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Lessons Learned from COVID

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

Drew DiGiorgio, president and CEO of Wellfleet

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

They’re called ‘insurance bibles.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timm Marini holds up an ‘insurance bible’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like those virtual audits at Meyers Brothers Kalicka.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caution Signs

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

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

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

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

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

CHuck Leach

Chuck Leach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Office

Flexible Thinking, Nimble Action

By Susan Robertson

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

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

 

What Was Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Can We Be More Nimble in the Future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Agenda

Difference Makers

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

 

Institute for Trustees

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

 

Winnie Film Festival Tour

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

 

Country Bank Shred Day

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

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

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

 

Nominations for Ad Club Creative Awards

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

 

Alumni Achievement Award Nominations

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

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

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

 

VA Healthcare Virtual Summit

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

Incorporations

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

EAST LONGMEADOW

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

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

DALTON

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

LANESBORO

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

LEE

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

LENOX

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

PITTSFIELD

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

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

SANDISFIELD

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

SPRINGFIELD

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

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

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

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

WESTFIELD

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

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

WEST SPRINGFIELD

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

WILBRAHAM

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

WILLIAMSBURG

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

Picture This

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


 

Supporting Students

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

 


 

Tackling Tough Issues

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

 


 

In the Bag

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

 


 

Agenda

Pynchon Award Nominations

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

 

Ubora, Ahadi Award Nominations

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

 

Fundraising Walk in Remembrance of Dave Stawasz

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

 

Institute for Trustees

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

 

Nominations for Ad Club Creative Awards

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

 

Alumni Achievement Award Nominations

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

 

Springfield Partners for Community Action Scholarships

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

 

VA Healthcare Virtual Summit

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

 

Home Improvement Special Coverage

Backyard Experience

 

By Mark Morris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A worker with Pioneer Landscaping places patio stones.

A worker with Pioneer Landscaping places patio stones.

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

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

 

Dive Right In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Getting Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

Picture This

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

 


 

We’ll Drink to That

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

 


 

Investment in the Future

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

 

 


 

Young Woman of Impact

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

 


 

 

Special Delivery

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

 


 

Opinion

Editorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Picture This

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

 


 

Recognizing 45 Years

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

 


 

 

Cold-weather Concerns

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

 


 

 

Page-turning News

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

 

 


 

 

Suit Your Socks

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

 


 

Agenda

Dental Radiology Course

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

 

COVID-19 Vaccine Community Webinars

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

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

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

 

Phlebotomy for Healthcare Workers Class

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

 

People on the Move

Nikki Burnett

Gillian Hinkson

Gillian Hinkson

Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy

Karin George

Karin George

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

•••••

Heather Arbour

Heather Arbour

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

•••••

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

•••••

Eugene Cassidy

Eugene Cassidy

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

•••••

Colin D’Amour

Colin D’Amour

Christian D’Amour

Christian D’Amour

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

•••••

Erica Flores

Erica Flores

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

•••••

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

•••••

Monte Horst

Monte Horst

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

•••••

Joanne Marqusee

Joanne Marqusee

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

Incorporations

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

Becket

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

BELCHERTOWN

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

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

EASTHAMPTON

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

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

EAST LONGMEADOW

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

FLORENCE

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

PITTSFIELD

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

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

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

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

SPRINGFIELD

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

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

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

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

TOLLAND

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

WESTFIELD

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

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

Company Notebook

Thunderbirds Announce Suspension of 2020-21 Season

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

 

Hazen Paper Wins Award for 2020 Holographic Calendar

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

 

Tighe & Bond Named Finalist for Engineering Excellence Awards

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

 

UMass Amherst Grad Students Receive Financial Support

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

 

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

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

 

Nursing Schools Almanac Names AIC Among Best Schools for Nursing

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

Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

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

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

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

AMHERST

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

CHICOPEE

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

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

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

GREENFIELD

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

HAMPDEN

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

HOLYOKE

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

LONGMEADOW

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

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

NORTH ADAMS

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

NORTHAMPTON

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

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

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

WEST BROOKFIELD

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

Economic Outlook

Restaurants

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

And his thoughts were colored with optimism.

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

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

Andy Yee

Andy Yee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—George O’Brien

Agenda

Women’s Leadership Training Program

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

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

 

Asnuntuck Super Saturday

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

 

Virtual Event Series on Vaccination

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

 

Healthcare Heroes

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

 

Women of Impact

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

 

‘Establishing Resilience: Building Happiness’

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

 

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


 

Celebrating Heroes

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

 

 


 

 

I Can See Clearly Now

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

 

 


 

 

Provider of Choice

 

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

 

 


 

Incorporations

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

AMHERST

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

ASHFIELD

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

ASHLEY FALLS

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

CHICOPEE

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

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

EASTHAMPTON

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

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

GRANBY

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

GREENFIELD

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

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

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

HAMPDEN

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

LONGMEADOW

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

LUDLOW

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

PITTSFIELD

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

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

Special Coverage Women in Businesss

Knowledge Is Power

The WBOA team with a mural

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members of the alliance

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

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

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

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

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

 

Making Connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Making the Time

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

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

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

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

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus Features

Looking Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion

Opinion

By John Regan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Incorporations

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

ADAMS

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

AGAWAM

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

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

BLANDFORD

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

BARRE

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

CHICOPEE

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

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

CONWAY

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

EAST LONGMEADOW

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

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

FLORENCE

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

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

GREENFIELD

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

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

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

SPRINGFIELD

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

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

WESTFIELD

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

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

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

Picture This

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Help Where It’s Needed

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

 

 


 

 

Celebrating STEM Week

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

 


 

 

Supporting Girls

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

 

 


 

 

 

Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

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

ATHOL

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

CHICOPEE

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

EAST LONGMEADOW

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

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

FLORENCE

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

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

GREENFIELD

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

HAMPDEN

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

LONGMEADOW

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

LUDLOW

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

LYNN

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

NORTHFIELD

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

NORTH ADAMS

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

PHILLIPSTON

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

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

SPRINGFIELD

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

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

DBA Certificates

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

DEERFIELD

Impact Merchant Solutions
252 Lower Road
Michael Rifanburg

Soul Trek Coaching
9 Conway St.
William Dziura

HADLEY

Homewood Suites
340 Russell St.
Kishore Parmar

Qigong Infused Yoga
64 Comins Road
Lynne Smith

T-Mobile
344 Russell St.
Lindsey Romano

T-Mobile Financial
344 Russell St.
Lindsey Romano

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

SOUTHWICK

American Way Home Improvement
24 Eagle St.
Andrew Gorenc

Kim Hartman House Cleaning
26 Fernwood Road
Kim Hartman

Thompson Transportation
719 College Highway
Shane Thompson

WESTFIELD

Andrew York Photography, LLC
16 Union Ave.
Andrea York

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

Cindy’s Cleaning
44 Laro Road
Cindy Donahue

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

Quality Machining & Manufacturing
179 Joseph Ave.
Steven Sobczyk

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

Seven Colors Painting
26 Hunter Slope
Pavel Shevchuk

Sophy Nails and Spa
84 Main St.
Lida Lim

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Beauty Admired
1027 Westfield St.
Sapphire Torres

Becker Cleaning Services
69 Hanover St.
Anthony Becker

Big Lots #1863
1150 Union St.
Doris Greathouse

Comfort Bagel
163 Falmouth Road
Janet Blake

Taj Indian Cuisine
1506 Riverdale St.
Shambhu Rana

T-Mobile
233 Memorial Ave.
Lindsey Romano

Company Notebook

UMass Donahue Institute Receives $32.5 Million from Head Start

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

 

Thunderbirds Foundation Donates $15,000 to Rays of Hope

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

 

Davis Family Establishes New Scholarship Fund in Honor of Mary Walachy

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

 

Berkshire Theatre Group Awarded $1 Million Gift

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

 

Home City Development Wins Funding for Elias Brookings Apartments

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

 

Mercedes-Benz of Springfield Wins Community Service Award

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

 

Wellfleet Partners with binx health to Keep College Students Safe

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

 

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

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

 

MCLA Adopts Test-blind Policy Through Fall 2022

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

 

AIC Hosts Mural Honoring Mason Square Resident

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

 

Summerlin Floors Awarded Woman-owned Business Certificate

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

 

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

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

 

Incorporations

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

BRIMFIELD

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

CHICOPEE

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

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

EAST LONGMEADOW

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

GRANBY

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

GILL

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

HOLYOKE

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

LONGMEADOW

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

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

NORTHAMPTON

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

PALMER

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

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

PITTSFIELD

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

SPRINGFIELD

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

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

WESTFIELD

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

WEST SPRINGFIELD

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

Picture This

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

 


 

Manufacturer of the Year

State Sen. Eric Lesser, Senate chair of the Manufacturing Caucus, recognized Toner Plastics as the First Hampden and Hampshire Manufacturer of the Year in a virtual, reimagined fifth annual Manufacturing Awards ceremony also attended by state Rep. Jeff Roy, Manufacturing Caucus co-chair; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Senate President Karen Spilka; and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy. This followed an in-person presentation of the award by Lesser (pictured, left) at the East Longmeadow facility on Oct. 15 alongside company President Jack Warren and members of his team.


 

Grand Opening in Amherst

bankESB recently celebrated the virtual grand opening of its newest branch location at 253 Triangle St., Amherst. The event was commemorated in a Facebook Live broadcast hosted by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. Pictured, from left: Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce; Nancy Lapointe, senior vice president of Retail Administration at bankESB; Matt Sosik, bankESB president and CEO; Jessica West, bankESB assistant vice president and Amherst branch officer; and stste Rep. Mindy Domb

 


 

COVID-19 Relief

The state awarded Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) two grants totaling nearly $662,000 for COVID-19 relief. The money will be used to help keep the campus safe during the pandemic, compensate faculty for their work developing online courses, and boost student aid. Pictured: STCC President John Cook speaks at a news conference announcing the funding, alongside, from left, Heriberto “Herbie” Flores, president and CEO of Partners for Community; state Rep. Angelo Puppolo Jr; state Rep. Bud Williams; state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez; and Denise Hurst, vice president of Advancement and External Affairs at STCC.

 


 

Halloween, 2020-Style

 

The United Way of Pioneer Valley staged a unique, COVID-era Halloween-day celebration at the TD Bank building in downtown Springfield. Sponsored by Colebrook Realty Services and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, the event drew more than 3,000 cars, with those driving through dressed for the occasion. From top to bottom: Sarno waves to an approaching car; Paula Wysocka, a United Way staff member, gets into the spirit of the event; some of the goodies that were handed out to the young people being driven through; the entrance to the building was decorated for the holiday.

 


 

Celebrating STEM Week

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


 

COVID-19

PPP Loan Forgiveness 101

By Jeff Laboe, CPA

Please realize that the information available today is different than it was a four months ago, and will most likely look different two months from now, so keep that in mind while reading this article.

With all the uncertainty these days, the last thing taxpayers should be worrying about is how to complete the application for your Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. The intent of this article is to give taxpayers an idea of the application process and forms that need to be submitted for forgiveness of the PPP loan the business received.

Jeff Laboe

Jeff Laboe

A business of any type (LLC, S-corp, sole proprietor, etc.) that received funds via a PPP loan in 2020 may apply for the forgiveness of repayment of this loan. Taxpayers who received a loan, maintained proper records, followed the Small Business Administration rules and guidelines with respect as to how the loan proceeds were spent, and performed all necessary calculations should qualify for forgiveness on the repayment of the loan or the portion of the loan that qualifies.

There are three different application forms that may have to be completed based upon your individual PPP loan program. You have 10 months from the completion of your loan period to file one of these forgiveness applications. The three forms to be used are Form 3508S, 3508EZ, and Form 3508, or the equivalent forms offered by your bank.

The first is Form 3508S, which can be used only by those who received $50,000 or less in PPP loan proceeds. The application asks taxpayers to provide the forgiveness amount requested and to certify with signatures that all the conditions were met. There are no calculations required on the application and no reductions in forgiveness due to reduced head count or salaries or wages. This form is the most straightforward.

Form 3508EZ may be used by self-employed individuals, independent contractors, or sole proprietors that have no employees and/or wages at the time of the loan-application process.

A business also qualifies to use this form if it received more than $50,000 but less than $150,000 in PPP funds, and met one of two additional scenarios:

• Salary and wages were not reduced by more than 25% during the loan period, and the employee head count was restored by the end of the chosen loan period — essentially, the net head count wasn’t affected; or

• Salary and wages were not reduced by more than 25% during the loan period and you were unable to operate the same level of business due to compliance with requirements to any work or customer safety requirements related to COVID-19. Similar to the 3508S application, there are no calculations required. Taxpayers instead need to confirm and provide support that the loan proceeds were used for eligible costs.

The last form is the standard Form 3508. This application is for all taxpayers who do not meet the thresholds to file one of the previously discussed forms. This standard application is much more detailed and complex, and may require some additional time and supporting documents. Taxpayers might want to seek assistance from their professional advisors.

“With all the uncertainty these days, the last thing taxpayers should be worrying about is how to complete the application for your Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.”

Additionally, if your business also obtained an EIDL advance, that amount needs to be subtracted from the amount of loan proceeds that would otherwise be eligible for forgiveness. This applies for all three loan-forgiveness forms. Legislation has also been introduced (U.S. Senate Bill 4321) that details potential automatic forgiveness for any PPP loan under $150,000 if the debtee “signs and submits to the lender an attestation that the eligible recipient made a good-faith effort to comply with the requirements under section 7(a)(36) of the Small Business Act.” The status of the bill is uncertain at this time.

Once you have submitted your application, the loan provider has 60 days from the date the application was received to issue a decision to the SBA. The SBA then has 90 days to review the application and remit the forgiveness amount to the lender.

When it comes to PPP loan-forgiveness applications, remember the three different levels: less than $50,000, between $50,000 and $150,000, and above $150,000. As of now, taxpayers have to apply for forgiveness within 10 months of the end of the loan period. Be sure you complied with all the rules and guidelines on what the qualified expenses are and kept accurate and complete records. And don’t be overwhelmed by the applications. If you need assistance, there are resources for you.

 

Jeff Laboe is a senior tax associate with MP CPAs; www.thempgroupcpa.com

Company Notebook

Elms College Establishes St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the creation of the St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture (CERC), thanks to the generous support of three foundational donors. A seven-figure naming gift from an anonymous donor and two six-figure contributions, from Carolyn Jacobs and B. John and Collette Dill and family, will help the college launch the center. The CERC will examine the most pressing and complex questions related to ethics, religion, and culture in today’s society and lead the regional community in thoughtful, engaging discourse. From an academic perspective, programming for the CERC will focus on the infusion of ethical leadership across the curriculum, the integration of ethics within the healthcare and business fields of study, and the provision of innovative experiential learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. “The creation of the CERC reflects the college’s goals of training the next generation of ethical leaders, sharing the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition, encouraging interfaith dialogue, and promoting our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Peter DePergola II, associate professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Elms College and a member of the CERC advisory board. An official launch of the St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture will take place in late October and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held virtually.

 

MassMutual Center, UMass, AIC to Co-host 2024 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Regional

SPRINGFIELD — The National Collegiate Athletic Assoc. (NCAA) announced that the MassMutual Center, in conjunction with American International College and UMass Amherst, has been selected to host the 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Regional, marking the first time the event has been held at the MassMutual Center. The two-day regional will feature four teams competing in two first-round games, with the winners advancing to the regional final the following day. The winner of the regional final will advance to the 2024 Frozen Four, which will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. “We are incredibly proud to partner with American International College and the MassMutual Center for a 2024 regional,” said Ryan Bamford, director of Athletics at UMass Amherst. “We have been privileged to see first-hand the passion that fans in this region have for college hockey, and we are looking forward to playing a part in hosting a first-class event in Springfield during one of the most exciting weekends on the college hockey calendar.” Added Jessica Chapin, interim director of Athletics at AIC, “we are thrilled to be awarded the bid for the Division I Ice Hockey Regional with UMass and the MassMutual Center for 2024,” “This will be a wonderful opportunity to add to the storied history of hockey in the Springfield, Massachusetts area.”

 

Northern Tree Service Transitions to Employee Stock-ownership Plan

PALMER — Northern Tree Service Inc. announced it has transitioned the ownership of its business lines over to an employee stock-ownership plan, or ESOP. The Lazear Capital Partners team worked with the management of Northern Tree Service to design a custom solution that included employee benefits, financial flexibility, and maximum tax advantages. Founded in 1932 by Walter Cambo, the company was first established to service state and municipal tree work in Eastern Mass. Under the leadership of Paul Cambo, Northern Tree Service grew to provide land-clearing services for the ever-expanding energy grid in the Northeast. Furthering Northern’s expansion, now under the leadership of Paul’s son, Philip, Northern Tree Service has continued its growth to become one of the most diversified tree-care companies in the industry, servicing all New England and surrounding states. “The ESOP was the choice we made to maintain the business’s current direction while simultaneously rewarding the 250-plus employees that have been so critical to the business’ success,” President Timothy LaMotte said. “We have a very specialized and highly skilled group of professionals focused on safety and integrity, and we are excited to see that continue.” With the new ESOP in place, both Philip Cambo and LaMotte will continue their current roles for the foreseeable future and gradually hand over the business’ operational control to the next generation of leaders.

 

Berkshire Bank Enhances Leave for Employees Experiencing Gender-based Violence

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced enhanced protections that will provide its 1,500 employees with paid and protected leave to manage the consequences of intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Berkshire Bank has partnered with FreeFrom, a nonprofit creating pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of gender-based violence, to increase its existing leave policies to benefit its employees. The enhanced policy gives employees 15 days of leave a year to seek medical care, attend court proceedings, and relocate — all without missing a paycheck or depleting their accrued sick or vacation days. Since 2014, Berkshire Bank has had a domestic-violence leave policy in compliance with relevant state laws. These new enhancements go beyond the mandated requirements of state laws to offer additional support for survivors and their families impacted by this type of abuse. Berkshire Bank employees will also now have access to FreeFrom’s Compensation Compass, a tool designed to assist survivors of domestic abuse in understanding whether they are eligible for compensation to cover some of the costs of the harm they experienced. In addition, the bank plans to collaborate with FreeFrom as part of its Survivor Safety Banking Initiative to explore how to design products and policies to better support customers that have experienced or are experiencing violence or abuse. This approach eliminates barriers to access for individuals of all backgrounds and experiences by providing innovative financial solutions, including an online account-opening experience that will help bring survivors into mainstream banking.

 

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

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

 

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

SPRINGFIELD — For the fourth consecutive year, Excel Dryer has committed an annual gift of $5,000 to support Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom initiative. The gift comes at a critical time as Square One recently expanded its early-education program to include full-day remote learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to its traditional preschool classrooms and family childcare offerings. The funds will be used to offset expenses associated with classroom supplies, meals, and professional development. “I am a strong proponent of in-person learning, and I applaud the efforts of Square One to reopen its preschool programs back in June, with appropriate protocols in place,” said Denis Gagnon, president of Excel Dryer Inc. “However, not all children have been able to return to school in the fall, which has created additional expenses to provide these children with remote learning support.” Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom program is part of the agency’s Campaign for Healthy Kids, a multi-year fund-development initiative focused on the agency’s commitment to providing healthy meals, physical fitness, social-emotional well-being, and a healthy learning environment. “The past few months have greatly reinforced the demand for our programs and services,” said Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication at Square One. “With that growing demand and the unanticipated COVID-related expenses — including providing full-day support during remote learning — we have a tremendous need to expand our donor base.” Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, and family support services to 1,500 families each year, as they work to overcome the significant challenges in their lives.

 

Company Notebook

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.