Home Posts tagged BusinessWest
Picture This

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

 


Breaking Ground

 

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


Feeding the Front Lines

 

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

 


Deserving Scholars

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

 

Coronavirus Cover Story

Baby Steps

After more than two months of a widespread economic shutdown, Massachusetts is opening its economy again — sort of. The plan, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on May 18, allows some businesses to open their doors under tight health restrictions, while others — including restaurants, spas, and most retail — have to wait longer to invite the public inside. What’s got businesses frustrated is not knowing exactly when their turn will come — and the financial impact they continue to endure every week they have to wait.

Massachusetts is the 15th-most populous state in the U.S., yet, the day Gov. Charlie Baker released his economic reopening report, it had reported the fourth-most total COVID-19 cases in the country.

So, the reopening was never going to be a free-for-all.

“We were all very aware that, no matter what we went forward with, there will be more infection and more deaths,” said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, one of 17 members of the governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. “While the public-health metrics are numbers, statistics, they’re also people — they’re your neighbors, maybe your mother or father.

“People want to open,” she told BusinessWest, “but they don’t want to put people at risk — themselves, their customers, their parents. The compassion is remarkable.”

That’s why it was no surprise that Massachusetts is reopening slowly and cautiously. Last week, manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship were allowed to return under strict guidelines (more on those later), and on May 25, the list will expand to offices (except in Boston) and labs; hair salons, pet grooming, and car washes; retail, with remote fulfillment and curbside pickup only; beaches, parks, drive-in movies, and some athletic fields and courts; fishing, hunting, and boating; and outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations.

That covers what Baker is calling phase 1, with three more reopening phases to follow. Conspicuously not on the phase-1 list? Restaurants, spas, daycare centers, in-store retail … it’s a long list. And, for many business leaders, a frustrating one.

Nancy Creed

Nancy Creed says businesses in phase 1 got the clarity they were seeking, but those in phase 2 are still waiting.

“There’s certainly an appreciation for public health, but there also needs to be some common sense, and I think it’s very hard to explain why it’s OK for 200 people to be in line at Home Depot, but a small, downtown store can’t have two or three people in it,” Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, told BusinessWest.

“Certainly everyone has to be smart,” he added, “but I think there needs to be more common sense brought into the reopening. I appreciate where the governor is — the balancing act — and I think the reopening committee did a great job with outreach, but there needs to be clear guidance and some common sense.”

Others were less diplomatic.

“While protecting public health is important and something we all support, it defies logic to declare that the opening of barbershops and hair salons is safe, while claiming opening small retail businesses is not,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Assoc. of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

“The same is true for the opening of churches and large office buildings,” he went on. “Having two or three people in a retail shop is every bit as safe, if not safer, than the allowable businesses in phase 1. The Baker administration has consistently picked winners and losers during this crisis, and it is disappointing to see that trend continue in the reopening plan.”

As president of the Springfield Regional Chamber, Nancy Creed has been in touch with her members for almost three months now on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She, like Sullivan, understands the delicate balance the state is walking.

“When we were part of the presentation to the advisory board, the last thing I said to them was, ‘our businesses are struggling, but they are surviving this. What they can’t survive is for it to happen again.”

“Certain sectors thought they’d be in phase 1, so there’s always that frustration,” she told BusinessWest. “When we were part of the presentation to the advisory board, the last thing I said to them was, ‘our businesses are struggling, but they are surviving this. What they can’t survive is for it to happen again. So we need to be smart about it and make sure we’re doing everything we can so the reopening is successful, and this doesn’t happen again.’”

She knows that’s not easy for many small businesses to hear, particularly ones with no revenue stream at all during this time.

“This is different for everyone, but businesses are muddling through it, pivoting, doing the things they need to do for basic economic survival,” she added. “But if it happens again, I don’t think we’ll survive the second round.”

Hence, baby steps, and a multi-phase reopening that offers real hope for many sectors, but continues to draw no small amount of criticism as well.

Guidance — and Lack Thereof

According to Baker’s plan, each phase of the reopening will be guided by public-health data that will be continually monitored and used to determine advancement to future phases. The goal of a phased plan is to methodically allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19 that could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system and erase the progress made so far.

Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase. If public-health data trends are negative, specific industries, regions, or even the entire Commonwealth may need to return to an earlier phase.

Nicole LaChapelle

Nicole LaChapelle

“When talking to businesses and different groups and unions, the question was always, ‘what are the barriers right now, what are your biggest challenges, but more importantly, what do you need to see happen in order for your industry to open, and what is the timeline for that to happen for you?’”

In addition, success in earlier phases will refine criteria for future phases, including travel, gathering sizes, as well as additional openings in retail, restaurants, lodging, arts, entertainment, fitness centers, museums, youth sports, and other activities.

“Going in, the goals were, how do we safely and slowly open the Massachusetts economy?” LaChapelle said. “And that is directly tied to public-health metrics. When talking to businesses and different groups and unions, the question was always, ‘what are the barriers right now, what are your biggest challenges, but more importantly, what do you need to see happen in order for your industry to open, and what is the timeline for that to happen for you?’”

It was helpful, she explained, to seek input from myriad sectors and businesses — those deemed essential and never forced to shutter; those that had to pivot, such as retailers boosting their online presence and manufacturers shifting to making masks and face shields; and businesses that have been effectively sidelined.

“The board, at no point, even at the beginning, was like, ‘let’s get this thing going and roll it out immediately,’” she added, noting that she understands the need for companies to start ramping back up. “They may be a little disappointed, but they’ve been very understanding. There’s some education we have to do, but nobody is really upside-down about it.”

In order to reopen, businesses must develop a written COVID-19 control plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of the virus. They must also create and display posters and signs describing rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, as well as cleaning and disinfecting.

“I think there needs to be an appreciation for restaurants and small Main Street businesses that are not going to be able to just comply with the state’s protocols immediately.”

Sullivan appreciates the attention to public-health concerns, but said it offers little comfort for businesses stuck in an as-yet-undefined phase 2 — or beyond. While the reopening plan gives clear guidance for businesses in phase 1, those in phase 2 don’t even get a target date they can work toward or a set of protocols they can begin to develop. And that lack of clarity has led to frustration.

“I do think many businesses, especially smaller businesses, were kind of expecting more things to open up,” he said. “I think there needs to be an appreciation for restaurants and small Main Street businesses that are not going to be able to just comply with the state’s protocols immediately. They’ll need to plan, order some equipment, and spend some time reorganizing their business, because it’s going to be different than it was pre-COVID. And it’s not something they can do overnight. Many businesses are just looking at lead time — they want to open sooner than later, but they want lead time so they can be ready to go.”

Creed agreed.

“I think what businesses wanted, at least in the beginning, was some clarity about the guidelines, about the timelines, about the standards, about the checklists, all those things, so they can create their own plan — and that was achieved, at least for phase 1,” she explained. “But I am hearing the phase-2 people saying, ‘well, I wanted to be able to plan, but I don’t have enough guidance right now,’ so there’s some frustration.”

The Massachusetts Restaurant Assoc. said as much in a statement following the plan’s release.

“Obviously, every restaurateur is disappointed with the lack of a defined reopening date in today’s announcement,” it noted. “Massachusetts restaurants need their suppliers to have time to restock perishable inventory before it can be delivered to them. They need to notify employees about returning to work and conduct other due diligence to ensure restaurants can open effectively.”

Safety and Numbers

Across Massachusetts, the reopening plan sparked a spectrum of reactions, all acknowledging the competing health and economic interests in play, but expressing different levels of understanding and frustration — and often both.

“We realize that every employer in Massachusetts would love to hear that they can reopen immediately. But we also acknowledge that a phased reopening balances the need to restart the economy with the need to manage a public-health crisis that continues to claim 100 lives a day in Massachusetts,” John Regan, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, noted in a statement.

Even as some businesses start to reopen and others plan to do so, the state Department of Public Health updated its stay-at-home advisory, replacing it with a new “Safer at Home” advisory, which instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. It also advises those over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home, with the exception of trips required for healthcare, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary. All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.

The state also encourages working from home when possible, and Baker’s office released a list of 54 large companies — employing about 150,000 workers among them — that have issued statements extending work-from-home policies for the remainder of the spring, with numerous reporting intentions to extend into the summer and, in some cases, for the remainder of 2020.

“As MassMutual develops our plan to gradually return to the office, the health and safety of our employees is our top priority,” said Roger Crandall, chairman, president, and CEO of MassMutual, noting that his employees will return to the office no sooner than the beginning of September.

“We expect to come back in a slow, phased manner,” he added. “We will continue to monitor and reassess and will be factoring in a number of considerations — from federal, state, and local government and health officials’ guidance to a sustained reduction in cases in our operating locations, to broader available testing and our employees’ personal circumstances and comfort.”

Patrick Sullivan, Massachusetts President of People’s United Bank, is also promoting continued work from home where possible.

“People’s United Bank is assessing re-entry conditions and protocols to ensure the safety of our team members and our customers,” he said. “Our approach will balance the needs of employees with the needs of the business. As we have been successful in pivoting and adjusting to working from home, we will continue to encourage this behavior.”

Still, those are businesses that can at least operate in most aspects. Retail stores can’t so easily adjust — and have been devastated by the inability to invite shoppers into their stores.

“We are incredibly disappointed with how Governor Baker has treated retail businesses throughout the health and economic crisis. Massachusetts has been one of the most hostile states in the nation toward small retailers.”

“We are incredibly disappointed with how Governor Baker has treated retail businesses throughout the health and economic crisis. Massachusetts has been one of the most hostile states in the nation toward small retailers,” said Hurst, noting that Massachusetts stores are losing Memorial Day weekend at a time when other states have let them open up shop by now. “Retail businesses are ready and able to open safely now with a limited number of people in stores and for appointment shopping. By not allowing that until late June, many small, Main Street businesses will close forever.”

That’s not hyperbole for small businesses of many kinds. Matt Haskins, who operates the popular Matt’s Barber Shop in Amherst, said a recent grant from the Downtown Amherst Foundation has helped him stay afloat at a time when he doesn’t know when college business will return.

“Just five minutes before [receiving word of the grant], I was on a phone call discussing if Matt’s Barber Shop was going to make it or break it,” he told foundation officials. “The grant helps me think we’re going to make it.”

So will being able to open his doors again on May 25. And that’s all most business owners want right now — a target. Creed hears that, but at the same time, she’s encouraged by recent chamber polling suggesting the percentage of business owners who feel they’ll survive this crisis is rising.

“What that says to me is people are finding a way to make sure it doesn’t put them out of business,” she said, “which shows the resilience of the businesses we have here.”

Yes, they have resilience, in spades. Now, they want clarity — and some hard dates.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus Special Coverage

Q & A for the Reopening

By Ellen McKitterick and Mark Emrick

Employers are beginning to look at bringing employees back into the workplace and/or opening up their offices after being closed for six to eight weeks. Here is a sampling of the key questions that the HR Hotline staff at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) is responding to.

Ellen McKitterick

Ellen McKitterick

Mark Emrick

Mark Emrick

How do I respond to an employee who says they are afraid to return to work? Each instance needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. If the employee has a valid reason that fits within an FMLA, ADA, or other reasonable accommodation, then be sure to start the interactive process and see if the request is reasonable. Otherwise, general fear is not a valid reason, and the employee would be voluntarily resigning.

How do I respond to an employee who says they don’t feel safe returning to the workplace? Assuming you have taken all required cleaning and disinfecting steps, you can respond: “we are operating a safe workplace. We are operating in accordance with state and local safety and health guidelines. There currently is no recognized health or safety hazard in our workplace.” Otherwise, general fear is not a valid reason, and the employee would be voluntarily resigning.

As we ramp up our operations, we need our workforce to return to the physical workplace. How do I respond to an employee’s request to continue working from home? Employers do not have to permit work from home if it does not fit their business needs; it is not up to the employee. That being said, in our current crisis, it is wise to allow working from home until the COVID-19 situation is under better control.

What if I can only bring my employees back part-time? They have been on unemployment during their furlough. How will this affect their ability to collect benefits? Employees who are collecting any benefit from unemployment insurance (UI) will continue to receive the additional $600 from the federal government at least through July 31. Partial unemployment may still qualify them for some UI; there is a partial-payment calculator at mass.gov to determine the possible benefit.

Can my employees continue to collect unemployment after I have asked them to come back, but they refuse? They can try, but they are not eligible if you have offered work. Employers should notify the Department of Unemployment Assistance of any employee refusing to return.

What do I do if my employee says they are making more money on unemployment than working for me and do not want to return right away? The employee needs to make a decision. Either they take the short-term gain of extra unemployment or the long-term gain of their job. This would be considered, in most cases, voluntary resignation. Their position may not be available when they decide to return to work.

What effects does our recent furlough have on my employees’ flexible spending account and dependent care accounts, the loss of contributions, and amount of time remaining for contributions in 2020? Employees may be allowed to make changes to some accounts, but it would require an amendment to your plan. IRS Notice 2020-29 may answer more questions.

Can I screen or test employees for symptoms of COVID-19 before they return to work? What screening methods should I use? Yes, during a pandemic you can take employees’ temperatures or ask business-related health questions such as “have you had symptoms, a fever over 100.4, or been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?: Remember that HIPAA and privacy laws apply.

Can I require older workers who are at high risk to continue to stay at home? No, you cannot exclude anyone in a protected class. If they voice a concern, then you should enter into the interactive process and see if a reasonable accommodation may apply.

Do I have to provide face masks for my employees? In Masachusetts, employees will be required to wear them at work, but it is to be determined who has to provide them. Neighboring states are all requiring the employer to provide needed personal protective equipment.

How do I respond to any employee who refuses to adhere to our social-distancing guidelines or wear a face covering in the office? Upon return to work, employers should put employees on notice of any new policy, any special protocols that may apply, and the personal protective equipment that is required. Engage in an interactive process to ascertain any concerns and determine if special conditions may apply before moving to discipline.

What should I do if my employees are complaining about coming back to work and the extra requirements? Employees are entitled to complain about working conditions to fellow employees. They should remain professional and follow all company policies, but they have the right to voice their opinion as long as they are not defamatory or causing disruptions.

Ellen McKitterick is EANE’s newest HR business partner. She advises member organizations on all aspects of employment law, including wage and hour issues, employment discrimination, employee benefits, leaves of absence, and unemployment, and trains EANE members and non-members on harassment prevention, basic employment concepts, employee medical and leave issues, and key management skills. Mark Emrick is a senior HR business partner at EANE with consulting responsibilities for all aspects of the HR function — recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, benefits administration, compliance, performance management, coaching, development, corrective action, and terminations. He is also an experienced investigator for employee complaints and issues.

Opinion

Opinion

By Mary Flahive-Dickson

Seemingly, there is very little time for reflection these days. As we move from one news report, one Zoom meeting, one emergency to another, it is not lost on us that this is now our norm; life has changed. Restlessness is nationwide. Our communities are apprehensive at best, and our seniors are even more isolated now than any other historical time.

Social isolation, while defined as a lack of relationships and meaningful contact with society, needs to be further contemplated and gauged in our elder population as COVID-19 continues to force us to shelter in place, while begging for social and physical distance.

Caregivers, as catechized members of the front line, are being asked to rise to the challenge of defense against physical and social isolation of seniors.

Our elders are seemingly the target of so many evil pathogens and infections as their immunologic response has slowed and their physicality is compromised. Add life-changing risk factors such as retirement, death of loved ones, and the global nature of our society to the geriatric mix, and oftentimes the result assumes the form of social and physical isolation and loneliness.

Isolated and lonely seniors are at an increased risk for additional physical and emotional health conditions such as anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, and cognitive decline. With the loss of a sense of connectivity to the outside world and specifically their community, our elders run the risk of a decrease in wellness and a general decline in health.

Additionally, and especially in the current COVID-19 theatre, physical and emotional needs such as activities of daily living (ADL), companionship, and personal care may not be satisfied or executed. This situation is yet another nail in the proverbial coffin of enabling an immunologic response to infections, therefore rendering individuals less able to fight off disease, while increasing their risk of mortality.

Conversely, elders who engage with society, continue to be active and cognitively stimulated, have conversations, and have their ADLs satiated oftentimes experience increased positive influential health opportunities and many times are able to maintain the state of wellness longer.

Our role as caregivers is to facilitate an improvement or at least a maintenance of independence, health, and well-being of our elders. By providing for and assisting them with activities of daily living, promoting self-care, and reinforcing social support and a sense of community, caregivers continue to promote and disseminate multiple dimensions of physical and emotional health and wellness among this population.

As society continues to seesaw under the cloud of COVID-19, the senior population is not exempt from partaking in groups, programs, and activities which can help in thwarting physical and social isolation and loneliness. In fact, for the seniors, it is just the opposite. No populace has seen a furthering of isolation more than the seniors.

And, with home care widely accepted as a significant player in promotion of health and wellness, staving off mortality and reduction of admissions to institutional care such as hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities, caregivers’ roles should be touted as the front-line essential necessity they have always been, albeit unpronounced.

Mary Flahive-Dickson is chief operating officer for Golden Years Home Care Services.

Class of 2020 Cover Story

40 Under Forty Class of 2020

‘The class of 2020.’

That phrase will forever have special meaning at colleges, high schools, and even grammar schools across this country. Indeed, 2020 has been a different year in every way imaginable.

And the same is true of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of rising stars. When the JUDGES received their six-inch-thick packets of nominations — which detailed the credentials of more than 200 candidates — in February, COVID-19 hadn’t yet arrived in Western Mass. By the time the scores were tabulated and the winners were sent their letters of congratulations, the world had changed in a profound way.

These changes are reflected in this special edition of BusinessWest, and also in the scheduling of the gala to celebrate this year’s class. Traditionally slated for late June, it is now to be held Aug. 27 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

As for this section, the biggest difference is the photographs. In past years, they were taken in the studio of photographer Leah Martin. With social-distancing guidelines in place and non-essential businesses (like photo studios) closed, that wasn’t possible.

So we improvised. Many members of the class of 2020 took their own photos, while Martin took to the road and photographed several honorees on their front porches and in their backyards — from a safe distance. Collectively, these photos speak not only to how different these times are, but to how people have used their imaginations and creativity to cope.

Overall, while the class of 2020 has had, and will continue to have, a different experience than those who preceded it, it is like those other classes in how it reflects the high levels of young talent now emerging in this region. And it paints an impressive picture of leadership for decades to come.

Let’s salute the class of 2020!

2020 Presenting Sponsors

2020 Sponsors

2020 Partner

2020 Exclusive Media Sponsor

Coronavirus Special Coverage

Climbing Out

It’s not easy for a business to be shut down — seriously curtailing or even eliminating all revenue — for any period of time. But it’s much more frustrating not to know how long that period of time will actually be. That’s where Massachusetts businesses deemed non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic stand right now — in a limbo of treading water and being as flexible, creative, and patient as they can while they await word on when the state will reopen its economy, and what form that re-emergence will take.

At some point in early March, Ashley Batlle knew what was coming. And she knew what it meant for her health and wellness spa, Beauty Batlles Lounge, that she opened in Chicopee about a year ago.

“This is a personal, physical-contact business. You’re definitely in close proximity with the client, giving them a service that everyone looks forward to — something they’re accustomed to making part of their schedule,” Batlle said. Yet, the rumblings were that, at some point, the rising threat of COVID-19 was going to force businesses to shut their doors. “So we tried to get as many clients in as we could.”

And then, suddenly, those appointments that clients look forward to were cancelled, postponed until — well, nobody knows yet. And that’s the problem for businesses the state deemed non-essential: the unknown.

Toward the end of April, the Baker-Polito administration extended the statewide essential-services emergency order by two weeks, from May 4 to May 18. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services can only continue operations through remote means — if at all possible.

For Batlle, well … she can’t offer facials, waxing, microblading, and other treatments remotely. And she was unable to access benefits through the CARES Act and other government relief measures.

“My anxiety level has been very, very high. It hasn’t been fun, not knowing when we’ll begin to open and what kind of measures will be asked of us by the state and city to be able to reopen,” she said, noting that, as a one-woman operation, it will be easy to comply with social-distancing regulations sure to accompany any sort of reopening.

What’s less certain is how customers will respond — to all types of interactions, not just her services.

“I’m going to be able to open up my doors and get everyone in as quick as possible — that’s what I would love to do, but I think it’s going to be a soft situation, where, little by little, we’re getting back to business,” she explained, noting that some people will be leery of close contact at first, especially since the virus doesn’t tend to show symptoms for a while.

Still, most business owners shuttered by the pandemic would love an opportunity to at least try to get back to normal, even if they understand why the governor put the stay-at-home mandate in place.

Rick Sullivan

Rick Sullivan

“We may be seeing the number of cases plateauing, but [development of] a vaccine, or treatment medication, is still in its infancy, so the data still says go slow. I do think some businesses previously deemed non-essential could have protocols put in place to allow partial reopening. However, nobody wants to reopen prematurely and see worse spikes later in the year.”

“While we expected and understand Governor Baker’s decision to extend the stay-at-home advisory, that tough decision underscores the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in as a business community,” said Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber. “We’re doing a balancing act between wanting to get back to work and getting back to work in a safe manner.”

Many of her members supported the two-week extension; a late-April chamber poll, right before the non-essential closures were extended by two weeks, asked what worried them more: the spread of the virus if restrictions were loosened too soon, or the negative economic impact of not reopening quickly enough. It also asked if Massachusetts was ready for a May 4 reopening.

“Seventy-seven percent responded that the spread of the virus was more worrisome, and an overwhelming number — 91% — responded that Massachusetts was not ready for a May 4 reopening,” Creed said, “clearly revealing that much of the business community is concerned about protecting those most vulnerable and stopping the spread of the disease, and demonstrating the commitment our business community has to the community as a whole.”

Rick Sullivan, president of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, took a similar outlook.

“I do not think that anyone is surprised that the shutdown has been extended, as the governor has been clear he will follow the data as to when to begin reopening the economy,” Sullivan said. “We may be seeing the number of cases plateauing, but [development of] a vaccine, or treatment medication, is still in its infancy, so the data still says go slow. I do think some businesses previously deemed non-essential could have protocols put in place to allow partial reopening. However, nobody wants to reopen prematurely and see worse spikes later in the year.”

All that may be true, but it’s still difficult — and, for many businesses, exceptionally concerning — to stay closed this long, and possibly longer. Businesses are doing what they can to be creative, in many cases opening doors of commerce they will continue to pursue after the COVID-19 threat passes, or even using the time to support other community members in need (more on that later).

But no one likes the uncertainty of not knowing whether May 18 is the real target for reopening, or just another can to be kicked down the road.

Waiting Game

Paul DiGrigoli would like to reopen, too.

“This has impacted us tremendously,” said the owner of DiGrigoli Salon and DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology in West Springfield. “We haven’t had a chance to reach out to all our clients; some we have. But we just have to wait until Charlie Baker gives us the green light, which hopefully will be May 18.”

He was able to secure a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, succeeding in the second round of that program’s disbursements after missing on the first round. That will help cover costs like utilities and mortgage interest while keeping his employees paid for eight weeks as well. “We went through Community Bank, and they were phenomenal,” he said.

And he’s getting ready for some anticipated changes when the salon does reopen.

“We bought a lot of hand sanitizer to put at the front desk in the school and the salon, we’ve gotten gloves and masks, and what we’re going to do initially is get the clients’ cell phone numbers and call them from the reception desk to let them know when their appointment is available. And we’ll stick with staying six feet apart, spreading out the stations. Both the stylist and the client will have to wear a mask until further notice. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first.”

As for the school, online training has been effective for theory, but students haven’t been able to practice what they learn.

In general, he told BusinessWest, “we’re really trying our hardest to get back to normal, but we’ve really been handcuffed. There has been frustration and anxiety because we don’t know what to expect.”

Or when to expect it, he added. “We don’t know when it will happen. They’re saying May 18, but who the heck knows? We’re hoping it doesn’t go beyond that, but thank God for the relief funds — that really saved us.”

Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, polled her members at the end of April and put some of that anxiety into raw numbers. For example, responding businesses are losing an average of $55,837 per month in revenue during the shutdown, and 61% have had to lay off or furlough employees. More than 20% have serious concerns about being able to reopen if the state of emergency extends beyond June 1.

“They’re worried,” she said. “Rent, utilities, and payroll are three areas that continue to be a struggle.”

Amherst is also in an unusual situation, as it’s a small town that loses more than half its population when UMass Amherst and Amherst College aren’t in session. The downtown businesses in particular rely heavily on students — and now there’s talk across the region that colleges might start the fall with distance learning only.

Claudia Pazmany

Claudia Pazmany

“On the flip side, this has stirred a lot of innovation from businesses who have been deemed non-essential or limited; they’ve pivoted or gone online. The creativity and innovation we’ve seen have been really exciting.”

“Initially, there hasn’t been a lot of grumbling, but they’re generally frustrated and just sad. Everything is unknown,” Pazmany told BusinessWest. “They’re fearful — so much is unknown, and delays keep coming. We don’t have a deadline or guidelines; they just keep pushing back the date, and that causes more fear and anxiety.”

Driving Innovation

And also a good deal of invention, driven by necessity.

“On the flip side, this has stirred a lot of innovation from businesses who have been deemed non-essential or limited; they’ve pivoted or gone online,” Pazmany said. “The creativity and innovation we’ve seen have been really exciting.”

Take Zanna, a clothing shop that has been a staple of Amherst’s downtown for decades, but has never had an online store. Until now.

“You have to look at the good in this crisis,” owner Amy Benson said. “In my case, it moved me — encouraged me — to get an online store open. I’ve only owned the store a year, so I didn’t have time to even think about an online store before. Now I did, so I took the time to get it up and going.

“Do I think it’s the wave of Zanna’s future? No, but I think it’s an extension. We’ll probably keep it going once we’re open,” she added, noting that it opens more opportunities. “We’re in a transient community. We see people from all over the country, between the university and Amherst College. We all want things to be the way they were, but we know we’ll have to adapt. Some of these new trends, like my online store, I’m not going to shut that off.”

Benson has been creative in other ways as well, from curbside pickup — with everyone wearing masks — to ‘virtual shopping,’ where she walks a customer around the store using an iPad and FaceTime, showing them tops and bottoms and coordinating outfits.

“We want customers to be engaged, and they want to hear from us because we form those kinds of relationships,” she said. “When we’re FaceTiming, we’re FaceTiming with a friend and shopping with a friend. It’s a really important way to stay connected.

“You have to do something,” she went on. “You can’t just close your doors and do nothing. Our customers are women who have supported us for over 40 years; we’re not going to just shut our doors and not communicate. I do whatever I can to stay engaged with our customers, they’re the lifeline of our business.”

In other words, Zanna has come a long way since last month, when Benson was in “full panic mode” and offering nothing but a gift-certificate promotion. “We’re not bringing in nearly the revenue we would normally, but we’re supporting what we’re able to do right now.”

She’s not alone, Pazmany noted, citing examples like restaurants revamping their online presence with expanded takeout menus to Amherst Books shipping and delivering items to customers, to the Amherst Area Chamber itself, which has been connecting with the business community through marketing seminars.

Doing Some Good

Or taking advantage of an unusual time to do some good in the community.

Dean’s Beans, based in Orange, has seen a surge in web sales as coffee drinkers are brewing more at home due to social distancing and telecommuting. With COVID-19 causing great economic hardship, the company has chosen to share the money from these web sales with the community by helping to fund school food programs — a total of $26,000, in fact, divided among seven Western Mass. school districts.

“Making sure children have access to food throughout this pandemic is crucial, and we are proud to support these essential programs in Springfield, Amherst, and Orange,” said Dean Cycon, founder and CEO of Dean’s Beans. “Part of a company’s profitability is the positivity it generates for others, and we are committed to helping our communities ease the pain of this crisis.”

Amy Benson

Amy Benson

“You have to look at the good in this crisis. In my case, it moved me — encouraged me — to get an online store open. I’ve only owned the store a year, so I didn’t have time to even think about an online store before. Now I did, so I took the time to get it up and going.”

Meanwhile, Batlle has launched the Hero Project, a virtual fundraiser designed to give back to those on the front lines fighting the pandemic. Funds raised will be set aside to provide complimentary self-care services at Beauty Batlles Lounge for healthcare professionals, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and employees of sheriffs’ departments, once she can open her doors again. Visit beautybatlles.com to donate.

Considering the masks they’re wearing all day long, “they’re going to need facials when this is done,” Batlle joked, before getting serious.

“I reached out to my nurse friends and heard their stories, about the trauma they’re going through. One friend works in the ICU at a COVID unit — she goes into work one day and has four patients, and when it’s time to leave, she only has one. That has to do something to you. How can I give back to them? That’s where the idea for the Hero Project came in.”

It’s a way to pay it forward while anticipating the light at the end of the tunnel, she told BusinessWest. “This isn’t easy on anybody.”

It would be easier with some clarity from Beacon Hill, but that’s not coming right now. Instead, Baker convened a Reopening Advisory Board of public-health officials, representatives from the business community, and municipal leaders from across the Commonwealth. They are charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics, and are expected to develop a report by May 18.

That’s just the report date. So it’s easy to see why businesses might not suddenly be reopening on that date.

“Personally, every time Governor Baker gives us a date when we’re going to open, I think, ‘hmm, I don’t know if that’s going to happen,’” Benson said. “I’m always thinking, ‘what’s the worst-case scenario? June 1? They keep pushing it back.”

That’s why it bothers Batlle that some proprietors of businesses like hers continue to offer services from their home.

“We should all just be staying stationary; we’re all in the same boat,” she said. “That just puts more stress on business owners who are actually following the rules, and it’s could extend the time we’re going to be out of work.”

Which, for too many business owners and employees across Western Mass., already feels like too long.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus Special Coverage

For Many Impacted by the Pandemic, It Might Be a Viable Option

By Michael B. Katz, Esq.

One thing I’ve learned in my 45 years practicing bankruptcy law is that most individuals who wind up taking this course of action are good people who have found themselves in bad and unexpected circumstances, most often caused by things that were beyond their control.

People get sick, get divorced, lose employment, and have accidents. Likewise, businesses can be adversely affected by events over which they have no meaningful control. Outbreaks of disease, oil shortages, breaks in the supply chain, changing technology, interruption of their workforce, and many other factors can all cause a business or individual to be unable to stay financially afloat.

Which brings us the COVID-19 pandemic. It represents the epitome of unexpected circumstances and matters beyond our control. Indeed, in an effort to slow the spread the spread of the virus, the state has shuttered all non-essential businesses, leading to unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression.

In these precarious times, individuals and businesses are finding themselves in dire financial circumstances they could not have foreseen, nor done anything to prevent. Given their predicament, some might be looking at bankruptcy as a possible recourse.

In order to help honest but financially burdened individuals make a fresh financial start, Congress has passed a number of bankruptcy laws. Here are the key types:

 

Chapter 7

This is the type of bankruptcy proceeding that allows certain qualifying individuals to eliminate most of their unsecured debts (those without mortgages) and to make a fresh financial start.

In order to qualify for Chapter 7, a person cannot have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the prior eight years. The person filing, known as a debtor, must also pass a test which limits how much earned income the debtor had earned in the prior year. This is called the means test, and it varies based on the state in which the debtor resides, the number of dependents in the family, and whether there is any earned income generated by the debtor’s spouse.

For example, for a Massachusetts resident, the limitation is $67,119 for a single person, $84,125 for a couple (combined gross income), and then increases in different amounts for additional dependents. These limitations became effective as of April 1, 2020 and are subject to periodic adjustment. Similarly, in Connecticut, the individual cutoff is $66,689, and $88,594 for a couple.

Michael B. Katz

Michael B. Katz

In these precarious times, individuals and businesses are finding themselves in dire financial circumstances they could not have foreseen, nor done anything to prevent. Given their predicament, some might be looking at bankruptcy as a possible recourse.

While most unsecured debts can be eliminated in Chapter 7, there are some types of debts that cannot, including income taxes owed from the past three years, alimony and child support, student loans, and debts incurred due to an accident while driving under the influence. 

One of the major benefits of Chapter 7 for an individual obtaining a discharge is that not only are the debts — such as most credit cards, personal loans, foreclosure and repossession deficiency balances, and medical bills — totally wiped out, they are eliminated without incurring any phantom income, on which both federal and state income taxes would be owed.

Compare this to either making a direct settlement with a lender or credit-card company, or going through a non-judicial, multi-year debt-settlement plan, where anything that is settled with the creditors results in the person receiving a 1099 from the creditor and having to pay taxes on the forgiven portion of the debts. In Chapter 7, Congress has decreed that all discharged debts are tax-free, and therefore no hidden taxes are incurred.

The key aspect of Chapter 7 is that the Bankruptcy Court is trying to help an honest debtor make a fresh financial start. In regard to secured debts — for example, those debts that are secured by a lien or mortgage, most often vehicle loans or a home mortgage — in Chapter 7, the debtor gets to select whether they wish to keep the item and continue making the payments, or to surrender the item and wipe out any shortfall amount that might exist after the secured party sells the item after repossession or foreclosure sale.

While a corporate entity can also elect to file Chapter 7 and have the Bankruptcy Court liquidate its assets and distribute the proceeds to its creditors, it does not get to carry on its business affairs after filing. Only an individual qualifies for a discharge, so a corporate entity must cease all business after it files Chapter 7.

 

Chapter 13

In this type of proceeding, an individual is given an option to repay all or a portion of the debt, if approved by the Bankruptcy Court and Chapter 13 trustee, through a plan of reorganization that generally lasts for a period of three to no more than five years. There is no need to pass the means test to qualify for Chapter 13, and, unlike the restrictions in Chapter 7 that allow it to include only unsecured debts, Chapter 13 can also affect secured debts.

The most common application in Chapter 13 is to use it to stop a foreclosure sale of a debtor’s home or automobile, and it allows the debtor to pay the outstanding past-due amounts over the life of the plan, in addition to requiring the debtor to make the full current payment each month. 

For example, if a lender is owed $60,000 in back mortgage payments, requiring the borrower to pay it in full in order to prevent a foreclosure sale, in a Chapter 13, the debtor could propose to pay $1,000 per month for the 60 months of its Chapter 13 plan, plus pay the current mortgage amount each month so that debtor does not fall further behind. 

These are simplified examples, and the details of a Chapter 13 plan are more complex and would require you to consult with a qualified attorney for more specific advice.

 

Chapter 11

A Chapter 11 reorganization can be filed by an individual who owns a business and operates as a ‘DBA,’ but due to its complexity and expense, it is most often filed by a corporate entity.

The idea of a Chapter 11 is to grant the business a ‘time out’ and give it some element of time to figure out a plan of reorganization to allow it to continue in business. Under 11 USC 362(d), all lawsuits and claims against the debtor’s business are enjoined from proceeding, and the debtor gets time to meet with its creditors and to seek to formulate a formal plan of reorganization.

That plan may propose to pay unsecured creditors a percentage on the dollar, which must be found to be a greater percentage than the creditors would receive in an immediate liquidation of the business and its assets. In some cases, mortgage debts can be reduced to the actual value of the assets that secure the mortgage, so that if the debtor owes a lender $750,000 on a building that can be proven to be worth only $500,000, the debtor can seek to ‘cram down’ the mortgage to a reduced amount of $500,000, and the additional $250,000 gets treated as an unsecured debt, and paid at the same percentage on the dollar as the other unsecured debts.

This is a very simplified version of a Chapter 11, as there are many other requirements that must be fulfilled by a Chapter 11 debtor, and the cases are necessarily complex and sometimes expensive. However, the overall savings to the debtor can be substantial, and they are often the key to a business’ survival.

The court in a Chapter 11 is seeking to be fair to both the debtor and its creditors, as well as preserving the jobs of the employees of a business.

 

Non-bankruptcy Alternatives

There are sometimes options for a business to consider without the need to file a formal insolvency proceeding. They require a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to know how to handle these matters, and they include utilization under Massachusetts state law of an assignment for the benefit of creditors, trust mortgage, or sometimes just using a skilled negotiator to try to convince creditors to accept an informal settlement of their debt, rather than forcing the debtor to use funds to pay for a formal bankruptcy proceeding, when those same funds could be paid toward a voluntary settlement with the creditors. 

In reality, these voluntary settlements are often difficult to finalize because you need to negotiate with multiple parties, who sometimes will not agree to the same terms. In a Chapter 11, the creditors are legally required to accept whatever settlement is approved by the bankruptcy judge, after a plan is voted on and approved by the Bankruptcy Court.

It is important that you not let your pride prevent you from finding the best and most effective solution for your personal or business cash-flow problems. You cannot make an informed decision until you know and understand all of your options, as well as the positives and negatives of each option.

During this pandemic, many fraudulent parties are preying on people, so make sure to do your homework to get the name of a qualified person to advise you or your business. Contact the Hampden County Bar Assoc. Lawyer Referral Service, call your accountant, or do a Google search to find an experienced person to help you or your business. 

Working together, we can all find ways get through these uncharted waters.

 

Michael Katz is the chairperson of the Bankruptcy & Creditors Rights department of the law firm Bacon Wilson, P.C., with offices in Springfield, Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, and Westfield; (413) 781-0560.

Business of Aging

Team Approach

By Mark Morris

the Bioness L200

This device, the Bioness L200, helps patients recovering from a brain injury to re-establish the use of their arms and hands.

In the U.S., 2.5 million adults and children sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year.

The Brain Injury Assoc. of America (BIAA) reports that more than 2 million of those injuries are treated in emergency departments, while approximately 50,000 result in death. Nearly 280,000 are admitted to hospitals, after which patients transition to inpatient rehabilitation, where the goal is to get back to their maximum level of function and independence.

But what’s involved in that rehabilitation process for brain injuries? It depends on the patient.

“Many people associate traumatic brain injuries with a younger population because they tend to engage in riskier behaviors. Older people who hit their heads from slips, trips, and falls are also susceptible to TBIs,” said Jennifer Blake, an occupational therapist with the inpatient program at Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital, adding, however, that anyone at any age can sustain a brain injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines TBI as a “disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.“

Traumatic brain injuries are evaluated on a spectrum, said Blake, noting that someone who experiences a concussion, also known as ‘mild traumatic brain injury,’ can usually return to normal with just limited therapy. On the other hand, people with moderate to severe brain injuries require medical care and more comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation. Often these patients need some level of supervision after discharge.

On occasion, someone may have a head injury and not immediately recognize it. For example, if a person is in a car accident and has a broken leg, that might get the primary treatment focus, Blake explained. Even after a CT scan, the brain injury may not initially show up. “It’s only after further investigation, when the person is having trouble concentrating or paying attention, that they discover the brain injury.”

“When they see their arm move and their hand open and close, it boosts their confidence and makes them feel more hopeful; you can see it in their faces.”

Because our brains are essential to all our physical and mental functions, therapists have found that taking a multi-disciplinary approach yields the best results in helping people recover from a brain injury. A team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists, supported by 24/7 care by medical staff such as nurses, doctors, and pharmacists, make sure all the patient’s needs are addressed.

“We meet once a week to make sure we are all on the same page,” said Julie Bugeau, an occupational therapist for Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts. “We have an open discussion to determine where the patient is in terms of therapy and function. We also ask questions outside of the therapy, such as, ‘how are they medically?’ ‘Are they eating well?’ We try to look at all the factors that can affect their rehab.”

What’s the Plan?

Blake said most admissions in the inpatient setting last only two weeks, so working as a team helps them determine the patient’s eventual discharge plan.

“By working together in an interdisciplinary team, we can figure out what’s working, what’s not, and make changes along the way.”

Blake said an individualized plan for rehabilitation is developed by therapists who work with patients in three key areas:

• The physical therapist studies a patient’s mobility: for example, how well they can get from one place to another, their balance, and how well their motor skills can function;

• The occupational therapist helps patients with self-care skills, such as eating, getting dressed, bathing, as well as tasks like cooking, cleaning, and managing medications; and

• The speech and language pathologist addresses higher levels of cognition, such as memory, attention, concentration, problem solving, and decision making. Sometimes the pathologist works with patients whose brain injury causes dysfunction in producing or understanding language.

Advancing technology offers therapists tools to aid in rehabilitation that were not available years ago. Bugeau discussed how devices such as the Bioness L300 and H200 help brain-injury patients regain the use of their legs and arms. The L300 attaches to the leg and, through electrical stimulation, can aid a person’s ability to walk.

“The idea is that, with repetition, those leg muscles will be able to move properly without the external stimulus,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the H200 helps re-establish the movement of arms and the grasping action of hands. Bugeau said using these devices results in positive responses from her patients.

help brain-injury patients

The Bioness L300 is used to help brain-injury patients regain their ability to walk through electrical stimulation.

“We’ll have patients who say, ‘my arm doesn’t work — I have a dead arm,’” she noted. “Then, when they see their arm move and their hand open and close, it boosts their confidence and makes them feel more hopeful; you can see it in their faces.”

By employing the different therapies, Bugeau went on, the hope is to maximize the patient’s abilities. But, she added, “while the therapy is important, rest is also an important part of the recovery.”

While many patients transition directly from inpatient to outpatient care, Bugeau said Encompass also offers a home-care component for those who are not yet ready to make the move.

“We will help patients settle into their home and continue training with them and their families to make sure they are safe and getting stronger,” she said. “It’s an option we recommend until the patient is ready to move into outpatient treatment.”

Blake added that the outpatient phase of care at Weldon involves working closely with families during outpatient therapy to help them manage that part of the process.

“Let’s say a patient is receiving all three therapies in an outpatient setting,” she explained. “We will try to schedule all of them on the same day to make it a little less overwhelming for the caretaker.”

Blake said it’s important for the injured person and their support group to understand that, when a person suffers a brain injury, it can be a difficult adjustment for everyone involved.

“You can’t see the residual impairments from a brain injury,” she said. “The person might experience a personality change, or a once-independent person may now need lots of assistance with daily life.”

That’s why Bugeau’s staff involves the patient’s family in training and education early in the process. She said the classes help the family understand how their loved one’s brain injury is progressing and how to properly handle behaviors that are out of the norm.

“We make sure to screen every patient with a brain injury for depression because it is a such a common symptom associated with brain injuries.”

Steady Improvement

While plenty of information and support are available for families, Bugeau said the trick is not to overdo it.

“We create a folder with specific, individualized information that is appropriate to the patient’s injury. We don’t want to overwhelm the family, but we want to make sure they have the information they need.”

Blake and Bugeau encourage families dealing with a brain-injured loved one to take advantage of the support groups available at their respective organizations. Weldon offers a faith-based group as well. Both therapists also cited the Brain Injury Assoc. of Massachusetts as a solid resource for families.

In all cases, the goal is helping patients with a brain injury get back to a maximum level of function and independence.

“It’s hard to say how much time each person needs,” Blake said. “And while things can change quickly or gradually, people do improve and get better.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Corporate Communications, Treasurer, and Owner, Rediker Software; Age 36; Education: George Washington University (BA)

A vital force in the success of Rediker Software, Anderlonis has helped increase international sales, increased brand awareness, developed the company’s social-media presence, and founded Rediker Cares, organizing and serving as the liaison for many volunteer events to benefit local nonprofits.

Amy Rediker Anderlonis

Amy Rediker Anderlonis    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, my dream job was to work for the United Nations. I used to think that, in order to make a difference in this world, I had to work for a large, international organization. However, I now know you can also make a big difference by simply being a leader in your own community, whether through work, volunteering, or both.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Balance. I wear many hats, not just at work, but also in my personal life. In addition to Rediker Software, I am a mom of two young children and a puppy, as well as a wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, and community volunteer. Through time management and prioritization, I try to fulfill all of my roles the best I can while still finding time for my own health and wellness. There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s impossible to get everything done. Often tasks aren’t completed, e-mails aren’t answered right away, and laundry goes unfolded — and that’s OK.

What do you do for fun? I love to find cool events in the area. There is so much to do in Western Massachusetts; you just have to look. My friends and I recently went to a fun wine-and-chocolate pairing at Black Birch Winery in Hatfield, and we are planning to attend a concert this summer at Tanglewood. My husband and I are big foodies, so we like to visit highly rated restaurants and attend specialty dinners. I also love to travel with my family and explore other parts of New England and the world.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I hope I am remembered for my work in our community — that I worked hard to improve it and make it a better place, and that I gave colleagues the opportunity to do so as well. I also hope to be remembered as a good friend and mentor who saw the best in people and helped them reach their own goals.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Finance & Operations, Palmer Public Schools; Age 37; Education: Elmira College (BS)

After losing her husband to cancer three years ago, this mother of two earned her business administrator’s license in 18 months and landed the open position overseeing finance and operations for Palmer’s school system. There, she has created a new budget process, helped balance a fiscally conservative budget to meet the needs of students, simplified benefits, and helped transform the central office into a 21st-century work environment, as well as creating a before- and after-school program for students in pre-K through grade 5. In addition, she coaches multiple youth sports, supports Rick’s Place, and teaches CCD at her church.

Amanda Babinski

Amanda Babinski

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? At the start of each day, I set out to be the best I can be in each role I play. I want my kids to get the best of me and my job to get the best of me. I always want to have my best foot forward. I am really proud of the fact that I was able to successfully enter into the business manager licensure program, complete the course, and obtain my license through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. My kids have been incredibly supportive of how busy mom has been, and always ‘help’ me with my homework. I have a strong work family as well and feel lucky to be a part of the Palmer schools family.

What are you passionate about? Public service. In every job I have held, I have served others, and I am always proud to do good work for other people. I am inspired by the underdog and always want to do my part to help everyone to be successful. For fun, I love spending time with my children. We like to be outside, playground hopping, shopping, or spending time with our extended family. Time spent with my family is the best stress reliever I can think of.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be my husband. He was an amazing man, who passed away in 2017 after a courageous battle with cancer. My children and I miss him every day, and I would love to have lunch with him to check in and see how he feels about all we have accomplished since he passed.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Partner, Bulkley Richardson; Age 37; Education: Colorado College (BA), Northeastern University School of Law (JD)

Barry’s law practice focuses on advising businesses, charitable organizations, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions on the legal issues that affect them.

Ryan Barry

Ryan Barry    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A ski bum. I accomplished that goal in my 20s, living in Crested Butte, Colorado, skiing every day and working as a chef at night.

What do you do for fun? I love backcountry skiing, fly fishing and fly tying, cooking, reading, watching British mystery shows, and being outside with my family.

How do you relieve stress? My 3-year-old running full-speed into my arms for a hug is the best stress reliever I know. A long walk or ski in the woods does the trick, too.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Some of my favorite spots include Mt. Greylock, Mt. Tom, the Deerfield and Westfield rivers, and the bike paths, playgrounds, breweries, and restaurants in my hometown of Easthampton. I love the mix of nature and community here in Western Mass.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I at least aspire to be like Gus McCrae from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but is also the kind of person you can rely on when you’re in a tight spot. I also admire characters who react to hardship with good humor, like Sully in Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? John Adams. I recently finished David McCullough’s great biography of him. He lived an extraordinary and adventurous life and was a fearless and principled attorney. I’d love to hear his thoughts on modern-day America over lunch and a hard cider (which Adams apparently drank every day, including at breakfast).

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Even though he often plays bad guys, the late, great Alan Rickman.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? As John Cleese said at the funeral of one of his fellow Monty Python members, “Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.” Hopefully, my colleagues will also be saying it just for shock value, but only time will tell.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

CEO, Dreamscape Designs Landscaping/Rent A Tent; Age 27

At age 13, Basile started his first company, Rent A Tent, which is a party-equipment rental company he still owns and operate today. At 17, he started a second company, Dreamscape Designs Landscaping, and continues to grow that enterprise today as well.

Marco Basile

Marco Basile  Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Passionate, driven, dependable.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Over the past 10 years, I have grown Dreamscape Designs Landscaping from a one-man operation to a company that has multiple crews servicing hundreds of commercial and residential clients weekly.

What are you passionate about? Being the best version of myself and helping the people around me succeed. I am also passionate about inspiring youth, and as the head coach of the East Longmeadow High School wrestling team, I am able to change the mindset of so many.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Every night, I create a checklist of things that I need to do the next day. My goal each day is to complete that checklist.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? As a small-business owner, it is important to support other local businesses. I have a lot of family and friends who own many great local restaurants; it’s hard to list them all. If I had to choose one place I really enjoying spending time at, it would be Nathan Bill’s. I admire how they are always giving back, and I feel good about spending my hard-earned money at places where I know that they will pay it forward.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I’ll admit I had to get a little help on this one, so I asked a friend. He said, “Marco is someone you can truly count on. He is someone who genuinely has your back and would do anything for a friend while expecting nothing in return. Marco is also one of the most hardworking people I have ever met. He is always going above and beyond in everything he does.”

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Elon Musk. I love his optimism — we both see the world as a place where nothing is impossible.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Program Development, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke; Age 33; Education: Skidmore College (BA); New York University (MBA)

As a child, Bevan spent plenty of time at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, crediting it with helping him reach his full potential. Today, he oversees the club’s annual $1.6 million programming budget and helps supervise three full-time staff, 35 part-time support staff, and 200 volunteers.

Conor Bevan

Conor Bevan

What did you want to be when you grew up? For as long as I can remember, I wanted to give back to the community that invested so much in me. Outside of school, I spent my days as a kid walking back and forth between the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke and the Greater Holyoke YMCA, participating in various sports in the city and learning the impact of volunteerism. Along my journey, I built lasting relationships and developed valuable character-development traits. Whether it was a teacher, coach, out-of-school-time program, or mentor, each day I was given a new tool to grow into a productive, caring, and responsible adult. I came to realize that I will never be able to truly pay it forward, but I will try my best to do so. My passion for community development and volunteerism translated into a dedication to connecting people to resources. Looking back now, I am doing the exact work I dreamed of when I was a kid.

What do you do for fun? In my free time, you will find me in love with being a husband and father while enjoying the beautiful outdoors of Western Massachusetts. Whether it’s hikes in the Berkshires, listening to music at Tanglewood, cookouts at Mt. Tom, or running around Ashley Reservoir, my family and I love spending as much time as we can enjoying the fresh air.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My mom, Marlyn Bevan. I knew at a young age I was the luckiest person alive to have her in my life. She was my guiding north star for 28 years. She was a mother, teacher, coach, role model, and best friend. She taught me love, loyalty, compassion, respect, gratitude, resilience, and much more. One more lunch with my mom would be the gift of a lifetime. Outside of one more chance to gain endless wisdom, I would have another opportunity to thank her for making me the husband, father, and man I am today.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Area Retail Leader, KeyBank; Age 36; Education: Southern New Hampshire University

Carrasquillo joined KeyBank in 2018, taking over a branch at the bottom in performance and quickly driving that branch to the top of the company. A graduate of the bank’s fast-track program, he now mentors many KeyBank employees.

Julio Carrasquillo III

Julio Carrasquillo III   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Leading a team of 11 great branch managers who were once my peers, and helping them make a difference in the communities we serve by delivering financial wellness and impacting peoples lives. I’ve been in banking since 2005, holding every role from teller to personal banker to branch manager. It definitely helps me to have been in the place of so many of my colleagues and can relate to what they need to be successful. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in low- and moderate-income communities, and, having come from one, it’s been so gratifying and rewarding to help as many people as possible meet their goals with proper financial planning. Two years ago, I reassessed where I was as a leader. Helping more of my colleagues deliver sound financial advice to clients in the role of area retail leader was my target, and I executed that plan. Now I get to help other leaders grow and achieve their career goals.

Who inspires you, and why? My father inspires me. He’s had to work hard for everything he’s had, coming from very little in Puerto Rico. In his family life, he’s tireless in his pursuit of a respected and happy family legacy. In his spiritual life, he’s been the blue-collar, roll-up-his-sleeves, church deacon turned pastor. He takes on the challenges nobody else volunteers for, delivers great guidance and leadership, and is loved by the people in the congregations he’s ministered to. He’s developed a reputation of a ‘fixer,’ and I have done the same in my career. Making him proud is a daily thought for me.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Eating and drinking! Whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat at Lattitude, the Federal, or Big Mamou’s or a cigar at Cigar Room 2 and brewery hopping, there’s such a rich and diverse culture in Western Mass. that you could never do the same thing twice and still have a great time.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Julio helped me help my clients, and we had a ton of fun doing so!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Owner, F45 Training Hampshire Meadows and F45 Training Riverdale; Assistant Business Agent/HSMO, Local 455/FirstLight Power; Age 35

After completing an eight-year millwright apprenticeship program through Local 1121 out of Boston, Deane quickly rose to the top of the ranks, ultimately managing crews of 60-plus as a keyman for APM and General Electric, then serving as a superintendent on several high-stakes outages throughout the country. In 2013, he accepted a position closer to home and joined IBEW Local 455 as an in-house mechanical maintenance operator with FirstLight Power, where he oversees all maintenance projects and control of the power plant’s three hydro stations and 11 generators, and has since become assistant business agent for Local 455. He later launched a franchise of F45 Training in Hadley, where he oversees 14 employees, and is opening a second franchise in West Springfield.

Danny Deane

Danny Deane

What three words best describe you? Positive, motivated, dad.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Navigating my side business from a single startup to two remunerative, life-changing fitness companies while simultaneously maintaining a full-time career, negotiating a CBA for my union peers, and raising three kids under 5.

What are you passionate about? Positivity and fun. I approach every situation, each day, with a positive attitude. Making sure everyone in the room has a smile on their face is paramount to me. I literally sing the chorus of “Live Like You Were Dying” to my children every night before bed.

Who inspires you, and why? My wife, Jessye. She sets out every day with the intention to make the world a better place. She is the kindest person I know and my most trusted advisor. She inspires me every day to work harder, be more thoughtful, and polish my sense of humor so I can stay funnier than she is.

How do you relieve stress? Exercising, working overtime, and enjoying craft beer — pretty much in that order.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? A Saturday-morning Hollywood session at F45 Training. It’s a party with a lot of sweat, a DJ, and a bunch of amazing people who have become like family.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to sit at a table for three with Nikola Tesla and Post Malone. I am fascinated by the knowledge and innovation that an individual could have inside one mind. Plus, Tesla would be cool to meet, too.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

General Manager, Ernie’s Towing; Age 37

Fournier joined the family business, Wayside Auto, and its towing and recovery division, Ernie’s Towing, straight out of high school. Starting as an operator, he worked his way up through the ranks, eventually taking over management of that division. He opened a second location in Amherst in 2009, creating new jobs in a down economy. Now a standalone entity owned by Fournier, Ernie’s Towing continues to operate two locations with 35 employees. He has continued to grow the company, expanding its services to include becoming a premier AAA provider, entering into the long-distance transportation service, and securing more than a half-dozen local and state agency emergency contracts. With the Massachusetts Statewide Towing Assoc., Fournier has served as Western Massachusetts director for more than 10 years and sits on its legislative steering committee, aiming to professionalize and standardize the towing and recovery industry while advocating for the safety and well-being of consumers and industry professionals. He was vital in passing the Slow Down Move Over Law in Massachusetts, making police, firefighters, paramedics, tow-truck operators, and roadside emergency and maintenance professionals safer on the job.

Brian Fournier

Brian Fournier

What did you want to be when you grew up? Law enforcement.

What three words best describe you? Determined, thoughtful, honest.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Expanding the business from a small, six-employee company to more than 35 employees today.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To better improve my business while also keeping my employees safe.

What are you passionate about? Family.

Who inspires you, and why? My father. He is my biggest role model. He is a hardworking and very smart businessman.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy traveling, snowmobiling, and also spending time on the UTV with family and friends.

How do you relieve stress? Spending time outdoors with my family.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? He was a great leader and a thoughtful and helpful person, always concerned about his employees and leading by example.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

President, Unify Against Bullying; Age 39; Education: Westfield State University (BA)

An assistant store manager for Kohl’s with a heart for the community, Goff has long organized volunteer opportunities for the Kohl’s Cares program. This work began 17 years ago when she started with the company as a sales associate, and she was soon recognized as a top volunteer. She has since taken charge of coordinating events — and attending many of them outside her work hours — and has been recognized as the Volunteer Champion for organizing the most volunteer opportunities in her store’s region. Meanwhile, she found a specific organization that focused on an issue near to her heart, and began working with Unify Against Bullying four years ago. During her time with this organization, she has been a volunteer coordinator and part of the fashion show committee, one of Unify’s biggest fundraising events. Seeing the impact this organization was having on today’s youth, Goff chose to get more involved, serving as board secretary and recently being named board president, a role through which her vision will help lead this organization into the future. Goff’s passion for volunteering has spread to her family and friends. She and her husband, Jeremy, are founding members of the Red Thread Network (formerly Terriers Around Town), an organization that increases art opportunities for the West Springfield community and surrounding areas. Many of her family members and friends have attended and volunteered at events, most notably the Unify Against Bullying fashion show and Red Thread Network’s Yuletree Jubilee.

Sarah Goff

Sarah Goff    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Passionate, determined, caring.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Becoming the president of Unify Against Bullying.

What are you passionate about? Family and friends, and anti-bullying initiatives.

Who inspires you, and why? The Unify Against Bullying family. They are an amazing group of individuals who truly believe what makes everyone unique is what makes them amazing people.

What do you do for fun? Disney World is my happy place. When I’m not going to Disney, I make sure to have a little bit of Disney in my daily life.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Walt Disney, of course. Walt never gave up on his dreams, and he inspired those who worked with him to be more than they ever knew they were capable of.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

President, R.J. Greeley Co. Inc.; Age 39; Education: Saint Michael’s College (BA)

Over the past 15 years, Greeley has represented many local and national corporations with their real-estate needs, and now leads the company his father founded more than 35 years ago.

Brendan Greeley

Brendan Greeley   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

 

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a rock star. I sang in a band with a group of friends from high school for years. Now I settle for an occasional karaoke, but I’d love to do it again someday.

What three words best describe you? Ready, thoughtful, steadfast.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I could mention a big deal I helped put together or how I helped someone who really needed it, but in general, I would say my biggest professional accomplishment is all the friends I have made along the way. For me, my personal life blends together with my professional life, which makes it easy to go to ‘work.’

What are you passionate about? Finding balance. While it’s really important for me to put 100% into work, it’s even more important to put 100% into living. So how do I put everything into everything? Passion. Passion for life is the superpower necessary to output more than 100% to satisfy the demands of finding success and living a purposeful life.

How do you relieve stress? I joined a hockey team and became a hockey goalie at age 36. I was on sports teams my whole life until things started to get in the way of being able to participate, like work and family. Nothing relieves stress for me quite like being competitive and celebrating victory.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? I’m originally from Amherst, and there’s a short hike I used to do up in Sunderland on Mount Toby that leads up to a fire tower. It’s a place I’ve gone for many, many years. It’s a place I’ve frequented with many friends and family, and it’s always a peaceful place for me.

Who inspires you, and why? I’m most inspired by my children. My wife, Amy, and I have two boys, and I’m eager to show them the world. They inspire me to work hard, to be active with them, to teach them fun things, and to be the best role model I can be for them, like my parents and grandparents have been for me. They make life really fun.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Assistant Vice President, Regional Manager, PeoplesBank; Age 38; Education: New England College of Business and Finance (BS)

Not only does Guzie oversee the growth and development of four banking centers in North Central Connecticut — most recently helping bring together the corporate cultures of PeoplesBank and First National Bank of Suffield after a merger — but she also volunteers 20 hours a week with Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Assoc. as an EMT.

Jacquelyn Guzie

Jacquelyn Guzie

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a little girl, I loved babies. Any chance I got to interact with a baby, I took it. This prompted my dream job — to be an obstetrician. Later in life, I found banking was better suited for me.

What three words best describe you? Fun, selfless, passionate.

What are you passionate about? My absolute passion is my volunteerism as an emergency medical technician. It is extremely rewarding to know I can be on the front line, saving lives in an emergency situation.

Who inspires you, and why? My mother. My mom has raised me to believe that you can achieve whatever you desire and overcome any challenge that you want to take on. I have lived by this rule throughout my life as one of the best lessons learned.

What do you do for fun? Being a mom! The most fun I have in life is spent with my 4-year-old daughter, whether it is doing crafts or playing hide and seek or simply just cuddling on the couch watching Lady and the Tramp — five times in a row!

How do you relieve stress? Taking ‘me’ time at the nail or hair salon or an appointment with my massage therapist, Mary.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Obviously, who doesn’t love a good time at the new MGM?

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would give anything to be able to have lunch with my grandfather today. He passed six years ago, and I would love to just talk to him about my accomplishments in life and mostly to have him meet my daughter — he would love her.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Well, hopefully they will say that I have impacted their life in a good way along the journey.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

CEO, HitPoint Inc.; Age 37; Education: UMass Amherst (BDIC)

Not only does Hake lead HitPoint, one of the largest independent game studios in New England, with offices in Greenfield and Los Angeles and a business team in Scotland, he’s also CEO of LuckyPoint Inc., a gaming platform company; co-founded the Another Castle workspace in Greenfield; and has developed games for Disney, Ellen DeGeneres, Niantic, EA, Microsoft, Hasbro, and many others.

Paul Hake

What did you want to be when you grew up? Having an entrepreneurial mother who ran a successful business and a computer-programming father who taught me coding at a young age, it was almost inevitiable I would end up where I am. In junior high, I was already contemplating starting my own company. I knew my business was going to be something computer-related, and, in eighth grade, I started a computer-repair business and got my first taste of running a business. Admittedly, I had a lot of support from my parents in this venture, mostly around driving me to the homes of clients. The decision to run a software company dawned on me after being stumped on too many hardware-related repair problems. Around the same time, we started getting PC games at our house (no consoles were allowed in the house), including Myst and Civilization. That’s pretty much when I decided I’d start a game studio after college.

What three words best describe you? Grit, high-energy, hangry.

How do you relieve stress? For me, there is nothing like going for a long run or bike ride to reset my thinking, reduce stress, and feel refreshed. In addition to reducing stress, some of my most creative thinking happens out on the road.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? There are so many fantastic places to have fun in Western Mass., it’s not possible for me to pick a favorite. However, some of my favorite places to go with my wife, Kim, and our two kids include the People’s Pint, the front porch at Magpie, and hanging out at one of the many swimming holes on the Green River.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. There are many reasons I feel like I relate to Lemon, though moreso in her work life than personal life (for example, I haven’t slept with James Franco). But we’re both running creative entities, working more than we should, loving cheese, and really just trying to have it all.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Patient Experience Manager, Baystate Health Inc.; Age 28; Education: Springfield College (BS); Columbia University (MPH)

Healey leads a team of patient-experience specialists across the entire Baystate Health system, providing leadership and guidance for directors and managers, addressing both barriers to care and best practices, and supporting staff development through coaching, mentoring, and leading by example, among other roles.

Kristina Healey

Kristina Healey

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a ballerina. I grew up dancing at the Hackworth School of Performing Arts (HSPA), and, being the daughter of a dance teacher, I shared that passion for dancing and performing with my mom. Even though I didn’t become a professional ballerina, I am continuing to share my love of dance as a member of the faculty at HSPA, as well as being an adjudicator at dance competitions across the Northeast.

What three words best describe you? Passionate, kind, determined.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I am a Disney fan through and through. Sure, the movies and theme parks are amazing, but it all started because of one man’s dream. Walt Disney was not only a visionary leader, but he inspired people across generations to believe and accomplish the impossible. I’ve read so much about him over the years, but I still have so many questions to ask him about his leadership strategies and his pride in the accomplishments of the Walt Disney Company since his passing.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? If you asked me this question when I was a kid, the answer would have been Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Why? Because she’s a mermaid, duh. Now, as an adult, I relate most to Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. She is a hardworking woman with big goals, a vision, and a supportive family by her side. What’s even more relatable for me is that Tiana also lost her dad at a young age, and her desire to make him proud fueled her passion for becoming a girl boss. She didn’t let any excuses or barriers stop her from accomplishing her goals, and ultimately she persevered.

Who inspires you, and why? A lot of people in this world inspire me. My family, my dad, my husband, the patients and employees of Baystate Health, my dance students and colleagues — they all inspire me every day to be the best version of myself.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Clinic Director, Center for Human Development; Age 36; Education: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (BA), Springfield College (MSW)

Hicks has immersed herself into the communities she serves. She saw firsthand the destruction the opioid crisis brought to the region and has kept the Center for Human Development (CHD) on the front lines of that fight for the last five years. As a member of various prevention and solution initiatives, she contributes a wealth of knowledge and advocacy to various coalitions throughout the western part of the state. As a licensed independent clinical social worker, certified as a dialectical behavior therapist and a recovery coach supervisor, she oversees and supervises large clinical operations at CHD’s Easthampton Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic and the Greenfield Center for Wellness, and is also the director of the agency’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy Clinical Internship Program — a program she designed to create an opportunity for the next generation of master’s-level social workers to enter the field trained in what’s considered a cutting-edge, evidence-based practice. She also leads dialectical behavior therapy groups for adolescent girls and adult women in the community who are struggling with maladaptive behaviors. Hicks also helped launch CHD’s integrated behavioral-health and wellness center in Greenfield, acting as the liaison between CHD and the Community Health Center of Franklin County to ensure that the most vulnerable people in that community are cared for. Her leadership has helped create a unique setting that co-locates primary, dental, and mental healthcare, removing barriers to care and providing a welcoming setting to all who enter.

Shannon Hicks

Shannon Hicks     Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to have a job where, if people came to me for help, I could help. I was unsure of what that job would be, exactly, but that passion and desire led me in the direction of social work.

What three words best describe you? Motivated, loyal, compassionate.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? The development of the outpatient clinics I oversee in both Franklin and Hampshire counties.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To do the best I can.

What are you passionate about? My family and providing support to those who are in need.

Who inspires you, and why? My two children and my husband, because they are the reason I do what I do.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? That I was dedicated to the work we do and always there for them.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Senior Project Manager, Tighe & Bond; Age 37; Education: Springfield Technical Community College (AS); Central Connecticut State University (BS)

Since starting with Tighe & Bond in 2007, Holmes has worked with a diverse team of engineers to develop solutions for wastewater, drinking water, transportation, and site projects. In 2019, he successfully managed seven construction projects throughout the state with a total construction value of nearly $11 million.

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

What did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t want to be a civil engineer. As a youngster, I was really focused on sports and aspired to build a career in a sports-related field. In seventh or eighth grade, I recall our school hosting a career fair. Essentially, parents of students would talk with different classes about their careers. One of the speakers was a civil engineer, so I attended. The speaker talked about drain pipes, rain events, and how to convey water, which was all quite boring at the time. I walked out of the room very confident I would never be a civil engineer. In high school, I took a drafting class, where I was introduced to hand drafting and the early stages of computer-aided drafting. I enjoyed that class and decided to sign up for an architectural certificate program at Springfield Technical Community College. I quickly learned I wasn’t going to be an architect, but I enjoyed many of the civil-engineering-related classes and transferred to the civil engineering program. The rest is history.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Survive. As long as I meet that goal daily, then I’ve given myself the opportunity to achieve my ambitions.

How do you relieve stress? Fishing. It’s an activity that puts me in a good place mentally. Spending the day with my son on the Connecticut River fishing for stripers during their spring migration eliminates all my stress.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy spending as much time with my family as I can. I coach multiple sports teams for both my children, which is fun and rewarding. It has allowed me to develop a deep bond with them and watch them grow as athletes and little humans. I also have fun when we travel and explore different places as a family. The memories and experiences gained while traveling have been amazing and are irreplaceable.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? We will miss waiting for him to review those documents.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Principal, Veterans Park School, Ludlow; Age 37; Education: St. Michael’s College (BA), Springfield College (MA), American International College (CAGS)

Among her many achievements, Knowles has developed standards for academic achievement, incorporated more arts into the curriculum, developed mentoring programs for students, and introduced Grow the Good, a program in which students and staff perform acts of kindness for Ludlow residents.

Melissa Knowles

Melissa Knowles

What did you want to be when you grew up? Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to force my younger brother to play school at home when we were kids. I would write on the chalkboard and take every opportunity to take charge and tell him what to do. And I always loved school supplies! When I was about 11, I started my own birthday-party business with a friend, and we would plan games and activities at birthday parties. It was my first experience actually leading a group of children, and I never stopped after that.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being awarded the job as principal at 28 years old. Although I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave the classroom so soon, I have no regrets and am proud of all I have accomplished with my staff and students in my nine years as principal.

What do you do for fun? As the mother of two very happy and excitable boys, most of my fun revolves around spending time with them. I enjoy watching my oldest play sports, spending time outside, going on adventures or getaways with my husband and kids, and getting together with family and friends. I also appreciate when I can sneak some time on my own to shop, especially at Target or HomeGoods.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Hopefully they will say I was a leader and role model, that I was passionate about kids and education, and that I had a big heart and put everything I had into everything I did. I hope they will say I was creative and had an ability to think outside the box, not afraid to take risks, but willing to try something new or innovative — and always encouraged others to do the same. I hope they will say I was kind and compassionate and valued each and every person for who they are, that I showed everyone respect, regardless if we always agreed, and that I truly was so proud of everything we accomplished together.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Economic Development, 1Berkshire; Age 34; Education: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (BA), the College of Saint Rose (M.Ed.), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Ph.D.)

Lamb’s work focuses on what he calls ‘wraparound economic development,’ which creates connective tissue between traditional and non-traditional participants in the region’s economic ecosystem — most notably through his development and launch of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, an economic-development imperative for the region’s next decade.

Benjamin Lamb

Benjamin Lamb       Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A rock collector.

What three words best describe you? Eclectic, dad, caffeine.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Get it done.

Who inspires you, and why? My two-and-a-half-year-old son. His passion for things he loves, his intense focus when he is learning something new, and his celebration of success make me see how even small actions and achievements can have meaningful impacts and reasons to be excited.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I’m torn between Nikola Tesla and Bill Nye. Nikola’s mind was so incredible that I would just want to glean from his brilliance. Bill Nye has inspired me since I was a child watching PBS. He made science and learning digestible, regardless of age, and has continued to be someone I deeply admire.

What do you do for fun? Find new and funky ways to celebrate the city I live in and the community I surround myself with.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? I just love getting outdoors with my family, even if it’s just in the backyard. It helps to remind me of the quality of life I get to enjoy in the Berkshires and the value of our natural surroundings here.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She somehow fits 25 hours into the day, has a deep and unmatched love for her community and work, and is obnoxiously positive in her outlook 90% of the time. I think most who know me would recognize those qualities in what they experience with me.

How do you relieve stress? Gardening.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Who’s going to water his plants?

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Chief Technical Officer, MachineMetrics; Age 35; Education: UMass Amherst (BS)

As a co-founder of MachineMetrics, Lauzier has helped build a successful startup in Western Mass. that now employs more than 50 people. MachineMetrics has received multiple awards, including from Forbes, and its Boston office was named a top-100 place to work in Boston. Lauzier has led and grown the largest team in the company and built an award-winning product that has been recognized globally as Smart Manufacturing’s Industrial IoT Product of the Year. Active outside of work as well, Lauzier is involved with Northampton Young Professionals, Hack for Western Mass., and MTConnect’s Tag Committee, where he helped develop open specifications for his industry.

Jacob Lauzier

Jacob Lauzier            Photo by Chattman Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to build Legos. I got my wish — but my Legos are zeros and ones.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about building experiences. For a long time, I was passionate about building software and the experiences that users have with interacting with that software, from the flow that they go through to make their lives easier to the joy they had with how the pixels were laid out on the screen. Now, I’m passionate about working with others to build a successful team that creates those experiences for our customers.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t say Steve Jobs. He was an incredibly flawed character — someone who didn’t actually build any of the technology that he’s credited for, and a person that often led through fear in ways that go against my core values. But he did inspire legions of people to design a new future, and I can’t take that away. He did this through storytelling, and I would love to just listen.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Community Outreach Coordinator, Berkshire Commuity College; Age 35; Education: Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo, Ecuador (BA)

Ruiz Leon’s job is multi-faceted, to say the least. Among her myriad roles, she conducts recruitment initiatives in the community and helps underserved populations — such as international, ESOL, and immigrant students, students of color, students with disabilities, and veterans — access a college education, while developing programming to recruit, retain, and promote the success of these populations. She also assists with Admissions Office enrollment efforts, processes visa requirements, and administers financial programs and benefits that these students can utilize. Meanwhile, her community involvement goes well beyond BCC; for instance, she has been involved with Berkshire Immigrant Stories at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and also serves as a mentor in the Rites of Passage and Empowerment program in Pittsfield, which celebrates and honors the entry of adolescent girls into womanhood and provides them with skills and knowledge they need to be successful, independent, and responsible women. She also co-chairs the steering committee for the 1Berkshire Youth Leadership Program, administering the leadership-development and career-exploration program to a new class each year.

Karen Ruiz León

Karen Ruiz León    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? Wonder Woman.

What three words best describe you? Loyal, funny, hungry.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being there for my students and witnessing the transformational power education brings to the lives of the people we serve.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? It starts with asking myself how can I be of service in someone’s life, whether it’s helping a student, a friend, or a co-worker. At the end of the day, having a positive impact on people’s lives is so rewarding.

What are you passionate about? Social justice and equity.

Who inspires you, and why? My parents. They worked and continue working hard to provide me and my brother everything we needed to thrive, especially an education that will afford us better careers.

What do you do for fun? Karaoke.

How do you relieve stress? Snuggling with my kitty.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Anywhere with my Massachusetts family — wherever they are, there is always laughter, joy, and food!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Financial Advisor, Pioneer Valley Financial Group; Age 36; Education: Westfield State University

Since joining PV Financial Group in 2013, Leonczyk has grown his book of business by 150%, and is now responsible for 16% of the firm’s total revenue, while finding time to volunteer with organizations like the Ludlow CARES Coalition and Junior Achievement.

Peter Leonczyk

Peter Leonczyk

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always dreamed of becoming an environmental police officer. My parents instilled in me a deep appreciation for the outdoors very early on. From camping throughout New England to fishing in every body of water I could find, I’ve always felt a duty to protect and preserve the environment. As I grew up, my desire to connect and serve with my community and interest in economics and finance led me down the path of becoming a financial advisor. My desire today is to instill in my children that same love of the outdoors and serving others, creating special memories that impact the individuals they grow up to become.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about serving my community because I care deeply for everyone in it. Coaching youth football is just another example of how my past and present interests have converged. It comes naturally for me to build strong connections with friends, community members, teammates, and clients because I’m interested in their lives and their families; I’m fueled by their stories, passions, hopes, and dreams.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I’m passionate, slightly dramatic, and I know how to deliver a good one-liner. I make friends easily, and I’m as sappy as I am sarcastic. I’m deeply committed to my family, my friends, and all the people I’ve met throughout my life.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I think about my grandfathers a lot. My mother’s father was an Air Force pilot in World War II and a helicopter pilot in the Korean War. He instilled in our family a deep respect and admiration for giving back through his 30 years of military service. My mother speaks to his honor and integrity, passing down the belief system that you should always do the right thing even when no one is watching. My father’s father served in the Navy and went on to become a master electrician. I would be honored to sit across from these men and learn more about the experiences that shaped them.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Head of Financial Insights, MassMutual; Age 34; Education: College of the Holy Cross (BA); Boston University (MBA)

As part of the Corporate Finance team, Lipke has worked to help MassMutual serve more Americans by designing a solution for Main Street investors to gain access to private equity, and has spoken in Washington on ways to expand investment access to private assets. Among his community efforts, he volunteers at Friends of Children Inc., mentoring a young adult transitioning out of the foster-care system.

Dave Lipke

Dave Lipke

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up, I never could decide what I wanted to be. I often thought of being an architect, to design new buildings, or an engineer, to build new cars, or an entrepreneur, to launch new products. When I applied for colleges, I mostly applied to liberal-arts colleges, so I could take a variety of classes. In fact, I wrote in my college admission essay that, if I could live at any time in history other than today, that I would choose the Renaissance, so that there would not be such pressure to specialize in any one particular field of study.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? When I want to relax, I often read a thriller, which is one of the few things that helps me to unplug. When I am looking for inspiration, however, I usually pick up a biography, where I can learn about people who have accomplished amazing things in very different walks of life. Some of my favorites include Steve Jobs and Unbroken. While I haven’t found the solution yet, I am passionate about helping to revitalize the economy of Western Mass. Our kids are young — only 2 and 4 — but when they graduate from college, I want the Pioneer Valley to be an area they can return to without giving up any of their dreams. Hopefully we can celebrate their college graduation at the Student Prince, one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? I would choose Daniel Craig. I work in finance — not the emergency room or statecraft — so picking the leading actor from the James Bond series would infuse some excitement into the story. While I have done nothing to deserve a movie about me, I hope it would portray someone who led change or development of an innovation that made a difference in people’s lives.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Big Y Foods Inc.; Age 36; Education: Holyoke Community College (ABA), UMass Amherst (BS)

As the face of Big Y’s nutrition outreach programs, Luttrell takes on myriad roles in the chain, such as participating in more than 25 community presentations each year — in settings like libraries, schools, senior centers, and cancer-survivorship meetings — where she reaches more than 5,000 people with positive nutrition and lifestyle messaging. She also writes food and nutrition columns for local media, helped create Big Y’s Kids’ Fruit Club, which provides kids with a free piece of fruit while shopping with an adult, and has expanded community partnerships with regional wellness organizations.

Andrea Luttrell

Andrea Luttrell   

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I’ve always been introverted and would rather be working behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. However, working with Big Y has enabled me to push beyond my comfort levels to become confident in myself, whether in front of a camera doing a media interview or speaking to a large group during a community presentation. This personal and professional accomplishment has helped me become the registered dietitian I am today — and I think my story can help inspire others that, with hard work and determination, anything is possible. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing!

How do you relieve stress? My favorite way to decompress is through baking. There is something calming about it, and I love experimenting with new recipes. Then, I also get to share what I’m making with family and friends — and that brings me a sense of happiness as well. Besides baking, I center myself through reading or simply getting away in nature. You’ll find me taking walks with my boys, spending time at our camp, or out in a kayak. Most recently, I started knitting with a group of girlfriends. This is proving to be a great way to relieve stress.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? If I could pick one person, it would by my memere, Yolande Croteau. I was extremely close to my grandmother, and she always believed I would be accepted into a dietetic internship program, which is something that is extremely competitive but also necessary in order to become a registered dietitian. She passed away before I was able to share the news that I did get into my first-choice program, and she would have been so incredibly proud. I would love for her to see where I am today.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Deli and Bakeshop Regional Sales Lead, Stop and Shop; Age 38; Education: Holyoke Community College (AS)

Lynch has worked for Stop and Shop since 1998, starting in high school as a bagger and working his way up to his current role as Deli and Bakeshop sales lead for 138 stores in the Central Region. In 2015, he was recognized as Specialist of the Year, an award Stop and Shop gives annually to a single individual who leads and develops teams and drives sales through detailed planning and execution strategies. In 2019, Lynch was elected to the Easthampton City Council, where he serves on the finance and appointment committees. In short, he’s passionate about ensuring financial rigor and sound fiscal decision making in both his career and as a councilor. Active in the community, he has been a committed volunteer with the Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and Road Race committee since 2015, and he sits on the Easthampton Media board of directors, helping to guide the direction of public-access television locally. Lynch is also actively involved in Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA, and he often volunteers for his city’s Parks and Recreation department.

William Lynch IV

William Lynch IV

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an actor, and my dream was Saturday Night Live. Acting has helped me adjust to any situation, think creatively, and adjust at a moment’s notice.

What are you passionate about? I’m extremely passionate around music. I love going to live concerts and watching talented musicians share their craft. I have a lot of friends in the industry, and seeing them play live and create music helps fuel my passion.

What do you do for fun? When it rains, I play with my kids and build Lego creations. If it is nice outside, I enjoy geocaching in the woods.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? I feel I would be played by Chris Pratt. He is very versatile and has taken on many different styles of characters in his career. I feel he would capture the range of roles I take on in life, from silly dad to business manager to city councilor. He could hit the full spectrum of those characters well.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Residential Dining Operations, UMass Dining; Age 35; Education: Western New England University (BS)

A key part of the region’s university dining scene for the past decade, Mankus spent six years at UMass Amherst before successfully managing Westfield State University’s transition from Sodexo to self-operated. Three years later, he returned to UMass, where he oversees employee management and budgeting and conceptualizes creative and sustainable ideas for a dining program that generates 20,000 meals a day — and regularly ranks first in the nation in the Princeton Review. He’s also active in the community, running 5Ks to benefit various nonprofits as well as volunteering for groups like the Zoo in Forest Park and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Andrew Mankus

Andrew Mankus

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I actually set myself up for a successful day the evening before. I go through all e-mails, read them, and either close that task out for the day, or add to my to-do list for the following day. This gives me a fresh start in the morning and helps me stay productive throughout the day. Within my position at UMass, I set a goal for myself to interact with at least 50 team members and 50 students each day. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people on a daily basis.

What do you do for fun? I love to go on walks and hikes with my wife and dogs. In the warmer months, I love to go on a bike ride to the local brewery scene here in Western Mass. I am a foodie at heart and love to experience the great local food scene we have in our area as well.

How do you relieve stress? Any workout is a great way for me to relieve stress. I also enjoy getting outside when the weather is nice to play a round of golf or recreational softball. During the colder months, a competitive game night with friends can really take my mind off stressful situations, even though I am known to be highly competitive.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Bruce Banner/the Hulk. Friends, family, and collegues would agree. I didn’t have any gamma radiation exposure or anything. I don’t think any further explanation is needed.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? For no other reason than my wife would insist on it … Robert Downey Jr., but as Tony Stark. I’ll go with it.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Owner and Head of Strength and Conditioning, Train for Life Inc. Age 34; Education: UMass Amherst (BS)

McConaha has built his business from rented-out space at Wilbraham Soccer City to his own recently expanded facility, where he brings his passion for life and vitality to hundreds of members. From that platform, he also organizes fundraising events that give back to nonprofits and families in need.

Andrew McConaha

Andrew McConaha   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was young, I remember wanting to go to school for marine biology and then work at Sea World, training seals. I was fascinated by science early on; I had a microscope in elementary school and was always looking at anything I could find underneath it. I always knew I’d be doing something related to science, and later on, I definitely knew it would also involve helping people smile.

What three words best describe you? Inspiring, vulnerable, compassionate.

What are you passionate about? I’m most passionate about uplifting others. From my work life to my friends and family, I always try to be a positive and motivating individual. As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, finding the positive in every situation is something that has helped me, and I try to do for others as much as I can.

Who inspires you, and why? My mom has always been one of the biggest inspirations in my life. As a single mom, she did everything she could to be present in my life. I can’t remember a single game or event growing up that my mom wasn’t in attendance for. That’s something I’ll always cherish — that she made it a point to be present and proud of me for all that I’ve done.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? If I had my pick, I’d have to go with Matt Damon because he is my favorite actor of all time.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The main character embodies someone that always pursues their dreams by following what the heart desires most. Throughout the story, there are many failures and lessons, and as someone who feels that I’ve been through a lot for the sole purpose of helping others, I always hope to continue to be able to follow my dreams and help as many people as I can along the way.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Partner, Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.; Age 34; Education: College of the Holy Cross (BA), Seton Hall University School of Law (JD)

Recently named a partner at her firm, McDonough’s practice includes estate planning and administration, business planning, and corporate law. A military spouse, her volunteer efforts have included service to veterans, including pro bono assistance to military families in the Army Legal Assistance Office. She recently helped create a committee of the Hampden County Bar Assoc. that will be a local hub of information and resources for both lawyers and non-lawyers who have questions about issues faced by military and veteran clients and their families.

Katie Manzi McDonough

Katie Manzi McDonough    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. I truly have my dream job.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? My goal every workday is to leave my clients in a better position than before we met.

What are you passionate about? Faith, family, well-made pizza, civic engagement, and live music.

Who inspires you, and why? My husband, Michael. His confidence in our family, himself, and me is unwavering, and his positivity has always helped me to overcome many obstacles.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy playing with my two sons, and I like hosting gatherings for friends and family. I started golfing a few years ago, and I try to play as much as I can.

How do you relieve stress? In vino veritas. Also, I love to watch The Office, which I think is one of the greatest television shows ever made.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Any authentic Western Mass. Italian pizza shop. NYC has nothing on our pizza! I am biased because I grew up in a family pizza shop in Springfield.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would be honored to have lunch with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. She is a lawyer with a fantastic career as a public servant. I think she is a great role model for women like me.

What three words best describe you? Never limit an Italian woman to just three words.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Vice President, ReevX MyBanker, Berkshire Bank; Age 39; Education: American International College (MBA)

As vice president of Relationship Management for Berkshire Bank, Molina-Brantley was recently tapped to lead the ReevX Labs initiative for the city of Springfield. Utilizing community networks he’s built over time, and in a partnership with Valley Venture Mentors, he will provide programming and educational experiences, including financial-literacy and credit-repair courses, designed to boost financial success in the community.

Ronald Molina-Brantley

Ronald Molina-Brantley   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Caring, loyal, driven.

What are you passionate about? Increasing generational wealth and entrepreneurship are two areas I’m most passionate about. For me, it’s extremely rewarding to provide support to individuals and/or businesses that have decided to take a chance on their dreams. In order to do that, the secret is sound financial planning. In these cases, I work alongside individuals and startups in thinking about how to establish short- and long-term financial goals, funding sources, investments, and other factors designed to ensure their financial success. Although financial success is defined by the individual and/or the business, their goals promote my efforts in increasing generational wealth. I do this by teaching financial literacy as an art to people that were never taught it. It is also important to mentor kids from a young age about money management, the ills of debt, compounding interest, and the importance of building multiple streams of income.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I’ve been fortunate to have some back-and-forths with Jack Welch in my youth as a caddy at Sankaty Head Golf course on Nantucket. Now that I am a more established leader, I would appreciate an opportunity to dive deeper into other aspects that would benefit from his mentorship. His recent passing is a loss for us all, but his lessons have had a huge impact on my approach to business, finance, and leadership. His work on how to succeed in an increasingly global environment, management, and Six Sigma has revolutionized the way businesses are conducted. “Before you become a leader,” he said, “success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” As Jack told me on numerous occasions, the best place to have a business meeting is on the golf course. So, for one last time, I’d have our meeting over a round of golf at Sankaty Head, like good old times.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Founder and Executive Director, Libertas Academy Charter School; Age 31; Education: UMass Amherst (BA)

Under Montero’s leadership, Libertas Academy Charter School, in its third year of operation, is on track to be one of the highest-performing middle schools in the area, with plans to expand to a high school in the near future.

Modesto Montero

Modesto Montero   Photo by LifeTouchPhotography

 

What did you want to be when you grew up? I grew up very poor, but I was fortunate to have been raised in a Christian home. My upbringing fostered a sense of focus and a dedication to finding a way to make a difference in my community in a worthwhile career. As an immigrant, I initially thought about becoming an immigration lawyer, but while in college, I worked for an Upward Bound program as a mentor and tutor, and I instantly fell in love with working with young people in communities like the ones our school serves. So I decided to teach, and have continued my career as an educator. It’s been a wild and rewarding experience that has far exceeded my expectations.

What three words best describe you? Focus, relator, futuristic.

What are you passionate about? John Wesley, an 18th-century Methodist theologian, wrote, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” This quote really captures the core of what I am most passionate about, which is fighting for social justice and equity. Not to be morbid, but when I die, I want to know that I did all the good that I could, for as long as I could.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My answer is so cliché and likely overused, but Barack Obama. He has been the most influential and consequential leader of my generation. I vividly remember the night he was elected; I cried. Obama continues to be a source of inspiration for so many black and brown kids — kids that, for so long, didn’t see themselves in our presidents or in most of our leaders. The power of representation cannot be overstated, and its impact has the type of ripple effect that can change the world. My one demand is that he brings Michelle to lunch because we know she is a powerhouse in her own right!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Owner, My PT; Age 37; Education: Springfield College (MS), A.T. Still University (tDPT)

As a doctor of physical therapy frustrated by restrictions created by health-insurance companies that hindered the care and recovery of his patients, Naro created a new business model focused on patient-based care. He takes the time to holistically evaluate a client and teaches preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of the issue, all the while focused on the treatment of the discomfort, ailment, condition, or injury. My PT has evolved from house calls to a brick-and-mortar location in Southwick. Among his civic work, he’s been instrumental in the success of a bowling fundraiser in memory of a childhood friend to benefit the Westfield Baseball League and the Babe Ruth League of Westfield, and he has begun to connect to Friends of the Southwick Rail Trail.

Tom Naro

Tom Naro

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be a doctor, but in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a cardiologist.

What three words best describe you? Compassionate, understanding, visionary.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Opening a custom physical-therapy clinic for My PT in 2019.

What are you passionate about? Helping others be better healers for themselves.

What do you do for fun? Being outdoors hiking, golfing, or going to rock concerts.

How do you relieve stress? Exercise by stretching, running, cycling, or practicing kicks.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Nicolas Cage.

Who inspires you, and why? My mom because, as a nurse, she cared for thousands of patients at Holyoke Medical Center. She worked throughout her parenting life because she wanted to provide for her family and her children’s future.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My grandmother, my mother’s mom, because we had lunches together when I was young. She passed away when I was 6 years old. I was too young to have an adult conversation with her. She would make tuna sandwiches with potato chips between the slices of bread, and for dessert, she made an angel-food cake that was perfectly sweet and airy. I’d like to hear her talk about her life and any pearls of wisdom she had to offer.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Founder, Contribution Clothing; Age 32; Education: Bay Path University (MS)

Partridge founded her online boutique with a focus on empowering women and supporting the community through monetary donations to Western Mass. nonprofits. Since her grand opening last June, she has worked with Bay Path University to develop an annual scholarship fund, created partnerships with several nonprofits, and provided monetary gifts to Dress for Success, Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, and Safe Passage, all the while fundraising for events and promoting messages of empowerment to audiences of women and girls.

Kelly Partridge

Kelly Partridge

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, I wanted to be an artist. I even dabbled in graphic design in my 20s, but it really wasn’t for me. However, I will say they are great skills to have as a business owner.

What three words best describe you? Determined, altruistic, empowered.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Launching contributionclothing.com has been my biggest professional accomplishment so far. Starting a business is terrifying, and I was able to overcome that fear, take my passion for social justice, and create a mission-driven boutique that partners with some amazing local nonprofits. I’m excited to see it grow and to see the impact it can make within our community.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? This doesn’t always happen, but I really try to focus on self-care. Life gets busy, and it is really easy to get wrapped up in all the to-dos. Caring for myself first needs to be a priority.

Who inspires you, and why? I can’t choose one person. I would have to say anyone who has the ability to rise from a negative situation with a positive attitude and a goal of making themselves better because of it.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My great-grandmother, Della, who passed away when I was a teenager. She grew up during the Great Depression and rarely talked about her life. I’d love the opportunity to know more about her, and my family’s history.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? I really like Sophia Bush and what she stands for. She’s a big advocate for female empowerment, education, and environmental rights. I think it would be really cool to be represented by someone like her.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Vice President of Programs, YWCA of Western Mass; Age 38; Education: Springfield College (BS)

Pizarro began her career within the nonprofit sector as a sexual-assault and domestic-violence advocate at the YWCA. After a few years at the YWCA, she transitioned to Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services in Springfield and worked primarily with families experiencing mental-health and/or substance-abuse issues. After a year there, she transitioned to the Center for Human Development, where she remained for more than a decade. During her tenure at CHD, she quickly rose through the ranks, was appointed to Field Operations manager, and successfully ran a number of programs and helped countless individuals and families obtain affordable, permanent housing. Pizarro has been employed at the YWCA for almost three years now, overseeing 22 distinct programs and 150 employees. She has served on multiple task forces to design solutions to end homelessness and find affordable housing, especially for women.

Aisha Pizarro

Aisha Pizarro   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? My biggest accomplishment has been working with my employees and watching them grow into the leaders I know they are. Being in a position to help young men and women grow, particularly women of color, is by far my legacy.

Who inspires you, and why? First I would have to say my wife and children. My wife motivates and supports my work, while my daughters remind me that life is forgiving and laughter is necessary. Without them, I wouldn’t be half of the person that I am today. I am forever grateful for the human beings they are. I am inspired by the resiliency that my clients show, and I am humbled that I am afforded the opportunity to work with our community.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with my father and father-in-law, who have both passed on. I would love to have a chance to show them how much their granddaughters have grown, talk current politics (who’s in the White House), have a cup of coffee over a newspaper, talk COVID-19, talk about the state of the world. I would love to tell them how a Puerto Rican girl from a small barrio in Bayamon was selected for 40 Under Forty.

What do you do for fun? I am the fun!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Planning & Development, City of Chicopee; Age 34; Education: Delaware Valley University (BS); Cornell University (MS)

Pouliot (pictured at left) has been involved in numerous key projects in Chicopee, including brownfield redevelopment, the City Hall rehabilitation, multiple park renovations, initiation of the “Envision Our Chicopee: 2040” plan, and much more.

Lee Pouliot

Lee Pouliot    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A marine biologist.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I’ve learned to expect the unexpected on a regular basis.

What are you passionate about? Taking on that project no one else wants to focus on. Easy projects quickly get champions and get completed; I’m attracted to the really complicated projects that take time and cross-sector collaboration to advance. Projects that can be transformational over the long term keep me focused.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Establishing Chicopee’s Community Street Tree Planting Volunteer Program. We work with the Forestry Department to train resident volunteers to plant bare-root trees in the fall or spring.

What do you do for fun? Play clarinet, design and install gardens, read, write, and spend time with our adorable niece, Noelle Grace.

How do you relieve stress? The gym and fitness, which is also how I force myself to leave the office on time.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Concerts at Tanglewood, which combine my love of music and my love of nature. How often can one go to a live classical concert under the stars?

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? J.R.R. Tolkien, who is one of my favorite authors. He wrote in a way that painted vividly detailed pictures, and I would love to listen to him explain how life experiences influenced his writings and imagination.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Neil Patrick Harris.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I asked my team to respond: “I can’t believe he wanted to be a tree this bad.” “Lee made our community better by making sure we all played by the same rules. Lee had a wonderful way of easing discussions that resolved many conflict-of-interest situations between different parties. Lee was certainly underappreciated and underpaid!” “Always looked good in gold spandex and a feather boa!”