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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.