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SPRINGFIELD — This afternoon, July 10, at 5 p.m., nominations close for Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest.

Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Individuals, groups, and institutions may be nominated in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen later this month and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

Nomination guidelines are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums will host its annual Indian Motocycle Day celebration on Sunday, July 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Indian Motocycle fans, riders, and collectors from throughout the region are expected to bring their cycles to the city where it all began. Last year’s attendance topped 1,000 visitors.

Originally held at the former Indian Motocycle Museum on Hendee Street, Indian Day has become a highlight event at the Springfield Museums since 2010, following the opening of the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History the previous year. The Wood Museum now houses the Esta Manthos Indian Motocycle Collection, which chronicles the history of Indian Motocycle since the company’s founding in 1901. Visitors to the Springfield History Museum can also view the exhibit “Crossing the Country to Cross Barriers: the Van Buren Sisters Ride into History,” an account of the cross-country trip Augusta and Adeline Van Buren undertook in 1916 to prove women could handle motorcycles.

Trophies will be awarded to pre-1953 Indians in several categories. Individuals interested in exhibiting their pre-1953 Indian or reserving vendor spots can pre-register and receive free museum admission by calling the Springfield Museums at (413) 263-6800, ext. 304, or visiting springfieldmuseums.org/indian-day. This event is sponsored by Sampson Family Chapels in memory of Esta Manthos.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

The deadline has been extended until July 10 to nominate individuals, groups, and institutions in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

Nomination guidelines are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Daily News

AGAWAM — The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) released its summary findings from its 2017 Southern New England Compensation survey. Highlights of the 2017 findings include increased average pay in many sectors and, at the same time, increased pressure of losing top talent to competitors.

Representing more than 300 benchmark positions spanning a number of job-family categories, the survey include breakouts by industry, geographic region, company size, and more. More than 200 companies throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island participated in this year’s survey, with the largest participation from employers with 100 or less employees. The full, comprehensive report is available to participating members at no charge.

“We see that employers have needed to be strategic in allocating their budgetary dollars, especially when it comes to directing those dollars towards more vulnerable jobs. These jobs may have been subjected to past wage freezes or impacted by wage compression due to rising minimum wage rates throughout the region,” said Mark Adams, director of HR Solutions at EANE.

Average pay in non-exempt level positions has risen from 2016 levels, particularly in such job families as education, engineering, facilities, finance/banking, production, and hospitality. While the rise in pay outpaced the general growth in the consumer price index (CPI) from its 2016 levels, the pay growth is still being outpaced by skyrocketing benefit costs that have taxed employer operating budgets and have thus limited what they can provide. (The CPI increased by 2.3% on average when compared to the 2016 levels during the reporting period.)

Despite these rising operational costs, employers also face the countervailing pressure and risk of losing skilled workers to competitors who are challenged by talent shortages amidst a backdrop of very low unemployment. (Unemployment rates declined from 2016 throughout the Southern New England region in the range of 1.2 to 2.0%, depending upon the specific metropolitan area.)

Cover Story Sections Tourism & Hospitality

Fun in the Sun

summertimedpartSummertime is a great time to get away, but in Western Mass., it’s also a great time to stick around and enjoy the many events on the calendar. Whether you’re craving fair food or craft beer, live music or arts and crafts, historical experiences or small-town pride, the region boasts plenty of ways to celebrate the summer months. Here are 35 ideas to get you started, in a region that’s home to many more.

July

Pioneer Valley Beer & Wine Festival
300 North Main St., Florence
www.lookpark.org
Admission: $35 in advance, $40 at the door
July 1: Hungry — or thirsty — for something to do as the summer months take hold? Look Park presents its second annual Beer & Wine Festival at the Pines Theater from noon to 5 p.m. Attendees will get to sample local beer and wine from the Pioneer Valley, live music, and a host of local food vendors. Non-drinkers (designated drivers and under 21) may purchase tickets for $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

Berkshires Arts Festival
380 State Road, Great Barrington
www.berkshiresartsfestival.com
Admission: $7-$14; free for children under 10
July 1-3, Aug. 17-20: Ski Butternut may be best-known for … well, skiing, of course. But the property also plays host to the Berkshires Arts Festival, a regional tradition now in its 16th year. Thousands of art lovers and collectors are expected to stop by to check out and purchase the creations of more than 200 artists and designers, inclouding more than 40 exhibiting for the first time.1berkshiresartsfestival

Fireworks Shows
Various Locations
July 1-4: The days surrounding Independence Day are brimming with nighttime pageantry throughout the Pioneer Valley. Holyoke Community College kicks things off on June 30. July 1 brings a display at Beacon Field in Greenfield and Szot Park in Chicopee, while on July 3, Michael Smith Middle School in South Hadley and East Longmeadow High School get into the act. July 4 will bring the spectacle to Riverfront Park in Springfield, McGuirk Stadium at UMass Amherst, and Six Flags New England in Agawam.

Old Sturbridge Village Independence Weekend Celebration
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge
www.osv.org
Admission: $14-$28; free for children under 4
July 1-4: At this celebration of America, visitors can take part in a citizens’ parade, play 19th-century-style ‘base ball,’ march with the militia, make a tri-cornered hat, and sign a giant copy of the Declaration of Independence. Children and families will enjoy the friendly competition of the Farm Yard Games, and a reproduction cannon will be fired. On July 4, a citizen naturalization ceremony will take place on the Village Common.

2monsonsummerfestMonson Summerfest
Main Street, Monson
www.monsonsummerfestinc.com
Admission: Free
July 4: In 1979, a group of parishioners from the town’s Methodist church wanted to start an Independence Day celebration focused on family and community, The first Summerfest featured food, games, and fun activities. With the addition of a parade, along with booths, bands, rides, and activities, the event has evolved into an attraction drawing more than 10,000 people every year.

Dog Shows
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
www.thebige.com
Admission: Free
July 5-9, Aug. 24-27: The Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds certainly haven’t gone to the dogs, but it will seem that way for five days in July, when Yankee Classic Cluster Dog Shows shows take over the Better Living Center. On tap are dog shows from the Kenilworth, Holyoke, Farmington, and Naugatuck Kennel Clubs. Then, in August, the fairgrounds will host dog shows from the Newtown, Ox Ridge, and Elm City Kennel Clubs.

Made in Massachusetts Festival
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
www.madeinmassfest.com
Admission: $20 general admission, $35 for admission plus tasting combo ticket
July 8-9: The Eastern States Exposition will host this festival featuring craft vendors and products unique to Massachusetts. The event will showcase the state’s top breweries, wineries, local food, live entertainment, specialty crafts, and much more. In addition, kids will enjoy a mobile arcade full of games, a laser-tag arena, huge obstacle courses, bounce houses, an inflated soccer ball arena, face painting, and more.

Brimfield Outdoor Antiques Show
Route 20, Brimfield
www.brimfieldshow.com
Admission: Free
July 11-16, Sept. 5-10: After expanding steadily through the decades, the Brimfield Antique Show now encompasses six miles of Route 20 and has become a nationally known destination for people to value antiques, collectibles, and flea-market finds. Some 6,000 dealers and close to 1 million total visitors show up at the three annual, week-long events; the first was in May.

Yidstock
1021 West St., Amherst
www.yiddishbookcenter.org/yidstock
Admission: Festival pass, $236; tickets may be purchased for individual events
July 13-16: Boasting an array of concerts, lectures, and workshops, Yidstock 2017: The Festival of New Yiddish Music brings the best in klezmer and new Yiddish music to the stage at the Yiddish Book Center on the campus of Hampshire College. The sixth annual event offers an intriguing glimpse into Jewish roots, music, and culture.

Post #351 Catfish Derby
50 Kolbe Dr., Holyoke
www.post351catfishderby.com
Admission: $10 entry fee
July 14: The American Legion Post #351 touts its 37th annual Catfish Derby as the biggest catfish tournament in the Northeast. Fishing is open to the Connecticut River and all its tributaries. The derby headquarters and weigh-in station are located at Post #351. A total of $1,425 in prize money is being offered, with a first prize of $300. Three trophies are available in the junior division (age 14 and younger).

Green River Festival
One College Dr., Greenfield
www.greenriverfestival.com
Admission: Weekend, $119.99; Friday, $34.99; Saturday, $64.99; Sunday, $64.99
July 14-16: For one weekend every July, Greenfield Community College hosts a high-energy celebration of music; local food, beer, and wine; handmade crafts; and games and activities for families and children — all topped off with four hot-air-balloon launches and a spectacular Saturday-night ‘balloon glow.’ The music is continuous on three stages, with more than 40 bands slated to perform.

Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival
300 North Main St., Florence
www.glasgowlands.org
Admission: $5-$16, free for children under 6
July 15: Staged at Look Park, this 23nd annual festival celebrating all things Scottish features Highland dancers, pipe bands, a pipe and drum competition, animals, spinners, weavers, harpists, Celtic music, athletic contests, activities for children, and the authentically dressed Historic Highlanders recreating everyday life in that society from the 14th through 18th centuries.

Positively Holyoke Summer Concerts
221 Appleton St., Holyoke
www.holyokerotary.com
Admission: Free
July 19, July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 9: The Holyoke Rotary Club  will present a series of four Wednesday night concerts at Holyoke Heritage State Park, featuring, in order, Darik & the Funbags, Out of the Blue, Union Jack, and Trailer Trash. The concerts begin at 6 p.m., but a beer garden and grill will open at 5:30. Parking is free, and the rain date for each concert is the following day.

Franklin County Beer Fest
66 Thunder Mountain Road, Charlemont
www.berkshireeast.com
Admission: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
July 22: Join fellow brew enthusiasts for an afternoon of food, music, and drink. The second annual Franklin County Beer Fest will be held at Berkshire East Mountain Resort and will feature beer from several local breweries, local ciders, and local mead and libations. ID required. Online ticket buyers before July will receive a souvenir glass.

3oldsturbridgecraftbeerOld Sturbridge Village Craft Beer & Roots Music Festival
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA
www.osv.org
Admission: $14-$28; free for children under 4
July 23: OSV’s craft beer festival is back, with more brews, bands, and bites than ever before. More than 30 craft breweries from across New England will offer an opportunity to sample and purchase some of the region’s top beers, ciders, and ales, while local chefs prepare farm-to-table fare. At five indoor and outdoor stages, more than a dozen musical artists will bring the sounds of Americana, bluegrass, country, folk, and roots music.

Hampden County 4-H Fair
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
www.easternstatesexposition.com
Admission: Free
July 29: More than 200 young people from Hampden County, and 4-H members from Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Worcester counties, will showcase projects they have made, grown, or raised during the past year. Events include a horse show and other animal exhibitions, a fun run, a talent show, a fashion revue, a lead line and wool competition, and more.

August

West Side Taste of the Valley
Town Common, West Springfield
www.westsidetaste.com
Admission: Free
Aug. 10-13: This community event annually draws over 30,000 people from all over the Pioneer Valley to sample various dishes from a diverse mix of restaurants. The weekend is also highlighted by family-friendly entertainment, live musical acts, a midway of rides and games for kids and teens, animal rides, a petting zoo, and Saturday’s class car cruise, a display of classic, antique, and special-interest cars owned by local residents.

Middlefield Fair
7 Bell Road, Middlefield
www.middlefieldfair.org
Admission: TBA
Aug. 11-13: The Highland Agricultural Society was established in 1856 for the purpose of holding the agricultural fair in Middlefield. In those days, it was known as the Cattle Show, and the grounds were filled with local farmers’ prized cattle. Although the fair has changed in its 150-plus years, it retains that tradition, adding food, a truck pull, a petting zoo, animal exhibits, rides, games, and live including Ray Guillemette Jr.’s Elvis tribute, “A-Ray of Elvis.”

4springfieldjazzrootsSpringfield Jazz and Roots Festival
Court Square, Springfield
www.springfieldjazzfest.com
Admission: Free
Aug. 12: The fourth annual Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival will offer a festive atmosphere featuring locally and internationally acclaimed musical artists. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend and enjoy featured performers including Lizz Wright, Miles Mosley, Rebirth Brass Band, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, Christian Scott, Zaccai Curtis & Insight, Natalie Fernandez, and Community Grooves.

5westfieldairshowWestfield International Airshow
175 Falcon Dr., Westfield
www.westfieldairshow.org
Admission: Free; upgraded paid seating available
Aug. 12-13: The first airshow at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in seven years will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, a team of F-16 fighter jets that fly in close proximity. Other displays include the Geico Skytypers, a team of six pilots who create aerial smoke messages in the sky, as well as the Third Strike wingwalking act, the the Black Daggers U.S. Army Parachute Team, and a host of others.

Westfield Fair
137 Russellville Road, Westfield
www.thewestfieldfair.com
Admission: $6-$8, free for children under 12
Aug. 18-20: One of the earlier late-summer agricultural fairs that proliferate across Western Mass., the 90th edition of the Westfield Fair promises traditional fare like livestock shows, an antique tractor pull, live music, rides and games, an animal auction, a craft barn, a petting zoo, midway rides, and, of course, lots of food.

Cummington Fair
97 Fairgrounds Road, Cummington
www.cummingtonfair.com
Admission: $5-$12, free for children under 10
Aug. 24-27: The Cummington Fair was initiated in 1883 as the Hillside Agricultural Society. Today, it lives on as a showcase for agriculture and livestock in the region, in addition to a robust schedule of entertainment, featuring live music, magic, a demolition derby, a lumberjack show, the Kenya Acrobats, a square dance, crafts, games, food, and much more.

Downtown Get Down
Exchange Street, Chicopee
www.chicopeegetdown.com
Admission: Free
Aug. 25-26: Now in its third year, Chicopee’s downtown block party, which drew 15,000 people to the streets around City Hall last year, will feature live music from nine bands, as well as attractions for children, local food vendors, live art demonstrations, and, for the first time, a 5K race.

Celebrate Holyoke
Downtown Holyoke
www.celebrateholyokemass.com
Admission: Free
Aug. 25-27: Celebrate Holyoke is a three-day festival that made its return in 2015 after a 10-year hiatus, drawing an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people downtown over the course of the weekend. This year’s festival will include live musical performances, food and beverages from local restaurants, activities for children, and goods from local artists and makers.

September

Stone Soul Festival
1780 Roosevelt Ave., Springfield
www.ssfestival.weebly.com
Admission: Free
Sept. 1-3: New England’s largest African-American festival offers family-oriented activities, entertainment, and cultural enrichment, and is a vehicle for minority-owned businesses to display their wares and crafts. Entertainment at Blunt Park includes gospel, jazz, R&B, and dance. Sunday’s free picnic includes ribs and chicken cooked by talented pitmasters, backed by live gospel music performed by local and regional choirs.

Three County Fair
41 Fair St., Northampton
www.threecountyfair.com
Admission: $8-$10
Sept. 1-4: For almost 200 years, the Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Agricultural Society has promoted agriculture, agricultural education, and agricultural science in the Commonwealth. The purpose remains the umbrella under which the Three County Fair is presented to the public. But the fair also includes carnival rides and games, thoroughbred horse racing, crafts, and, of course, plenty of food.

Blandford Fair
10 North St., Blandford
www.theblandfordfair.com
Admission: $5-$10, free for children under 6
Sept. 1-4:
Not much has changed in almost 150 years of the Blandford Fair, but that’s what makes it so charming. Fairgoers can witness the classic rituals of the giant pumpkin display, the pony draw, and the horseshoe tournament, plus more modern additions, like the fantastically loud chainsaw-carving demonstration and the windshield-smashing demolition derby.

Franklin County Fair
89 Wisdom Way, Greenfield
www.fcas.com
Admission: $7-$10, free for children under 9
Sept. 7-10: Named one of the “10 Great New England Fairs” in 2015 by Globe magazine, the 169th edition of the Franklin County Fair will roll into the Franklin County Fairgrounds with every type of fair food imaginable, midway rides, and entertainment ranging from bands and roaming clowns to a ventriloquist, demotion derby, livestock shows, horse draws, a truck pull, and much more.

Glendi
22 St. George Road, Springfield
www.stgeorgecath.org/glendi
Admission: Free
Sept. 8-10: Every year, St. George Cathedral offers thousands of visitors the best in traditional Greek foods, pastries, music, dancing, and old-fashioned Greek hospitality. In addition, the festival offers activities for children, tours of the historic St. George Cathedral and Byzantine Chapel, vendors from across the East Coast, icon workshops, movies in the Glendi Theatre, cooking demonstrations, and more.

Hilltown Brewfest
837 Daniel Shays Highway, New Salem
www.hilltownbrewfest.com
Admission: $35 in advance, $40 at the door
Sept. 9: The ninth annual Hilltown Brewfest is a fund-raiser for local fire departments. The event at Cooleyville Junction promises a relaxing afternoon featuring some 30 brands and 100 brews of beer, wine, cider, and Berkshire Distillery products. Selections include products by both local craft brewers, winemakers, and distillers in the Quabbin and Pioneer Valley regions as well as similar craft producers across New England.

8mattoonstreetMattoon Street Arts Festival
Mattoon Street, Springfield
www.mattoonfestival.org
Admission: Free
Sept. 9-10: Now in its 45th year, the Mattoon Street Arts Festival is the longest-running arts festival in the Pioneer Valley, featuring about 100 exhibitors, including artists that work in ceramics, fibers, glass, jewelry, painting and printmaking, photography, wood, metal, and mixed media. Food vendors and strolling musicians help to make the event a true late-summer destination.

FreshGrass Festival
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams
www.freshgrass.com
Admission: $48-$110 for three-day pass
Sept. 15-17: The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is known for its musical events, and the Fresh Grass festival is among the highlights, showcasing more than 50 bluegrass artists and bands over three days. This year, the lineup includes Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, the Del McCoury Band with David Grisman, Shovels & Rope, Del & Dawg, Bill Frisell, and many more.

9bigeThe Big E
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
www.easternstatesexposition.com
Admission: $8-$12; 17-day pass $20-$40
Sept. 15 to Oct. 1: It’s still the big one, and there’s something for everyone, whether it’s the copious fair food or the livestock shows, the Avenue of States houses or the parades, the local vendors and crafters or the live music — this year featuring Cole Swindell, the Village People, Martin Sexton, Sheila E., the Sugarhill Gang, Fastball, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and many more.

Belchertown Fair
Main Street, Belchertown
www.belchertownfair.com
Admission: Free
Sept. 22-24: This community fair, which draws more than 30,000 visitors every year, celebrates the town’s agricultural roots as well as its active growing community. The weekend features a wide variety of family-friendly activities, from an exhibit hall and animal exhibitions to a parade, plenty of live music, pumpkin decorating for kids, a balloon twister, and an old-time beautiful baby show.

Old Deerfield Craft Fair
10 Memorial St., Deerfield
www.deerfield-craft.org
Admission: $7, free for children under 12
Sep. 23-24: This award-winning show has been recognized for its traditional crafts and fine-arts categories and offers a great variety of items, from furniture to pottery. And while in town, check out all of Historic Deerfield, featuring restored, 18th-century museum houses with period furnishings, demonstrations of Colonial-era trades, and a collection of Early American crafts, ceramics, furniture, textiles, and metalwork.

Agenda Departments

Movie Premiere

June 29: The Basketball Hall of Fame will turn Columbus Avenue into Hollywood Boulevard for a premiere of Grey Lady, a new film by Springfield resident John Shea. This is a one-time, exclusive event, and Shea hopes to reconnect with local luminaries and old friends. Shea will be present at 6 p.m. for a benefit cocktail party before the audience moves into the theater at 6:45 p.m. He will also host an exclusive party after the film, and will take questions from the audience. Shea wrote and directed the film, and also plays a small role as an island police chief. This event is sponsored by Florence Bank. The bank’s president, John Heaps, has known Shea since the third grade at Holy Cross School. It was Shea’s idea to bring his film home to Springfield (he is a Cathedral High School graduate) and donate the proceeds to local charities. Tickets to the benefit are $100, and proceeds will go to Gray House, the Bing Arts Center, and the Community Foundation’s Dr. John V. Shea Scholarship Fund. Party entertainment will be provided by the Eric Bascom Trio. “The reason I’m doing this is to return as much as I can to the town where I grew up. I’m looking forward to renewing relationships with many of my Springfield friends,” said Shea, who calls Los Angeles home today. He has returned to the area many times; he helped with the campaign to establish the new Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, has been a marshal in the Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and sang with the Springfield Symphony. Tickets are available online at the Bing Arts Center box office or at www.bingartscenter.org.

HMC Cookout

July 1: Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) will open its new, $25.3 million Emergency Department early next month. As part of the grand-opening events, from noon to 2 p.m., the hospital will host a free community celebration and cookout. This will be an opportunity for families to come and tour the new Emergency Department. In addition to the tour, hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, and ice cream will be provided.

Nomination Deadline for Healthcare Heroes

July 10: Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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. Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until July 10 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by an independent panel of judges, to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN. The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available HERE.

Jimmy Mazz Concert

July 19: The annual summer concerts at Orchard Valley at Wilbraham are underway. Local favorite Jimmy Mazz will perform at 6 p.m. on the front lawn at Orchard Valley, located at 2387 Boston Road in Wilbraham. The public is invited to enjoy his Vegas-style entertainment with a contemporary twist. The free community summer concerts are held monthly during the summer months and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available. For more information or to RSVP, call (413) 596-0006.

EANE Compensation & Benefits Conference

July 20: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced that its annual Compensation and Benefits Conference, themed “The Game Has Changed,” will be held on Thursday, July 20 at the Publick House in Sturbridge. It will focus on trends in employee compensation and benefits. “The one-size-fits-all model no longer applies to employee compensation and benefits. Employers need to understand the demographic, legislative, and competitive dynamics that have created the trend toward personalization of employee benefits,” said Meredith Wise, EANE president. “Our conference this year is all about these outside influences that are game-changing.” The full-day program will feature Lauren Stiller Rikleen, a nationally recognized expert on developing a thriving, diverse, and multi-generational workforce. She is the author of You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams. Additional conference presentations will include “How to Survive High-deductible Health Plans,” “Is the 40-hour Work Week Dead?” and “The Trump Effect on Employee Compensation and Benefits.” The cost for the program is $285 per person with discounts for three or more. Register at www.eane.org/special-events or by calling (877) 662-6444. The program will offer 6.25 credits from the HR Certification Institute and SHRM. Sponsoring the program are Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and the HR Certification Institute.

Babysitters Academy

July 22: Baystate Mary Lane will sponsor a Babysitters Academy in July to ready area youth for summer and fall babysitting responsibilities. The one-day program will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The class will be held in the Main Conference Room located on the second floor. The Babysitters Academy is a certified babysitter program for young adults ages 11½ to 16. The Saturday session offers potential babysitters instruction in baby care, first aid, CPR, fire safety, home security, child behavior, and accident prevention. Participants are given a course booklet containing helpful tips and other information, and will receive a graduation certificate upon completion of the course. The program is offered by the Parenting program at Baystate Medical Center. There is a $75 fee per student, then $30 for each additional family or group member. Space is limited. For more information or to register, visit baystatehealth.org/parented and click on ‘Infant and Child Care,’ or call (413) 794-5515.

Brightside Golf Classic

July 24: More than 200 golfers are expected to participate in the 37th annual Brightside Golf Classic at Springfield Country Club in West Springfield. “This event raises funds to continue Brightside’s mission to support our community’s most vulnerable children and their families,” said Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president of Fund Development for Mercy Medical Center and its affiliated services. Two tee times are available. Breakfast and registration for the morning session begins at 7 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch and registration for the second session will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The evening reception will be held immediately following the tournament from 5 to 8 p.m. Prices include green fees, golf cart, breakfast or lunch, a gift and swag bag, and reception featuring cocktails, food stations, auction, networking, and live entertainment. On-course food and beverages will be provided by event sponsors throughout the day. Golfers will also be eligible for a chance to win prizes and participate in raffles during the day. The 2017 Golf Classic chairs are Hank Downey, vice president and Commercial Loan officer, Florence Savings Bank; John Kendzierski, president, Professional Drywall Construction Inc.; Matthew Sosik, president and CEO, Easthampton Savings Bank; and William Wagner, Chief Business Development officer and vice chairman of the board, Westfield Bank. Brightside for Families and Children provides in-home counseling and family support to more than 650 children and their families throughout Western Mass. Services include resource coordination, parenting-skills development, behavioral-technique instruction, community-support programs, and other programs tailored to prevent hospitalization from occurring. Specialized assessments such as neuropsychological evaluations and testing are also available. For more information on sponsorships, donations, and attending the event, contact Gearing-Kalill at (413) 748-9986 or [email protected]. Information is also available at www.mercycares.com/brightside-golf-classic.

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), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education 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

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

The deadline has been extended until July 10 to nominate individuals, groups, and institutions in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

Nomination guidelines are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Agenda Departments

Old Post Road Orchestra Concert

June 16: Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield will host the Old Post Road Orchestra for a summer concert on the hospital’s front lawn from 7 to 9 p.m. The music is inspired by composers from New England. This event is free of charge, and light refreshments will be available for purchase. Attendees should bring their own lawn chairs. No alcohol, smoking, or pets will be permitted.

Bike to the Future Motorcycle Ride

June 17: Best known for special events involving tea, white gloves, dresses, fancy hats, and horse races, Square One is moving toward leather, helmets, and motorcycles for its next big fund-raising event. Hosted by the Springfield chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, the Bike to the Future Motorcycle Ride will begin at Square One’s offices on Main Street in Springfield. All riders are encouraged to participate with a donation of $20 per rider and $5 per passenger. Registration is currently open at www.startatsquareone.org. Proceeds from the ride will benefit the children and families of Square One. The ride is sponsored by Alekman DiTusa Attorneys at Law, Harley Davidson of Southampton, National Ambulance, Interstate Towing, and Haymond Law. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with the Buffalo Soldiers on this very exciting opportunity,” said Kristine Allard, chief Development & Communications officer for Square One. “This event has enabled us to introduce Square One’s critical work to new partners who will help us continue to advance our cause.” Check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the ride will start at 10 a.m. The 90-minute ride will wind through Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke and finish at 11:30 a.m. in Court Square in Springfield. An after-ride celebration will be held, including lunch and dessert provided by Frankie & Johnnie’s, as well as music and prizes. Children and families are encouraged to participate in the celebration. Tickets for the party are available for $12 per person.

Estate-planning Discussion

June 21: Attorney Michael Gove of Gove Law Office will offer an informative discussion about key issues that are important to understand when planning for the future or for the care of an aging loved one. The session will take place at Christopher Heights Assisted Living Community at 6 p.m. Gove will review various documents, such as healthcare proxy, trusts, power of attorney, last will and testament, declaration of homestead, and medical orders for life-sustaining treatment. Those in attendance should gain a better understanding of when and if these documents are necessary to complete. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided, and tours of the assisted-living community will be available after the program. Seating is limited, and reservations are requested by June 16 by calling (413) 584-0701 or e-mailing [email protected]. Parking is available on Village Hill Road, Moser Street, and in the Christopher Heights parking lot on the corner of Moser Street and Musante Drive.

40 Under Forty

June 22: The 11th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories are told in the April 17 issue and at BusinessWest.com. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Moriarty & Primack, Health New England, the Gaudreau Group, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Six-Point Creative Works, Renew.Calm, Baystate Health, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. The event is sold out.

BFAIR Walk for Independence

June 24: Berkshire Family & Individual Resources (BFAIR) announced its second annual Walk for Independence. Last year, the inaugural walk along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail saw participation of nearly 100 walkers of all ability levels, with this year already set to exceed that number. A stroll to Cheshire and back (with or any distance in between), the walk will be a fund-raising event in which BFAIR participants, community members, and sponsors can get involved in through sponsored walking, lunch, bucket raffles, and entertainment. Starting and finishing at the Adams Visitors Center, the walk is a day of fun and helps BFAIR share its mission to enrich the lives of people of all ages and abilities by providing positive life experiences and advocacy through distinctive, individualized, quality services. As a local nonprofit, BFAIR relies on public funds to provide critically needed residential, vocational, habilitative, and clinical services for adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities, autism, and acquired brain injury, as well as home-care services for the elderly. The registration fee for the walk is $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 10 and younger. Registration includes a picnic lunch and ball-cap giveaway. Interested walkers can register online at thedriven.net/bfairwalk, by calling (413) 664-9382 ext. 40, e-mailing [email protected], or visiting www.bfair.org. In addition to registering, walkers may seek individual sponsors by asking family and friends to support their walk. Donations are accepted via thedriven.net/bfairwalk, or donation envelopes can be provided for walkers. Corporate sponsorships are available for the trail, mile, bronze, silver, and gold levels, ranging from $100 to $2,500, respectively. Interested businesses should contact Jennifer Civello at [email protected] for more information. Current gold-level walk sponsors include Greylock Federal Credit Union, MountainOne, and the Print Shop Williamstown.

Nomination Deadline for Healthcare Heroes

June 29: Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by BusinessWest and Healthcare News. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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. Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of BusinessWest. The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available HERE.

Movie Premiere

June 29: The Basketball Hall of Fame will turn Columbus Avenue into Hollywood Boulevard for a premiere of Grey Lady, a new film by Springfield resident John Shea. Shea will be present at 6 p.m. for a benefit cocktail party before the audience moves into the theater at 6:45 p.m. He will also host an exclusive party after the film, and will take questions from the audience. Shea wrote and directed the film, and also plays a small role as an island police chief. Tickets to the benefit are $100, and proceeds will go to Gray House, the Bing Arts Center, and the Community Foundation’s Dr. John V. Shea Scholarship Fund. Party entertainment will be provided by the Eric Bascom Trio.“The reason I’m doing this is to return as much as I can to the town where I grew up,” said Shea, who calls Los Angeles home today. Tickets are available online at the Bing Arts Center at www.bingartscenter.org. For mail orders, send a check to Keith Sikes, 61 Texel Dr., Springfield, MA 01108. Checks should be made out to the Bing Arts Center. The Bing Arts Center box office will also be open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Brightside Golf Classic

July 24: More than 200 golfers are expected to participate in the 37th annual Brightside Golf Classic at Springfield Country Club in West Springfield. “This event raises funds to continue Brightside’s mission to support our community’s most vulnerable children and their families,” said Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president of Fund Development for Mercy Medical Center and its affiliated services. Two tee times are available. Breakfast and registration for the morning session begins at 7 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch and registration for the second session will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The evening reception will be held immediately following the tournament from 5 to 8 p.m. Prices include green fees, golf cart, breakfast or lunch, a gift and swag bag, and reception featuring cocktails, food stations, auction, networking, and live entertainment. On-course food and beverages will be provided by event sponsors throughout the day. Golfers will also be eligible for a chance to win prizes and participate in raffles during the day. The 2017 Golf Classic chairs are Hank Downey, vice president and Commercial Loan officer, Florence Savings Bank; John Kendzierski, president, Professional Drywall Construction Inc.; Matthew Sosik, president and CEO, Easthampton Savings Bank; and William Wagner, Chief Business Development officer and vice chairman of the board, Westfield Bank. Brightside for Families and Children provides in-home counseling and family support to more than 650 children and their families throughout Western Mass. Services include resource coordination, parenting-skills development, behavioral-technique instruction, community-support programs, and other programs tailored to prevent hospitalization from occurring. Specialized assessments such as neuropsychological evaluations and testing are also available. For more information on sponsorships, donations, and attending the event, contact Gearing-Kalill at (413) 748-9986 or [email protected]. Information is also available at www.mercycares.com/brightside-golf-classic.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Opinion

Opinion

By Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Employers often call the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Employer Hotline to ask what happens when an inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) comes to their job site. While every workplace is unique, OSHA’s list of top 10 workplace safety violations provides an insight about what the inspectors are looking for.

Read the list and ask yourself: “would OSHA find any of these to be a problem if they inspected my workplace?”

The OSHA workplace violations list for FY2016 drew on information obtained from about 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. The categories on the list rarely change. OSHA inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards year after year. OSHA also notes that more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and about 3 million workers are injured.

The top 10 are:

1. Fall protection. Fatalities continue to plague the construction industry. OSHA’s data shows that 39.9% of deaths in the industry are fall-related, yet this category continues to be the most common violation found every year. Roofing, framing, and home contractors were the most cited employers. Employers can minimize fall risks with training, stand-downs (taking a break to discuss safety risks with employees), and using OSHA’s fall-prevention campaign.

2. Hazard communication. OSHA saw numerous instances of inadequate training, lack of updated data sheets, and not having a program to address hazard chemical exposure.

3. Scaffolds. Fall protection and scaffolding go hand-in-hand. Framing, roofing, siding, and masonry contractors were among the most commonly cited employers for this violation. Improper assembly and access to scaffolding were often noted.

4. Respiratory protection. Companies were cited after employees wore respirators but were not medically evaluated, were put in situations with overexposure to contaminants, or were not properly fit-tested for respiratory protection. Protection is essential for preventing long-term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica, or other toxic substances.

5. Lockout/tagout. The top three instances for which companies were given citations for improper lockout/tagout were employees not trained in proper lockout/tagout procedures, lockout/tagout procedures were nonexistent, and employers failing to perform periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA reported that proper lockout/tagout procedures make certain that machines are powered off and cannot be turned on, reducing the risk of workplace death.

6. Powered industrial trucks. The agency saw operators who lacked certification, were not trained on the hazards associated with the facility, and did not maintain safe use when operating the vehicle.

7. Ladders. The most common hazards associated with ladder use involved improper use of portable ladders. The ladders were not being used according to their design specifications. Injuries occurred when workers used the top rung as a step and when the ladder had a structural defect. Also, employees were not trained on proper ladder use.

8. Machine guarding. OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Amputations is an effort to reduce the hazards associated with machine and equipment hazards. In addition to machine guarding, investigators saw machinery that was not anchored/fixed as it should be and the use of tools that cause cause hazards.

9. Electrical wiring. Investigators noted unsafe substitutes for permanent wiring and incorrect use of extension cords. They also cited employers for using inappropriate extension cords in places such as wet locations.

10. Electrical, general requirements. The most common offenses include electric equipment not installed properly or not used in accordance with recommended uses. In addition, working space around electric equipment should be unobstructed.

Modern Office Sections

Progressive Environment

Cooley Dickinson Health Care is no stranger to environmental awareness, recently earning the Greenhealth Partner for Change award from Practice Greenhealth for the fifth consecutive year.

Practice Greenhealth is the nation’s leading healthcare community dedicated to transforming healthcare worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a community anchor for sustainability and a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice.

The Partner for Change award is one of the organization’s Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor outstanding environmental achievements in the healthcare sector. The award recognizes healthcare facilities that continuously improve and expand upon their mercury-elimination, waste-reduction, recycling, and source-reduction programs. At minimum, facilities applying for this award must be recycling 15% of their total waste, have reduced regulated medical waste, are well along the way to mercury elimination, and have developed other successful pollution-prevention programs in many different areas.

Among Cooley Dickinson’s recent environmentally friendly practices, it has recycled 65 tons, or 85%, of the construction waste during the construction of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital; replaced kitchen dishwashers, saving 50% of water and energy use; arranged contracts for 3,500 kwh of solar power under a 20-year agreement, which is 30% of CDH’s annual usage; and replaced and upgrade lighting to LED technology in 15,000 square feet of the CDH property.


“Cooley Dickinson’s employees take pride in our sustainability efforts to lessen our impact on the environment and look forward to working with Practice Greenhealth to continue this work across the country.”


“As a Practice Greenhealth Partner for Change Award winner, Cooley Dickinson is committed to improving the health of our patients, staff, and community as a whole,” said Anthony Scibelli, vice president, Operations and chief administrative officer. “Cooley Dickinson’s employees take pride in our sustainability efforts to lessen our impact on the environment and look forward to working with Practice Greenhealth to continue this work across the country.”

Practice Greenhealth recently released its eighth annual Sustainability Benchmark Report, analyzing data from leading hospitals and health systems across the country, giving a snapshot of trends in environmental performance and sustainability in energy, water, toxics, food, and other categories. Among the findings:

• While U.S. hospitals emit an estimated 8% of the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions, in the last three years, the percentage of facilities that have a written plan to address climate-change mitigation has nearly doubled. Also, the percentage of facilities that generate or purchase renewable energy has increased by 81%.

• Hospitals in the U.S. produce more than 4.67 million tons of waste each year. But in the last two years, the percentage of facilities that have taken measures to reduce the generation of pharmaceutical waste has grown by 11%. Leading hospitals are routinely achieving a 30% recycling rate — more than double the early EPA goal of 15%.

• More hospitals are purchasing products with safer chemicals. In 2016, the percentage of hospitals prioritizing furniture and medical furnishings free of halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, perfluorinated compounds, and PVC (vinyl) more than doubled from the previous year. A total of 78% of hospitals have chemical or purchasing policies that identify specific chemicals of concern to human health and the environment, with 79% purchasing certified green cleaning chemicals and 30% indicating they have programs in place to purchase furniture or furnishings that avoid chemicals of concern.

• Currently, U.S. hospitals use more than 7% of the nation’s commercial water supply. However, in the last three years, the percentage of facilities that benchmark water usage has doubled. During that time, there’s also been a 36% increase in the percentage of facilities that have a written plan to reduce water use over time with specific goals and a timeline. However, only 17% of hospitals reported any water-reduction projects in 2015.

“Our annual Sustainability Benchmark Report allows us to share how the nation’s leading hospitals are making progress year after year to improve health and reduce environmental impact while delivering strong financial return,” said Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, director of Sector Performance and Recognition for Practice Greenhealth. “We are proud to see more hospitals than ever appointing sustainability leaders to oversee environmental performance.”

Agenda Departments

White Lion Wednesdays

Through Aug. 27: White Lion Wednesdays returned to Springfield on May 17 and will run through Aug. 27, presented by Berkshire Bank in partnership with the Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) and Springfield’s White Lion Brewing Co. Touted as one of last summer’s “Best Pop-up Beer Gardens” by Food & Wine magazine, Raymond Berry, president of White Lion, said this season will be even better. “White Lion is ecstatic to kick off this year’s beer garden series in May. Last year’s series had great attendance and obtained national recognition; we will look to capitalize on its success, and we are honored to be part of a collection of creative programs in the heart of downtown Springfield,” he said. “During the series, brewer Mike Yates will introduce a new beer commemorating the grand opening of Springfield’s Union Station. The honorary selection follows last year’s releases, which celebrated the Eastern States 100th anniversary, and the history of Springfield brewing in partnership with the Springfield Museums.” Again, the Springfield Business Improvement District will host White Lion Wednesdays, rotating between three locations from 4 to 8 p.m.: One Financial Plaza at 1350 Main St., Tower Square Park at 1477 Main St., and the Shops at Marketplace at the rear of 1341 Main St. More details on White Lion Wednesdays, including locations and dates, can be found at springfielddowntown.com/white-lion-wednesdays.

‘An Afternoon with Tom Ahern’

June 1: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation invites regional nonprofit staff to attend “An Afternoon with Tom Ahern,” a two-part workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. at Jane Iredale Cosmetics, 50 Church St., Great Barrington. Back by popular demand, Ahern will present two back-to-back workshops: “The Big (little) Diff: Writing for Online Readers,” a discussion of best practices in writing for web, e-mail, and social-media platforms; and “Writing a Powerful Case for Support,” which will review effective fund-raising methods. The New York Times calls Ahern “one of the country’s most sought-after creators of fund-raising messages.” This event is part of Berkshire Taconic’s popular annual Seminars in Nonprofit Excellence series. Tickets are $40 per person, and light food and beverages will be provided. To register, visit www.berkshiretaconic.org/ahern.

Discussions about Race

June 2-3, 9-10: Cooley Dickinson Health Care, the United Way of Hampshire County, and the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College are addressing the issue of racism, as well as race-related incidents that continue to occur both locally and nationally, by offering a series of community dialogues on race in Northampton and Amherst. Community members who live or work in Hampshire County are invited to attend either of the sessions. The two-part dialogue will be offered Friday, June 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College, Wright Hall, 5 Chapin Dr., Northampton. A second two-part session will be offered Friday, June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Amherst Survival Center, 138 Sunderland Road, Amherst. Event organizers say they aim to move toward solutions rather than continue to express or analyze the problem; to reach beyond the usual boundaries, offering opportunities for new, unexpected partnerships; and to unite divided communities through a respectful, informed sharing of local racial history and its consequences for different people in today’s society. The community dialogue is free, and lunch will be provided. Attendance is limited to 30 people, and participants must attend both Friday and Saturday. When registering, people will be asked their name, the organization they represent, if any, and their race/ethnicity. Organizers are asking about race/ethnicity as they have a goal of 50% participation from people of color. To register, call (888) 554-4234 by Tuesday, May 30. You will receive confirmation on whether you have been selected to attend a session.

WGBY Asparagus Festival

June 3: The WGBY Asparagus Festival returns to the Hadley Town Common from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to once again celebrate the region’s legacy of agriculture and community. The family-friendly, outdoor event features more than 90 local food, crafts, and agricultural vendors at a Farmers’ & Makers’ Market. In addition, there will be entertainment displays, kids’ games, and a live visit from PBS Kids character Curious George. A large “Rooted in the Valley” stage will feature popular performers. Family entertainer Tyler Conroy will start off the day, followed by bands Western Den and Parsonsfield, which were selected by Northampton-based Signature Sounds. Western Den blends “compelling lush harmonies with ambient textures,” and Parsonsfield “trades instruments, shares microphones, and sings in tight multi-part harmonies,” according to each of the bands’ websites. More than a dozen Pioneer Valley culinary artisans, local brewers, and regional food vendors will offer a wide variety of snacks and meals. Taste original dishes from Mi Tierra, Esselon Café, or Spoleto. Visit the Wheelhouse Farm, UMass Dining, or Hadley Fry King food trucks. Or, go on the sweeter side and sample asparagus-flavored ice cream from Flayvours of Cook Farm, maple treats from the North Hadley Sugar Shack, or a specialty from the Florence Pie Bar. Other food vendors include North Hadley Congregational Church, Harmony Springs, and Dean’s Beans. In addition, a large craft-beer tent will provide tasting opportunities from popular local breweries (craft beer tasting tickets available at wgby.org/beer). The WGBY Asparagus Festival is open to the public and free with a recommended donation of $5 per person. It will be held rain or shine. Donations directly benefit public television and education efforts in the Western New England region. The event is sponsored by the Dennis Group, Greenfield Savings Bank, Whole Foods Hadley, and Alternative Recycling Systems. Media sponsors include the Daily Hampshire Gazette, MassLive, and Yankee magazine.

Girls on the Run 5K Celebration

June 4: Girls on the Run of Western MA will host its 5K celebration at Springfield College. The run will begin at 10:30 a.m., but festivities, including a group warm-up and talk by Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper, will begin at 10 a.m. Early arrival is suggested. There will also be food trucks and face painting. Girls on the Run is a physical, activity-based, positive youth-development program that uses fun running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. During the 10-week program, girls participate in lessons that foster confidence, build peer connections, and encourage community service while they prepare for an end-of-season, celebratory 5K event. Participation in the 5K event is open to the public. Girls on the Run drew 500 girls and 160 volunteer coaches to the program this season, more than 1,200 participants are expected at the 5K event. Last season’s event brought together more than 1,000 program participants, families, friends, and community members. The event will begin on the track and do two loops around the campus. The cost is $20 for adults and $12 for children, and includes an event shirt. To register, visit www.girlsontherunwesternma.org, or register on site the day of the event beginning at 8:30 a.m.

‘Meeting Your Mission Through Integrated Communications Strategies’

June 9: Bay Path University, partnering with the Human Service Forum, will host a free conference and workshop, “Hot Topics: Meeting Your Mission Through Integrated Communications Strategies,” for area nonprofit management and leadership. The session is being presented by Bay Path’s MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs and will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Blake Student Center, where Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Oregon-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), will present to attendees. The morning session and presentation by Ward will be followed by a hands-on workshop at Wright Hall that will provide building blocks for area nonprofit professionals. The program, “Community-Driven Communications,” will outline community-driven communication strategies, including the use of social media, and provide templates and plans attendees can complete and implement with their organizations. According to Sylvia de Haas-Phillips, director and assistant professor of the MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs, the event will help nonprofits more effectively use digital, social, and mobile technologies in engaging supporters and in collaborating with other community organizations. Full participation in the breakfast presentation and afternoon workshop earns CFRE points towards certification or recertification. Those interested can register at bit.ly/2q4hHmv. Ward is a speaker and author; her latest book is Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage Your Community. In addition to serving as CEO of NTEN, she educates and supports nonprofit organizations nationwide in using integrated communications strategies to create meaningful engagement.

40 Under Forty

June 22: The 11th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories are told in the April 17 issue and at BusinessWest.com. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Moriarty & Primack, Health New England, the Gaudreau Group, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Six-Point Creative Works, Renew.Calm, Baystate Health, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. Tickets cost $75. A limited number of standing-room-only tickets are available, but are expected to sell out quickly. To purchase tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

BFAIR Walk for Independence

June 24: Berkshire Family & Individual Resources (BFAIR) announced its second annual Walk for Independence. Last year, the inaugural walk along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail saw participation of nearly 100 walkers of all ability levels, with this year already set to exceed that number. A stroll to Cheshire and back (with or any distance in between), the walk will be a fund-raising event in which BFAIR participants, community members, and sponsors can get involved in through sponsored walking, lunch, bucket raffles, and entertainment. Starting and finishing at the Adams Visitors Center, the walk is a day of fun and helps BFAIR share its mission to enrich the lives of people of all ages and abilities by providing positive life experiences and advocacy through distinctive, individualized, quality services. As a local nonprofit, BFAIR relies on public funds to provide critically needed residential, vocational, habilitative, and clinical services for adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities, autism, and acquired brain injury, as well as home-care services for the elderly. The registration fee for the walk is $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 10 and younger. Registration includes a picnic lunch and ball-cap giveaway. Interested walkers can register online at thedriven.net/bfairwalk, by calling (413) 664-9382 ext. 40, e-mailing [email protected], or visiting www.bfair.org. In addition to registering, walkers may seek individual sponsors by asking family and friends to support their walk. Donations are accepted via thedriven.net/bfairwalk, or donation envelopes can be provided for walkers. Corporate sponsorships are available for the trail, mile, bronze, silver, and gold levels, ranging from $100 to $2,500, respectively. Interested businesses should contact Jennifer Civello at [email protected] for more information. Current gold-level walk sponsors include Greylock Federal Credit Union, MountainOne, and the Print Shop Williamstown.

Nomination Deadline for Healthcare Heroes

June 29: Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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. Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN. The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Brightside Golf Classic

July 24: More than 200 golfers are expected to participate in the 37th annual Brightside Golf Classic at Springfield Country Club in West Springfield. “This event raises funds to continue Brightside’s mission to support our community’s most vulnerable children and their families,” said Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president of Fund Development for Mercy Medical Center and its affiliated services. Two tee times are available. Breakfast and registration for the morning session begins at 7 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch and registration for the second session will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The evening reception will be held immediately following the tournament from 5 to 8 p.m. Prices include green fees, golf cart, breakfast or lunch, a gift and swag bag, and reception featuring cocktails, food stations, auction, networking, and live entertainment. On-course food and beverages will be provided by event sponsors throughout the day. Golfers will also be eligible for a chance to win prizes and participate in raffles during the day. For more information on sponsorships, donations, and attending the event, contact Gearing-Kalill at (413) 748-9986 or [email protected]. Information is also available at www.mercycares.com/brightside-golf-classic.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Opinion

Opinion

By Jane Roulier

In schools, on the streets, in relationships, and online, girls in communities across the country are experiencing bullying and harassment. In addition to sexual harassment, many girls experience discrimination based on their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, and more.

Over the past year, one in four high school girls has been bullied on school property, which negatively affects everyone involved — the victim, the harasser, and the bystanders — as well as the learning environment. While Massachusetts has laws requiring schools to develop and implement plans to address bullying, Girls Inc. of Holyoke recognizes that bullying is not limited to the school grounds.

Indeed, the prevalence of social media means that bullying follows girls into their homes and lives outside of school. Children who are bullied often have little reprieve. To address this pervasive problem, Girls Inc. dedicated Girls Inc. Week 2017, May 8-12, to helping girls advocate for change and make our communities better places to live.

But this is an initiative that goes on year-round — because it must.

Girls Inc. recently surveyed nearly 800 members of our national network, including girls and alumnae, parents, staff, board members, and donors, to determine the top challenges facing girls today. Nearly 70% of respondents identified “bullying, harassment, and sexual violence” as an issue of concern to them. We can’t ignore this. This is a problem that affects us all.

It is important we understand the facts and myths about bullying and harassment in order to effectively address this issue.

Myth: Bullying is just ‘kids being kids,’ and we should stop making it such a big deal.

Fact: Bullying can cause lasting harm. Repeated or severe conduct based on sex or other protected categories is unlawful harassment.

Myth: If it happens off school grounds, it’s not the school’s responsibility.

Fact: Under Title IX, schools have to address conduct they know about, or should know about, that leads to a hostile environment or impedes a student’s ability to benefit from the educational program.

Myth: Bullies are ‘problem kids’ who have aggression issues and should be punished.

Fact: Actually, it is quite common for kids who bully to be victims themselves.

Myth: Bullying will stop only if the victim stands up to the bully.

Fact: Just as society does not expect victims of other types of abuse to “deal with it on their own,” we should not expect this from victims of bullying or harassment.

Girls Inc. encourages girls to be change agents within their communities, boldly advocating for themselves and others. Along with more than 450 other attendees at our Spirit of Girls breakfast fund-raiser last month, I witnessed girls doing this. Girls as young as 7 through 17 spoke confidently in front of this large crowd about how our programs have impacted their lives by building their self-esteem and encouraging them to make their voices heard. Because of what they are learning, these girls will not be afraid to advocate for themselves or others. Girls Inc. of Holyoke is also working to change policies, attitudes, and beliefs to improve the conditions in which girls are growing up.

Together, we can put an end to bullying and harassment to create more inclusive, kind, safe, and supportive schools and communities.

Jane Roulier is chair of the board of directors for Girls Inc. of Holyoke.

Features

Program Recognizes Excellence, Innovation, Service to Region

healthcareheroeslogo021517-pingThe time for talk is over; the time for action is now.

That’s action in the form of nominations for Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, launched this spring by BusinessWest and HCN.

Presented by American International College with supporting sponsors Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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, said Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest and HCN.
Nominations are now being sought — and they will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories:

Categories

(Click on each category to go to it’s nomination form)

The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and will be profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest as well as the Sept. issue of HCN.
What follows are the guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions for these various categories. All this information and applications will be available at businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/healthcare-heroes-nomination-information-criteria/.
As you consider the award categories, please keep in mind the following guidelines in preparing your nomination:
Criteria: The criteria for the award and how the nominee fits the criteria for the chosen category;
Accomplishments: What are the nominee’s specific accomplishments, and how were they achieved;
Impact: What measurable impact the nominee has had on the population served in the health and wellness community;
Uniqueness: Is there anything else that makes the nominee exceptional or unique? Provide any other information that will aid in the judges’ consideration of the nomination; and
Eligibilty: Nominees must work in either Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire county, and organization nominees (which may be for-profit or not-for-profit) must have offices in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire county; nominations may be self-nominated or nominated by another person; and nominees cannot be a member of the judges’ panel or a member of a judge’s immediate family.

Award Category Descriptions

(Click on each category to go to it’s nomination form)

Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider

Who is eligible: Company or organization which has shown leadership and excellent service over a sustained period of time by providing quality care, and is considered exemplary by patients and peers.

Judging Criteria: The judges will be looking for evidence of high quality care and continuous improvement. Successful submissions should also demonstrate an area of going above and beyond in terms of training, new programs, best practices, and staff/service user engagement.

Innovation in Health/Wellness

Who is eligible: A company, organization, individual, or group of individuals responsible for development of a new procedure, treatment, program or service that can save lives or improve quality of life. The award may be given for either new innovations or for the refining of existing procedures, treatments, programs or services.

Judging Criteria: The innovation should be expansive in scope so that it now, or could in the future, affect many people’s lives. The application should provide information on the size of the target population and the potential dollar value of the market.

Community Health

Who is eligible: Company, organization, individual, or group of individuals responsible for promoting healthy living, bringing attention to a health/wellness issue, or solving a problem through community outreach.

Judging Criteria: Impact on the community, fulfilling a need otherwise not met in the community.

Examples but are not limited to: Community education efforts, donation of facility resources for community use, outreach to at-risk youth, volunteer service projects, events and activities designed to address local community needs.

Emerging Leader

Who is eligible: Individual, early in their career, who is making a significant impact in the health/wellness industry, exemplifying true leadership, and acting as a role model for others.

Judging Criteria: The judges will be looking for an individual who is rising through the ranks and establishing themselves as future leaders in the health/wellness industry. The winner of this award will be someone who outshines their peers in many ways and helps their organization surpass the competition.

Collaboration in Health/Wellness

Who is eligible: Two or more entities which demonstrate creative and effective collaborations for the purpose of addressing significant health and wellness needs or common problems and standards in community.

Judging Criteria: The judges will be looking for evidence of excellence in strategic collaborations promoting cooperation, sharing of resources and expertise and mutual support with a focus on outcomes, value and initiatives. Effective elimination of organizational silos and promotion of more holistic approaches to care and service.

Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator

Who is eligible: Individual, or group of individuals, whose performance, care and leadership is considered exemplary by patients and peers.

Judging Criteria: Increased efficiency in the delivery of services, increased employee morale, improved profitability.

Lifetime Achievement

Who is eligible: Individual who has dedicated their career to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare in the Western Mass. community. This person should have at least 20 years in the health/wellness field.

Judging Criteria: A lifetime career in the health care field, making an impact through care, either by the number of people affected or the scope of his/her contributions, dedication to his/her field.

Submitting multiple nominations does not enhance your chances of winning.

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Declines in Massachusetts in April

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers hit the pause button on a seven-month rally in business confidence during April, but their outlook remained solidly optimistic in the face of mixed political and economic signals. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 2.2 points to 60.2 last month, 4.0 points higher than its level of a year earlier. Every constituent element of the confidence index lost ground after reaching a 13-year high during March. The results came as the Massachusetts economy contracted at a 0.5% annual rate during the first quarter and state unemployment rate rose to 3.6%. “We should not be surprised to see confidence readings correct slightly after advancing six points since September,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “It bears watching to determine whether the broad April decline becomes a trend as we move into the summer.” Analysts believe the numbers may also reflect growing concern among employers about the ability of the Trump administration to deliver the many pro-growth policies it promised during the campaign. 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. The index has remained above 50 since October 2013. Employers grew less confident about both the overall economy and their own operations during April. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, lost 0.4 points to 63.3, leaving it 6 points higher than in April 2016. The U.S. Index of national business conditions shed 2.7 points after gaining ground for the previous sixth months. April marked the 85th 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, declined 1.9 points to 59.9, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, dropped 2.5 points to 60.5. The future outlook remained 3.2 points higher than a year ago. The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, fell 2.6 points to 60.2. The Employment Index fell 2.8 points to 56.2, and the Sales Index declined 2.1 points to 60.5. The AIM survey found that nearly 39% of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months, while 19% reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable, with 37% planning to hire and only 10% downsizing. The April survey also reversed an unusual result in March, when Western Mass. companies were more confident than those in the eastern portion of the Commonwealth. Eastern Mass. employers posted a 61.7 confidence reading in April versus 58 for employers in the western part of the state. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord said employer confidence is facing headwinds from accelerating healthcare and health-insurance costs. Massachusetts has exceeded its objective for healthcare spending in each of the past two years, and employers continue to pay some of the highest costs in the nation. “The good news is that Massachusetts is beginning to identify some answers. And there appears to be enough common ground and political will on the issue to pursue some solutions,” Lord said. “New research conducted by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission suggests that Massachusetts employers, insurers, and policymakers could reduce total healthcare expenditures anywhere from $279 million per year to $794 million per year, or 0.5% to 1.3%, by making several key improvements to the healthcare system.”

Ko-Aqua Kit Wins Elevator-pitch Competition

HOLYOKE — Nkori Edem, a student from Mount Holyoke College, took first place at last week’s elevator-pitch competition at the Awards Ceremony & Banquet for the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. She pitched the Ko-Aqua Kit, a completely waterproof and airtight swim cap designed specifically for women of color. Edem convinced a panel of judges from area banks that her pitch was the best. Rune Percy and Alexander Smith, a student team from UMass Amherst, took second place based on their business-concept pitch for ARBioDesign, which aims to save tens of thousands of patients every year by personalizing dialysis treatment using rapid and inexpensive microfluidic blood-diagnostic tests. Finally, Daniel Olive, a student at Elms College, took third place with the DBL (Don’t Be Late) Pillow, which utilizes Bluetooth technology to revolutionize waking up. Representatives from six area banks once again sponsored the elevator-pitch competition and served as judges at the annual event held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The banks include Berkshire Bank, Country Bank, KeyBank, PeoplesBank, United Bank, and Westfield Bank. The live event featured a student representative from each of 13 participating local colleges: American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Greenfield Community College, Hampshire College, Holyoke Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, UMass Amherst, Western New England University, and Westfield State University. First-, second-, and third-place winners received $1,000, $750, and $500 respectively. Each student participating received $100. Six student businesses were identified by the bank judges as Best Exhibitors. These were selected from a pool of 62 unique companies during a trade-show-type portion of the evening which featured the 2017 Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award winners. The winning exhibitors were Elms College: JMH Partners, LLC (Kevin Hepburn, Connor Holland, John Jacquinet, and Raphael Monterio); Western New England University: Sparks to Sparkles (Rebecca Abramson); Westfield State University: JPS Design Solutions (James Schmidt); Western New England University: Napollo Music (Sebastien Percy); Springfield College: Thorello Leather Goods (Dilyara Celik), and UMass Amherst: App Outreach, LLC (Jordan Ames, Davis McVay, Rich Sadick, and Lauren Tse-Wall). The Grinspoon, Garvey & Young Alumni Entrepreneurship Award is presented each year to an individual who has advanced substantially as an entrepreneur since receiving the Grinspoon Spirit Award. Phil Scarfi, founder of Pioneer Mobile Applications and alumnus of UMass Amherst, was awarded the 2017 Alumni Award and $1,000. Pioneer Mobile Applications is a software consulting agency, specializing in mobile app design and development.

Unemployment Down Across State in March

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 23 labor-market areas and increased in one area in the Commonwealth during the month of March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to March 2016, the rates were down in all 24 labor-market areas. All 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in March. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Barnstable, Framingham, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas. From March 2016 to March 2017, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, and Pittsfield areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for March was 3.9%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.6% in the month of March. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 200-job gain in March, and an over-the-year gain of 49,000 jobs. The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor-market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dragon Boat Festival Seeks Organizations to Sponsor Boats

SPRINGFIELD — The fifth annual Springfield Dragon Boat Festival will take place on Saturday, June 24 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at North Riverfront Park, 121 West St. in Springfield. Racing begins at 9 a.m. Registration is now open for teams wishing to participate at www.pvriverfront.org/db-fest-reg. In addition to dragon-boat races, the festival will feature family-friendly events such as music, performances, food, vendors, and children’s activities. The boat races will have both community and club racing categories. For businesses and organizations looking for a team-building opportunity, the $2,000 race fee includes a coached training session the week prior to the race, the use of boats and paddles, and personal flotation devices. On race day, teams will participate in three 200-meter races. No prior experience is necessary to participate. Proceeds from the event will provide support for riverfront programs for youth and adults at Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club as it grows and strengthens its presence in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley. “Our mission is to connect the community to the Connecticut River,” said Ben Quick, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club. “Past community team participants have included MassMutual, Health New England, the Center for Human Development, and more. It is a great way for community groups to have fun and create awareness. They love that they can enjoy a great team-building event and support programs that help our local youth and adults get fit.”

State Receives Federal Funds to Fight Opioid Crisis

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration recently announced that Massachusetts has received a federal grant totaling nearly $12 million to bolster its public-health response to the opioid epidemic, particularly for outpatient opioid treatment, recovery services, and expanded community overdose-prevention programs. “Our administration strongly supported the 21st Century Cures Act as an effort to advance Massachusetts’ leadership in biomedical innovation and expedite new ways to treat disease and addiction,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use these funds for prevention and treatment activities to address the opioid crisis that has devastated families in every corner of Massachusetts.” The grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is the first round of annual funding authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law late last year. The funds will support an array of statewide prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery activities managed by the state Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. “This administration is intensely focused on ending this epidemic, which has claimed far too many lives across our Commonwealth,” said Marylou Sudders, state Secretary of Health and Human Services. “This new grant enables us to continue the fight and expand successful prevention, treatment, and recovery programs throughout the state.” The majority of the $11.7 million in funding will be used to increase outpatient opioid treatment and recovery services and expand community overdose-prevention programs. The funding will also support new programs to promote treatment and recovery for at-risk populations, including pregnant and post-partum women and correctional inmates scheduled for release. “This funding comes at a critical time and supports our comprehensive response to this deadly epidemic,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “Investing in prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery saves lives, and this funding helps us in each of those areas.”

Single-family Home Sales Record Uptick in March

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales were up 5.9% in the Pioneer Valley in March compared to the same time last year, while the median price was up 1.7% to $188,000, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were up 21.2%, while the median price fell 12.0% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 10.2%, while the median price was up 2.8%. And in Hampshire County, sales fell 8.0% from March 2016, while the median price rose 4.3%.

Agenda Departments

‘Home Care and Financing Strategies’

May 16: Monson Savings Bank will host a complimentary workshop titled “Home Care and Financing Strategies: A Workshop for Families and Caregivers,” featuring Paul Hillsburg, president and owner of Amada Senior Care of Western & Central Massachusetts, and Nancy Simms, sales vice president, Long Term Care for Highland Capital Brokerage. Finding the right senior care for you or a loved one can be overwhelming and time-consuming. This event is designed to help people learn and understand what options there are for care and how to pay for it. Hillsburg and Simms both have extensive backgrounds in long-term healthcare and understand how daunting the process can be. This workshop will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Monson Savings Bank Corporate, 107 Main St., Monson. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. “So many people are concerned about senior care these days,” said Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank. “The options are confusing, and people want to know how they can help their loved ones live as independently as possible. We want people to know that the event is open to the public, not just our customers.” Seating is limited. Those interested may call Anna Calvanese at (413) 267-1221 or e-mail [email protected] to RSVP.

Run for River Valley

May 20: River Valley Counseling Center (RVCC), an affiliate of Holyoke Medical Center and member of Valley Health Systems, will hold its sixth annual Run for River Valley fund-raiser on Saturday, May 20. Funds raised will support RVCC in providing critical behavioral-health and other supportive services to individuals, families, and groups throughout the Pioneer Valley. “Research shows that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. This event helps raise funds for our programs, but it also promotes the importance of exercise and wellness for everyone in our community,” said Angela Lozano Callahan, RVCC’s Marketing and Development specialist. The 5K run and 1.5-mile walk will take place at Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke. Registration starts at 8 a.m. at Elks Lodge 902, 250 Whitney Ave., and the race begins at 9:30 a.m. An awards ceremony will be held at the Elks Lodge following the race. The registration fee is $25 ($10 for children 12 and under). Adults who pre-register will save $5, and the first 100 registrants will receive a free race T-shirt. To register online, visit accuspec-racing.com or download a registration form at rvcc-inc.org. The deadline for mail-in registration is Saturday, May 13, with online registration accepted until Wednesday, May 17. Sponsors of the 2017 Run for River Valley include PeoplesBank, Palmer Paving Corp., Holyoke Gas and Electric, Hamel’s Catering, Laurel Pure, and Gallagher Real Estate. For additional information, visit www.rvcc-inc.org or contact Angela Callahan at (413) 841-3546 or [email protected].

‘An Afternoon with Tom Ahern’

June 1: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation invites regional nonprofit staff to attend “An Afternoon with Tom Ahern,” a two-part workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. at Jane Iredale Cosmetics, 50 Church St., Great Barrington. Back by popular demand, Ahern will present two back-to-back workshops: “The Big (little) Diff: Writing for Online Readers,” a discussion of best practices in writing for web, e-mail, and social-media platforms; and “Writing a Powerful Case for Support,” which will review effective fund-raising methods. The New York Times calls Ahern “one of the country’s most sought-after creators of fund-raising messages.” This event is part of Berkshire Taconic’s popular annual Seminars in Nonprofit Excellence series. Tickets are $40 per person, and light food and beverages will be provided. To register, visit www.berkshiretaconic.org/ahern.

Discussions about Race

June 2-3, 9-10: Cooley Dickinson Health Care, the United Way of Hampshire County, and the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College are addressing the issue of racism, as well as race-related incidents that continue to occur both locally and nationally, by offering a series of community dialogues on race in Northampton and Amherst. Community members who live or work in Hampshire County are invited to attend either of the sessions. The two-part dialogue will be offered Friday, June 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College, Wright Hall, 5 Chapin Dr., Northampton. A second two-part session will be offered Friday, June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Amherst Survival Center, 138 Sunderland Road, Amherst. Event organizers say they aim to move toward solutions rather than continue to express or analyze the problem; to reach beyond the usual boundaries, offering opportunities for new, unexpected partnerships; and to unite divided communities through a respectful, informed sharing of local racial history and its consequences for different people in today’s society. The community dialogue is free, and lunch will be provided. Attendance is limited to 30 people, and participants must attend both Friday and Saturday. When registering, people will be asked their name, the organization they represent, if any, and their race/ethnicity. Organizers are asking about race/ethnicity as they have a goal of 50% participation from people of color. To register, call (888) 554-4234 by Tuesday, May 30. You will receive confirmation on whether you have been selected to attend a session.

WGBY Asparagus Festival

June 3: The WGBY Asparagus Festival returns to the Hadley Town Common from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to once again celebrate the region’s legacy of agriculture and community. The family-friendly, outdoor event features more than 90 local food, crafts, and agricultural vendors at a Farmers’ & Makers’ Market. In addition, there will be entertainment displays, kids’ games, and a live visit from PBS Kids character Curious George. A large “Rooted in the Valley” stage will feature popular performers. Family entertainer Tyler Conroy will start off the day, followed by bands Western Den and Parsonsfield, which were selected by Northampton-based Signature Sounds. Western Den blends “compelling lush harmonies with ambient textures,” and Parsonsfield “trades instruments, shares microphones, and sings in tight multi-part harmonies,” according to each of the bands’ websites. “As a public television station, our WGBY Asparagus Festival is so rewarding to us because it not only raises funds for local educational programs and services, but also helps fulfill our mission of connecting Western New England,” said Lynn Page, WGBY’s interim general manager. “Seeing so many community partners and so many neighbors from around the region, you really leave the event feeling good, feeling like you’re a part of the community.” Attendees will leave the event feeling well-fed, too. More than a dozen Pioneer Valley culinary artisans, local brewers, and regional food vendors will offer a wide variety of snacks and meals. Taste original dishes from Mi Tierra, Esselon Café, or Spoleto. Visit the Wheelhouse Farm, UMass Dining, or Hadley Fry King food trucks. Or, go on the sweeter side and sample asparagus-flavored ice cream from Flayvours of Cook Farm, maple treats from the North Hadley Sugar Shack, or a specialty from the Florence Pie Bar. Other food vendors include North Hadley Congregational Church, Harmony Springs, and Dean’s Beans. In addition, a large craft-beer tent will provide tasting opportunities from popular local breweries (craft beer tasting tickets available at wgby.org/beer). The WGBY Asparagus Festival is open to the public and free with a recommended donation of $5 per person. It will be held rain or shine. Donations directly benefit public television and education efforts in the Western New England region. The event is sponsored by the Dennis Group, Greenfield Savings Bank, Whole Foods Hadley, and Alternative Recycling Systems. Media sponsors include the Daily Hampshire Gazette, MassLive, and Yankee magazine.

40 Under Forty

June 22: The 11th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories are told in the April 17 issue and at businesswest.com. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Baystate Health, Moriarty & Primack, Health New England, the Gaudreau Group, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Six-Point Creative Works, Renew.Calm, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. Tickets cost $75. A limited number of tables are available, and some individual and standing-room-only tickets are also available, but are expected to sell out quickly. To purchase tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

BFAIR Walk for Independence

June 24: Berkshire Family & Individual Resources (BFAIR) announced its second annual Walk for Independence. Last year, the inaugural walk along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail saw participation of nearly 100 walkers of all ability levels, with this year already set to exceed that number. A stroll to Cheshire and back (with or any distance in between), the walk will be a fund-raising event in which BFAIR participants, community members, and sponsors can get involved in through sponsored walking, lunch, bucket raffles, and entertainment. Starting and finishing at the Adams Visitors Center, the walk is a day of fun and helps BFAIR share its mission to enrich the lives of people of all ages and abilities by providing positive life experiences and advocacy through distinctive, individualized, quality services. As a local nonprofit, BFAIR relies on public funds to provide critically needed residential, vocational, habilitative, and clinical services for adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities, autism, and acquired brain injury, as well as home-care services for the elderly. The registration fee for the walk is $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 10 and younger. Registration includes a picnic lunch and ball-cap giveaway. Interested walkers can register online at thedriven.net/bfairwalk, by calling (413) 664-9382 ext. 40, e-mailing [email protected], or visiting www.bfair.org. In addition to registering, walkers may seek individual sponsors by asking family and friends to support their walk. Donations are accepted via thedriven.net/bfairwalk, or donation envelopes can be provided for walkers. Corporate sponsorships are available for the trail, mile, bronze, silver, and gold levels, ranging from $100 to $2,500, respectively. Interested businesses should contact Jennifer Civello at [email protected] for more information. Current gold-level walk sponsors include Greylock Federal Credit Union, MountainOne, and the Print Shop Williamstown.

Nomination Deadline for Healthcare Heroes

June 29: Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by BusinessWest and HCN. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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. Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the Sept. 4 issue of BusinessWest as well as the Sept. issue of HCN. The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available HERE.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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.

Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement.

The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN.

Daily News

By Jane Roulier

In schools, on the streets, in relationships, and online, girls in communities across the country are experiencing bullying and harassment. In addition to sexual harassment, many girls experience discrimination based on their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, and more.

Over the past year, one in four high school girls has been bullied on school property, which negatively affects everyone involved — the victim, the harasser, and the bystanders — as well as the learning environment.

While Massachusetts has laws requiring schools to develop and implement plans to address bullying, Girls Inc. of Holyoke recognizes that bullying is not limited to the school grounds. Indeed, the prevalence of social media means that bullying follows girls into their homes and lives outside of school. Children who are bullied often have little reprieve.

To address this pervasive problem, Girls Inc. dedicates Girls Inc. Week 2017, May 8-12, to helping girls advocate for change and make our communities better places to live.

But this is an initiative that goes on year-round — because it must.

Girls Inc. recently surveyed nearly 800 members of our national network, including girls and alumnae, parents, staff, board members, and donors, to determine the top challenges facing girls today. Nearly 70% of respondents identified ‘bullying, harassment, and sexual violence’ as an issue of concern to them. We can’t ignore this. This is a problem that affects us all.

It is important we understand the facts and myths about bullying and harassment in order to effectively address this issue.

Myth: Bullying is just ‘kids being kids,’ and we should stop making it such a big deal.

Fact: Bullying can cause lasting harm. Repeated or severe conduct based on sex or other protected categories is unlawful harassment.

Myth: If it happens off school grounds, it’s not the school’s responsibility.

Fact: Under Title IX, schools have to address conduct they know about, or should know about, that leads to a hostile environment or impedes a student’s ability to benefit from the educational program.

Myth: Bullies are ‘problem kids’ who have aggression issues and should be punished.

Fact: Actually, it is quite common for kids who bully to be victims themselves.

Myth: Bullying will stop only if the victim stands up to the bully.

Fact: Just as society does not expect victims of other types of abuse to “deal with it on their own,” we should not expect this from victims of bullying or harassment.

Girls Inc. encourages girls to be change agents within their communities, boldly advocating for themselves and others. Along with more than 450 other attendees at Girls Inc. of Holyoke’s Spirit of Girls breakfast fund-raiser last month, I witnessed girls doing this. Girls as young as 7 through 17 spoke confidently in front of this large crowd about how the programs at Girls Inc. have impacted their lives by building their self-esteem and encouraging them to make sure their voices are heard. Because of what they are learning, these girls will not be afraid to advocate for themselves or others.

Girls Inc. of Holyoke is also working every day to change policies, attitudes, and beliefs to improve the conditions in which girls are growing up. It takes all of us coming together to ensure that girls feel safe in their schools, in their communities, and with their peers.

Together, we can put an end to bullying and harassment to create more inclusive, kind, safe, and supportive schools and communities.

Jane Roulier is chair of the board of directors for Girls Inc. of Holyoke.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The fifth annual Springfield Dragon Boat Festival will take place on Saturday, June 24 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at North Riverfront Park, 121 West St. in Springfield. Racing begins at 9 a.m. Registration is now open for teams wishing to participate at www.pvriverfront.org/db-fest-reg.

In addition to dragon-boat races, the festival will feature family-friendly events such as music, performances, food, vendors, and children’s activities.

The boat races will have both community and club racing categories. For businesses and organizations looking for a team-building opportunity, the $2,000 race fee includes a coached training session the week prior to the race, the use of boats and paddles, and personal flotation devices. On race day, teams will participate in three 200-meter races. No prior experience is necessary to participate.

Proceeds from the event will provide support for riverfront programs for youth and adults at Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club as it grows and strengthens its presence in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.

“Our mission is to connect the community to the Connecticut River,” said Ben Quick, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club. “Past community team participants have included MassMutual, Health New England, the Center for Human Development, and more. It is a great way for community groups to have fun and create awareness. They love that they can enjoy a great team-building event and support programs that help our local youth and adults get fit.”

Sections Technology

Virtual Breakthrough

Dr. Glen Brooks

Dr. Glen Brooks demonstrates how patients can adjust specifications on a screen before viewing themselves with virtual-reality goggles.

Dr. Glen Brooks, who runs a cosmetic-surgery practice in Longmeadow, says he was initially “awed” by a virtual-reality device that allows breast-surgery patients, using 3D goggles, to view their own post-surgery bodies — before the actual surgery — in a virtual-reality space. He says Crixalix, as the technology is known, has helped ease patients’ anxieties, while assuring him they’re getting exactly what they want.

Dr. Glen Brooks understands that preparing for cosmetic surgery can be an anxious time, especially for women unsure of what the end result will look like. Take breast augmentation, for example.

“The biggest fear of the patient is that she’s going too big. But the biggest fear of the doctor is that I have to reoperate because she’s gone too small,” Brooks said, explaining that, while the fear of choosing too large an implant is a common concern, the patient typically discovers she had nothing to worry about.

Still, he added, “I don’t want to do a revision, and the patient wants to get it right the first time. A revision costs someone money, takes time, and has risks. If we can avoid a revision, that’s an excellent outcome.”

If only there were a way for a woman to see the end result, on her own body, before the surgery.

Now there is.

Five months ago, Brooks, who owns Aesthetic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, P.C. in Longmeadow, started using Crisalix, a virtual-reality technology developed in Switzerland that allows patients, using 3D goggles, to view their own bodies — not just on a screen, but in a virtual space, as if they were looking down at themselves — exactly how they will look after the breast surgery.

“I was really awed when I watched a demonstration,” Brooks said of his first exposure to the device. “What it allows us to do is create a 3D image of someone’s chest. Then, we can image every single breast manufacturer, any size, any shape implant, and using 3D goggles, the patient can view herself from all angles.”

The result, he said, is a true ‘a-ha moment.’

“The first time they look down and see they have cleavage, they’re like, ‘oh my God.’ It’s an a-ha moment because they’re seeing themselves; it’s a real view of what they look like, not like in a mirror.”

Indeed, Crisalix markets itself as a way for doctors and patients to answer the common question, ‘how might I look after the procedure?’ The goal is to increase patient satisfaction and decrease anxiety, both during the consultation and post surgery.

brooksscreen1art

Crisalix markets itself as a leader in web-based, three-dimensional, virtual-reality simulations for plastic surgery and aesthetic procedures. The company is a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, a fast-growing life-science cluster, and the Institute of Surgical Technology and Biomechanics at the University of Bern.

“It gives the patient a chance to see herself,” Brooks said, “and know precisely what she’s going to look like afterward.”

First Steps

But first, the patient sees herself on a screen. Brooks scans her chest and uploads the image to a tablet, where he can help the woman decide on which implant manufacturer to use and which volume and shape to use. They can test out myriad options on the screen, rotating the image to see the change from multiple perspectives.

When both doctor and patient are comfortable with a particular option, the patient dons goggles and enters a 3D, virtual-reality world where she can view herself with the new breast size and shape, and either approve the specifications or go back to the tablet for something else.

Brooks told BusinessWest that breast augmentation, reduction, and reconstruction — Crisalix is effective on all three — are more science than art, a matter of delivering precisely what the patient is asking for. What the VR technology does is help the patient clearly communicate that decision.

“The patient predetermines beforehand what volume they want to have — ‘this is what I am, and this is what I want to be,’” he noted. “It’s a very different type of technological advance because so much of the surgery is objective, but showing patients their size in advance in this way is more powerful than a verbal discussion.

“Most of the other technological advances in this field tend to be things like lasers and non-surgical devices to either remove fat or tighten skin,” he went on. “This is more on the side of patient awareness of outcomes than the actual outcome. It’s the first device that helps on the awareness side so well. There are other imaging systems out there, but this is the first true VR system, and it’s so simple to use.”

The reasons women ask for augmentations varies greatly, Brooks said, but there are a few common categories: early-20-somethings whose breasts are mismatched in size; women in their late 30s or early 40s who want a “mommy makeover,” feeling they’ve lose some volume and gained some sag after having kids; and women of any age who feel more attractive or confident with a different look, to name a few.

“This gives them a really great education in what I need to correct,” he said, adding that the technology is just as effective with reconstructions, typically after mastectomies with cancer patients, in that it can formulate a completely symmetrical look to the patient’s specifications.

According to data from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. women after skin cancer, representing nearly one in three cases. Furthermore, the ACS notes, seven out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer who are candidates for breast reconstruction are not aware of their options. As a result, fewer than one in five American women who undergo a mastectomy go on to have breast reconstruction.

“Many women are able to get an immediate breast reconstruction performed at the same time as the mastectomy, but that option depends on what treatment is necessary after surgery,” Brooks said. “Patients with breast cancer have numerous options to help them restore a breast to near-normal shape, appearance, and size following mastectomy or lumpectomy.”

Seeing the Future

Crisalix is only the latest option to reach that goal, and Brooks said patients have been pleasantly surprised at what the virtual images tell them. The technology to convert 2D images to 3D virtual reality is currently being used on five continents.

Dr. Glen Brooks says he was “awed” the first time he used the Crisalix technology.

Dr. Glen Brooks says he was “awed” the first time he used the Crisalix technology.

“Months ago, they asked whether I would re-up next year for the software license, and I said ‘absolutely,’” he told BusinessWest. “It makes what I do so much more precise, putting together the right outcome by showing exactly what we’ll provide to patient. It’s absolutely a home run.”

And it’s far from the only potential use of VR in the surgical world. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on others, such as GE’s early-stage testing of technology that will allow a doctor wearing a Rift headset to take a virtual tour of a patient’s brain and perhaps determine how surgery might affect various parts of it, and pediatric surgeons at Stanford University Medical Center who have used a virtual-reality platform from EchoPixel, a California startup, to plan surgeries on newborns missing pulmonary arteries. Another promising use of VR may be in medical training, as universities that can’t afford to store cadavers for education may be able to rely on virtual reality instead.

Even in cosmetic surgery, Crisalix isn’t limited to breast surgeries; the company also touts its use for eyelids, faces, and other body parts, though Brooks says the impact on patients’ expectations isn’t as dramatic.

“For breast surgeries, it’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s a great feeling, seeing the change for themselves.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

United Financial Announces Q1 Earnings, Dividend

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2017. The company reported net income of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $14.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $11.9 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2016. “Over the last three consecutive quarters, United Financial Bancorp Inc. has averaged a return on average assets of 0.87% and a return on average tangible common equity of 10.89%, as the company continues to make progress on its four key objectives communicated in April 2016,” said William Crawford IV, CEO of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $6.70 billion at March 31, 2017 and increased $97.1 million, or 1.5%, from $6.60 billion at Dec. 31, 2016. At March 31, 2017, total loans were $4.94 billion, representing an increase of $42.3 million, or 0.9%, from the linked quarter. Changes to loan balances during the first quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $44.6 million, or 6.2%, increase in commercial business loans and a $16.6 million, or 4.0%, increase in owner-occupied commercial real-estate loans. Total residential mortgages increased during the first quarter of 2017 by $11.2 million, or 1.0%. Total cash and cash equivalents decreased $6.3 million, or 6.9%, during the linked quarter, while the available for sale securities portfolio increased by $32.3 million, or 3.1%. Deposits totaled $4.79 billion at March 31, 2017 and increased by $79.2 million, or 1.7%, from $4.71 billion at December 31, 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, money-market deposit accounts increased $157.2 million, or 12.9%, and NOW checking deposits increased $39.2 million, or 7.9%, from the linked quarter, reflective of a seasonal increase in municipal deposits and successful new account acquisition. These increases were offset by a $110.1 million, or 6.3%, decrease in certificates of deposit, some of which migrated to money market deposit accounts. The board of directors declared a cash dividend on the company’s common stock of $0.12 per share to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 28, 2017 and payable on May 10, 2017. This dividend equates to a 2.73% annualized yield based on the $17.58 average closing price of the company’s common stock in the first quarter of 2017. The company has paid dividends for 44 consecutive quarters.

Johnson & Hill Partners with Family Business Center

AMHERST — The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley has been helping family-owned and closely held companies from around Western Mass since 1994, through a series of educational dinner forums and morning workshops, roundtables and customized consults. The center’s strategic partners contribute to that professional development in the areas of accounting, banking, leadership, insurance, wealth management, staffing, and law, and BusinessWest is the media partner for the center. Now Johnson & Hill Staffing will be taking on the role of the FBC’s staffing sponsor-partner. “As a longtime member of the FBC, we are excited to move into the role of sponsor/partner in our continued support of family business across the Pioneer Valley,” said Andrea Hill-Cataldo, president. “As specialists who staff anything from short-term needs to key direct hire roles in administrative, accounting and finance, legal, and professional settings, the Johnson & Hill team collectively brings decades of staffing insight to the table. Our goal is to provide members of the FBC with that insight to help them evaluate new and innovative ways of acquiring the talent that will drive their business forward.” The schedule of educational events for the Family Business Center is at fambizpv.com.

Berkshire Bank Receives Six Marketing Awards

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recently honored with six awards for community engagement and marketing of leading-edge products. The bank was recognized at the Financial Marketing Awards in Newport, R.I. and the New England Financial Marketing Awards in Burlington, Mass.; both events took place in March. The Financial Marketing Awards are the oldest financial awards in New England. The program honors banks and credit unions for creative marketing and branding efforts, while the Community Champion Award recognizes a bank or credit union for the difference they make in the community. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Community Champion Award – Gold for Pittsfield Public Schools attendance billboard;

• Loan Award – Silver for home-equity campaign; and

• Deposit Award – Bronze for Leap Year deposit campaign.

The New England Financial Marketing Assoc. has a diverse membership representing financial institutions with assets ranging from less than $500 million to more than $5 billion. Its annual awards program honors banks and credit unions in the New England states for creative marketing, branding, and community efforts. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Overall Community Service – 2nd Place for Xtraordinary Day campaign;

• In-Branch Design – 2nd Place for Mid-Atlantic region branch design; and

• Customer Service – 2nd Place for Game Plan point of sale.

Pride Stores Partners with Local Beer Brand White Lion

SPRINGFIELDWhite Lion Brewing continues to root itself as Springfield’s craft-beer brand. Pride Stores, which has a beer and wine selection in five of its 30 locations, will feature White Lion as the preferred local beer brand. “The partnership is part of Pride Stores’ commitment to the local community,” said David Horgan, director of Advertising. White Lion has accounts throughout Massachusetts, but company President Raymond Berry said “there is no better feeling than knowing local decision makers like Pride Stores want to be part of our growth. This partnership will put the brand and our portfolio in front of people daily. Both companies are committed to the city and surrounding communities.” The stores will carry White Lion’s portfolio of bottled and soon-to-be-released canned products.

HMC Earns ‘A’ Grade for Patient Safety

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has once again earned an ‘A’ rating from the Leapfrog Group, ranking it among the safest hospitals in the U.S. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is the first and only national healthcare rating focused on errors, accidents, and infections. The program has been assigning letter grades to general acute-care hospitals in the U.S. since 2012. Holyoke Medical Center was one of 823 hospitals to receive an ‘A’ ranking among the safest hospitals in the U.S. “This is the third consecutive ‘A’ rating for Holyoke Medical Center. As a free-standing, independent community hospital, we must rely on providing our patients with the safest, highest-quality, affordable care possible, and we appreciate our staff who join us every day in being dedicated to our mission,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc.

Sunshine Village Earns CARF Accreditation

CHICOPEE — The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) announced that Sunshine Village has been accredited for a period of three years for its day-habilitation, employment-services, and day-services programs. The latest accreditation is the 10th consecutive successful three-year Accreditation given to Sunshine Village by the international accrediting body. This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be given to an organization. An organization receiving a three-year accreditation has put itself through a rigorous peer review process. It has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit its commitment to offering programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality. CARF accreditation is a useful tool to determine the best organization for services. Specifically, the organization was tested against 856 standards in areas including leadership, strategic planning, financial planning, input from people served, risk management, health and safety, human resources, technology, rights of people served, accessibility, and performance improvement, as well as quality individualized services and supports. In the past ten years, this achievement indicates Sunshine Village’s well-established pattern and commitment to practice excellence. “I am so proud that Sunshine Village has again been recognized by CARF with their highest level of accreditation,” said Gina Kos, executive director for Sunshine Village. “This is an outstanding achievement, and it shows that the organization meets our mission of improving the lives of people with disabilities. Every day, more than 230 staff work hard to achieve that mission — and this accreditation is validation of that. It shows that we do deliver on the promise of a great day — and that our employees truly shine.” Now in its 50th year, Sunshine Village is a nonprofit organization with a main campus in Chicopee and additional sites in Chicopee, Springfield, Three Rivers, and Westfield. It has been providing day services for adults with developmental disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, since 1967.

Mary Ann’s Dance and More Announces Relocation

EASTHAMPTON — Mary Ann’s Dance and More, a local dance-apparel store, announced it will be moving to its new home on Route 10 in Easthampton on July 1. The company will move to 396 Main St., the former home of Fit Body. The location offers easier parking, a more friendly shopping experience, better accessibility, and the ability to host more in-store events. In January, the company launched its app on Google Play and the App Store. It will also be celebrating its 10th anniversary in August. Mary Ann’s Dance and More offers customers dance supplies, including apparel and accessories, as well as novelty and gift items. An active business in the community, the company is recognized as a consistent sponsor of various local organizations.

Company Notebook Departments

United Financial Announces Q1 Earnings, Dividend

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2017. The company reported net income of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $14.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $11.9 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2016. “Over the last three consecutive quarters, United Financial Bancorp Inc. has averaged a return on average assets of 0.87% and a return on average tangible common equity of 10.89%, as the company continues to make progress on its four key objectives communicated in April 2016,” said William Crawford IV, CEO of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $6.70 billion at March 31, 2017 and increased $97.1 million, or 1.5%, from $6.60 billion at Dec. 31, 2016. At March 31, 2017, total loans were $4.94 billion, representing an increase of $42.3 million, or 0.9%, from the linked quarter. Changes to loan balances during the first quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $44.6 million, or 6.2%, increase in commercial business loans and a $16.6 million, or 4.0%, increase in owner-occupied commercial real-estate loans. Total residential mortgages increased during the first quarter of 2017 by $11.2 million, or 1.0%. Total cash and cash equivalents decreased $6.3 million, or 6.9%, during the linked quarter, while the available for sale securities portfolio increased by $32.3 million, or 3.1%. Deposits totaled $4.79 billion at March 31, 2017 and increased by $79.2 million, or 1.7%, from $4.71 billion at December 31, 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, money-market deposit accounts increased $157.2 million, or 12.9%, and NOW checking deposits increased $39.2 million, or 7.9%, from the linked quarter, reflective of a seasonal increase in municipal deposits and successful new account acquisition. These increases were offset by a $110.1 million, or 6.3%, decrease in certificates of deposit, some of which migrated to money market deposit accounts. The board of directors declared a cash dividend on the company’s common stock of $0.12 per share to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 28, 2017 and payable on May 10, 2017. This dividend equates to a 2.73% annualized yield based on the $17.58 average closing price of the company’s common stock in the first quarter of 2017. The company has paid dividends for 44 consecutive quarters.

Johnson & Hill Partners with Family Business Center

AMHERST — The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley has been helping family-owned and closely held companies from around Western Mass since 1994, through a series of educational dinner forums and morning workshops, roundtables and customized consults. The center’s strategic partners contribute to that professional development in the areas of accounting, banking, leadership, insurance, wealth management, staffing, and law, and BusinessWest is the media partner for the center. Now Johnson & Hill Staffing will be taking on the role of the FBC’s staffing sponsor-partner. “As a longtime member of the FBC, we are excited to move into the role of sponsor/partner in our continued support of family business across the Pioneer Valley,” said Andrea Hill-Cataldo, president. “As specialists who staff anything from short-term needs to key direct hire roles in administrative, accounting and finance, legal, and professional settings, the Johnson & Hill team collectively brings decades of staffing insight to the table. Our goal is to provide members of the FBC with that insight to help them evaluate new and innovative ways of acquiring the talent that will drive their business forward.” The schedule of educational events for the Family Business Center is at fambizpv.com.

Berkshire Bank Receives Six Marketing Awards

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recently honored with six awards for community engagement and marketing of leading-edge products. The bank was recognized at the Financial Marketing Awards in Newport, R.I. and the New England Financial Marketing Awards in Burlington, Mass.; both events took place in March. The Financial Marketing Awards are the oldest financial awards in New England. The program honors banks and credit unions for creative marketing and branding efforts, while the Community Champion Award recognizes a bank or credit union for the difference they make in the community. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Community Champion Award – Gold for Pittsfield Public Schools attendance billboard;

• Loan Award – Silver for home-equity campaign; and

• Deposit Award – Bronze for Leap Year deposit campaign.

The New England Financial Marketing Assoc. has a diverse membership representing financial institutions with assets ranging from less than $500 million to more than $5 billion. Its annual awards program honors banks and credit unions in the New England states for creative marketing, branding, and community efforts. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Overall Community Service – 2nd Place for Xtraordinary Day campaign;

• In-Branch Design – 2nd Place for Mid-Atlantic region branch design; and

• Customer Service – 2nd Place for Game Plan point of sale.

Pride Stores Partners with Local Beer Brand White Lion

SPRINGFIELD — White Lion Brewing continues to root itself as Springfield’s craft-beer brand. Pride Stores, which has a beer and wine selection in five of its 30 locations, will feature White Lion as the preferred local beer brand. “The partnership is part of Pride Stores’ commitment to the local community,” said David Horgan, director of Advertising. White Lion has accounts throughout Massachusetts, but company President Raymond Berry said “there is no better feeling than knowing local decision makers like Pride Stores want to be part of our growth. This partnership will put the brand and our portfolio in front of people daily. Both companies are committed to the city and surrounding communities.” The stores will carry White Lion’s portfolio of bottled and soon-to-be-released canned products.

HMC Earns ‘A’ Grade for Patient Safety

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has once again earned an ‘A’ rating from the Leapfrog Group, ranking it among the safest hospitals in the U.S. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is the first and only national healthcare rating focused on errors, accidents, and infections. The program has been assigning letter grades to general acute-care hospitals in the U.S. since 2012. Holyoke Medical Center was one of 823 hospitals to receive an ‘A’ ranking among the safest hospitals in the U.S. “This is the third consecutive ‘A’ rating for Holyoke Medical Center. As a free-standing, independent community hospital, we must rely on providing our patients with the safest, highest-quality, affordable care possible, and we appreciate our staff who join us every day in being dedicated to our mission,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc.

Sunshine Village Earns CARF Accreditation

CHICOPEE — The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) announced that Sunshine Village has been accredited for a period of three years for its day-habilitation, employment-services, and day-services programs. The latest accreditation is the 10th consecutive successful three-year Accreditation given to Sunshine Village by the international accrediting body. This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be given to an organization. An organization receiving a three-year accreditation has put itself through a rigorous peer review process. It has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit its commitment to offering programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality. CARF accreditation is a useful tool to determine the best organization for services. Specifically, the organization was tested against 856 standards in areas including leadership, strategic planning, financial planning, input from people served, risk management, health and safety, human resources, technology, rights of people served, accessibility, and performance improvement, as well as quality individualized services and supports. In the past ten years, this achievement indicates Sunshine Village’s well-established pattern and commitment to practice excellence. “I am so proud that Sunshine Village has again been recognized by CARF with their highest level of accreditation,” said Gina Kos, executive director for Sunshine Village. “This is an outstanding achievement, and it shows that the organization meets our mission of improving the lives of people with disabilities. Every day, more than 230 staff work hard to achieve that mission — and this accreditation is validation of that. It shows that we do deliver on the promise of a great day — and that our employees truly shine.” Now in its 50th year, Sunshine Village is a nonprofit organization with a main campus in Chicopee and additional sites in Chicopee, Springfield, Three Rivers, and Westfield. It has been providing day services for adults with developmental disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, since 1967.

Mary Ann’s Dance and More Announces Relocation

EASTHAMPTON — Mary Ann’s Dance and More, a local dance-apparel store, announced it will be moving to its new home on Route 10 in Easthampton on July 1. The company will move to 396 Main St., the former home of Fit Body. The location offers easier parking, a more friendly shopping experience, better accessibility, and the ability to host more in-store events. In January, the company launched its app on Google Play and the App Store. It will also be celebrating its 10th anniversary in August. Mary Ann’s Dance and More offers customers dance supplies, including apparel and accessories, as well as novelty and gift items. An active business in the community, the company is recognized as a consistent sponsor of various local organizations.

Features

The Search for ‘Heroes’ Begins

BusinessWest and HCN have finalized a list of categories for a new and exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector.

It is called, appropriately enough, Healthcare Heroes, a name known across the country as a means to recognize excellence in healthcare, and one that is now making its introduction in the four western counties of Massachusetts.

healthcareheroeslogo021517-pingPresented by American International College, and supported by Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, 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, said Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest and HCN.

The ‘heroes’ will be recognized on Oct. 19 at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden. That will be the climax to a lengthy process that will begin with nominations for outstanding achievement in the following categories:

• Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider;

• Innovation in Health/Wellness;

• Community Health;

• Emerging Leader;

• Collaboration in Health/Wellness;

• Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and

• Lifetime Achievement.

In subsequent issues of both BusinessWest and HCN, as well as in e-mail blasts and online at businesswest.com and healthcarenews.com, the criteria for these categories will be explained in detail, said Campiti, adding that a formal request for nominations will be issued in the coming weeks. These nominations will be scored by a panel of independent judges, and the winners will be selected this summer, with their stories told in both publications in September.

“We put a tremendous amount of thought into the categories, and sought the help of an advisory committee made up of industry leaders,” said Campiti. “We believe this list crosses the broad realm of health and wellness service providers, as well as the important ways in which service should be recognized.”

She cited, as one example, the ‘Collaboration in Health/Wellness’ category. “Today, collaboration is more than a watchword in healthcare,” she explained. “It’s a means to achieving real progress with health and wellness issues facing our society, because these problems are large in scale, and it often takes collaborating, or partnering, institutions to address them.”

The ‘Innovation in Health/Wellness’ category is another good example, she went on. “Innovation comes in many forms. It could be a new medical procedure or way to treat a specific illness or problem. But is can also be in how an emergency room is designed or redesigned, how a hospital fights infections, how a business is finding new ways to operate more efficiently … the list goes on.”

Given the area healthcare sector’s rich history of cutting-edge work, innovation, collaboration, new-business development, talented workforce, and emerging young leaders across the sector, Campiti said, it should not be difficult to generate several nominations in each category.

“There are countless heroes across this sector,” she noted, and we want to recognize their achievements.”

Employment Sections

A Legislative Update

By Peter Vickery

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A number of business-related pieces of legislation are in various stages of review on Beacon Hill, covering matters ranging from non-competes to earned sick time to credit reports. The common denominator is that they all deserve the attention of area business owners.

There are a number of bills currently under consideration within the Massachusetts Legislature that impact business owners and managers and how they run their operations. What follows is a quick look at several measures that bear watching.

Non-competes

Among the bills filed in the Massachusetts Legislature at the start of its current two-year session was one already familiar to employers, namely the Act to Protect Trade Secrets and Eliminate Non-Compete Agreements. As its title suggests, this refiled measure (originally championed by former Gov. Deval Patrick) would render null and void non-compete agreements between employers and employees.

In Massachusetts, non-competes are already unenforceable in a range of professions and occupations. In 1977, the Legislature made non-competes unenforceable against physicians; in 1983, it added nurses; in 1998, the broadcast industry; in 2004, psychologists; and most recently, in 2008, social workers.


SEE: Chart of Largest Employers


Lawyers are barred from entering into non-competition agreements under the Rules of Professional Conduct. Similarly, internal rules and regulations prohibit them in the financial-services industry. This bill would ban them across the board.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Another re-filed bill of interest to employers is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and this one seems to be garnering widespread support. After the end of the last session, advocates reached agreement with some employers’ organizations, which suggests that, this time around, the bill will make it over the finish line.

If enacted, the measure would require employers to accommodate pregnancy and baby-related requests for longer breaks, private non-bathroom space to express milk, modified schedules, and time off to recover from childbirth. It is important to note that the time off would be in addition to leave already available under other applicable laws.

Earned Sick Time

On the subject of time off, H. 3155 would re-write significant pieces of the Earned Sick Time Law, which the voters approved in 2014. As well as providing that overtime should not count toward sick-time accumulation and clarifying those workers who should not be included in calculating the total number of employees (e.g. the CEO, CFO, COO, independent contractors, and employees working fewer than 20 hours per week), the bill includes a novel fact-finding provision.

Many employers use credit reports to help gauge a job applicant’s reliability and trustworthiness … But Massachusetts might be poised to join the 11 or so states that ban the practice of looking at credit reports, which advocates refer to as ‘credit discrimination’ because of its alleged disparate impact on people of color.”

Because of the effect of sick time on the bottom line, the bill would require the secretary of Labor and Workforce Development to conduct an annual survey asking employers whether the law has led them to change staffing levels, or to move their operations out of state. The bill does not say what the secretary should do with the survey results. But knowledge is power, as the saying goes.

Credit-report Ban

Some knowledge gives too much power, apparently, so efforts are under way to put it behind a statutory veil. Many employers use credit reports to help gauge a job applicant’s reliability and trustworthiness. This is perfectly legal under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (for now, at least), so long as the employer obtains the applicant’s permission.

But Massachusetts might be poised to join the 11 or so states that ban the practice of looking at credit reports, which advocates refer to as ‘credit discrimination’ because of its alleged disparate impact on people of color. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are pushing for a nationwide ban via their bill called the Equal Employment for All Act. In the meantime, a state-level measure sponsored by State Rep. Elizabeth Malia would prohibit Massachusetts employers from using credit reports in their hiring decisions and even from asking applicants for permission to do so.

Although it would exempt certain categories of jobs from the ban (e.g. law enforcement, executive/managerial positions in financial institutions, and positions requiring national-security clearance) the proposal would strip most employers of the ability to lawfully review a would-be employee’s credit report. Violating the statute would constitute an unfair practice under Chapter 93A, the Consumer Protection Act, which generally does not apply to employment disputes, and thereby allow plaintiffs to seek multiple damages and attorney’s fees.

EEOC Transgender Enforcement

At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines stating that sex-based harassment includes harassment based on “transgender status” and the “intent to transition.” Examples of such harassment include “using a name or pronoun inconsistent with the individual’s gender identity in a persistent and offensive manner.”

The new guidelines purport to apply Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment and contains this definition:

“The terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 2000e-2(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise.”

This definition does not, on the face of it, include transgender status, and the equivalent provision in Title IX (regarding education) is the subject of ongoing litigation. Nevertheless, the EEOC has made gender-identity enforcement a priority in its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-21.

The federal guidelines and enforcement plans will not change customs and practices for employers in Massachusetts, where — long before Gov. Baker signed the 2016 Act Relative to Transgender Discrimination — the MCAD had treated discrimination on the basis of transgender status as a violation of Chapter 151B, the Commonwealth’s anti-discrimination statute.

For example, in 2016, the MCAD issued its decision in Tinker v. Securitas Security Services USA and Najeeb Hussain. In October 2009, the complainant, at that point Rebecca (Becky) Tinker, started work as a part-time security officer reporting to Najeeb Hussain. About two years later, during Tinker’s gender transition, Tinker informed Hussain that he wished to be known as Alyx and that Hussain should refer to him with male pronouns. Hussain seems to have not complied.

The MCAD found that Hussain continued to refer to Tinker as Becky and with female pronouns, and to include Tinker in statements that he directed to female employees, e.g. “you girls.” Hussain also informed Tinker of the Koran’s pronouncements regarding homosexuality. Including annual statutory interest of 12% interest, the total award for emotional distress came to approximately $86,000.

Peter Vickery is an employment-law attorney with offices in Amherst; (413) 230-3323.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recently honored with six awards for community engagement and marketing of leading-edge products. The bank was recognized at the Financial Marketing Awards in Newport, R.I. and the New England Financial Marketing Awards in Burlington, Mass.; both events took place in March.

The Financial Marketing Awards are the oldest financial awards in New England. The program honors banks and credit unions for creative marketing and branding efforts, while the Community Champion Award recognizes a bank or credit union for the difference they make in the community. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Community Champion Award – Gold for Pittsfield Public Schools attendance billboard;

• Loan Award – Silver for home-equity campaign; and

• Deposit Award – Bronze for Leap Year deposit campaign.

The New England Financial Marketing Assoc. has a diverse membership representing financial institutions with assets ranging from less than $500 million to more than $5 billion. Its annual awards program honors banks and credit unions in the New England states for creative marketing, branding, and community efforts. Berkshire received recognition in the following categories:

• Overall Community Service – 2nd Place for Xtraordinary Day campaign;

• In-Branch Design – 2nd Place for Mid-Atlantic region branch design; and

• Customer Service – 2nd Place for Game Plan point of sale.

Features

Honoring Excellence, Innovation

healthcareheroeslogo0217finalHealthcare Heroes.

Over the past decade or so, those two words have become a national brand — a brand that symbolizes many things, including excellence, dedication, compassion, commitment, and much more.

Indeed, Healthcare Heroes has become the name attached to recognition programs created by business magazines, healthcare publications, health- and wellness-related organizations across the country, and other entities, to honor individuals and institutions that stand out for the work they do. The name has become part of the landscape in New York, California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Utah, and many other states. And now, it is coming to Western Mass.

Indeed, BusinessWest and its sister publication, HCN, have launched Healthcare Heroes of Western Mass., a program to recognize excellence and innovation across the broad spectrum of the region’s healthcare sector.

The program will culminate in the Healthcare Heroes gala on Oct. 19 at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden.

Details concerning the program and the gala will be revealed on the pages of the two magazines — and their on-line daily news blasts — over the next several weeks. The editors recently convened a meeting of an advisory committee to discuss the program. That session generated a robust dialogue and several suggestions regarding everything from the categories in which individuals and institutions will compete to the judges who will evaluate those who are nominated.

“Over the past several years, BusinessWest has created a number of recognition programs to honor individuals, groups, and institutions across this region,” said BusinessWest and HCN Associate Publisher Kate Campiti, citing, specifically, the 40 Under Forty program launched in 2007 and Difference Makers, initiated in 2009. “But after considerable discussion, it was decided that this region’s large, diverse, and critically important healthcare sector deserved a recognition program of its own.

“Indeed, while we have had several honorees from the healthcare sector in 40 Under Forty, and a few from that realm in Difference Makers, excellence and innovation in healthcare are sometimes difficult to assess and measure,” Campiti added. “Healthcare Heroes will provide us with a needed vehicle for identifying and then recognizing those who stand out in very crowded fields.”

The program will be designed to recognize both those on the front lines of healthcare and those in administration; those who focus on treating individuals, and those involved with prevention and wellness.

“Healthcare involves many types of professionals working in different ways to create a healthier region and improve the overall quality of life for people living and working in Western Massachusetts,” said Campiti. “This Healthcare Heroes program will be crafted to recognize this great diversity of care and the many ways people and individuals are making a difference.”

Nominations for the various categories will be gathered in the coming months, and they will then be evaluated by a carefully chosen team of judges. The winners will be profiled in both publications prior to the gala.

“This will be a welcome recognition program for the four counties of Western Mass.,” said Campiti. “The healthcare sector has been a vital source of everything from high-quality care for our residents to jobs for area communities, to inspiration for those looking to bring innovation and higher levels of quality to their businesses. These individuals and institutions deserve to be recognized for the work they do.”

Briefcase Departments

Massachusetts Tops U.S. News Ranking of States

BOSTON — The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been named the best overall state in U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural report. This best-state ranking evaluates all 50 states in various categories, with Massachusetts ranked the top overall state, first in healthcare, second in education, and among the top 10 for economy and crime and corrections. Massachusetts was recognized for having the most accessible healthcare and is ranked third for pre-K through grade-12 education. “Massachusetts is a great place to live, work, and raise a family because of the strength and character of all those who call the Commonwealth home,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Everyone should be proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in healthcare access and public education for all citizens, and our administration will continue to build on these accomplishments to bring more economic success to every corner of Massachusetts.” Massachusetts ranked well above the national average as number one in enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans, higher-education educational attainment, and college readiness, and number two in patents granted and populations with fast download speed.

Connecticut River Watershed Council Applauds Clean-water Legislation

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker recently introduced legislation that — if signed into law along with his budget proposal to begin increasing staffing at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — will start a several-year process of rebuilding and significantly changing the state’s clean-water program. The immediate focus of the announced legislation is to begin the process of delegating Clean Water Act permitting, enforcement, and compliance authority to the state. Massachusetts is currently one of three states in the country that does not have this authority. “The Connecticut River Watershed Council supports creating a top-notch water-quality program that administers the federal Clean Water Act at the Mass. DEP. The governor’s budget proposal combined with this legislation is a first step to begin creating such a program,” said CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk. “We stand ready to work with the administration and the Legislature to enact additional legislation that will create a program based on strong and achievable standards, timely and fair permitting, robust enforcement, and widely available technical assistance.” The Connecticut River Watershed Council works to protect the watershed from source to sea by collaborating, educating, organizing, restoring, and intervening to preserve its health for generations to come.

Survey: Most Businesses That Chose Massachusetts Would Do So Again

WATERTOWN — A large majority of companies that chose Massachusetts as a place to expand their business would do it again, primarily based on its innovative economy, industry clusters, and skilled workforce, according to “Choosing Massachusetts for Business: Key Factors in Location Decision Making,” an 18-month study commissioned by MassEcon, a non-partisan economic-development organization, and conducted by the UMass Donahue Institute’s Economic and Public Policy Research group. A statewide survey of businesses that had expanded within Massachusetts found that more than three out of four (77%) would choose to locate or expand here again, if faced with the same decision, and 64% rated the state as a “good” or “very good” place to do business. Nearly all of the surveyed companies (96%) cited the state’s high-quality workforce as a key factor in choosing Massachusetts. According to survey respondents, the top three strengths of doing business in Massachusetts were workforce, superior industry clusters, and the community environment. “This report is a valuable tool for us to use to measure our successes in creating a business environment that supports employer growth and uncover opportunities to strengthen collaboration across the state to help our cities and towns increase jobs and investment,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “I look forward to the solutions that we can implement with our partners across business, nonprofit and government sectors to improve the business environment for the benefit of all Massachusetts residents.” The comprehensive study was drawn from a multi-faceted survey and in-depth interviews of nearly 90 companies that had expanded or relocated within Massachusetts over the past 10 years. “We are heartened by the validation of Massachusetts as an outstanding location for business expansion,” said Susan Houston, executive director of MassEcon, “but equally important, this study tells us that we can’t be complacent. For Massachusetts to maintain — and grow — its leadership position, we must continue to nurture our key assets and address the challenges that could undermine our economic competitiveness.”

Pioneer Valley Home Sales Down Slightly in January

SPRINGFIELD — The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley reported that single-family home sales in January were down 0.6% in the region compared to the same time last year. The median price was up 5.9% to $195,000. In Franklin County, sales were up 2.9%, while the median price rose 8.2%. In Hampden County, sales were down 11.4%, while the median price was up 0.6%. And in Hampshire County, home sales rose by 41.3%, while the median price fell by 1.9%.

Commonwealth Adds 13,000 Jobs in January

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 3.2% in January from the revised December rate of 3.1%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate Massachusetts added 13,000 jobs in January. Over-the-month job gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; financial activities; construction; leisure and hospitality; education and health services; information; and government. From January 2016 to January 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,100 jobs. The January state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.8% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Massachusetts continues to experience low levels of unemployment with the largest year-over-year percentage gains in jobs in the construction, education, and health services sectors. We remain focused on fostering an employment environment where businesses can grow and create jobs while having access to workers with the skills and training needed to fill them,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. The labor force increased by 1,600 from 3,561,700 in December, as 9,800 more residents were employed and 8,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 1.1% from 4.3% in January 2016. There were 40,400 fewer unemployed people over the year compared to January 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased to 64.9% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.1% compared to January 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; education and health services; financial activities; professional, scientific, and business services; and leisure and hospitality.

State Expands Residential Substance-use Treatment Programs for Women

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration recently announced it is awarding contracts to programs in Pittsfield, Lowell, and Salisbury to support and expand residential substance-use-disorder treatment for women in Massachusetts. The contracts will fund 60 long-term, residential treatment slots that, when operational, will provide services to approximately 240 women each year. “The opioid and heroin epidemic has tragically impacted too many people and communities in our Commonwealth, and we are committed to helping those struggling with addiction,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Support for these residential treatment slots underscores not only our comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid epidemic, but also adds to the investment we’ve already made to strengthen our treatment and recovery infrastructure.” Since coming into office in 2015, the Baker-Polito administration has increased spending on addiction services by 50%, from $120 million to $180 million, and has added more than 500 substance-use treatment beds to the system. “As the Commonwealth continues to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic from all angles, our administration is pleased to announce these contracts for communities in need,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “We will keep investing in this public-health crisis and partnering with communities in every corner of the state to offer resources and treatment for those struggling with this horrific epidemic.” The $1.75 million in annual funding awarded to the three programs was based on a competitive procurement and will support expansion of one existing and two new programs. The funded programs are:

• The Brien Center/Seymour House, Pittsfield: funding to create a new, 17-bed program serving the needs of pregnant or post-partum women.

• Megan’s House, Lowell: funding to support 28 beds in its existing program serving the needs of young women, ages 18-25. This new funding will ensure greater access to treatment for women without health insurance.

• John Ashford Link House/Seacoast Recovery Home for Women, Salisbury: funding to create a new 15-bed program with a focus on serving the needs of women on the North Shore, some of whom are criminal-justice-involved.

Residential treatment programs provide a highly structured and supportive environment to assist each resident’s recovery from substance-use disorders. Programs include individual and group counseling, comprehensive case management, and assistance with skills necessary to maintain a drug- or alcohol-free lifestyle. Work on each of the funded programs will begin immediately and are expected to be fully operational by the end of June.

Business of Aging Sections

Sight Restoration

Dr. John Papale says most patients who undergo cataract-removal surgery see a more than 95% restoration of vision.

Dr. John Papale says most patients who undergo cataract-removal surgery see a more than 95% restoration of vision.

As the population ages, eye problems will become an increasingly large healthcare issue for society. Fortunately, modern science and new surgical techniques are bringing improved vision — and better quality of life — to those suffering from a number of common ailments.

Several months ago during a routine eye exam, Louise Pugliano was told that she had cataracts in both eyes. The 84-year-old doesn’t drive at night and had no symptoms, but had worn glasses or contact lenses for more than 20 years, and agreed to have cataract-removal surgery.

The first procedure took place Jan. 8, and the second was done Jan. 23, and they were not only painless, but the Springfield woman was thrilled to find she no longer needs prescription eyewear.

“I’m so glad I did this; I had a great experience and wonderful results: I don’t need glasses anymore and can read the small print in the newspaper,” Pugliano said, adding that she had complete faith in her surgeon, Dr. John Papale of Papale Eye Center in Springfield.

Her diagnosed condition, treatment, and response to it are all typical of what’s happening within the broad realm of eye care today — as the population ages, more people are being diagnosed with problems, but modern science has created solutions, many of which are truly life-altering.

Papale told BusinessWest that cataract removal is the most commonly performed surgery in the U.S., and more than 3 million people have the procedure done every year. The 20-minute outpatient operation corrects vision and eliminates troublesome symptoms that affect many seniors, such as seeing halos or being bothered by the glare of oncoming headlights when driving at night.

“Most people have more than a 95% restoration of vision, assuming there are no other problems such as glaucoma and macular degeneration,” Papale said, as he spoke about conditions that affect aging eyes.

Indeed, they are common. The Mayo Clinic reports that about half of all 65-year-old Americans have some degree of cataract formation, and more than 30 million Americans are expected to develop them by 2020. In addition, more than 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older have a severe visual impairment, and rates of severe vision loss are expected to double by 2030.

Dr. Camille Guzek-Latka, an optometrist at Chicopee Eyecare, P.C., says many people use over-the-counter glasses to avoid getting an eye exam. “But the exam is important; we not only evaluate the need for glasses, we look for evidence of eye disease because, as people age, their risk of developing a problem increases.”

Annual eye exams are critical for people over the age of 60 because eye disease can cause irreversible blindness and there may be no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage.

Dr. Andrew Jusko says an eye exam is needed to detect glaucoma, as there are no symptoms in the early or middle stages.

Dr. Andrew Jusko says an eye exam is needed to detect glaucoma, as there are no symptoms in the early or middle stages.

Although some people don’t have vision coverage on their insurance plan, Eye Care America has provided free exams to almost 2 million eligible seniors (visit www.aao.org), and health-insurance plans cover the cost if a minor medical problem is uncovered, which usually happens as people get older.

“It’s important to protect against damaging eye diseases; people are living longer today and want to maintain full visual functionality through the end of their lives,” said surgeon Dr. Andrew Jusko of Eyesight and Surgery Associates in Springfield and East Longmeadow.

Papale agrees. “The eye is our most important sense: 25% of all input to the brain comes from the eye and nerve endings,” he noted.

For this issue and its focus on the business of aging, BusinessWest examines problems that affect aging eyes and what can be done to prevent and correct them.

Cause, Effect, and Treatment

The lens of the eye consists of a flexible jelly that begins to stiffen as people enter their 30s and 40s. The condition is called presbyopia, and most people need reading glasses to compensate for the fact that their eyes can no longer shift focus easily.

“Many people in their 40s and 50s get by with over-the-counter reading glasses, but by the time they reach their 50s or 60s they usually don’t work well,” Jusko said, adding that early stages of other diseases such as diabetes or hypertension can be seen in the eyes during an exam.

Cataracts cause the lens to change from crystal clear to cloudy, and typically develop as people age. They don’t harm the eye but do affect vision, and surgery to correct the problem involves replacing the aging lens with an artificial one.

In the past, eye drops were always needed for a few weeks following the procedure, but Guzek-Latka said a newer approach is often used today called ‘dropless cataract surgery,’ which occurs when the surgeon injects a combination of antibiotics and steroids into the eye at the time of the procedure to reduce the need for drops after it.

“The surgery is safe and wonderful; it can restore sight, reduce the risk of falling, and people are thrilled with the results,” she noted, adding that, although cataracts are related to aging, prolonged use of steroids for conditions such as asthma can cause them to develop earlier.

Cataracts are a change that occurs as the eye ages, but glaucoma is an age-related disease that causes blindness as the peripheral or side vision is lost.

“It’s called the silent thief of sight because the vision loss occurs slowly and painlessly,” Guzek-Latka said, adding that the condition is linked to a buildup of pressure inside the eye, but it can take many years for the vision loss to occur.

The disease can start in the 40s, but risk increases with age. “People cannot tell if the pressure inside their eye is normal, so they can be going blind and not know it,” Papale told BusinessWest, noting that, since glaucoma frequently only affects one eye, the other eye compensates for it so the person doesn’t realize what is happening.

As a result, it’s critical to catch the disease before irreversible damage is done. “An eye exam will show whether the pressure is normal and if the optic nerves appear abnormal,” Jusko said.

Some forms of glaucoma can be cured, and treatment ranges from surgical procedures to prescription eye drops that control pressure inside the eye.

Jusko often uses eye stents during surgery, which are small devices implanted in the drainage area of the eye to help reduce the need for future medication.

“The average age for glaucoma is the 70s, which is about the same age that people need cataract surgery,” he said, noting that stents can also be used during that procedure.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is one of the most serious eye diseases and the leading cause of blindness in seniors. “The macula is the part of the retina that gives you the sharp vision you need to read, drive, and recognize faces,” Papale said.

More than 2 million Americans are afflicted with some form of the disease, and that number is expected to more than double to 5.4 million by 2050 due to the aging population.

“It’s the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people age 50 and older, and treatment for it is limited,” Guzek-Latka said.

“There are usually no symptoms in the early stages, but the disease can be seen when the pupil is dilated during an eye exam,” she continued, adding that, as the disease progresses, it causes distortion in the central vision. “People can still see things on the side, but they can’t read, and faces often appear as dark gray areas. Most people think blindness means total blackness, but it’s very rare not to be able to see any light.”

The cause of AMD is unknown, but it’s important for people to be aware of risk factors. Smoking doubles the risk of macular degeneration, it tends to run in families, women are more likely to develop it than men, and it is more common among Caucasians than African-Americans, Hispanics, and other races.

“People might be able to reduce their risk of macular degeneration or slow the progression by making healthy choices such as regular exercise, maintaining normal blood pressure, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish,” Guzek-Latka said.

The disease is divided into two categories — wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. Although there are no symptoms associated with early dry macular degeneration, the vision becomes distorted over time, and once function is lost, it cannot be restored.

However, further damage may be prevented with special vitamins formulated for the eye. “But we don’t recommend taking them unless the person has been diagnosed with macular degeneration,” Jusko said, noting that studies show no definitive or preventive benefits for people without the disease.

Wet macular degeneration is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula that are fragile and prone to bleeding.

“The bleeding is not visible because the macula is in the back of the eye,” Papale said, adding that the dry form of the disease can progress to the wet type.

Treatment includes injections of medicine that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels and can lead to some improvement.

“It won’t cure the disease, but it’s definitely an advance; 10 years ago, there was less hope for people with wet macular degeneration then there is today,” Guzek-Latka said.

She added that FDA approval was granted for an implantable device in 2010 that is used at the end stages of the disease. It’s the size of a pea and magnifies images onto the retina.

“But it’s only used as a last resort. It will not restore vision, but might allow someone to identify faces, even if they are not clear,” she said.

Diabetes is another disease that affects the eyes. According to the National Eye Institute, 40% of Americans over age 40 have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, and one of every 12 people with diabetes in this age group has advanced, vision-threatening retinopathy.

That’s a condition that results when small blood vessels in the retina leak blood or other fluids that cause progressive damage to the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

“Once someone is diagnosed with diabetes, they need yearly eye exams to detect it,” Jusko said.

Treatment ranges from the use of lasers to injections and surgical procedures, and primary-care physicians usually work closely with the person to ensure their blood-sugar levels and blood pressure are under control.

Hope for the Future

Dry eye is another condition that can affect people of any age, but is more prevalent in elders and post-menopausal women. It results from inadequate tear production and causes burning, stinging, itching, or the feeling that sand is in the eyes.

It can be alleviated with over-the-counter lubricating drops, fish-oil supplements, and vitamin C. But dry eye that is moderate or severe can cause damage, so people whose symptoms aren’t helped with over-the-counter remedies should see their eye doctor.

There is no doubt that eyesight is affected as people age, but there are things everyone can do to help to prevent disease. Eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and since both are stimulated by regular exercise, it ranks high on the list.

People should also do their best to maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet light.

But getting an annual eye exam is the most important measure anyone can take to preserve vision.

“Eyesight is our most important sense,” said Guzek-Latka. “We rely on it for so many things, and having good vision is a driving factor in people’s well-being as they age.”

Daily News

BOSTON — The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been named the best overall state in U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural report. This best-state ranking evaluates all 50 states in various categories, with Massachusetts ranked the top overall state, first in healthcare, second in education, and among the top 10 for economy and crime and corrections. Massachusetts was recognized for having the most accessible healthcare and is ranked third for pre-K through grade-12 education.

“Massachusetts is a great place to live, work, and raise a family because of the strength and character of all those who call the Commonwealth home,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Everyone should be proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in healthcare access and public education for all citizens, and our administration will continue to build on these accomplishments to bring more economic success to every corner of Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts ranked well above the national average as number one in enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans, higher-education educational attainment, and college readiness, and number two in patents granted and populations with fast download speed.

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Hits 12-Year High

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers hit its highest level in 12 years during December amid the prospect of growth initiatives from the new administration in Washington and a continued strong state economy. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2.3 points to 60.4 last month, a full 5.1 points higher than its level in December 2015 and the highest reading since December 2004. It marked the fourth consecutive monthly increase in sentiment among employers in the Commonwealth, where the unemployment rate recently fell to 2.9%. The November and December BCI readings mirror the post-election rally in U.S. financial markets, which have risen 5% as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to work with a Republican Congress on business-friendly issues such as tax reductions, regulatory reform, and infrastructure spending. The AIM survey showed a 5.5-point jump in confidence in the national economy last month, leaving that indicator at its highest level since 2007. “Massachusetts employers are taking the president-elect at his word that he will prioritize economic growth at the national level, especially if he is able to work with Congressional Democrats on a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “But employer enthusiasm is also based upon a solid economic expansion during 2016 that most analysts believe will continue in a methodical manner though the first half of 2017.” 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. The index has remained above 50 since October 2013. Almost all of the sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer were up in December. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, gained 2 points to 61.8, leaving it 5.5 points ahead of the same time last year. The increase in the U.S. Index of national business conditions put that figure 7.5 points higher than its level of a year ago, but still short of the Massachusetts index. It marked the 80th 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, increased 2.2 points to 59.1, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 2.5 points to 61.7. The future outlook was 5.5 points better than a year ago and higher than at any point since March 2015. The sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations also strengthened considerably. The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, rose 1.4 points to 60.9, while the Sales Index increased 3.2 points to 61.4. The Employment Index was the only indicator to lose ground, falling 0.2 points to 57.2. The AIM survey found that nearly 38% of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months, while 19% reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable, with 37% planning to hire and only 10% downsizing. “One of the most positive results of the December survey is that business confidence is strengthening uniformly across almost every sector of the economy,” said Elliot Winer, chief economist at Winer Economic Consulting and a BEA member. “Employers both large and small, manufacturers and non-manufacturers, from the Pioneer Valley to Greater Boston, are more optimistic about their prospects than at any time since prior to the Great Recession.” The BCI Manufacturing Index jumped 0.6 points during the month and 2.6 points for the year. The overall Business Confidence Index among non-manufacturers was 63.3 compared to 56.7 for manufacturing companies. Companies in the eastern part of the Massachusetts were slightly more optimistic at 61.4 than those in the western part of the state at 57.6. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also a BEA member, said employers appear to be encouraged by the prospect that Trump and a Republican Congress will be able to pass their tax and regulatory agenda. At the same time, Lord said, there remains uncertainty about a possible repeal of federal healthcare reform and the future of international trade agreements that are critical to Massachusetts companies. “The only certainty appears to be uncertainty for the next six months,” Lord said. “The key will be to ensure that any tax reductions and regulatory reforms made on the national level are not obviated by state measures intended to make Massachusetts a progressive model for the rest of the country.”

Advertising Club Calls for Scholarship Applications

SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts announced that its 2017 scholarship applications are now available online at adclubwm.org. Applications will also be available through guidance departments at high schools in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, or by contacting the Ad Club at (413) 736-2582. Western Mass. seniors who plan to attend an accredited college or technical school in the fall of 2017 to study advertising, communications, marketing, or graphics arts are encouraged to apply. The scholarship must be applied against tuition and fees at the school. Candidates will be judged on academic performance; extracurricular activities; community service and/or work experience; a demonstrated interest in advertising, communications, marketing, or graphic design; personal recommendations; and a letter of introduction outlining future plans. In 2017, one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded. Completed scholarship applications and all support materials must be submitted to the Ad Club and postmarked by Friday, Feb. 24. Scholarship decisions are made by the scholarship committee of Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, and are considered final. The scholarship will be awarded at the Ad Club’s Creative Awards show in May.

Grinspoon Foundation, Big Y AnnounceLocal Farmer Awards

AGAWAM — In partnership with Big Y, the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF) announced the third year of the Local Farmer Awards, a program to support local farmers with projects that will help them compete in the marketplace. The awards are for equipment and physical farm improvements. “Big Y has been partnering with and supporting local farmers since we began over 80 years ago,” President and Chief Operating Officer Charles D’Amour said. “Through our partnership with the Grinspoon Foundation, we are providing one more way to help the local growers to thrive in our community.” In an effort to have the widest impact, individual award recipients  a total of over $110,000 in awards. Realizing the importance of local farms in our region, Grinspoon launched these awards in 2015. The 2016 awards were distributed to 47 of the 128 applicants. The two regional Buy Local farm advocates, Berkshire Grown and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), will continue to provide insight and assistance. Philip Korman, executive director of CISA, noted that “we are so pleased to continue to work with everyone involved in this unique farm awards program to support the vital role family farms play in our communities.” Added Barbara Zheutlin, executive director of Berkshire Grown, “we’re thrilled about the continuation of these financial awards for farmers in Western Massachusetts to strengthen their farm businesses. This helps build the local food economy in our region.” The deadline for applying is Tuesday, Jan. 31. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.farmerawards.org for more information.

Greater Springfield Named 13th-least-dangerous Metro Area for Pedestrians

SPRINGFIELD — In light of Smart Growth America naming Greater Springfield the 13th-least dangerous metro area in the country for pedestrians, as well as Massachusetts ranking in the top 10 least-dangerous states for pedestrians, as part of its 2016 edition of “Dangerous by Design,” the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) is highlighting some of its collaborative efforts to make the streets of the Pioneer Valley safer for automobiles, bikers, and pedestrians. “While we are obviously happy to see Greater Springfield named the 13th-least-dangerous metro area in the United States [for pedestrians], there is clearly much more work to be done, especially on behalf of older residents, residents of color, and low-income families, who are disproportionately vulnerable as pedestrians, according to this recent report,” said Gary Roux, PVPC principal transportation planner and traffic manager. “Our regional efforts to implement complete street design into our communities will ensure our future roadways will be safe for all forms of travel.” In the pursuit of safer roadways in the Pioneer Valley, the PVPC has been actively working in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, WalkBoston, and the state Department of Public Health on Vision Zero Planning, an approach to transportation safety planning that sets a target of eliminating all serious injuries and deaths due to road traffic crashes; collaborating with member communities to apply Complete Streets design into local roads, implementing the state Department of Transportation Complete Streets funding program that promotes roadway planning that considers the safety of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians; contributing $2 million in planning and public-engagement efforts for Live Well Springfield, a community movement to support healthy and active living; and partnering with the communities of Holyoke, Springfield, Northampton, and South Hadley on bike-pedestrian visioning and planning efforts. Additionally, the PVPC has released a draft update report of the “Top 100 High-crash Intersections in the Pioneer Valley,” to help the region’s urban communities target their roadway safety-improvement efforts. A community-by-community listing of dangerous intersections is also currently being prepared to allow all 43 PVPC member communities to address their most pressing transportation-design needs.

Springfield Leadership Institute to Begin Session

SPRINGFIELD — The 2017 Springfield Leadership Institute will emphasize strategies and techniques designed to create high-energy and high-involvement leadership for middle and upper mangers who have potential to make an impact on their organization and the community, and who serve in key roles in volunteer organizations. The Institute, which begins on Feb. 9 and runs for seven consecutive Thursdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m., is directed by Robert Kleine III, dean of the Western New England University College of Business, and Jack Greeley, executive-in-residence at the university. Greeley has a strong background in management, strategic planning, and consulting to a variety of organizations. Sessions will focus on problem solving, learning to ask the right questions, and implementing creative and innovative solutions for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Participants will actively explore best practices of leaders; analyze their own leadership, learning, and problem solving styles; and experience the synergies that result from high-performing teams. The emphasis will be on experiential activities that provide opportunities to identify, develop, and refine skill sets for effective leadership. All sessions will be held at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield. Upon successful completion of Leadership 2017, participants will be eligible to enroll in a free graduate course offered through the College of Business at Western New England University (subject to certain requirements). Applications must be received by Wednesday, Feb. 1. Tuition is $885 per participant. For questions about the program or the application process, e-mail Jessica Hill at [email protected].

Community Foundation Gives $1,306,600 to Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts is awarding $1,306,600 to 78 local nonprofit organizations in the Pioneer Valley, with awards ranging from $3,700 to $30,000. The Community Foundation awards competitive grants each year, with funds targeting projects addressing community needs in arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, and human services for residents of Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. Over 40 of the projects funded were supported by trusts administered by Bank of America. The Community Foundation receives and reviews grant applications on behalf of Bank of America for four charitable trusts for which the bank serves as a trustee. One award was made as part of the Community Foundation’s Challenge Program to support capital campaigns taking place in the Pioneer Valley region. The $30,000 award requires a one-to-one match. Berkshire Hills Music Academy is the 2017 Challenge Grant recipient. Other grants include $20,000 to the Center for New Americans to support the training of staff and volunteers who work annually with immigrants living in the Pioneer Valley on immigration legal issues; $25,000 to Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society Inc. for masonry repairs to the exterior of the organization’s Springfield location; $25,000 to Community Music School of Springfield Inc. for its children’s chorus music program; and $25,000 to Baystate Health Foundation Inc. for its new surgical center at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. “These grants are a tremendous investment in our community and in the nonprofits that under take this important work. We are fortunate to have generous donors and committed volunteers to make this investment possible,” said Community Foundation Senior Program Officer Sheila Toto. Grant funding comes from distributions from 38 funds established by various individuals and groups committed to supporting local nonprofits. These donors rely on the Community Foundation’s volunteers and staff to focus their funds for effective use by nonprofit agencies in the Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin county communities. Thirteen volunteer members of the Community Foundation’s Distribution Committee and 12 project reviewers carefully evaluated 109 applications for funding requests totaling more than $2.1 million.

Federal Funding Helps Area Farms Save Energy

NORTHAMPTON — Farms and rural small businesses in Massachusetts seeking to reduce energy costs or install clean energy technologies have long relied on the state Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Mass. Farm Energy Program (MFEP) for funding and technical assistance. New funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) will support the work of the MFEP. The USDA has awarded a $33,000 Rural Business Development Grant to the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a nonprofit based in Northampton, which manages MFEP. CET will use the grant to provide timely information, funding request assistance, and technical assistance to rural farms that wish to improve their energy efficiency and reduce operating costs. MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux will join Massachusetts elected officials, USDA RD Southern New England Director Scott Soares, and Lorenzo Macaluso of CET on Friday, Jan. 6 at 10 a.m. at Smith’s Farmstead, 20 Otter River Road, Winchendon. Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the farm’s renewable and efficiency projects. USDA funding adds to funding sources the MFEP draws on to provide help to farms, including funding from public utilities, the USDA, MDAR, municipal utilities, the Mass. Clean Energy Center, and a variety of energy-efficiency and clean-energy rebates.

State Earns Top Ranking for Public-health Preparedness

BOSTON — The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has recognized Massachusetts as first in the nation when it comes to preventing, responding to, and recovering from public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, and natural and man-made disasters. The findings were published in TFAH’s annual “Ready or Not?” report, which ranks all 50 states on a set of key preparedness indicators. “Our top ranking in the Trust for America’s Health report is a testament to the collaborative efforts of public-health and emergency-management agencies, hospitals, health centers, healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and residents to make Massachusetts as prepared and resilient as possible, no matter what,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. The TFAH report ranks each state on 10 indicators, including public-health funding commitment, National Health Security Preparedness Index, public-health accreditation, flu-vaccination rate, climate-change readiness, food safety, reducing healthcare-associated infections, public-health laboratories (biosafety training), public-health laboratories (biosafety professional on staff), and emergency healthcare access. Massachusetts was the only state in the nation to receive credit for all 10 indicators.

Report Details STEM Employment in State

BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data on occupational employment and wages for scienc, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations in Massachusetts’ metropolitan areas and divisions for May 2015. These data are supplied by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, which produces employment and wage estimates for the U.S., by state, and by metropolitan area for more than 800 occupations. Among selected metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua New England City and Town Area (Boston NECTA) had wages that were significantly higher than the respective national averages for three STEM occupations — computer-user support specialists ($63,840), applications-software developers ($109,540), and systems-software developers ($115,180). Leominster ($58,940) also had above-average wages for computer-user support specialists, while Pittsfield ($40,790) had wages that were significantly lower than the U.S. average for this occupation. Wages for applications software developers in the Lawrence NECTA division ($112,050) were significantly higher than the national average of $102,160. Conversely, Springfield ($94,610) had wages that were significantly below the national average for this occupation. The Boston NECTA had a combined employment of 69,990 for the three selected STEM occupations, with 49,230 of these jobs in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton NECTA division. Among the other selected areas, Worcester and Springfield had a combined employment of 2,630 and 2,450, respectively, for the three occupations.

PVPC Releases New Edition of Hiking and Biking Guide

SPRINGFIELD — Recognizing both the abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities and natural beauty within the region, as well as its unique involvement in the creation and protection of much of it, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) has released its second edition of “Pioneer Valley Trails: A Hiking and Biking Guide.” Self-published using revenue from the sale of the guide’s first edition, which has sold over 2,200 copies since 2011, the PVPC is hoping this comprehensive map of Hampden and Hampshire County’s recreational opportunities remains a popular item within the region’s many outdoor outfitters. In preparing the guide, the PVPC reached out to many cooperating entities for data and map information, including all 43 PVPC member municipalities, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, as well as nonprofit partners such as the Trustees of Reservations and Mass Audubon. The guide includes many of the Pioneer Valley’s most popular trails, including the New England National Scenic Trail and the Robert Frost Trail for hiking, as well as the Manhan Rail Trail and Norwottuck – Mass Central Rail Trail for biking. It also includes many smaller trails spread out across the region’s cities and towns, allowing visitors and residents alike to discover new opportunities to enjoy nature. Since 1962, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has been the designated regional planning body for the Pioneer Valley region, which encompasses 43 cities and towns in Hampden and Hampshire counties. PVPC is the primary agency responsible for increasing communication, cooperation, and coordination among all levels of government as well as the private business and civic sectors in order to benefit the Pioneer Valley region and to improve its residents’ quality of life.

Sections Technology

Data Delivery

Pioneer Training President Don Lesser

Pioneer Training President Don Lesser

Don Lesser wasn’t planning on a career in computers, but the field found him through a series of opportunities that arose during the 1980s. Those became the basis for Pioneer Training, which, for more than a quarter-century, has helped companies in myriad fields navigate the ever-changing world of technology and make their operations more efficient.

The computer field was an accidental career for many people back in the 1980s, Don Lesser says, because it was so new. He counts himself as one of those who stumbled into it, and he’s grateful he did.

In 1977, Lesser earned a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing. While in the MFA course, he learned word processing, which was a boon to novel writers, who would previously edit their work and then spend two weeks retyping it. An interest in computing soon followed.

In the 1980s, he started doing corporate training and technical writing as part of the Pioneer Valley PC User Group, which he chaired for several years. As part of the group, he started teaching classes on how to use DOS word processors and other equipment. That led him to Valley Data, then a large tech company in the region, which asked him to teach computer classes.

That led to even broader opportunities, which he recognized, creating the company known today as Pioneer Training.

“Other companies weren’t happy about sending people to Valley Data for training, so we broke off and became a separate company,” Lesser said. “Everyone needed training back in those days; it was new to everyone. People didn’t even know not to press ‘enter’ at the end of every line.”

“Throughout the ’80s,” he went on, “I was using word processing, but I also got interested in programming. I asked the fateful question, ‘how does this all work?’ The answer was ‘zeroes and ones.’ But I needed to know more than that.”

In 1990, Lesser forged a partnership with two others and started offering computer classes in the Hampshire Mall in Hadley. In 1995, with a need to expand, the business moved to a suite of offices on Bobala Road in Holyoke. During these years, the company grew to seven employees and 20 consultants, and the outfit was conducting 12 to 16 classes a week.

“Once you do training for somebody, they tend to trust you,” he said, and companies began approaching Pioneer for other services, including database programming and automation. In fact, those areas of the business began to grow until, around 2003, they were outpacing the training aspect of the company. “By 2006, training had really fallen off, and programming had taken off. So we followed the market.”

The company no longer needed the large classroom space in Holyoke, so in 2008, Lesser and a smaller, core group of team members moved to their current, smaller space in Northampton, where they still conduct classes in Microsoft Access, Excel, Google Apps, PowerPoint, Windows 10, Word, and other software — but focus mainly on other services to clients.


List of Computer Network/IT Services in Western Mass.


These days, training is 30% of the business, and the rest is programming, he explained. “To be honest, most public classes don’t run frequently. But we do private classes; for example, a law firm will call us and say, ‘we need some training,’ and either we’ll go down there and set up computers in their conference room, or they’ll send people here.”

Today, Lesser, as company president works with three others — Mannie White, director of training; Graham Ridley, consultant and director of programming; and Deb Napier, consultant and programmer — to meet the ever-changing computer needs of a loyal client base. Although training is still in the name, the company does much more than that.

Breaking It Down

Take programming, for instance. “A lot of programming consists of automating tasks for departments … turning a two-day process into a 20-minute process, most of which is watching the computer work,” Lesser told BusinessWest.

“We’re smaller now, so we don’t need a lot of companies to keep going,” he said. “New clients come in, we figure out what they need, provide it, and add them to the fold. Most of our new opportunities are smaller companies in this area. And a lot of small companies are quite behind what the MassMutuals are doing. We’re bringing them up to speed; that’s where our bread and butter is.”

Some need more help than others, he added — even if they don’t think so. “A couple of companies are still in Word Perfect, and they prefer not to leave Word Perfect, and we have to accommodate them.”

Many small and medium-size companies, he explained, start out by tracking company data on Excel spreadsheets. As they grow and their operations become more complex, working with a web of spreadsheets can become unwieldy and time-consuming. So Pioneer Training helps clients move to Microsoft Access, which is a more robust data-management tool that also saves employees time.

Other services Pioneer provides might include designing a database from scratch that meets a company’s current needs; automating complicated tasks so they can be performed by non-technical users; creating custom forms for inputting data; creating standardized, yet flexible, custom reports for the most effective data display; updating an existing database to meet a company’s changing needs; creating processes for regular data imports and exports; and consolidating data for better data mining.

Clients include companies from a wide range of industries. Pioneer’s database projects, for example, include developing a process-router database for a national metals testing and finishing company, which tracks and organizes processing steps required for complex metal-plating work; and work for a local transport firm to consolidate several processes that manage its day-to-day operations into one Access database.

Meanwhile, examples of Pioneer’s office-automation clients include a regional bank in Western Mass., for which it automated the creation and printing of a certified letter form for bank letters; developed a set of macros to automate printing of letters from the bank to customers; and created a set of 42 separate charts to track loan categories. Meanwhile, for an international bioscience and lab reporting firm, Pioneer developed an automated process to extract data from lab reports, create charts based on the extracted data, and insert charts and data into a Word template for use in court proceedings. It also simplified the company’s billing by analyzing data and producing a number of reports summarizing data in various categories.

The team at Pioneer Training

The team at Pioneer Training, from left: Don Lesser, Deb Napier, Mannie White, and Graham Ridley.

As for its training arm, Pioneer maintains many repeat clients in a number of fields, from colleges to law firms to nonprofits. As one example, Western New England University wanted to offer staff the opportunity to upgrade their Word, Excel, and Outlook skills beyond the basics, so Lesser and his team designed a training program to meet the university’s goals, running a well-attended series of classes in all three applications.

On a national scale, Pioneer also developed online training courses for Pearson Education and reviewed the manuals for Microsoft Office 2000 and 2003, which involved testing every step in the book and flagging errors. “I feel like I’m one of four people in America who has written a formula for every function built into Excel,” Lesser said.

Lesser feels there’s more opportunity out there — “people still need training,” he said, “but fewer companies want to pay for it” — but the volume of work coming in keeps the four team members plenty busy, and he’s happy with the size of the business and the level of trust he has in White, Ridley, and Napier.

“We’ll tell you what works best for your company,” he said. “If people don’t feel like you’re holding them hostage, they’ll call when they need you, and they’ll be happy.”

Looking Back

Lately, Lesser has been producing training materials for Sanderson MacLeod, a brush manufacturer in Palmer.

“I started out doing corporate training, and now it’s coming full circle,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s technical, teaching someone how to use the machines to create the brushes. It’s not computers, not Microsoft Office-based, but they still need the training. I like to think of what I do as a spectrum, with pure training on one end and pure consulting on the other end, and I’m really happy to be anywhere along that line.”

Of the 50 people in that MFA program he took back in 1977, he said, maybe 20 are still writing fiction. Most of the others, like Lesser, wound up in far different fields, although he has continued to write, including a stint as a food columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“That was the beauty of the computer industry in the ’80s. You didn’t set out to be a computer person,” he said. “I think a lot of artists — musicians, writers — fell into it. There was a lot of overlap. I’ve noticed that programming is a lot like writing. The output is different, but it comes from the same place inside me. I’ll see a problem and envision the solution fully developed. The work is getting the pieces down to make sure they work.”

When they do, that’s his personal reward.

“I think of it as moral work, in that we’re doing good for people, and we’re making their lives easier and better. I don’t want to put down any other occupation, but it’s not a matter of figuring out how to get money from someone who doesn’t want to give it to you; it’s a matter of figuring out how to solve somebody’s problem. It’s satisfying.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers hit its highest level in 12 years during December amid the prospect of growth initiatives from the new administration in Washington and a continued strong state economy.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 2.3 points to 60.4 last month, a full 5.1 points higher than its level in December 2015 and the highest reading since December 2004. It marked the fourth consecutive monthly increase in sentiment among employers in the Commonwealth, where the unemployment rate recently fell to 2.9%.

The November and December BCI readings mirror the post-election rally in U.S. financial markets, which have risen 5% as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to work with a Republican Congress on business-friendly issues such as tax reductions, regulatory reform, and infrastructure spending. The AIM survey showed a 5.5-point jump in confidence in the national economy last month, leaving that indicator at its highest level since 2007.

“Massachusetts employers are taking the president-elect at his word that he will prioritize economic growth at the national level, especially if he is able to work with Congressional Democrats on a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “But employer enthusiasm is also based upon a solid economic expansion during 2016 that most analysts believe will continue in a methodical manner though the first half of 2017.”

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. The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Almost all of the sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer were up in December. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, gained 2 points to 61.8, leaving it 5.5 points ahead of the same time last year.

The increase in the U.S. Index of national business conditions put that figure 7.5 points higher than its level of a year ago, but still short of the Massachusetts index. It marked the 80th 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, increased 2.2 points to 59.1, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 2.5 points to 61.7. The future outlook was 5.5 points better than a year ago and higher than at any point since March 2015.

The sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations also strengthened considerably.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, rose 1.4 points to 60.9, while the Sales Index increased 3.2 points to 61.4. The Employment Index was the only indicator to lose ground, falling 0.2 points to 57.2.

The AIM survey found that nearly 38% of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months, while 19% reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable, with 37% planning to hire and only 10% downsizing.

“One of the most positive results of the December survey is that business confidence is strengthening uniformly across almost every sector of the economy,” said Elliot Winer, chief economist at Winer Economic Consulting and a BEA member. “Employers both large and small, manufacturers and non-manufacturers, from the Pioneer Valley to Greater Boston, are more optimistic about their prospects than at any time since prior to the Great Recession.”

The BCI Manufacturing Index jumped 0.6 points during the month and 2.6 points for the year. The overall Business Confidence Index among non-manufacturers was 63.3 compared to 56.7 for manufacturing companies.

Companies in the eastern part of the Massachusetts were slightly more optimistic at 61.4 than those in the western part of the state at 57.6.

AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also a BEA member, said employers appear to be encouraged by the prospect that Trump and a Republican Congress will be able to pass their tax and regulatory agenda.

At the same time, Lord said, there remains uncertainty about a possible repeal of federal healthcare reform and the future of international trade agreements that are critical to Massachusetts companies.

“The only certainty appears to be uncertainty for the next six months,” Lord said. “The key will be to ensure that any tax reductions and regulatory reforms made on the national level are not obviated by state measures intended to make Massachusetts a progressive model for the rest of the country.”

Cover Story Sections Sports & Leisure

Plane and Simple

Angela Greco stands by her Cessna 172 SP

Angela Greco stands by her Cessna 172 SP, which she acquired just before Thanksgiving and is now putting through its paces.

Attaining a pilot’s license involves a deep commitment — of time, money, and energy. But for those who persevere, the rewards are many, and include freedom, convenience, and sometimes a career. Meanwhile, there is the simple phenomenon of flight, which continues to captivate and stir the emotions. Said one woman who recently bought her own plane, “it’s almost like magic when that plane lifts off the ground.”

Angela Greco says she first started dreaming about learning to fly and one day owning her own plane when she was a freshman in high school.

Her family had a summer home in Laconia, N.H., she told BusinessWest, and she would become captivated watching the sea planes land and take off, allowing her imagination to take her to a time and place when she might be able to do those things herself.

The dream was put on hold for awhile — OK, a long while, as in more than 40 years. Her mother said ‘no’ when she first raised the prospect of taking flying lessons, and then, well, life got in the way, as it often does. But it has been realized — big time.

Indeed, Greco got her license three years ago, and just last month took possession of a 2005 Cessna 172 SP (price tag: $200,000). She is still in the process of breaking it in and becoming comfortable with its so-called glass cockpit — one that features electronic (digital) flight-instrument displays, rather than the traditional analog dials and gauges — but she’s just about ready to put it through its paces.

Specifically, she’s starting to assemble a list of attractive destinations, and is zeroing in on the state of Tennessee — she recently took in a show on the Smithsonian channel detailing many of its attractions and scenery from the air, and her interest was certainly piqued.

“I love to travel, that’s one of my passions,” she said, adding this pursuit was one of the reasons she pursued a pilot’s license. “There seemed to be a lot of interesting things in Tennessee, and it’s a state I haven’t been to yet.”

Thus, Greco has joined what appears to be a growing number of people making the sizable commitment — in terms of both time and money — it takes to learn how to fly and gain a license.

The numbers of new flyers are not exactly soaring, to use an industry term, noted Rich MacIsaac, manager of Northampton Airport and Northampton Aeronautics Inc., who has been a flight instructor for nearly 20 years. But they are climbing.

And, as has been the case historically, most of those taking to the air are in their 20s and early 30s — before the responsibilities of everyday life really start to pile up — or their 50s and 60s, after those responsibilities have at least started to ease up a bit.

Greco falls in that later category, obviously — she’s an owner and manager of several residential properties and is getting ready to sell them and officially retire — while Shannon O’Leary is among the former.

She’s a 22-year-old senior at Ithaca College in Upstate New York who told BusinessWest that, if all goes well, she might just be handed her diploma and her pilot’s license at roughly the same time.

She said she gained the urge to fly from her father, who flew years ago, put that hobby aside, and then picked it up again a few years ago, or just in time to start flying to Ithaca to hear his daughter, an accomplished French horn player and music teacher in the making, perform at a host of events.

Gaining a pilot’s license, as noted, is an expensive, somewhat time-consuming endeavor, said MacIsaac, noting that, when all is said and done, a license will usually set one back between $8,000 to $10,000, and most will spend 12 to 18 months earning their wings.

Rich MacIsaac

Rich MacIsaac says the sensation of flight continues to attract people of all ages.

Thus, only about half of those who start down this path will reach their destination, he said.

For those who persevere, however, the rewards are considerable, in terms of everything from the convenience that flying provides — one can get from Northampton Airport to Martha’s Vineyard in maybe an hour, a fraction of the time it take to get there via car and the ferry — to the sensation of flying, which can lead those who have experienced it to summon a host of descriptive words and phrases.

Like these.

“It’s almost like magic when that plane lifts off the ground,” said Greco. “That’s the only way I can describe it — magic. It’s exciting, and at the same time very peaceful.”

Added O’Leary, “taking off is probably my favorite part. It’s that moment when you really feel like you can do something so liberating as flying a plane; that feeling that you’re flying is just incredible.”

For this issue and its focus on sports and leisure, BusinessWest talked with a number of people who can talk about that experience, what it takes to join those ranks, and why it’s all well worth it.

Working in the Cloud

It was bitterly cold the day Greco talked with BusinessWest, and the wind, while not as strong as the forecasters predicted, was significant, and gusting up to 15 to 20 miles per hour.

Not ideal flying conditions, certainly, and many of the people who were scheduled to head out of Northampton Airport that day or take lessons there decided to scrap those plans.

But not everyone, and eventually Greco decided that the weather was not bad enough to keep her on the ground. When asked what she had in mind for the afternoon, she paused for a moment as if to indicate she was still considering options, before saying she might head up to Keane, N.H. to have lunch and maybe do some shopping. After all, in her Cessna, she could probably do all that in just a few hours — and take a nice, relaxing ride while doing so.

“It is just this convenience and … let’s call it freedom that has always appealed to people with an interest in aviation,” said MacIsaac, adding quickly that, for most, there is much more involved than a desire to chop a commute time in half.

Indeed, the phenomenon of flight still resonates with many individuals, he noted, even at a time in history when being at the controls at cloud level certainly isn’t as, well, mind-blowing as it was a century ago, or even a few decades ago.

“Flying used to be a kind of technical thing, and it was something people could gravitate toward — these were technically advanced pieces of equipment,” he explained. “Now, if you’re interested in technology, there’s lots of other things you can be doing.”

Still, flying continues to capture the imagination, said MacIsaac, who speaks from personal experience. He moved into a house not far from a small airport outside Omaha, Neb. in his early 30s and, after years of watching planes fly over his yard, eventually decided he’d rather do than observe.

Shannon O’Leary, seen here after her first solo flight last summer

If all goes well, Shannon O’Leary, seen here after her first solo flight last summer, will get her college diploma and pilot’s license at about the same time.

 

“I got to the point where financially I could do it and I had the time to do it,” he explained. “So I got my private pilot’s license and flew recreationally. Over time, I added ratings and became a flight instructor, and it slowly morphed into a career.”

In many ways, his story is typical of those who take the plunge and get their license, he said, adding that recreational flying is just part of the equation. Indeed, some are attracted by career opportunities, he went on, noting that, while many airline pilots don’t earn as much as one might think, that’s just one route one can take, and, overall, one can certainly earn a decent (and fun) living with a pilot’s license.

He’s proof of that.

After instructing for several years, he took aviation as a career to a much higher plane, becoming manager of Northampton Airport in 2004, the year it was acquired by local business owner Bob Bacon, who invested heavily in infrastructure and facilities, including several new hangars. He owns his own plane, a four-seat Sirrus SR22.

Today, MacIsaac oversees a multi-faceted business that operates under the name SevenBravoTwo Inc. It includes everything from the flight school to scenic flights; aircraft maintenance to leasing hangar and tie-down space (there are roughly 90 planes based there).

The flight-school operation generally has about 50 people working toward their pilot’s license at an given time, and that translates into roughly 4,000 flights a year, said MacIsaac, noting that 70% of these individuals are doing so for what would be considered personal or recreational flying, with the other 30% harboring aspirations to become a professional pilot of some sort.

One must be 17 to attain a license, he went on, adding that an individual can start the process earlier. He sees a few who choose to balance flying lessons with high-school classes, but most are older and fall in those two categories mentioned earlier — young professionals who still have the time and the means to pursue a license, and older individuals who have paid off the house and put the children through college.

One must have 40 hours of flight time and be able to successfully complete a wide array of maneuvers to get a private pilot’s license, MacIsaac noted, and most will take their time gaining that requisite experience, usually more than a year. And many won’t reach their intended destination, for one of many reasons.

“For many, it’s a financial issue; it becomes more expensive than they thought it was going to be,” he noted. “Or, over a period of time, something happens in their life that puts them in a situation where they can’t afford it anymore and they have to stop.”

As for those who persevere and gain their licenses, only a small percentage, maybe 5%, will actually buy their own plane, he told BusinessWest, adding that many others will join partnerships and clubs that jointly own planes.

And many will simply choose to rent one of the many aircraft the airport has available for such purposes, he went on, adding that they generally lease for about $120 per hour of flight time (that includes fuel).

Considering that one can fly to the Vineyard and back in two hours and skip a considerable amount of time and hassle that are part and parcel to driving to the island, renting a plane has become an attractive option for day trips to that destination and many others.

Winging It

Dave Strassburg’s story is in many ways similar to MacIsaac’s.  A pharmacist by trade, he attained his license more than 20 years ago, and continued to add ratings, moving from private to ‘instrument,’ to commercial.

Becoming an instructor was an objective he put on his bucket list some time ago, and he’s been doing it for 15 years now. While doing that at Northampton Airport on a very part-time basis, he also flies recreationally, and for business — he owns a medical-device-manufacturing company, Strassburg Medical Inc., based just outside Buffalo, N.Y., and takes his twin-engine Cessna there at least once a month.

Business takes him all over the country, and whenever possible, he’ll fly himself, he said, adding that doing so frees him from having to comply with the airlines’ schedules and a host of other inconveniences.

“Besides, if I was sitting in the back of a commercial airliner, I’d just be wishing I was up front anyway,” he said with a laugh.

Strassburg says flying is a passion, and he’s dedicated himself to encouraging others to take up that pursuit and persevere in their quest for a license. He’s convinced a good number, including his wife, who got her license about six months ago, and two Blackhawk helicopter instructor pilots based at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield.

“I’m a big proponent of aviation, and I love getting other people involved in it — I like giving people that little push they need,” he told BusinessWest. “There are so many people who think about it, but they never pursue it. I instruct people for the passion of flying and getting people involved in it and showing them that they can do it.”

That push he described comes in various forms, including Groupons used as incentives to get people who are on the fence to try to get over it.

And it was one of that Groupons that caught Greco’s eye.

“I said to myself, ‘that’s it, it’s sign, time to go do it,” she said, adding that she never actually lost that fascination for flying she acquired while summering in Laconia. She just had to wait till the time was right.

She said the lessons were not easy or inexpensive, but she stuck with it and gained her license in the spring of 2014. Soon thereafter, she rented planes and became a half-share partner in a another Cessna 172, taking trips to a host of destinations, including, Block Island, Niagara Falls, Cape Cod, Maine, and North Carolina.

“My plan now is to take my plane and just fly to destinations all over the United States,” she said, adding that she’ll likely start with Tennessee and move on from there.

O’Leary has some similar ambitions, and some others as well. She plans to teach music for a living, but intends to make flying an important part of her life.

“In an ideal world, I see myself getting a recreational license and being able to have a side gig where I might be able to take people on scenic flights,” she told BusinessWest. “That would be a second source of income for me during the summers, because I’m going to be an educator.

“It would be awesome to be able to fly and also service others,” she went on, adding that she intends to make this a life-long pursuit. “You start doing this because you love it, and when you don’t stop loving it, you get to open up all kinds of possibilities.”

And with that, she spoke for everyone who has had the privilege to enjoy life in what’s known in aviation as the ‘left seat.’

Final Approach

Summing up the pursuit of a pilot’s license and recreational flying in general, MacIsaac said it’s like golf or many other activities one might pursue during their lifetime.

“Some people are naturally going to be better at it than others, some people are going to enjoy it more and it’s going to become a big part of their life forever,” he explained. “And for some, it’s going to be something they tried, and maybe they enjoyed it, but for reason or another, they moved on to something else.”

Perhaps, but not too many of those activities can evoke the same kind of emotions — and the same kind of language used by those who have experienced flight.

As Greco said, “it’s like magic when that plane lifts off the ground.”

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

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight: Southwick

Karl Stinehart and Russell Fox

Karl Stinehart and Russell Fox say the new Rite Aid pharmacy on College Highway is one of many businesses that have made major investments in Southwick.

Sixteen years ago, Freda Brown inherited 120 acres of forestland in Southwick that her parents had purchased generations before.

“It’s a beautiful area that borders my backyard, and I wanted to preserve the open space and find something to do with it that was sustainable and that my children could inherit,” she told BusinessWest. “The last thing I wanted was to see it turned into a development.”

She came up with a viable option several years ago when she met Christopher Barden and Drew Gardner at an event in Southwick and they suggested turning it into a disc golf course, which, as the name suggests, is a facility in some ways similar to a golf track, where players throw flying discs at a series of laid-out targets.

They had developed other courses in the past, and today the three have become partners, with New England Disc Golf Center under construction and set to open on Brown’s land next spring with 18 holes that include tees for beginners and experts.

“It’s something affordable that the whole family can enjoy together,” Brown said, adding that plans are in place to add a nine-hole children’s course. “Southwick is a small, friendly town and a great place to live, and a disc golf course will enhance the recreational opportunities here.”

Russell Fox, chair of the town’s Board of Selectmen, says the disc-golf facility is just one of many ways in which the community has put recreation to use as an economic-development engine. Other examples include everything from four actual golf courses to the hugely popular Congamond Lakes, a boating haven for decades.

Overall, Southwick is resilient, and its property values have remained stable or increased during time periods when other towns saw a decline or were stagnant due to the economy, said Fox, who attributes this to the town’s desirable location; single tax rate; balance between commercial, residential, and open space; an excellent school system; and that wide range of recreational offerings that continues to grow.

“Disc golf has taken off, is fairly inexpensive, and offers a new way for young people to participate in a sport,” he said, adding that, in addition to the golf courses, the town is proud of its 6.5-mile rail trail, which gets more traffic every year as Westfield extends its adjoining rail trail.

Fox told BusinessWest that people travel along the trail from the center of Westfield to sites in Connecticut, and Southwick has some great restaurants accessible from parts of the trail.

“We’re working to improve the sidewalks that connect to it because they provide an entryway into our downtown as well as into smaller commercial areas,” he noted.

Still another major recreational attraction is motocross racing at the Wick, a world-class track built behind the American Legion. Last summer, the national Lucas Oil Pro. Motocross Championship returned there after a two-year absence and signed a new, three year contract.

“Having the nationals here again is a huge economic benefit not only for Southwick, but for the region,” Fox said, explaining that, although it’s a one-day event, it takes months to set up, which benefits local gas stations, eateries, hotels, and motels.

“The race attracts a wide range of fans and different categories of racers from all over the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Japan,” added Karl Stinehart, Southwick’s chief administrative officer.

Major improvements were made to the track and facility before the national race, and the promoter not only worked with the American Motocross Assoc. to meet its requirements, but created a strong social-media following and gained new affiliates. The event was held in July and broadcast live on NBC, and other races have been and will continue to be held there throughout the year.

In addition, Whalley Park has opened on 66 acres of land donated to the town by John Whalley III and Kathy Whalley, in honor of their son John Whalley IV. The new park increased the number of playing fields in Southwick, which is important as they didn’t have enough to accommodate demand.

“We’ve been approached by different organizations that want to rent our athletic fields, and we plan to begin letting outside groups use the facilities, which will help pay for the operating costs, expose people to our community, and add to our entertainment value,” Fox said.

The project is entering phase 2, and a $225,000 contract has been awarded to JL Construction Corp. in Agawam that will be paid for with Community Preservation Act (CPA) money and add lighting to two more fields.

“The townspeople voted to continue the CPA program, which allows us to continue investing in recreational and open-space pursuits,” Stinehart said.

For this edition, BusinessWest looks at the growth taking place in Southwick and other factors that continue to attract and stimulate economic development.

Major Investments

Rite Aid recently staged a grand opening for its new, $2.2 million, 11,000-square-foot building with a drive-thru on College Highway.

“They moved from the center of town and worked with the Mobil station next door to connect their driveways,” Fox said. “Good planning helped the traffic flow and makes it more convenient for customers of both businesses.”

The space that was occupied by Rite Aid filled quickly: it was leased to Dollar Tree, which opened a few weeks ago after a major renovation.

“Businesses have a strong desire to move here; we’re a growing community and get a lot of traffic from Northern Connecticut and the hilltowns via Route 57, as well as from Westfield,” Fox said, adding that the town’s industrial park has done very well.

One building that sat vacant for about a year will soon be occupied by Hudson Holding LLC, which manufactures filters and enclosures for the commercial aerospace market. Stinehart said the company outgrew its space in Connecticut and chose to relocate in Southwick, joining a number of businesses that have moved to the town from out of state as well as the local area.

“Nitor Corporation also expanded and received a special permit to sell guns and ammunition at its location on 5 Whalley Way,” Stinehart noted.

Infrastructure improvements are also underway. The Congamond Road sewer project is being extended to the Gillette Business District, which contains Dunkin’ Donuts, Ocean State Job Lot, and a new Pride station, and the improvements will allow them to grow help attract new ventures.

Residential growth is also occurring in town. High-end homes continue to be built around the Ranch Golf Course, and infrastructure work is underway for a 26-home development called Noble Steed.

“Our excellent school system is one of the reasons people want to live in Southwick,” Fox said, noting that a $69 million project was completed last fall that includes additions and upgrades to Woodland Elementary School, Powder Mill Middle School, and Southwick Regional School, which are all on one campus on Feeding Hills Road.

“The town has positioned itself to keep pace with the modern-day educational needs of youth in Southwick, Granville, and Tolland, which are part of the school district,” Stinehart added.

Town officials are also looking into net-metering credit arrangements with solar facilities to save money. They have an agreement with Nexamp solar farm in Hadley, which went online in October and is expected to result in a 15% savings, but hope to increase that amount.

“We’ve hired a consultant to find additional opportunities for net-metering credits,” Fox said, explaining that the work is being paid for by a $20,000 grant awarded jointly to the town and regional school district by the Mass. Department of Energy Resources.

Ongoing efforts to preserve open space are also gaining ground, as the town hopes to acquire a 144-acre parcel for sale on North Pond at Congamond Lakes.

The Mass. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife awarded Southwick money to help purchase it, and the Franklin Land Trust has embarked on a fund-raising effort to make up the difference in price.

Fox said the parcel is abutted by two different areas owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of Connecticut.

“If we’re able to purchase this parcel, the amount of preserved land here will total 800 acres that will be available for hunting, fishing, and hiking, as well as natural habitats which both states are trying to establish,” he told BusinessWest.

Stinehart added that the area is stocked for bird hunting, and the Congamond Lakes are stocked with fish and rated among the top freshwater fishing sites in the state.

Desirable Location

Stinehart said the town’s location bodes well for further growth, and there is space for new businesses along the front of several parking lots in the Gillette area that would offer great visibility.

In addition, sand and gravel operations in the Hudson Road area, which is zoned industrial, will be forced to close within a few years as they will have removed the maximum amounts allowed, so that land will become available for reuse in the future.

“We feel encouraged by what is happening here. There are many things in our community that help us remain a desirable place to live, work, raise a family, own a business, and enjoy recreational activities,” he said.

With a location 20 minutes from Bradley International Airport, in close proximity to the Mass Pike, and a short drive to Springfield and Hartford, the town is likely to continue its forward progress as officials and department heads who have worked for the town for decades continue to help strike a balance between family farms, open space, small businesses, and its thriving industrial park.

 

Southwick at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1775
Population: 9,563
Area: 31.7 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $17.10
Commercial Tax Rate: $17.10
Median Household Income: $73,555
Family Household Income: $83,314
Type of Government: Open Meeting; Board of Selectmen
Largest Employers: Big Y World Class Markets; Whalley Computer Associates; Southwick Regional School District
*Latest information available

Sections Technology

Something for Everyone

Smartphones rule the world — or, at least, their users’ lives — but they wouldn’t be of much use without apps. And those apps are legion, appealing to individuals’ desire to manage everything from finances to fitness, to continually learn new things and find new ways to have fun. Here’s a roundup of some of the most popular and well-reviewed apps available today.

Say you want to more effectively manage your finances. Or get in shape. Or brush up on your math skills. Or just relax and have a good time.

As the old iPhone commercials used to say, there’s an app for that. Many, many more than one, actually. And they’re usually free, and available on both the iOS and Android platforms.

For this year’s roundup of what’s hot in technology, BusinessWest checks in on what the tech press is saying about some of the most popular smartphone apps.

Financial App-raisals

personal-capitalFor starters, smartphones have put a world of personal finance in people’s hands. For example, Personal Capital offers simple charts and graphs of the user’s income, spending, and investment performance so they can easily monitor their finances.

“Track your investments by account, asset class, or individual security, see how your portfolio compares to major indices, and find the exact percentage of each asset class that’s in your portfolio,” Investopedia explains. “A 401(k) fee analyzer and mutual-fund fee calculator show if you’re paying too much in fees. The Investment Checkup feature analyzes your portfolio and shows how much you stand to gain with a few changes.”

mintBusiness Insider reports that Intuit’s Mint gives users a real-time look into all their finances, from bank accounts and credit cards to student loans and 401(k) accounts. “It automatically tracks your spending, categorizes it, and alerts you when/if you approach your budget limit. You can even ask for custom savings tips within the app,” the publication notes. “Everything is shown in simple, intuitive graphs and charts, making it one of the most popular personal-finance apps in the world.”

goodbudgetMeanwhile, Business Insider also recommends GoodBudget, an app that brings the envelope-budgeting method into the smartphone. Users create ‘envelopes’ for each of their budget categories, such as groceries, transportation, and shopping, and pre-determine how much they want to allocate in each envelope. They can then record and track how much they’re spending from each envelope. “It may not be as sophisticated as some of the other apps, but Goodbudget offers a simple way to stick to your budget and keep your spending really disciplined.”

prosper-dailyWhat about financial security? Investopedia recommends Prosper Daily, a personal-finance security service that tracks spending and protects credit cards from fraud and errors. Users can quickly view balances and recurring charges across all their credit and debit cards.

“Prosper Daily creates an alert if a suspicious charge is posted to your account, allows you to report the charge and/or contact the merchant, and will help you get your money back from fraudulent, erroneous, or unfair charges,” the publication notes. “Data-breach alerts let you know when a data breach has occurred at a place where you’ve shopped.”

Healthy App-roach

What if physical wellness tops one’s priority list. No fear — there are countless apps for that, too, teaching users how to shop, all the facts on what they’re eating, how to exercise, and how to stay committed to better habits.

myfitnesspalOne of the most popular nutrition apps is MyFitnessPal, which offers a wealth of tools for tracking what and how much the user eats, and how many calories they burn through activity, explains PC Magazine. “Of all the calorie counters I’ve used, MyFitnessPal is by far the easiest one to manage, and it comes with the largest database of foods and drinks. With the MyFitnessPal app, you can fastidiously watch what you eat 24/7, no matter where you are.”

The app’s database of more than 6 million foods makes it easy to track a diet, or the lack of one, added the online magazine Greatist. “Whether you’re trying to lose weight or put on muscle, the app helps determine the best things to eat and meet your goals.”

nike-training-clubBut nutrition is only part of the story when it comes to fitness — exercise is the other key discipline. But where to start? One possibility is the Nike+ Training Club, which takes the concept to the next level, offering more than 100 workouts to choose from. Users can also opt for a customized, full-body, four-week plan. “A trainer leads you through the routines, plus you get instructional video clips of the moves,” notes Fitness magazine. “Don’t like burpees? The updated app lets you swap drills you hate for ones you love.”

strava-running-and-cycling-gpsFor those who prefer being outdoors to get in shape, Strava Running and Cycling GPS monitors running or cycling routes via GPS, notes Digital Trends. “It also gamifies your cardio workout and pairs with leaderboards, achievements, and challenges, bringing a competitive spirit to your routine.”

jefitFor a more comprehensive training assistant, Men’s Fitness recommends Jefit, which creates personalized workout routines by tracking and analyzing the user’s workout progress and diligently recording weight, reps, and time.

“Its data-heavy approach will appeal to stat nerds and workout obsessives alike. Jefit also packs the most robust library of exercises and maneuvers,” the magazine notes, including how-to videos with more than 1,300 exercises making up scores of workouts. The free version is limited, with some bare-bones workout routines and basic activity logs, while paid options are ad-free and unlock more features.

App-lied Learning

khan-academyCountless popular apps focus on education and learning for all ages. For kids, the Children’s MD blog recommends Khan Academy, which collaborates with the U.S. Department of Education and myriad public and private educational institutions to provide a free, world-class education for anyone.

“It’s incredibly easy to use, there are no ads, and it’s appropriate for any school-aged child that knows how to read,” the blog reports, noting that Khan Academy started as a math-learning site but has expanded to many other subjects, from art history to economics. “My kids will spend hours looking at computer-science projects that other kids have shared and incorporating ideas into their own programs. The Khan platform combines educational videos with practice problems and project assignments.”

photomathMeanwhile, Photomath focuses on, well, math, and does it well, Digital Trends reports. “For high-school students who just need a bit more guidance on how to isolate ‘x’ in their algebra homework, Photomath is essentially your math buddy that can instantly solve and explain every answer. Simply snap a photo of the question (you can also write or type), and the app will break down the solution into separate steps with helpful play-by-play, so that you can apply the same principles to the rest of your homework.”

duolingoFor language learning, Children’s MD recommends Duolingo, which provides interactive foreign-language education in 15 languages so far. It’s appropriate for both kids and adults, and one independent study found that a person with no knowledge of Spanish would need about 34 hours with Duolingo to cover the material in the first college semester of Spanish classes.

“It’s simple, user-friendly, and never boring,” the blog notes. “Install the app on your phone and get your language lessons done while you are on the elevator or waiting in line.”

nasa-appLearning means expanding one’s horizons, of course, and where better to do that than the NASA App, which aggregates a wide range of NASA content. “Space enthusiasts and curious minds will love how it packs a wealth of news stories, features, images, video, and information about the space agency’s activities into this one mobile app,” PC Magazine reports.

App-ealing Entertainment

spotifyLet’s face it, though — smartphone users want apps that are just plain fun as well. For music enthusiasts, it’s hard to go wrong with Spotify. Wired notes that users can access a huge catalog of music for a small monthly fee, creating their own playlists or enjoying the app’s curated stations.

Seven years after its debut, Mashable adds, “Spotify has tons of competition in the online streaming space, but the app continues to be one of the best ways to listen to music and podcasts on demand and on the go.”

espn-score-centerSports fans might dig ESPN Score Center, which allows users to check game progress from more sports than most other apps, PC Magazine reports, including baseball, basketball, football, soccer, ice hockey, cricket, rugby, and more.

big-ovenFor those whose idea of fun is improving their cooking skills, plenty of apps do the job. Digital Trends recommends two. Big Oven features more than 250,000 recipes, and provides grocery lists based on them, lets users add your own, and import recipes from friends. “If you like (or want to like) to cook, start with Big Oven.”

yummlyBut the publication also raves about Yummly, which offers access to thousands of unique recipes. “On top of recipe and grocery-list functionality, Yummly takes user preferences into account to provide recipe recommendations, for when you just can’t decide what to eat.”

action-movie-fxFinally, if the kitchen doesn’t provide enough action and adventure, Mashable recommends downloading Action Movie, the brainchild of Star Wars and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. The app allows anyone with an iPhone introduce movie-level special effects to their short videos.

“Not only is it incredibly easy to use and completely addictive, it’s a huge crowd pleaser,” the site notes. “Filming a Thanksgiving dinner where a virtual car can unexpectedly crash across the dinner table is guaranteed to inspire roaring laughter. Action Movie is free, but smartly uses in-app purchases to sell you additional effects, all as good as the originals. It’s the rare app that has few competitors and has maintained a high level of quality.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Strengthens in October

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers rose for a second consecutive month during October, bolstered by a surprising improvement in the outlook among manufacturers and the continued strong performance of the state economy. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.3 points to 56.2 last month, 0.6 points higher than in October 2015. The increase was driven by a 2.6-point jump in the manufacturing index, which has lagged overall confidence readings for the past 18 months as companies struggled with economic weakness in Europe, China, and other key export markets. The increase came as the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, its lowest rate since the dot-com boom of 2001. 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. Almost all of the sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer were up in October. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, gained 0.9 points to 57.9, leaving it a healthy 3.8 points ahead of the same time last year. The U.S. Index of national business conditions remained unchanged at 49.2, 1.7 points lower than its level of October 2015. Employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than about the national economy for 78 consecutive months. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased slightly to 56, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 0.3 points to 56.3. The future view is virtually the same as it was a year ago. The three sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations also strengthened. The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, rose 0.2 points to 57.9, while the Employment Index surged 0.9 points to 55.4. The Sales Index lost ground, however, falling 1.2 points during October and 3.9 points during the previous 12 months.