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Agenda

Nomination Deadline for 40 Under Forty

Through Feb. 15: BusinessWest is currently accepting nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2019. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 15. Launched in 2007, the program recognizes rising stars in the four counties of Western Mass. Nominations, which should be detailed in nature, should list an individual’s accomplishments within their profession as well as their work within the community. Nominations can be completed online by visiting www.businesswest.com, clicking on ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘40 Under Forty.’ Nominations will be weighed by a panel of judges. The selected individuals will be profiled in the April 29 issue of BusinessWest and honored at the 40 Under Forty Gala on June 20 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. PeoplesBank will be presenting sponsor of this year’s 40 Under Forty program, and YPS of Greater Springfield is a partner. Additional sponsorships are available.

Application Deadline for Local Farmer Awards

Jan. 31: Farmers in Western Massachusetts are invited to apply for Local Farmer Awards up to $2,500 toward equipment and infrastructure projects to help them complete in the marketplace. The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and with the support of other funders, is entering the fifth year of the awards program, which has helped more than 125 farmers carry out a total of 188 projects. The deadline for applying is Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information. “Big Y has been partnering with and supporting local farmers since we began over 80 years ago,” said Big Y president and CEO Charles D’Amour. “Our partnership with the Grinspoon Foundation provides one more way we help the local growers to thrive in our community.” Some examples of how the awards have been used include a high-efficiency vegetable washer, a walk-in cooler aging room, an egg washer, high tunnel irrigation, electric fencing, and a milkplan bulk tank. “Farmers don’t typically ask for help,” said philanthropist and project founder Harold Grinspoon. “They are genuinely appreciative of these awards and use the money in creative ways for projects to help their businesses.” To be eligible, farms must have gross sales of $10,000 or above and either be a member of Berkshire Grown or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) or reside in one the four counties of Western Mass. Berkshire Grown and CISA share their passion for local farms by providing ongoing guidance and help with promotion of the Local Farmer Awards.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Feb. 7: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will hold a Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at Western New England University School of Law, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. The volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business law, landlord/tenant issues, and real estate. Spanish-speaking attorneys will be available. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer.

‘DiSC for Sales’ Workshop

Feb. 28: Elms College will host a workshop to help salespeople and business leaders maximize their effectiveness with customers from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Room in the Dooley College Center. The three-hour “DiSC for Sales” workshop, sponsored by the college’s MBA program and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), will be led by Nancy Davis, Business Development specialist at CEL. DiSC for Sales is a model that supports people in sales roles and helps them to recognize and understand their own unique strengths and style, while also helping them build relationships with clients by learning to read each client and adapt to connect with them better. The model offers a concrete method and practical tools to help businesspeople engage with all personality styles. During the interactive workshop, Davis, a certified DiSC facilitator, will offer educational content, examples, activities, and opportunities for sales-oriented people to recognize customer priorities, what to emphasize to customers, and strategies that work with different personality styles. Prior to the event, participants will take an online assessment and receive a full report. The cost to attend is $199 per person, which includes the workshop and dinner. Space is limited. Register by Friday, Feb. 15 by e-mailing [email protected] For more information, e-mail Davis at [email protected]

Springfield Leadership Institute

Feb. 28 to June 6: The 2019 Springfield Leadership Institute will focus on core management and leadership skills for increasing personal and organizational effectiveness. The practical and applied program will equip participants with the knowledge and skills to take their leadership to the next level. The Institute takes place on Thursdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m., and is directed by Robert Kleine III, dean of the Western New England University College of Business, and Associate Professor Stacie Chappell, who has a strong background in leadership development and consulting to a variety of organizations. The program is supported by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation. All sessions will be held at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield. Sessions will focus on managerial leadership, emotional intelligence and self-awareness, powerful communication, building high-performance teams, and leveraging conflict. Participants will actively explore best practices of leaders; analyze their own leadership, learning, and problem-solving styles; and experience the synergies that result from high-performing teams. The emphasis will be on experiential activities that provide opportunities to identify, develop, and refine skill sets for effective leadership. Participants will have the opportunity to apply and extend their learning through a practice-based team project. The program is designed for aspiring managers, new managers, and professionals interested in increasing their effectiveness and/or expanding their impact within or beyond their current role. Upon successful completion of Leadership 2019, participants will be eligible to enroll in a free graduate course offered through the College of Business at Western New England University (subject to certain requirements). Applications must be received by Thursday, Feb. 14. Tuition is $885 per participant and includes a day trip to Beacon Hill and a graduation dinner. For questions about the program or the application process, e-mail Grace Szydziak at [email protected]

Elms Instant Accept Day at GCC

March 6: The School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Elms College will host an Instant Accept Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the cafeteria at Berkshire Community College, 1350 West St., Pittsfield. Interested students should bring their official transcripts to be considered for admission to bachelor’s degree completion programs in social work or early care and education. Elms College representatives will be on hand to discuss program options, review students’ educational histories, and offer instant acceptance to qualified applicants. In this degree-completion program, classes are held Saturdays on the Berkshire Community College campus, taught by Elms faculty. By completing coursework in 10 eight-week sessions over a 20-month period, students can save thousands of dollars in completing a bachelor’s degree.

‘Building a Company People Crave to Work For’

March 12: The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley is looking for business owners or key managers who would contribute to a presentation called “Building a Company People Crave to Work For.” Several years ago, Jack Stack, father of the Great Game of Business and open-book management, said, “build a great company — because a great company can’t help but make great products.” But what does it take to make a company great? The presentation will be made up of people from businesses with strong policies, attractive cultures, and impressive numbers of high potential employees rising through the ranks. Attendees will hear how they did it, and learn how to adopt anything that would work for their own companies. Get in touch at fambizpv.com.

Difference Makers

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

Springfield Art Stop

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

Incorporations

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

CHICOPEE

O.F. Bright Enterprise Inc., 411 Front St., Chicopee, MA 01013. Osvaldo Paulo Moura, same. Cleaning services.

EASTHAMPTON

Per MGMT Inc., 123 East St., Easthampton, MA 01027. Chris Lachapelle, 128 Central Park Dr., Holyoke, MA 01040. Bar/café.

GREENFIELD

Mighty Clean Mutt, Corp., 52 French King Highway, Greenfield, MA 01301. Megan Edson, same. Pet and animal grooming services and associated products.

LONGMEADOW

Northstar Imaging Inc., 66 Dwight Rd., #4, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Craig A. Saltman, same. Mobile imaging company.

Peoplesdental Holdings, P.C., 66 Dwight Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Craig A. Saltzman, 266 Ardsley Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Dentistry and related specialties.

Positive Spin Real Estate Investments Inc., 785 Williams Street #206, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Jarrett Thomas, same. Asset management.

MONTGOMERY

Prophit Insight Inc., 78 Pomeroy Road, Montgomery, MA 01085. Michael Arian, same. Data analysis.

PITTSFIELD

Scarci & Costa Cleaning Services Inc., 137 Onota St, — 2nd Floor, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Sergio L. Costa, same. Cleaning services.

SPRINGFIELD

Mountainview Home Evaluations Inc., 112 Washington Road, Springfield, MA 01108. Roger Peterson, same. Home and building inspections.

Nacion De Fe Massachusetts Corp, 41 Sullivan St., Springfield, MA 01104. Melvin Arroyo, 118 Maynard St., Springfield, MA 01109. Provide spiritual counseling and teach theology through a Bible college to any individual, and other religious organizations. To prepare and ordain ministers and pastors here and international.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

No More Silence Massachusetts Non – Profit Corporation, 23 Queen Ave., West Springfield, MA 01089. Terri McNulty, same. Purpose is to raise awareness to suicide and support for loss survivors through various fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Cover Story

Form and Function

Interim Dean Tom Moliterno

Interim Dean Tom Moliterno

The Isenberg Innovation Hub, a $62 million expansion and renovation of the business school’s facilities on the UMass Amherst campus, will open its doors to students later this month. The building’s exterior design is stunning, and it gives a new face to Isenberg and perhaps the university, but the architects have made it functional as well.

Dramatic. Striking. Stunning. Powerful. Distinctive.

Those are some of the words that come to mind as one takes in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, a $62 million, 70,000-square-foot addition and renovation to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and its copper cladding, circular design, and falling-dominoes effect.

And those who conceptualized this project and then went about raising the money for it certainly had all those adjectives in mind when they went about hiring architects to create something that would effectively, and loudly, announce the Isenberg school’s ascension to the ranks of the best business schools in the country — and also help recruit the next generation of top students.

“Now that we are a top-20 business school, the students who are considering us are also considering a lot of other exceptional business schools. And one of the things that a student and his or her parents think about is the physical space.”

But that’s certainly not all they wanted — or demanded.

“Now that we are a top-20 business school, the students who are considering us are also considering a lot of other exceptional business schools,” said Tom Moliterno, interim dean at Isenberg. “And one of the things that a student and his or her parents think about is the physical space; there is a requirement, much like a football team needs good facilities, for facilities of a certain caliber in order to ensure that we get the best students.

The learning commons in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, like the building itself, has both a striking design and a great deal of functionality; it also doubles as event space.

The learning commons in the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub, like the building itself, has both a striking design and a great deal of functionality; it also doubles as event space.

“But there’s more to it than that,” he went on. “You need more than a pretty building; you need a building that’s designed to train students and to prepare students for careers in the 21st century.”

Elaborating, he said business schools today require space that is geared far more toward student collaboration, team working environments, distance learning, and career services than even a decade or two ago.

And all of this is reflected in what’s behind the flashy exterior of the Business Innovation Hub. Indeed, as he conducted his formal tour of the new facility, Moliterno seemed to be constantly pointing out places where people, and especially students, could come together and collaborate.

The hallways, like all the areas in the Business Innovation Hub, are designed to promote collaboration.

The hallways, like all the areas in the Business Innovation Hub, are designed to promote collaboration.

In the learning commons, which doubles as event space, there are dozens of soft chairs and small round tables at which people can gather; in the classrooms, the chairs have wheels, and for a reason — so they can be moved and maneuvered to face in any direction, toward the instructor in the front of the room or the student across the table; in the hallway outside the classrooms, there are more soft chairs and gathering spaces; in the courtyard, there are stone benches; on the grand stairway, there are wooden planks affixed to one set of the concrete stairs — again, for a reason.

“If you’re heading up the stairs and you see someone coming down that you want to talk to, you can pull over, sit down on the stairs, and talk,” said Moliterno, adding that the architects — Boston-based Goody Clancy, in partnership with the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Denmark — went to extremely great lengths to inspire and facilitate collaboration, and this, perhaps even more than the stunning exterior and interior designs, is what the new addition is all about.

Roger Goldstein, the principal at Goody Clancy who headed the Isenberg project, agreed, and said the firm applied lessons from two decades of work designing college business schools and additions to the Isenberg initiative.

An aerial view of the expansion project

“Their aspiration was for something with real distinction — something that would be forward-looking and quite contemporary,” he explained, referring to Moliterno and Mark Fuller, the former dean of the Isenberg School and now associate chancellor at UMass Amherst. “But also a building that works really well and will stand up in the long run.”

Yu Inamoto, lead architect for the BIG group on this project, concurred. “One of the desires put forth by the dean, the faculty, and all the others we interacted with was to have a space that was not only impressive, but a place for gathering, and this is reflected throughout.”

Faculty and staff are currently moving into the new facilities, said Moliterno, adding that the building will be ready when students return to classes later this month.

One of the state-of-the-art classrooms in the Business Innovation Hub.

One of the state-of-the-art classrooms in the Business Innovation Hub.

What they’ll find is a state-of-the-art, user-friendly facility that does a lot for Isenberg, and UMass Amherst on the whole.

It gives the business school — and perhaps the university itself — a bold new face. It also gives the school a powerful new recruiting tool and perhaps the ability to rise still higher in the rankings, something that’s difficult to do as it moves up the ladder.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest toured the Business Innovation Hub and learned how it blends form and function and punctuates the Isenberg School’s ongoing ascent among the nation’s top business schools.

Space Exploration

While obviously proud of the expansion’s ground floor, with its learning commons, courtyard, hallways crowded with gathering spaces, and generous amounts of glass, Moliterno was anxious for his tour to reach the second floor.

Because this is where more of that all-important functionality can be found. And it manifests itself in a number of ways, from greatly expanded and enhanced space for the Chase Career Center to separate lounges for students waiting to be interviewed and recruiters waiting to do some interviewing, to the small interviewing rooms that, when not being used for that purpose, can double as additional gathering spaces for students, thus maximizing each available square foot of space.

“Those rooms are sized and furnished to swing one way or the other depending on what the need is,” said Goldstein. “And that improves efficiency because you’re not creating spaces that have only one use and are empty half the time.”

Before elaborating on this mindset and what the Business Innovation Hub means for Isenberg, its students, faculty, the recruiters who will visit it to query job candidates, and other constituencies, Moliterno first went back to roughly the start of this decade, when the seeds for this facility were planted.

And they were planted out of need, he went on, which came in many forms.

The first was simply spacial. Indeed, while the original Isenberg building, built in 1964, was expanded with the so-called Alfond addition in 2002, by the start of this decade, and actually long before that, a growing Isenberg was busting at the seams.

Architect Yu Inamoto says the copper used in the building’s exterior was chosen in an effort to give it a look that is “authentic and real.”

Architect Yu Inamoto says the copper used in the building’s exterior was chosen in an effort to give it a look that is “authentic and real.”

“What we used to say is that we were a family of eight living in a two-bedroom apartment,” said Moliterno, noting that undergraduate enrollment at Isenberg had risen from 2,500 in to 3,400 in just a few years earlier this decade.

Facilities were so cramped that some departments within Isenberg, such as Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, were spread out in other buildings, said Goldstein, creating an inconvenience for students and faculty alike. The Business and Innovation Hub brings all of Isenberg’s departments and offices together under one roof.

Beyond the need for more space, though, Isenberg also needed better space, said Moliterno — space that reflected its climb in the rankings in the U.S. News & World Report listings of business schools — both public institutions (it’s now 26th nationwide and first among undergraduate programs in the Northeast) and overall (44th in the nation). And space that would help Isenberg compete for students applying to the other schools just above or below them on those lists.

“Relatively early in his tenure, Mark Fuller realized that the school was on a trajectory, both in terms of growth and in terms of quality, that was going to necessitate new physical space,” said Moliterno, adding that the first discussions and estimates on square footage required date back to 2010 or even 2009.

At this point, the project essentially “went into the queue,” as Moliterno called it, noting that there were a number of building projects being forwarded for consideration and funding. To move up in the queue — something deemed necessary as the school continued its torrid pace of growth as well as its ascent in the rankings — the Isenberg School took the unusual step of committing to provide 60% of the funding for the project, with the rest covered by the university.

This commitment translated into the largest ever made by a specific school for a campus building project, he went on, adding that this bold step did, indeed, move the initiative up in the queue. And in 2014, formal planning — including specific space requirements and preliminary cost estimates — began in earnest.

However, in the two to three years since the initial discussions and rough sketching were undertaken, construction costs had increased 50%, he said, bringing the total cost to $62 million.

While raising that sum was a challenge — met by tapping into a growing base of successful Isenberg alums — it would be only one of many to overcome.

Another would be fitting the building into that crowded area of the campus while also negotiating a veritable rat’s nest of underground utilities in that quadrant.

“There was this bowl of spaghetti of steam lines, electrical conduits, and high-speed data lines,” said Moliterno. “And one of the real design challenges was figuring out how to put a building on this part of campus given everything that was underground.”

Designs on Continued Growth

Creating a road map for navigating this bowl of spaghetti was just one component of the assignment eventually awarded to Goody Clancy and the Bjarke Ingels Group — a partnership that Moliterno called a ‘perfect marriage’ of an emerging force in the design world (BIG) and a company with vast experience in designing not only academic buildings, but business-school facilities.

“There was this bowl of spaghetti of steam lines, electrical conduits, and high-speed data lines. And one of the real design challenges was figuring out how to put a building on this part of campus given everything that was underground.”

Indeed, BIG has been on a meteoric rise, with a portfolio now boasting Two World Trade Center in New York, Google’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters building, and several dozen other projects either under construction or in the planning stages.

As for Goody Clancy, as noted, it has spent the past 20 years or so developing a strong niche designing new buildings and additions for business schools, and the portfolio includes recent work at Harvard, Boston University, Georgetown University, Texas Tech, and the University of New Hampshire.

Development of this niche wasn’t exactly by design, to use an industry term, said Goldstein, but as often happens in this business, a single project or two can lead to additional opportunities.

And that’s what happened after the firm took on a project for Babson University, known for its programs in entrepreneurship.

“We then did a few more, and before you knew it, we had three business-school buildings, and we thought, ‘OK, this looks like a specialty,’” he told BusinessWest, adding that the company has another four or five business-school projects in various stages of completion, a reflection of the need for such institutions to keep up with the Joneses, if you will, so they can effectively compete for the best students.

“Business schools have wealthy donors and want to build buildings that will advance their brand,” he said. “They want something that will differentiate them.”

Inamoto agreed. “Schools definitely want to make a statement with these buildings,” he said, adding that the Isenberg addition is the first academic project taken on by the firm in this country, and thus it sought to partner with a firm with a deep portfolio in that realm.

As they went about designing the addition, the team of architects focused on both of their priorities — form and function. They conceptualized an exterior that would fit in — sort of — and respect the brutalist style so prominent in other buildings in that part of the campus, such as the Fine Arts Center and the Whitmore Administration Building.

The circular design, meanwhile, would create a dynamic look that would also connect, in dramatic fashion, with the existing Isenberg facility (as the aerial architect’s rendering on page 18 shows) and “close the loop,” as Goldstein put it.

As for the copper exterior, Inamoto said it was chosen — after aluminum was first considered — because the material, like the school itself, isn’t stagnant; it changes over time.

“As a firm, we like the look of copper, and we like to recommend naturally aging materials,” he explained. “The copper panels are already starting to weather; when they’re first installed, they’re a bright, shiny orange, and within weeks, that starts to become darker and brown, and over time, they’ll oxidize to a green copper look.

“Over time, the building weathers,” he went on. “And we didn’t want something that was too flat or too plasticky, if you will. That’s part of our design strategy; we try to select something that’s authentic and real.”

In designing what’s behind the copper façade, they started by gathering extensive feedback, via focus groups, from a number of constituencies, including Isenberg administrators and staff, students, faculty, and others. And they incorporated what they learned into the final design, said Moliterno, citing everything from a café to greatly expanded space for the career center and undergraduate advising.

“They brought in Career Services and said, ‘walk us through everything you do — what are your space needs? You have interviewers here — how many, and what do they need?’” he recalled. “And then, they had that same conversation with Undergraduate Programs and with a committee of faculty who talked about the classroom space.

“And they had the same conversations with students,” he went on. “And this is where we learned that students are often here from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, and thus they want a place to eat in the building, because if they leave the building, they break up their team process.”

As for the career center and undergraduate advising facilities, these are as important to the ultimate success of Isenberg students (and the school itself) as the classrooms, said Moliterno, adding that these facilities provide more services to far more students than they did even a few years ago.

“Students don’t just show up when they’re juniors and look for job postings,” he explained. “They’re working with the career services offices constantly in order to get internships, résumé review, and structure their social-media profile. The hands-on career prep, the number of hours one spends in career services, has grown dramatically over the years, and this is reflected in the design of this building.”

Seeing the Light

As he walked through the expanded career services office during his tour, Moliterno put the Business Innovation Hub and the chosen designs for it in their proper perspective.

“At the initial bid process, when I was speaking to all the architects who were bidding, I said, ‘I want to be clear about something: this might be the most beautiful building in the world, but if it doesn’t work for the students, if it doesn’t enhance and improve the student experience, it will be a failure — full stop,’” he recalled.

‘Most beautiful building in the world’ is a purely subjective matter for discussion, he went on, while the matter of whether a building works for students certainly isn’t.

He’s quite sure that this one does, and while that quality generally doesn’t warrant adjectives like ‘dramatic, ‘striking,’ ‘stunning,’ or ‘powerful,’ it probably should.

And it explains, even more than that façade, why the Isenberg Business Innovation Hub is such an important development for the school and the university.

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

Briefcase

City of Springfield Files Opioid Lawsuit

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the city of Springfield filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, board members, and executives who caused the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic. The civil complaint was filed in Hampden Superior Court on Dec. 18. The complaint alleges that Springfield, along with many other communities, is currently experiencing a stark increase in the number of residents who have become addicted to prescription opioids and heroin, which has caused an increase in opioid overdoses. The complaint references a report that prescription opioids are now known to be the gateway drug to heroin; approximately 80% of current heroin users got their start with prescription opioids. According to the complaint, unlike any other epidemic, the opioid epidemic is not natural, nor typical, but largely man-made, and that it has been created, fueled, and continues to expand by the persistent unlawful conduct of the defendant pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmaceutical wholesale distributors. Springfield’s complaint was filed in conjunction with similar actions brought by Haverhill, Framingham, Gloucester, Salem, Lynnfield, Wakefield, and Worcester.

Clean-energy Industry Adds More Than 1,500 Jobs Statewide

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) announced the state’s clean-energy sector has continued its trend of upward growth, adding more than 1,500 workers to the clean-energy workforce between 2017 and 2018. The figures, released as part of MassCEC’s 2018 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report, found the industry now employs more than 110,700 workers in the Commonwealth, an increase of 1.4% since 2017 and 84% since 2010. The clean-energy industry saw robust growth in its contribution to Massachusetts’ gross state product (GSP), increasing 15% between 2017 and 2018 to contribute more than $13 billion to the statewide economy, making up about 2.5% of the GSP. The report found the clean-energy industry employs residents in every region of Mass. and makes up about 3.1% of the Massachusetts workforce. Other findings show that installation-related jobs are the largest source of clean energy employment, making up 30,057 jobs, followed closely by sales and distribution with 27,471 jobs. The fastest-growing component of the clean-energy workforce was engineering and researching, adding more than 2,400 jobs, a 2.7% increase.

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in November

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.4% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicates Massachusetts added 4,600 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 4,600 jobs as gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and information. Financial activities, construction, other services, and manufacturing lost jobs over the month while the jobs level in leisure and hospitality remained unchanged. From November 2017 to November 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 60,500 jobs. The November unemployment rate was three-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force increased by 4,200 from 3,832,800 in October, as 8,300 more residents were employed and 4,000 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 68%. Compared to November 2017, the labor force participation rate is up 2.7%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; information; and education and health services.

Bradley Welcomes Frontier Airlines, with Non-stop Service to Denver

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the expansion of Bradley International Airport’s roster of airlines with the addition of low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines. The airline will debut its inaugural service with a non-stop route to Denver. The service will commence on March 28, 2019, on an Airbus 320. From Denver International Airport, the flight will leave at 7 a.m. (MST) and arrive at Bradley International Airport at 12:50 p.m. (EST). The flight will then depart Bradley at 1:40 p.m. (EST) and land in Denver at 4:07 p.m. (MST). It will operate Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

Incorporations

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

CHICOPEE

O.F. Bright Enterprise Inc., 411 Front St., Chicopee, MA 01013. Osvaldo Paulo Moura, same. Cleaning services.

EASTHAMPTON

Per MGMT Inc., 123 East St., Easthampton, MA 01027. Chris Lachapelle, 128 Central Park Dr., Holyoke, MA 01040. Bar/café.

GREENFIELD

Mighty Clean Mutt, Corp., 52 French King Hgwy., Greenfield, MA 01301. Megan Edson, same. Pet and animal grooming services and associated products.

LONGMEADOW

Northstar Imaging Inc., 66 Dwight Rd., #4, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Craig A. Saltman, same. Mobile imaging company.

Peoplesdental Holdings, P.C., 66 Dwight Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Craig A. Saltzman, 266 Ardsle4y Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Dentistry and related specialties.

Positive Spin Real Estate Investments Inc., 785 Williams Street #206, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Jarrett Thomas, same. Asset management.

MONTGOMERY

Prophit Insight Inc., 78 Pomeroy Road, Montgomery, MA 01085. Michael Arian, same. Data analysis.

PITTSFIELD

Scarci & Costa Cleaning Services Inc., 137 Onota St, – 2nd Fl., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Sergio L. Costa, same. Cleaning services.

SPRINGFIELD

Mountainview Home Evaluations Incorporated, 112 Washington Road, Springfield, MA 01108. Roger Peterson, same. Home and building inspections.

Nacion De Fe Massachusetts Corp, 41 Sullivan St., Springfield, MA 01104. Melvin Arroyo, 118 Maynard St., Springfield, MA 01109. Provide spiritual counseling and teach theology through a bible college to any individual, and other religious organizations. To prepare and ordain ministers and pastors here and international.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

No More Silence Massachusetts Non – Profit Corporation, 23 Queen Ave., West Springfield, MA 01089. Terri McNulty, same. Purpose is to raise awareness to suicide and support for loss survivors through various fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Sports & Leisure

Changing Lanes

Jeff Bennett says league bowlers and casual players are looking for different amenities

Jeff Bennett says league bowlers and casual players are looking for different amenities, and facilities need to cater to both constituencies.

Jeff Bennett remembers when the Pioneer Valley was home to many more bowling alleys than exist today.

“A lot of mom-and-pop centers started to close. We had a couple around here,” he told BusinessWest. “If you didn’t put in automatic scoring, blacklight bowling, if you didn’t keep the centers updated and clean, with nice bathrooms — well, those are the centers that don’t exist anymore. If you’re going to drop 70 or 100 bucks to go out for the day, are you going to the run-down place, or the place with the upbeat music, lights, and arcade? What’s going to be a more fun atmosphere?”

Bennett, general manager of AMF Chicopee Lanes, said his business, and that of its parent company, Bowlero, which boasts some 300 facilities nationwide, is doing well and still growing year after year, but added that such success doesn’t happen on its own. “We make people want to keep coming back and having fun. That’s what we try to focus on.”

Justin Godfrey agrees. “The important thing is to give them a quality, consistent product and make sure the guest has a memorable experience and wants to come back to your facility,” said the general manager of Shaker Bowl in East Longmeadow, which is now part of the Spare Time chain. “That’s really what it boils down to — treating people right and generating return business. Word of mouth is still king when it comes to getting people in the door.”

Those who haven’t been in a bowling alley in decades may be surprised by today’s centers, where they may encounter strobe lights and black lights, disc jockeys and music videos playing on large screens, and freshly made food.

“You get different crowds,” Godfrey said. “You get families more during the day, then at night, we run the light show and get the music going. It’s a different atmosphere from the leagues, which don’t want music. It just depends on the group.”

While there are fewer bowling lanes in operation than even a decade ago, those that are still in business have increasingly turned to a model that’s not just about bowling, Bennett said, touting amenities in Chicopee like food made from scratch, a full liquor license, servers that take orders on the lanes, and more.

“If you’re going to drop 70 or 100 bucks to go out for the day, are you going to the run-down place, or the place with the upbeat music, lights, and arcade? What’s going to be a more fun atmosphere?”

“That’s what casual bowlers are looking for — they’re looking for more atmosphere. They’re not just coming in for 20 minutes to bowl a game and leave. They’re here two or three hours — it’s one-stop entertainment, where they can have food and drinks, bowl, and play some arcade games. We have games geared for kids, and some old-school games for the adults.”

Godfrey said food and beverages can account for 25% or more of a center’s business, so it’s not an afterthought. Neither is the continual effort to introduce more people to the game — and everything that surrounds it these days.

“Before, you could just open your doors and people would come in, and many still do,” he said. “But we’ve really ventured out. We have event planners; we actually have people going out to create business, and that’s been very helpful for a lot of our centers. We do a lot of corporate parties. We work with a high-school gym class twice a week — we bring carpets into the gym classes and introduce kids to the sport. If the kids like it, they say, ‘hey, mom, let’s go bowling.’”

Different Strikes

Bennett said Bowlero has different brands within the company — AMF being just one of them — and centers can be quite different from each other.

“What we term a traditional center is still heavily league-focused, and a lot of that comes from the demographics and what you have around you. We have two centers in Manhattan, and both combined don’t have a league bowler — it’s all events and retail-play driven, and those are the two biggest grossing centers,” he explained.

“But then you have a lot of our traditional centers in the Northeast that still rely on our league base, especially during the fall and winter season,” he added, noting that leagues account for about one-third of total lane use, with between 1,300 and 1,350 league bowlers showing up each week, up to 34 weeks a year.

“We’re still focused on league bowlers — Monday to Friday, we’re busy every night, all 40 lanes. And we have to do certain things for them — regular white lights, and we work on lane conditions that affect their scoring.”

But the company also put a lot of money into amenities that attract non-league bowlers, he added, including a video wall, a new audio-visual system, black lights, and a new arcade.

“On weekends, we focus on the retail or open-play bowler — casual fun for kids and adults,” he said. “We do a ton of kids’ birthday parties and corporate events on the weekends. Over the next month, quite a few businesses are going to do holiday parties. And on weekend nights, it’s mostly adults; on Saturdays between 5 and 1, we’re extremely busy.”

Justin Godfrey says today’s bowlers want a memorable experience — one that often includes more than just bowling.

Justin Godfrey says today’s bowlers want a memorable experience — one that often includes more than just bowling.


At Shaker Bowl, Godfrey has seen a shift in his 18 years there, from a league-centric model to more open bowling for kids, adults, and families. Leagues don’t attract younger people like they used to, he said, and many people don’t want to make the commitment for 30-plus weeks. To counter that reality, he’s offering a 12-week league on Sunday nights to capture interest during the colder months.

But the Spare Time chain — which also has sites in Northampton, Vernon, Conn., and Windsor Locks, Conn. — understands it’s not just about bowling anymore.

“They’re really gearing it toward other entertainment options for the guests,” he said. “In Windsor Locks, which is newly renovated, there are escape rooms, laser tag, a huge arcade, and a restaurant. It’s more of a family entertainment center than your traditional bowling center.”

There are other factors that go into a successful center, he added, from cleanliness to consistent food quality across all sites in a chain. And let’s not forget the game itself, which has been attracting families for generations due to its easy-to-learn, hard-to-master qualities.

“Anyone can do it, and we meet the needs of all age levels, too,” he said. In fact, the day BusinessWest visited, Shaker Bowl was hosting a special-needs group in wheelchairs, bowling off taller metal ramps adapted for them.

“We’ve got ramps for the kids, all different weight balls — we can accommodate people of all ages, sizes, skill levels, everything. I think that’s definitely part of the appeal.”

Something for Everyone

There used to be about eight 10-pin bowling lanes locally, Bennett noted, but now there are only a handful. The average age of bowlers at AMF Chicopee Lanes is 25 to 45, and they usually bowl at least once a week. Many are there on weekend nights, when the average age is 25 to 35.

Like Godfrey, he noted that the center offers ramps so people with handicaps can bowl, six-pound balls that can be pushed down the lanes by 3- and 4-year-olds, and bumpers in the gutters to increase their chances of knocking down pins.

“Successful centers nowadays, in most markets, have to cater to everybody and do everything,” Bennett said, noting that AMF Chicopee Lanes hosts myriad junior and adult tournaments, not to mention fund-raising events for organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and many others.

“We need all those types of events to be successful nowadays,” he added. “Springfield has a lot of options, especially with the casino here. We were worried that would affect us a little bit, but there’s been no effect so far.”

In short, business keeps rolling along for bowling centers that understand this changing market, and craft an experience that’s about more than just strikes and spares.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Law

Hazy Picture

Just as the business and legal communities in Massachusetts were learning to deal with medical marijuana, voters kicked the door wide open in 2016 by legalizing the drug for recreational use, too. That created a tangle of issues to work out, from how to handle employees that use the drug outside work to launching a cannabis business in the face of federal law that calls the practice illegal. Some of those issues have been sorted out, but others still hang in the air, like so much smoke.

When it comes to the relationship between employers and medical marijuana, few names are as important as Cristina Barbuto.

She’s the woman who filed suit against her employer, Advantage Sales and Marketing, three years ago after being fired — after her first day on the job — for using marijuana outside of work. She was required to take a drug test, and told the employer before the test that she would fail, because she used marijuana at home to help manage her Crohn’s disease.

A supervisor said that wouldn’t be a problem, but Barbuto was dismissed from the job the next day when the drug test came back positive for marijuana. The reason? While medical marijuana was legal in Massachusetts at the time, it was still illegal under federal law.

Her complaint eventually made its way to the state Supreme Judicial Court, which affirmed her right to use medical marijuana outside work on the grounds that forbidding her — as long as she wasn’t impaired on the job — constituted disability discrimination.

“If somebody qualifies as a disabled person and they’re seeking an accommodation, the employer has an obligation to engage in a process with that person and provide a reasonable accommodation that allows them to do their job, unless they can show the accommodation would cause them an undue hardship,” said Pat Rapinchuk, a partner with Robinson Donovan in Springfield. She noted that a subsequent suit by a man denied access to a homeless shelter for his medical-marijuana use came down on the plaintiff’s side as well, on the same grounds as the Barbuto suit.

“But then comes the recreational piece,” she said. “And that’s completely different.”

Indeed, with recreational use of marijuana having been legal in Massachusetts for a much shorter time, case law has not established similar rights for such users, she noted.

“Right now, I would say the recreational marijuana user does not have the protections a medical user does,” Rapinchuk said. “You start with just the basic premise of no substances in the workplace — no alcohol, no drugs. That part’s easy. But what if I used it last week on my own time and my employer drug tests for whatever reason, and I test positive, and I don’t have a medical reason for it? Can the employer either decline to hire me or even terminate me? And I think the short answer right now is ‘yes.’”

In one case that has garnered some media attention, Bernadette Coughlin, a food service supervisor for Sodexo, was fired after being injured in a fall at work. The company required a drug test following an injury, and she tested positive for marijuana, which she admitted she used recreationally at home a few days before. She was fired, and is fighting the termination in court — but might have an uphill battle, Rapinchuk said, because she doesn’t have the disability claim that Barbuto did.

From left, Bulkley Richardson attorneys Scott Foster, Sarah Willey, Mary Jo Kennedy, Ryan Barry, and Kathy Bernardo take part in a recent cannabis panel.

From left, Bulkley Richardson attorneys Scott Foster, Sarah Willey, Mary Jo Kennedy, Ryan Barry, and Kathy Bernardo take part in a recent cannabis panel.

“You’d have to find another route to challenge that,” she added, noting that one possibility is challenging the drug test itself as an invasion of privacy. “Some courts have found such a test to be invasive, and a violation of an employee’s privacy. If they found out otherwise, like through social media, that might pass muster.”

If all this sounds amorphous, it is, Rapinchuk said, and is a field of employment law that is definitely evolving. Drug tests can detect THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana, for days, even weeks after someone smokes or ingests it, and no tests exist to gauge whether the user is currently impaired. That leaves employers with plenty of hard questions about how they want to handle this new frontier.

Growing Concerns

But that’s not the only area of the law currently evolving in the face of legalized marijuana.

Perhaps the most significant wrinkle in marijuana law, Scott Foster says, is that it’s legal in the state but illegal federally. That drives many of the odd situations people find themselves in when they start a marijuana business, and it’s why Bulkley Richardson, where Foster works as a partner, recently launched a dedicated cannabis practice.

As one example, a marijuana business cannot use most banks.

“It’s considered to be money laundering on a federal level to run marijuana money through the banking system,” he explained. “You can’t use an ATM, you can’t use a credit card, and you can’t take the proceeds from the sale of marijuana and deposit it at a bank if they know it’s marijuana funds.”

There are two exceptions: Centurion Bank and Gardner Federal Credit Union. “We literally have marijuana clients driving $50,000 to $100,000 in cash to Boston in armored cars to deposit it at [Centurion],” Foster said, adding that the bank’s fees for the service are astronomical. “The bank is basically taking a business risk. I don’t know if it’s a good risk or bad risk, but no other big banks are taking the chance because the penalties would be devastating to them. Centurion is willing to take the chance.”

Meanwhile, people buying real estate as part of a new business typically finance 60% to 80% of the cost, he noted, but banks can’t lend for this purpose any more than they can take deposits.

“So what you end up with is a lot of very wealthy people playing in this space because you can’t finance it. You’ve got millions and millions of dollars being poured into these ventures that are growing, and nobody hears about it because it’s all private financing. That’s another area where it looks like a normal business until you ask, ‘where’s the money coming from?’”

Then there’s intellectual-property law. Most new businesses federally register their trademarks, but that’s not available for any branding involving marijuana products. “You can come up with this great brand name, this great logo, and you can’t protect it federally,” Foster said. “So now we’re going back to the state system, which does exist in Massachusetts. There is a way to protect trademarks at the state level that, until the marijuana business, nobody had done for 100 years.”

As he and Kathy Bernardo, another Bulkley partner on the cannabis team, spoke with BusinessWest, it became clear why the new practice group includes lawyers that specialize in myriad disciplines.

The disconnect between state and federal law shows up in taxation as well. Foster brought up a quirky section of the tax code that came about after the IRS went after a cocaine dealer in the Midwest for tax evasion, so the dealer filed a tax return that wrote off expenses like security and armored cars. The IRS balked, but a tax court sided with the man.

Pat Rapinchuk says some employers might avoid drug testing for marijuana

Pat Rapinchuk says some employers might avoid drug testing for marijuana as not to rule out some strong potential employees.

“Congress later added section 280E to the tax code, which essentially says if your business is in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of a federally controlled substance, you’re not allowed to take normal business deductions,” Foster explained, and then broke down an example of how that may affect a cannabis-related enterprise.

Say a business makes $100,000 and, after spending $40,000 on product, $20,000 on employees, and $10,000 on rent, claims a profit of $30,000. The owner then pays taxes on that figure; if he owes, say, 40%, he makes a profit of $18,000. But if he’s not allowed to write off expenses, suddenly he’s paying 40% on a much larger chunk of that $100,000 — and taking home much less in profit.

“The effective tax rate is two to three times the size of a normal business. And even though it’s against the law federally, you still have to pay taxes,” Foster noted. “It’s another trap for the unwary.”

Joint Enterprises

From a real-estate point a view, issues like zoning laws, special permitting laws, and host-agreement laws also come into play, Bernardo said.

“Municipalities have held the cards because they have to either accept a marijuana zoning district, or they have the ability to shelve it until we actually get the regulations out for recreational use, but that’s coming to an end, so now they have to decide whether or not they’re going to allow this in town or not.”

That depends largely on how the vote went in that particular community when the ballot question legalizing recreational pot in Massachusetts passed last November. In many Western Mass. communities where the vote was in favor, town officials have been busy putting together zoning bylaws for a marijuana district.

Kathy Bernardo

Kathy Bernardo

“Municipalities have held the cards because they have to either accept a marijuana zoning district, or they have the ability to shelve it until we actually get the regulations out for recreational use, but that’s coming to an end, so now they have to decide whether or not they’re going to allow this in town or not.”

“The people of town agreed that’s going to be there, and they’ve discussed how and where,” she explained. “A lot of towns put a moratorium on it — which was fine, they were allowed to do that, but they were only allowed to do it for a year, and now they have to come to a determination whether or not they’re actually going to have that zoning district in their municipality. But that is all steered by what the vote was in their town.”

If the town’s voters favored legalizing recreational marijuana, Foster added, it puts them in a different approval process locally than if voters were against it as a group.

“If they were against it, the city council or select board has no authority unless and until they do another ballot initiative, another referendum at the town level, to approve it,” he explained. “I don’t think anybody’s really looking, from a business point of view, to go into those towns. It’s just too much of a hurdle.”

Once permitting and zoning procedures are established, business owners have to work with the town on compliance issues, Bernardo said, “and there are a lot of intricacies that you don’t usually have with a lot of other businesses. With this, it’s completely different.”

Bulkley Richardson’s cannabis group has represented outfits ranging from farmers looking to cultivate the plant to people looking to profit on the retail end, she noted, and the cultivation aspect is one that has flown under the radar, yet is important to this region.

“A lot of the things you see in the news are about the pot shops,” Foster said. “What’s not getting picked up as much is the fact that, in order to sell something, you have to first grow it, and it’s a lot cheaper to grow things in Western Mass. than it is in Eastern Mass., in terms of the cost of the land.”

The next step is the extraction and production process, he went on, and that’s an entirely different type of business with its own nuances. “It’s not just selling the leaves, it’s extracting the THC and then putting it in something — oil, an edible, a cream, or something else. Then those products are sold. So you’ve got farming, you’ve got manufacturing, and you’ve got retail. And the farming and the manufacturing are actually happening more around here.”

Foster said his firm launched the cannabis practice because the attorneys were already working with clients in the area on these various enterprises.

“We tell people, ‘here are the ways that a marijuana business is 90% exactly like any other business, and here is the 10% where it’s just wacky different, and these are the things you have to think about.’ But it’s still real estate. It’s raising money. It’s hiring people. It’s all the regular laws which you otherwise have to comply with.”

What is certain, Bernardo added, is that marijuana is now a fast-growing (no pun intended) part of the Massachusetts landscape, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

“It’s here,” she said, “and we have to learn how to deal with it rationally, because people are getting into these businesses, and there are so many balls up in the air when they get a business running.”

Smoke Signals

But while those cannabis-related businesses continue to pop up, employers at … well, pretty much every other type of company must grapple with their employees’ use of the drug outside the workplace.

“There are no tests to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana. There’s no sanctioned way to measure the amount of THC in someone’s system,” Foster said, adding that one reason is that federal grants — here’s that separation of state and federal law again — are not available to research these tests.

“You have a whole system that works on the alcohol side that makes sense — the tests are developed, and the laws are passed that go to those tests,” he said. “None of that exists yet on the marijuana side. The research is happening, but it’s happening with private money, which means it’s subject to more influence and bias.”

Bernardo said a lot of companies that used to test for marijuana are deciding not to do so going forward, due to the uncertainty. “They’ve just eliminated it completely, unless you’re a driver or it’s a safety issue. They don’t even want to deal with it.”

That makes sense in a job market with historically low unemployment, Rapinchuk said, when aggressively testing for THC might make it tougher to compete for talent.

“Employers are trying to hire a good workforce, and they’re going to be ruling out an awful lot of potential employees if they’re going to take that position, so it is possible some employers will decide not to test for that,” she told BusinessWest.

No matter what their stance, she added, it’s probably wise for employers to review their drug-testing policy to make sure it’s clear and consistent, and doesn’t need to be modified in light of the change in the law.

Medical marijuana remains an easier field to navigate than recreational use, she stressed, citing as a recent example a young man who had a medical marijuana card and applied for a position at a local company.

“They told him, ‘we drug test everybody, not just health or safety positions,’ and he disclosed his use to the employer through the testing agency and brought his card. Sure enough, he tested positive, and there was questioning — how often he used it, who’s his doctor, what’s the prescription — but once all those questions were answered, they hired him. So they followed the advice of the Barbuto court in that case.”

Whether dealing with marijuana use by employees or actually launching a cannabis business, Foster said, this is definitely new territory for lawyers, thanks to that gaping disconnect between state and federal law.

“As a licensed group, one of our rules is that can’t help your clients commit a crime,” he said. While the Massachusetts Ethics Commission passed a ruling that allows lawyers in the Bay State to engage in such activity because it’s permitted on a state level, he added, “you still have to tell clients they’re engaging in something that is illegal at a federal level. The nuances are deep and subtle.”

“And can cause a lot of trouble,” Bernardo quickly added.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion

Editorial

Two months (and it’s not even that, really) is not a huge sample size when it comes to any new business. But especially one as large and far-reaching as the $950 million MGM Springfield.

But it might just be enough to offer some commentary — specifically the thought that, thus far, MGM seems to be everything that most of us thought it would be. Meanwhile, it is not what some feared it might become.

Yes, we need to elaborate. And let’s start with the latter.

Many feared that the casino would become predatory in nature (that’s the word many people used), in that it would devour business and employees from other employers, and disposable income from area residents. In other words, it would become a drain of sorts.

Thus far, we really haven’t seen much, if any, of that. To be sure, many of those now wearing MGM Springfield uniforms and name badges were working for someone else several months ago. But thus far, it would be fair to say that most area employers have not been negatively impacted by the arrival of the resort casino.

As for siphoning off business from others … there’s certainly been some of that, too. It’s fair to assume that many of those taking in the first several Patriots’ games at the casino might have been eating chicken wings, drinking craft brews, and watching a big screen in one of the area’s many other sports bars and restaurants. But there’s always been stern competition for those dollars, and this is just one more competitor.

From what we’ve been able to gather — and this is unscientific data collection to be sure — downtown restaurants are doing at least as well as they were before MGM Springfield, and probably better, because there are more people downtown.

And we’re sure we heard somewhere — actually, everywhere — that the Big E set a new attendance record this year, and the middle Saturday set an all-time one-day mark for visitors. You could say it did that in spite of the casino, but it might be better to say that it did that partly because of the casino.

And then there’s traffic, or the worries about it. Some people, especially those living in Longmeadow who commute via I-91, were anticipating the worst when it came to the ride home. The traffic onto Route 5 was already bad, and while it hasn’t gotten any better, it really hasn’t become any worse since the casino opened.

Overall, and we’re not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing, there are days when it would be safe to say that if you didn’t know there was a $960 million casino in the heart of downtown — well, you wouldn’t know.

However, there aren’t many days like that. Which brings us to the first part of the equation — what the casino has become.

It has become a nice addition to the landscape. Thus far, it’s not changing the landscape, and it’s not defining who we are — although the casino seems to be all anyone wants to talk about when it comes to this region lately. And why not? It’s brand new, and there’s lots to talk about.

When it was being planned and built, people talked about the casino as a spark, a momentum builder, maybe even a game changer for the city and the region. It’s far too early to say it’s acting as a game changer, but not too early to say it’s provided a spark and some momentum — as a visit downtown on a Saturday night will make abundantly clear.

Like we said, two months, give or take, is a very small sample size.

But so far, the casino is mostly everything we hoped it would be, and nothing we feared it could be.

Chamber Corners

1BERKSHIRE
www.1berkshire.com
(413) 499-1600

• Oct. 17: Chamber Nite, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hillcrest Commons, 169 Valentine Road, Pittsfield. Chamber networking event. Free for members.
• Oct. 24: Good News Business Salute, featuring Women in Business Month, 5-7 p.m, hosted by Seven Hills Inn, 40 Plunkett St., Lenox.
• Oct. 28: Berkshire Young Professionals Event, 4-8 p.m., hosted by St. James Place, 352 Main St., Great Barrington.
• Nov. 14: Chamber Nite, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Berkshire Country Day School, 55 Interlaken Road, Stockbridge. Cost: free. Register at www.1berkshire.com.
• Nov. 17: Berkshire Young Professionals Holiday Festive Brunch and market, time to be determined. Businesses, send your young employees to this connecting event where they can enjoy brunch with other young professionals and then head over to Greylock WORKS for the second annual Fall FESTIVE, a handmade holiday market celebrating local food and design from the Berkshires and beyond. Cost: $5 for event entry, food and drink separate. Register at www.1berkshire.com.
• Nov. 20: Entrepreneurial Meetup, 8 a.m. Meet, greet, and make things happen at these free networking events. Meetups bring entrepreneurs together on the last Tuesday of the month for coffee or drinks. Location to be determined. Cost: free. Register at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.amherstarea.com
(413) 253-0700

Oct. 24: Multi-chamber Oktoberfest, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hadley Farms Meeting House, 41 Russell St., Hadley. Register at amherstarea.com.
Oct. 25: Legislative Breakfast, 7:30-9:30 a.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. The annual legislative breakfast brings together legislators, local officials, and business leaders to network and discuss current and upcoming policy issues. Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Register at amherstarea.com.

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101

• Oct. 17: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by MassMutual Learning & Conference Center. Featuring a community planning update. Chief greeter: Lee Pouliot, city of Chicopee. Keynote speaker: Tim Brennan, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Spherion Staffing Services, PeoplesBank, Lisa Vachon, CPA, and FutureWorks. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.
• Nov. 15: Holiday Bazaar & Raffle, 5-8 p.m., hosted at Portuguese American Club, Exchange Street, Chicopee. Sponsored by Polish National Credit Union, PeoplesBank, Westfield Bank, Insurance Center of New England, and the Arbors Kids. Holiday Tree Raffle sponsored by Health New England. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.
• Nov. 21: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by Summit View Banquet and Meeting House. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Spherion Staffing Services, PeoplesBank, Veteran Services Office – City of Chicopee, Prosthetic & Orthotic Solutions, and First American Insurance Agency. Chief greeter: Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee Veteran Services Office. Keynote speaker: Jack Downing, Soldier On. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Veterans admitted free of charge. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.easthamptonchamber.org
(413) 527-9414

• Nov. 14: Hampshire County Business Bash, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. This tri-chamber networking event is being presented by the Greater Easthampton, Greater Northampton, and Amherst Area chambers of commerce. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-registration is suggested. For more information and to register, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.explorenorthampton.com
(413) 584-1900

• Nov. 2, 6, 13, 27: “Maintaining a WorkPress Website,” 9:15-11:15 a.m. (Nov. 2, 6, 27); 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (Nov. 13). Hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This class is intended for people who are currently maintaining or building a WordPress website. The class will meet for four sessions, and part of each session will be devoted to working on your own website, with assistance from the instructor. Participants are asked to bring their own laptops, as well as login credentials for their websites. Cost: $120 for members, $150 for non-members. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. To register, visit goo.gl/forms/RBdkeCbXPwGIoH6G2.
• Nov. 8: “Advertising with Facebook for Beginners,” noon to 1 p.m., hosted by Coldwell Banker, 112 Main St., Northampton. Presented by Pam Sclafani, Marketing director of Coldwell Banker Realtors. If you’ve been thinking about online advertising but are reluctant to pull the trigger, Sclafani will show you how to grow your audience, reach the right people, and manage and measure the results within the largest social-media platform in the world. Cost: free.
• Nov. 14: November Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst. Three-chamber event. Sponsored by Kuhn Riddle Architects. Cost: $10 for members.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618

• Nov. 5: November Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m. hosted by Andrea York Photography, 16 Union Ave., Suite 1A, Westfield. Please join us for our monthly Coffee Hour with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. This event is free and open to the public. Sign up online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events, or call the chamber at (413) 568-1618 to register so we may give our host a head count.
• Nov. 14: November After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holiday Inn Express, 39 Southampton Road, Westfield. Refreshments will be served, and a 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Sign up online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events. For sponsorships or more information, call the chamber at (413) 568-1618.
• Nov. 28: November Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner, 5:30-8:30 p.m., hosted by Tekoa Country Club, 459 Russell Road, Westfield. Join us as we gather to celebrate our 2018 award winners, including Business of the Year: Armbrook Village; Nonprofit of the Year: the Westfield Athenaeum; and Lifetime Achievement Award: Ann Lentini of Domus Inc. Sponsored by Westfield Bank. Dinner tickets cost $45 for members, $60 for non-members. Sign up online at www.westfieldbiz.org/events. For sponsorships or more information, call the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S CHAMBER
www.springfieldregionalchamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• Nov. 8: “Discover Your Power Voice,” 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Springfield Country Club. Presenter Angela Lussier will show attendees how to discover the power of their voice through her interactive presentation. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Registration will be available soon. Visit www.professionalwomenschamber.com for more information.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.shgchamber.com
(413) 532-6451

• Oct. 24: Bonfires and Brews, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hadley Farms Meeting House, 41 Russell St., Hadley. This multi-chamber mixer will combine networking, music, hors d’ouvres and local designer beers in a beautiful indoor and outdoor setting. There will be a firepit, games, and a full moon, if the weather gods agree. Attendees will have the chance to mix with other chamber members from all over the region and establish new network ties, all in a convivial setting. Cost: $20 for members, $30 for non-members. For further information or to register, e-mail Sara Lawrence at [email protected], or call (413) 532-6451. For details on participating sponsors and vendors, visit www.shgchamber.com and click on this event.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER
www.springfieldregionalchamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• Oct. 17: Deadline for Super 60 reservations. Register by visiting www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mailing [email protected], or calling (413) 755-1310.
• Oct. 26: Super 60 Awards Celebration, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, Agawam. Join us as we celebrate the success of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the region. Cost: $60 for members, $75 for non-members, $100 at the door. Register by visiting www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mailing [email protected], or calling (413) 755-1310.
• Nov. 7: Rise and Shine Business Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by Springfield Sheraton, Monarch Place, Springfield.
• Nov. 7: Networking Night with West of the River Chamber, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Ronald McDonald House, 34 Chapin Terrace, Springfield. Free for members who bring an unwrapped toy or non-perishable item; $10 general admission.
• Nov. 8: Professional Women’s Chamber Headline Luncheon, “Discover Your Power Voice,” with Angela Lussier, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Cost: $35 for members, $40 for non-members, $25/ for students.
• Nov. 15: Government Reception, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Carriage House, Storrowton Tavern, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: $60 for members in advance, $70 general admission in advance.

Reservations for all Springfield Regional Chamber events may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mailing [email protected], or calling (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.ourwrc.com
(413) 426-3880

• Oct. 18: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Crestview Country Club, Agawam. You must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief introduction and company overview. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately the day of the event. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.
• Oct. 25: Food Fest West, 5:30-8 p.m., hosted by Springfield Country Club, West Springfield. Local restaurants show off their cuisine at this well-attended event, which also features a DJ, raffle, and entertainment. Vote for your favorite restaurant. Proceeds raised by Food Fest West will go toward the Partnership for Education and the WRC Educational Fund, which provides grants to businesses for on-the-job training and continuing-education needs. Cost: $35 in advance, $45 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com. For more information about this event, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]
• Nov. 7: Night of Networking, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Ronald McDonald House, 34 Chapin Terrace, Springfield. This event, co-presented with the Springfield Regional Chamber, is a networking event bringing the two chambers together for a great cause. Bring an unwrapped toy or a non-perishable food item, and your entrance fee is free. Take a tour of this facility, learn about all they provide for communities in need, and network with fellow business people from all over Western Mass. For more information and to register, visit www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
springfieldyps.com

• Nov. 14: Professional Breakfast Series: “Trumps Taxes and What It Means for You,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by MassLive, 1350 Main St., fourth floor, Springfield. Join us for breakfast as Amanda Garcia, CPA reviews what’s to come as part of President Trump’s tax plan for 2019. This breakfast is part of a series sponsored by the MBA Program at Elms College. Register at springfieldyps.com.
• Nov. 15: YPS November Third Thursday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Student Prince, Fort Street, Springfield. Networking event. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members. Register at springfieldyps.com.

Creative Economy

Dramatic Effect

the Colonial Theatre was reopened in 2006

Following a $21 million renovation, the Colonial Theatre was reopened in 2006 after more than 50 years of inactivity.

Kate Maguire was out shopping recently, wearing a shirt that proudly celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge.

“The young girl at the register — she was probably 18 — was stunned. She said, ‘that theater is 90 years old? I had no idea!’ For her, it was ancient history. But she made me realize that, yes, 90 years of theater is a long time.”

As artistic director and CEO of the Berkshire Theatre Group, which puts on performances at venues in Stockbridge and Pittsfield, Maguire has witnessed quite a bit of that history first-hand since joining the organization 25 years ago.

“The facilities represent two iconic sites,” she said. “The Colonial Theatre is the center of Pittsfield — the center of the county.” As for the playhouse in Stockbridge, also known as the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, “considering that culture is the heart of the community in the Berkshires, that is as iconic a structure as any in Berkshire County.”

But while the buildings themselves are iconic, more importantly, each campus has brought countless people to see some of the most remarkable names in the history of American theater, as well as up-and-coming talent, Maguire noted. “It has created a sort of cultural destination for artists and audiences. That’s what the buildings represent.”

They’re also an economic driver, she added, currently drawing about 75,000 visitors a year and contributing almost $4 million to the local economy annually — as well as employing some 600 people in some capacity each year.

Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) was created in 2010 by the merger of the Berkshire Theatre Festival, housed at the main stage in Stockbridge, and the Colonial Theatre, built in 1903 in Pittsfield. One of the largest arts organizations in the region, BTG oversees the development, production, and presentation of theatre, music, and various other performing arts.

Kate Maguire says involving hundreds of children in productions each year is key to securing BTG’s future.

Kate Maguire says involving hundreds of children in productions each year is key to securing BTG’s future.

The Stockbridge campus presents work at two venues. The 314-seat Fitzpatrick Main Stage, designed by famed architect Stanford White, is a summer-only venue where classical theatre and world premieres are produced. Meanwhile, the 122-seat Unicorn Theatre, open year-round, is home for new and emerging artists, and a space where more experimental, provocative works often finds a receptive audience.

Meanwhile, in Pittsfield, the 780-seat Colonial Theatre — built in 1903 and re-opened in 2006 following a $21 million restoration — hosts family entertainment, comedy, live music, and other events year-round.

Located in the lobby of the Colonial is the Garage, a name that pays homage to its former owner, Berkshire Auto Co. This newest BTG venue, complete with a stage, lights, and sound system, is a dedicated space for local and regional music, comedy performers, and more.

In short, Maguire said, there’s something for everyone.

“I want people to know they’re welcome here,” she told BusinessWest. “They can listen to acoustic musicians or hear a really funny comedian in the Garage, sit with friends, have a drink, then go into the majestic Colonial Theatre and have a completely different experience. Or they might see a rock band on stage, and the following week see an opera performed. It’s a space where people come together from all strata and all walks of life.”

Rich History

The Colonial Theatre opened its doors on Sept. 28, 1903. Built in five and a half months, it boasted pristine acoustics and classic Gilded Age architecture. As was sometimes the custom in that day, the exterior of the theater was designed by a respected local architect, Joseph McArthur Vance, who also designed Pittsfield’s Masonic Temple, the Christian Science building, the superstructure of the Wahconah Park Stadium, Mount Greylock’s Bascom Lodge, and the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington.

“I want people to know they’re welcome here. They can listen to acoustic musicians or hear a really funny comedian in the Garage, sit with friends, have a drink, then go into the majestic Colonial Theatre and have a completely different experience. Or they might see a rock band on stage, and the following week see an opera performed. It’s a space where people come together from all strata and all walks of life.”

From its early days, the space played host to some of the most notable lights in theater, including Maude Adams, Ethel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Sarah Bernhardt, Eubie Blake, Billie Burke, George Cohan, Irene Dunne, Grace George, William Gillette, Walter Hampden, Helen Hayes, Al Jolson, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Julia Marlow and E.H. Sothern, Will Rogers, Lillian Russell, Ted Shawn, Noble Sissell, Ruth St. Denis, Laurette Taylor, and Ed Wynn.

the Colonial Theatre

Following a $21 million renovation, the Colonial Theatre was reopened in 2006 after more than 50 years of inactivity.

To the south in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Playhouse was founded in 1928 when Mabel Choate sold the Stockbridge Casino to financier Walter Clark. An organization called the Three Arts Society remodeled the casino’s interior by adding a stage and seating for 450 people, and christened the new theatre the Berkshire Playhouse.

In 1937, the Colonial was renovated with a new marquee, projection room, and two retail stores added to the front of the building. With cinema on the rise, the venue operated primarily for the next decade and a half as a movie theater, although some community performances continued. In 1951, the Colonial closed due to the rise of TV and the decline of touring theatrical companies — and would remain closed for more than a half-century.

Down in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Playhouse was reorganized as a nonprofit organization in 1964 and renamed the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In 1976, the playhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1996, the Unicorn Theatre was reopened after a lengthy renovation and became BTG’s official second stage.

To the north, meanwhile, efforts to restore and reopen the Colonial were picking up in the 1990s. And organization called Friends of the Colonial Theatre Restoration was formed in 1994, and public tours in 1997 led to increased community awareness of the venue’s potential. A $2.5 million appropriation in state funding followed, and designation of the facility in 1998 as a National Historic Treasure by the Save America’s Treasures Program of the National Park Service only increased the momentum.

After years of design, planning, and community fundraising, the rehabilitation of the historic theater — and the extensive renovation of the adjacent Berkshire Auto Garage — were undertaken. In 2006, the $21 million restoration was complete, and the theater reopened. The 22-month construction process preserved and reinstalled all historically significant architectural and design features — from the vaulted, gilded entrance to the elaborately decorated boxes and balcony to the custom plasterwork — while creating a modern performance center.

“I feel it’s very important to make sure that the community recognizes the theater as their own,” Maguire told BusinessWest. “The doors were closed for 50 years, and the community got together and put in a lot of hard work and money renovate that theater.”

In a year when the Berkshire Theatre Festival marked its 90th summer season and the Colonial Theatre celebrated its 115th birthday, the community continues to show its support, she added. “We’ve been successful in fund-raising, and certainly a lot of people coming to our shows — we’re very grateful for the attendance.”

Kid Stuff

Maguire might be even more proud, though, of the way BTG engages with children, reaching about 13,000 students with cultural programs each year and putting many of them on stage in any given year; this past summer, about 100 Berkshire-area youth performed in Tarzan of the Apes at the Colonial.

“Imagine how many other kids are coming to these productions,” she said. “We are ensuring the vitality of the future of these buildings. Those 100 kids in Tarzan in the summertime — those kids are going to remember that experience, and make sure that building is here for the next generation.”

She believes that because it’s her own story. Growing up in Lowell, she used to attend performances of Boston Children’s Theatre.

“I was amazed at the quality of work, and it looked like an army of kids were working on these produtions,” she recalled. “Little did I know that, many years later, I’d have the opportunity to create such programming in the community I live in now. Every single doorway I’m walked through has been opened because of theater.”

Maguire wants to open those doors for others today — not just children who might feel a spark to follow a passion for theater, but area residents and Berkshires visitors who become part of a long, rich history every time they buy a ticket.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]