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Downtown Greenfield may look the same as it did decades ago, in many respects, but it has evolved considerably and morphed into a true neighborhood.

Downtown Greenfield may look the same as it did decades ago, in many respects, but it has evolved considerably and morphed into a true neighborhood.

Greenfield Mayor William Martin acknowledged that it isn’t exactly a scientific measure of either his downtown’s vibrancy or the efficiency of his long-term strategic plan for the central business district. But it certainly works for him.

He’s being told there’s a parking problem downtown. Actually, he’s been told that for some time. Until recently, the commentary involved the east end of that district by Town Hall, and the chorus was so loud and so persistent that the community is now building a 272-lot parking garage in that area, due to open in the fall.

But now, he’s also hearing that complaint about the east side of downtown, and he’s expecting to hear it a lot more with the opening of the Community Health Center of Franklin County on the site of the old Sears store on Main Street, a facility that will bring more than 100 clients and employees to that location every day.

In the realm of municipal government, parking problems generally, but certainly not always, fall into that category of the proverbial good problem to have, said the mayor, adding that a far worse problem is to have no parking woes — not because you have plenty of parking, but because no one is coming to your downtown.

And that was more the state of things in Greenfield for some time, Martin intimated, putting the accent on ‘was.’

Indeed, while Main Street may look pretty much the same as it did a few decades ago, at least at a quick glance, it is vastly different, and in some very positive ways, said the mayor, adding that his administration’s broad strategy has been to bring people downtown for goods and services and let this critical mass trigger economic development on many levels. And it’s working.

“We thought that, if we can bring people downtown and provide what they need, the free market will take care of people want,” he said, adding that the theory has been validated with everything from new restaurants to live entertainment to offices providing acupuncture and cardiology services.

Jim Lunt agreed. Now the director of GCET (Greenfield Community Energy and Technology), a municipal high-speed Internet provider, and formerly director of Economic Development for the community, he said the downtown has evolved considerably over the past decade or so.

Getting more specific, he said it has morphed from a traditional retail district, as most downtowns are, into more of a combination entertainment district and home for small businesses and startups.

“We’ve focused on small businesses that we can bring in, and we’ve worked a lot to build up the creative economy; our downtown, like many downtowns, looks a lot different now than it did 10 years ago,” Lunt told BusinessWest. “There are a lot more restaurants, a lot more opportunities for more social gathering, as opposed to what people would think of as traditional shopping.”

In addition to social gathering, there is also vocational gathering, if you will, in the form of both new businesses and also a few co-working spaces that are bringing a number of entrepreneurs together on Main Street.

To get that point across, Lunt, sitting in what amounts to the conference room in Town hall, simply pointed toward the window, a gesture toward the building next door, the Hawks & Reed Entertainment Center, which, in addition to being a hub of music, art, and culture, is also home to Greenspace CoWork.

That space, on the third floor, is now the working address for writers, a manuscript editor, a few coaches, a social-media consultant, and many others, and has become, said Lunt, maybe the best example of how Greenfield has put the often long-unoccupied upper floors of downtown buildings back into productive use.

MJ Adams, who succeeded Lunt as director of Economic Development, agreed, and she summoned another term to describe what downtown has become: neighborhood.

She said it has always been that to some extent, but it is now even moreso, with more living options and other amenities in that area.

“We’re starting to look on downtown as more of a neighborhood,” she explained. “We’ve always looked at it as the civic and service center for the county, but people are starting to perceive downtown Greenfield as a neighborhood that has a mix of housing styles, is attractive to a wide range of people, especially young people, has a lot to offer, and is very walkable.”

Greenfield didn’t get to this state overnight, said those we spoke with, noting that the process has been ongoing and more strategic in nature since the official end of the Great Recession and the arrival of Martin in the corner office (both of which happened in 2009).

Mayor William Martin says his broad strategy since being elected a decade ago has been to transform downtown into a hub for a wide range of services and make it a true destination.

Mayor William Martin says his broad strategy since being elected a decade ago has been to transform downtown into a hub for a wide range of services and make it a true destination.

That strategy has involved a number of tenets, everything from creation of GCET, which gives downtown Greenfield an important asset in a county where high-speed Internet access is a luxury, not something to be taken for granted, to a focus on making downtown a destination for a wide gamut of services, from education to healthcare.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest examines how these pieces have come together, and also at how they have positioned Greenfield for continued growth, vibrancy, and maybe even some more parking issues — the ‘good-problem-to-have’ variety.

Hub of Activity

To explain his broad strategy for Greenfield’s downtown, Martin essentially turned the clock back more than 200 years. Sort of.

Back in those days, he explained, Greenfield, anointed the county capital, was a supplier of goods and most services to the many smaller communities surrounding it.

Small steamships and rail would bring goods north on the Connecticut River to Greenfield, he explained, and residents of surrounding towns would make their way to the center of Franklin County to get, well, pretty much whatever they needed.

“I consider that a tradition and also a responsibility,” said Martin, now serving his fourth term. “And that’s what we’ve based our downtown on — providing what people need.”

It also has always done that with regard to government functions, he said, citing everything from the county courthouse, post office, and jail to Greenfield’s library, the largest in Franklin County. But Martin’s goal was to broaden that role to include education, healthcare, and more.

And specific economic-development initiatives, technology, societal changes, the community’s many amenities, and some luck have helped make that goal reality.

In short, a large number of pieces have fallen into place nicely, said those we spoke with, enabling downtown Greenfield to become not only a destination, or hub, but also a home — for people and businesses across a diverse mix of sectors.

These pieces include:

• A burgeoning creative economy that features a number of studios, galleries, and clubs featuring live music;

• A growing number of restaurants, in many categories, that collectively provide a critical mass that makes the city a dining destination of sorts. “There are 13 different ethnic restaurants, there’s some really good bars, several places for live music that weren’t here just a few years ago, and art galleries,” said Lunt. “I think that’s the biggest change downtown”;

• Greenfield Community College, which has steadily increased its presence downtown with a campus that brings students, faculty, administrators, and community leaders to the Main Street facilities;

• The community health center, which will bring a host of complementary services, including primary care, dental, and counseling for emotional wellness together under one roof in the downtown, where before they were spread out and generally not in the central business district;

• Other healthcare services. In addition to the clinic, a cardiologist has taken over an old convenience store downtown, said the mayor, noting that there is also an acupuncturist, a holistic center, a massage therapist, and other healthcare businesses in that district; and

• Traditional retail, of which there is still plenty, including the landmark Wilson’s Department Store.

Actually, these pieces haven’t just fallen into place by accident, said Martin, noting, again, that they have come into alignment through a broad strategic plan and specific initiatives designed to make the downtown more appealing and practical for a host of businesses, as well as number of existing qualities and amenities.

“We decided that we should do everything we can to provide the infrastructure necessary to attract people and entities when the economy turned,” he explained. “And we worked on a number of things that were real problems.”

High-speed Internet access was and is a huge component of this strategy, said Lunt, noting that it has been directly responsible for a number of businesses settling in the city.

Meanwhile, other parts of that strategic initiative include renewable-energy projects that have helped bring down the cost of energy; creation of a Massachusetts Cultural District, which has made the community eligible for certain grants; a façade-improvement project that has put a new face on many properties downtown, and many others.

Destination: Greenfield

The community already had a number of strategic advantages when it came to attracting both businesses and families, said Lunt, noting that, overall, while Greenfield’s location in rural Franklin County is limiting in some ways — contrary to popular opinion, there are actually few available parcels for large-scale developments, for example — it brings advantages in many others.

From left, MJ Adams, Mayor William Martin, and Jim Lunt all see many positive signs in Greenfield’s downtown.

From left, MJ Adams, Mayor William Martin, and Jim Lunt all see many positive signs in Greenfield’s downtown.

Elaborating, he said that many younger people prefer a rural setting to an urban one — for both living and working — and can find most of what they’re looking for in Greenfield.

That list includes a lower cost of living than they would find in Boston, Amherst, or Northampton; outdoor activities ranging from hiking to whitewater rafting; culture; a large concentration of nonprofits serving the county; and, yes, high-speed Internet access, something people might not find 20 minutes outside of downtown.

“It’s a beautiful area, and real estate is quite affordable compared to much of the rest of the state,” said Lunt. “And the Springfield-Hartford metropolitan area is now 1.2 million, and that’s not that far down the road; a lot of people would happily commute for 45 minutes to live here and get to jobs there.”

This combination of factors has attracted a number of young professionals, many of whom may have gone to college in Boston or another big city and started their careers there, but later desired something different, said Adams.

It has also attracted entrepreneurs, said Lunt, including several video-game developers, many of whom now share a business address — co-working space known as Another Castle.

Located on Olive Street in space that until recently housed the Franklin County registry of Deeds, it became home to the video-game developer HitPoint, which was located in Greenfield, relocated to Springfield, and has now moved back. And it has created a co-working space that enables other small game designers to take advantage of shared equipment and facilities, effectively lowering the cost of doing business.

Moving forward, the town’s simple goal is to build on the considerable momentum it has created through a number of initiatives. These include work to redevelop the former First National Bank building, vacant for decades and the last of the properties on the stretch as Bank Row to be given a new life.

The town’s redevelopment authority has site control over the parcel, said Lunt, adding that the next steps involve working with the state, private grant writers, and the city to acquire funds to convert the property into a downtown cultural center to be used for everything from a farmers’ market to perhaps a museum of Greenfield history.

If all goes according to plan, all the properties on Bank Row will be back in productive use for the first time in 40 years, he told BusinessWest.

Another initiative is the parking garage, which has been years in the making, noted the mayor, noting that it took several attempts to secure funding help from the state for the project.

The facility will ease a well-recognized problem, exacerbated by the new county courthouse in that area, and provide yet another incentive for people to come to downtown Greenfield.

As for parking at the other end of Main Street … well, that’s a good problem to have. For now, anyway.

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

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Loan Originator, Applied Mortgage; Age 28; Education: BA, UMass Commonwealth College; MBA, Western New England University

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron

A proud Western Mass. native, Barron was raised, educated, and currently lives and works in Hampshire County. Her career in the mortgage industry provides a unique view of the economy. Having built a network of peers, clients, partners, and friends, she strives to nurture those connections to enable collaboration to achieve common, community-oriented goals. She is also committed to working with the next generation of leaders. Barron volunteers on committees for various fundraising events, serves on the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce board, is a founding board member of Young Professionals of Amherst, and is campaign co-chair for United Way of Hampshire County.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An adult. Seriously! I have been dying to be 30 since I knew what 30 was, and here I (almost) am.

How do you define success? To me, there are many categories of success — family, career, overall comfort in life. I guess, at the end of it all, I define success as the number of people who remember how you positively influenced their life in one way or another.

What three words best describe you? Goal-oriented, efficient, planner.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? We have it all: the hometown feel, amazing restaurants, access to healthcare and education, and beautiful natural attractions.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My parents. They are an amazing team who support me in anything and everything I want to do and encourage me to be the best I can be every day.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Apparently, Mandy Moore, because someone just stopped me in the store and said I look like her — but I haven’t heard that before!

What are you passionate about? Family, friends, work, and maintaining a vibrant economy here in Western Mass. We are all in this together. Our community is as good as those around us, and helping each other helps everyone.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My Grandma Joan. I didn’t get to know her past my young childhood, and I would love to have a chat with her now as an adult.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Eight Westfield State University students traveled to the annual Sigma Tau Delta Convention, held recently in Cincinnati.

Accompanied by English Professors Glen Brewster, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Strr Ph.D., were Jamie Boucher of East Bridgewater, Elizabeth LBruna of Enfield, Ashley Linnehan of Merrimac, Christine Luongo of Marshfield, Katie Morris of Avon, Elizabeth Potter of Warren, Morgan Stabile of Westfield, and Lilly Whalen of Plymouth.

Sigma Tau Delta is the English Honor Society that strives to recognize excellence in all areas of English language and literature studies, encourage further achievement in these areas, provide cultural stimulation on college campuses, and foster all aspects of the disciplines of English, including literature, language, and writing.

Every spring, Sigma Tau Delta holds its annual international convention, an event that allows members and sponsors from all over to share experiences and expertise, be recognized for their achievements, and participate in the official proceedings of the Society. The convention also provides opportunities to discover new ideas in English and English-related disciplines, while engaging with speakers, presenters, and texts.

Everyone that submits to present entered in a contest for best paper of their respective categories. Potter was awarded first place for Creative Non-Fiction and in this year’s elections, and Linnehan was elected as associate student representative for the Eastern Region.

WSU’s chapter of STD has been helping students attend this annual convention for over 15 years. Students who attend the convention are members of the honor society, which requires them to have taken at least two classes in English beyond their first-year writing courses. In those classes, students must have at least a 3.0 and should be in the top 35 percent of their class.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced it has added 75 new postings representing more than 1,000 jobs to the resort’s website. There are about 2,400 open positions for hire today at MGM Springfield. This is the largest employment posting by the new resort, and one of the single largest hiring efforts in Springfield history. MGM Springfield will employ 3,000 employees when the $960 million luxury resort opens later this year in downtown Springfield.

The expanded list includes job descriptions for new career opportunities not previously posted by the resort. Most of the new opportunities are in the food and beverage area, including cooks and servers. The entire list now includes a diverse array of jobs, including locksmiths, electronics technicians, carpenters, and painters. Many postings represent positions not traditionally associated with the casino industry, ranging from human resources and retail management to conference services. A full list of jobs and detailed descriptions is available at www.mgmspringfield.com/careers.

“Opportunities at an MGM resort are endless,” MGM Springfield President and COO Michael Mathis said. “We know Western Massachusetts has been waiting patiently for the chance to pursue these careers. The time is now. We look forward to meeting many passionate, enthusiastic people interested in bringing MGM Springfield to life.”

Since it announced its desire to develop in Springfield in 2012, MGM has partnered with more than 25 local community organizations to offer workforce training and educational opportunities to prepare the workforce. These efforts included sponsoring the Holyoke Community College Culinary Arts Center, training table-games dealers at the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, developing a hospitality pre-apprenticeship program with Cambridge College, and holding information sessions and career readiness workshops throughout the region.

While all MGM Springfield employees will undergo some level of background check, recent regulation updates allow greater eligibility for applicants interested in many of these newly posted positions.

Massachusetts Gaming Law requires that employees working in certain casino job categories be registered or licensed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) before they can begin work. Once hired, employees who must register will be directed to MGM Springfield’s Career Center, where MGC staff will be available to assist with the employee-licensing process.

In February, the MGC updated regulations to eliminate the registration requirement for certain service positions. This update removed the automatic hiring disqualification for past indiscretions, thus allowing more individuals opportunity to apply for careers such as front-desk representative, cook, kitchen steward, sous chef, and banquet manager.

The resort will invest, directly and indirectly, approximately $100 million in annual payroll and offer a comprehensive package of pay and benefits with average salaries of more than $40,000. The majority of jobs will be full-time positions with benefits. MGM Springfield established a goal to hire 35% of its workforce from the city of Springfield and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the region.

For additional information about the available career opportunities at MGM Springfield, go online or visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center located at 1259 East Columbus Ave., third floor. The Career Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — It might be a little too early to mark your calendars for the next Healthcare Heroes gala — Oct. 25 is more than seven months away — but it’s not too early to start thinking about nominating individuals who might be honored.

Healthcare Heroes, an exciting new recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched last spring by HCN and BusinessWest. The program was created to shed a bright light on the outstanding work being done across the broad spectrum of health and wellness services, and the institutions and individuals providing that care.

Now, it’s time to start thinking about the next class of heroes, in categories including ‘Lifetime Achievement,’ ‘Emerging Leader,’ ‘Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider,’ ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness,’ ‘Health/Wellness Administrator,’ and ‘Collaboration in Healthcare.’ They will be profiled in both magazines in September and feted at the Oct. 25 gala at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden.

Nominations are now being accepted, and will be until June 15. To nominate someone, visit healthcarenews.com or businesswest.com, click on ‘Our Events,’ and proceed to ‘Healthcare Heroes.’

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Entertaining Thoughts

By Carolyn Bourgoin, CPA

Carolyn Bourgoin

Carolyn Bourgoin

For many businesses, corporate entertainment has long been a means of building relationships with referral sources, vendors, and strategic partners as well as providing networking opportunities for physicians and practice managers to meet new referral sources and industry influencers and to build a presence in the marketplace.

The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has eliminated most deductions for business-entertainment expenses paid or incurred after Dec. 31, 2017. Drawing the line between the portion of an entertainment activity that is business-related versus for pleasure has long been an area of contention between the IRS and taxpayers. Though the TCJA did eliminate most business-entertainment expenses, certain expenditures, mainly those benefiting employees, did survive the tax cut.

Taxpayers need to understand what expenses survived the repeal so that they can properly segregate the deductible costs.

Expenditures Paid or Incurred Prior to 12/31/17

Prior to the TCJA, entertainment expenses and the use of entertainment facilities were deductible only if the taxpayer could establish that the costs were either directly related to a taxpayer’s trade or business or associated with the active conduct of a trade or business for which a substantial and bona fide business discussion occurred either directly before or after the event. In addition to meeting the ‘directly related to or associated with’ test, entertainment-expense deductions had to satisfy strict substantiation requirements, including details on the amount of the expense, the time and place of the entertainment, the business purpose, and the business relationship with the persons entertained. The term ‘entertainment’ includes activities at country clubs, nightclubs, sporting events, cocktail lounges, and theaters. Though not defined by regulations, business-entertainment expenses are to be further reduced by amounts considered “lavish or extravagant.”

Additional cost limitations apply to skybox rentals, sports tickets purchased for more than face value, and attendance at foreign conventions. Country-club dues were (and still are) nondeductible.

Business entertainment expenses that had escaped limitation at this point were then generally limited to 50% of the expense, unless they fell under one of several exceptions, including certain entertainment expenses included as compensation to the recipient and social or recreational entertainment provided primarily for the benefit of employees who were not highly compensated. These business-entertainment expenditures were fully deductible and survived the TCJA repeal and will be addressed later in this article.

Entertainment Expenditures Paid or Incurred After Dec. 31, 2017

Pursuant to the TCJA, expenses related to entertainment, amusement, or recreation that are directly related to or associated with the active conduct of the taxpayers’ trade or business are no longer deductible. As a result, a tax deduction will not be allowed for the following items incurred after Dec. 31, 2017:

• Expenses incurred for the use of entertainment facilities, such as the lease of skyboxes, are no longer deductible. However, businesses should review their lease agreements to see if there may be a component included in the rental price for advertising. This portion of the rental cost would be fully deductible as advertising if properly documented and reclassified;

• Expenses related to the entertainment of a client or prospect at a sporting event, theater, concert, or similar type venue (unless included in a 1099 as a prize) are not deductible under the new rules;

• Expenses for attending charitable sporting events, such as a golf tournament, where the entire net proceeds go to charity, will not be deductible to the extent of the cost of the golf or other goods or services provided. Until further guidance is issued, it is unclear whether the meals offered at an entertainment event are still 50% deductible. To the extent the ticket price exceeds the goods and services received, the taxpayer will be entitled to a charitable deduction; and

• As was the case prior to the tax-reform act, dues paid to any social, athletic, or sporting club or organization are non-deductible expenses.

Business-entertainment Expenses Still Allowed

As discussed previously, there are nine categories of entertainment-related expenditures that were not eliminated by the TCJA, as follows:

• Expenses for recreational, social, or similar activities (including related facilities) offered primarily for the benefit of employees other than highly compensated employees are fully deductible. A holiday party or annual picnic are examples;

• Expenses directly related to bona fide business meetings of stockholders, employees, agents, or directors are allowed. Examples of such expenditures would be refreshments offered to employees at a meeting where they are being instructed in a new business procedure. Food and beverages served at these meetings would be subject to the 50% limitation;

• Expenses directly related and necessary to attendance at a business meeting or convention held by a business league, chamber of commerce, real-estate board, or board of trade are deductible. Meals at these meetings would be subject to the 50% limitation;

• Expenses for services, goods, and facilities made available by the taxpayer to the general public, such as during a promotional campaign, are deductible;

• Expenses for food and beverages furnished on the taxpayer’s business premises primarily for the taxpayer’s employees (i.e. more than half), are deductible. The cost of meals provided for the convenience of the employer, such as when employees must be available throughout a mealtime, are only 50% deductible as of Jan. 1, 2018. Prior to the TCJA, these meals were 100% deductible. In addition, meals provided at an employer’s on-site dining facility are subject to the 50% limitation until Jan. 1, 2026, when meals for the convenience of the employer as well as the meals and cost of operating an on-site dining facility are no longer deductible;

• Entertainment expenses that are treated as compensation to employees, by including the costs in employee wages for income-tax-withholding purposes, are deductible;

• Expenses for entertainment-related goods or services, to the extent they are includible in the gross income of the recipient as compensation for services rendered or as a prize or award, are allowed. The recipient in this case would not be an employee of the taxpayer and must be issued a 1099 to the extent the goods or services received exceed $600;

• Expenses for goods or services (including the use of facilities) which are sold by the taxpayer in a bona fide transaction for adequate and full consideration in money or money’s worth are deductible. An example of this would be the cost of meals sold by a restaurant, and

• Expenses incurred by a professional firm for actual meal expenses that are charged back and reimbursed by a client, where the meals are separately stated in the invoice, are deductible.

De minimis fringe benefits, which are benefits that are so small as to make accounting for them unreasonable, such as coffee, soft drinks, and donuts offered to employees, remain fully deductible through the tax year 2025. In addition, meals associated with the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business are still allowed, subject to the 50% limitation. Until further guidance is issued, it is unclear whether meals purchased at a business-entertainment event, such as after a round of golf or attending a ballgame, are a non-deductible entertainment expense or if they meet the business-related tests and are still deductible subject to the 50% meals limitation.

Classifying sporting tickets provided to clients as business gifts does not provide much relief, as the tax deduction is limited to $25 per item.

Bottom Line

Due to the recent changes in the tax law, it is important for taxpayers to consult with their tax advisors and develop an understanding of the business meals and entertainment expenses that remain deductible and develop a strategy to track them. It would be wise to set up separate accounts based on whether they are 100%, 50% or nondeductible.

Amounts paid to attend entertainment events should be analyzed to see if there are advertising or charitable components to the cost that can be reclassified as fully deductible. Consideration could be given to issuing 1099s to clients or prospects being provided with free tickets to events to make the cost deductible as prizes. Though the TCJA was not favorable to taxpayers that incur business-entertainment expenses, there are still some expenses in this area that remain deductible.

Carolyn Bourgoin, CPA is a senior tax manager with the Holyoke-based public accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 322-3483; [email protected]

Features

Storm Surge

Rosa Espinosa

Rosa Espinosa, director of Family Services at the New North Citizens Council

What happens when a family arrives in the Springfield area from far away, with no job, transportation, or living arrangements? What happens when hundreds come? That was the challenge — and certainly still is — wrought by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island of Puerto Rico last fall and sent a flood of evacuees to the Western Mass. region. Efforts to help them find relief have been inspiring, but the needs remain great, and the path ahead far from clear.

When Holyoke High School opened its Newcomer Academy in August — a program that helps non-English speakers access classes taught in Spanish while getting up to speed on English — administrators had no idea just how timely the launch would be.

“Holyoke, for many years, has looked for alternative types of bilingual-education models, and even before the hurricane, we were seeing a lot of newcomers who needed time to build up their English-language skills,” said Ileana Cintrón, chief of Family and Community Engagement for Holyoke Public Schools.

‘The hurricane,’ of course, is Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island of Puerto Rico in September, prompting a mass exodus of displaced families seeking relief on the U.S. mainland. Western Mass. was a natural landing spot, with Puerto Rican cultural roots running deep in Greater Springfield; Holyoke, is, in fact, home to the largest percentage of Puerto Rican residents of any city outside the island itself.

That’s why 226 students whose families evacuated Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane enrolled in Holyoke schools shortly afterward; nearly 200 are still attending, with many families contemplating a permanent relocation to the Pioneer Valley. In Springfield, the number is close to 600.

“It was difficult at the height of it, but in the last few weeks it’s really dwindled down,” Cintrón said, noting that the school district was fortunate that HHS saw the most enrollees of the city’s 11 schools.

Ileana Cintrón


Iileana CintrÓn

“It was beneficial to us that Holyoke High School had opened the Newcomer Academy in late August and is able to provide students coming to the high school with Spanish-speaking support and access to content in Spanish,” she said. “It gives them hope they won’t lose a year. That’s what happened before — try to learn English and see where you’re at by the end of the year. Now they can keep up with math and science while still learning English, where before, it meant lost time and a lot of frustration.”

‘Frustration’ is an understatement when it comes to the needs of hundreds of families that have flocked to Greater Springfield since October, seeking housing, jobs, education, and, in many cases, the basic necessities of life that they suddenly could not access when Maria knocked out power, infrastructure, and key services throughout Puerto Rico.

“Many came with the bare minimum,” said Wilfredo Rivera, a volunteer with Springfield-based New North Citizens Council, one of the regional organizations busy receiving evacuees and connecting them with resources to find temporary relief in Western Mass. or, in some cases, start a new life.

He noted one family with a newborn who had medical records and discharge papers from the hospital, but were unable to procure a birth certificate — which is typically needed to access benefits here — before fleeing. “That’s just one example of what happens when people leave the island but don’t have time to gather their documents, or they don’t know what they’ll need here.”

New North Citizens Council meets advocacy and human-services needs on a daily basis, said Rosa Espinosa, director of Family Services, but its role — along with Enlaces de Familia in Holyoke — as one of two major ‘welcome centers’ for people displaced by the hurricane has been a challenge, albeit a gratifying one.

Wilfredo Rivera says each displaced family has its own story and unique set of needs.

Wilfredo Rivera says each displaced family has its own story and unique set of needs.

“We have our regular clients who come in every day,” she told BusinessWest, “but when the hurricane happened, that was an outrageous number of people coming in. But we were pretty resourceful, and some of the evacuees themselves were pretty resourceful; we learned from them as they learned from us.”

Rivera ticked off some of the more challenging cases, such as children and adults who fled with oxygen supplies, dialysis machines, or chemotherapy needs, and others who landed in an area hotel or motel — paid for by FEMA, but only for a limited time — without much money and no transportation, family in the area, or job prospects.

“The majority of services they needed were services we already provided — SNAP, MassHousing, employment resources, access to computers — so those things were in place,” he said, “but we were suddenly doing it on a much larger scale.”

The way they and others have done so — aided by a flood of donations to area organizations providing some of those resources and attention from local businesses looking to hire evacuees — has been a regional success story of sorts, but the work is far from over.

A Call Goes Out

Jim Ayres, president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, said his organization was meeting very early on an evacuee-assistance strategy. Early on, Springfield and Holyoke designated the welcome centers as places to go to find out how to enroll a child in school, meet nutrititional needs, and get immediate health services. “Then there’s the underlying trauma piece and mental-health needs people may have. It takes a lot of coordination, a lot of logistical management.”

Rivera noted that every individual or family that comes to New North is handled on a case-by-case basis. “We don’t group people into categories. Every individual is assessed individually based on what their needs are.”

For example, “there’s a large group of people here for medical reasons — dialysis, cancer treatments, the types of things that require electricity,” he explained. “A lot of families did not want their kids to lose out on education, and that’s why they chose to come. Others lost their jobs. The majority who came have family here or know someone in the area; others were born here but grew up on the island, so they had some connection.”

Many are looking to stay for the long term, if not permanently, he added. That’s especially true of the families with children enrolled in school or those who needed critical medical services and prefer the treatment they’re getting in Western Mass. over what’s available right now on the island. “Those are the two biggest factors keeping people here. And a lot of them are employed already; they’re working and want to keep their jobs.”

Recognizing that critical needs exist both in Western Mass. and back in Puerto Rico, the Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico coalition, which came together shortly after the hurricane struck, has collected $180,000, with $80,000 going to the Springfield and Holyoke welcome centers, and $100,000 being divided equally between 10 organizations that do relief work directly on the island.

“My sense is a lot of them want to go back to their own homes,” Ayres said of the displaced families. “Whether that means six months, one year, five years, no one really knows at this point.

“This is in some ways more of a Western Mass. challenge than statewide. The state has been receptive as a whole, but it’s hitting Hampden County more than anywhere else,” he added, noting that the situation poses some unexpected budgetary dilemmas, particularly in the school systems. “The state compensation method is driven by your enrollment in October 1, which was just a few days before people started coming, so they’ve asked the state to look at the formula in a different way.”

Indeed, the Holyoke school system has hired more teachers and paraprofessionals to handle the surge, including five from Puerto Rico.

Jason Randall says many evacuees already have the skill sets MGM Springfield is looking for.

Jason Randall says many evacuees already have the skill sets MGM Springfield is looking for.

One challenge has been the arrival of families without school records in hand — a particular challenge for students with special-education needs, Cintrón said. Another is the requirement that seniors must have passed the MCAS exam to graduate, when the 10 seniors at HHS who transferred in because of the hurricane might been studying a much different curriculum on the island.

“The district is waiting for guidelines from the state about that,” she said, noting that one of those students was already accepted to Harvard while living in Puerto Rico — but will now need to pass the MCAS before enrolling there.

Another challenge is the emotional stress the new students are dealing with — Cintrón said it can take two years, in some cases, for such trauma to manifest outwardly — yet, she suggested school may actually be a bright spot in their lives.

“The major sources of stress deal with the lack of housing and the feeling of impermanence — stay at a hotel for a week, then stay with a grandmother for two weeks in public housing, but then find you can’t stay longer than that, and not always eating three meals a day. School may provide some sense of stability and normalcy — or, at least, we try.”

She was quick to note that the district took in 75 students from Puerto Rico last summer because of non-hurricane factors like economic hardship on the island, “so we’re used to getting those students. It was just more in the fall.”

Some students are also eligible for a dual-language program at the elementary level, said Judy Taylor, director of Communications for Holyoke Public Schools. “When students arrive at school, they’re given a language assessment test, and based on the results of that test, they’re given the supports they need.”

Living Wage

For most families, however, no support is more important than job-finding resources.

With that in mind, New North Citizens Council arranged a meeting in January with human-resources leaders at MGM Springfield, which is in the unique position, among area companies, of currently staffing up a 3,000-employee operation. Attendees were given an introductory presentation (in Spanish) detailing the company’s needs, followed by skills assessments and meetings with HR staff.

“We want to share our message about career opportunities, because 3,000 positions is a lot of roles to fill,” said Jason Randall, director of Talent Acquisition and Development. “So when New North came to us about these displaced families from Puerto Rico due to the hurricane, we wanted to share the opportunities that we have. Puerto Rico has a large hospitality industry, with casinos and resort properties, and a lot of individuals from the area who were displaced have the skill set and the commitment to service that we’re looking to provide here.”

The company is hiring for roles ranging from culinary services to hotel operations to gaming operations, and many evacuees have those skills, or the ability to learn them quickly, Randall added.

“Basic English is a requirement for all our positions — you have to be able to communicate in the event of an emergency — but certainly, through our partners, English as a second language courses are offered to prepare people for that.”

It can be tough to find a job without a car, and nigh impossible to afford a car with no income, but some evacuees are arriving with neither — and often no place to stay. Espinosa said getting them set up with housing and job prospects can be a challenging, step-by-step process, one beset with roadblocks that have the welcome-center staff thinking on their feet.

One client, for example, walked from the South End to the New North Citizens Council — more than two miles — with her children to access resources. But she needed to come back the following day, so the staff dipped in their pockets to buy her bus fare in both directions. The next day, Espinosa reached out to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority for more passes to give to other families, and the PVTA was happy to donate them.

Employers have heard of the needs, too. Pride Stores had four openings at its West Street location in Springfield. “We were told, ‘I don’t need them to speak English; I just need them to bake,’” Rivera recalled. Other companies, from J. Polep Distribution Services and CNS Wholesale Grocers to businesses needing barbers, mechanics, and caregivers, have reached out with information about openings.

Companies have contributed to the relief cause in other ways as well, such as the 7-Eleven that recently opened at Wilbraham and Parker streets, far from the North End of Springfield, but decided nonetheless to donate raffle proceeds from its grand-opening event to the welcome center. Meanwhile, organizations like the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute are providing free legal services.

In addition, “there’s a huge group of volunteers helping to feed these families dinners,” Cintrón said. “Some are staying in hotels with no access to a fridge or microwave, so there’s a whole network of volunteers, restaurants, and soup kitchens delivering meals to the hotels.”

Espinosa is grateful for all of it. “Throughout this journey, we have met a lot of caring individuals, and it’s refreshing to hear from someone, ‘hey, I heard about the welcome center, and I want to do this for you.’ It’s a good feeling.”

And the clients who need help are grateful in return, she added. “They’re not a number to us; they’re a family in need, with medical needs, or with children with medical needs. And we’ll go the extra step; if we have to pick up furniture and bring it to a family over the weekend, we’ll do that.”

Looking Up

Rivera is clearly passionate about making a difference, in whatever way he and the other volunteers and staff can. “It’s good to know you were one tiny part of getting somebody stable.”

Espinosa takes it all in stride, understanding that New North’s work didn’t dramatically change with the influx of hurricane evacuees — it just got a little (OK, a lot) more hectic. But she knows her team is making a real impact on the lives of Puerto Rico’s evacuees.

“One told me, ‘there is God, and there are angels, and then there are you guys,’” she recalled.

Rivera simply smiled. “I’m good with that,” he said.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) today announced a multi-year plan to expand its footprint in its home state of Massachusetts by significantly increasing its presence in Springfield and growing operations in Boston. In total, MassMutual will invest nearly $300 million into the Commonwealth and increase its workforce in the state by approximately 70 percent by the end of 2021.



As part of this plan, MassMutual is renewing its commitment to Springfield, the city of its founding in 1851, and expects to grow its workforce at its corporate headquarters by approximately 50 percent. To accomplish this, the company will be adding 1,500 positions to the facility over the next four years, bringing the total number of employees in Springfield to approximately 4,500 by 2021. MassMutual expects to make an investment of $50 million in facilities improvements at its State Street campus over the next several years to accommodate this growth.



MassMutual also plans to expand upon its Boston presence, constructing a new campus in the Seaport district on Fan Pier by 2021. This campus will ultimately house approximately 1,000 employees. The multi-story office structure — which will be in excess of 300,000 square feet – will be situated on an undeveloped parcel owned by MassMutual, with MassMutual as its primary tenant. The company expects to invest approximately $240 million into its new Boston campus over the next several years.



MassMutual is expanding in the Commonwealth because the state provides the company with everything it needs to continue to best serve its policyowners in the future: a highly skilled workforce, including a rich pipeline of talent from the state’s best-in-class network of higher education institutions; robust local economies; convenient access to transportation, and a diversity of communities, including the best of both metropolitan and suburban locations.



“Following a thorough strategic assessment of our operations and footprint, we concluded that our home state of Massachusetts is the best place for us to grow and thrive over the long term,” said Roger Crandall, MassMutual Chairman, President and CEO. “We have deep roots and a supportive community in our hometown of Springfield, and we will continue to invest and grow our workforce in the city. At the same time, as we evolve, a stronger Boston presence immerses us in a booming financial and digital economy and provides us with an enhanced opportunity to recruit innovators from the area’s deep and diverse talent pool.”



MassMutual’s Boston campus will primarily house functions that will benefit most from being located in a vibrant ecosystem with access to financial markets and digital talent.



“Our highly educated and skilled workforce helps the Commonwealth and great companies like MassMutual continue to lead the nation in a number of competitive categories,” commented Governor Charlie Baker. “We are proud MassMutual has called the Commonwealth home for over 165 years and we look forward to what their investments in Western and Eastern Massachusetts will mean for Massachusetts, our economy and their employees.”



Baker added that as part of this agreement with the state, MassMutual will receive a package of incentives valued at approximately $46 million from the Commonwealth, the largest commitment ever made to a Springfield-based company. Those incentives are contingent upon MassMutual meeting its job-creation obligation of adding 2,000 jobs to Massachusetts. The job growth will result from new hires as well as relocation from other MassMutual sites to both Springfield and Boston.



“We are thrilled to have MassMutual expand its presence and build a new campus on Fan Pier,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh remarked. “MassMutual’s decision to grow in Boston will give the company greater access to the growing technology and financial services industries in our city and enhance its ability to attract the best available talent. I am delighted another major employer has decided the City of Boston can contribute to its successful future.”



MassMutual has been a supportive citizen of the Springfield community since the company’s founding in 1851. In recent years, MassMutual has invested largely in education, economic development and cultural vitality through the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by the company.



“MassMutual remains one of our leading corporate citizens, and I am pleased that we have once again been able to work together to support the company’s continued growth and expansion here in its hometown of Springfield,” said Mayor Domenic Sarno. “My administration has been working hard to create an environment that encourages job growth and today’s announcement illustrates that through collaboration, we can find constructive solutions to support our communities for the long-term.”



Over time, MassMutual plans to consolidate certain facilities in other parts of the country, moving positions to its Springfield and Boston campuses. The company currently expects to retain offices in Amherst, Mass., New York City and Phoenix, AZ, which provide access to specific talent pools and business solutions.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer says the city has taken several steps to support business growth.

When she issued her annual state-of-the-city address recently, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer spoke at length about issues ranging from schools to public safety; from recreation to housing, and much more.

But she summed up many of her feelings early on, with five simple words: “Pittsfield is good for business.”

As an example, she cited the creation of a new municipal position, business development manager, a yet-to-be-named appointee who — under the guidance of the newly formed Mayor’s Economic Development Council, comprised of Tyer; Mick Callahan, chair of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority; and Jay Anderson, president of the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. — will promote and foster economic development, job growth, and capital investment by working to retain and grow existing businesses and by attracting new businesses.

“Another key feature of this collaboration includes the creation of a ‘red-carpet team’ made up of city and state officials whose purpose is to develop strategies and explore incentives to support business expansion or startups,” Tyer said, noting that the team was deployed several times last year, assisting local businesses such as Modern Mold and Tool and LTI Smart Glass with their expansion efforts.

She said the next step in supporting businesses is building the Berkshire Innovation Center, which recently received a $1 million pledge from the City Council. “This commitment has opened up more dialogue with state officials, and I anticipate that soon we will have a complete financing package that will secure all the necessary funding for construction and two years of operations.”

The Berkshire Innovation Center, she explained, will be a state-of-the-art facility located at the William Stanley Business Park, featuring cutting-edge equipment available to advanced manufacturers for research and development of new products. In partnership with Berkshire Community College, the center will be a place of teaching and learning, creating a pipeline of trained employees that area companies desperately need.

“It will revolutionize how we support advanced manufacturers here in Pittsfield and the Berkshires and how we build a skilled workforce,” she explained.

At the same time, Tyer noted, the city has seen the opening of several new small businesses, including floral-arrangements outfit Township Four, Red Apple Butchers, and the Framework co-working space, all on North Street, as well as Hangar Pub and Grill on East Street.

The city has seen movement on the residential front as well, said Tyer, who noted that Millennials want to live in locations with hip housing, convenient access to work, and work-life balance amenities. She cited the former St. Mary the Morningstar Church on Tyler Street, which was acquired by local developer David Carver and his company, CT Management Group, and will be redeveloped into 29 units of market-rate rental housing and include campus-style pathways and inviting common areas.

Pittsfield at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 44,737
Area: 42.5 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $20.01
Commercial Tax Rate: $39.98
Median Household Income: $35,655
Median family Income: $46,228
Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: Berkshire Health Systems; General Dynamics; Petricca Industries Inc.; SABIC Innovative Plastics
* Latest information available

“Our neighborhoods deserve our efforts too,” she was quick to add, “and while we seek new market-rate housing, we also want to help shore up our city’s older housing stock.”

To that end, she will soon announce the details of a city-sponsored home-improvement initiative in collaboration with MassHousing, which seeks to provide funding to improve the exterior of owner-occupied dwellings who qualify under relaxed eligibility guidelines. The program will allow for the repair or replacement of features such as windows, doors, porches, siding, and roofs. “Giving our residents the resources they need to enhance the value of their homes and to improve their quality of their life is the primary objective of this initiative,” the mayor noted.

Multi-pronged Approach

Tyer said the issue of community housing, along with parks, open space, and historic preservation, are the four designated categories that will comprise a formal plan developed by the city’s Community Preservation Committee, and $420,000 in Community Preservation funding will be invested in one or more of the four categories. Creating the plan will include public input to make sure the community’s priorities are considered.

Still, Pittsfield has moved ahead with a number of municipal quality-of-life projects. A permanent pavilion will be installed this spring at Durant Park with the support of Greylock Federal Credit Union, while Clapp Park will benefit from a $400,000 state grant.

“Clapp Park is truly a four-season destination in Pittsfield, and this funding aligns two strong community partners, Rotary International and the Buddy Pellerin Field Committee,” Tyer said. “Both will partner with the city on Clapp Park improvements, including the construction of a splash pad, enhancements to the playground and fields, and increased accessibility.”

Elsewhere, 75% of the design is complete for the bike path extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail from Mall Road to Crane Avenue, and construction on the path is expected to begin this spring. “This is great news for many in our community who relish the outdoors and enjoy hitting the trails on foot or on bike.”

Finally, due to a growing interest among active seniors for the game of pickle ball, the city striped four pickle ball courts at Reid Middle School for their use.

Meanwhile, an emphasis on neighborhood revitalization can be seen in the Tyler Street Transformative District Initiative, a partnership between Pittsfield and MassDevelopment. A streetscape-improvement program on Tyler Street will include more lighting, landscaping, bike lanes, and improved pedestrian accommodations.

In addition, a storefront-improvement project there allows businesses to apply for funding for exterior improvements. Hot Harry’s, Panda Garden, Goodwill Industries, and Quillard Brothers Garage are among the operations taking advantage of the program.

Finally, the Tyler Street Pilot LED Light Project, a collaborative effort between the city, Pine Ridge Technologies, and Eversource, aims to improve lighting, environmental stewardship, and cost savings. Two LED streetlight fixtures were incorporated into existing banner poles on Tyler Street at Grove and Plunkett streets, and will be monitored throughout the spring.

Speaking of power, the city’s electrical aggregation program allows local government to combine the purchasing power of residents and businesses to provide them with an alternative to the existing basic service costs offered by Eversource.

“Considering the increases in Eversource’s delivery rates, we wanted to ensure that residents had an ability to offset those increasing costs,” Tyer said, adding that, beginning this month, the Community Choice Power Supply program will provide city residents and businesses with a collective savings of more than $780,000 over the next six months.

In a similar vein, the city officially launched its newest 2.91-megawatt solar-power-generation facility at the former landfill located off of East Street. Ameresco will operate and maintain the project at no charge to the city. In exchange, the city entered into a 20-year agreement to purchase the power generated by the solar array.

“Combining the reduced utility costs and the personal property taxes paid by Ameresco, this project is estimated to save the city up to $140,000 annually,” Tyer noted. “That’s $2.6 million over the duration of the contract.”

Safety and Numbers

On the public-safety front, the Pittsfield Fire Department grew its ranks with the addition of eight new hires made possible through a federal SAFER grant, helping to reduce the city’s overtime costs by 60%. The department also recently purchased a 2014 ladder truck in mint condition at 60% of the cost of a new truck, as well as new hydraulic rescue tools.

The Police Department saw an even bigger change, hiring Police Chief Michael Wynn after a decade with no one in that role. Meanwhile, 14 officers completed field training in 2017, and the department recently hired six additional officers who will begin their training this year.

At Pittsfield Municipal Airport, reconstruction of two runways will begin this spring, enhancing overall safety by eliminating potential hazards caused by deteriorating runway pavement, Tyer said. The state Department of Transportation Aeronautics division also identified the airport for a rebuild of its terminal starting in 2020.

“The airport is also a perfect landscape for environmental stewardship,” she added. “Underway is the planning and development of a solar array that will provide revenue for the airport and cost-saving energy for municipal facilities.”

Even amid all that progress, Tyer said the city is challenged by serious fiscal constraints.

“Pittsfield is at its levy ceiling, and our ability to provide services that the community expects and deserves is impacted by diminished financial resources. This year our revenue growth remains limited, and we do not foresee dramatic increases in state aid or local receipts. This is a serious matter that requires a lot of difficult decisions, persistence over time, and sheer determination.”

She added, however, that “I view this circumstance as an opportunity to sharpen our thinking about the role of government and to access expertise at every level. We’ve already tapped into the state’s community compact program to develop a model for financial forecasting and to produce an improved, more informative budget document. And there’s more work to do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story Sections Top Entrepreneur

T-Birds’ Owners and Managers Continue to Push the Envelope

Front row, from left,

Front row, from left, Dante Fontana, Nathan Costa, Frank Colaccino, and Brian Fitzgerald; second row, from left, Paul Picknelly, Dinesh Patel, Chris Bignell, Chris Thompson, Sean Murphy, Francis Cataldo; third row, from left, Derek Salema, Peter Martins, Jerry Gagliarducci, John Joe Williams, Vidhyadhar Mitta, and James Garvey.

An Exercise in Teamwork

Back in the spring of 2016, a consortium of owners came together, bought the Portland Pirates AHL franchise, and relocated it to Springfield. It was said that this group brought hockey back to the City of Homes 10 days after it left. In reality, though, it has brought much more, including excitement, energy, innovation, and vibrancy — along with hockey. For doing all that, the team of owners and managers has been named BusinessWest’s Top Entrepreneurs for 2017.

If you go on eBay this morning, you can buy a bobblehead featuring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz wearing sunglasses and a Springfield Thunderbirds jersey. List price: $59.99.

But while you can buy it now, you can’t get it for at least a month or so.

That’s because no one actually has one to send to you. These items won’t be distributed until the Feb. 17 Thunderbirds game against the Providence Bruins.

The fact that this bobblehead is already for sale online demonstrates many things — from the incredible popularity of Big Papi to the awesome power of capitalism at work (60 balloons for a bobblehead?).

But it demonstrates something else as well: Just how far hockey has come in Springfield in 20 short months. Indeed, in the late spring of 2016, there was no hockey in Springfield. Well, there was no American Hockey League franchise, anyway.

Red Sox legend David Ortiz

Red Sox legend David Ortiz belts a foam baseball into the crowd during the game on Nov. 11. His appearance in Springfield represents just one example of the outside-the-box thinking that defines the new ownership and management team.

The Falcons, who had been playing at the MassMutual Center for more than 20 years, had pulled up stakes and were heading to Arizona. Into this void stepped what would become, by AHL standards (or any standards, for that matter), a huge ownership group of 28 that brought professional hockey back to Springfield.

Only, all 28 of them would be put off by that last phrase to some extent.

Indeed, they would prefer to say that hockey is just one of the things they’ve brought to the City of Homes. They’ve also brought imagination and entrepreneurship; Star Wars Night and $3 Coors Light draughts on Friday night; free parking in the Civic Center Garage (actually, it’s back by very popular demand) and … David Ortiz bobbleheads.

Evidence of all this was in abundance on Jan. 6, a frigid Saturday night when the wind chill was well below zero, representing a microcosm of what the team has accomplished and what it has become.

This was Blast from the Past Night, with the team donning Springfield Indians jerseys from the early ’90s for a tilt against the Providence Bruins. The night became a mix of nostalgia, high energy, and record sales at the merchandise shop.

“It was 6 below zero, and we had more than 6,000 people in this arena,” said Paul Picknelly, president of Monarch Enterprises and managing partner among the owners. “We sold out the place with families that are coming to downtown Springfield, feeling comfortable bringing their families downtown for professional sports.

“It’s not just about hockey,” he went on. “The previous owners’ mindset was ‘we have hockey in Springfield.’ What we’re saying is that we have something different that we’re offering the community.”

For bringing this family entertainment, this ‘something different,’ as well as much-needed vibrancy and even validity to downtown Springfield, the Thunderbirds team — not the one on the ice (although it is also a big part of the story), but rather the ownership and management team — has been selected by the leaders at BusinessWest as the recipients of the magazine’s Top Entrepreneur Award for 2017.

Several of the team’s owners and managers

Several of the team’s owners and managers gather on the ice in a host of jerseys worn by the team over the past season and a half. The ownership group is large (28 individuals and groups) but very engaged.

This group was chosen among a host of other intriguing candidates for many reasons, but especially the manner in which it has changed the landscape since that headline announcing that the Falcons were flying southwest — and we don’t mean the airline.

There is considerably more energy downtown on 36 game days and nights (there are actually a few morning contests as well, as we’ll see) between October and April, and maybe beyond.

But that’s just part of the story. Indeed, the T-Birds are a year-long phenomenon and a region-wide resource as well, thanks to an omni-present mascot and a management team laser-focused on keeping the team top of mind, even in the middle of summer.

The phrase ‘weaving our way into the fabric of the community’ was uttered by more than a few of the owners we spoke with recently, and this is exactly what the team has done.

For their ability to do that, and especially for their efforts to bring not only hockey but much more back to Springfield, the ownership and management team is truly worthy of BusinessWest’s Top Entrepreneur honor.

Owning the Solution

They sound like characters on one of those Saturday morning cartoon shows.

But ‘Boomer’ and ‘Squeaky’ are real — well, sort of. They are the mascots, respectively, for the Thunderbirds and Balise Motors’ growing stable of car washes in Western Mass.

They appear together sometimes, and increasingly, and these joint appearances are just one example of the many ways in which the 28 owners of the Thunderbirds — Jeb Balise, a principal with the family-owned Balise corporation, is one of them — are involved and invested in the team and its success in Springfield and across the region.

Other examples abound, from construction company owner Dave Fontaine putting banners for the team at his construction sites, to Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners Peter Martins and Derek Salema running promotions at their stores (more on one of those later); from employees at Red Rose Pizza wearing T-Birds jerseys on game nights (principal Anthony Caputo is one of the owners) to Picknelly, a local partner with MGM Springfield, convincing that corporation to not only be a sponsor of the T-Birds, but to actively help market it after the casino opens this fall.

It happened very quickly, and the reason it did, and the reason everyone got involved from the ownership standpoint, is because everyone loves Springfield. We have diverse backgrounds, but we all love Springfield, and it’s an easy ask when you ask someone to invest in it.”

Indeed, just before a slot machine pays out to a winner, a screen will pop up asking the lucky player if he or she would like to buy a ticket to a Thunderbirds game, said Picknelly, adding that this is one of many ways the casino will help promote the team.

Collectively, these initiatives, and this involvement, speak to how unified these owners are in their desire to secure a long, prosperous future for this franchise. They have different businesses and different backgrounds — and many of them didn’t know much about hockey when they were approached about this venture — but they understood the importance of the team to the city, especially at that critical time in its history.

Indeed, using different words and phrases, the owners we spoke with said that the spring of 2016, when they all came together in this enterprise, was not the time (if there really ever is a good time) for Springfield to be without a hockey team.

Elaborating, they said that, with MGM coming in the fall of 2018, Union Station set to open soon, greater vibrancy downtown, and a general sense of optimism, the city needed to maintain momentum, not lose any.

So when Picknelly called and asked them to be part of a growing consortium of owners, they found it easy to say ‘yes.’

“I remember getting the call from Paul on a Friday afternoon; he said, ‘did you see the paper today?’” said Fran Cataldo, a principal with C&W Realty, referring to the day the Falcons’ owners announced they were selling the team to the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. “I said, ‘yeah, I did.’ And he said, ‘it’s not going to happen; we’re going to keep hockey here.’

“And in the course of 72 hours, we identified a team, negotiated a purchase-and-sale agreement, and made a deposit on the team,” he went on. “It happened very quickly, and the reason it did, and the reason everyone got involved from the ownership standpoint, is because everyone loves Springfield. We have diverse backgrounds, but we all love Springfield, and it’s an easy ask when you ask someone to invest in it.”

Thunderbirds players wore replica Indians jerseys

Thunderbirds players wore replica Indians jerseys on Blast from the Past Night on Jan. 6, an event that became a microcosm of the team’s efforts to create energy and an experience at the MassMutual Center.

Cataldo, a long-time friend of Picknelly’s, said he’s worked with him on a number of initiatives that fall into the broad categories of economic development and improving the public perception of Springfield. And the purchase of the Thunderbirds fell into both categories, so be called it a “natural,” especially in the context of the question everyone was asking 21 months ago: ‘what if we lost hockey?’

“It’s more than losing hockey,” he said, answering the question himself. “You’re losing 4,000 or 5,000 people 30-plus nights a year downtown. They’re bringing their families downtown, they’re parking, they’re eating, they’re going out afterward; it’s a huge, huge economic engine for Springfield.

Frank Colaccino, CEO of the Colvest Group, who admits that he didn’t know a red line from a blue line when Picknelly called him, tells a similar story.

“He called me and said, ‘we’ve got to move quick; we need the support of people who work in Springfield and care about Springfield,’” he recalled. “I think it took me all of about five minutes to say, ‘Paul, do you think we’ll get our money back?’ He said, ‘yeah, I think we will,’ and I was in.”

Collectively, the ownership team being assembled needed to raise $5.5 million for the down payment on the team, and as it went about doing so, it focused on keeping the group local and committed to the region.

It even turned down more than $1 million from a New York investor that wanted in, but also wanted some controls in exchange for its investment.

“We all sat around this table and said, ‘we don’t want that,’” said Colaccino. “The person’s not from the area, doesn’t care about the area, and we decided we didn’t want to give up some of those controls. And it took some guts to walk away from that and say, ‘we’re going to raise this money.’”

In the span of about 10 days, Springfield lost hockey and got it back, but the act of buying the Portland (Maine) Pirates and bringing them to Springfield would be only the first expression of entrepreneurship with this franchise.

Net Results

The second, whether the ownership team realized it at the time or not (and they probably did), was hiring Springfield native Nate Costa to lead this venture.

Costa had most recently been working in the American Hockey League office in its Business Services Department, but he also had extensive experience in the field, if you will, working for the league’s San Antonio Rampage.

He arrived in Springfield with what he called a “blueprint” — one that called for not just hockey, but affordable family entertainment — but also with his hands full.

Indeed, the team didn’t have a name at that point, or colors, a uniform design, or even a lease with the MassMutual Center. All that got done, and Costa set about putting to work the lessons he learned in San Antonio, but also from watching some of the league’s most successful franchises.

From the outset, he said the focus has been on providing an experience, not just three periods of hockey, and also on making the team visible and active within the community. Doing those things requires a real commitment from ownership and the requisite resources to get the job done properly, something the previous ownership didn’t provide.

Chris Thompson, the Thunderbirds’ senior vice president of Sales & Strategy, who has worked with the team for nearly a decade and for three different ownership groups, described the difference between then and now.

“It’s a breath of fresh air having the support of the local investment group to give us the resources to be able to go out there and tell the story,” he explained. “We did some cool things with the Falcons back in the day, but we could never tell the story; the biggest difference between then and now is that the local group is fully engaged.”

It is also more entrepreneurial, a word that could be used to describe both ownership and management, said Costa, adding that this has become the team’s mindset largely out of necessity.

Elaborating, he said that, from his vantage point in the AHL offices, he saw what he called missed opportunities in Springfield, especially with regard to ticket sales at all levels, especially group sales and season tickets.

His goal upon taking over the team was to seize those opportunities.

“I put together a plan that I almost had in the back of my mind,” he recalled. “It was really focused on grassroots efforts — beefing up our season-ticket sales, doing more with marketing and on social media, and really taking an entirely fresh look at the franchise.

“I had absolute confidence, if we stuck to our plan when it came to ticket sales and having a sales mindset, that this could work here,” he went on. “And I think we’re starting to see that. It’s taken some time, but year one was a huge success on a number of levels.”

This was made clear by the team’s haul when it comes to year-end awards handed out by the league. The credenza in the conference room is crowded with such plaques, which recognize achievement in areas ranging from group ticket sales to “recovered revenue.”

Costa said those plaques result from a systematic look at all aspects of the operation with an eye toward making changes when they were needed, and that was often the case.

As it was with ticket prices, for example, said Costa, noting that, with the previous administration, all seats were priced the same. The new ownership has introduced price flexibility, dividing the seating bowl into several areas, with different prices for each one.

Another focal point was concessions. Using the team’s relationship with MGM, management was able to negotiate a Friday-night special on concession and beer sales in an effort to get more younger people and families in the arena.

Still another matter was parking, which was a recognized deterrent for many potential fans. So the club negotiated a deal whereby the team would make a payment to the city, enabling patrons to park in the Civic Center Garage for free, a step that brought immediate and lasting results.

“We really tried to take all the things we had heard from the previous couple of years and take them head on and find ways that we could make a tangible impact,” said Costa. “We did this not only for the casual fan, but the season ticket holders; they’re going to reap the biggest benefit from this because they’re coming every night.”

Goal Oriented

As for that aforementioned promotion at Dunkin’ Donuts, one that involved giving away two game tickets with purchases at the drive-up window on a specific day, the mere mention of it brought some wry smiles and looks toward the ceiling among those talking with BusinessWest.

This wasn’t a promotion gone wrong, per se, but one that didn’t go exactly as planned. And this created one of those good problems to have — sort of, but not really.

To make a long story a little shorter, far more people redeemed the tickets for this early-season game than management anticipated, leaving far fewer seats available for walk-up customers, a scenario the team has worked very hard to avoid.

Previous Top Entrepreneurs

• 2016: Paul Kozub, founder and president of V-One Vodka
• 2015: The D’Amour Family, founders of Big Y
• 2014: Delcie Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT
• 2013: Tim Van Epps, president and CEO of Sandri LLC
• 2012: Rick Crews and Jim Brennan, franchisees of Doctors Express
• 2011: Heriberto Flores, director of the New England Farm Workers’ Council and Partners for Community
• 2010: Bob Bolduc, founder and CEO of Pride
• 2009: Holyoke Gas & Electric
• 2008: Arlene Kelly and Kim Sanborn, founders of Human Resource Solutions and Convergent Solutions Inc.
• 2007: John Maybury, president of Maybury Material Handling
• 2006: Rocco, Jim, and Jayson Falcone, principals of Rocky’s Hardware Stores and Falcone Retail Properties
• 2005: James (Jeb) Balise, president of Balise Motor Sales
• 2004: Craig Melin, then-president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital
• 2003: Tony Dolphin, president of Springboard Technologies
• 2002: Timm Tobin, then-president of Tobin Systems Inc.
• 2001: Dan Kelley, then-president of Equal Access Partners
• 2000: Jim Ross, Doug Brown, and Richard DiGeronimo, then-principals of Concourse Communications
• 1999: Andrew Scibelli, then-president of Springfield Technical Community College
• 1998: Eric Suher, president of E.S. Sports
• 1997: Peter Rosskothen and Larry Perreault, then-co-owners of the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House
• 1996: David Epstein, president and co-founder of JavaNet and the JavaNet Café

“It was the Friday after David Ortiz, so we were topical and people wanted to check us out,” Cataldo recalled. “The redemption, which is typically low for those tickets, was through the roof, and we essentially sold out of our tickets.”

Said Costa, “at the end of the day, we were turning people away at the box office, which you don’t want to do all the time.”

If the Dunkin’ Donuts promotion was something that went wrong — and that’s not the term most would prefer to use in reference to that night — then not much else has for this team.

Indeed, just about everything has gone exceedingly right.

Including the so-called ‘Shoot to Win’ promotion involving one of the team’s newest sponsors, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield.

In case you missed it — and that was almost impossible to do — young Nathan Vila managed to shoot a puck into a hole not much wider than the puck itself from about 150 feet away to win a new Mercedes GLA SUV. But that’s only part of the story.

“It was just before Christmas, and the young man [Nathan] was heading into the service in a few weeks and gave the car to his mother to drive,” said Peter Wirth, a principal with the dealership. “You really couldn’t script it any better.”

There hasn’t been a script, per se, for anything the Thunderbirds and their management team have done since they started scrambling to get the team ready for the start of the 2016-17 season in that hectic summer other than do what entrepreneurs do famously — think outside the box, innovate, invest in the company, and take some calculated risks.

And these are exactly the personality traits that inspired Wirth and his wife, Michelle, to want to be part of what was happening with the Thunderbirds.

“We went to a few games, and they seemed to be doing things the right way … it might as well have been the NHL; they were delivering a really good product,” he said. “They think outside the box, and they create energy and excitement, and we wanted to be part of that.”

And nothing personifies those qualities more than the night David Ortiz came to Springfield.

In case you missed it — and that, too, was almost impossible to do — the Red Sox slugger appeared before and during the Nov. 11 game against the Laval (Quebec) Rocket. He drove an ATV on the ice, signed a ton of autographs, and whacked some foam baseballs into the sellout crowd.

It was a huge success, but it was also a considerable risk given the huge sticker price attached to an appearance from Big Papi. But it was a risk the ownership team was more than willing to accept it.

“That was a huge commitment — those big stars certainly don’t come cheap,” said Colaccino. “But when that idea was presented, everyone around this table said, ‘what a great idea.’ The number being tossed around to get him here was a big one, but not one person said, ‘no, that’s not a good idea.’ Having a baseball guy come to a hockey arena … that’s outside-the-box thinking, and it was hugely successful.”

Costa quantified the matter by saying the team reaped a three-to-one return on that sizable investment thanks to a mix of corporate sponsorships, additional ticket revenue, a VIP event, merchandise, and special Red Sox-themed team jerseys made possible through the team’s relationship with MGM. Elaborating, he called the Ortiz night not only a microcosm of that blueprint mentioned earlier, but an example of his mindset when it comes to the team and its ownership.

“From day one, I’ve looked at this as a business venture because they’ve put their trust in me to make this work from a business perspective, and I’ve never lost sight of that,” he explained. “So when I presented the Ortiz piece, it wasn’t ‘give me what I need to get him,’ it was ‘here’s what it’s going to do for us, here’s what the return is going to be, here’s what it’s going to do for the community and the Thunderbirds name in general.’

“And coming from the American Hockey League and seeing what other AHL franchises need to do in a market like Springfield … it’s very entrepreneurial,” he went on. “It’s grassroots; it’s rolling up sleeves and doing the dirty work.”

Knowing the Score

Meanwhile, Costa said the Ortiz night was a very needed step to raise the bar in the team’s critical second year.

Indeed, calling on his extensive experience in the league, he said it’s not uncommon for a team to do well in its first year as it brings something new and different to a region. It’s also common for teams to struggle in their efforts to maintain that momentum.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge in year two to continue that momentum moving forward, and I knew we needed something special,” he said, referring to the Ortiz promotion but also a full year’s worth of events.

The Thunderbirds sold $10,000 worth of gin and juice

The Thunderbirds sold $10,000 worth of gin and juice at the Jan. 6 game, thanks to Snoop Dogg, his Indians jersey, and effective use of social media.

While Ortiz’s appearance in Springfield has probably been the high-water mark for this franchise, there have been plenty of other examples of outside-the-box thinking, risk taking, and, overall, an entrepreneurial mindset.

All those were on display on Blast from the Past Night, which highlighted the team’s success not only in creating an experience on the ice and in the arena, but in fully capitalizing on the awesome forces of social media.

In this case, the team put Snoop Dogg to work — or, more specifically, the Springfield Indians jersey he famously wore in the video for his song “Gin and Juice” — in its promotions for Blast from the Past Night. It was a natural tie-in to the evening’s festivities and inspiration for a $5 gin and juice special sold at the MassMutual Center that night.

“We sold $10,000 worth of gin and juice,” said Picknelly, noting that he and his son split one that night.

And then, there was Hockey Week in Springfield, staged in the middle of this month in an effort to bring people out during a difficult time of year and a few difficult days of the week.

The week started with a 1:05 p.m. tilt against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Martin Luther King Day. Youngsters were admitted to end zone seats for $5.55 courtesy of Friendly’s. The week continued with a Wednesday contest (those dates are always challenging) against one of the league’s most iconic franchises, the Hershey Bears. If the T-Birds won (and they did), then patrons’ ticket stubs would be good for the Feb. 7 game (yes, another Wednesday).

The week wrapped up with a Friday-night tilt against the Binghampton (New York) Devils, or a ‘3-2-1 Friday,’ as they’re called because a Coors Light, as noted, is $3, a hot dog is $2, and sodas are $1.

The unofficial goal moving forward, said Costa, with several owners nodding their head in agreement, is to make what happened on the night of that Dunkin’ Donuts promotion the norm.

Well, not exactly what happened that night, but the part about a game being sold out and patrons not to expect to be able to walk up to the ticket window a few moments before a game starts and buy some tickets.

“People are used to just walking up on game night and buying a ticket and getting a great seat,” Costa explained. “It’s not necessarily the case anymore, and from the beginning, that’s what we set out to do.

“What we’re trying to manufacture is urgency,” he went on. “That was the biggest thing we didn’t have coming into this. There was no urgency to buy tickets, no urgency to buy season tickets, no urgency to buy tickets early; we’ve tried to lay the foundation to change that — to create a sense of urgency.”

From all accounts, the team’s owners and managers are well on their way to doing just that.

Bottom Line

As he talked about the ownership group that he reports to, Costa acknowledged that 28 is a big number and one that most people would see as ungainly and something of a disadvantage.

He says this group is anything but that.

That’s because it’s not only large, but also visible on game nights and, most importantly, fully invested in the team, in every sense of that word.

“It’s been a huge benefit, and we couldn’t do what we do without it,” he said of the large group of owners. “We lean on them for support within the local community.”

Support comes in many forms — from getting much-needed introductions to exercising connections such as those needed to secure those Red Sox-themed jerseys for David Ortiz night, to bringing people to the MassMutual Center, as that Dunkin’ Donuts promotion did.

All that support has resulted in a changed landscape — where sometimes one can’t get a ticket on game night, and, yes, where David Ortiz bobbleheads are for sale on eBay two months before they’re actually handed out.

It’s a story of determination. A story of teamwork. But mostly, it’s a story of old-fashioned entrepreneurship.


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

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Closes 2017 at 18-year High

BOSTON — Surging optimism about the state and national economies left Massachusetts employers with their highest level of confidence in 18 years as 2017 drew to a close. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose one point to 63.6 during December, its highest level since November 2000. The BCI gained 3.2 points during a year in which employer confidence levels remained comfortably within the optimistic range. Every element of the overall index increased during 2017 except for the Employment Index, which dropped a half-point. Analysts believe low unemployment and demographic shifts are impeding the ability of employers to find the workers they need. “Massachusetts employers maintained a uniformly positive outlook throughout 2017, and passage of the federal tax bill only added to that optimism,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “At the same time, the 12-month decline in the Employment Index reminds us that the persistent shortage of skilled workers has reached an inflection point for the Massachusetts economy. Massachusetts companies have postponed expansions, declined to bid for contracts, or outsourced work because they simply can’t find people.” The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mostly higher during December. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, surged 2.4 points to 67.6, leaving it 5.8 points better than a year earlier. The U.S. Index of national business conditions continued a yearlong rally by gaining two points to 64.2. December marked the 94th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, decreased 0.7 points to 62.7, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 2.7 points to 64.5. The Current Index gained 3.6 points and the Future Index 2.8 points during 2017. The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, declined 0.2 points to 62.1. The Employment Index rose slightly to 56.7, but still ended the year 0.5 points below the 57.2 posted in December 2016. Manufacturing companies (64.3) continued to be more optimistic than non-manufacturers (62.6). Another unusual result was that employers in Western Mass. (64.6) posted higher confidence readings than those in Eastern Mass. (62.7).

UMass Team Reports Gambling Research to Gaming Commission

AMHERST — Results of a baseline study on gambling behavior in Massachusetts that establishes how people participated — or not — in gambling prior to the opening of any casinos were reported this week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) by epidemiologist Rachel Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. It is the first major cohort study of adult gambling to be carried out in the U.S. Volberg and colleagues were selected by the MGC in 2013 to conduct a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive, multi-year study on the economic and social impacts of introducing casino gambling in the state. The Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team is examining an array of social and economic effects. As part of MGC’s research agenda, the results are from the separate Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort study of factors critical to developing strategic and data-driven problem-gambling services. Cohort studies survey the same individuals over time and provide information on how gambling and problem gambling develops and progresses, and how individuals may experience remission. “This has significant value as it can highlight risk and protective factors important in developing effective prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery-support services,” Volberg noted. Before beginning this research, she predicted the state’s sweeping research initiative would change the intellectual landscape and knowledge base about gambling, and she said the results released this week support that view. “This tells us new things, but it is nuanced. Based on this new study, researchers will think about gambling behavior in new ways.” One interesting finding is “the apparent ease with which people move in and out of problem-gambling status within a given year,” the lead author pointed out. “It’s pretty clear that people phase in and out of the problem gambling group. This movement is different than the way problem gambling has been characterized in the past. Until recently, the general orientation has been that disordered gambling is an unremitting chronic condition.” According to the report, only 49.4% of individuals who were problem or pathological gamblers in wave 1 were in this same category in wave 2, with sizeable numbers transitioning into at-risk gambling and recreational gambling categories. At-risk gamblers were the most unstable members of the cohort, with only 37.5% being in the same category in both waves. Most of them transitioned to recreational gambling, but a significant minority transitioned to become problem or pathological gamblers, the researchers reported. Added Volberg, “we’ve seen this movement in studies done in other jurisdictions, but this will be news to some researchers who are used to thinking of problem gambling as a progressive and chronic disorder.” An important aspect of all physical and mental disorders is incidence, she noted. That is the proportion of a population that newly develops a condition over a specified period of time. The study found problem gambling incidence in Massachusetts, at 2.4%, to be high compared to studies elsewhere. The authors pointed out, however, that those other studies have different ‘gambling landscapes,’ used different measures of problem gambling, and had shorter follow-up periods. The report noted that the cause of the high incidence rate is unclear given that there was no significant change in the actual availability of legal gambling opportunities in Massachusetts during this time period. In addition to Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst, co-investigator Robert Williams of the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, provided oversight of study design and implementation as well as help with data analysis and reporting.

Springfield Central Cultural District Receives $25,000 Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Morgan Drewniany, executive director of the Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD), announced the receipt of a $25,000 Beveridge Family Foundation grant to help the organization create an artist database, as well as increase internal capacity. Part of the grant from the Beveridge Foundation will be utilized to hire the UMass Arts Extension Service, a nationally renowned thought leader in the arts field, to help create a grassroots network of artists. This network will increase the economic growth of the creative-economy sector in Springfield by connecting artists to paid opportunities, as well as making it easier for local businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to find an artist of a specific discipline. The mission of the Beveridge Family Foundation is to preserve and enhance the quality of life by embracing and perpetuating Frank Stanley Beveridge’s philanthropic vision, through grant-making incentives in support of programs in youth development, health, education, religion, art, and environment, primarily in Hampden and Hampshire counties. The Springfield Central Cultural District encompasses an area of the metro center of Springfield, and is membership-based, involving many of the downtown arts institutions. Its mission is to create and sustain a vibrant cultural environment in Springfield.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Offers Winter Safety Tips

WESTBOROUGH — As winter continues to have a frigid grip on New England, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts is reminding customers of important safety tips during snowy and icy conditions. To be safe and avoid hazards, customers should:

• Keep natural-gas meters clear of snow and ice to ensure they are visible and accessible at all times for maintenance by Columbia Gas. Keeping natural-gas meters clear also ensures proper venting;

• Remove snow from the meter with hands or a broom. Never use a shovel or kick or hit the meter to break away snow or ice. If the meter is encased in ice, contact Columbia Gas for assistance at (800) 688-6160;

• Keep fresh air and exhaust vents for natural-gas appliances free of snow, ice, and debris to prevent equipment malfunction;

• Use caution when removing snow from flat rooftops, especially on commercial and industrial buildings, as there may be heating and cooling equipment and electric or fuel lines that may not be visible under the snow;

• Make sure all appliances and heating equipment are inspected and operating properly;

• Never use cook tops, ovens, or outdoor grills as a source of heat;

• Check your carbon-monoxide detectors and smoke detectors to ensure they operate properly; and

• As always, if you smell natural gas at any time, leave the area and call 911 or Columbia Gas at (800) 525-8222.

“The safety and comfort of our customers is a high priority,” said Steve Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. “We ask, during these winter months when temperatures are well below freezing, that you check on your families and neighbors, particularly those that are elderly or need special attention.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — It might be a little too early to mark your calendars for the next Healthcare Heroes gala — Oct. 18 is nine months away — but it’s not too early to start thinking about nominating individuals who might be honored.

Healthcare Heroes, an exciting new recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched last spring by HCN and BusinessWest . The program was created to shed a bright light on the outstanding work being done across the broad spectrum of health and wellness services, and the institutions and individuals providing that care.

Now, it’s time to start thinking about the next class of heroes, who will represent categories including ‘Lifetime Achievement,’ ‘Emerging Leader,’ ‘Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider,’ ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness,’ ‘Health/Wellness Administrator,’ and ‘Collaboration in Healthcare.’

Nominations are now being accepted, and will be until June 15. To nominate someone, visit healthcarenews.com or businesswest.com, click on ‘our events,’ and proceed to ‘Healthcare Heroes.’

Daily News

AMHERST — Results of a baseline study on gambling behavior in Massachusetts that establishes how people participated — or not — in gambling prior to the opening of any casinos were reported this week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) by epidemiologist Rachel Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. It is the first major cohort study of adult gambling to be carried out in the U.S.

Volberg and colleagues were selected by the MGC in 2013 to conduct a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive, multi-year study on the economic and social impacts of introducing casino gambling in the state. The Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team is examining an array of social and economic effects.

As part of MGC’s research agenda, the results are from the separate Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort study of factors critical to developing strategic and data-driven problem-gambling services. Cohort studies survey the same individuals over time and provide information on how gambling and problem gambling develops and progresses, and how individuals may experience remission.

“This has significant value as it can highlight risk and protective factors important in developing effective prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery-support services,” Volberg noted.

The report is based on analyses of 3,096 Massachusetts residents who completed the SEIGMA baseline study of self-reported past-year gambling behaviors in wave 1 in 2013-14 and wave 2 in 2015. The researchers observed a statistically significant increase in overall gambling participation as well as in participation in casino gambling and horserace betting within the cohort between wave 1 and wave 2. They also reported a statistically significant increase in the cohort in the average number of gambling formats engaged in over the previous 12 months. However, in all cases this increase was “quite small,” they note, between 2% and 3.2%.

Before beginning this research, Volberg predicted the state’s sweeping research initiative would change the intellectual landscape and knowledge base about gambling, and she said the results released this week support that view. “This tells us new things, but it is nuanced. Based on this new study, researchers will think about gambling behavior in new ways.”

One interesting finding is “the apparent ease with which people move in and out of problem-gambling status within a given year,” the lead author pointed out. “It’s pretty clear that people phase in and out of the problem gambling group. This movement is different than the way problem gambling has been characterized in the past. Until recently, the general orientation has been that disordered gambling is an unremitting chronic condition.”

According to the report, only 49.4% of individuals who were problem or pathological gamblers in wave 1 were in this same category in wave 2, with sizeable numbers transitioning into at-risk gambling and recreational gambling categories. At-risk gamblers were the most unstable members of the cohort, with only 37.5% being in the same category in both waves. Most of them transitioned to recreational gambling, but a significant minority transitioned to become problem or pathological gamblers, the researchers reported.

Added Volberg, “we’ve seen this movement in studies done in other jurisdictions, but this will be news to some researchers who are used to thinking of problem gambling as a progressive and chronic disorder.”

Mark Vander Linden, MGC director of research and responsible gaming, noted that “there is great value for the MGC and our public-health partners in knowing the movement of people into and out of problem gambling because this data has public-health implications for identifying and supporting the spectrum of services that will be most useful in preventing and treating problem gambling.”

An important aspect of all physical and mental disorders is incidence, Volberg said. That is the proportion of a population that newly develops a condition over a specified period of time. The study found problem gambling incidence in Massachusetts, at 2.4%, to be high compared to studies elsewhere. The authors pointed out, however, that those other studies have different ‘gambling landscapes,’ used different measures of problem gambling, and had shorter follow-up periods.

The report noted that the cause of the high incidence rate is unclear given that there was no significant change in the actual availability of legal gambling opportunities in Massachusetts during this time period. The researchers expect the post-casino cohort survey data will shed additional light on the incidence rate in Massachusetts.

In addition to Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst, co-investigator Robert Williams of the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, provided oversight of study design and implementation as well as help with data analysis and reporting. Future analyses will focus on predictors of problem-gambling onset and whether there are gender differences in these predictors, as well as predictors of problem-gambling remission and the extent to which accessing treatment is one of these factors.

Features

Future Tense

futuretenseFrom the beginning, perhaps the hardest thing about being in business is trying to figure out what’s coming next, how to prepare for it, how, perhaps, to capitalize on it, and, well, how to stay in business.

And at the rate technology is advancing and society is changing, this assignment has probably never been more challenging. Just ask the former owner of a Blockbuster Video franchise — although that example is dated and almost cliché.

But this much higher degree of difficulty shouldn’t stop business owners and managers from trying.

And that is the message — actually, one of many — that Delcie Bean, founder of Paragus Strategic IT and one of the region’s most heralded entrepreneurs, intends to leave with attendees of a highly anticipated series of breakfast lectures being produced by BusinessWest and sponsored by Paragus and the Jamrog Group, with additional sponsorships available. The program is unique in that the audience will be capped at 40, and attendees must be the owners of ventures with at least $1 million in annual sales.

The first installment of the Future Tense series, set for Feb. 22 at Tech Foundry in downtown Springfield, is loosely titled “An Unprecedented Technology Disruption.” That name speaks volumes about what’s on the horizon and should get the attention of every area business owner.

Delcie Bean

Delcie Bean

What we think of as fast now would be twice as fast next year and twice as fast the year after that.”

If it doesn’t, some of these comments from Bean certainly will. He told BusinessWest there are four main drivers, if you will, of this technology disruption — a confluence of extremely powerful forces, as he called it. These include virtual/augmented reality, autonomous driving, 3-D printing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. Each one is significant in its own right, he said, but all four of them coming at once? This will be historic in its influence on business and society in general.

“We have these 40-year cycles, and when you look at the Internet and the impact it had on the latest cycle … the experts, the people who make a living predicting these things are saying that the confluence of these four things coming together is going to have four times the impact on the world economy that the Internet did, and it’s going to have that impact over the course of a relatively short period of time,” Bean explained.

“We’re 10 years into the current 40-year cycle,” he went on. “So they’re saying that, over the next 30 years, the confluence of this is all going to happen. And what’s really interesting about this is not the technology, but the rate of change; we are going to see markets, technologies, companies, and work evolve at a rate of change we’ve never seen in the history of mankind. The rate of change is going to be exponential.”

To drive these points home, no pun intended, Bean focused, as he will during the breakfast program, on one of those aforementioned forces — autonomous driving.

As the technology advances and becomes mainstream, he noted, there will be a powerful ripple effect that will impact most all businesses related to the automobile and transportation, and economic tremors felt in communities of all sizes.

The lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to anticipating change is the trucking industry and the obvious impact on jobs, said Bean, adding that, a few years later, the next ripple would be car ownership and a sharp decline in the same.

“Most people would subscribe to a car service, like a Netflix, but they wouldn’t own a car,” he explained. “And you look at what that does; if people don’t own cars, the concept of car dealerships goes away. Then gas stations go away, because you won’t be concerned about finding a convenient gas station to fill up your car — fleets will have refueling stations.

Fast Facts

What: ‘Future Tense’ a BusinessWest breakfast lecture series;

When: Over the next year; the first program, is slated for Feb. 22

Where: Tech Foundry,
1391 Main St., Springfield

Sponsors: Paragus Strategic IT, The Jamrog Group, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.. Additional sponsorships available

For More Information or to purchase tickets:
Call (413) 781-8600.

“And if there’s no gas stations, there’s no convenience stores, because the convenience store loses a lot of its impact if it’s not attached to a gas station,” he went on. “And the further out you go … you look at the impact on parking and the impact parking has on real estate, and the impact that real estate has on where people live … the ripples get wider and wider, and the further out you go, the bigger the impact on the U.S. economy and the global economy as a whole.”

And that’s just autonomous driving. The same ripple effects will result from visual/augmented reality, 3-D printing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning, he noted, adding that the changes will come in everything from the how work is done to the relevance of professions up to and including doctors and lawyers.

Summing things up, Bean cited what’s come to be known as Moore’s law. Named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, it is the observation that processor power will double approximately every two years, and it holds true a half-century later.

Bean said that same formula, more or less, will apply to the rate of change taking place in society — and, indirectly, to the definition of the word ‘fast.’

“The rate of change will double every year,” he explained. “What we think of as fast now would be twice as fast next year and twice as fast the year after that.”

How do business owners and managers prepare for such abrupt, profound, and ongoing change? That is the $64,000 question, and Bean intends to provide some answers at the Feb. 22 presentation.

As for subsequent programs, they, too, will live up to that title Future Tense and provide attendees with deep insight into how to be ready for what’s coming next.

And for many (actually, everyone, eventually), what’s next is retirement. Amy Jamrog, financial advisor with the Jamrog Group, who will lead the second program in the spring, said many people are not preparing properly for that day, or those 30 or 40 years, to be exact.

Common mistakes she sees come in many categories, ranging from failure to anticipate how much one will need in retirement, to how to decide what to do with accumulated wealth, to survival of a family business.

“Having done this for 20 years, what I’m seeing more than ever before is business owners making decisions in silos,” she explained. “They think their business, their family situation, their succession plan is unique. In some respects it is, but I don’t feel that the information is getting disseminated to the business owner and the family structure in general when it’s a family-owned business, in a way that coordinates all the pieces.

“There are tax implications to consider, there are legal considerations, and there are family dynamics,” she went on. “And the big piece we’re working on with a lot of local companies getting ready to sell is the philanthropic side. Some of these companies are going to be selling for a lot of money, and these people aren’t even thinking about giving some of the proceeds back to the community.”

For more on that, well, stay tuned for more details on future installments of the lecture series.

Registration and tickets to the Feb. 22 program, and the for the entire series, can be ordered HERE or by calling (413) 781-8600. Tickets to each program are $25 each, with all proceeds going to Tech Foundry.

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

Briefcase Departments

HCC, STCC Launch Gaming School, Open Registration for Classes

SPRINGFIELD — Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College officially launched the new MCCTI Gaming School, where area residents interested in working as professional card dealers or croupiers at MGM Springfield can start taking training classes early next year. HCC and STCC, through TWO, their Training and Workforce Options collaborative, and MCCTI, the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, will run the gaming school on the ninth floor of 95 State St., Springfield. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently issued a certificate to MCCTI to operate the school. “MGM Springfield is inspired by our educational and workforce-development partners’ strong commitment to creating a healthier regional economy through career opportunities,” said Alex Dixon, general manager for MGM Springfield. “We are grateful for their willingness to learn about and adapt teachings for the gaming and hospitality industry. Today, we celebrate this milestone and look forward to hiring the first-ever table-game professionals in the Commonwealth.” The launch event also signaled the opening of registration for training classes, which will begin Feb. 26 in anticipation of the opening of the $960 million MGM Springfield resort casino in September 2018. Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services for HCC, who also serves as executive director of TWO and MCCTI, noted that the MGM International website prominently features two new resort casinos MGM is building that are literally half a world apart, one in Springfield and another in Macau. “There will be a $1 billion facility one block from here,” he said. “The show is coming to Springfield.” A full schedule of training classes, along with course descriptions, prices, and school policies is available on the MCCTI website at www.mccti.org under ‘Gaming School,’ where job seekers can also register and explore other employment possibilities with MGM. “The citizens of the region want to work in positions that provide a livable wage and the potential for advancement,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. “MGM Springfield will provide both, right in the heart of our region in downtown Springfield. I want to thank the community-college presidents for their continued dedication to providing people with the education and skills they need to be successful in the job market.” Robert Westerfield, vice president of Table Games for MGM Springfield, said starting out as a dealer with MGM can truly open up career pathways with the organization. “I started off as a craps dealer,” he said. “I stand before you as vice president of Table Games. Anybody can do it. If you bring the attitude, we’ll give you the aptitude.” In 2012, the presidents of the state’s 15 community colleges signed a memorandum of understanding with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to work collaboratively to provide training for casino jobs in each of the state’s three defined casino regions: Greater Boston, Southeastern Mass., and Western Mass. In the Western Mass. region, MCCTI is operated by TWO. “We know that economic development and workforce development are not separate efforts,” said STCC President John Cook. “It is imperative that economic and workforce development are integrated for the benefit of our region’s businesses and citizens. The investment of MGM Springfield will allow many of our citizens to begin the process of getting employed and establishing a career pathway.” Added HCC President Christina Royal, “I particularly appreciate HCC’s historic and continuing partnerships with STCC in support of the workforce needs of area businesses. Both colleges offer a wide variety of educational and training options for job seekers and incumbent workers in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, culinary arts, and many other fields. MCCTI and events like today reinforce the important role community colleges play in the state and regional economy.” The MCCTI Gaming School will provide dealer training in blackjack, roulette, craps, poker, and other casino games. Participants who successfully complete training programs for at least two different table games will be guaranteed an ‘audition,’ or tryout, for a job at MGM Springfield.

Report: Massachusetts Is Healthiest State in the Nation

BOSTON — Massachusetts is the healthiest state in the nation, according to the 28th annual America’s Health Rankings report. Among the state’s strengths are its low percentage of uninsured people, low prevalence of obesity, and high vaccination rates. The 2017 report also ranked Massachusetts first for the health of women and children. “This report highlights the notable progress that our state is making to improve the health and well-being of every individual living in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Massachusetts is proud to have the lowest number of uninsured residents in the country and robust public-health efforts, and our administration will keep working across all levels of government to ensure quality healthcare and a safe, healthy environment for our residents to live, work, and play.” The 2017 report analyzed 35 measures covering behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and outcomes data. The report serves as a benchmark for states — and the nation — to measure progress, identify emerging trends, and drive action for improving public health. Last year, Massachusetts ranked second, behind Hawaii. “This year’s findings demonstrate that our focus on improving health outcomes is making a real difference in the lives of Massachusetts families and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Today’s news is a testament to the hard work and dedication of many people working across state and local government, healthcare providers, and at the community grassroots level to make Massachusetts healthier.” Among other categories in which Massachusetts was ranked first were immunizations of children ages 19 to 35 months; immunization of adolescents ages 13 to 17 years with Tdap vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough); percentage of the population that is uninsured; number of dentists per 100,000 people; and number of mental-health providers per 100,000 people.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts is the healthiest state in the nation, according to the 28th annual America’s Health Rankings report. Among the state’s strengths are its low percentage of uninsured people, low prevalence of obesity, and high vaccination rates. The 2017 report also ranked Massachusetts first for the health of women and children.

“This report highlights the notable progress that our state is making to improve the health and well-being of every individual living in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Massachusetts is proud to have the lowest number of uninsured residents in the country and robust public-health efforts, and our administration will keep working across all levels of government to ensure quality healthcare and a safe, healthy environment for our residents to live, work, and play.”

The 2017 report analyzed 35 measures covering behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and outcomes data. The report serves as a benchmark for states — and the nation — to measure progress, identify emerging trends, and drive action for improving public health. Last year, Massachusetts ranked second, behind Hawaii.

“This year’s findings demonstrate that our focus on improving health outcomes is making a real difference in the lives of Massachusetts families and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Today’s news is a testament to the hard work and dedication of many people working across state and local government, healthcare providers, and at the community grassroots level to make Massachusetts healthier.”

Among other categories in which Massachusetts was ranked first were immunizations of children ages 19 to 35 months; immunization of adolescents ages 13 to 17 years with Tdap vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough); percentage of the population that is uninsured; number of dentists per 100,000 people; and number of mental-health providers per 100,000 people.

“The rankings are an important indicator of the significant progress we’ve made in critical public-health areas, such as tobacco control, increasing vaccination rates, and reducing obesity,’’ said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “We will continue to strive to address persistent health disparities and create conditions which allow all of us to live long, healthy lives.”

Company Notebook Departments

Vibra Hospital to Close Springfield Facility in March

SPRINGFIELD — Vibra Hospital, a 220-bed long-term acute care center on State Street, has filed notice with the state that it plans to close. The shutdown will occur in March, the hospital said in a press release. “We have struggled with this decision,” Gregory Toot, CEO of Vibra’s Springfield operations, said. “But reductions in healthcare reimbursement and changes in referral practices over the past 12 months have made continuing operations in this location unsustainable.” Vibra said its facilities in New Bedford and the Rochdale village of Leicester will remain open. Vibra’s Springfield facility has three units with approximately 90 patients: a chronic-care hospital unit, a behavioral-health skilled-nursing unit, and a Department of Mental Health (DMH) psychiatric unit. Vibra is working with the DMH and Department of Public Health to place patients in other facilities.

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Input on Charitable Giving

MONSON — For the eighth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank is asking the community to help plan the bank’s community-giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2018. “Every year we donate over $100,000 to nonprofit organizations doing important work in the communities we serve,” said Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank. “For several years now, we’ve been asking the community for input on which groups they’d like us to support, and we’ve been so pleased by how many people participate. We have learned of new organizations through this process, and we also just like the idea of asking our community for input. As a community bank, we think that’s important.” To cast their vote, people can visit www.monsonsavings.bank/about-us/vote-community-giving. There, they will see a list of organizations the bank has already supported in 2017 and provide up to three names of groups they’d like the bank to donate to in 2018. The only requirement is that the organizations be nonprofit and provide services in Hampden, Monson, Wilbraham, or Ware. The voting ends at 3 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2018. The bank pledges to support the top 10 vote getters and will announce who they are by the end of January.

Meredith-Springfield Associates Named Manufacturer of the Year

LUDLOW — Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc., a plastics manufacturer specializing in extrusion blow molding and injection stretch blow molding, was recently named ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ by the Commonwealth’s Manufacturing Caucus. President and CEO Mel O’Leary recently accepted the award alongside Director of Finance and Administration Edward Kaplan during a presentation at the Massachusetts State House.

Red Lion Inn Wins Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award

STOCKBRIDGE — Condé Nast Traveler recently announced the results of its 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, with the Red Lion Inn recognized as a “Top Hotel in New England” with a ranking of 29. “It’s an honor to be recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, and this award is particularly special because it reflects the opinions of our guests,” said Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, owner and operator of the historic inn. “This prestigious award speaks to the inn’s lasting character and our dedicated staff who make it feel like a home away from home for our guests.” More than 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments, voting on a record-breaking 7,320 hotels and resorts, 610 cities, 225 islands, 468 cruise ships, 158 airlines, and 195 airports. The Red Lion Inn, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America, has been providing food and lodging to guests for more than two centuries. The inn offers 125 antique-filled rooms and suites, four restaurants with formal and casual dining with locally sourced food, a gift shop featuring locally made items, a pub with nightly entertainment, and a range of amenities including wi-fi, a year-round heated outdoor pool, and in-room massage therapy and weekly yoga classes.

Cambridge College, ILI Announce Partnership

SPRINGFIELD — Cambridge College and the International Language Institute of Massachusetts (ILI) recently announced a partnership through the University Pathways Program. Through this partnership, international students in the University Pathways track receive the academic support and counseling they need to help them transition successfully to Cambridge College. ILI carefully selects its partner colleges and universities. Cambridge College was selected because of its program offerings and commitment to the adult-learning model. “I am so excited that we have formed this partnership,” said Teresa Forte, director, Cambridge College – Springfield. “Both organizations are committed to working with the adult community. ILI is an impressive organization, and this agreement will allow both schools to expand our international footprint and serve more students in need.” The partnership provides an opportunity for international students who attend and successfully graduate from the ILI to be exempt from taking the TOEFL exam for admissions at Cambridge College and its 13 other partner schools. Additionally, the institute offers free part-time afternoon and evening English classes at its downtown Northampton site. “We are so pleased to welcome Cambridge College to the University Pathways Program, and we look forward to working with the college in welcoming students from around the world for study in the United States. When strong, like-minded partners team up, the opportunities are limitless,” said Caroline Gear, executive director, International Language Institute of Massachusetts.

Chicopee Savings Foundation Endows Scholarship at WNEU

SPRINGFIELD — Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation recently pledged to establish an endowed scholarship available to undergraduate students at Western New England University. With a commitment of $50,000, a scholarship of $2,000 will be available annually beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation created the scholarship to support students in local communities. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to inbound students in pursuit of higher education who demonstrate exemplary scholastic achievement, drive, and integrity, and who meet the following criteria: a U.S. citizen and resident of Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke, Ludlow, South Hadley, Springfield, Ware, West Springfield, or Westfield who demonstrates financial need and is an incoming freshman with a high-school GPA of 3.5 or higher, or a transfer or returning student with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. The scholarship is renewable each year the recipient continues to meet the criteria. “Scholarship aid is among the highest funding priorities at Western New England University, and we are thrilled to have this new award established by our neighbors and friends at the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation,” said Anthony Caprio, president of Western New England University. “Providing financial assistance helps ensure that students are able to concentrate on their studies and focus on their futures more clearly.” In April 2016, it was announced that Chicopee Savings Bank would merge with Westfield Bank to form the largest bank headquartered in Hampden County. Both banks now do business under the Westfield Bank name, but the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation remains in place with its original philanthropic mission.

Elms College, University of Kochi Extend 20-year Exchange Program

CHICOPEE — Elms College signed an agreement on Nov. 29 continuing its international exchange program with the University of Kochi in Japan. The exchange relationship is celebrating its 20th year. Harry Dumay, president of Elms College, and Takahiro Ioroi, academic vice president of the University of Kochi — one of the original faculty members involved in starting the exchange program — signed the agreement in Dumay’s office at Elms. Every year, visiting students from Kochi spend nearly two weeks exploring life at Elms. The Kochi students stay in residence halls at Elms, study English, attend classes related to their majors, and take in local sights and cuisine. They participate in extracurricular activities — including bowling, shopping in Northampton, film screenings, and a karaoke party — that show them the fun side of American college life, and they host a Japanese festival each year to share their culture with the students of Elms. “We want to promote international education and exchange, because never, in our global society that’s always changing, has international education and exchange been as important as it is now,” said Marco Garcia, director of International Programs at Elms. During the visit, nearly 40 Elms students serve as ‘friendship partners’ for the Japanese students. These friendship partners participate in a three-hour training course to act as roommates, classmates, and partners in language and cultural activities. Friendship partners are one of the most important aspects of the program, Garcia said. “As the Japanese students come in, we want them to meet a diverse group of students here, so they have a deeper understanding of American life and culture. Our students are very diverse. And that’s really important, because we are a nation of immigrants, and understanding the strength of our diversity is very important.” In addition to Ioroi, the representatives from the University of Kochi are Dr. Joel Joos, a native of Belgium who is a professor of Japanese Cultural Studies and chair of the International Exchange Committee; and Mariko Hayashi, International Center associate.

WSU, GCC Announce Nursing-degree Partnership

NORTHAMPTON — The presidents of Westfield State University and Greenfield Community College announced and signed an agreement today that creates a hybrid (combined online and onsite) RN-to-BSN completion program between the institutions. Based online and at GCC’s newly opened Northampton satellite location, the program provides GCC’s associate-degree graduates and other area registered nurses a flexible, convenient, and cost-effective pathway to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from Westfield State. Students will take the majority of courses online and fulfill the limited on-site requirements at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. With a price tag of $10,800, its leaders say, the RN-to-BSN completion program is the most cost-effective in the area. Applications are currently being accepted for fall 2018 enrollment.

CHD to Serve More Youth with New Ware Office

WARE — CHD, which for many years has provided mental-health services to the Ware community, is establishing its first physical presence in Ware with an office at 2 South St. This will enable CHD to extend services in Ware as well as neighboring communities. CHD will begin accepting referrals for mental-health services for youth through CHD’s Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI). CHD’s CBHI services are for MassHealth members, who can access the services without a co-pay. “CHD has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the residents of Ware, but this will be the first time we have a facility located right in the town of Ware,” said Susan Sullivan, program director of CHD’s Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative, which includes the In-Home Services and Therapeutic Mentoring programs. “Our new facility at 2 South St. is fully staffed with six licensed clinicians, four therapeutic training and support staff, and three therapeutic mentors, all with multiple years of experience.” There are many behavioral symptoms that CHD’s CBHI services can help address, such as difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, depression and/or anxiety, challenging behavior at home, reports of in-class behavioral issues, substance use, sudden mood changes, and aggressive, suicidal, or homicidal behavior. According to Sullivan, CHD’s CBHI services are for any child who can’t have their mental-health needs met in a one-hour-a-week outpatient setting. “What differentiates CBHI from outpatient services is our services are designed for children and families who need a higher level of care,” she explained. “That’s why we go to them — to their home, to a location in the community, to team meetings at school, to court — wherever a family needs our support, as often as needed. There is no time frame that limits our work with children and their families. We continue our work as long as there is medical necessity and the family needs us. Someone from CHD is available every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. someone is on call. That is not the case with outpatient services.” Parents who are on MassHealth and who have concerns about their child’s behavior at home or at school can self-refer by calling CHD Central Registration at (844) CHD-HELP. There is currently no wait list for services, so children can be seen immediately. “Most people don’t realize that families can self-refer,” said Sullivan. “That call to CHD Central Registration gets families connected with people who know the world of mental-health services and can get them pointed in the right direction. Keep in mind that CBHI services are voluntary. It’s your choice to have CHD there, and you drive the treatment plan. We aren’t only working with the child, we work with everyone involved in their life who can have an impact, such as the people they’re living with and their extended family. The average age of the children we serve are between the ages of 8 and 13, but we serve youth from birth through age 21, and once an individual turns 21, CHD can help get them connected to services for adults.” Cities and towns covered through the Ware CHBI office include Hampden, Wilbraham, Ludlow, Monson, Palmer, Ware, Belchertown, Wales, Brimfield, Holland, Warren, West Brookfield, Hardwick, Barre, Brookfield, North Brookfield, East Brookfield, Sturbridge, New Braintree, Spencer, and Three Rivers. Additional cities and towns are also served through various locations throughout the Pioneer Valley.

DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology Honored by Modern Salon Media

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Modern Salon Media has named the 2017 class of “Excellence in Education” honorees in its seventh annual program recognizing leadership and best practices among cosmetology schools. DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology was chosen to represent excellence in the following categories: Community Involvement, Marketing, and School Culture. Modern Salon Publisher Steve Reiss announced the honorees during the recent American Assoc. of Cosmetology Schools 2017 convention in Las Vegas. Honorees were determined based on key criteria in each category, and grouped according to number of locations. Honorees were chosen in each category — one individual school location and a multi-location school organization. “We received applications from cosmetology schools across the country and look forward to celebrating all the 2017 Excellence in Education honorees and sharing their stories. It is truly a great time to pursue a beauty education and career, and the program at DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology exemplifies that fact,” Modern Salon Editorial Director Michele Musgrove said. Added Paul DiGrigoli, owner of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology, “I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of our students and staff for following the ‘three C’s,’ which we practice every day — culture, community, and customer service. These are our strongest values and beliefs at DiGrigoli.” Sharing stories of innovation, inspiration, and collaboration from a diverse group of leading schools is an important part of Modern Salon’s “Excellence in Education” mission, Musgrove explained. “We want to help spread the word about the exceptional work cosmetology schools are doing to help launch beautiful careers.”

HCC Awarded Grant to Expand Community Health Worker Program

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College has been awarded a grant of more than $400,000 from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to expand its Community Health Worker program in partnership with area employers. The four-year, $431,227 allocation will enable approximately 120 people to take a series of three credit-bearing classes to enhance their education and training as community health workers.The three classes — free for those accepted into the grant program — were selected in consultation with representatives from Behavioral Health Network and the Gandara Center, two regional, nonprofit behavioral-health agencies. “We’re partnering with BHN and Gandara, and they’re sending a bunch of their current staff who are already working in various capacities with clients,” said Rebecca Lewis, chair of HCC’s Foundations of Health program. “There’s been interest from a lot of different employers.”The grant was awarded through HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training division. HRSA is part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The initial cohort of 27 students will take the first of three required classes, “Core Competencies for Community Health Workers,” during the spring 2018 semester. That introductory course will be followed over the summer with the second, where students will have a choice of either “Children’s Behavioral Health” or a more general “Essential Health for Community Health Workers” course. The third class, to be completed in the fall, is a practicum with an area employer. Lewis said the state Department of Public Health currently has regulations pending for a state certification process for community health workers, and the three classes align with pending regulations. A second cohort of 30 students will begin in the fall when courses will be offered in the evenings and on Saturdays to make it more convenient for those currently working. Community health is an emerging healthcare field, and community health workers are typically employed by agencies to focus on underserved populations, conducting home visits and connecting clients with needed services. They are not nurses nor home health aides and do not provide medical care. “Historically, community health workers are bilingual and bicultural, and they’re from the communities that they serve,” said Lewis. Upon successful completion of the three-course series, students will receive a certificate of completion that can serve as a stand-alone community health worker credential. Or the nine HCC credits they earn can be ‘stacked,’ that is, applied toward a full Community Health Worker certificate (26 credits), an associate degree in Foundations of Health, or an associate degree in Human Services. “Some people might want to work in a more clinical healthcare setting, like working in a health center,” Lewis said. “Some people might want to work for a social-service agency.” Two years ago, HCC became the first area institution to start a Community Health Worker certificate program with an eye toward pending state regulations that would allow the college to apply to become an official training site.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Modern Salon Media has named the 2017 class of “Excellence in Education” honorees in its seventh annual program recognizing leadership and best practices among cosmetology schools. DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology was chosen to represent excellence in the following categories: Community Involvement, Marketing, and School Culture.

Modern Salon Publisher Steve Reiss announced the honorees during the recent American Assoc. of Cosmetology Schools 2017 convention in Las Vegas. Honorees were determined based on key criteria in each category, and grouped according to number of locations. Honorees were chosen in each category — one individual school location and a multi-location school organization.

“We received applications from cosmetology schools across the country and look forward to celebrating all the 2017 Excellence in Education honorees and sharing their stories. It is truly a great time to pursue a beauty education and career, and the program at DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology exemplifies that fact,” Modern Salon Editorial Director Michele Musgrove said.

Added Paul DiGrigoli, owner of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology, “I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of our students and staff for following the ‘three C’s,’ which we practice every day — culture, community, and customer service. These are our strongest values and beliefs at DiGrigoli.”

Sharing stories of innovation, inspiration, and collaboration from a diverse group of leading schools is an important part of Modern Salon’s “Excellence in Education” mission, Musgrove explained. “We want to help spread the word about the exceptional work cosmetology schools are doing to help launch beautiful careers. We hope the professional salon industry and their communities will join us in celebrating them.”

Departments Picture This

The Super 60

The Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce staged its annual Super 60 Luncheon at a packed Chez Josef in Agawam on Oct. 28. Now in its 28th year, the program recognizes high-performing companies in two categories: Total Revenue and Revenue Growth.

Bill Grinnell (center), president of Webber & Grinnell Insurance, a winner in the Total Revenue category, accepts his plaque from Ashley Allen, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Health New England, the presenting sponsor, and Don D’Amour, chairman of Big Y Foods, a platinum sponsor

Bill Grinnell (center), president of Webber & Grinnell Insurance, a winner in the Total Revenue category, accepts his plaque from Ashley Allen, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Health New England, the presenting sponsor, and Don D’Amour, chairman of Big Y Foods, a platinum sponsor

Ralph Crowley Jr., CEO of Polar Beverages in Worcester, delivers the keynote address

Ralph Crowley Jr., CEO of Polar Beverages in Worcester, delivers the keynote addres

Paul Whalley, vice president of Whalley Computer Associates, the top finisher in the Total Revenue category, accepts his plaque from Allen and D’Amour

Paul Whalley, vice president of Whalley Computer Associates, the top finisher in the Total Revenue category, accepts his plaque from Allen and D’Amour

Drive Time

A host of local and state officials were on hand on Nov. 1 for the ribbon cutting for Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, the $12 million dealership created at the site of the former Plantation Inn in Chicopee. First conceived nearly three years ago, the dealership marks the return of Mercedes-Benz to the Greater Springfield area after a decade-long absence.

Attendees mingle in the showroom prior to the ceremonies

Attendees mingle in the showroom prior to the ceremonies

Jay Ashe, state secretary of Housing & Economic Development, addresses the attendees

Jay Ashe, state secretary of Housing & Economic Development, addresses the attendees

Cutting the ribbon are

Cutting the ribbon are, from left, state Rep. Joseph Wagner, Ashe, Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos, partners Peter and Michelle Wirth, partner Richard Hesse, and his wife, Amy

Peter Wirth says a few words to the attendees

Peter Wirth says a few words to the attendees

Agenda Departments

Springfield Symphony Orchestra 2017-18 Season

Through May 19, 2018: An evening with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is more than a musically memorable experience. To attend an SSO concert is to be part of a rich cultural tradition. Single tickets and subscriptions, including the SSO’s new pops-oriented Wild Card 4 package, are on sale now for the SSO’s 74th season. The public may purchase tickets by visiting the box office at 1441 Main St., Springfield (ground-floor level in the TD Bank Building), or calling (413) 733-2291. The season began Oct. 14 and runs through May 19, 2018. In addition to offering its traditional subscriber options, which include four to all seven of its classical performances, the SSO has introduced the new Wild Card 4 package. Perfect for fans of the pops, the new subscription package includes all three special events — “Holiday Extravaganza with the Grinch,” “Star Wars & Star Trek Sci-Fi Spectacular,” and a performance by the Texas Tenors — as well as one classical performance of the subscriber’s choice. For the opening-night concert on Oct. 14, the SSO and Kevin Rhodes, its longtime music director and conductor, presented selected works of celebrated composers Rossini, Prokofiev, and Brahms, featuring guest pianist Claire Huangci. Next up, on Nov. 4, guest cellist Julian Schwarz joins the musicians for “Viva America,” a toe-tapping nod to American masters Gershwin, Copeland, Bernstein, and Liebermann. Then, on Dec. 9, the Springfield Symphony Chorus joins the orchestra for the much-anticipated “Holiday Extravaganza.” Both this festive show and “Star Wars & Star Trek Sci-Fi Spectacular,” the season’s second special event (March 3, 2018), feature interactive family fun. For the season’s third and final special event on April 21, 2018, the SSO will bring audiences the Texas Tenors, a popular vocal trio whose signature crossover style has topped Billboard charts. The group’s widely viewed debut on NBC’s America’s Got Talent quickly led to a worldwide concert tour and a 2014 PBS special, “You Should Dream,” which earned three Emmy Awards. Free parking at three downtown garages is available to all attending an SSO concert. Subscribers, whether they choose a classical package or the Wild Card 4, enjoy additional benefits, including savings of up to 20% over single-ticket purchases and exclusive access to special events. An SSO subscription makes an ideal holiday gift for friends and family members of all ages. For more information on SSO subscriptions, single-ticket sales, or the 2017-18 concert series, call the SSO box office at (413) 733-2291 or visit springfieldsymphony.org.

Hoarding Conference

Oct. 18: To promote greater understanding of research and treatment for hoarding disorder, a conference titled “Hoarding Disorder: Recovery Is Real” will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Hadley Farms Meeting House, 41 Russell St., Hadley. Jesse Edsell-Vetter, stabilization case manager, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership Hoarding Team, will be the keynote speaker. CEUs will be offered for licensed professionals. Funding for the conference is being provided by a grant from the Center for Human Development. According to the American Psychiatric Assoc., people with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. Typically, they save random items they feel have value or that they may need in the future. Their persistent difficulty parting with possessions leads to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces. People with hoarding disorder often feel safer surrounded by the things they save, but items can fill, block, and clutter active living spaces at home. Hoarding can cause problems in social or work settings, too, including hindering a productive and safe environment. Serious hoarding can lead to fire hazards, tripping hazards, and health-code violations, as well as interpersonal strain and conflict, isolation, and loneliness. “Contrary to negative pop-culture portrayals, people who have accumulated a problematic amount of possessions tend to be creative, intelligent, and resourceful,” said Lee Shuer, a consultant with Mutual Support and the creator of WRAP for Reducing Clutter. “Such people are mostly just unsuccessful in the pursuit of moderation, although some people call us the ‘H’ word: hoarders. I call myself a finder/keeper because hoarding has become such a derogatory label, helped in no small part by sensational reality TV shows. People like us who acquire and keep too much stuff are stuck, hung up on something emotional, something unseen beneath the surface of life. What can be seen is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s complicated. But hoarding disorder is real, and so is recovery.”

Homework House 10-year Celebration

Oct. 19: Homework House is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, and it will mark the occasion with a 10th Anniversary Celebration and Fund-raising Breakfast from 7:45 to 9:15 a.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke to share its story and inspire the financial resources Homework House needs to sustain its programs for the next 10 years and beyond. The anniversary breakfast’s theme is “A Decade of Inspiring Children, Supporting Families, and Transforming Community,” which reflects the broad ripple effect that occurs as a result of children’s participation in Homework House’s academic after-school and summer programming. Founded by retired educators Sr. Maureen Broughan and Sr. Jane Morrissey, Homework House promotes educational success through free, individualized tutoring and mentoring for children. Featuring a program that will highlight the stories of Homework House alumni, parents, and stakeholders, the breakfast will reflect on the powerful work of the past 10 years while looking forward to Homework House’s continued growth. The breakfast is free and will feature a focused ask for donations. Community members interested in attending the event or taking a leadership role as a table captain can register by visiting www.homeworkhousetenth.com.

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. From a pool of 70 nominations, panel of judges chose eight winners in seven categories, who were profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest, the September issue of HCN, and at businesswest.com. American International College and Trinity Health Of New England are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Partner sponsors are Achieve TMS East, HUB International New England, and Health New England. Additional sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Elms College, Renew.Calm, and Cooley Dickinson Health Care. This event is sold out.

Dress for Success Panel

Oct. 24: Area employers and human-resource professionals are invited to join Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts for a panel discussion about breaking down the barriers that stand between the region’s workforce and sustained employment. With sponsorship support from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, United Personnel, Sperion Staffing, Armbrook Village, and Western MA HRMA, the event will be held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. Tickets for the event cost $25 and may be purchased online at westernmassachusettsdressforsuccess.org or by calling (860) 638-8980.

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, Wild Apple Design Group, and Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing and Go Graphix (show partners), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Support Center sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces parking sponsor), WMAS, WHMP, Rock 102 & Lazer 99.3, and MassLive (media partners), and the Better Business Bureau and Cartamundi (contributing sponsors). Exhibitor spaces are available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

ToGetHerThere Awards

Nov. 3: Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts (GSCWM) announced the recipients of the inaugural ToGetHerThere Awards. The five award recipients have a shared vision of creating a culture of creativity and caring, where young women feel confident in their ability to work hard, dream big, and face with courage any obstacle that stands in the way of making their dreams come true. The winners have affected hundreds of lives and serve as role models for other organizations grappling with how to support underserved members in their communities. The awardees are:

• Entrepreneur: Cassandra Abramson, president and founder, ECi Stores;

• Financial Literacy: Amy Roberts, vice president of Human Resources, Balise Auto Group;

• Health & Wellness: Katie Gauvin, regional safety director, SODEXO; major, Logistics Readiness Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base;

• Man Enough to Be a Girl Scout: Timothy Murphy, Esq., partner, Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.; and

• STEM: Martha Baker, associate dean, College of Natural Sciences, UMass Amherst.

Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts will honor the winners at the ToGetHerThere Awards Luncheon at the Tower Square Hotel (formerly the Springfield Marriott). Tickets are $50 each or tables of 10 for $500. To order tickets and for more info on each awardee, visit www.gscwm.org/en/events/special-events/TGHTA.html or contact Melanie Bonsu at (413) 584-2602, ext. 3623, or [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University is featured in the Colleges of Distinction guidebook, a widely used review publication that provides a discerning look at colleges throughout the U.S. Based on the judgments of guidance counselors, educators, and admissions professionals, the Colleges of Distinction guidebook honors colleges that excel in key areas of educational quality.

“Western New England University is excited that Colleges of Distinction has recognized our outstanding qualities and has again included us in the guidebook,” said Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing at WNEU. “As one of the few small institutions in the country that has achieved the highest accreditation standards for business (AACSB), engineering (ABET), and law (ABA), the university successfully combines the highest standards of learning with one-on-one student attention in a vibrant and engaging community, and one that provides a quality experience, leading to successful outcomes.”

The university serves approximately 4,000 students, including 2,650 undergraduate students. In order to qualify for inclusion in the guidebook, WNEU was evaluated for its performance in the ‘four distinctions’: ‘engaged students,’ ‘great teaching,’ ‘vibrant communities,’ and ‘successful outcomes.’ Guidance counselors and admissions professionals around the country recommended Western New England highly in all four categories. The university was particularly noted for its active student body, devoted faculty, and academic programs based on developing collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Already recognized by Colleges of Distinction for its innovative approach to education, Western New England University has been honored further for its blending of the liberal arts with professional programming in business, education, and engineering. The 21st-century job market now demands employees who are both stellar communicators and critical-thinkers, and WNEU’s well-rounded approach to career development aims to prepare students to take on the post-graduation world.

“The single most important goal we set for ourselves at the university is to maintain the highest level of educational quality and to help assure the success of each of our students,” said Anthony Caprio, WNEU president. “At Western New England University, it is the high level of commitment to this goal that defines not only who we are, but also what we value as educators.”

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Employee vs. Contractor

By Christopher Marini, MSA, MOS

Christopher Marini

Christopher Marini

One of the most exciting moments for any small-business owner is reaching the point of having sufficient demand and capital to need additional help. Many businesses benefit from hiring employees, whereas others function better utilizing independent contractors. Generally, most businesses have a need for both employees and independent contractors.

The most noticeable difference between these classifications is how they are paid. Employees are part of the payroll, and accordingly the employer is also required to pay certain payroll taxes as well as workers’ compensation insurance. In contrast, independent contractors are not part of the payroll, and are typically paid through accounts payable. Following the end of the year, employees must be given a W-2, and all independent contractors who were paid $600 or more must be sent a 1099-MISC.

Determining whether to pay an individual as an employee or independent contractor requires the business owner to understand the distinguishing differences in classification. Failure to do so could have detrimental financial consequences. Under IRS regulations, classification at the federal level follows ‘common-law rules,’ which consist of three categories: behavioral, financial, and type of relationship. Here are some specifics:

Behavioral

Behavioral control relates to the degree of oversight by the employer. If the worker is subject to employer instructions, this tends to be indicative of an employee. Pursuant to IRS Publication 15-A, examples of “instructions” include:

• When and where to do the work;

• What tools or equipment to use;

• What additional workers to hire or to assist with the work;

• Where to purchase supplies and services;

• What work must be performed by a specified individual; and

• What order or sequence to follow when performing the work.

Other behavioral factors to consider are whether the worker undergoes training or periodic evaluations. Both of these circumstances would point to the need for an employee classification.

Financial

Independent contractors generally have much more complex financial structures. For example, independent contractors often have a significant personal investment in equipment needed to perform their work. Often, their service is for a short-term period of time, and they perform similar services for several other consumers. Because of this, they often have various unreimbursed expenses.

In terms of pay, independent contractors are typically paid a flat fee for their service, whereas employees are usually paid a wage based on hours worked. Because employees are paid a wage, and don’t typically have significant investments in equipment or unreimbursed expenses, employees are guaranteed a profit.

However, independent contractors incur the possibility of having a loss if expenditures exceed the fee they collect for their service.

Type of Relationship

One important relationship factor is permanency. Workers who are hired for an indefinitely continued period of time are typically employees, whereas workers hired for a specified period, or until a particular project is completed, are generally considered independent contractors. Employers should be cautioned that the behavioral or financial rules could cause temporary or seasonal workers to be classified as employees.

Another important factor to consider is whether the service being provided is considered a key activity of the business. Workers performing activities that are major components of a business’ offered services are typically employees. Independent contractors typically perform services that are outside the realm of key activities.

Consider State Rules

Certain states have their own sets of rules, which may differ from the federal laws, so be sure to consider if there are any significant differences. For example, Massachusetts has established the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law, which is even stricter than the federal laws. Under the Massachusetts regulations, workers, by default, are assumed to be employees unless the employer can pass a ‘three-prong test,’ which, similarly to the federal regulations, examines control and nature of the service being provided.

Although rare, it is possible that a worker could be classified as an independent contractor per federal laws and as an employee per state laws. In Massachusetts, this unique situation would result in the need for an employer to pay state unemployment tax, even though the employer is not paying any federal payroll taxes.

Misclassification Consequences

If an employer has improperly classified an employee as an independent contractor, they may be held liable for the payroll taxes that they have not paid. The IRS has implemented a Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, which offers partial relief in back taxes owed in exchange for prospectively reclassifying employees previously classified as independent contractors. Additionally, misclassifying employees as independent contractors could carry penalties related to other benefit plans as well as workers’ compensation issues.

Still Unsure?

If, after consideration of all of the above information, it is still unclear which classification is appropriate, Form SS-8 can be filed with the IRS.  Using this method, the IRS will consider the facts provided to make the appropriate determination. However, this process typically takes more than six months, according to the IRS website, so seeking advice from an accountant or lawyer may prove to be the most efficient method.

In any event, knowing these rules will prove to be a tremendous asset, both in the present and in the future. Classification of workers is an important procedure for small businesses beginning operations, as well as for more established businesses. Understanding the regulations allows employers to operate more efficiently and effectively and could help them avoid future problems.

Christopher Marini, MSA, MOS is senior Auditing & Accounting associate at Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 322-3549; [email protected]

Agenda Departments

Labor & Employment Law Symposium

Oct. 5: Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. will hold a Labor & Employment Law Symposium from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel. “The past year has brought significant changes in labor and employment law, and employers need to be aware of these changes; not knowing the law is no excuse for not following it,” said attorney Timothy Murphy, a partner at Skoler Abbott. “We are offering this symposium to provide local and regional HR professionals and employers with the latest developments, and to help them prepare for what’s coming next.” The symposium is geared toward human-resources professionals and business owners. Topics will include “Labor Law Update: Change Is Coming,” “Massachusetts’ New Pay Equity Law and the Effects of Implicit Bias in the Workplace,” “Top Ten Wage & Hour Mistakes Made by Employers,” “Insurance Coverage in Employment Litigation: Limiting Your Risk & Knowing Your Rights,” “After Barbuto: Strategies for Addressing Drugs in the Workplace,” and “How You Should (and Shouldn’t) Conduct a Workplace Investigation.” Attendees will be able to select three of six breakout sessions, and the symposium will close with an overall question-and-answer session. The symposium has been pre-approved by the HR Certification Institute for five hours of general recertification credit toward PHR and SPHR recertification. The cost to attend is $99 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Registration is available at skoler-abbott.com/trainingprograms.

Holyoke Medical Center ACE Awards

Oct. 7: Holyoke Medical Center announced that Esmat Ezzat and Tom Hazen will each be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for their outstanding dedication and hard work on behalf of Holyoke Medical Center and the Holyoke community. Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care, River Valley Counseling Center, and Western Mass. Physician Associates, will also recognize select members of the VHS team who exemplify exceptional care. Award recipients will be honored at this year’s ACE Awards event at UMass Amherst.

“The dedication and continued support provided to Holyoke Medical Center and the entire Pioneer Valley from both Mrs. Ezzat and Mr. Hazen make them true assets to our community. We are honored to recognize them for a lifetime of service,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc. Ezzat retired as the director of Speech and Hearing at Holyoke Medical Center in 2007, after a 40-year-long career with the hospital as a speech pathologist. She developed many innovative programs and built a reputation for the center as a regional leader in speech and language therapy. She credits the success of her career and of the center to the support she received from the community and her staff. “The support we have received from the community over the years has been tremendous,” said Ezzat. “When we needed something, the community gave it to us.” Hazen is a past partner in his family’s Holyoke-based Hazen Paper Co. and served on the board of directors for Holyoke Medical Center for 11 years. He continues to be involved with the hospital and currently serves on the investment committee. He has also been an active member in the community, serving in volunteer leadership roles for many local and regional organizations, including the Holyoke Public Library, the Holyoke mayor’s Industrial Development Advisory Committee, the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, the Holyoke Taxpayers Assoc., Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “I’ve had a long kinship with the Holyoke community,” Hazen said. “The people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years are a distinguished group. I have many fond memories of citizens and friends who are dedicated to both the hospital and the Holyoke community, and contribute readily to the long-term well-being of both.” ACE Awards will also be given in the categories of Best Physician, Best Caregiver, Best Supporting Employee, and Best Leader. Tickets to the event, which is open to the public, are available by contacting Denise Rebmann at (413) 534-2579 or [email protected].

Homework House 10-year Celebration

Oct. 19: Homework House is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, and it will mark the occasion with a 10th Anniversary Celebration and Fund-raising Breakfast from 7:45 to 9:15 a.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke to share its story and inspire the financial resources Homework House needs to sustain its programs for the next 10 years and beyond. The anniversary breakfast’s theme is “A Decade of Inspiring Children, Supporting Families, and Transforming Community,” which reflects the broad ripple effect that occurs as a result of children’s participation in Homework House’s academic after-school and summer programming. Founded by retired educators Sr. Maureen Broughan and Sr. Jane Morrissey, Homework House promotes educational success through free, individualized tutoring and mentoring for children. Featuring a program that will highlight the stories of Homework House alumni, parents, and stakeholders, the breakfast will reflect on the powerful work of the past 10 years while looking forward to Homework House’s continued growth. The breakfast is free for guests and will feature a focused ask for donations at its culmination. Community members interested in attending the event or taking a leadership role as a table captain can register by visiting www.homeworkhousetenth.com.

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19:  BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. From a pool of 70 nominations, panel of judges chose eight winners in seven categories, who were profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of  BusinessWest, the September issue of HCN, and at  BusinessWest.com. American International College and Trinity Health Of New England are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Partner sponsors are Achieve TMS East, HUB International New England and Health New England. Supporting sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Cooley Dickinson Health CareElms College, and Renew.Calm. Tickets to the event are sold out.

Super 60

Oct. 27: Ralph Crowley Jr., president and CEO of Polar Beverages, will serve as the keynote speaker at the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Super 60 event. Now in its 28th year, the program celebrates the success of the fastest-growing and privately-owned businesses in the region which continue to make significant contributions to the strength of the regional economy. Worcester-based Polar Beverages was founded by Crowley’s great-grandfather, Dennis Crowley, in 1882, primarily as a wholesale and retail liquor business. However, prohibition put a stop to the family’s liquor sales, forcing them to focus on bubbly waters and bottled water instead. Under the entrepreneurial and visionary leadership of fourth-generation Ralph Crowley Jr., Polar Beverages has grown to be the largest privately owned soft-drink bottler in the U.S., having completed more than 30 acquisitions, including proprietary brands Adirondack, Waist Watcher, Clear ‘n’ Natural, and national brands 7Up, A&W, Sunkist, Seagram’s, Royal Crown, and Diet Rite, along with new-age brands Snapple, AriZona, Fiji Water, O Water, HyDrive, and Nantucket Nectars. Polar also bottles home and office water. In September 2001, Polar Beverages formed a joint venture with Cott Corp. that produces and distributes most of the retailer-branded beverages in the Northeast. At one time, Polar Beverages maintained a warehouse in Springfield. “Polar Beverages is an example of a regional, family-owned business that has remained true to its roots, while at the same time growing its brand by smart acquisitions and innovative, entrepreneurial thinking,” said Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed. The Super 60 Celebration event honoring this year’s class will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, Agawam. Reservations are required. The cost is $60 for members, $75 for general admission. Reservations may be made for tables of eight or 10. The deadline for reservations is Oct. 18. No cancellations will be accepted after that date, and no walk-ins will be allowed. Reservations may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mail to [email protected] The Super 60 event is presented by Health New England and sponsored by Farmington Bank. The event is also sponsored by the Republican, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, and Zasco Productions.

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by  BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Support Center sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces parking and workforce development sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — On Saturday, Oct. 14, the 10th annual Yappy Valley Community Dog Show will be held at Sheehan Field during the Easthampton Nonotuck Park Harvest Fest activities. Dog owners from surrounding communities will compete for trophies and ribbons in various categories.

The adult show will begin at 11 a.m., followed by the youth show at 12:30 p.m. Mayor Karen Cadieux will be the master of ceremonies. Admission is free to all spectators. There will be a drawing for gifts in support of the Key Club, and refreshments will be available.

Dog owners can register in advance or on the day of the event. Registration forms can be picked up at local businesses and at Easthampton High school. After the dog show, Harvest Fest activities will continue throughout the afternoon.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center announced that Esmat Ezzat and Tom Hazen will each be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for their outstanding dedication and hard work on behalf of Holyoke Medical Center and the Holyoke community.

Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care, River Valley Counseling Center, and Western Mass. Physician Associates, will also recognize select members of the VHS team who exemplify exceptional care. Award recipients will be honored at this year’s ACE Awards event on Saturday, Oct. 7 at UMass Amherst.

“The dedication and continued support provided to Holyoke Medical Center and the entire Pioneer Valley from both Mrs. Ezzat and Mr. Hazen make them true assets to our community. We are honored to recognize them for a lifetime of service,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc. “The ACE Awards allow us to highlight the work of our dedicated employees who deliver quality healthcare every day, as well as community members who work behind the scenes to support and advance our mission.”

Ezzat retired as the director of Speech and Hearing at Holyoke Medical Center in 2007, after a 40-year-long career with the hospital as a speech pathologist. She developed many innovative programs and built a reputation for the center as a regional leader in speech and language therapy. She credits the success of her career and of the center to the support she received from the community and her staff.

“The support we have received from the community over the years has been tremendous,” said Ezzat. “When we needed something, the community gave it to us.”

Hazen is a past partner in his family’s Holyoke-based Hazen Paper Co. and served on the board of directors for Holyoke Medical Center for 11 years. He continues to be involved with the hospital and currently serves on the investment committee. He has also been an active member in the community, serving in volunteer leadership roles for many local and regional organizations, including the Holyoke Public Library, the Holyoke mayor’s Industrial Development Advisory Committee, the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, the Holyoke Taxpayers Assoc., Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

“I’ve had a long kinship with the Holyoke community,” Hazen said. “The people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years are a distinguished group. I have many fond memories of citizens and friends who are dedicated to both the hospital and the Holyoke community, and contribute readily to the long-term well-being of both.”

ACE Awards will also be given in the categories of Best Physician, Best Caregiver, Best Supporting Employee, and Best Leader. Tickets to the event, which is open to the public, are available by contacting Denise Rebmann at (413) 534-2579 or [email protected].

Business of Aging Sections

Passing Interest

It’s hardly news that America’s Internet and smartphone culture has transformed the way people live.

But not everyone knows they’re also changing the way people die — or, more specifically, how they plan for death and the often-difficult process of transferring key information, end-of-life wishes, and even treasured memories to their loved ones.

cakeTake Cake, for instance. This free online platform helps people determine and share their end-of-life wishes. Similar to the popular dating app Tinder, Cake outlines and organizes these wishes by presenting users with a number of questions on which they can swipe yes or no. Based on the answers, the app creates a profile divided into four categories — legacy, health, legal/financial, and funeral — each of them accompanied by action steps one could take to carry out those wishes.

“Each and every one of us should have a say in how we live our lives, from beginning to end (and even beyond),” the Boston-based Cake creators note. “Gift your loved ones with the information of what you would want, and how you want to be remembered.”

For many people, they note, thinking about the end of life isn’t a morbid activity, but can be a motivating factor to live life to the fullest. “It can put things in perspective and give you and your loved ones more peace of mind. It is a very considerate act to let your loved ones know what you would want. You can go at your own pace, and plan as much as feels right to you.”

Even folks with a will can benefit from such a service, the company notes, because many aspects of end-of-life planning — right down to the food one would want served at one’s funeral — are typically not be covered in that document.

“Additionally, medical preferences can be difficult to think through,” they go on. “Cake helps uncover your values so you can be clearer on your preferences, and so that your loved ones can be clear on them too.”

Plenty of Options

But Cake is far from the only player on this unique scene, which mixes some time-honored concepts with a decidedly 21st-century twist. Here are some of the others.

everplansEverplans, in some ways similar to Cake, is a digital vault for a person’s end-of-life plans, described as “a complete archive of everything your loved ones will need should something happen to you.” The app allows users to securely store wills, passwords, funeral wishes, and more in a shareable vault. Documents may include anything from wills, trusts, and insurance policies to bill-payment schedules, advance directives and do-not-rescuscitate orders, as well as final wishes and funeral preferences.

Users begin by taking a short assessment survey to see how much planning they’ve already done, how much else they need to do. Based on that information, the service, which costs $75 per year, creates a to-do checklist and helps prioritize that list. The user then assigns specific ‘deputies’ for the plan, so loved ones can find everything neatly in one place.

mydirectivesMore of an emergency-care tool than an strictly an end-of-life plan, MyDirectives allows people to speak for themselves — digitally. Users populate their ‘medical ID’ with date such as their health information and end-of-life plans. This allows doctors to have access to this information right from a patient’s iPhone lock screen.

The four basic parts to this free service are ‘My Decisions,’ which outlines care preferences, values, and treatment goals; ‘My Thoughts,’ which uses messages, video posts, music, and photos to help caregivers know more about the patient; ‘My Healthcare Agents,’ which outlines who represents the patient during a health crisis when he or she can’t communicate; and ‘My Circle,’ which keeps key contact information in one place.

principled-heartThe creator of Principled Heart, a certified financial planner, said his goal was to help answer a common question: where do we keep all our planning documents and information — and how will my loved ones know what to do? His site encourages people to keep only what is necessary, including passwords (or instructions on where to find them) for financial accounts, social media, and other accounts. Other features include instructions for pet care, key contacts, and space to upload up to 60 documents.

Three specified people are required to validate the account owner’s death, and then the site, which costs $45 a year for up to one gigabyte of storage, will provide access to all the information stored inside.

afterstepsAfterSteps, created by a Harvard Business School student, also requires the names of three verifiers, who will be notified in the event of the user’s death and will get access to all information stored on the site, which includes wills and other legal forms, passwords and instructions for digital accounts, funeral-arrangement wishes, and other data. It costs $60 a year or $299 for life.

Most services of this sort are recent developments, but a few have a longer history. DocuBank was created in 1993 as a registry to give members 24-hour access to their advance directives. More than 200,000 members have used the service ($55 per year) since then, and DocuBank has added new features, including an online vault called SAFE that provides a place for members to store files. The site’s latest ‘Digital Executor’ feature allows members to designate one person who will be able to access all of their online files once they’ve presented proof of the member’s death or permanent incapacity.

Celebrating Life After Death

Many end-of-life planning apps are about more than financial and funeral arrangements; however, crossing over into the realm of preserving history and sharing memories.

safebeyondFor example, SafeBeyond ($48 to $96 per year) defines itself as a ‘legacy-management service.’ As such, this app allows users to keep record of their life story in the form of meaningful digital content. SafeBeyond’s distribution capabilities then allow for the future delivery of this content in the form of personalized messages accessible by specific loved ones – almost like emotional life insurance through which one can be remembered.

“Everyone’s life story is unique and constantly affected by change,” the creators write. “Our platform provides an innovative online and mobile-app solution for the easy and secure management of your life story and your meaningful digital content, with enhanced distribution capabilities for the future delivery of personalized messages and digital assets. You decide when, where, and with whom your messages and other digital assets will be shared.”

The app allows people to record text, audio, and video messages throughout their life and store them in a heavily encrypted ‘digital vault.’ Then, SafeBeyond will send messages on behalf of its clients for up to 25 years after they die. Many users choose to schedule those messages on birthdays or on the anniversary of their passing. After the user dies, their recipients are e-mailed a notification telling them to download the app so that they can, one day, receive a message from the grave.

eterniamMeanwhile, Eterniam provides a free, secure online locker for one’s personal digital assets, including photos, videos, and other documents, and then releases them after the user’s death to whomever he or she specifies. Rather than focus on death, the app encourages users to ‘celebrate life,’ and to capture moments and upload them to the cloud.

Bcelebrated ($20 yer year, $100 for a lifetime membership) enables members to create a multi-media website that will become their autobiographical memorial site when the time comes. They may share their story in words, images, and audio; write password-protected private messages for loved ones; and essentially leave a permanent site where friends and family can celebrate a life.

Members create password-protected private pages for loved ones, record their last wishes, and assign a charity to receive donations on their behalf. The service also sends automated notification e-mails at the time of a member’s death and provides a list of numbers for those who need to be called.

Finally, on a different, slightly more downbeat note, Life Countdown is a free app that asks users to pick the date they think they’ll live to, then sends notifications at random intervals about how much time they theoretically have left. The app, its creators say, has a philosophical bent: “to cultivate the contemplation of death.”

Some might feel that’s a worthy-enough goal. For those who want to do more than contemplate, but instead do some real planning about what they’ll leave behind, today’s online culture offers plenty of options.

Agenda Departments

Mini-Medical School

Sept. 21 to Nov. 16: Going back to school has never been so much fun when it comes to your health. Baystate Medical Center’s Mini-Medical School, which begins its fall session on Sept. 21, will give area residents an inside look at the expanding field of medicine – minus the tests, homework, interviews, and admission formalities. The course runs weekly through Nov. 16. Mini-Medical School is an eight-week health-education series featuring a different aspect of medicine each week. Classes this fall will include sessions on various medical topics such as surgery, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, midwifery, pathology, and several others, including the current opioid crisis. Many of the ‘students,’ who often range in age from 20 to 70, participate due to a general interest in medicine and later find that many of the things they learned over the semester are relevant to their own lives. The goal of the program — offered in the hospital’s Chestnut Conference Center — is to help the public make more informed decisions about their healthcare while receiving insight on what it is like to be a medical student. Baystate Medical Center is the region’s only teaching hospital, and each course is taught by medical center faculty who explain the science of medicine without resorting to complex terms. All classes are held Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. and run until 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night’s topic. No basic science knowledge is needed to participate. Each participant is required to attend a minimum of six out of eight classes in order to receive a certificate of completion. Tuition is $95 per person and $80 for Senior Class and Spirit of Women members. To register, call (413) 794-7630 or visiting www.baystatehealth.org/minimed. To see a schedule of topics and speakers slated for the fall semester, visit www.baystatehealth.org/about-us/community-programs/education-training/mini-medical-school.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Sept. 21: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will offer a free Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at the law school, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer. Volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business, landlord/tenant matters, and real estate. Additionally, in light of recent immigration developments, attorneys with immigration-law experience will also be available to answer questions. Spanish-speaking attorneys will be available.

Labor & Employment Law Symposium

Oct. 5: Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. will hold a Labor & Employment Law Symposium from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel. “The past year has brought significant changes in labor and employment law, and employers need to be aware of these changes; not knowing the law is no excuse for not following it,” said attorney Timothy Murphy, a partner at Skoler Abbott. “We are offering this symposium to provide local and regional HR professionals and employers with the latest developments, and to help them prepare for what’s coming next.” The symposium is geared toward human-resources professionals and business owners. Topics will include “Labor Law Update: Change Is Coming,” “Massachusetts’ New Pay Equity Law and the Effects of Implicit Bias in the Workplace,” “Top Ten Wage & Hour Mistakes Made by Employers,” “Insurance Coverage in Employment Litigation: Limiting Your Risk & Knowing Your Rights,” “After Barbuto: Strategies for Addressing Drugs in the Workplace,” and “How You Should (and Shouldn’t) Conduct a Workplace Investigation.” Attendees will be able to select three of six breakout sessions, and the symposium will close with an overall question-and-answer session. The symposium has been pre-approved by the HR Certification Institute for five hours of general recertification credit toward PHR and SPHR recertification. The cost to attend is $99 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Registration is available at skoler-abbott.com/trainingprograms.

Square One Tea Party

Oct. 5: This year, Square One will draw inspiration from the early days of its Tea Party. “Our annual tea party began 11 years ago in a classroom with tiny tables and a big dream,” said Joan Kagan, Square One president and CEO. “This year’s theme brings us back to the event’s roots. We’ll be celebrating all the success that this event has helped us achieve over the years.” The 12th annual Square One Tea is expected to draw 400 supporters who will celebrate the work the provider of early-learning and family services is providing to thousands of families throughout the Greater Springfield region. “Year after year, we look forward to this wonderful opportunity to highlight the work we are doing and the impact that our programs and services have had on the thousands of children and parents who have been served by Square One,” Kagan said. “It is so gratifying to hear from our guests how much they enjoy being a part of this special day, and it’s always fun to see who is going to have the best hat.” The wearing of hats for women and men has become a tradition, with a Top Hat Award bestowed upon the wearer of the most elaborate or unusual hat. Early event supporters include Health New England, Smith & Wesson, USI Insurance, Columbia Gas, the Gaudreau Group, MGM, United Personnel, Mercedes-Benz, Bay Path University, Springfield Thunderbirds, and Fathers & Sons. Tickets are $60 each. Tables of eight and 10 are available. To register, visit startatsquareone.org. For sponsorship or vendor information, call Andrea Bartlett at (413) 858-3111.

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. From a pool of 70 nominations, panel of judges chose eight winners in seven categories, who were profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest, the September issue of HCN, and at businesswest.com. American International College and Trinity Health are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Partner Sponsors are Achieve TMS East, Health New England, and HUB International New England. Additional sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Cooley Dickinson Healthcare, Elms College, and Renew.Calm. Tickets to the event are $85 each, with tables available for purchase. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Out of the Darkness Walk

Oct. 21: Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., yet suicide is preventable. The Western Mass. Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) announced that its flagship event, the Greater Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk to Fight Suicide, has a new home, School Street Park in Agawam. Roughly 1,000 people from throughout the Greater Springfield Area are expected to participate in this annual event at its new location starting at 10 a.m. This fund-raising walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s local and national education and advocacy programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20% by 2025. “We walk to raise awareness about this important health issue. Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking, we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said Heather White, area director for AFSP in Western Mass. The event is one of more than 375 Out of the Darkness community walks being held nationwide this year. The walks are expected to unite more than 250,000 walkers and raise millions of dollars for suicide-prevention efforts. With this walk last year, the Greater Springfield community raised almost $60,0000 for suicide awareness and prevention initiatives, and had nearly 800 participants. Planning committees for the 2017 Greater Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk are meeting now. If you would like to help organize this inspiring charitable event, sponsor the walk, or have a booth on site, contact Heather White at [email protected] for more information. To join the fight against suicide, register to walk at School Street Park in Agawam on Oct. 21 by visiting www.afsp.org/greaterspringfieldma.

Lowcountry Celebration

Oct. 27: Blue Heron Restaurant will celebrate its 20th anniversary by hosting “Lowcountry Living: An Evening of Gullah Culture and Cuisine,” a one-night event designed to take diners on a culinary trip to the South Carolina Lowcountry, the region which originally inspired owners Deborah Snow and Barbara White to open a restaurant focused on local, seasonal ingredients and unpretentious hospitality. The dinner, which will feature a Gullah-themed menu, as well as music and pieces from critically acclaimed South Carolina artist Sonja Griffin Evans’ “American Gullah Collection,” will start at 6:30 p.m., with reservations open to the public. Menu and pricing for the event will be announced at a later date. Reservations can be made by calling (413) 665-2102 or e-mailing [email protected]

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Development sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces and Workforce Development parking sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $725. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Healthcare Heroes

At 94, She’s Still Finding Ways to Lead, Fight, and Inspire

 Sister Mary Caritas, SP

Sister Mary Caritas, SP

Sister Mary Caritas, SP says that many of the assignments during her remarkable 70-year career in healthcare, civic service, and work with the Sisters of Providence were unplanned, unexpected, and, in some cases, well, untimely — at least initially.

By that she meant that, by and large, when she was informed that her role would be changing — and that happened more than a few times — she was very much enjoying what she was doing, making a difference in that role, and looking forward to going on in that way. Meanwhile, in most cases, she considered herself totally prepared for the new challenge to which she was assigned.

That was true when she was told early on by her superiors that she would focus her career pursuits on dietary science rather than nursing, a profession she fell in love with, and again when she was told, after serving several years as a dietitian, that she would become an administrator at St. Luke’s Hospital in Pittsfield, and again when she was named president of the Sisters of Providence.

But in each case, she accepted what was to come next with enthusiasm and a mindset to make the very best of that situation — for her, but also, and especially, for the constituencies she would be serving.

She loves to fight for a good cause; she’s energized by it, and she communicates that enthusiasm or concern or passion to others. And when she gets in that mode, she’s unstoppable; she’s a remarkable woman.”

“Several times, I was doing something I loved doing, and then I was quickly moved somewhere else,” she told BusinessWest. “But each time I had that experience, new doors opened for me; new opportunities came my way. There were many occasions when I happened to be at the right place at the right time.”

There are countless people who would no doubt say the same thing. And those sentiments — not to mention a seemingly endless list of accomplishments and tireless work within the community — go a long way toward explaining why Sister Caritas, who turned 94 on August 22, was the clear winner in the Lifetime Achievement category for this inaugural class of Healthcare Heroes. In fact, she was the top scorer among the more than 70 nominees for the program’s seven categories.

When looking over her résumé, it’s easy to see why.

That document goes on for several pages and includes a long list of professional appointments, including a nearly two-decade-long stint at Mercy for which she is perhaps best known.

It also chronicles a host of church-related activities and appointments, including a nine-year tenure as president of the Sisters of Providence that preceded her time as Mercy’s president, as well as stints on the executive council of the Sisters of Providence, the Catholic Charities board, and many others.

And it also includes a lengthy list of civic activities and work within the business community, including everything from decades of service to the Easter Seals to her memorable role as chair of the task force on Bondi’s Island in the mid-’90s; from a decade of service as chair of the United Way of Pioneer Valley to a five-year stint as chair of the Springfield Council on Aging.

Now 94, Sister Mary Caritas shows no signs of slowing down

Now 94, Sister Mary Caritas shows no signs of slowing down, and clear signs of only adding new chapters to a nearly 70-year career in healthcare and service to the church.

She served on the board of two area colleges — Elms College and Western New England University — and also a few banks, including the former Springfield Institution for Savings and the former Community Savings Bank in Holyoke. She served on the Spirit of Springfield board for 16 years, and still serves on the Economic Development Council of Western Mass.

And then … there’s her service to dozens of healthcare organizations. That list is way too long to print in anything approaching its entirety, but it includes the Sisters of Providence Health System, Catholic Health East, and Trinity Health New England (all parent companies to Mercy at different times), but also Partners for a Healthier Community, Cancer House of Hope, Holyoke Hospital, the American Hospital Assoc., the Mass. Hospital Assoc., the Academy for Catholic Health Care Leadership, and many more.

But despite all that this résumé conveys, it’s still only part of the story.

The much bigger part is the energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovative nature she brought to those assignments — or continues to bring; indeed, a good number of those listings have a starting date, then a hyphen, and then the word ‘present’ — and also her ability to inspire others.

Sister Kathleen Popko, current president of the Sisters of Providence, who has worked beside and been friends with Sister Caritas for a half-century, summed it all up this way:

“She loves to fight for a good cause; she’s energized by it, and she communicates that enthusiasm or concern or passion to others, and they join with her, whether it’s for Bondi’s Island stench or fluoridation or reaching out and advocating for those who are are poor and underserved.

“And when she gets in that mode,” Sister Popko went on, “she’s unstoppable; she’s a remarkable woman.”

Heart and Soul

Sister Caritas was doing quite well in her efforts to mask some frustration.

As she talked with BusinessWest, she was awaiting word on the scheduling of what she called minor heart surgery — and coping, if that’s the right word, with a list of things her doctor told her she shouldn’t be doing. (Editor’s note: That surgery went well, and she has been cleared to do pretty much anything she wants.)

At the time, the refrain-from list included golf, a pastime she’s enjoyed for decades (her record includes a hole in one at East Mountain Country Club’s 10th hole), as well as pilates.

While somewhat disappointed that she had to take it rather easy, Sister Caritas took the marching orders in stride. There were, after all, plenty of other things to keep her busy.

But understand that it takes nothing short of orders from a doctor to in any way slow down this energetic leader, who has been keeping a full calendar (whether it be the printed variety in a binder or her cellphone) since just after World War II ended.

Our story begins in Springfield, where she was born and raised. Her father had designs on her being his secretary, and her classes at Commerce High School, which she didn’t like at all, had her on that path.

Things changed after she met a woman in training to be a nurse. “I got so excited and so enthusiastic, when I came back, I told my mother I wanted to be a nurse,” she recalled, adding that these sentiments were not received warmly by her mother, who warned her that she would spend a career emptying bed pans.

But the young Mary Geary was determined — we’ll see that word repeatedly in this discourse — and enrolled at Technical High School, focusing on the sciences, with the goal of entering the nursing profession.

Upon joining the Sisters of Providence — another decision that did not sit well with her mother — she was sent to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester as a nurse. But upon making her final vows after her fifth year, in 1949, she was sent to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, a move she was thrilled with until she found out that, instead of nursing, she would focus on dietary services, a decision made by the reverend mother.

Fast-forwarding a little, after receiving a master’s degree in nutrition education at Tufts University and undertaking a dietetic internship at the Francis Stern Food Clinic at the New England Medical Center in Boston, she was assigned to be administrative dietitian at Providence Hospital in Holyoke.

“I had the happiest time of my life for the next seven years,” she recalled employing a tone that made it clear that such happiness had an expiration date. “December 23, 1966, I was busy preparing a party for the sisters when I got a call from the Mother House. With no preamble, and with no explanation, the reverend mother simply said, ‘little sister, as of January 2, you are the administrator at St. Luke’s Hospital.’”

When she replied that she didn’t know anything about hospital administration, her superior responded with a simple ‘you’ll learn,’ which she did.

After St. Luke’s and Pittsfield General merged in 1969 to become Berkshire Medical Center, Sister Caritas served briefly as associate director of that facility. That’s briefly, because her life and career were soon to change abruptly — again.

Indeed, she was chosen to lead the Sisters of Providence and take the title superior general, a title that intimidated her about as much as the long list of responsibilities that came with it.

“I was totally unprepared for this,” she said, adding that, as she did with other stops during her career, she learned by doing.

A Fighting Spirit

And that ‘doing’ included work to create a new Mercy Hospital, a facility that would replace a structure built by the Sisters of Providence in 1896 and open its doors in 1974.

In another strange career twist — yes, there have been several in this narrative — Sister Caritas would succeed the woman she chose to lead the new Mercy (Sister Catherine LaBoure) after Sister LaBoure was in turn chosen to lead the order.

While Mercy had a new facility, it remained what Sister Caritas called “the little kid on the block,” much smaller than its rival just a few blocks away, Baystate Medical Center.

Sister Caritas (a.k.a. ‘little sister’), front row, center

Sister Caritas (a.k.a. ‘little sister’), front row, center, says she likes creating new things and getting things started. “Those are the kinds of things that energize me.”

But in its smaller size, Mercy’s president saw nimbleness and an ability to fill recognized niches, while also taking some bold, innovative — and, yes, entrepreneurial — steps.

Such as an in-hospital surgery center that has a story behind it that provides some insight into Sister Caritas’ determination and desire to fight for something she wants and believes in.

“I was going to buy a surgery center down on Maple Street,” she recalled. “Everything was moving along smoothly, but the night before the sale was to go through, they called and said they changed their mind. I was naturally terribly disappointed, but disappointed was hardly the word for it. I was mad; I was furious.

“So I said, ‘we have some space; we have some extra operating rooms,’” she went on. “So we created the first in-hospital surgery center.”

Other innovations and expansion initiatives would follow, including an eye center created at the hospital, an intensivist program, one of the nation’s first hospitalist programs, creation of the Weldon Center for Rehabilitation, the Family Life Center, the Healthcare for the Homeless initiative, and much more.

The common denominators with each of these efforts were common sense, expediency, and a desire to better serve patients and families, said Sister Caritas, citing the hospitalist program, now a staple in hospitals across the country, as an example.

“It was never really my intention to start a hospitalist program — I just wanted to create opportunities for more surgery,” she explained. “My whole life has been taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves; when I’m open to something and think it’s a good idea, I move with it. And I like nothing more than creating new things and getting something started. Those are the kinds of things that energize me.”

But while Sister Caritas has always been entrepreneurial, the word most-often used to describe her is compassionate.

“What’s truly impressive is the breadth of her engagement, from the national level all the way down to the individual,” said Sister Popko. “She’s been on many national and regional boards and continues to serve on several — she has that dimension. But at the same time, and simultaneously, she has extraordinary compassion and a big-hearted, magnanimous response to the needs of the individual, whether it’s helping someone find a placement for their mother in a nursing home or reaching out to an individual who’s looking for a job or is in trouble.

“If you know her, you know her thousand closest friends,” she went on. “She just knows everyone.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who was mayor of Springfield during Sister Caritas’ tenure as president of Mercy, agreed.

“Her legacy is one of lasting kindness, compassion, and care for all,” he said. “She vowed to ensure that everyone who came through her doors were taken care of, and she fulfilled that promise. She has truly fulfilled the Sisters of Providence pledge to pay particular attention to the cries of the poor and oppressed.”

Small Wonder

Sister Popko told BusinessWest that Sister Caritas, a.k.a. ‘little sister,’ insists that at one time she was at least 5 feet tall, and maybe a full inch over that mark.

Not anymore.

Not that it matters, or has ever mattered.

“She has such a large presence even though she’s a very small person,” Sister Popko noted. “When she walks into a room, everyone recognizes her and wants to speak to her. She has an indomitable spirit, is very courageous, and is outspoken when it’s called for.”

Such comments evoke Mark Twain’s famous and often-borrowed line: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” And with many matters, and in many arenas, Sister Caritas has displayed plenty of fight.

Perhaps the most celebrated example was her lengthy battle to win approval from the Mass. Department of Public Health for a cobalt unit for cancer treatment at Mercy Hospital. She first filed an application in 1978, and it was denied. Applications could only be filed biannually, so she tried again in 1980. And 1982. And 1984. And 1986. You get the idea.

“They said I couldn’t demonstrate that there was enough need for it,” she recalled, with exasperation still evident in her voice nearly 40 years after she was first turned down. “I couldn’t believe it.

“But over the next 14 years, I applied every two years,” she went on, adding that the seventh application was to be her last — at least as president of Mercy — because she had informed her board that she would be retiring.

That seventh time was the charm, and the cancer center that was started but not completed during her tenure now bears her name.

In keeping with her character, however, she said that getting the center approved and built were not the real accomplishments.

“It’s one thing to build something, but it’s the quality of the service, the compassion of the people, and the love they have for their patients that really makes the difference,” she told BusinessWest. “While it’s a beautiful center, it’s nothing without that compassion.”

That compassionate, fighting spirit remains today. Indeed, while the word ‘retire’ was officially attached to the end of her tenure at Mercy, she prefers to say that her energies were simply “redirected.”

Toward Bondi’s Island, for example, and the odor problems that had plagued that facility for years, but in many other directions as well.

She still sits on a dozen boards and continues to look for ways to innovate and serve the historically underserved. Both those missions come together in an ongoing project to create senior housing for lower-income individuals on the former Brightside campus.

The Sisters of Providence are seeking additional funding support (state grants have already been secured) for a 36- to 40-unit facility that will be a demonstration project that will tie in with the PACE (Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) initiative already operating at that site.

“We want to demonstrate the relationship between supportive housing and people’s ability to remain independent,” she said of the project called Hillside at Providence. “And that’s exciting.”

As she talked about the Hillside project and the countless others she’s been involved with over the years, Sister Caritas was persistent in her efforts to make it clear that, with each one, she was only working as part of a team.

Indeed, when asked to consider identifying what she considers her greatest accomplishment, she said flatly, “I don’t think I’ve had any great accomplishment.”

Rather, “when I think about all the people who I’ve worked with and the people who have supported me, and the network needed to get things done … there’s not anything that I’ve done by myself,” she went on. “With other people, though, we’ve done some great things.”

Cause and Effect

As she was concluding her talk with BusinessWest and thus getting on to other items on her busy schedule, Sister Caritas took a few minutes to talk about Mary Elizabeth O’Brien, now serving as interim president of Mercy Medical Center.

“She’s someone you can believe in,” Sister Caritas remarked. “And that’s what you need in a leader, someone you believe can get it done.”

Ironically, generations of area residents, including those who have worked beside her, those who have benefited from her many initiatives, and even those working in competing hospitals have said the same of Sister Caritas. And at 94, they’re still saying it.

As her friend Sister Popko noted so eloquently, she loves fighting for a good cause.

And yes, when she gets in that mode, she is unstoppable. Still.

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

Healthcare Heroes

Emergency Department Director Creates Efficiencies — and a True ‘Front Door’

Erin Daley, RN, BSN

Erin Daley, RN, BSN
Dani Fine Photography

Almost from the first moment she stepped into the emergency room at Cooley Dickinson Hospital as a nursing student at UMass Amherst, Erin Daley knew this was the environment in which she wanted to work — and maybe spend a career.

“The ER is one of those places where you either love it immediately or you know it’s not for you, and it’s always been a place I absolutely loved,” said Daley, who, when asked what prompted the fast, deep embrace of this setting, said simply, “everything about it.”

“It’s that ability to be reactive,” she went on, as she went into some detail about what she meant by ‘everything.’ “And be able to change priorities at a moment’s notice. It’s unique, challenging, but not in a negative context, and there is nothing routine about it.”

These sentiments are reflected in the way Daley talked about everything from a much-needed return to the ER at CDH after a stint as a telemetry nurse at Baystate Medical Center to broaden her horizons, as she put it — “even though I learned a ton, I knew labor and delivery were not for me and I needed to get to the ER” — to the enthusiastic manner in which she relayed her affection for the work involved with being a ‘charge nurse’ in the ED at Mercy Medical Center.

“You have to know everything about everyone at all times in order to fit the puzzle pieces together,” she explained. “It’s this constant juggling act.”

And her affection for this setting was clearly evident when she talked about how much she misses being directly on the front lines, if you will, in her current role as director of Emergency Services at Mercy.

“I loved being an emergency-room nurse,” she said, expressing clear regret at having to use the past tense. “On days that they’re really busy and if there’s things I could skip, I’d gladly do that to jump in, even if it’s just to help transport patients; most of the day to day does not allow me to be out there anymore.”

But while there is that drawback to her current position, if one chooses to call it that, there are nonetheless many different kinds of rewards — everything from orchestrating strong improvements in the overall efficiency of the Mercy ER to working with a host of other players to help stem the tide of the nation’s opioid crisis.

Her boundless energy has gained her the reputation of being a go-getter, one who gets things done, and overall future leader for our healthcare system and community. She is both an emerging leader and one who has emerged.”

For her achievements in all these realms, Daley was the top scorer amid a strong field of candidates within the Emerging Leader category for these inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards.

To put her efforts into proper perspective requires liberal use of numbers. For example, she oversees an ER with nearly 80,000 annual patient visits, making it one of the busiest in the state in terms of visits per bed. She oversees a staff of 160 and a budget of $65 million. More numbers are needed to chronicle the process improvements she and her staff have orchestrated with several key measurements of care. For example, the Mercy ER has:

• Decreased the ‘left without being seen’ rates from 5% to 2%, thus improving revenues;

• Decreased overall ‘door-to-door’ time, as it’s called, by 57 minutes;

• Increased patient-satisfaction scores by 40%; and

• Improved employee-engagement scores by 33%.

However, words and phrases are needed to convey how all this was accomplished — phrases like ‘whole-person care,’ used to describe an approach that views health for ED patients as a segue into engaging them in better health — and ‘care map,’ an aptly named initiative that charts a course for individual patients, especially frequent visitors to the ER.

First, though, some words and phrases from Doreen Fadus, vice president of Mission Integration and Community Health at Mercy Medical Center, who nominated Daley, are in order.

“Her boundless energy has gained her the reputation of being a go-getter, one who gets things done, and overall future leader for our healthcare system and community,” she wrote. “She is both an emerging leader and one who has emerged.”

Volume Business

As she talked about her staff’s efforts in the broad realm off efficiency, or process improvement, Daley told BusinessWest that they are driven largely by necessity.

Indeed, the Mercy ED has 36 beds (just over one-third the number at Baystate Medical Center, by way of comparison), which she described as both a blessing and a curse.

“We’re very spacially constrained considering the volume that we have — 36 beds for just shy of 80,000 patients,” she explained. “That’s driven us to be so efficient; it’s made us relook at how we do things, look at our data all the time, and undertake process-improvement initiatives, because we don’t have the luxury of having a lot of beds.

“We look at every aspect of how a patient moves through the system,” she went on. “And if there’s any means for reducing waste and redoing processes, we’ll find it. If there’s 10 extra steps that a staff nurse has to take to do a particular task, taking that waste out of their day puts their attention where it needs to be — back on the patient.”

How Daley came to be directing these efforts at improved efficiency is an intriguing story, one of moving progressively higher in the ranks in terms of responsibility within that environment she came to love.

After her stint at CDH, she came to the Mercy ED in 2004. She told BusinessWest she was attracted by its reputation for being a nurse-driven environment, a description she found to be certainly accurate, and a foundation she would only build upon.

She started as a staff nurse, taking care of patients at the bedside, and remained in that role for eight years, eventually assuming charge-nurse duties, which, as noted earlier, she found quite rewarding.

Mercy Medical Center

Erin Daley says the emergency room, and especially Mercy Medical Center’s, is a unique environment she described as a ‘constant juggling act.’

“It’s probably my favorite job,” she said. “You’re really trying to manage throughput, and it’s a gigantic puzzle with all these moving parts. It’s about how you have to think about the ED; there’s a certain number of beds, ‘X’ amount of patients you’re trying to get through, you’re trying to allocate resources and potentially pull resources from one area to another area to always have throughput in mind, with the patient at the center of it all.

“You’re like an air traffic controller,” she went on. “One’s coming in, one’s going out, and you’re having to reassess that constantly in order to optimize the space that you have.”

In 2010, Daley became clinical nurse supervisor in the Mercy ED, and in that role was directly responsible for the supervision of the department, with specific duties ranging from staffing to scheduling; from compliance to being what she called a “real-time resource,” meaning she was still in the trenches. In 2015, she became nurse manager of the ED, assuming responsibility for productivity and throughput metrics.

And just over a year ago, she was named director of Emergency Services, meaning oversight of the department and all its personnel and not being in the trenches, as she noted earlier.

But it does mean bringing a higher level of efficiency to those front lines, while also bringing new meaning to the notion that the ED is a hospital’s ‘front door’ and a resource for the community beyond emergency care.

“I want to know what’s happening in the community and how I can be a supporting influence,” said Daley, noting that she is involved with everything from the region’s opioid task force to a committee battling human trafficking.

That phrase ‘supporting influence’ gets to the heart of both Daley’s management style and the philosophy that she and her staff members embrace when it comes to what an ED should be and how it should function.

Regarding the former, she said she is a mentor as well as a manager, one whose simple ambitions when it comes to her team are to “inspire, uplift, and motivate.”

And as for the latter, she said the ED cannot only be a place to receive emergency care. In the whole-person-care model, it is also a vehicle for engaging individuals in better health, through such things as medication-management discussions, assistance with setting up post ED visit primary care, behavioral-health services, and more.

As an example, she cited the drug-overdose victim who arrives at the emergency room.

“If someone comes in that has overdosed on opioids … we could be that last line of support to reach out to them,” she explained. “They may have burned bridges everywhere with their family, with their friends, and we could be that last line to reach out to them.”

Elaborating, she said those in the ED, through the unit’s Complex Care program, strive to be more proactive with those who overdose, for example, and not simply treat them and move them through.

“We follow up with phone calls and try to reach out and talk with these individuals after they’ve had a chance to recover,” she explained. “It’s a traumatic experience, that whole overdose process … you’re given Narcan, now you’re in acute withdrawal; it’s incredibly traumatic.”

Erin Daley

Erin Daley says her management style encourages teamwork and solving common problems together.

Fadus may have summed up Daley’s ‘front door’ approach best, noting that “her understanding that the ED can provide the entry way to both providing medical services and the guidance of health education has led to many patients experiencing healthcare through a system rather than rely on services mainly through the venue of the ED.”

By the Numbers

As noted earlier, there are many numbers, or metrics, involved with an emergency department, and all through her career and especially in her current capacity, Daley has been involved with bringing specific numbers higher or lower — whichever translates into improvement.

In the case of patient satisfaction, an upward trajectory is obviously desired, while, when it comes to the ‘left without being seen’ category, downward movement is the goal, because individuals are leaving generally out of frustration with the time they’re spending in the ER waiting room. And when they leave, valuable revenue is lost, and, more importantly, these individuals may be endangering their health.

To achieve improvement in that ‘left without being seen’ category, and all others, the Mercy team embodies ‘lean’ strategies commonly used on the manufacturing floor and other settings, said Daley, adding that the goal is always to remove waste and improve efficiency. But while doing so, patient care cannot be compromised.

And Mercy has managed to do this with what is perhaps the most-watched ER statistic, the one focused on door-to-door time (from when they check in until they are discharged), which Mercy has managed to reduce by nearly an hour — 57 minutes to be exact — to 157 minutes.

This was accomplished with something called a split-flow model, which, as that name suggests, splits those arriving in the ER into ‘lower acuity’ and ‘higher acuity’ categories. “If you can keep vertical patients vertical, the ease of them getting through the system improves, and you can decrease length of stay dramatically by not even putting them in a hospital bed.”

Elaborating, she said the ED took one of its triage rooms and created the aptly named ‘rapid medical exam’ (RME) room. There, patients deemed to be low-acuity are triaged, seen by a provider, and discharged, all from that one room.

“If all of those patients that are of that lower acuity never hit the back of the ER and never take up a bed, you increase your capacity for sicker patients,” Daley explained. “You increase capacity, not because you’ve added beds, but because you’ve added bed hours.

“When we piloted this on our busiest days, it was incredibly successful, and over the next few years, we went from Monday and Tuesday to Monday through Friday, and then, as our volumes grew, we expanded it to every day of the week,” she explained, adding that the RME model has also had a huge impact on the ‘left without being seen’ numbers as well, because of the additional bed space.

These improvements have come about through that lean approach to operations, learning from best practices, and working together as a team to solve problems and achieve continuous improvement, said Daley, adding that her management style encourages all this.

“I’m successful because I have an amazing team of people that I work with — everyone who’s in a leadership capacity in this department is an over-achiever and a go-getter,” she noted. “I’m not the kind of person who micromanages at all; I like to be collaborative and make a goal together.

“How each individual person gets there … I don’t micromanage that,” she went on, “because everyone has their own style, and they do better working their own project in the way they feel comfortable. But we all have the same goals in mind, and they are lofty goals.”

Looking ahead, Daley, now pursuing an MBA at Elms College, is focused on building upon both her leadership skills and her grasp of the many financial aspects of her position and others within the higher ranks of healthcare management.

“I want to be very knowledgeable about how my business, meaning my department, runs, and feel confident about that,” she explained. “From there … I’m not quite sure what the future holds.

“I like operations a lot — fitting those puzzle pieces together,” she went on. “I can see myself overseeing operations on a larger scale. But I also love the work I do in the community.”

Bottom Line

For now, she will continue to oversee the air-traffic controllers and others in the ED, create more process improvements, and, in general, go on being a ‘supportive influence’ — there’s that phrase again — with her staff, in the ED, and within the community she serves.

As Doreen Fadus noted, Daley is both an emerging leader and an energetic administrator who has, in many ways, already emerged.

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

Healthcare Heroes

Porchlight’s Leader Has Some Illuminating, Innovative Ideas

Holly Chaffee, MSN, BSN, RN

Holly Chaffee, MSN, BSN, RN
Dani Fine Photography

Holly Chaffee says her husband has a line — perhaps it falls into the category of ‘joke’ — that he’ll throw out on a fairly regular basis, like almost every night.

“He’ll say ‘OK, who are we having dinner with this evening?’” said Chaffee, president and CEO of Lee-based Porchlight VNA/Homecare, adding that he says this because there’s a decent chance that dinner between the two will include a phone call — or several — from a colleague looking for some direction, advice, or a much-needed answer.

“The phone seems to always ring when you sit down to dinner,” she said with a laugh, adding that she always answers it. “We’re a 24-hour business; there’s always someone on call, and there’s always someone backing up calls. You have to be there for people, because they’re relying on you.”

This sharing of dinner time goes a long way, sort of, toward explaining why Porchlight VNA/Homecare is the only agency of its kind in this region to receive what’s known as 5-star status from for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS).

It will take much more to explain those high scores, which ultimately determine how an agency is reimbursed, and we’ll do that in a bit.

Those phone calls during the evening meal also help explain why Chaffee was the top scorer in an extremely deep field of contenders for the Healthcare Heroes category called Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator. But again, many more supporting words and numbers are needed, starting with this summation from Kurt Toegel, chair of the board at Porchlight.

“Holly is known as an innovator in the home-care arena,” he wrote. “As an administrator and CEO, she has not only the drive and motivation it takes to be successful, she has the leadership skills to develop the work products necessary to be successful.

“Holly has true heart,” he went on, “and compassion for the work she does. She is collaborative and is always willing to share her knowledge.”

I believe it starts with your heart — you have to love what you do. And if you love what you do, it’s going to show from the top down; you all have to be invested in what you’re doing in your job.”

‘Innovative,’ ‘collaborative,’ ‘compassionate,’ ‘motivator’ … these qualities and others become apparent as one looks at the long list of accomplishments accredited to Chaffee and her team since she arrived at what was then known as the Lee Regional VNA andBerkshire Home Care in 2009. These include:

• Changing the existing electronic medical record to improve efficiencies;

• Orchestrating a merger with Chicopee VNA and Great to Be Home Care in 2014;

• Implementing a branding campaign and new company name (Porchlight), as well as oversight and the development of a new website to increase visibility of the service areas;

• Effectively creating a continuum of care (from acute to chronic care) by developing an internal conversion system;

• Designing and implementing a productivity system that increased productivity from 3.25 to 5.75 visits per eight-hour day;

• Operationalizing the accounts-receivable collection;

• Hiring new management-team members with clinical expertise, leading the agency to a deficiency-free survey in 2012 under a new survey process;

• Piloting a childhood-obesity program in schools in Berkshire County; and, perhaps most importantly,

• Empowering staff to lead in their areas of expertise.

Slicing through all of these and countless other bullet-pointed lines from her CV, Chaffee said she and her team have created an environment marked by innovation and calculated risk taking, one that has enabled Porchlight to succeed — and blaze some trails — in a constantly changing and ever-more challenging home-care landscape.

“Porchlight’s leadership is known for not being afraid to take a risk, to try something new,” she explained. “Seven years ago, for us to embrace the medical record that we did, that was a huge step — that was innovative. And there have been many other examples of that kind of thinking.”

Holly Chaffee, center

Holly Chaffee, center, says she and her team at Porchlight have created an environment of risk taking that has led to its 5-star status.

As for those 5-star ratings, they are a reflection of how the agency is responding to these changing times, which require ever-higher levels of accountability and measurable outcomes.

Porchlight is the only Western Mass. agency given such elite status in the most recent ranking, one of two in Massachusetts, and one of only about 200 across the country.

That benchmark is the result of what Chaffee calls the ‘triple aim’ — low cost, high quality, and patient satisfaction.

“We were able to attain that status with boots on the ground,” she said, attributing the accomplishment to solid teamwork. “We have a superior staff of nurses, home health aides, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers … all those people are out there creating the 5-star status we have through their encounters with the patients.

“Our goal is keep patients at home and families together,” she went on, adding that the agency’s tagline — and her life’s work — is enabling individuals to live “life as you know it.”

Shedding Light on the Subject

As she talked about that aforementioned rebranding initiative and the new name Porchlight, Chaffee said that, as one expect, there’s a story behind it.

It begins with the original name over the door, Lee VNA, which led many people to believe that the agency served only people in that community, which was not the case. The name was changed to Lee Regional VNA, but it still wasn’t clicking, said Chaffee.

To come up with something that did, she turned to the advertising and marketing agency Darby O’Brien, which had developed a niche in rebranding efforts. The firm eventually came up with ‘Porchlight,’ which resonated with Chaffee and her board chairman, who both conjured up images of front porches with lights blazing (for Chaffee, it was at her parents’ home in New Jersey) when they heard it.

But … there’s usually a ‘but’ in these cases, and there was here as well.

“When you change the name of a 100-year-old agency, there’s a lot of controversy, and we needed to overcome that,” Chaffee told BusinessWest, adding that help came from a board member, then in her 90s, who had served in that capacity for a half-century.

The new name was presented to her by O’Brien, Chaffee, and others, and the response helped dissipate that controversy.

“She told us that when her husband, a doctor, would leave the office, he would tell people, ‘if you need me to stop by on my way home, leave the light on,’” Chaffee recalled. “There couldn’t have been a better entrance for the name ‘Porchlight’ than that, and we were very excited about that response; the name caught on.”

Putting the new name and accompanying logo on signs, letterhead, and the website was far from the most challenging of assignments on Chaffee’s portfolio at her agency, but, like the others, it sheds needed light — pun intended — on those many qualities listed or implied by Toegel in his nomination. They include imagination, forward thinking, teamwork, and, perhaps most important, a willingness to listen and the will to act upon what she hears.

And Chaffee has honed these various careers through a nearly 40-year-long career in healthcare and healthcare administration that might not have happened (well, it probably would have happened anyway) had the market not been flooded with teachers back in the late ’70s, as she was graduating from high school, prompting her to look in another direction career-wise.

“I was talking with my parents,” she recalled. “I volunteered at the hospital as a candy striper, and my father said, ‘you love people, you love helping people … why don’t you think about going to nursing school, because you can do those things and also teach?’”

She thought about it, and then did it, at Skidmore College in New York. Her career in healthcare began in New York (she commuted from her parents’ home) at a pediatric tertiary-care unit, working with children with neurological impairments and kidney disorders. She and her husband would first settle in upstate New York and then relocate to Enfield, after which Chaffee took a job in the pediatric intensive-care unit at Hartford Hospital.

Her career would take a sharp turn, however, after the couple had two sets of twins in a 15-month span.

“That’s when I started my home-care life,” she explained, adding that, while working at Hartford Hospital, she “dabbled” in home care, taking care of a few children on ventilators. She enjoyed that work and, after having her two sets of twins, worked weekends as a home-care nurse, essentially launching a new career that would see her hold essentially every position in that healthcare realm.

Subsequent stops would take her to the Enfield Visiting Nurse Assoc.; Ander-Care Inc. in Springfield, a home-health agency; Special Care Home Health Services in Wethersfield, Conn.; Noble Visiting Nurse Assoc. in Westfield; UConn Medical Center, where she served as a staff nurse and assistant head nurse in the UConn Bone Marrow Transplant Unit; the Enfield Adult Day Center; and Masonicare in Wallingford, Conn., a nonprofit integrated health system, where she directed Masonicare at Home.

In 1999, she also launched her own venture (one that took her maiden name) — Vannucci Consultants, which started as a nursing consulting company that later expanded to include consulting to startup adult day centers and home-care agencies.

In 2009, she was asked to interview at Lee Regional VNA and was chosen as its next president. And with that hiring, the board, taking her vast skill set into account, decided to merge the VNA with a separate company, Berkshire Home Care, and have Chaffee lead both.

Progress Report

Chaffee arrived at LRVNA and Berkshire Home Care in December 2009, roughly six months later than CFO Pat Lamonte. Together, the two have led the organization through a continuous run of growth, innovation, and success — by a number of measures.

“She came from the hospitality industry, was a quick study, and a did a wonderful job of managing the finances,” Chaffee said of Lamonte, adding that one of the first assignments the two took on was implementing a new electronic medical record (EMR) system.

“When I arrived, the staff was using a particular electronic medical record, but they weren’t utilizing it the way they needed to,” she explained. “So I had to look at the operations and change everything that was happening so that things could be efficient and we could get on track financially.

“I went and viewed an electronic medical record called Home Care Home Base out west at a company called Residential Care,” she went on. “I said ‘wow, this is amazing; it gives everyone accountability, internally and externally,’ and so we adopted that system and did the implementation, which was as big change, because everyone’s role changed internally. But we needed to put those efficiencies in place to be sustainable as we are today.”

In many respects, the improvement of the EMR system, as well as the process for doing so — meaning everything from the due diligence to the adaptation of best practices to the quest for new efficiencies — goes a long way toward explaining why Porchlight is a 5-star facility.

The EMR improvements enable the facility to more effectively document information concerning the care of specific patients, she explained, and the process of making that change reflects the environment of innovation and risk taking that she has created.

And these qualities are necessary in this changing environment in home care, one where there is ever-more emphasis on outcomes and measuring them.

“There’s a culture change out there,” said Chaffee. “If someone had home care 20 years ago, they were used to ‘oh, you’re going to provide home care; someone’s going to be in my house for eight hours a day and take care of my mom while I’m at work?’

“It did happen like that 20 years ago if someone had complex medical needs and they were at home,” she went on. “That’s not the way it is anymore — that type of care is not delivered anymore; its been scaled back. Now, you go in, and you’re focusing on the problem you’re there to see that patient for — now, today.”

How agencies fare in those specific assignments is what the CMMS is measuring as it goes about the task of awarding stars.

As Chaffee showed BusinessWest Porchlight’s latest scorecard, if you will, she said scores shaded in light green (in the 60th percentile and higher) were good, and those in dark green (80th percentile and higher) were very good.

With five stars at the top of the card, one would expect lots of dark-green boxes, and there are, in such categories as ‘pain intervention,’ ‘improvement in pain,’ ‘timely initiation of care,’ ‘improvement in management of oral meds,’ and ‘diabetic foot care & education.’

When asked what makes all that green possible, and, in essence, what separates a 5-star operation from one that strives for the rating and falls short, she said there are many factors, many ingredients in the recipe for success.

“I believe it starts with your heart — you have to love what you do,” she explained. “And if you love what you do, it’s going to show from the top down; you all have to be invested in what you’re doing in your job.

“And it’s not just a job — it’s a career, it’s a lifestyle,” she went on. “To be a home-care nurse is a lifestyle, because you have to be invested in your patients. It’s not like you can go to your office at 4:30, click the light off, and it’s done. We’re a 24-hour business.”

Which brings her back to dinner with her husband and the phone calls that can — and often do — interrupt those meals.

And Chaffee is never sure who might be on the other end of that call.

“You might have a manager who wants to run a scenario by you — something they’ve never come across before,” she explained. “You may have a home-health aide you’ve established a long-term relationship with; I’ve had aides follow me from my other jobs into Massachusetts. They’ll call and say that their patient passed away, and they want to discuss how they’re feeling about that.

“I have an open-door policy — all my staff has my cell-phone number,” she went on. “Anybody can call me at any time; sometimes, they just want to check in, and that’s fine with me.”

Bright Future

It may not be an official measure of success in business, but the number of people who want to see what your operation has done, and take best practices from it, is certainly an important statistic — if anyone actually keeps a real number.

Chaffee said she doesn’t, but she acknowledged that many people in her business look to the Porchlight operation as a standard bearer in many respects. The consistent 5-star ratings will do that for a company.

Those who call and visit are essentially looking to know how that mark of excellence was achieved, how a team can be motivated to constantly raise the bar and then clear it, and how a company can excel with that triple aim.

Put another way, they want to know why neither Chaffee nor her husband minds it when he says, ‘who are we having dinner with tonight?’

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

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Mayor Will Reichelt says West Springfield is seeing a good deal of adaptive reuse of commercial and industrial properties, a necessity in a community that is land-poor.

Mayor Will Reichelt says West Springfield is seeing a good deal of adaptive reuse of commercial and industrial properties, a necessity in a community that is land-poor.

Will Reichelt says he was only 15 when he started working at the Donut Dip on Riverdale Street.

His father arranged an introduction with the owner, a fellow Rotarian, and just a few days later, Will was working behind the counter and occasionally injecting filling into jelly donuts.

“I’m not sure it was all legal, but … I sure do miss that 15-year-old body,” said the mayor, now all of 31 and in his second year at the helm of the city where he grew up. “I could eat all the donuts I wanted and never gain an ounce.”

Reichelt spent two and a half years at that Donut Dip, or roughly until he graduated from high school. He remembers at least two things from his time on Riverdale: one was that the busy thoroughfare was seemingly in a constant state of change, and the other was that the Donut Dip wasn’t.

“And it’s still the same — hasn’t changed at all,” said the mayor, who obviously still visits the establishment on occasion. As for Riverdale Street, it remains in that consistent state of change, and for many reasons.

The two major highways that feed traffic onto it — the Mass. Turnpike and I-91 — are the two biggest, because major retailers — and that includes the slew of auto dealers doing business on that stretch — covet such accessibility and will go to great lengths to take full advantage of it. Another is the fact that West Springfield is, to use a term that municipal leaders hate to use, ‘land-poor,’ meaning most developable real estate has been developed already.

All this leads to a term that those involved in economic development are much more fond of using — ‘adaptive reuse,’ which is happening, in one form or another, in seemingly every corner of this city of roughly 28,000. Some examples:

• Buildings within the former Gilbarco complex on Union Street have been repurposed by U-Haul as home to everything from self-storage units to a facility for servicing trucks within the huge fleet;

• The former St. Ann’s Church on Memorial Avenue, razed more than five years ago, has been transitioned into a retail center and home for Florence Savings Bank’s first branch in Hampden County; city officials are still awaiting word on other tenants for that facility;

• A Chipotle restaurant has opened on the site of what was once home to a Jiffy Lube on Memorial Avenue, adding to the already impressive number of eateries on the street that is also home to the Big E;

• Staying on Memorial Avenue, several buildings were razed there and the real estate consolidated by Fathers & Sons to create new, state-of-the art dealerships for Audi and Volkswagen, which opened early this year;

• A former billiard parlor on Riverdale Street has been razed to make way for a new, 121-room Marriott Courtyard hotel that will again alter the landscape on that street; and

• Further north on that strip, a residential property has been acquired by Balise Motor Sales with the intention of adding a car wash to the extensive portfolio of facilities it has on or near Riverdale.

One of the good things about West Springfield is that we are, literally, at the crossroads of New England. Redevelopment of empty parcels pretty much takes care of itself, because people want to be along Riverdale Street, Memorial Avenue, or in West Springfield, because it’s so easy to get to.”

There are many other examples from the past several years or that are now on the drawing board, said Reichelt and Douglas Mattoon, director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, as they described two of the key planks within the community’s economic-development strategy — making the very best use of the land that is available, even if that means knocking something else down to make those efforts possible, and taking full advantage of its enviable geographic location, which the mayor summed up effectively.

“One of the good things about West Springfield is that we are, literally, at the crossroads of New England,” he said, borrowing language used by more than a few of the retailers with a presence in his city. “Redevelopment of empty parcels pretty much takes care of itself, because people want to be along Riverdale Street, Memorial Avenue, or in West Springfield, because it’s so easy to get to.”

To fully capitalize on all this, the city has embarked on the first major effort to update its zoning in a half-century.

“We put together a zoning-review committee, and they’ve been working for four or five months now,” said Reichelt. “They’re literally taking our zoning ordinances from page 1 to page 200 and whatever, and reviewing everything with an eye toward the next 50 years and what will enable the town to move forward.”

West Springfield at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1774
Population: 28,391 (2014)
Area: 17.49 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $16.99
Commercial Tax Rate: $22.21
Median Household Income: $54,434
Median family Income: $63,940
Type of government: Mayor; Town Council
Largest employers: Eversource Energy; Harris Corp.; Home Depot; Interim Health Care; Mercy Home Care
* Latest information available

Overall, said Mattoon, West Springfield continues to work toward two goals that are at or near the top of every municipality’s to-do list — achieving balance between residential and commercial development, and smart growth.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at a community that has always been an attractive mailing address for businesses, and continues to be a destination.

Roads to Progress

While Riverdale Street and Memorial Avenue, the two real entranceways to West Springfield, if you will, provide the most visible evidence of the growth and constant change that place within the city, there are examples in virtually every corner, said Mattoon.

He used an always-effective barometer — building permits issued for both residential and commercial projects this year — to get this message across.

“More than 1,200 permits have been issued,” he noted. “There is some new-home construction and lot of home-improvement projects, and the commercial side of the ledger has really taken off. Our site-plan reviews and zoning board applications are up 52% from where we were last year.

“We’ve had a lot of activity come before us,” he went on. “Not only on the Riverdale corridor, but also on the Memorial Avenue corridor and even the Route 20 corridor, which is a minor corridor going through the center of town.”

Summing up what he believes those permits show, Mattoon said a number of businesses in the community are doing quite well and are in expansion mode. Meanwhile, others want to also take advantage of being at those aforementioned crossroads.

In that former category are a number of businesses across a host of sectors, including Titan USA, a maker of high-speed steel and cobalt cutting tools, which is again expanding its facilities on Baldwin Street; several retailers, including Food Bag, Cumberland Farms (both on Route 20), and Wendy’s, which built a new facility on the site of a former Arby’s on Riverdale Street; U-Haul; and even Costco, which is looking to add gasoline to the seemingly endless list of products it sells from its location in the Riverdale Shops — a project that has been in the works for years and is now before the Planning Board.

In the latter category, meanwhile, is the new hotel on Riverdale, Balise’s car-wash project, a new Pride Store on Riverdale that will replace a smaller facility the company operated, and some new residential developments, including an ambitious project adjacent to Springfield Country Club called Piper Green.

Doug Mattoon

Doug Mattoon says West Springfield strives for smart growth and a balance between commercial and residential growth.

While all this is going on, city officials are hard at work on several fronts that, collectively, fall into the categories of facilitating more of these types of developments while also enabling the community and specific neighborhoods within it to absorb such growth without negatively impacting traffic and overall quality of life.

And these efforts take a number of forms as well. They include the zoning overhaul, which Reichelt said is needed and long overdue, as well as close examination of the types of businesses the city wants to attract.

“Much of our focus has been on Westfield Street [Route 20], the center of town, how we encourage more business to come there — not that there’s a lack of business there,” he explained. “But is what’s there what we want, and if it’s not, how do we get what we want there?”

Mattoon agreed, and said such efforts, which fit the general description of ‘smart growth’ efforts, intersect with the many initiatives involving adaptive reuse.

As an example, he noted ongoing initiatives to repurpose many of the industrial and distribution facilities in the Merrick and Memorial sections of the community, including the Gilbarco complex, where gasoline pumps were manufactured decades ago.

“Such adaptive reuse requires flexibility and our ability to analyze the proposed alternative uses, and make sure they fit with the general character of the neighborhood, traffic, pedestrian safety, and so forth.”

It also includes infrastructure improvements, such as those slated for Memorial Avenue. These include the long-discussed and long-anticipated replacement of the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge over the Westfield River (the border with neighboring Agawam) and a comprehensive reconstruction of the full length of Memorial Avenue.

That state-funded project will commence when the bridge project is completed, said the mayor, estimating that will be in 2022.

Currently at the 25% design stage, the initiative calls for creating four lanes, with designated left-turn lanes and bike lanes as well, between the Memorial Bridge rotary and Union Street, and then three lanes between Union Street and the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge.

The so-called Complete Streets project, so-named because it factors in cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists, is designed to bring smoother traffic flow to a street that has seen exponential growth over the past few decades, has struggled to handle the higher volumes of traffic, and is especially challenged during the Big E’s 17-day run every September.

“I think the Route 147 [Morgan/Sullivan] bridge project is really going to help with the traffic situation on Memorial Avenue, especially during the Big E,” said Mattoon. “That’s where we’re really seeing traffic back up — those intersections just on the other side of the bridge in Agawam.”

Meanwhile, returning again to Riverdale Street, Costco’s proposal, which calls for a number of gas pumps and a convenience-store-like facility, will require some changes to that thoroughfare, said Mattoon.

He noted that the intersection of Riverdale and Daggett Drive must be modified to handle traffic concerns raised by the project. Specifically, a southbound exit out of Daggett Drive would be added, explained, noting that this is another example of how the town is working to encourage new business ventures while also taking steps to minimize the impact from such growth on specific streets and neighborhoods.

To-Dough List

Mayor Reichelt worked at the Donut Dip half a lifetime ago. By most accounts, including his, there has been little change at that location since the start of this century.

But there has been change all around it on Riverdale Street — and also on Memorial Avenue, Route 20, Baldwin Street, and every other corner of the city — and it is ongoing.

This is life at the crossroads of New England. Those highways create opportunities, challenges, and a delicate balancing act, one that Reichelt and his team at City Hall continue to master.


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

Autos Sections

No Slowing Down

Mike Lapointe

Mike Lapointe says effective pricing and “making it easier for customers to do business” have been keys to success at Lia Honda.

Mike Lapointe said he considers himself an “outlier” in most respects when it comes to the automotive market and what’s happening within it.

He used that term in reference to everything from his ability to sell the generally older cars being traded in these days — a development he attributes to the market he serves as general manager of Lia Honda in Northampton (one with thousands of college students on tight budgets) — to the manner in which his dealership is defying what all the ‘experts’ projected as a somewhat down year for the industry.

“Our sales are up 130% as far as new-car business is concerned, so Honda is very, very happy with us,” he explained. “It was the opposite of what we expected; during the winter, we had record months, and in the summer, we ran into vacation season, and things slowed down quite a bit. But we’re maintaining above 100% of our new-car objectives.”

But while Lapointe may well be an outlier when it comes to those older used cars — many are a decade or more older and not retailable in most markets — that term doesn’t seem to apply to overall dealership performance, at least among the owners and managers we spoke with.

Indeed, while analysts were predicting that 2017 would be the year the bubble would burst in the auto industry — when a run of several successful if not record-breaking years would come to an end and the needle would starting moving in the other direction — that really hasn’t happened, at least not locally.

“We actually expected to start to see a downturn, and internally, we were trending for that,” said Carla Cosenzi, a principal with TommyCar Auto Group, which operates Country Nissan in Hadley, Country Hyundai in Northampton, and Northampton Volkswagen. “That was the rhetoric within the industry, but we’re not seeing that; we’re trending upward at all our locations this year.”

Don Pion, president of Bob Pion Buick GMC in Chicopee, the dealership started by his father, Bob, agreed.

“We’re having a very solid year — I can’t complain,” said the 40-year industry veteran. “Both Buick and GMC have good products out there right now, rates are still good, and all those things help us sell cars.”

Carla Cosenzi says TommyCar Auto Group

Carla Cosenzi says TommyCar Auto Group is seeing continued growth across all its lines, despite projections for an industry-wide downturn.

With one voice, the dealers we spoke with said the forces that were supposed to bring an end to the auto industry’s fun ride, or at least pump the brakes — and they include everything from uneasiness over the scene in Washington (and around the globe, for that matter) to the fact that many of those older cars had already been replaced — are there. But they haven’t had the expected impact.

“We read all those reports … have we hit the bubble? Are we starting to trend down? Every possible thing that could affect the business in a negative way — that’s what they’re predicting,” said Pion. “You read all that, and you think, ‘what’s going to happen?’ But we haven’t seen it. People are still coming in, and they’re still buying cars.”

For this issue and its focus on auto sales, BusinessWest talked with area dealers about what they’re seeing — or not seeing, as the case may be.

The Ride Stuff

When asked how his dealership and others in this region have fared so well when the industry was supposed to take a step back — and still might; projections for the summer were especially glum — Pion paused for a moment.

“You would need someone smarter than me to answer that,” he said eventually, adding that he’s only doing what his father said needed to be done when the industry analysts’ predictions weren’t rosy — and also when they were.

“He always said that you read all that stuff, those industry projections, and you put it away for reference,” he told BusinessWest. “But you come to work every day ready to do business.”

Indeed, while Pion and the others we spoke with said they were, and are, well aware of the predictions for a slower year, all they can do is respond to what they see out their windows, in the showrooms, and on their books.

And the numbers do not reveal a slowdown of any kind.

“We sold 150 cars in February, 140 in March, and 160 in April,” said Lapointe, adding that the average for a typical year at his dealership is about 110, and ‘150-car months,’ as he called them, are solid, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Pion said, so far this year, his Buick sales are up 24%, GMC is up 30%, and used-car sales are up 20%.

Cosenzi, meanwhile, used more words than numbers to convey pretty much the same information.

“We’ve continued to see growth. And usually, we don’t see that across all brands at the same time, but we’ve seen that this year,” she explained. “Usually, one will take off a little more than another, or one will have a new-product launch or something else that will create a little more excitement. But we’ve seen growth across all three.”

What’s driving this better-than-projected performance? There are a number of factors, said those we spoke with, ranging from effective pricing (Lapointe cited this as a key to Honda’s continued solid performance) to seemingly ample amounts of confidence on the part of consumers, to quality products — especially SUVs of all sizes and shapes.

At his Honda store, Lapointe said the keys to success are having inventory that appeals to buyers in the Five College market — again, Millennials on tight budgets — and going the extra mile, whatever that may be, to clinch a sale.

“We have to find new ways to do business,” he explained. “Other dealer groups may not take a deposit over the phone; they might force you to come into the store. Other groups might not give you a trade over the phone. Those would be outdated strategies for me. We do whatever makes it easier for the customer to do business, because the next guy won’t do that.”

As for what’s selling, while car sales have been decent, said area dealers, SUV purchases and leases continue to fuel the numbers cited earlier. Each carmaker now has such vehicles in the ‘small,’ ‘mid-size,’ and ‘large’ categories, and they all seem to be selling.

“The car market is still struggling somewhat, but the SUVs, from the smaller models right up to the full-size SUVs, are doing very well,” Pion said, citing solid numbers for models ranging from Buick’s Envision (a new product) to GMC’s Acadia (a larger model).

Cosenzi agreed, noting that the SUVs made by all three carmakers she handles are doing well, as are entry-level cars — those generally under $20,000 now — such as Hyundai’s Elantra and VW’s Jetta.

The Road Ahead

As he talked about the market moving forward, Pion said his plan, in most all respects, is to continue following his father’s advice.

That would be to read and listen to the analysts’ projections, put them away for reference, but show up to work ready to sell cars.

Thus far this year, dealers have been selling more than the forecasts said they would. And they believe the conditions are such that things will continue in this vein.

This won’t make them outliers, necessarily, but it will make them quite happy.

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

Agenda Departments

Western Mass. Employment Collaborative Job Fair

Aug. 22: The Western Mass. Employment Collaborative (a service of Riverside Community Care) and Holyoke Community College are partnering for a Job Fair from 10 a.m to noon at Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Center, Room 303. The purpose of the event is for businesses to meet qualified candidates for their hiring needs and for job seekers to have multiple opportunities to speak to employers and partner agencies and to interview for competitive employment. Western Mass. Employment Collaborative (WMEC) partners are all working toward a common goal: to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. WMEC works across all disabilities and represents hundreds of job seekers who have the skills, commitment, and desire to enter the workforce and contribute positively to a local employer. By attending this job fair, employers will discover this is a largely untapped pool of qualified job candidates and learn how to work with the vibrant partnership between service providers, government agencies, and workforce-development entities that WMEC facilitates. The job fair will serve as both as a recruitment venue and a valuable experience for job seekers as they prepare to enter the workforce. Job developers and coaches will work with their job seekers around readiness skills and how to interact with employers. Students from the college will have an opportunity to be a part of this diverse and inclusive environment and see what employers from Western Mass. have to offer. Contact Pam Mendes at [email protected] or (617) 360-1646 with questions.

Springfield Jam Fest

Sept. 9: The Springfield Business Improvement District will present the first annual Springfield Jam Festival in downtown Springfield from noon to 11 p.m. at Court Square. Multiple stages will feature dozens of local artists performing throughout the entire day, playing everything from rock and country to blues, reggae, and more. Area vendors will sell a large variety of food and beverages. Sponsorship agreement goals have been reached to put on the festival, and all additional funds raised by the event will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Western Massachusetts, which is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness through support, education, and advocacy. One in four people in the U.S. has a mental-health condition, and as an affiliate of the nation’s largest grass-roots mental-health organization, NAMI-Western Massachusetts advocates for access to services, treatment, support, and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all those in need. For more information on the Springfield Jam Festival, visit springfielddowntown.com/springfield-jam-fest.

Family Improv Class

Sept. 10 to Oct. 15: Local improv company Happier Valley Comedy announced a new addition to its Comedy School lineup of classes for the fall. Family Improv is a six-week class held on Sunday afternoons beginning in September and is open to any child-and-adult combo. Family Improv gives families the opportunity to laugh with a loved one and bond over fun improvisation games and exercises. The Family Improv curriculum is guided by the principles of acceptance, mindfulness, quieting judgment of self and others, and strengthening communication, all while having a blast playing together. Family Improv will complement Happier Valley Comedy’s monthly Happier FAMILY Comedy Show, a high-energy, interactive event designed especially for families and kids ages 5-12. Registration for Family Improv is available on the Happier Valley Comedy website (www.happiervalley.com), with weekly classes to be held Sept. 10 through Oct. 15 on Sundays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Family Improv will be taught by Kate Jopson, a graduate of the Happier Valley Comedy’s Zen of Improv classes and a Happier FAMILY Comedy Show cast member. Every child who is registered in the class receives a free ticket to the comedy show.

Patent and Trademark Educational Event

Sept. 14: The South Hadley Library and the South Hadley & Granby Chamber of Commerce announced a free business educational event for the business community and the public from 4 to 6 p.m. at the South Hadley Library, located at 2 Canal St. The event, designed for entrepreneurs and businesses, is a joint collaboration between the library and the chamber. The speaker, Paulina Borrego, is a science and engineering librarian at UMass Amherst. Soon after becoming a librarian in 2007, she took on the role of the Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) librarian in 2009. She is trained by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to educate patrons about patents and trademarks, the application process, and how to conduct an effective and thorough search. She works in the UMass Amherst Science & Engineering Library, which is open to the public. For more information on the program, visit the South Hadley Library’s website at www.shadleylib.org or the chamber website at www.shgchamber.com.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Sept. 21: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will offer a free Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at the law school, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer. Volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business, landlord/tenant matters, and real estate. Additionally, in light of recent immigration developments, attorneys with immigration-law experience will also be available to answer questions. Spanish-speaking attorneys will be available.

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. Nominations were accepted in a number of categories, including ‘Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider,’ ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness,’ ‘Community Health,’ ‘Lifetime Achievement,’ and many others. A panel of judges determined the winners, who will be profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest and the September issue of HCN. American International College and Trinity Health are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Additional sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Elms College, and Renew.Calm. Tickets to the event are $85 each, with tables available for purchase. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Agenda Departments

Scramble Golf Tournament

Aug. 12: I Found Light Against All Odds will present its first annual Scramble Golf Tournament scholarship fund-raiser. The festivities will include golf, food, raffles, and more. The tournament will take place at Veterans Memorial Golf Course, with tee times starting at 11 am. Tournament admission fee is $100 per player, with the top three teams awarded first-, second-, and third-place prizes. Players can register by visiting www.eventbrite.com/e/scholarship-fundraiser-scramble-golf-tournament-registration-35572044944. All money raised from this tournament will go toward awarding scholarships for the 2017-18 school year. The recipients will be formerly at-risk high-school seniors from local high schools, who have overcome the darkness in their lives, now finding the light in education and headed to college.

Summer Music Festival

Sept. 9: The first annual Springfield Jam Fest in downtown Springfield will feature dozens of local artists performing on two separate stages throughout the entire day from all genres of music, including rock, country, blues, reggae, and more. The festival will take place at Court Square from noon to 11 p.m., and will feature local food and beverage options in addition to the music. Proceeds raised by the concert will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Mass., which is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness through support, education, and advocacy.

Walk for Love

Sept. 9: Are you ready to walk for love? Join the fun at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield on Saturday, Sept. 9th for the eighth annual Walk for Love Walkathon and Barbecue. The Walkathon begins at the hospital and continues through Van Horn Park and back to the hospital for a barbecue. It is an easy, three-mile walk and will be held rain or shine. Registration begins at 9 a.m., followed by the walk at 10 a.m., and the barbecue and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The $25 cost ($5 for children 10 and under, and $40 for families) includes walk registration and T-shirt (to be given on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last). Free parking is available at the Boys and Girls Club located directly across from the hospital on Carew Street. To sign up online, visit www.walkforlove.org. For more information, contact Lee Roberts at (413) 755-2307 or [email protected]

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. Nominations were accepted in a number of categories, including ‘Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider,’ ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness,’ ‘Community Health,’ ‘Lifetime Achievement,’ and many others. A panel of judges determined the winners, who will be profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest and the September issue of HCN. American International College and Trinity Health are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Additional sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Elms College, and Renew.Calm. Tickets to the event are $85 each, with tables available for purchase. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Out of the Darkness Walk

Oct. 21: Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., yet suicide is preventable. The Western Mass. Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) announced that its flagship event, the Greater Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk to Fight Suicide, has a new home, School Street Park in Agawam. Roughly 1,000 people from throughout the Greater Springfield Area are expected to participate in this annual event at its new location starting at 10 a.m. This fund-raising walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s local and national education and advocacy programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20% by 2025. “We walk to raise awareness about this important health issue. Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking, we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said Heather White, area director for AFSP in Western Mass. “School Street Park is the perfect location for this event, as the outdoor space will accommodate not only more walkers, but more community partners and vendors focused on suicide prevention. Elements like the covered pavilion for registration and stage for opening ceremonies makes the logistics of the day easier for the volunteers, while special touches like the park’s Garden of Angels and expanded space for activities of hope and healing will make the event more impactful and meaningful for the walkers.” The Greater Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk is one of more than 375 Out of the Darkness community walks being held nationwide this year. The walks are expected to unite more than 250,000 walkers and raise millions of dollars for suicide-prevention efforts. With this walk last year, the Greater Springfield community raised almost $60,0000 for suicide awareness and prevention initiatives, and had nearly 800 participants. “These walks are about turning hope into action,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “Suicide is a serious problem, but it’s a problem we can solve. The research has shown us how to fight suicide, and if we keep up the fight, the science is only going to get better, our culture will get smarter about mental health, and we’ll be able to save more people from dying from depression and other mental-health conditions.” Planning committees for the 2017 Greater Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk are meeting now. If you would like to help organize this inspiring charitable event, sponsor the walk, or have a booth on site, contact Heather White at [email protected] for more information. To join the fight against suicide, register to walk at School Street Park in Agawam on Oct. 21 by visiting www.afsp.org/greaterspringfieldma.

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Daily News

AMHERST — The food in the UMass Amherst dining halls is so good that the Princeton Review came back for another helping, choosing the school as the national leader in collegiate dining in the U.S. for a second straight year.

The announcement further cements UMass Dining’s reputation for serving up healthy, sustainable, and delicious food prepared by award-winning chefs, said Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst.

“What an honor,” he said. “We are overjoyed about the recognition. Thanks to our hard-working staff and support from our students and the university community. You inspire us every day to create a memorable experience, one meal at a time.”

Added Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, “UMass Dining’s outstanding food helps make our campus a great place to live, study, and work. We’re very proud of our dining-services staff and all they do. They’ve always been number one to us.”

Rankings of the top 20 schools in 62 categories are posted online at www.princetonreview.com/best382 and included in the company’s 2018 edition of “The Best 382 Colleges.” The rankings are based on surveys of 137,000 students at the schools in the guide.

UMass Dining is the largest college dining-services operation in the country, serving 45,000 meals daily, or 5.5 million meals per year. Since 1999, overall participation the university’s meal plan has more than doubled from 8,300 participants to more than 19,200.

A self-operated program committed to providing a variety of healthy world cuisines using the most sustainable ingredients, UMass Dining incorporates recipes from accomplished chefs and nutritionists as well as principles from the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard School of Public Health to its cycle menu. UMass Dining is known for being among the most honored collegiate dining programs in America by many national organizations. For the past seven years, UMass Dining has been selected to the Princeton Review’s “Best Campus Food” list. It ranked tenth in 2012, third in 2013 and 2014, second in 2015 and 2016, and first in the 2017 and 2018 editions.

Daily News

SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley & Granby Chamber of Commerce announced its new membership-tier program, effective immediately. The new tiers are designed to recognize and assist the different categories of businesses that serve Granby and South Hadley, all to help promote and grow the businesses of its members serving these two municipalities.

Previously, the chamber had two tiers for membership, basic and premier, both based on the number of employees a business had. With the new tier program, there are now a total of six tiers.

“The chamber board and I believe that the new membership-tier program will more appropriately address the business requirements and needs of a business and the type of benefits a business is seeking to obtain as a chamber member,” said Mariann Millard, executive director. “This new program goes hand-in-hand with our new website and logo that we recently rolled out.”

Annual membership costs for the six tiers range between $105 and $510 and include three new membership categories called affiliate, start-up business, and social/civic/recreation club. The business-membership categories, formerly known as basic and premier, are now divided into three separate tiers based on the level of membership benefits.

“For our new tier program, for example, we have an affiliate membership that recognizes that a business may have a primary membership with another area chamber, but does business in South Hadley and/or Granby,” Millard explained. “For the start-up business category, we understand how challenging it can be for a new business, especially in the first three years. We designed it to make it more financially affordable as well as provide available resources as a membership benefit. For our new social/civic/recreation club membership, we’re looking to assist nonprofit entities who have an annual operating budget of $75,000 or less and could use an ongoing boost via the chamber to promote their core mission and services to the community.”

For more information on the chamber’s new membership tier program and how to apply for membership, visit www.shgchamber.com.

Features

The ‘Heroes’ Have Been Identified

healthcareheroeslogo021517-pingA panel of esteemed judges is now finished with its work.

And soon, the region will learn the identities of this region’s first class of Healthcare Heroes.

“It’s a very intriguing class, and one that certainly speaks to the excellent, forward-thinking, community-minded work being undertaken by men and women across this region’s broad healthcare sector,” is all Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest and the Healthcare News, would say about the first group of winners at this point.

Much more will be said, of course, in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest and the September issue of HCN, when the magazines will tell the seven winners’ stories and explain why they, and all the other nominees, are worthy of that phrase ‘Healthcare Hero.’

The winners will be honored at the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards Gala on Oct. 19 at the GreatHorse in Hampden. Tickets are $85 each, with tables of 10 available. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Overall, there were more than 70 nominations across seven categories:

• Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider

• Innovation in Health/Wellness

• Community Health

• Emerging Leader

• Collaboration in Health/Wellness

• Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator

• Lifetime Achievement

These nominations were evaluated and scored by three judges:

Dr. Henry Dorkin

Dr. Henry Dorkin

• Dr. Henry Dorkin, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Dorkin is director of the Pulmonary Clinical Research Program, co-director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center, and co-director of the Cystic Fibrosis Therapeutic Development Center, all at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also the immediate past clinical chief of the Division of Respiratory Diseases (2008-16) and the Cystic Fibrosis Center (2010-15), both at Children’s. A former professor of Pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine, he is currently associate professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, a position he has held since 2002. An MMS member since 1982, Dorkin has served the society in a number of capacities. He was president-elect in 2016-17 and vice president in 2015-16. He has served as chair of the Task Force on EHR Interoperability and Usability as well as a member of the Task Force on Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication.

Christopher Scott

Christopher Scott

• Christopher Scott, dean of the School of Health & Patient Simulation at Springfield Technical Community College. Previously, he served as assistant dean for the School of Health & Patient Simulation at STCC and director of Clinical Education and the SIMS Medical Center. Scott played a key role in expanding the facility when he was hired as director in 2010. At the time, the medical center included 18 patient simulators and five rooms and provided 3,000 simulation experiences each year. Today, there are 52 simulators and 12 rooms, or simulation areas, and more than 20,000 simulation experiences. Scott, who holds a master’s degree in Health Education and Curriculum Development from Springfield College, is currently completing his doctorate in higher education administration from Northeastern University in Boston.

Katie Stebbins

Katie Stebbins

• Katie Stebbins, formerly the assistant secretary for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In that role, she co-chaired the governor’s Digital Health Council and led investment efforts into the health-tech ecosystem. After serving in this position for two years, she recently began serving as vice president of Economic Development for the UMass system in Boston. A 20-year veteran of public service and economic development, she has also started three of her own companies.

Agenda Departments

Scramble Golf Tournament

Aug. 12: I Found Light Against All Odds will present its first annual Scramble Golf Tournament scholarship fund-raiser. The festivities will include golf, food, raffles, and more. The tournament will take place at Veterans Memorial Golf Course, with tee times starting at 11 am. Tournament admission fee is $100 per player, with the top three teams awarded first-, second-, and third-place prizes. Players can register by visiting www.eventbrite.com/e/scholarship-fundraiser-scramble-golf-tournament-registration-35572044944. All money raised from this tournament will go toward awarding scholarships for the 2017-18 school year. The recipients will be formerly at-risk high-school seniors from local high schools, who have overcome the darkness in their lives, now finding the light in education and headed to college.

Real-estate Sales Licensing Course

Sept. 6 to Oct. 12: Beginning Sept. 6, the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40 hour, 14-class, sales-licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. The course will be completed on Oct. 12. Tuition is $359 and includes the book and materials. The course curriculum includes property rights, ownership, condos, land use, contracts, deeds, financing, mortgages, real estate brokerage, appraisal, fair housing, consumer protection, and Massachusetts license law, and more. Classes meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. at the association office, 221 Industry Ave., Springfield. For an application, contact Joanne Leblond at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected], or visit www.rapv.com.

Walk for Love

Sept. 9: Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield will host the eighth annual Walk for Love Walkathon and Barbecue. The Walkathon begins at the hospital and continues through Van Horn Park and back to the hospital for a barbecue. It is an easy, three-mile walk and will be held rain or shine. Registration begins at 9 a.m., followed by the walk at 10 a.m., and the barbecue and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The $25 cost ($5 for children 10 and under, and $40 for families) includes walk registration and T-shirt (to be given on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last). Free parking is available at the Boys and Girls Club located directly across from the hospital on Carew Street. To sign up online, visit www.walkforlove.org. For more information, contact Lee Roberts at (413) 755-2307 or [email protected]inenet.org.

Healthcare Heroes

Oct. 19: BusinessWest and the Healthcare News will present the inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. This new recognition program was created by the twin publications to recognize outstanding achievement across the region’s broad and diverse healthcare sector. Nominations were accepted in a number of categories, including ‘Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider,’ ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness,’ ‘Community Health,’ ‘Lifetime Achievement,’ and many others, and reviewed by a panel of judges (see story, page 13). American International College and Trinity Health are the presenting sponsors of Healthcare Heroes. Additional sponsors are Bay Path University, Baystate Health, Elms College, and Renew.Calm. Nominations will be reviewed by a panel of judges, and the winners will be profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest and the September issue of HCN and honored at the awards ceremony on Oct. 19. Tickets to the event are $85 each, with tables available for purchase. For more information or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass.

Nov. 2: Comcast Business will present the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News. The seventh annual business-to-business show will feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.