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bankESB Earns Recognition for Quality, Community Commitment

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB was recently honored for overall quality and commitment to the community. The bank earned the number-one spot for Overall Quality in Western Mass. in the 2020 New England Banking Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England, and are based on the results of the Rivel Banking Benchmarks, the largest and most comprehensive measure of banking customer experience in the world. The 2020 results are based on more than 11,000 interviews and 300,000 reviews of nearly 300 Massachusetts institutions. The bank also was named an honoree by the Boston Business Journal in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Companies qualify for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year.

 

Florence Bank Gives $10,000 to Amherst Survival Center

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently donated $10,000 to the Amherst Survival Center, which connects residents of Hampshire and Franklin counties to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts. Since mid-March, the Amherst Survival Center has focused its resources on food and nutrition programs, ensuring its ability to provide hot meals to go, daily access to fresh produce and bread, and full grocery shops from its food pantry in as safe a manner as possible. This summer, the center established a strategic plan to address the steady rise of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their plan entails doubling the food provided by the food pantry while also expanding grocery offerings to roughly two weeks each month. Additionally, the center will expand its staff in order to implement evening and weekend hours and integrate deliveries into the schedule with a goal of delivering food to 1,000 to 1,500 area residents per month. These efforts have been fueled by generous donations like the one from Florence Bank.

 

ValleyBike Share Offers Discount to Area Students

PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share has begun offering a special discount to all area students with an .edu e-mail address. The pass costs $60 for an annual membership that includes unlimited 45-minute rides. ValleyBike Share is the all-electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley, which includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus. Students can use ValleyBike Share to explore the Pioneer Valley without a car. The electric-assist bikes can go from one town to another with ease within the system, which makes them perfect to use if a student has classes at any of the other colleges in the service area. To join, visit www.valleybike.org. ValleyBike is open from approximately April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting.

 

UMass Donahue Institute Wins $14 Million Contract

HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a five-year, $14 million contract to provide training and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs for all six New England states. The grants allows the institute to continue to work with local Head Start programs on their educational, health, and family services as well as management systems to strengthen their ability to serve children and their families. Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services that support the development of children from birth to age 5, and their families, in centers, childcare partner locations, and their own homes. Early Head Start also provides services to pregnant women. Head Start and Early Head Start services include early learning, health, and family well-being. The contract was awarded by the Office of Head Start in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationally, Head Start/Early Head Start is divided into 12 regions. UMass Donahue Institute will be the sole provider of training and technical assistance to Region 1, which includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The institute was first awarded the New England training and technical assistance grant in 2003.

 

Country Bank Recognized for Charitable Giving

WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 10, 107 companies — a record number — qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year’s honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more. Country Bank, which ranked 60th, employs 209 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2019, staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering more than 1,100 hours of community service.

 

AIC Receives High Marks for Teaching and Education Degrees

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is ranked 17th among the top 50 colleges and universities for teaching and education degrees, as ranked by learn.org for academic year 2020-21. Established in 2003, learn.org provides free resources for students and working professionals to research potential schools and degrees by providing information on career opportunities and institutions of higher education that help individuals reach their goals, including school connections, scholarships, and online college planning for quality and affordable education. Citing AIC, learn.org highlights the college’s master’s programs, including its master of education in early childhood education and a master of education in middle or secondary education. The organization additionally notes that AIC offers a doctoral program with multiple tracks, the doctor of education in teaching and learning, and called attention to students’ ability to take part in a practicum or field-based research to ensure preparedness for future careers. The organization also credits the School of Education with employing “top-notch staff and faculty members, many of whom hold terminal degrees in their field.”

 

Square One Responds to Need for Remote-learning Support

SPRINGFIELD — As working parents continue to navigate the unchartered territory surrounding remote education, Square One is answering the call for help. The agency is now providing full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to expanded offerings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Enrollment is available at three Square One early-learning centers in Springfield, as well as the agency’s network of home-based child-care providers who operate throughout the region. Through the generosity of funders, including the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and Square One’s corporate and individual donors, all locations are outfitted with the technology and staffing needed to accommodate each student’s remote-learning needs. All guidelines surrounding social distancing, cleanliness, and personal protective equipment will be strictly enforced. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided. For more information, parents are urged to contact the Square One enrollment office at (413) 732-5183. With the growing demand for programs and services at Square One comes a greater need for additional financial support. Donors are asked to support the Campaign for Healthy Kids by texting ABC123 to 4432, visiting www.startatsquareone.org, or e-mailing Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication, at [email protected].

 

Berkshire Bank Foundation Contributes More Than $1 Million in COVID-19 Relief

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Bank Foundation announced that, due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has contributed more than $1 million to collaborative efforts supporting nonprofit organizations responding to community-based needs. Guided by the foundation’s mission of investing in those living and working in its local communities, the total relief provided represents an additional $1 million over the foundation’s $3 million total annual grant budget. The organizations supported in the Pioneer Valley through Berkshire Bank Foundation’s contributions include the Mental Health Assoc. Inc., YMCA of Greater Springfield, the SCORE Foundation – Western Massachusetts SCORE, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, among others. The foundation’s grants this year have supported community-based organizations to help local families in the areas of affordable and safe housing, food security, health supplies, students in distress, and assistance to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The foundation has also allowed nonprofits to utilize funds given for specific programs to help cover general operating costs and extended requirements and/or reporting deadlines where needed.

 

Beveridge Family Foundation Partners with Innovation Accelerator

WEST NEWBURY — The Beveridge Family Foundation provides support to nonprofits within Hampden and Hampshire counties. While continuing that critical work, it has started investing directly into social-impact projects and ventures. By leveraging its endowment, the Beveridge Foundation is significantly increasing the amount of funding it can deploy. Local organizations with proposals for economically sustainable programs can now apply for investments of up to $250,000. These proposals must be at the pilot stage or later and already have significant evidence of demand and viability. Innovation Accelerator trains nonprofits to develop high-impact social ventures. Alumni have gone from sticky notes on a whiteboard to live programs that have raised more than $1 million in seed funding. Each team that participates in the flagship accelerator program generates mission-aligned ideas, gathers concrete evidence, and receives direct feedback from the Beveridge Foundation and other funders.

 

Education Equity Focus of Grant to Holyoke Community College

HOLYOKE — When Holyoke Community College (HCC) unveiled its four-year strategic plan in 2018, one of its top priorities was increasing success rates of students of color. That aligned with goals established by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which in the same year made equity the top policy and performance objective for the entire state public higher-education system. To support those ongoing efforts, the Lumina Foundation recently awarded the Massachusetts DHE grants worth $1.2 million, with half the money earmarked for six state colleges and universities, including HCC. HCC’s $100,000 award will be used to further the work of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force and expand mentorship programs that focus on students of color. Through its Talent, Innovation, Equity, and Equity Institution grants, the Lumina Foundation seeks to dismantle systemic barriers to student success and degree attainment, particularly for black and Latinx students. Massachusetts was only the fifth state to receive grants from the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Indianapolis. Latinx students participating in HCC’s ALANA Men in Motion program show a fall-to-fall retention rate of 75%, compared to 45% for Latinx students not participating in ALANA, an academic support, mentoring, and counseling program for African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American men. HCC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion group focuses on making sure students of color succeed at the same rate as their white peers, using benchmarks such as retention and college completion rates.

 

United Way Distributes PPE to Area Nonprofits, Municipalities

SPRINGFIELD — As part of its COVID-19 response efforts, United Way of Pioneer Valley has distributed a round of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19-related items to multiple area nonprofits and municipalities. Recipients of PPE to date include the Agawam Department of Public Health, Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee, Chicopee Food Force, Granville Fire Department, Granville Police Department, Granville Public Library, Link to Libraries, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Ludlow Senior Center, Ministry en Motion, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, One Holyoke CDC, Quarry Hill Community School in Monson, Southwick Senior Center, Tolland Fire Department, and Westfield Senior Center. Distributions include various sizes of hand-sanitizer bottles, hand-sanitizing stations, disposable masks, gloves, face masks, face shields, cleaning wipes, and countertop sneeze guards. Donations also included hula hoops and pool noodles to help young children learn about social distancing.

 

Incorporations

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

CHICOPEE

The Prince Express Inc., 53 Elizabeth St., Chicopee, MA 01013. Nawar D. Khaleel, same. Trucking.

EAST LONGMEADOW

The Society of St. Vincent De Paul At St. Michael’s Parish Conference Inc., 128 Maple St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Toni Raczkowski, 37 Timber Dr., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Offers tangible assistance to those in need on a person-to-person basis.

Ahealthyhome199 Inc., 119 Industrial Ave., #352, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Michael R. Sacenti, 24 Crescent Hill, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Building remediation and maintenance services.

HOLYOKE

Viva Nation TV Inc., 723 Homestead Ave., Holyoke, MA 01040. Antos Stella, 15 Broad St., Suite 2606, New York, NY 10005. Multi-media production and distribution.

Absolute Quality Floor Refinishing Inc., 187 Walnut St., Holyoke, MA 01040. Frederick A. Tavares, same. Floor refinishing.

PITTSFIELD

Xonier Technologies Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Vijay Parmar, same. Computer software and IT services.

SOUTH DEERFIELD

The Lux Corporation, 16 Braeburn Road, South Deerfield, MA 01373. Matthew Carlson, same. Providing a social networking platform for individuals or organizations to promote events.

SOUTHWICK

USA Resurfacing Inc., 7 Shefton Dr., Southwick, MA 01077. James Robert Kingsbury, same. Concrete polishing, epoxy flooring.

SPRINGFIELD

The Eastern Band of Woodland Metis People Inc., 34 Cambridge St., Springfield, MA 01109. James Leo Lafleur, same. Native Americans helping others threw fundraising, tag sales, benefit dinners and donations

Transit Health Inc., 95 Frank B Murray St., Springfield, MA 01103. Jennifer Collins, 45 California Ave., Springfield, MA 01118. Community transportation to mental health services.

Vu Nguyen Inc., 836 Bay St., Springfield, MA 01109. Vu Nguyen, 230 Senator St., Springfield, MA 01128. Bottle and can redemption center.

William Gaudet & River Gaudet Inc., 834 Kinney St., Springfield, MA 01103. William Van Gaudet, 1220 Huntington Drive, Modesto, CA 95350. Bookkeeping and human resources consultation.

ABT Beauty Inc., 1704 Boston Road, Springfield, MA 01129. Thi Tai, 120 Marengo Park, Springfield, MA 01108. Nail salon and spa.

WESTFIELD

Ubuntu Community Resources Inc., 1029 North Road, PMB 160, Westfield, MA 01085. Patricia P. O’Garro-Ellis, 940 Enfield St., Enfield, CT 06082. Providing services for developmentally disabled people.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith says getting town business done during COVID-19 has been more challenging than usual, but projects continue to be approved.

Wilbraham is a mostly residential town with two main business districts — the town center, as it’s known, on Main Street, and along a lengthy stretch of Route 20, or Boston Road.

The fact that both have seen development activity during the ongoing pandemic is good news indeed, said Jeffrey Smith, chairman of the Planning Board.

Take, for example, a couple of vacant buildings next to Home Depot that have been vacant for about a decade. They will soon become a 7,000-square-foot O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store and a 2,340-square-foot Valvoline instant oil-change facility.

“It’s great,” Smith said. “Being on the Planning Board and being a resident in town, I hear from people all the time, in casual converations, ‘what’s going on with that place?’ This is one of those vacant and seemingly abandoned properties that is getting a great redo, and I think it’s going to be a welcome addition. The site has been an eyesore for some time.”

Then there’s the former Papa Gino’s restaurant near the Springfield line that’s been vacant several years, but will soon be home to an expansion of Springfield-based Vanguard Dental. Meanwhile, Excel Therapy and Conditioning, a physical-therapy practice that’s expanding to sports rehabilitation and personal training, will set up shop on Boston Road as well.

“We had to work fast to fast-track this during the height of the pandemic, with Town Hall closed,” recalled John Pearsall, director of Planning. “They were in a situation where their lease was running out and they had a chance to purchase this building and move and expand their practice. That’s been a good success story, saving a local business during these difficult times.”

Doing due diligence on development projects hasn’t been easy with offices closed, Smith noted.

“Just like every other town, we’re dealing with COVID, and all Planning and Zoning board meetings have to be done remotely. John and I used to meet quite a bit more in person during the week and outside our regularly scheduled meetings, and we do a little less of that right now. Everything has become more cumbersome, with a lot of extra steps.”

“For a long time, residents in the center of town have complained that it’s a little sleepy, and they want to have more activity there. We’re finally getting some actual development and change. The project will be a real catalyst for the center of town.”

Yet, important work continues, including efforts by the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Health, and licensing authorities to get restaurants reopened in recent months.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to help our businesses stay afloat during these difficult times,” Pearsall said. “And they seem to be very active. I think people are happy to have that option, whether it’s curbside pickup or being able to go out and have a meal outside the home. That’s a big thing for people these days.”

As the town continues to develop a Route 20 renovation plan — including widening driving lanes, adding sidewalks and bike lanes, and more — business continue to see it as an attractive destination, Smith and Pearsall said. That bodes well for 2021, when the process of getting anything permitted in town — and, let’s be honest, life in general — promises to be slightly easier.

Center of Activity

Most schools throughout Western Mass. are currently teaching students remotely. But not Wilbraham & Monson Academy, which launched an ambitious plan earlier this year — including everything from reconfiguring buildings to implementing strict safety guidelines — to bring students back to campus.

“We worked extensively as a town with WMA to reopen and allow students back,” Smith said, recalling Head of School Brian Easler working the Planning Board, Board of Health, and Board of Selectmen to produce a comprehensive plan to get students back safely for in-person learning. “I was surprised at the lengths they went and the protocols they put in place to get reopened.”

The town had a stake in the plan that went beyond what was best for students and their families, Pearsall said. “We were happy to see them open because they provide a real anchor to the town center.”

It’s a center that has long been the subject of speculation. Two years ago, an effort to allow a mixed-use development in the area of Main and Springfield streets failed to garner the necessary two-thirds approval at a town meeting, falling short by about a dozen votes. Since then, town officials have struggled to balance the need to fill vacant buildings with general pushback when it comes to change.

Currently, two vacant buildings at the corner of Main Street and Burt Lane have been slated for demolition and development, Smith said.

“We’ve been working at least the last two years with the owner of the property and getting something viable in place for those buildings,” he told BusinessWest. “If everything goes as planned, that will be a major change in the way the town center looks. The owner of the property has worked extensively with us and other committees and boards in town to come up with a design concept that would fit in with the town center.

“It’s a very sensitive area; it’s looked the way it has for quite some time,” he added. “This is a new use on this spot — mixed-use development, with retail on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor. Actually, it’s bringing in an old use. At one point, a hotel stood on this spot. So we’re bringing residential use back, and resurrecting something that was done years ago.”

Wilbraham at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1763
Population: 14,868
Area: 22.4 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $22.38
Commercial Tax Rate: $22.38
Median Household Income: $65,014
Median Family Income: $73,825
Type of government: Board of Selectmen, Open Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Baystate Wing Wilbraham Medical Center; Friendly Ice Cream Corp.; Big Y; Home Depot; Wilbraham & Monson Academy
*Latest information available

Some folks in the neighborhood are open to change, Pearsall said. “For a long time, residents in the center of town have complained that it’s a little sleepy, and they want to have more activity there. We’re finally getting some actual development and change. The project will be a real catalyst for the center of town.”

The former post office on Crane Park Drive recently changed ownership and could be repurposed as commercial office space, he added, while a new cosmetology business, Inner Glow Skin Studio, is moving in. Meanwhile, the old Masonic Hall on Woodland Dell Road was purchased by a local resident who is converting it to office space for his dental-management business.

“We’re taking a property that was tax-exempt and putting it back on the tax rolls,” Smith added.

Also along Main Street, Rice’s Fruit Farm and adjoining Fern Valley Farms have been enjoying a strong year, with pick-your-own-apples business boosted by cooperative weather and families looking for something to do. In fact, Rice’s has been working with town Planning and Zoning officials on parking expansions to accommodate the enterprise’s growth.

“It’s been very successful,” Smith said, adding that a parking crunch is, in one sense, a good problem to have. “They’re kind of taking the next step.”

Developing Stories

Wilbraham also has two solar farms under construction, a 1.4-MW project on Tinkham Road and a 3.4-MW project on Beebe Road; the latter development straddles the Hampden town line, with another 2 MW available for that community.

Another development in the works is part of a ‘community compact’ to identify and explore the potential for expanding municipal fiber along Boston Road to determine how that might impact business opportunities.

“There’s a need for fiber and high-speed internet,” Smith said. “We moved some time ago to be a municipal light plant, which means we can essentially be a supplier of high-speed internet.”

“There’s a broadband committee, being coordinated by our IT director, to move that project forward,” Pearsall added.

Residential growth advances slowly in a small town, but some trends have emerged. Even before COVID-19 struck, Pearsall noted, more people were starting to work from home.

“We’ve seen a lot more interest and activity from people trying to do home-based businesses,” he said. “We’ve also seen a lot of interest in so-called in-law apartments in town, and we have zoning for that, where elderly parents own a home and want their children to live with them, or the children own the home and create an apartment for their parents. That seems very popular right now.”

It’s another way times are changing and town leaders must adapt — in a year when they’ve certainly had plenty of practice.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Picture This

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


 

First Responders Luncheon

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce recently hosted its annual First Responders Luncheon. Pictured below, from top to bottom: chamber board members and event organizers (from left) Hannah Rechtschaffen of the Mill District, Beth Pearson of Pearson Wallace Insurance, and Heidi Flanders of Integrity Development and Construction, gather outside Pasta E Basta to receive fresh lunches to deliver to first responders in seven communities the chamber serves; Amherst firefighters and EMTs gather for lunch at North Station, flanked by Rechtschaffen and Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber; Pearson (left) delivers meals to the Leverett Police and Fire departments.

 

 

 


 

Strike Out Hunger

KFC was the presenting sponsor of the Westfield Starfires Strike Out Hunger Campaign, donating $10 for every strikeout at Bullens Field during the 2020 season. $1,500 was presented at the Starfires season finale to benefit the Westfield Boys & Girls Club summer meals program. Pictured: Starfires Manager Tony Deshler, Director of Baseball Operations Evan Moorhouse, Westfield Boys and Girls Club Chief Advancement Officer Bo Sullivan, Starfires co-owner Christopher Thompson, Westfield Boys & Girls Club CEO Bill Parks, and Starfires pitcher of the year and strikeout leader Chase Jeter.

 

 

 

 


 

Agenda

Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series

Sept. 30, Oct. 28: Tanisha Arena, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arise for Social Justice, and Pam Victor, owner of Happier Valley Comedy, will be the featured presenters on Wednesday, Sept. 30, during the third session of the 2020 Virtual Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series. Arena and Victor will present “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice” from noon to 1 p.m. over Zoom. The series, postponed from spring because of COVID-19, is sponsored by Holyoke Community College and Training and Workforce Options, a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College. Each of four lunchtime events features two presenters leading discussions on different topics. For the final session on Oct. 28, Colleen Loveless, president and CEO of Revitalize Community Development Corp., and Nicole Palange, vice president of V&F Auto, will lead a discussion titled “Women Leaders in Non-traditional Businesses.” Each session costs $20, and advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

Virtual Info Session for WSU Master of Social Work Program

Oct. 7: Westfield State University’s (WSU) College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) will host a virtual information session for the master of social work program at 6 p.m. on Zoom. The program, one of only four located in Western Mass., is also offered at the YWCA at Salem Square in Worcester. The master of social work (MSW) program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and prepares students to become licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and to work in a variety of positions in the human-services field. The program aims to prepare advanced-level social-work practitioners who have specialized knowledge and skills for clinical practice, based on a firm generalist foundation. “The MSW program at Westfield State University provides students with a competitive, accessible, and affordable social-work education,” program Director Maria del Mar Farinam said. “As future social-work professionals, students will be exceptionally well-prepared to meet the increasingly complex needs of the diverse communities served by our profession.” With full- or part-time options — and the consistency of having all of one’s classes on Monday and Thursday evenings — the MSW program offers flexibility and affordability. Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

40 Under Forty

Oct. 7-8: BusinessWest’s celebration of the 40 Under Forty class of 2020, rescheduled from June, will be held at the upper vista at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. This two-day event will include two sessions each day, ‘mini-events’ where we will celebrate 10 honorees at a time, with their guests and event sponsors in attendance, and ‘virtual guests’ able to access a live stream as the class of 2020 — and this year’s Alumni Achievement Award winners, Carla Cosenzi and Peter DePergola — take to the stage to accept their awards. For a list of this year’s honorees, visit businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty. The 40 Under Forty program is sponsored by Health New England and PeoplesBank (presenting sponsors), and Comcast Business, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, with event partners WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.

STCC Virtual Open House

Oct. 14-15: Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will hold its annual fall open house on two dates: Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Thursday, Oct. 15 from 1 to 3:30 p.m., in a virtual format. High-school students, adult learners, and their family members can log into Zoom and meet virtually with representatives from the college’s degree and certificate programs and departments. For information about registering to attend the virtual event, visit stcc.edu/apply/open-house. Open to the public, STCC’s open house is an opportunity for anyone thinking about becoming a student to learn more about what the college has to offer, including associate-degree and certificate programs, transfer opportunities, financial aid, athletics and student life, online learning, workforce-training options, high-school equivalency exam (HiSET), and classes for English language learners. Representatives from specific programs and departments will hold breakout sessions to speak with anyone who joins. For more information, contact the STCC Admissions Office at (413) 755-3333 or [email protected]. To apply to STCC, visit stcc.edu/apply. STCC is accepting applications for Fall Flex Term 2, which starts Oct. 28, and for the spring term, which begins in January.

Company Notebook

Big Y Expands Legacy of Helping Farmers and Small Businesses

SPRINGFIELD — In 1936, Paul and Gerry D’Amour were passionate about providing fresh local food to their customers at the Y Cash Market in Chicopee. Today, close to 85 years after its founding, Big Y World Class Markets have more than 500 partnerships with local farmers like Meadowbrook Farms and local food producers like Millie’s Pierogi. The passion of its founders continues with Big Y announcing the Fresh & Local Distribution Center, which provides local farmers and food producers with an efficient, one-stop location that saves them the time and cost of delivering to individual stores. It also features state-of-the-art technology and temperature controls to help Big Y maintain and deliver food at the peak of freshness to customers. Currently, through Big Y’s Fresh & Local Distribution Center, 70 farmers — accounting for more than 9,000 acres of farmland in the region — supply Big Y’s stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut with 1,200 types of native fruits and vegetables each year. For many farmers, this partnership helps them grow their business and preserve farmland and open space in area communities. More that 3,000 different products from local food producers can be found at a typical Big Y supermarket. Big Y actively searches for new craft-food artisans to bring into their stores and can provide them with support for marketing and packaging, help with barcodes, or even advice on business matters like insurance. The new Fresh & Local Distribution center has close to 425,000 square feet of space and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is located adjacent to Big Y headquarters at 2145 Roosevelt Ave. in Springfield.

Elms College Climbs U.S. News List of ‘Top Performers on Social Mobility’

CHICOPEE — Elms College improved its ranking by 30 spots on U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 list of “Top Performers on Social Mobility” in the northern U.S. region. The list ranks schools for enrolling and graduating large proportions of students who have received federal Pell Grants. Elms College improved its ranking dramatically, moving to seventh among 89 regional universities in the region, up from 37th in 2020. On U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 list of “Best Regional Universities,” Elms College retains its ranking in the top 55% among 176 other colleges and universities in the northern U.S. region. U.S. News ranks Elms College as a university because of changes to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s basic classification system and the number of graduate programs Elms offers. The Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in U.S. higher education. The U.S. News “Best Colleges” rankings are designed to help students and their families find colleges that offer the best academic value for their money. The list provides at-a-glance breakdowns of each institution and ranks them based on such indicators of excellence including value and first-year student retention rate. The full rankings are viewable at www.usnews.com/colleges.

MCLA Ranked a Top Ten Collegeby U.S. News & World Report

NORTH ADAMS — For the third consecutive year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is ranked as a Top Ten College by U.S. News & World Report. MCLA ranks ninth on the organization’s list of top public colleges and also appears on U.S. News’ list of Top National Liberal Arts Colleges. The college also is ranked among the top 50 public and private schools on U.S. News’ Top Performers on Social Mobility list, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants, typically awarded to students whose families make less than $50,000. Only eight other public colleges are ranked higher than MCLA on this list. The college has appeared on U.S. News’ list of top public colleges for eight of the last 10 years. This year, during the pandemic, MCLA was also able to distribute more than $257,000 to students who found themselves dire economic circumstances due to COVID-19 through the MCLA Resiliency Fund. MCLA was also awarded a federal TRIO grant, which will provide $1.3 million to enhance our support for under-resourced students for the next five years. U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges based on indicators that reflect a school’s student body, faculty, and financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution achieves its mission of educating students.

WSU Among Top Public Universities in U.S. News & World Report Rankings

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) is again one of Massachusetts’ top public universities among its peers, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2021 list. The rankings underscore the university’s commitment to accessibility, affordability, and intentional outcomes. In this year’s release, Westfield State is ranked 90th among 170 institutions in “Regional Universities – North.” It is ranked ahead of its peer Massachusetts state universities in both that category and U.S. News’ Best Public Schools, where it placed 26th. Rankings were determined by a number of factors, including a peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, class sizes, student/faculty ratio, student selectivity, and alumni-giving rate.

HCC Awarded Grants to Support Childcare Professionals

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded two grants worth more than $1 million to continue educating and training early-childhood educators and supporting the programs they work for in Western Mass. Both the Career Pathways Grant, for $680,000, and the Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant, for $360,000, come from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which licenses public and private childcare programs in the state. HCC is the lead agent on a six-month Career Pathways Grant that will allow the college to continue its free Childhood Development Associate Plus (CDA-Plus) certificate program. The program was created to help early-childhood educators already working in the field attain their national CDA credential or enhance their certification level, and is offered at no cost to participants. Greenfield Community College and Berkshire Community College are HCC’s partners in the Western Mass. consortium. The three colleges each have their own CDA-Plus programs and collaborate on implementation and support. HCC launched its CDA-Plus program in 2019 after an initial, year-long grant of $2 million to the consortium from the EEC. Students who complete the program are awarded a CDA-Plus certificate and can apply the credits they earn toward an associate degree in early childhood education from HCC. The grant covers all tuition, fees, books, and a $425 CDA credentialing fee, and includes a stipend of about $500 for unexpected costs. HCC graduated its first class of CDA-Plus students in June. A second group started in January 2020 and will complete their program in November. The new funding will pay for a third class set to begin their studies this month. The $360,000 Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant follows an initial award in 2019, establishing HCC as the EEC’s professional-development center for Western Mass.

Local Bus Company First to Use New Disinfectant System

GILL — F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc., a family-owned school transportation provider since 1925, is the first and only transportation company in the country to use a new system designed specifically for disinfecting buses. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020, the bus company approached Bete Fog Nozzle Inc. in Greenfield about developing a system which would quickly, consistently, and accurately apply an EPA- and CDC-approved disinfecting agent to the interior environment of each of its more than 100 school buses. Working closely with Ted Toothaker, systems engineer at Bete Fog Nozzle, testing and development began in early May. The system, dubbed Bete FastPASS (public area spray system), ends the need for manual spraying and was specifically designed to eliminate human error. Using high-pressure nozzles and air compressors, two buses are treated in just three minutes. Each bus is treated twice a day.

Collaboration Between UMass, IntelliVen Supports Lifelong Learning

AMHERST — UMass Amherst announced a new collaboration with IntelliVen, a leading executive-team-development organization, to provide interactive remote-learning programs designed to raise the performance and effectiveness of leadership teams. IntelliVen offers immersive programs designed to help an organization’s core leadership team tackle the unique challenges of managing a growing organization, especially in today’s turbulent markets. IntelliVen’s proprietary set of course modules enables an interactive, remote learning experience that leaders take along with their teams to unlock their true potential to perform and grow. “IntelliVen teaches leaders, teams, and organizations to set direction, achieve team alignment, implement strategy, and make the change they want to grow faster and perform better,” said Peter DiGiammarino, managing partner. Members of the university community will receive a discount on the standard price of IntelliVen’s leadership-development immersion programs.

JetBlue Adds Four New Non-stop Routes at Bradley

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced non-stop service to four new destinations from Bradley International Airport on JetBlue, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cancún, Mexico. The new service to Cancún is slated to commence on Nov. 19, while service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are all slated to begin on Dec. 18. This new service will compliment JetBlue’s existing non-stop routes from Bradley to numerous Florida destinations as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. “JetBlue is an important partner for us, and we are very pleased to see that the airline recognizes the potential of the Bradley Airport market,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the CAA.

Picture This

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


 

Feed the Body – Feed the Mind

Link to Libraries and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts announced a partnership to provide books and meals to hundreds of local families in need in Western Mass. In partnership with Northampton Radio Group and Springfield Rocks Radio Group, the organizations launched the “Feed the Body – Feed the Mind” campaign, distributing children’s books and meals to families at several Food Bank member organizations’ designated meal-pickup sites in Springfield, Easthampton, Greenfield, and Holyoke.

 

 


 

Red Alert


Springfield was among cities nationwide to participate in a Red Alert event on Sept. 1 to draw attention to the plight of the entertainment and live-event industry. Zasco Productions, LLC lit up downtown Springfield (pictured) in the color red to raise awareness of the 12 million event professionals currently out of work due to COVID-related economic shutdowns. In addition, CJC Event Lighting lit up its offices, Chez Josef, and the Log Cabin.

 


 

 

Agenda

Gap-semester Course on Social-justice Issues

Sept. 21 to Dec. 21: Bay Path University has put together a unique course for recent high-school graduates looking to explore ways they can impact movements for social justice. The course, “Exploring Pathways to Social Justice,” will combine lectures, discussions, videos, readings, and virtual, experiential learning through the context of history, legal studies, and communications. In addition, the students will participate in presentations by professionals who have channeled their visions for a more just world into careers advocating for social justice and leading their communities. The three-credit course runs from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21 and is open to recent high-school graduates and college students, whether enrolled at Bay Path University; its online program, the American Women’s College; or any other institution, as well as students who are taking a gap semester while they evaluate their college options. Registration runs until Sept. 16. The class is a collaboration between several faculty members and will explore social-justice movements, trace the historical roots of the civil-rights struggle, investigate how race factors into the contemporary criminal justice system, and consider strategies for change. Students will be challenged to apply their passion for social justice while learning to express themselves and developing practical skills for academic and professional settings. Through the course material and ongoing opportunities for conversation, they will connect with other students and become part of an inspired, motivated network. “We created this class for students who may be using this time away from their schools to contemplate how and where to channel their voice and their passion for social justice, as they begin to think about their long-term goals, personally and professionally,” said Gwen Jordan, director of Bay Path’s Justice and Legal Studies department. She will be teaching sections on the criminal justice system, including a focus on the movement devoted to exonerating the wrongly convicted and reforming the system. Additional course information and a registration link are available at www.baypath.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/the-american-womens-college-online/academics/gap-semester-course.

‘HiSET to Medical Sciences’

Sept. 23: Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is offering a course that helps students get their high-school equivalency diploma while introducing them to the field of medical science. Offered through the Springfield Adult Learning Center at STCC, the class, called “HiSET to Medical Sciences,” prepares students for the high-school equivalency test (HiSET) while teaching them medical terminology. The class will be offered in three sessions this year, the first beginning Wednesday, Sept. 23. STCC offers an associate degree in health science, which provides the opportunity to explore specialty areas for a career in healthcare, as well as a number of specialized health programs, such as diagnostic medical sonography, dental hygiene, and nursing. The class, which is free for eligible students, will be taught online. To apply or for more information, visit stcc.edu/explore/communityed/adult-learning. For questions, e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 755-4300.

Difference Makers

Sept. 24: BusinessWest’s celebration of the Difference Makers class of 2020, rescheduled from March, will be a hybrid event, with the honorees and sponsors gathered at the Upper Vista at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, and other guests taking in the proceedings virtually. The class of 2020 includes: Christopher (Monte) Belmonte, DJ at WRSI the River Radio and creator of Monte’s March; Ira Bryck, consultant and former executive director of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley; Sandy Cassanelli, CEO of Greeno Supply; Dianne Fuller Doherty, retired director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network; Ronn Johnson, president and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services; Steve Lowell, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank; and Rick’s Place. Guests who have purchased tickets for the event, originally scheduled for March at the Log Cabin, will be able to pick up a boxed meal, a program guide for the event, and gifts from event sponsors at locations to be announced at a later date. The Difference Makers program for 2020 is sponsored by Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, with nonprofit partners MHA Inc., the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, and United Way of Pioneer Valley.

‘Run for the Bar’

Sept. 26: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will hold its seventh annual 5K/10K Run/Walk Race Judicata, “A Run for the Bar.” For the safety of the participants, spectators, and volunteers, and to adhere to the current safety guidelines, the event will be held virtually. Proceeds from the event will benefit the William J. Boyle Scholarship, the Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship, and the Children’s Law Project. The cost for the 5K is $30, and the 5K is $40. All registrants will receive a shirt and water bottle. Registration is now available at bit.ly/3gTjult. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

Virtual Info Session for WSU Accounting Graduate Program

Sept. 29: The College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) at Westfield State University will host a virtual information session for the master of science in accounting (MSA) program at 6 p.m. via Zoom. The graduate program is designed to foster leadership skills and prepare students for successful careers in public and private accounting. It allows students to complete the additional 30 credit hours necessary to fulfill the educational requirements for the certified public accountancy (CPA) license in Massachusetts and several other states. The program offers a foundation curriculum for students who have a business background but lack the necessary coursework in accounting to complete a series of prerequisite courses as part of the master’s program. This curriculum can be completed entirely online with courses offered on a rotating basis (students can also take courses in person). The advanced curriculum is for students with an undergraduate major or concentration in accounting. It includes 10 courses (the majority are offered in a hybrid format, and certain courses are 100% online) that can be completed in only two semesters. The MSA program offers students flexibility and affordability to achieve a greater degree of sophistication in accounting and auditing. Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected]

 

Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

Gourmet to Go Inc., 26 Perry Lane, Agawam, MA 01001. Stephen A. Amato, same. On-site catering and food preparation.

ATHOL

King’s Memorials Inc., 1265 South Main St., Athol, MA 01331. Peter D. King, 5 Sanders Street, Apt. B, Athol, MA 01331. Design, carve, and sell public memorials.

CHICOPEE

Hidden Tradition Distilling Company, 185 Frontenac St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Michael Alan Styckiewicz, same. Alcoholic beverages and distilled spirits.

CUMMINGTON

Hilltown Vision Fund Inc., 17 Packard Road, Cummington, MA 01026. Kathryn Regina Eiseman, same. To support activities that further a common vision for an ecologically and financially sustainable rural economy and culture in the Hampshire County.

EAST LONGMEADOW

KM Corporate Services, 82 Birch Ave., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Alfred Adegboyegun, same. Provide physician support services and innovation.

GRANBY

Kingston Estates Inc., 83 Harris St., Granby, MA 01033. Nolan R. Hodgins, same. Purchase, sell, improve, manage, rent real estate.

GREAT BARRINGTON

Jetstream Support Services Inc., 777 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230. Rebecca Shoval, 407 East 12th St., New York, NY 10009. Provision of payroll, benefits and other support.

LENOX

Holborn Foundation Limited, 14 Pine Knoll Road, Lenox, MA 01240. Yuko Torigoe, 27 Langley Road, Newton Center, MA 02459. Promotes experimentation in cultural design, supports discovery, and seeks to support and document important conclusions about the crossroads of technology, philanthropy, and creative culture.

PITTSFIELD

Honey Am Home Corp., 82 Wendell Ave., Ste 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Yeyson Pimentel, same. Sale of honey and organic products.

JI Mei Inc., 26 Dunham Mall, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Kang Chen, same. Limited-service restaurant.

Kessler Alair Insurance Services Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Charles Kessler, same. Insurance sales.

Krupa Realty Inc., 31 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Rakeshkumar Vyas, 12 West Dr., Edison, N.J. 08820. Gas station.

SHELBURNE FALLS

Guaranteed Power International Inc., 398 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. Calvin M., Clarak, 745 Williamsburg Road, Ashfield, MA 01330. Make, buy, market, and sell automobile and truck component parts.

SPRINGFIELD

GreenGrab Inc., 172 Birchland Ave., Springfield, MA 01119. Odaliz Breton, same. On demand delivery platform.

Hancock Used Tires Inc., 556 St. James Ave., Springfield, MA 01109. Jose Vardes, same. Operating of an auto tire service business.

Hipress Corp., 432 Belmont Ave., Springfield, MA 01108. Ramon E. Espinal, 23 Tulsa St., Springfield, MA 01118. Retail sales.

WESTFIELD

K&K Services Inc., 16 Hunters Slope, Westfield, MA 01085. Kirill Katalnikov, same. Plumbing and HVAC services.

WILLIAMSTOWN

Growth Generation Inc., 228 Main St., Apt. 129, Williamstown, MA 01267. Arthur Aronov, same. Retail sales.

Coronavirus Features Special Coverage

Plane Speaking

Travelers at Bradley

Travelers at Bradley (and there are fewer of them) will find a number of new protocols, from mandatory face coverings to more frequent cleaning and sanitizing.

Bradley International Airport has a contract with a medical laboratory willing to conduct COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA), which manages the airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., thinks that would be an ideal way for healthy travelers to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine instituted by Gov. Ned Lamont in July.

But state leaders turned that option down.

“We have a lab that’s willing to start testing here, yet we can’t convince the Department of Public Health to allow that to occur. It makes no sense,” Dillon said. “Because what’s impacting us now is the travel advisory that’s been put in place here in Connecticut.”

According to the policy, both tourists visiting from other states and Connecticut residents returning from vacations in COVID-infested areas are required to fill out a travel advisory form and indicate where they will self-quarantine. Failure to do so incurs a $1,000 fine.

“Unfortunately, the airlines are reacting to the travel advisory by pulling flights out of the airport,” Dillon explained. “As you can imagine, it’s very, very difficult for someone to take a week vacation and then, when they come back, have to take a two-week quarantine. The same goes for business travel — people aren’t going away for two days when they have to quarantine for 14. That’s had a pretty chilling effect on our level of recovery.”

It’s a recovery — if one can call it that — from the most dramatic loss of business airports across the country have ever experienced, the post-9/11 period included. In April, passenger volume at Bradley was down 98% compared to the same period last year. The airport has recovered some of its volume, but a typical day is still some 70% to 75% below 2019 numbers. And the state of Connecticut is doing the airport no favors with one of the most rigid travelers’ advisories in the nation.

Kevin Dillon

Kevin Dillon

“Airports are competing for some very limited airline assets, aircraft and flights, so we want to present a market that’s viable. This travel advisory really starts to skew how some carriers look at Connecticut and Bradley Airport and this region.”

“I’m not questioning the medical necessity of a travel advisory — I’m not qualified to question that, and I take folks at their word that it’s is a necessary thing,” Dillon told BusinessWest. “What we have asked for here is a testing option. If you get a negative COVID test, you should be able to avoid a 14-day quarantine period. Massachusetts is doing that.”

He has other questions — including why it’s OK to cross the border for a funeral, but not a business meeting — and they all come, he said, from a place of common sense. “We’re not questioning the travel advisory, but I do think testing here at Bradley would make all the sense in the world.”

If the impact of discouraging interstate travel was a short-term thing, it would be less frustrating, but Dillon is looking far beyond 2020, when airlines will emerge from the pandemic as much smaller companies, with fewer planes to spread around the nation’s airports, and some tough decisions to make about where to put them.

“They’re really having a struggle,” he said, with some airlines saying they don’t expect to return to normal operations until 2023 or 2024. “There are going to be winners and losers coming out of this.”

This is true, he said, not only of airlines, but of airports.

“Airports are competing for some very limited airline assets, aircraft and flights, so we want to present a market that’s viable,” Dillon explained. “This travel advisory really starts to skew how some carriers look at Connecticut and Bradley Airport and this region. It’s a concern of ours not only for today but as we look to the future — what damage we’re doing to our relationships to airlines as well as their view of this market.”

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is easier when terminals are less crowded, as they are now.

For this issue’s focus on transportation, BusinessWest spoke with Dillon about how Bradley is navigating an unprecedented business challenge, and why it’s important to keep investing in the future, because the future is where this story really gets interesting.

Shifting on the Fly

Even before COVID-19 was a thing, Dillon often spoke about how Bradley was constantly competing on two levels: with Logan and the New York airports for passengers, and with every airport in the country for those precious aircraft assets. On thar front, Connecticut’s mandatory quarantine isn’t helping.

“Airlines have to be in locations like Boston and New York simply because of the population and business volume. But airlines have alternatives in terms of not having to serve Bradley and still serving a good portion of this market area,” he explained. “I don’t think it would serve the area really well without us, but an airline trying to skinny down as a result of cost-cutting measures could very well look at it that way.”

The more pressing issue in 2020 has been plummeting demand, of course. “If we don’t have passengers coming through the airport, airlines cut back, we don’t get airline fees, and no one’s here utilizing concessions, parking, renting cars, all the businesses here. When your business is off 75% to 80%, you have a corresponding drop in revenue. It’s a difficult balancing act.”

Dillon said Bradley was fortunate to receive some financial assistance from the CARES Act, which allocated $10 billion to airports across the country. Based on the allocation formula, Bradley received $28 million, which sounds like a lot of money, he went on, but to put it in perspective, that covers about three months of operating expenses and debt service. And the pandemic-related travel slowdown is now well into its sixth month.

“We are fortunate that, as an airport authority, we did create what I consider some healthy reserves, and we will rely on those reserves to some extent, but it wouldn’t be prudent to exhaust our reserves,” he said, noting that they impact bond ratings, among other things.

Bradley did institute a hiring freeze, not replacing most employees who chose to retire this year, and has cut department budgets by 10% to 20%. The CAA is also looking at further measures, including a voluntary severance program.

“It is a goal of ours to try to prevent involuntary severances,” Dillon said. “We don’t want to get to a place where we’re talking about layoffs. For now, that’s off the table. We tried to make a commitment to the employee base — first and foremost, to protect their health, and second, to protect their paycheck. As you can imagine, it’s a challenge.”

About $20 million in capital projects are on hold as well, but some are moving on, including an airport-wide restroom-renovation project that should be complete by October, and features a largely touchless experience with sinks, soap dispensers, hand dryers, and more. These features were planned well in advance of the pandemic, but Dillon said travelers will appreciate them more now.

“People want a safe, healthy, clean environment, and we try to deliver that the best we can,” he noted. “Folks think differently about hygiene in public places now; they have different expectations.”

Other protocols in place at Bradley include the expected: mandatory face coverings, more frequent cleaning and sanitization efforts at high-touchpoint areas, plenty of hand-sanitizer stations, signage detailing physical distancing rules, and plexiglass shields in high-passenger-interaction areas.

Some airlines have committed to limited capacity on planes as well, Dillon said, citing Southwest and Delta as two examples. And the airport is developing touchless kiosks where travelers don’t have to interact with an agent or touch the screen to activate the ticketing process.

Bradley’s restrooms

A major renovation of Bradley’s restrooms, including many touchless features to discourage the spread of germs, began well before the pandemic.

“The key for us is to keep differentiating ourselves from our larger competitors,” he told BusinessWest. “We want people to understand that Bradley is going above and beyond in terms of sanitizing and cleaning the facilities. And Bradley might represent a better option because it’s less congested. We’re going to keep highlighting to the traveling public why Bradley is a better alternative.”

View from the Ground

Again, however, all these efforts are blunted by the fact that considerably fewer people are traveling, and Connecticut is making it difficult to do so.

Airlines are struggling too, Dillon said, sending 135-passenger planes into the sky with only 25. And, like airports, they’re all having internal discussions about the future. Bradley’s five-year contract with carriers expired in June, and with no airlines in a position to sign another five-year deal, they opted for one-year extensions.

But even had longer-term contracts been in place, he explained, “I think a lot of people don’t understand how an airline agreement works. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee you full revenue coming in, because airlines pay revenue in large measure based on landing fees. Airlines can have a presence and pay rent for space, but they’re not required to operate a certain number of flights. If you have carriers cut operations in half, the landing fees we get are then cut in half from that carrier.”

As a difficult, uncertain year continues to unspool, there are a few bright spots, especially progress on a $210 million ground transportation center — expected to be fully operational in late 2021 — that will house car-rental services, expand public parking, and incorporate public-transit connections.

“All that money had been bonded prior to the pandemic, so we’re committed to the project,” Dillon said. “It will really transform the look of the airport and our operations. People who haven’t been to the airport recently will be surprised by the magnitude of the project and how it’s transforming the space out there.”

In addition, cargo business at Bradley has remained consistently strong. “I believe one factor is that people are staying home and doing a lot of online ordering, so we’re seeing small-package delivery — UPS, Fedex, and Amazon — all increase at the airport,” he noted. “Unfortunately, the revenue profile of cargo is much different than passenger traffic, as the bulk of the revenue at any airport comes from the passenger side of the house. But I appreciate that cargo is doing well right now.”

After all, in a year of startling setbacks, any good news is welcome. But what airports need now is clarity — and for people to get back on planes.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “I’m convinced that, by working smart and having employees work smart, we’ll be able to get through this. But it will be a balancing act for a while.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Features Special Coverage

On the Right Track

Jeremy Levine

Jeremy Levine says Pioneer Valley Railroad and Railroad Distribution Services have a unique business model that has led to decades of success and steady growth.

When it comes to moving freight, Jeremy Levine says, many business owners believe it comes down to a choice between rail — if it’s available — or trucks.

But in many cases, he believes, the best answer might be rail and trucks.

And this is the answer that has enabled Westfield-based sister businesses Pioneer Valley Railroad (PVRR) and its wholly owned subsidiary Railroad Distribution Services (RDS) — both Pinsly Railroad companies — to thrive for the past 35 years and remain on a steady growth trajectory.

“Railroads and trucking … they have their lobbyists in D.C. on opposite sides of the aisle trying to argue against one another,” said Levine, who is awaiting new business cards that will identify him as the company’s business-development coordinator. “But the truth is, for a short-line railroad like us, we use trucking all the time — we’re sending out hundreds of trucks a year to do the last-mile transit for our customers, either here in Westfield or all across the Northeast.”

As a short-line railroad, PVRR, as it’s known to many in this area, moves on 17 miles of operable track running north from Westfield, said Levine, the fourth-generation administrator of the company started by his great-grandfather, Samuel Pinsly. There is a branch running roughly four miles in Westfield and another branch running 13 miles into Holyoke.

The company interchanges with two class-1 railroads — Norfolk Southern and CSX — and takes freight that last mile, as Levine put it, referring to the last leg of a journey that might begin several states away or even on the other end of the country.

“The number you’ll hear is that four trucks equals one rail car. So if you looking to ship a distance or something that’s very heavy, that’s where we provide economies of scale.”

“If you want to get lumber from Louisiana, a large class-1 railroad such as CSX will bring that up, interchange with us at our yard in Westfield, and we’ll take it the last mile or miles to our customers, if they’re located directly on our line,” he explained, adding that, for customers not on the line — those without a rail siding — RDS will take it the last leg by truck via two warehouses it operates in Westfield.

And in some cases, that last leg might be dozens or even hundreds of miles, he noted, adding that rail is a less expensive, more effective way to move material, and RDS enables customers to take advantage of it, at least for part of the journey.

“The number you’ll hear is that four trucks equals one rail car’s worth of capacity,” he explained. “So if you looking to ship a distance or something that’s very heavy, that’s where we provide economies of scale.”

This has been a successful business model since 1982, and the company continues to look for growth opportunities in this region, he noted, adding that such growth can come organically, from more existing companies using this unique model, or from new companies moving into the region to take advantage of its many amenities — including infrastructure. And Pinsley Railroad owns several tracts of land along its tracks that are suitable for development, he noted.

For this issue and its focus on transportation, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at PVRR and RDS, and how those letters can add up to growth potential — for the company and the region itself.

Train of Thought

Levine told BusinessWest that, while he didn’t work at what he called the “family business” in his youth, he was around it at times, well aware of it, and always intrigued by it.

“When my grandmother was running the business, that’s when they moved the headquarters from Boston to Westfield,” said Levine, who grew up in nearby Granby. “You grow up going to the rail yard, and you’re around these people; you’re definitely going to be inclined to the business.”

But he didn’t take a direct route, as they might say in this industry, to PVRR’s headquarters on Lockhouse Road. Indeed, after graduating from George Washington University in 2015, he stayed in D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill, specifically on transportation policy. He later moved to the private sector and worked at a firm advocating for railroads.

Eventually, he decided he wanted to be a part of the family’s business and relocated to Western Mass. “It’s been quite a ride,” he said while borrowing more language from the industry, noting that he started at PVRR and RDS roughly a year ago.

He came to a company that had a small, steady, and diverse group of rail customers, some that receive thousands of rail cars of material a year and others merely a handful of cars, and more than three dozen RDS customers.

He said his new job description is essentially to generate new business, and he believes there is enormous potential to do just that — again, because of the unique business model these companies have developed and the benefits that rail (or a combination of rail and trucks known as ‘transloading’) brings to potential customers.

As Levine talked about the sister companies and how they operate together, one could hear the drone of forklifts operating in the warehouse outside his office, which led to an explanation of how it all works.

“We have some rail cars here this morning,” he explained. “They got dropped off by CSX late last night; early morning, or 3 a.m. crew [at PVRR] dropped them off here. The crews have been unloading them, staging them, and placing them outbound on trucks to head off to our various customers.”

There are other operations like this, or somewhat like this, in the Northeast, he explained, but what sets this operation apart, beyond the interchange with the two class-1 railroads, is the fact that the company owns both its railroad and distribution services.

“There are companies like our Railroad Distribution Services that are directly on CSX’s line,” he noted. “But the difference there is they don’t control the trains; I can pick up the phone and call the train operator and ask him when he’s going to be here with my rail cars, and with that comes a lot of security that your stuff is not going to backlogged or jammed up and that your deliveries are going to come on time.”

It is this security — and these benefits — that Levine is selling to potential customers. And as he goes about that task, he has the Pinsly team, if you will, focused solely on the Westfield operation and its future. Indeed, the company, which operated short-line railroads in Florida and Arkansas, has divested itself of those operations, with PVRR and RDS being the only holdings in the portfolio.

“What that has allowed us to do is reinvest and recalibrate,” he explained. “We had a very large team throughout the years and a lot of focus on Florida, where we had 250 miles of track; we can now take that talent and focus on our operations here.

“My go-to line is that ‘even you don’t have rail siding, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from railroading,’” he continued, adding that he can back up those words with numbers, and he intends to use them to build the company’s portfolio of customers.

PVRR owns a 1930s-era passenger rail car that it calls the ‘dinner train.’ As that name suggests, it’s used for fundraising events, a customer-appreciation gathering, and even as a means to transport Santa Claus to Holyoke Heritage State Park for annual festivities there.

It hasn’t been out of the yard much in the era of COVID-19, but U.S. Rep. Richard Neal recently used it as a backdrop for an event, said Levine, adding that the dinner train has become a highly visible part of this company for decades now.

But the bottom line — in virtually every respect — is that PVRR and RDS are about getting freight, not people, from one place to another.

It’s a moving story, and one that could well add a number of new chapters in the years to come as the company tries to get customers on the right track when it comes to freight — literally and figuratively.

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

Picture This

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

 


 

Helping Local Kids

Carr Hardware in Pittsfield launched a program called ​“Round Up for the Schools”​ to benefit local Berkshire County school districts. Customers have the option to round up the cost of their purchases to the nearest dollar, and Carr will then match those donations and purchase needed personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, sanitizer, and other items, to donate to local schools, said company President Bart Raser (pictured). Carr Hardware will also have collection jars stationed at all locations for customers to donate.

 


 

 

Boosting Access to Food

 

Florence Bank donated $5,000 to Chesterfield’s Community Food Cupboard, which was recently established by Chesterfield’s Council on Aging and a group of volunteers to help needy families access food during the COVID-19 crisis. The team includes members of the Select Board, trustees of the Chesterfield Library, along with Council on Aging board members and the Chesterfield Finance Committee. Pictured, from left: Chesterfield Community Food Cupboard volunteer Denise Cormier, Florence Bank Branch Manager and Vice President April O’Brien, and Janice Gibeau, director of Chesterfield’s Council on Aging.

 


 

 

Ribbon Cutting at F45 Training

 

Dan and Jessye Deane recently opened F45 Training at 1464 Riverdale St. in West Springfield. The interval training studio is a franchise out of Australia that is just getting its start in the U.S. Unlike traditional box gyms, F45 blends high-intensity interval training, functional training, and circuit training and pulls from 4,100 exercises, ensuring that no workout is ever the same. Pictured, from left: Brennan McKenna, West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, Dan Deane, Jessye Deane, Charley, Brady, Cooper, and Kristina Cordova.

 


 

 

Driving for the Cure

It wasn’t exactly business — or even golf — as usual, but the 12th Annual Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament was staged Aug. 17 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. The field was smaller than in years past — 140 golfers — and there were other changes made due to COVID-19, but roughly $70,000 was raised to aid research into cures for brain cancer. Top to bottom: Tom Cosenzi Jr. and Carla Cosenzi, co-owners of TommyCar Auto Group and founders of the tournament, named in honor of their father, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2009; Golfers line up at the registration table; The event T-shirts tell the story; over the years, the tournament has raised more than $1 million to fight brain cancer.

 


 

Open for Business

 

Sport Clips Haircuts Hadley owner Ian Coogan was joined recently by his wife, Lisa Scheff, and daughter, along with state Rep. Dan Carey, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Claudia Pazmany, and the Sport Clips team to cut the ribbon at the grand opening ceremony for their new location along Route 9 in Hadley.

 


 

Agenda

Real-estate Licensing Course

Sept. 9 to Oct. 15: The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class, sales-licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. Tuition is $400 and includes the book and materials. For an application, call the (413) 785-1328 or visit www.rapv.com. The Realtors Assoc. has taken all necessary COVID-19 sanitary precautions in accordance with CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines to ensure the safety of its students. Classes are limited to 18 students.

Golf FORE Health Tournament

Sept. 14-15: The 31st annual Golf FORE Health Tournament, Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s only major fundraising event, will be held at the Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. COVID-19 has altered every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives. Today, the need for support for the local hospital is greater than ever, and many businesses have reached out asking how to help Cooley Dickinson care for its patients and our community. This year’s tournament will be played in a social-distancing format with tee times every 10 minutes starting at 8 a.m., and will now be played over two days and adhere to all current Massachusetts COVID-19 golf guidelines. Each team will play on one of the two days. This means the annual post-event banquet will not take place, but organizers say they have been able to incorporate some exciting new tournament additions and give sponsors the greatest amount of exposure. The lead platinum sponsors are bankESB and MJ Moran Inc. To secure a team or to sponsor the event, visit www.cooleydickinson.org/golf. Questions should be directed to Jennifer Margolis at [email protected] or (413) 582-2255.

Virtual Information Session on WSU Graduate Programs

Sept. 23: A virtual information session for Westfield State University’s (WSU) master’s degrees in counseling and applied behavior analysis will be held at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Individuals interested in careers as behavior analysts, clinicians, family and marriage counselors, and guidance or adjustment counselors should consider attending to learn how a graduate degree could help them attain one of these positions. The Department of Psychology offers a 60-credit graduate program designed to serve the student who plans to enter the applied fields of counseling or psychology after receiving a master of arts degree. The program offers four specialized tracks: school guidance counseling, school adjustment counseling, forensic mental-health counseling, and mental-health counseling. Westfield State also offers a 48-credit master of arts degree in applied behavior analysis to individuals who work, or aspire to work, in a number of different settings, such as schools, including regular and special-education classrooms; business and industry; healthcare; and other community-based settings. Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

Difference Makers

Sept. 24: BusinessWest has rescheduled its celebration of the Difference Makers Class of 2020 for Sept. 24. This will be a hybrid event, with the honorees and sponsors gathered at the Upper Vista at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, with other guests taking in the proceedings virtually. The Class of 2020 includes: Christopher (Monte) Belmonte, DJ at WRSI the River Radio and creator of Monte’s March; Ira Bryck, consultant and former executive director of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley; Sandy Cassanelli, CEO of Greeno Supply; Dianne Fuller Doherty, retired director of the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network; Ronn Johnson, president and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services; Steve Lowell, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank; and Rick’s Place. Guests who have purchased tickets for the event, originally scheduled for March at the Log Cabin, will be able to pick up a boxed meal, a program guide for the event, and gifts from events sponsors at locations to be announced at a later date. The Difference Makers program for 2020 is sponsored by Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health of New England, Royal P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, with non-profit partners MHA Inc., the Tom Cosenzi Drive for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, and United Way of Pioneer Valley.

40 Under Forty:

Oct. 8: BusinessWest has rescheduled its celebration of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2020 for Oct. 8 at Mercedes-Benz of Springfield. This will be a drive-in event, with more than 400 attendees expected to park at the spacious lot at the dealership, tailgate next to their cars (a boxed meal, gifts from sponsors, and a program guide will be presented to each attendee upon arrival), and watch the Class of 2020 — and this year’s Alumni Achievement Award winner — take to the stage to accept their awards. For a list of this year’s honorees, visit https://businesswest.com/40-under-forty/40-under-forty. The 40 Under Forty program is being sponsored by Health New England and PeoplesBank (presenting sponsors), and Comcast Business, UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management, and Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, with event partners WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.

Gap-semester Course on Social-justice Issues

Sept. 21 to Dec. 21: Bay Path University has put together a unique course for recent high-school graduates looking to explore ways they can impact movements for social justice. The course, “Exploring Pathways to Social Justice,” will combine lectures, discussions, videos, readings, and virtual, experiential learning through the context of history, legal studies, and communications. In addition, the students will participate in presentations by professionals who have channeled their visions for a more just world into careers advocating for social justice and leading their communities. The three-credit course runs from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21 and is open to recent high-school graduates and college students, whether enrolled at Bay Path University; its online program, the American Women’s College; or any other institution, as well as students who are taking a gap semester while they evaluate their college options. Registration runs until Sept. 16. The class is a collaboration between several faculty members and will explore social-justice movements, trace the historical roots of the civil-rights struggle, investigate how race factors into the contemporary criminal justice system, and consider strategies for change. Students will be challenged to apply their passion for social justice while learning to express themselves and developing practical skills for academic and professional settings. Through the course material and ongoing opportunities for conversation, they will connect with other students and become part of an inspired, motivated network. “We created this class for students who may be using this time away from their schools to contemplate how and where to channel their voice and their passion for social justice, as they begin to think about their long-term goals, personally and professionally,” said Gwen Jordan, director of Bay Path’s Justice and Legal Studies department. She will be teaching sections on the criminal justice system, including a focus on the movement devoted to exonerating the wrongly convicted and reforming the system. Additional course information and a registration link are available at www.baypath.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/the-american-womens-college-online/academics/gap-semester-course.

People on the Move
Joan Kagan

Joan Kagan

Following a human-services career spanning more than 45 years, Square One President and CEO Joan Kagan has announced plans to retire. Kagan has served in her current role since 2003. Although her retirement will take effect on Dec. 31, 2020, Kagan will continue to serve the agency as an advisor to support the leadership team during transition. “When you think about the nonprofit community in Western Massachusetts, the name Joan Kagan immediately comes to mind,” said Peter Testori, chair of Square One’s board of directors and dean of Academic Support Services and assistant Title IX coordinator at Bay Path University. “For decades, Joan has been a champion for the well-being and education of our region’s children. Her passion and commitment have positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and families.” Under Kagan’s leadership, Square One (formerly known as Springfield Day Nursery) expanded its offerings from providing child care exclusively to a full menu of family-support services. This expansion was built upon Kagan’s experience as a child and family social worker and her in-depth understanding of the need for all children to have a high-quality early education, nurturing adults to care for them, and a safe and healthy community in which to live. A committee of Square One staff and board members, as well as other community leaders, will conduct a search to determine the next president and CEO.

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Nathaniel Munson

Nathaniel Munson

Leighanne Sullivan

Leighanne Sullivan

bankESB promoted Nathaniel Munson to assistant vice president – portfolio manager, and announced that Leighanne Sullivan has joined the bank’s Marketing Department as its social-media coordinator. Munson joined bankESB in 2018 as portfolio manager, and prior to that was with Westfield Bank for six years, most recently as senior credit analyst. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and is an active member of the Mountain View Baptist Church in Holyoke, currently serving as a trustee, Sunday school director, and youth leader. Prior to joining bankESB, Sullivan was a marketing assistant with Project Look Sharp in Ithaca, N.Y., and before that was a marketing intern with Westfield Bank and a public-relations and social-media intern with Sarah Hall Productions. She will be responsible for maintaining the bank’s social-media presence across all platforms as well as those of the member banks of its parent company, Hometown Financial Group. Additionally, she will produce video content and serve as the primary administrator for the company intranet. This spring, Sullivan earned her bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Ithaca College, where she was a participant in the college’s Leadership Academy and a member of the women’s crew team.

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Richard Juang

Richard Juang

Attorney Richard Juang has joined the Royal Law Firm. He brings to Royal a decade of experience working with nonprofits and small businesses on their core operations and transactions. He also provides clients with Massachusetts legislative and public-policy advocacy. Juang’s clients have ranged from human-services organizations to cannabis entrepreneurs to restauranteurs, reflecting the breadth of economic activity that makes Massachusetts a vibrant state in which to live and work. He is available to represent clients in transactions, regulatory and nonprofit compliance, and administrative-law matters. For clients facing legislative, regulatory, or public-policy changes, he is also able to help them navigate the Massachusetts legislative, budgetary, and regulatory landscapes. Juang received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and his juris doctor from Northeastern University. He is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

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Justin Monell

Justin Monell

Elms College announced the hiring of Justin Monell as director of Career Services. Monell will help ensure that current Elms students are career-ready by providing them resources to help determine their career path, find internships in their field of study, prepare for graduate school, or look for employment. He will also be a resource for alumni seeking assistance with job searches, networking, or planning for a career change. Throughout his career, Monell has worked in various roles within student affairs, career services, and student success. Most recently, he was assistant director of Career Development at Clark University in Worcester. He has also worked in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of South Florida and the Center for Advising & Student Success at Florida International University. Monell holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from the University of Connecticut and a master of education degree in student affairs administration from Springfield College.

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Tyra Good

Tyra Good

Elms College announced the appointment of Tyra Good as the college’s first faculty director of the Center for Equity in Urban Education (CEUE). Good has more than 10 years of experience teaching education, and, most recently, she was assistant professor of Practice in Education at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. In this new position, she is responsible for the strategic oversight and management of the college’s efforts to address this issue. The CEUE was launched in September 2019 to increase the number and diversity of qualified teachers in the Chicopee, Holyoke, and Springfield school systems. In these school systems, the racial and ethnic composition of teachers is not representative of the students. This area also experiences an annual 800-teacher gap across K-12 schools, especially in specific roles such as special education, English-language learners, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Through a partnership with philanthropists, school districts, and charter-school networks, and with a reimagined curriculum, Elms College and Good aim to increase the pipeline of teachers, including teachers of color, who are culturally prepared to inspire the students whom they teach. Good is the founder and chief academic consultant for GOOD Knowledge Connections and the founder of the Black Educators Network (BEN) of Greater Pittsburgh. The BEN is a strategic team of K-12, higher-education, and community educators working across school-district and community lines to help ensure the academic and personal success of African-American youth from underserved communities. For her dedication and commitment to diversifying the teaching pipeline and preparing pre-service teachers to work in urban settings, Good has received myriad award recognitions. Most recently, she was awarded a 2019 National Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship through Big Picture Learning and Internationals Network for Public Schools. Good received her bachelor’s degree in business management from Howard University, a master’s degree in teaching from Chatham University, and a doctorate in educational leadership and evaluation from Duquesne University.

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Loretta Dansereau

Loretta Dansereau

River East School-to-Career Inc. announced that Director Loretta Dansereau will retire in August after more than 16 years of service to the organization. Dansereau has been the driving force behind growing the organization since 2004, when it was still in its infancy, to be a recognized local business and education partnership under the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In addition to helping incorporate as a non-profit 501(c)(3), she has been instrumental in building a community of more than 300 business partners, increasing partnership awareness, and mentoring numerous students. Under Dansereau’s leadership, River East School-to-Career has become a model for other school-to-career organizations in Massachusetts. In the just the past five years, the organization has impacted the lives of more than 1,000 students in Hampden and Hampshire counties by bringing together schools, businesses, and organizations to create career-exploration opportunities. The aim is to help students make informed decisions regarding their career and educational goals through work-based learning and internship opportunities, co-op placements, career days, and work-readiness workshops. Dansereau will be succeeded by Amy Scribner, who has been part of the organization in various capacities for more than 10 years.

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Christopher Silipigno

Christopher Silipigno

Christopher Silipigno, chief operating officer and managing director at Renaissance Investment Group, LLC, earned the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) professional designation from the American College of Financial Services. Candidates for the ChFC designation must complete a minimum of eight college-level courses and 18 hours of supervised examinations. They must also fulfill stringent experience and ethics requirements and participate in continuing education to maintain professional recertification. Since its inception in 1982, the credential has been widely regarded as a premier standard of knowledge and trust for financial-planning professionals. The ChFC program prepares professionals to apply advanced skills to address the financial planning needs of individuals, families, and small-business owners in a diverse environment. Having held licenses in mortgage lending, property and casualty insurance, and real estate, Silipigno provides Renaissance clients with a wide breadth of experience and expertise. In addition to fulfilling his role as COO, he works directly with the firm’s high-net-worth clients and foundations in the areas of investment management, cash-flow analysis, estate planning, charitable-giving strategies, and other complex financial-counseling domains.

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Jeremy Therrien

Jeremy Therrien

The Westfield Starfires announced the addition of Jeremy Therrien to the staff as Game Operations and Promotions coordinator. Therrien, a Westfield native and senior at Springfield College, has served in that position since late in 2019 and has spent much of the 2020 season implementing the organization’s COVID-19 readiness plan. For three consecutive years, Therrien has served as a student leader at the Hoophall Classic, an annual, Springfield-based tournament that features the top high-school basketball players and teams from around the country. He is also a Game Operations supervisor for the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League.

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Scott Ganhao

Scott Ganhao

PeoplesBank announced the appointment of Scott Ganhao as the manager of its new banking center located at 450 Center St. in Ludlow. He has more than 13 years of financial services and banking experience. In his new position, Ganhao will aim to ensure the banking center meets and exceeds service and sales goals, provides excellent customer service, operates according to all bank policies and procedures, and serves as a leader within the community. Ganhao earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Western New England University. He is the president of the Our Lady of Fatima Preservation Society and a member of the board of directors of the Wilbraham Rotary Memorial Foundation Inc. and the Lusitania Institute. He is a member of the Wilbraham-Hampden Rotary Club and has served as chairman of the Our Lady of Fatima finance committee, president of the Our Lady of Fatima Parish council committee, and director of the Our Lady of Fatima Festa committee. He is fluent in spoken Portuguese.

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Jennifer Halpin

Jennifer Halpin

Florence Bank promoted Jennifer Halpin to the position of Employee Relations officer in the Human Resources department at the main office in Florence. Halpin joined Florence Bank in 2014. Prior to her recent promotion, she served as the Employee Relations manager. She holds a bachelor of business administration degree from UMass Amherst. During her tenure at the bank, she has been the recipient of the President’s Award, which is awarded to employees who demonstrate superior levels of performance, customer service, and overall contribution to the bank.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Grant Helps Fund WNEU Student Startup

SPRINGFIELD — PeoplesBank and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Western New England University (WNEU) College of Business are working together to help students expand their entrepreneurship education beyond the classroom. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WNEU works to develop students’ entrepreneurial mindset. Through co-curricular efforts, such as Startup Weekend and the cross-disciplinary business/engineering “Product Development and Innovation” course, students are able to create ideas, products, and services that have market potential. PeoplesBank is taking this one step further by providing grant funding to advance qualifying startups that show promise and demonstrate success. Joseph Ferrera, a 2020 graduate of the Entrepreneurship program at Western New England University, is the first recipient of a PeoplesBank grant. He founded Double O Joe, a Ludlow-based videography startup, in his sophomore year and continued to advance the business model through his entrepreneurship courses at WNEU. He is currently serving several small businesses in the Greater Springfield area. The grant funded a more advanced drone and camera in order to continue to grow his customer base and video offerings.

STCC Launches Certificate in Social-media Strategy, Design

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer a new social-media strategy and design certificate this fall in the Department of Technical Arts and Design. The coursework is designed to prepare students for the planning and implementation of a promotional strategy using a variety of social-media platforms, including social networking, microblogging, photo sharing, and video sharing. In addition, students will take courses in graphic design, motion graphics, marketing, and advertising to blend social-media strategy and design, a combination that is very much in demand, said Professor Philip Ruderman, a faculty member in the Graphic Communications & Photography program at STCC. Ruderman called the program a vehicle to help students promote their talents, showcase their work, and develop relationships that will grow their employer’s business, or their own. The new social-media tools course offered this fall will focus on the basic elements needed to create and maintain a successful social-media campaign, including social-media marketing basics, social-media mix, social marketing process, analysis, strategy development, program and communication design, and implementation. This online course will put students on the path for self-promotion and promotion of businesses. The training enables them to build awareness within the marketplace and to target and engage online viewers and build a community of followers. An online search for social-media jobs in the region will yield a number of results, including digital content creators, digital content producers, social-media designers, and social-media specialists. In addition, a number of marketing positions requiring social-media skills can also be found. Nine courses, or 27 credits, are required to complete the program, which could be completed in as few as two semesters. To learn more about the program, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/smsd.coc. For questions, call Admissions at (413) 755-3333.

BHN’s Kamp for Kids Receives $10,000 Grant from Westfield Bank

WESTFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) announced it received a grant of $10,000 from Westfield Bank to benefit Kamp for Kids, the organization’s summer day camp for children and young adults with and without disabilities. Westfield Bank has been a longtime supporter of BHN’s Kamp for Kids. Grants made to Kamp for Kids provide camperships to youth with or without disabilities to ensure that all children, regardless of family income, are able to attend camp. Due to COVID-19, this summer Kamp for Kids is being held virtually in order to provide a safe camp experience for the campers and their families. The virtual camp is open to all who wish to participate and offered free of charge, and consists of recreational activities, nature time, and arts and crafts. To register and participate in virtual camp, visit www.bhninc.org/kamp-kids. The camp has created three themes for this year’s activities: “In My Backyard,” “Only in New England,” and “All Around the World.” Kamp for Kids has also continued its partnership with the Westfield Cultural Council and Berkshire Hills Music Academy, a music-based program for people with disabilities in Franklin County, to offer musical programming for participants.

LPV Announces New Path Forward

SPRINGFIELD — Last month, Leadership Pioneer Valley’s (LPV) board of directors approved a plan for the next six months. The plan creates new leadership-development options aimed at addressing the needs of the wider community. Because leadership in a pandemic necessitates both a statewide and national perspective, LPV will continue to collaborate with programs across the Commonwealth and participate in the National Leadership Alumni Network — a first of its kind. It will also continue offering sessions exploring creating more equitable workplaces and communities. These programs and others in the works are designed to address the needs of LPV alumni and the wider community. LPV’s signature LEAP program, a nine-month regional leadership-development program for emerging leaders, will be pushed back to January 2021, and will be a hybrid of virtual and in-person programming that prioritizes safety while building engaging connections. This fall, LPV will offer a number of new opportunities including small Leadership Luncheons, a Leader Roundtable series, and a new Adaptive Leadership series. All sessions will begin virtually and transition to in-person when feasible.

HCC Unveils New Academic Programs for Fall Semester

HOLYOKE — Cannabis cultivation, beer and cider brewing, and winemaking are just a few of the new academic programs being offered this fall at Holyoke Community College (HCC). All three were developed as one-year, 24-credit certificate programs through the college’s Sustainability Studies department. One new course, “Cannabis Today,” provides knowledge of the growing part of the industry. Other requirements for the certificate include classes in agriculture, marketing, and entrepreneurship. The college also developed the brewing and winemaking certificates with an eye on expanding industries. Another new course, “Fermentation Science,” explains the scientific processes of fermentation as it applies to both brewing and winemaking. This fall, HCC is also unveiling new certificate and associate-degree programs in a range of other academic areas, including behaviorial neuroscience (degree), critical social thought (degree), geoscience (degree), child development (certificate), mental health (certiificate,) and veterinary assistant (certificate). The fall semester at Holyoke Community College begins Tuesday, Sept. 8. To enroll for fall, visit hcc.edu/admission, call (413) 552-2321, or e-mail [email protected].

Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Awards Six Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Six area students were each recently awarded a $1,000 Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship to advance their education by the law firm that bears his name, Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley. The Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship is an award that goes to a member of a local union affiliated with the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation or their spouses or dependents. Applicants were asked to submit their high-school or college transcripts, written recommendations, a recital of their community-service activities, and an essay detailing the importance of the labor movement to their family. Winners of this year’s awards are Corey Bryant of Springfield, Alexandria Barnard-Davignon of Longmeadow, Anna MacDonnell of Longmeadow, Lindsay Marjanski of South Hadley, Sarah Meunier of South Deerfield, and Taryn Morse of Hatfield.

Hazen Paper Pioneers New Type of Custom Holography

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. has created an innovative, two-sided promotion to demonstrate cutting-edge holographic technologies. Hazen’s team designed the artwork on both sides to showcase specific visual effects with nano-holography that delivers an even more dramatic three-dimensional effect than lenticular printing. The front features a fire-breathing dragon with minutely detailed glittering scales. The effect of a blast of moving flames was achieved with registered, custom color-motion and multi-channel holography. On the back, a shimless random repeat custom hologram, ‘random burst,’ creates a moving, three-dimensional flash backdrop for a flock of butterflies. Originated entirely within Hazen’s state-of-the-art holographic lab and manufactured in its Holyoke facility, the project was realized on Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product. Sub-micron transfer-metallized Envirofoil uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate and a recycled film carrier, and is repulpable as paper after de-inking. It was offset-printed using UV-cure inks by AM Lithography of Chicopee. Vertically integrated, Hazen can take production from design to holographic paper in less than two weeks.

WSU Teacher-education Program Accredited with Commendation

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) teacher-education program has received full, seven-year accreditation with commendation from the Assoc. for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its wide-ranging, growing work in anti-racism education. WSU is the first institution of higher education in the AAQEP membership to receive commendation from the organization. The WSU Education Department’s teacher-education program is designed to prepare educators to teach effectively within a democratic society. Its mission is informed by several pillars, including critical engagement with diversity, social justice, community building, scholarship, and reflective practice. Program coursework and field experiences provide students with the understanding, knowledge, and skills that will enable them, as teachers, to engage with diversity and issues of equity, build inclusive learning communities, embrace the scholarship of teaching and learning, and adopt a reflective practitioner mindset. These principles — which undergird the Teacher Education program — set expectations that are essential for those who will teach in K-12 schools, and collectively are needed to provide the foundational knowledge for WSU students to become effective, caring, and equitable teachers. The Accreditation Commission also commended the university’s education programs for their concerted and deepening work in anti-racist education, as these efforts permeate the preparation of educators, are embedded in and impact the wider campus culture, and reach into the community through campus- and program-based partnerships. All education students participate in annual Anti-Racist Education Town Hall events featuring relevant themes like the School-to-Prison Pipeline, share common readings across courses, and participate in guest lectures on campus.

WNEU, Big Y Pharmacy Residency Program Accreditated

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy Health Sciences and Big Y Foods, Inc. Community-Based Residency Program has received accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American Pharmacists Assoc. (APhA). The accreditation establishes criteria for training pharmacists for the purpose of achieving professional competence in the delivery of patient-centered care and in pharmacy services. The purpose of the post-graduate year one (PGY1) Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program is to build upon the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) education and outcomes to develop community-based pharmacist practitioners with diverse patient care, leadership, and education skills who are eligible to pursue advanced training opportunities, including post-graduate year two (PGY2) specialized residencies and professional certifications. ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing extended the accreditation of the residency program through 2024. The accreditation means the program meets or exceeds the national standards set for a residency training program. The WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Big Y Foods Community-Based Residency Program is the only such university-based initiative in Western Mass. This year, the residency program graduated its fifth resident. Three of the graduates are Big Y pharmacists who have created new pharmacy services, and two graduates went on to pursue PGY2 ambulatory-care residencies. WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also offers a PGY1 Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program with Walgreens. This program began in 2014 and is also accredited by ASHP and APhA.

Multiple Sclerosis Center Opens at Mercy Medical Center

SPRINGFIELD — Trinity Health Of New England announced the opening of the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research at Mercy Medical Center. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the Greater Springfield area are now able to access their healthcare needs in one central location with a team of specialists dedicated to every aspect of their care. The Mandell Center, located at 175 Carew St. in Springfield, offers a combination of cutting-edge treatments, groundbreaking research, and innovative rehabilitation programs, and provides an all-inclusive treatment plan for each patient’s individual needs. In addition to state-of-the-art equipment, the model will include a nationally recognized team of MS specialists including neurologists, neuropsychologists, urologists, physiatrists, social workers, occupational and rehabilitation therapists, speech pathologists, physician’s assistants, and nurses. The Mandell MS Center at Mercy is partnered with the world-renowned Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell MS Centers at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, Conn. and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes a disruption in the myelin that insulates and protects nerve cells. MS is a long-lasting disease that can affect a person’s brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, causing problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions. Thus, having a variety of specialists in one location is invaluable for MS patients.

Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

Drjsoto Ministries Inc., 50 Riviera Dr., Agawam, MA 01001. David Daniel Diaz, same. To minister and promote good style of living for anyone and everyone.

AMHERST

European Vehicles of Amherst Inc., 398 Northampton Road, Amherst, MA 01002. Luke Zbylut, 75 Country Corners Road, Amherst, MA 01002. Repair and sales of automobiles.

CHARLEMONT

West County Soccer Association Inc., 46 Charlemont Road, Charlemont, MA 01339. Jake Thurber, same. Youth soccer league.

CHICOPEE

Dsliners Inc., 203 Buckley Blvd., Chicopee, MA 01020. Jason Horowitz, same. Wholesale auto accessories.

Templo Pentecostal Una Voz De Alerta, 95 Main St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Angel L. Cotto, 123 Commonwealth Ave., Apt A, Springfield, MA 01108. Open a church, to preach the gospel and counseling.

EASTHAMPTON

Easthampton High School Athletic Foundation & Hall of Fame Inc., 35 Carillon Circle, Easthampton, MA 01027. Jeff Sealander, same. Recognize those who have made significant contributions to the Easthampton High School Interscholastic Athletic program.

FEEDING HILLS

Friends of Our Lady of The Rosary of Springfield Inc., 178 North West St., Feeding Hills, MA 01030. Veronica Anne Rovatti, same. Restore, preserve, support and maintain The Our Lady of The Rosary Church located at 334 Franklin St. in Springfield.

GRANBY

DSIS Group Inc., 63 West State St., Suite 972, Granby, MA 01033. Sylvester Jones, same. Real estate and property management.

GREAT BARRINGTON

Steiner Wegman Medical Foundation Inc., 177 East St., Great Barrington, MA 01230. Eugene Gollogly, same. To create, form, and establish an organization to provide educational information regarding the practice of anthroposophic medicine and its uses.

LONGMEADOW

The Old Shoe Club Inc., 54 White Oaks Dr., Longmeadow, MA 01106. John Rauseo, same. Developing and fostering support for the Springfield College football program through the support of alumni and the general public.

Fads Distribution Inc., 10 Bliss Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Luann Pulliam, same. Provide and/or manage vendor arrangements.

PITTSFIELD

Story Catching Studios Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Heather Richard, same. Providing opportunities for women and girls to create and publish their work.

Gavi Sports Foundation (GSF) Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Sandra Gavi, same. Promote sports and education among children. Support children with great talents and less fortunate to use their talents in achieving their goals.

SOUTHWICK

Vivid Cares Inc., 5 Reservoir Road Southwick, MA 01077. Basia Belz, same. The purpose of this organization is to raise awareness and funding for those in need due to the result of having cancer.

SPRINGFIELD

Dynasty Zheng Inc., 5 Locust St., Springfield, MA 01108. Ya Rong Zheng, same. Takeout restaurant.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Extreme Exterior Cleaning Inc., 57 Amherst St., West Springfield, MA 01089. Joseph Poddubchak, same. Exterior cleaning.

WESTFIELD

Tighe & Bond Designer Services Inc., 53 Southampton Road, Westfield, MA 01085. Francis J. Hoey, same. Engineering, planning, landscape, architecture, environmental science, and other related services.

Coronavirus Manufacturing Special Coverage

Making Do

Kristin Carlson

Kristin Carlson says the pandemic has actually helped business at Peerless Precision, especially when it comes to making parts for defense and law-enforcement-related products.

Mark Borsari says he hasn’t been on a plane since a vacation in early March.

By his reckoning, that’s by far the longest stretch he can remember when he hasn’t been flying somewhere, especially in his role as president of Palmer-based Sanderson MacLeod, a maker of fine wire brushes for everything from makeup kits to gun cleaning.

The six months on the ground has been a time of reflection — and even humor.

“I’m sure my wife’s probably thinking I should be on a plane more,” said Borsari with a laugh, adding that he’s not at all sure when he actually will.

But being effectively grounded from air travel is just one of the many ways COVID-19 has shaken things up for manufacturers, and, in the larger scheme of things, perhaps one of the least consequential given the way Zoom has become the preferred method for communicating with clients and employees alike.

Indeed, the pandemic has prompted everything from weeks-long shutdowns to scrambling for needed parts; from strategies for keeping employees safe to the need to manufacture different products — often PPE — to keep workers busy because demand for the products that were being produced has slowed or stopped.

Much has hinged on the word ‘essential’ — a status bestowed on many manufacturers in the 413, an area with a large number of shops making parts for aerospace, defense, or the broad healthcare sector.

Sanderson MacLeod makes products for all those fields, said Borsari, noting that, after a short but still tension-filled time of uncertainty regarding the company’s status, it was declared essential. The same with Westfield-based Peerless Precision, a company that makes, among other things, products used in the cryogenic cooling systems for thermal imaging, night vision, and infrared cameras — items that are actually in greater demand because of all the tension in the world at the moment.

Mark Borsari

Mark Borsari says being deemed ‘essential’ certainly helps, but there is too much uncertainty with this pandemic for any company to feel secure about the future.

“Any time there’s any trouble going on in the world and more money is being put into the defense budget, we benefit from that,” said Kristin Carlson, the company’s president. “We’re getting new engine parts, new fuel-injection parts … things we’ve never made before. Any time there’s unrest in our country or anywhere in the world, the Defense Department spends more money.”

But not all area manufacturers have been so fortunate. Indeed, while golf balls are important to many, they are not ‘essential’ in the eyes of the state’s governor, so the Callaway plant in Chicopee was shut down as it was heading into its busiest time of the year — the start of the golf season in the Northeast and other colder climes. And shutting down a plant that size, which was running three shifts six days a week, is a complicated undertaking, said Vince Simonds, the company’s director of Global Golf Ball Operations.

“It’s difficult to shut it down so abruptly and then wind it back up again,” he said, noting that the massive plant was shut down from March 25 until May 18, when the first phase of the state’s reopening plan went into effect. “But overall, we’ve done very well.”

Fortunately, the company has been helped by something that could not have been foreseen in those dark days of March — a surge in popularity in the game of golf resulting from the fact that it is one of the few sports people can play while also socially distancing themselves from others.

“It’s difficult to shut it down so abruptly and then wind it back up again. But overall, we’ve done very well.”

This surge now has the company running three shifts seven days a week, said Simonds, adding that Callaway is now struggling to meet global demand, especially for its lower-priced, entry-level products (more on that later).

But even for those companies that were not shut down, have not seen shrinking demand for the products they make, or been helped by the rush to take up golf, the pandemic has led to a time of challenge, uncertainty, and questions about what will, and won’t, come next. And this is a difficult climate to operate in, said Borsari, who tried to put things in perspective for BusinessWest.

“The biggest challenge is that there is no playbook for what we’re dealing with,” he explained. “This thing has come through and almost indiscriminately picked out specific companies and industries and devastated them and left others somewhat unscathed. It depends on who their market is, where they are on the supply chain, who their vendors are, who their customers are … there are so many variables.

“Normally, when you run into these challenges in business, you can at least do some research or talk to some people who have been through it before to get a gauge for what was successful,” he went on. “With this, there is none of that.”

Parts of the Whole

Flashing back to early March, Carlson noted that, at least in one respect, the company was ready for what was coming.

“We had just put in a very large order for toilet paper and other supplies from Staples,” she recalled, adding that, soon thereafter, such essentials were certainly hard to come by. “I was telling everyone that I had something like 180 single rolls of toilet paper … so if you guys can’t find any, we’ll sell it to you for cost.”

But beyond that, there was little way to anticipate, let alone prepare for, the pandemic and the many ways it was going to change the landscape for all businesses, and especially manufacturers. And for many, there was uncertainty about whether the doors would remain open as the state began to shut down businesses to help slow the spread of the virus.

Fortunately, for many, this uncertainty was short-lived.

Vince Simonds

Vince Simonds says a pandemic-related surge in the game of golf has helped take the sting out of being shut down for two months this past spring, Callaway’s busiest time for making golf balls.

“We’re the largest medical and surgical manufacturer in the country, and we also do a lot of work for government agencies and the military with gun-cleaning products,” said Borsari, adding that Sanderson MacLeod was able to get the green light from the state and the town of Palmer to remain open for business.

“Getting deemed essential was important for us,” he recalled. “One of the concerns for the people was whether they’d have a job; they were seeing all these companies shut down around them, and that was the biggest concern they had from the beginning — whether we would be allowed to stay open.”

The company has been fortunate in other ways as well, he said, noting it had undertaken catastrophic planning and redundant sourcing before the pandemic, so there were few if any supply-chain issues once COVID struck. And its supply needs are relatively simple.

“Some of these companies are putting together computers with 4,000 parts,” he explained. “We’re really working with wire fiber and attachment components; it’s not nearly a deep a supply issue as other companies had.”

Meanwhile, demand for many of the products made by the company, especially those in the gun-cleaning realm, has actually grown, again because of the growing levels of turmoil in the world.

“One of the concerns for the people was whether they’d have a job; they were seeing all these companies shut down around them.”

Carlson sounded similar tones, noting that, in many respects, the pandemic hasn’t impacted the overall bottom line; in fact, it has helped generate more business with some clients.

It didn’t look that way back in the spring, when the state’s shutdown, which most thought would last a few weeks, instead stretched to nearly two months. “At that point,” she said, “I was pretty confident that 2020 was going to be a bust.”

Instead, it’s shaping up to be better than last year — which was quite solid.

“We’re not just steady, we’re busy, and we’re getting busier,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the company had a record July, usually one of its slower months. “A lot of that’s on the defense, not aerospace, side, but also our defense aerospace has picked up a lot as well.”

But in addition to creating more work, the pandemic has also changed how work is carried out, creating a number of challenges for those managing plants, especially early on in the pandemic, when there was little guidance on how to keep workers safe — and also little hand sanitizer to be found.

“We had to get people to understand that they can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with one another — you have to maintain that six feet,” Carlson said. “I had put limits on the number of people who could be in rooms with closed doors; we’d take turns disinfecting the entire shop. In the morning, one guy does the shop floor, at lunchtime, another one does it, and at the end of the day, they do it again.”

Simonds agreed, and noted that, by strictly enforcing the rules and following the protocols, the plant has seen no cases, and no interruptions, since reopening.

“We’re sticking to the CDC protocols, and it’s worked for us,” he said. “Everyone is temperature-screened; everyone wears a mask at all times; we’re restricting meeting rooms based on square footage and number of people in the rooms; no employee gatherings beyond the number cited by the state; anyone who goes on vacation and travels outside of Massachusetts to a restricted area has to follow protocols coming back in.

“One of the challenges was just getting used to things,” he went on. “Wearing a mask, especially in the summertime, is difficult, but people have been great, and we’re all used to it now; it’s just a matter of practice.”

Round Numbers

For Simonds and his team, the state-ordered shutdown came, as noted earlier, during the busiest time of the year for the facility, which has enjoyed a resurgence over the past few years as Callaway has made huge strides in gaining market share within the golf-ball industry.

And turning everything off is, as he said, a somewhat complicated undertaking.

“For any machines that have materials in them, they have to be purged properly,” he explained. “We need to take all the raw materials that are sensitive to environmental conditions and put them in environmentally controlled areas. We need to take care of WIP — work in process — and try to process as much as possible so we don’t have time-sensitive WIP sitting on the production floor.

“It’s a matter of systematically shutting down operations so we don’t have inventory sitting in the wrong places,” he went on, adding that the process was made more complicated by the fact that no one really knew for how long the plant would be dark.

Meanwhile, on the personnel side, most all employees were furloughed — and nearly all of them came back, he went on, adding that the operation slowly wound back up, but since then, activity has sped up dramatically, with many of those employees securing large amounts of overtime.

“We’ve gone from zero to 100 as quickly as we could. Once the golf courses started opening up, the demand for product was almost unprecedented — there was so much golf being played,” Simonds said, adding that courses in most all states were open several weeks before the plant was reopened — if they had closed at all. “And the golf business has remained pretty strong; we’re chasing demand.”

The same is true at Peerless and Sanderson MacLeod, where, in addition to meeting orders, the plants are coping with new ways of communicating, meeting as teams, and planning, as much as possible, for what might come next.

And also learning and growing from the shared experience of not only coping with a pandemic and all the challenges it has brought, but in some cases thriving.

Indeed, Carlson said the past several months have brought a close workforce even closer together as they contend with the protocols, the surge in business, and a shared desire to be prepared for the worst-case scenario while hoping for something much better.

Borsari agreed, and said some of the real ‘opportunities,’ a word he’s hesitant to use in this climate, come in the broad area of relationship building when it comes to both clients and the team at Sanderson-MacLeod.

“It’s been a unique opportunity to connect with our client base in a way we haven’t done before,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s all about collaboratively figuring out the best way to keep both companies open; we’re really had a lot of good relationships become even better because we realize how dependent we are on one another.

“And as an organization, finding our way through this together has made us stronger,” he went on. “We’ve done everything we can as a company to make this a place of normalcy. Everything else around them was going crazy, and one of the key points we made in March was to do everything we can to follow the mandates and make sure our people are safe, but we also want to make sure to maintain normalcy as much as we can.”

Up Off the Floor

Looking ahead, Carlson said her company has taken what steps it can to be prepared for what might come next.

Yes, that means stocking up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other pandemic-related needs that were in such short supply when the first wave hit six months ago.

“I’m ready for us to keep moving the way we’re moving,” she explained. “Even if we did walk back any of the phases of the reopening or went back into a shutdown, we’d still be open and still going at the pace we’re going, and perhaps be even busier; we’re prepared.”

But, as Borsari noted, even for manufacturers in the coveted ‘essential’ category, there is too much uncertainty to ever be comfortable, or fully prepared.

“Nothing is stable,” he said. “Just because we’re essential doesn’t mean anything’s safe or easy; so much is dependent on the attitude of the state, or the people who decide to come to work or not come into work, tariff measures, travel bans … all of these could have an impact.”

Such is life in a sector that, like most others, has seen COVID-19 change almost everything and create conditions that are anything but business as usual.

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

Agenda

‘Heroes in Healthcare’ Exhibit

Through Jan. 24: The Springfield Museums will present “Heroes in Healthcare: Celebrating Springfield’s Medical Community” at the Wood Museum of Springfield History from Aug. 3 through Jan. 24, 2021. As a complementary exhibit to Hall of Heroes, located on the first floor of the Wood Museum of Springfield History, “Heroes in Healthcare” pinpoints the deep appreciation we all feel for those who put themselves in harm’s way in order to help others. From the Civil War through present day, doctors and nurses, public-health employees, social workers, and philanthropists have contributed significantly to improving the health of this community with their skills, compassion, and vision. This exhibit examines that history in Springfield. As stewards of the Baystate Medical Center archives, including materials from its Training School for Nurses, museum staff were able to gather a rich history of healthcare in Springfield. The Visiting Nurses Assoc. archives are also held at the Wood Museum. Exhibit organizers delved into that collection to share remarkable stories of how visiting nurses traveled to the homes of people of all economic backgrounds to not only treat disease, but also to offer wellness training, childcare advice, and, often, a sympathetic ear. With the World Health Organization’s declaration of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the museums dedicate a part of this exhibit to specifically celebrating the city’s nurses. The museums will also present a Wall of Healthcare Heroes to honor the courageous and dedicated work of area hospitals’ frontline responders. The Springfield Museums are also grateful for the assistance of Mercy Medical Center and the archives of the Sisters of Providence in documenting the history of their organization.

Knights Of Columbus Golf Tournament

Aug. 21: The Greenfield Knights of Columbus Council #133 will host its seventh annual charity golf tournament at Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. This year, the Greenfield Council #133 recognizes the United Arc as its tournament partner. The event will be an 18 hole, four-person scramble with tee advantages for senior golfers. The entry fee of $125 per person includes greens fees, carts, use of the practice range, and prizes for the winners. A $35 gift card will be given to all golfers, which can be used at any time for meals, merchandise, or golf-related items. Raffle tickets will be sold, with prizes including a three-day Cape Cod vacation, a sports package, golf certificates, a ‘mystery box’ provided by the United Arc, restaurant certificates, auto packages, and much more. A hole-in-one contest will offer a chance to win a new car or other significant prizes. In addition to the United Arc, the proceeds from the event will be used to fund a number of Council #133’s worthy causes in Greenfield and Franklin County, including the Pan Mass Challenge, Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Wheeling for Healing, Farren Hospital’s Gift of Light, the Greenfield Homeless Shelter, monthly community meals, high-school scholarships, honoring veterans on Memorial Day and having Wreaths Across America wreaths placed on graves at Christmas, several youth sports programs, and more. To sign up or for more information, call Lou Grader at (413) 774-2848, Dan Arsenault at (413) 774-5258, Bob Wanczyk at (413) 774-2465, Paul Doran at (413) 522-1800, or Joe Ruscio at (413) 768-9876.

Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series

Aug. 26, Sept. 30, Oct. 28: On July 29, Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal and Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, kicked off a reimagined monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series. The 2020 Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series, postponed from spring due to COVID-19, will now take place virtually over Zoom on the last Wednesdays of each month from noon to 1 p.m. The series is sponsored by HCC and Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College. Each lunchtime event will feature two presenters leading discussions on different topics. On Aug. 26, “Empowering Women in the Workplace” will be presented by Denise Jordan, executive director, Springfield Housing Authority; and Julie Quink, managing partner, Burkhart, Pizzanelli, P.C. On Sept. 30, “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice” will feature Tanisha Arena, executive director, Arise for Social Justice; and Pam Victor, owner, Happier Valley Comedy. On Oct. 28, “Women Leaders in Non-Traditional Businesses” will be presented by Colleen Loveless, president and CEO, Revitalize Community Development Corp.; and Nicole Palange, vice president, V&F Auto. Each session costs $20 each, or $50 for the full series. Registration is required. Space for each luncheon is limited to 25. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

Real-estate Licensing Course

Sept. 9 to Oct. 15: The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class, sales-licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. Tuition is $400 and includes the book and materials. For an application, call the (413) 785-1328 or visit www.rapv.com. The Realtors Assoc. has taken all necessary COVID-19 sanitary precautions in accordance with CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines to ensure the safety of its students. Classes are limited to 18 students.

Gap-semester Course on Social-justice Issues

Sept. 21 to Dec. 21: Bay Path University has put together a unique course for recent high-school graduates looking to explore ways they can impact movements for social justice. The course, “Exploring Pathways to Social Justice,” will combine lectures, discussions, videos, readings, and virtual, experiential learning through the context of history, legal studies, and communications. In addition, the students will participate in presentations by professionals who have channeled their visions for a more just world into careers advocating for social justice and leading their communities. The three-credit course runs from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21 and is open to recent high-school graduates and college students, whether enrolled at Bay Path University; its online program, the American Women’s College; or any other institution, as well as students who are taking a gap semester while they evaluate their college options. Registration runs until Sept. 16. The class is a collaboration between several faculty members and will explore social-justice movements, trace the historical roots of the civil-rights struggle, investigate how race factors into the contemporary criminal justice system, and consider strategies for change. Students will be challenged to apply their passion for social justice while learning to express themselves and developing practical skills for academic and professional settings. Through the course material and ongoing opportunities for conversation, they will connect with other students and become part of an inspired, motivated network. “We created this class for students who may be using this time away from their schools to contemplate how and where to channel their voice and their passion for social justice, as they begin to think about their long-term goals, personally and professionally,” said Gwen Jordan, director of Bay Path’s Justice and Legal Studies department. She will be teaching sections on the criminal justice system, including a focus on the movement devoted to exonerating the wrongly convicted and reforming the system. Additional course information and a registration link are available at www.baypath.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/the-american-womens-college-online/academics/gap-semester-course.

Agenda

Virtual Job Fair

Aug. 4: With government-mandated social-distancing restrictions in place, the West of the River Chamber of Commerce (WRC) will hold its annual job fair virtually this year. With the extra unemployment money individuals are receiving about to expire, and local businesses beginning to reopen, the WRC is looking to help its members in any way it can. The Zoom event will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. This is a free event for attendees, and vendors and attendees can both register online. Each vendor will have the opportunity to speak to the attendees as a whole group about their company and what positions they are looking to fill. At the conclusion of the group session, each vendor will have a breakout room where attendees can ask more detailed information and exchange contact information. The event is sponsored by Reminder Publications. For more information and to register, visit www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

Driving for the Cure Golf Tournament

Aug. 17: TommyCar Auto Group announced that its 12th annual Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament will be held at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. Money raised supports neuro-oncology research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Since its inception, this annual golf tournament has raised more than $1 million. The scramble-style tournament features a ‘Tee Off Against Cancer’ shotgun start. Players will enjoy 18 holes of golf and exciting on-course activities. Sponsorship packages range from $50 to $15,000, and foursomes start at $1,250. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities or to register a foursome, visit tomcosenzidrivingforthecure.com. Volunteers and sponsors can also contact Gayle Bover at (413) 341-1917 or [email protected].

Knights Of Columbus Golf Tournament

Aug. 21: The Greenfield Knights of Columbus Council #133 will host its seventh annual charity golf tournament at Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. This year, the Greenfield Council #133 recognizes the United Arc as its tournament partner. The event will be an 18 hole, four-person scramble with tee advantages for senior golfers. The entry fee of $125 per person includes greens fees, carts, use of the practice range, and prizes for the winners. A $35 gift card will be given to all golfers, which can be used at any time for meals, merchandise, or golf-related items. Raffle tickets will be sold, with prizes including a three-day Cape Cod vacation, a sports package, golf certificates, a ‘mystery box’ provided by the United Arc, restaurant certificates, auto packages, and much more. A hole-in-one contest will offer a chance to win a new car or other significant prizes. In addition to the United Arc, the proceeds from the event will be used to fund a number of Council #133’s worthy causes in Greenfield and Franklin County, including the Pan Mass Challenge, Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Wheeling for Healing, Farren Hospital’s Gift of Light, the Greenfield Homeless Shelter, monthly community meals, high-school scholarships, honoring veterans on Memorial Day and having Wreaths Across America wreaths placed on graves at Christmas, several youth sports programs, and more. To sign up or for more information, call Lou Grader at (413) 774-2848, Dan Arsenault at (413) 774-5258, Bob Wanczyk at (413) 774-2465, Paul Doran at (413) 522-1800, or Joe Ruscio at (413) 768-9876.

Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series

Aug. 26, Sept. 30, Oct. 28: On July 29, Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal and Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, kicked off a reimagined monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series. The 2020 Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series, postponed from spring due to COVID-19, will now take place virtually over Zoom on the last Wednesdays of each month from noon to 1 p.m. The series is sponsored by HCC and Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College. Each lunchtime event will feature two presenters leading discussions on different topics. On Aug. 26, “Empowering Women in the Workplace” will be presented by Denise Jordan, executive director, Springfield Housing Authority; and Julie Quink, managing partner, Burkhart, Pizzanelli, P.C. On Sept. 30, “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice” will feature Tanisha Arena, executive director, Arise for Social Justice; and Pam Victor, owner, Happier Valley Comedy. On Oct. 28, “Women Leaders in Non-Traditional Businesses” will be presented by Colleen Loveless, president and CEO, Revitalize Community Development Corp.; and Nicole Palange, vice president, V&F Auto. Each session costs $20 each, or $50 for the full series. Registration is required. Space for each luncheon is limited to 25. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

Golf FORE Health Tournament

Sept. 14-15: The 31st annual Golf FORE Health Tournament, Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s only major fundraising event, will be held at the Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. COVID-19 has altered every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives. Today, the need for support for the local hospital is greater than ever, and many businesses have reached out asking how to help Cooley Dickinson care for its patients and our community. This year’s tournament will be played in a social-distancing format with tee times every 10 minutes starting at 8 a.m., and will now be played over two days and adhere to all current Massachusetts COVID-19 golf guidelines. Each team will play on one of the two days. This means the annual post-event banquet will not take place, but organizers say they have been able to incorporate some exciting new tournament additions and give sponsors the greatest amount of exposure. The lead platinum sponsors are bankESB and MJ Moran Inc. To secure a team or to sponsor the event, visit www.cooleydickinson.org/golf. Questions should be directed to Jennifer Margolis at [email protected] or (413) 582-2255.

Company Notebook

Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Tapped for WSU Parenzo Hall Renovation

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University, in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Assets Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), announced the selection of Holyoke-based Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Inc. to serve as construction manager for the university’s $40 million Parenzo Hall renovation project. The construction manager selection committee — consisting of three DCAMM representatives, architect James Loftus of Miller Dyer Spears of Boston, and David Riggles, associate director for Projects and Space Management at Westfield State — received 12 responses to DCAMM’s request for qualifications and eight final proposals for the project. The final construction-manager selection was made based on the firm’s qualifications, experience, past performances, and reviews of performance records in comparison to the others. The university plans to transform the 64-year-old Parenzo Hall — the oldest building on campus — into a state-of-the-art hub for student success and development. Renovations will include the creation of two new centers — the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE) and the CoLab (collaboration laboratory). The renovation of swing space to relocate current Parenzo Hall tenants is underway and expected to be completed this winter. Groundbreaking for Parenzo’s reconstruction is anticipated in summer 2021. The renovation is expected to take approximately two years. The CoLab will leverage technology to serve as a nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to productively engage in online and hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The CoLab will work with community colleges to ease the transfer process by offering financially supported hybrid-style programs and boot camps. It will work with chambers of commerce and economic-development boards to broker relationships, inform curriculum, and secure support. The CSSE will address the university’s goals of increasing retention and graduation rates, as well as reducing achievement gaps and the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. In addition, it will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. New and in-demand certificate programs and advanced study options will be offered to its business partners, utilizing technology. The Commonwealth is helping to finance the project via a $21.25 million spending bill that was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker during a July 2018 visit to campus.

Baystate Health, Kindred Healthcare to Partner on Behavioral-health Hospital

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health and Kindred Healthcare, LLC announced plans to form a joint venture that will build and operate a $43 million, state-of-the-art behavioral-health hospital in Western Mass. The 120-bed facility will address the shortage of behavioral-health beds in the region, increasing patient access to Baystate Health’s specialty inpatient behavioral healthcare for adults (including geriatrics), adolescents, and children by more than 50%. Kindred will manage day-to-day operations of the hospital, and Baystate Health psychiatrists and advanced practitioners will provide care under the medical leadership of Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of Psychiatry at Baystate Health. The hospital will be designed specifically for behavioral-health services to foster a better healing environment for patients. The hospital will feature distinct units to meet patients’ varying treatment needs and is expected to employ more than 200 direct caregivers and ancillary staff. Baystate had planned last year to partner with US HealthVest, LLC on a $30 million behavioral-health hospital, but ended that relationship in November following news reports alleging substandard care at other HealthVest facilities, and began searching for a new partner. Baystate Health remains interested in a centrally located Holyoke location and is in discussions with the city of Holyoke regarding the potential acquisition and development of a property on Lower Westfield Road. It is anticipated that, from the time the site is secured, it will be at least two years before the new hospital is operational, pending regulatory and other approvals. Until the new hospital is completed, Baystate will continue to operate its inpatient behavioral-health units at its community hospitals — Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Noble Hospital, and Baystate Wing Hospital. Upon completion of the new facility, those units will be closed. Emergency-care services will continue to be provided at all Baystate Health hospitals, and the treatment of medically complex patients will continue at Baystate Medical Center in its Adult Psychiatric Treatment Unit.

Elms College Receives Grant to Fund Experiential Learning

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced it has been awarded a $240,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation (DEF) in support of its Experiential Learning Mastering Success (ELMS) – Real World Ready! learning initiative. The grant will be dispersed over the next three years. The overall goal of the ELMS – Real World Ready! learning initiative is to provide at least one high-impact experiential learning opportunity to every student during their college career. Experiential learning is one of the five pillars of the college’s 2020-23 strategic plan. Students can participate in internships, research, study-abroad trips, and service learning opportunities. The first-year disbursement of the grant will support hiring a director of Experiential Learning, providing professional development for faculty and staff, and broadening of the college’s third annual Innovation Challenge (IC). The IC is a three-day event in which students work in teams and explore the intersection of social relationships, business economics, public education, and social justice. Over the past two years, Elms students have developed creative ideas to alleviate homelessness and address bullying. The upcoming Innovation Challenge in the fall 2020 semester will expand participation from 60 students to the entire first-year class. The ELMS – Real World Ready! learning initiative and the DEF grant build on the philanthropic scholarship funding currently available to students through the donor-funded Keating Schneider Experiential Learning Fund and the Elms Advantage Internship program.

WNEU to Offer MS Program in Construction Management

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced the addition of a new master of science program in construction management to the list of graduate-degree offerings. U.S. News and World Report ranks construction manager first in “Best Construction Jobs” and 43rd in “100 Best Jobs” with a low unemployment rate of 2.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows that the job outlook growth (2016-26) for Construction Managers is 11% (faster than average), with a median salary of $93,370 per year. With courses rooted in civil engineering, industrial engineering, and engineering management, the program strives to provide a well-rounded knowledge base in engineering as it pertains to construction management. Elective opportunities in business and management will give students a perspective into the business world that will prepare them for management and leadership roles. The program is tailored for students to choose from three options to complete the degree. The all-course option allows students to complete the 10 graduate courses that include open electives, choosing from courses in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering as well as engineering management and business. Through the project or thesis options, students will work with a faculty advisor to take a deeper dive in a topic of interest, culminating in a final report and presentation. Applications are now being accepted for the MS in construction management program. Classes begin Sept. 28. To learn more, call the Office of Graduate Studies at (413) 782-1517 or e-mail [email protected].

Dress for Success to Collaborate with the Links Inc. on Mentorship Program

Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts announced a partnership with the Greater Springfield chapter of the Links Inc. Founded in 1946, the Links Inc. is an international, not-for-profit organization that brings together professional women of color to serve their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy. Its ultimate goal is to sustain the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and people of African ancestry. The work of the Links Inc. aligns well with the mission of Dress for Success, specifically the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentor Program. This program, named for a Physics Department secretary from Mount Holyoke College who provided help and encouragement for women entering that male-dominated field in the 1970s, pairs women who are overcoming great odds to achieve economic independence with professional women who volunteer to work with them one-on-one. Together, they establish individual goals and work on self-esteem, résumé building, workplace etiquette, interview skills, work/life balance, and more. By establishing a trusting rapport and sharing the wisdom of experience, mentors helps move their mentees from career readiness to action. Though the mentorships last one year, the impact lasts a lifetime. Beginning on Aug. 14, women from the Greater Springfield chapter of the Links Inc. will serve as mentors to women of color who have been recruited to the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentor Program from both Dress for Success programs as well as their partners in the community. The mentorships will continue until August 2021, when the mentees will be invited to join the Dress for Success Professional Women’s Group.

6 Bricks Wins Provisional License to Advance Cannabis Dispensary

SPRINGFIELD — 6 Bricks, LLC was chosen to receive a state provisional license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Last year, the city of Springfield awarded 6 Bricks one of just four licenses to operate a cannabis dispensary in the city. For more than a year before the award by Springfield, 6 Bricks had been preparing for the city application process, engaging and working with architects, industry and profession experts, security professionals, and others as to how best to propose a community-oriented facility and operation that would include and benefit the city and surrounding neighborhood community. 6 Bricks incurred substantial expense and invested significant time securing data and planning strategies to put forth a winning application to the city and the state, including hiring and working with engineering firm Vanhasse Hangen Bustin Inc. to produce traffic and other studies. 6 Bricks worked extensively with former Springfield Police Officer John Delaney on a security plan for operation; he assembled a team of former law-enforcement professionals who have advised the project from the idea stages to the present. Achieving provisional-license status means 6 Bricks, LLC has moved one step closer to being able to open a facility on Springfield. Of the four Springfield applicants, 6 Bricks is the first to be awarded this status.

Company Notebook

Melanson Heath Rebrands as Melanson

NASHUA, N.H. — Melanson Heath, one of the fastest-growing accounting firms in the U.S., announced that the company will begin operating under a new name and will be known as Melanson, effective immediately. This rebranding strategy reflects both the evolution of the company and its vision for the future. Along with this change, a newly redesigned company logo has been revealed, and a new website, melansoncpas.com, has been launched. “As part of our focus on expansion and business development, our leadership team and I believe it was appropriate to rebrand our firm to more specifically reflect who we are,” said Managing Partner Scott Toothaker, CPA. “We are very excited about the introduction of our new company name, Melanson, because it allows us to better represent our business to our clients and community. We are also very happy about the launch of our new website, which features our own employees and better reflects the personality found at Melanson. We are not just an accounting firm; we are a partner for our clients.”

Phoenix Project Launched to Assist Struggling Businesses

PIONEER VALLEY — The DiStefano Group and Seven Roads Media announced the Phoenix Project, a movement to collaborate and create opportunities within the Pioneer Valley business community based on the principles of kindness and understanding. The goal is to provide a broad range of assistance to businesses that are struggling as a result of the unprecedented happenings of 2020. The two companies, in direct response to the inequities and hardships that so many in the community are facing, will seek to gain a genuine understanding of what local business owners need and address those needs immediately and for free. The process will begin with a video interview to gather raw, first-hand knowledge. Seven Roads Media and the DiStefano Group will provide business and media coaching on the spot, but support for the business won’t end there. The Phoenix Project also includes the expertise of an established group of ‘masterminds’ — local professionals at the top of their fields — to provide coaching in banking, marketing, financial management, real estate, photography, hospitality, events, human resources, psychology, IT, and more. Gina DiStefano, president and CEO of the DiStefano Group and Phoenix Project co-founder, explained that “the video is just the beginning. From there, we will connect the business with our group of masterminds, who will continue to provide pro bono advice. We intend to have a real impact on businesses that have been hit hard. We are willing and able to help.” The project’s model will build supportive relationships not just for the chosen business, but among all of the those represented by the masterminds, said the third co-founder, Jess Roncarati-Howe, a nonprofit consultant and coach with the DiStefano Group who formerly served as president of the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce. “An entrepreneurial spirit who truly cares about what’s going on around them can foster tremendous impact,” she added. “It is the driving force behind the Phoenix Project. We will help our community to heal — one interaction, one relationship at a time.”

IALS at UMass Amherst Joins Digital Health Sandbox Network

AMHERST — The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) selected six new healthcare research and development (R&D) hubs to join the Digital Health Sandbox Network, including UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS). The Sandbox Network program connects digital-health startups to cutting-edge R&D facilities in the Commonwealth and allows Massachusetts startups to apply for funding to test their innovations at one of the networks’ labs, now including IALS. Sandbox R&D facilities provide a range of services supporting validation and testing for digital health companies throughout their life cycles. “Establishing a translational institute at UMass that provides startup lab space; more than 30 industry-friendly, staffed core equipment facilities; and individualized venture-mentoring services creates an exciting environment for digital-health companies in Western Massachusetts,” IALS Director Peter Reinhart said. IALS helps to shepherd and translate fundamental research into new product candidates, technologies, and services that benefit human health and well-being. IALS also helps users address both basic and translational questions, deliver technologies and product candidates more rapidly, and become more competitive in obtaining funding. Facilities include a state-of-the-art test bed for mobile health experiments at scale, the Center for Human Health and Performance, a roll-to-roll fabrication and processing facility, and research laboratory space for lease. In 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker announced $500,000 in funding for the Sandbox program as part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to boost the digital-health ecosystem under the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative.

Captain Candy to Open Second Store in Holyoke

NORTHAMPTON — Levi Smith, owner of Captain Candy in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace, announced he is opening a second store in the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside. “I’ve survived the COVID-19 shutdown, and I’m excited to be opening a second store in Holyoke,” Smith said. Captain Candy offers eclectic candies that are not the norm in grocery and convenience stores — everything from gumballs to candy cigarettes, wax bottles full of juice, Turkish taffy, Pop Rocks, and Zotz. Smith was contacted in January by the owners of Pyramid Management Group, which owns more than a dozen malls in the Northeast, including the Holyoke Mall. Smith’s Holyoke store opening comes a little over a year after he purchased the Northampton shop from former owner Nolan Anaya. Smith was 18 at the time. Currently, he is a business student at Holyoke Community College. In the early months, Smith will operate the new store to ensure a smooth start, and then he will hire as needed. Currently, he and six part-time employees operate the Thornes location, which opened in 2013.

Smith College Team Wins Ventilator-design Challenge

NORTHAMPTON — The SmithVent team of engineering alumni, staff, and faculty are the winners of the CoVent-19 challenge to design an easily manufacturable ventilator for use during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Grécourt Gate, Smith College’s online news portal. The team’s breathing device was chosen from more than 200 submissions to the competition launched on April 1. “In two months, we went from knowing nothing to having a functional prototype,” said team co-leader Susannah Howe, director of Smith’s Engineering Design Clinic. “To see that trajectory in such a short period of time, with people who are volunteering their time on top of their other jobs, is amazing and heartwarming and so rewarding.” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney added that “I could not be more proud of the SmithVent team for winning the CoVent-19 Challenge. This win speaks volumes about the power of a liberal-arts education, grounded in experiential learning, to find innovative, collaborative solutions to complex, urgent problems. SmithVent is Smith at its best: a lasting example of our community coming together for the betterment of the world.”

Springfield Library & Museums Assoc. Wins $100,000 NEA Grant

SPRINGFIELD ​— National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $84 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2020. Included in this announcement is an Our Town award of $100,000 to​ the ​Springfield Library & Museums Assoc. in partnership with the Springfield Cultural Partnership for Spark!: Igniting Our Community, a project in the newly renovated Pynchon Park to envision and create public art that serves to connect the city, residents, and visitors. This is one of 51 grants nationwide that the agency has approved in this category. Spark: Igniting Our Community is a two-year public art project that will transform recently reopened Pynchon Park into a vibrant public space through innovative multi-media art installations created by local and national artists. City residents, community stakeholders, and cultural institutions will be involved in a collective process to imagine, select, and commission public art that celebrates Springfield’s citizens, culture, and heritage. The park, closed for 40 years, will use the arts to connect neighborhoods and people, creating equitable partnerships that demonstrate the power of civic engagement for more vibrant and livable communities. The park’s reopening offers an opportunity to continue momentum by celebrating public art in this passageway and creating a programming and civic-engagement space. This project will create a walkable pathway between the museum district and the commercial downtown, spurring retail and public-space projects along these avenues and encouraging greater tourism throughout the city.

Webster Bank Offers Financial Program for Frontline Heroes

WATERBURY, Conn. — Webster Bank became one of the first financial-services companies nationwide to introduce Frontline Heroes, a program for essential healthcare workers and first responders that enhances the financial well-being of those who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In gratitude for their selfless service, Webster’s new Frontline Heroes program offers a range of financial benefits, including checking accounts free of a monthly maintenance fee and free checking withdrawals at any ATM through December 2021. The program provides new customers with the ability to earn a cash incentive, as well as additional discounts and benefits. Frontline Heroes includes any full-time or part-time employee currently in essential healthcare, including hospitals, nursing homes, medical and dental practices, and home healthcare. The program is also available to first responders. For every new Frontline Heroes customer, Webster will also donate $250 to United Way COVID-19 Response Funds, making a minimum donation of $100,000.

Coronavirus Special Coverage

For every business in Western Mass., there is a story about coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Each one, as we’ve noted before, is different. But there are many common themes, especially the need to deal effectively — somehow — with those things that one can control, and cope — again, somehow — with the things one can’t control. And that latter list is, unfortunately, long and complicated. It includes everything from navigating the state’s rules (and short timelines) for reopening to losing large and important clients, like MGM Springfield, to not knowing what the future holds. Here are six more COVID stories.

 

Judy Puffer

Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa

Responding to COVID-19 has been hair-raising to say the least   Read More >>

 


 

White Lion Brewery

For this Springfield business, better times are on tap   Read More >>

 


 

Wilbraham Monson Academy

At this school, pandemic has been a real learning experience    Read More >>

 


 

Jerome’s Party Plus

Growing need for tents is helping company through a trying year   Read More >>

 


 

King Ward Bus Lines

Chicopee-based company is still trying to get out
of first gear   Read More >>

 


 

Park Cleaners

‘The place where COVID goes to die’ is still in recovery mode   Read More >>

 


 

Back on the Clock

COVID-19 era presents unique challenge for older workers   Read More >>

Franklin County Special Coverage

View from Main Street

Diana Szynal

While economic activity is still slow, Diana Szynal says, she senses a resilient spirit in Franklin County.

Diana Szynal is encouraged by what she sees on Main Street in Greenfield as restaurants and retail continue to emerge from months of closed doors.

“I certainly see people making the changes they need to make,” she said, referring to Gov. Charlie Baker’s guidance for how — and at what capacity — to open businesses safely. “We’ve seen these business making the effort to reopen and get their staffs back to work and welcome back their customers.”

But no one is fooling themselves into believing everyone is ready to go out again, said Szynal, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

“Certainly it seems like businesses are open — like restaurants with outdoor seating or limited indoor seating — and I think there are people really wanting to get out there, but some people aren’t ready yet,” she told BusinessWest.

“Realistically, things have slowed down, but I feel a very resilient spirit here,” she continued. “People in Franklin County are tough. And you see that not only in Greenfield’s downtown, but the area as a whole — downtown Deerfield, downtown Shelburne … I think you’re going to see them bounce back for sure.”

What will make the difference, she and other economic leaders increasingly say, is consumer confidence, which is being driven right now almost exclusively by health concerns — and that’s a good thing, considering that Massachusetts is one of the few states in the U.S. consistently reducing instances of COVID-19.

“For the typical consumer, making decisions about going out for the day or just going to a restaurant or retail shop, creating confidence is the key,” Szynal said. “And focusing on those [infection] numbers is really critical. That’s really how we’ll build confidence. Some people will take a little longer than others because they have different health concerns. But I think, if we can stay the course, we’ll be heading in the right direction economically as well as from a public-health standpoint.”

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) polls its 3,500 members each month to produce a Business Confidence Index that was firmly entrenched in positive territory for years — until it suffered the largest one-time decline in its history a couple months ago. However, it began to rebound slightly last month as Baker announced the four-phase process for re-opening the state economy under strict workplace-safety guidelines, and in the report due this week, it’s expected to creep up again amid positive news regarding infection rates.

“What makes this whole situation unique — and a little bit mystifying for employers — is that the economic situation is still being driven by a public-health situation,” said Chris Geehern, AIM’s executive vice president of Public Affairs and Communications. “Typically in an economic downturn, business people know exactly what to do. Now, it’s wholly dependent on what the daily numbers are from the state and nationally. I think that’s been a big challenge.”

“Certainly it seems like businesses are open — like restaurants with outdoor seating or limited indoor seating — and I think there are people really wanting to get out there, but some people aren’t ready yet.”

That said, he told BusinessWest, “our members have been satisfied with the state process. It has certainly been a challenge to meet all the requirements, but for most employers, the big issue isn’t what the government tells you to do, but what you know you have to do to ensure that employees, vendors, and customers feel comfortable coming in. It’s going to be a slow recovery whether the government requires these steps or not because people won’t come to your restaurant if you haven’t taken the appropriate safety steps.”

Growing Optimism

Employers hope a timely return to business will allow them to re-hire some of the 1.2 million Massachusetts residents who have filed for unemployment since the onset of the pandemic.

“From a broad perspective, I’m not getting a super pessimistic view from anyone I’ve spoken to,” Szynal said. “Certain people are concerned — they’ve had to make some changes, and they’ve had some struggles. People don’t expect those struggles to end instantly. But people are pretty optimistic for the long term.”

Again, that likely depends in part on the public-health data remaining on a positive track.

“Employers are encouraged that Massachusetts has been able to moderate the number of new COVID-19 cases. We have said all along that the current economic crisis is being driven by the public-health crisis, and that’s what we see here,” Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, noted in the latest business-confidence report.

Chris Geehern

Chris Geehern

“Typically in an economic downturn, business people know exactly what to do. Now, it’s wholly dependent on what the daily numbers are from the state and nationally. I think that’s been a big challenge.”

AIM President and CEO John Regan added that Baker’s deliberate, four-phase plan has so far been an effective way to reopen the state economy in a safe and efficient manner.

“We realize that every employer in Massachusetts would love to hear that they can reopen immediately. But we also acknowledge that a phased reopening balances the need to restart the economy with the need to manage a public-health crisis that continues to claim many lives a day in Massachusetts,” Regan said, adding that employers, “will in many cases need to reconfigure workplaces for social distancing and determine how to implement other safety measures, such as the wearing of protective equipment, continuing work-from-home policies, and ensuring the health of workers and customers.”

While AIM employers have been satisfied with the pace of the rollout, Geehern told BusinessWest, there was some frustration early on, particularly in the retail, restaurant, leisure, and hospitality sectors, which weren’t included in phase 1. “Some thought we should be moving faster. To be honest, I think the events going on down south persuaded most people that slow and safe is still the best way to do all this.”

He conceded that many AIM members are manufacturers, and they were able to return to work in phase 1 — and many were deemed essential workers from the start and never shut down operations. That partly explains why their business confidence has been slightly higher than non-manufacturers.

“They were, in fact, dealing with issues of workplace safety right along — processes like how to create six-feet separation, sanitize common areas, and monitor the health of people coming in,” he said. “This is something they’ve had a lot of experience with. For our group of manufacturers, it’s been a fairly smooth process.”

All Eyes on the Numbers

That said, Geehern noted that if COVID-19 cases began spiking and the governor paused or slowed the reopening, business confidence would clearly suffer.

“It’s still volatile and changeable, but I think it’s fair to say companies in general are satisfied with the pace of the rollout. Believe me, every employer in Massachusetts wishes Governor Baker could wave a magic wand and everything would go back to the way it was, but everyone knows that’s not the case.”

“The numbers are fairly optimistic, and I think the most important thing right now is confidence. That’s what’s going to help those businesses bounce back.”

How schools handle students’ return this fall — and what that does to the child-care picture — is a factor as well, he said. “There are a bunch of different elements to the whole picture. They’ll all eventually become clear.”

Part of that clarity is the sad reality that some businesses will be left behind. According to one AIM survey, slightly more than half of companies that furloughed employees will want them all to return when they’re able to bring them back, but some said they won’t be taking any of them back, because they’re planning on going out of business or running a skeleton staff for a while.

“It’s going to be a slow recovery, but our members still think the fundamentals of the economy that existed in February still exist, and I think that’s going to help us,” he noted, adding, however, that leisure and hospitality, as well as mom-and-pop shops of all kinds — two types of businesses that are important to the Franklin County economy — are especially vulnerable right now.

Knowing all of this — the tentatively good health news and the more uncertain economic outlook — Szynal chooses to take the glass-half-full view.

“The numbers are fairly optimistic, and I think the most important thing right now is confidence,” she said. “That’s what’s going to help those businesses bounce back.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Women in Businesss

Critical Tools

As women continue to experience the devastating impact of unemployment due to COVID-19, representing close to 60% of all lost jobs this spring, the food-service, hospitality, retail, and travel industries have been some of the hardest hit.

Further delivering on its mission of empowering women, at a time when many are forced to reimagine their lives, Bay Path University is offering a free three-credit online undergraduate college course in August. The course, “Fundamentals of Digital Literacy,” will help women expand their digital technology skill set and be better prepared for the workforce of the future. The course is offered through The American Women’s College, Bay Path University’s fully online division designed to fit busy women’s lives.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty,” said Carol Leary before her recent retirement as Bay Path president. “This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

“Fundamentals of Digital Literacy” is a six-week, three-credit course in which students will examine best practices for utilizing social-media and digital-communication tools in the workplace. In addition, they will learn practical skills for a digital world and gain an increasing awareness of the risks of digital communication essential in all fields. By mastering the fundamentals of computing technology and demonstrating digital literacy, women who complete the course will have developed the computer skills needed to thrive in a 21st-century workforce that is continually changing.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty. This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

Leaders in the Women in Travel and Hospitality and Women in Retail Leadership Circle organizations are sharing this free course opportunity with impacted employees impacted. The course offering is not exclusive to these groups, however, and any woman in sectors affected by COVID-19 are welcome to enroll.

“At a time when the retail industry has been dramatically impacted, it is refreshing to see Bay Path University, an institution dedicated to advancing the lives of women, provide an opportunity for women in our industry to gain a valuable skillset and college credits,” said Melissa Campanelli and Jen DiPasquale, co-founders of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.

Unlike other online degree programs, students enrolled in classes through the American Women’s College at Bay Path University are able to get immediate feedback on individual academic performance. They also get the support they need to excel in the program, such as coaching, counseling, virtual learning communities, and social networking. The courses are designed to help provide the flexibility women need to engage in their studies, while still balancing their daily lives, jobs, and families.

As a result of the innovative approach to learning offered through the American Women’s College, women successfully earn degrees at higher rates than national averages, the institution notes. The model has been widely recognized by industry experts, the federal government, and granting agencies since its inception in 2013. Most recently, the American Women’s College was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Strada Education Network to use its unique model to close the digital-literacy gap for women.

Enrollment in this six-week, three-credit course is subject to availability. This offer is intended for women who are first-time attendees of Bay Path University. Active Bay Path University students and those enrolled within the past year are not eligible for this offer.

Any student enrolled in this course who wishes to officially enroll into a certificate or degree program at the American Women’s College or Bay Path University must submit the appropriate application for admission and be accepted according to standard admissions guidelines. 

To register for the course, visit bpu.tfaforms.net/41. The registration deadline is July 20, and enrollees will have course access on July 27. For more information, visit www.baypath.edu/baypathworks.

Agenda

Big E 2020

Canceled: For the safety of fairgoers, staff, vendors, entertainers, exhibitors, sponsors, suppliers, and the broader community, the leadership of the Eastern States Exposition have canceled the 2020 Big E. “We know our faithful fairgoers will be disappointed,” a statement noted. “This decision was difficult and complex, but we all know in our hearts that it’s the right thing to do for the health and safety of the 1.6 million people who support us each year. Our staff has spent the last few months working tirelessly to figure a way to bring our annual New England tradition to everyone this fall. Despite exploring all our options and planning extensively, we realized that the Big E experience that everyone has come to know and love would not be the same.” Next year’s edition of the Big E is scheduled for Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, 2021.

Café Creations

July 8, 15, 22: Café Creations, an interactive learning program designed by transition specialist Kelsey Poole in conjunction with the Mental Health Assoc. (MHA), will provide opportunities for creativity, friendship, and increasing independence for 15 adults ages 18 to 22 with autism or developmental disabilities. The program was made possible through a grant provided by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism Inc. Café Creations will run for three consecutive Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. via the Zoom virtual meeting platform. To participate, students need access to an internet-enabled computer or tablet that can connect to Zoom. Interested individuals should sign up no later than Friday, July 3 by contacting Poole at (413) 454-7112 or [email protected] Café Creations is designed to provide adults with autism or developmental disabilities a virtual, interactive, and fun learning experience that enables them to walk away with something they created. Along the way, students have the opportunity to connect with others outside of their community, mostly in towns in Western Mass, while focusing on recreational and educational activities that incorporate meaningful connections and sustainable friendships. To finish each weekly session, students play interactive games with incentives and prizes. Materials required for each session’s creative project will be delivered to each student’s residence in time for each session. These materials include vision boards, which enable students to get to know something about themselves and then share that with others in the group; food ingredients for students to make their own pizzas; and materials to create a lava lamp. Students are encouraged to have a job coach or parent nearby to assist with some activities, notably making pizza, which involves using an oven. According to Poole, the program promotes independence and builds friendships through creation. “Folks with autism or developmental disabilities don’t always know how to meet others like themselves in their community,” she said. “I designed Café Creations to be an alternative way of learning and, at the same time, an alternative way of connecting with others. It provides that linkage and does so in a manner where there’s something creative happening. With this population, it’s important to peel back the support and get them to spread their wings.”

Asnuntuck Information Sessions

July 13, 22, 28; Aug. 6: Asnuntuck Community College has scheduled several virtual information sessions with the Admissions and Financial Aid departments during the summer. The sessions will be held on Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m.; Wednesday, July 22 at 3 p.m.; Tuesday, July 28 at 5 p.m.; and Thursday, Aug. 6 at 3 p.m. Prospective students need to attend only one of the sessions. Participants will be able to learn about the admissions and financial-aid process. The July 13 session will feature information regarding Connecticut’s community-college debt-free scholarship, Pledge to Advance Connecticut (PACT). Students must apply and be registered for a full-time schedule of courses by July 15 to be eligible for PACT. It is free to apply to the college. The sessions will also include time for questions and answers. To register for a session and learn how to register for classes, visit asnuntuck.edu/admissions/how-to-enroll. Registration for the fall semester is now open.

Healthcare Heroes Nominations

Through July 17: BusinessWest and its sister publication, the Healthcare News, will pay tribute to the heroes of COVID-19 by dedicating their annual Healthcare Heroes program in 2020 to those who are have emerged as true heroes during this crisis. The deadline for nominations is July 17. Healthcare Heroes was launched by the two publications in 2017 to recognize those working in this all-important sector of the region’s economy, many of whom are overlooked when it comes to traditional recognition programs. Over the years, the program has recognized providers, administrators, emerging leaders, innovators, and collaborators. For 2020, the program will shift its focus somewhat to the COVID-19 pandemic and all those who are working in the healthcare field or helping to assist it at this trying time. All manner of heroes have emerged this year, and we invite you to nominate one — or several — for what has become a very prestigious honor in Western Mass.: the Healthcare Heroes award. All we need is a 400- to 500-word essay and/or two-minute video entry explaining why the group or individual stands out as an inspiration, and a truly bright star in a galaxy of healthcare heroes. These nominations will be carefully considered by a panel of independent judges, who will select the class of 2020. For more information on how to nominate someone for the Healthcare Heroes class of 2020, visit businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/nomination-form. Videos can be sent via dropbox to [email protected]. Healthcare Heroes is sponsored by Comcast Business and Elms College.

Nominations for Humane Awards

Through July 31: Dakin Humane Society is accepting nominations from the public for its Dakin Humane Awards until July 31. Nominees should be people who go out of their way to care for animals in need, people who volunteer to help animals, or people and/or animals who have provided significant public service or shown courage in a crisis. Finalists in each of the award categories will be picked from among the nominees and notified of their selection in August. The award ceremony will be livestreamed at a later date in the fall, and one winner in each of the categories will be announced. There are five awards to be bestowed: the Frances M. Wells Award, given to an individual recognized for notable contributions to the health and welfare of animals; the Youth Award, honoring a hero, age 16 or younger, whose extraordinary care and compassion makes a difference in the life of an animal, and makes the world a kinder and gentler place; the Champion Award, given to a public servant who makes life better for tens of thousands of animals and people in their community, and recognizing their dedication and compassion on behalf of animals and people in need; the Richard and Nathalie Woodbury Philanthropy Award, paying homage to an individual who displays a remarkable sense of stewardship in sharing time, talent, and financial resources to improve the lives of animals and people who love them; and the Animal Hero Award, recognizing an exceptional animal and handler (when applicable) whose valor and extraordinary devotion to people proved life-saving in disastrous or challenging heath circumstances. Nominations are being accepted online only at bit.ly/2NOcgps. Mail-in nominations will not be accepted. Nominees should be residents of Central or Western Mass. or Northern Connecticut.

MCLA Gallery 51 Virtual Artist Series

Through Aug. 8: MCLA Gallery 51 will continue its online program, the G51 Virtual Artist Series, live via Zoom at noon on alternating Saturdays. Local, regional, national, and international artists will give virtual tours of their studios and discuss their practices. Discussions with the artists will also be recorded for later viewing. The series kicked off on May 16. The gallery’s full spring programming schedule is available on its website. Upcoming artists include Sula Bermudez-Silverman (July 11), whose conceptual work intertwines multiple issues, investigating and critiquing the issues of race, gender, and economics; Kim Faler (July 25), a local, multi-disciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, and photography, whose art practice unpacks the emotional weight found within everyday objects and architecture; and Anina Major (Aug. 8), who works with topics of identity, slavery, the female body, Bahamian culture, and more. She considers her creative practice to be a response to continuous erasure and a culture that is constantly being oversimplified.

Submission Period for Virtual Art Show

Through Aug. 13: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAMI Western Massachusetts will present a virtual art show this year, and is now accepting artwork for the show. Submissions are limited to individuals living with a mental-health diagnosis, and the artwork will be displayed on the organization’s website and social-media pages for a limited time, then switched out for new artwork. To submit, e-mail a picture of the art to [email protected]. Note the size of the piece, the medium, and the price if it is for sale. The artist should also specify if they want their name used. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 13.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Company Notebook

UMass to Expand Online Educational Opportunities

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts and Chapman University System announced their intent to form an exclusive strategic partnership between UMass Online and Brandman University to expand educational opportunities for adult learners in Massachusetts and across the nation. This partnership, expected to be finalized later this year, will be launched as millions of adults in Massachusetts and across the U.S. need flexible, high-quality, and affordable online-education alternatives now and as they recover from the economic dislocation caused by COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Based in Irvine, Calif., Brandman was established in 1958 by Chapman University, a 159-year-old private institution in Orange, Calif. Originally founded to deliver high-quality education to active-service military, Brandman has evolved into a widely recognized leader in online education, with a strong record of serving veterans and a diverse range of adult learners. The partnership will augment UMass Online, which now supports more than 25,000 students, strengthening its technology platform and student-support services tailored to adult learners. UMass President Marty Meehan recently cited dramatic declines in the number of high-school graduates and employers’ need for a highly skilled workforce in announcing plans to scale up online programming at UMass. He also cited the “troubling lack of economic mobility” among African-Americans and Hispanics. The economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has accelerated these challenges, and the need for new online education programs that remove the obstacles adult learners often face is now even more urgent. A key target group for the partnership will be adult learners in underserved communities. According to a Strada Network survey of 4,000 adults, most Americans (62%) are concerned about unemployment, but African-Americans are moreso (68%), and their Latinx and Asian counterparts are even more worried (72%). The same study indicated that 53% of adult learners prefer online education opportunities.

HMC Submits Proposal to Expand Psychiatric Bed Capacity

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has submitted a letter of intent and project proposal to the Massachusetts Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality to expand psychiatric bed capacity. The letter, sent on June 19, notified the Determination of Need Program that HMC will be completing an application for an additional 64 psychiatric beds. If approved, this will increase the hospital’s total capacity to 84 psychiatric beds, which will serve adult and geriatric populations. The 68,000-square-foot Holyoke Medical Center Behavioral Health Pavilion proposal includes 48 adult psychiatric beds, 36 geriatric beds, and 4,000 square feet of shell space for future expansion or uses to be determined later. Population statistics and competitive analysis suggest that there is a need within a 14-mile radius of Holyoke Medical Center for 52 adult psychiatric beds and 36 geriatric psychiatric beds. The proposal also includes a parking analysis and parking-garage study, which could provide an additional 60 to 180 parking spaces. Holyoke Medical Center is partnered with Signet Health Corp., assisting the hospital in the delivery of behavioral-health services by providing management and consulting services. The Leo Brown Group, a full-service healthcare real-estate development and solutions company, will design and build the facility. It is estimated that, once approved by state and local officials, the new facility will take 18 months to complete and become operational.

Monson Savings Bank to Open New Branch in East Longmeadow

EAST LONGMEADOW — Monson Savings Bank announced the expansion of its branch network into East Longmeadow. This new office, located at 61 North Main St., is expected to open in late summer. The full-service branch will offer an extensive array of consumer and commercial products, traditional banking products, wealth-management products, and several robust digital solutions that have grown more important in today’s environment. It has been the bank’s goal to further expand the markets it serves.

Royal, P.C. Moves to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm of Royal, P.C. has moved to Springfield. Founded by attorney Amy Royal in 2008, Royal, P.C. is now located in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield, at 819 Worcester St., Suite 2. “Springfield is where I grew up, so it felt natural to relocate my law firm here,” Royal said. “Indian Orchard, with its unique history, has always felt like a special place within the city to me, and its geography otherwise places us in a more centralized location with respect to our Central and Eastern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut clients.” The telephone and fax numbers of (413) 586-2288 and (413) 586-2281 remain the same. For more information about the firm, visit www.theroyallawfirm.com.

Bay Path Launches Risk Management Degree

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University is expanding its focus in the rapidly growing area of cybersecurity — and helping to bring more women into it — with the introduction of an undergraduate major in risk management. In addition, the university will offer scholarships to women looking to obtain degrees in cybersecurity. Made possible by Strada Education Network, these scholarships will help offset the cost of fall 2020 enrollment in cybersecurity programs. The term ‘risk management’ applies to the forecasting and evaluation of risks alongside the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize their impact. This new program concentration will include coursework in data privacy, project management, crisis management, and incident recovery. With nearly 80% of the organizations surveyed for the 2019 Marsh Microsoft Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey ranking cyber risks as a top-five concern, but only 11% feeling adequately prepared to assess and address those threats, the need for risk managers in the cybersecurity sphere is more important than ever. Within those responding organizations, the majority of board members and senior executives responsible for their organization’s cyber risk management reported that they had less than a day in the last year to spend focused on cyber risk issues.

ValleyBike Share Launches 2020 Season

PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share — the electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley that includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus — has launched the 2020 season in select locations. Remaining stations will be opened over the following weeks. ValleyBike boasts more than 40,000 active members, who have ridden more than 280,000 miles on 126,940 trips. Due to the situation with Covid-19, ValleyBike is urging members to sanitize the handles, seat, and PIN pad before and after using the bikes. Every time the maintenance team touches a bike, it will be fully sanitized, but the public can do their part to keep themselves and others safe. Visit www.valleybike.org for more information and to find out how to become a member.

Art Therapy/Counseling Program Accredited at Springfield College

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling master’s-degree program has been granted initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), effective immediately. Awarded after a peer review by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and the CAAHEP board of directors, this accreditation determined the Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling program was in substantial compliance with nationally established accreditation standards. Students enrolled in the program will have the option to either pursue a master of science or master of education degree. Graduates are master’s-level clinicians who can jump right into the workforce or pursue additional licensure opportunities, which will allow them to earn a license in the mental-health field after graduation and to obtain board certification as an art therapist.

Applied Mortgage Giving Makes $45,000 Regional Donation

NORTHAMPTON — Applied Mortgage Giving announced a new campaign, the Vitality Grant, which will be donated to six local community organizations: Downtown Amherst Foundation (Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and Amherst Business Improvement District), Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Franklin County, and United Way of Hampshire County. These organizations will each receive a portion of the gift to use at their discretion to support their work in the community. The Vitality Grant — sponsored by Applied Mortgage Giving, the charitable arm of Applied Mortgage, a d/b/a of HarborOne Mortgage, LLC — is designed to positively influence and provide opportunities for the success of small businesses and nonprofits in Hampshire and Franklin counties. Applied Mortgage Giving will be partnering with the local chambers and United Ways, hoping to enhance these organizations’ opportunities to meet the specific needs of their communities. For more information or questions regarding the Vitality Grant, e-mail LaBonte at [email protected].

Westfield State Accepting Applications for Addiction Counselor Education Program

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education is accepting applications for the 2020-21 addiction counselor education (ACE) program. Classes will be held evenings and weekends starting in September 2020 and ending in May 2021. The goal of this non-credit certificate program, offered at the university since 1991, is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and techniques necessary for the successful treatment of individuals and families afflicted by alcoholism and/or other drug addictions. This program has been highly instrumental in the professional development of individuals in Western Mass. who are either working or interested in the growing healthcare field of addiction services. To help with this mission, Westfield State also offers the ACE program at a satellite location, in Pittsfield, to help train potential counselors in the Berkshires area to fill critical positions in treatment facilities that are understaffed and unable to fill open positions. Applications for both programs are available online at www.westfield.ma.edu/ace. For more information, or to receive an application by mail, contact Brandon Fredette at [email protected] or (413) 572-8033.

Pittsfield Cooperative Bank Supports Resilience Fund

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) announced it has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers. This new fund was established in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting impact on local farmers, who are hurting right now as stores, restaurants, and other income-generating avenues like farmers’ markets and CSA are closed or operating in different, logistically challenging ways due to the virus. Despite these challenges, many farmers are reaching out to contribute healthy food to the neediest among us and sell as much as they can directly to consumers. The goal of the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure that farms remain viable and sustainable so they continue to meet demand for healthy, local foods. In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to pivot and establish the Berkshire County-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which in its first eight weeks served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system. The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation. J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, added that the bank “is proud to support the work of the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and the Resilience Fund for Farmers during this extraordinary time. At a time when local food systems and healthy food is important to our communities more than ever before, we thank them for their work.”

MCLA Receives Two Awards from Council for Advancement and Support of Education

NORTH ADAMS — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announced it has received two awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), a global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement. The college received an Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Performance in the category of Public Liberal Arts Institutions and a Circle of Excellence Award for its 2018-19 President’s Report. This is the first year MCLA has been recognized by this program. The annual Educational Fundraising Awards recognize exemplary development programs based on a blind review of data submitted to the CASE Voluntary Support of Education survey. Winners are selected based on factors and variables that include, but are not limited to, patterns of growth, overall breadth of fundraising, amount raised per student, and alumni participation. The Circle of Excellence Awards recognize institutions whose staff members advanced their institutions through innovative, inspiring, and creative ideas. The awards acknowledge superior accomplishments that have lasting impact, demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, and deliver exceptional results. CASE judges commended the 2018-19 President’s Report, which was developed by MCLA’s Department of Marketing and Communications staff, on its theme and narrative flow, effective use of vintage and modern photographs and design elements, concise but not spare use of color, and the overall feeling of community it expressed, among other praise.

Coronavirus

Responding to COVID-19 Has Been Hair-raising to Say the Least

Judy Puffer

Judy Puffer, founder and owner of Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa in Westfield

Judy Puffer knows she’s ready for a vacation. What she doesn’t know is whether she’s going to get one any time soon.

With that, she speaks for the vast majority of business owners and managers coping with everything the COVID-19 pandemic is throwing at them. In short, shutting down the economy was anything but a break for most people in business, reopening was exhausting on many levels, and doing business now is … well, anything but business as usual or what life was like before any of us heard of that now infamous name followed by a number.

“I was working hard behind the scenes — probably harder than when we were open,” said Puffer, founder and owner of Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa in Westfield, who told BusinessWest that the past three and a half months have easily been her most trying in business. And while most all aspects of that business are now open again, getting here wasn’t easy, and challenges remain.

Replaying the tape from the past 100 days or so, she recounted challenges ranging from shortages of needed supplies and encounters with price gouging to lack of guidance from the state and federal governments regarding how and when reopening would occur, to clogged phone lines once the ‘open’ sign was back on the door.

Some of this she could see coming, like those busy phone lines, but most of it she couldn’t, and as she retells her story, one can sense the exhaustion, exasperation, and, yes, relief in her voice now that most of the really hard stuff is in the past tense. Or so she hopes.

Turning the clock back to March 23, Puffer said from the day the shutdown order was given, the focus turned to reopening. And there were challenges everywhere, including this state’s slow, cautious approach — which actually turned out to be a kind of blessing in disguise, although she didn’t use those exact words.

“It was obstacle after obstacle after obstacle just trying to get set up to open. Governor Baker did a great job with all this, but he gave us very little notice; he said, ‘OK, you can open, but you have to have these protocols in place.’ It was like setting up a whole new way to do business, and we weren’t given much time to do it.”

“One of the things that really helped me was being part of the Aveda Corporation,” she said, referring to the Minneapolis-based supplier of high-end health and beauty products that has affiliated with salons across the country. “The company immediately started owner calls, two a week that ran for an hour to an hour and a half; what they would do is get people from a variety of states on these webinars. That was huge because we were getting feedback from people who were opening in Georgia about the challenges they were facing; we were getting people from California who were still closed, talking about what they were doing to get open; we heard from people in Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, New York.

“All this really helped me,” she went on, “because there wasn’t really any guidance from this state from anyone. Getting that help from Aveda was huge because I could then take what these states were doing and put it into my culture and kind of be prepared.”

Elaborating, she referenced everything from shampooing customers — some states allowed it, while others didn’t — to blow-drying hair (again, some allowed it, others didn’t); from taking customers’ temperatures when they walked in the door to learning about a company that came up with plexiglass dividers on wheels to place between stylists’ stations.

The goal was to be as prepared as possible, and all those webinars certainly helped.

What also helped was some advice to think outside the box when it came to needed supplies, which she did after finding that items she ordered in March were simply not going to arrive. She managed to buy some alcohol for cleaning from another business in Westfield, spray bottles from another business owner, and a timely referral from an area dentist on where to procure thermometers in just a few days.

“It was obstacle after obstacle after obstacle just trying to get set up to open,” she recalled. “And we started the minute we closed. Governor Baker did a great job with all this, but he gave us very little notice; he said, ‘OK, you can open, but you have to have these protocols in place.’ It was like setting up a whole new way to do business, and we weren’t given much time to do it.”

The company reopened its salon the day after Memorial Day, with the salon aspects of the businesses opening a few weeks later, under the second stage of phase 2 — again, with very little time to prepare. Now, all but a few of the many services are available, with the rest, like the sauna, to come in phase 4.

Puffer says she’s managed because she was able to learn from others through those webinars and by anticipating what would come next so she could be ready for it.

It’s been a trying — and very tiring — experience. And that’s why she’s more than ready for the vacation she’s not likely to get any time soon. u

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

For This Springfield Business, Better Times Are on Tap

Ray Berry

Ray Berry, seen here at the site of White Lion’s new facility in Tower Square, now under construction, says the pandemic impacted virtually every aspect of his business.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Ray Berry’s White Lion Brewery was deemed an essential business by the state’s governor.

That means it was allowed to remain open when many others had to close amid efforts to flatten the curve and relieve the tension on the region’s healthcare system.

But as any other venture on that large list can attest, ‘essential’ does not mean free of challenges, headaches, anxiety, and uncertainty about what might come next.

Indeed, there’s been plenty of all of those things for this Springfield-based company that was looking toward 2020 as a watershed year, and still is in at least some respects.

Especially with plans for a much-anticipated taproom and accompanying restaurant in Tower Square — specifically the former Spaghetti Freddy’s site — now moving forward again after a halt to most forms of construction during the spring.

“Pre-COVID, we were really ramping up and starting to fire on all cylinders relative to sales and construction — we were about to onboard another salesperson and were also looking to obtain another vehicle and perhaps another part-time person to deliver our product,” he told BusinessWest. “And then … the pandemic hit.”

And it hit hard, impacting the company from “front to back,” as Berry put it.

“Pre-COVID, we were really ramping up and starting to fire on all cylinders relative to sales and construction — we were about to onboard another salesperson and were also looking to obtain another vehicle and perhaps another part-time person to deliver our product. And then … the pandemic hit.”

By that he meant virtually every aspect of the business, from the closure of the hundreds of bars and restaurants (as well as MGM Springfield) that sold White Lion to a halting of construction work on the brewery; from the canceling of high-profile events where the brand had a presence, such as the Holyoke Road Race, to the suspension of the beer gardens the company has hosted in downtown Springfield and Westfield during the summer and fall months.

“It was just like a crash — it all happened at once within a 48-hour period when the state and federal governments stepped in and put restrictions in place,” he noted, adding that, as sales plummeted (only liquor stores, also deemed essential, remained as a distribution point), the company had to lay off some of its employees in stages and figure out how to manage with those who remained.

White Lion has been helped by assistance programs on a number of levels, from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to the local Prime the Pump initiative created by the Development Department in Springfield, said Berry, adding that this help, coupled with the remaining business from liquor stores, enabled the company to stay on its feet during those brutal spring months.

And as the state continues to reopen businesses, the outlook for White Lion continues to brighten. Restaurants have reopened across the region, and the state’s casinos have been given the green light to open their doors, although MGM Springfield has not given a specific date when it might do so. And work has resumed on the project in Tower Square, and Berry is projecting that his crew can be in and brewing beer by the end of this month.

“The taproom component is under construction now,” he went on, “and we hope that by mid-August, the taproom piece, as well the kitchen piece, will be complete, and that by the end of August or early September we can start welcoming people into the space.”

Meanwhile, White Lion has recalled most of its seven employees and expects to be “whole” in that regard by late July, he said.

Projecting beyond the next few months is difficult, but Berry believes the company will be able to open its beer gardens in late August or early September, noting that these ventures will be part of phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.

Looking back — and ahead — Berry, echoing countless other business owners across every sector of the economy, said the pandemic has provided a stern test, one he believes his team is passing through determination and imagination.

“It’s been a challenge in every way you can imagine,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s just a predicament that we’re in, and we have to pivot and continue to find ways to remain resourceful and efficient for the benefit of the sustainability of the company.

“I always said that we’re all resilient as people,” he went on. “And there’s always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know how long that tunnel may be, but there will be a light, and we’re starting to see some of that that now.”

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

Growing Need for Tents Is Helping Company Through a Trying Year

Greg Jerome stands by one of the tents

Greg Jerome stands by one of the tents his company supplied to the High Street Clinic in Springfield, an example of how the pandemic has created some opportunities while robbing the company of many others.

Greg Jerome didn’t want to get into any specific revenue numbers, but he made it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has made this a year to forget for his business, Westfield-based Jerome’s Party Plus.

But he also made it clear that, if not for certain aspects of the pandemic, the numbers would be even worse.

Indeed, for this venture, and others like it, tent rentals are a big part of the portfolio. And while the pandemic has wiped all kinds of tent-worthy events off the calendar — from weddings to graduation parties to town gatherings like ‘taste of’ events — it has also driven considerable need for this item, especially over the past several weeks as sectors of the economy and specific types of businesses began to reopen.

That list includes restaurants, summer camps, and even churches, said Jerome, president of this family-run business that has 200 tents in its inventory, noting that his crews have been kept busy putting up tents in recent weeks, and not so much taking them down, because this year, when a tent goes up, it stays up for a while —perhaps the whole summer and beyond.

“We have more than 8,000 chairs, 800 tables, stages, dishware, glassware, flatware, linen, and many other items that have all been collecting dust for three months now.”

“And that’s just one of the things that makes this year very different,” he told BusinessWest, noting that going back to March, when he first installed a tent for Baystate Health for COVID-19 testing, the company has been involved with some unique undertakings.

However, he made it clear that, while he’s renting out tents, there is still a good supply available in the warehouse. Meanwhile, he’s not renting out much of anything else.

“We have more than 8,000 chairs, 800 tables, stages, dishware, glassware, flatware, linen, and many other items that have all been collecting dust for three months now,” said Jerome, adding that, while there is hope that some of these items may soon get back into circulation, the picture was further clouded by the cancelation of the Big E for 2020.

“The Big E cancellation will be our greatest loss of revenue this year,” said Jerome, noting that the Eastern States Exposition is his biggest customer and the fair is by far his biggest single event. “The cancellation of the fair certainly took the wind out of our sails; we always get excited during the push to install 150 tents and 3,500 chairs.”

For now, Jerome said his company is trying to make the most of the sudden, and still-surging, need for tents as businesses and institutions search for ways to carry on during the pandemic — often by moving activities and services outdoors. And his large inventory, especially when it comes to the bigger models, has certainly helped in this regard.

New and certainly non-traditional tent clients include several restaurants, including Shortstop Bar & Grill in Westfield, Tucker’s in Southwick, Captain Jimmy’s in Agawam, and Masse’s in Chicopee, among many others, as well as Blessed Sacrament Church in Westfield, which held services outdoors for several weeks and still uses a tent for those uncomfortable with going inside. The company has already supplied tents for several nonprofits with summer day programs, including the Greater Westfield YMCA and a few Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as the West Springfield Parks & Recreation Department.

It has also provided tents and other items for a number of drive-in COVID-testing sites operated by Baystate Health, including facilities in Westfield, Ware, Greenfield, and three locations in Springfield. This work goes back to mid-March when the company was hired by Baystate Health to create what Jerome called “cubicles” inside the new triage facility erected just outside the emergency room.

Elaborating, he said the company provided the piping, and another vendor supplied corrugated boards that were attached to the framework to create 33 private spaces.

For the drive-in sites, the company created a model that was eventually used at all six locations, facilities that also included a greeters’ tent and a heated tent-within-a-tent with clear sides that served as a type of nurses’ station.

These intriguing projects have certainly helped, but those thousands of items gathering dust and not seeing the light of day are the bigger story.

And they explain why this is certainly a different kind of year, when the pandemic has generated some business, but taken away so much more.

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

Chicopee-based Company Is Still Trying to Get Out of First Gear

Dennis King

Dennis King says the pandemic brought bus travel to a near standstill, impacting every type of customer in the company’s portfolio.

Dennis King says he’s experienced a number of subtle, but mostly not-so-subtle, cruelties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting with those low gas prices from a few months back and the fact that no one could really take advantage of them.

“Gas was $1.25 … and you had nowhere to go,” said King, president of Chicopee-based King Ward Bus Lines, who used that statement in reference to individuals and families — and just about every one of his customers.

Indeed, ‘nowhere to go’ applied — and still applies — to college and high-school sports teams, an important client base in the company’s portfolio. And to people seeking to visit one of the region’s casinos. And to groups heading to Red Sox games. And to people looking to go to a show in the Big Apple. And to classes going on school field trips.

All those sources of revenue dried up, seemingly overnight, for this family-owned business, said King, adding that the last bus left King Ward’s garages on March 14, and the company’s busiest time of the year was essentially wiped off the calendar.

“And our July is kind of on hold, because we don’t have any trips booked, unless something happens with the casinos,” he told BusinessWest, noting that, while the Connecticut gaming palaces are open, they are currently not accepting bus groups. The Bay State’s casinos are set to open early this month, but it isn’t known if they will accept bus groups.

As for the future … it is a giant question mark, he said, noting that, while the Red Sox may start playing again, it’s not known if there will be any fans in the stands. Meanwhile, Saratoga Raceway in New York and countless other venues that people travel to by bus are closed for the summer or the rest of the year. Meanwhile, no one really knows if there will be any high-school and college athletics this coming fall, or any school field trips.

“Gas was $1.25 … and you had nowhere to go.”

And then, there’s the Big E, another important source of revenue for the company. It’s been canceled for 2020, leaving another huge hole in the budget that will be difficult to fill .

Faced with idle buses, King said he laid off or furloughed all but a few of his employees back in the spring. He’s looking to bring some office staff and mechanics back on Aug. 1 and hopes things get busier come September.

“We’re banking on college athletics coming back,” he noted. “If there is a light at the end of the tunnel — and that’s if — it would be schools getting back in session.”

As for the casinos, and especially MGM, King Ward was given what was at the time (the summer of 2018) thought to be a game-changing contract to bring people to the casino from various destinations across the region. To say things haven’t worked out as planned would be an understatement, said King, noting that the service — subsidized by MGM at the start — was scaled back only six months after the casino opened in August 2018, and it eventually evolved into a door-to-door service using vans rather than buses, with those choosing this option getting credits for the gaming floor and lunch — what amounted to what King called “a free ride to the casino.”

“But it never really took off,” he said, adding quickly that the service does have the potential to grow, and, like many others, he’s watching and waiting to see if and when the casino will reopen.

There will be a lot of watching and waiting for this company, which, like so many others, is dependent on other businesses and institutions for its livelihood. The pandemic has impacted all of them, and, as noted earlier, the trickle-down, in this specific case, was much more like a torrent.

So much so that King was one of many within the bus industry who ventured to Washington, D.C. several weeks ago to lobby elected leaders for financial assistance for a sector he said is often overlooked within the larger transportation industry.

“I don’t expect to be busy again until Labor Day, unless something happens and the casinos start accepting buses,” he told BusinessWest, adding that ‘busy’ is certainly a relative term in 2020, and there are myriad factors that will determine when, and to what extent, the buses start rolling again.

Still optimistic, despite a gloomy year to date, King said people are calling and asking about service to the casinos.

“People are ready to get out — they’ve been cooped up for a long time,” he said, adding that he hopes there will soon be places to take people.

Gas certainly won’t be as cheap as it was back in March, but all things considered, that’s certainly one of the more subtle cruelties stemming from the pandemic.

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

‘The Place Where COVID Goes to Die’ Is Still in Recovery Mode

Rebecca Merigian

Rebecca Merigian says the pandemic, by canceling all kinds of events and shuttering businesses like MGM Springfield, put a huge dent in dry-cleaning volume.

Rebecca Merigian can’t find too many silver linings in this COVID-19 pandemic.

But at least people still need clean shirts for those Zoom meetings. Dress pants? Not so much.

“We’ve seen a lot of shirt business, and we’ve actually picked up quite a few new shirt customers,” said Merigian, owner of Springfield-based Park Cleaners, adding quickly that most of her other steady supplies of business have run dry or mostly dry over the past three and half months.

That includes MGM Springfield, which awarded her a lucrative contract just before it opened nearly two years ago — one that sends uniforms for all its employees her way — that effectively tripled her business volume. The casino closed in mid-March, as did a host of other businesses, and Park Cleaners was just one of many local vendors to take a huge hit when it did.

“We’ve heard from them … they’re starting to bring some employees back, so we’re on call,” she said, adding quickly that she’s not sure how many will be back and just how much work will be coming back in.

But the fallout goes well beyond the casino, said Merigian, second-generation owner of this family business. As large numbers of people continue to work at home she noted, there is far less need to get dress clothes cleaned and pressed. But beyond workplace clothes, the company has been hit by the almost complete stop to many types of events for which people needed clothes cleaned and pressed.

“There’s been no weddings, no funerals, no graduations, no work … no anything to prepare for,” she said, adding that overall, she projects that business if off a whopping 85% to 90% from a year ago, with MGM’s closure being easily the biggest hit.

She has been helped by the stay-at-home trend in a few respects, though; she reports that people are being more diligent about cleaning in general, and especially about cleaning linens, bedding, and other items. Meanwhile, some don’t want to spend their time doing the wash, so they’re sending it in to be cleaned and folded.

“There’s been no weddings, no funerals, no graduations, no work … no anything to prepare for.”

“Cleanliness has definitely been on people’s minds through all of this, and that’s helped keep us going,” she said, adding that she’s also noted an uptick in work cleaning uniforms for first responders, in part because there’s a nice discount forwarded to those frontline workers.

But even healthcare-related business is down, she noted, adding that many practices have only recently reopened and are seeing fewer patients. So if they dropped off items to be cleaned twice a week before the pandemic, now they’re down to once a week.

In the meantime, there are now a host of new protocols and safety precautions to follow at this business that has, informally, marketed itself as “the place where COVID goes to die,” Merigian said.

“It’s like starting over or starting a new business, with a very uncertain future — the risks are very high,” she said when asked to explain what the past several months have been like. “There are new rules, and we have to make sure that anyone who deals with contaminated laundry is fully prepared; we’ve had to change the way we do business, and that’s just one of the challenges.”

Like many business owners we spoke with, Merigian said that, while the focus has been on companies reopening — and that’s important — the issue isn’t whether they’re doing business, it’s whether they can make any money if they are. And for ventures in many sectors, the quick answers are either ‘no’ or ‘yes, but not enough.’

And there are obvious questions about when those answers will change.

Merigian says she’s heard from officials at MGM who tell her that some employees will be coming back ‘soon,’ and that some business will follow. But how much business remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, questions remain about when gatherings like weddings, business functions, and even funerals will return. And working from home may become a long-term proposition for many workers — if not something approaching permanent.

But, like most business we’ve spoken with in recent weeks, Merigian is looking optimistically toward fall and the possible return of something approaching ‘normal.’

“The fall definitely looks good, so long as COVID subsides or they find a vaccine,” she said. “I see a very good fall, but then I tend to be optimistic.

“It’s a waiting game,” she went on, referring specifically to MGM, but also to all those other events — and sources of business — she mentioned at the top. Until weddings and funerals resume and more workers return to the offices they left in early March, generating business will be a challenge.

In the meantime, at least people will need clean shirts for all those Zoom meetings.

—George O’Brien

Opinion

Editorial

Words and money.

That’s mostly what the business community has been throwing at the problems magnified by the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks in recent weeks.

The words have come in the forms of statements from CEOs expressing outrage over what has happened and support for Black Lives Matter. And they’ve come from everywhere, including many companies in this region. Some went public, others were kept internal, but they all struck the same general tones.

The money? It has come in the form of pledges made by corporations to fight racism and increase black wealth, and there have been many of them — from Bank of America, Walmart, Bain Capital, and myriad others.

While the words and monetary donations are welcome, the corporate world, and we’ll include nonprofits in this, needs to do more — much more. It needs to take steps that are sustainable and, well, institutional, to generate the kind of real change this critical moment in time demands.

Businesses large and small need to take the inititiative to not only understand systemic racism and the many forms it takes — that’s the key first step, because so many still do not understand it — but then take steps to address it with changes that become embedded in these companies’ cultures.

As the story on page 6 reveals, there are some signs that this might happen. Signs such as phone calls and e-mails to the Healing Racism Institute of the Pioneer Valley (HRIPV), a 501(c)(3) created several years ago after several area leaders were inspired by what they heard while on a City2City trip to Grand Rapids, Mich. What they saw was a city making slow but steady progress in efforts to understand and combat racism by bringing diverse audiences together in a room and talking about an issue that so few want to talk about.

Through these discussions, individuals and groups come to better understand that racism is real, it is systemic, and it needs to be addressed.

In recent years, HRIPV has hosted more than 800 people for its signature two-day session, which, overall, strives to help attendees understand there is only one human race.

Many of the phone calls and e-mails mentioned earlier involve individuals, groups, businesses, and nonprofits that have attended one of these sessions and want to know, essentially, what more they can do to address this age-old problem.

And as Vanessa Otero, the interim director of HRIPV, told BusinessWest, the ‘what’s next’ involves helping businesses and institutions move beyond acknowledging and comprehending racism to a point where they become anti-racist.

To help them get there, the institute is working to formalize and institutionalize a broader roster of services that include half- and full-day training sessions for board and staffs, onboarding services for companies to help ensure that new hires are ready to engage with an anti-racism work environment, and policies and procedures audits, designed to identify blind spots that disproportionately have an adverse effect on people of color.

We hope the institute builds the infrastructure needed to build and sustain these programs and that area companies and nonprofits embrace them. In the meantime, these same businesses and agencies need to take a hard look at their policies and practices, as well as the makeup of their boards and workforces, with an eye toward creating not only diversity, but equal opportunity.

Many have taken some positive steps in these directions in recent years, and to their own benefit, but much work remains to be done.

In short, while the words in statements and press releases and the checks with several zeroes on them are welcome and often helpful, this moment in time — and that’s exactly what it is — cries out for more.

Picture This

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

 


Breaking Ground

 

Florence Bank broke ground earlier this month on its third Hampden County branch at 705 Memorial Dr. in Chicopee, the former Hu Ke Lau site. The full-service location will open later this year. The bank has been working with Marois Construction of South Hadley, HAI Architecture of Northampton, and R. Levesque Associates, an engineering firm in Westfield, on the project. Pictured: Florence Bank President and CEO Kevin Day (left) poses with Chicopee Mayor John Vieau at the groundbreaking.


Feeding the Front Lines

 

Ludlow-based Pioneer Valley Financial Group and Mill’s Tavern & Grille recently partnered to cook and deliver food to front-line workers during the pandemic. Starting on April 10, PV Financial donated $350 to Mill’s Tavern each week to help pay for the cost of food and delivery, while a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $2,280 from the community. The donations have allowed Mill’s Tavern and PV Financial to deliver more than 400 meals to hospitals, police and fire departments, and pharmacies across Western Mass., including the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke (pictured), Baystate Mary Lane in Ware, and CVS Pharmacy in Ludlow.

 


Deserving Scholars

This spring, the Holyoke Community College Foundation awarded nearly $210,000 in scholarships to 200 incoming, current, and transferring HCC students and will set a record for the number of scholarships it distributes for the 2020-21 academic year, with 233. The number of applications for scholarships this year increased by 22%, from 391 to 479. Pictured: HCC business major Alexandra Clark is the recipient of this year’s Marguerite I. Lazarz Memorial Scholarship from the HCC Foundation.

 

Company Notebook

Mill Town Buys Bousquet Mountain

PITTSFIELD — Mill Town, a community-impact investment firm, announced it has acquired Bousquet Mountain, one of the oldest ski areas in the country and a training ground for many top U.S. ski racers, from the Tamarack Ski Nominee Trust and owners Sherry and P.J. Roberts. The sale includes 155 acres across four parcels, including the summit of Yokun Ridge, 22 trails, multiple buildings, and operational equipment. “We are excited to keep Bousquet as a vital recreational resource for the region,” said Tim Burke, Mill Town’s CEO and managing director. “A significant focus of our work is to invest in and improve businesses, real estate, and outdoor recreational assets in Pittsfield to make it a stronger city and an appealing place for families and employers. Bousquet met all of these criteria. We plan to invest in the ski-operation infrastructure and the lodge, and we are excited to work with strong partners to enhance the on-mountain experience.” On that front, Mill Town and Berkshire East Mountain Resort of Charlemont announced a collaboration agreement. As part of this agreement, Berkshire East and Catamount management, including owners Jon and Jim Schaefer, will advise Bousquet on capital and operational decisions and investments. Bousquet will also be a component of the Berkshire Pass, joining Berkshire East and Catamount as the third mountain to be featured as part of this season-pass program. “We are thrilled to partner with Mill Town to ensure Bousquet will be a respected skiing and outdoor-recreation asset for years to come,” Jim and Jon Schaefer said. “Positioned between Berkshire East and Catamount, we feel that Bousquet will provide significant value to Berkshire Pass holders as another great skiing and riding option in Western Massachusetts. We think there is a great future here.”

Springfield College Students Assist with COVID-19 Data Project

SPRINGFIELD — Students from the Springfield College health science major have been working on a national project to track the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Students Yue Li, Ashley Tanner, Alexandra Christine Jones, Brenna Keefe, Dhruvi Patel, and Callie Dowd have been taking part in an internship to assist with this project. Participating students are responsible for tracking historical data and collecting daily data, as well as participating in special-interest team projects that include computer-based automation, data visualization, infectious disease, policy, social media, and fundraising. This internship is part of BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project, a collaboration of more than 200 students, statisticians, epidemiologists, healthcare experts, and data scientists throughout the country, Springfield College Assistant Professor of Public Health Sofija Zagarins explained. The project is a collaboration of more than 40 colleges and universities throughout the U.S., bringing together people who are committed to having the most accurate, community-level data about COVID-19 positive tests and fatality rates. Along with Springfield College, colleges and universities also taking part include Harvard University, Yale University, Boston University, Temple University, and Duke University. Through BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project Internship, healthcare professionals have access to data that can help them to improve how they spend their time and resources on improving community health. “We have been humbled by the outpouring of support, especially from the collegiate community,” BroadStreet co-founder Tracy Flood said. “We know that, right now, students have a unique set of challenges trying to navigate these difficult times. Despite this, we wanted to recognize students who have graciously donated their time and talent to our project.” For more information about the project, visit covid19dataproject.org to follow along with information and updates from the participants.

Eversource Completes Westfield Reliability Project

WESTFIELD — Eversource has completed construction of the Westfield Reliability Project, installing a three-mile-long electric circuit on an existing 115-kilovolt overhead transmission line in Westfield to help ensure the continued and safe delivery of reliable power. Part of the energy company’s work to ensure reliability for customers, the Westfield Reliability Project is one of many transmission upgrades to help meet the electric system’s evolving needs to support a clean-energy future. “With many people continuing to work and learn from home, the safe and reliable delivery of power has never been more essential than it is during these uncertain times,” said Eversource President of Transmission Bill Quinlan. “The completion of the Westfield Reliability Project is an exciting development in our efforts to serve our customers and to support economic growth in the future. As restoration and landscaping continue through the spring and summer, we will maintain close communication and collaboration with our host communities, property owners, and businesses while adhering to social distancing and other best practices to safeguard health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The power lines have been installed on existing structures along the right of way from the Pochassic substation, near Oakdale Avenue, to the Buck Pond substation near Medeiros Way. The Westfield Reliability Project also includes constructing new equipment adjacent to Eversource’s existing Pochassic substation and related upgrades to the Buck Pond substation. Eversource representatives have been working closely with city officials. As the energy company’s crews and contractors work to complete final construction activities, including environmental monitoring and reporting, they continue to follow strict safety precautions, including practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and using enhanced sanitation practices. “We are grateful to our host communities for their input and partnership throughout the planning process, as well as their understanding and patience, as we work together to serve the public during the pandemic,” Quinlan said. “We remain committed to being a good neighbor and environmental steward as this project will deliver benefits to the region for years to come.” This project is one of several designed to strengthen the electric system serving Pittsfield, Greenfield, and surrounding areas.

Area Nonprofits Receive $230,000 from Harvard Pilgrim Foundation

WORCESTER — A total of 25 Central and Western Mass. nonprofits have received nearly $230,000 from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for COVID-19 relief efforts. Most organizations in the region received a $10,000 grant for supporting community needs during the pandemic, such as food access and meal delivery, services for older adults and immigrant families, social and community services, and emergency response. “Now more than ever, it is so critical to support our communities and organizations who are providing services to those residents of Central and Western Mass. impacted by COVID-19,” said Patrick Cahill, vice president and Massachusetts market lead for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the foundation’s parent company. “The impact of this pandemic is enormous, and right from the start, we responded to the immediate needs facing nonprofit partners and communities. We are very grateful to all who are helping to feed and care for our community members, and we are committed to supporting them in the weeks and months ahead.” Among the 25 recipients, the following 10 Western Mass. organizations received funding as part of the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation’s COVID-19 Assistance Fund: Berkshire County Arc (Pittsfield), Gardening the Community (Springfield), Greater Springfield Senior Services (Springfield), Grow Food Northampton (Northampton), Just Roots Inc. (Greenfield), Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry (Chicopee), Nuestras Raices Inc. (Holyoke), Rooting Rises (Pittsfield), Stone Soup Café Inc. (Greenfield), and UMass Amherst. The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation committed more than $3.5 million in initial grants for COVID-19 relief efforts in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

Coronavirus Cover Story

Shell-shocked Businesses Respond with Grit, Determination

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked businesses large and small in virtually every sector of the economy. The individual stories vary somewhat, but there are several common themes — lost revenue streams, struggles to make payroll and pay the bills, and large amounts of uncertainty about what the future holds. But there are other commonalities as well, including a willingness, born of necessity, to respond to this crisis — the worst situation any of these business owners have faced — with determination, imagination, and the will to find a way to get to the ‘other side.’ For this issue, BusinessWest talked with 10 business owners about what has happened since the pandemic arrived with brutal force three incredibly long months ago, and how they’re battling back. These are their COVID stories.

Zasco Productions

Event company works to pivot, position itself for the long term

Jim White says business at Go Graphix is down considerably

Go Graphix

In a sign of the times, this company has pivoted into new products

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy

Lenzy Dermatology

Practice owner says many patients still wary of returning to her office

Liz Rosenberg

TheToy Box

Shop owner finds ways to share joy at a time when it’s badly needed

Teddy Bear Pools

During peak season, this area fixture is making up for lost weeks

Sarah Eustis

Main Street Hospitality

Hotel group continues to grow through an uncertain time

Lenny Underwood

Lenny Underwood

For this photographer and sock maker, the pandemic is a developing story

Doug Mercier, right, with brother and partner Chuck

Mercier Carpet

Pandemic poses challenges, opportunities for flooring company

Bernie Gelinas said his appointment book has been full

Cuts Plus

Salon owner says he missed the relationships the most

Eastside Grill’s new outdoor seating area

Eastside Grill

Restaurant owner says reopening will be exciting, but scary, too

Coronavirus

In a Sign of the Times, This Company Has Pivoted into New Products

Jim White says business at Go Graphix is down considerably

Jim White says business at Go Graphix is down considerably because major clients like MGM Springfield have shut down, but he’s managed to pivot and get work like these social-distancing signs.

Jim White says it took him 15 years to go from zero to 60 with his business. And 15 days to go from 60 to zero.

That’s how the co-founder of East Longmeadow-based Go Graphix, a maker of signs, vehicle wraps, and a host of other marketing products, described that two-week period back in March when business came to a near standstill.

That’s because most all of the company’s major clients — MGM Springfield, the MassMutual Center, sports teams like the Thunderbirds — came to a complete halt.

It seems like years ago now,” White said of those days in March. “It was tough — probably the toughest times I’ve experienced in business.”

With many of those businesses still shut down, Go Graphix has pivoted into other niche products that could be described as ‘COVID-related,’ said White, adding that it now has what could be called a line of ‘back-to-work’ products, including social-distancing graphics — those ‘Please Stay 6 Feet Apart’ signs now appearing across the region — as well as the protective barriers that are also appearing almost everywhere.

Still, revenues for April and May of this year are down roughly 80% from their levels of a year ago. The company, which had to lay off a few workers and cut most employees back to four days a week, has been helped by federal assistance, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — and White’s ‘save for a rainy day’ philosophy, passed down by his parents.

“That’s what you get with the son of a commission-only heavy-equipment sales rep,” he said. “We knew every recession, because it was a depression. And my parents saved, and I learned from them.”

Flashing back to early March, White said that’s when a number of major clients had to shut down operations, which brought operations at the Benton Road facility to something approaching a standstill.

Those clients include MGM Springfield, for which the company makes a wide variety of promotional items, from signage for upcoming events to the dasher-board advertisements for the skating rink.

“That’s what you get with the son of a commission-only heavy-equipment sales rep. We knew every recession, because it was a depression. And my parents saved, and I learned from them.”

“They’ve been one of our best customers,” said White, noting that his company was one of many fortunate local businesses to become vendors for the casino operator. “Throughout the casino, you see a lot of promotional graphics, and we were doing things on a weekly basis — work that came to screeching halt.”

But even clients that weren’t shut down and were actually doing well had put work given to Go Graphics on hold, said White, citing the example of beer distributors, for which the company provides vehicle wraps.

“They were so busy, they couldn’t leave the trucks with us for a day to be wrapped — they needed them on the road,” he explained. “They were hitting all the package stores, which were doing really well during all this. That was tough one for us; we’re thinking, ‘even the guys who are doing great can’t do any business with us.’”

Beyond the PPP loan, what has helped the company through the crisis has been its ability to adapt and create new product lines. White calls this the “great pivot.”

It involves making plexiglass shields for a number of clients, including Baystate Health, Monson Savings, J. Polep, Hartford Hospital, and others, as well as social-distancing signage now seen in virtually every sector of the economy.

As he talked with BusinessWest at the plant, he stopped to display the round ‘Please Stay 6 Feet Apart’ signs bound for Staples’ corporate headquarters, a contract that has provided a good amount of work for the company.

As for the plexiglass partitions, most of them are custom orders, and the work is intricate, which is why a number of businesses across several sectors have decided on Go Graphix for the work.

“We’re not just providing an off-the-shelf solution,” he said, while pointing to some models bound for Baystate Health. “And the orders keep coming in — we’ve pivoted, and we’re going for it.”

And White has to hope that the orders keep coming in, because plexiglass is now a commodity; amid fears that short supplies would become even shorter, he ordered a lot of it.

“It’s kind of toilet paper in the early days of this pandemic,” he said with a laugh. “Everyone’s looking to get it, and it’s becoming harder to find. But we have some good suppliers, and I’ve made the investment in a good amount, even though it scares me to the core. I figured, ‘I’d better be the guy who has it on hand,’ and just pray that we sell it.”

All indications are that he probably will as companies scramble to take the necessary steps to reopen, a process likely to play itself out over the next several months.

As White said repeatedly, this isn’t work he could have imagined doing just four months ago, but he’s very grateful to have it — an attitude that’s understandable after watching a company go from zero to 60 to 15 years, and 60 to zero in just a few painful weeks.

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

Practice Owner Says Many Patients Still Wary of Returning to Her Office

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy, like many healthcare practitioners, says many of her patients are reluctant to come to the office out of fear of contracting COVID-19, leaving overall volume down considerably.

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy admits to not knowing exactly what would happen when she officially reopened the doors to her Chicopee-based dermatology practice on May 18.

She knew what she was hoping to see — that patients who had put off coming to see her for more than two months out of fear of the virus would start scheduling appointments and getting their concerns and even routine checkups addressed.

And while that’s happening to some degree, the numbers are not what she hoped, although Lenzy would be the first to say that two weeks’ worth of data is probably not enough to make a definitive statement on what it all means.

“Last week was better than this week,” she said toward the tail end of May, adding quickly that she wasn’t sure just how this was attributable to the Memorial Day holiday or other factors. “We’re still not reaching the numbers we set as a goal — even the reduced numbers we established by limiting the number of office visits to half what they would be normally to allow social distancing.”

Lenzy, who opened her practice in 2014 and quickly built up a clientele of some 30,000 patients, believes her venture is typical of most others in the broad healthcare realm when it comes to the impact of the pandemic and the ways in which it has changed business — in some cases for the long term.

This is true of everything from the emergence of telehealth as a way to evaluate patients remotely (more on this later) to the manner in which the crisis brought the practice to a precarious place, where Lenzy, who has a staff of nine, wasn’t sure if she was going to able to make payroll.

With some relief from the CARES Act, specifically in the form of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, Lenzy has been able to pay people and keep all her staffers employed — although that money can only be used for another few weeks.

She — like just about every small-business owner who has received such a loan — is already starting to think about what happens when that money runs out. That’s because normal, as in life in mid-February before the pandemic reached Western Mass., still seems a long way off.

Flashing back to the pre-pandemic days — that’s a phrase all business owners and managers have added to their lexicon — Lenzy said hers was a very busy practice. And while deemed essential because of the services it provides, the office closed on March 18 — again, like most all healthcare practices in the region — and shifted to seeing patients virtually.

And, for the most part, this move to telehealth went smoothly.

“It was definitely a generational piece,” she explained. “Some of our older patients had some difficulties, but they were able to get people to help them; some people don’t have smartphones or don’t have computers with cameras, so we did so some phone visits. But some people preferred to wait until we were back in the office.”

As for the business, while Lenzy she kept all her employees on, she cut back hours from 40 to 30 a week. “That was still a stretch,” she said. “But I wanted to keep everything going.”

“Even with seeing people virtually, we were barely able to meet payroll, let alone all our other expenses. That program did exactly what it was designed to do.”

The PPP money arrived her account in the beginning of May, and it provided some desperately needed breathing room.

“Even with seeing people virtually, we were barely able to meet payroll, let alone all our other expenses,” she said, adding that there are many of those, including rent and supplies. “That program did exactly what it was designed to do.”

The practice reopened exactly two months after it closed, but this was and is a phased reopening, she explained, noting that, to maintain social distancing, roughly half the staff works at home a few days each week and continues to see patients virtually.

“There’s always one provider in the offices at a time to see patients,” she said. “And we’re limiting the number of patients per hour that are in the office; with our specialty, we do a lot of procedures, like biopsies and freezing, so a lot of the patients that we’ve seen virtually needed to come into the office and have something done.”

They’re coming in, but, as noted earlier, not in the numbers this practice needs to get back on secure financial footing.

“We cut our volume in half, but we haven’t been able to even do that,” she said, adding, again, that she’s working with a small sample of data. “In talking to our front desk, we have some people who still don’t want to come out, so we’re trying to convert those people to virtual care.”

As for when things will get better and those numbers will improve, Lenzy said that will happen when and if more people feel comfortable enough to go back to the office.

“Our success and how we fare depends on peoples’ comfort levels,” she told BusinessWest. “And right now, it’s too early to say when people will reach this comfort level. My front desk is telling me that now, many people are saying, ‘I just want to wait.’”

—George O’Brien

Coronavirus

Shop Owner Finds Ways to Share Joy at a Time When It’s Badly Needed

Liz Rosenberg

Liz Rosenberg says customers appreciate the messages on the front door of the Toy Box, as they wait for her to reopen that door.

One of Liz Rosenberg’s favorite games — to both play and sell — is called Lion in My Way.

“It’s for ages 5 and up,” said the owner of the Toy Box in Amherst. “You’re presented, in card form, with obstacles, like a lion in your way, a giant wall, all sorts of things. And then you have a hand of cards that are ideas how to get past this obstacle — maybe a catapult or balloon or a sandwich to feed the lion. You have to create the story. I feel like this is the greatest game.”

And not just because she feels like she’s living it every day.

“It’s a great lesson in, ‘ugh, yes, this is awful, but what do I have in my pocket that I can use to get past the awful part and start making progress?’” she continued. “It’s all here in this game.”

Retailers across Massachusetts being told, three months ago, to close their doors indefinitely? That’s no game — but Rosenberg has been playing some effective cards.

Like morphing into a delivery service.

She recalls shuttering her shop on Sunday, March 15. “But I knew I was going to be in the next day to figure something out, and by the end of Monday, I was delivering toys,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘building the airplane as you fly it.’ It felt a lot like that.”

The strategy was to offer delivery within 20 minutes of the store — which gave her some solid territory to cover without infringing too much on similar stores in the region.

“It allowed me to get in my car in the morning and drive to the store and open it up, work all day, and at 2:00 make a route map and deliver to people’s driveways, and then go home,” she explained. “I didn’t have to interact with anyone.”

She soon found this model was actually functional, and used the Toy Box’s Facebook page to showcase as many items as possible to keep customers engaged. “My website is under construction, and now isn’t the time to focus on that, and people require visuals,” she said of her Facebook photo albums.

She also spends plenty of time offering gift ideas over the phone. “I find myself absolutely cracking up, standing here trying to describe something, my hands moving, hoping they get a visual on this. It’s really entertaining.”

The result hasn’t been anywhere near normal sales volume, but it has kept the shop afloat.

“But I knew I was going to be in the next day to figure something out, and by the end of Monday, I was delivering toys. I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘building the airplane as you fly it.’ It felt a lot like that.”

“I didn’t know what it would bring in; I didn’t really think about success,” Rosenberg told BusinessWest. “I just thought about day by day, and at the beginning of this, that’s where everyone’s head was — ‘it’s 10 in the morning; where is life going to be at 11?’”

Another card she drew on was humor — “because that’s how I live.” For example, the first day the doors were closed, she arranged a group of stuffed animals in the store window, with speech bubbles offering messages like “we miss your faces” and “we will deliver toys” and “we love you!”

“I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen from behind the register, taking pictures outside the front door. It makes me giggle.”

In the past couple of weeks, Rosenberg has played the curbside-pickup card — well, parking-lot pickup, “because we don’t have a curb” — and continued a popular gift offering known as ‘mystery bags,’ for which customers provide the recipient’s age and pay a discount price for a surprise assortment of goodies, such as putty, markers, stickers, mini-games, bouncy balls, and more.

“People trust our judgment on things their children or grandchildren or friends’ children might like,” she explained. “People tell me the age of the child and a couple things about them, and I put together little activities to keep them busy, keep them curious, and keep them educated. It’s gone over really well.”

Rosenberg is hoping to reopen the Toy Box in mid-June, depending on the guidance she gets from Boston, and is mulling ideas like shorter hours — perhaps half-days, or full days by appointment only — so she can manage staffing and sanitizing in a safe manner.

“As much as we’d like to be open for business, I only want to do it safely — against the virus and against unnecessary worry and anxiety,” she noted. “Anxiety is a real thing, and I don’t want people feeling forced to come into the store. So I will continue with deliveries and parking-lot pickup because, in my mind, that’s the safest way.”

One of the speech bubbles in the window reads, “we are essential.”

That may not be true in the eyes of Gov. Baker, but Rosenberg is quick to note how important it is for kids — who have, after all, been cooped up in their homes for about three months now — to experience joy through play.

“We are essential — not necessarily from the government’s perspective, but from families’ perspective. Parents are being required to stay home and work and be parents at the same time. That’s a challenge beyond all challenges. To be able to assist with that … that’s my job. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can bring some joy.”

—Joseph Bednar

Coronavirus

Hotel Group Continues to Grow Through an Uncertain Time

Sarah Eustis

Sarah Eustis says the Berkshires has plenty to offer, even when arts and culture attractions are closed, and the Red Lion and other hotels await whatever uptick in business arrives this summer.

Sarah Eustis has some visions for the Courtyard, an outdoor dining area at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge.

“It will be a really active force — we’re thinking of new, creative ways to use it,” she told BusinessWest. “We’re ramping up menus, we’ll have music outside, maybe screen movies with a projector, ping-pong, cocktails … just some relaxation and fun for people in a world that isn’t very fun right now. That’s our goal.”

It’s an ambitious goal for Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, and her team as they navigate how to move forward with the group’s roster of Berkshire-area hotels while launching two more in Rhode Island, at a time when hotels are just starting to fully reopen, and no one knows how the traveling public will respond.

That’s especially true in the Berkshires, whose economy is so reliant on tourism. Several major players, including Jacob’s Pillow, Tanglewood, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Shakespeare & Company, have canceled their summer season, and more might follow. Others are planning shortened seasons, like Barrington Stage Company, which will open on Aug. 5 with social-distancing practices in place.

Hence, Eustis’ emphasis on the other Berkshires draw: being outdoors, whether it’s hiking in nature or enjoying a breezy meal at the Courtyard.

“All the demand drivers, from a cultural standpoint, at least — with a few exceptions — have been moved to next year,” she said, adding, however, that some theaters are still looking for ways to accommodate performances, and museums are considering creative options like open, timed visitations.

But with vacation planning on hold for so many, Eustis knows she has to be realistic.

“The traditional reasons for coming to the Berkshires are massively impacted this summer, so that means we have to focus on other reasons people might come, and look at how we can provide a great experience,” she said. “We can play to the strengths of the Berkshires, which have a lot to do with being outdoors and natural beauty — we’ve got that in spades, and we will be well-served to promote that as a reason to come out and spend some time.”

Hotels weren’t forced to close by the mid-March mandate from Gov. Charlie Baker’s office, although business certainly dried up almost immediately across the country. Main Street Hospitality made decisions about its Berkshires properties on a case-by-case basis. For example, Hotel on North in Pittsfield, with its proximity to Berkshire Medical Center, has been used regularly by essential healthcare workers.

On the other hand, the Porches Inn in North Adams shut its doors completely. With little business expected there during the pandemic — it’s located across the street from the pandemic-shuttered MASS MoCA — the closure was an opportunity to tackle some needed construction and maintenance, and that site will reopen later this summer.

Meanwhile, the Red Lion Inn has maintained a robust, popular takeout program, as well as preparing meals for essential workers throughout Berkshire Health Systems and for Main Street employees who had been laid off.

“The traditional reasons for coming to the Berkshires are massively impacted this summer, so that means we have to focus on other reasons people might come, and look at how we can provide a great experience.”

Briarcliff Motel in Great Barrington and Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield were effectively closed, but have partnered with Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires to provide housing for essential workers and also people recovering from COVID-19.

“So, we’re trying to deploy each property within the mandated guidelines and leverage the characteristics of each property to the best of our ability,” Eustis said.

It wasn’t enough to keep about 300 employees working, however; layoffs reduced the company to about 25, with the discomfort spread throughout all properties and the administrative office.

“It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever been through as a leader, to be sure,” she said. “However, we took it week by week, with a very thoughtful approach.”

The plan now is to begin ramping the team back up again. On June 12, Main Street plans to reopen the Red Lion and Briarcliff within the safety parameters mandated by the state, as well as expanding reservations and culinary service at Hotel on North. Porches will reopen, somewhat refreshed, on Aug. 1, while two new Rhode Island properties are set to open as well: Hammetts Wharf Hotel in Newport in June 26, and the Beatrice Hotel in Providence on Aug. 9.

So, the company certainly sees a strong future.

“We are all trying to develop our strengths and skills without knowing what’s going to happen,” Eustis said. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I do believe it will make us stronger as business people and hospitality providers.”

Part of that is reopening in a safe manner, with attention paid to everything from the cleaning and sanitizing strategy to what kind of voice and body language to use with guests from behind those ubiquitous masks.

“We’ve got a 40-page COVID manual guiding our preparation,” she said. “We want to check all the boxes, so when guests visit with us, they don’t have to give it a second thought. We’ve got you covered.”

As summer approaches, this should be a time of happy anticipation at a hotel group synonymous with visiting the Berkshires — but this is totally uncharted territory, Eustis said, so optimism must be tempered by reality. But she’s still optimistic.

“We will come out on the other side, although there are days it doesn’t feel that way,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s such a massive tactonic shift. But we’ve got a really talented team that’s super committed, and we will be here to tell the tale.”

—Joseph Bednar

Coronavirus

For This Photographer and Sock Maker, the Pandemic Is a Developing Story

Lenny Underwood

Lenny Underwood says both his photo studio and sock business have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

Lenny Underwood started off by talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge dent in both his businesses — a photography studio and an intriguing venture called Upscale Socks, which has become one of the many intriguing stories of entrepreneurship being written in the region. But then he put those losses into their proper context by changing the subject to his grandmother.

“She died from this virus,” he said slowly and deliberately for additional emphasis, as if it were needed. “Her name was Queeie Brown, and she died late last month [April] — it was awful.”

So Underwood, a member of BusinessWest’s recently announced 40 Under Forty class of 2020 — honored for his entrepreneurial exploits as well as his work within the community, such as donations of socks to area groups — has seen the virus alter his life in probably every way imaginable. Right down to his socks.

His designer socks, a venture he started dreaming about in 2014, became a reality the following year. He now has several dozen styles, including a popular ‘Springfield Firsts’ sock that came out last year and continues to draw orders. The products are manufactured by a partner in China, said Underwood, adding that production had to be halted for a time earlier this year when the virus was spreading through that country.

“I don’t foresee people having the kind of birthday parties they want to have — the sweet-16 parties or graduation parties they want to have with large amounts of people. Maybe down the road, but I’m not sure when.”

But as this year has progressed, that setback has turned out to be just one of many ways the pandemic has changed the landscape for Underwood — and perhaps one of the more minor ones.

Indeed, like most all photographers, Underwood has seen the virus rob him of a number of jobs and reliable revenue streams — everything from proms to weddings to family gatherings.

“Most of my photography is event-based, but I do some head shots and senior portraits as well,” he told BusinessWest. “Mainly, though, I’m on the scene, on location for different celebrations.”

And there certainly haven’t been many of those over the past three months, and those that have been staged have been smaller and decidedly different, he went on; after searching his memory bank, he determined that the last event he worked was the second Saturday in March.

The following Tuesday, he recalls getting seven cancellations for jobs that day alone. “I was looking forward to four proms, a lot of graduations, and weddings,” he went on, adding that he has one wedding still scheduled for late in July — and he’s somewhat dubious about that — but everything else has been wiped off the calendar.

Overall, he estimates that business is off 65% to 70% from what it was a year ago, a precipitous decline that has forced to him to seek — and eventually receive — unemployment benefits. However, they are due to run out in 20 weeks. He has also applied for a number of grants through various agencies, and is awaiting word on whether he’ll receive any.

Underwood has managed to find some work — a few of those ‘parade birthdays,’ for example, a photo shoot for a newborn, a few ‘senior-announcement photos,’ as he called them — where soon-to-be high-school grads announce where they’ll be going to college — and some other scattered assignments.

Meanwhile, the virus has generated some needed, but somewhat macabre work. Indeed, there has been a noted increase in funerals across the area, and for some of them, Underwood has been hired by families to scan photos of the deceased for slideshows and memorial tributes.

Still, like most photographers, he has seen his business devastated by the virus and doesn’t have any real idea when things might start turning around.

As for his socks … he’s still getting orders — someone recently purchased 20 pairs of the ‘Springfield Firsts’ style, for example — and some specials he’s been running have helped to generate more of them. But overall sales volume is down because he’s not able to sell them at large events, which generated a good deal of sales prior to the pandemic. Overall, sock sales are down by roughly 50%.

As he talked with BusinessWest near the tail end of May, Underwood said he had a few events on the books — an outdoor church service, for example. But the longer view is clouded by uncertainty and some doubts about whether the large events that have become his livelihood will be staged any time soon.

“I don’t foresee people having the kind of birthday parties they want to have — the sweet-16 parties or graduation parties they want to have with large amounts of people,” he said. “Maybe down the road, but I’m not sure when.”

For now, he’s maintaining his focus and looking for opportunities whenever and wherever he can find. For him, the pandemic is a developing story — in all kinds of ways. u

—George O’Brien