, MA 01060. Peter Hamelin, 37 B Woodmont Road, Northampton, MA 01060. Operation of music, arts, and entertainment venue.

Mill River Music Inc., 16 Armory St., Northampton, MA 01060. Jonathon Aronstein, same. Sales, repair, and exchange of musical instruments.

WEST BROOKFIELD

Xtremepaintball Inc., 153 Shea Road, West Brookfield, MA 01585. Joseph P. O’Malley, same. Paintball activities.

Economic Outlook

Restaurants

Andy Yee was still slogging — his word, and he would use it more than a few times — through the holiday season when he talked with BusinessWest for this Outlook section. But he was already thinking about the next one and what it might be like.

And his thoughts were colored with optimism.

“I think there is going to be a lot of pent-up demand,” he said, referring to that day when the clouds eventually lift and people feel confident returning to restaurants and especially indoor dining. “People have been cooped up a long time. I know people who haven’t been out, and have barely left their houses, since March. When this is over, people are going to be ready to get out and go on the town.”

While he feels confident in that assessment, and even offered a timeline of sorts — projecting some improvement by spring as vaccines are rolled out, much more by summer, and perhaps something approximating normal by Q4, or certainly next holiday season — what he doesn’t know is how many restaurateurs currently doing business in the region be along for that ride, whenever it does come.

Andy Yee

Andy Yee

“People have been cooped up a long time. I know people who haven’t been out, and have barely left their houses, since March. When this is over, people are going to be ready to get out and go on the town.”

Indeed, several have already been forced to shut their doors, he said, and others will be challenged to survive what will likely be another several months of slogging, even with the promise of additional help coming in the form of support from the state.

“January and February are traditionally leaner months — people have that holiday hangover, although I’m not sure what that will be like this year,” he noted. “It’s going to be hard for some people to hang on. There will be some casualties; there will be more closures.”

There have been several already, due directly to COVID-19 or perhaps the pandemic accelerating the timeline for retirement, said Yee, adding quickly that the number of additional losses to the landscape will be determined by a number of factors, from how quickly and effectively vaccines reach the general population to the level of confidence people have with going back out again, even with a vaccine, to the overall experience level and savvy of the restaurateurs in question.

“This really will be survival of the fittest,” he told BusinessWest, adding that his definition of ‘fittest’ is those with the experience and will to maneuver through this whitewater. “There are some people who have been doing this a long time, and this is a tough business; these are the ones who will probably buckle down and adjust to leaner times.”

Summing up 2020 and speaking for everyone in his sector, Yee said it’s been a long, long, long haul.

Indeed it has, a nine-month stretch of restrictions that have varied in their severity, but have been generally punitive to restaurateurs, limiting how, where, and when they can serve diners. Some have fared reasonably well with takeout, outdoor dining, and reduced indoor seating, he noted, but none are doing anything approaching what they were doing a year ago, revenue-wise.

And many have decided they can’t continue to slug it out, he said, noting closures up and down the Pioneer Valley and also in the Berkshires. As bad as it’s been, it’s been far worse in major cities with much higher commercial lease rates, he told BusinessWest, adding that Boston has been devasted, and perhaps 35% of all the restaurants in New York will chose for good due to the pandemic.

Despite the devastation, the pandemic did provide some positive learning experiences, especially when it came to outdoor dining, something few restaurants had tried, but now were all but forced to undertake. It’s something that may become a permanent fixture.

“It has been a good learning experience for us,” he said, citing the Student Prince in Springfield as perhaps the best example from within the Bean Group of an establishment that invested heavily in outdoor dining and saw some success. “We are going to try to emulate that and duplicate that next year.”

Looking ahead, he does have confidence that the vaccines are cause for optimism, and also that, when this pandemic is over, people will go back to their old habits of dining out — a question that many have been asking over the past several months as the discussion turns to how the pandemic may change societal norms for the long term.

“I agree with people who say we can see the finish line with COVID,” he told BusinessWest. “My feeling is that, by March, things will start to loosen up a little; by the summertime we’ll be back to some kind of new normal, whatever that means; and in the fourth quarter we’ll roar back with people going out and celebrating.”

Meanwhile, for the entrepreneurial — and he certainly falls into that category — there will be opportunities within this sector as the pandemic draws on and more establishments grow weary of the fight.

Yee said he’s already received a number of calls from individuals looking to sell, and he expects those calls to keep coming.

In that respect, 2021 might see many more changes to the landscape in this important sector.

 

—George O’Brien

Agenda

Women’s Leadership Training Program

Starting Jan. 6: Building on the success of its popular Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series, Holyoke Community College (HCC) is launching an eight-week training program for women who want to develop and enhance their leadership skills.

For convenience, the program, “Women Leaning Into Leadership 2021: Empowering Your Voice,” is being offered over Zoom in two separate, eight-week sessions. One meets on Wednesdays, Jan. 6 through Feb. 24, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., while the other meets on Thursdays, Jan. 7 through Feb. 25, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The interactive workshops will be facilitated by Annie Shibata, owner of Growth Mindset Leadership and Communication Coaching. Enrollment is limited by design. In addition to weekly 90-minute group seminars, each participant can schedule a private, 30-minute session of personalized coaching with the instructor. During the program sessions, participants will learn to evaluate their communication skills and apply new communication techniques, practice the power of mindfulness, distinguish forms of influence and persuasion to create powerful messages, assess their leadership strengths, and create short- and long-term plans for career development. To register for the Wednesday program, visit hcc.edu/women-2021-1. To register for the Thursday program, visit hcc.edu/women-2021-2.

 

Asnuntuck Super Saturday

Jan. 9: Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) will hold a virtual Super Saturday event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., aimed at helping new and continuing students who have questions about how to apply, would like to speak to an advisor, or have questions regarding financial aid and registering. The college’s spring semester begins on Friday, Jan. 22. New and continuing students are invited to attend the event. Participants will also be able to virtually meet with Asnuntuck’s Manufacturing department, as well as speak with staff from ACC’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development Office to learn about our non-credit certificate options. Anyone who is interested in attending the online event, but has not yet applied, should complete the application ahead of time to maximize their time during the event. Participants may pre-register at asnuntuck.edu/virtualsupersaturday if there is a specific department they plan to meet with. If seeking to meet with an advisor during the event, it is strongly encouraged to pre-register ahead of time at asnuntuck.edu/student-resources/casa to request an appointment.

 

Virtual Event Series on Vaccination

Jan. 13, 20, 27: The Springfield Regional Chamber will host three virtual events dedicated to helping business leaders understand the COVID-19 vaccine. “What to Expect with the COVID-19 Vaccine” is slated for Wednesday, Jan. 13 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, will lead a conversation about what businesses can expect, how and when the vaccine may be distributed, and more. “Navigating the Legal Complexities of the COVID-19 Vaccine in the Workplace” will follow on Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 9 to 10 a.m. Employment attorney Meghan Sullivan of Sullivan Hayes & Quinn will offer insights about the HR complexities of the vaccine and the issues surrounding deployment to the business community. “Effectively Communicating the COVID-19 Vaccine” will be presented on Wednesday, Jan. 27 from 9 to 10 a.m. Justine Griffin from Rasky Partners will discuss developing cross-cultural communications strategies, messaging, and more to gain buy-in on the importance of the vaccine for employees, business, and the entire community. To learn more or register, visit springfieldregionalchamber.com. Chamber members receive exclusive discounts.

 

Healthcare Heroes

Jan. 14: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will celebrate this year’s Healthcare Heroes with a free virtual event. This year’s heroes include Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health; Christopher Savino, Emeline Bean, and Lydia Brisson, clinical liaisons for Berkshire Healthcare Systems; Friends of the Homeless; the Nutrition Department at Greater Springfield Senior Services Inc.; the staff at Holyoke Medical Center; the Institute for Applied Life Sciences at UMass Amherst; Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare; Maggie Eboso, Infection Control and Prevention coordinator at Mercy Medical Center; Jennifer Graham, home health aide at O’Connell Care at Home; and Helen Gobeil, staffing supervisor at Visiting Angels West Springfield. The Healthcare Heroes program is sponsored by Elms College (presenting sponsor), Baystate Health and Health New England (presenting sponsor), and partner sponsors Bulkley Richardson, Comcast Business, and Trinity Health Of New England/Mercy Medical Center. A link to access this free event will be available at businesswest.com and healthcarenews.com, or you can RSVP by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

 

Women of Impact

Jan. 28: BusinessWest will celebrate this year’s Women of Impact with a virtual event. This year’s honorees include Tania Barber, president and CEO of Caring Health Center; Carol Campbell, president of Chicopee Industrial Contractors; Helen Caulton-Harris, Health and Human Services commissioner for the city of Springfield; Pattie Hallberg, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts; Andrea Harrington, Berkshire County district attorney; Toni Hendrix, director of Human Services at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing; Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College; and Sue Stubbs, president and CEO of ServiceNet. The event is sponsored by Country Bank, Health New England, and TommyCar Auto Group (presenting sponsors), Comcast Business (supporting sponsor), and WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield (media sponsor). More details about the event will be announced soon.

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

Feb. 6: Past year got you down? Need a brighter outlook for 2021? Holyoke Community College has a class for you. HCC is partnering with Pam Victor, president and founder of Happier Valley Comedy, to offer a Zoom workshop titled “Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness” from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Victor, a comedian and improv facilitator who prefers the title ‘head of happiness,’ will lead participants on an experiential exploration of happiness and resilience building to enhance their joy and ease at work and home. She will share stress-relieving exercises and techniques to help people bring more well-being, laughter, gratitude, and play into their daily lives. The cost of the class is $99. To register, visit hcc.edu/happiness.

 

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]


 

Celebrating Heroes

Supporters were out bright and early in the morning cold last week to cheer Hillcrest Commons staffers during a shift change for their tireless efforts the last several weeks caring for residents through the coronavirus surge. They planned to be out the following day for a similar morale-boosting event during the afternoon shift change.

 

 


 

 

I Can See Clearly Now

Several months ago, Jackie Santana (left), a deaf woman who depends on lip reading as well as sign language, wrote about her frustrations communicating with people wearing face masks in a newsletter published by the Holyoke Community College Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center, where she is a student. Inspired by Santana’s essay, Ash Aliengena (right), a literacy specialist at the center, started making masks with clear plastic windows and created a website offering free, accessible face-mask patterns, where people can “Click. Print. Cut. Trace. Go.” To date, Aliengena has hand-sewn more than 60 masks and donated most of them to people at the center and to public-school teachers in Holyoke.

 

 


 

 

Provider of Choice

 

Golden Years Home Care Services recently received the 2020 Best of Home Care – Provider of Choice Award, which is based on client satisfaction scores gathered by Home Care Pulse, an independent satisfaction-research firm for home care. Best of Home Care – Provider of Choice award-winning providers have contracted with Home Care Pulse to gather feedback by conducting live phone interviews with their clients each month. Because Home Care Pulse is a third-party company, it is able to collect honest and unbiased feedback.

 

 


 

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AMHERST

Free Journal Network, Inc., 710 North Pleasant St., Dept of Math&Stat c/o Mark Wilson Amherst, MA 01003. Mark Curtis Wilson, 40 Summerfield Road, Amherst, MA 01002. Promotion of the theory and practice of publishing scholarly research without financial barriers to readers or authors (“diamond open access” or “platinum open access”).

ASHFIELD

Mozaik, Inc., 947 Apple Valley Road, Ashfield, MA 01330. Abigail K. Straus, same. Management Consulting and Systems Development.

ASHLEY FALLS

High Five Inc., 20 Hillside Lane Ashley Falls, MA 01222. Christos Christodoulou, same. Applying for a license with the CCC.

CHICOPEE

Kings Student Transport Inc., 975-A Springfield St. Feeding Hills, MA 01030. Dennis King, 40 Mountainview St., Agawam, MA 01001. Transportation services.

Ramcity Corp., 40 Dale St., Chicopee, MA 01013. Vadzim Loban, same. Trucking.

EASTHAMPTON

Abbetor Inc., 3 Zabek Dr. Easthampton, MA 01027. Andrea A. Przybyla, same. Express employment franchise.

Chemetal, Inc., 51 Ferry St. Easthampton, MA 01027. H. Michael Schaefer, 16 Pleasant St. Southampton, MA 01073. Metal laminate business.

GRANBY

Rightwise Inc., 362 East State St. Granby, MA 01033. Sarib Nawaz Ma, 1 Eagle Dr., South Hadley, MA 01075. Retail convenience store.

GREENFIELD

Beckwith Electric Inc., 780 Bernardston Road, Greenfield, MA 01301. Steven Beckwith, same. Electrical services.

Greenfield Makers Co-operative Inc., 231 Main St., Second Floor, Greenfield, MA 01301. Adrienne LaPierre, 20 Union St., Montague, MA 01351. P.O. Box 8, Montague, MA 01351.

Grew-It-Yourself Hydroponic Consulting, Inc., 39 Abbot St. Greenfield, MA 01301. Devin William Joseph Duval, same. The purpose of Grew-It-Yourself Hydroponic Consulting Inc. is to provide to people from marginalized groups, no-cost equipment and training to grow their own hydroponic plants, including but not limited to, fruits and vegetables for those seeking food security, medical cannabis for those who qualify under Massachusetts statute, and otherwise therapeutic hydroponic plants.

HAMPDEN

Roots to Ends Hair Salon Inc., 346 Bennett Road, Hampden, MA 01036. Stephanie M. Guyer, same. Conduct and carry on business of a hair salon.

LONGMEADOW

National Fitness and Wellness for the Blind Inc., 127 Bel Air Dr., Longmeadow, MA 01106. Payman Sadeghinejad, same. Be devoted to providing blind and legally blind people with a means to exercise their right to safely and independently maintain their physical and mental health by providing safe, regular, and convenient physical training services, wellness service, and related services.

LUDLOW

E&S Consulting, Inc., 77 Howard St. Ludlow, MA 01056. Suzette F. Batista, same. Consulting services for business management.

PITTSFIELD

Benjamin Builds Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100 Pittsfield, MA 01201. Andrew Benjamin, 47 Upland Ave. Haverhill, MA 01835. Woodwork, construction, property management.

Delivering Hope Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100 Pittsfield, MA 01201. Victor Aleman, same. Delivering backpacks and schools supplies to children in need.

Special Coverage Women in Businesss

Knowledge Is Power

The WBOA team with a mural

The WBOA team with a mural commissioned from member and artist Mary Kearney.

 

When the Women Business Owners Alliance launched in 1982, there wasn’t anything quite like it, Anita Eliason said.

“Because there were so few women business owners in the Valley, they felt a need to get together and kind of strengthen their bond and share the experiences they were having that, maybe, were different than the experiences of men in business,” said Eliason, WBOA’s president. “They kind of broke some barriers and did it with a sense of camaraderie with other women business owners.”

These days, business groups, including those focused on women, are much more prevalent, but she thinks the WBOA is still unique — because of its diligent focus on education.

When the alliance became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit recently, “the goal was to establish ourselves as an educational organization,” she said. “Some organizations exist to bring people together to be one another’s customers, like BNI; the whole point of getting together is so I can get to your six degrees, and you can get to my six degrees, and we can all create business.

“We’re really about education and upping skills for people looking to be successful in business, much more than we are about getting business from one another. We’re here to help people be better at business, and we’re mutually learning from one another.”

“That’s not how we operate,” she went on. “We really come together to be enlightened, to be educated, to be inspired so go out and do the business of work. It’s not so much that your sister’s going to be my client, and my mother’s going to be yours. It’s mutually getting together to up our skill level.”

Members of the WBOA say the organization has proven beneficial on many levels, offering inspiration and knowledge from other women’s experiences in a supportive and non-competitive atmosphere. There’s a comfort level many say they haven’t found elsewhere, and it’s helping them gain the confidence and connections to succeed at business and in life.

The organization’s tagline is “going the extra mile for women in business,” reflecting that desire to be more than a networking group or one solely focused on generating new business. In fact, the WBOA tends to avoid the word ‘networking,’ and concentrates instead on making connections and sharing information in a variety of ways.

Eliason, who is also the senior business advisor for the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center’s (MSBDC) Western Regional Office, said not all alliance members are business owners. Some aspire to own a business, while others — such as managers of banks and insurance companies — aren’t technically owners, but are responsible for a company’s day-to-day operations.

“Some people think it’s a social organization, and I think 40 years ago it was something like that. I have the sense that, when they started, they met over dinner in restaurants to start with and then became more formal,” she noted. “Many networking organizations have cropped up in the meantime that are women-focused, and we see ourselves as complementary to those.”

Meaning, the WBOA adds value women professionals may not find elsewhere, and education is at the heart of that value proposition.

For example, the group holds a breakfast meeting every second Thursday at the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield, where the WBOA is based. While the organization has operated remotely since March and the events are virtual for the time being, they have continued without interruption.

Members of the alliance

Members of the alliance meet for an evening roundtable discussion during pre-pandemic times; all meetings since the spring have been remote, but none have been canceled.

Last month, the guest speaker was an electrical engineer at Raytheon and a Six Sigma lean-manufacturing black belt, who talked about organization and creating leaner operations. A week later, as is typical following the breakfast events, a longer evening program took a deeper dive into the subject matter, and more specific strategies were introduced.

The WBOA also holds quarterly events like social-media boot camps, which, last spring, featured a general session and 14 breakout sessions. Next month, a virtual financial workshop will present an accountant, an enrolled agent, and a tax preparer, who will speak about tax laws, PPP forgiveness, and a host of other issues. “The goal is to leave with a profit-loss statement and a balance sheet from this year and then set up a blank one for the following year.”

One of the positives of hosting the organization — and, before the pandemic, these events — at the Enterprise Center is that so many resources, from the SBA to SCORE, are also located there, and that aspect has been missed, Eliason said.

“It’s a great hub of activity for women business owners. But when we had to shift online, we never missed a meeting. We continued to meet without exception, which we’re kind of proud of,” she said, noting that even more programming was added, such as ‘happy hour’ events that are more motivational in nature than the breakfast discussions, with topics ranging from personal wellness to navigating remote work. “It’s really relevant stuff.”

 

Making Connections

It also requires resources to make it all happen, which is why the WBOA seeks sponsorships from organizations to underwrite its work. “We’re nonprofit, but there are expenses,” Eliason said, noting that fundraising has been more difficult in a year when businesses of all kinds are struggling.

Still, she made a point of listing many of the businesses that do support the alliance’s work, including Advanced Manufacturing, Allstate Longmeadow, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Attorney Marie T. Jablonski, Bacon Wilson, Dale A. Frank Financial Group, Fletcher Sewer and Drain, Goss and McLain, Jerome’s Party Plus, JL Raymaakers & Sons, Latka Printing, Main Street Deli, New England Disc Golf, Veryl’s Automotive Services, and WEIB-FM.

Collaborators include the MSBDC, SCORE, Valley Community Development, the Franklin County CDC, the Center for Women and Enterprise, and Common Capital. The WBOA also created the first TedX event in Easthampton and established the WINGS mentor program at STCC.

“We see ourselves as a place to learn about all the other resources that are available and always come back for additional education. That’s why we’re strategically placed at the Scibelli Enterprise Center,” she said. “We’re really about education and upping skills for people looking to be successful in business, much more than we are about getting business from one another. We’re here to help people be better at business, and we’re mutually learning from one another.”

It’s been called a sisterhood in the past, and Eliason appreciates that.

“I think of it almost like a sorority — we’re going through similar experiences, we have similar challenges, and for every challenge we face, there’s someone who was at that level with their business years ago, and someone who hasn’t gotten there yet.”

Elaborating, she noted that BOA members feel comfortable calling on professionals who have been through what they’re experiencing. “It’s an evolving group of people at different stages of business ownership, so there are people you can call on, really, for anything.”

Right now, the group boasts about 45 members, though it has topped 100 in the past, and Eliason expects the number to rise to about 70 next year, once the pandemic slows. That number, she said, would be a sweet spot, generating a rich pool of experience and connections, but not such a high number that events become unwieldy.

As for those events, she said platforms like Zoom will continue to have a place at the WBOA even after members return to meeting in person, because the virtual events have cast a wider geographic net, and those technologies also allow the organization to archive webinars where important information gets shared.

In each meeting and newsletter, members also learn about available loan and grant opportunities to help them grapple with a pandemic that has hit small businesses hard, and forced many to close altogether. Other members are trying to keep their businesses afloat while working at home and balancing their careers with what their kids need in terms of remote learning.

“They’re doubling as a teacher for their kids,” Eliason said. “That’s not just a woman’s challenge, but for many of them, it’s been tough trying to juggle those two roles. It’s a lot to navigate.”

Even without the adjustments wrought by COVID-19, there’s always more to learn about how to build and grow a business, and to that end, WBOA leadership will continue to identify categories of information that would be most useful to its members.

“We’re looking for even more diversity of speakers in terms of the industries they come from,” she said. “It’s about linking what’s deliverable to really out-of-the-box thinking.”

 

Making the Time

In this difficult year, Eliason knows women aren’t necessarily looking for another networking group. But the WBOA isn’t just another networking group.

“Just come,” she said when asked what she’d say to women wondering whether the alliance is for them. “Attending a meeting is significant. It’s a really safe place to learn information. A lot of people say, ‘I didn’t need what the main speaker had to say, but one of the other people who spoke for five or six minutes, she made it worth coming.’

“We think of it as a think tank,” she continued. “If you’re stuck or in a rut, you can just put yourself in a place where there’s every possibility that someone will say something that will further you. Someone will say something in the course of a meeting that makes you say, ‘yeah, that was great.’”

And the learning — and, hopefully, growing — continues.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus Features

Looking Up

Could better times be around the corner? A growing number of executives across the U.S. think so.

In the just-released 2021 National Business Trends Survey from the Employer Associations of America (EAA), 44% of company executives see an improving economic outlook in 2021. This annual survey shares information on what executives nationally are doing to address the changing business climate. Survey responses also reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on this year’s business trends.

When executives were asked if the overall U.S. economy in the next 12 months will “improve, stay the same, or decline,” the largest segment of respondents (44%) think it will improve, as opposed to last year, with only 12% expecting the economy to improve — and that was before the pandemic had come into view. This year, 33% think it will stay the same, as opposed to 52% last year. Only 24% think it will decline, compared to 36% a year ago.

“COVID certainly has had a significant impact, and perhaps many are feeling that the economy can only get better moving forward into 2021,” said Thoran Towler, who chairs the EAA board of directors. “In fact, fueling that optimism, 57% of executives project slight to significant increases in sales and revenue. American businesses are showing their resilience and readiness to tackle today’s challenges and come out stronger than ever before.”

An additional 11 questions were added to this year’s survey regarding COVID-19’s impact on business, addressing employee safety, stay-at-home measures and social distancing, remote work, online interviews and training, hazard pay and bonuses, and candidates who are unwilling to work in the office or out in the field.

When asked how concerned respondents are regarding COVID-19 and its impact on business continuity (specifically the supply chain, financial implications, and temporary shutdowns), 52% indicated they are “extremely to moderately concerned.” In the Northeast, 43% of the region’s executives expect the pandemic to negatively impact business and capital spending either moderately or significantly.

However, companies are already starting to pivot from a focus on pandemic measures to investing in the future. As the charts the two charts demonstrate, respondents expect to put less effort into COVID-specific activities in 2021 than they did in 2020, and more effort into investing in technology, equipment, and other efforts to grow their business.

“The pandemic has forced companies to be agile and innovative during these uncertain times,” said Mark Adams, director of Compliance at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast. “While expenditures are being scrutinized now more than ever before, the need to invest strategically nonetheless remains important as businesses seek to position themselves to rebound in 2021 and make up for lost ground.”

Similar to last year’s survey responses, the top three serious challenges for business executives include talent acquisition, talent retention, and the ability to pay competitive wages. The ability to pay for benefit costs and the cost of regulatory compliance rounded out the top five.

Also noteworthy for 2021, 64% of the survey respondents are planning to award wage and salary increases, while 29% plan to award variable pay bonuses next year.

The EAA is a national nonprofit association that provides this annual survey to business executives. The 2021 survey included 1,484 participating organizations throughout the U.S., an increase of nearly 400 over last year’s survey.

Opinion

Opinion

By John Regan

Joe Biden, set to become the 46th president of the U.S., will take office at a singular moment in the history of a nation struggling to confront the convergence of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and social upheaval.

It’s also a singular moment for Massachusetts employers. The change of administrations in Washington will have enormous consequences for employers on everything from federal stimulus to the tenor of labor relations.

Record numbers of voters cast ballots either in person, by absentee ballot, or through the mail in an election conducted amid a second surge of COVID-19 cases around the country. It was an election marked by stark polarization on the issues, a backlash against globalization, the growing influence of technology, and cultural and social struggles.

The new administration and Congress will set the nation’s economic agenda for the next two to four years. Biden’s ability to implement his economic plans will ultimately be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The issues for employers will range from taxes to business regulation. The most immediate concern for Massachusetts companies and for the Commonwealth itself is the prospect that a Biden administration could break the logjam over a new economic-recovery package as a follow-up to the CARES Act passed in March. Such a package could reopen the door to the popular Paycheck Protection Program for employers and provide financial support to the state as it seeks to close a project budget shortfall of $3 billion to $6 billion.

Biden’s ability to implement his economic plans will ultimately be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

It is also anticipated that the new administration will initiate a more aggressive federal approach to moderating the COVID-19 pandemic than that taken by the Trump administration. Federal regulations such as a mask mandate and broad health protocols will affect Massachusetts companies that do business in multiple states.

President-elect Biden has proposed raising taxes on corporations and imposing a corporate minimum book tax. He would also increase taxes on individuals with income above $400,000, including raising individual income, capital gains, and payroll taxes.

Most observers expect regulation of business to become more aggressive in areas such as occupational safety, union activity, and environmental compliance. The development of wind energy, including proposed projects just south of Martha’s Vineyard, is likely to accelerate after several years of slowdowns.

U.S. financial markets are likely to be affected. The stock market generally produces below-average returns during the first two years of a presidency and strong returns during in the second two years as investors gain confidence in the predictability and certainty of an administration.

The nation’s approach to international trade, which was marked by aggressive imposition of tariffs by the Trump administration, may also change under a Biden administration. While the president-elect has refrained from releasing any detailed policy proposals on trade, he has emphasized the importance of training the U.S. workforce for a competitive global environment, a renewed commitment to reducing trade barriers, and a coordinated approach to negotiations with China that utilizes U.S. allies and international institutions.

AIM members should be assured that the association remains committed to representing your best interests whatever direction the political winds might shift. v

 

John Regan is president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

ADAMS

Berkshire Helping Hands, Inc., 12 Beecher St. Adams, MA 01220. Marilyn Honig, 4651 Main Road, Stamford, VT 05352. To promote and carry out the assistance of the poor and distressed and the promotion of social welfare by assisting the homeless and those at risk of being homeless, transitioning from homelessness, or unable to manage necessary aspects of maintaining their living situation.

AGAWAM

JGB Industries Inc., 378 Walnut St. Ext., Agawam, MA 01001. Joseph M. Carlos, 20 Peach Tree Road, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. To own and operate a restaurant business.

LS Express Inc., 242 River Road, Agawam, MA 01001. Serge Nakhabenko, same. Trucking.

BLANDFORD

Blandford Animal Hospital, 46 Woronoco Road. Blandford, MA 01008. Russ Lapierre, same. Veterinary hospital and any related activity.

BARRE

Donahue & Sons Mgmt., Inc., 123 Cutoff Road, Barre, MA 01005. Thomas P. Donahue, same. Solar farm operations and management; land management.

CHICOPEE

Christopher Rogers Inc., 39 Pheasant Way, Chicopee, MA 01022. Christopher Rogers, same. Transportation logistics.

Scott Lee Management Inc., 39 Ferwood St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Scott Lee, same. Musical artist management.

CONWAY

Molding Search Group Inc., 149 Whately Road Conway, MA 01341. Robbie J. Edwards, same. Plastic injection molding recruitment.

EAST LONGMEADOW

DK Drywall Inc., 15 Barnum St. East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Daniel C. Ryan, same. Construction services.

The East Longmeadow Baseball Association Inc., 22 Brookhaven Dr., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. William Berks, 78 Lasalle St. East Longmeadow, MA 01028. The East Longmeadow Baseball Association (ELBA) shall provide baseball related services to any youth who take part in any such activities or programs within the Town of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

FLORENCE

Grace Paint and Tile Inc., 303 Riverside Dr., Florence, MA 01062. Jeffrey Brian Vaughan, same. Painting and tile.

Vietnamese Restaurant Corp, 311 Riverside Dr., Florence, MA 01062. Maruone Sothi Thach, same. Full-service restaurant.

GREENFIELD

Davis Property Management Inc., 36 Log Plain Road, Greenfield, MA 01301. Allen G. Davis, same. Purchase, sale and rental of retail property.

Greenfield Beauty Inc., 130 Main St. Greenfield, MA 01301. Phong Duong, 51 Cypress St. Greenfield, MA 01301. Nail salon and spa.

Whitney Hill Corp., 122 Main St. Greenfield, MA 01301. Dale S. Whitney, 178 Old Vernon Road, Northfield, MA 01360. Said organization is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, and scientific purposes.

SPRINGFIELD

Fusion Pest Management Inc., 125 Pine Acre Road, Springfield, MA 01129. Christopher W. Morin, same. Pest control.

One Stop Boston Road, Inc., 475 Boston Road, Springfield, MA 01109. Bharatkumar S. Patel, 110 Wheatland Ave. Chicopee, MA 01020. Convenience and package store.

WESTFIELD

Mass Obtain Corp., 50 Medeiros Way, Westfield, MA 01085. Dale Unsderfer, 48 Sunset Dr. Westfield, MA 01085. Salvage and resale of architectural items for demo.

Psych Coastal Billing Inc., 15 Susan Dr., Westfield, MA 01085. Nancy R. Veto, same. Medical billing.

Unbroken Wings, Inc., 99 Northridge Road, Westfield, MA 01085. Michael Perrier, same. Unbroken Wings Inc. will give tangible assistance to those in need, and to support charities such as, but not limited to, the local children’s miracle network through charity festivals and other fundraising efforts.

Picture This

Email ‘Picture This’ photos with a caption and contact information to [email protected]

 


 

 

Help Where It’s Needed

Monson Savings Bank President Dan Moriarty (left) and CEO Steve Lowell (right) recently presented a $5,000 check to Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The bank made the donation to help address the food-insecurity challenges being faced by many local residents. “This year has been more difficult than ever for many residents,” Lowell said. “As a local community bank, it is our duty to help those most in need. We take our responsibility very seriously and do whatever is possible to help residents who are struggling.”

 

 


 

 

Celebrating STEM Week

As a way to celebrate STEM Week in Massachusetts last month, the Red Sox Foundation and the Museum of Science in Boston partnered to distribute nearly 650 at-home science and engineering design-challenge kits to children at Springfield’s Square One (pictured), the Lawrence YMCA, and the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club. The Try It! kits are a part of the virtual learning resources the museum has developed through its curricular division, EiE, and its MOS at Home digital platform, to provide families with all the materials needed to enjoy fun and engaging science education any time, any place.

 


 

 

Supporting Girls

The Junior League of Greater Springfield (JLGS) recently donated 90 backpacks to Girls Inc. of the Valley to be given to elementary-school girls. “The Junior League of Greater Springfield is committed to the promotion of literacy and serving women and children in our community. With the backpack-donation project, our volunteers recognized an urgent need for the girls of the Pioneer Valley and jumped into service,” said Jamie Margolis, assistant treasurer of JLGS. “It has never been more important to us to help lift and support young women in our community.”

 

 


 

 

 

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AGAWAM

Floors N More Inc., 44 North St. Agawam, MA 01001. Igor Moshkivskyy, same. Floors.

ATHOL

Los Agaves Grill Inc., 491 Main St. Athol, MA 03131. Crisoforo Lopez, 2 Washington St. Amesbury, MA 01913. Mexican Restaurant.

CHICOPEE

Iglesia Cristiana Centro Restauracion Misionera Inc., 49 Perkins St. Chicopee, MA 01013. Nelly Alvarez, 20 Mobile Home Way Springfield, MA 01119. This corporation is a church.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Advanced Remodeling and Maintenance Inc., 15 Hanward Hill East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Shawn P. Blanchard, same. Interior and exterior construction, maintenance and repair of residential and commercial property.

Burack Consulting Inc., 194 Elm St. East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Gregory Burack, same. Consulting.

FLORENCE

Build Repair Grow Inc., 9 Berkshire Terrace Florence, MA 01062. Elizabeth Valdez, 84 Allen Road, Belchertown, MA 01007. Build Repair Grow is organized exclusively for charitable educational purposes in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code.

Unicorn Precision Inc., 34 North Maple St., Suite 7, Florence, MA 01062. Rui Fernandes, 121 Leonard Road, Shutesbury, MA 01072. Manufacturing company.

GREENFIELD

LDS Cargo Inc., 44 Oak Ct., Greenfield, MA 01301. Lidia Sofronovici, same. Transportation.

HAMPDEN

Rubner Oil Inc., 36 Allen Court Hampden, MA 01036. Todd Rubner, same. Oil delivery.

LONGMEADOW

Lawnwood Enterprises, Inc., 33 Woodlawn Place Longmeadow, MA 01106. Ian Coogan, same. Hair salon.

LUDLOW

All State Plumbing, Inc., 1400 Center St. Ludlow, MA 01056. Fernando Blanco, same. Plumbing business.

LYNN

Dino’s Auto Repair Inc., 51 Willow St. PO Box 2622 Lynn, MA 01901. Misael Colon Andino, 77 Monmouth St. 1st Floor Springfield, MA 01109. Auto repair services.

NORTHFIELD

Daniels Books, Inc., 181 School St. Northfield, MA 01360. Edward Foster, same. To engage in charitable literary and education purposes, specifically the publishing, marketing and promoting of innovative, experimental, and avant garde poetry.

NORTH ADAMS

Victory Lounge Inc., 82 Winter St. North Adams, MA 01247. Brian Intraversato, same. Entertainment, food, and alcohol services.

PHILLIPSTON

Mark E Johnson Concrete Inc., 3 Pine Meadow Road, Phillipston, MA 01331. Mark E Johnson, same. Foundations for commercial and residential.

MEJ Leasing Inc., 3 Pine Meadow Road, Phillipston, MA 01331. Mark E Johnson, same. Leasing equipment.

SPRINGFIELD

Softeye Solutions Inc., 27 Lyman St. Apt. D606 Springfield, MA 01103. Adonte Harrell, same. Provide free and low-cost technical assistance to individuals and businesses within the commonwealth for the creation of start-up business websites, hosting, and e-mail services.

Heredia Inc., 134 Woodside Ter. Springfield, MA 01108. Orlando Heredia, same. Cargo transportation in trucks.

DBA Certificates

The following business certificates and/or trade names were issued or renewed during the month of November 2020. (Filings are limited due to closures or reduced staffing hours at municipal offices due to COVID-19 restrictions).

DEERFIELD

Impact Merchant Solutions
252 Lower Road
Michael Rifanburg

Soul Trek Coaching
9 Conway St.
William Dziura

HADLEY

Homewood Suites
340 Russell St.
Kishore Parmar

Qigong Infused Yoga
64 Comins Road
Lynne Smith

T-Mobile
344 Russell St.
Lindsey Romano

T-Mobile Financial
344 Russell St.
Lindsey Romano

T-Mobile Leasing
344 Russell St.
T-Mobile Northeast

SOUTHWICK

American Way Home Improvement
24 Eagle St.
Andrew Gorenc

Kim Hartman House Cleaning
26 Fernwood Road
Kim Hartman

Thompson Transportation
719 College Highway
Shane Thompson

WESTFIELD

Andrew York Photography, LLC
16 Union Ave.
Andrea York

Armbrook Village Senior Living Residence
551 North Road
Westfield Senior Housing I Opco, LLC

Cindy’s Cleaning
44 Laro Road
Cindy Donahue

Greg’s Auto Repair Inc.
301 North Elm St.
Greg’s Auto Repair Inc.

Quality Machining & Manufacturing
179 Joseph Ave.
Steven Sobczyk

Rovithis Realty, LLC
16 Union Ave., Suite 26
Steven Rovithis

Seven Colors Painting
26 Hunter Slope
Pavel Shevchuk

Sophy Nails and Spa
84 Main St.
Lida Lim

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Beauty Admired
1027 Westfield St.
Sapphire Torres

Becker Cleaning Services
69 Hanover St.
Anthony Becker

Big Lots #1863
1150 Union St.
Doris Greathouse

Comfort Bagel
163 Falmouth Road
Janet Blake

Taj Indian Cuisine
1506 Riverdale St.
Shambhu Rana

T-Mobile
233 Memorial Ave.
Lindsey Romano

Company Notebook

UMass Donahue Institute Receives $32.5 Million from Head Start

HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a new five-year, $6.5 million per year cooperative agreement to direct the Head Start National Center on Program Management and Fiscal Operations (NCPMFO), a role it has filled for the past five years under an earlier award. Under the new cooperative agreement, the institute will continue to work in collaboration with its partners: Family Health International 360, Zero to Three, and the UCLA Anderson School of Management. NCPMFO will continue to disseminate clear, consistent guidance, materials, and trainings on Office of Head Start priorities for the development and implementation of sound management systems and strong internal controls in Head Start programs across the country. NCPMFO’s work addresses topics such as risk management, governance, data collection and analysis, budgeting, management of multiple funding sources, and leadership, including the annual Head Start Management Fellows Program conducted at UCLA. NCPMFO’s work reaches approximately 1,700 grantees of Early Head Start and Head Start programs located in all states, including those programs serving American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and migrant and seasonal workers. NCPMFO is one of four national center cooperative agreements recently awarded. The others address early childhood development, teaching, and learning; early childhood health; behavioral health and safety; and parent, family, and community engagement.

 

Thunderbirds Foundation Donates $15,000 to Rays of Hope

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa presented a check for $15,000 to the Baystate Health Foundation for Rays of Hope from proceeds raised by the sale of specialty pink jerseys worn at the 2020 Pink in the Rink night in March. Each year since the team’s inception, the Thunderbirds have held a Pink in the Rink night to benefit Rays of Hope, complete with participation by breast-cancer survivors, pink ice, and pink specialty jerseys. The event has sold out each of the past four seasons, and has become a signature event in the area to raise awareness. This past season’s event took place on March 7, and was again sold out, with a capacity crowd of 6,793. The Thunderbirds Foundation has contributed more than $80,000 to the Baystate Health Foundation and the Rays of Hope through the proceeds of specialty jersey auctions from the annual Pink in the Rink night.

 

Davis Family Establishes New Scholarship Fund in Honor of Mary Walachy

SPRINGFIELD — The Davis family has established the Joseph F. and Helen C. McGovern Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in honor of the Irene E. & George A Davis Foundation’s recently retired Executive Director Mary Walachy. Walachy retired in June after serving 23 years as executive director of the family foundation, and the fund is named after Walachy’s parents, both strong advocates for education. Walachy’s father, Joseph McGovern, was an entrepreneur who owned and operated Notion Thread, a manufacturing company in West Springfield. Walachy’s mother, Helen, also worked with her husband at the company. The scholarship fund will provide resources for successful applicants studying education or social work. It will be awarded through the Community Foundation’s scholarship program, which awards approximately 1,000 scholarships to 800 students annually. The program considers academic merit and financial need in its applicant reviews. Walachy earned a master’s degree in social work and, prior to joining the Davis Foundation, served as CEO of the Mental Health Assoc. Walachy was hired in 1997 as the first executive director of the foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation created several signature programs, including Cherish Every Child, the nationally-recognized Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative, and the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success, as well as the establishment of Springfield Business Leaders for Education and the launch of Educare Springfield.

 

Berkshire Theatre Group Awarded $1 Million Gift

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group and Artistic Director and CEO Kate Maguire announced a generous gift of just over $1 million from the family of the late Mary Anne Gross in honor of her lifetime love of both theatre and the Berkshires. This award also recognizes the tireless efforts of Berkshire Theatre Group in producing the first live Actors’ Equity-approved musical in the U.S. this past summer, following the shutdown of live performing arts due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The Gross family will also award just over $1 million to Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company. The Gross family gift will support payroll and basic operating costs for the next six months in order to ensure there are no furloughs or layoffs while the theater continues to raise funds in support of future artistic programming. A portion of the gift is structured as a matching grant to leverage additional donations for 2021. In July, Berkshire Theatre Group’s musical, Godspell, the first musical in the U.S. approved by the Actors’ Equity Assoc. (AEA) during the COVID-19 pandemic, opened a five-week run under a tent outside of the Colonial Theatre. Due to popular demand and critical acclaim, the run was extended for two weeks. The musical ran from Aug. 6 to Sept. 20. Berkshire Theatre Group has just been approved once again by AEA and will present Truman Capote’s Holiday Memories outdoors at its Stockbridge campus from Nov. 20 to Dec. 20.

 

Home City Development Wins Funding for Elias Brookings Apartments

SPRINGFIELD — Home City Development Inc. (HCDI), a Springfield-based affordable-housing development organization, was awarded resources from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to adapt and rehabilitate the former Elias Brookings School into 42 affordable rental housing units, to be known as Elias Brookings Apartments. The award includes $1 million in low-income housing tax credits (to generate more than $9 million in equity), $4.4 million of soft debt, and project-based rental vouchers. Other funds for the project include state and federal historic tax credits, city of Springfield HOME and Community Preservation Act funds, and construction and permanent loans. MassHousing will provide the permanent first mortgage loan and a subordinate workforce-housing loan. HCDI plans to begin construction in early 2021 and complete the work in 12 months. The project will serve a range of incomes, including extremely low-income households, low-income households, and workforce housing. Select apartments are reserved for clients of the Department of Mental Health, people with disabilities, and homeless households. HCDI will offer a variety of supportive services to all residents. The property will be managed by Housing Management Resources, an organization with extensive experience managing comparable properties. Built as the Elias Brookings School in 1925, the building was severely damaged in the June 2011 tornado and was closed. This redevelopment aims to contribute significantly to the revitalization of the of the Maple Hill, Six Corners, and Old Hill neighborhoods, which were heavily impacted by the tornado. HCDI is working with Davis Square Architects, development consultant Gerry Joseph, Allegrone Construction, Klein-Hornig LLP, and Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin, P.C., as well as many other partners on this project.

 

Mercedes-Benz of Springfield Wins Community Service Award

CHICOPEE — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce announced that Mercedes-Benz of Springfield was chosen as its Community Service Award recipient. This award honors a business, nonprofit, or individual which has benefited the lives of the Amherst-area community through their work and outreach. The Driven by Community platform officially launched in March, although it has been implemented at the dealership since the doors opened three years ago. Since then, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield has partnered with more than 250 local organizations, raised more than $20,000 when COVID-19 impacted local businesses, and hosted numerous fundraising and charity events at the dealership — most recently, a drive-in movie night with proceeds donated to the Urban League of Springfield to support its mission. The virtual A+ Awards Show will be livestreamed from Hadley Farms Meeting House on Thursday, Nov. 12.

 

Wellfleet Partners with binx health to Keep College Students Safe

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet Insurance has teamed up with binx health to offer college clients access to easy at-home/in-dorm sample collection for COVID-19 testing using binx’s enterprise solutions for population health screening. The ‘binx boxes’ are showing up in dorm rooms of thousands of students on Wellfleet’s college client campuses, offering school officials a quick, easy way to test a campus population, with oversight and test ordering by on-site university clinicians. The model amplifies the power and reach of university administration in their efforts to test, track, and trace the COVID-19 infection status among students, faculty, staff, and vendors. Students ‘activate’ binx boxes online, complete sample collection in their dorms or at home, then drop off completed kits at centralized locations for lab processing. Results are rapid, often under 24 hours from sample receipt. Wellfleet, one of the nation’s leading student health-insurance carriers, worked with binx on behalf of client colleges and universities to deliver a first-of-its-kind platform that makes population testing a reality for the nation’s college campuses. The testing platform offers a unique, modular approach enabling tailored rollout and customized deployment based on university population needs. Serving as a ‘digital hub,’ binx enables seamless linking of patients to university administration via clinician ordering tools, global logistics, at-home/in-dorm sample collection, viral trend analysis and reporting, rapid lab testing, contact tracing, and live customer service and support, all offered at an affordable, per-test fee by university. In addition to introducing clients to tailored COVID-19 testing solutions, Wellfleet has also adapted policies to help members, including helping to ensure student members aren’t saddled with out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19, and enhanced coverage for telemedicine visits.

 

Bradley Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler Readers as Eighth-best U.S. Airport

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Condé Nast Traveler released the results of its annual Readers’ Choice Awards, with Bradley International Airport recognized as the eighth-best airport in the U.S. The awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry. Bradley International Airport was recognized as a top-10 airport for the fourth consecutive year. “This award is a tremendous honor during a challenging year for the travel industry, and we are proud to once again be recognized among our nation’s best airports,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority. “We thank the travel community for their continued vote of confidence in Bradley International Airport and for underscoring the value of traveling through a smaller airport. Now more than ever, Bradley Airport stands out by always offering a clean, safe, and convenient travel experience.”

 

MCLA Adopts Test-blind Policy Through Fall 2022

NORTH ADAMS — In support of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in recognition of the public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the MCLA Office of Admission will be waiving the SAT/ACT testing requirement for students who apply for fall 2021 and fall 2022. MCLA will also pilot a test-blind/test-free policy for fall 2021 applicants. National and institutional data point to high-school work being indicative of student success in college and a more equitable means of assessment than standardized-test scores. For many years, research studies have found that wealthy students have significant advantages through the college-application process. A 2013 study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Southern California, for example, found that the difference in SAT scores between high- and low-income students was twice as large among black students compared to white students. MCLA’s application is free, and students are considered for merit-based scholarships at the same time as they submit their application. MCLA has an early-action deadline of Dec. 1. Those who apply must submit their official high-school transcript, including first-quarter senior grades and any transcripts for college-level courses taken, as well as a personal statement/essay. To find out more, visit mcla.edu/apply.

 

AIC Hosts Mural Honoring Mason Square Resident

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently honored a Springfield individual known to residents in Mason Square as Preacherman with a mural on the college’s maintenance building located at the corner of State and Reed streets. Born Randolph Lester, he was a well-known community member who was given the Preacherman moniker as he was often seen walking around the Mason Square area carrying a Bible. Collaborating on the construction of the mural was Britt Ruhe, the founder of Fresh Paint Springfield, a creative initiative in 2019 that invited artists to paint building walls downtown. Ruhe is the director of Commonwealth Murals and manages the Community Muralist Institute, featuring individual mural installations that meaningfully engage and uplift communities. AIC alumnus Andrew Cade, president of the Springfield Cultural Council and senior vice president of the Urban League of Springfield, supported the project with a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council and other resources to assist with the mural. The artist, Greta McLain, has has extensive mural-making experience and created the “Home, Here” mural on the Chestnut Towers parking garage on Dwight Street.

 

Summerlin Floors Awarded Woman-owned Business Certificate

AMHERST — Summerlin Floors has been awarded the official woman-owned business certificate from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs. Summerlin Floors has been busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, completing the certification process and reaching its goal of achieving the woman-owned business certificate, along with announcing a new scholarship that will be awarded to a woman of color. To achieve WBENC certification, woman-owned businesses complete a formal documentation and site-visit process administered by one of WBENC’s 14 regional partner organizations. The WBENC certification gives woman-owned businesses the ability to compete for real-time business opportunities provided by WBENC corporate members and government agencies. To give back to the community and future generations, the company launched a new scholarship last month, awarding a $2,500 scholarship to a woman of color pursuing a degree in business at Greenfield Community College (GCC). For more information and to apply for this scholarship, contact the GCC Admissions Office at www.gcc.mass.edu/admissions or (413) 775-1801.

 

Excel Dryer Supports Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — For the fourth consecutive year, Excel Dryer has committed an annual gift of $5,000 to support Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom initiative. The gift comes at a critical time as Square One recently expanded its early-education program to include full-day remote learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to its traditional preschool classrooms and family childcare offerings. The funds will be used to offset expenses associated with classroom supplies, meals, and professional development. Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom program is part of the agency’s Campaign for Healthy Kids, a multi-year fund-development initiative focused on the agency’s commitment to providing healthy meals, physical fitness, social-emotional well-being, and a healthy learning environment. Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, and family support services to 1,500 families each year, as they work to overcome the significant challenges in their lives.

 

Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

BRIMFIELD

Infinite Granite Inc., 116 Little Alum Road, Brimfield, MA 01010. Cody Langlitz, same. Granite construction.

CHICOPEE

Save Our Youth, Inc., 6 Ralph Circle, Chicopee, MA 01020. Luiz Nevarez, same. Said organization is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, and scientific purposed, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under 50 1(C)(3) of the internal revenue code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code. Specific purpose is to provide assistance and resources to inner city/underprivileged youth, so they have a safe after-school program and better opportunities for the future.

YAAD Food Bar and Grill Inc., 66 Cabot St., Chicopee, MA 01013. Orlando Roberts, 199 Fargo St. Springfield, MA 01119. Restaurant and bar business.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Visit Madhesh Nepal, Inc., 7 High Meadow Circle, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Pramod Sarraf, same. Travel and business promotion.

GRANBY

Mandolin New England, Inc., 117 Amherst St., Granby, MA 01033. Adam Sweet, same. We are a musical organization that puts on free concerts for the needy throughout New England, but specifically in Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island where our principals are based.

GILL

Renaissance Repair Inc., 390 Main Road, Gill, MA 01354. Douglas A. Edson, same. Maintenance/repair of commercial vehicles and equip.

HOLYOKE

Crossover Corporation, 522 Maple St. Holyoke, MA 01040. Elisandro Cuevas, same. Holding company.

LONGMEADOW

Nubeco, Corp., 82 Canterbury Lane, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Brian Newburn, same. Restoration.

Trusted Caregivers Inc., 123 Dwight Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Tonia Giggs, 931 North St. Suffield, CT 06078. Home care.

NORTHAMPTON

Organization of Biological Field Stations, 5 Chapin Dr., Northampton, MA 01063. Christopher N. Lorentz, Ohio River Biology Field Station 8309 Mary Ingles High California, KY 41007. The purposes of Organization of Biological Field Stations Inc. include the following: to facilitate the highest quality environment for scientists, students, teachers and the public to pursue research and education, and to enhance biological and environmental understanding.

PALMER

Lowmat, Inc., 3012 Thorndike St., Palmer, MA 01069. Gary Buelow, same. Develop and operate software app.

San Mac Medical Inc., 1199 South Main St., Palmer, MA 01069. Mark Borsari, 2 Sutton Place East Granby, CT 06026. Manufacturing of medical supplies.

PITTSFIELD

Kanoa, Inc., 11 Westview Circle, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Cristina Oncken Cook Dubin, same. Consulting services.

SPRINGFIELD

Ekmalian Tools Inc., 355 Trafton Road, Springfield, MA 01108. James G. Ekmalian Jr., same. Retail sale of tools and equipment.

Ken G Transport Inc., 37 Tiffany St. Springfield, MA 01108. Edith Nunez, same. Transport.

WESTFIELD

McCabe and Son Home Improvement Inc., 15 May St., Westfield, MA 01085. Samantha Galvin, same. Home remodeling.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Blackhorse Transportation Inc., 425 Union St., Room 16 West Springfield, MA 01089. Ruvim Rakhubenko, 41 Irving St. West Springfield, MA 01089. Trucking.