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Claudia Pazmany

Claudia Pazmany

Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKFS) named Claudia Pazmany as its new chief Development officer. She will be responsible for developing a sustainable institutional development effort to both support existing programs and expand them to serve the emergent needs of the organization’s clients. Pazmany had served as a volunteer member of the MLKFS development committee before being appointed to her new position. Pazmany, who most recently served as executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, brings a history of professional fundraising with a career total of raising more than $15 million in a development capacity for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Providence Ministries, and other organizations. She also serves as volunteer, advisory board member, and former board president of CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, a development committee member of the United Way of Franklin & Hampshire Region, and as a 2020 and 2021 EforAll Pioneer Valley mentor. In 2021, Pazmany received a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives for her leadership role in supporting Amherst’s small businesses throughout COVID, leveraging more than $2 million in small-business assistance. She was honored with the Family 2022 Outreach Center’s Helen Mitchell Community Service Award for conceptualizing and implementing a program that provided restaurant relief while feeding families who were disproportionately impacted by COVID. She was also honored as a 2023 BusinessWest Difference Maker along with Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Gabrielle Gould for their partnership and leadership to build a stronger community throughout COVID. Pazmany earned a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in French and business from UMass Amherst, and an MBA from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. She earned a program leadership certificate from the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact.


Peter Banko

Peter Banko

The Baystate Health board of trustees announced it has appointed Peter Banko as Baystate Health’s new president and CEO. He succeeds Dr. Mark Keroack, who previously announced his plans to retire after serving as the system’s leader for 10 years. An executive experienced in leading multi-faceted health systems in markets throughout the country, Banko was chosen after an extensive national search by the board of trustees. Banko will officially join Baystate Health at the beginning of June. Banko most recently served as president and CEO of Centura Health in Centennial, Colo., which was part of the national CommonSpirit Health system. The $3.8 billion hospital and health-services system comprised more than 20 owned and affiliated tertiary and rural hospitals, an extensive network of physician partners, and numerous community-based services and clinics across Colorado, Kansas, and Utah. Banko, a native of New Jersey, started his calling in healthcare as a junior volunteer and has served in CEO-level roles for several health systems for nearly two decades. He has an industry reputation of leading innovation, transformation, integration, and partnerships with hospitals, physician groups, and health plans. He earned his bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Notre Dame and his master of health administration degree from the Sloan Program in Health Services Administration at Cornell University.


Vicki Baldyga

Vicki Baldyga

Amber Messer

Amber Messer

Monson Savings Bank announced that Vicki Baldyga, former Ware branch manager, and Amber Messer, former assistant Ware branch manager, have transferred to the bank’s Wilbraham branch to take the helm as the new management team of the 100 Post Office Park location. Baldyga has 25 years of experience in the banking industry, 17 of which have been in branch management. She has been employed with Monson Savings Bank for five years. Committed to expanding her knowledge and skill set, she is currently enrolled in the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. New England School for Financial Studies and holds several diplomas and certificates from the Center for Financial Training. In her role as Wilbraham branch manager, she will be responsible for planning, organizing, and directing branch operations. She aims to foster an environment of teamwork and provide a high level of leadership to her team, as well as provide a high level of customer service with a positive, respectful, and courteous attitude. Baldyga is very involved in the local community, volunteering at Crossway Community Clothing Outreach, serving on the board of the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce, and donating blood to the Red Cross. Messer began her banking career as a customer service representative and teller at Monson Savings Bank six and a half years ago. Throughout her career, she has proven to be an asset to the bank and has achieved several promotions, ultimately attaining the position of assistant branch manager. In 2023, she was a nominee for Monson Savings Bank’s President’s Award. She was recognized by a peer for her commitment to customer and community service, teamwork, and excellence. She has also received several customer-service excellence awards during her time with the bank for going above and beyond. As the assistant Wilbraham branch manager, Messer will support Baldyga to manage the branch. She will also assist customers with their banking transactions, drawing on her extensive knowledge of bank products and services, while promoting an atmosphere of positive staff morale by inspiring trust and respect.


Country Bank announced the appointment of Clare Ladue as the assistant vice president of the Customer Care Center. With 30 years of financial-service experience, she brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to her new role. Ladue graduated from Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. New England School of Financial Studies. She has a commercial lending certificate from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. and numerous professional leadership certifications. Throughout her career, she has gained extensive experience in banking, including retail banking, deposit operations, commercial lending, and regional management, making her the ideal candidate to lead Country Bank’s Customer Care team. Her connection to the local community is evident through her previous involvement as an executive committee member of the Quaboag Hills Chamber of Commerce. She has also participated in numerous charitable initiatives, including the Walk of Champions, Junior Achievement, Rays of Hope, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, and Link to Libraries. Her dedication to making a positive impact aligns with Country Bank’s core values.


Hector Suarez

Hector Suarez

bankESB recently hired Hector Suarez as assistant vice president, branch officer of its Sargeant Street office in Holyoke. Suarez grew up in Holyoke and Puerto Rico and has nearly 30 years of banking experience. He says he is passionate about providing a customer-first experience and brings an extensive background to his new role, where he will manage the Holyoke office team while fostering relationships within the community. Prior to joining bankESB, he was a vice president, branch manager at M&T Bank, People’s United Bank, and United Bank. Before that, he was a branch manager at Key Bank and First Niagara Bank, as well as a personal banker with Baybank, BankBoston, FleetBoston, and Bank of America.


Seth Clark

Seth Clark

bankESB recently promoted Seth Clark to wire transfer officer, based in the 36 Main St., Easthampton office. Clark has 11 years of banking experience and has held a variety of positions since joining bankESB in 2013, including wire transfer manager, assistant branch manager, personal banker, and senior teller. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Westfield State College. Outside of work, he has been a part-time church organist in Westhampton and Holyoke for 20 years.


Alignable, an online networking platform for business owners, invited its more than 8.7 million members to shout out local business leaders who have gone above and beyond guiding peers and supporting entire communities amid challenging economic conditions. The network announced that Judy Herrell of Herrell’s Ice Cream has again been elected Northampton’s 2024 Businessperson of the Year. Alignable’s 2024 Local Businessperson of the Year contest reached unparalleled participation levels, logging more than 309,000 votes, more than 64,000 recommendations, and more than 5,100 local winners across the U.S. and Canada. It was most popular competition Alignable has hosted in more than five years, marking a 40% jump in participation over 2023. Winners were commended for helping their peers and communities through a year with many challenges, including rising interest rates and rents, not to mention skyrocketing supply costs.


Jessica Roncarati-Howe

Jessica Roncarati-Howe

The board of directors of Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts (DFSWM) announced that Jessica Roncarati-Howe is the organization’s new executive director, effective March 1. Candidates were vetted by a volunteer hiring committee and the board of directors. After four years with DFSWM, most recently as director of Programs and Operations before taking on the interim executive director role, Roncarati-Howe has an intimate understanding of the work of the organization. Before joining DFSWM, Roncarati-Howe held several leadership roles, including executive director of both the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce. She has dedicated her career to promoting dignity and quality of life in the community and has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, focusing on program development, management, board governance, and leading mission-based organizations toward maximum community impact. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and fine arts from Elms College and a master’s degree in nonprofit management and philanthropy with a certificate in fundraising from Bay Path University.


Caolo & Bieniek Associates Inc. announced that Principal Bertram Gardner has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 Donald & Lois Prescott Founders Award by the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee. This recognition is awarded annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the youth, community, and mission of the club. Each year, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee carefully selects community members who exemplify dedication and support toward the club’s vision. Gardner has been chosen as this year’s recipient in acknowledgment of his inspirational commitment, vision, courage, enthusiasm, and leadership. The Donald & Lois Prescott Founders Award, initiated at the Centennial Gala in 2012, honors the legacy of Lois Prescott and the late Donald Prescott, a longstanding member of the club’s board of directors.


Shannon Ortona

Shannon Ortona

Monson Savings Bank announced the recent promotion of Shannon Ortona to Ware branch manager. In addition to her new role, Ortona will continue to serve as the bank’s IRA administrator. She is now based out of the Ware branch, located at 136 West St. Prior to joining the Monson Savings Bank family 11 years ago, Ortona began her banking career with Chicopee Savings Bank. After five years there, where she held the positions of full-time teller, senior teller, and head teller, she accepted the position of customer service associate supervisor in Monson Savings Bank’s Ware branch. During her tenure with the bank, Ortona has earned positions of increasing responsibility. She became the assistant branch manager of the Ware branch and became a certified IRA specialist through Ascensus. Prior to her most recent promotion, she worked as the Wilbraham assistant branch manager. In her new role, she will draw on her extensive experience and knowledge of retail banking. She will be responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the Ware branch’s operations. She will also aim to foster an environment of teamwork within the branch and provide her team with a high level of leadership. She will work with customers to conduct various banking transactions and help them reach their financial goals. Ortona is board member with the Ware Business Civic Assoc.


Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center, announced he plans to retire in June 2025. Lansky founded the Yiddish Book Center in 1980 as a 24-year-old graduate student, and since then, the organization has rescued more than 1.5 million Yiddish books, created educational programs that bring the language and culture to new audiences, documented the oral histories of more than 1,300 narrators, created a publishing imprint devoted to Yiddish translation, and much more. Susan Bronson, who has been the center’s executive director for 14 years and holds a doctorate in Russian and Jewish history, will succeed Lansky as president.


Heather Rush

Market Mentors LLC recently welcomed Heather Rush to its team as associate creative director. She arrives with more than 20 years of experience in everything from graphic design, photography, and copywriting to creative direction, art direction, and brand development. In her previous roles, Rush has been immersed in all things creative, from storyboarding, strategizing, and conceptualizing to brand development and implementation, photography, and video shoots. Over the past six years, she managed a marketing team of designers and project editors and launched campaigns and products through digital and print channels. A graduate of Elms College with a degree in commercial arts, Rush is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She has received the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for book-cover design and layout, and several awards for book-series design from BookBuilders of Boston, which also awarded her the 2017 iPad App UX/UI design award. An avid painter, she recently spent two weeks in Italy on a watercolor painting intensive. Active in the Hampshire County community, Rush is a team captain and team organizer/top-50 fundraiser for the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, a member of the Easthampton Farmers and Makers Market committee, and a volunteer with Easthampton Arts.


Francis “Sandy” Dibble, John Pucci, and Jeffrey Roberts, attorneys at Bulkley Richardson, have been recognized by Super Lawyers for 20 consecutive years, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Massachusetts Super Lawyers. According to Super Lawyers, there are 42,635 attorneys registered with the Massachusetts state bar, but only 264 attorneys selected to Super Lawyers all 20 years, making this an elite group of 0.6% of attorneys in the state. Dibble, partner, has been recognized in the area of business litigation. He has tried and won, or favorably settled, significant cases for a wide range of clients throughout the U.S. Pucci, partner, has been recognized in the area of criminal defense: white collar crimes. He is one of Massachusetts’ top trial lawyers, representing individuals and companies in complex civil and criminal litigation of all kinds in both state and federal courts. Roberts, counsel, has been recognized in the area of estate & probate. He has handled many sophisticated estate-planning matters throughout his career, as well as corporate work and business transactions, primarily for closely held companies.


Tech Foundry, the regional leader in IT workforce development and training, announced the appointment of 12 new members to its board of trustees. Hailing from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and including an alumnus of the organization’s 18-week IT support training program, the new slate of directors represents the diversity of the communities served by Tech Foundry. The organization welcomes Paul Nicholson (treasurer), Finance director at Wellfleet Insurance, and Briana Dawkins (clerk), associate attorney at Litchfield Cavo LLP in Simsbury, Conn. They join veteran officers Mike Walker (chair), retired financial-services professional at MassMutual Financial Group, and Delcie Bean (founder and immediate past chair), CEO of Paragus Strategic IT. New directors include Jay Ash, CEO of Mass Competitive Partnership; Everton Chin, director of IT at Travelers; Damon DePaolo, director of Human Risk Management at MassMutual; Samalid Hogan, CEO and principal consultant at Greylock Management Consulting; Xiaolei Hua, first vice president at PeoplesBank; Cindy Knowles, Strategy & Change Management lead at MassMutual; George Timmons, president of Holyoke Community College; and Hector Toledo, commercial lender and vice president at New Valley Bank. Patrick Streck, president and founder of Estli Consulting, returns to Tech Foundry after serving on the original board of advisors from 2013 to 2021. Salam (Sam) Zebian, Information Protection senior advisor at Cigna, graduated from Tech Foundry in 2017 and has been volunteering with the organization as a guest speaker since then. They join veteran board members Greg Bialecki, principal at Redgate; Ann McFarland Burke, owner of Ann McFarland Burke Consultancy; Dawn Creighton, Community Outreach officer at Liberty Bank; and Dianne Fuller Doherty, one of the original founders of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.


Hubert Benitez

Nicolle Cestero

Nicolle Cestero

American International College (AIC) announced that Hubert Benitez plans to step down as president of the college at the end of the current academic year on June 7. Frank Colaccino, chair of the AIC board of trustees, said Nicolle Cestero, who serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer at AIC, will be appointed interim president immediately. In his letter of resignation, Benitez said, “I made this decision by engaging in a deep process of prayer and discernment, and after thoughtful consideration and reflection with my family, I have decided to focus on the next chapter of our lives.” Colaccino said the tenure of Benitez’s service as president of the college was marked by a number of progressive actions designed to promote the mission of AIC and his effective leadership in the development of AIC Reimagined, the strategic plan that will guide the initiatives undertaken by the college during the coming years. Cestero, who will serve as interim president until the next president is identified, has been with AIC since 2011 when she joined as associate vice president for Human Resources. She has served the college as chief of staff and most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Prior to joining AIC, her professional journey began in New York City at the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading nonpartisan foreign-policy think tank in the U.S., focused on disseminating information to members, government officials, and the public on matters of international significance. She holds an MBA degree from AIC, a master of arts degree from the University of West Florida, and a bachelor of arts degree from Mount Holyoke College. According to Colaccino, as COO, Cestero has overseen the day-to-day operations of the college and played a key role in implementing AIC’s strategic plan.

Picture This

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


Wonderful Partnership

Country Bank recently announced its partnership and $20,000 in support of the Wonderfund of Massachusetts. The Wonderfund helps kids and teens served by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enjoy the holiday season. Donations of new, unwrapped gifts are still being accepted at any Country’s branch until Dec. 15.

Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president of Community Relations at Country Bank

Pictured, from left: Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president of Community Relations at Country Bank; Lauren Baker, former first lady of Massachusetts and founder and CEO of the Wonderfund; and Shelley Regin, senior vice president of Marketing at Country Bank.



Taking Stock of Things

Monson Savings Bank was a silver sponsor of this year’s Junior Achievement (JA) of Western Massachusetts Stock Market Competition, the largest single-day student stock-market competition in North America. The bank donated $1,500, which supported five teams of five students in the competition, as well as the overall event.

Monson Savings Bank

Pictured, from left: Tracy Alves-Lear, JA board member; Lena Buteau, vice president, Retail Branch Administration at Monson Savings Bank and JA board member; Amy Alaimo, JA of Western Massachusetts Operations manager; and Mark Laurenzano, JA board member.


Born to Run

Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts held its annual fall 5K on Nov. 19 at Western New England University. Girls on the Run is a positive, physical-activity-based, youth-development program that uses running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. During the 10-week program each semester, girls participate in lessons that foster confidence, build peer connections, and encourage community service while they prepare for a celebratory, end-of-season 5K event. The fall and spring 5K events draw thousands of participants and supporters.

Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts held its annual fall 5K on Nov. 19 at Western New England University

Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts held its annual fall 5K on Nov. 19 at Western New England University


Girls on the Run is a positive, physical-activity-based, youth-development program that uses running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8.

Girls on the Run is a positive, physical-activity-based, youth-development program that uses running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8.


Difference Makers Nominations

Through Dec. 8: Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region? BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 16th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2024 must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8. Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities. Let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.


Community Giving Initiative

Through Dec. 31: Monson Savings Bank (MSB) is inviting the public to submit their votes for the bank’s 2024 Community Giving Initiative. For more than a decade, MSB has sought the help of community members to plan the bank’s community giving activities. Each year, the bank encourages the public to vote for the nonprofit charitable organizations they would like the bank to support during the coming year. Everyone is welcome to cast their vote online at www.monsonsavings.bank/cgi. Voters may provide the names of up to three organizations they would like MSB to donate to in 2024. The only requirements are that a nominee is designated a nonprofit and provides services within the bank’s geography. Monson Savings Bank pledges to support the 10 organizations that receive the highest number of votes. The top 10 vote recipients will be announced by mid-January. Visitors to the voting page can also view a compiled list of organizations that the bank has supported in years past, as well as previously nominated organizations.


Women of Impact

Dec. 7: BusinessWest will honor its sixth annual Women of Impact at Sheraton Springfield. Tickets cost $95 per person, and tables of 10 are available. To purchase tickets, visit businesswest.com/womenofimpact. The class of 2023, profiled in the Oct. 16 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com, are: Fredrika Ballard, president, Aero Design Aircraft Services and Fly Lugu Flight Training; Carla Cosenzi, president, TommyCar Auto Group; Arlyana Dalce-Bowie, CEO, Moms in Power; Sandra Doran, president, Bay Path University; Dr. Khama Ennis, founder, Faces of Medicine and Intentional Health, LLC; Dawn Forbes DiStefano, president and CEO, Square One; Amy Jamrog, CEO, the Jamrog Group; Michelle Theroux, CEO, Berkshire Hills Music Academy; and Lisa Zarcone, author, speaker, and child and mental-health advocate. The event is sponsored by Country Bank and TommyCar Auto Group (presenting sponsors) and Comcast Business (partner sponsor).


Eat, Drink, & Be Holyoke

Dec. 7: The Holyoke Rotary Club announced the return of Eat, Drink, & Be Holyoke, its premier tasting fundraiser and silent auction. The event will take place at the Holyoke City Hall Ballroom at 5:30 p.m. following the sealing of the Holyoke 150th-anniversary time capsule. Eat, Drink, & Be Holyoke will feature food prepared by 110 Grill, Amedeo’s, Crave, Fame, Hamel’s Summit View, Iona’s Kitchen, Kate’s Kitchen, Pics Pub, Rusty’s Place, the White Hut, and Woodstone Tavern. Additionally, Brennan’s Place will provide various alcohol tastings from local and regional breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased online at edbh.eventbrite.com. Proceeds will go toward supporting Rotary projects.


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


Falls Pizza Co. Inc., 185 Grove St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Ridvan Turan, same. Pizza restaurant.


Lift Performance and Rehab Inc., 221 Pine St., Florence, MA 01062. Andrew Weigel, 706 Park Hill Road, Florence, MA 01062. Gym/fitness facility.


Bagdasarov and Chambers, P.C., 8 Woodridge Circle, Hatfield, MA 01038. Colleen Chambers, same. Dental practice.


Village Cuts Inc., 1041 Thorndike St., Palmer, MA 01069. Michael Arroyo, 14 George St., Palmer, MA 01069. Barber shop.


Absolute HVAC MA Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Hung Yau, same. Wholesale and installation of HVAC systems.

Crawford-Hill Insurance Agency Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Shanta Crawford-Hill, same. Independent insurance agency.

Goldcare Doctors MA, P.C., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. Jennifer Frangos, 449 Southwest 80th St., Ocala, FL 34476. Medical practice.


JP Universal Enterprise Inc., 837 State St., Springfield, MA 01109. Bryanna Rivera, same. Management of residential rental properties.


RIV Mold Inc., 11 Pine Trail, West Brookfield, MA 01585. Richard Rivet, same. Plastic injection molds.


Pignatare Enterprises Inc., 90 Pineridge Dr., Westfield, MA 01085. Adina Pignatare, same. Hair salon and social-media influencer.

ST Remodeling Inc., 247 Buck Pond Road, Westfield, MA 01085. Semen Kovalyuk, same. General carpentry.

TV Realty and Development Inc., 247 Elm St., Westfield, MA 01085. Michael Ventrice, same. Storage rental facilities.

People on the Move
Mae Stiles

Mae Stiles

Sadie Reynolds

Sadie Reynolds

Fierst Bloomberg Ohm recently announced a promotion and a new hire. Mae Stiles has become a partner of the firm after joining the firm as of counsel in 2019. A Northampton native, she has more than 15 years of experience and has worked for major New York and San Francisco law firms in complex commercial litigation, including anti-trust and intellectual-property matters, as well as a wide variety of business, corporate, and licensing transactions. She returned to practice law in Northampton in 2017 and is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of Massachusetts, New York, and California. Sadie Reynolds has joined the firm as a litigation associate. Previously, she was the Legal Clinic director at the Hampden County Bar Assoc., where she assisted pro se litigants in a variety of matters, including housing and civil litigation; represented parties in Western Division Housing Court; created and developed programs to assist the underserved in Western Mass.; and expanded access to justice and legal services. She is a trained mediator with experience assisting litigants in Springfield District Court, mediating small-claim and summary-process matters.


April Parsons

April Parsons

Greenfield Community College President Michelle Schutt announced the appointment of April Parsons as the next vice president of Academic Affairs. Parsons brings more than a decade of leading academic teams, as well as more than 20 years of experience in teaching in classrooms, including in high schools, community colleges, and universities. Parsons holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a certificate in women’s and gender studies, as well as an master of education degree in language education. Most recently, she taught as a professor of English at Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC) and chaired the Department of Arts and Humanities. She also led a redesign of NCCC’s English curriculum and was a faculty lead through the NECHE regional accreditation process. Beyond Parsons’ professional roles, she’s also active in the community. She volunteers time at her local library working to expand literacy programs, and has helped the institution acquire and implement National Endowment for the Arts grant funding to conduct these efforts. She also works closely with incarcerated individuals, both in a professional and volunteer capacity. She recently served as the lead faculty member on a partnership between NCCC and the Connecticut Department of Corrections that helped bring college education to incarcerated individuals. She is a volunteer for the Prison Yoga Project, which brings yoga lessons into the prison community.


Susan Levine

Susan Levine

Jewish Federation of the Berkshires announced the appointment of Susan Levine as the new Food Service director for its Connecting with Community kosher meals program that provides free, nutritious meals for the community (in-person, takeaway, and meals on wheels) year-round. Levine received a culinary arts degree at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School in Lower Manhattan before interning at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz. There, she learned healthy ways of using her culinary skills, which she applied during a long career in catering and corporate dining that included a recent stint working at the Executive Mansion in Albany, N.Y. A 20-year resident of the Berkshires region, Levine first learned about the federation’s kosher meals program when her parents stayed at her home in New Lebanon, N.Y. and attended federation-sponsored programs and lunches at Knesset Israel in Pittsfield. Now, she is taking over the kosher meals program that was helmed by Cindy Bell-Deane for the past 25 years.


Bulkley Richardson recently welcomed Sean Buxton, Christa Calabretta, Allison Laughner, and Yevgeniy “Gene” Pilman to the firm. Buxton will practice in the Litigation department. He earned a juris doctorate (JD), summa cum laude, from Western New England University School of Law in 2022. He also earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Princeton University. He spent the last year as a judicial law clerk for Judge Ariane Vuono of the Massachusetts Appeals Court and previously was an intern at the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and the Superior Court of New Jersey. Calabretta will focus her practice on Business and Healthcare matters. She is a 2023 graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law and also earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and an associate degree from Suffolk County Community College. Laughner will split her time between the Trusts & Estates and Family Law departments. She graduated from Western New England University School of Law in 2023, where she was on the Law Review staff. She also earned an MBA at Western New England University and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. Pilman will practice in both the Business and Real Estate departments. He earned a JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2015, where he was a Cordozo Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Hunter College City University of New York.


Eric Padelford

Eric Padelford

Pittsfield Cooperative Bank announced the hiring of Eric Padelford as senior vice president and chief technology officer. In this role, he will oversee the Information Technology department and work closely with leadership on modernizing technology and platforms to increase efficiency and better serve the institution’s customers. Padelford joins the bank after serving as vice president, integration architect, and developer at Berkshire Bank for the last six years. He has more than 22 years of systems-architecture and development expertise, serving in IT and development roles at McGlinchey Stafford and Tech Valley DataPro LLC. He received his associate of applied science degree from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. and a bachelor’s degree in IT from SUNY Empire State College in Saratoga, N.Y.


Kathy Martin

Kathy Martin

Glenmeadow, a provider of senior retirement lifestyle options, announced the appointment of Kathy Martin to the position of president and CEO, effective Oct. 1. She succeeds Anne Thomas in that role. Martin brings more than two decades of nonprofit leadership experience. She is currently assistant provost for Accreditation and Administration at UMass Amherst and previously served Springfield College in several roles, most recently chief of staff. Her experience in higher education includes prior posts at Bay Path University, Susquehanna University, and Bucknell University. Her volunteer leadership experience includes membership on the board of directors of Glenmeadow and Link to Libraries. She is also a corporator of Square One. Martin earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education (sport management) from Keene State College and her master’s degree in physical education (athletics administration) and doctor of physical education degree (with a specialization in sport psychology) from Springfield College.


The Wealth Transition Collective (TWTC) recently announced two additions to its firm. Ashley Hopkins has joined the firm as director of Client Services & Operations. In her role, she will be responsible for new business implementation and five-star concierge service to firm clients. She has more than six years of experience in the financial-services industry. Jennifer Cooke joined the Wealth Transition Collective as a retirement-plan advisor. In her role, she is responsible for all 401(k), 403(b), cash-balance and defined-benefit plan business, including employee education. She helps her clients stay in compliance with ERISA standards for employer-sponsored retirement plans. With more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of the retirement-plan business, she acts as a co-fiduciary on retirement plans for business owners throughout New England. Cooke is a certified retirement-plan specialist, a certified plan fiduciary advisor, and an accredited investment fiduciary.


Gina Barry

Gina Barry

Earlier this summer, the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), the only organization approved by the American Bar Assoc. to offer certification in elder law, announced that Bacon Wilson, P.C. attorney Gina Barry has successfully completed its examination leading to such certification. Certification in elder law — one of the fastest-growing fields in the legal profession — will assure the public that the attorney has an in-depth working knowledge of the legal issues that impact the elderly. Barry is now one of two Bacon Wilson attorneys to pass this certification exam. Attorney Hyman Darling earned his certification in elder law in 2008.


Pittsfield Cooperative Bank recently hired Joseph Maffuccio II as vice president, branch administration. Maffuccio joins the Co-op after an accomplished 16-year career with Greylock Federal Credit Union. While at Greylock, he held several retail, market, and business-development supervisory and manager positions, most recently as vice president, market manager. Maffuccio received his bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. He is the past president of Tyler Street Business Group and currently coaches Pittsfield youth sports.


Courses of Action


This is the third article in a monthly series examining how area colleges and universities are partnering with local businesses, workforce-development bodies, and other organizations to address professional-development needs in the region. One college will be featured each month.

Jeff Hayden

Jeff Hayden says professional-development initiatives have become an important part of the mission at HCC.

Communication. Teamwork. Networking. Listening.

Jeff Hayden acknowledged that, to many, these sound like buzzwords in discussions about the workplace and how to succeed within it — or about how companies can become more productive and achieve continuous improvement.

But in reality, these are just some the skills that individuals must possess if they want to thrive in their chosen career and move up the ladder within it. And they are the qualities that businesses large and small must stress if they want to prosper in an increasingly global, intensely competitive business climate — and if they want to successfully compete for talent and retain it.

And these are just some of the skill sets — some broad, some very specific — that help define a full roster of professional-development programs at Holyoke Community College (HCC), which Hayden serves as vice president of Business and Community Services.

“Those words, like teamwork and communication, feel like buzzwords, but in reality, those are the places where employee satisfaction and productivity find their nexus,” he said. “It’s really a unique spot where one can see the gain for the company, but also the gain for themselves.”

These touchpoints run through the portfolio of programs at HCC, the Commonwealth’s oldest community college, which include everything from a non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course to a women’s leadership lunch series; from certificate programs in residential interior design and medical interpreting to two new HR workshops on “Leveraging Assessments with the New World of Work” (more on these later).

In each case, the motivation is the same, Hayden said — to help individuals advance and enable companies to be efficient and productive, and also recruit and retain employees when businesses in all sectors are still struggling to do so.

“We put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.”

“We take a broad approach to professional development at HCC,” he explained. “We do certificate and training programs in management, leadership, and IT, and then we have a number of programs aimed specifically at careers, like our introduction to bookkeeping or, in the IT field, an introduction to networks.

“We have a certificate in business communication, which is online, and also one in innovation and critical thinking,” he went on. “There are a number of areas, and depending on the needs and interests of the individual, we can accommodate many other things they may be looking for.”


Getting Down to Business

Hayden, who came to the college after many years working for the city of Holyoke in economic-development roles, said HCC — like all the region’s community colleges — plays a critical role in workforce development in the region. And that role extends well beyond providing the traditional two-year degree programs which, in the case of HCC, often lead to transfer to four-year programs.

Indeed, it extends to continuing education, non-credit programs, and initiatives that, as he said earlier, involve professional development for the individual and initiatives aimed at helping businesses of all sizes become more competitive and productive.

“Oftentimes, when we think of workforce training, especially at community colleges, we tend to focus on occupational skills,” he explained. “And although those are necessary, they’re often related to specific tasks. So we put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.

“And in some sense, increasing productivity and increasing employee satisfaction are companions in that same effort,” he went on. “Sometimes we think of them as separate; when we think about how to make sure our employees are happy and satisfied, we go to the issue of compensation, instead of focusing on the issue of job satisfaction, having pride in one’s work, and ownership of the project or service they provide. So we try look at professional development as a way to broaden the scope or mindset of the employee and have them look at the picture in terms of just not making something or doing a service, but having that be part of their own career goals and pathway.”

With these goals in mind, the college has offered a women’s leadership lunch series featuring area women business leaders talking about their success formulas, Hayden said, adding that this series, staged over six lunches, will likely return in the spring of 2024.

Overall, the college is continuously monitoring the business community and the workplace, he explained, with an eye toward creating programs to address emerging needs and challenges.

Such is the case with the new HR workshops on assessments, which will be led by Lynn Turner, president of CORE XP Business Solutions Inc.

“These are designed to help organizations understand how to leverage assessments within the future of work — how to assess and evaluate employees in a way that increases productivity and increases teamwork, communication, and employee satisfaction,” Hayden said, noting that there will be two workshops, with participants having the option of signing up for one or both. They are designed for entrepreneurs, HR personnel, and managers at small companies that don’t have their own HR departments,

The first will focus on the changing dynamics of the future of work, understanding the value of assessments within a talent strategy, and gaining exposure to different assessment tools. The second will focus on best practices for assessment implementation, leveraging assessments for talent acquisition and development, driving engagement and retention through assessments, and creating a customized roadmap for leveraging assessments.

Overall, the professional-development programs at HCC are blueprinted to assist individuals as they look to enter or advance within the workforce, but also meet identified needs within the business community for specific skills, Hayden said, noting that these twin ambitions are the motivation behind such programs as a 12-hour educational cannabis core program that provides an overview of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and is designed for individuals looking for general knowledge as they consider a career in that sector, and the non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course, the need for which has become increasingly apparent given recent trends.

“There is growing need for bookkeepers in the region, especially at smaller companies; many nonprofits, for example, are looking for people who can help on that end,” he said, adding that the program is geared toward individuals looking to enter that field, but also incumbent workers looking to acquire more skills in that realm.

There are many such programs being offered the school, he said, noting that HCC offers a number of online certificate programs, most of them focused on business management and administration, such as an offering in nonprofit management featuring a simulation component, another in business communication, and others in innovation and critical thinking, data analytics, and project management.


Work in Progress

Summing it all up, Hayden said professional development at HCC is a huge part of the school’s mission and its evolving role when it comes to both workforce development and economic development.

The portfolio of programs and initiatives is, like the business community and the workforce itself, ever-changing. But the goal remains the same: it’s about helping area employees, job seekers, business leaders, and companies get where they want to go.

Cannabis Special Coverage The Cannabis Industry

What’s Next for Cannabis?

Payton Shubrick

Payton Shubrick says she understood she was entering an increasingly challenging market for cannabis sales when she opened her doors last year.

By the time Payton Shubrick opened the doors to 6 Brick’s Cannabis Dispensary in Springfield last fall, she was well aware of how challenging the business was becoming.

“The market is getting tougher across the board in Massachusetts,” she told BusinessWest. “Gone are the days when you could open a dispensary and just have people lined up. Gone are the days when cultivators could guarantee sales. We’re seeing that you must earn customers’ loyalty and have a competitively priced product and have decent quality to do well in the Massachusetts market.

“I’ve been able to see growth with my company, despite coming online in September of 2022, when prices had just fallen by over 30%,” she added. “So we essentially started with less-than-ideal conditions, but it’s not all doom and gloom.”

Because Springfield set out a long, rigorous process to open a dispensary, Shubruck had time to witness a total evolution of the Massachusetts cannabis market; when she first applied for a permit, the few dispensaries that were open saw an early ‘green rush’ of customers; though the industry’s onerous tax and regulatory burdens and tight profit margins never made it easy money, exactly, the early shops took advantage of a clearly favorable supply-and-demand picture.

“We essentially started with less-than-ideal conditions, but it’s not all doom and gloom.”

By the time Six Brick’s opened, the landscape was considerably more cluttered; prices, as Shubrick noted, were falling; and some shops were struggling.

Those struggles have turned into actual contraction. The first Western Mass. dispensary to close, back in December, was the Source, on Strong Avenue in Northampton, a city with nearly a dozen retail cannabis shops. But it was Trulieve’s departure from the market that will resonate more broadly; the national company closed its three retail locations in the Bay State at the end of June, and is also closing its 126,000-square-foot growing, processing, and testing facility on Canal Street in Holyoke — another city that invested heavily in the new cannabis trade.

“These difficult but necessary measures are part of ongoing efforts to bolster business resilience and our commitment to cash preservation,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said. “We remain fully confident in our strategic position and the long-term prospects for the industry.”

At the same time, several proposed cannabis facilities in Western Mass., including one planned for the former Chez Josef banquet house in Agawam, have been scrapped due to an inability to secure financing amid dramatically changing market conditions.

“The market is correcting itself,” Shubrick said, reflecting a throughline seen in all states that legalize cannabis. “A lot of folks raked it in during the green rush. But only 24% of cannabis companies in the U.S. are profitable. So you actually have to view this as a business. You can try to increase volume and think that’s going to fix the problems, but the market has matured in a real way. And now, other states are coming online.”


High Stakes

Erik Williams, chief operating officer at Canna Provisions (see sidebar on page 20), explained that a typical dispensary needs to take in about $6 million in top-line revenue annually in order to break even. “A whole bunch of companies are not there. They’re sitting on big tax bills without the cash flow, and they’re going to close under the weight of taxes; we’re seeing that right now across the state.”

He also noted the 24% profitability figure, and said anyone coming into the market should be aware of it.

Steven Lynch

Steven Lynch says cannabis businesses doing things the right way and for the right reasons will survive any contraction in the sector.

“There’s a survivability factor we’ve written about from day one. We were the second adult-use-only store in Massachusetts to open [in Lee], and there’s definitely a sort of glory time which happens with every new market, where the demand outstrips the supply, and businesses are just opening their doors and slinging weed,” he said. “They saw pie in the sky, and they have not operated their business with real-time controls over every dollar they’re spending. It’s a tough thing.”

Simply put, too many cannabis businesses in Massachusetts based their business plans on supply-and-demand figures that no longer exist, he added. “There’s a lot more competition. The pie is always growing, but competition is far outstripping the growth of the pie, so you’re seeing price compression.”

Williams agreed with Shubrick that a dispensary must be run like a business from day one, with hard decisions around every dollar spent — or the enterprise will fail.

“If you’re at the point where you have to readjust everything, it’s almost too late,” he said. “Really tough business decisions need to be made across the board. We’re seeing how other companies are failing, and one of the first analyses is what it takes to be profitable as a standalone dispensary. A bunch of different people have run a bunch of different numbers, and when it comes down to it, the consensus is $6 million.”

So, how does one succeed in this environment? Shubrick has some ideas.

“At Six Bricks, we have a clear focus on who the customer is, and we’re focused on our competitive advantages, which are the cannabis experience over transaction, having knowledgeable staff, and being an option for conscious consumers who want their dollars spent close to home,” she explained, noting that the pandemic years taught people the value of spending their money with local businesses, and those lessons could carry over to cannabis. “There’s still a lot of work to be done with social equity for businesses, but consumers can support more a more equitable industry by what brands they support and where they spend their money.”

Erik Willaims

Erik Willaims

“There’s a lot more competition. The pie is always growing, but competition is far outstripping the growth of the pie, so you’re seeing price compression.”

Steven Lynch, director of Sales and Marketing at SaveTiva Labs, agreed about the appeal of strong, local brands.

“I see a lot of parity with when the big-box stores, the Home Depots and Lowe’s, first came to the market. It was great because they had these big stores you could go in, but ultimately, you’re not going to get the service that you’re going to get from your local hardware store,” he told BusinessWest. “So you saw a lot of stores go away initially, but then you saw a whole wave of small mom-and-pops come back into the market because they did things completely from a quality, service, and educational standpoint.

“I think that’s what’s going to happen in cannabis,” he went on. “The people who had no business doing this, or got into it for the wrong reasons, will fall by the wayside, and the people that that are doing it for the right reasons, the right way, are going to continue to flourish.”


Blazing a Trail

For Shubrick, ‘the right way’ is reflected in the 6 Brick’s tagline, “people, plant, and purpose.”

“People — how can we help show that cannabis can be a part of an individual’s wellness routine? Plant — how can we make this more of a cannabis experience than a transaction?” she explained. “And lastly, purpose — we want to be a viable option for those in the community that want diversity of price point and diversity of products. I can’t overemphasize the community aspect of it. You can try marketing to pull customers out of Connecticut, but it’s the local community that’s going to show up every day, whether they’re buying a pre-roll or a present for a friend.”

Though Springfield’s licensing process was slow and rigorous, she noted, it’s a plus for operators that there’s not a shop on every corner, as opposed to cities like Holyoke and Northampton that allowed many more licensees.

“We’re the third-largest city and have only four dispensaries; that does prevent what we’ve seen in Worcester and Northampton, which is a race to the bottom in terms of providing a product. Many customers are saying they want it as cheap as possible. The reality is, that hurts the entire supply chain and drives prices so low, it compromises quality.”

That ‘race to the bottom’ has occurred in other states where cannabis was legalized, but the assumption is that the market will eventually level out — and not everyone will survive.

“A lot of folks made the assumption that cannabis companies just open the doors, and people show up,” Shubrick said — and at the earliest-opening shops, like NETA in Northampton, they certainly did. “I never anticipated 100 people show up on day one. I knew it would be a slow climb. The first 15 companies to open their doors, some of them now have to make a comeback because the product wasn’t great or they didn’t have the right people.”

It’s not an unusual track in other business sectors, she added. “Car dealerships and restaurants rise and fall, and the same is happening in cannabis. A lot of naive operators thought they were untouchable because there was this pent-up demand and a thriving black market. But that’s not the case. Couple that with the realities of 280E, and this is not for the faint of heart.”

She was referring to Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which forbids businesses from deducting otherwise ordinary business expenses from gross income associated with the ‘trafficking’ of Schedule I or II substances, as defined by the Controlled Substances Act; cannabis is a Schedule I substance.

According to the National Cannabis Industry Assoc., “federal income taxes are based on a fairly simple formula: start with gross income, subtract business expenses to calculate taxable income, and then pay taxes on this amount. Owners of regular businesses often derive profits from these business deductions. Cannabis businesses, however, pay taxes on gross income. These businesses often pay tax rates that are 70% or higher.”

“Most companies spend a dollar to get $1.10, and you’re ten cents up,” Williams said. “Here in the cannabis business, because of the 280E tax situation, you need to make $3.50 for every dollar you’re spending just to break even. That changes the math in a really big way.”

It also changes the way cannabis companies do business, he added, returning to those earlier thoughts about closely tracking all spending. “Being tight with advertising dollars and watching ROI on every dollar you’re spending is super important.”

Canna’s model, as a vertically integrated company that cultivates product as well as selling it, helps stem those tides, he noted. “Doing cost analysis is a little different, but you also are putting things through your stores at much higher margins. If you’re controlling your supply, you have more control over your business. We’re seeing it happen right now.”


Rolling with the Changes

Shubrick said it was worth navigating a thorough licensing process to open a cannabis shop, alongside her family members, in her hometown. “If I wasn’t selected in Springfield, I wouldn’t have picked up and gone to another city or town.”

It’s an example of the thoughtfulness that must accompany entering a very challenging cannabis marketplace in Massachusetts, especially now.

“Companies come in, and they’re not profitable, and they can’t pay back the tax bills. So they have to close,” Williams said, echoing not only the stories of the Source and Trulieve, but other casualties to come. “But their consumers don’t go away; they go elsewhere. So the lesson from the contraction of the market has always been that the survivors are going to do better long-term.”


Weathering the Storm: a Resilient Path Forward

By Meg Sanders


We are at the precipice of a significant contraction in the cannabis market, not confined to Massachusetts alone, but reverberating across the U.S. and even globally. As business owners navigating this turbulent landscape, it is essential to recognize the imminent challenges — in particular the ones staring down cannabis across the Commonwealth — prepare to face them, and, more importantly, cultivate a hopeful vision for the future.

Let’s begin with third-party vendors, the cogs in the machine that keep your cannabis enterprise running smoothly. We must ask ourselves: how do these vendors weather the storm if they lose 30% of their business suddenly? If a small vendor employing just six people experiences a 20% revenue loss from a key account, what could that mean for the business?

These are not mere speculations. These scenarios are unfolding right now, causing ripples across the industry. It’s a risk-management issue that warrants our immediate attention.

Meg Sanders

Meg Sanders

“It’s critical to identify how exposed our vendors are to the same downturn we’re grappling with, especially if their clientele consists primarily of cannabis companies.”

As we sail through these choppy waters, we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. We need to question the depth and financial security of our vendor base, especially since many struggling businesses might not be able to pay their bills. The aftershocks of such downturns typically hit marketing, advertising, and street teams the hardest. But what does that mean for us, the business owners who rely on these very vendors?

Imagine your vendor pool as a ship’s crew, each playing a vital role in keeping your business afloat. What happens if your vendor’s ship starts sinking? The ripple effect could capsize your own vessel, and that’s a scenario we must guard against.

Indeed, there’s a sense of camaraderie in this industry. We are all in the same boat. When one sinks, we all feel the tremor. It’s critical to identify how exposed our vendors are to the same downturn we’re grappling with, especially if their clientele consists primarily of cannabis companies. The domino effect could span from your point of sale to merchant services, banking, all the way down to your graphic designer.

We have to play the long game, keeping our eyes on the horizon and the changing tides. Let’s envision a situation where you’re sourcing packaging from a company whose revenue is all cannabis-related. What happens when it loses 20% of its business overnight? What does that mean for your buying abilities, purchasing decisions, their supply chain, and your overall purchasing power and profit and loss (P&L) statements?

To chart a path through this storm, we must adopt a three-dimensional approach to risk management, particularly for those selling cannabis products wholesale to local companies. The strain on accounts-receivable departments is a testament to the rising pressures within the industry. Payments aren’t arriving on time, and some aren’t arriving at all, affecting everyone from packaging and label companies to small cannabinoid providers and cultivators.

But amidst this storm, there’s hope. And here’s the silver lining: we can mitigate these risks with strategic planning and robust backup systems. By identifying alternative vendors, knowing their offerings and lead times, we can prepare for any disruptions in our sensitive systems. We need to ensure that we’re not left without a resource simply because we didn’t think far enough down the track.

This contraction isn’t just a challenge; it’s an invitation to innovate. To think differently. To challenge the status quo. Industries shift, technologies evolve, and we must keep pace. We need to think about all the ways a contraction impacts everyone: vendors, landlords, municipalities. The effects when a cannabis company exits a market or closes its doors are far-reaching.

Even as we’re witnessing companies in Massachusetts entering receivership, it’s not a time for despair. It’s a time for planning, for taking stock of where we stand and where we aim to go. Think about your ‘what-ifs,’ and devise your backup plans. Be ready to replace a critical item on your menu if it goes away. Be prepared to find an alternative source if your main provider hits financial turbulence.

This is not a doom-and-gloom narrative. It’s a story of resilience, of weathering the storm, and emerging stronger. It’s about recognizing opportunities amidst adversity, shoring up your P&L, and seizing the chance to negotiate better pricing with your vendors. Many might be willing to partner with you to push through these challenging times in that way, and the worst thing that happens is they say no. That’s just good business practice, no matter the state of the industry. Always make sure you’re checking where every dollar is going, from your expenses to getting quotes on best prices.

So, in these uncertain times, let’s remember one thing: hope is not lost. Even in the face of contraction and economic downturn, there’s an opportunity for those vigilant and ready to adapt. And as we navigate this storm together, we can create a more resilient, more robust industry ready for a brighter future.

We are, after all, in this together.


Meg Sanders is CEO of Canna Provisions in Holyoke and Lee.

People on the Move
Ruth Lahti

Ruth Lahti

Following a national search, Bay Path University announced that Ruth Lahti was selected to be the inaugural dean of the School of Education, Psychology & Humanities. In her previous position, Lahti served as the associate vice president of Academics at Southern New Hampshire University, Global Campus Online. In that role, she led a team of 70 full-time administrators and faculty while overseeing 22 online programs; spearheaded the development of a career-oriented master of fine arts program in creative writing that is now the largest MFA program in the country; oversaw DEI strategies that produced positive, measurable results; and implemented data-driven decision making to foster student success, grow online programs in both enrollment and revenue, and launch a suite of career-focused embedded certificates. As dean of the of the School of Education, Psychology & Humanities, Lahti is responsible for leading and coordinating the operations of department chairs and program directors to support student and faculty success. Through collaboration with cross-university departments, she will be a member of teams that develop strategic external partnerships, implement ongoing processes for the development of and scanning for new curricular ideas and initiatives, and identify and assist in obtaining new revenue streams to support the expansion of school programs and infrastructure. Lahti earned her Ph.D. and master’s degree in English from UMass Amherst and her bachelor’s degree in English from James Madison University.


Ryan Hess

Ryan Hess

Florence Bank announced that Ryan Hess has joined the staff as vice president and commercial team leader. Hess has more than 11 years of experience in banking, serving in roles from credit analyst and portfolio manager to leadership in commercial lending. He most recently served as chief lending officer for a locally based startup bank and played a key role in its founding. Hess holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stonehill College. He serves as co-chair of the Ronald McDonald House golf committee, a member of the Make-A-Wish golf committee, and vice chair of the Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals.


Cristina Gonzalez has been promoted to general manager at the Holiday Inn Express Ludlow. She has worked with Pioneer Valley Hotel Group (PVHG) since 2015. Before taking the general manager position, she worked in various other roles within the PVHG family of hotels. Gonzalez began working at the Holiday Inn Express Ludlow in the winter of 2022. She said she has appreciated meeting new people every day, growing and learning, and experiencing innovation in hospitality, and strives to create a healthy workplace environment through trust and cooperation.


Laura Mukazhanova

Laura Mukazhanova

Chen Yu

Chen Yu

Dietz & Company Architects Inc. recently welcomed Laura Mukazhanova and Chen Yu to the firm, both in the role of architectural associate. Mukazhanova recently received her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, where she completed her thesis on the effects of architecture on one’s mental and emotional state. She illustrated this with a focus on addressing the issue of burnout in the healthcare industry through the use of visual and sensory perceptions in the workplace. As such, she has a particular interest and curiosity in architecture that has the potential for emotional and aesthetic influence on its occupants. Chen recently graduated with her master of architecture degree from the University of Virginia. While completing her studies, she interned at architecture firms in Virginia and China. She also had the opportunity to conduct research on-site in Utqiagvik, Alaska regarding the reuse of waste heat. With an interest in public building design, she looks forward to expanding her knowledge on the subject through her project work at Dietz.


Ali Salehi

Ali Salehi

Melissa Alvarado

Melissa Alvarado

Gloria Williams

Gloria Williams

Daniel Currier

Daniel Currier

The Westfield State University board of trustees elected Ali Salehi to serve as its chair, while trustees Melissa Alvarado and Gloria Williams were elected as vice-chair and secretary, respectively. Daniel Currier, class of 2025, was elected to the board as student trustee. Salehi serves as managing director of Hansen Engineering and Machinery Co. Inc. of Danvers. A former board member of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce, the Westfield State University Foundation, and the Westfield Redevelopment Authority, Salehi is a current trustee of Suffield Academy and a former vice chair of the Baystate Health Foundation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in engineering management from Western New England University. Alvarado is an assistant vice president in strategic planning and delivery at MassMutual Financial Group and, prior to that, worked in its compliance and information-technology organizations. She previously served as clerk of the Westfield State Foundation and was a member of the Westfield State Alumni Assoc. executive council. In addition earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State in 1999, Alvarado holds an MBA in finance from Western New England University and earned an executive certification in leadership and management from the University of Notre Dame. Williams is an educational consultant and leadership mentor who previously completed a 21-year tenure as a master principal for Springfield Public Schools. Her service in education, including as a representative for the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, was recognized when she received the 2019 Educational Legacy Achievement Award, presented by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Williams is also president of the consulting firm Coalition of Experienced Black Educators Inc. and the newly elected president of the board of directors for Families Against Violence. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Westfield State College in 1977 and a certificate in advanced graduate studies, a M.Ed., and a Ed.D. from UMass Amherst. Currier was elected by the student body in April to serve as Westfield State’s student trustee for the 2023-24 academic year. A junior with majors in accounting and finance with minors in economics and English, Currier was formerly vice president for Finance for Westfield State’s Student Government Assoc., is president of the Accounting Club, and serves as a campus tour guide, new-student-orientation leader, and peer tutor. Currier is also a Commonwealth Honors Scholar and received the Executive Excellence Award from the Westfield State University Student Government Assoc.


Panna Royal

Panna Royal

Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) promoted Panna Royal to the position of senior vice president and chief information officer. As CIO, she will oversee the operations of the Information Technology (IT) department, including the planning, management, implementation, support, and the security of the bank’s information and computer technologies. Royal joined GSB in November 2019 as senior network administrator with more than 25 years of experience working in IT. In 2020, she was promoted to the position of vice president and senior network administrator in the IT department. In 2022, she became senior technical program and compliance manager in the Operations department, implementing and overseeing the project-management program for the bank. Royal and her team will support the bank with technology solutions to help the organization continue to provide customers with an outstanding user experience. She will also oversee training programs for upgrades and system changes, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, and oversee the hiring and training of the IT department. She will manage the implementation and maintenance of existing information systems and will develop the bank’s information-technology roadmap for the future.


Alexandre Pereira

Alexandre Pereira

Allison Hanna

Allison Hanna

Lauren Rainville

Lauren Rainville

Emily Gorney

Emily Gorney

Bacon Wilson, P.C. announced that Alexandre Pereira, Allison Hanna, Lauren Rainville, and Emily Gorney have been accepted into its law-clerk program for the 2023-24 school year. Bacon Wilson created the clerkship program more than 40 years ago to allow law-school students to gain experience and mentoring in the legal profession. The clerks are an integral part of the firm and participate in various firm events during their time at Bacon Wilson. Pereira joined Bacon Wilson in May 2023. He is a Western New England University School of Law candidate for juris doctor in May 2024. He earned his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in finance from Western New England University (WNE) in 2021. Prior to Bacon Wilson, he was a teaching assistant in the academic success center at WNE. He was also a legal assistant at Marta Law Offices in Ludlow, where he gained experience in estate planning and real-estate law. Currently, he has interests in estate planning and litigation. In addition to his previous work experience, Pereira has volunteered his time at Our Lady of Fatima Parish and was also a Best Buddies International Organization member. He has lived in Western Mass. his entire life and hopes to continue his legal career here after graduation. He is looking forward to using his time at Bacon Wilson to explore many other areas of law. Hanna is one of two returning law clerks for a second year and has been with Bacon Wilson since September 2022. She is a Western New England University School of Law candidate for juris doctor in May 2024. She earned her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laud, in legal studies from State University of New York in Canton in 2020, and her associate of applied science degree in paralegal studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, N.Y. in 2018. Hanna competed on the WNE National Moot Court team and served as a student attorney for the WNE Global Justice Clinic. She is the founder and chair of the parents attending law school committee through Western New England, and also worked as a lawyering skills teaching assistant. Before joining Bacon Wilson, she was a law clerk for Riscassi & Davis, P.C. in Hartford, Conn., as well as a paralegal at Morrison Mahoney in Springfield and Newman & Lickstein in Syracuse, N.Y. Rainville is a returning law clerk who joined Bacon Wilson in May 2022. She is a Western New England University School of Law Candidate for juris doctor in May 2024. She earned her bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in business management from Bay Path University in 2016. Her previous experience includes negotiations and settlements with claimants’ attorneys and pro-se claimants on personal and commercial auto damage and injury losses in Connecticut. Rainville has volunteered her time at the Jewish Family Services Legal Immigration Clinic and as an educator at Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School. She participated in the WNE School of Law’s Real Estate Practicum in the spring of 2023. She is interested in pursuing a career in criminal or civil litigation, and she hopes to build on the network she has formed and practice in the Springfield area. Gorney joined the firm in May 2023 and will be eligible for her juris doctor in May 2024 from Western New England University School of Law. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international trade and marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is interested in family law, immigration, and international law. This fall, she will be a judicial intern for the Hartford Immigration Court. She participated in WNE’s Global Justice Clinic last spring, which provided legal aid to families separated at the southern U.S. border. She has also volunteered for the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project, Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, and Dakin Humane Society. Gorney enjoys the personal and interactive aspects of lawyering and is passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities. She hopes to continue building a professional network in the Western Mass. area and is committed to maintaining involvement in the community.



MP CPAs recently announced the promotions of Tony Trinchini, Katelyn Henderson, and Meghan Boone. Trinchini was promoted to senior tax accountant. He works to provide quality tax services to a diverse group of clients, including individuals, trusts, corporations, and partnerships. He has a strong rapport with clients, working with many of them year-round. He joined the firm in 2020. He holds a master of accounting degree from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. He works to recruit potential interns and clients as a member of the college outreach and networking committees. Henderson was promoted to senior tax accountant. She works to provide quality tax services to a diverse group of clients, including individuals, estates, trusts, corporations, and partnerships. She has begun to develop relationships with clients and advisors, and has enjoyed gaining experience with high net-worth clients and businesses with multi-state filings. She joined the firm as an intern and started full-time in 2021. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Western New England University (WNE). She has taken a lead role this year in organizing firm-wide events and activities, and also works closely with colleagues from WNE to continue a mentoring and recruiting relationship with her alma mater. Boone was promoted to senior audit associate. She works to provide quality audit services to a diverse group of clients, including for-profit companies, nonprofits, employee benefit plans, and charter schools. She has begun to develop relationships with her clients and has enjoyed working with them on their audits, reviews, and compilations. She joined the firm in 2020. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management and accounting from Westfield State University, and works closely with colleagues from Westfield State to continue a mentoring and recruiting relationship with her alma mater.


Julie Dick

Julie Dick

Julie Dick, counsel at Bulkley Richardson, has been named one of this year’s Emerging Women Leaders in the Law by the Women’s Bar Assoc. of Massachusetts (WBA). The WBA’s Emerging Women Leaders in the Law award honors women attorneys who have demonstrated professional excellence or had a significant professional achievement in approximately their first 12 years in the legal profession, and either promote the status of women in the legal profession or contribute meaningfully to the equal participation of women in a just society. The other honorees are Avana Epperson-Temple of Peabody & Arnold LLP, state Rep. Tram Nguyen, and Whitney Williams of the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office. The 2023 awardees will be celebrated at the WBA’s annual gala on Oct. 16 at Marriott Copley Place in Boston.


Pittsfield Cooperative Bank appointed Ray Smith as its vice president, Marketing director. In his new role, Smith will manage the co-op’s marketing efforts, media relations, and community outreach, ensuring that the company’s brand and image are communicated effectively across all platforms. Smith joins the co-op after serving as administrative director, Public Information officer, Marketing officer for Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) in Bennington, Vt. for the last nine years. While at SVHC, Smith received several marketing and communications awards and was instrumental in opening up the Northern Berkshire market and developing promotional fundraising materials. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior marketing and executive leadership roles in financial services, tourism and hospitality, consumer packaged goods, and manufacturing. He previously served on the board of directors for the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Workforce Board, Berkshire Compact for Higher Education, and Berkshire Creative Economy. Smith received his bachelor’s degree in communications from Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H., and his master’s degree in communications from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y.


Peter Gilbert

Peter Gilbert

bankESB recently promoted Peter Gilbert to assistant branch manager of its 241 Northampton St. branch in Easthampton. Gilbert started as a teller at bankESB’s Hadley branch in 2018, was promoted to teller supervisor in 2019, and moved to float retail supervisor in 2021. He holds an associate degree in liberal arts and science from Springfield Technical Community College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in computer information technology from Elms College.


The New England Financial Marketing Assoc. (NEFMA) recently welcomed Jamie Conaghan as its new president. With 15 years of experience in the financial and marketing industry, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her new role. She has previously served as NEFMA’s vice president and currently serves as the senior vice president of Marketing & Digital at Main Street Bank, based in Marlborough, where she oversees the marketing department and shapes the bank’s digital experience, ensuring a customer-centric approach. In addition to her new role as NEFMA president, Conaghan also serves as vice chair of the board of directors for the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, actively contributing to the growth and development of the business community. Furthermore, her dedication to financial education is showcased through her volunteer work as a mentor and facilitator for the Dollar $cholar program.


UMass Amherst Awarded $15 Million to Lead Regional Transportation Center

AMHERST — UMass Amherst will lead the New England Region 1 consortium — one of 10 regional university transportation centers (UTCs) — for the U.S. Department of Transportation under a five-year, $15 million grant. The goal of the centers is to advance state-of-the-art transportation research, technology, and safety. The colleges and universities comprising New England’s Region 1 consortium led by UMass Amherst include the University of Connecticut, MIT, the University of Maine, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, and Norwich University, as well as Bunker Hill and Holyoke community colleges. The UTC program has been congressionally mandated since 1987, and each consortium includes two- and four-year colleges and universities that form a unique center of transportation excellence on a specific research topic. There are five national centers, 20 Tier 1 centers, and 10 regional centers in the U.S. President Biden’s infrastructure package included $90 million in funding per year for the competitively selected UTC program grants. The DOT received 230 grant applications, which represents the largest number of applications ever submitted in the 35-year history of the UTC program.


AIC Launches Graduate Criminal Justice Program

SPRINGFIELD — Law-enforcement professionals looking to further their education can now get a master of science degree in criminal justice through American International College (AIC). The fully online program is designed to appeal to criminal-justice professionals looking to enhance their skills and credentials, as well as provide the next step for students completing their undergraduate degrees at AIC. The program is now accepting students for the summer 2023 semester, which starts Monday, May 22. The MS in criminal justice provides specialized knowledge of public policy, organizational management, and administrative processes, along with advanced graduate leadership and research training. In addition to foundational theories of criminology and criminal justice, students will explore policy design and implementation alongside emerging trends in the field. The program will provide the skills, knowledge, and practical experience needed to protect and serve the public through a wide range of careers, enabling students to develop as ethical and skilled decision makers in the various branches of criminal justice. The program offers students specializations including social justice and public policy, victim studies, executive leadership, homeland security, and intelligence studies. These specializations allow students to focus on an area of interest unique to their career goals. They can also serve as stand-alone certificates for those interested in enhancing their educational goals and learning activities that overlap across disciplines but remain connected by a single shared subject.


Hooplandia Partners with Local Boys & Girls Clubs

SPRINGFIELD — Hooplandia, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and festival making its debut at the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) in June, announced on Thursday that its philanthropic partner will be Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Western Mass. Hooplandia takes place June 23-25 and will be hosted by the Eastern States Exposition and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Games will take place across more than 70 courts at ESE, and showcase games will be held at the Hall of Fame. As a community-forward, all-inclusive event, Hooplandia has vowed to donate $10 of every team registration to local Boys & Girls Clubs in support of the program’s mission and enrichment of the region’s youths. Additionally, Hooplandia has begun a partnership program with regional businesses to underwrite the cost of team registrations for young players from clubs throughout the region. Boys & Girls Clubs of America provide a fun, safe, and constructive environment for kids and teens during after-school hours. Community-based and led by professional staff, these programs offer students opportunities that allow them to succeed in school, develop leadership skills, and maintain healthy lifestyles.


LightHouse Holyoke Celebrates Transformational Youth Outcomes

HOLYOKE — LightHouse Holyoke, Personalized Education for Teens, recently celebrated its annual Raise Your Glass event at Mill One at Open Square in Holyoke. LightHouse is a personalized middle- and high-school alternative now in its eighth year in downtown Holyoke. LightHouse maintains an innovative collaboration with Holyoke Public Schools through Opportunity Academy, where students earn credit toward a Holyoke High School diploma in a program modeled after University Without Walls at UMass Amherst. The partnership allows a limited number of Holyoke Public School students to attend LightHouse along with privately enrolled students. LightHouse is accredited through the New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges. At the annual Raise Your Glass event, speakers included musician, performer, and LightHouse graduate Nehemiah Caradwyn; Liam Russell, a current privately enrolled student and graduating senior; and Damasco Santiago, father of Jhaydon Santiago, also graduating this year, who is enrolled through the LightHouse partnership with Holyoke Public Schools.


Citizens Gives Nonprofits $397,000 in Financial-empowerment Grants

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Fifteen nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts will receive a total of $397,000 from Citizens through the bank’s Citizens Helping Citizens Manage Money program. The initiative helps strengthen communities by supporting programs, through direct funding as well as volunteerism, that give people the resources they need to be financially healthy and inspire them to pursue their goals. The announcement comes during Financial Literacy Month, a nationally recognized campaign that raises awareness of the need for more financial-literacy education. Through Citizens Helping Citizens Manage Money, the bank will provide $2 million in contributions to 150 nonprofits across the communities it serves. This years’ recipients in Massachusetts include two in Western Mass.: Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts and Way Finders Inc. Other recipients include ACT Lawrence Inc., Camp Harbor View Foundation Inc., Centro de Apoyo Familiar, Council for Economic Education, Economic Empowerment Trust Fund, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción Inc., Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership Inc., Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the Children’s Museum, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing Inc., Urban Edge Housing Corporation, and Dress for Success Boston Inc.


Girl Scouts Receive $10,000 Grant from Davis Foundation

EAST LONGMEADOW — Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts (GSCWM) announced it received a $10,000 grant from the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation in support of It’s a Girls World, one of the community-based programs it offers. The afterschool program engages Hampden County girls in grades K-6 in STEM, financial literacy, and health and personal-wellness topics. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a collection of engaging, challenging, and fun activities for girls to develop a strong sense of self, display positive values, seek challenges, learn from setbacks, form and maintain healthy relationships, and learn to identify and solve problems in their community. The support of contributors such as the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation makes this possible. The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation supports a variety of nonprofit organizations seeking to improve quality of life for those living in Hampden County.


Revitalize CDC Seeks Volunteers to Help Rebuild 12 Homes

SPRINGFIELD — Revitalize CDC’s #GreenNFit Neighborhood Rebuild is back after a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19. This year, a total of 12 homes in Springfield’s Memorial Square neighborhood — owned by low-income families with children, aging adults, military veterans, and people with special needs — will be worked on by 1,000 volunteers and more than 100 supporters. In addition, vacant lots will be cleaned up and Calhoun Park improved. Volunteers return each year from Maine to Virginia and work alongside the residents of Springfield. Families who benefited from past #GreenNFit events volunteer to help their neighbors on the next block. Revitalize CDC focuses on making meaningful improvements on homes to help reduce energy use, save money, and create a safe, healthy, and sustainable living environment for residents and the community. Improvements include installing or retrofitting HVAC systems to allow for a transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, such as solar conversions; new roofs; energy-efficient windows, doors, and appliances; water-saving plumbing fixtures; electrical upgrades; mold remediation, lead abatement, and pest control; interior and exterior painting; and modifying homes for aging or disabled homeowners, such as building exterior access ramps. Revitalize CDC is still seeking donations, sponsors, and volunteers. Visit www.revitalizecdc.com for more information, the current list of supports, and to register.


Free Shred Days

April 15, May 13: bankESB invites customers and members of the community to two free shred days at local offices. The events will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on the following dates and locations: April 15, bankESB, 241 Northampton St., Easthampton; and May 13, Home Depot parking lot, 350 Russell St., Hadley. No appointment is necessary. Local residents can reduce their risk of identity theft by bringing old mail, receipts, statements or bills, canceled checks, pay stubs, medical records, or any other unwanted paper documents containing personal or confidential information and shredding them safely and securely for free. Valley Green Shredding, a professional document-destruction company, will be on site and can accept up to two boxes of documents per person.


En-ROADS Presentation

April 20: Westfield State University and its partners will host a free presentation of En-ROADS at 6:30 p.m. on campus in Wilson Hall, Room 130. The program is designed for the general public, secondary teachers, and students of all ages. En-ROADS is an evidence-based global climate simulator that allows users to explore the impact of specific policies — such as electrifying transport, pricing carbon, and improving agricultural practices — on hundreds of factors, including energy prices, temperature, air quality, and sea-level rise. Developed by Climate Interactive, the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, and Ventana Systems, En-ROADS helps people make connections between things they care about and the possibilities available to help ensure a resilient future. Users can quickly see the long-term effects of the global climate policies and actions they imagine. Anyone interested in learning which climate solutions are most impactful, teachers wondering how to enhance students’ learning about climate issues, and others will benefit from the En-ROADS presentation, which will explore the benefits, challenges, and equity implications of a wide range of climate policies, while stakeholders work together to build a scenario for a better climate future. The presentation will include information on using En-ROADS in classrooms and other community settings, and will help attendees understand actions they can take to address climate change. Light refreshments will be provided.


Harmonia V Concert

April 20: The Westfield Athenaeum and MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra) will present the third of a three-concert chamber music series, with Harmonia V performing at 7 p.m. This is the second year of MOSSO’s partnership with the Westfield Athenaeum. Guy McLain, executive director of the Westfield Athenaeum, will offer a pre-performance talk at 6 p.m., which is free to ticket holders. The Connecticut-based Harmonia V, an innovative woodwind quintet, performs standard literature, seldom-heard treasures, and dynamic contemporary music. Members of the quintet include Springfield Symphony Orchestra and MOSSO horn player Robert Hoyle; Jennifer Berman, flute; Janet Rosen, oboe; Jim Forgey, clarinet; and Jackie Sifford Joyner, bassoon. The Harmonia V program, “April in Paris,” includes music by Fauré, Ravel, and Debussy. For information on Harmonia V, visit www.harmoniav.com. Tickets for the concert cost $25 and must be purchased in advance at the Westfield Athenaeum during business hours, or online at www.westath.org.


Technology Recycling Drive

April 21: For individuals and companies looking to get rid of their old computer equipment and do some good, Paragus IT will host a technology recycling drive to promote sustainability and benefit Dakin Humane Society. Paragus will take old, unwanted computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment and prepare them for reuse or make sure they’re properly disposed of. In exchange, Paragus will collect $5 per piece of equipment, all of which will benefit Dakin Humane Society. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., those looking to recycle equipment have two choices of drop-off sites: Paragus IT at 122 Russell St. in Hadley or Dakin Humane Society at 171 Union St. in Springfield. Paragus has also partnered with the Lexington Group, which has offered its vehicles and services for pick-up from local businesses. A minimum of five pieces of equipment and a minimum $50 donation are required for pick-up. Interested businesses can contact Jackie Deiana at [email protected] or (413) 343-1104 to reserve a spot.


5K Dash and Dine

April 22: UMass Dining Services will host its 12th annual UMass 5K Dash and Dine on campus. The goal of the event is to promote health and wellness at the university while raising funds for the Amherst Survival Center. In total, UMass Dining has been able to raise more than $57,000 for the Amherst Survival Center. The 5K features a USA Track and Field (USATF) certified course to runners, walkers, and wheelchair participants. When race participants are finished, all are welcome to have lunch at an award-winning Dining Commons on campus. The race fee is $10 for all UMass and Five College students, $20 for UMass Amherst faculty and staff, and $25 for the general public. Children 8 years and under may participate for free at the annual fun run at 10 a.m. The fee includes registration, T-shirt, and the complimentary meal at the Hampshire or Berkshire Dining Commons. Online registration ends on Wednesday, April 19, but walk-up registration is available on race day. The schedule includes check-in at the Southwest Horseshoe at 9 a.m., the fun run at 10 a.m., the start of the race at 11 a.m., an award ceremony at 11:30 a.m., and lunch at noon. To register for the event or make a donation, visit runumass.com.


Difference Makers Gala

April 27: The 15th annual Difference Makers Gala will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through this recognition program. The 2023 Difference Makers was announced, and their stories told, in the Feb. 20 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $85 each, and tables of 10-12 are available. To purchase tickets, visit businesswest.com/difference-makers. Partner sponsors for this year’s program include Burkhart Pizzanelli P.C., the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank.


Pioneer Valley Conference for Women

May 4: The Pioneer Valley Conference for Women will host its first in-person event at the Marriott in downtown Springfield. The theme of the conference is “Let Go.” Leading the speaker lineup are Paulette Piñero, social entrepreneur, writer, and leadership coach, and Yvonne Williams, author of Tested Faith and It’s All About the Shoes. Each will provide a keynote address to an expected audience of more than 300 attendees. The conference highlights topics that were chosen by the women of Western Mass., based on current trends and interests. Alison Maloni, owner of Alison May Public Relations, news anchor for a national network, and bestselling author of Breaking in the News: Build Buzz for Your Brand, will emcee the conference. Local comedian Jess Miller will entertain attendees during a VIP Comedy Kick-off the evening before the conference; tickets cost $35. The cost to attend the Pioneer Valley Conference is $52, which includes breakfast, lunch, a swag bag, and an afternoon celebration with a female DJ and complementary wine and hors d’oeuvres following the full-day conference. The lunch sponsor is M&T Bank. The panel sponsor is Westfield Bank. The network sponsors are Smith Executive Education and USI Insurance. The small-business sponsors are Lovelace Design and Rooted Flowers. Keeping with the goal of accessibility, the conference will also be available virtually for those who are more comfortable watching through a screen. Sessions will be taped for future viewing. For more information on keynote speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and panelists, visit sheslocal.org/pioneer-valley-conference-for-women.


Sundae Funday 5K and Family Fun Fest

May 6: Marianna Litovich, founder and executive director of All Our Kids Inc., announced the organization’s third annual Sundae Funday 5K and Family Fun Fest will take place on from 9 a.m. to noon at Stanley Park in Westfield. The event will kick off with a 5K run/walk and simultaneous family festival that is open to the public. Families can enjoy games, crafts, prizes, food, community information, and lots of entertainment. “This event helps All Our Kids raise awareness, celebrate foster and adoptive families, bring our community together, and have fun,” Litovich said. Anyone interested in registering to run or walk the 5K or sponsor this nonprofit fundraiser can visit fosteringaok.org/aok5k.



June 23-25: Registration for Hooplandia, a 3×3 basketball tournament and festival, is now open at www.hooplandia.com and includes levels of play for all ages and divisions. The tournament, presented by the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will take place on the grounds of ESE in West Springfield June 23-25, with special games at the Hall of Fame in Springfield. The event is expected to attract thousands of fans and players as hundreds of games take place across more than 70 courts. Divisions of play have been created to provide an all-inclusive environment for players of all ages and playing abilities. With brackets that include veterans, first responders, youth, wheelchair athletes, college elites, and many more, there’s a spot on the court for everyone. Players are invited to build teams of four, create their own unique team name and uniforms, and register at www.hooplandia.com. Team fees range from $75 to $190, with children under 8 and participants in the Special Olympics category being free of charge. Hooplandia has teamed up with Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the region as its designated philanthropic partner, providing $10 from every team registration to support the mission and programs of the clubs. Partnership opportunities for Hooplandia are available at a variety of levels to help underwrite all areas of play, including Boys & Girls Club youth, active military, veterans divisions, and more. Anyone interested should email [email protected]. Hooplandia welcomes participation from youth team referees, scorekeepers, Fan Village contest facilitators, and volunteers for myriad duties to help make this inaugural year a success. Those interested in participating in this groundbreaking event can fill out the volunteer form at www.hooplandia.com.


MOSSO Concert

July 23: MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra) will make its Sevenars Concerts debut in Worthington at 4 p.m. MOSSO and Friends, which opened the Westfield Athenaeum series, features violinist Beth Welty, horn player Sarah Sutherland, and pianist Elizabeth Skavish. They will perform Frédéric Duvernoy’s Trio No. 1 for Violin, Horn, and Piano; Trygve Madsen’s Trio, Op. 110 for Violin, Horn, and Piano; and Johannes Brahms’ Trio in E-flat Major for Violin, Horn, and Piano. Sevenars performances are held at the Academy, South Ireland Street and Route 112, South Worthington. There is no charge for admission to the performance, and no tickets are needed, although donations at the door are welcome ($20 or more per person is suggested to help defray expenses). For program details and information on Sevenars, visit www.sevenars.org.


Hazen Paper Co.

This Family Business Has Been Innovating for Nearly a Century

President and CEO John Hazen

President and CEO John Hazen

John Hazen figured there was some risk in purchasing his first holographic printer back in 2005. But, as the third-generation co-owner of Hazen Paper Co. in Holyoke, he also saw the potential.

“I always say I was like Jack and the beanstalk,” he told BusinessWest. “Dad sent me out with a bag of beans — ‘grow the business, son!’ — and I bought this crazy thing called a holoprinter.”

But he was determined to build Hazen’s footprint in the world of holographic printing, and plenty of other technology at the company sprung from that first investment.

These days, Hazen regularly wins awards from the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators for everything from beverage packaging to annual programs for the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and the Super Bowl. The 200-employee company has also been recognized for workforce-development efforts like an internship program with Western New England University that helps engineering students gain experience.

Clearly, Hazen Paper has come a long way from its origins in 1925, when Hazen’s grandfather, also named John, launched the enterprise as a decorative paper converter and embosser. His younger brother, Ted, joined Hazen in 1928 to help manage the growing company, which grew rapidly in the 1930s and expanded into printing and foil laminating by the 1940s.

Ted’s son, Bob, joined the company in 1957, and John’s son, Tom, signed on in 1960, and the second generation dramatically expanded the company, which became known worldwide for specializing in foil and film lamination, gravure printing, specialty coating, and rotary embossing. Hazen products became widely used in luxury packaging, lottery and other security tickets, tags and labels, cards and cover stocks, as well as photo and fine-art mounting.

The third-generation owners, John and Robert Hazen, joined the company at the start of the 1990s, and have continued to grow and expand, with a special emphasis on coating, metallizing, and — of course — holographic technology.

“It really was a startup, a technology startup in an older company. And ultimately, we really reinvented Hazen Paper,” John told BusinessWest. “The holographic technology ended up feeding the old business. So it’s like we installed a new heart in an old body.”

—Joseph Bednar



Nicole Ortiz Has Turned a Love of Food into a Growing Enterprise

Owner Nicole Ortiz

Owner Nicole Ortiz

Nicole Ortiz was born in Springfield, but became intrigued by food during her four years in Cleveland.

There, she worked her first job in a kitchen, prepping and washing dishes in a small Puerto Rican restaurant, and the city’s West Side Market — filled with fresh foods from all over the world — became her favorite place, where she became captivated with food culture, local ingredients, and … food trucks.

After moving back to New England in 2016, she put her business degree and an itch for entrepreneurship to work, enrolling in the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Center, then winning a pitch contest and setting up a successful pop-up restaurant experience at HCC. She bought a food trailer, graduated from both HCC and EforAll Holyoke, and launched a food-truck business called Crave, specializing in modern Puerto Rican cuisine, all in 2020.

“My father is from Puerto Rico, and my mom’s family is from Italy and Finland,” she said. “I think the food we offer is different and unique, and draws inspiration from the many walks of life that I have had the opportunity to experience.”

Despite opening into the teeth of the pandemic, Crave Food Truck was a big-enough hit that Ortiz started sharing storefront space on High Street with Holyoke Hummus early in 2021, where she could prep meals and sell takeout orders. In June, she solely took over the lease, and Crave had a full-service restaurant, which now offers sit-down and takeout service, in addition to the food-truck operation and catering gigs.

Now managing a staff of eight, Ortiz is proud to be part of an ongoing entrepreneurial renaissance on High Street (see related story on page 36).

“We want to build on that and let people know what’s going on down here. Before, this street had a bad image, and a lot of people didn’t want to come down here. We created a High Street Business Association to look at all the businesses here on High Street and get all of us on the same page, working for a common goal — you know, bringing more people down here. That’s really exciting.”

—Joseph Bednar


Nick’s Nest

Area Residents Relish Visits to This Holyoke Landmark

Co-owner Jenn Chateauneuf

Co-owner Jenn Chateauneuf

If you’re looking for perhaps the most iconic hot dog this side of Fenway, look no further than Nick’s Nest — a Holyoke landmark since 1921.

What originally started as a simple popcorn cart evolved into the well-known hot dog stand it is today, more than a century later. It started when founder Nick Malfas was told by his wife that the original location looked like a little bird’s nest — and the name ‘Nick’s Nest’ stuck.

The current owners of 18 years are Jenn and Kevin Chateauneuf.

“We always worked in the restaurant business; my husband was a bartender, and I was a waitress,” Jenn said. “We always wanted to venture out and own our own place. I’m from Holyoke, he’s from South Hadley, so obviously we knew of Nick’s Nest. When it came up for sale, we just jumped at the opportunity.”

Nick’s Nest has been at its current location on Northampton Street since 1948, but Jenn and Kevin have since expanded the menu from its original offerings. “Our specialty is hot dogs; when we bought the place, it was hot dogs, baked beans, and popcorn,” she explained. “We’ve added french fries, onion rings, homemade soups … we have homemade potato salad, homemade macaroni salad.”

Nick’s Nest continues to be the area’s go-to destination for hot dogs. In fact, the venerable eatery has won ‘best hot dog’ honors in the Valley Advocate’s reader poll every one of the 18 years the Chateauneufs have owned the restaurant.

In addition to its food offerings, Nick’s Nest has an assortment of branded merchandise including T-shirts and hats that display the name of the establishment along with its slogan — “A Holyoke Tradition” — for patrons to proudly show their love of good food and community.

Though Nick’s Nest has achieved much success over the years, Chateauneuf noted that it hasn’t been without its fair share of trials.

“We try to do a lot for the community because, obviously, they support us,” she said. “They were tremendous through COVID. We’re happy that we’re still standing after those couple of years because a lot of small businesses can’t say that.”

—Elizabeth Sears


Star Dancers Unity

This Business Helps Young People Take Positive Steps

Alex Saldaña has made important moves to improve his community — dance moves, that is.

He’s been the owner and operator of Star Dancers Unity on High Street in Holyoke for the past 10 years. He originally became an enrichment dance instructor for Holyoke Public Schools, which is what inspired him to open his own business.

“I pretty much didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “But it’s just finding the opportunity — to be able to open a center in our community for youth that can benefit from dance services.”

Saldaña knew he wanted to use his background in dancing for good within the community, and he envisioned a space where area young people could go, noting high rates of teen pregnancy at the time of the studio’s opening.

“My inspiration was to be able to help some of those kids get some different activities besides being on the streets or doing things other than being productive in the community,” he said.

Star Dancers Unity currently has 65 students enrolled, said Saldaña, adding that Holyoke has been a great place to run his growing dance studio.

“The community has been supportive of my business, and also the aspect of understanding that I serve not just the youth but families in povery,” he explained. “I try to keep my tuition in a reasonable price range where it could be affordable to all families.”

As an extension of this work, Saldaña has taught salsa and hip hop for Holyoke Public Schools, and has been a visiting teacher in local afterschool and summer programs throughout the region. Currently, he works as a family coordinator for Holyoke Public Schools.

Star Dancers Unity not only participates in dance competitions, but is involved in many community events as well, from Celebrate Holyoke to performances at Holyoke High School for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“We partner up with different art pageants and do things for the schools,” Saldaña said. “When they have cultural diversity times, we also do presentations there.”

Clearly, by creating a safe, inclusive space, Star Dancers Unity is offering young people much more than dance lessons.

—Elizabeth Sears


Black Rose Trucking

These Two Women Are Hauling a Load of Ambition

Co-owners Yolanda Rodriguez (left) and Ashley Ayala

Co-owners Yolanda Rodriguez (left) and Ashley Ayala

All Yolanda Rodriguez and Ashley Ayala needed to start a hauling company was … well, a truck. Soon, they will have two. And they’re not stopping there.

That second truck is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign on Patronicity, bringing in $21,448 from 35 backers, more than their goal of $19,950. It’s an example of growing by thinking outside the box.

“Our long-term goal is to have more equipment and do more transport, which means more employees and growing our company,” said Ayala, the daughter in the mother-daughter ownership team that launched Black Rose Trucking three years ago. “We definitely have big dreams of having a lot of trucks, and being able, in the future, to offer different services than what we do now.”

Rodriguez has been in the commercial trucking industry for a long time, and Ayala eventually caught the bug. “She had a dream of owning her own business,” Ayala said. “She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and that kind of rubbed off on me. So a few years ago, I ended up getting my commercial driver’s license as well. And we decided to make a business out of it. Her dream kind of became my dream.”

COVID-19 delayed the process, and Black Rose didn’t start taking jobs in earnest until early 2021. “We just kept going until everything kind of opened up,” Ayala said.

They haul asphalt and other materials to and from construction sites, as well as doing paving and milling work for contractors and on highway projects, all the while taking pride in their position as women of color in a male-dominated field — and pride in their city as well.

“I was raised in Holyoke, so I see how Holyoke has progressed. And I’ve seen all these small businesses also come about and grow,” Ayala said. “We see these restaurants and other businesses come about that are owned by women of color. You can see every day how they’re progressing, and they’re still around. It’s definitely a nice feeling to be a part of that.”

—Joseph Bednar


Holyoke Sporting Goods

This Venerable Institution Helps Foster Team Spirit

Owner Betsy Frey

Owner Betsy Frey

Nothing says ‘team spirit’ quite like matching uniforms, and whether you’re on a sports team, a sales team, or even team Gas & Electric, there’s a place in Holyoke to find your team spirit — Holyoke Sporting Goods.

Originally founded in 1928 in downtown Holyoke by James Clary, the company moved to its current location on Dwight Street under current owner and operator Betsy Frey in 2005.

“It’s in a much easier section of town to get to, we’re right off of the highway, which is convenient,” Frey said. “We have our own dedicated parking lot, which is nice, too; you don’t have to park on the street.”

Holyoke Sporting Goods caters not only to sports teams, but to many area businesses. “We do a lot of schools; we sell their sports equipment and their uniforms,” Frey said. “Then we do leagues like Little Leagues — we’ll supply them with all their baseballs, their equipment, their uniforms. I also do a lot of municipal stuff for the city of Holyoke or the city of Springfield, like Holyoke Gas & Electric, Water Works, Housing Authority, all the uniforms that they wear — they’ll wear shirts and stuff with a company logo on them. So we do all that.”

And with St. Patrick’s Day — along with Holyoke’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade — right around the corner, look no further than Holyoke Sporting Goods for related merchandise.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot of stuff for St. Patrick’s Day,” Frey said, “so I have a lot of Holyoke stuff with shamrocks and things like that.”

Frey said she enjoys running a business in Holyoke, adding that she gets a real team-spirit feeling from the city.

“Oh, it’s great,” she said. “Holyoke’s a great place to be in business. The people here are extremely supportive; they like to support their local businesses. I sell a lot of stuff in the store that has ‘Holyoke’ on it or is related to Holyoke. The people in Holyoke are wonderful; they support the business. This is a good community to have a business in.”

—Elizabeth Sears


Hadley Printing

For 125 Years, This Holyoke Staple Has Been on a Roll

Owners and brothers Greg (left) and Chris Desrosiers

Owners and brothers Greg (left) and Chris Desrosiers

Hadley Printing has been a family-owned business for 125 years. Currently in its third generation under the direction of brothers Chris and Greg Desrosiers, the commercial printer offers digital printing, offset printing, and mail services to a wide variety of customers in New England.

The business originated in South Hadley, but in 1976, it moved to its current location on Canal Street in Holyoke. When asked about operating a business in the 33,000-square-foot building alongside one of the city’s historic canals, Vice President Greg Desrosiers had a lot to say.

“We’re in an old mill building … it used to be a silk company years and years ago; that’s when it was originated, so we’re kind of in an old silk mill,” he said. “The building itself serves us well — these mill buildings were made really well back in the day; so long as you take care of them, they serve you back really well. Obviously, it has tons of windows with natural light. In a manufacturing setting, that’s really, really welcomed and beneficial.”

Desrosiers noted that many manufacturing settings don’t have any windows to allow natural light to come in, so having the abundant natural light of one of the Holyoke mill buildings is much preferred to the usual dreary setting of four solid walls. The water view of the canal is not only another added bonus for day-to-day working pleasure, but it actually helps with the printing itself — Desrosiers can say with certainty that at least 50% of the company’s power is hydroelectric, but noted the actual percentage is probably much higher than that.

Hadley Printing, with 30 employees working across two shifts, has found another advantage to being located in Holyoke aside from operating out of the former silk mill. The company services customers in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, the Boston area, and Albany, in addition to local customers, making Holyoke a sweet spot.

“It’s really the crossroads of New England, with 91 and the Mass Pike intersecting right through Holyoke,” he explained. “It’s the center of our customer base. We’re in the middle of who we service.”

Elizabeth Sears


International Volleyball Hall of Fame

For a Half-century, It Has Lifted Up Its Sport and Its City

Executive Director George MulryStaff Photo

Executive Director George Mulry

Honor. Preserve. Promote.

Those three simple words reflect a robust, multi-pronged effort to celebrate the sport of volleyball and secure its future, and George Mulry detailed just a few of those prongs. Or spikes, if you will.

“On the honor side, we certainly recognize the inductees and those worthy of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame,” said Mulry, the Hall’s executive director. “But with some of our awards, we’re recognizing local individuals and organizations that are doing great things, not just for the sport of volleyball, but to help move the Volleyball Hall of Fame forward, which in turn helps move the city of Holyoke forward.

“The preserve side is really where we’re focusing a lot of our time now,” he added. “We have our Archival Preservation and Community Access Project, where we’re going through our entire archive, cataloguing it, and trying to digitize it and make it available as a resource library for the area. That will help bring some scholars in, which will give us an opportunity to improve the exhibits that we have and improve some online exhibits as well.

“And on the promote side, we’re not only trying to promote the growth of volleyball, but we want to promote volleyball itself within our region,” Mulry said, listing events like a summer volleyball festival, the collegiate Morgan Classic tournament at Springfield College, and no-cost youth clinics. “We’re just promoting the sport as a whole, while at the same time promoting the Hall of Fame as that vehicle for telling the story.”

From the Hall’s inception in 1971 to the opening of its current facility on Dwight Street in 1984 through today, with conversations taking place about what a future Hall of Fame might look like, Mulry said Holyoke has always been top of mind.

“For over 50 years, the city has really embraced being the birthplace of volleyball and used that as an economic driver for tourism and economic spinoff,” he explained. “There are a lot of really exciting things going on. But it’s the support that we’ve received from the city of Holyoke that really makes the whole thing go.”

—Joseph Bednar


Valley Blue Sox

This Team Has Become a Summer Tradition in Holyoke

If you visit Holyoke during the summertime, you might catch the Valley Blue Sox in action at Mackenzie Stadium.

The Blue Sox, originally known as the Concord Quarry Dogs, began in New Hampshire but have since rebranded and have called Holyoke their home for more than a decade now. The team is part of the New England College Baseball League, with players coming from all over the U.S. each summer.

“Having a team in Holyoke is great for us; you have a really loyal fan base, the same fans that usually come to a lot of games, so we get to know the same people throughout the summer in the city,” said Tyler Descheneaux, the new general manager. “The community really rallies around it.”

He went on to explain the team’s national impact as well as local significance.

“The purpose of this league is to try and have players that are trying to make it to that next level, to the major leagues, play summer ball,” he explained. “Our league is ranked as one of the top leagues in the entire country for summer leagues — last year, we were number two in the entire country. It’s a highly coveted league, so a lot of MLB scouts or even college scouts will come to our games to see how these players are.”

The team is going to bat with plenty of new promotions this season, including a partnership with Michael’s Bus Lines on a raffle, with one lucky fan winning a free bus ride for 25 people. Additionally, opening weekend will feature a giveaway of shirts to the first 250 fans who come to the game, and these aren’t just any shirts — the team is debuting a new logo this season, and this will be the first chance for fans to sport the team’s new look.

The Blue Sox are actively involved in the community — on and off the field.

“One thing that we do every summer is we always hold different youth baseball clinics, which usually last a week. We always hold one in Holyoke, and that’s coming up,” Descheneaux said.

With so much in store for the team and the community, this summer seems to be shaping up to be a home run.

—Elizabeth Sears


Marcus Printing

For Almost a Century, This Press Has Found Success

The printing industry has seen plenty of changes over the past century, but they’ve only accelerated in the new century, said Susan Goldsmith, president of Marcus Printing.

“Technology in printing has changed more rapidly in the past 20 years than the 100 years before that,” she noted. “We have basically kept up with technology, starting with eliminating film from the printing process and going direct to plate, and then getting into the digital world and most recently expanding into mailing as well as wide-format; we’ve become a little bit of everything to everybody.”

It’s a model that works for Marcus, she added. “We couldn’t be just a standalone digital shop, or a standalone offset shop. We’re a mid-sized print shop. That’s where we’re most comfortable — not printing a million pieces, but we can print 50,000, or we can print two for you. That’s been the niche we always wanted to serve.”

The third-generation family business was established in 1930 by Phil and Sarah Marcus at 32 Main St. in Holyoke, who moved to 109 Main St. in 1942. Back then, it was strictly a fine letterpress printing company, installing its first offset press in 1945.

In 1961, Marcus moved to a 7,000-square-foot space in the former Skinner Mill on Appleton Street. During the next 25 years, it expanded its offset production, purchased the building, and expanded to use all of its 21,000 square feet on three floors. The current location, at 750 Main St., is a 33,000 square-foot facility, all on one floor.

The company’s 30-plus employees pride themselves on customer service, Goldsmith said. “We don’t make promises we can’t keep, and we do everything in our power to get it to you when you need it. And we try to employ as many Holyoke people as we can.”

She’s also proud of her company’s place in the Paper City.

“Holyoke has a great business community, and printing and paper have been at its foundation. We just had a conversation with John Hazen about work our parents did together, and I’m guessing maybe our grandparents. It’s nice to have that long-term connection with the history of what the city is built on.”

—Joseph Bednar


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 demonstrated commitment, above and beyond, to fields of community service, education, science, humanities and/or the arts. The nomination deadline for both awards is March 31. 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. In 2022, the Ubora Award was given to Dr. Gerald “Bruce” Cutting and Carol Moore Cutting. 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. In 2022, the Ahadi Award was given to Kayla Staley. The Ubora and Ahadi awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in the fall. Nomination forms are available at springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. In addition to the electronic form, nominations may be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.


Pynchon Award Nominations

Through March 31: The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts is seeking nominations from throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties for the Pynchon Award, which recognizes citizens of this region who have rendered outstanding commitment to the community. The Order of William Pynchon was established by the Advertising Club in 1915 to recognize and encourage individuals whose lives and achievements typify the ideals of promoting citizenship and the building of a better community in Western Mass. Past recipients include community volunteers, social activists, teachers, journalists, public servants, business leaders, philanthropists, historians, physicians, and war heroes — a diverse group united by their passion for our region. To nominate an individual, submit a letter explaining why the nominee should be considered. Be sure to include biographical information, outstanding accomplishments, examples of service to the community, organizations he or she is or has been active in, and the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of at least three people who can further attest to the nominee’s eligibility for induction into the Order of William Pynchon. The Pynchon trustees reserve the right to eliminate nominations from consideration due to insufficient information. Nominations must be submitted by March 31 to William Pynchon Trustees, Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, P.O. Box 1022, West Springfield, MA 01090-1022, or by email to [email protected]. The 2023 recipients will be announced in June, with an awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for the fall.


‘Economics of Climate Change’

March 1: Matthew Gibson, associate professor of Economics at Williams College, will give a talk titled “Economics of Climate Change” at 5:30 p.m. at the MCLA Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation, Room 121. This event is free and open to the public as part of MCLA’s Green Living Seminar series. Gibson is a research affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics who works in environmental and labor economics, particularly time use, wage determination, air pollution, and flood risk. He received his PhD from the University of California San Diego. MCLA’s annual Green Living Seminar Series continues through April 19, presenting a series of lectures on the theme of “Capitalism and the Environment.” Every semester, the Green Living Seminar Series centers around a different topic that’s timely and relevant to current sustainability issues. The 2023 series is a presentation of the MCLA Environmental Studies Department. Podcasts will be posted online following each presentation at www.mcla.edu/greenliving.


Celebrity Bartender Fundraiser

March 8: I Found Light Against All Odds announced its first annual Celebrity Bartender fundraising event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at Plan B Restaurant in Springfield. The event will help the nonprofit continue to support at-risk youth and families in need and assist with the purchase of a home for homeless teen girls. A silent donor has pledged to match up to $100,000 to help with the purchase of the home. Michelle Brooks-Thompson will be performing at the event. She is an award-winning recording artist, a finalist on the third season of The Voice, a vocal coach, a motivational speaker, and CEO of MBT Music Inc. She has performed at many professional sporting events, singing the national anthem. She will perform “Never Give Up” at the I Found Light Against All Odds fundraiser. Celebrity bartenders for the evening include Kristine Puglisi Allard (Square One), Raymond Berry Jr. (White Lion Brewing Co.), Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, Dawn Creighton (Community Connector), state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst, Nadim Kashouh (Nadim’s Mediterranean Restaurant), Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman, Waleska Lugo (Inclusive Strategies, LLC), Dan Moriarty (Monson Savings Bank), state Sen. Jake Oliveira, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Payton Shubrick (6 Brick’s), Alethea Stevenson (Center School After School Program), and Jeff Sullivan (New Valley Bank & Trust).


Outlook 2023

March 10: Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey will keynote the Springfield Regional Chamber’s premier legislative and economic forecasting event of the year from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Taking place in Exhibition Hall at the MassMutual Center, Outlook brings together business leaders and local, state, and federal policymakers to discuss this year’s economic outlook. This will be the first in-person Outlook event since 2020. Along with Healey, Outlook will feature a diverse lineup of speakers, with more presenters being announced within the coming weeks. Tickets for Outlook 2023 cost $75 for Springfield Regional Chamber members and $100 for general admission. The registration deadline is March 6. Reserved tables of 10 are available. Visit dev.springfieldregionalchamber.com/events/details/outlook-2023-6182 to register. For additional information, email [email protected] or call (413) 755-1309.



EANE Leadership Summit

March 29: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast will host its annual Leadership Summit at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. With a focus on navigating the new workforce, the summit will showcase tangible ways leaders can adapt to workplace dynamics that have significantly shifted in the three years since the onset of COVID-19. The program will feature an opening keynote from U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Famer Chris Waddell. A Western Mass. native, Waddell’s keynote will share his insights and experience as the first nearly unassisted paraplegic to summit Mr. Kilimanjaro. The closing keynote will be presented by Mohammad Anwar and Frank Danna, bestselling co-authors of Love as a Business Strategy. Attendees will also have access to 10 breakout sessions with topics including coaching and development, unlocking one’s potential, mastering time management, engaging multiple generations, avoiding legal landmines, mitigating conflict, leading with empathy, and more. Register and learn more at www.eane.org/event/2023-leadership-summit.


Difference Makers Gala

April 27: The 15th annual Difference Makers Gala will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through this recognition program. The 2023 Difference Makers was announced, and their stories told, in the Feb. 20 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $85 each, and tables of 10-12 are available. To purchase tickets, visit businesswest.com/difference-makers. Partner sponsors for this year’s program include Burkhart Pizzanelli P.C., the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank.


Pioneer Valley Conference for Women

May 4: The Pioneer Valley Conference for Women will host its first in-person event at the Marriott in downtown Springfield. The theme of the conference is “Let Go.” Leading the speaker lineup are Paulette Piñero, social entrepreneur, writer, and leadership coach, and Yvonne Williams, author of Tested Faith and It’s All About the Shoes. Each will provide a keynote address to an expected audience of more than 300 attendees. The conference highlights topics that were chosen by the women of Western Mass., based on current trends and interests. Alison Maloni, owner of Alison May Public Relations, news anchor for a national network, and bestselling author of Breaking in the News: Build Buzz for Your Brand, will emcee the conference. Local comedian Jess Miller will entertain attendees during a VIP Comedy Kick-off the evening before the conference; tickets cost $35. The cost to attend the Pioneer Valley Conference is $52, which includes breakfast, lunch, a swag bag, and an afternoon celebration with a female DJ and complementary wine and hors d’oeuvres following the full-day conference. Keeping with the goal of accessibility, the conference will also be available virtually for those who are more comfortable watching through a screen. Sessions will be taped for future viewing. For more information on keynote speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and panelists, visit sheslocal.org/pioneer-valley-conference-for-women.



Cybersecurity Special Coverage

Defense Mechanism


The numbers are staggering. According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2022 cybercrime report, the cost of cybercrime is predicted to hit $8 trillion in 2023 and will grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

The impacts on businesses are already well-established. According to security.org, one in every six businesses that fell victim to cyberattacks faces ransomware, and about half of them pay the ransom. And according to a report last year by Security Intelligence, the share of data breaches caused by ransomware grew 41% in the previous year and took 49 days longer than the average breach to identify and contain.

A study conducted last year by Positive Technologies among financial organizations, fuel and energy organizations, government bodies, industrial businesses, IT companies, and other sectors found that cybercriminals are able to penetrate 93% of company networks and gain access to local network resources.

Such breaches, obviously, affect personal data. In 2020 alone, data breaches exposed more than 37 billion personal records, 82% of which came from only five breaches, security.org notes. Data breaches affect not only companies and organizations, but also the people whose information is in the exposed records. And identity-fraud losses in 2020 cost its 49 million victims $56 billion in total, or roughly $1,100 per victim.

“Cyber insurance premiums are climbing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to afford or obtain coverage.”

Clearly, the threat is real, and growing. Here are a few trends to consider when looking at the cybersecurity landscape, and what tech media and organizations are saying about them.


Rising Threats, Rising Liability

With the rise in cybercrime has come increased risk for businesses, and that means a much larger cybersecurity sector. According to security.org, the global cyber insurance market was worth $7.8 billion in 2020 and is likely to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. About 75% of all cyber insurance premiums are for businesses, and the rest for individuals. But that could be shifting as well.

So, too, is the responsibility companies bear for their own data security, Forbes projects. “Cyber insurance premiums are climbing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to afford or obtain coverage,” the publication notes. “To negotiate insurance premiums and better risk coverage, businesses will be required to present evidence across a broad spectrum of security areas in order to prove compliance with leading cybersecurity standards and best practices.”

Organizations will begin to conduct enterprise risk assessments that highlight the maturity level of their cybersecurity program and proactively address any underwriting concerns, it continues, noting that risk assessments can help determine decisions around insurance gaps, limits, and coverage.

“With the distinct possibility of a global recession on the horizon, we expect to see ransomware attacks spike in 2023. However, larger organizations in regions heavily impacted during the ransomware boom are the most prepared for this wave after investing time and money in fighting back.”

As for those internal efforts, Forbes also notes that cybersecurity has become too complex for many organizations to manage on their own, and most companies don’t have the skills or resources to manage a full-fledged security operations center (SOC). For these reasons, many businesses will be forced to think creatively and could decide to outsource their day-to-day security operations.

Locally, one such SOC is being developed at Springfield Union Station, part of a state- and federally funded project announced in November to establish a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at the site, which will also include a ‘cyber range’ for training.

Mary Kaselouskas, vice president and chief information officer at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), which will manage the center, noted recently that “a lot of companies don’t have the resources for a fully operational SOC, or can even afford to have managed SOC operations,” so the need for a local SOC is clear.


Zero Trust on the Rise

One way businesses are increasingly curtailing cyber threats is through a concept called ‘zero trust.’

According to IBM, the idea, developed by John Kindervag in 2010 while a principal analyst at Forrester Research, is a broad framework that promises effective protection of an organization’s most valuable assets. It works by assuming every connection and endpoint is considered a threat.

Essentially, a zero-trust network logs and inspects all corporate network traffic, limits and controls access to the network, and verifies and secures network resources. A zero-trust security model ensures data and resources are inaccessible by default, and users can only access them on a limited basis under the right circumstances, known as least-privilege access. The strategy also authenticates and authorizes every device, network flow, and connection.

“As hybrid work became a way of life, more organizations have started adopting zero-trust frameworks, meaning all users, apps, and devices that request access are assumed to be unauthorized until proven otherwise,” Security Intelligence notes. “Organizations with a zero-trust approach deployed saved nearly $1 million in average breach costs compared to organizations without zero trust deployed.”


Connecting the Globe

Perhaps no cybersecurity trend has been bigger in the last several years than the scourge of attacks related to the supply chain. Analyst firm Gartner predicted that, by 2025, 45% of global organizations will be impacted in some way by a supply-chain attack.

“Cyber criminals look for organizations or industries teetering at the edge and then make their move to tip them over,” said Charles Henderson, an IBM global managing partner and head of IBM Security X-Force. “Last year, we saw that with manufacturing — a strained industry viewed as the backbone of supply chains. With the distinct possibility of a global recession on the horizon, we expect to see ransomware attacks spike in 2023. However, larger organizations in regions heavily impacted during the ransomware boom are the most prepared for this wave after investing time and money in fighting back.”

Global threats often require a global response, which is why, last year, the U.S. State Department announced the launch of the Global Emerging Leaders in International Cyberspace Security (GEL-ICS) Fellowship, in partnership with the Meridian International Center.

The fellowship will support the development of a diverse global network of future cyber policy leaders who share the U.S. and other partners’ vision for cyberspace, and is designed to equip emerging leaders from the governments of these foreign partners with the knowledge and global connections to be advocates of the framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, as affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly.

The first cohort of 20 to 25 government officials will engage in a year-long program on international cyberspace policy in 2023. Fellows will visit Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco to engage with U.S. and international leaders from government, industry, and civil society. They will also participate in a series of thematic webinars to support continuing education and foster networking among the fellows and stakeholders.

Additionally, fellows will reconvene on the margins of the 2023 Internet Governance Forum hosted in Japan to mark the end of the program. With each year, fellowship alumni will form a growing, global network of proponents for a stable and secure cyberspace for future generations.


Good Time for a Job Search

If there’s a plus to the increasing cyber threat landscape, it’s an explosion in job opportunities. Even at a time when the IT industry is seeing massive layoffs, cybersecurity appears to be a safer harbor than other tech careers.

The global cybersecurity workforce grew to encompass 4.7 million people last year, reaching its highest-ever levels, according to a workforce study by ISC2. However, the same study found there is still a need for more than 3.4 million security professionals, an increase of more than 26% from 2021’s numbers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects similarly robust need, estimating that the number of cybersecurity jobs will grow by 35% between 2021 and 2031. According to Cyberseek, of those 3.4 million professionals needed globally, about 770,000 opportunities are in the U.S. alone.



By John Henderson

Over the past three years, organizations have learned how to be more agile and nimble to survive the pandemic. With each passing phase of the pandemic, leaders needed to learn how to be ‘in the moment.’ Successful leaders are the ones who are very self-aware of their behaviors and actions in the workplace and how they impact those they lead and those they work for. Self-aware leaders understand their strengths, shortcomings, abilities, and limitations.

As I have read many lists of what skills and attributes a leader needs to be successful, the lists haven’t changed drastically from year to year:

• Great leaders help their employees grow. They are effective in developing, delegating, and directing their employees. They recognize what each individual needs to be successful and know how to adapt to help each person grow.

• They make their team feel valued. Leaders who include, not exclude, their direct reports in decision making when appropriate show they value and care for the employee. When employees feel valued, they have a sense that they belong on the team and in the organization. A sense of belonging is the ‘B’ in DEIB. Diversity is representation, equity is recognizing, inclusion is action, and belonging is a feeling.

• They are empathetic while holding people accountable. Leaders need to be skilled at finding the right balance between empathy and accountability. Learning to relate to others with understanding and empathy is crucial, and so is being able to maintain standards of accountability where business still gets done.

• They prioritize — every day. Great leaders get things done, and they get the most important things done first. Understanding the difference between what is urgent and what is merely important is a sign of a good leader. Managing your time and the time of your employees will make a more successful and enjoyable workplace.

I am always honored to be asked to help a team in their professional development. It’s an amazing feeling when you hear them sharing their own insights and challenges to leading people. I know that, when they return to their workplace, they will focus on being in the moment to lead people for success.


John Henderson is director of Learning & Development at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast. This article first appeared on the EANE blog; eane.org

Picture This

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


Thriller of a Gift


Pictured, from left: Stacey Warren, Hampton Inn and chamber 5K committee co-chair; Kate Riley, Riley Home Realty and chamber 5K committee; Melissa Breor, Chicopee Chamber of Commerce executive director; Aida Gaouette, Lorraine’s board member; Cathy Desorcy, Lorraine’s board secretary; Kim Caisse, Lorraine’s executive director; Kenneth Fontanez, Westfield Bank and Lorraine’s board member; and Heather Leclerc, Riley Home Realty and Lorraine’s board member.

The Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce presented a $4,172 donation to Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry, the result of the chamber’s 2022 Thriller 5K held at the end of October. On race day, 236 pounds of food donations were also collected for Lorraine’s.




Marathon Effort

Mayflower Marathon food drive

Rock 102 hosted its 29th annual Mayflower Marathon food drive to benefit Springfield’s Open Pantry

On the three days before Thanksgiving, Rock 102 hosted its 29th annual Mayflower Marathon food drive to benefit Springfield’s Open Pantry. This year, the tradition found a new home at MGM Springfield, where Bax & Nagle broadcast for 52 hours while collecting non-perishable food donations for Open Pantry. The effort filled more than three 53-foot tractor-trailer trucks and raised more than $174,000 in food and cash donations. The Springfield Thunderbirds Foundation added a donation of $10,500 in both cash and food.



Supporting Critical Work

The Massachusetts Bankers Assoc.

The Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. (MBA) recently awarded the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin (CAC) a $5,000 grant

The Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. (MBA) recently awarded the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin (CAC) a $5,000 grant, thanks to a nomination from Greenfield Cooperative Bank. The MBA Charitable Foundation awarded 52 grants, totaling $162,000, to nonprofits over eight geographic regions across the Commonwealth. Member banks were asked to nominate deserving organizations in their community. CAC Executive Director Irene Woods (center) noted that “this award will allow us to meet the mental-health needs of children that have experienced sexual abuse and have had their worlds turned upside down by trauma.”

People on the Move
Jackson Findlay

Jackson Findlay

John Santaniello

John Santaniello

Freedom Credit Union recently announced the hiring of two staff members for its new loan-production office at 115 Elm Street in Enfield, Conn.: Jackson Findlay, mortgage loan originator, and John Santaniello, assistant vice president of Member Business Lending. Findlay will be responsible for helping guide members through mortgage loan options, preparing and submitting mortgage loan applications, and working with prospective homebuyers throughout the process of obtaining a mortgage loan. A graduate of Newbury College with a bachelor’s degree in international business and Elms College with an MBA, he previously served as a virtual mortgage officer with another financial institution. Santaniello will work with businesses seeking loans, including term, Small Business Administration, commercial real estate, and commercial vehicle loans. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He previously worked at another financial institution in Connecticut as assistant vice president of Commercial Lending.


Robert Ciraco

Robert Ciraco

Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, announced that Robert Ciraco has been promoted to the role of executive vice president, chief lending officer. Ciraco joined Arrha in 2019 and served as vice president, chief lending officer for all aspects of residential and commercial lending. He has more than 25 years in the financial-services lending industry. During his extensive career, he has been responsible for all aspects of lending. He was vice president of Residential and Consumer Lending for Rockville Bank, a $2 billion community bank, where he was in charge of loan processing, underwriting, loan closings, quality control, secondary market sales, loan servicing, and administration of all residential and consumer loan systems. After leaving Rockville, Ciraco built a highly successful, high-volume wholesale lending operations center to support East Coast loan originations for a West Coast wholesale lender as director of Operations. He has been involved in youth hockey for more than 15 years, coaching and serving as a board member at several different hockey organizations.


Michael Tiberii

Michael Tiberii

Tom Ingle

Tom Ingle

Nicole LaCroix

Nicole LaCroix

Fontaine Bros. Inc., a construction management and general contracting firm serving the public and private sectors since 1933, recently announced three new hires to the organization: Michael Tiberii as senior project supervisor, Tom Ingle as project supervisor/manager, and Nicole LaCroix as project manager. Tiberii joins Fontaine from AECOM Tishman, where he was vice president of MEP Services. With more than 35 years of experience, he has worked on projects in many sectors including life science, hospitality, and residential. He completed the Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Architectural Design and Drafting program and earned a certificate from the University of Texas’ Project Management program. Before joining Fontaine, Ingle was a general contractor who managed his own construction and remodeling company. He is a licensed construction supervisor and earned a degree in business management from Providence College. Lacroix comes to Fontaine from Bowdoin Construction. She earned a master’s degree in construction management from Wentworth Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in interior design. Her diverse experience includes a wide range of projects in the academic and life-science sectors.


The Western Mass. Hyundai dealers (Balise, Gary Rome, and Country) surprised Bob “the Bike Man” Charland with a new 2023 Hyundai Tucson yesterday at his repair shop at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield. Charland is the founder of Pedal Thru Youth Inc. He started working with children in 2003 when he led a Girl Scout troop for his daughter and coached her softball team. He started teaching automotive for Willie Ross School for the Deaf in 2012. Around the same time, he started fixing up bikes to donate to less fortunate kids. In 2017, after being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, he decided that he wanted to create a formal organization and start donating bikes to large groups of children. Thus, the idea for Pedal Thru Youth was born. Charland has made significant contributions to the community that also includes volunteering his time to supply law-enforcement agencies around Massachusetts and Connecticut with backpacks filled with essential supplies for the homeless. Hyundai Salute To Heroes is an annual event that was launched in 2021 and brought to the Western Mass. region by Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai and president of the Hyundai Dealers Advertising Assoc., to recognize local, everyday heroes. The Hyundai Tucson SEL AWD is valued at $33,495, and the dealers are paying for all taxes and fees associated with the vehicle.


Charlie D’Amour

Charlie D’Amour

Gregory Thomas

Gregory Thomas

Aaron Vega

Aaron Vega

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the appointment of three new trustees. Charlie D’Amour, Gregory Thomas, and Aaron Vega, each of which began their three-year terms in October, will provide guidance and leadership during a pivotal time for CFWM, which embarked on a national search for its next president and CEO earlier this year. D’Amour is the president and CEO of Big Y, where he is responsible for the successful development and execution of long-term strategies for the company. Throughout his tenure at Big Y, he has been instrumental in the development and growth of all aspects of the business, including its World Class Supermarkets, its other retail-store formats, distribution and facilities-management capabilities, and support functions. D’Amour is board member and serves on the public affairs committee for FMI, the national food-industry association. He is also a member of the board and executive committee and former chair of Topco Associates Inc., a member-owned, $16 billion buying consortium headquartered in Chicago. He has served as the chairman of Baystate Health and serves on the board and is a former chair of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council. Thomas serves as executive director and lecturer at UMass Amherst. Thomas has an extensive background in business as both a strategic manager and a professor. Since 2018, he has been at UMass Amherst, serving in a dual role as a lecturer at the Isenberg School of Management and executive director of the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship. Additionally, since 2008, he has served as a manufacturing strategy manager for a multi-national technology company. His volunteer experience includes roles on the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, Beta Sigma Boule Foundation in Springfield, and the Corning Children’s Center in Corning, N.Y., where he served as both president and treasurer. Vega was appointed director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development for the city of Holyoke in 2020. Prior to his appointment, he served as state representative for the 5th Hampden District. He continues his focus on providing constituent services, education policy, and economic development. Over the past 10 years, he has been involved in several local nonprofit boards and volunteer projects.


Country Bank recently announced four promotions. Lisa DiMarzio and Scott Emerson were promoted to first vice presidents. DiMarzio oversees the bank’s Compliance and Community Reinvestment area. She has worked in various positions as a long-tenured team member with 36 years at Country Bank. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Anna Maria College. In addition, she is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies and the American Bankers Assoc. Stonier Graduate School of Banking, where she also earned a Wharton leadership certification. Emerson has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry and has been an essential part of the Innovation and Technology team at Country Bank for the last 17 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UMass Amherst and has completed several technology-related certifications throughout the course of his career. Dianna Lussier, who oversees the Risk Management area, has been promoted to vice president. She has been with Country Bank for 18 years and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Worcester State University with a concentration in finance and accounting. She is also a graduate of the Massachusetts Bankers New England School for Financial Studies. She is currently attending the American Bankers Assoc. Stonier Graduate School of Banking and completing her Wharton leadership certification. Jason Bourbeau was promoted to Technology Architecture officer. He has been with Country Bank for eight years, earned an associate degree in computer systems engineering from Springfield Technical Community College, and is certified as a Cisco network professional.


Jane Johnson Vottero

Jane Johnson Vottero

Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Jane Johnson Vottero as its new director of Marketing and Strategic Communications. Vottero joins HCC after 21 years at Springfield College, where she has worked as manager of editorial services, publications director, director of executive communications, and, most recently, editorial director. Her work includes award-winning publications, executive speech writing, supervision of creative and volunteer teams, advertising campaigns, newspaper reporting, freelance correspondence, development writing, web writing, video production, and strategic communications for businesses, nonprofits, and political and social-issue campaigns. At HCC, Vottero will oversee the operations of marketing, media relations, social media, graphic design, website management, publications, and other internal and external communications. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UMass Amherst and a master’s degree in psychology from Springfield College. She has worked as a writer, editor, and publicist in Western Mass., including at Baystate Health, the Western Massachusetts Business Journal (now BusinessWest), the Westfield Evening News, and Barron’s Business and Financial Weekly. She is a past president of the Junior League of Greater Springfield, the founding president of CISV Greater Springfield, and a graduate of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact.


Meridith Salois

Meridith Salois

bankESB recently promoted Meridith Salois to vice president, Commercial Credit Systems Management. Salois joined bankESB in 2001 as a loan servicer and progressed over time to collections assistant, credit analyst, and senior credit analyst before being elected officer in 2015 and promoted to assistant vice president in 2016. In 2020, she was promoted to assistant vice president, Commercial Credit Systems manager. She was responsible for leading the commercial integration group for bankESB parent Hometown Financial Group’s recent acquisition of Randolph Bancorp and Envision Bank. Salois holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Bay Path College and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies. She currently serves as vice president of the LoanVantage User Group and is an active volunteer in her community with the Southampton Road PTO and All 4-Kids Consignment Sale.


John Miarecki

John Miarecki

Shawna Griffin

Shawna Griffin

Erica Moulton

Erica Moulton

Susan Mayhew

Susan Mayhew

Market Mentors, the region’s largest marketing, advertising, and public-relations agency, is proud to announce the addition of four new team members, adding to the depth and expertise of its staff. The hires span multiple departments, including account services, media buying, and administration. John Miarecki joined the agency as director of Growth and Development. A marketing guru with almost 15 years of experience in various roles, as well as degrees in marketing and psychology from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, he is tasked with assisting with business development, client services, internal operations and talent development. Shawna Griffin is the agency’s new media planner/buyer, bringing with her two decades of experience in the field. A graduate of Hofstra University, she is adept at creating comprehensive media plans that drive action and results. Erica Moulton joined the agency as an account executive with nearly 20 years of expertise in all things communications, including social media, public relations, referral relations, fundraising, account management, and more. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Catholic University of America and has extensive expertise in the healthcare and nonprofit verticals. Susan Mayhew made her return to Market Mentors as office manager, a position she previously held for four years before moving to Colorado and then South Carolina. With more than 25 years of business administration experience, she is responsible for office management, including financials (including accounts payable, accounts receivable, and reporting) and some human-resources duties.


Jessica Oliver

Jessica Oliver

Hometown Mortgage, a division of bankESB, recently announced that Jessica Oliver has been hired as a loan officer. Oliver has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Prior to her hiring at Hometown Mortgage, she was employed as a loan officer at First Eastern Mortgage for 15 years and at Fairway Independent Mortgage for nearly seven years.


This Developing Trend Is Moving in the Wrong Direction

By John Gannon, Esq.


Quiet quitting is a term many employers are familiar with — it involves a situation where an employee disengages from work and does only the bare minimum in order to get fired and collect unemployment.

Now, employers are firing back with quiet firings.

Quiet firing involves intentionally creating a difficult work environment and/or cutting pay or hours in a way that encourages people to leave voluntarily. In theory, the employee will quickly realize they need to get out and try to find alternate work elsewhere.

On the surface, ‘quietly firing’ a problematic or difficult employee might sound like a good idea. For starters, the manager or supervisor gets to avoid an uncomfortable conversation that will certainly lead to bad feelings and possibly boil over into a confrontation. Second, if the employee who is getting quietly fired is not meeting performance expectations, managers and supervisors avoid needing to coach them and give feedback.

John Gannon

John Gannon

“Managers and supervisors may prefer this method so they do not feel guilty about the end of the employment relationship. And quiet firing can be more easily accomplished in a remote or hybrid environment, as disengaging is easier when you do not have to see someone in the office.”

They can also avoid discussions about the consequences of continued poor performance. Managers and supervisors may prefer this method so they do not feel guilty about the end of the employment relationship. And quiet firing can be more easily accomplished in a remote or hybrid environment, as disengaging is easier when you do not have to see someone in the office.

Finally, some employers may see this as an opportunity to avoid unemployment compensation claims or claims of unlawful termination because employees who resign normally have trouble succeeding with such claims.

Despite what may appear to be advantages for employers who quietly fire employees, employers should resist the urge to utilize use this strategy for a number of reasons. First, creating a hostile work environment could lead to a lawsuit. It is unlawful for an employer to create a hostile work environment that is tied to an employee’s protected characteristics, such as gender or race. Creating a hostile work environment or reducing an employee’s hours could also be considered an adverse employment action, which can lead to claims of discrimination or retaliation.

Employees who are successful with these claims can sometimes recover big damage awards. For example, back in 2018, a jury awarded $28 million in damages to a nurse who succeeded in a retaliation claim against her employer. Part of her claim was that she was being verbally abused by her supervisor. The jury agreed, and the employer had to pay — a lot — for this supervisor’s mistake.

Employees who feel as though they are being squeezed out might resort to avenues other than the courtroom to air their grievances. It is not hard to leave damaging feedback on Glassdoor, a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies. Employees can (and probably will) share their negative feedback with co-workers, which could serve as the catalyst for good employees to start looking for a new job. It’s no secret that hiring and retaining qualified employees seems to be getting harder and harder each day.

Moreover, quiet firing is often the byproduct of a poor manager or supervisor who is unwilling to do one of the more difficult parts of their job — performance management.

So what should employers do? First, leaders should insist on managers and supervisors using traditional methods to address problematic behavior, such as coaching and progressive discipline. Should those efforts prove unsuccessful, managers and supervisors need to be ready to have the difficult conversation necessary to terminate the employee.

HR leaders should also be stepping in to prevent quiet firing from becoming a thing. This should involve regular check-ins with managers to talk about difficult employees and proactively asking how they are trying to solve the problem. Hopefully, the answer is performance management. If it’s not, maybe the manager is the one who needs some coaching and/or discipline. u


John Gannon is a partner with the Springfield-based law firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser, specializing in employment law and regularly counseling employers on compliance with state and federal laws, including family and medical leave laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]


Second Installation of

‘Voices of Resilience’ Exhibit

Sept. 18 to Oct. 15: With a team of collaborators and scholars, the second installation of “Voices of Resilience: The Intersection of Women on the Move” will be presented by South Hadley’s Center Church. The opening event will be held Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. Taking an inclusive look at local and national women’s history while exploring the pursuit of a more complete narrative of American history, the exhibition celebrates the intersecting lives of women — and women of color — in Massachusetts and beyond who changed the course of history. The exhibit launched at the Springfield Museums during the pandemic. The new installation will open at Center Church and reflect on local history and political shifts in our culture. The exhibit is free and open to the public Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesdays 4 to 7 p.m. Group visits at other times are available by appointment. “Voices of Resilience” showcases a range of voices from early Black feminists such as Barbara Smith to longtime columnist Barbara Bernard. The exhibit celebrates both spiritual and lay leaders, artists, musicians, and educators such as Amy Hughes, formerly of the MacDuffie School, as well as Lucie Lewis, who traces her story to the Salem witch trials. Many voices from Springfield, South Hadley, Amherst, and beyond are featured. To learn more about the exhibit, visit centerchurchsouthhadley.org/voices. For questions or to schedule a tour, call (413) 532-2262 or email [email protected].


United Way Day of Caring

Sept. 23: United Way of Pioneer Valley announced the 2022 Day of Caring. Anyone interested in local volunteer opportunities can visit volunteer.uwpv.org to register as a volunteer. Day of Caring opportunities will be posted as the details are finalized, and other opportunities year-round are hosted on this site as well. Agencies who are interested in hosting a Day of Caring location, or corporations interested in sponsorships and/or bringing a group of volunteers, can contact Jennifer Kinsman, director of Community Impact, at [email protected] or (413) 693-0212.


HCC Women’s Leadership Series

Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Dec. 21: Holyoke Community College (HCC) will begin its fall 2022 Women’s Leadership Series on Wednesday, Sept. 21 with presenter Trayce Whitfield, executive director of the Coalition for an Equitable Economy, leading a discussion titled “Leaning Into the Positive.” Whitfield will be followed in subsequent months by Michelle Lemoi, chief operating officer of Zora Builders in Newton (“How Claiming ‘I Don’t Know’ Opens Up Opportunities to Bolster Confidence”); Christina Royal, president of HCC (“Growth Mindset”); and Suzanne Blake, a career coach and consultant based in Medfield (“Ask for It and Get It”). All sessions run from noon to 1 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month over Zoom. During each session, participants will join prominent women leaders for discussions on relevant topics and ideas to help their leadership development. They will also have the opportunity to form a supportive network to help navigate their own careers. The cost of each session is $25. The full four-session series can be purchased for $75. Email Lanre Ajayi, HCC’s executive director of Education & Corporate Learning, at [email protected] if pricing is an issue. Registration will open soon at hcc.edu/womens-leadership. Space is limited, so advance registration is required.


MOSSO Chamber Concert

Sept. 22: Bing Productions will present MOSSO’s “Mix and Match: A Chamber Music Medley” at 7 p.m. in Asbury Hall at Trinity United Methodist Church, 361 Sumner Ave., Springfield. This performance by the MOSSO Chamber Players features violinists Robert Lawrence and Miho Matsuno, violist Masako Yanagita, cellist Patricia Edens, double bassist Boots Maleson, clarinetist Christopher Cullen, horn player Robert Hoyle, and bassoonist Shotaro Mori. According to Lawrence, the program — including the music of Mozart, Brahms, Dvoák, and Schubert — will be family-friendly and last approximately 75 minutes. General-admission tickets, $20 for adults and $10 for seniors and students, are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/mosso-chamber-ensemble-tickets-408920240447.


Free Shred Days

Sept. 24, Oct. 29: bankESB invites customers and members of the community to two free Shred Days at local offices. No appointment is necessary. Events will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the 253 Triangle St. office in Amherst, and on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the 241 Northampton St. office in Easthampton. Local residents can reduce their risk of identity theft by bringing old mail, receipts, statements or bills, canceled checks, pay stubs, medical records, or any other unwanted paper documents containing personal or confidential information and shredding them safely and securely for free. Valley Green Shredding, a professional document-destruction company, will be on site in the bank’s parking lot and can accept up to two boxes of documents per person.


World Affairs Council Talk

on Indo-Pacific Developments

Sept. 28: The World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts will present its first Instant Issues brown bag lunchtime discussion of the 2022-23 program year at noon at 1350 Main St. in downtown Springfield. Dennis Yasutomo, Esther Cloudman Dunn professor emeritus of Government at Smith College, will speak on “Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific: Evolution of a Eurasian Century?” A longtime member and friend of the Council, Yasutomo’s field of research is contemporary Japanese foreign policy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles on Japanese politics and diplomacy. He will look at the impact of the crisis in Ukraine on the emerging Euro-Asian geopolitical dynamics involving China, the U.S., Japan, Australia, and Europe’s enhanced involvement in the Indo-Pacific region. Advance registration is required at www.eventbrite.com/e/instant-issues-ukraine-and-the-indo-pacific-tickets-399638689077. No walk-ins will be allowed. Admission to the event is $5 for council members without a lunch provided, $20 with a box lunch. Non-members’ admission cost is $10 without a lunch and $25 with lunch.


Free Fall Community Shred Day

Oct. 15: Freedom Credit Union is again offering the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering a free Community Shred Day at two branches. Shredding will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at 226 King St., Northampton, and from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 74 Main St., Greenfield. The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for quick, secure on-site shredding. Credit union members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags per vehicle to the events. There is no charge for this service.


Asnuntuck 50th Anniversary Event

Oct. 18: Asnuntuck Community College’s 50th-anniversary celebration will take flight from 5 to 8 p.m. at Broad Brook Brewery at 915 South St. in Suffield. The Fifty and Flights event ticket of $50 will provide guests with a tasting flight of beer, bar bites, and live music, and include donations to the scholarship fund. Sam Chevalier and Acoustic Thunder will perform live music for the event. The evening will also include a drawing featuring gift baskets, specialty items, and gift cards. Proceeds from the event will benefit student scholarships and mini-grants for the college. Sponsorship and donation opportunities are available. Individuals and businesses are being asked to consider donating a prize for the drawing or making a financial commitment with a sponsorship, which includes tickets to the event and providing textbook vouchers or a scholarship to an Asnuntuck student. To learn more about the event and giving opportunities, contact Keith Madore, executive director of the Asnuntuck Foundation, at (860) 253-3041 or [email protected].


Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 27: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will honor eight individuals and groups as Healthcare Heroes for 2022 at a celebration dinner at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke. The Healthcare Heroes class of 2022, profiled in this issue of BusinessWest, and the categories they represent are: Helen Caulton-Harris, director of Health and Human Services, city of Springfield (Lifetime Achievement); Mark Paglia, chief operating officer, MiraVista Behavioral Health Center (Administrator); Dr. Philip Glynn, director of Medical Oncology, Mercy Medical Center (Provider); Dr. Paul Pirraglia, division chief, General Medicine and Community Health, Baystate Health (Collaboration); ServiceNet’s Enrichment Center & Strive Clinic and its partners at Springfield College and UMass Amherst (Collaboration); the Addiction Consult Service at Holyoke Medical Center (Community Health); Dr. Sundeep Shukla, chief, Department of Emergency Medicine, Baystate Noble Hospital (Emerging Leader); and the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation (Innovation). The Healthcare Heroes program is being sponsored by presenting sponsors Elms College and Baystate Health/Health New England, and partner sponsors Trinity Health Of New England/Mercy Medical Center, American International College, and MiraVista Behavioral Health Center. Tickets cost $85 each, and tables of 10 or 12 are available. Visit businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/healthcare-heroes-tickets to reserve a spot.

Insurance Special Coverage

Into the Breach




When hackers gained access to a large retailer’s computer network through scam emails to employees, more than 900 store locations were affected, and 2 million customers were impacted before the company was alerted by a security blogger six months later. That led to several class-action lawsuits against the company, attorney generals in multiple states opened investigations, and the affected credit-card companies issued fines.

In another case, a ransomware attack blocked all access to a regional accounting firm’s computer system, and also deleted files. After ransom was paid, it took several days to restore the applications and recover deleted files from a backup. As a result, the firm was unable to meet tax-filing deadlines, causing brand and reputation damage.

Then there was a company that provides technicians to a laptop manufacturer’s repair center. While a young woman’s laptop was in the custody of technicians at the center, her Facebook account was hacked, and several sexually explicit photos were posted to it. She negotiated a quick multi-million-dollar settlement with the laptop manufacturer, which demanded, in turn, that the staffing company compensate it for the privacy breach.

These are only three of many real-life cases detailed by the Hartford Financial Services Group as warnings that companies of any kind and any size are vulnerable to cybercrime.

“That’s where insurance comes in, to mitigate the cost of a claim,” said Chris Rivers, senior vice president of Phillips Insurance Agency in Chicopee. “Small businesses sometimes feel they have less risk than larger ones, but that’s not the case. Anybody can be hacked and be held ransom or have data get out.”

Breaches can come at all severity levels, he noted, from a simple Facebook hack to an attack that steals credit-card information or Social Security numbers from tens of thousands of consumers.

Chris Rivers

Chris Rivers

“Small businesses sometimes feel they have less risk than larger ones, but that’s not the case. Anybody can be hacked and be held ransom or have data get out.”

The Hartford reports that the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million, and the U.S. will account for half of all breached data in the world by 2023, when an estimated 33 billion records will have been stolen by cybercriminals.

One of the more severe types of attacks, those involving ransomware, take place every 11 seconds, and the average ransom payment increased to more than $233,000 in 2020. Such attacks result in an average of 19 days of business interruption and downtime.

Again, it’s not just large companies at risk of cyberthreats of all kinds, said Jack Dowd, vice president of Personal Lines and a commercial risk consultant for the Dowd Insurance Agencies in Holyoke.

“The percentage of small businesses that are targeted is significant,” he noted. “A lot of the people doing this know that a lot of small businesses don’t have the infrastructure in place that a larger business does and are more susceptible to attack, and that’s why they’re attacking them.

“It’s important to know, if you’re taking credit cards or you have a system where you store any type of sensitive information with clients, you’re vulnerable,” he went on. “We’ve seen them target people who wouldn’t think they’d be typical targets, and your best course of action is to protect yourself as best you can, and that would include looking into cyber insurance.”


Costs Pile Up

According to the Philadelphia Insurance Companies, the average cost of a data breach is $204 per lost record, with more than half of such costs attributable to lost customers and the associated public-relations expenses to rebuild an organization’s reputation.

That’s one reason why cyber insurance policies cover two distinct classes of loss: first-party and third-party.

First-party coverages include loss resulting from damage to or corruption of electronic data and computer programs; income reimbursement during the period of restoration of the computer system; customer notification, regulatory fines and penalties, and public-relations expenses; and reimbursement for extortion expenses, among others. Third-party coverages, on the other hand, include legal liability for financial damage and privacy violations involving customers, employees, and other third parties.

“Network-security liability is a coverage that will provide defense and settlement costs in the event a third-party claimant sues the insured over a failure to secure their own computer system,” Dowd explained.

Jack Dowd

Jack Dowd

“If you’re taking credit cards or you have a system where you store any type of sensitive information with clients, you’re vulnerable.”

But he warned that these expenses can total much more than the client anticipates. In fact, insurers often include sublimits on certain specific types of losses, and it’s up to the insured party to purchase higher limits.

“A lot of insurance companies give a certain amount, say $50,000, toward notifying people they’ve been hacked. But the notification costs alone, depending on the size of the client book, could be more than that. Then there’s the cost to rebuild data, the cost to secure their network … a lot of things go into cyber insurance that people don’t always consider.”

Rivers agreed. “Within the insurance industry, a lot of carriers have thrown in some smaller sublimits that weren’t there in the past. But you can always buy more, up to what you want.”

It’s easy to see why they would. The Philadelphia Insurance Companies lists many breaches over the past several years that affected thousands of customers, like the international hacking group that gained access to the computerized cash registers of a restaurant chain and stole the credit-card information of 5,000 customers, starting a flood of fraudulent purchases around the world.

Or an employee of a Massachusetts rehabilitation center who improperly disposed of 4,000 client records that contained Social Security numbers, credit- and debit-card account numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, and sensitive medical information. The center settled the claim with the state and agreed to pay fines and penalties as well as extending $890,000 in customer redress funds for credit monitoring on behalf of the victims.

Selective Insurance Group relates the case of a payroll employee at a plastics manufacturing company who received a spoofed email from a scammer purporting to be the CEO, requesting that the employee send all employees’ W2s immediately. Which he did, and multiple employees reported that fraudulent tax returns were filed in their name.

This last example is a case of what’s known as ‘social engineering,’ and such phishing attempts have become more savvy and authentic-looking. “They’ve gotten a little more sophisticated in recent years,” Dowd said, which is why companies, often encouraged by their insurance companies, initiate training to reduce the chances of human error causing a breach.


Closing the Circle

Insurance companies provide another human element to the fight against cyberthreats, Dowd said.

“If you have a cyber policy, you have a place to go, a place of refuge, if you will. If you ever go to work Monday morning and your system is hacked and someone is demanding a ransom payment, you don’t know where to begin. But if you have cyber insurance, you can call the company; they’ve been through this many times, and they’ll tell you exactly what to do. It gives you a starting point you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

When quoting a policy, he added, an agency might run a test of the company’s system and let it know of any holes that need to be closed, Dowd added. “Even if you don’t proceed with coverage, at least you know you have those entry points, and you can pass it on to a person able to close those gaps for you.”

Insurers may also supply clients with training and quarterly check-ins, he added. “They’ll have your employees take these quizzes that will supply them with real-life incidents that happen in the cyber world, and have them identify the errors or signs that they were fake or malicious; they can actually give you some real-life practice on that.”

Rivers said many insurers provide an online help center, but many clients don’t use that resource, instead hiring a computer specialist to make sure the company has the correct virus and malware protection and that there are no gaps in security, in both the hardware and human realms.

However they delegate it, keeping up to date with the latest threats, strategies, and technology is critical, he added. Even though there’s a cost associated with that, it can pale compared to the cost of a breach.

“It’s something that is out there, and everyone can be impacted by it, no matter how small or how big they may be,” Rivers told BusinessWest. “The reputation of a company can certainly be impacted by it. It’s something people don’t always think about — or want to think about. They say, ‘I only have a couple computers; it can’t happen to me.’ But it can.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Picture This

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



Giving Back

Monson Savings Bank has been emphasizing its culture of philanthropy and giving back to local communities during its 150th-anniversary year, including these three recent donations.

bank President and CEO Dan Moriarty (right) and Dina Merwin, the bank’s senior vice president, chief risk and senior compliance officer (center), visit Leo Williams, president and CEO of Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, to present his organization with a $5,000 donation.

Bank President and CEO Dan Moriarty (right) and Dina Merwin, the bank’s senior vice president, chief risk and senior compliance officer (center), visit Leo Williams, president and CEO of Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, to present his organization with a $5,000 donation.


Moriarty presents Laurie Flynn, president and CEO of Link to Libraries, with a $1,500 donation as a part of the bank’s Community Giving Initiative

Moriarty presents Laurie Flynn, president and CEO of Link to Libraries, with a $1,500 donation as a part of the bank’s Community Giving Initiative


Moriarty visits Shriners Children’s Hospital in Springfield to present Stacey Perlmutter, the hospital’s director of Development, with a $2,250 donation, also part of the Community Giving Initiative

Moriarty visits Shriners Children’s Hospital in Springfield to present Stacey Perlmutter, the hospital’s director of Development, with a $2,250 donation, also part of the Community Giving Initiative




Service Above Self


Rotary Club of Amherst recently prepared its annual donation of 150 stuffed backpacks with the help of UMass Hockey volunteers at the Inn on Boltwood. This is the Rotary’s 12th year supporting the Amherst Regional Public Schools’ Project Backpack. Organizers included Ellen Carey of Davis Financial Group and Anna Holhut of Amherst Insurance Agency, with the support of Rotary Club of Amherst members and President Claudia Pazmany.

(Photos by Thaddeus Dabrowski)



Strengthening Wellness and Family

bankESB recently donated $5,000 to the Hampshire Regional YMCA to help fund continued wellness programming and family services in Hampshire County. This brings the bank’s total contributions to the organization over t he past two years to more than $20,000. Pictured, from left: Nancy Lapointe, bankESB senior vice president of Retail Banking; Natalie Didonna, bankESB assistant vice president and branch officer of the Northampton Street branch in Easthampton, as well as a Hampshire Regional YMCA board member; and Julie Bianco, CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA.

Nancy Lapointe, bankESB senior vice president of Retail Banking; Natalie Didonna, bankESB assistant vice president and branch officer of the Northampton Street branch in Easthampton, as well as a Hampshire Regional YMCA board member; and Julie Bianco, CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA.

Nancy Lapointe, bankESB senior vice president of Retail Banking; Natalie Didonna, bankESB assistant vice president and branch officer of the Northampton Street branch in Easthampton, as well as a Hampshire Regional YMCA board member; and Julie Bianco, CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA.




Picture This

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Achieving the Dream

Gateway to College at Holyoke Community College (HCC), an alternative high-school program for dropouts and students at risk for dropping out, has been recognized with a national award for its outstanding graduation rate. The award recognizes institutions that exceed Gateway’s national graduation benchmark of 50%. HCC’s three-year graduation rate was 88%, while the network average was 68%.

Pictured, from left

Pictured, from left: Gateway’s former Special Programs Coordinator Julissa Colon (now director of HCC’s El Centro program), Gateway to College Director Vivian Ostrowski, and Shannon Glenn, Gateway’s resource specialist.



Moment of Gratitude

In a fast-paced work environment and especially over the last few months, the leadership of A Better Life Homecare feel it is important to recognize their workforce’s perseverance and loyalty. To that end, on May 11, A Better Life Homecare honored employees’ dedication by providing them with a dinner at Dewey’s Jazz Lounge in Springfield. The evening served as a time to acknowledge the post-pandemic struggles faced within the healthcare field, as well as celebrating the agency’s ability to overcome obstacles by excelling in communication and unity. Employees shared anecdotes, laughed, and enjoyed the evening together.

A Better Life Homecare honored employees’ dedication by providing them with a dinner at Dewey’s Jazz Lounge in Springfield

A Better Life Homecare honored employees’ dedication by providing them with a dinner at Dewey’s Jazz Lounge in Springfield



Stepping Up for Fitness

Employees at Monson Savings Bank (MSB) outstepped a team of town of Monson employees to win the Monson Step-Up Fitness Challenge, a walking competition run by Health New England. From June 1-21, MSB’s team of 56 employees walked, on average, four and a half miles per day compared with town of Monson employees, who walked approximately three miles per day. In honor of their win, Health New England is donating $500 to Educare of Springfield, the bank’s chosen charity.

Pictured, from left: bank employees Caitlin O’Connor, Dodie Carpentier, Carla Carnevale, and Kandy Tranghese.

Pictured, from left: bank employees Caitlin O’Connor, Dodie Carpentier, Carla Carnevale, and Kandy Tranghese.




New Year’s Eve Party (Take 2!)

Aug. 5: The pandemic may have canceled its planned New Year’s Eve celebration last year, but local comedians are having the last laugh. Happier Valley Comedy is throwing a New Year’s Eve Party (Take 2!) and annual fundraiser where people are invited to come ring in the improvised New Year. Tickets include entry to the party, two tickets to the raffle, finger food, and something fizzy to toast. The festivities take place at Happier Valley Comedy’s Next Door Lounge in Hadley, where partygoers can choose from a curated selection of mostly local alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Ginger Love Cafe Food Truck will be on site, and raffle prizes include goodies from Bueno Y Sano, Animal Alliance Dog Training School, Ecstatic Rabbit Tarot, the Ekus Group, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, and more.  To purchase tickets to the event and raffle, visit www.happiervalley.com.


Brew at the Zoo

Aug. 6: After a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Zoo in Forest Park is bringing back its popular Brew at the Zoo, presented by PDC Inc., from 1 to 5 p.m. The 21+ event features beer samples from local craft breweries, a home-brew competition, food trucks, live music, games, a raffle, and animal interactions. Attendees can choose from four ticket types: VIP, VIP Designated Driver, General Admission, and Designated Driver. Attendees with a VIP ticket will enjoy an extra hour of sampling beginning at noon, the opportunity to participate in up-close animal encounters, and grain to feed the animals. All attendees must be age 21 or over. The current list of breweries attending the event include Loophole Brewing, One Way Brewing, Vanished Valley Brewing Co., Broad Brook Brewing Co., Connecticut Valley Brewing Co., Berkshire Brewing Co., Rustic Brewing Co., Iron Duke Brewing, Two Weeks Notice Brewing Co., Brew Practitioners, and New City Brewery, in addition to nine home brewers. The zoo will be closed to the public on Aug. 6. Advanced tickets are required to attend this event, and IDs will be checked at the door. Tickets are limited and on sale at www.forestparkzoo.org/brew.


Business Resource Expo

Aug. 9: Entrepreneurship for All Berkshire County is coordinating a half-day Business Resource Expo at the Stationery Factory in Dalton. A collaborative effort of EforAll, 1Berkshire, Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp., and the Berkshire Regional Planning Council, this event will feature booths from more than 25 organizations that support small business, panel discussions, and plenty of opportunities for networking. Business owners and managers will be able to connect with organizations and programs that have resources to help them, whether with technical assistance, funding or grant programs, marketing, or other advice or support. The program will be valuable for existing businesses, would-be entrepreneurs, and solo service providers and consultants. Participants will be able to access experts through a series of panel discussions led by regional experts, including “Which Organization Can Help Me with What?” moderated by Ben Lamb of 1Berkshire; “Fueling Your Business: Where’s the Money?” moderated by Raymond Lanza-Weil of Common Capital; and “How Can I Find More Customers…What Marketing Works?” moderated by Noah Cook-Dubin of Kanoa Consulting. The event will be inside at the Stationery Factory on Flansburg Avenue in Dalton. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and the event will conclude by 1 p.m. A networking area will be open throughout the event for one-on-one conversations and meetings. Admission is free of charge, but pre-registration is required at bcbizexpo.com.


Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival

Aug. 12-13: The Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival will be staged over two days this year with a broad mix of music; arts activities; talks on arts, culture, and social justice; and local pop-up crafts, food, and beverages. The internationally heralded festival features national stars and local talent playing jazz, blues, funk, Latin, and African music. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. This year’s full musical lineup can be found at springfieldjazzfest.com. The festival will also offer a sneak peek (or an unveiling, depending on its progress) of the iconic Worthington Street mural project celebrating Springfield history. The mural is being painstakingly restored by Springfield artist John Simpson, who has studied old photographs of the building’s wall in an effort to accurately recreate as much of the original mural as possible. Musical performances on Aug. 12 feature soul and R&B legend Shor’ty Billups, valley legends FAT with Peter Newland and special guest Scott Murawski from Max Creek, Valley blues/rock icon Mitch Chakour and friends, popular Valley blues rockers the Buddy McEarns Band, and soulful blues belter Janet Ryan and her band. The festivities on Aug. 13 commence at 12:30 p.m. with a parade led by New Orleans ensemble the New Breed Brass Band starting from the Wood Museum of Springfield History, where attendees will have free access to the “Horn Man: The Life and Musical Legacy of Charles Neville” exhibit. The parade will end at the stage for the kickoff performance of the Saturday shows. In addition to the musical performances, the multi-faceted festival will feature various arts activities and presentations and workshops. Puerto Rican jazz trombonist William Cepeda will lead a workshop about traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music on Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Hispanic American Library. Cuban jazz vocalist Dayme Arocena, will lead a workshop about traditional Afro-Cuban music on Aug. 13. Attendees can also participate in a mural paint party (a separate mural project from the one on Friday) and a presentation by Puerto Rican mural artist Betsy Casanas, and conversations connecting arts with food and climate justice.


ACC Car Show and Next Step Registration Event

Aug. 13: Asnuntuck Community College’s (ACC) Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center will host a car show from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The day will also include a college-wide Next Step Saturday registration event beginning at 9 a.m. Tours of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center will also be held. The car show, located in the college’s back parking lot, near the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center building, will include music by Cruisin’ with Bruce Marshall. All owners are welcome to bring their cars free of charge, with no pre-registration, and there is no charge to the public to come and view the cars. The car show has a rain date of Aug. 20, with the open house and registration day taking place rain or shine on the 13th. Next Step Saturday helps new and continuing students apply and register for the fall semester. Advising assistance will be offered, and staff will be on campus to assist with questions regarding financial aid and registration. Participants will also be able to learn about the college’s more than 50 academic programs, in addition to Asnuntuck’s Advanced Manufacturing program.


Housatonic Heritage Walks

Weekends from Sept. 3 to Oct. 2: The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area announced the 20th annual autumn Housatonic Heritage Walks on five weekends: Sept. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, and 24-25; and Oct. 1-2. More than 80 free, guided walks will be offered throughout Berkshire County, Mass., and Litchfield County, Conn. The public is invited to participate in these family-friendly, informative walks, offered in partnership with our region’s historic, cultural, and outdoor recreational organizations. The Heritage Walks are an ideal opportunity to experience and learn about this region’s rich and varied local heritage. Historians, naturalists, and environmentalists will lead participants on explorations through historic estate gardens and town districts, behind-the-scenes cultural-site tours, nature walks, trail hikes, and tours of many of the industrial-site ruins that were once thriving local industries. There will be Native American and African-American history walks, a canoe paddling trip on the Housatonic River and a bike tour on scenic country roads. Detailed Heritage Walks brochures will be available at libraries, post offices, restaurants, and grocery stores in the region. The schedule is also available at housatonicheritage.org/events/heritage-walks. To request a brochure by mail, email [email protected].

Picture This

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Celebrating Andy Yee

State and local officials, leaders at Mercy Medical Center, and friends and family of the late Andy Yee gathered at the medical center on June 14 for the announcement of plans to create a palliative care unit that will bear Yee’s name. The unit, which is expected to open before the end of the year, will be located on the fifth floor of Mercy Medical Center and will be overseen by Dr. Philip Glynn, medical director of the Mercy’s Sister Mary Caritas Cancer Center, and Laurie Loiacono, M.D., Chief of Critical Care. The unit will be designed to provide an inviting, soothing space for end-of-life care for patients and families, as well as patients with chronic illnesses requiring pain and symptom management. All clinical staff involved in caring for patients and family members on the new unit will receive specialized training that focuses on palliative care.


Gov. Charlie Baker addresses those gathered while Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center, looks on


Glynn offers some remarks as Bitsoli, Baker, and Yee’s wife, Sarah Yee, look on

Glynn offers some remarks as Bitsoli, Baker, and Yee’s wife, Sarah Yee, look on



Supporting Way Finders

Community Bank recently supported Way Finders’ first-time homebuyers class with a $5,000 donation. Way Finders works to strengthen housing stability and economic mobility, and to build thriving neighborhoods in communities throughout Western Massachusetts, including Hampden and Hampshire counties.

From left, Community Bank Branch Manager Gilbert Nieves, Mortgage Loan Officer Sandra Desautels and Way Finders Homeownership & Financial Education Manager Araceli Rivera.

From left, Community Bank Branch Manager Gilbert Nieves, Mortgage Loan Officer Sandra Desautels and Way Finders Homeownership & Financial Education Manager Araceli Rivera.



United Way Celebration

United Way of Pioneer Valley recently staged a luncheon in honor of its 100th anniversary year, with special guest Chirlane McCray, the former first lady of New York City and native of Springfield, Massachusetts. To celebrate reaching this milestone, the agency recognized several companies and individuals with awards.

McCray is introduced by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

McCray is introduced by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno



Another Leap Year

Mercy Medical Center colleagues gathered on June 16 to celebrate the hospital’s fourth consecutive “A” Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade for spring 2022. This national distinction recognizes Mercy Medical Center’s achievements in protecting patients from preventable harm and error in the hospital. Members of Mercy Executive Leadership team and board of directors congratulated colleagues and medical staff on the achievement. Colleagues also received commemorative tee-shirts and enjoyed ice cream treats from a Ben & Jerry’s food truck.

Sister Mary Caritas, SP; Sister Ruth McGoldrick, SP; and Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health of New England Medical Group.

Sister Mary Caritas, SP; Sister Ruth McGoldrick, SP; and Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health of New England Medical Group.


Dr. Robert Roose, chief administrative officer and chief medical officer; and Bradley Harmon, Executive Director of Mission Integration

Dr. Robert Roose, chief administrative officer and chief medical officer; and Bradley Harmon, Executive Director of Mission Integration




BusinessWest Magazine, the long-time sponsor of Springfield’s DeBerry Elementary School through Link to Libraries’ Community Book Link Program, recently presented ‘Most-improved Reader’ awards to two fourth-graders at the school. The students, Christopher Vega and Eliany Martinez, were presented bicycles by BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien and Bob Charland, creator of the nonprofit Pedal Through Youth, which provides bicycles and other items to those in need. In addition, each student received a book to read over the summer. At right, O’Brien center, right) and Charland present the bikes to Elainy and Chrstopher and gathered family members. At right, the fourth graders show off their books.

The fourth graders show off their books

The fourth graders show off their books


O’Brien center, right) and Charland

O’Brien center, right) and Charland present the bikes to Elainy and Chrstopher and gathered family members




Cover Story

Passing it On

Kasey Corsello

Kasey Corsello, a certified coach and co-owner of the Corsello Butcheria in Easthampton.

There are many components to the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, perhaps none more important than the small army of mentors who are passing on what they know to a growing number of people looking to work for themselves instead of someone else. They impart to these entrepreneurs everything from the importance of understanding a spreadsheet to the notion that failure is … well, not unexpected and something to be learned from.

When asked what she tries to impart to entrepreneurs as a mentor, or do for them as she counsels them, Kasey Corsello summed it all up by saying that she tries to “normalize the emotional experience of it all, so they don’t feel like there’s something wrong with them.”

Anyone who has ever owned a business or tried to launch one — or mentored anyone who has, for that matter — knows exactly what she’s talking about.

“It is scary to be in the face of uncertainty, so I help them access their own inner resources, their own wisdom of lift experience to be able to make sound decisions,” said Corsello, a certified coach, co-owner, with her husband, of the Corsello Butcheria in Easthampton, and mentor with participants in EforAll Holyoke’s accelerator programs. “I help pull out their confidence and get them thinking that they can do this.”

With that, she described one of the many ways that mentors work with their clients and, while doing so, contribute in powerful ways to the vibrancy of the region’s business community.

Indeed, there are many components to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Western Mass., and one of the most important is the small army of mentors who pass on what they know and provide much-needed sets of eyes and ears (especially ears) to those looking to start or grow a business.

And for this issue and its focus on entrepreneurship, BusinessWest talked with several of them.

Individually, and collectively, they spoke of the various kinds of rewards — and there are many of them — that go with mentoring, and about the various ways they try to counsel those on the other side of the desk, or the telephone, as the case may be.

This counsel can be technical in nature, such as how to read a spreadsheet and understand the numbers of business.

“I tell them that numbers really matter — get to know the numbers,” said Bellamy Schmidt, a retired executive who worked for many years at General Electric before moving to Wall Street and the giant investment firms JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and then Holyoke City Hall, where he served as auditor. “As much as people may find the numbers uncomfortable, they basically tell the story of a business.”

In other cases, it’s practical advice, everything from understanding one’s audience and meeting its needs, to the importance of networking and relationship-building.

“I tell them that networking is the key to building relationships,” said Yadira Pacheco, who owns a real estate agency and is a mentor in EforAll’s Spanish program, EparaTodos. “I tell them to network every chance they get; it doesn’t matter if it’s linked directly to their type of business — they’re going to find somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who’s going to connect with them because of what they do.”

Yadira Pacheco

Yadira Pacheco says she tells entrepreneurs to network every chance they get, because relationship-building is one of the keys to success.

And then, there’s advice, or counseling, that falls more in the category of psychology, if that’s even the right term, that Corsello referred to.

“I tell them not to be afraid of failing — and for obvious reasons,” said Bill Cole, owner of Tiger Web Designs and a serial entrepreneur himself. “The bottom line is this … if you interview all the super successful people in this world, you’ll find that a common thread is that they failed miserably many times before they got to be successful. And there’s a reason for that; some things you must learn the hard way in order to learn them well.”

How well someone copes with failure, and, overall, how well one can learn from it, will play a larger role in one’s ultimate success in business than any given product or service, said Cole, who told BusinessWest that he focuses on helping those that he mentors become good entrepreneurs much more than he counsels them on any specific idea they may have to change the world as we know it.


Getting the Idea

As he talked about his mentoring work, Cole said he “got the bug,” eight to 10 years ago.

That bug, as he called it, is a desire to give back to what is, by all accounts, a growing number of people who would rather work for themselves than for someone else. Or at least try to do just that.

What all who try find out is that this isn’t easy, and if it were, everyone would do it. The fact that not everyone does, speaks to just how hard this is, meaning every aspect of entrepreneurship, from conceptualizing ideas to bringing them to market, to coping with the known — things like competition and the laws of supply and demand — to dealing with the unknown and sometimes what can’t possibly be foreseen … like a global pandemic.

Bill Cole

Bill Cole

“I tell them not to be afraid of failing — and for obvious reasons. The bottom line is this … if you interview all the super successful people in this world, you’ll find that a common thread is that they failed miserably many times before they got to be successful. And there’s a reason for that; some things you must learn the hard way in order to learn them well.”

Overall, entrepreneurship is daunting, said those we spoke with, adding that it’s important to assist those who don’t know what they don’t know with the many important aspects of starting and then running a business, while also helping them deal with the roller-coaster ride that is entrepreneurship and all that comes with it.

“I force them to realize that they’re not alone, that they can rely on their mentors to help them,” said Schmidt. “That creates a sense of comfort; it’s not me against the world — I’ve got people who have my back.”

This ‘having one’s back’ aspect of mentoring is as important as any practical advice on a product or marketing, or reading a balance sheet, said those we spoke with, adding that they want to help people learn about themselves as much as they do about business.

“There’s a lot to learn, and when we’re in a space of learning, self-doubt comes in,” said Corsello. “And that creates an emotional response — ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘I’m overwhelmed.’ There are some people who have a mindset for entrepreneurship and it’s very easy for them — they’re not afraid to fail, they’re not afraid to take risks; their natural strengths are geared toward entrepreneurship.

“There are others who have a hard time with uncertainty, who have a hard time taking risks, who have a hard time failing,” she went on. “I work with people to break down the steps and celebrate each and every small thing.”

There are many of these small things that are involved with starting a business and taking it to the next level — whatever that might be, said those we spoke with, adding that, overall, they work with their mentees to keep their eye on both the big picture and all the little things that contribute to a business being successful.

And while doing so, as Corsello noted, they try to make these entrepreneurs feel comfortable in their own skin. This in a nutshell, is what she strives to do as a mentor to entrepreneurs, a new role she accepted recently as part of the program known as Blueprint Easthampton, which she helped launch.

She said mentoring is like coaching, in that she’s helping build the confidence needed to get where they desire to go.

“I get to see people in their full light, essentially, and fully believe in them when they can’t believe in themselves,” she explained. “They’re realizing their vision and their dream, and they’re learning about themselves and gaining the tools they need to be resilient.”

Bellamy Schmidt

“I force them to realize that they’re not alone, that they can rely on their mentors to help them. That creates a sense of comfort; it’s not me against the world — I’ve got people who have my back.”

Elaborating, she said that entrepreneurship can be as isolating as it is challenging, and, as Schmidt said, these business owners need to know that they’re not alone. And beyond that, they need to understand that what they’re experiencing — the fears, the self-doubts, the seemingly endless hits to their self-confidence, are not unique.

“They need to understand that they’re not the only ones struggling with this,” she went on. “And that’s why I say that I normalize their experience.”


Rewards Program

Over the past decade or so, Cole has been a mentor for several of the agencies that are now part of the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including VVM, EforAll, SCORE, the Small Business Administration, and others. He’s worked with startups, mom-and-pop businesses, and some looking to get to the next level, and, because of his background, he’s often asked for advice on creating a website.

But his broad advice to entrepreneurs comes in many flavors, including that aforementioned counsel on failure, why it should be expected, why it’s normal, and, most importantly, why it shouldn’t bring an end to one’s dreams of owning their own business.

Overall, he said he advises those he mentors to work smart — and not just hard, although that is critically important as well.

“There’s a combination of working hard and working smart that has to happen,” he explained. “You can’t just work hard, you have to be smart, too. And ‘smart’ just means paying attention to what’s going on around you.

“We tend to have tunnel vision on what we’re trying to do — whatever that may be,” he went on. “If it’s a product, you may have tunnel vision on the product itself, when you have to think about things like how are you going to go to market with that product, or organize the business itself — how many people need to be hired, how much is it going to cost? There’s a difference between having a product idea and a business, and the difference is that most people have ideas that are expensive hobbies when it’s all said and done — it’s not really a business.”

Schmidt agreed, and said he stresses the importance of understanding who one’s customers are and what need is being met by their product or service.

“I try to force them to think about what it is the customer really wants,” said Schmidt. “Because often, a businessperson will want to do something that they want to do, and it might not be what the customer wants; if you have a business, it’s all about the customer, it’s not about you.”

Miguel Rivera, co-owner, with his wife, of Rewarding Insurance Agency in Holyoke, and another mentor in the EparaTodos program, concurred.

“Many people don’t have a target market,” he explained. “You ask them who their target market is, and they say ‘everyone.’ Then I try to teach them that their clients are not ‘everyone’; they must identify who their target market is so they can do the right marketing.”

When asked what they enjoy about mentoring, all those we spoke with said there are many kinds of rewards.

One obvious one is the satisfaction that comes from helping someone or some group take an idea and turn it into something successful.

“The first day I went to work after college, my new boss said to me something along the lines of … ‘the most important thing I get out of my job is a sense of accomplishment from helping move young people along in their careers and watching them grow,’” Schmidt recalled. “As naive as I was, I thought that was kind of a ridiculous answer. But as I matured, I realized how right he was; there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you see someone develop that you have helped.”

Rivera agreed. “I’m glad to see business owners doing their ribbon cuttings and grand openings — that’s what I enjoy the most,” he said. “And many of my clients are still in business — they’re doing well, and I take pride in that.”

Said Cole, “I love it when someone is successful and I had something to do with it — it’s a wonderful feeling. But I don’t mind being there when someone is struggling, either; I’ve been there, so I know.”

Pacheco has been there as well, and so she knows first-hand how daunting entrepreneurship is. And that’s why she mentors others.

“When I was starting my business, it was very difficult, because I didn’t have the support, the guidance, or a blueprint — anything,” she recalled. “So, I was literally thrown into it and had to figure it out for myself. And that’s one of the reasons why I help others. I know how difficult and stressful it can be when you’re trying to grow a business.”


The Bottom Line

Beyond that, though, mentors say that they inevitably learn from those they are mentoring, and this helps them become both better business owners — and better mentors.

“I’ve learned a tremendous number of things that I never would have learned otherwise,” said Cole. “The reality is I’m smarter for it and I have a lot more experience from it than I ever would have had if I just done my own little thing.

Pacheco agreed.

“You always learn something from each participant,” she told BusinessWest. “Everyone has a story; everyone’s background is different. In the process of me helping others, they are also helping me; it’s a learning experience on both sides.”

Such sentiments explain why mentoring is so rewarding — and why it’s so important, for all those involved.


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




Over the years, we’ve written many times about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in this region and its importance to economic development in the four western counties. This is an area dominated by small businesses, and it always will be, with growth coming organically, rather by recruiting the likes of a General Electric (bad example, given what’s happened to that company) or a Smith & Wesson (OK, that’s another bad example and a rather sore subject.)

But you get the point. This is a region that needs to consistently encourage entrepreneurship, but also providing a support system for those inspired to try to work for themselves, rather than someone else.

And that’s where the small army of mentors now working with agencies like Valley Venture Mentors, EforAll, SCORE, and others comes in. As the story on page 6 reveals, these mentors are doing critically important work, not just by helping individuals with the many technical aspects of running a business — from marketing to reading a spreadsheet; from building a website to writing and rewriting a business plan — but also with handling the roller-coaster ride that is owning your own business.

These mentors come with different backgrounds and experience in various sectors. But they share one common, and important, trait. They’ve been there, and they’ve done that. And, for the most part, those they are helping have not. And that’s why they are so important.

Entrepreneurship has been described as a lonely undertaking, even if there are other people involved in the business. And it is. The heavy weight of decisions, the risks assumed, and the anxiety that comes from working without the net of a steady weekly paycheck makes it a difficult, nerve-wracking undertaking.

Mentors understand all this, and they also understand that fledging entrepreneurs simply don’t know what they don’t know. So, they make a point to make sure they know more. And in the process, they may enable them to avoid some mistakes, but, more importantly, they help make sure that they learn from the mistakes they do make.

More important still, they make it clear that mistakes are not just common. They are to be expected. They are part and parcel to owning a business, whatever the product or service may be. And they can overcome.

Indeed, one of the most important lessons these mentors impart to those they are assisting is that failure isn’t something to fear. It is another part of the process, one very logical outcome when someone assumes risk and takes a chance on an idea. As one mentor reminded us, every entrepreneur of note has failed at some point in their career, and it’s not the failure that is noteworthy; it’s how he or she responds to it.

The mentors we spoke with for this issue all talked about the rewarding nature of their work. They all mentioned the pride they take in helping someone transform a rough idea from the back of a napkin into a success story.

All of us in this region share in these rewards, because each of these success stories brings more vibrancy and more jobs to Western Mass.

That’s why the work of these mentors is so critically important.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Announces New Banking Center in South Windsor, Conn.

Fresh off its successful launch in the center of West Hartford and the renovation of its Suffield Banking Center, PeoplesBank has announced that it will add to its Connecticut footprint by building a new 2,000-square-foot banking center at 50 Cedar Ave. in South Windsor. The banking center is expected to be the anchor for other adjacent development that may include a restaurant, coffee and retail shops, and a medical office building.Designed by Tecton Architects of Hartford, the banking center will feature many of the innovative technologies that PeoplesBank has rolled out at its other new and renovated locations, including two VideoBankerITMs and two EV charging stations. The new banking center will also utilize the bank’s Universal Banker approach, which allows its associates to provide a wide range of banking services to customers. The new South Windsor Banking Center is expected to be open in early December, 2022.


Florence Bank to Celebrate 20th Annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program

FLORENCE — For 20 years, Florence Bank has awarded grants of up to $5,000 each to dozens of nonprofits chosen by its customers, and at its annual gathering this year, it will once again offer up $100,000 to organizations that support young and old in the community. At its 20th Annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants gala, to be staged May 19 at 5 p.m. at Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park, the bank will offer awards to 45 nonprofits and celebrate a total of $1.4 million in community giving through this one channel. Organizations like Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and the Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Holyoke will receive awards for the first time this year thanks to customer voting. In addition to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield, the Therapeutic Equestrian Center and Dakin, the following organizations received enough votes to qualify for a grant and will receive an award at the celebration: Amherst Neighbors, Amherst Survival Center, Belchertown Animal Relief Committee Inc. (BARC), Belchertown K-9, Cancer Connection, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Cooley Dickinson Hospital VNA & Hospice, Easthampton Community Center, Easthampton Elementary Schools PTO, Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of Forbes Library, Friends of Lilly Library, Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, Friends of Northampton Legion Baseball, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Goshen Firefighters Assoc., Grow Food Northampton, Granby Senior Center, Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Valley, Historic Northampton, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, It Takes a Village, J.F.K. Middle School, Kestrel Land Trust, Leeds Elementary School PTO, Ludlow Boys & Girls Club, Manna Community Kitchen, Northampton Community Music Center, Northampton High School PTO, Northampton Neighbors, Northampton Survival Center, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Revitalize CDC, Riverside Industries, R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, Safe Passage, Smith Vocational High School PTO, The Parish Cupboard, Whole Children, and Williamsburg Firefighters Association.


Greater Springfield CVB Names 2022 Howdy Award Finalists

The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) has announced 50 Finalists for the upcoming 2022 Howdy Awards for Hospitality Excellence. The Howdy Awards, as they are also known, celebrate workers in visitor-facing roles across Western Mass who deliver outstanding guest service, create loyal customers for their businesses and help make a positive impact upon the region’s hospitality economy.The 2022 Howdy Awards will be celebrated on May 16 at 6 p.m. at the MassMutual Center, and will also include the presentation of the Spotlight Award to Nate Costa and the Springfield Thunderbirds ownership group for keeping professional hockey in Western Mass.

The 50 finalists are:

FeliciaFernandez, front desk clerk, Hampton Inn and Suites, Hadley;
AustinGinman, front desk agent, MGM Hotel, Springfield;
GenesisRamos, front desk clerk, Residence Inn, Chicopee; and
FeliciaLaurin, housekeeping supervisor, The Inn on Boltwood,Amherst.

David Dunston, show staff, Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield;
Laura Litterer, owner,Full of Grace Farm, Hadley;
Steve Ferraro, director of Operations, Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield;
Sabrina Brizzolari, director of Event Services, Mass Mutual Center, Springfield;
Gary Laprade, tour host,Sports Travel and Tours, Hatfield;
Pearl Wesley, ranger, Springfield Armory, Springfield;and
Sharon Ferrara, Welcome Center manager,Springfield Museums, Springfield.

Shanique Fair, catering sales manager,MGM Springfield;
Will Diaz, event planner, Log Cabin, Holyoke; and
Brenda Lee Glanville, director of Sales & Marketing, Summit View Banquet House, Holyoke.

Terry Ryan, bartender, Collins Tavern, West Springfield;
Rob Dullea, bar manager,Fitzwilly’s, Northampton;
Jessica Santinello, bartender, Maple Leaf, Westfield;
Matthew Jerzyk, bartender,Max’s Tavern, Springfield; and
Amanda Reed, bartender,the Ranch Pub House, Southwick

Food Casual
June Leduc, general manager, Delaney’s Market, Longmeadow;
Silvana Cardaropoli, customer service, Palazzo’s, Springfield;
Humberto Caro, manager, Starbuck’s, Monarch Place, Springfield; and
Erica Rosado, breakfast attendant, Tru by Hilton, Chicopee.

Food Tableside
Kelsi Donohue, server, Bnapoli Italian, West Springfield;
Donna Nardi, server,Cal’s Restaurant, West Springfield;
Matthew Canata, counter clerk,EB’s, Agawam;
Darlene Robinson, server,Gregory’s Pizza, Wilbraham;
Bernadette Beaudry, server,Johnny’s Roadside Diner, Hadley;
Benny Beans, server,Lattitude, West Springfield;
Amy Silvestri,general manager,UNO’s Pizzeria & Grill,Springfield; and
Michael Moriarty, server,Villa Napoletana, East Longmeadow.

Public Service
Serena Curley, concierge,Baystate Medical Center, Springfield;
Latrina Haynie, phlebotomist, Baystate Lab, Springfield;
January Russell, insurance agent,Bluestone Insurance/Horace Mann, Agawam;
Heather Wyman, office manager,Cordes Orthodontics, Westfield;
Paul Barden, Meals on Wheels,Greater Springfield Senior Services, Springfield;
Tricia Zoly, nurse, Holyoke Council on Aging, Holyoke; and
Harold Anderson, program director, Valley Eye Radio, Springfield.

Yates Greenhalgh, cashier, Big Y, Wilbraham;
Kerri O’Connor, manager,Athleta, Longmeadow;
Patrick Hamel, service advisor, Gary Rome Hyundai, Holyoke;
Tiarra Henderson, framing specialist, Michael’s, West Springfield;
Maria Lepage, sales and leasing consultant,Gary Rome Hyundai, Holyoke;
Sabrina Pretti, customer service,Insa Inc., Easthampton;
Carolyn Owens, cashier,Walgreen’s, Springfield;
Janet Graves, retail sales associate, Yankee Candle Village, South Deerfield;and
Stephen Ross, sales associate, Yankee Candle Village, South Deerfield

Jose Guzman, valet parker,Baystate Medical Center, Springfield;
Barbara Eckert, booth attendant, Civic Center Garage, Springfield; and
Tom McLeer, PVTA bus driver,PVTA, Springfield

The Howdy Awards for Hospitality Excellence are sponsored by Eastern States Exposition, Aladco Linen Services, Mass. Convention Center Authority, Freedom Credit Union, Performance Foodservice, People’s United Bank, MGM Springfield, MassMutual Center, Baystate Health, Yankee Candle Village, Modelo Especial, The Republican, MassLive, WWLP TV-22 and IHeart Media.

The GSCVB, an affiliate of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass, is a private non-profit destination marketing organization dedicated to promoting Western Mass for meetings and conventions, group tours, sports and leisure travel.


Whalley Computer Associates Named One of The 2022 Tech Elite 250

SOUTHWICK — Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) has again been named to the Tech Elite 250 list comprised of solution providers in the U.S. and Canada that have made the investments necessary to earn the highest level of certifications from the largest and most prestigious manufacturers of technology products and services. CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, named WCA to the Tech Elite 250 in 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2021 as well. WCA’s engineering team has earned about 125 certifications with nearly 30 different manufacturers by numerous dedicated engineers. Founded in 1979, WCA has been providing IT solutions and services to customers throughout New England and upstate New York for 43 years.


UMass Amherst Dining to Measure Carbon Footprint for Individual Dishes

AMHERST — Bolstering UMass Amherst’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2032, UMass Amherst Dining Services has made the commitment to measure the carbon impact of their menu. In doing so they will be the first college or university dining program in the country to include carbon footprint for individual dishes.

The initiative will help students reduce their carbon footprint with their everyday food choices by including a carbon rating on the menu identifiers. In a fall survey of over 800 people, 88% of students indicated the climate crisis informs their decisions at least some of the time. In addition, 75% indicated they believe their food choices impact the environment and 76% said reducing their carbon footprint is important to them. Launching during Earth Week, the first phase of this project will feature an A-E carbon rating for all menu items at Hampshire Dining Commons on the menu identifiers, online and on the UMass Dining App. Determining the carbon footprint of a dish is a multi-faceted process that incorporates things like water consumption as well as storage and transport. To create a clear,concise way to communicate thesevalues fortheir customers, UMass Dining is working withMy Emissions, a leading provider of food carbon labelling. My Emissions’ standardized process makes it easy to calculate the carbon footprint from a recipe and demonstrates the impact of a customer’s food choices using a rating scale.Factoring in all the contributing elements, My Emissions has developed an A-E rating scale based on the carbon intensity (“A” signals Low impact and “E” signals Very High).


Big Y Donates $100,000 to Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Relief

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y World Class Markets added to the collected donations from customers and employees from March 17 to March 30 through their traditional registers, online and myExpress check out for Ukraine Humanitarian Relief. Community and employee donations along with additional support from Big Y resulted in a donation of $100,000, which will be donated to the global Red Cross network response to provide humanitarian relief to people affected by the crisis in Ukraine. As the conflict continues, the Red Cross continues to help families impacted by this devastating conflict. International Red Cross teams are currently on the ground in the region distributing food, delivering medicine and medical supplies, assisting with evacuations, and providing shelter.


JGS Lifecare Welcomes Northeast Rehab Associates

LONGMEADOW — JGS Lifecare, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving seniors and their families in Western Mass. for more than 110 years, announced the addition of Northeast Rehab Associates Inc. to services offered at its Longmeadow campus. Northeast Rehab, a specialized sub-acute rehab service operated by Registered Physical Therapist Cherie Stack for the past 25 years, most of those years spent in Agawam, will operate out of The Sosin Center for Rehabilitation, located at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home at 770 Converse Street in Longmeadow. “JGS Lifecare, an affiliate of Legacy Lifecare since 2018, is always seeking ways to enhance the services we offer to our residents, families and the local community,” said Mary-Anne Schelb, director of Business Development for Legacy Lifecare’s Western Mass. market. “We have a full continuum of eldercare services located on 23 acres on Converse Street that the community knows well and has confidence in. The addition of Northeast Rehab to our family of services is a mutually enhancing partnership that will benefit not only our residents, but their families as well as our local community.” Northeast Rehab has specialized in orthopedic rehab for more than two decades. Over the past five years, care has expanded to include cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. Stack’s longtime staff will come with her, offering continuity of care and a seamless recovery for all of their patients. “We’re very excited to welcome Northeast Rehab Associates Inc. to our campus of care,” said Rob Whitten, LHNA, administrator of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home at JGS Lifecare. “It was clear from the start that we share a similar commitment to providing the highest quality of rehab services, and that our environment and how we deliver care is a great match.

Picture This

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150th Anniversary Reception

To commemorate Monson Savings Bank’s incorporation on March 27, 1872, the bank recently invited members of the community to attend a 150th Anniversary Reception at the Monson branch. Dan Moriarty, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank, along with MSB team members, welcomed guests as they joined the celebration. Dignitaries, including local professionals, government officials, and community members attended the reception to show their support for the institution.

State Sen. Anne Gobi and Rep. Brian Ashe (right), seen with Moriarty, presented Monson Savings Bank with citations, and commended the bank for reaching the momentous anniversary


From left, Michael Rouette, MSB’s executive vice president and COO; Laurel Peck, MSB Retail Operations specialist; Sandra Letendre, veteran MSB employee; and Moriarty


Moriarty, left, with past president Neil Marshall, center, and past president (and now chairman of the board) Steve Lowell



Soofa Wraps

Business and civic leaders gathered in downtown Amherst recently for the unveiling of new ‘Soofa signs,’ 100% solar-powered electronic displays placed in the downtown area to better communicate local events and resources, and to help promote local businesses. The signs will communicate COVID-19 updates, public health guidelines, town updates, and local business offerings. The initiative was sponsored by UMass Five College Credit Union.

From left: Claudia Pazmany, executive director, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce; UMass Five College Credit Union team members: Taylor Robbins, Cash Management specialist; Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing; and Rich Kump, President & CEO; Dave Ziomek, Assistant town manager/director of Conservation & Development, Town of Amherst; state Rep. Mindy Domb; and Jeff Simpson, chief Commercial Officer and vice president of Commercial Lending of UMass Five. (Missing are Gabrielle Gould, president of the Amherst Business Improvement District, and Brianna Sunryd, Communications manager and Community Participation officer for the Town of Amherst — partners who made the initiative possible).



Urban League Donation

Balise Toyota and Balise Lexus donated to the Urban League of Springfield and nominated the organization for additional funds through the Toyota Dealer Match Program, resulting in a total donation of $30,000. The funds will be used to support new development and improvements at the league’s historic Camp Atwater, with youth development activities and facilities upgrades as the primary objectives.

From left, Ken Maffia, general manager of Balise Toyota; Henry Thomas III, president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield; Alex Balise, director of Marketing for Balise Auto Group; Dee Thomas; and Tim Cardillo, general manager of Balise Lexus.


Celebrating 125 Years


Bay Path University celebrated its 125th anniversary and the inauguration of its sixth president, Sandra Doran, on April 8. An evening gala at the MassMutual Center followed earlier inauguration ceremonies at Symphony Hall.

A wide view of the inauguration


At the ‘Presentation of Symbols’ are, from left, Jonathan Besse, chairman of the Bay Path board of trustees, Doran, retired Bay Path President Carol Leary


Later at the ball … clockwise, from left, with Doran, second from left, are Madeline Landrau, Relationship Manager at MassMutual, Judy Matt, president of the Spirit of Springfield, and Kathy Tobin, director of Annual Giving and Events at Baystate Health


Michelle and Peter Wirth, co-owners of Mercedes Benz of Springfield, rally the audience during the fund-raising segment of the program


Ruth Carter, Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design, addresses the audience



People on the Move
Priscilla Kane Hellweg

Priscilla Kane Hellweg

Enchanted Circle Theater’s executive and artistic director, Priscilla Kane Hellweg, has stepped down after 40 years of service, having grown Enchanted Circle from a small touring educational theater company into a nationally recognized leader in the field of arts integration. The board of directors is currently working with a consultant and staff on temporary management while studying various governance models. The organization will announce the plan by the end of the school year. Under Hellweg’s direction, Enchanted Circle has become the regional leader in the field of arts integration, working district-wide in public schools throughout Western Mass. and collaborating with more than 60 community partner organizations, developing work that bridges arts, education, and human services. She received the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and was a finalist for Excellence in Leadership in 2018. She has received a Champions of Arts Education Award from the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts in Education and a Millennium Award from the National Guild of Community Arts Educators for her commitment to making quality arts education accessible to all. In 2016, Enchanted Circle was nominated to represent Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Cultural Council to receive the Creativity Connects Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Its work was highlighted in the national PBS series, American Graduate, for its Shakespeare program that combats summer learning loss in Holyoke Public Schools. Enchanted Circle received the 2015 Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts’ highest honor in arts, sciences, and humanities; received the 2013 Arts and Humanities Award for Outstanding Organization from NEPR; and was named Outstanding Arts Collaborative in 2011 from Arts/Learning. Hellweg has created district-wide arts-integration initiatives to enhance academic achievement for Holyoke, Amherst, Northampton, and Westfield public schools, and has collaborated on the development of several Teacher Training Institutes with numerous partners, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Teaching American History grants. She has taught professional-development workshops for many district-wide school systems in Massachusetts and Connecticut, including the Wang Center in Boston, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the History Institute at the University of Massachusetts, and the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. She has been adjunct faculty at the University of Hartford, Hampshire College, and Westfield State University. She has also co-written and directed several site-based historical plays for educational and cultural tourism sites.


Melissa English

MP CPAs recently announced the promotion of Melissa English to senior audit manager and Tim Provost to senior tax manager. English works with clients across a variety of industries, including nonprofits, manufacturers, distributors, and other small to medium-sized businesses. She is also the lead professional for the firm’s employee benefit-plan practice. She performs technical reviews of employee benefit-plan audits and is frequently called upon to assist with research regarding plan issues. Her experiences with benefit plans include working on Internal Revenue Service examinations, voluntary plan corrections, and self-corrections of plan errors. English joined the firm in 2001 and has more than 20 years of audit experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Westfield State University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and AICPA’s Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center. She is very active in the community as a volunteer board member of the Down Syndrome Resource Group of Western Massachusetts and the Chicopee Galaxy Youth Athletic Assoc., of which she is also a co-founder. Provost provides consulting and tax solutions to a diverse group of clients including individuals, partnerships, limited-liability companies, corporations, and trusts. He also has experience working with international affiliates on foreign tax issues, and specializes in working with high-net-worth clients and with private equity firms and their owners. Provost joined the firm in 2008 and has more than 13 years of experience in personal and business taxation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Westfield State University and a master’s degree in accounting and taxation from American International College. He is a certified public accountant and a member of AICPA. He is very active in the community as a volunteer board member of the West Springfield Youth Basketball Assoc. and a volunteer youth basketball coach.


Melissa Stefanowich

Melissa Stefanowich

Country Bank announced that Melissa Stefanowich has joined its Retail Banking division. An experienced leader who has been in the retail banking industry for 14 years, she will serve Western Mass. in her new role at Country Bank. Stafenowich joins Country Bank from Westfield Bank where she was a Retail Banking officer, branch manager, and mortgage specialist. She was responsible for the leadership and management of branch service, sales, operations, and team development. She worked for Chicopee Savings Bank for eight years before it merged in 2016 with Westfield Bank. She is a supporter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts.


After a nationwide search, Bay Path University announced that Frank Rojas has joined the university as the new vice president of Enrollment Management. In this role, he will oversee many duties, including creating and driving the strategic vision for enrollment, overseeing all aspects of enrollment operations, executing a comprehensive enrollment plan, and identifying and employing strategies that clearly demonstrate the university’s value proposition and align with institutional goals. Rojas has extensive experience in higher education, most recently as chief operating officer and executive vice president at Los Angeles Pacific University. In that position, he led a team that successfully drove enrollment growth and increased revenue, while implementing marketing plans and strategies for an online university that also integrated a focus on student support. As an educator, he is a strong advocate in providing access to learners, including marginalized students in post-secondary higher education. During his career, he has been a results-oriented leader committed to building profitable growth and return on investment both domestically and internationally. He earned a Ph.D. in organizational development and change and a master’s degree in organizational leadership through Fielding Graduate University. In addition, he received an executive MBA through Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.


American International College (AIC) has appointed Michael Dodge associate vice president for Academic Affairs following a national search. Dodge has been with AIC since 2018, previously serving as dean of Student Success and Opportunity. As dean, he had oversight of the tutoring and advising programs on campus and the James J. Shea Memorial Library, and was instrumental in the success of the AIC’s Plan for Excellence (APEX) program for students, serving as director of the program. In addition, he served as the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant program. While maintaining several of his previous responsibilities, as the associate vice president for Academic Affairs, Dodge will serve as the chief of staff to the executive vice president for Academic Affairs (EVPAA), including responsibility for day-to-day operational support for all areas reporting to the EVPAA, including the schools of Business Arts and Sciences, Education, and Health Sciences. Among his many areas of responsibility, Dodge will represent the Office of Academic Affairs to internal and external constituencies to develop comprehensive and integrative structures and processes to support student success and timely graduation. In addition, he will assist in the institution’s assessment processes and support development of meaningful and measurable institution, program, and course student-learning outcomes. He will research and analyze new program proposals from concept to market. Prior to joining AIC, Dodge worked for more than a decade at UMass Amherst in a variety of teaching and administrative roles. He earned his doctorate in educational policy, leadership, and administration at UMass Amherst after first earning his master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English at the State University of New York Oswego.


Western New England University School of Law Professor Jennifer Levi has been named an inaugural fellow in a new Salem State University program of the Berry Institute of Politics (IOP). Levi will share this honor with former Boston Mayor Kim Janey for the spring 2022 semester. Levi is a lawyer, professor, and nationally recognized expert on transgender legal issues who has dedicated their career to fighting for the rights of women, children, the poor, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) clients. Currently, Levi serves as director of the Transgender Rights Project for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and as professor of Law at Western New England University. Throughout their career, Levi has led legal fights for transgender equality across a range of contexts, including in the areas of family law, education, healthcare, incarceration, military service, and beyond. As rising or seasoned professionals, fellows share their knowledge, skills, and experiences with students who are exploring and pursuing careers in politics and public service. As current practitioners, fellows support students building practical skills that will supplement what they are learning through academic courses. Through one-time and ongoing engagement, fellows serve as resources and mentors to students. During their visits, IOP fellows will participate and lead both curricular and co-curricular programs.


Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg

Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg

Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg as the college’s executive director of Human Resources. Rivera-Riffenburg has worked in human resources for more than 25 years. She started her career as a personnel assistant and most recently worked as director of human resources for Chicopee Public Schools. Her previous employment featured positions in human resources for the town of Amherst, Medtronic (formerly Covidien), Hot Mama’s Foods, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and Coca-Cola. She is also an adjunct professor at Bay Path University and Western New England University. Rivera-Riffenburg began her undergraduate education at HCC before transferring to Baker College, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. She holds master’s degrees in communications and information management from Bay Path University and in organizational leadership from Southern New Hampshire University. She is a Society for Human Resources Management certified senior professional, an HCRI senior professional in human resources, and a certified K-12 Title IX coordinator.


The New England Financial Marketing Assoc. (NEFMA) welcomed Mary Cate Mannion, a digital PR analyst for Garvey Communication Associates Inc. and producer for New England Corporate Video, as the keynote presenter for its virtual Awards Show on Feb. 11. The event featured the winners of awards for the most creative, innovative, and successful campaigns across several different financial-services categories. Mannion’s presentation, “What’s Old Is New: How the Age-old Art of Storytelling Will Set Your Existing Media Channels on Fire,” explained how brands can generate meaningful and measurable engagement while shedding all that extra budget weight of meaningless and empty impressions. Included in her presentation were best-practice examples from HarborOne Bank, Mascoma Bank, Monson Savings Bank, Needham Bank, and PeoplesBank. Mannion has worked in the Holyoke-Springfield DMA as an anchor/reporter for ABC, CBS, and FOX News affiliates; in Bismarck, N.D. as an anchor/reporter for an NBC News affiliate; and in Portland, Maine as a reporter for an ABC News affiliate. She won a Broadcaster’s Award for her work and was nominated for two Midwest Emmy Awards. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She is also currently a board member of the Willie Ross School for the Deaf and a member of Women in Film & Video New England.


New England Public Media has named Deepa Krishna director of Finance and Accounting. Krishna will oversee the nonprofit media organization’s $10 million budget, working directly with internal departments as well as community funders and grantors. A licensed certified public accountant, Krishna joins NEPM from the Connecticut Airport Authority in Windsor Locks, where she served as the accounting manager for Bradley International Airport and five general aviation airports, overseeing annual budgets and managing federal and state grants for the nonprofit organization. Prior to that, she was the finance manager for Bristol Hospital and Healthcare Group. She received her master’s degree in commerce and accounting from Madurai Kamaraj University, India, and her bachelor’s degree in commerce and accounting from Mahatma Gandhi University, India.


Colin Griswold

Colin Griswold

OMG Roofing Products promoted Colin Griswold to the position of codes and approvals engineer. In his new role, he will manage product approvals for OMG Roofing’s product portfolio as well as assist the new-product development team in addressing code and approval issues. In addition, he will work closely with OMG’s private-label customers and code and approval officials with product evaluations, developing technical product specifications, as well as maintaining code approvals and keeping abreast of technical changes and advancements in the commercial roofing industry. Griswold started with OMG Roofing Products in 2013 in the manufacturing area. Since then, he has held positions as a laboratory technician in the company’s New Product Development & Innovation department, and most recently in the Technical Services department as a technical support specialist. He is a member of the Single-Ply Roofing Industry and holds an associate degree in engineering from Springfield Technical Community College.


Nourse Farms Inc. announced that founder and President Timothy Nourse has transitioned from overall leadership of Nourse Farms to chairman of the board of directors. He is leaving the day-to-day operational oversight in the hands of John Place, who has been promoted to CEO. Over the past 90 years, Nourse Farms has grown to be a leader in berry-plant propagation in North America and now produces more than 30 million strawberry plants in addition to 6 million raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, currant, gooseberry, elderberry, asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish plants each year to customers around the world. Tim Nourse is recognized as a pioneer in tissue-culture propagation, having built the first lab at Nourse Farms over 40 years ago. Establishing this capability in the 1980s was a key to growth and innovation for customers around the world. Before joining Nourse Farms as chief operating officer in 2019, Place built his career in Pennsylvania at Keepsake Farm. He holds a degree in agriculture and animal science from the University of Delaware and is a highly accomplished farmer and successful business executive.

Cover Story

Ethics in Business

The two words ‘ethics’ and ‘business’ come together in the same sentence often, although what they mean when they are juxtaposed like that depends on whom you ask. A common refrain is that it means ‘doing the right thing.’ But even that becomes somewhat complicated amid questions concerning who we are doing the right thing for. And then, there’s the matter of profit, and the question of if, when, and under what circumstances it comes ahead of ethics. To get some answers, BusinessWest convened a panel of area business leaders for a virtual roundtable discussion. The comments, as might be expected, are thought-provoking, and lead to more questions. Our panelists include Peter DePergola, chief Ethics officer, senior director of Clinical Ethics, and chief of the Ethics Consultation Service, Baystate Health — and also Shaughness family chair for the study of the Humanities, associate professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and executive director of the St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture at Elms College; Sandra Doran, president of Bay Path University; Tom Loper, Associate Provost & Dean in the School of Arts, Science and Management, Bay Path University, and former business owner; Mark Cutting, president and CEO of C&D Electronics; Drew DiGiorgio, president and CEO, Wellfleet; and Patrick Leary, partner with MP CPAs.

Watch the video here:


BusinessWest: Let’s start with that phrase ‘ethics in business.’ What does that mean to you?


DePergola: “For me, ethics is the philosophical study of morality, and morality, at its heart, concerns how the actions we perform contribute to the persons we become. To me, ethics in business is the way we in which we express and articulate or moral character in business transactions — not just with consumers, but with one another on our teams. We’re a little slow in western culture to pay as much attention to ethics in business as we should; there’s the classic Freeman v. Freeman debate where we talk about the distinctions between profit and corporate social responsibility, and whether we should ever sacrifice things like profit in pursuit of greater common good. So I think the opportunity for business to pause and reflect on itself in a new way is somethings that’s evergreen. Ethics is something that’s been discussed and considered for a much longer time in things like medicine, starting with people like Hippocrates. Ethics in business is no less important than ethics at the bedside.”

Peter DePergola

“To me, ethics in business is the way we in which we express and articulate or moral character in business transactions — not just with consumers, but with one another on our teams.”

Doran: “I think any discussion of ethics also has to include a discussion of morals and values, because each one of those has its own place in how we think about things. Most people think of morals as a more personal aspect of their character and how they view things, the lens through which they look at the world. And when we think about ethics, it’s often framed more as an organization; what are the rules, what is the code that people are going to operate within as part of an organization? That’s a really important consideration for any business or organization: what is the lens, what is the framework? And how are we thinking about ethics in that context?”


Cutting: “I’m in the aerospace and defense industry; we service a majority of the prime contractors across the world. Ethics for me is … we are a small, minute part of the supply chain in that industry, and our hope is that, as a small business, we can be treated fairly and ethically. We understand our competition, and we understand that, because we’re small, we may be taken advantage of at some level. Those are the things we think about as we strategize and when we work with these big firms and negotiate contracts. We have to hope that the terms and conditions that apply to us apply to others. It’s a concern, and we hope that we’re on a level playing field. We just don’t know. We’re hoping that everyone who supports that industry is ethical at some level.”

Sandra Doran

Sandra Doran

“Most people think of morals as a more personal aspect of their character and how they view things, the lens through which they look at the world. And when we think about ethics, it’s often framed more as an organization; what are the rules, what is the code that people are going to operate within as part of an organization?”

DiGiorgio: “Our business, Wellfleet, provides health insurance, intangible goods; you can’t touch what we produce, so what we produce is a trust, a bond with our members, our clients. It’s all about ethics at the end of the day. Ethics, for us, means doing the right thing, quite simply put. We have contracts and agreements, and if anyone’s looked at a health-insurance policy, it’s 60 pages long; good luck with that. But there’s a lot of faith that you will act ethically about my claim. We’re part of Berkshire Hathaway, and when you’re trying to manage a conglomerate of companies like Warren [Buffett] does, you really just do it through ‘do the right thing.’ That’s the only way to manage at that level.”


Loper: “I like to break ethics down into ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ Are we doing something that’s good for folks that are stakeholders? Are we doing things that are not so good? Are we being open and honest? Are we being trustworthy and respectful? All those things are parts of a code of ethics that helps us to deliver on our promise and not come up short. Sometimes we all come up short, we all walk with a limp, as they say, but some people do things intentionally and break those bonds, the contract they’re supposed to have with their stakeholders, and when that’s done, that’s not good at all.”


Leary: In public accounting, our job is help other businesses succeed, so we’re privy to a lot of confidential information that is not out in the public realm, and we’ve very cognizant of that. As a public accountant, we’re required to participate in a periodic ethics training specifically on ethics issues, which is interesting because it gives you a chance to pause and look at various scenarios where ethics come into play — not that it doesn’t come into play every day.

“Looking back on my career, and when I’m talking to someone about personal tax planning, I have yet to find someone say, ‘hey, how can I pay the most in taxes?’ Usually, it’s ‘how do I reduce my taxes?’ You need to be careful that you’re playing within the rules, the regulations that are provided out there. There are people that would prefer to skirt those rules, but our job is to make sure that our clients are not doing that, as best we can. We are looking out for our clients, but it’s not just the business owner. It’s the stakeholders as well. Without employees, without customers, without suppliers, you don’t have business. So our business, Mark’s business, Bay Path … everyone here, you’re built on reputation, and it’s easy to lose your reputation and very hard to get it back.”

Tom Loper

“Sometimes we all come up short, we all walk with a limp, as they say, but some people do things intentionally and break those bonds, the contract they’re supposed to have with their stakeholders, and when that’s done, that’s not good at all.”

BusinessWest: We’ve heard the phrase ‘do the right thing’ a few times already. What exactly does that mean? Right for whom?


DiGiorgio: “You have to keep things simple from the standpoint of terminology, so people understand. You can talk to someone about ethics, and they may or may not understand how ethics works. But if you say ‘do the right thing,’ you can have a team that focuses on your customer, your member, your team. It’s about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s about treating people with respect, treating people the way you would want to be treated. There’s a lot of ways at looking at ‘do the right thing,’ but most of us understand that, at the end of the day, the ‘right thing’ is the right thing for the person you’re dealing with. Maybe that’s a member on a call with customer service, or maybe five minutes before your lunch break, and you know the call is going to take 10 minutes. Spend the 10 minutes; do the right thing.”


Doran: “At Bay Path, our focus is on the student, so we’re always talking about what’s best for the student. But the way we think about doing what’s best in terms of the customer, the student, is ‘how do we build a strong community?’ Because if we have a strong community that supports each other and is invested in everyone’s success, then people generally make the right decisions. If our students are not successful, we’re not successful; if our registrar isn’t successful, then our students are not successful. We’re really focused on this virtuous cycle of success.”


DePergola: “There are many different avenues to try to articulate the ‘right thing to do’ in a given scenario. One of the things we try to do is look at decisions to be made from a variety of different perspectives, understanding that our primary goal in that analysis is very likely, although not exclusively, to try to make the small decision 1,000 times to put someone else’s well-being ahead of our own, without sacrificing who we are as a person, what we stand for, at a base level. In the clinical world, we’re asking questions of whether what we’re doing is reasonable; we’re asking why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it — is it proportionate to the good we’re trying to accomplish? When are we doing it — is it the right time? Where are we doing it — is it the right place? We ask questions about ‘what if?’ — we project the foreseeable consequences of the decision, not just at the end of the day, but where does this leave our patient or our stakeholder or our shareholder six months from now?

“And then, there’s ‘what else?’ This is my favorite question of moral analysis because it’s the question of moral imagination. It helps us understand that, when we make a bad decision in business ethics, it’s not because we’re morally bankrupt in some way, but because we’ve been to unimaginative; we’ve focused on an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ option, and we failed to brainstorm for a ‘C’ or ‘D.’ So there are a variety of ways to get at what’s the right thing to do.”

Mark Cutting

Mark Cutting

“If I ship a bad product to a big customer like Boeing, and there’s failure, I’m destroyed in my business and in my industry. It’s a top-down, flow-down thing to make sure everyone’s on the same page concerning the ethics that you believe in.”

BusinessWest: Smith & Wesson recently announced that it will relocate its corporate headquarters from Springfield to Tennessee, a move that will presumably help the company but hurt families in this area and the region as whole. What does this case tell us about ethics and how it is often difficult deciding what it is the right thing to do?


Loper: “Smith & Wesson may have shut doors if it can’t move or cut 500 employees, and the people in Tennessee think it’s a great thing. In Springfield, to someone who just lost their job, it’s a bad thing. What is the right thing? It depends son your perspective.”


DePergola: “This is certainly my reality in the world of clinical ethics — that the good thing to do is very often, if not exclusively, the least bad thing to do. And I mean that in a very literal sense. It’s not a clear or easy decision between choosing something clearly good or something clearly bad; you don’t need an ethical analysis for that. It’s often choosing something that will have indirect and unintended consequences that are negative and that are unavoidable in pursuit of something good, like maintaining the structure of the company — somewhere. So, really, finding the good is very often a matter of trying to identify the least bad thing to do, knowing that a perfect solution is not possible.”

Patrick Leary

“You’re built on reputation, and it’s easy to lose your reputation and very hard to get it back.”

Cutting: “For the management staff at Smith & Wesson, it was a tough decision to make; you’re going to have to let some folks go, but you’re going to be able to maintain your stock value to your shareholders, which, under those conditions as a publicly traded company, is part of your mission statement. You’re there to provide the best and most absolute path to success for that company. It’s a slippery slope when we make decisions like that, and I think, unfortunately, maybe we need to look in the mirror in this state and say, ‘was that the right thing for us to? Maybe we should claw that back, re-embrace them, and change the law.’”


BusinessWest: Just how does leadership set the tone when it comes to business ethics?


Doran: “You have to show, not tell. Everything a leader does is under scrutiny — they’re being watched with a magnifying glass. But it’s equally important to have a written statement. We all have values, personal values, but it’s very important to have an organizational framework … it’s really important that everyone understands where an organization stands when it comes to things like integrity, inclusivity, and dealing honestly with everyone — in our case, students, faculty, staff, everyone in the ecosystem.

“Everyone in our university, whether you’re a trustee or alum, has a social compact to abide by a common value set and code of ethics, and that was really tested through COVID. Everyone had to support this code of conduct; it was testing, it was mask wearing, it was … maybe you have a relative in Rome and you want to visit them, but you can’t do that, because it’s not good for our community. So the code centered not on what’s good for you, but on what’s good for our community at large, and that was a really good example, I think, of this code of conduct and how leaders set the tone.”


Cutting: “When it comes to people being ethical or a company being ethical, it has to be top down. It starts at the top, and it has to flow down to everyone in the company. You talk about the reputation in the industry … it doesn’t take long to lose it. If I ship a bad product to a big customer like Boeing, and there’s failure, I’m destroyed in my business and in my industry. It’s a top-down, flow-down thing to make sure everyone’s on the same page concerning the ethics that you believe in.”

Drew DiGiorgio

“It’s about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s about treating people with respect, treating people the way you would want to be treated.”

Loper: “The recent decision by Smith & Wesson is a great example of how challenging it can be to make decisions in the business world, and by what yardstick. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every day, and there are personal convictions that you have to relate to.

“One of the things I’ve found to be helpful — I’m not sure it’s a solution, but it certainly made it easier for me to look at things when I was in business — is to pull up from the situation that I found myself in as president and think about the different stakeholders and what they were expecting of the organization that I started up or developed, and what responsibilities I had to those stakeholders. That was true whether it was to the city that helped me to get the power that I needed delivered to a place where they had never delivered that much power before, or whether it was the people supplying the material from India, or whether it was putting an ad in the paper to attract people with certain skills to work on a certain piece of equipment — and then seeing people standing in line, waiting for an opportunity to work on that machine, knowing that it hurt other people because I was taking their best.

“I was constantly dealing with matters that bordered on ethical issues, and one of the things that helped me was this concept of conscious capitalism and the idea of thinking more broadly than my own business and trying to take a long view of what value creation is all about, and for whom. And there were constant tradeoffs, and I was always trying to look at bigger issues and make the best decision I could with the information that we had.”


DiGiorgio: “We have several keys at our business — security, empathy, honoring commitments, and then, fiscal responsibility. And they all flow together. And if we do those things, that’s going to produce the right results. But you have to establish those keys and set that culture. That’s where it begins.”


BusinessWest: Finally, profits and ethics. How do we balance these two important pillars of business?


Loper: “You have to take the long view; you can’t just take the short view, as with those quarterly profits. And that quarterly review process that larger corporations, the Fortune 500 companies, have to go through, makes it very difficult to make the right long-term decision. It’s very hard sometimes to make the right decision.

“When you talk about profits, I think you have to understand that there are short-term profits and long-term profits, and it’s not all measured in dollars and cents. Sometimes it’s measured in terms of forests being destroyed that could affect the climate or natural resources being exploited that are not replaceable. This whole concept of conscious capitalism that encourages us to think bigger is not just a theory; there’s a whole collection of major corporations that are part of that whole movement of shared value and conscious capitalism that are doing better on Wall Street than companies that don’t, that historically have focused on a much narrower definition of ‘corporate profit.’ And I think that this is showing the rest of the world that you can do that, and the more global we’ve become, the more influence we’re going to have on that notion of what ‘profit’ really is. We need to have broader measures of success as companies than just profits.”


Leary: “I agree. Short-term profits are not indicative of the long-term value of a company. With most companies on Wall Street, you’re looking at quick profits, and some of the biggest frauds that have committed at public companies were for short-term profit for people — and those companies are no longer around.

“When you look at the overall value of what you’ve created as a business owner, it’s not just dollars, or profits — it’s how many families have you helped feed, or how many kids have you sent to college, or what you’ve done for the community — that should all be part of the profit equation. You can do both — you can have profits, and you can have a successful company and an ethical company. You can balance those two; ethics and profits don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they should be working hand in hand. Ethical companies have a longer-term prospect than those looking at short-term gain, and we’ve seen that through history with companies that have failed. Why did they fail? It’s typically because of some short-term decision that someone made.”


Doran: “At Bay Path, our board is very focused on ESG [environmental, social, and governance] investing, and making sure that a company’s values align with our values, and of course we’re also very focused on making sure our portfolio performs, because it’s in the interest off our endowment that funds a large part of our scholarship program. And we’ve been doing some very technical comparisons [between] companies that are more ESG-focused and others that may not have it as a stated part of their practice … and the returns are very similar. That shows that profits and ethics do go hand in hand at many places. It should not be an anomaly, it should not be the exception, and I do not believe that it is.”


DePergola: “The real litmus test would be … if the profit started to significantly slow down, would we still do the right thing? I think that confronts us with who we are. And if we’re not sure if we would do the right thing if the profit slows down, then we should take a look at that. Overall, Patrick and Sandra are right: profits and ethics are not mutually exclusive. Doing the right thing consistently over time, getting buy-in, and anchoring things to the mission — what we’re going to stand for no matter what — that’s what people want to be part of. And I think profit follows from that decision to do the right thing.” u


Winter Farmers’ Market

Every Saturday: Hampshire Mall has welcomed back the Winter Farmers’ Market this season. It will run every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Target wing, through April 2. The market will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. All winter long, fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, cheese, bread, crafts, and more will be available from local farmers and artisans. Some of the vendors participating this season include Atlas Farm, Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Chase Hill Farm, Quabbin Hill Farm, and many more. EBT/SNAP and HIP benefits are accepted. A list of participating vendors will be updated at wfmhm.com/our-vendors.



The Fort Carolers

Through Dec. 24: The famous Fort Carolers have returned to the Student Prince and the Fort Restaurant, where Christmas caroling will take place every night in the dining area through Christmas Eve. For more than eight decades, Christmas caroling has been part of the holiday festivities at 8 Fort St. For many families, friends, and companies, it has become an annual tradition to visit the Student Prince and the Fort this time of year to hear the Fort Carolers sing the classics while enjoying the restaurant’s authentic German and American fare, along with lots of good cheer. This year they are back with ‘snow’ bubbles and lights. The Student Prince and the Fort Restaurant has hosted Christmas caroling for more than 80 years. What once started out as a few carolers at the door has turned into an annual nightly performance of Christmas caroling for the many generations of customers who visit Springfield’s landmark restaurant for the holidays. Reservations are necessary, and can be made by calling (413) 734-7475.


Asnuntuck Wintersession

Dec. 27 to Jan. 14: Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) is once again offering a three-week wintersession. Registration is currently underway for 15 online accelerated courses that will be taught during the college’s winter break. The courses include Art Appreciation, Art History II, Introduction to Nutrition, Principles of Genetics, Principles of Management, Introduction to Software Applications, Spreadsheet Applications, Leadership in Early Childhood Programs, Introduction to Human Services, Massage Theory & Practice, Medical Terminology, Law and Ethics for Health Careers, General Psychology I, General Psychology II, and Principles of Sociology. Art History II and Principles of Sociology require either no or a low-cost ($40 or less) textbook. Phlebotomy Externship is also being offered. Visit the website www.asnuntuck.edu for more information. Current non-students can click ‘Become a Student’ at the top of the page to begin. The session provides a way for students at other colleges to earn credit to be transferred back to their home institution. Students are advised to check with their college regarding transferability of courses.



Women of Impact

Dec. 9: BusinessWest will honor its fourth annual class of Women of Impact at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel. This year’s class, like the first three, demonstrates the sheer diversity of the ways women leaders in our region are making an impact on the worlds of business, nonprofits, health, and the community. Profiled the Oct. 27 issue of BusinessWest, they are: Jessica Collins, executive director of the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts; Elizabeth Dineen, CEO of the YWCA of Western Masachusetts; Charlene Elvers, director of the Center for Service and Leadership at Springfield College; Karin Jeffers, president and CEO of Clinical and Support Options; Elizabeth Keen, owner of Indian Line Farm; Madeline Landrau, Program Engagement manager at MassMutual; Shannon Mumblo, executive director of Christina’s House; and Tracye Whitfield, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer for the town of West Springfield and Springfield city councilor. The event is sponsored by Country Bank and TommyCar Auto Group (presenting sponsors) and Comcast Business and Health New England (supporting sponsors). Tickets cost $65 per person (tables of 10 are available). For more information, visit www.businesswest.com or call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.


Difference Makers Nominations

Through Dec. 9: Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region? BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 14th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2022 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Thursday, Dec. 9. Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities. So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.


Holiday Brass Concert

Dec. 14: The Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) will present a family-friendly performance, “MOSSO and Friends Holiday Brass Concert,” at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church on 335 Longmeadow St., Longmeadow. According to Stephen Perry, MOSSO’s co-founder and concert organizer, the program will include the “Carol of the Bells,” traditional holiday songs from Russia and France, holiday music from Hollywood to Springfield, the “Hanukkah Suite,” and jazz interpretations of traditional holiday songs. The concert will feature the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s principal trombonist Brian Diehl, French hornist Robert Hoyle, and principal tubist Stephen Perry. They also happen to be members of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO), and will be joined by their HSO colleagues, trumpeters John Charles Thomas and Scott McIntosh, in this performance. General-admission tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children of high-school age and younger. Tickets must be purchased in advance at springfieldsymphonymusicians.com. No door sales will be available. Only a limited number of tickets will be sold to permit social distancing. All ticket holders will be required to wear masks, and all ticket holders over age 12 must show proof of vaccination.

Features Special Coverage

A Changing Dynamic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business landscape in countless ways — from where and how employees work to how people communicate. It has also prompted businesses large and small to stop, think about that phrase ‘corporate stewardship’ and what it means to them, and perhaps re-evaluate this all-important concept. We put together a panel of local business and nonprofit managers to discuss the broad topic of corporate stewardship and how COVID may have provided new definition — in every aspect of that phrase — to this issue. For businesses, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to revisit the matter of community involvement and often find new and different ways to give back.
For nonprofits, missions have been broadened, and there has some been pivoting, out of both necessity and a desire to serve in different ways. The panelists are: Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank; Theresa Jasmin, chief financial officer at Big Y Foods; Amy Scribner, partnership director at East School-to-Career Inc., a nonprofit that provides internships, or work-based learning opportunities and other career-education initiatives, for students; Jack Verducci, vice president of Corporate Partnership for the Worcester Red Sox; Dexter Johnson, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Springfield; and Michelle D’Amore, executive director of Ronald McDonald House. Scully may have set the tone for the discission when he said, “I think the pandemic has been exhausting and aging, but it’s also been reflective, and I think it’s prompting people to be reflective about how to live your life and how to make a difference.”

BusinessWest: Let’s start by getting your take on — and your working definition of — those phrases ‘corporate stewardship’ and ‘being a good corporate citizen.’

Scully: “Country Bank has been around for 172 years, and its legacy for all those years has been the belief that healthy communities thrive. We’re all in business for our companies to do well, but from a community perspective, we need communities that are healthy — healthy economically, heathy demographically, educationally, with regard to healthcare. So giving back has always been a focus here, and in recent years we’ve taken it to a higher level, both with writing checks and having people on the street giving back and being part of the community. And it differs, depending on what the needs are. There can be very significant multi-year pledges — we just pledged $1 million for hunger awareness in June, with $500,000 for food banks in both Central and Western Mass., because if people have good nutrition, healthy communities will thrive — or having 14 people at Habitat for Humanity helping to build a house. It’s a focus that we do big and small.”

Jasmin: “Being involved in the community is part of the fabric of our company; we consider ourselves a family, we have a culture of caring, and we focus on personal connection, whether that’s with our customers, our employees, or throughout the community. And that manifests itself in many different ways, from large donations to capital campaigns to investments in time and talent. For us, though, it’s about relationships and creating strong vibrant communities; that’s what corporate stewardship means to us.”

Scribner: “For our organization, it’s not so much the money; it’s about organizations allowing these students to come in for semester and do a work-based learning opportunity, and that has long been a challenge for us. We’re trying to create a pipeline for employment, and to do that, we need businesses to assist us and open their doors to students. Often, it’s not about just writing a check, but getting involved on a deeper level.”

D’Amore: “We as a nonprofit are always seeking — and grateful to receive — financial support from the community. But we also rely on our volunteer base. Our organization was built on volunteers; it is the foundation of what we do. For us, we’re continuing our outreach and working with the community to ensure that what we receive is supporting the families who are with us — and there are many forms that this support can take.”

Verducci: “Our WooSox Foundation is a new foundation and not heavily funded, but what we do have is a platform to provide valuable and equitable experiences to the community; specifically, we tend to focus on pediatric oncology, recreation, education, and social justice. So while we love to donate the funds that we do have, we tend to be able to do the most good through corporate partners and partnerships within the community.”

BusinessWest: Has the pandemic changed the dynamic when it comes to corporate stewardship, and if so, how?

Jasmin: “What changed was how urgent the need was and the need to move quickly to respond to those needs. We have a pretty structured mechanism for people who are looking for financial assistance. But during the pandemic, that was accelerated because there was a high sense of urgency. For example, within a week of the shelter-in-place order in March of 2020, we gave some sizable donations to each of the five food banks in our operating area because businesses were shutting down, and people were out of work; the social structure to support those people was not in place yet, so food banks were being taxed. We made that gift quickly, and we made a second gift four weeks later when the need was continuing. That’s one of the ways we adjusted — moving more quickly to meet needs.”

Theresa Jasmin

Theresa Jasmin

“What changed was how urgent the need was and the need to move quickly to respond to those needs.”

Scully: “The urgency absolutely was escalated, but so has the dynamic. When I think of the nonprofits I sit on, so many of them rely on not only corporate giving, but some type of event or two over the course of the year. We’ve all been to a million chicken dinners; what I say to my group is that, when the auction is there, bid high and bid often, because that’s what it’s all about. The big piece that we saw was that people weren’t going to events because they weren’t being held. And it was a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ unfortunately. The money was needed, the funding was needed, but the money wasn’t coming in, and yet all of those organizations had a more dire need than is typical because there were so many people impacted by the pandemic. We looked at it and said, ‘yeah, we can stay with our traditional model of what we do, but there’s a big need to step in here.’ When we look at corporate stewardship and how things have changed over the past 20 months, the need has increased exponentially. So many were hoping that this was the year — we all had our calendars ready for events, and then, they had to switch to virtual events, which don’t raise enough money. So the corporate community needs to realize that, even if there isn’t an event, the needs are so great, and they need to get out there and make a difference.”

D’Amore: “From a nonprofit perspective, we had to figure out how we could support our mission differently. When the pandemic was creeping, we were mandated by our global entity, which holds our licensing agreement, that we could no longer accept new families. And when the last of the families went home, we actually turned it around to provide support to frontline healthcare workers. We opened the house to workers at Baystate to give them an opportunity — if they needed a place to stay, if they needed to take a shower or get a cup of coffee. So our team was committed to support healthcare and support our partner hospitals who are there for us all the time. The tables turned a little bit, but we are able to continue to support our mission in this time of need, and you saw many organizations doing similar things. We pivoted and reinvented ourselves.”

Scribner: “Last year was a real struggle for students; 20% of those students in the Commonwealth just fell off the radar. So we had to change our mindset and pivot, just to help these students communicate how they were feeling. We would have speakers come in an talk about that — how they’re dealing with it, how their companies and themselves personally are dealing with COVID and being on Zoom meetings and not being in school and not being at work. Kids, while resilient, really had a tough time; they missed going to work and interacting with people. It’s those little things that we don’t think about — like going to a company or going to UMass on a field trip. We’re slowly getting back to whatever the new normal is. But last year, we had to have an open mindset and be really flexible about what we could do for the students and also about what we can learn from all these experiences and take those best practices.”

Amy Scribner

Amy Scribner

“Last year, we had to have an open mindset and be really flexible about what we could do for the students and also about what we can learn from all these experiences and take those best practices.”

Johnson: “With the pivot in funding that happened when a lot of companies started steering dollars toward COVID-related things, we also steered a lot of what we were doing toward COVID-related things; we were one of the few places that didn’t really close. When childcare was shut down for the Commonwealth essentially, and then an emergency first-responder-type childcare reopened for those working in retail or transportation or hospitals, we pivoted; our centers closed for one week and then reopened as an emergency childcare facility. We did continue to operate during that time, and on the youth-development side, there were still a lot of great opportunities from a funding standpoint to continue to be involved with some of our corporate sponsors that were changing direction and focusing on COVID.”

Verducci: “We essentially became volunteers; we turned our ballpark in Rhode Island, where we were still based until May, into a food-distribution network. Food insecurity became a huge issue in the region, so we were able to partner with Ocean State Job Lot, which would donate the food, and we would use McCoy Stadium as a vehicle to get that food to people who needed it. We also did coat drives, and we turned the park over to the state to become a testing facility. We tried to use our resources to help where it would do the most good. And once we transitioned to Worcester, we again became volunteers, going to Worcester State University to do food drives and coat drives, and most of those partnerships were with our corporate partners that we’ve had long-time relationships with. We all came together and said, ‘how can we do the best thing for the community, and what do we have at our disposal to move quickly in this challenging environment?’”

Jack Verducci

Jack Verducci

“We all came together and said, ‘how can we do the best thing for the community, and what do we have at our disposal to move quickly in this challenging environment?’”

Scully: “It was suddenly about putting on a different pair of glasses and switching gears when it comes to how you do things. It’s all about, as everyone has talked about, switching gears and saying ‘how do we adapt?’ much like we’ve all had to adapt to how we run our businesses remotely and attend meetings via Zoom.”

BusinessWest: What are the lessons we’ve learned from all this, from having to put a different pair of glasses, and how will this carry over into the future in terms of how we look at corporate stewardship and giving back?

Scully: “If we say that this is the end of the pandemic — and that’s a stretch, certainly — I think what all this has done for us is provide reassurance about how just how good people are and that everyone wants to be a part of something greater. We have a big building here, and for a while there, about four of us were here. You weren’t connecting with people. But as soon as the opportunity came for people to come back, not only to the office, but to get involved with volunteering again, they really wanted to. I think the pandemic has been exhausting and aging, but it’s also been reflective, and I think it’s prompting people to be reflective about how to live your life and how to make a difference. I think people want to be part of something greater, so I think that stewardship will be stronger than ever because this has almost been that switch that has prompted us all to rethink what’s important. There’s a silver lining to everything, and sometimes it’s hard to find, but I think this is it.”

Paul Scully

Paul Scully

“If we say that this is the end of the pandemic — and that’s a stretch, certainly — I think what all this has done for us is provide reassurance about how just how good people are and that everyone wants to be a part of something greater.”

Jasmin: “It was reinforcing for us in terms of our viewpoint on our being involved in the community. We took a look at what our philosophy was and really came out with an even greater understanding that these are the pillars we want to focus on. We’re a food company, first and foremost, and one of our pillars is hunger relief and helping with food insecurity. And that was reinforced for us — this is a continuing need, and we should be involved with it. And just in general, it’s also reinforced that we should continue to be involved — that our investment that we’re making in time and money and people is needed and is valuable. What this has taught us is that we need to be invested continuously, so when a crisis occurs, you can react quickly. It’s not something you can develop from scratch. Overall, it was reinforcing.”

Verducci: “I think the pandemic was a catalyst for empathy amongst companies; it was shared experience that was totally unprecedented, so people were empathetic with each other, and they really did understand what was happening with everyone. Instead of people saying ‘maybe not this year’ when we reached out, everyone we contacted over the past 18 months was willing to help in some way. The other thing we realized was that even the best-laid plans are not going to go the way we anticipate, so you need to be flexible and, more importantly, creative, and this will carry forward.”

D’Amore: “As challenging as the pandemic has been, I think a lot of good has come from it in terms of pausing. Whether as an individual, business, or nonprofit, we all took the time to pause, re-evaluate, and say, ‘what’s the need? How can we help each other?’ Sometimes, prior to the pandemic, we were very focused on our own business model or our own mission, and where it was going. But we were all in the same boat essentially wanting to row in the same direction, so we collectively said, ‘how can we do this together?’”

Michelle D’Amour

Michelle D’Amore

“As challenging as the pandemic has been, I think a lot of good has come from it in terms of pausing. Whether as an individual, business, or nonprofit, we all took the time to pause, re-evaluate, and say, ‘what’s the need? How can we help each other?’”

Johnson: “I think the pandemic pushed us [nonprofits] to work closer together in different ways, such as going after joint funding as one large organization rather than individually, so it has definitely had that benefit.”

BusinessWest: Going forward, how do we maintain this new spirit of cooperation, this new sense of urgency, when it comes to giving back?

Jasmin: “One of the things we lost during the pandemic was that personal connection. We missed seeing our colleagues, our families, and people in the community at large; through corporate stewardship and giving back, we can create those personal connections, and people are recognizing how important this is. The community is us, so when you’re giving back to the community, you’re giving back to yourself, your family, your friends, and your co-workers.”

Scully: It starts with all of us — the leaders or organizations — to set the pace. The pandemic may not be over, but I think that what is over is the hunker-down mentality of being locked up at home in the basement on a computer talking to your colleagues all day. It’s time to get on with life. It won’t be the old normal, it will be the new normal, and the new normal is going to be dependent on so many of us to set that tone — that it’s time to get back out there for a Habitat event, with getting over to the Ronald McDonald House to help prepare a dinner when that becomes available to do. It’s dependent on the leadership or organizations to reinforce that tone.”

Scribner: “This pandemic has really allowed people to take time to reflect on their own lives and what’s important to them and their priorities. And when you’re given that time, I think you realize what’s important in life. When it comes to being hunkered down, I think the pandemic provided time and opportunity for people to say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore; I want to get out, and I want to be part of my community. I want to be part of making a difference.’ People are realizing just how precious things are now, whether it’s shoveling the sidewalk for a neighbor or providing food for a food bank.”

Dexter Johnson

Dexter Johnson

“I think the pandemic pushed us [nonprofits] to work closer together in different ways, such as going after joint funding as one large organization rather than individually, so it has definitely had that benefit.”

Johnson: “In the normal ebb and flow of things, we get hyped up because something’s happened, whether it’s 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or the tornado — things that bring us together for a short time. And then, life gets back to normal, and human nature tends to make us drift back to how we were. I think COVID is very different … it impacted everyone, every state, every city — we all know someone who has lost their life or lost their job because of it. It’s had a more far-reaching impact than any of those other tragedies, and, hopefully, that will allow it to stick with us and keep that mentality of realizing how fragile life can be.”

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

Law Special Coverage

A Changing Dynamic

Like all businesses, law firms have had to make adjustments in the wake of the pandemic, which has created both new opportunities and new challenges. Overall, firms have seen obvious changes in where people work and how. But there also may be new dynamics when it comes to recruiting and from where firms can attract new business.

Tim Mulhern in the ‘Zoom room’ at Shatz, Schwartz & Fentin.

Tim Mulhern in the ‘Zoom room’ at Shatz, Schwartz & Fentin.


They call it the ‘Zoom room.’ And for obvious reasons.

It’s the office of a retired partner with the Springfield-based law firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin that’s been converted into a small conference room equipped with a 60-inch screen for, or mostly for, Zoom meetings with clients that involve at least a few of the firm’s attorneys.

“If we have several of us who want to meet with a client or a couple of clients, we can have a multi-person meeting and have a few people in the room,” said Tim Mulhern, the firm’s managing partner, who said that, prior to the pandemic, there was obviously no need for a Zoom room. And the creation of one is just one of the many adjustments — that’s a word he and others we spoke with would use early and often — that law firms have made over the past 20 or so months. And some of them are more permanent in nature than temporary.

That can likely be said of the receptionist at Shatz — or the lack thereof, to be more precise. No one sits at that desk any longer, and, in fact, the door that leads to the reception area is now locked; a sign taped to it provides a number to call for people with inquiries.

The biggest change, though, is the number of lawyers to be found on the other side of the door — roughly half that from the days before the pandemic.

The rest are working remotely all or most of the time, something that took some getting used to — lawyers, especially, like the office setting, said Mulhern — but most have gotten over that hump.

“A number of our lawyers have learned how to work at home, myself included — I couldn’t have worked at home at all before, and I figured it out now. We’ve made that adjustment, and we have some lawyers who, either because of compromised health issues or simply because they have a long commute, are working predominantly from home.”

Ken Albano, managing partner at Springfield-based Bacon Wilson, agreed. He noted that it’s not uncommon to check his phone in the morning and hear from one or more of the firm’s attorneys letting him know they will be working remotely that day. As other firms have, Bacon Wilson has adjusted — there’s that word again — and become more flexible out of necessity, he said, adding quickly that the firm wants its lawyers and paralegals in the office at least some of the time.

“I’m old school,” he said. “I like the idea of being with a young lawyer or a young paralegal who needs mentoring and advice and has questions. It’s better for me to meet with them one-on-one, in person, with a mask on, as opposed to doing it via Zoom.”

In the grander scheme of things, though, where lawyers work, and whether there’s a receptionist or not, may well turn out to be some of the less significant adjustments, or changes, to result from the pandemic. The larger ones could involve recruiting young lawyers and the potential to add business as a result of the changing landscape.

Ken Albano says the pandemic has exacerbated an already-difficult situation

Ken Albano says the pandemic has exacerbated an already-difficult situation when it comes to hiring lawyers and paralegals.

Starting with the latter, Seth Stratton, managing partner of East Longmeadow-based Fitzgerald Attorneys at Law, summed things up effectively and succinctly when he said “we sell time.” And with some of the changes brought about by the pandemic — including less time commuting to work and less time traveling to meet clients — there is, in theory, at least, more time to sell.

Also, now that clients of all kinds, but especially business clients, have become accustomed to meeting with clients via Zoom and the telephone, there is potential to have such sessions with law firms based in the 413, which charge, on average, anywhere from one-half to two-thirds what lawyers in Boston and New York charge, and less than those in Hartford as well.

“COVID has resulted in more efficiencies, and, generally, efficiencies mean things take less time, and we sell time, so that means we’re selling less per client,” Stratton explained. “But it allows us to potentially work with more clients and work with clients who are more distant — we can expand the footprint of who we’re comfortable working with and who’s comfortable working with us.”

As for recruiting … the pandemic brings both opportunity and challenge, said Betsey Quick, executive director of Springfield-based Bulkley Richardson. She noted, as others have over the years, that it is difficult to recruit young lawyers to Western Mass. law firms, and it often takes a family connection to do so. With the pandemic and the ability to work remotely, there is now the possibility of recruiting lawyers not to Western Mass., necessarily, but to firms based here — and the young lawyers can live where they want.

But — and this is a significant ‘but’ — young lawyers who might want to come to Western Mass. because of the quality of life and comparatively low cost of living can now come here, but not necessarily to work for a firm based here — again, because of the options now available to them.

“Remote working options can help and hurt recruiting efforts,” Quick said. “We are now hearing from attorneys with great résumés who prefer more of a remote schedule. It has opened the doors to new prospects. The concept of urban flight is real, and professionals are considering their options. On the other hand, with remote work, attorneys who once flocked to big-city firms may now have the option to remain at that firm, with the big city salary, and relocated to a rural area.”

Seth Stratton says the changing dynamics

Seth Stratton says the changing dynamics presented by the pandemic could provide area firms with more opportunities to secure work from clients based outside the 413.

For this issue and its focus on law, BusinessWest looks at all of the various ways the pandemic has brought change to a sector that hasn’t seen very much of it over the past several decades.


Case in Point

Mulhern remembers when, at the height of the pandemic in mid-2020, he used to carry a small, foldable table in his car. It was for what came to be known as ‘driveway signings,’ among other names — the inking of documents in outdoor settings, including driveways, but also parking lots and parking garages, where each party would bring their own pen and bottle of hand sanitizer.

Those days seem like a long time ago, and in many respects they are, he said, adding that a large degree of normalcy has returned to the practice of law, although things are, in many ways, not at all like they were in February 2020.

As an example, Albano noted the recent end to Springfield’s mask mandate. While the city took that course, Bacon Wilson has decided to still require masks within its offices, a difference of opinion that has resulted in some confusion and even some harsh words for the receptionist from visitors not inclined to mask up.

Overall, changes have come to where lawyers work, how firms communicate (with clients and employees alike), how and to what extent they use paper (much less now), and how they show community support and engagement (turning out for auctions and golf tournaments has been replaced by other, more pandemic-friendly methods).

Changes have come to where lawyers work, how firms communicate (with clients and employees alike), how and to what extent they use paper (much less now), and how they show community support and engagement (turning out for auctions and golf tournaments has been replaced by other, more pandemic-friendly methods).

“You need to be in the office if you’re going to work in Springfield; if you’re a full-time person working remotely, it doesn’t work out, and it wouldn’t work out — not for us.”

Going back to that word used earlier, firms have been adjusting to a changed world, and the adjustment process is ongoing, especially when it comes to where and how people work.

At Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, as noted, maybe half the lawyers continue to work remotely, said Mulhern, adding that the firm has not rushed anyone back, and it won’t, at least for the foreseeable future, in large part because the current work policies, if they can be called that, are working.

“A number of our lawyers have learned how to work at home, myself included — I couldn’t have worked at home at all before, and I figured it out now,” he told BusinessWest. “We’ve made that adjustment, and we have some lawyers who, either because of compromised health issues or simply because they have a long commute, are working predominantly from home.”

And there are variations on the theme, he said, noting that some lawyers work a portion of their day at the office and the rest at home.

At other firms, most if not all lawyers are back in the office. That’s certainly the case at Bulkley Richardson, which implemented a vaccine policy on Oct. 1, said Quick, noting that the firm recognizes the importance of in-person interaction with colleagues and the need for human connection.

That said, Bulkley Richardson and other firms have learned that remote working can and does work, and there is certainly room for — and, even more importantly, a need for — flexibility.

Betsey Quick says there has been a “transformation of the practice of law”

Betsey Quick says there has been a “transformation of the practice of law” because of COVID, and she believes there are many positives amid a host of disruptions.

“The transition to remote work was unprecedented, but what we learned by the unexpected lockdown was that flexibility is a viable option,” Quick said. “We have always offered attorneys some degree of flexibility and have worked with them to find an agreeable working model; until the pandemic, most attorneys worked traditional hours within a traditional office setting. But now, with the remote working more acceptable, and sometimes necessary, we have seen no change in productivity or efficiency doing work.”

Stratton agreed, noting that his firm, like most, had a degree of flexibility when it came to working remotely and allowed lawyers to do so; most didn’t, except when they had to (during snowstorms or when they were home sick), because they preferred to be in the office. Now that they’re used to it, and like it, more are taking advantage of the flexibility they have.

Indeed, before COVID, perhaps 10% to 15% of work was done remotely, and now the number is perhaps 25%, said Stratton, adding that this represents a new normal.

And the new ways of doing things have produced greater efficiency, he added, a dynamic that creates the potential for more billable hours in a business that, as he said, sells time.

Meanwhile, the pandemic and the resulting changes in how lawyers interact with clients present new opportunities for firms in the 413 to do business with those well outside it, Stratton noted.

Before, to get such business, firms would need a physical office in Worcester or Boston. Now, for many types of business law, where personal interaction is less necessary, services could be secured from lawyers in this market at rates far below those charged in those larger markets.

“With the increased use of remote communication and remote meetings, you can more easily tap those markets,” he said, adding that the firm is starting to market itself to such clients through professional networking.


Moving Target

Beyond where and how people work, the pandemic may have changed another important dynamic for local firms — the all-important work to attract and retain young talent.

As noted, it has long been a challenge to bring young lawyers to this market unless there is a connection, said Stratton, who offered himself as an example. He and his wife are both from this area, and it was a desire to return here (especially on his wife’s part) after some time spent in Boston that eventually brought him back to the 413.

Summing up the landscape as it has existed for some time, Stratton said the region has long faced what he called “depth of bench” challenges.

Elaborating, he said this is a “top-heavy” market when it comes to lawyers, with many of the leading players in their 60s or even their 70s. There are some rising stars coming up behind them, but not as many as the firms would like.

The reasons for this are many, said those we spoke with, but largely, it comes down to the fact that this market is not the big city — which means it doesn’t have the big-city lifestyle and, more importantly to most young lawyers, it doesn’t have big-city rates for legal services — or big-city salaries.

“Like many cities, Springfield is a proud community with historic charm and continued growth.  And yet, it is not Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C., and in most circumstances, one major difference may be the salaries,” Quick said. “As a Western Mass. firm, we are able to offer a healthier work/life balance and a unique geographic landscape. The challenge is communicating this value to candidates because, if they are not familiar with the business climate in Western Mass. and all it has to offer, attracting new talent to the area can be difficult.”

Stratton agreed. “If I were to have a job posting tomorrow for a junior lawyer with one to three years of experience that fits our practice and say, ‘you come to East Longmeadow, Mass., Monday through Friday, 9 to 5,’ I would get zero applications of qualified attorneys. That might be an exaggeration, but it would be close to zero.”

Albano agreed. He said the pandemic has exacerbated an already-difficult situation when it comes to attracting lawyers to Western Mass. He told BusinessWest the same thing he told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly when it asked him the same question.

“It’s been very difficult to hire quality lawyers and paralegals during this COVID pandemic,” he explained. “The quality of résumés we’re getting in from people in Western Massachusetts and also outside the area is very weak.”

Moving forward, he noted, the number could be much higher because that lawyer doesn’t need to be in East Longmeadow, at least not Monday through Friday, 9-5, meaning recruiting might become easier — that’s might — because of the pandemic and the manner in which it has changed how people work. It’s also changed some opinions about urban living.

“Many lawyers are growing tired of the city life,” Quick noted. “They want to find a reputable firm where they can advance their career and continue to work with high-level clients. At the same time, they are realizing that work/life balance matters. Western Mass. offers the best of both worlds — a growing, professional city surrounded by the landscape of mountains, rivers, and forests right at your fingertips.”

These qualities may well help attract people to Western Mass., but will it attract them to Western Mass. firms? This is a big question moving forward as remote work becomes plausible and more attractive for those toting law degrees in their briefcases.

“You need to compete with markets that you didn’t have to compete with before for talent,” said Stratton, noting that someone drawn to the Western Mass. lifestyle, or who has family here and wants to stay here, no longer has to limit his or her options to Western Mass. firms. “As a young lawyer, you can, potentially, work out of the Boston or Washington, D.C. markets primarily, and the legal rates charged in those markets are higher, and the pay is higher.”

That’s the downside of the changing dynamic, he went on, adding that there is plenty of upside as well, including the ability to look well beyond the 25-mile circle around Springfield that most young lawyers are currently recruited from.

Much of this is speculation right now, he went on, adding that, over the next six to 12 months, firms like his will have a far better understanding of just how — and how much — the recruiting picture has changed.

Albano agreed, noting that, overall, Bacon Wilson will entertain a hybrid schedule, to one degree or another, but it would certainly prefer its lawyers and paralegals to be in this market.

“I got an e-mail with a résumé from a young man in New York, indicating that he was looking to apply for a job here, but he plans on living in Boston,” he recalled. “First of all, his résumé didn’t coincide with what we were advertising — and we’re seeing a lot of that — and, number two, there needs to be that one-on-one connection. You need to be in the office if you’re going to work in Springfield; if you’re a full-time person working remotely, it doesn’t work out, and it wouldn’t work out — not for us.”


Bottom Line

Looking ahead, those we spoke with said the process of adjusting to everything COVID-19 has wrought is ongoing. That includes looking at the amount of space being rented and whether downsizing might be in order.

“We’re talking about what the future looks like in terms of physical space,” Mulhern said. “And that’s one of the things we’ll talk about — do we still still need all the space we have?”

The firm has more than two years left on its lease, he went on, adding that the answer to that question will come at another time. The answers to some of the questions, especially those regarding recruitment and gaining additional business, including some from other markets, might be answered much sooner.

Overall, this is a time of change and looking at things differently than they been looked at for decades.

“There has undoubtedly been a transformation of the practice of law, and we believe that there are many positives amid all of the disruption,” said Quick, referring to those at Bulkely Richardson while also speaking effectively for all those we spoke with. “The pandemic taught us many things, including how to work more efficiently, utilize available resources, and communicate better to keep teams connected. I anticipate many changes will remain with us in a post-pandemic world.”


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



By Allison Ebner


I read an article recently about Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, who started the business with about $5,000. The recent acquisition of Spanx by Blackstone now positions the company’s value at about $1.2 billion — a staggering transformation. To reward her employees for helping her create this amazing company, Blakely gave each of her 500 employees two first-class airline tickets to a destination of their choice and $10,000 in spending money for their trip.

So how did a woman with barely any means accomplish this phenomenal business venture? There are quite a few strategies and decisions that contributed to her success, but one of the biggest things that stood out to me was the message I saw on the careers page on its website. Here it is, in part:

“We are a high-growth, digital company with an iconic brand that earned its reputation for over 20 years by delivering amazing products and staying true to our greater mission of supporting and elevating women. We don’t believe ‘pain is beauty,’ and we don’t believe ‘business is war.’ We run our business with kindness, empathy, intuition, creativity, integrity … and fun. We don’t believe you have to act serious to be taken seriously. We dream big, think forward, and give back. We challenge the status quo, aim high, and celebrate our ‘oops’ moments. We test and learn and we aren’t afraid of failure. We think like entrepreneurs in everything we do, and we look for people who are self-starters, kind, creative, and out-of-the box-thinkers. If this sounds like you, join us! And help us make the world a better place … one butt at a time.”

Spanx has an excellent track record of being an employer of choice with great retention numbers and pathways for advancement across the organization. So, what helps them drive a robust and engaging company culture? They follow some of the same principles that many other successful organizations employ to create a great employee experience:

• Build trust. In fact, start with trust and go from there. Don’t make new employees earn trust. Start from a place where they have your trust, and manage the relationship from there.

• Empower your employees to make decisions. Don’t create a culture of micromanaging. Allow team members to make decisions, collaborate, and generate new ideas.

• Set clear, transparent goals. Your employees need to know the big picture and their role in that path to success. Work with them to set clear goals and expectations. Train your managers to have coaching conversations regularly, not just once a year at their annual performance review. Set goals, coach, redirect, and repeat.

• Show appreciation — especially now. If your company has successfully navigated this pandemic, at least some of that success is due to the work and dedication of your staff. Be sure to say ‘thank you’ and celebrate the wins with your entire team.

• Invest in their well-being. A paycheck is great, but you have to do more. Take a genuine interest in your people. Offer wellness resources and train managers and leaders to show empathy with accountability.

• Allow freedom to make mistakes. Don’t punish the team for failures. Bold moves lead to big successes. If your team is afraid of making mistakes, you’ll miss the big moments of greatness.

Not sure where your company stands on the journey to create a thriving company culture? That’s OK. Grab your leadership team and review the key elements of a successful strategy listed above. You may also want to consider asking your employees for their feedback through an employee-engagement survey. Whether your company is trying to improve communication between individuals and teams, gauge morale after a merger or downsizing, or obtain feedback on programs and policies, a customized employee-engagement survey gathers employee feedback via a core set of questions, options for narrative responses, and special areas of focus. Results typically come with a detailed analysis of results, management debriefs, and a clear action plan that will help you address some of your biggest areas for improvement.


Allison Ebner is director of member services at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast; [email protected]. This article first appeared on EANE’s blog.

Employment Special Coverage

Coping with the ‘Great Resignation’

By Sarah Rose Stack


You’ve just woken up. As you sip your morning coffee, you open your e-mail and give it a quick glance. Wedged in between your work and personal mail, you have several e-mails with the subject line ‘We’re Hiring’ or ‘Join Our Team.’ You switch over to social media and see that your neighbor just announced she’s left her place of employment for a new opportunity. There are few more posts from friends who are frustrated with their employers’ lack of communication or insistence on returning to the office.

How many ‘We’re Hiring’ signs have you seen or talked about today?

There has been much discussion about the current hiring crisis, and while many thought that this would be resolved once Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ended, that has not been the case. In fact, the Bureau of Labor (BOL) recorded the highest number of people who quit their jobs in August 2021, with 2.9% of people quitting (4.3 million people). This is the highest number of quits since the BOL started recording this data in 2000. Probably even more concerning is that August was the sixth consecutive month of massive quitting numbers.

Coined the ‘Great Resignation’ by Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M, people are leaving their jobs at record-breaking rates as the pandemic is waning. This is only expected to be amplified as 2021 comes to an end and people reflect on what they want in life. Employees are demanding more from their current and potential employers. Companies should be very careful to pay attention to the change in dynamics if they want to retain or attract new talent to their workforces.

“Employees are demanding more from their current and potential employers. Companies should be very careful to pay attention to the change in dynamics if they want to retain or attract new talent to their workforces.”

As part of my position at Meyers Brothers Kalicka, I assist clients with finding new talent, such as controllers, accountants, HR, marketing, and other administrative professionals, for their organizations. Prior to the pandemic, I would see 50 to 100 applications from people in Western Mass. applying for every posted job opportunity. That number has drastically declined, the geographical representation has widened, and the questions and concerns from potential employees have also significantly changed.

So, what are employees expressing that they want? Here’s a hint: it’s not just about salary. People had a lot of time to reflect during the pandemic about what work means to them and what role they want their careers to play in their overall lives.


Work-life Balance

Prior to the pandemic, Americans were obsessed with ‘hustle culture.’ People were happy to rise and grind and wear their burnout like a badge of honor. Perhaps people were too distracted working around the clock to ever consider what they truly wanted. You’ve probably noticed the shift in sentiment in social media from #hustle to the idea that inner peace is the new success.

Working through the pandemic came with its own unique set of stresses. Some workers had to compensate for poorly staffed jobs, while others lost a feeling of security at their jobs, causing them to work even harder to show their value. Indeed recently posted a study that surveyed 1,500 employees about burnout, and a shocking 80% of people said the pandemic made the burnout worse.

As a result, potential employees have been asking:

• What is your company’s view on work/life balance?

• Does management regularly e-mail or call after hours or on weekends?

• Is the schedule flexible if I have a family event or event for my child?

• Do people actually take their paid time off?

According to PR Newswire, “poor work-life balance tops the list of job-seeker deal breakers, ranking above other immediate turnoffs, including lower salary (50%) and a company’s decreasing profits and lack of stability (48%)”.


Flexibility and Remote Work

Employees are actively seeking remote or hybrid work opportunities just as many companies are now demanding that employees return to in-person work. Some have even pre-emptively started seeking flexible work opportunities out of fear that their current remote-work situation might change.

Many are expressing that the ability to work from home and have more flexible work schedules in general have helped to prevent burnout. People have enjoyed ditching the morning commute and 5 p.m. rush hour. The returned pockets of time have come with myriad benefits, including more sleep, more time with family before and after work, less wear and tear on vehicles, more time with pets, and an overall more comfortable environment.

It isn’t all hypothetical, either. Stanford conducted a study of 16,000 remote workers over a period of nine months and showed that productivity increased by 13%. Further, with more workers reporting they were happier working from home, attrition rates were cut by 50%.

Time is the only non-renewable commodity, so when employers are demanding that their people return to in-person work, employees are asking themselves, “at what cost?” The most-asked question I have received from potential employees over the last year is: “can this position be done fully or partially remote?” If the answer was no, most candidates politely declined to continue in the application process, presumably in favor of remote opportunities.

I would also attribute the increase of applicants from other regions to the normalization of remote work. I’ve seen applications from all over the country because most people in professional positions are now of the mindset that they can work for anyone, from anywhere.


Company Culture and Shared Values

At its core, company culture is its identity. It’s how the company’s values, attitude, approach, and ideals dictate the inner workings of the organization. Generally, this is set and modeled by the leadership and then mirrored by the people within the organization, driving the way the company does everything.

Companies with attractive corporate culture actively value their people in ways that are both tangible and intangible. They may have perks such as food, drink, cocktail hours, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, and professional-development opportunities. More than that, they will also have a solid mentorship program, encourage open communication, speak to each other with respect, and show clear indicators that the work and growth of their people are valued.

As part of corporate culture, shared values are another important consideration for many job seekers today. Whether they are directly impacted by certain causes or not, they are looking to work for companies who have values that align with their own. Employers need to understand that potential employees are doing as much vetting and interviewing of the organization as the organization is doing of them.

Employees want to know what your company culture is like and what your values are. They are asking direct questions such as:

• What is the company’s leadership like?

• Describe the company’s culture.

• Does your company have a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program?

• How does your company implement its DEI statement?

• How involved is your company in the community?

• How does your company handle discourse among employees?


Pandemic Protocols in General

While we all have pandemic fatigue and want the pandemic to be over, there are still so many open issues that need to be faced head-on. Potential employees are very concerned with how companies handle current guidelines regarding masking, social distancing, quarantine, and vaccination.

This would be simple if everyone had the same passionate stance on the subject, but they don’t. Employees tend to be divided into three camps: Those who wants the strictest protocols in place, those who prefer more lax protocols, and those who are indifferent and will simply follow whatever protocols are set. Regardless of which camp your organization falls into, companies should be aware that their response to these questions will either encourage or deter certain prospects from continuing with the interview process.

I’ve found that most candidates were generally satisfied to hear that the organization is simply following the current federal, state, and municipal guidelines. In addition to the actual protocols, candidates have been very concerned with how those protocols are communicated. They routinely ask:

• Does the leadership communicate changes to protocols in a timely manner?

• Have they listened to employees’ questions and concerns?

• Are protocols safe, fair, and reasonable?


In Conclusion

We are in an employee market, and employees want the best of it all. They want work-life balance and more remote-work opportunities, but also want to feel connected with their company’s mission and their colleagues.

This may feel like an impossible balance to achieve, but I believe it can be done. People want to work, they want to feel connected, and they want their work to mean something. That’s the good news. Companies who understand these needs can take action and translate them into powerful employment opportunities that almost certainly will yield happier and more productive workers, better products and services, and stronger businesses.


Sarah Rose Stack is the Marketing and Recruiting manager for the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.



Doing More with Less


At a recent virtual seminar, Delcie Bean asked attendees to think back 20 years and ask themselves, did they foresee a time when phone books and yellow pages would not be a thing?

After all, he asked, every home had one, and they were the primary way small businesses advertised and shared their contact information with the public.

Now, “look at what’s happened to that world,” said Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT. “That’s the pace at which technology is changing. These things we took for granted, that we felt were never going to change, that were part of the fabric of our ecosystem, have changed. And it’s not just phone books. Think of all the landfills that are chock full of technology that, at one point in time, we didn’t think we could live without.”

And it’s not just tools, but the way we do business, he said, pointing out the short jumps between dominant communication methods over the past century. That idea was one jumping-off point for Bean’s virtual seminar on Sept. 15, titled “Automation: the Time Is Now,” and subtitled “How Automation Can Streamline Your Business and Offset the Labor Shortage.”

At this event, presented by BusinessWest and Comcast Business, he said everyone should ask themselves a simple question: “What’s my phone book? What’s the thing in my business that is still antiquated and should have been replaced by now?

“What’s my phone book? What’s the thing in my business that is still antiquated and should have been replaced by now?”

For example, he went on, “do I have employees entering data into a system that could easily be automated? Am I still doing things on paper forms that then need to be scanned into a system or, God forbid, typed in manually into another system? Do I have antiquated processes that require people to get manual approval and shuffle things around and put things in inboxes and outboxes, and do I still have tasks being done manually that are just ripe to automate?”

The 60-minute presentation focused on the benefits of automation and the ways it can be utilized to save businesses time, trouble, and expense — anything from onboarding a new employee or client to gathering information when someone signs up for something on a website, to the steps involved in the approval process when employees want to request a new computer. All of this, and more, can be automated, Bean said.

One common tool helping businesses do that today is the Microsoft 365 platform, an evolution of the Microsoft Office suite that offers subscription tiers and features including secure cloud storage, business e-mail, advanced cyberthreat protection, and the popular Microsoft Teams program.

“Microsoft has made a very deliberate, very intelligent decision to be the leader in small-business workforce automation, and they have invested infinite money in trying to do that,” Bean said. “And it’s actually paid off.”


Perfect Storm

The need to streamline processes through automation impacts most businesses and, as such, is a timely topic of discussion, Bean said — “maybe more than we’d want it to be.” And that’s partly because of the unique set of economic stressors that have emerged over the past 18 months.

“We’re probably all feeling busier right now than we’ve ever felt,” he said. “I know there’s a lot going on that’s causing us to have a lot more on our plates, a lot more challenges to solve, a lot more obstacles to overcome than we’ve had to in the past. So why are we taking time out of our day to have this conversation?”

Well, first of all, businesses are being forced to do more with less. Roughly 3.5 million Americans are not in the workforce but used to be — largely because of the pandemic, but not totally. Population growth has slowed, and the massive exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce has accelerated somewhat.

“That has a huge impact on the ecomomy, one we cannot minimize,” Bean noted — and one that will continue to ripple throughout organizations of all sizes at a time when everyone seems to be wearing more hats than before, juggling more tasks, and trying to keep up with less help. And that leads to more stress in the workforce.

“We’re seeing more employees comment that they feel overwhelmed, people are leaving their jobs, looking for new jobs, changing industries,” he said. “Or they’re managing the working-remote, working-in-the-office challenges, healthcare challenges … it’s a lot of stress and pressure on the workforce that’s still working.”

On the other hand, the workforce crunch has also created a talent shortage and one of the best-ever markets for job seekers, who have more leverage than before, Bean said, making it harder to hire and retain employees.

Wage growth has accelerated, and so have employee demands regarding everything from remote work to more autonomy to relaxed dress codes, he noted. “Employers are working really hard to try to manage and keep up with those demands while also managing the business.”

It’s an incredibly difficult economy, he added, and just for small employers; the situation is really trickling up to larger and higher-paying employers as well. “It’s not ignoring anybody.”

And it comes, Bean explained, in the midst of what’s known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which builds on the third (which began in the mid-20th century and was known as the digital revolution, marked by the rise of computerization). This fourth revolution is melding technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, augmented reality, smart sensors, 3D printing, and many other advances, and promises to transform the way people live and work.

“There’s a lot going on right now that is digitizing and changing the way we interact with pretty much every aspect of our life,” he said. “And it’s happening at a rate we are very unaccustomed to handle.”

As noted, businesses trying to adapt to this fast-changing world are doing so amid all the recent challenges stemming from the pandemic and the labor situation. Small businesses also lament the growing culture of acquisition, and find it difficult to compete with larger companies with more resources, more innovation, and the ability to pay more for talent.

“All in all, it makes you feel like, if you’re a small firm, you’re in a race that’s a losing battle,” Bean said. “Exhausted? I don’t blame you.”


No Standing Still

But exhaustion is no excuse for inaction, he argued, before refuting the common myths around automation: that it’s too expensive, too complicated, and takes too long to implement. All are untrue, he explained during the virtual seminar, and again during a sit-down with BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien during a recent edition of the magazine’s podcast, Business Talk (businesswest.com/blog/businesstalk-with-delcie-bean-ceo-of-paragus-strategic-it).

In other words, there’s no excuse for any business to avoid this conversation any longer.

“We don’t want to be the next Blockbuster,” Bean told the seminar attendees. “We don’t want to be the company that could see that things were changing, stuck to our guns, hung on, and ultimately worked their way into oblivion.”


—Joseph Bednar


HCC Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series

Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 24: Holyoke Community College (HCC) will continue its monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series this fall. During each session, participants will join prominent women leaders for discussions on relevant topics and ideas to help their leadership development. They will also have the opportunity to form a supportive network to help navigate their own careers. The fall dates and topics are:

• Sept. 29: “Do Something Every Day that Scares You” with Pattie Hallberg, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts;

• Oct. 27: “Just Go for It,” with Helen Gomez Andrews, co-founder and CEO of the High End; and

• Nov. 24: “Journey to and from Exit Zero,” with Sharale Mathis, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at HCC.

The cost of each session is $25, with the exception of the three-part Vision Board class with Turner, which costs $99. The cost for the full, six-session series is $120. Cost, however, will not be a barrier to participation. If pricing is an issue, contact Michele Cabral, HCC’s executive director of Business, Corporate and Professional Development, at [email protected]. Space is limited, and advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.


Northampton Jazz Festival

Oct. 1-2: The Northampton Jazz Festival will kick off on Friday, Oct. 1 with a Jazz Strut in downtown Northampton, and free performances are scheduled that first weekend of October in the event’s return after a pandemic-year hiatus. The headliner for this year’s event is the Art Blakey Centennial Celebration, performing at the Academy of Music on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Festival attendees will be required to wear masks, following pandemic protocols as per the city of Northampton. In a collaboration between the Northampton Jazz Festival and the Downtown Northampton Assoc., patrons sporting a new Jazz Fest tote on Saturday, Jazz Fest Day, will receive a discount at participating downtown merchants; totes will be available for purchase at all festival performance venues on Oct. 2. The Oct. 1 Jazz Strut will run from 5 to 10:30 p.m., starting at Pulaski Park. Local and regional trios and quartets will perform at the following venues: Wursthaus, 6:30 p.m.; the Dirty Truth, 7 p.m.; Spoleto, 7:30 p.m.; Progression Brewing Co., 8 p.m.; and the Deck Bar, 8:30 p.m. Each band plays for two hours, and the schedule is subject to change without notice. The full lineup of festival performances on Oct. 2 is as follows: the Alex Hamburger Quartet, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Northampton Center for the Arts; Sullivan Fortner Solo Piano, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at CLICK Workspace; Northampton Expandable Brass Band, 1:30 to 1:55 p.m., marching from Bridge and Market Streets to Pulaski Park; Manduca Sexta, 2 to 3 p.m. at Pulaski Park; the ZT Amplifiers Artist Showcase, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Northampton Center for the Arts; Lioness, 3 to 5 p.m., First Churches of Northampton; Cocomama, 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Pulaski Park; and the Art Blakey Centennial Celebration, the only ticketed event, 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music, $15 to $50 at aomtheatre.com. The festival’s headliner, the Art Blakey Centennial Celebration, is a multi-generational ensemble of musicians led by members of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The five messengers, and the eras they performed in the group, are: alto saxophonist Bobby Watson (1977-81), tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce (1980-82), trumpeter Brian Lynch (1988-90), trombonist Robin Eubanks (1987-88), and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet (1989-90). Joining them are pianist Zaccai Curtis and drummer Jerome Gillespie, the latter with the responsibility — and talent — to ‘channel’ Blakey, according to the ensemble’s bio.


Free Educational Webinar for Businesses

Oct. 5: The Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) will partner with MassHire BizWorks, a division of the MassHire Department of Career Services’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, to offer a free educational webinar for businesses. From 8:30 to 10 a.m., participants will meet leading authorities and learn how the state’s economic-development programs can be applied to their businesses. SRC will offer the webinar in collaboration with all chambers throughout Western Mass., and the webinar will outline the tools and resources that are available through MassHire BizWorks and local chambers of commerce to assist business owners. Since its inception in 2012, MassHire BizWorks has enhanced and aligned the resources and services available to businesses throughout Massachusetts. BizWorks partners with agencies in workforce development, economic development, and education to help businesses grow and thrive. The BizWorks model offers assistance to employers for every stage of the business cycle. Services are available for business growth, expansion, maintenance, and downsizing. Ken Messina, of both BizWorks and the Department of Labor’s National Rapid Response Workgroup, will lead the webinar’s presentation. To register, visit dev.springfieldregionalchamber.com/events/details/bizworks-6144.

Company Notebook

Area Colleges, Univerties Recognized in U.S. News & World Report Listings

WESTERN MASS. — Several area colleges and universities were recognized recently in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings.

• Elms College was named to the list of Best Regional Universities – North. The college moved to 85th out of 171 other northern regional colleges and universities, up from 93rd in 2021. On a new list of Undergraduate Nursing Programs, Elms College School of Nursing ranked 288th out of 694 schools. On the Top Performers on Social Mobility list, Elms ranked 11th among 86 northern regional colleges and universities. This category measures the extent to which schools enrolled and graduated students who received federal Pell Grants (those typically coming from households whose family incomes are less than $50,000 annually).

• For the seventh consecutive year, Springfield College is ranked in the top 30 in the Best Regional Universities – North category. The college is also ranked 16th in the Best Value category of the report, up 10 spots from last year. The consistent ranking in the top tier is spurred by improved graduation rates and improved retention of first-year students.

• Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts rose to seventh on the list of Top Public Colleges, and to 21st as a Top Performer on Social Mobility, first in Massachusetts. MCLA also continues to appear on the list of Top National Liberal Arts Colleges, and has appeared on the list of Top Public Colleges for nine of the past 11 years.

• Western New England University has been ranked fourth in Top Performers on Social Mobility among National Universities in Massachusetts. The university improved its overall ranking to 213th in the nation this year, moving up 14 places from last year. Western New England University College of Engineering continues to be top-ranked in the Undergraduate Engineering (no doctorate) program category.

• Finally, Bay Path University is ranked 26th in Social Mobility, increasing its standing by 42 spots from last year. Bay Path also ranks ninth, moving up three spots, on the list of Most Innovative Universities in the North Region. In 2020, 58.3% of Bay Path’s traditional undergraduate students were identified as Pell-eligible.


The Dowd Agencies Acquires Wilcox Insurance Agency

HOLYOKE — The Dowd Agencies, a leading insurance provider serving New England for more than 120 years, has acquired the Wilcox Insurance Agency, founded in 1923. The two organizations have merged their operations and will now be known as Wilcox-Dowd Insurance. This acquisition adds two more branches in Westfield and Feeding Hills, expanding Dowd’s locations throughout the Pioneer Valley to eight offices. Wilcox Insurance Agency was founded as Westfield Mutual Insurance Agency in 1923 by Raymond Wilcox, who was eventually joined by son Malcolm, grandson Scott, and great-grandson Robert, who now leads the agency under the Dowd Agencies umbrella. The offices in Westfield and Feeding Hills are full-service insurance agencies providing personal, commercial, wealth-management, and employee-benefits products and services.


Hampden Papers Building Sold to Green Thumb Industries Inc.

HOLYOKE — Colebrook Realty Services Inc. announced the sale of the 326,664-square-foot industrial mill building at 100 Water St. in Holyoke from Hampden Glazed Paper + Card Co. to Green Thumb Industries Inc., a cannabis grower and retailer. Green Thumb Industries (GTI) is a national marijuana producer headquartered in Chicago with various brands and business units to its name. The company, which has 13 manufacturing locations and 97 retail sites across the U.S., is growing its footprint in Holyoke. The company was established in 2014 and boasts more than 2,300 employees. The acquisition of 100 Water St. reflects its continued plans for expansion and the positive environment the city of Holyoke has created for cannabis growers, manufacturers, and retailers. The 100 Water St. property was the headquarters of Hampden Papers, a 140-year-old family business that sold in 2020. The company specialized in specialty coated, laminated, printed, and embossed paper products. The mill complex is comprised of five interconnected industrial buildings, some multi-level and others single-story warehouses with high ceilings and several loading docks. The property features convenient access to major interstates, including the Mass Pike and I-91. Mitch Bolotin, vice president of Colebrook Realty Services, represented the seller, and Kevin Jennings of Jennings Real Estate represented the buyer.


Western New England University to Launch Women’s Wrestling Team

SPRINGFIELD — The Department of Athletics at Western New England University (WNE) recently announced the addition of women’s wrestling to its athletics program. This will be the University’s 21st varsity sport and the first NCAA DIII women’s wrestling team in New England. The women’s wrestling program is planned to begin its inaugural season in the fall of the 2022-23 academic year with Mike Sugermeyer, head coach for men’s wrestling, tasked with recruiting the first official class. The university will hire a women’s head coach prior to the start of the season. There are currently only 25 women’s wrestling programs at the NCAA DIII level. WNE will be the first in Massachusetts, compared to the 140 high-school programs in the state.


Hazen Holography Brings to Life Basketball Hall of Fame Dome

HOLYOKE — The cover of the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony yearbook appears electrified, the projection-LED-illuminated nine-story dome lit three-dimensionally on the page. To distinguish its ninth time producing the yearbook cover, Hazen Paper Co. used custom holography to illuminate the iconic symbol of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Hazen’s edgeless Hazen-Lens technology was used to create the pulsating play of light in front of a brilliant radial burst of two-channel holography, which refracts ambient light to generate the impression of movement as the book is opened. In front of the dome, the Basketball Hall of Fame logo is rendered three-dimensional with holography that emphasizes the basketball’s pebbled texture, juxtaposed with the sleek, reflective sphere of the dome. The back cover also features a custom hologram to telegraph the excitement of the Mohegan Sun Arena, mimicking the strobe-like effect of lighting washing over the audience in color from the concert stage. Detailed custom holography requires precise registration to deliver a crisp final product through the printing process. The unique Hazen Holography for both sides was registered to a tolerance of 1/16” for near-perfect alignment during printing. Hazen originated the holography completely within its vertically integrated facility. The custom holograms were created in Hazen’s holographic laser lab, then micro-embossed and transfer-metallized onto smooth, 12-point WestRock Crescendo C2S using Hazen’s environmentally friendly Envirofoil process. The yearbook cover was designed by agency GO of Hartford, Conn., and printed and individually numbered for authenticity on an HP Indigo digital press by Starburst Printing of Holliston.


PeoplesBank Recognize in Reader’s Choice Survey

HOLYOKE — Thousands of voters chimed in recently for the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Readers’ Choice consumer polls, and PeoplesBank was named a winner in several categories, including Best Local Bank, Best Local Online Banking, Best Mortgage/Home Loan Provider, Best Green Business, and Best Place to Work. PeoplesBank has made significant investments in customer service in recent years, adding new digital and contactless banking opportunities such as VideoBankerITMs as well as expanding its banking-center network in Northern and Central Connecticut. In each market it serves, the bank is well-known for its charitable and civic support. Meanwhile, at the other end of Massachusetts, the Boston Business Journal named PeoplesBank a Top Corporate Charitable Contributor again in 2021.


Rachel’s Table, Food Bank Join Forces to Fight Hunger

SPRINGFIELD — Rachel’s Table, the food rescue and redistribution program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts are joining forces to fight hunger. Rachel’s Table, with its 200 volunteer drivers, will transport food directly from designated grocery stores to Food Bank agencies, filling the gap where agencies lacked transportation or when its volunteers were needed elsewhere. Rachel’s Table’s partnership with the Food Bank began pre-pandemic in Westfield and has become revitalized during the past several months. Together, Rachel’s Table and the Food Bank are serving seven agencies, with 13 volunteer drivers from Rachel’s Table rescuing nutritious food from eight donors in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. Starting slowly but deliberately, more than 15,000 pounds of healthy meat, produce, and dairy have been delivered since the program began, and there is more to come. People interested in driving for Rachel’s Table, or who know of food from a local restaurant, bakery, or grocery store that is going to waste, can contact the organization at www.rachelstablepv.org.


American Eagle Donates $5,000 to Hampden County Organizations

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — American Eagle Financial Credit Union (AEFCU) announced $5,000 in total donations for two organizations based in Hampden County. The Ronald McDonald House of Springfield and Springfield Partners for Community Action have each been selected to receive $2,500 grants from American Eagle’s donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “The Ronald McDonald House of Springfield and Springfield Partners for Community Action provide tremendous assistance, care, and resources to Hampden County families,” said Dean Marchessault, president and CEO of AEFCU. “It’s our hope these grants will bolster their efforts and serve as a reminder of our team’s admiration for the organizations.”



Rally in the Alley

Every Thursday: Downtown Springfield will be the site for Rally in the Alley, a month-long outdoor ping-pong points league held on Market Street in collaboration with the Springfield Thunderbirds, NOSH Café, and Sweet Ideas Café. The first event of its kind hosted in the heart of the city, it will take place every Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The event is free to participate in, and open to all ages. The matches will be round-robin style, one-on-one. Prizes will be given out each week, including Springfield Thunderbirds game tickets, downtown restaurant gift cards, Springfield merch, and much more. NOSH and Sweet Ideas Café will be open, serving dinner and drinks. Participants can sign up beforehand by visiting springfielddowntown.com or at the event. The Springfield Thunderbirds are the presenting sponsor, and Blue Haus Group is co-hosting the event.


Willie Ross School Grand Reopening

Sept. 17: Willie Ross School for the Deaf (WRSD) will hold a grand reopening and ribbon cutting for the newly completed renovation and expansion to its Sidney Cooley Administration Building from 10 a.m. to noon at 32 Norway St., Longmeadow. WRSD President and CEO Bert Carter; Dr. J. Robert Kirkwood, chair of the WRSD board of trustees; and George Balsley, vice chair of the board, will offer remarks at the event, which will also offer light refreshments and tours of the new space. The $2.5 million renovation and expansion took two years to complete and added a second story to its administration building that features new space for interpreters, an updated audiology center, a redesigned main entrance, improved wheelchair access, new space for the school’s Work Study Program, and upgraded administrative technology. The comprehensive renovation also included new landscaping of the property and replacement of windows and insulation to increase energy efficiency.


Community Shred Day

Sept. 18: Freedom Credit Union will once again to offer the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering a free community shred day at two of its branches in Springfield and West Springfield. The event is slated for 9 to 10 a.m. at 296 Cooley St. in Springfield, and 11 a.m. to noon at 58 Union St. in West Springfield. The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for free, quick, and secure on-site shredding. Members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags (per vehicle) to the events. Masks are not required for those who are vaccinated.


YMCA of Greater Springfield Golf Tournament

Sept. 21: The YMCA of Greater Springfield announced it will hold a golf tournament at the Longmeadow Country Club. The funds raised will support youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility through access to the YMCA. In addition to a round of golf, golfers will enjoy a grilled lunch at 11 a.m. and a dinner following the tournament. To learn more about registration and sponsorship opportunities, e-mail Donna Sittard, Development director at the YMCA, at [email protected], call (413) 739-6951, ext. 3110, or visit www.springfieldy.org.


Golden Bear Athletics Golf Classic

Sept. 20: The Department of Athletics at Western New England University will host the 22nd annual Golden Bear Athletics Golf Classic at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow at 12:30 p.m. The cost for individual participation is $175 per person. Foursomes are welcome. The tournament will be a scramble format, and golf carts will be provided. Competitions during the day will include closest to the pin, straightest drive, and longest drive. There will also be mulligan tickets, a raffle, and a putting contest throughout the day. Each year, the Classic honors outstanding individuals who have made a positive impact on Western New England University and its athletics family. This year’s honoree will be WNEU President Robert Johnson. A cocktail reception and luncheon honoring him will take place upon tournament completion. For more information and registration or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit wnegoldenbears.com/landing/index.


40 Under Forty Gala

Sept. 23: BusinessWest’s 15th annual 40 Under Forty gala will take place at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. The class of 2021 was introduced to the region in the magazine’s May 12 issue, and the profiles may be read online at businesswest.com. Event sponsors include Comcast Business, Health New England, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, PeoplesBank, and Venture X..


United Way Day of Caring

Sept. 24: The United Way of Pioneer Valley has opened volunteer signups for Day of Caring 2021. Volunteers may sign up at uwpv.org/doc21-events. “There is a greater need than ever for kindness, good deeds, and building our sense of community this year,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley. “I implore anyone with free time on or around Day of Caring 2021 to sign up and do good with us. Help our nonprofits, who have struggled greatly through the COVID-19 pandemic, and you will start your last weekend of September with the best night’s sleep you can find — knowing you’ve done a good thing when it was needed most.” Learn more about the United Way Day of Caring at uwpv.org/day-of-caring, or donate at uwpv.org/donate.


Brew at the Zoo

Sept. 25: The Zoo in Forest Park will host its fourth annual Brew at the Zoo, presented by PDC Inc., from 1 to 5 p.m. Beer enthusiasts will enjoy a day at the zoo complete with unlimited beer samples from local craft breweries, a home-brew competition, food trucks, live music, games, and animal interactions. All the money raised through this event goes directly to support the 250 animals that call the zoo their home year-round. The event, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, offers three ticket types: VIP, general admission, and designated driver. Attendees with a VIP ticket will enjoy an extra hour of sampling beginning at noon, the opportunity to participate in up-close animal encounters, and grain to feed the animals. This event is 21+. The zoo will be closed to the public on Sept. 25. Advance tickets are required, and IDs will be checked at the door. For a list of participating breweries and to purchase tickets, visit www.forestparkzoo.org/brew. Limited tickets are available.


Leadership Training Program

Sept. 28-30: Giombetti Associates, a leadership institute providing behaviorally based talent-development and acquisition services, will host the second of three three-day leadership training programs for 2021 at the Delaney House in Holyoke. This intensive course covers the power of Performance Dynamics and how it can help participants know themselves better; different leadership styles and what makes them effective or ineffective; the importance of being vulnerable and transparent; how to build interpersonal relationships; what effective onboarding is and how it will help participants’ organizations and employees; how to be an efficient communicator; the best way to deliver developmental feedback; building teamwork and the value of team building; and trust, integrity, and more. Prior to training, each participant goes through Performance Dynamics, an assessment that consists of three personality inventories designed to identify 17 different traits that drive personality and behavior. Then, in an interactive, one-on-one feedback session, the participant develops a newfound self-awareness of their behavioral strengths, learns how to manage their personality more effectively, and gains an understanding of how their personality impacts others. Throughout the three-day training, the participant is encouraged to constantly refer to and link their personality to the leadership issue being discussed. All the subject matter is wrapped around individual personality and how it affects behavior in different situations, yielding a unique experience of self-exploration. To learn more about the three-day leadership program, which has an additional session scheduled in November, visit giombettiassoc.com/three-day-leadership-training-program. Registration is now open for both sessions.


HCC Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series

Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 24: Holyoke Community College (HCC) will continue its monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series this fall. During each session, participants will join prominent women leaders for discussions on relevant topics and ideas to help their leadership development. They will also have the opportunity to form a supportive network to help navigate their own careers. The fall dates and topics are:

• Sept. 29: “Do Something Every Day that Scares You” with Pattie Hallberg, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts;

• Oct. 27: “Just Go for It,” with Helen Gomez Andrews, co-founder and CEO of the High End; and

• Nov. 24: “Journey to and from Exit Zero,” with Sharale Mathis, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at HCC.

The cost of each session is $25, with the exception of the three-part Vision Board class with Turner, which costs $99. The cost for the full, six-session series is $120. Cost, however, will not be a barrier to participation. If pricing is an issue, contact Michele Cabral, HCC’s executive director of Business, Corporate and Professional Development, at [email protected]. Space is limited, and advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.