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Bay Path MS Program in Nonprofit Management Named to Top-10 List

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) program in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy has been named to the top 10 in the nation, as ranked by thebestschools.org. The university’s program has been recognized among the top online graduate nonprofit-management programs annually since 2014. This year, Bay Path ranked 10th on the list as one of just two New England colleges to make the cut. According to thebestschools.org, graduate-degree programs in nonprofit management were selected for the ranking based on academic excellence, types of courses offered, faculty strength, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the college’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs. The MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path University, open to men and women, is offered completely online or on campus, either full-time or part-time.

VVM Appoints Six Executives in Residence

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) announced the addition of six new executives in residence (EIRs) who will serve as guest educators and leaders to the 36 startup companies in the 2018 VVM Startup Accelerator program. The program provides intensive training, a network of skilled mentors, and funding that enables startup founders to establish and grow their businesses at a fast pace. EIRs represent experienced industry leaders, creatives, and strategists, as well as social-impact entrepreneurs from around the country. This first-ever group of EIRs will join the VVM staff team in providing day-to-day instruction over the course of four intensive, boot-camp-style weekends from February through May. The program culminates in the 2018 VVM Accelerator Awards at the MassMutual Center on Thursday, May 24. The EIRs include Bethany Martin, principal of B Martin Studio, mentor at Pilotworks, and faculty member at the Pratt Institute; Gustavo Bottan, co-founder and CEO of Opt4America senior mentor at MIT – Sandbox and the MIT CCLP Leadership Program; Joe Bush, executive director for the Worcester CleanTech Incubator; Steven Bellofatto, co-founder of ION Design and former adjunct faculty member at New York University in Manhattan, Department of Design & Digital Arts; Tanya Menendez, co-founder of Maker’s Row, and named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, People en Espanol’s “Most Powerful Latinas,” Business Insider’s “Coolest People in Tech,” and PopMechanic’s “25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream”; and Zaza Kabayadondo, director at Smith College for the Design Thinking Initiative and former program advisor at Stanford University’s Learning, Design, and Technology masters’ program.

STCC Biotech Program Wins Gold Level Endorsement

SPRINGFIELD — Graduates of the biotechnology programs at Springfield Technical Community College are well-prepared for careers in the life sciences, according to a leading science-education organization. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) endorsed STCC’s biotechnology associate degree and certificate programs at the Gold Level. MassBioEd concluded that graduates of the degree and certificate programs “are ready for the life-sciences workforce.” The STCC program met the core competencies defined by biotechnology industry and academic leaders who worked with MassBioEd, a nonprofit organization with a mission to build a life-sciences workforce in the region through educational programs that inspire students and engage teachers. Core competencies required for endorsement include following good laboratory practices, lab techniques, and exhibiting appropriate workplace behaviors, among other requirements.

Berkshire Hills Reports Q4 Operating Results

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported that fourth-quarter pre-tax income grew by 82% to $19.5 million in 2017 compared to $10.7 million in the prior year. This improvement was due to business development and the benefit of mergers, including Worcester-based Commerce Bancshares Corp. which was acquired on Oct. 13, 2017. Net income after tax was impacted by an $18 million non-core charge to income-tax expense resulting from federal tax reform enacted near year end. This reform is expected to benefit future earnings due to a lower statutory federal tax rate beginning in 2018. Net income after tax totaled $55 million in 2017 compared to $59 million in 2016. The tax charge noted above reduced fourth-quarter earnings per share by $0.40 and resulted in a fourth-quarter net loss of $0.06 per share in 2017, compared to a profit of $0.32 per share in 2016. Fourth-quarter core earnings per share improved by 4% to $0.58 in 2017, from $0.56 in 2016. The measure of core earnings excludes the above tax charge and also excludes other net non-core charges primarily related to merger costs. These costs in the fourth quarter of 2017 were mostly related to the Commerce acquisition, which increased assets by $1.8 billion, or 19%, to $11.6 billion at year end.

O & P Labs Opens New Prosthetic Center

SPRINGFIELD — O & P Labs announced the grand opening of its Prosthetic Center at 3500 Main St. in Springfield. The local prosthetic company has been serving Western and Central Mass., Northern Conn., and Southern Vermont for more than 30 years. O & P Labs is best known for its local, state-or-the-art fabrication lab, which allows patients to receive fittings, repairs, and adjustments quickly. The 3D printer decreases production time, and digital scanning technology creates highly customized prosthetic sockets.

Main Street Hospitality Sells Elm Street Market

STOCKBRIDGE — Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, announced the sale of Elm Street Market to Verson Inc., headed by brothers Rajesh and Rajeev Verma from New Jersey. New management took over operation of the market immediately when the sale was completed last month. The Elm Street Market, previously owned and operated by Main Street Hospitality, has been a local favorite and community staple for more than 20 years. “We stopped at Elm Street Market on our way to visit my son at college and immediately fell in love with the restaurant and Stockbridge,” said Rajesh Verma. “The market is a strong community anchor, and we intend to keep it that way, building on its existing strength and evolving its local food offerings over time.” Verson Inc. is a family-owned business that owns and operates a group of deli and catering shops in New York City. Verma plans to keep the current staff while adding more prepared foods to the menu.

Community Foundation Joins Partnership to Boost Arts, Creativity

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) and the Barr Foundation, a private foundation based in Boston, announced the launch of Creative Commonwealth, a partnership between Barr, CFWM, and four other Massachusetts community foundations. This new initiative is rooted in the belief that investments in arts and creativity build thriving communities, and it aims to promote the vital leadership role community foundations can play to advance the arts. Creative Commonwealth will pave the way for community foundations to deepen and grow support for artists and cultural organizations. Along with CFWM, the community foundations partnering with Barr on this effort are the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Essex County Community Foundation, and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has been awarded $500,000 over 24 months to pilot ideas that emerged from a planning process the foundation undertook in 2017, with funding from Barr to identify opportunities, needs, and priorities. CFWM efforts will focus on testing innovative ideas to connect arts to other sectors, providing training to build the capacity of small organizations and assessing the need for a regional arts hub to advance collaborative opportunities.

River Valley Counseling Opens Easthampton Office

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Counseling Center opened a new office location in Liberty Commons at 2 Mechanic St, Easthampton. The new office offers behavioral-health services for individuals and families. This new location follows five months after River Valley Counseling Center began offering school-based services within all of the Easthampton Schools. School-based therapy is outpatient therapy; however, these services are coordinated with the school to provide easy access to appointments for students and families and to assist with school-related problems as needed. Services available at the Easthampton location include individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and children. Clinicians help the client, couple, or family identify the concerns or issues that will become the focus of treatment. Both the client and clinician work together to determine the most effective treatment needed. The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is determined based on individualized treatment plans. For additional information or to schedule an appointment with River Valley Counseling Center, call (413) 540-1234.

Monson Savings Announces Public’s Choices for Giving

MONSON — For the eighth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2018. The top vote getter was Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts, followed, in order of votes, by Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Scantic Valley YMCA, River East School-to-Career, Link to Libraries, Rick’s Place, Academy Hill School, Behavioral Health Network at Valley Human Resources, and Monson Free Library.

Company Notebook Departments

MGM Springfield Moves to On-site Corporate Offices

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield has moved into new corporate offices at 95 State St., soon to be called One MGM Way. Located across from the Hampden County Superior Court, and adjacent to what will be MGM Springfield’s South End Market, the building will be home to members of the MGM Springfield executive and administrative teams. “Moving on site is a great way to kick off the year of our opening,” said Michael Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield. “We have a growing workforce, and this office space better suits our ever-expanding needs as this momentous year unfolds. It’s an exciting transition for all of us.” Like other elements of the property’s integrated downtown design, the 11-story building celebrates Springfield’s heritage while preserving its iconic past. Built in 1929, the building was designed in the classical revival style by Burton Geckler as an annex to 1200 Main St. It was formerly known as the MassMutual building at 95 State St., and has since undergone a complete renovation, including new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and finishes. MGM carefully conserved the exterior façade and maintained many of the lobby’s original features. “I am proud of the effort and care that our first-in-class construction team has put into preserving Springfield’s history throughout the property,” Mathis said. “This building is just one example of the many that will be unveiled this year.” Springfield firms Specs Design Group and Dietz & Co. Architects collaborated on the outfitting and design of the employee space with Las Vegas-based Friedmutter Group. Springfield-based Fontaine Bros. Inc. served as general contractor and stewarded the project through the construction phase. “As a company that has called Springfield home for over 85 years, we were excited to oversee construction of this critical portion of the MGM resort, and we are proud to have played a role in helping bring this unprecedented economic-development project to our city,” said David Fontaine Jr., vice president of Fontaine Bros. MGM Springfield’s new corporate offices boast collaboration and work areas, conference and meeting spaces, open cubicle areas, and private executive offices. The design scheme includes warm colors, reclaimed wood, and brick veneers throughout the space. The corporate offices will be located on floors two through eight. Approximately 50 employees have moved into the space. At full staffing, the area is expected to accommodate more than 300 employees. Activities at the approximately 85,000-square-foot employee offices will cover all aspects of the day-to-day operations for MGM Springfield. Anyone interested in learning about career opportunities should visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center, which will be open 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

ICNE Announces Addition of Eastman & Davis Insurance

AGAWAM — The Insurance Center of New England (ICNE) announced the addition of Eastman & Davis Insurance Agency Inc. in West Springfield to its growing company. “We are thrilled to not only have the Eastman & Davis Insurance clients join our agency, but also to have longtime employee Marilyn Loudon join the ICNE team as a personal lines account manager,” said William Trudeau, president and CEO of ICNE. Many ICNE clients have been with the agency for generations, Trudeau noted, so he understands what an important role Bill Eastman has played in the lives of his clients through the years. “I feel so honored that Bill trusts the ICNE team to take over the responsibility of caring for his clients.” Over the past several years, Eastman had been seeking out a business partner to ensure that his business would continue to thrive and that his clientele would be well-taken care of for decades to come. While Eastman & Davis clients may experience a few minor changes in process and procedures, the ultimate goal is to make the transition seamless. “When Eastman & Davis clients join ICNE, they will quickly learn that we are much more than an insurance agency,” Trudeau said. “We are a local team of insurance professionals who will get to know them personally and will always be there to answer their questions, review their policy, and help them make informed decisions to safeguard their family, home, car, and everything that is important to them.” As part of the transition, Eastman & Davis’ West Springfield office will be closing. However, for the convenience of clients, Marilyn Loudon will move to ICNE’s main office in Agawam, just five miles down the road from the current West Springfield location.

Speaker Sisterhood Announces Partnership with Baystate Health

SPRINGFIELD — Twenty-eight female medical providers from Baystate Health are set to begin a six-month pilot of a public-speaking training program uniquely crafted for women in academic medicine. The program is a collaboration between Women Advancing and Achieving in Medicine, a Baystate Health organizational resource group, and Speaker Sisterhood, a public-speaking training company for women founded by CEO Angela Lussier and headquartered in Holyoke. The program is focused on learning and practicing proven techniques to enhance participants’ communication so they are more effective and confident. The goal is for each participant to hone her own authentic voice so that she has greater impact both within her department and from behind the podium at major conferences. The program kicked off Jan. 10 and runs until June 6. “For years, I have noticed a lack of female speakers at many high-profile medical conferences, and I figured that there had to be a systemic way to change this, and our pilot project is a first step,” said Dr. Jeannette Wolfe, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at UMass Medical School’s Baystate campus. “We have partnered with Speaker Sisterhood to develop a very unique curriculum that addresses some of the specific challenges many women in academic medicine face in becoming recognized as source experts within their fields. I’m very excited about the potential of the program because creating a group of polished public speakers not only benefits those speakers, but also increases the regional and national recognition of Baystate Health.” Participants, who were nominated by their chairs and program directors, will meet monthly in a three-hour evening session. Each meeting will begin with a brief lecture covering topics ranging from effective storytelling to slide development to tips on how to break into conference speaking circles. Next, participants will move into their breakout groups of eight or nine women for hands-on experiential learning and practice giving speeches and feedback to each other. Each group has deliberately been created to include women from a mix of medical specialties and experience levels with the intention that this will help naturally facilitate beneficial networking and coaching within the groups. The pilot program is built upon the Speaker Sisterhood’s signature speaker development program, “The Secret Life of Speaking Up,” which was crafted to help professional women enhance their speech-writing skills, build on presentation effectiveness, and grow confidence while speaking. “We’ve been running this program for the last 18 months in various communities, and over 100 women have benefited from the Speaker Sisterhood curriculum. We’re excited to see the impact it will make in a hospital setting and in the medical community at large,” Lussier said. The aim of the pilot is to demonstrate its success though participants’ reports so that it can be expanded throughout Baystate Health and used as a template to benefit women in other academic centers.

The Drama Studio Secures Permanent Home

SPRINGFIELD — The Drama Studio was founded in 1987 by Steve Hays and a group of educators and parents who envisioned an institution where youth could study acting as seriously as they could study music. Located at 41 Oakland St. in Springfield, in close proximity to Forest Park, the Drama Studio had been a 30-year renter of space from St. Barnabas & All Saints Episcopal Church when the call came from the diocese that the building was no longer to be utilized as a place of worship. “When that call came, our board sprang into action,” Hays said. “Funds were quickly raised from a small group of generous donors, and thanks to the hard work of our board and the generosity of the diocese, we were able to negotiate a fair price. On December 22, 2017, we purchased the church and are thrilled to begin steps toward major renovation.” The mission of the Drama Studio is to enrich and validate the adolescent experience in this diverse community via excellence in a conservatory-style acting training program. It serves more than 250 students annually from the region. One alum, Gregory Boilard, of New York City, was involved with the Drama Studio from grade 6 until he graduated from Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham in 2010. He credits Hays with “shaping his childhood” and enabling him to land his dream job working in publicity for the Disney Theatrical Group on Broadway. While many alums have gone on to have careers in theater, film, and television, others attribute their success as lawyers, surgeons, administrators, teachers, and other professionals to the confidence they gained as students at the Drama Studio. The Drama Studio is one of a handful of after-school acting conservatories in the U.S. where young actors ages 6 to 18 can study intensively and advance through a theater curriculum before graduating from high school. It offers a coordinated program including both classroom and performance training with more than 25 after-school classes and six vacation camps. Two community outreach programs, DramaTours and TheaterReaders, currently serve more than 3,000 Springfield public elementary-school children each year.

River Valley Co-op Explores Potential Second Store Site

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Co-op has secured an option agreement for the potential purchase of the Easthampton property at 228 Northampton St. (formerly the Fedor Automobile Dealership) as a second store location. River Valley Co-op is a cooperatively owned grocery store with one location in Northampton. Since 2014, the cooperative business has been discussing a second store location with co-op owners, customers, and employees in order to accommodate its growth as well as furthering the mission of building a strong local food system. “We’ve been looking for a suitable location for a second store for several years to serve our community better,” said Andrea Stanley, board president. “Our goal is to expand our community-owned grocery business to further our local economic impact and build the resiliency of our local food system through year-round purchases to even more local farmers. We believe that Easthampton is an ideal match for River Valley Co-op. In fact, we have many co-op owners and vendors from Easthampton already, so we feel a strong connection to the community and look forward to expanding our working relationships even further with this project.” The option agreement gives the co-op a year to conduct its due diligence, planning, and fund-raising before exercising its exclusive right to purchase the property. River Valley Co-op’s leadership team met recently with Easthampton Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle to discuss the dynamics of the plan. “River Valley Co-op is a natural fit for Easthampton residents as consumers and job-seekers. High-quality food and jobs is a combination that is hard to beat,” LaChapelle said. “I had the opportunity to sit down with the River Valley team last week. They conveyed deep understanding of Easthampton and shared their plans with thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. As the co-op is ready to grow, Easthampton is ready to support that growth to ensure success for everyone.” Property owner Eddie Fedor said his family is enthusiastic about the potential of River Valley Co-op expanding in Easthampton. “This is a great location and will be very convenient for a lot of people. River Valley Co-op’s support of local farmers and other local vendors would make them a great addition to our community.” The co-op expects to employ 100 people in its Easthampton store. More than 95% of Northampton store employees are full-time with benefits and are represented by UFCW Local 1459.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q4 Results

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017. The company reported net income of $9.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $15.2 million, or $0.30 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $14.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016. Net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017 was $54.6 million, or $1.07 per diluted share, compared to net income of $49.7 million, or $0.99 per diluted share, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2016. On Dec. 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which, among other things, lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Companies must recognize the effect of tax-law changes in the period of enactment under the generally accepted accounting principles. This tax reform resulted in a $2.8 million negative net-income impact in the fourth quarter of 2017. Of the $2.8 million impact, $1.6 million flowed directly through the provision for income taxes, and was primarily related to a re-measurement of the company’s deferred tax asset. Additionally, there was a $1.2 million pre-tax adjustment related to the write-down of legacy United limited partnerships due to the aforementioned tax reform. Other significant events during the quarter included the  company surrendering $32.8 million of under-performing bank-owned life insurance policy value, resulting in a $2.4 million negative impact to the provision for income taxes. The company subsequently reinvested $30 million into higher-yielding product in early January 2018. “The United Bank team delivered strong loan and non-interest bearing deposit growth in the fourth quarter of 2017. Asset quality, capital, and liquidity remained strong and stable,” said William Crawford IV, CEO and President of the company and the bank. Assets totaled $7.11 billion at Dec. 31, 2017 and increased $137.7 million, or 2%, from $6.98 billion at Sept. 30, 2017. At Dec. 31, 2017, total loans were $5.34 billion, representing an increase of $134.2 million, or 2.6%, from the linked quarter. Changes to loan balances during the fourth quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $76.7 million, or 4.3%, increase in investor non-owner occupied commercial real-estate loans; a $24.9 million, or 9.3%, increase in other consumer loans; a $21.4 million, or 3.8%, increase in home-equity loans; and a $18.9 million, or 2.3%, increase in commercial business loans. Loans held for sale increased $24.7 million, or 27.6%, from the linked quarter, as the company increased the held-for-sale portfolio for delivery to third-party investors at the end of the quarter. Total cash and cash equivalents decreased $9.8 million, or 10%, from the linked quarter. Deposits totaled $5.2 billion at Dec. 31, 2017 and increased by $45.2 million, or 0.9%, from $5.15 billion at Sept. 30, 2017. Increases in deposit balances during the fourth quarter of 2017 were highlighted by a $53.4 million, or 7.4%, increase in non-interest-bearing checking deposits, as well as a $77.3 million, or 4.5%, increase in certificates of deposit. Offsetting these increases was a $75.5 million, or 3.4%, decline in NOW checking and money-market deposits, largely due to seasonal withdrawals in municipal funds.

Company Notebook Departments

Hazen Paper Co. Honored with Holography Award

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. was recognized with an Excellence in Holography Award from the International Hologram Manufacturers Assoc. (IHMA) at its annual conference in Barcelona, Spain. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in pioneering innovative holographic products or techniques, as well as the best use of holography in commercial applications. Singled out from a record number of entries, Hazen was awarded Best Applied Decorative Packaging Product for its own promotional 2017 calendar and supporting brochure. The six-panel brochure and related poster/calendar each highlight different capabilities and product characteristics, though they both feature a dramatic image of a woman dressed in a gown of gold satin, who appears radiant and three-dimensional, thanks to custom Hazen Holography. According to the IHMA, the two are “a beautiful display of holographic art with many technical features.” The brochure, which showcases more than 50 holograms to inspire design and packaging innovators, was constructed of holographic film laminated to both sides of a paperboard cover stock. The film acts as a hinge at the folds and seals the stock, resulting in enhanced lay-flat properties and durability. Holography on the front is registered to print as well as to the holography on the back, without re-combine lines. The poster/calendar demonstrates Hazen’s large-format holographic capability and compatibility with green objectives, digitally printed on transfer-metallized Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product that uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate, none of the film, and is recyclable as paper. Film-free Envirofoil’s ultra-thin metallized layer also delivers exceptional lay-flat results on this oversized piece. The IHMA, a nonprofit organization registered in the United Kingdom, promotes the cooperation of over 100 of the world’s foremost holographic companies to maintain the highest professional, security, and quality standards in support of its customers. In 2016, the IHMA presented Hazen President John Hazen with the Brian Monaghan Award for Business Innovation. Hazen Paper has been a member of the IHMA since 2005.

Northampton Branch of Family Legacy Partners Announces Name Change

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton branch of Family Legacy Partners, led by Karen Curran and Molly Keegan, announced a company name change to Curran and Keegan Financial. The company’s office remains in Northampton. This name change allows the company to better reflect a personal promise to help guide clients’ financial futures. Karen Curran and Molly Keegan offer a combined 22 years of service as independent financial advisors, sponsor numerous community events, and serve on several local boards. Keegan is chair of the Hadley Select Board, and Curran sits on the boards of Safe Passage and Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Additionally, the company is beginning its fourth year by adding a new client-services associate, Kori Ferris. Ferris has 12 years of experience in higher education, and she most recently led the Office of Financial Aid at Weill Cornell Medicine. A resident of Greenfield, she joins the company with a focus on helping clients and advisors during the financial-planning and investment process.

Berkshire Hills Touts Employee, Community Investments

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc., the parent of Berkshire Bank, announced additional investments in its employees and communities following the recent passage of federal tax reform legislation. These investments include:

• Raising Berkshire’s minimum wage to $15 per hour;

• Providing a one-time bonus of $1,000 to more than 1,000 employees. This grant benefits all full-time employees below a certain compensation threshold, covering more than 70% of the bank’s workforce, and augments the $500 holiday bonus these colleagues received in the fourth quarter;

• Enhancing Berkshire’s investment in employee development and training programs to benefit employees and bolster the bank’s current offering at AMEBU – American’s Most Exciting Bank University; and

• Contributing $2 million to the Berkshire Bank Foundation, which supports charitable organizations, scholarships, and volunteerism across Berkshire’s local communities. This will bolster the foundation’s endowment and allow for increased local giving. Last year, it provided over $2 million to our local communities, complementing the employee volunteer program, which helps employees contribute more than 40,000 hours of volunteer service each year.

Country Bank Donates to Local Food Pantries

WARE — Community outreach has been a part of Country Bank’s mission since its inception in 1850. During this season of giving, the bank is supporting organizations whose missions are similar, helping friends and neighbors in area communities. In addition to the bank’s annual donation of $28,000 to its local food pantries, Country Bank recently made an additional $10,000 donation to both the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Worcester County Food Bank to help those in need. “With the spirit of the holiday season in mind, the greater need for food and shelter this time of year is critical. These donations were made on behalf of the banks’ employees, corporators, and trustees” said Paul Scully, Country Bank president and CEO.

TommyCar Auto Group Gives Back to Local Veterans

NORTHAMPTON — Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, recently presented Jack Collins, director of the Northampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center, with a check for $1,480. All three of the TommyCar Auto stores, Northampton Volkswagen, Country Nissan, and Country Hyundai, held the same promotion throughout the entire month of November. For every car sold, each dealership would donate $10 to the Northampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center. The stores were able to raise a total of $1,480. “Our veterans have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to protect and keep our country safe. As a business owner, it’s my obligation to give back to our veterans when our veterans give so much,” Cosenzi said. The Northampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides primary, specialty, and mental-health care to 120,000 men and women. The money donated will assist in several services and healthcare programs available for veterans.

Beetle Press Celebrates 20th Anniversary This Year

EASTHAMPTON — Janice Beetle, principal of Beetle Press, a public-relations and communications firm, recently announced she will celebrate 20 years in business in 2018. Beetle established the business in 1998 after working as a journalist for 15 years, first as a beat reporter for the Springfield Republican and then as a writer and editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. That training has helped her assist clients in connecting with the media via press releases. Beetle works with a diverse range of clients from the nonprofit and private sectors. She writes for and edits print pieces such as magazines and annual reports; creates editorial calendars that include print and online media channels; and supports digital-marketing efforts for clients, writing blogs, e-newsletters, and website content. In 2013, she introduced book development to her roster of services, and has since helped launch many authors’ publications. To mark the 20th anniversary for the business, Alison Winkler, a graphic designer native to Northampton who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., adapted the original Beetle Press logo design by Lisa Stowe of Florence, creating an anniversary version. For a number of years, Beetle promoted her business as a one-stop shop, offering writing, editing and graphic-design services. Today, she has returned to her roots, focusing on writing, editing and PR services. When clients need more comprehensive services, she partners with colleagues Ruth Griggs, a marketing strategist, and Maureen Scanlon, a graphic designer, in a collaborative called the Creative. Beetle holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Westfield State College. Since 2003, she has mentored dozens of interns from Westfield State and UMass Amherst. She now employs four former interns on a freelance basis: Shelby Ashline, a graduate of UMass; Shannon Grossman and Ashley Pond, graduates of Westfield State; and David Kennedy, a current Westfield State student. Clients of Beetle Press include Westfield State University, Glenmeadow, Florence Bank, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, Sports Travel and Tours, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Brattleboro Retreat’s Psychology Internship Program Accredited

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — The Brattleboro Retreat announced that its psychology internship program has been awarded a full seven-year accreditation from the American Psychological Assoc. (APA) Commission on Accreditation (CoA). APA-CoA is recognized by both the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the national accrediting authority for professional education and training in psychology. The Retreat launched its psychology internship program in 2011. Since then, 14 individuals have completed the year-long commitment, working 40 hours per week in various programs, including the Retreat’s uniformed service program, Birches Treatment Center, and pain management program as part of their doctoral training in professional psychology. The rigorous process of achieving APA accreditation required the Retreat to submit a detailed self-study designed to assess the internship program’s ability to meet APA accreditation requirements and also to gauge the Retreat’s overall ability to support a quality training environment. Following approval of the self-study, APA-selected site visitors conducted a two-day survey in late 2017 that included meetings with hospital administrators, faculty, and students. An accreditation determination was then made following an extensive APA committee review of all documents and findings.

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AIC Offers Puerto Rico Relief Scholarship
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the opportunity for college students in Puerto Rico to continue their education at AIC at a greatly reduced cost. Through the Puerto Rico Relief Scholarship, the college anticipates that this temporary program will allow students to continue their studies while Puerto Rico rebuilds its infrastructure following the impact of Hurricane Maria. Students who have been displaced from Puerto Rico are invited to apply to AIC to continue their education for the spring 2018 or fall 2018 semester. Students will be offered a flat tuition rate of $10,000 per year. Individuals in this program will be able to apply for additional federal financial aid, which can assist in covering their remaining balance. The college will guide prospective students through the application and financial-aid process. “American International College was founded in 1885 to educate newcomers to the United States and prepare their children for citizenship and success,” said President Vince Maniaci. “Today, AIC boasts an extremely diverse and vibrant student body with a vision of access and opportunity for all. We are proud to take an active role in the Springfield community, including close ties to our Puerto Rican neighbors. With these things in mind, all of us — faculty, staff, and students alike — are aware of the devastation in Puerto Rico and want to provide assistance.” While some educational and residency restrictions may apply, students interested in learning more are invited to call the AIC admissions office at (413) 205-3700 or e-mail [email protected]

Family Business Center Welcomes PeoplesBank as Strategic Partner
AMHERST — The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley is a learning organization of more than 60 member companies, providing opportunities for improvement since 1994. An important resource it provides is the wisdom and experience of expert advisors, who are the center’s strategic partners. Beginning in January, the center welcomes PeoplesBank onto its team of experts, joining Meyers Brothers Kalicka, Bacon Wilson, Giombetti Associates, Epstein Financial Services, Charter Oak Financial, the Axia Group, Johnson & Hill Staffing, and BusinessWest magazine. “PeoplesBank is very happy to be a supporter of the great work of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley,” said Matthew Bannister, PeoplesBank’s first vice president of Marketing & Innovation. “Family businesses are the lifeblood of our community and our regional economy, and we recognize how valuable the services provided by the center are.”

Baystate Wing Hospital Awards Grants to Local Agencies
PALMER — Baystate Wing Hospital announced an investment of $43,226 in grants to benefit local social service, health, and educational programs to area community-based nonprofit organizations. “These grant investments represent Baystate Wing Hospital’s commitment to support and work with our community partners to focus on public-health-related programs and initiatives that reduce health disparities, promote community wellness, and improve access to care in our region,” said Michael Moran, president and chief administrative officer for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Mary Lane and Baystate Wing Hospital. Programs supported by the hospital’s grant investments include:
• Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., $30,000 to support the Quaboag Connector, addressing the serious lack of transportation to employment, education, healthcare, workforce training, shopping, and benefit services within and outside the region;
• The Ware High School Fire Science Program led by Ware Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Wloch, $7,034 toward the goal of improving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) care in the region; and
• Ware River Valley Domestic Violence Task Force, $6,192 to continue improved screening and response to those facing domestic and sexual violence in the Baystate Health Eastern Region.
“Our physicians, nurses, and staff all strive to improve the health of the people we serve through exceptional care and innovative health initiatives,” said Moran. “The Baystate Wing Corporation is proud to partner with area agencies to help us do this important work together to improve the health and well-being of our community.”

PeoplesBank Receives Green-business Award
HOLYOKE — The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank the 2017 Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year for mid-sized business in Western Mass. The bank has been a long-time leader in environmental sustainability, having built three LEED-certified offices and financed more than $145 million in wind, hydroelectric, and solar-energy projects. “As the largest mutual bank in the Pioneer Valley, we deliberately invest in environmental sustainability in our communities,” noted Thomas Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank. “That includes large-scale hydroelectric and solar projects, but also grassroots work with mobile farmers markets and local agriculture.” SBN was founded in 1988 as the nation’s first business trade association, with a mission of making business a vehicle for social, environmental, and economic change.

Bay Path Launches MS in Healthcare Management
LONGMEADOW — Healthcare today requires multi-dimensional leaders whose knowledge spans professional leadership, healthcare, science, and information technology. Coupled with the dynamic complexities of the healthcare system, increasing compliance regulations, technical advances, and higher costs, the demand for professionals who have expertise in both healthcare management and organizational leadership is rapidly rising. Medical and health service managers have strong career prospects, with projected employment growth of 17% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. To respond to this growing need, Bay Path University has launched a master of science (MS) degree program in Healthcare Management, now enrolling for February 2018. “As with all of our programs, the curriculum for the MS in Healthcare Management supports the candidate in developing his or her skills in decision making, communication and presentations skills, interpersonal relations, and being an agent of change — all of which are needed for key level management positions,” said Liz Fleming, associate provost and dean, School of Education, Human and Health Sciences. “We are proud to add it to our increasing catalog of undergraduate and graduate certificates and degree programs in health-related fields that have been shown to result in immediate job placements upon completion.” Healthcare administrators come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some may have direct patient-care experience, while others may have specialized in business, administration, public health, or a specific area of healthcare, including human resources. This program is designed for individuals with or without a related undergraduate degree who hope to shape the future of healthcare. Bay Path University’s MS in Healthcare Management, led by Terry DeVito, aims to prepare graduates for leadership roles in both traditional and non-traditional settings and industries including healthcare organizations and facilities, consulting, law, insurance and government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare informatics and analytics. The program is designed to address the multi-dimensional complexities facing the 21st-century healthcare industry as it transforms into a business model while maintaining the humanistic needs of patients’ individual needs. The curriculum is structured in a manner that embeds foundational information that prepares candidates for additional credentialing opportunities for professional career advancement. DeVito’s practice as a registered nurse, hospital administrator, and educator bring firsthand knowledge regarding quality in healthcare service delivery and the qualities required in leadership roles. To learn more about this program, visit www.baypath.edu/healthcaremanagement.

O&P Labs Steps Up Again to Fulfill Christmas Wishes
SPRINGFIELD — For many years, Orthotics & Prosthetics Labs Inc. of Springfield has been a Secret Santa to the children and youth of CHD. This year, Maria Burke of O&P Labs visited CHD’s main office in Springfield and left with a handful of ‘wish tags,’ each noting a specific holiday wish, that she took from the giving tree on display in CHD’s reception lobby. Following the company’s tradition, O&P gave their staff time to shop for the gifts together during work hours, then paid for the gifts and returned them to CHD. “We are delighted to again be the Secret Santa for the kids of CHD,” said Maria Burke of O&P Labs. “Every single staff member agrees that this ‘work activity’ is their favorite. We are grateful to CHD for reaching so many in need during this season and throughout the year.” Added Kimberley Lee, vice president of Development for CHD, “all the tags were hung by reception with care, in hopes that O&P Labs soon would be there … and they were there! It’s heartwarming to have O&P Labs return year after year to help make Christmas a happy occasion for children and youth by providing a holiday gift — everything from a teddy bear to a toddler bed. It’s fitting that a company whose business is helping people year-round makes a special effort during the holidays to help those most in need.” O&P Labs provides high-quality, physician-directed orthotic- and prosthetic-related services, including custom-made braces and prosthetic limbs fabricated on site, as well as off-the-shelf braces.

Robinson Donovan, Gray House Partner on Adopt-a-Family Program
SPRINGFIELD — Robinson Donovan, P.C. ‘adopted’ three families as part of the Gray House Adopt-a-Family Christmas program. During the event, the Gray House pairs local businesses with underprivileged families to fulfill Christmas wish lists for their children. “Robinson Donovan takes pride in giving back to our community,” said Nancy Frankel Pelletier, a partner with the firm. “We’ve made a commitment to donate to a charity in the surrounding area every month, and we couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up this amazing year.” Robinson Donovan stepped up this holiday season to join forces with the Gray House to help make Christmas wish lists come true for three families, who would otherwise struggle to put gifts under the Christmas tree. In addition to the Adopt-a-Family Christmas program, the Gray House hosts a general toy drive for children in the community, and with the help of local schools and shelters, it collected toys for an additional 500 children. Throughout the past year, Robinson Donovan provided donations to the following nonprofit organizations benefiting the Pioneer Valley, many of which members of the firm regularly volunteer for, including Providence Ministries Service Network, Friends of the Homeless Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Bay Path University, Cutchins Center for Children, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Hampden County, Community Legal Aid, Dakin Humane Society, the Gray House, Homework House, the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and Springfield Museums. “Robinson Donovan participates in many philanthropic events throughout the year, and staff consistently donate their time to those in need,” said attorney James Martin. “This is another opportunity where we can give back to those less fortunate. Christmas can be a stressful time for families, and our team strives to help ease the burden.”

Berkshire Bank Awards $14,000 to Jimmy Fund, Dana-Farber
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank, in partnership with New England Sports Network (NESN), has awarded a $14,000 grant to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Berkshire Bank Exciting Assists Grant Program. Dr. Pasi Janne, program director, Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, accepted the contribution from Gary Levante, Berkshire Bank’s assistant vice president of Community Engagement, during NESN’s broadcast of the Boston Bruins hockey game on Dec. 16. The Exciting Assists Grant program runs through March 31, 2018 and raises funds to support three charitable causes. Berkshire Bank’s Foundation provides $100 per hockey assist to the program. An assist is defined as a Boston Bruins player who shoots, passes, or deflects the puck toward a scoring teammate, or touches it in any other way which enables the goal. During the first portion of the season, the Bruins had 140 assists, resulting in a $14,000 grant from the Berkshire Bank Foundation. The Jimmy Fund, the first nonprofit beneficiary of the Exciting Assists Grant program, supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. In addition to the Jimmy Fund, two other nonprofit organizations will receive funding during the remainder of the season, including Bridge Over Trouble Waters, which provides life-changing services for homeless and high-risk youth (promotion period: Dec. 16 to Feb. 9); and Boston Cares, which mobilizes and trains individual and corporate volunteers to fill more than 20,000 volunteer spots annually in support of more than 165 Greater Boston schools and nonprofit agencies (promotion period: Feb. 10 to March 31).

AIC Launches Rex’s Pantry to Assist People in Need
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently launched Rex’s Pantry, a food and necessities pantry housed on the AIC campus to assist community members in need. On Dec. 22, the inaugural deliveries took place, with 100 Rex to the Rescue kits going to Friends of the Homeless on Worthington Street. The kits contained an assortment of hats, socks, gloves, and foot and hand warmers. Later, AIC personnel delivered 100 Rex to the Rescue kits to the Springfield Rescue Mission, containing boxed lunches, bottled water, snacks, and non-perishable food items. “This time of year is celebratory for many, but we cannot forget those who are homeless or who struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. While American International College reaches out to the community in many ways throughout the year, Rex’s Pantry is an opportunity for us to do more to help those in need of assistance,” said Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Jeffrey Bednarz. Later that day, AIC staff members stopped by Springfield Fire Department Station 8 and the Springfield Police Department with trays of lasagna in gratitude for first responders’ dedicated service to the college. The donations are a collaborative effort at AIC. Food was prepared by Chartwells Dining Services for Higher Education, a division of Compass – USA Foodservice. C&W Services and G4S, in charge of facilities and campus security, respectively, at the college, donated hats, socks, gloves, and warmers. The AIC Campus Bookstore provided backpacks to hold the contents of the Rex to the Rescue kits. Community members interested in donating non-perishable food items, toiletries, or other necessities to Rex’s Pantry are invited to call (413) 205-3231.

CHD Receives Planning Grant for Opioid Treatment, Recovery
SPRINGFIELD — RIZE Massachusetts, a statewide philanthropic initiative, chose the Center for Human Development (CHD) as one of six organizations throughout the state to receive $50,000 in design grants for its inaugural “Saving Lives, Improving Health: Redesigning Opioid Use Disorder Care” program. CHD was the only organization based in Western Mass. to receive funding. The goal of the grant program is to establish or expand systems of low-threshold, on-demand treatment to prevent death, support long-term recovery, and improve health and quality of life. An estimated 4% of people in Massachusetts have an opioid-use disorder, and 2,107 people died of an overdose last year. The six grant recipients will collaborate with dozens of different agencies and organizations within their communities to provide a more comprehensive system of care that will serve the most vulnerable populations throughout the Commonwealth. “It’s quite clear there is enormous potential and energy in Massachusetts to address the opioid epidemic in a thoughtful, innovative, and evidence-generating manner. This first round of design grant recipients all have proven track records of taking on tough healthcare challenges with creativity, compassion, and rigor,” said RIZE board chair Dr. David Torchiana, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare. The other five grant recipients are the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Community Healthlink in Worcester, and Lynn Community Health Center. The grantees proposed promising approaches to delivering care for people at greatest risk of opioid overdose and addiction, including the use of medication-assisted treatment. “We need a treatment model specifically focused on our rural geography and more resources to fight this crisis in Western Mass. This RIZE grant will provide a critical infusion of funds to the area,” said CHD President and CEO Jim Goodwin. RIZE Executive Director Julie Burns said the organization will evaluate the effectiveness of the design grants using shared measures and data protocols and will fund two-year implementation grants for the programs that demonstrate the greatest potential. Implementation grants will be awarded in June 2018.

Company Notebook Departments

UMass Amherst Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Large Battery Project

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has been awarded a $1.1 million state grant from the Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage (ACES) project to work with Tesla Energy to construct a large battery at the Central Heating Plant on the west side of campus. The project involves a 1-megawatt/4-megawatt-hour lithium ion battery storage system that will be designed and constructed by Tesla Energy adjacent to the campus power plant. Working with Tesla and the UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE), the goal is to reduce peak energy demand on the Amherst campus and related costs. The battery storage system will provide power at times when it is purchased from the power grid, help optimize how the campus integrates its current mix of power generation, and provide a research site for clean-energy experts, researchers, and students. Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award of 26 grants totaling $20 million at an event in Marlborough. “The development and deployment of energy-storage projects will be vital to the Commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency,” he said. “Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.” Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services at UMass Amherst, noted that “not only will we see utility budget savings, our project will provide on-campus data to support research, and Tesla will provide $80,000 of educational initiatives for our students.” To meet the research goals, Tesla is contributing the funding for educational initiatives during the life of the 15-year project to pay for a range of educational opportunities for UMass Amherst staff and students, including paid internships, career mentorships, lectures, and curriculum development related to solar and energy storage. CEE will also study the operations and maximize learning from the battery-system operations. The campus currently gets 15 megawatts of power from co-generation at the Central Heating Plant and about 5 megawatts from solar voltaic generation as part of one of the most sophisticated power microgrids in the state. The battery storage capacity will be used to balance constraints on those sources and reduce instances when power is purchased from the outside power grid, campus officials say. It will also demonstrate the role that energy storage can plan within a system that has multiple sources of power. The battery system will also bring a new level of resiliency to the campus power grid that can operate independent of the electrical power system in the event of a large-scale power outage. The campus power system hosts the Mullins Center, a regional emergency shelter for Hampshire County and its population of 160,000 citizens. By charging the battery system during off-peak periods and discharging at times peak demand, such as early evening hours during winter months and middle to late afternoon during the summer months, it will help replace less efficient generators, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower costs. The UMass Amherst physical plant will operate the battery system, and Tesla will manage the design, permitting, construction, and maintenance of the battery system. UMass CEE will provide operations analysis and support as part of its research.

The Yoga Shop Opens First Massachusetts Location

LUDLOW — A pair of local women entrepreneurs opened the Yoga Shop in Massachusetts on Dec. 23 at 185 Miller St. in Ludlow. Allison Gomes and Liz Salvador, who found a love for yoga and endeavor to share it with the local community, are partnering with Annie Simard and Kim Charbonneau to open the Yoga Shop’s fourth studio in its first Massachusetts location. Located just off the Mass Pike, the Yoga Shop will offer Vinyasa-style yoga classes for all levels as well as teacher trainings, workshops, and retreats under the LivFree Power Yoga brand. LivFree Power Yoga classes utilize heat and a dynamic sequence of Vinyasa poses, one of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S., to teach fun, creative classes that leave participants feeling energized. “The Yoga Shop already has three great locations in Connecticut, and we couldn’t be more excited to grow our family and community in Ludlow,” said Simard, one of the the Yoga Shop’s founders. The Ludlow location is home to two spacious yoga studios and features a range of amenities including private changing rooms, yoga-mat storage, and a full retail boutique, Grace+GRIT, showcasing men’s and women’s activewear and a variety of accessories. A range of class package options are available.

Bradley Airport Recognized in Condé Nast Traveler

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Condé Nast Traveler has released the results of its 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, and Bradley International Airport has been recognized as the fifth-best airport in the U.S. with a score of 82.35. “We are very proud to have earned this prestigious recognition, and we thank not only the many travelers who voted for us, but all of the millions of passengers who choose Bradley for their travel needs on an annual basis,” said CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon. “This distinguished award from the travel community is a testament to our continuous growth and commitment to top-quality customer service at Bradley Airport. It motivates us to keep up the momentum and continue finding creative and innovative ways to meet and exceed our travelers’ expectations.” More than 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments, voting on a record-breaking 7,320 hotels and resorts, 610 cities, 225 islands, 468 cruise ships, 158 airlines, and 195 airports. The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running recognition of excellence in the travel industry. They were announced in the magazine’s November issue and are available online at www.cntraveler.com/rca.

Bay Path Reports on Recent Charitable Activities

LONGMEADOW — In the spirit of the season, the students, staff, and faculty of Bay Path University have been hard at work giving back to the community. The university kicked off its charitable activities this fall with its 2017 Charitable Fund drive in support of the United Way of Pioneer Valley and Community Health Charities. The university’s partnership with these organizations dates back at least 14 years, and in that time, a total of nearly $200,000 was donated by Bay Path faculty and staff. For 2017, the most substantial sum to date was raised: $20,634. “The Bay Path community never ceases to amaze me with their generosity,” said Keith Sbriscia, associate director of Human Resources, who runs the United Way and Community Health Charities fund-raiser. Both Community Health Charities and the United Way are umbrella organizations that represent other nonprofits through partnerships and raise funds on their behalf through workplace giving campaigns and engagement opportunities. Partner charities also have the opportunity to receive funding through grants. Community Health Charities raises awareness and resources for health and wellness by connecting more than 2,000 of the most trusted health charities across the U.S., reaching 17 million donors every year, through workplace giving campaigns, causes, wellness programs, employee engagement, and strategic partnerships. United Way of Pioneer Valley creates opportunities and improves lives in 25 cities and towns through the United Way Community Fund, and mobilizes people and resources to strengthen area communities by tackling complex issues and driving sustainable change. The Bay Path students are equally committed to supporting the community and have coordinated many student-driven efforts this fall, including, but not limited to, book, diaper, toy, and food drives and several other donations to meet the needs of local organizations. The annual book drive, which benefits a different charity each year, generated close to 1,000 book donations for the Homework House. The university’s annual Giving Tree hosted by the Education Club to make the holiday season merrier for children from the Greater Springfield area just wrapped up collecting gifts for families in need this holiday season. The canned-food drive to assist in restocking local food pantries that run out of goods during the holiday season, hosted by the university’s Student Government Alliance, is also underway. Further, Bay Path University has selected New North Citizens Council of Springfield as its holiday charity. “The devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is overwhelming, and many of the families and loved ones of students, faculty, and staff have been impacted by the catastrophic damage caused by the storm,” said Kathleen Halpin-Robbins, assistant vice president and director of Human Resources. As more and more families are leaving Puerto Rico to find shelter with family and friends in the continental U.S., many cities in New England are welcoming these families. New North Citizens Council (NNCC) has been designated by Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico as a welcome center for Puerto Rican evacuees in Springfield.

Valley Health Systems Supports 13 Families over the Holidays

HOLYOKE — Employees of Valley Health Systems, which includes Holyoke Medical Center, the Holyoke Visiting Nurse Assoc. & Hospice Life Care, Western Mass Physician Associates, and River Valley Counseling Center, have joined together to help support 13 families in need of assistance this holiday season. The families consist of 40 children and 12 adults and are affiliated with the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club and WIC.

OMG Roofing Products Introduces RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool

AGAWAM — OMG Roofing Products has introduced a plate-marking tool designed to help roofers improve rooftop productivity by quickly locating and marking RhinoBond Plates installed under thermoplastic membranes. The new RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool is lightweight, simple-to-use, and easy-to-maneuver. Simply roll the marking tool over a row of installed RhinoBond Plates. Every time it passes over a properly installed plate, the tool leaves a temporary mark on the surface of the membrane to identify the plate location. Plate marks are made with standard blue construction crayons and typically fade away within a few weeks. The plate-marking tool is compatible with all thermoplastic membranes regardless of type or thickness. In addition, the tool’s handle is reversible for quick direction changes, and lies flat for rolling under rooftop pipes and raised equipment such as air-handling units. Other benefits of the new system include powerful sweeper magnets mounted on the front and back of the chassis that pick up any metal debris on the roof. The tool is provided in a protective carrying case for easy handling and storage. “Many roofers understand the tremendous productivity and performance benefits that RhinoBond offers,” said Web Shaffer, vice president of marketing for OMG. “In fact, some roofers have reported productivity-rate improvements of up to 30%. To enhance the systems’ overall productivity offering, we wanted to make it even easier for roofers not only to find, but also to clearly ‘see’ the installed RhinoBond Plates beneath the membrane. The new RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool makes this possible.” The RhinoBond System is designed for use with TPO and PVC roofing membranes. The system uses advanced induction-welding technology to bond roofing membranes directly to specially coated plates that secure the insulation to the deck. The result is a roofing system with improved wind performance that requires fewer fasteners, plates, and seams, and zero penetrations of the new membrane.

Jean Kelley, Joe Malmborg Attend National Conference

NORTHAMPTON — Jean Kelley and Joe Malmborg, advisors of Kelley and Malmborg Investment Consulting Group in Northampton, recently attended a national educational conference for independent financial advisors. Hosted by Commonwealth Financial Network, the nation’s largest privately held registered investment advisor – independent broker/dealer, the October event drew 1,641 affiliated advisors, staff, guests, and sponsors from across the nation. Participants gathered in San Diego, where they connected and collaborated with peers, colleagues, and industry partners to strengthen their leadership skills and enhance the high-end service they provide to clients. With the theme, “Personal Currency: Human Connections/Patterns for Success,” the conference encouraged attendees to explore how the relationships that they build, nurture, and sustain — both professionally and personally — influence their success. Keynote speakers offered topical remarks tailored specifically to an advisor audience. In an informal ‘fireside chat,’ former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, joined by Commonwealth’s Joni Youngwirth, managing principal, Practice Management, offered insights about effective diplomacy. Albright outlined the real keys to diplomacy as the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and to have a clear understanding of what the other person wants. Ken Blanchard, author, leadership expert, and co-founder of international management training/consulting firm the Ken Blanchard Companies, spoke about the innate leader in everyone. International portrait photographer Platon brought the conference theme to life, sharing powerful personal stories about connecting on a human level with his subjects, including Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg. The conference concluded on a continued high note, with a closing event held at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. The attendees were treated to live entertainment, a grand tour of the facility, a BBQ, and practicing their batting skills at batting cages placed throughout the park.

Company Notebook Departments

Vibra Hospital to Close Springfield Facility in March

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

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Input on Charitable Giving

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

Meredith-Springfield Associates Named Manufacturer of the Year

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

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

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

Cambridge College, ILI Announce Partnership

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

Chicopee Savings Foundation Endows Scholarship at WNEU

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

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

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

WSU, GCC Announce Nursing-degree Partnership

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

CHD to Serve More Youth with New Ware Office

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

DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology Honored by Modern Salon Media

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

HCC Awarded Grant to Expand Community Health Worker Program

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

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STCC Partners with Northeastern University

SPRINGFIELD — A new educational and workforce-development partnership between Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Northeastern University creates an opportunity for current STCC students, graduates, and the general public to earn bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and advanced manufacturing systems on site at STCC. In a recent ceremony at STCC, leaders from both institutions officially signed a memorandum of understanding to mark this partnership. In the planning stages for more than a year, the agreement with STCC marks the first time Northeastern has partnered with a community college to offer bachelor’s degrees on site. “Our engineering and manufacturing programs continue to be a signature of STCC, and we are very pleased to collaborate with Northeastern to deepen and enhance workforce efforts for Western Massachusetts,” said John Cook, STCC president. Added Mary Loeffelholz, dean of Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, “we’re pleased to partner with Springfield Technical Community College as it expands opportunities for students. Both of our institutions value experiential learning and industry-aligned degrees to prepare students for career and life success.” Students may choose either a pathway to a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology or in advanced manufacturing systems from Northeastern to be completed online and at STCC. Both degrees are part of the Lowell Institute School at Northeastern, which offers 15 bachelor’s-degree programs, 10 of which are available completely online. “This partnership with STCC is in keeping with the mission and tradition of the Lowell Institute School, which began when A. Lawrence Lowell created the Lowell Institute School for Industrial Foremen in 1903,” said Kemi Jona, founding director of the Lowell Institute School and associate dean of Undergraduate Programs. “The goal then was to bring essential knowledge and opportunity to the people doing the work driving the economy of the new century. Today, the Lowell Institute School is still committed to this goal, reaching students in new ways and places.” The agreement maximizes convenience and cost-effectiveness for STCC graduates who wish to obtain bachelor’s degrees in the two programs, said Adrienne Smith, dean of the School of Engineering Technologies & Mathematics at STCC. Smith said most STCC students have families in the area and would prefer to get their bachelor’s degrees in the Springfield area. In addition to some online courses, classes will take place in the evening and possibly Saturdays.

United Bank Foundation Supports Baystate Project

SPRINGFIELD — The United Bank Foundation Massachusetts recently approved a $50,000 grant designated to help Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Health Foundation establish a permanent Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit at the hospital. Baystate launched its ACE unit as a pilot program in September 2014, providing nationally recognized and award-winning geriatric care that has resulted in many positive clinical outcomes for elder patients at the medical center, including reducing the length of hospital stays for elderly patients, enhancing patient safety, boosting training for medical staff, and increasing the number of patients who return directly home after their hospital stay. Due to the success of the pilot program, Baystate is seeking partners like United Bank to help establish a permanent, state-of-the-art ACE unit. This 32-bed unit would enable Baystate to provide acute care to more elderly patients in Western Mass. To date, Baystate’s ACE unit has treated approximately 500 elderly patients. According to the Baystate Health Foundation, the elderly population in Western Mass. — which is currently among the highest in the state — is expected to rise by nearly 15% in 2018. By 2030, the older adult population will increase to more than 70 million and account for one in every five Americans. “For anyone who has an elderly family member who required a prolonged hospital stay, you want peace of mind knowing your loved ones are comfortable in a compassionate setting, receiving top medical care, and are on course to return home to lead independent lives when they are discharged,” said Dena Hall, the bank’s Western Mass. regional president and president of the United Bank Foundation Massachusetts. “Baystate has a proven record for meeting these patient-care goals and successfully addressing the unique physical and psychological needs of elderly patients. We know our $50,000 financial commitment will help Baystate continue to be a leader in transforming elder care in Western Mass.”

AIC Named to Top 10 Small Colleges in State

SPRINGFIELD — Zippia.com, a website dedicated to helping people find and pursue the right career, has named American International College (AIC) one of the top 10 small colleges in Massachusetts. Zippia sorted schools in the Bay State by enrollment, limiting their report to institutions with fewer than 2,000 students. They assessed data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and college scorecard data from www.ed.gov to determine what small schools offer the best career opportunities and school performance. Career considerations included mean earnings after six and 10 years, and the ratio of people working to not working after 10 years. School performance was measured in terms of admissions rate (the more selective, the better), graduation rate, average cost of attendance (the lower, the better), and debt upon graduation. Once career opportunities and school performance were calculated, Zippia examined the 32 institutions of higher learning in Massachusetts enrolling fewer than 2,000 students. American International College is one of the private schools to be recognized. AIC admits 67% of its students and is the 10th-least-expensive small college to attend in the Commonwealth.

Westfield Bank, Customers Raise Hurricane-relief Funds

WESTFIELD — Westfield Bank presented a donation for $8,000 to the Westfield Spanish American Assoc. and the Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico coalition to aid relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The funds were raised during the Bank’s “Casual for a Cause” event held earlier this month, in which employees could earn the privilege of dressing casually by contributing to the fund-raiser. Bank customers were also invited to drop contributions in collection boxes located at the Bank’s 21 branch offices. Together, employees and customers donated $4,000, and Westfield Bank matched their efforts with an additional $4,000. According to Ed Diaz, co-founder of the Westfield Spanish American Assoc. (WSAA) and chairman of the association’s hurricane relief fund, the bank’s donation will be sent directly to the United for Puerto Rico relief fund. Together, the WSAA and Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico form a coalition of community groups; civic and business leaders; volunteers from Springfield, Holyoke, Westfield, and Chicopee; and others in Western Mass. working to bring relief to the people of Puerto Rico. “Over $100,000 has been raised thus far,” said Diaz, “and we have collected other items such as batteries, water, sanitary products, canned foods, and radios at drop-off points at the Westfield Boys & Girls Club, the Westfield YMCA, and the Westfield school superintendent’s office. We have shipped over 250 boxes of goods to Puerto Rico, and we thank Westfield Bank and everyone who donated to this cause and volunteered their time and talent for this effort.” Both Westfield Bank and the WSAA plan to continue their efforts on behalf of Hurricane Maria relief. With significant support from the WSAA and the Portuguese American Club in Chicopee, a group of Westfield Bank employee volunteers is organizing a benefit dance on Saturday, Dec. 2. The dance will be held from 6 p.m. until midnight at the Portuguese American Club, 149 Exchange St., Chicopee. For more details, visit any Westfield Bank office.

State Awards HCC $229,500 for Culinary Arts Institute

HOLYOKE — The HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute got a big boost yesterday from the governor’s office with the awarding of a $229,500 grant for the purchase of computer and kitchen equipment for the new downtown training facility, which is expected to open next month. During an appearance at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a total of $9.5 million in Workforce Skills Capital Grants to 32 community colleges, high schools, and educational institutions to enhance and expand career training programs like the ones Holyoke Community College (HCC) will be operating at the Cubit Building on the corner of Race and Appleton streets in the city’s Innovation District. “These Skills Capital Grants will help boost our economy and equip students with new skills, knowledge, and experience with state-of-the-art equipment across the Commonwealth,” Baker said. “We look forward to continuing our work with these 32 institutions and previous awardees to enhance their programs and develop a skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of the Commonwealth.” The HCC grant will be used to buy 32 computer workstations, networking infrastructure, and software programs unique to hospitality- and culinary-industry workplaces, as well as kitchen equipment such as refrigerators, grill and fry tables, ice machines, skillets, griddles, steamers, and dishwashers. “All the items purchased with the grant will directly support workforce training for occupations within the growing hospitality and culinary-arts industry of Western Massachusetts, including preparing workers for MGM Springfield, one of our major employer partners,” said Amy Dopp, HCC’s interim vice president of Institutional Advancement. She said the new equipment will allow the college to increase the number of seats available in its credit and non-credit programs and be able to customize instruction to meet the needs of local employers. Construction of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which will occupy nearly 20,000 square feet on the first and second floors of the Cubit Building, is expected to be completed in late November, with non-credit workforce-training programs beginning in December. HCC’s credit programs in hospitality and culinary arts will relocate from the main campus to the new facility for the beginning of the spring 2018 semester.

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Davis Foundation, Businesses Contribute $100,000 to VVM

SPRINGFIELD — The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts (EDC) announced that several of its members came together to donate a total of $50,000 to Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) to fulfill a match put forth by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation. VVM will now receive $100,000 that will go towards programs providing mentorship, education, and community for entrepreneurs, ultimately fueling economic development in the region. “Once again, EDC members have come together leading the region in driving innovation and commerce,” said EDC President Rick Sullivan. “Valley Venture Mentors outcomes are astounding. Their entrepreneurs are creating jobs, revenue, and investment that are transforming Springfield and Western Mass. The Davis Match is a great example of how leaders of the business community are working to ensure economic prosperity for.” Organizations that donated to the Davis match include Balise Motor Sales, Bulkley Richardson, Columbia Gas, Mercy Medical Center, Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, the Republican, and UMass Amherst.

Driving for the Cure Tourney Raises Record Amount

HADLEY — The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament set a new fund-raising record by raising $131,300 to support Dr. Patrick Wen and his research colleagues in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The tournament was held on Aug. 21 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow and Elmcrest Country Club in East Longmeadow, followed by a dinner at Twin Hills Country Club attended by more than 300 guests. The dinner featured a performance by Noah Lis from The Voice along with John Dennis, celebrity emcee of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon and featured a raffle and live and silent auctions. The event’s platinum sponsor was Edmunds. The tournament was started by Carla and Tommy Cosenzi, co-presidents of TommyCar Auto Group, to honor the legacy of their father, Tom Cosenzi, who passed away from a glioblastoma in 2009 and dreamed of a cure for brain cancer. What started as a small, four-team tournament in 2009 has grown to become one of the largest charity tournaments in Western Mass., with more than 52 teams and 300+ participants. Proceeds from tournament sponsorships help Dana-Farber researchers design novel clinical trials to test and develop targeted therapies that have not previously been studied in brain tumors, initiate several clinical trials in immunotherapy, and conduct groundbreaking basic research to guide new therapeutic approaches. Since its inception in 2009, the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament has donated $830,712. “Every year, I think it’s the best one yet,” said Carla Cosenzi. “However, I’m proud to say that our players and sponsors continue to come through, making each year more successful than  the last.” Visit tomcosenzidrivingforthecure.com for information about the 2018 tournament, which will mark the event’s 10th year.

Thunderbirds Ink Marketing Partnership with Lottery

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, announced a new marketing partnership with the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. The Lottery will receive branding at Thunderbirds home games and arena signage at the MassMutual Center. The organizations have launched a “Salute to Soldiers” initiative. As part of this military-appreciation platform, an armed forces member or veteran, along with their family, will be recognized at Friday home games. This program is designed to honor men and women for going beyond the call of duty. The partnership will also feature “Winning Weekdays,” which reward all fans in attendance with a ticket to a future game when the T-Birds win. “Sports and the lottery are both synonymous with winning,” said Chris Thompson, senior vice president, Sales & Strategy for the Thunderbirds. “The Thunderbirds are excited to partner with the most successful lottery in the country and share our mission of giving back to the community.” Added Edward Farley, assistant executive director and chief administrative officer, Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, “we are excited about this opportunity to recognize deserving individuals among us who have dedicated themselves to serving others.” The Thunderbirds opened their 2017-18 home ice schedule on Oct. 14 with a matchup with the rival Hartford Wolf Pack. Ticket memberships, including season tickets, are on sale now, starting at $12 per game. Thunderbirds full-season ticket members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order, call (413) 739-4625 or visit www.springfieldthunderbirds.com.

Big Y Looks to Combat Opioid-related Deaths

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Pharmacy and Wellness Centers can now prescribe and fill naloxone for customers in all 39 of its pharmacy locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. This effort is intended to help prevent opioid-related deaths throughout the region. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. All Big Y pharmacists are trained to assist patients and their family members on how to recognize signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer this medication. According to state government data, in 2016 opioid-related deaths claimed nearly 2,000 lives in Massachusetts and 1,000 in Connecticut. Naloxone can be administered to any person who has overdosed on a variety of opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, and even heroin. “Many of our pharmacists have contributed their professional expertise during panels at local opioid-epidemic forums in our communities. The ability to now prescribe and fill naloxone for our patients and their families is just another way we can help them prevent an accidental overdose, save lives, and allow our patients the opportunity to seek long-term treatment,” said Nicole D’Amour Schneider, director of Pharmacy.

CATIC Relocates Office to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — CATIC has relocated its Western Mass. office to One Monarch Place, Suite 1210, in Springfield. The building, located in the heart of Springfield’s Financial District, with easy access to I-91 and the Mass Pike, offers state-of-the-art accommodations and convenience for its customers, said Jim Bilodeau, CATIC’s Massachusetts state manager. “One Monarch Place is a beautiful building in a central location,” he added. “This new space enhances our ability to serve clients in Western Massachusetts.”
The Springfield office’s telephone number is (413) 552-3400. CATIC, currently licensed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, is an underwriting member of the American Land Title Assoc. and North American Bar-Related Title Insurers.

Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Gives $6,000 to Hurricane Relief

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm of Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley this week donated $6,000 to the Red Cross as part of a sponsorship for the organization’s hurricane-relief golf tournament held Oct. 2 at the Haven Country Club in Boylston. “In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Maria, we wanted to make a contribution that we knew would make a difference,” said firm partner Patrick McHugh. “There is no organization as committed to providing life saving assistance as the Red Cross.” McHugh and the law firm have many clients with direct ties to Puerto Rico and are involved in the Puerto Rican community in Western Mass. and throughout the state. “When you see such devastation in Puerto Rico and, of course, in Texas and Florida, you feel a need to do what you can. It’s frustrating to be so far away, but it is critical that all of us as Americans work to affect a positive outcome for the people who are so tragically impacted by these natural disasters,” said McHugh, who is also a Red Cross board member. “I know first-hand the incredible work that the Red Cross does, and our firm for decades has stood with this organization to lend whatever support we can to their efforts. We are so very proud of our affiliation with them.”

Florence Bank Ad Campaign Features Local Residents

FLORENCE — Florence Bank knows people are at the heart of the communities it serves. Pioneer Valley residents are proud of their roots, and Florence Bank embraced the opportunity to put that on display with the launch of its new television commercials. The new ads showcase the Pioneer Valley by featuring local residents celebrating the diversity and inclusiveness of the region’s people. As in years past, the ads place the musical spotlight on the bank’s tagline “Always.” This year, new lyrics were written for the bank’s signature song to display the essence of each resident featured in the commercials. Among those featured in the new Florence Bank commercials are Bud Stockwell, owner of Cornucopia Foods; Melissa Torres, a volunteer with Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen; sports broadcaster Scott Coen; Mohamed Ibrahim, a teacher at the International Language Institute; Madeline Nagy of Dakin Humane Society; Mark Giza, owner of Mark Henry Florist; and Alicia Zitka, a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield. When asked what makes the Pioneer Valley such a special place to live, Ibrahim said, “it’s an integrated community with a lot of warmth and love.” Zitka added, “I live here, I work here, I volunteer my time and energy here, and this is my heart; this is my home.” Stockwell also understands the importance of the word “local” and has seen firsthand the progression of his community throughout the decades. However, the loyalty of his customers has stayed consistently fierce, he said, adding that “we were local back in 1980 when there was no such thing as local.” The ads were created by Sean Tracey Associates, the advertising agency that has produced Florence Bank’s award-winning ad campaigns for several years. “Our intent with these commercials is to stay true to the message that the Pioneer Valley is a remarkable place to live and work,” said Monica Curhan, senior vice president and marketing director at Florence Bank. “We think that has once again been achieved with this year’s ad campaign, and we look forward to hearing what our customers, both present and future, have to say.”

AIC’s Freshman Class Second-largest in a Decade

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced its second-largest freshman class since 2007 with a total enrollment of 504 new students. “The demographics in New England are declining and are projected to drop for the foreseeable future. This geographic area is dense with colleges in a highly competitive landscape. With those considerations in mind, we are very pleased to have reached and surpassed our enrollment goal,” said Jonathan Scully, dean of Undergraduate Admissions. “This is also one of the most academically competitive classes we have accepted in the last five years. Incoming students are from richly diverse backgrounds, and many are first-generation, which has long been central to the AIC mission.”

Chicopee Savings Foundation Supports Dress for Success Boutique

SPRINGFIELD — The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation recently presented Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts with a donation of $1,000 to support its boutique operations. “Dress for Success provides a tremendous service to women in our community who are working toward achieving financial independence,” said William Wagner, president of Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. Located at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Dress for Success boutique outfits women as they prepare for job interviews and career enhancement opportunities. “If our community is to achieve true economic success, we need a workforce that is prepared in every way,” said Dawn Creighton, president of Dress for Success. “We couldn’t be more grateful for the support of organizations like the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation who understand and appreciate the need for our programs and services.”

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Valley Blue Sox Break into Top 10 in Collegiate Baseball Attendance

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox have officially broken into the top 10 for average attendance among summer collegiate baseball teams nationally, according to BallparkDigest.com. In addition, the 2,121 average attendance at 2017 Blue Sox games also placed first in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the second consecutive year. The 10th-place ranking — following an 11th-place ranking in 2016 — comes on the heels of a challenging 2017 season where weather wasn’t kind to the Blue Sox, as they ended up having six games postponed due to rain. “We had some challenges this year with weather, so being able to crack the top 10 in spite of that is quite an accomplishment, but also a pretty good harbinger of things to come,” said Blue Sox President Clark Eckhoff. “Just to be where we were five years ago to now is something else, and it’s been a lot of hard work and heavy lifting from a lot of good people that’s made this all happen.” This past summer saw not only the team’s first championship in franchise history, but also several upgrades to Mackenzie Stadium, including a new playing surface and bullpens. A new concessions and restroom facility is on track for completion by the 2018 season. In addition to its national standing among collegiate-level teams, the Blue Sox also topped several professional, affiliated teams as well, finishing ahead of teams in Staten Island, N.Y., Modesto, Calif., and Daytona Beach, Fla. In addition to the success off the field, the team posted its second-best record in team history and capped it off with a run to the championship in which the Blue Sox swept every team in their path.

Ameriprise Financial Relocates, Changes Name

SOUTH HADLEY — Stephen Duval, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., recently announced he has moved his practice to a new location at 551 Newton St. and changed its name to Summit House Wealth Partners. Duval has also expanded his team of financial advisors by one. A certified financial planner, Duval moved his office in June from 130 College St., and colleague Justin Osowiecki, a financial advisor, made the transition with him. At the same time, Duval partnered with Edward Boscher, who is also now serving clients as a Summit House Wealth Partners financial advisor. The team will hold an open house for the public at the new Newton Street office on Thursday, Sept. 21 from 2 to 7 p.m. Duval holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass in business administration and is a graduate of the College for Financial Planning. He has been with Ameriprise for 25 years. Boscher is also a certified financial planner and a certified investment management analyst. He has spent much of his career working with Voya Investment Management out of its Windsor, Conn. office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University. Boscher made the transition to Summit House Wealth Partners, he said, “to put my 23-plus years of asset-management experience to work for people around here, because I live here.” Duval’s practice is an Ameriprise Financial franchise. Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. offers financial-advisory services, investments, insurance, and annuity products. For more information, or for details on upcoming workshops — on topics ranging from Social Security to identify theft to retirement planning — call (413) 540-0196.

Witalisz & Associates Celebrates Grand Opening

WESTFIELD — Witalisz & Associates Inc., a real-estate company based in Western Mass., recently celebrated its new office space with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening. The firm recently moved to 2 Broad St. in Westfield, situated across the hall from the Tavern Restaurant. “We are incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity to relocate to the best place in Westfield,” said broker/owner Kathy Witalisz. “Working with the leadership team at the Tavern has been remarkable, and we are very much looking forward to a bright future in our new location.” The open space will help accommodate the company’s plans for future growth. Witalisz & Associates has already expanded its educational programs to include a real-estate school, training seminars, career nights, and a number of public events. The grand opening was attended by both local dignitaries and prominent members in the community. State Sen. Donald Humason, state Rep. John Velis, Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan, and Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate Phelon all presented citations in recognition of the company’s move.

Berkshire Bank Among Top Charitable Givers

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was honored by the Boston Business Journal as one the state’s most philanthropic companies during the 12th annual Corporate Citizenship Awards ceremony. The 94 companies that were honored by the publication each met the threshold of at least $100,000 in philanthropic support of Massachusetts nonprofits in 2016. They combined for approximately $273 million in charitable giving last year. The list includes companies that paid out at least $100,000 to Massachusetts-based charitable organizations in fiscal 2016. Berkshire Bank ranked 46th for total financial contributions with more than $1.2 million donated in Massachusetts alone and more than $2 million donated overall. Massachusetts-based bank employees also donated more than 28,000 hours of volunteer service.

Phillips Insurance Agency Honored by Liberty Mutual

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance Agency Inc. was one of 13 agents in the Northeast and the only agent in Western Mass. to earn the exclusive Chairman’s Club Award from Liberty Mutual Insurance. The Chairman’s Award is designed to recognize the contributions of the top-performing commercial-lines agencies in the country. Phillips Insurance had earned the Liberty Mutual President’s Club for 10 years in a row prior to achieving this top echelon of Liberty agents. Phillips Insurance President Joe Phillips will accept the award at the Chairman Dinner in Jackson Hole, Wyo. later this month. Phillips Insurance Agency, established in 1953, is a full-service risk-management firm with a staff of 25 professionals. The agency handles the personal and commercial insurance needs for thousands of individuals and businesses throughout the Northeast.

Bay Path Ranked Among Fastest-growing Colleges

LONGMEADOW — The Chronicle of Higher Education has recognized Bay Path University in its Almanac of Higher Education 2017 as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the U.S., currently ranked 17th in the category of “private nonprofit master’s institutions” with a 113.4% growth rate over a 10-year period. Bay Path was the only institution of higher education from Massachusetts on the list. “This national recognition represents the commitment of talented faculty and staff who truly understand workforce needs and student interests,” university President Carol Leary said. “Our growth is based on three key factors: the different levels of education we provide; the variety of modalities we use in our learning environments, which include on-campus, online, and hybrid; and the continual diversification of our program offerings for both undergraduate and graduate students.” With the opening of the Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center, Bay Path has seen significant growth in its applied health science degrees, including the master of occupational therapy, master of science in physician assistant studies, and master of science in genetic counseling, among others. In 2017, Bay Path opened a satellite campus in Concord, offering master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling, developmental psychology, special education administration, occupational therapy, and healthcare administration. Data contained in the Almanac of Higher Education 2017 are based on fall enrollment of full- and part-time graduate and undergraduate students during the span of 2005-15, including students that are online-only. The report included all U.S. degree-granting institutions with at least 500 students in 2005. Published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the annual Almanac of Higher Education is a comprehensive assessment of the higher-education industry.

Country Bank Recognized for Charitable Giving

WARE — Country Bank was recognized by the Boston Business Journal as one of the state’s top charitable contributors. The bank received a Corporate Citizenship Award at the 12th annual event, held at Fenway Park on Sept. 7. Each year, the publication celebrates Massachusetts corporations and nonprofits for their contributions in giving back to the communities in the Commonwealth. A total of 94 companies were recognized during the evening, and Country Bank ranked 64th with total donations of $615,000 and more than 1,000 hours of community service hours from their staff.

Hampden County Bar Assoc. Awards Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — The Hampden County Bar Assoc. (HCBA) announced the recipients of two scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year. Patrick Greenhalgh, a student at the University of Connecticut School of Law, was awarded the first-ever Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship. The scholarship was established in memory of the late HCBA past president who dedicated his career to helping veterans. The scholarship was available to any veteran pursuing a legal degree. Brianna Burns, a student at Suffolk Law School, was awarded the John F. Moriarty Scholarship, which was established in 1985 in memory of the late judge. The scholarship was created to further extend the standards of professional and personal excellence in the practice of law.

WNEU Welcomes Record Number of New Students

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced a second consecutive year of enrollment growth in its recruitment efforts. WNEU reported a total of 899 new students enrolled in classes for the 2017 fall semester, bringing the total opening full-time undergraduate enrollment up to 2,656, the largest in university history. The university also saw a record number of admissions applications in 2017, totaling 7,037, along with an increase in the diversity of the incoming student population, with minorities representing 26% of the cohort in 2017, up from 21% in 2016. “We are at a very important time in the history of higher education with respect to how families are assessing the rising cost to attend college. Students are asking the important questions during their college search process; they need and deserve hard data on internships and job-placement rates, the availability of merit- and need-based scholarships, and the support networks that will be in place to enhance their academic and social development. We welcome this,” said Bryan Gross, WNEU’s vice president for enrollment management and marketing. “The fact that Western New England University has been so successful in attracting diverse and highly qualified students while many other universities are experiencing enrollment declines demonstrates that people are taking notice and realizing the true value we offer.” The university’s College of Arts and Sciences enrolled 403 new students, a 10.1% increase over 2016, while the College of Business enrolled 203 new students, a 3% increase over last year. In the first year of a new Business Impact Scholarship initiative, the College of Business enrolled 67 new students from Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester counties compared to 44 new students from those counties last year. The renewable, $2,000-per-student scholarship was offered to support the recent surge of economic development in the Greater Springfield area, and to encourage business students to remain in Western Mass. Many students are attracted to the university’s Merit Scholarship program, which rewards previous academic performance. Merit Scholarships will again increase for the fall 2018 academic year to a range from $8,000 to $21,000 annually (each year students maintain good grades), as well as need-based grants. WNEU students will also soon enjoy a new, four-story, 70,000-square-foot Dining Commons building, scheduled to open in January 2018, as the university continues to expand the campus facilities.

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Old Chapel at UMass Earns LEED Gold Certification

AMHERST — The renovation of the historic Old Chapel at UMass Amherst earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating system is the foremost program for buildings, homes, and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained, and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. Built in 1885, the Old Chapel is the most iconic and significant historic building on the UMass Amherst campus. Designed by Steven Earle in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the building originally housed a library, auditorium, natural-history collections, and classrooms. It was later used as a drill hall, departmental offices, and finally as home to the Minuteman Marching Band in the 1960s, before officially closing its doors in 1999 due to structural deterioration. The Old Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, and work began on a $21 million renovation, addition, and preservation effort to restore the building to its original glory. The revitalized Old Chapel now serves students, faculty, and alumni as a campus resource. The first floor provides a flexible layout for student study, gallery exhibitions, and community events, while the Great Hall on the top floor provides a large, open space for performances, lectures, receptions, and weddings. UMass Amherst and the UMass Building Authority hired Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston to design the restoration and demonstrate how aspects of historic preservation and sustainability can work together. The firm deployed an array of sustainability strategies to maintain the integrity of the original design and materials, while adapting the building’s structure and interior to modern use, access, and building-code requirements. The Old Chapel’s original structure consists of local timber and stone such as Pelham granite and Longmeadow sandstone. The design reused 83% of structural masonry, wood columns, beams, trusses, and wainscoting trim, and 82% of new wood products were either locally sourced or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The addition of a contemporary glass entry pavilion at the south façade is integrated into a landscaped terrace that provides full accessibility while also incorporating water-efficient landscaping and rainwater management that improves site ecology. Meeting modern indoor environment and energy-efficiency requirements within the original exterior wall assembly was a challenge; the design team used energy modeling to find the correct balance of masonry-wall insulation, energy-efficient glazing, and stained-glass restoration so that sustainability goals were in concert with historic restoration efforts. The building is designed to exceed code energy performance by 21% and to reduce potable water use by 34%, and it will follow a rigorous measurement and verification process that ensures those savings are realized post-occupancy.

The Hub Studio Announces Grand-opening Celebration

FLORENCE — Tracy Roth, who launched the Hub Studio, a fitness studio located at the Nonotuck Mill in Florence, will host a grand opening at the studio on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The studio will offer spinning, TRX resistance training, mat Pilates, scientifically backed nutrition-coaching programs, outdoor cycling instruction, workshops, special events, and more. The grand opening will include refreshments and snacks from local cafés and restaurants, live music from kid-friendly DJ Quintessential, free chair massage, a raffle, and more. The raffle prizes include classes and a three-month membership at the Hub Studio, as well as other exclusive items from area businesses. The event is free, and the public is welcome. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz will attend to assist with the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located in Suite 202 at the Nonotuck Mill, 296-C Nonotuck St., Florence, the studio will be open full-time starting Monday, Oct. 2 and will include group fitness classes for all levels during the morning, afternoon, and evening hours. The studio will also have classes, workshops, and special events on Saturdays and Sundays. For class descriptions, schedule, a blog, and more, visit www.yourhubstudio.com.

BCC Launches New Job-search Website

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College (BCC) announced that its Career Development Center has launched new career-management software with College Central Network (CCN) at www.collegecentral.com/berkshirecc. BCC students past, present, and future now have access to the latest resources and job opportunities at the regional and national level. Additionally, this tool will enhance communication among various departments within the college that routinely collaborate with employers in the community. The new website offers exclusive job postings targeting the BCC student and alumni population as well as access to hundreds of career articles, podcasts, and career-advice resources. Students and any community members can upload or build a résumé on the site as well as register for career-related events around the area and receive alerts for their ideal job. BCC recently sent out registration notifications to local employers, inviting them to create an account. Once confirmed, they may begin uploading job opportunities that they would like to post. BCC’s job-search site is meant to assist local employers and the community in making it easier to post and find jobs. It also helps ensure a smooth transition for BCC students to find local employment with support from the software and the college’s Career Development Center team.

JA of Western Massachusetts Announces Grant Awards

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts announced that it received a $10,000 grant from the United Bank Foundation to bring financial-literacy programs to students in East Longmeadow, Westfield, West Springfield, and Springfield. The programs will teach students concepts related to budgeting, saving, and money management with the intent of promoting the development of good financial habits. The partnership includes the involvement of volunteers from United Bank to help deliver the programs to students. Meanwhile, JA of Western Massachusetts also received a $7,200 grant from the UPS Foundation to implement JA “Be Entrepreneurial” classes. The curriculum introduces high-school students to the essential elements of a practical business plan and challenges them to start an entrepreneurial venture while still in high school. Students learn about advertising, competitive advantages, financing, marketing, and product development, all of which are key to being an informed entrepreneur. The program includes seven 45-minute sessions taught by a community or corporate volunteer. Volunteers bring in their own experiences and life lessons to the classroom to enhance the JA program. Schools and organizations participating in “Be Entrepreneurial” include Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, the JA BEE Summer Program, the Center for Human Development, St. Mary’s High School, and East Longmeadow High School.

Tighe & Bond Among Top New England Design Firms

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a Northeast leader in engineering and environmental consulting, has been ranked ninth in the Engineering News Record’s (ENR) New England Top Design Firms edition. In addition, the firm was named among the Top 200 Environmental Firms by ENR, and appeared for the first time as a Top 60 Engineering Firm nationwide by Building Design + Construction. Other recent rankings for Tighe & Bond include number 154 on ENR’s list of Top 200 Environmental Firms, based on environmental-specific revenue from 2016; number 260 on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms, based on design-specific revenue from 2016; and sixth on Hartford Business Journal’s list of Largest Engineering Firms in Greater Hartford.

Hogan Technology Receives Cybersecurity Certification

EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology, a provider of unified communications, announced that the company is certified to provide cybersecurity solutions to SMBs (small to mid-sized businesses) to protect them from the barrage of cyberattacks that occur every day. Cybercrimes are a serious threat, and most businesses cannot afford to become the victim of malware, ransomware, phishing, password attacks, denial-of-service attacks, or malvertising of any sort for a prolonged period of time, said Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology. Recent advancements in preventive technology have helped SMBs safeguard themselves from unnecessary attacks, network vulnerabilities, and company downtime that can often result from such disruptions. Hogan Technology invests heavily in its staff of IT professionals to ensure that everyone is well-trained, certified, and fully equipped to protect customers from cyberattacks.

Bay Path Master’s Degree in Applied Data Science Ranked 12th Nationally

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master’s of science degree in applied data science was ranked 12th in a list of the top 50 data-science programs nationwide by www.onlinecoursereport.com. Rankings were based on a combination of affordability, flexibility, and student support services. The article highlights the low student-to-faculty ratio of 12 to 1 at Bay Path. It also makes reference to the university’s WiSH (Women in STEM Honors) program, which offers a four-year curriculum consisting of integrated and advanced study and research for women at the undergraduate level dedicated to becoming scientists. The university is also home to the Center of Excellence for Women in STEM, providing professional development, networking, and mentorship opportunities for students and professional women in STEM fields. The program is fully online and open to both women and men. The 36-credit program teaches the fundamental principles, platforms, and toolsets of the data-science profession in an accelerated format that can be completed in as little as one year. This rapidly growing career field is well suited to professionals with backgrounds in mathematics, statistics, and business analysis, with graduates achieving such career outcomes as data scientist, data engineer, and more.

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United Way, Peter Pan Team up for ‘Stuff the Bus’

The United Way of Pioneer Valley and Peter Pan Bus Lines recently delivered more than 2,000 backpacks filled with donated school supplies to six separate school districts. These backpacks were given to students who are homeless.

School supplies were collected all summer at various locations throughout the Pioneer Valley. The school supplies were  purchased using a generous donation from Health New England. Students from the Westover Job Corps in Chicopee rode on the Peter Pan Bus and delivered all 2,000 backpacks.

United Bank Reports on PATH Plus Program

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — After introducing its innovative home-ownership and financial-education program in the Connecticut and Massachusetts markets 24 months ago, United Bank reported that it enrolled 92 participants in its PATH Plus program over the past two years, graduating several participants who have achieved their dream of owning a home or are currently seeking homeownership. PATH Plus is structured to provide three keys to homeownership — education, savings, and mortgage benefits — to low- to moderate-income individuals and families. As of this month, 92 individuals from Connecticut and Massachusetts have participated in the program, 36 are currently enrolled, 34 have graduated, and 11 of them are new homeowners. Other program graduates are in the process of identifying homeownership opportunities. And the bank’s foundations donated at total of $31,500 to nonprofits who have successfully referred and enrolled program participants. In Massachusetts — specifically the Springfield and Worcester regions — 52 individuals have participated, 28 have graduated, and four have closed on a new home.

BCC Launches New Education Department

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College has launched a new education department, combining and expanding the early childhood education and elementary education programming into one unified field of study. Patricia Kay, associate professor and chair of the Education Department, designed the new department. She worked closely with community partners, coalition groups, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to ensure the new department fit the needs of childcare providers in the Berkshires. The new education department will introduce learning as a cohort model — meaning students will all go through the same classes together as a group. The model is a hybrid, meaning it has an online and face-to-face component. The college also recently hired Barbara Kotelnicki as an assistant professor of Education to support this new department. The students will be made up of working childcare providers who will be able to discover real-world solutions to problems they are having in their classrooms and learn more than just the theory of early childhood education. They will gain experience through best practices, field work, and learning the essentials in teaching and caregiving. Students who graduate from BCC with an associate of science degree will be eligible to continue their studies in a bachelor of arts program or early childhood education licensure pathway through MCLA.

STCC, Ann Beha Architects Receive Planning Award

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Ann Beha Architects (ABA) of Boston were honored for a renovation project which will transform a 19th-century warehouse into a modern center of campus life. The Society for College and University Planning awarded STCC and ABA the 2017 Honor Award for “Excellence in Planning for a District or Campus Component” for the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, which is under construction. With an estimated completion date of fall 2018, the 100,000-square-foot Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons will become the center of campus life for 8,000 students. The building, once a storehouse for gun stocks, predates the Civil War. One of the goals of the $50 million project is to honor the past while embracing state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technology. In charge of the design, ABA played a key role in transforming the historic structure into a modern space for students. Construction crews are replicating historic features to match the look and color of the original building. The 767-foot-long building will house essential student services, including advising, tutoring, career services, the library, and more. Students will have access to social spaces and a café. About 150 staff will work in the building. According to Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, “the Baker-Polito administration is pleased to see the renovation project team recognized for its work in creating a new, energy-efficient space for STCC students while preserving a piece of the Commonwealth’s history.”

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UMass Amherst Tops in Campus Dining for Second Straight Year

AMHERST — The food in the UMass Amherst dining halls is so good that the Princeton Review came back for another helping, choosing the school as the national leader in collegiate dining in the U.S. for a second straight year. The announcement further cements UMass Dining’s reputation for serving up healthy, sustainable, and delicious food prepared by award-winning chefs, said Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst. The rankings are based on surveys of 137,000 students at the schools in the guide. UMass Dining is the largest college dining-services operation in the country, serving 45,000 meals daily, or 5.5 million meals per year. Since 1999, overall participation the university’s meal plan has more than doubled from 8,300 participants to more than 19,200. A self-operated program committed to providing a variety of healthy world cuisines using the most sustainable ingredients, UMass Dining incorporates recipes from accomplished chefs and nutritionists as well as principles from the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard School of Public Health to its cycle menu.

Regnaleb Offers Sales Training for Digital Age

WESTHAMPTON — Regnaleb Enterprises, a sales and marketing consulting firm, announced it is offering high-caliber sales-management and growth strategies to small and mid-size companies throughout Western and Central Mass. The organization is led by Art Belanger, an experienced sales and marketing professional with more than 30 years in the industry. The Regnaleb process utilizes the salesQB program to conduct a complete audit of an organization’s current sales and marketing process. The results are used to benchmark performance and identify areas for growth and improvement. Following the audit, business leaders will be taken through an in-depth report that will pinpoint methods for increased efficiency throughout the entire sales process, from lead generation and management tactics to the use of digital technologies like CRM, software programs, and social media. A successful salesforce is empowered, efficient, and informed, Belanger said, adding that Regnaleb Enterprises will offer a custom road map to improve communications, management, customer service, and sales techniques to drive increased performance.

Talbots to Return to Longmeadow Shops

LONGMEADOW — Grove Property Fund and Talbots announced that the women’s-apparel retail store will be returning to Longmeadow Shops this fall. The announcement is the latest from the Longmeadow Shops, which recently expanded its retail footprint by 20%, attracting new tenants Verizon Wireless and J.Crew Mercantile while allowing CVS Pharmacy to move to a larger retail space with a pharmacy drive-thru. Talbots operated at the Longmeadow Shops from 2001 to 2013. The new store will utilize 5,334 square feet of retail space, the majority of the space previously occupied by CVS Pharmacy.

HCC Gateway to College Earns National Honors

HOLYOKE — For the second year in a row, the Gateway to College program at Holyoke Community College has received national recognition for exemplary performance. The Gateway to College National Network, based in Portland, Ore., honored HCC with its 2017 Gateway Program Excellence Award at a conference in Providence, R.I. last month. Gateway is a second-chance, dual-enrollment program for students who have either left high school or are at risk for dropping out. Gateway students take college classes and earn college credits while also working toward their high-school diplomas. The 2017 award recognizes Gateway programs that exceeded all four of the network’s performance benchmarks for the 2015-16 academic year: first-term GPA, one-year persistence, two-year persistence, and three-year graduation rate. Since its founding in 2008, HCC’s Gateway to College program has helped 251 students earn their high-school diplomas while also getting an early start on college. More than half have continued on to college, and so far 30 have earned their associate degrees from HCC, and six have earned bachelor’s degrees.

Austen Riggs Recognized as a ‘Best Hospital’

STOCKBRIDGE — Austen Riggs Center has been recognized as a “Best Hospital” for 2017-18 by U.S. News & World Report, ranking ninth in psychiatry nationwide. Noteworthy among the top group of psychiatry honorees for its small size and integrated approach, Austen Riggs Center is a therapeutic community, open psychiatric hospital, and center for education and research, promoting resilience and self-direction in adults with complex psychiatric problems.

PeoplesBank Among Top Charitable Contributors

HOLYOKE — The Boston Business Journal announced the region’s top corporate charitable contributors, and for the 10th year in a row, PeoplesBank is among the companies included on the list. The region’s top charitable companies, which in many instances include the companies’ corporate foundations, will be honored at the magazine’s 12th annual Corporate Citizenship Awards on Thursday, Sept. 7 at Fenway Park in Boston. The list is composed of companies that gave at least $100,000 to Massachusetts-based charities in 2016.

PV Squared Named Among Top 500 Solar Contractors

GREENFIELD — Solar Power World, the leading publication covering solar technology and development, published its annual Top Solar Contractors list in July. PV Squared, a local solar-installation company and worker-owned cooperative, was listed prominently among other top solar contractors and developers across the country. PV Squared is a local leader in the field of solar design, installation, and maintenance. A worker-owned cooperative, the company has provided renewable-energy solutions to a range of clients, including business owners, commercial property owners, farmers, and homeowners since 2002. PV Squared currently employs 42 people, 19 of whom are co-owners of the business. In 2016, it completed 188 projects in the Pioneer Valley and surrounding areas, installing 2.5 MW of solar power. It is also a certified B Corporation, demonstrating its commitment to a triple-bottom-line business model. It is currently involved in Franklin County’s first Habitat for Humanity project in five years and will be contributing a solar array to the construction of an energy-efficient home in Greenfield. Additionally, it is also exploring opportunities to partner with the Franklin County Technical School to mentor young people through a solar installation process. The donation of this solar array will not only eliminate upfront costs for the future homeowner, but will also help strengthen the local community.

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Granite City Electric Supply Relocates to Chicopee

CHICOPEE — Granite City Electric Supply Co. has opened a new, 80,000-square-foot distribution center and relocated its Springfield retail counter service to 451 Meadow St., Chicopee. This distribution center will provide service to the Western Mass., Connecticut, and New York markets. “Our new, state-of-the-art facility incorporates leading-edge innovations in material management and leverages the latest advances in automation and LEAN practices. We have implemented best practices of class-leading enterprises from several industries to give us a highly efficient and scalable platform to best serve the current and evolving needs of our customers,” said Adrian Grundy, chief operating officer at Granite City Electric. He also notes the capacity and operational efficiencies of the new facility will support expanded inventory levels to better serve all customer needs. The new location is equipped with many innovations and customer-centric enhancements. The new indoor service bay allows customers to drive indoors, so that, for example, large pipe orders can now be loaded indoors, out of the elements. The enclosed storage facility prevents rust and damage to material traditionally stored outdoors. Innovative and automated picking lanes allow for faster, accurate order fulfillment to get product to customers more quickly. And the new Chicopee facility will offer greatly expanded wire inventory, including colors and pulling-head options. The company will also deliver more to more customers, as the Chicopee location affords an expanded delivery footprint for the GCE Night Train Delivery Service, which allows customers to avoid waiting at the counter or wasting time in traffic to pick up electrical supplies.

SkinCatering Opens New Spot at D. Hotel & Suites

HOLYOKE — SkinCatering recently celebrated its grand opening at D. Hotel & Suites. The spa is located on the first floor of the hotel and features two massage rooms as well as separate spaces for manicures, pedicures, and facials. The location offers luxurious treatments as well as a selection of the high-end products currently developed and created through SkinCatering’s skin-care line. “I am very excited to provide now a health and wellness option at our Boutique Hotel,” said Linda Rosskothen, proprietor of D. Hotel & Suites. “The beauty and comfort of the spa offers locals and travelers a chance to enjoy our buildings. I am especially excited to see our guests combine their spa experience with their wedding plans, business-travel stay, exceptional dining, or just making it a special treat.” Guests are welcome to begin booking services, as well as monthly membership packages.

Thunderbird Thursdays Take Flight Downtown

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Business Improvement District and the Springfield Thunderbirds announced the start of Thunderbird Thursdays, presented by TD Bank. Each of Thunderbird Thursday will feature a guest craft brewer, live music, food, fun, and games. The Thunderbirds’ promotional team will also be on site each week with an inflatable slap-shot game, ticket information, raffle prizes, and more. Thunderbird Thursdays will run from 4 to 8 p.m. each week through Oct. 12 in downtown Springfield. They will rotate between three locations: 1350 Main St., the Shops at Marketplace at the rear of 1341 Main St., and Tower Square Park. For a full schedule of dates, locations, entertainment, and brewers, visit springfielddowntown.com/thunderbirds-thursdays.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q2 Results

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended June 30, 2017. The company reported net income of $16.2 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $9.1 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2016.

Kelley and Malmborg Celebrates First Year

NORTHAMPTON — Kelley and Malmborg Investment Consulting Group recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Motivated by their desire to offer a more client-centered and consultative approach, advisors Jean Kelley and Joe Malmborg transitioned from Florence Bank’s FSB Financial Group late last spring. With a combined 65-plus years of financial and wealth-management experience, and through their consultative approach, creating personalized solutions, and a fee-based investment process, the pair’s goal is to provide comfort and confidence regarding the decisions their individual and business clients make. Kelley & Malmborg is located in the heart of downtown Northampton at 140 Main St., Suite 400.

Berkshire Hills Reports Second-quarter Earnings

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported second-quarter 2017 net income of $19.7 million, or $0.53 per share. Core earnings totaled $21.6 million, or $0.58 per share. Net income was up 23% year-over-year, while core earnings grew 31% due to the benefit of business expansion. Net income per share increased by 2%, while core EPS increased by 7%. Net income was impacted by net non-core charges related primarily to acquisitions.

Chemetal Installs Solar PV System in Partnership with Solect Energy

EASTHAMPTON — Chemetal, a manufacturer of metal designs and laminates, has partnered with Solect Energy of Hopkinton to install a 201.6-kilowatt solar-energy system on the roof of its Easthampton manufacturing plant. The array consists of 560 photovoltaic (PV) panels, which are projected to produce 210,686 kilowatt hours of energy annually. Chemetal anticipates the array will provide up to 33% of its facility’s annual electricity use. Solect carefully examined Chemetal’s energy-usage patterns and other factors in order to design the optimum solar-energy system. Solect then worked to make sure that Chemetal would achieve maximum ROI through myriad solar incentives. Chemetal is projected to save approximately $25,000 annually on its electricity bill, and is able to take advantage of state and federal tax and financial incentives, including SRECs (solar renewable-energy certificates), which are financial incentives based on the amount of solar energy the system generates. Electrical utility providers in Massachusetts purchase SRECs to help them meet their state-mandated goals of a percentage of power coming from renewable-energy sources.

Pioneer Valley Realtors Build Playhouses for Boys and Girls Clubs

SPRINGFIELD — The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV) community service committee built two custom playhouses for the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield and the Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys and Girls Club. The playhouses were built using specific designs put together with crayons and markers by the children who would be using them. The RAPV community service committee spent hours constructing these unique and inspiring structures, makings the kids’s designs come to life.

Home Health Aide Grads Honored at STCC Ceremony

SPRINGFIELD — Eighteen graduates of the Home Health Aide program at Springfield Technical Community College were honored with certificates at a ceremony on July 7. The program is administered by Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a collaboration between STCC and Holyoke Community College. The program was supported by a 2016 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) Program. Because the grant ended this year, Skinner’s class represented the fourth and final cohort of TRAIN home health aide graduates. Sharon Grundel, director of Healthcare Training Development for TWO, said she hopes the state will revisit funding for the program. While a stand-alone course is not currently offered, anyone seeking training as a home health aide can enroll in the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus program at STCC. Grundel said 50 people graduated from the four cohorts, and the majority of them have landed jobs.

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Smith, Watson & Co., LLP to Open Office in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — Smith, Watson & Co., LLP, with offices in Great Barrington, North Adams, and Lakeville, Conn., is expanding by adding a Central Berkshire County presence. The new office, at 7 North St. in Pittsfield, will open its doors in July. “Our top priority has always been to meet the needs of our clients,” said Bryon Sherman, managing partner. Sherman, along with fellow CPAs Robin Markey, Kim Whalen, and Colin Smith, are partners in the firm. The firm will continue to serve its clients from its other three offices. Smith Watson is a full-service accounting firm licensed in multiple states offering a broad range of tax, accounting, and consulting services. Smith Watson’s staff of 19 professionals, including seven CPAs, will expand to include several more senior accountants.

UMass Dining Chefs Capture Gold at Competition

AMHERST — UMass Dining took gold for the seventh year in a row at the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition held June 9 during the 23rd annual Tastes of the World Culinary Conference at UMass Amherst. UMass Amherst chefs Pamela Adams, Matthia Accurso, Anthony Jung, and Robert Bankert competed against 14 other culinary teams from across the U.S. and Canada. Skidmore College also achieved a gold for its menu.

Country Bank Awards Scholarships to Students

WARE — Officials at Country Bank are pleased to announce the presentation of 15 scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each, to area high-school seniors. Country Bank scholarships were offered to graduating students within the region. The applicants needed to demonstrate a commitment to their communities through volunteerism and leadership by submitting an essay outlining their experiences along with recommendations from their guidance counselors or teachers. A committee of five Country Bank staff selected the recipients after reading more than 100 submissions. Recipients include Cameron Wright, Belchertown High School; Alysse Carpenter, Leicester High School; Fiona Marie O’Sullivan, Ludlow High School; Jordan Baker, Minnechaug Regional High School; Ashley Gurney, Minnechaug Regional High School; Patricia Murphy, Minnechaug Regional High School; Timothy Canning, Palmer High School; Matthew Remillard, Palmer High School; Cise Nur Balik, Quabbin Regional High School; Kerri Stolberg, St. Peter Marian High School; Jessica Rousakos, Shepherd Hill Regional High School; Delaney Giguere, Tantasqua Regional High School; Rachael Farley, Wachusett Regional High School; Julie Anne Goldberg, Wachusett Regional High School; and Makaela Flamand, Ware High School.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Recognized by Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union was recognized with the 2017 America Saves Designation of Savings Excellence for its efforts during America Saves Week/Military Saves Week to encourage members to save money. The award is presented each year to financial institutions that succeed in encouraging people to open and add to wealth-building accounts. Just two in five American households report making good or excellent savings progress. America Saves Week is an annual opportunity for people to assess their savings status and make a plan to start or increase their savings and for organizations like banks or credit unions to support good savings behavior. America Saves Week is coordinated each year by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council.

HCC Gateway to College Graduates Largest Class Ever

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College’s (HCC) award-winning Gateway to College program graduated the largest class in its nine-year history June 6, presenting certificates to 33 high-school students who have been taking college courses at HCC. Those students will now collect their diplomas from eight area high schools: Springfield, Holyoke, Westfield, Palmer, Longmeadow, Agawam, Minnechaug, and Belchertown. Among them, the students also amassed a total of 372 transferable college credits, or enough to fulfill the requirements for more than six associate degrees. Gateway to College is a national program that takes high-school dropouts or students at risk for dropping out and gives them the opportunity to earn their high-school diplomas as dual-enrolled college students. “You gave us a second chance when you didn’t have to,” said student speaker Deborah Manus, from Holyoke. “This is the beginning of bigger and bigger things.” The HCC Gateway to College program has consistently been one of the best-performing Gateway programs in the country, earning top marks for GPA, graduation rate, and retention rate. For the second year in a row, the program has received the Excellence Award from the national Gateway to College organization. Since its founding in 2008, HCC’s Gateway to College program has helped 251 students earn their high-school diplomas while also getting an early start on college. More than half have continued onto college, and so far 30 have earned their associate degrees from HCC, and six have earned bachelor’s degrees. Six Gateway to College graduates earned their associate degrees from HCC on May 27. “What I see in front of me are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today,” said student speaker J’Anthony Smith Sr. of Holyoke. “The country’s pretty divided, but there’s hope in every single one of you sitting here today.” HCC Gateway to College graduate Eimy Holguin of Springfield was also the valedictorian for the Springfield Public Schools Alternative High School graduation, which was held on June 8.

LUSO Earns Designation of Savings Excellence

LUDLOW — LUSO Federal Credit Union, a financial cooperative locally owned and operated by its members since 1971, recently received the Designation of Savings Excellence from America Saves for the third consecutive year. This award recognizes the achievements of the top-performing credit unions that surpass the expectations of their members, the public, and the financial experts at America Saves. The Designation of Savings Excellence recognizes and honors the hard work and integrity of credit unions that are able to successfully achieve their goals of compelling people from low- to medium-income households to open and contribute to a wealth-building account. LUSO Federal Credit Union has consistently hit its mark and, in the process, helped members learn the value of personal savings and garner the skills and confidence to make smart financial decisions.

Company Notebook Departments

Berkshire Bank to Move HQ to Boston, Acquire Commerce Bank

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp, parent of Berkshire Bank, announced today that it plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to Boston later this year, a move to support the bank’s continued strategic growth throughout the Northeast. The company also announced a definitive agreement to acquire Commerce Bancshares Corp. and its subsidiary, Commerce Bank, in Worcester, adding 16 new branches in Eastern Mass. and a well-established commercial team to capitalize on growth opportunities and further solidify its regional presence. The combined institution will be the largest regional bank in Massachusetts and the first regional bank headquartered in Boston in decades.  “Locating our corporate headquarters in Boston will not take us away from our roots in Berkshire County; we remain committed to all of our employees, customers, and communities,” said Michael Daly, CEO of Berkshire Bank. “Boston will offer our senior executives connectivity with government leaders, regulators, and decision makers, and provide the ability to attract broader workforce talent as the bank continues to grow. With the addition of the Commerce team, we will be able to leverage the strengths of both banks and capitalize on growth opportunities in the attractive, high-growth Eastern Massachusetts markets. This is not only important to Boston, but to all our local markets, to be the first regional bank with a Boston headquarters in decades.” The proposed acquisition provides significant scale in Eastern Mass. The combined franchise will operate its corporate headquarters, four branches, and three lending offices in Greater Boston, and an additional 15 branches in and around Worcester, with $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in deposits. On completion of the deal, Berkshire Bank will have 113 branches serving customers across the Northeast. Berkshire is committed to growing its operating model, levering its platforms such as the MyBanker concierge banking service, and expects commercial, wealth-management, and private-banking businesses to be focuses of its strategy in Greater Boston. Berkshire Bank’s operational center will remain in downtown Pittsfield, and the relocation will not have any impact on its employees. Additionally, its current regional hubs serving markets in New York’s Capital and Central regions, the Hartford/Springfield region, Southern Vermont, as well as operations around Princeton, N.J., will continue to be significant contributors. “Relocating our corporate headquarters to Boston’s financial district is a well-timed move that will make us stronger by driving value and adding jobs that will benefit our employees and customers across our footprint,” said Sean Gray, chief operating officer. “As a successful regional bank, having our headquarters in a strong hub for the financial-services industry provides economic value and takes advantage of the largest New England market to fuel growth and increase our ability capitalize on our investment in all of our communities.”

UMass Center to Offer Spanish Course for Healthcare Professionals

SPRINGFIELD — A new course coming this fall to the UMass Center at Springfield will help healthcare professionals enhance their language skills. “Spanish for Healthcare Professions” will be offered at the center beginning in September. “We have a significant Latino population in Western Massachusetts, and it’s essential that healthcare professionals be able to communicate with these residents,” said Daniel Montagna, director of Operations at the UMass Center. “Through a collaboration with the UMass Amherst Spanish and Portuguese program, we’re hoping to offer this as well as other healthcare and business language courses at the center in the future.” The course is designed to meet the needs of healthcare professionals who wish to increase fluency in Spanish through written and oral practices. The class is aimed at students with an intermediate level of Spanish (the equivalent of four or five semesters of college Spanish or of four years of high-school Spanish). Heritage speakers who can communicate in Spanish but want to develop a knowledge of the professional terminology of the health professions may also benefit from the class.

Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club Wins Award

LUDLOW — The Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club was recently presented with Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s prestigious MAC (Marketing and Communications) Award for Advertising at the National Conference in Dallas. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s MAC Awards recognize Boys & Girls Clubs that have demonstrated significant achievements in the field of marketing and communications. The Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club was selected among thousands of clubs across the country for implementing the best marketing strategy for advertising. The club’s board of directors was actively engaged in developing and updating the club’s marketing and advertising materials since 2016. Board members were supported in the process by several entities, including Envisions Marketing, Off the Tusk, Ludlow Cable Access TV, and volunteers who served on the club’s marketing & communications, auction, and Fall Fest committees. The board of directors actively engaged these partners to develop and update the club’s website, Facebook page, and annual report, and create new videos, mission boards, and marketing materials. The goal was to produce quality marketing materials consistent with a theme that would be used going forward in all print, marketing, and social-media materials used by the club, including special events, the annual auction, and Fall Fest. Throughout the process, the focus was that these marketing materials center on the youth the club helps on a daily basis and its impact on them and their families.

Tru by Hilton Breaks Ground in Chicopee

CHICOPEE — Hilton recently broke ground on a new Tru by Hilton property located in Chicopee. The celebration marked the first groundbreaking of the company’s Tru by Hilton in Massachusetts. Attendees, numbering about 150, included a roster of dignitaries and executives who were instrumental in pushing the project forward, including state Sen. James Welch; state Reps. Michael Finn, Joseph Wagner, and Angelo Puppolo; and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. The 108-room, four-story hotel is located at 440 Memorial Dr. and is owned by BK Investments. It is expected to be completed in May 2018. “Tru is a game-changing brand, as evidenced by its statement-making entrance to the midscale category and now the Chicopee market,” said Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru by Hilton. “We know the brand will have broad appeal to Springfield-area travelers who span generations but share a similar ‘zest for life’ mindset. At its core, Tru is value-engineered to provide guests with a contemporary, consistent, and fresh experience in an affordable way, while at the same time being operationally efficient to our owners.” Added owner and developer Hershal Patel, “today’s groundbreaking in Chicopee demonstrates Hilton’s commitment to this new brand and, importantly, its owners. Tru fills a void in the midscale category, and we’re delighted to bring this exciting new Hilton brand to life. It will add to the offerings in Chicopee and provide a new option for travelers who believe that being cost-conscious and having a great stay don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” This project will mark BK Investments’ third project in Chicopee, following the 90-room Hampton Inn and the 115-room Residence Inn Chicopee.

Bacon Wilson Opens New Northampton Office

NORTHAMPTON — Bacon Wilson announced the opening of a new facility at 57 Center St. in downtown Northampton. On May 24, the firm welcomed clients, neighbors, and friends to a grand-opening reception. Also present was Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who officiated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Bacon Wilson’s newly renovated, state-of-the-art office space at 57 Center St. features several striking design elements, including lots of natural light, an enclosed interior courtyard, and soaring ceilings. The main conference room has been christened the Fogel Room, in tribute to former partner Bruce Fogel, who passed away last year. Bacon Wilson has had a long-time presence in Hampshire County. The firm’s first Northampton office space opened in 2001, and expanded significantly with the 2005 acquisition of Morse & Sacks. In 2006, a merge with Monsein & MacConnell brought Bacon Wilson to the Amherst community. Earlier this year, the firm added another new location, on Russell Street in Hadley. The current move to 57 Center St. brings Bacon Wilson even closer to the heart of downtown Northampton, and reaffirms the firm’s commitment to the local Northampton community, and to the entire Pioneer Valley.

Mary Ann’s Dance and More to Relocate

EASTHAMPTON — Mary Ann’s Dance and More, a local dance apparel store, announced it will move to its new home on Route 10 in Easthampton on July 1. Mary Ann’s Dance and More 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. Open since 2007, 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 store is recognized as a consistent sponsor of various local organizations. It was featured in Dance Retailer News as a “Retailer Spotlight,” twice on Mass Appeal on WWLP, and most recently in “Lifestyle/Balance Act” in Retail Minded.

Springfield College Career Center Wins Award

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Career Center has been named the winner of the 2017 Innovation in Program Development Award by the Eastern Assoc. of Colleges and Employers (EACE). Springfield College was chosen for its Peer Referral Program, which rewards students who are engaged with the Career Center, for serving as brand ambassadors and referring their peers. “I am exceptionally proud of the Springfield College Career Center for receiving this well-deserved recognition by EACE,” said Shannon Finning, Springfield College’s vice president for Student Affairs. “While our staff have always done and continue to do exceptional work with students who find their way to the Career Center, I am most proud of the fact that Career Center staff members are now engaging undergraduate student leaders as peer career mentors. The Peer Referral Program emerged from the partnership between our student leaders and the Career Center staff.” Finning noted that 150 new students were referred to the center this year, and now these students will also refer their peers. “I am excited by the continued innovation and evolution in the Career Center and know we will continue to well-serve our students, employers, faculty, alumni, and partners better each and every year by staying so closely connected and attuned to our student body.” By capitalizing on the idea that word of mouth and viral marketing are the best strategy for reaching this underserved demographic, the program accomplished its goals through an approach that includes utilizing two students as paid peer career ambassadors to hype services and events, rewarding engaged students for referring their friends and classmates, facilitating a raffle for first-time users, launching a T-shirt campaign, and implementing a Refer-a-Peer Day event. “We credit our wonderfully engaged Springfield College students for partaking in this exciting career-development initiative and for making the Peer Referral Program the great success it has become,” said Career Center Interim Director Scott Dranka. “From the launch of the Peer Referral program this semester, the Career Center counselors have been afforded the opportunity to work alongside newly referred students on their career-related endeavors.”

Company Notebook Departments

MassMutual Refreshes Brand to Celebrate Interdependence

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. has unveiled a newly refreshed brand, designed to better reflect and build on its legacy and the core values that have guided the company since its founding. Celebrating the gift of interdependence, the new positioning elevates the idea that Americans today want to protect the ones they love with a company whose values align with their own. The brand refresh — marked by the launch of a new, multi-channel advertising campaign, updated logo, and dramatically revamped website — communicates the company’s long history of stability and strength. “Since 1851, MassMutual has been guided by our founding principle — we are people coming together to look out for one another,” said Gareth Ross, chief Digital and Customer Experience officer. “We know people are inherently reliant on one another, whether that’s at home, in the workplace, or in the community. Our new positioning celebrates these relationships, underscoring that, when we depend on each other, we are not only more secure, but life is also happier and more fulfilling.” He added that, based on company research and customer insights — combined with the fact that a substantial number of individuals and families across the U.S. are in need of financial guidance — MassMutual wanted to reinforce the company’s vision and identity in a new, fresh, and relatable way. The new brand recognizes that, while the world celebrates independence, true happiness comes from our reliance on one another. It also seeks to inspire people to see themselves as part of something bigger. MassMutual’s new look is being rolled out through a broad, multi-channel advertising campaign that includes prominent TV, radio, print, outdoor, digital, and social-media advertising across the nation. The company’s visual identity has also been updated to focus on its policy owners and customers. The blue chip has been replaced by a newly designed logo, featuring a bold, dynamic blue color and symbolic dots that represent the community of people that MassMutual is helping to connect. Additionally, the company’s website, massmutual.com, has been redesigned to reflect the refreshed brand, improve the user experience, and deliver new features. “This is just the beginning of the next chapter in MassMutual’s long journey of helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love,” Ross said.

Baystate Wing Hospital Breaks Ground on New ED

PALMER — Baystate Wing Hospital, public officials, community leaders, and donors held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Emergency Department this week. When it opens in September 2018, the $17.2 million project will expand the Emergency Department to better accommodate the needs of the community by supporting the current annual patient volume of 24,000 visits. “For over 100 years, Baystate Wing Hospital has played a vital role in the community by providing exceptional care for the region. The new Emergency Department will ensure that patients continue to receive outstanding emergency care close to home in an innovative and highly efficient space that will reflect the expertise and commitment of our Emergency Department team,” said Michael Moran, president and chief administrative officer for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane. The planning process for the Emergency Department project included input on design concepts from staff, emergency medical service providers, infection-control experts, and patients. The new space will include separate ambulance and public entryways and will feature 20 patient rooms, including trauma, behavioral health, and other dedicated specialty-care areas. In the new Emergency Department, private rooms will replace curtained bays to enhance patient privacy, and a dedicated space will be created for behavioral-health patients. Additionally, patients will have access to sophisticated medical technology, including CT scan and Radiology (X-ray) services, all located in the new, 17,800-square-foot space. While the new facility is being built, the existing emergency room will remain open for the community. “Once the new building is completed, the current Emergency Department space, which was built in 1995, will be retrofitted for other uses,” said Dr. Robert Spence, chief of Emergency Medicine for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region. “The Baystate Mary Lane Emergency Department is appropriately sized for their annual patient volumes of 12,000 emergency visits and will continue to provide 24-hour emergency care in Ware.” During the early phase of the project, Country Bank pledged ongoing investment in healthcare by donating $1 million to the new Emergency Department.

Pride Launches Campaign to Support Square One

SPRINGFIELD — First there were dice. Then came Wendy’s hamburgers, followed by Rubik’s Cube and SpongeBob. Now, Bob Bolduc and his team at Pride Stores want to add Square One to the list of famous ‘squares.’ The locally owned chain of gas stations and convenience stores is launching a campaign where customers may purchase a square for one dollar, in support of the work that Square One does with children and families throughout the region. “We are proud to be supporting the programs and services that Square One offers to ensure that children and families have the tools they need to be successful,” Bolduc said. “Selling squares and displaying them in our stores will be a very visible way to help raise funds for the organization and create greater awareness of the work they are doing.” The squares are available for purchase at the checkout registers of participating Pride locations. For every dollar donated, Pride will display a Square One square in the Pride location of purchase. All proceeds will benefit Square One’s early-learning and family-services initiatives. “We are so grateful to Bob and his team at Pride for all their very generous support of our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief Development and Communications officer for Square One. “Whether we are teaching children to read and write, inspiring an appreciation of fine arts, providing a nourishing meal, or developing a healthy love of play, everything we do is driven by our vision of a bright future for all children, despite the daunting challenges they face at home.” She added that many children in Square One programs are living in homeless shelters, struggle with food insecurity, have a parent who is in addiction recovery or post-incarcerated, or are in custody of an appointed legal guardian or foster parent. “Support from Pride and other businesses is critical to our ability to continue to serve these families.”

Porches Inn Invites Guests to Art Country

NORTH ADAMS — In the cultural hub of Northern Berkshire County, Porches Inn at MASS MoCA has debuted a new ArtCountry package that offers art lovers access to four of the area’s renowned institutions: the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and Bennington Museum. The ArtCountry package includes one ArtCountry pass per adult per stay for complimentary admission to each museum, overnight accommodations, and buffet breakfast. Prices start at $270 per night based on double accommodations. The package is available for travel June 11 through Sept. 24. “With the location of Porches Inn literally across the street from MASS MoCA and the other museums just minutes away, our guests have a home base to experience what locals have always considered art country,” said Mel Karakaya, general manager of the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with these venues to enhance that experience.” MASS MoCA will kick off ArtCountry’s summer season with the opening of its new addition, Building 6, on May 28. The new space will add 130,000 square feet to the museum’s campus and feature work from artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, and Gunnar Schonbeck (Bang on a Can). Located across the street from Porches Inn, MASS MoCA will be the largest contemporary-art museum in the country once the new addition is complete. Set in seven renovated Victorian-era buildings, the Porches Inn’s guest rooms and public spaces employ a clever synthesis of retro and contemporary designs. The inn features a year-round outdoor heated pool, wi-fi, hot tub, sauna, bonfire pit, fitness room, and meeting rooms for retreats and special events. For more information on the ArtCountry package, visit www.porches.com/berkshires-hotel-specials.

Company Notebook Departments

J. Polep Acquires Assets of Garber Bros. Inc.

CHICOPEE — J. Polep Distribution Services announced its recent acquisition of certain assets, including inventory, from Garber Bros. Inc., other than accounts receivable or its facilities in Stoughton. J. Polep is now New England’s largest family-owned convenience-store distributor, servicing over 6,000 customers weekly. To balance the continued leveraged growth, J. Polep was able to retain a majority of Garber’s sales force. J. Polep is excited about the opportunities this acquisition gives its employees and customers. Heavy concentration will be on the development and growth of customers’ in-store sales and improving their margin dollars. With the newly acquired assets, J. Polep will present newly obtained value-added services and food service programs to its customers. One of the new food-service offerings acquired from Garber Bros. is the popular branded coffee program, Beantown Coffee. J. Polep holds the exclusive rights to Beantown Coffee, allowing customers to have a coffee shop within their convenience stores featuring specialty roasted Beantown blend and flavored coffees, cappuccinos, iced coffee, and beans. Beantown Coffee is being added to the already extensive hot beverage category at J. Polep, which includes Keurig Green Mountain, Baronet, and New England Coffee. These assets and operation synergies will give J. Polep a stronger presence within the convenience-store industry throughout the Northeast and will further strengthen its business.

CHD Introduces Summer Program for Youth on Autism Spectrum

CHICOPEE — For typical youth in their high-school years, summer vacation provides a break from academic and social pressures. But for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this break in their normal school-year routine can lead to substantial regression. For summer 2017, the Center for Human Development (CHD) is providing an Extended School Year (ESY) Autism Coaching Program in support of select school districts in Hampden and Hampshire counties. The program, developed by Jennifer Bogin, coordinator of Autism Initiatives for CHD, is designed specifically for a higher-functioning population of youth with ASD. The program was designed for a specific population:

• Diagnosis or presumed diagnosis of ASD/asperger’s, non-verbal learning disability, social communication disorder, or any other disability that leads to social/emotional challenges;

• Co-occurring behavioral-health challenges (depression, anxiety disorder, OCD, ADHD);

• Age 16 to 22;

• Average IQ (either mild or no intellectual disability); and

• Skills deficit in relationship skills, communication, adaptive/life skills, employment/pre-employment, self-regulation, time management, community participation, and self-advocacy.

CHD’s ESY Autism Coaching Program runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from July 5 to Aug. 10. The program is located at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, 617 Montgomery St., Chicopee. The co-location with the other Chicopee Public Schools Extended School Year programs on site will allow students possible vocational or volunteer placements as well as access to full culinary-arts facilities. “CHD conducted a needs assessment from September 2016 to February 2017 and found there was a wide service gap in ESY programming for a higher-functioning population,” said Bogin. “While it’s not designed as a summer-camp experience, CHD’s ESY Autism Coaching Program does allow youth and families living with autism to participate in a fun, social learning program designed for their needs. It helps keep youth engaged academically and involved socially so their summer isn’t spent alone or glued to a video game. Some ESY programs exclude youth based on the need for a mental-health component, but CHD has built this program with that in mind.” ESY program participant will gain new and transferrable skills, such as time management, grooming and self-care, budgeting, using transportation, as well as soft skills, such as making small talk, taking a break, and making plans with a peer. “Some social-skills programs focus on the hard skills and lack intentional work on soft skills, but this program is combining both,” said Bogin. “Community inclusion is the goal, and independence, socialization, and transition readiness to adulthood are the objectives.” One intended outcome of the program is building a regional cohort of youth who share similar interests. “Naturally developing communities are based more on interest than geography,” Bogin explained. “So instead of forcing socialization based on a specific school district, we’re attracting youth from all over the region, and providing an engaging, supportive environment where similar interests will be whatever develops organically.” A typical program day starts with a brief small-group check-in and review of the daily schedule. Students are then brought to one of three different community sites to work on the skills targeted in their individualized education program and ESY plan. Following community time, students are transported back to the program site for a professionally facilitated lunchtime social-skills group followed by a half-hour of unstructured (though supported) generalization and recreation time. Students spend the final hour of their day in a small group facilitated by a clinician to focus on interpersonal relationships, dressing for success and grooming, self-regulation and cognitive behavior therapy, time and money management, or self-advocacy. A new topic is chosen each week and is repeated three times per week to allow students an opportunity to practice what they are learning in the group and report on how they are able to generalize skills. School-district and private-pay options are available. Space is limited. For more information, visit www.chd.org and search ‘autism’ or e-mail Bogin at [email protected].

Dowd Insurance Collects Cell Phones to Battle Domestic Violence

HOLYOKE — The Dowd Insurance Agencies announced the launch of a cell-phone-collection drive to benefit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). The organization, founded in 1978, works to end violence in the lives of women and men through education and advocacy efforts. The donated cell phones will be refurbished and sold or recycled, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the organization and its programs. Collection boxes will be placed at the reception desk of each Dowd branch location throughout the month of May. According to NCADV, every minute, as many as 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S.; during one year, this equates to more than 10 million victims. “With such staggering figures, we felt compelled to make a difference,” said Jon Lumbra, Dowd’s chief financial officer. Seeing multiple benefits to the drive — funding domestic-violence programs and, additionally, environmental benefits to reusing and recycling the electronics — it was unanimously agreed the cause was a noble one, and efforts to accelerate the program began. “We are honored to have the platform to raise awareness and funds for such a worthy cause,” Lumbra noted. Cellular Recycler, NCADV’s recycling partner, has received responsible-recycling certification, the highest designation from the Environmental Protection Agency and confirmation that donated materials are recycled safely and reliably. “There is no need to clean or wipe information from the cell phone you wish to donate,” Lumbra explained. “All donated electronics are either refurbished and resold or recycled for parts. If refurbished, all of the item’s software is replaced, which completely wipes all stored information on the device. If the item is recycled, it is crushed down during the process, making data retrieval impossible.” To date, an estimated 3 million cell phones have been kept out of waste sites due to the efforts of NCADV and cellular recyclers. Items donated fund programming that empowers domestic-violence victims, connects survivors to helpful and potentially life-saving resources, impacts legislation aimed at ending domestic violence, and gives support to organizations across the U.S. working to stop violence in the home. Those interested in donating a cell phone to the drive may do so through the month of May by visiting a Dowd location in Holyoke, Southampton, Hadley, Indian Orchard, or Ludlow.

Spirit Takes Flight from Bradley Airport to Orlando, Myrtle Beach

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Spirit Airlines’ inaugural flights from Bradley International Airport to Orlando, Fla. and Myrtle Beach, S.C. launched on April 27. “We are thrilled to deliver this non-stop service to two of the country’s most popular summer destinations,” said Mark Kopczak, vice president of Network Planning for Spirit Airlines. “These news flights, with new service to Fort Lauderdale starting in June, give Hartford even more ultra-low-cost options for summer travel.” Spirit Airlines is currently Bradley Airport’s only ultra-low-cost airline. This airline business model, which is increasing in popularity among economy travelers and the college-student population, offers introductory service to a variety of destinations for competitive fares. “Spirit Airlines is a strong addition to Bradley’s growing menu of direct flights,” Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) Chairman Charles Gray said. “A continued mission of the Connecticut Airport Authority is for Bradley’s travelers to love the journey through the airport and beyond. One way of doing that is by continuing to diversify Bradley’s flight options, which is why we’re very pleased to be welcoming Spirit to the Bradley family.” All of Spirit’s operations at Bradley Airport will utilize either a 145-seat Airbus A319 or a 182-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. The Orlando route is offered daily, year-round, and the Myrtle Beach non-stop is a seasonal service offered four days per week. Spirit will commence non-stop service to Fort Lauderdale on June 15. “The key to successful route development is a loyal customer base,” CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon said. “The Myrtle Beach service has been frequently requested by our travelers, and the additional frequencies between Bradley, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale will provide travelers with more options. It is our hope that these additions to our route structure will continue to encourage our travelers to come home to Bradley and choose our local airport over other airports.”

AIC Adopts Quality Matters

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is committed to ensuring that its online courses and programs employ best practices based on the existing research literature. Course-development goals are focused on ensuring the highest levels of student learning, interaction, and engagement. To meet these goals, AIC has become a Quality Matters (QM) member. QM is a faculty-centered peer-review process designed to certify the quality of online courses. The QM Rubric and course-review process were developed from a grant provided by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. QM has received national recognition for its peer-based approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement in distance learning and has more than 1,000 subscribers in North American and around the world. The QM Rubric is research-based and promotes best practice-based quality standards. Alignment, a central concept of the QM Rubric, requires that critical course components — learning objectives, assessment and measurement, instructional materials, learner interaction, and engagement and course technology — work together to ensure that students achieve desired learning outcomes.

Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa Raises Funds to Support Boston Children’s Hospital

WESTFIELD — Salons throughout the U.S. will be participating in HAIRraising, a fund-raising event benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center. Puffer’s Salon and Day Spa has joined this initiative with a month-long celebration including raffles, featured items, and promotions. Throughout the month of May, 100% of the proceeds from all children’s haircuts will go to Boston Children’s Hospital. Founded in 2010 by longtime business partners John Frieda and Gail Federici, HAIRraising brings together the salon and hair communities to help support the life-saving care and breakthrough cures, treatments, and innovations at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We’re so grateful to the salon community for their ongoing support of Boston Children’s Hospital,” said Frieda. “We’re consistently overwhelmed and amazed by the level of commitment this effort receives from salon owners and stylists.” Added Federici, “support for Boston Children’s Hospital is critical. We need everyone to understand the huge global impact that this hospital has, not only for children, but for adults as well. Together with this event, we can help save countless lives.” Judy Puffer, owner of Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa, said she is “thrilled to participate in HAIRraising this year to support Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s exciting to be a part of something that unifies our community and can make such a huge difference in the lives of sick children.” In the past seven years, salons have raised more than $1 million for Boston Children’s Hospital through HAIRraising and the generosity of the salon community. This year’s event is expected to raise more than $300,000 for the hospital.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Awards Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union (PVCU) announced the recipients of its 2017 College Scholarship Awards. Each year, Pioneer Valley Credit Union selects four deserving students to receive a $1,000 scholarship to help with college expenses. Since the inception of the program in 2000, PVCU has awarded nearly $65,000 to local young adults continuing their education. The Pioneer Valley Credit Union 2017 College Scholarship recipients are a group of young adults who have proven themselves in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and in various activities and clubs. Dorilyn Castillo of Chicopee High School received the Maurice O’Shea Scholarship. Kaitlyn Feyre of Westfield High School received the Richard Borden Memorial Scholarship. Daniel Sexton of the Springfield Renaissance School received the Ignatius Collura Scholarship. Kamran Noori Shirazi of Springfield Central High School received the Ted Klekotka Memorial Scholarship. The 2017 recipients were honored at the credit union’s 94th annual meeting.

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.

Company Notebook Departments

HAPHousing Is Now Way Finders

SPRINGFIELD — HAPHousing announced it has changed its name to Way Finders. But more than a name change, Way Finders expresses the organization’s expanded purpose: to find a way to build healthy, sustainable communities. Through the formation of two strategic partnerships and the organization’s ongoing work with a host of community collaborators and neighborhood residents, Way Finders addresses the fundamentals necessary for families and their neighborhoods to thrive. These include access to training, jobs, small-business financing, healthy food, safe streets, and engaged citizens in addition to safe, affordable housing. Strategic partnerships with two long-standing organizations will expand Way Finders’ capacity. MBL Housing and Development, LLC is a real-estate development/consulting firm. For more than 20 years, many real-estate developers, including Way Finders, have relied on MBL to create workable financing solutions for beneficial community projects. Common Capital Inc. (CCI) brings its experience as a community-development financial institution to Way Finders. With roots in micro-enterprise lending, CCI has grown to become a multi-million-dollar lender. The people Way Finders serves will now have greater access to home-financing options and small-business lending, and more jobs and more homeowners will lead to greater economic and social vitality. Way Finders, formerly HAPHousing, began as Housing Allowance Project Inc. more than 40 years ago. Over the years, the organization has evolved to become a go-to provider for a full range of housing services as well as a developer and manager of high-quality, affordable housing throughout the region. The organization has now expanded its purpose to deliver comprehensive solutions for the region’s families, neighborhoods, and communities.

Berkshire Bank Named Finalist for Halo Award

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank has been named a finalist for the prestigious 2017 Halo Award, the winner of which will be announced in Chicago on June 1. The Halo Awards recognize corporate social-responsibility initiatives and are presented annually at the Engage for Good conference in Chicago. These prestigious awards look at social campaigns that take innovative and impactful approaches to supporting causes, targeting both consumers and employees. Past recipients of the awards include many of the most globally recognized brands. Berkshire Bank was named a finalist in the Employee Engagement category, which highlights programs focused on meaningfully and measurably engaging a company’s employees in a cause-focused initiative to achieve both a social and a business impact. Berkshire is being recognized for its Xtraordinary Day of Service, which occurred in June 2016, through which it mobilized 95% of the workforce to directly impact more than 100,000 individuals, as well as with its broader XTEAM corporate employee volunteer program. The other finalists for the award include Viacom, Kohl’s, and Xylem Watermark. The XTEAM program provides every employee with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours at a series of company-supported projects. The company’s entire workforce participated in the program last year, donating more than 40,000 hours of service. The volunteer program complements the company’s commitment to the communities it serves, along with more than $2 million provided annually through grants and sponsorships.

Women’s Fund Announces Executive Transition

EASTHAMPTON — After nearly three years at the helm of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Elizabeth Barajas-Román will step down as CEO at the end of March in order to take an appointment as the new CEO of the Solidago Foundation, a Northampton-based national organization. The Women’s Fund board of directors has appointed long-time supporter and strategy consultant Irma González, to serve as interim CEO. González was a member of the Women’s Fund’s most recent strategic planning committee, and is principal of Zoen Resources, where she specializes in change and transition management in support of social justice and human-rights advocacy. Barajas-Román will support the transition through ongoing consultation for the organization’s strategic initiatives. Springfield-based United Personnel will lead the search process for the permanent CEO, which will open in early April. During her tenure, Barajas-Román played a critical role in the development and continued success of the Women’s Fund. In partnership with the board leadership and staff, she led the organization to three consecutive years of fund-raising growth, a 300% increase in social-media visibility, a new three-year strategic plan, and a move of the organization’s headquarters to the renovated Innovation Center in downtown Springfield. The Women’s Fund also worked with the Obama Administration as part of the national Prosperity Together coalition. More recently, the Women’s Fund launched two groundbreaking partnerships: one with Bay Path University to offer academic credit to the Women’s Fund leadership program (LIPPI) participants, and the other with the Partnership for Young Women’s Progress, a multi-sector initiative that, with lead support from the MassMutual Foundation, will help create an economic-prosperity blueprint for young women in Springfield.

Curry Printing, FASTSIGNS to Operate Under One Roof

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Curry Printing announced the addition of FASTSIGNS to its business location. Curry Printing and FASTSIGNS will operate together, under one roof, at 91 Union St. in West Springfield, with the same staff and the same owner. FASTSIGNS has more than 650 centers operating in the U.S., U.K., and beyond, specializing in all types of visual communications. Curry Printing opened in 1976 and has been serving the West Springfield and Greater Springfield area ever since. “We will continue to offer the best in printing and duplicating services while opening up all kinds of sign services for our customers,” owner Stephen Lang said, “including vehicle graphics, directional signs, dimensional signs, and even digital signs.”

Elms Adds DNP Track in Health Systems Innovation and Leadership

CHICOPEE — To help master’s-level nurse leaders reach the pinnacle of their careers, the School of Nursing at Elms College has announced a new doctor of nursing practice (DNP) curriculum in health systems innovation and leadership (HSIL). “Graduates of this program will be awarded a clinical practice doctorate and will be educated at the highest level of nursing,” said Teresa Kuta Reske, director of the DNP program for the Elms College School of Nursing. “The new track will increase the number of advanced-practice nurses who are highly educated, prepared to work within collaborative interprofessional teams, and who can lead changes that improve the outcomes of patient and health systems. We are excited to offer this new track in response to nurse practitioners’ and nurse leaders’ requests to acquire a higher level of knowledge and skills in order to lead effective change of healthcare. Additionally, each student will be assigned a faculty mentor to enhance their professional growth and development throughout the program.” The doctor of nursing practice degree is a terminal degree that prepares expert advanced-practice clinical nurse practitioners, nurse leaders, and nurse educators for the highest level of nursing practice. A DNP-prepared nurse has practice expertise and works to improve the delivery of care to all patients within the micro and macro healthcare systems. The DNP curriculum emphasizes implementing or applying new original research to improve patient outcomes, enhance quality of care, and reduce costs. The curriculum is delivered using a hybrid format — with both on-campus and web-based instruction — and offers courses in systems leadership, evidence-based practice, population health, finance, quality improvement, informatics, and other key areas of study that will build on a scholarly final capstone project. This is a two-year program, designed for nurses who want to continue working while they pursue the DNP degree. The students’ scholarly capstone projects will be related to the areas of nursing where they currently work, or areas in which they have an interest. After earning the DNP degree, graduates can remain in practice, leading in formal and informal leadership roles on cross-professional and interdisciplinary teams to improve and provide quality healthcare. The college will enroll the program’s first students in August to begin studies in September. Ideal candidates include nurse practitioners, midwives, clinical specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse leaders, and nurse educators who currently hold master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees.

Monson Savings Bank Announces Grant Recipients

MONSON — For the seventh year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community-giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2017. The top vote getters are Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children, River East School-to-Career, Rick’s Place, Boy Scouts of Western Mass., Monson Bellmen Inc., Link to Libraries, Nomads of Hope, the Center for Human Development, and Monson Free Library. Customers voted for more than 200 organizations this year.

Three County Fair Radio Campaign Earns Awards

NORTHAMPTON — The Three County Fair’s 2016 radio advertising campaign won two first-place advertising awards. The Massachusetts Broadcasters Assoc. awarded the fair’s radio campaign first place in the annual Sound Bites Awards competition, while the Massachusetts Fairs Assoc. awarded the campaign first place in its annual Media Awards competition. The campaign was created by Pat Kelly and Joe O’Rourke of Saga Communications, a broadcast company that owns and operates seven radio stations in Western Mass., including Rock 102, the River 93.9, Lazer 99.3, and Bear Country 95.3. The Three County Fair is the oldest continuous agricultural fair in the U.S and will celebrate its 200th year Labor Day weekend of 2017.

Company Notebook Departments

Hogan Technology Invited to Technology Assurance Group Convention

EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology announced that Sean Hogan, the company’s president, has been invited to attend the 17th annual Technology Assurance Group Convention, an organization of dominant unified-communications companies in North America representing $350 million in products and services. The event, to be held in Houston on April 2-5, brings together the most successful leaders in the unified-communications sector in order to elevate the industry as a whole, through the sharing of best business practices, CEO-to-CEO collaboration, and exchange of viewpoints as the future of technology. The theme of this year’s convention is “teamwork drives success.” It will focus on the power of teamwork, and is fittingly situated at the nation’s epicenter for space exploration. “We’re proud to have Sean Hogan attend our event,” stated Brian Suerth, president of Techology Assurance Group (TAG). “Sean brings a tremendous amount of insight, and we’re thrilled to have him share his views with our membership. His contributions throughout the year to his fellow members have raised the bar for every company in the technology space. In sum, we’re honored to have Sean in attendance.” One of the keynote speakers at the TAG Convention is Col. Richard “Mike” Mullane, a former pilot and astronaut who developed his expertise in leadership and teamwork through an array of combat reconaissance missions in Vietnam and space-shuttle missions for the U.S. Mullane will share his insights and collaborate with TAG members in order to help advance their leadership and teamwork abilities. Also in attendance will be some of North America’s elite technology manufacturers. These providers will deliver futuristic technology to TAG members in order to accelerate the technological proficiency of small to mid-sized businesses. With their new software, cloud computing, and auxilary equipment, businesses will be better-positioned for strong growth in 2017. “I look forward to attending this year’s event and coming back with new ideas to improve our customer experience,” Hogan said. “The better we understand teamwork, leadership, and technological expertise, the more profitable our customers will become. We consider this event a privilege to attend, especially because of the high-caliber peers, and it also serves as a very effective way to keep our customers miles ahead of their competitors, sustaining their competitive edge through our delivery of futuristic technology.”

Health Program at STCC Wins Accreditation

SPRINGFIELD — The Health Information Technology program at Springfield Technical Community College was awarded accreditation, a big step forward for an area of study that can help hospital workers like Pamela Rau advance in their careers. Rau, 53, of Southampton, worked at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield for more than 20 years when she decided to seek an associate degree in health information technology from STCC. She needed the diploma to continue working as a supervisor in health-information management. Rau was part of the first graduating class in June. “It was interesting because what I learned on the job coincided with what I learned in school,” she said. “And the things I learned in school helped me grow in this position in my job.” Her next step is to take a certification exam to become a registered health-information technician. She also hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. But her academic journey started with STCC’s Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) program, which awards degrees in health-information technology. On Dec. 20, the two-year-old program received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Accreditation, a tool for assuring academic quality, shows that the program meets a certain minimum standard. A graduate of the accredited HIIM program at STCC becomes eligible to take professional certification exams. Tracey McKethan, department chair and professor of Health Information Technology, said the program went through a rigorous process involving an on-site review by accreditors and met 33 standards. “There are no other programs like this in Western or Central Mass. or in Northern Conn.,” McKethan said, noting that STCC’s program has a 100% graduation rate. The HIIM program prepares students, who are awarded degrees in health-information technology, for certification and practice as registered health-information technicians. The program has transfer agreements with four-year institutions, which means students can apply their credits from STCC to pursue bachelor’s degrees. Master’s programs also are available. The technicians typically work at hospitals, nursing homes, long-term-care facilities, mental-health centers, or large medical practices. As the custodians of patient medical records, the technicians must be able to translate complex data into understandable, simplified information for the general public. For more information, call the admissions office at (413) 755-3333 or visit www.stcc.edu/apply. Fall applications are due by April 30.

Rick’s Place Wins Grant from New York Life Foundation

WILBRAHAM — Rick’s Place recently received a $10,000 Grief Reach grant from the New York Life Foundation, which will enable the organization to make significant improvements to its technological capacities, including major website enhancements. The New York Life Foundation created the Grief Reach program to help providers overcome barriers to bringing grief-support services to youth not served by existing bereavement programs. One hundred and ninety-five Grief Reach grants totaling nearly $6 million have been awarded since the program’s inception in 2011. The New York Life Foundation has been one of the leading funders in the childhood-bereavement field, investing more than $30 million to date in support of grieving children and their families.

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MassMutual Continues Support of Legal Clinic

SPRINGFIELD — MassMutual and the Hampden County Bar Assoc. (HCBA) announced MassMutual’s ongoing support for HCBA’s Hampden County Legal Clinic, including a $160,000 grant intended to support its expansion and continuation of legal services. The Hampden County Legal Clinic is a legal-aid program that provides pro bono services to individuals at no charge, most of whom have limited financial resources and who meet specific eligibility guidelines. The Legal Clinic provides services in the Housing, District, and Probate & Family courts in Hampden County. It also works with unrepresented individuals on issues regarding foreclosure, tenant, and consumer matters, and with regional attorneys to match their legal skills and expertise with pro bono opportunities. These opportunities provided by the Legal Clinic include general legal advice and services, limited-assistance representation, mentoring with students at local law schools, legal education programming, and other community outreach programs. MassMutual is continuing its support of the Legal Clinic at a critical time when a significant number of litigants in local courts are unable to afford legal representation. Currently, more than 85% of the cases in the Western Division Housing Court involve people who are without legal representation. The current grant brings MassMutual’s total financial support of the Legal Clinic to approximately $250,000. “MassMutual is proud to continue its support of the Hampden County Legal Clinic, which provides legal guidance and counsel for those in our community with low or no income,” said Michael O’Connor, MassMutual’s general counsel. “MassMutual has a long tradition of supporting the communities in which it does business, and this grant reflects our ongoing commitment to invest our time, talent, and resources to ensure access to legal services for all members of our community.” MassMutual began its association with the HCBA six years ago with grant funding, enabling the Legal Clinic to expand its lawyer-for-a-day programs and increasing the services it provided. The funding from MassMutual has enabled the Legal Clinic to become the centerpiece for pro bono services in Western Mass. Importantly, in addition to the financial support MassMutual has provided, its attorneys have participated in Legal Clinic programming for nearly 10 years. “We’re elated with MassMutual’s increased funding and their involvement in making the Legal Clinic an invaluable community resource,” said attorney Kevin Maltby, president of the Hampden County Bar Assoc.

Country Bank Supports QVCDC with $50,000 Donation

WARE — Country Bank announced it has donated $50,000 to the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp., to assist the QVCDC in its commitment to economic development and helping small businesses grow and prosper in the Quaboag Hills region. The QVCDC offers many programs to help small businesses, including training programs such as computer courses, how to write a business plan, or individual consulting, in addition to offering small-business loans.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Awards Nearly $1.9 Million

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank Foundation announced that it awarded a total of $1,862,265 in grants to nonprofit organizations operating in the bank’s footprint in 2016. The giving represents a 3% increase in contributions compared to 2015. The grants supported a variety of education and community-development initiatives, as well as health and human service and cultural programs. “Our philanthropic investments impacted millions of individuals in 2016, helping to enhance economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for members of our community,” said Lori Gazzillo, vice president and director of the Berkshire Bank Foundation. “We are so pleased to continue our support of so many community initiatives throughout our footprint.” In total, the foundation’s funding affected more than 5 million individuals who received programming support from nonprofit organizations in the areas of education, especially reading, as well as community and economic development, including affordable housing, downtown revitalization, and employment. In addition, the foundation also helped meet the basic needs of individuals through funding to various health and human services initiatives. Berkshire Bank Foundation recently announced changes to its philanthropic strategy, allowing it to continue meeting the growing needs of the communities it serves, while maximizing the impact of its contributions. As part of the transition, the foundation will continue to focus its funding in the areas of education and community/economic development, but will now seek specific outcomes associated with the programs it supports. In addition, the foundation plans to allocate a limited pool of funds to basic-need funding that will rotate each year to provide organizations doing good work, but that don’t necessarily fall within the foundation’s major focuses, the opportunity to receive funding.

Cambridge College Named a Best School for Latinos

SPRINGFIELD — Aside from purchasing a home, deciding where to attend college is one of the costliest, most long-term investments most individuals will make in their lifetime. Latino Leaders magazine identified the top 50 best colleges in the U.S. for Latinos, and two schools in Massachusetts made the grade, including Cambridge College. Increasingly competitive job markets demand the right academic credentials to more aptly begin a career track. Yet, for minorities like Latinos, only 15% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to recent data by the Pew Research Center. Yet, there are numerous reasons why some academic institutions better serve Hispanic students. They include the percentage of total Latino enrollment and the percentage of Latino faculty, the percentage of students who apply and receive financial aid, academic resources for minority students to acclimate to academic rigors of college life, and outreach efforts by schools to add to their overall diversity. Institutional information provided by universities, along with independent sources like the Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities, joined data by U.S. News and World Report and other reporting agencies to serve as the basis for the research methodology in compiling the top 50 universities for Latinos, institutions that have excelled in their performance, outreach, and academic level in their relation to the nation’s Latino student population.

STCC Offers Fast-track Customer-service Training

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College will offer a 16-week ‘fast-track’ customer-service certificate training program this spring that is designed to help students develop a range of skills, from interview techniques to job-hunting strategies. The fast-track option allows students to earn 24 college credits over two eight-week sessions that begin March 20. They can apply these credits directly to an associate degree in business administration. Four courses are offered per session, and classes are held Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. An STCC fast-track customer-service certificate allows people to become eligible for jobs in a number of different industries, including call-center operations, financial services, sales, hospitality, customer service for manufacturing operations, and retail and other organizations. “Customer-service employees typically are considered the face of the companies they represent. They need to have good problem-solving skills,” said Lidya Rivera-Early, GPSTEM (Guided Pathways to Success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project director at STCC. “Customer service is a great starting point for a career in any company.”

Rivera-Early said someone working in customer service will need a good foundation of skills in marketing, computer literacy, communication, and business etiquette to support the needs of both the customer and employer. Requested by area industry partners, the fast-track customer service essentials certificate program will help students develop essential workforce-readiness skills.  The program will include speed-interview networking sessions and job-placement assistance. Students will hear from guest speakers and go on company tours. To enroll in the program, call the STCC Admissions Office at (413) 755-3333 or visit www.stcc.edu/admissions. Space is limited. The program is not free, but financial aid is available for those who qualify.

BHN Awarded $100K Mutual Impact Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $100,000 Mutual Impact Grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. BHN will use this grant to bring the Elizabeth Freeman Center’s Money School program model to Springfield. These Mutual Impact funds will offer Money School to survivors of domestic or sexual violence who are also in recovery from addiction. BHN will provide participants with the skills and supports necessary to move out of poverty. Participants will be given individually tailored financial and career mentoring as well as intensive advocacy and support for their addiction recovery and healing in the aftermath of domestic or sexual violence. One in four women report experiencing domestic violence. In addition to physical abuse, domestic-violence survivors also experience financial duress, and almost half of domestic violence victims struggle with substance-use disorder. Mutual Impact is funded by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organization they select. “Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “BHN tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.” Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

College of Pharmacy Hosts Visitor from Chinese Hospital

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Yongfang Hu, director of Clinical Pharmacy at Beijing Tsinghua Chang Gung Hospital, recently visited the Western New England University College of Pharmacy to learn about clinical pharmacy education and the program-assessment process from university faculty and students. During the visit, Hu had a variety of discussions with College of Pharmacy administration and faculty, toured the college facility, and observed didactic lectures. Beijing Tsinghua Chang Gung Hospital, a comprehensive public institution, is the affiliated teaching hospital of Tsinghua University. As one of China’s most renowned universities, Tsinghua has become an important institution for fostering talent and scientific research. In 2015, Tsinghua University established the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, which stemmed from Tsinghua’s strong foundation in biomedical-related disciplines, including life science, basic medical science, chemistry, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and material science.

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News and notes about area businesses February 6, 2017

Bay Path Launches Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling

LONGMEADOW — The need for genetic counselors keeps growing; there are just 4,000 certified genetic counselors in the country today, or one for every 80,000 Americans. To respond to this need, Bay Path University has launched a new master of science program in genetic counseling, naming Nancy Steinberg Warren program director. “I am excited to help launch Bay Path’s genetic counseling graduate program,” Warren said. “By taking advantage of current instructional technology through hybrid course delivery, students from varied backgrounds will have maximum accessibility and flexibility to become genetic counselors in 21 months. Graduates will be poised to fill future clinical, research, and laboratory-based roles in this growing field.” The program is a hybrid of on-ground and online learning that will prepare graduates for careers in the burgeoning field of genetic counseling. As a profession, genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. The program will accommodate students in the university’s East Longmeadow graduate health science facility, the Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center. Online courses and hands-on field-work experience in nearby genomic laboratories will further prepare students for the growing list of jobs available in the industry. Warren comes to Bay Path with more than 30 years of experience in genetic counseling. Her primary expertise has been in education and training of students, healthcare professionals, and the public. She developed and directed the genetic-counseling graduate program at the University of Cincinnati for two decades, and she was interim director of the Long Island University Genetic Counseling Program in 2013. She has held many leadership roles in the field, including serving on the board of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) and the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Warren is credited with developing a web-based cultural and linguistic competence toolkit for the genetic-counseling profession and an online case-module series approved for continuing education, the Genetic Counseling Cultural Competence Toolkit, available at geneticcounselingtookit.com. In 2013, she was further recognized as a thought leader in the field as the first recipient of the NSGC Cultural Competency Award. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a master’s degree in human genetics from Sarah Lawrence College.

Square One Awarded Mutual Impact Grant by MassMutual

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $100,000 grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. Mutual Impact is funded by MassMutual employees through the company’s annual employee-giving program and matched by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. This is the second year that Square One has received a Mutual Impact grant. “We are so incredibly grateful to the MassMutual team for their belief in our mission and long-standing, generous support for our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief development & communications officer for Square One. “The funds we receive through this grant will support over 1,000 children and families who rely on Square One for innovative literacy programming.” The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organizations they select. Selected nonprofits have demonstrated excellence in their organization, volunteer opportunities, and community impact. “Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “Square One tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.” Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

Comcast Donates Computers to CHD Residential Program

SPRINGFIELD — The Center for Human Development (CHD) announced that Comcast has made a donation of 25 Dell Latitude laptop computers with an estimated value of $5,000 to its Caring Together residential programs. “Comcast is committed to digital literacy,” said Dan Glanville, vice president of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Western New England Region, which includes Western Mass. “We want the next generation of young people to be literate, use computers, and understand the resource that computers can be in their lives. Since CHD Caring Together Residential Programs focus on improving the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable young people, we hope that these laptops can help make a crucial difference in their lives today and for their future. It is truly inspiring to learn of some of the successful stories of these youth, especially considering the challenges they have faced in their life’s journey.” The laptops will be distributed among the eight CHD Caring Together residential treatment group home locations in Western Mass. Caring Together serves youth who struggle with issues related to trauma, abuse, depression, self-harm, and substance use, among others. CHD’s on-site teams provide the youth with integrated mental-health, occupational-therapy, and nursing services, combined with direct-care staff members who are specially trained and included in the treatment plan. Referrals to all Caring Together residential treatment group homes are made through the state Department of Children and Families or Department of Mental Health. “Just about everyone these days has a phone, but the young people we serve through Caring Together do not typically come from homes where computers were either available or seen as a learning resource,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president, Office of Advancement at CHD. “The youth we serve are at transition age and may soon be living on their own, so helping them develop independent living skills is truly critical. Comcast understands the breadth and scope of CHD’s work, and their people determined that CHD Caring Together would be a prime and relevant partner to receive these donated laptops. We could not be more excited.” According to Lee, having computers on site at Caring Together programs will provide great tools to help the residents get organized with homework and research projects at school, access learning resources such as Kahn Academy, improve financial literacy and money-management skills, apply for employment, register for SATs and scholarships, complete applications for higher education, and more. “It’s important to understand that state contracts and federal funds that help pay operating expenses for Caring Together are highly prescriptive and cannot be used for things like computers,” said Lee. “This generous donation by Comcast will help CHD made a crucial difference in the lives of youth who can benefit greatly from the resources available through digital literacy.”

NetLogix Scores 99.4% Customer-satisfaction Rating for 2016

WESTFIELD — NetLogix engaged a third-party monitoring system, SmileBack, in 2016 that allows customers to rate their satisfaction with each service event. In 2016, NetLogix received an extremely favorable customer satisfaction rating of 99.4%. This is an aggregate rating over thousands of service events from clients. “We are honored that our clients are happy with the services we provide,” said Marco Liquori, CEO of NetLogix. “We continue to listen to our clients to understand and deliver the best customer experience and IT services in the region.” NetLogix posts on its website the rolling, 90-day customer-satisfaction (CSAT) scores. SmileBack also recognized NetLogix in its Dec. 21, 2016 blog as being a standout with the highest net CSAT score achieved in 2016. NetLogix is one of thousands of service providers that use the service. Headquartered in Westfield, NetLogix is a network-management, cloud, and systems technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions that ensure business integrity for small, medium, and enterprise-level clients.

Berkshire Bank Receives Three Davey Awards

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it has received three Davey Awards for advertising design. The bank received silver awards for “2015 Berkshire Hills Bancorp,” an annual report; “Firestone Financial, a Berkshire Bank Company,” a brochure; and “What’s Your Game Plan?” direct sales support collateral. The Davey Awards honor the best creative products in design, web, video, mobile, advertising, and social media from small agencies all over the world. Endorsed and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, the Davey is an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a host of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms. For more information on the Davey Awards, or to read the full listing of all 2016 winners, visit www.daveyawards.com.

Valley Blue Sox Announce 2017 Schedule

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox recently announced their 2017 schedule. As was the case in 2016, the Sox will play a 44-game slate, with their home opener set for Thursday, June 8 against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats at 6:35 p.m. at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke. The Blue Sox have 10 home games slated for the month of June and 12 scheduled for July. The full schedule is available at www.valleybluesox.com. “The biggest and most important thing is that all but three home games this season will be played on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday,” said Blue Sox President Clark Eckhoff. “That maximizes the accessibility for fans — they won’t have to worry as much about school nights, getting to work the next day, and the like. They can come out and do what they’re supposed to do at a baseball game — and that’s have fun with their families.” The Blue Sox will kick off 2017 on the road on Tuesday, June 6 versus North Adams. It’s the first time the Blue Sox have opened on the road in four years. “You know the home opener is coming no matter what — but it’s always nice to have those few extra days to get things ready the way you want them to be,” said Blue Sox General Manager Hunter Golden. “For the fans, the slightly later start date will just mean a better experience right out of the gate.” The Blue Sox promotional schedule will also be released in the coming months, Eckhoff said. “We’ve got some really exciting things on tap. Some staples like Star Wars night and Friday night fireworks will be back — and we’ve got about five new promotions that we think the fans will get really excited about.” Individual game tickets will go on sale starting March 1 and will cost $7 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors. Season tickets, flex packs, and group tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased either online at www.valleybluesox.com or by calling the Blue Sox ticket office at (413) 533-1100.

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WNEU Unveils New Scholarship

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University announced a new Business Impact Scholarship to support the recent surge of economic development in the Greater Springfield area. The scholarship is available to Massachusetts residents from Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties who are enrolled in the university’s College of Business starting in the fall of 2017. “For nearly a century, the College of Business at Western New England has educated and prepared local residents to become successful business leaders, and our alumni lead many Springfield area businesses and nonprofit organizations,” said Robert Kleine, dean of the College of Business. “This scholarship is an investment in preparing the next generation to provide leadership in the local economy.” The $2,000 award will be in addition to an incoming student’s Academic Merit Scholarship, which may range up to $20,000 per year. The Business Impact Scholarship and the Academic Merit scholarship are renewable for all years of full-time undergraduate study in the university’s College of Business, to students in good academic standing. “I have already received positive feedback from members of the local community regarding this important scholarship opportunity,” said Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment Management. “There is good reason to be optimistic about all the recent business development in our region, and I know that Western New England University will continue to provide highly motivated business leaders and pioneering entrepreneurs to our community in the years to come.” Western New England University is still accepting applications for fall 2017. For more information about the Business Impact Scholarship or the College of Business program, visit the Admissions website at wne.edu/cost-and-aid/undergraduate.

Berkshire Bank Expands Scholarship Awards Program

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it will honor a record 35 high-school seniors across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for their volunteer service through the Berkshire Bank Foundation’s annual Scholarship Awards Program. The program will award $52,500 in total scholarship dollars to students who have exemplified community service through their volunteer efforts. Additionally, students must attend a high school that is located in a county with a Berkshire Bank office. Through the program, 35 $1,500 scholarships will be awarded to high-school seniors who will be attending a two-year or four-year college in the fall. Applications are evaluated based on the student’s record of volunteerism in the community, academic standing, and financial need. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and a family household income under $75,000 to be eligible to apply. A team of more than 200 bank employee volunteers will review the applications and select this year’s recipients. Scholarships will be awarded in the geographic regions where Berkshire Bank offices or its subsidiaries are located, with 14 available in Massachusetts, 10 in New York, three in Connecticut, three in Vermont, three in New Jersey, and two in Pennsylvania. Students may apply online though the bank’s website at www.berkshirebank.com/scholarships. To be considered, all applications must be submitted online by Wednesday, March 22 at 4 p.m. In other news, the bank announced the three winners of its Exciting Home Equity Sweepstakes, which ran from Sept. 12 through Nov. 25. The three winners of this giveaway were notified last month. They are Craig Walton of Hinsdale, Deborah Robbins of Westfield, and Christine Robie of Pittsfield. New and existing Berkshire Bank home-equity line of credit or home-equity loan customers as of Nov. 25 were entered automatically in the sweepstakes, and individuals were also encouraged to enter the sweepstakes by mail. Three winners were chosen to each receive a $2,500 prize. The winners then had the option to receive the funds by check, apply the money to their existing home-equity balance, or a deposit it into an account.

AIC Graduate Degree in Forensic Psychology Lauded

SPRINGFIELD — Online Psychology Degrees, a comprehensive, web-based psychology-degree guide, has named American International College (AIC) one of the top colleges for a graduate degree in forensic psychology in a recent ranking. The college is one of only two schools in Massachusetts to be named in this category. The mission at Online Psychology Degrees is to provide high-quality, well-researched rankings and other resources for individuals considering a career in psychology. Programs were selected for ranking based on criteria such as cost of attendance, number of degree and specialization options offered, accreditation, and acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The American International College master’s-degree program in forensic psychology was created for students who have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, or a related field. The forensic psychology program emphasizes the combination of psychology and law, as well as the psychology behind police work, corrections, probation, and parole. Students learn about victim services, juvenile justice, and family services to help work in those areas upon graduation. The curriculum includes a wide range of areas related to law enforcement and the evaluation and treatment of offenders. Careers in psychology and related mental-health professions are rapidly growing throughout the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook predicts that, between 2012 and 2022 the occupation of psychologist will see an increase of at least 12%. Psychologists, therapists, and mental-health counselors are in high demand in a variety of work settings. Forensic psychology involves the application of psychology to issues relating to law and the legal system.

Coldwell Banker Supports Springfield Preservation Trust

LONGMEADOW — The Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Longmeadow recently presented a $250 donation to the Springfield Preservation Trust for the 2017 Spring House Tour. The donation was made through Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Cares, the company’s charitable foundation. The Springfield Preservation Trust preserves and protects properties in Springfield that have architectural, historic, educational, or general cultural significance. The organization hosts a variety of events and fund-raisers throughout the year, including historic house tours in the spring and autumn. “As a company, we are deeply committed to giving back to our community, and we are proud to be able to lend our support to an organization that works hard to stabilize and maintain notable properties that are local treasures,” said Theresa Lindsey, who, along with Vincent Walsh, serves as managing broker of the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Longmeadow. “Without the Springfield Preservation Trust, many of our historic buildings would no longer be in existence.”

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HCC Campus Center Begins $43.5 Million Renovation

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is about to embark on a two-year, $43.5 million renovation project that will transform the look, feel, and organization of the campus. The HCC Campus Center is scheduled to close Feb. 3, 2017, and construction will begin soon after. When it reopens in 2019, college officials say, the building will be a place that truly lives up to its name. Originally known as G Building, the sloping, three-story concrete structure sits in the middle of the campus between an intermittent stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC Courtyard. Since it opened in 1980, the Campus Center has been plagued by water leaks. Projects that would have waterproofed the building have been delayed since at least 2008. “The main impetus for this is to get the building watertight,” said interim HCC President Bill Fogarty. “Then we also wanted to do things that will improve the operation of the building and make it a real campus center.” The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance is in charge of the project. Walsh Brothers Construction of Boston has been hired as the general contractor. The state has already allocated $8 million for the current fiscal year to begin the project, with the remainder of the funding to follow, Fogarty said. The key features of the project include squaring off the building’s sloping façade and giving the entire building given a new exterior shell that will make it both weathertight and energy-efficient. The squaring off and the addition of large windows on its eastern side will give the building a look that complements the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, which opened in 2003. About 9,000 square feet of space will be added to the current 58,727. A glass atrium will be added to the west side of the building, covering a set of double stairs that descend from the lower courtyard into an area known as the ‘pit’ that now serves as the main entrance to the food court and cafeteria. On the east side of the building, the open balcony on the second floor will be enclosed, adding extra interior space to the student dining area. The first floor of the Campus Center, on the side facing Homestead Avenue, will become the new ‘front door’ to the campus, accessed by a bridge to be built over a restored Tannery Brook. HCC Admissions, Assessment Services (college placement testing), and the ACT Center (Advising, Career and Transfer Affairs) — now in the Frost Building — will relocate to a new Welcome Center. Admissions will have a dedicated parking lot, and a separate, college-funded project will reconfigure traffic flow, creating a new bus drop in the front of the campus. The Campus Store (formerly the College Bookstore) will move from the first floor to the second floor, on the same level as the food court and cafeteria. The second floor will include programs and departments focused on student engagement, including Student Activities, Student Clubs, and Multicultural Academic Services (MAS), which are being relocated to the building from other parts of the campus.

AIC Awarded Grant from Davis Educational Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been awarded $186,400 over three years in support of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship. The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Stanton Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. In an effort to strengthen and bring together student support services in one accessible location on campus, AIC created the Center for Academic Success (CAS) in 2008 with support from Davis Educational Foundation and others. CAS offers a number of student-support programs, including mentoring and advising, a writing program, tutoring, and support for first-generation college students. The AIC Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship (CETLS) is designed to complement the efforts of CAS by enhancing a vibrant academic culture at AIC. The mission of CETLS is to provide all faculty members with opportunities to achieve and be recognized for teaching excellence, be supported in scholarship, and grow through collaboration and community. When CETLS was created in 2014, a regular schedule of workshops and grants for travel to conferences on teaching and learning were offered to AIC faculty for the first time. CETLS now offers a variety of opportunities for faculty development.

Berkshire Medical Group Joins Berkshire Health Systems

PITTSFIELD — In a move that will help to ensure continued and expanded access to primary care and infectious disease services in the Berkshires, the Berkshire Medical Group has joined the Berkshire Health Systems Physician Practice organization. Berkshire Medical Group, an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease practice, includes Paula Aucoin, MD, Rebecca Caine, MD, Prakash Darji, MD, Jason Kittler, MD, Michael McInerney, MD, Sharon Rawlings, MD, Amy Cassotta, ANP-BC, Helen Majchrowski, FNP/C, and Wanda Torres, ANP-BC. The practice has been renamed Berkshire Internists of BMC, and will remain at its existing location in the BMC Medical Arts Complex in Pittsfield, with few if any noticeable changes for patients. This partnership helps to stabilize the physician practice and ensure continued and expanded access to critical primary care and infectious disease services. Growing changes in healthcare policy and in the health insurance reimbursement system have challenged the viability of private physician practices. Healthcare systems like BHS are increasingly relied upon to ensure current and future access to critical services for the community by investing in physician practices and ensuring they have the necessary support systems and financial stability and investment to succeed in the long-term. By becoming part of the BHS physician practice group, Berkshire Medical Group can not only continue to serve its patients, but has the enhanced ability to expand through the support of Berkshire Health Systems’ comprehensive physician recruitment program, which has successfully expanded critical patient access to primary care and specialties across the Berkshires.

JGS Lifecare Opens Michael’s Café

LONGMEADOW — JGS Lifecare opened Michael’s Café at the Sosin Center for Rehabilitation on Dec. 12, the first day residents moved into the new rehab center. The kosher café offers classics like grab-and-go sandwiches on rye bread, bagels, baked goods, salads, and soup, as well as specialty items like ‘Converse Street potatoes,’ shakshuka, and slow-simmered corned beef, which will be available on Wednesdays. “We hope it will be a community gathering space for residents, guests, and families to meet, enjoy a meal, and gather with friends,” said Alexis Girhiny, director of Food Services at JGS Lifecare. The kosher café is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Frankel, who was an outspoken advocate for Project Transformation, an initiative of reimagining and improving how care is delivered across the JGS Lifecare family of services. “Naming the café in his honor is a permanent tribute not only to Frankel’s extraordinary commitment to the care of our elders at the highest standards, but also his vision for JGS Lifecare for generations to come,” said Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of Philanthropy for JGS Lifecare. The work of several local artists is displayed in the café and throughout the Sosin Center. Artists include Lewis Bryden, Diana Cote, Heidi Coutu, Laura Eden, Peiliang Jin, Cindy Lutz Kornet, Laura Radwell, and Jim Rosenthal.

STCC Honored for Reducing Greenhouse-gas Emissions

SPRINGFIELD — The state named Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) a 2016 Leading by Example Award Winner in the higher-education category for its efforts to advance energy efficiency and sustainability on campus. Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recently recognized STCC and other state agencies, public colleges, municipalities, and public-sector individuals for their leadership in promoting clean energy and environmental initiatives with the 10th annual Leading by Example Awards. The Leading by Example program — a division of the Department of Energy Resources — coordinates clean energy and environmental opportunities at facilities owned and operated by the Commonwealth. “As a member of the Greater Springfield community, we believe it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and promote the use of clean energy and sustainable practices,” said Joseph DaSilva, STCC’s vice president of Administration and chief financial officer. “We are proud of the accomplishments we have made so far. We continue to develop and implement new initiatives regularly. All of our initiatives are not only environmentally necessary, but also save us a great deal of money operationally.” According the Department of Energy Resources, STCC was recognized for its progress and creative approach to reducing its carbon footprint. STCC has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions more than 40% percent since 2011. The college is implementing several sustainability efforts, including energy efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, and a green building renovation. Highlights of STCC’s clean-energy efforts include upgrading the heating system in fiscal year 2014, saving an estimated $200,000 a year; adding insulation, upgraded windows, and installed LED lights across campus to address efficiency challenges in historic buildings; connecting the curriculum of the Architecture and Building Technology Program to the historic building-renovation project targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver certification; switching to single-stream recycling in 2015, and upgrading containers and signage; reducing use of disposable water bottles with six bottle-filling stations on campus; implementing a double-sided printing requirement, reducing paper waste and saving an estimated $14,000 a year in printing costs; and streamlining the campus shuttle route to save fuel and reduce emissions.

WNEU College of Pharmacy Hosts Chinese Pharmacists

SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy recently welcomed six Chinese pharmacists to the university as part of the Pharmacy Education and Clinical Pharmacy Practice Training Program, a partnership with Yale New-Haven Hospital and the Chinese Pharmacological Society – Division of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Research (CPS-TDM). The program allows international pharmacists to spend one month at the WNEU College of Pharmacy to learn about doctor of pharmacy education, and five months at Yale New-Haven Hospital to learn about the practice of pharmacy in the U.S. The program represents a new opportunity for international collaboration at Western New England University, and is managed by Dr. Shusen Sun, director of International Pharmacy Programs and board member of CPS-TDM. The Chinese pharmacists attend College of Pharmacy didactic lectures, case discussions, interactions with students on clinical rotations, and faculty-development seminars. A variety of lectures and topics of discussions are offered, including pharmacy admissions process, accreditation standards and outcome assessment, curricular design, mission and vision development, experiential education, pharmacists as educators, and leadership development in pharmacy practice. The visiting pharmacists also have opportunities to interact with faculty to discuss research and clinical practice.

WNEU School of Law Sweeps ABA Competition

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law entered the American Bar Assoc. (ABA) Region 1 Negotiation Competition with three two-person teams this fall. A total of 16 law-school teams from throughout New England and New York competed at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford. After two days of intense competition, the three WNEU teams finished in first, second, and third place, sweeping the competition. The teams included law students Thomas Holman and Joseph Masse in first place, Kimberly Roche and Matthew Minniefield in second place, and Rachna Khanna and Egzon Beha in third place. “I learned the importance of creative problem solving in negotiations,” Roche said. “Sometimes you have to go beyond typical solutions and find a creative, alternative solution that both clients will accept.” The university teams that placed first and second in the ABA Region 1 competition will go on to compete nationally in Chicago in February. Assisting Professor René Reich-Graefe in coaching the teams were law alumni Sandra San Emeterio, Mark Borenstein, Cara Hale, and Chris Rousseau. “I’m so very proud of all the Western New England students,” San Emeterio said. “My fondest memory of law school is the time I spent on the negotiation team. Best of luck in Chicago, and I hope to get the opportunity to work with you again.” In the 2015 ABA competition, the School of Law team of Rousseau and Emily Dubuc went on to compete in the finals in San Diego.

Reap Talks Leadership with Young Professionals

CHICOPEE — Elms College hosted a leadership luncheon for the Young Professional Society (YPS) of Greater Springfield on Dec. 7. The keynote speaker at the event was the college’s president, Mary Reap. In her lecture, Reap discussed the importance of recognizing opportunities, even unexpected or perhaps at-first unwelcome ones, and taking advantage of them to further one’s career goals. She also talked about developing diplomacy and perseverance, banishing self-doubt, and learning from mistakes. YPS is a group of young professionals who work and live in Western Mass., particularly around the Greater Springfield area, bringing them together to exchange ideas, share common interests, and become the Pioneer Valley’s leaders of tomorrow. The group aims to represent the region’s corporate, nonprofit, and cultural interests by engaging a younger demographic in several distinct areas, including business and career development, networking, cultural and community involvement, educational opportunities, volunteerism, and recreational and social activities. The lunch series, formerly called the CEO Luncheon Series, is meant to highlight prominent local business owners who are successfully working in the city.

HCC Offers Free Culinary-hospitality Training to the Unemployed

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is using a $190,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to train unemployed and underemployed people for new jobs in the culinary and hospitality industry. The program is free to participants, who must commit to attend classes every day for nine weeks, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The course teaches them fundamental culinary skills and exposes them to a wide variety of careers in hospitality, including hotel operations. “It’s a hands-on opportunity to try out a lot of things and find out what their interests and aptitudes are,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, HCC’s assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development. “Another key part of the program is that, when it ends, they have to let us help them find a job.” The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced the grant earlier this year. Commonwealth Corp., a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education, and workforce organizations, administers the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund. Students graduate from the program with four key credentials: ServSafe and OSHA-10 certifications, which show they have been trained in safe food handling and workplace safety; TIPS certification, which allows them to serve alcohol; and a National Career Readiness certification, which demonstrates they possess fundamental workplace skills. The first cohort of students started in October and will celebrate their graduation today, Dec. 15, as they prepare and serve a noontime meal for family and friends at Food 101 Bar & Bistro in South Hadley. The restaurant is owned by chef Alan Anischik, who serves as the main instructor for the program. Most of the classes meet at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke. Last week, in preparation for the graduation celebration, the class met at Food 101. In addition to cooking techniques, the program offers lessons in customer-service etiquette, workplace communication, conflict resolution, product purchasing and receiving, and food and wine pairing. During the course, students had the opportunity to attend a job seminar with representatives from MGM Resorts to learn about future employment opportunities at the casino now under construction in Springfield. They also participated in speed interviews with local employers from the restaurant and hotel industry. The next program cohort begins March 23. Anyone interested should contact Milissa Daniels at (413) 552-2042.

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Berkshire Bank Announces New Teen Checking Product

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced a new product, Teen Checking, its newest deposit product designed to promote financial responsibility and teach teens important money basics. As teenagers grow, they need to learn money basics, and that includes managing a checking account. Those skills might be more valuable today than ever before: 36% of college students at four-year institutions noted that overdrafting and managing a bank account are the leading causes of financial stress, according to the 2015 Money Matters on Campus survey by education technology firm EverFi and Higher One, a college financial-services company. Furthermore, 12% indicated they never check their balances because they are too nervous. The Teen Checking product is available to individuals aged 15 to 17 with an adult co-owner and is intended to provide teens the freedom to use their own debit card to make purchases and manage a checking account using online and mobile banking. The account has been tailored to meet the needs of teens, with a specific focus on immediate access. The convenience of account information is made possible through free online banking, e-statements, and mobile banking. In addition, the free debit card has a reduced limit for minors. Berkshire Bank’s website also provides financial-education resource options for teens and parents to explore and discuss. Starting a checking account early for teens is a key way to avoid pitfalls later. “It helps them learn concepts related to money and gives them valuable experience,” said Tami Gunsch, executive vice president, Retail Banking. “Remember that, while your child has watched you swipe a debit card for years, he or she may not fully understand how the transaction works.”

Couple Opens Baseball, Softball Training Facility

WESTFIELD — Dave and Karen Sweeney of Agawam recently purchased the assets of the former Extra Innings Westfield franchise from Nabil and Julie Hannoush of Westfield. On Nov. 1, they opened their own family-run baseball and softball training facility, Players Edge New England, in the same space at 99 Springfield Road, which they will lease from the Hannoushes. Like its predecessor, Players Edge New England will offer batting practice and player development to teams and individual baseball and softball players in the region, and the organization will also offer one-on-one coaching, practice space for the Players Edge Expos—a travelling youth baseball team—and group clinics for teams throughout the year. “We’re as committed to softball as we are to baseball,” said Dave Sweeney, co-owner. The facility is also open to the public daily from noon to 9 p.m., and is available to businesses and corporations as staff meeting, event, and retreat space. Additional hours are available upon request. Sweeney, a longtime entrepreneur and the owner of viz-bang! in Agawam, is excited to partner with his wife, Karen, in a venture that will also include their children, Jake Sweeney, 16, a pitcher and infielder on the Agawam High School varsity baseball team, and Julia, 13, who is active in swimming and music. Players Edge New England will offer tunnel rentals, or batting-cage rentals, for individual practice and player development; one-on-one coaching through the Coaches in Residence Program; practice space for the Players Edge Expos, a youth travelling baseball team that will compete in the NEAAU league this summer; ongoing group clinics for baseball and softball teams in the region; event space for area businesses and corporations; softball and baseball pitching machines for use by the public daily from noon to 9 p.m.; and video- and virtual-based baseball play via a Hit Trax machine.

Webber & Grinnell Employees Assist Area Homeless

NORTHAMPTON — For three weeks in November, employees of Webber & Grinnell Insurance Agency served meals to Friends of the Homeless clients and others in the community who would otherwise go hungry. Friends of the Homeless served more than 156,000 meals last year, he noted, and people suffering from mental illness or substance-abuse problems are highly visible on area streets and in parks, and of this homeless population, about 20% of are referred to as being chronically homeless. A profound economic transformation that has eliminated manufacturing jobs, coupled with a decline in the availability of low-cost housing, has contributed to the problem.

CJC Development Advisors Opens Office in Westfield

WESTFIELD — CJC Development Advisors, LLC has opened an office at 38 Elm St. in Westfield to support its growing client base in Western Mass. Local businesses that are growing and real-estate developers that are investing in projects have called on CJC Development Advisors to assist with tax incentives, development and permitting issues, and development management. CJC Development’s expertise is in land/real-estate development, construction project management, government relations, community relations, permitting, data, and financial analysis. Founder and Principal Jeffrey Daley has more than 15 years of experience in economic development, real-estate development, construction project management, government relations, and public-private partnership development. He has managed more than $500 million in private and public developments and program administration, and has managed projects ranging from $50,000 to $180 million.

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AIC Named Among Fastest-growing Colleges

SPRINGFIELD — The Chronicle of Higher Education named American International College (AIC) one of the fastest-growing colleges in the U.S. for the fifth time. Among private, nonprofit master’s institutions, AIC placed among the top 20 colleges and universities in the country, ranking 16th, with a nearly 124% growth rate. AIC is the only Massachusetts college or university to place in this category and outpaced the national average growth rate of 21.7% by more than 100%. AIC has more than doubled its enrollment over a 10-year span, 2004-2014. In a categorical comparison to other colleges and universities in Massachusetts, Bay Path University ranked 17th among private baccalaureate institutions with an 82.6% growth rate, and Elms College ranked 18th in the same category with a growth rate of 78.3%. “We believe that a college education is more than academic and intellectual growth,” said AIC President Vince Maniaci. “At AIC, we are committed to the personal, spiritual, and professional development of our students. We identify trends and explore and develop programs that will provide our students with a foundation upon which they can build to reach their full potential. This is a competitive and rapidly changing world. We make every effort to help our students compete successfully in that environment and are proud to be recognized for our efforts.” Data collected for the Chronicle of Higher Education was based on fall enrollments of full-time and part-time students and included all U.S. degree-granting programs with a minimum 500-student enrollment in 2004.


Magazine Names Westside Finishing Among Top Shops

HOLYOKE — Westside Finishing has been named one of the best finishing shops in North America, according to an industry benchmarking survey conducted by Products Finishing magazine, a trade publication that has covered the industry since 1938. The magazine conducted an extensive benchmarking survey that analyzed hundreds of finishing companies in several different areas, including current finishing technology, finishing practices and performances, business strategies and performances, and training and human resources. Only the top 50 shops were given the honor of being a Products Finishing ‘Top Shop’ based on a scoring matrix in those four criteria. “Westside Finishing has established itself as one of the best finishing operations in the industry,” said Tim Pennington, editor of Products Finishing magazine. “The criteria we used was very stringent, and only the top finishing shops that excelled in all four areas made the list. Westside Finishing is in rare air when it comes to finishing operations.” Brian Bell, owner and president of Westside Finishing, said he is “extremely excited and pleased to be named one of Products Finishing magazine’s Top Shops for the second year. Our employees and management team have worked very hard to be the best in the industry, and to provide our customers with quality service.”


Skoler, Abbott & Presser Earns Tier 1 Ranking

SPRINGFIELD — Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced it has once again received a Tier 1 ranking in five different practice areas for the Springfield metropolitan area by The Best Lawyers in America. The firm was recognized for its excellence in arbitration, employment law in management, labor law in management, labor and employment litigation, and mediation. Notably, all of these practice areas received Tier 1 rankings, signifying a score within a certain percentage of the highest-scoring firms in the metropolitan area. “We do our best every day to present our clients with legal advice that reflects an understanding of each of their unique businesses,” said Partner Timothy Murphy. “I think the firm’s high degree of expertise and proficiency is demonstrated in our continued ranking as a Tier 1 law firm by Best Lawyers.” Attaining a Tier 1 ranking in so many different practice areas marks a strong combination of quality law practice and expansive legal experience, and reflects one of the highest levels of respect within the legal community, he added. The rankings are based on an evaluation process that includes both client and lawyer evaluations, peer reviews from leading attorneys in specified practice areas, and final reviews from law firms as part of the formal review process and selection. To be eligible for the rankings, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metropolitan area. Best Lawyers is the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. The Best Lawyers lists of outstanding attorneys are compiled by conducting comprehensive peer-review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers.


Springfield Museums Wins Grant to Restore Windows

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums have been awarded a Museums for America grant of $106,592 from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to restore and stabilize 20 Tiffany stained-glass windows at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. These grants are awarded through competitive peer review and require at least a 100% match by the applicant. The program is an essential component of the institute’s goal of sustaining cultural heritage. The 20 Tiffany stained-glass windows are original to the main façade of the historic George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, which opened in 1896. The windows have deteriorated because of age, city pollution, and the harsh New England weather. This project includes a provision to protect the windows and their restoration through the addition of exterior tempered glass. The restoration of the Tiffany stained-glass windows will reintegrate these important decorative features with the building as well as greatly increase the effectiveness of the museum’s environmental control system. “These windows are rare and highly significant,” said Kay Simpson, president of the Springfield Museums. “They are the only Tiffany stained-glass windows in existence that were specifically commissioned for an American art museum, and they are a critical element of the overall design of the 1896 museum building. We are grateful to the IMLS for providing us with funding to stabilize and preserve these important stained-glass treasures for future generations.”


Elms College Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Earns Accreditation

CHICOPEE — The School of Nursing at Elms College has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for its doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. CCNE accreditation is a nongovernmental peer-review process that operates in accordance with nationally recognized standards established for the practice of accreditation in the U.S. “The DNP program was a vision and a dream for Elms School of Nursing and our community partners,” said Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing at Elms. The DNP degree is a clinical practice doctorate in an advanced specialty of nursing practice for the role of nurse practitioner. DNP graduates from Elms are eligible to sit for advanced certification and licensure in one of two specialty tracks: family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology acute-care nurse practitioner. Most local programs educate advanced-practice nurses (APRNs) at the master’s level, but — in accordance with the American Assoc. of Colleges of Nursing’s evolutionary position to move the level of preparation necessary for APRN roles from the master’s degree to the doctorate level — Elms College has implemented the clinical doctorate to prepare NPs with the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise. The college has partnered with Baystate Medical System and Berkshire Health Systems, who fund cohorts of nurses to fill critical roles in their organizations now and into the future.

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HCC Awarded $127,741 for EMT Training Program

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a $127,741 Workforce Skills Capital Grant to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for its EMT Training Program. The grant, announced this week by the governor’s office, will allow HCC to expand the number of students served in its non-credit EMT classes and offer new training equipment and materials at the college’s new Center for Health Education, adjacent to the main campus on Jarvis Avenue. HCC was one of seven community colleges, vocational high schools, and educational collaboratives chosen to share in a total funding package worth $2.6 million. “This was a great opportunity for us to get some needed funding to replace outdated materials and equipment, which, because of the cost, is difficult to keep up to date,” said Ken White, dean of HCC Community Services. The grant will allow HCC to expand the number of students served in the non-credit certificate EMT classes, which are geared for firefighters and other emergency workers who need certification or continuing education, individuals interested in beginning careers as EMTs, and nurses or other heath professionals. “Students at all levels will have access to state-of-the-art technologies, including simulators that respond to student actions,” White said. Instructors for the enhanced program will be supplied by Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), White said. Together, HCC and STCC, through Training and Workforce Options, their collaborative workforce program, will work with area employers to provide customized EMT training opportunies at HCC’s Center for Health Education. “The goal of these grants is to expand the capacity of programs that build skills for Massachusetts residents,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “We already see the impact these grants are having at educational programs around the state, and we know these investments will strengthen the state’s economy for all residents.”

Springfield Museums Named Smithsonian Affiliate

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums have been formally accepted as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term, high-quality partnerships with museums and educational organizations in order to share collections, exhibitions, learning opportunities, and research expertise. The partnership  has been made possible through the support of the MassMutual Foundation, which is providing a three-year, $145,000-plus grant to bring a wealth of resources and programming to Springfield. “For us to continue to develop a culturally rich community, it is important that all of us — especially our children — have access to some of the world’s most treasured art collections, artifacts, and perspectives of the most renowned experts in the country,” said Roger Crandall, chairman, president, and CEO of MassMutual.  “The MassMutual Foundation’s support of the partnership between the Springfield Museums and the Smithsonian helps strengthen the cultural fabric of our community, and we are proud to do our share to provide opportunities that inspire people to never stop learning and growing.” Joining Crandall at an announcement ceremony hosted by the museums was Harold Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations; Springfield Museums President Kay Simpson; Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno; U.S. Rep. Richard Neal; and state Sen. Eric Lesser. The day also included a presentation titled “Driving Around Mars” by planetary scientist John Grant from the National Air and Space Museum. There are currently more than 200 institutions nationwide that have been selected to be Smithsonian affiliates. In identifying possible candidates for affiliation, the Smithsonian seeks out organizations that share a common mission, a commitment to education and public service, and the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to their venues. Candidates are subject to a rigorous application process involving all aspects of their organization, from their leadership and financial structure to a review of their collections-management and programming protocols. Those selected to be affiliates enjoy a range of benefits, from facilitated object and exhibit loans and discounted Smithsonian memberships for their patrons to custom-developed education, performing-arts, and public programs. Staff at the Smithsonian and the Springfield Museums have already commenced discussions of potential collaborative projects for the first three years of the affiliation, including object loans and additional visits from Smithsonian experts.

Johnson & Hill Launches Accounting, Finance Division

SPRINGFIELD — Johnson & Hill Staffing Services Inc. recently enhanced its service offerings to include a specialized Accounting & Finance Division. While Johnson & Hill has always placed accounting and finance professionals, this move signals an increased commitment to this area of expertise. The agency sees a growing demand for this skill set and an opportunity to assist clients more proactively. Tiffany Appleton has been appointed director, Accounting & Finance Division. Boasting more than a decade of recruiting experience in accounting and finance, she will provide direct-hire, contract-to-hire, and contract staffing, assisting clients in filling critical accounting and finance needs within their organizations. Roles range from clerk level up to CFO with a concentration on middle-management positions, including senior accountant, accounting manager, controller, financial analyst, manager of FP&A, internal audit, and public audit and tax. Her staffing experience crosses many industry sectors, spanning manufacturing, technology, nonprofit, professional service, and life science, with companies ranging from startup to publicly traded. Appleton will focus on developing and nurturing long-term relationships with both clients and job seekers, which are built on mutual trust, sincerity, and confidentiality. She is sought after by clients for her progressive ideas on acquiring talent and consistent ability to deliver quality candidates. Job seekers appreciate her willingness to provide career coaching, interview preparation, and résumé assistance. Prior to Johnson & Hill, her professional career included serving as client relations director for a large, regional CPA firm and principal and talent advisor for a boutique staffing firm specializing in accounting and finance placement. Johnson & Hill is an independent, regional, woman-owned staffing service offering temporary, temp-to-hire, and direct-hire employment opportunities, serving Western Mass. and Northern Conn. Johnson & Hill specializes in administrative, accounting, legal, and professional staffing services.

Springfield College Rises Again in U.S. News Rankings

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College has again moved up the list of highest-ranked colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s latest edition of “Best Colleges.” In the 2017 report, Springfield College is ranked 27th in the first tier in the category of Best Regional Universities – North. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Springfield College has moved up in the U.S. News rankings. This year’s ranking of the college is up two spots from 2016 and 40 spots from 2011. “I am extremely proud that Springfield College is being recognized for our outstanding academic offerings and a rich co-curricular life outside of the classroom,” said President Mary-Beth Cooper. “The rise in our ranking over the past six years demonstrates that the value proposition for a school like Springfield College, grounded in the Humanics philosophy, is well-regarded.” The college also ranked 12th in Best Value Schools for Regional Universities – North, the first year it has been listed in the Best Values category, which takes into account a college’s academic quality and net cost of attendance. According to U.S. News, the higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal. Springfield College’s rise in the rankings is spurred by improved graduation rates and improved retention of first-year students. The college’s traditional, undergraduate enrollment for the fall of 2016 remained steady, with 550 first-year students enrolling again this year. The ratings are based on such variables as peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, class size, alumni giving, and student-faculty ratio. The college was ranked in a third category by U.S. News for 2017. It is ranked 14th in the North region in Best Colleges for Veterans.

CARF Accredits West Central Family and Counseling

WEST SPRINGFIELD — CARF International announced that West Central Family and Counseling has been accredited for a period of three years for its Outpatient Treatment: Mental Health (Adults) and Outpatient Treatment: Mental Health (Children and Adolescents) programs. This is the first accreditation CARF has awarded to West Central Family and Counseling. This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and shows the organization’s substantial conformance to the CARF standards. 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. West Central Family and Counseling has been providing outpatient mental-health programs in the Greater Springfield area since 2008. CARF is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served.

Berkshire Bank Named One of  Top Charitable Contributors

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it was named by Boston Business Journal as one of Massachusetts’ Most Charitable Companies at the publication’s annual Corporate Citizenship Summit in Boston on Sept. 8. The Boston Business Journal is one of the leading sources for business news, research, and events in the Greater Boston area. Each year it honors a select list of companies for their charitable work in the community. Berkshire Bank ranked 42nd for total financial contributions, with more than $1.27 million donated in Massachusetts alone and more than $2 million donated overall. Massachusetts-based bank employees also donated more than 27,000 hours of volunteer service. Berkshire Bank joined a select list of statewide, national, and international companies honored at the summit. The award recognized Berkshire Bank and Berkshire Bank Foundation’s philanthropic investments in the community through their charitable grants, corporate giving, scholarships, in-kind donations, and employee volunteerism.

Country Bank Participates in Habitat’s Operation Playhouse

WARE — A group of 14 Country Bank employees recently joined forces with Habitat for Humanity Metro West/Greater Worcester in a team-building exercise that ended with a local veteran family receiving a unique gift: a custom playhouse. Habitat’s Operation Playhouse is a program that brings groups together to create a custom playhouse in one day. The opportunity to work together and collaborate on design and construction of the house is wrapped up with the reward of seeing it turned over to a local veteran and their children. “Working with the Habitat staff was seamless, and the day couldn’t have been more rewarding,” said Deb Gagnon, the bank’s Corporate Relations officer. “Completing the playhouse gave us all a sense of accomplishment, and when the family arrived to receive their gift, there wasn’t a dry eye around.”

Company Notebook Departments

PeoplesBank Earns Accolades

HOLYOKE — Eighty-five Massachusetts companies were honored at the Boston Business Journal’s 11th annual Corporate Citizenship Summit on Sept. 8 at the EpiCenter at Artists for Humanity in Boston. For the ninth time, PeoplesBank was among the companies included, this year finishing 48th on the statewide list and third for companies headquartered in Western Mass. Meanwhile, AdvisoryHQ has named PeoplesBank to its list of “The Top Ten Banks in Massachusetts” after an extensive review. “The contributions these companies make to Massachusetts are incredibly impressive and go a long way toward helping strengthen the communities we live in,” said Boston Business Journal Market President and Publisher Carolyn Jones at the Sept. 8 event. Matthew Bannister, vice president, Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, accepted the award at the summit on behalf of the bank’s associates. “Our mutual charter supports everything we do and why we are succeeding as a community bank,” he said. “Because of our mutual charter and related values, we have a unique ability to help the communities we serve through volunteer efforts and millions of dollars in donations to charitable and civic causes.” The Boston Business Journal’s “Top Corporate Charitable Contributors” list is composed of companies that gave at least $100,000 to Massachusetts-based charities in 2015. According to Advisory HQ, “the names on this list of banks in Massachusetts are all very distinctive from one another, yet all have many advantages, benefits, and value-creating products and services that make them excellent choices for consumers seeking the very best in financial services.” The bank’s corporate values were highlighted by AdvisoryHQ in its announcement of the list, which noted, “the corporate philosophy of PeoplesBank is a commitment to customers, maintaining corporate responsibility, creating a great place to work, and always striving to improve their environment.” Added Thomas Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank, “AdvisoryHQ has accurately identified the values we are proud of. As a mutual bank, we strive to serve our customers and the community as well as support the environment and our associates’ growth and development. These are also the qualities that we believe separate us from other financial institutions and truly make us a top bank.” PeoplesBank was recently highlighted by the Assoc. for Customer Loyalty for the bank’s commitment to customers, was named a Top Place to Work by the Boston Globe, and an Employer of Choice by the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, and has received environmental-sustainability awards from the city of Springfield (the first-ever GreenSeal Award), BankNews (Green Leaf Award), and the American Bankers Assoc. (Sustainable Banking Award). AdvisoryHQ also suggested that the bank’s mobile app was one of the reasons it made the list of Top Ten Banks in Massachusetts. PeoplesBank was one of the first community banks in the nation to launch a mobile app and mobile deposit.

Baystate Hospitals Merge Under One License

The Mass. Public Health Council approved Baystate Wing Hospital’s application to merge Baystate Mary Lane Hospital with Baystate Wing Hospital and combine the two facilities and their respective satellite facilities under one license. The last day of inpatient services at Baystate Mary Lane was Sept. 9. As of Sept. 10, Baystate Mary Lane became a satellite of Baystate Wing. Inpatient care at Baystate Mary Lane transitioned to Baystate Wing, while all outpatient services will continue at Baystate Mary Lane. Baystate Mary Lane Emergency Department will now operate as a satellite emergency facility of Baystate Wing Hospital. Patients will get the same level of 24-hour emergency care delivered by the same caregivers. Those who need to be admitted for hospital care will be transported to Baystate Wing, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, or another appropriate medical facility depending on their care needs. The Ware facility will be known as the Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center. “We appreciate the Public Health Council’s recognition that this transition is an important step toward providing the best possible quality and value in services for the communities we serve,” said Michael Moran, president and chief administrative officer for the Baystate Health Eastern Region. “Our priority now is to work to ensure that the transition goes smoothly, and to continue to engage our local community on the many health issues that we face together. Baystate Mary Lane will continue to play a vibrant role in improving health in our communities.” Patients should not expect any disruptions in services related to the transition, and may call their doctor’s office if they have any questions about the effect of the change on any scheduled appointments.

AIC Granted Reaffirmation of Accreditation

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been granted reaffirmation of accreditation of business and management programs offered through its schools of Business, Arts, and Sciences and the School of Graduate and Adult Education by the board of commissioners of the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). The IACBE is nationally recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and is a leader in mission-driven and outcomes-based programmatic accreditation in business and management education for student-centered colleges, universities, and other higher-education institutions throughout the world, The IACBE has hundreds of member institutions and campuses worldwide and has accredited more than 1,300 business and business-related programs in the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Central America, and South America. According to the IACBE, “the School of Business, Arts, and Sciences and the School of Graduate and Adult Education at American International College have undertaken a rigorous self-evaluation, have undergone a comprehensive independent peer review, and have demonstrated compliance with the following nine accreditation principals of the IACBE: outcome assessment, strategic planning, curriculum, faculty, scholarly and professional activities, resources, internal and external relationships, international business education, and educational innovation.” In addition, the organization noted that AIC’s School of Business, Arts, and Sciences and the School of Graduate and Adult Education “have demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement, excellence in business education, and advancing academic quality in their business programs and operations.”

ILI Earns Highest Ranking from Accreditation Authority

NORTHAMPTON — The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) has certified the International Language Institute (ILI) of Massachusetts through 2021. This five-year accreditation is the highest level bestowed by ACCET, which since 1978 has been officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a reliable authority regarding the quality of education and training provided by the institutions that ACCET accredits. ACCET first accredited ILI in 1984, and has continued its recognition of the school’s excellence since then. “We are proud to earn ACCET’s highest accreditation,” said Eric Wirth, ILI board president. “It underscores the extraordinary creativity and dedication of our teachers and administrative staff. And ACCET accreditation helps assure prospective students from around the world and right here in Western Massachusetts that they will receive top-notch service.” Operating for 32 years, ILI is a nonprofit language school in Northampton that partners with 12 colleges and universities (locally, Bay Path University, Elms College, Greenfield Community College, Springfield College, Western New England University, Westfield State University, and UMass Amherst graduate school) to teach academic English skills to international students planning on enrolling at these schools. The school also trains instructors in effective ways to teach English to non-English speakers in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, ILI offers French, German, Italian, and Spanish courses for English speakers who travel for pleasure and business or “who simply want to learn another language,” said ILI Executive Director Caroline Gear. “We are especially proud of our free English classes for refugees and immigrants,” she added. “For more than 30 years, these classes have helped change lives thanks to support from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the generosity of hundreds of local businesses and individual donors.” ACCET personnel paid a site visit to ILI in July and completed extensive research as part of the accreditation process. Among the strengths pointed out in the ACCET assessment are ILI’s professional relationships within the Northampton community; the school’s short- and long-term business plans; the extensive tenure of ILI faculty and staff, which results in a collaborative environment that supports out-of-the-box thinking; student-centered classes, including free English classes for refugees and immigrants; the school’s exemplary teaching and the teachers’ qualifications that exceed ACCET requirements; and the fact that students enjoy their time at ILI and are making significant progress in language development.

Aegis Energy Services Announces Strategic Alliance with Yanmar

HOLYOKE — Aegis Energy Services Inc., a provider of co-generation technology, announced a strategic alliance with Yanmar, a 100-year-old Japanese diesel engine and equipment manufacturer and cogeneration provider. The Aegis and Yanmar relationship will broaden the reach of combined heat and power (CHP) systems by offering a wider product line to serve facilities of all sizes — from hotels, hospitals, and residential buildings with large footprints to smaller facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, apartment complexes, boutique hotels, restaurants, and more. “For more than 30 years, Aegis has designed, manufactured, and installed combined heat and power systems equipped with world-class remote monitoring and service across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,” said Aegis President Lee Vardakas. “The alliance with Yanmar not only increases our CHP product offerings, but our geographic reach. Together, we can provide modular systems for facilities of any size to generate sustainable, clean power options that reduce energy costs and emissions on a wider scale.” According to the U.S. Energy Department, CHP captures energy that would normally be lost in power generation and uses it to provide heating and cooling, making CHP 75% to 80% percent efficient. While most central power plants create steam as a byproduct that is then expelled as wasted heat, a CHP system captures the thermal energy that would normally be lost in power generation and uses it to provide on-site heating and cooling to factories, multi-residential housing and hospitality facilities, breweries, athletic facilities, and other applications requiring thermal load. In 2012, legislation was enacted which set a national goal for increasing CHP capacity. “Aegis has already demonstrated a commitment to Yanmar’s cogeneration product line by successfully completing our training courses designed for these systems,” said Arne Irwin, Energy Systems Business Unit manager at Yanmar America. “They will be able to provide a high level of service in their market for Yanmar’s CHP products.”

OMG Roofing Opens Two New Warehouses

AGAWAM — To support its goal of accelerating international sales growth in Asia and Europe, OMG Roofing Products has established new warehouses in Rotterdam in the Netherlands as well as in Shanghai, China. The two new warehouses are centrally located within their regions to enable OMG to rapidly supply products to roofing contractors and OEM partners in each of these critical markets. Both warehouses will stock a wide range of products sold locally, including OMG fasteners and plates, RhinoBond tools and plates, OMG telescopic tubes, OlyBond500 insulation adhesives, OlyFlow drains, and EverSeal roof repair tape. “OMG Roofing Products has continued to grow and expand beyond U.S. borders,” said Web Shaffer, vice president of Marketing. “By adding these warehouses, we are building a stronger foundation on which to accelerate our international growth by improving our service and expanding our distribution into new countries throughout Europe and Asia.”

Berkshire Bank Named a Top Charitable Contributor

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it was named by Boston Business Journal as one of Massachusetts’ Most Charitable Companies at the publication’s annual Corporate Citizenship Summit in Boston on Sept. 8. The Boston Business Journal is one of the leading sources for business news, research, and events in the Greater Boston area. Each year it honors a select list of companies for their charitable work in the community. Berkshire Bank ranked 42nd for total financial contributions, with more than $1.27 million donated in Massachusetts alone and more than $2 million donated overall. Massachusetts-based bank employees also donated more than 27,000 hours of volunteer service. Berkshire Bank joined a select list of statewide, national, and international companies honored at the summit. The award recognized Berkshire Bank and Berkshire Bank Foundation’s philanthropic investments in the community through their charitable grants, corporate giving, scholarships, in-kind donations, and employee volunteerism. Annually, Berkshire Bank and Berkshire Bank Foundation provide more than $2 million to community organizations, as well as scholarships to high-school seniors with a record of academic excellence and financial need. In addition to financial support, XTEAM, the bank’s employee-volunteer program, provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours. In 2015, more than 70% of Berkshire Bank’s employees donated over 40,000 hours of service to benefit community organizations across the bank’s service area.

Inspired Marketing Gains WBENC Certification

SPRINGFIELD — Inspired Marketing Inc. announced it has been certified as a woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and also announced several promotions and hires in the company. “This designation is something I have longed to receive, and this year was thrilled to have accomplished the goal,” said Jill Monson-Bishop, chief inspiration officer. “I am even prouder of this certification because I have incredible women on my team who celebrate it with me.”

Berkshire Theatre Group Receives $29,000 Grant

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group announced it is the recipient of a $29,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP), which provides unrestricted general operating support grants and project support grants to nonprofit organizations that provide public programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities in Massachusetts. “We’re deeply thankful for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s CIP grant to BTG. As ticket sales only cover half of our expenses, outside funding is vital to maintain our educational and transformative programs and productions. We are grateful that the MCC supports the valuable work we do.” The CIP recognizes that organizations with an established record of programmatic service and administrative stability should have access to funds to support their organizational goals and objectives, and to maintain their ongoing programs, services, and facilities without special emphasis on new initiatives as justification for funding.

Springfield College Rises Again in U.S. News Rankings

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College has again moved up the list of highest-ranked colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s latest edition of “Best Colleges.” In the 2017 report, Springfield College is ranked 27th in the first tier in the category of Best Regional Universities – North. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Springfield College has moved up in the U.S. News rankings. This year’s ranking of the college is up two spots from 2016 and 40 spots from 2011. “I am extremely proud that Springfield College is being recognized for our outstanding academic offerings and a rich co-curricular life outside of the classroom,” said President Mary-Beth Cooper. “The rise in our ranking over the past six years demonstrates that the value proposition for a school like Springfield College, grounded in the Humanics philosophy, is well-regarded.” The college also ranked 12th in Best Value Schools for Regional Universities – North, the first year it has been listed in the Best Values category, which takes into account a college’s academic quality and net cost of attendance. According to U.S. News, the higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal Springfield College’s rise in the rankings is spurred by improved graduation rates and improved retention of first-year students. The college’s traditional, undergraduate enrollment for the fall of 2016 remained steady, with 550 first-year students enrolling again this year. The ratings are based on such variables as peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, class size, alumni giving, and student-faculty ratio. The college was ranked in a third category by U.S. News for 2017. It is ranked 14th in the North region in Best Colleges for Veterans.

Company Notebook Departments

Big E Taps White Lion to
Brew Its Centennial Ale

SPRINGFIELD — White Lion Brewing Co., in collaboration with Williams Distributing and the Student Prince and the Fort, will commemorate the Eastern States Exposition’s 100th anniversary with an exclusive centennial ale. This limited-quantity Kolsch ale will be featured at one of the newest Big E venues from Sept. 16 through Oct. 2: the Wurst Haus, located near the New England Center and the Coliseum, where the Student Prince and the Fort will feature its German menu. “We are happy to share our appetite for delivering quality food and beverage to festival goers that have been supporting the Eastern States Exposition for 100 years,” said Andy Yee, the restaurant’s managing partner. “In our inaugural year, it made sense for us to partner with community-committed companies such as White Lion Brewing and Williams Distributing as a way to further enhance the overall experience.” Heather Gawron, operations and sales manager at White Lion Brewing Co., added that “White Lion is very excited to be part of the centennial celebration and be showcased at New England’s largest fair. To stand with a regional pioneer, the Eastern States Exposition, and two great community partners, Williams Distributing and the Student Prince and Fort restaurant, is a historical moment for our brand. Our brewer, Mike Yates, worked with the Student Prince and Fort restaurant to determine what style would complement the German-themed venue. Fittingly, the beer will be called Eastern States Exposition Centennial Ale: Kolsch. The beer will be a light-bodied and crisp golden ale, brewed with German hops and malts.”

WNEU Named a
College of Distinction

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) is featured in the 2016-17 edition of the Colleges of Distinction guidebook. Based on the opinions of guidance counselors, educators, and admissions professionals, the guidebook honors colleges that excel in key areas of educational quality and appeal to students’ unique and varied interests. “We place high value on innovation and excellence in order to provide the best possible experience for our students. We challenge students to dream big, take risks, and surprise themselves with all they can accomplish,” said Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment. Western New England University serves approximately 4,000 students, including 2,575 undergraduate students, on its main campus in Springfield. In order to qualify for inclusion in the guidebook, Western New England University was evaluated for its performance in four distinct categories: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities, and successful outcomes. Guidance counselors and admissions professionals around the country recommended WNEU highly in all four categories. The university was particularly noted for providing an innovative, engaged experience that prepares students for successful careers, active citizenship, and lifelong learning. Western New England University is accredited by the Assoc. to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. Fewer than 5% of business programs worldwide are accredited by AACSB International.

Elms College President Announces Retirement

CHICOPEE — Mary Reap, president of the College of Our Lady of the Elms, has announced she will retire in the summer of 2017, according to Cynthia Lyons, chair of the Elms College board of trustees. In accepting Reap’s retirement, Lyons said, “on behalf of the board of trustees, I wish to express our sincere gratitude for all Sr. Mary has given to the College of Our Lady of the Elms during her tenure. Her accomplishments will serve as the firm foundation upon which the future of the college will be built. This year will provide us with the opportunity to celebrate Sr. Mary and her many contributions to our college and our community. Sr. Mary’s guidance, dedication, and vision will leave a lasting legacy on the Elms campus and in the hearts of all who love this college.”
Since arriving at Elms College in 2009, Reap has made a profound impact on both the academic programs and the campus itself. It was her vision, for example, that instituted a successful fund-raising effort for the new Center for Natural and Health Sciences building, which now serves as the crown jewel of the campus.
Reap has also been instrumental in the creation of articulation agreements between Elms College and every community college in Western Mass. and into Worcester County to develop completion programs for adult students. During her tenure, the college also added to its graduate offerings by developing DNP (doctor of nursing practice) and MBA (master of business administration) programs. “We are committed by our mission to carry on the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph in as many ways as possible through our thoughts and actions,” Reap explained. “The very fabric of the college is to serve the spiritual, social, and healthcare needs of our dear neighbors as the sisters have done throughout the diocese over so many years.” Reap will remain as president through the academic year, and will assist the trustees in the college’s search for a new president, in addition to other projects related to the development of a Master Campus Plan and strategic refinement of programs and services to meet the needs of the college over the next year and beyond. The board of trustees will form a search committee, and national search firm R.H. Perry and Associates will lead the search for a successor.

Company Notebook Departments

Jerry Rome Nissan Becomes Balise Nissan

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Jerry Rome Nissan, located at 500 Riverdale St. in West Springfield, has officially become Balise Nissan of West Springfield. The current facility and parking area will undergo expansion in the coming months. Pending approval from the town of West Springfield, the dealership will be renovated to align more closely with Nissan’s latest dealership image. “Our team is thrilled for the all-new Balise Nissan of West Springfield,” says Bill Peffer, president & COO of Balise Motor Sales. “We look forward to exceeding customers’ expectations in areas of sales, service, and overall customer experience.” Balise Nissan is the sixth Balise dealership on Riverdale Street in West Springfield and the ninth Balise dealership in Western Mass.

Berkshire Bank Named Among Top 10 Best Banks in Massachusetts

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank has been recognized by AdvisoryHQ News as one of the Top 10 Best Banks in Massachusetts. “We are honored to be recognized by AdvisoryHQ News on their list of the best banks in Massachusetts,” said Tami Gunsch, executive vice president of Retail Banking. “We look forward to continuing to provide solutions to meet the financial needs of those within our communities and help our customers thrive and achieve what’s most exciting in their lives.” AdvisoryHQ News based its rankings on a number of factors, including advantages, benefits, and value-creating products and services provided by these financial institutions that benefit the consumers they serve. It delves deeper than the obvious fees, ratios, and metrics, also looking at the quality and value of products and services, creating a more personal examination. The products listed by Advisory HQ News as particularly beneficial to consumers are the NOW Checking, Pure Excitement Money Market, mobile banking, and MyBanker programs. AdvisoryHQ News is an online news outlet that provides research, reviews, and ranking of firms and products across the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

PFHS Accredited by New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges

SPRINGFIELD — Pope Francis High School, a faith-based, college-preparatory school serving grades 9-12, announced its accreditation by the New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges Inc. (NEASC). The school was formed by the recent merger of Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School. “This accreditation provides assurance to our prospective families that Pope Francis High School meets and upholds the standards that are outlined by the NEASC, and we will continue to work to meet those standards in the future,” said interim Head of School Dr. Thomas McDowell. “Accreditation by the NEASC is voluntary; it shows our willingness to abide by their standards and open ourselves regularly to examination by outside evaluators familiar with higher education.” According to a letter dated July 19 from Jay Stroud, NEASC interim director of the commission, Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic have been members of the association since 1993 and were last evaluated in 2013. By commission policy, their accreditation is extended to cover Pope Francis High School, which will be reevaluated for continued accreditation in 2023. “The effective date of accreditation for Pope Francis High School is Nov. 5, 2013, and the expiration date is Dec. 31, 2023,” Stroud wrote, adding that “Pope Francis High School is in good standing with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.” NEASC was founded in 1885 and works to establish and maintain high standards for all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten to the doctoral level.

Garvey Communication Associates Feted in Newspaper Poll

SPRINGFIELD — Readers of the Daily Hampshire Gazette voted Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) “Best Marketing – Advertising Agency” in the 2016 Reader’s Choice poll. GCAi is a digital-marketing agency and independent Google Certified Partner agency which recently celebrated its 25-year anniversary. “The award certainly comes as a surprise and is a nice 25th-anniversary present,” said Mary Shea, vice president of Digital Strategy at GCAi. “We have worked hard for years to introduce new digital-marketing strategies to the market, and our volunteer work with startups, here and around the world, is unparalleled. We see the award as validation of both.” For several years, GCAi was the pro bono agency of record for local startup accelerator Valley Venture Mentors, and the GCAi digital-marketing team regularly presents and mentors entrepreneurs from around the world through the global accelerator MassChallenge.

Florence Bank Employees Recognized Among Top Loan Originators

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that Toby Daniels, vice president and branch manager at the bank’s Hadley location, and Susan Seaver, vice president and mortgage loan officer, have both been recognized by the Warren Group as among the top loan originators for the Central and Western Mass. regions. The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, compiled the list and rankings for the top loan originators statewide for the period between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. The originators were ranked by number of loans and volume of loans, statewide and by region. Seaver was listed eighth in mortgage volume and seventh in number of loans. Daniels was listed ninth in mortgage volume. The comprehensive list, based on public records, is the compilation of data on hundreds of licensed loan originators in the state, as well as their lending institutions. The list was published in the June 20 edition of Banker & Tradesman and also distributed to attendees at the 2016 Mid-Year Mortgage Conference, held June 23 in Natick. In its report, the Warren Group stated that the Massachusetts housing recovery is one of the fastest in the nation and still going strong in most areas of the state. “All over the state,” the publishers noted, “loan originators have worked hard in the face of increased demand and increased regulatory burden. They are to be commended for their well-deserved success and their contributions to helping families achieve their dreams of home ownership.” Seaver said, “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work with so many great customers. It’s very rewarding to help people purchase their dream home. I’m also thankful for the underwriters and processors at Florence Bank who work as a team with the loan officers to ensure the borrower gets the highest level of personal service, which makes my job easy.” Added Daniels, “I’m very happy to have been recognized. We have a great network of realtors who provide referrals, as well as a strong back office and streamlined approval process. And the lending rates have been great. We’re very pleased to have been able to help so many of our neighbors and friends here with their housing needs.” John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank, said the bank is honored to have the pair recognized among the region’s top lenders. “This speaks volumes about their commitment and good work. At Florence Bank, we are fortunate to have such a dedicated team of people focused on helping our friends and neighbors achieve their dreams of buying a home. I am proud of them all.”

AIC Named Among Top 50 Nursing Schools in New England

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been named one of the top 50 nursing schools in New England by a research team at Nursing Schools Almanac, which collected data on more than 3,200 nursing schools and campuses throughout the U.S., with just 10% making the final list.
Each nursing school in the six-state region was evaluated on three dimensions: the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, and student success, particularly on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
According to Nursing Schools Almanac, “AIC ranked number 36 in New England. American International College opened in 1885 as a school for international immigrants. The institution became coed in 1892, making it one of the first colleges in the region to educate women. AIC offers BSN and RN-to-BSN courses for undergraduate students. The college introduced its MSN program in 2005, which offers a hybrid of classroom and online modules. In fact, two-thirds of the content is available online, providing much-needed flexibility for working nurses.”
Cesarina Thompson, dean of the School of Health Sciences, is pleased that AIC is being recognized. “Over the past five years, AIC’s average pass rate on the NCLEX exam has been at or above state and national averages. The college’s diverse nursing programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels offer a breadth and depth of courses and degrees that address current shortages of skilled healthcare professionals and an ever-increasing need for the future.”

Olde Holyoke Development Corp. Is Now OneHolyoke CDC

HOLYOKE — Olde Holyoke Development Corporation will now be called OneHolyoke CDC (Community Development Corporation) to better reflect its service to the most challenged neighborhoods in Holyoke and its commitment to best practices in the field of community development.
“It’s ‘Out with the Olde’ at Olde Holyoke Development Corporation,” according to OneHolyoke CDC Executive Director Michael Moriarty. “Our new name reflects the changes we have made to be a Community Development Corporation that represents a 21st century catalyst for change in Holyoke.”
Founded in 1971, the newly-named OneHolyoke CDC has created more than 160 new homes in the Flats, Churchill, and South Holyoke neighborhoods, rehabilitated hundreds of apartments, and provided thousands of home-improvement grants to homeowners through the Neighborhood Improvement Program. Olde Holyoke Development Corporation was formed originally as a Model Cities Community Development Corporation serving only the Flats neighborhood and continuing the work of a discontinued federal Great Society program.

In 2014, Olde Holyoke Development Corporation became the only certified Community Development Corporation based in the City of Holyoke. “OneHolyoke is a name that reflects the unifying, flexible and responsive CDC we strive to be,” Moriarty noted. “We’re doing what it takes to build communities, make improvements and transform lives.”
In recent years the housing development agency has diversified its board of directors, expanded its community service outreach, and launched efforts to collaborate with many city agencies and nonprofits that go beyond brick and mortar projects. Moriarty said the new name reflects the company’s evolution.
“The ‘Olde’ has served its purpose and outlived its time; we have a legacy of service and success we are proud of as ‘Olde Holyoke,’ but it is not our original name,” he said. “In the early ‘80s we adopted Olde Holyoke because the Flats is the oldest densely-populated section of Holyoke, which was the only area of focus. Now in 2016, we have been working throughout the city for years, not only in the Flats.

 OneHolyoke speaks to our service to the whole City, and our hope is to be a unifying and positive voice for Holyoke.”Jerry Rome Nissan Becomes Balise Nissan
WEST SPRINGFIELD — Jerry Rome Nissan, located at 500 Riverdale St. in West Springfield, has officially become Balise Nissan of West Springfield. The current facility and parking area will undergo expansion in the coming months. Pending approval from the town of West Springfield, the dealership will be renovated to align more closely with Nissan’s latest dealership image. “Our team is thrilled for the all-new Balise Nissan of West Springfield,” says Bill Peffer, president & COO of Balise Motor Sales. “We look forward to exceeding customers’ expectations in areas of sales, service, and overall customer experience.” Balise Nissan is the sixth Balise dealership on Riverdale Street in West Springfield and the ninth Balise dealership in Western Mass.

Company Notebook Departments

Berkshire Hills Reports Second-quarter Results

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported second-quarter GAAP earnings of $0.52 per share in 2016 compared to $0.35 in 2015. Core earnings increased to $0.54 per share from $0.51 for these respective periods. Results increased due to expanded operations and improved profitability. Core EPS is a non-GAAP financial measure and is adjusted to exclude net non-core charges primarily related to acquisitions and restructuring activities. GAAP results last year included higher non-core charges related to the Hampden Bancorp acquisition. Second-quarter financial highlights, compared to the prior quarter, include 5% total loan growth, 4% total commercial loan growth, 3.31% net interest margin (fully taxable equivalent), 58.7% efficiency ratio (non-GAAP financial measure), 0.26% non-performing assets/assets, and 0.22% net loan charge-offs/average loans.

NAI Plotkin Makes Move to Heart of Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — NAI Plotkin announced it will relocate to the MassLive building, 1350 Main St., in mid-August. 1350 Formerly known as One Financial Plaza, the building is well-known throughout Springfield for its first-, third-, and ninth-floor galleries activating the spaces. This move brings a third-generation family business into the dynamic and changing heart of downtown. NAI Plotkin’s team of commercial real-estate professionals will occupy 5,884 square feet on the 14th floor in the class-A office tower. The space is currently being renovated to best suit the contemporary property management team. “As we continue to grow our business in and around the Springfield market, we needed to put down roots in a new space that will grow with us,” said Evan Plotkin, company president. “We’re excited to start this new chapter of our company’s history.”

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q2 Earnings

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended June 30, 2016. The company had net income of $9.1 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2016, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $11.9 million, or $0.24 per diluted share. Operating net income (non-GAAP) for the second quarter of 2016 was $10.0 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, compared to $10.9 million, or $0.22 per diluted share, for the linked quarter. Operating net income for the second quarter of 2016 is adjusted for purchase accounting impacts, net gain from sales of securities, and the effect of position eliminations as a result of the company’s previously disclosed reorganization plan. Additionally, in the first quarter of 2016, operating income was also adjusted for Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston pre-payment penalties. The company reported net income of $13.3 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2015. Total assets at June 30, 2016 increased by $95.8 million to $6.42 billion from $6.32 billion at March 31, 2016. At June 30, 2016, total loans were $4.73 billion, representing an increase of $81 million, or 2%, from the linked quarter. Loan growth during the second quarter of 2016 was highlighted by a $58 million, or 9%, increase in commercial business loans; a $14 million, or 3%, increase in home-equity loans; and an $8 million, or 2%, increase in owner-occupied commercial real-estate loans. Residential mortgages declined during the second quarter of 2016 by $5 million, reflecting the company’s continued strategy to reduce on-balance sheet exposure to residential mortgage loans. Deposits totaled $4.46 billion at June 30, 2016 and decreased by $79 million, or 2%, from $4.53 billion at March 31, 2016.

Smith & Wesson Purchases Laser-sight Maker for $95M

SPRINGFIELD — Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Crimson Trace Corp., an industry leader in laser-sighting systems and tactical lighting for firearms, for $95 million. Crimson Trace has long been a key supplier of laser-sighting systems for Smith & Wesson. For more than two decades, Crimson Trace has provided consumers, military units, and law-enforcement officers around the globe with laser-sight and tactical-light products. Offering more than 225 products, its award-winning innovations include the Lasergrips, Laserguard, and Rail Master platforms. The company’s product line also includes the Defender Series, Lightguard, and its new LiNQ wireless activation system. Based in Wilsonville, Ore., Crimson Trace operates from a 50,000-square-foot, leased facility where it engineers and manufactures its products. Crimson Trace was founded 22 years ago and has organically generated a 10-year compound annual revenue growth rate in excess of 10%. Its products maintain a premium position with hundreds of independent retailers as well as large sporting-goods retailers, including Cabela’s, MidwayUSA, Nation’s Best Sports, and internet retailer Optics Planet Inc. “Crimson Trace provides us with an exceptional opportunity to acquire a thriving company that is completely aligned with our strategy to become a leader in the market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” said James Debney, Smith & Wesson president and CEO. “As the undisputed leader in the market for laser-sighting products, Crimson Trace serves as an ideal platform for our new Electro-Optics Division.”

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AIC to Make SAT, ACT Scores Optional Next Spring

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will become one of the first local institutions of higher education to become SAT- and ACT-optional beginning in the spring semester of 2017. This will include all applicants for all majors. A growing trend nationally, more than 850 schools, including big names such as George Washington, Wesleyan, and Fairfield universities, are now test-optional. Thirty-five schools in Massachusetts are on board. In a study conducted by the National Assoc. for College Admission Counseling, college performance was evaluated for more than 100,000 students at 33 test-optional colleges. It was determined that the differences in college performance of those students who submitted SAT scores and those who did not were negligent in terms of grade point averages and graduation rates. The study also found that those students who did not submit SAT scores were more likely to be first-generation-to-college applicants, minority students, women, Pell grant recipients, and students with learning differences. “Moving to test-optional admissions is core to our mission of educational access for first-generation students and students from underserved backgrounds,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admission Jonathan Scully. “We’re invested in our students’ success and recognize that standardized tests don’t typically serve those populations well. There is a direct correlation between test scores and economic resources. Students who have the financial means to afford test preparation will do better than those who don’t. We shouldn’t be basing our admission decisions on test scores. It’s important to look at the whole student.” A multi-year study at AIC determined that high-school success — good grades in rigorous courses — is two to three times more predictive of retention and college success than standardized test scores.

Zweig Group Names Tighe & Bond a ‘Best Firm to Work For’

WESTFIELD — Based on the survey results of its 2016 “Best Firms to Work For” ranking, Zweig Group recently named Tighe & Bond one of the best civil-engineering firms to work for in the nation. This annual awards competition is based on business-practice data collected from numerous participating firms across the country, including feedback solicited through an employee survey. Zweig Group — a provider of management information and expertise to engineering, architecture, and environmental-consulting firms worldwide — sponsors the program that recognizes the top firms leading the way in creating a work place that inspires, motivates, and rewards employees. The competitive ranking that results is based on comprehensive evaluations of factors such as firm culture and workplace practices, employee benefits, career development and growth opportunities, compensation, performance and recognition, as well as recruiting and retention rates. All firms that apply for this prestigious ranking and recognition are evaluated against each other, not a set standard. “Zweig Group has recognized Tighe & Bond several times as one of the best engineering firms to work for in the nation, and it is always a significant honor. It also exemplifies our ongoing commitment to create a working environment where all of our employees feel valued, and where they can see their contribution to the overall mission and success of the firm and our clients,” said Tighe & Bond President and CEO David Pinsky. “Our ability to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented staff is crucial to providing the high-quality, responsive services that our clients have come to expect and deserve.” Zweig Group will recognize Tighe & Bond, along with the other winners, during the 2016 Zweig Group Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in September. This is the industry’s largest and most comprehensive business conference for leaders and aspiring leaders of architectural, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Giving Tops $1.1M in 2016

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that its charitable foundation awarded $1,120,862 in grants from Jan. 1 through June 30 to nonprofit organizations across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. In addition to supporting organizations within the foundation’s funding focus areas of education, community, and economic-development projects, it also donated to youth, cultural, and human-service organizations that provide vital services to the community. Berkshire Bank Foundation Inc. plans to award more than $1.8 million this year to nonprofit organizations across the bank’s service area. In total, 365 nonprofits received grants from the foundation during the first half of 2016, including Berkshire County organizations 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance Foundation, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Family YMCA, and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity; and Pioneer Valley organizations Baystate Health Foundation, Brightside for Families & Children, Chicopee Neighborhood Development Corp., and ReGreen Springfield.

MARX Events Announces Second Annual Dream Wedding Giveaway

EAST LONGMEADOW — For the second straight year, MARX Events, along with dozens of participating vendors, will award a U.S. veteran or active service member a free wedding. The giveaway aims to honor the service and sacrifice of the military and create a special atmosphere for a military couple as they embark on the next chapter of their lives together. The nomination process is now open. Community members may nominate themselves or someone they know by submitting either a written or video story to www.marxdreamwedding.com. This second annual MARX dream wedding includes a free wedding-venue space with food and beverage for 50 participants, complimentary flowers and photography, wedding dress, rehearsal dinner, and full entertainment services provided by MARX alongside many other services and providers. Participating vendors and sponsors include Chez Josef, the Delaney House, Operation: Love My Dress, Formal Affair, Pete’s Sweets, Pop’s Biscotti, Durocher Florist, Deluxe Limo, Mikkie Viereck, CJC Lighting & Events, Tanya Constigan Wedding Planning, Robert Charles Photography, Wedding Day Sourcebook, WMAS, Western Mass News, Smith & Wesson, and With Love Jacquelyn. The wedding ceremony will take place at Chez Josef in Agawam, and the rehearsal dinner will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke in April 2017. The top three finalists will be announced on Veterans Day, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 20. “This is our way, each year, to give back to the men and women of our military who give so much for us,” said Mark Ashe, managing partner of MARX Events.

AIC Awarded Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has received a one-time $347,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) in support of the college’s Nursing Education Achievement Program (NEAP). HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to healthcare for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. HRSA programs span across America, providing direct healthcare to 23 million people, particularly those who live in underserved inner cities and rural communities. In addition, HRSA provides scholarships and programs to encourage greater minority participation in the healthcare professions. In partnership with Baystate Medical Center, the Western Mass. chapter of the National Assoc. of Hispanic Nurses, and the Western Mass. Black Nurses Assoc., NEAP will provide professional nurses to mentor participating students along with implementing multiple evidence-based supports that will strengthen the ability of economically and educationally disadvantaged students to pass their courses, graduate, and move into the workforce. “It is an honor for American International College and the Division of Nursing to be awarded this grant, which recognizes AIC’s dedication and success in diversifying our community’s nursing workforce,” said Dean of Health Sciences Cesarina Thompson.

3D Printer Makes Orthopedic Boot for African Penguin

CROMWELL, Conn. — Local organizations banded together to support STEM education in Connecticut while making a positive difference in the community. The ACT Group, Mystic Aquarium, and Mystic Middle School, with assistance from 3D Systems, designed and produced an orthopedic boot for Purps, an African penguin and life-long resident of the aquarium. In 2011, Purps was left with a non-functional flexor tendon following an altercation with another penguin on exhibit. Since then, she has been wearing a traditional hand-casted boot to support her injury. While the traditional boot adequately immobilized, supported, and protected her injury, it posed some concerns for the veterinarian staff at the aquarium. The moldable plastic material it was made of deteriorated quickly, forcing the veterinarian staff to reproduce the boot frequently, a very time-intensive process. The collaboration between local organizations began when Sue Prince, library media specialist at Mystic Middle School, started an innovation lab with the goal of introducing students to 3D technology. She applied for and won a grant from the Stonington Education Fund and used the funds to purchase a 3D printer for the lab. Prince worked in conjunction with Kelly Matis, a member of Stonington Education Fund’s community board and director of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. Matis, aware of the diverse applications of 3D technology, shared the need for a new orthopedic boot for Purps with Prince. Eager to help and put the 3D printer to use for a great cause, Prince contacted the ACT Group to inquire about assistance with computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D scanning. Nick Gondek, ACT Group’s director of Additive Manufacturing, led his team in demonstrating state-of-the-art 3D technology to Prince and her students. These demonstrations gave the students of Mystic Middle School invaluable hands-on experience using technology from 3D Systems and allowed the ACT Group to provide technical expertise through the course of the project. The ACT Group’s assistance was a crucial part of the successful design of Purps’s boot, ultimately completed by the students of Mystic Middle School.

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Newman’s Own Foundation Donates to Link to Libraries

EAST LONGMEADOW — Link to Libraries Inc., which has donated a half-million new books to children in New England, just booked a donation of its own — a $15,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation. The grant was initiated through Big Y  World Class Markets. “For all of us at Big Y, we are proud to continue to link the Newman’s Own Foundation with Link to Libraries in order to further the language and literacy skills of students within our marketing area,” said Claire D’Amour-Daley, Big Y’s vice president of Corporate Communications. “Our customers have also enjoyed being part of this yearly initiative.” An all-volunteer nonprofit with no paid staff, Link to Libraries serves 25,000 children in 400 sites in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Newman’s Own Foundation grant will fund the purchase and distribution of thousands of books in the coming months. “Over 92 cents per dollar is used to buy books,” said Susan Jaye-Kaplan, president and co-founder of  Link to Libraries, which is based in East Longmeadow. “Thanks to this generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and our network of 209 volunteers, ranging in age from 5 to 81 years old, we’re well-positioned to deliver on our mission to to enhance the language and literacy skills of children of all cultural backgrounds.” Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own food and beverage products into charitable donations. To date, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given more than $470 million to thousands of charities around the world. Since its inception in 2008, Link to Libraries has donated nearly 500,000 new books, including more than 75,000 this fiscal year, said Jaye-Kaplan.

Berkshire Hills to Acquire First Choice Bank

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and First Choice Bank announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which First Choice Bank will merge into Berkshire Bank, and its subsidiary, First Choice Loan Services Inc., will become a subsidiary of Berkshire Bank in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $111.7 million.
Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $8.9 billion, including the $1.1 billion in acquired First Choice assets.  This market-expanding merger provides entry into attractive markets with strong demographics, and includes six branches near Princeton, N.J., and two in the greater Philadelphia area. First Choice reported $436 million in net loans (excluding loans held for sale) and $906 million in deposits as of March 31, 2016. First Choice Bank is the second-largest community bank by deposit market share in Mercer County, N.J., an area with per-capita income well above national and regional averages. First Choice Loan Services is a leading residential retail and consumer direct mortgage originator serving borrowers across the U.S. Total mortgage production in 2015 was $2.5 billion. Berkshire will have a pro forma market cap of approximately $905 million and 101 branches, serving customers and communities across the Northeast. “We’re pleased to welcome First Choice customers and employees to America’s most exciting bank,” said Michael Daly, CEO of Berkshire Bank. “This partnership builds on Berkshire’s commitment to create a strong regional platform for serving our customers, while diversifying our revenue streams, improving profitability, and increasing shareholder value.  The First Choice franchise builds on markets where we presently manage commercial relationships, and adds a well-positioned deposit base, a best-in-class home-lending operation, and enthusiastic new teams that complement our current culture. After integration, the transaction is expected to be accretive to Berkshire’s earnings per share, return on equity and return on assets, liquidity, and capital. We have a strong track record of execution, and our collective teams are positioned to complete this integration flawlessly.”
Martin Tuchman, First Choice’s chairman of the board, commented, “we’re pleased to announce this combination with Berkshire and believe our customers, community, and employees will benefit greatly from this transaction. We believe Berkshire fits both the culture of our bank and our expanding mortgage operation. Their product suite and commitment to service will enable the combined company to better compete in this growing marketplace. With Berkshire’s attractive stock, I’m pleased to be a shareholder going forward, and our bank employees and mortgage-lending group look forward to joining the Berkshire team.”

OMG Hosts Students for Junior Achievement Job Shadow Program

AGAWAM — OMG Inc. hosted students from three Springfield Middle Schools recently as part of the Junior Achievement Job Shadow Program. OMG has served as a host for the job-shadow program for the past 10 years, and this year’s visits included 48 students from Balliet Middle School, Springfield Public Day Middle School, and M. Marcus Kiley Middle School. The premise behind JA Job Shadow is that, while in school, students don’t often have the opportunity to develop realistic expectations of their future career and lifestyle options. The job-shadow experience lets them see what professionals do in on a daily basis, and is meant to give the students perspectives on a professional and diverse work environment. “During their time at OMG, we introduce them to a few senior managers, take them on a tour, and let them know about our basic hiring requirements, such as the need for a high-school diploma or GED, and characteristics we look for, such as strong communications and time-management skills, and the ability to work well on a team,” said Sarah Corrigan, director of Human Resources at OMG. “We also make it fun and engaging by having the students complete a scavenger hunt of fun facts about OMG during their visit.” Hubert McGovern, president and CEO of OMG, agreed. “The most recent group from Kiley asked great questions,” he said. “They asked about the company’s success record, whether OMG offered benefits like life and health insurance, what percentage of the work force was represented by women, and what we do to help make our employees better. We were really impressed by their level of interest and the way they conducted themselves during the visit.” Headquartered in Agawam, OMG Inc. is North America’s largest supplier of specialty fasteners and products for commercial and residential construction applications. The company operates two business units: OMG Roofing Products and FastenMaster.

Academy of Music Installs New Audio System

NORTHAMPTON — The Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton recently acquired a new, state-of-the-art audio system, designed and installed by Jason Raboin. The hall had become increasingly busy with a variety of programming, from rock concerts to theatrical productions, literary arts to dance, youth programs to indie music, which would all benefit from an enhanced system, said a spokesperson for the Academy. Two challenges were identified for the project. First, the speakers needed to provide consistent coverage throughout the entire theater without interfering with sightlines to the stage opening or distracting from the architectural beauty of the 125-year old opera house, and second, the limited rigging options within the historic performing-arts center demanded compact, lightweight loudspeakers as part of a visually unobtrusive sound system. The installation centered around four Fulcrum Acoustic CX1595 speakers powered by Ashly nXp amplifiers. The speaker’s lightweight, compact, visually unobtrusive design provides consistent coverage throughout the entire theater without interfering with sightlines to the stage opening or distracting from the architectural beauty of the 125-year old opera house. Two compact, portable Fulcrum Acoustic Sub215 subwoofers provide concert-level low frequency for the historic theater while minimizing visual intrusion. Raboin, as a touring sound engineer (Joan Baez, Modest Mouse, Lake Street Dive) who had worked on a variety of audio systems in the field, said, “I have not heard anything that sounds better than Fulcrum Acoustics speakers. When you combine their fidelity with their lightweight and compact size, they really were the only choice for this installation. It was hard to believe that such a compact system would be able to cover the venue at the desired SPL, but the system exceeded our expectations and the theater’s design goals.” At mix position, a Yamaha Ql1 mixing console was chosen for its compact footprint as well as its ability to handle the wide variety of programming offered year-round in the theater.

Florence Bank Donates $25,000 to Cancer Center

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently contributed $25,000 for use over a five-year period to the Sisters of Providence Health System (SPHS)to assist in the expansion of the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center.
Springfield-based SPHS is a not-for-profit entity providing a range of special benefits to the community, such as programs to manage care for people with chronic diseases, health-education and disease-prevention initiatives, outreach for the elderly, and care for the poor and uninsured. Mercy Medical Center is conducting a capital campaign to support the $15 million expansion of the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at the hospital. Specifically, the funds will be used to consolidate all cancer services into a single unified space and meet the increased demand for outpatient cancer services. In the past two years, the number of patients receiving chemotherapy at the Sister Caritas Cancer Center has increased by more than 200%. By 2022, the need for outpatient cancer services is expected to grow by 26%. Gifts to the capital campaign will support the addition of new treatment spaces, including 32 new infusion bays, whose design will increase privacy for patients, as well as for family members and friends. The campaign will also support the consolidation of all cancer services, enhancing communications between oncology staff and facilitating ease of access to existing services for patients. “Florence Bank has steadily supported our programs for years,” said Diane Dukette, vice president, Fund Development, Sisters of Providence Health System. “We are grateful for their ongoing generosity and commitment to the people we serve. This significant pledge to the capital campaign will help further our efforts to create a unified area for patients to receive their cancer treatment in a truly collaborative clinical environment.” Florence Bank, a longtime supporter of Sisters of Providence Health System, is known for its many charitable contributions, including its annual $100,000 Customer’s Choice Community Grants program.

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Delcie Bean Turns Over 40% of Paragus Stock to Employees

HADLEY — After more than two years of strategic planning, in a deal valued at approximately $1.6 million, Paragus IT announced that its employee stock-ownership plan (ESOP), which distributes ownership of 40% of the company to its 40-plus employees, is officially a go. “There has been a lot of celebration around here,” said Paragus CEO Delcie Bean. “While this is an announcement we have all been anticipating for over two years, the time seems to have only contributed to the excitement.” While there have been a few recent high-profile ESOPs, including Harpoon Brewery and Chobani Yogurt, they are still fairly uncommon. What makes the Paragus ESOP especially unique are the reasons behind it. ESOPs are traditionally formed after the company has fully matured and when a major shareholder is looking to exit. For Paragus, it’s about fueling future growth by giving everyone a direct stake and a personal investment in the future of the company. “I knew this was the right decision for myself and for Paragus because Paragus is a company that owes 100% of its success to the hard work of its incredible employees, or partners, as I like to call them,” Bean said. “As the only shareholder, I knew that anything I could do to further that spirit and attract new talent would be a sound investment. That’s why it made sense to give everybody some skin in the game. Now they aren’t just growing a company, they’re growing their company. Which means Paragus is here to stay, and we’re only getting bigger.” Added Dennis Schilling, quality assurance officer, “it’s always been about us at Paragus. It’s never been one person pointing and the rest following. With the ESOP, Delcie has made official what has always been true. It’s a beautiful thing that he has taken his company, his dream, and carved off such a sizable piece of it for all of us.” While Bean has no plans to step down, he has shaken up the management structure a bit. Just before the ESOP became a reality, he appointed former Paragus Operations Manager Jim Young to be president of the company. In his new role, Young is responsible for overseeing all day-to-day operations and making sure everyone on the leadership team and across the company is working together to realize Paragus’ vision. This allows Bean to focus exclusively on growth, acquisitions, and moving into new markets. “It’s a brand-new set of responsibilities and challenges for me,” Young said. “But these changes will enable each of us to contribute to the greatest extent possible while ensuring decisions are being made quickly by the people best positioned to do so.” Added Bean, “we don’t believe in growth for growth’s sake. Our growth is fueled by one singular objective that is bordering on an obsession — we are all completely committed to being the absolute best at what we do while simultaneously being the best place to work. Ask anyone here, and they will all tell you that nothing is going to stand in our way when it comes to our relentless pursuit of being the best.”

Elms, WNEU Establish Law School Agreement

CHICOPEE — Elms College and Western New England University School of Law executed a ‘3+3’ agreement this month that allows students to apply for admission to the law school and begin their legal education during their senior year at Elms College. This could shorten the time for students to earn both their bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from seven years to six years. This agreement is not limited to criminal justice or legal studies majors — any undergraduate student, regardless of major, can earn credits toward law school under this program. “This is a significant opportunity for students in all majors who are interested in attending law school,” said Assistant Professor Kurt Ward, director of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies and director of ABA Paralegal Education at Elms College.

HCC Gateway to College Program Earns Award

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College’s (HCC) Gateway to College program, which in 2014 was ranked number one among all the Gateway programs in the U.S., is the recipient of the first-ever Gateway Program Excellence Award. The inaugural award from the Gateway to College National Network recognizes HCC’s program for exceeding all four of the network’s benchmarks for success in 2014-15: GPA, one-year persistence, two-year persistence, and graduation rate. “Recognitions like this make us feel more important and shiny,” said coordinator Vivian Ostrowski said at Gateway’s June 1 graduation ceremony in the Leslie Phillips Theater, “but we know, we so know, that these numbers really mean that some kids with complicated and messy lives decided time and time again to show up and do their work.” Gateway to College is a dual-enrollment program for students who have either left high school or are at risk for dropping out. Gateway students take classes at HCC, collecting transferable college credits while also earning their high-school diplomas. Since 2008, 204 Gateway students at HCC have graduated from high school, and more than half have continued on to college. Twenty-nine were enrolled at HCC this spring and HCC’s Gateway graduates have so far earned 19 associate degrees and three bachelor’s degrees. Twenty students from six school districts earned their high-school diplomas through HCC’s Gateway program his spring: from Springfield, Korcan Atmaca, Amena Cooke, Melinda Diaz, Deikwon Duke, Ciara Garcia, Jamilee Gomez, Denisse Rivera, Mercedes Robare, Elmer Rodriguez and Jonte Toro; from Belchertown, Casey Beaudry, Christopher Chaffee, Shauna Driscoll, and Summer McLauglin; from Westfield, Emma Cowhey and Jacob Hartley; from Holyoke, Alexander Escalante; from Palmer, Bailey McDowell and Dylan Tallman; and from Agawam, Sarah Wyckoff. Gateway to College was founded in Portland, Ore. in 2000. There are now 41 Gateway programs in 21 states. The spring 2014 report from the national Gateway network listed HCC’s Gateway program number one in both persistence, or fall-to-fall retention (87% compared to a network average of 53%); and graduation rate (80% compared to a 27% network average). “Holyoke’s program is poised to build on its successes and can serve as an example for the rest of our network,” Emily Froimson, president of the Gateway national network, wrote in a congratulatory letter to Ostrowski. “You have not simply made a difference for students in Holyoke, Massachusetts; the work that your school district and college partnership has accomplished is a model for how we solve these persistent problems as a nation.” Ostrowski will collect the award on behalf of HCC at the Gateway to College National Network Peer Learning Conference in Minneapolis on June 28.

Berkshire Bank Employees Volunteer More Than 4,500 Hours on June 7

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank completed its Xtraordinary Day on June 7. This event marked the first year the entire bank participated in community-service events concurrently from 1 to 4 p.m., closing the entire financial institution as a united effort for community involvement. During Xtraordinary Day, 95% of the Berkshire Bank team, 1,161 employees, completed 56 projects. From painting of elementary schools and cleanups of local parks to financial-literacy lessons, they contributed more than 4,500 hours of service, a value of $128,000. The projects helped 54 different nonprofit organizations and directly impacted more than 100,000 individuals across the bank’s footprint. Berkshire Bank’s goal with Xtraordinary Day was to affect the communities that support it every day in a significant way, by being active and immersed in projects that would have a meaningful and lasting impact on these communities. “Berkshire Bank’s Xtraordinary Day was intended to create a sense of unity through all of our employees and within our communities,” said Tami Gunsch, the bank’s executive vice president, noting that the day’s projects benefited nonprofit organizations and communities in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. In Berkshire County, projects included painting at Stearns Elementary School, Egremont Elementary School, and Boys & Girls Club Camp Russell; downtown guide assembly at Downtown Pittsfield; cleanup of Pittsfield parks, Greenagers Housatonic River Walk, and Berkshire Athenaeum; a home build with Northern Berkshire Habitat For Humanity; tree measuring with Trustees of Reservations at Bartholomew’s Cobble; and fourth- to sixth-grade literacy at Farmington River Regional School. In the Pioneer Valley, projects included cleanup of Stanley Park, YMCA of Westfield, Southwick Rail Trail, West Springfield YMCA, Amelia Park Children’s Museum, Birthday Wishes, and Girls Inc. of Greenfield; a house build and restore for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity; a bike build at YMCA of Greater Springfield; administrative duties at Children’s Study Home; tree planting at ReGreen Springfield; and truck unloading at Community Survival Center.

GoodWorks Insurance Profiled in National Magazine

GREAT BARRINGTON — GoodWorks Insurance is booming while giving half of its growing profits to charities in Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to a profile in the May issue of Independent Agent, the national magazine for independent insurance agents. When Chad Yonker, a former minority investor, took over GoodWorks as CEO in 2011, it was struggling financially despite growing sales. He recapitalized the firm. “Since then, the agency has more than tripled in size,” the magazine notes. Based in Glastonbury, Conn., GoodWorks Insurance is an independent agency with additional Connecticut offices in Avon, Columbia, and New Milford, and Massachusetts offices in Great Barrington and Worcester. It’s marking its 10th anniversary this year. GoodWorks’ corporate charter requires that a minimum of 50% of operating earnings be distributed to nonprofits. Its community grants support local nonprofits that work in education, healthcare, public safety, and community development. They include medical clinics, fuel-assistance programs, visiting-nurse associations, special education, the YMCA, and more. GoodWorks’ 2015 sales were about $6 million, and the agency expects up to 50% growth for 2016. Yonker and the other agency owners decline compensation in order to boost the profit pool available for giving, according to the magazine. Its commitment to nonprofits has resulted in many growth opportunities. Besides insuring families and small businesses in general, GoodWorks has special expertise in nonprofits, fuel dealers, aerospace, manufacturers, and surety bonds. The full article can be read online at tinyurl.com/j9hua44.

HCC Expands Presence in Hampshire County

WARE — Calling it a great day for Ware and a great day for the region, business leaders, elected officials, and representatives from Holyoke Community College recently celebrated the opening of a new education and workforce-training center in downtown Ware. The center, called E2E, short for Education to Employment: Quaboag Region Workforce Training and Community College Center, is a collaboration between HCC and the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. “We are so thrilled to welcome Holyoke Community College to our community,” said Sheila Cuddy, executive director of the Quaboag CDC. “As a CDC, we are here with a focus on business development and to better our economic community. What better way to make that happen than to focus on giving the folks who live here the skills they need to become good employees for our local businesses?” More than 60 people attended the grand opening, ribbon-cutting and reception. HCC president Bill Messner told the crowd he was impressed by the persistence with which representatives from Ware courted the college to establish a presence there. “We’re delighted,” Messner said. “We’re Holyoke Community College, and we take the community very seriously, and you are part of our community, so we’re here. We’re here because of the efforts of a lot of people in this room.” Also speaking at the opening were John Carroll, chairman of the Ware Board of Selectmen; state Sen. Anne Gobi; state Rep. Todd Smola of Warren, a 2005 graduate of HCC; Vincent McCaughey, board chairman of the Quaboag Valley CDC; Paul Scully, president of Country Bank, who donated the space for the E2E center; Tracy Opalinksi of the Ware Business and Civic Assoc.; and Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank. The roughly 3,000-square-foot center located at 79 Main St. includes two classrooms, as well as private study areas and office space. Ten computer workstations will be available for community members interested in enrolling in credit classes at HCC as online students. The center is already offering non-credit classes in hospitality and culinary arts. The expectation is that course offerings will expand to include manufacturing and health careers. For some courses, classroom education will be supplemented by hands-on training at Pathfinder Vocational High School in Palmer. HCC will also offer academic-advising and career-counseling services. “This is a great day for Ware and a great day for our region, which has been lacking in sources of education beyond high school for so long,” Cuddy said, “so we could not be more pleased that HCC has shown the willingness to be our partner in this endeavor and to move the project forward.”

Company Notebook Departments

Steel Partners Recognizes OMG Inc. for Excellence

AGAWAM — Three kaizen teams from OMG Inc. have been recognized as 2016 Steel Partners Business System Hall of Fame winners. The announcement was made by Jeff Svoboda, president and CEO of Handy & Harman, a Steel Partners subsidiary. The Steel Partners Business System uses lean principles and tools, including kaizens, to increase sales, improve business processes, and reduce and eliminate waste and variation. Kaizen is a strategic activity where employees at every level of a company get together to work on a targeted improvement project. In manufacturing in particular, kaizens often demonstrate that big changes come from many small changes made over time. Kaizens are focused three- to five-day events that generally include defining a problem or goal, documenting the current state, brainstorming and developing a future state, implementing change, developing a follow-up plan and measurement metrics, presenting results, and celebrating success. “We complete over 40 kaizens a year, each involving on average a team of five, so for these three teams to be recognized by our parent companies is certainly a high honor for which we are very proud,” said Hubert McGovern, president and CEO of OMG Inc. A total of 19 employees participated in the three winning kaizens. Two of the kaizens were held at OMG’s headquarters location in Agawam, and one was held in the company’s Asheville, N.C. facility. “OMG is committed to lean manufacturing, and kaizens are just one of the tools we use to drive significant improvement to our overall effectiveness as a company,” said McGovern. “As a result of our lean initiatives, we’ve seen great progress throughout the company, including gains in reducing waste, improving product quality, and bringing value to our customers.” Some of the more significant results for these winning kaizens include a 66% increase in drain-assembly output; a 250% reduction in the need for overtime; a $10,000-per-day increase in sellable units assembled by a packaging team and a related $36,000 annual labor savings; and a $100,000 annual cost reduction related to quality improvement. Headquartered in Agawam, OMG Inc. is North America’s largest supplier of specialty fasteners and products for commercial and residential construction applications. The company operates two business units: OMG Roofing Products (www.omgroofing.com) and FastenMaster (www.fastenmaster.com). OMG is a subsidiary of Handy & Harman Group Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Handy & Harman Ltd.

Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center to Expand

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) announced a $1.6 million expansion of its state-of-the-art facility on June 1. The center is located in downtown Holyoke, at 100 Bigelow St. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse; Rick McCullough, vice provost for Research at Harvard University; and MGHPCC Executive Director John Goodhue will be on hand. The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center provides state-of-the-art infrastructure for computationally intensive research in the increasingly sensor- and data-rich environments of modern science and engineering. Computers at the MGHPCC run millions of virtual experiments every month, supporting thousands of researchers in Massachusetts and around the world. The MGHPCC was developed through an unprecedented collaboration among the state’s most research-intensive universities, including Boston University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and UMass; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and private industry (Cisco and EMC). The member universities fund the ongoing operation of the data center, which is open for use by any research organization. For more information, visit www.mghpcc.org.

The Creative Opens Office in Thornes Marketplace

NORTHAMPTON — The Creative, a collaboration of three local businesswomen, has opened an office in Thornes Office Suites. The collaboration, which launched in April 2013, is made up of Janice Beetle, principal of Beetle Press; Ruth Griggs, principal of RC Communications; and Maureen Scanlon, principal of Murre Creative. Together, they provide strategic marketing, messaging, and design services. The trio provide flexible services to clients, combining forces to match clients’ needs and offering a full complement of agency services where necessary. The Creative provides its clients with the opportunity for comprehensive marketing and communications services, including assistance with advertising campaigns, branding, public relations, print collateral, strategic marketing planning, and fund-raising campaigns. For more information, call (413) 727-3354 or visit thecreativemarketing.net.

Country Bank Awards Scholarships to Students

WARE — Officials at Country Bank announced the presentation of 15 scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each to area high-school seniors. The newly formed Country Bank for Higher Education Scholarship was offered to graduating students within the region. The recipients needed to demonstrate a commitment to their communities through volunteerism and leadership by submitting an essay outlining their experiences. “We are so pleased with the response we received for our new scholarship format,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president, marketing at Country Bank. “Each applicant had a unique perspective on their involvement in helping others, from taking the lead on building a playground to feeding the homeless on Christmas Eve and developing a summer STEM program for underprivileged kids. We were so inspired by the great work these students are doing in their communities and how they are making a difference in the lives of others.” The recipients include Lily White, Auburn High School; Patrick O’Brien, Queen of Heaven Academy; Dong Liang Dzindolet, Leicester High School; Caleb Carr, MA Academy of Math & Science; Sarah Springer, Minnechaug Regional High School; Alexander Reed, Olivia Murray, and Serena Sandoval, Palmer High School; Alexis Nason and Riley Mucha, Quaboag Regional High School; Brittany Como, Emily Rusack, and Olivia Kiritsis, Shepherd Hill Regional High School; Kyle Hill and Sadie Simons, Ware High School.

Company Notebook Departments

Report Cites HCC-UMass Relationship as Successful Transfer Pathway

HOLYOKE — The relationship between Holyoke Community College and UMass Amherst is highlighted in a national report as a model of a successful transfer partnership other colleges would do well to emulate. HCC and UMass were selected as one of only six pairs of ‘high-performing’ community colleges and partner universities in “The Transfer Playbook: Essential Practices for Two- and Four-Year Colleges” from the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “We analyzed the practices at partnerships of community colleges and four-year institutions with high rates of transfer-student success,” said Davis Jenkins, senior researcher at CCRC and co-author of the report released Tuesday. “This report presents the evidence-based strategies that community colleges and university leaders can use to improve outcomes on their own campuses.” The free report is available online at as.pn/transfer1. It praises HCC for its “culture of commitment to transfer” and “the institution’s goal of improving transfer rates,” and cites President Bill Messner for regularly communicating “the importance of clear transfer pathways with UMass Amherst leaders.” The report cites collaborative grants that align degree pathways and support student success for HCC students who transfer to UMass; HCC’s learning-community courses that “provide the sort of rich and rigorous learning experiences that will prepare students for four-year college coursework”; the HCC Honors program, including a new transfer pact between HCC and the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass; the emphasis on dual enrollment for high-school students taking college classes; and regular visits to HCC from UMass transfer representatives. The report also notes the general expectation among faculty, staff, and advisors that students at HCC will transfer after earning a certificate or degree. “Everyone asks, ‘where are you going next?’” an HCC student quoted in the report remarks. Each year, UMass Amherst accepts and enrolls more transfer students from HCC than from any other community college in Massachusetts. For the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, a total of 203 HCC students transferred to UMass Amherst.

90 Meat Outlet Opens Expansion on Avocado Street

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno joined officials from 90 Meat Outlet recently to celebrate the completion of its 15,000-square-foot expansion at 90 Avocado St. in the North End. Latino Food Distributors, an affiliate of 90 Meat Outlet, built the expansion and moved its headquarters to the Avocado Street site. The move relocated eight jobs from a temporary leased site in West Springfield. Under the five-year tax-increment financing agreement, the company invested approximately $1.5 million into the project, including renovations and equipment, and will create seven new jobs. The business will continue to pay current taxes on the 90 Meat Outlet building, and received an exemption on the new construction, beginning at a full exemption during the first year, and down to 20% by the fifth year. The exemptions result in a savings of approximately $45,600 for the company over a five-year period, and a gain of $30,400 in taxes for the city of Springfield. 90 Meat Outlet owner Jim Vallides has also pledged to donate $1,000 to fund the ShotSpotter public-safety initiative that covers the North End area of Springfield to the Chicopee line.

Center for EcoTechnology Wins Environmental Award

NORTHAMPTON — The Center for EcoTechnology was recognized recently at the 2016 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New England regional office. The Center for EcoTechnology was among three dozen recipients across New England honored for helping to improve New England’s environment. “I could not be more proud of the efforts of the Center for EcoTechnology in conjunction with our partners,” said President John Majercak. “We decided to make an active effort to reduce food waste, and it’s tremendous to see the impact that focus has had.” The Center for EcoTechnology was noted for being a leader and pioneer in food recovery in Massachusetts, most recently through its partnership with the state Department of Environmental Protection to offer RecyclingWorks MA. Wasted food makes up the largest component of our country’s municipal solid waste and accounts for the largest portion of its methane emissions, making wasted food a significant environmental issue. In addition, reducing food losses by just 15% could feed more than 25 million Americans each year, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Each year since 1970, EPA New England has recognized individuals and groups in the six New England states who have worked to protect or improve the region’s environment in distinct ways. “We’re proud to honor those citizens, businesses, and organizations who have gone the extra mile to help protect and preserve our region’s natural resources,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These New England award winners are committed to making our towns, cities, and countryside of New England healthy, vibrant places with clean air, land, and water.” The Center for EcoTechnology, along with RecyclingWorks, has spearheaded collaborative efforts to address and divert wasted food by helping hundreds of food-waste processors, recovery agencies, haulers, and thousands of businesses divert wasted food and build a strong industry to comply with the state’s food-waste disposal ban. The center recently expanded its work to Connecticut to replicate strategies tested in Massachusetts. Since 2012, the Center for EcoTechnology has helped businesses divert 20,389 tons of wasted organics, including wasted food, annually.

ATC Audio Video Lighting Celebrates 30th Year

WEST SPRINGFIELD — ATC Audio Video Lighting recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. In 1986, the company started in a basement workshop. Due to a lack of space, it moved to its first brick-and-mortar retail location, which was a meager 400 square feet. After moving to three larger locations, ATC now resides in its 8,000-square-foot location on Myron Street. The company offers professional/commercial audio, video, and lighting installation, integration, design, and sales. ATC’s clients are in a wide range of industries, such as corporate, colleges and universities, public and private schools, government, hospitals, casinos, technology centers, houses of worship, theaters, sport facilities, DJs, musicians, and any organization that utilizes AV technology. ATC’s Myron St. location also houses one of the only walk-in retail stores of its kind in New England. The retail store offers over-the-counter sales and service of audio, video, and lighting equipment. Another major part of the company’s business is its rental and production inventory, giving the customer the ability to rent anything from simple items like a microphone up to major audio- and video-production equipment and technician services. “I remember working solo in the first store on White Street in Springfield,” said Tony Caliento, ATC owner and president. “We had 400 square feet, no air conditioning and heat that barely worked, but we didn’t care at the time; we just loved what we were doing. Once we were known to clients, we stocked more equipment, offered more services, and the 400-square-foot space filled quickly. Reflecting on the company’s growth since then, Caliento added, “our staff enjoys working for ATC and loves what we do for our clients.”

HUB International New England Awards Scholarships

EAST LONGMEADOW — HUB International New England, a division of HUB International Limited, a leading insurance brokerage firm, announced it will award scholarships to local graduating high-school seniors planning to attend an accredited college, university, junior college, or community college. The students must plan to continue their study of business and enter college the same year as their graduation from high school.
“There is such a wide range of young talent right here in Western Mass.,” said Timm Marini, president of HUB International New England. “We are delighted to recognize these students for their high achievements, hard work, and dedication to continuing their studies and pursuing their dreams.” HUB International has been providing scholarships to high-school seniors for 29 years. Scholarships are awarded based on the high school’s recommendation. Winners will be announced in the coming weeks.

Company Notebook Departments

Tighe & Bond Honored for Advancing Women in Engineering Field

WESTFIELD — The Connecticut chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS CT) honored Tighe & Bond as Employer of the Year during its recent annual awards dinner on April 14 at St. Clement’s Castle in Portland, Conn. The recognition applauded the firm’s support of WTS, and for providing ongoing opportunities to advance women in their engineering and transportation careers. “It’s an honor for our firm to receive this award, and we are thrilled that WTS CT selected us,” said David Pinsky, president and CEO of Tighe & Bond, who accepted the award on the firm’s behalf. “Our firm takes recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in engineering seriously. More than 30% of Tighe & Bond’s 270-plus employees are female, and approximately 14% of these women hold key management and/or leadership positions at our firm. Last year, more than 30% of Tighe & Bond’s new hires were female, and this year the number is even higher.” For more than 18 years, WTS CT has been dedicated to advancing women in transportation. It provides a forum for transportation professionals to meet and interact, sharing experiences and expertise. Member benefits include professional development, career support, mentorship, and student outreach.

Country Bank Sponsors Financial Literary Fair at WPI

WARE — Recently, Country Bank sponsored its first Financial Literacy Fair for college students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester. This program was a partnership with WPI’s Student Aid and Financial Literacy Department. The event featured the Next Step, a financial-literacy exercise where college students are asked to step into their very near future by visiting 10 financially informative booths to make real-world decisions. “Students learn about many of the next steps that they will encounter after they graduate from college,” said Jodie Gerulaitis, the bank’s financial education officer. “They learn that the decisions they make today will affect their finances in the future, such as the unexpected expenses of owning a vehicle, saving for retirement, renting an apartment, or owning a home, and how location can be a deciding factor in their finances.” The booths the students visit include credit, housing, student loans, insurance, budgeting, fraud prevention, transportation, savings and investing, career development, and employment benefits. The goal is for students to have a better understanding of their future fiscal responsibilities. They learn about balancing a budget and making educated choices about their finances. They also learn how one financial choice can greatly impact another.

Chamberlain Group Named 2016 Exporter of the Year

BOSTON — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has named the Great Barrington-based Chamberlain Group the 2016 Exporter of the Year for Massachusetts and New England. “Lisa and Eric Chamberlain are saving lives with the products they create in the medical-simulation industry,” said Robert Nelson, SBA Massachusetts district director. “They are connecting with new customers all over the globe and establishing an international distribution network throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Mexico.” Founded in 1999, the Chamberlain Group designs and builds mimetic organs for surgical and interventional training. Working in close collaboration with medical-device companies and teaching hospitals, the company creates models that address training needs for clinicians, sales, marketing, device research, and development. In 2000, Lisa Chamberlain became a client of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC), and her business plan for the Chamberlain Group won first prize in the UMass Five College Business Plan Competition. In 2003, the company was recognized with the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for spurring job creation and economic development.
Today, after 17 years in business, the company has grown to 21 employees, and it exports more than 500 products directly from its Great Barrington office to more than 50 countries worldwide. “We’re honored and delighted to be recipients of this year’s Exporter of the Year awards in the Commonwealth and the New England region,” Chamberlain said. “Eric and I have been well guided by the advice and encouragement we have received from the MSBDC and the Mass Export Center. It’s made the process of growing our business and our international reach viable, knowing we have subject experts to consult with who have our best interests at heart.” The company was nominated by Ann Pieroway, regional director of the Massachusetts Export Center.

44 Business Capital Becomes Division of Berkshire Bank

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank completed its asset purchase transaction with 44 Business Capital, LLC of Blue Bell, Pa., and Parke Bank of Sewell, N.J., under which Berkshire Bank has acquired the business model of 44 Business Capital and certain other assets of Parke Bank’s Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) loan program operations. 44 Business Capital is now operating as a direct small-business lending division of Berkshire Bank, reporting up through the bank’s already-established small-business line, and originating SBA loans for Berkshire Bank. 44 Business Capital has consistently been one of the top SBA originators and a market-leading provider and facilitator of SBA-guaranteed loans to small businesses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 44 Business Capital’s entire team, along with its leadership — Greg Poehlmann, Phil Rapone, Jeff Sherry, and Joe Dreyer — have joined Berkshire Bank. “We’re pleased to welcome the employees and customers of 44 Business Capital,” said Berkshire Bank CEO Michael Daly. “This combination increases the client offerings for both companies, diversifies our loan portfolio, and provides a valuable future growth channel.” Added Poehlmann, senior vice president of Business Banking for Berkshire Bank and former president of 44 Business Capital, LLC, “as a division of Berkshire Bank, 44 Business Capital will continue to leverage our staff’s experience to build out an exceptional SBA lending platform that will serve the SBA’s mission on a larger scale. We are extremely excited to become part of Berkshire Bank, and look forward to establishing ourselves collectively as a major player in the SBA-lending market.”

Circle K Convenience Store Opens in Holyoke

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Anderson, and Circle K franchisee Yasser (Sunny) Hussain gathered on May 5 for the grand opening of the new Circle K convenience store at 337 Appleton St. in Holyoke. Hussain, the site’s owner, took a vacant and abandoned building in the downtown area and completely renovated the space into a new, state-of-the-art Circle K convenience store. The store is open 24 hours a day and carries everything from morning coffee to late-night snacks, as well as a wide selection of cold drinks, fresh roller grill items, and staples like milk and eggs.

Comcast Spotlight Leases Space at Agawam Crossing

AGAWAM — Comcast Spotlight has signed a lease for a new, 3,157-square-foot space in Agawam Crossing, located at 200 Silver St. in Agawam. This is the final space at Agawam Crossing, a class A professional office building. Comcast Spotlight recently moved into its new home alongside Baystate Rehabilitation, Life Laboratories, and Associates in Women’s Health, among others. Comcast Spotlight is an advertising sales company that provides video solutions to local, regional, and national businesses through television and digital advertising. It provides local market coverage across multiple platforms (cable TV, satellite, telco, online, VOD) and can target customers geographically, demographically, and by message to reach specific audience segments. Development Associates of Agawam was the leasing agent and project manager for the construction of Comcast Spotlight’s new offices. The tenant was represented by Bob Peterson, managing broker at REAL Partners, LLC, and Daniel Moore of NAI Plotkin of Springfield.

Friendly’s Sells Retail Ice-cream, Manufacturing Division

WILBRAHAM — Friendly’s Ice Cream announced it has sold its retail ice-cream and manufacturing business to Texas-based Dean Foods Co. for $155 million in cash. “We are thrilled at the prospects the Friendly’s Ice Cream acquisition brings to Dean Foods,” said Dean CEO Gregg Tanner. “Coupled with the momentum of Dean Foods’ current regional brands, the Friendly’s brand will be a catalyst in our strategy to grow our existing ice-cream business and branded portfolio. Friendly’s is an ideal complement to our other heritage brands across the country and fills a manufacturing and retail ice-cream void in our nationwide footprint.” Dean Foods is the largest processor and direct-to-store distributor of fresh fluid milk and other dairy and dairy-case products in the U.S., the company said. Friendly’s Ice Cream had $166 million in net sales of ice cream to supermarkets in 2015. After the transaction closes late in the second quarter of 2016, Dean Foods plans to continue producing ice cream at the current Friendly’s plant in Wilbraham, which employs about 200 people. “Friendly’s ice cream strongly resonates with consumers throughout the Northeast,” Tanner added. “Very similar to the traditions shared by consumers who grew up enjoying our existing regional milk and ice-cream brands, such as Mayfield or Dean’s, we believe the Friendly’s Ice Cream brand represents and promotes what Dean Foods has built itself around and is a great fit in our branded portfolio. Dean Foods is rooted in the traditional goodness of dairy, making Friendly’s more than just a good business and financial opportunity.” Added Friendly’s President and CEO John Maguire, “today marks a new chapter for Friendly’s retail and manufacturing ice-cream business. Dean Foods Company has recognized the growth momentum that Friendly’s retail ice cream has experienced over the last five years, and I am thrilled that Dean Foods will be the ongoing steward of the retail ice-cream business, led by the current experienced retail and creamery teams.” Friendly’s Restaurants, which boasts 260 locations in the U.S., will continue to be owned and operated by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc. and will license use of the Friendly’s trademark to Dean’s under a license agreement entered into as part of the transaction.

Keller Williams Pitches in at Springfield Boys & Girls Club

SPRINGFIELD — On Thursday, May 12, Keller Williams Realty associates around the globe donated hundreds of thousands of hours to their local communities during RED Day. Introduced in 2009, RED Day, which stands for renew, energize, and donate, is Keller Williams Realty’s annual day of service. Each year on the second Thursday of May, associates spend the day away from their businesses serving worthy organizations and causes in their communities. As part of the RED Day effort, Keller Williams Realty – Pioneer Valley chose to spend the day with the Springfield Boys & Girls Club at 481 Carew St. to paint the inside and outside of the facility, paint parking-lot lines, and landscape. The Springfield Boys & Girls Club provides, in a safe environment, programs that inspire, educate, guide, enable, and support all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, respectful citizens and leaders. “RED Day is built on the belief that people can and should come together to achieve extraordinary things to help others,” said Mike Dombrowski, associate partner of Keller Williams Realty – Pioneer Valley. “It just happens to be a one-day expression of the constant state of the Keller Williams culture. We see a need, and we take action to help the Springfield community.” Since the first RED Day in 2009, Keller Williams associates have given almost a half-million hours of community service through activities ranging from food and blood drives to cleaning up trash in public parks; from revamping gardens at nursing homes to rebuilding homes and schools for community members in need. For more information about RED Day, visit www.kw.com/kw/redday.

Country Bank Supports Palmer Celebrations

PALMER — Representatives from Country Bank presented the Palmer 300th Anniversary Committee and the Celebrate Palmer Committee with donations totaling $5,000. “We are so pleased to be a major sponsor of both of these meaningful events,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president, Marketing at Country Bank. “We look forward to celebrating with the town of Palmer, and we commend both committees for their tireless effort to make them a success.” For more information on these events, visit palmer300th.org or townofpalmer.com. For more information about Country Bank, call (800) 322-8233 or visit countrybank.com.

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.
The company had net income of $11.9 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $9.9 million, or $0.20 per diluted share. Operating net income (non-GAAP) for the first quarter of 2016 was $10.9 million, or $0.22 per diluted share, compared to $11.3 million, or $0.23 per diluted share for the linked quarter. Operating net income is adjusted for purchase accounting impacts and net gain on sale of securities.
Additionally, in the first quarter of 2016, operating income was also adjusted for Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston pre-payment penalties. The company reported net income of $13.0 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2015.
“In the first quarter of 2016, linked quarter annualized growth included a 13% increase in demand deposits, 9% growth in total deposits, and a seven-basis-point expansion in the net interest margin. Non-interest expense to average assets declined to 2.03% on an operating basis, and asset quality remained excellent. Tangible book value increased by 5% compared to the linked quarter (annualized) as we announced our 40th consecutive dividend payment,” said William Crawford IV, CEO of the company and the bank. “Given the interest-rate environment, we believe execution on the aforementioned key variables gives us the best opportunity to continue building long-term shareholder value.
“While volatile interest rates reduced mortgage-banking income and headline company profitability in the first quarter of 2016, management is focused on growing revenue centered in net interest income and core fee income,” he went on. “I remain bullish on United Financial Bancorp Inc.’s outlook for 2016 earnings and tangible book value growth.”
The report’s financial highlights include return on average assets of 0.76%, return on average equity of 7.59%, a net interest margin increase to 3.09% from 3.02% in the linked quarter, and operating non-interest expense/average assets of 2.03% for the quarter (annualized) balance sheet. Total assets at March 31, 2016 increased by $90.7 million to $6.3 billion from $6.2 billion at Dec. 31, 2015.
At March 31, 2016, total loans were $4.6 billion, representing an increase of $34.9 million from the linked quarter. Despite the typical softness experienced in the first quarter in general, total commercial loans increased by $38.5 million, or 6% annualized. Residential mortgages declined during the first quarter of 2016 by $3.6 million, reflecting the company’s strategy to reduce on-balance sheet exposure to residential mortgage loans.

Balise Kia Dealership Opens in West Springfield

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The new Balise Kia in West Springfield, located on Riverdale Street next to Balise Mazda, opened on April 14. The completely renovated, 15,000-square-foot dealership replaces the Balise-owned Mighty Auto Parts warehouse, which has been relocated to a nearby facility. The new Kia building features a customer-friendly showroom and comfortable waiting area with free WiFi. The dealership also offers a covered service drive-up for customer convenience. Bill Peffer, president and COO of Balise Motor Sales, said he’s excited to welcome a rapidly growing brand to the Balise family. “The addition of Kia, one of the fastest-growing brands in the United States, aligns perfectly with the Balise philosophy of putting the customer first,” he said. “With numerous accolades in the areas of quality, safety, and sustainability, we’re thrilled to continue serving Kia customers throughout Western Massachusetts with a high-quality product.” Construction and renovation of the facility was completed by Associated Builders of South Hadley. This is the first Kia dealership for the Balise group and will be the only Kia Motors America franchise in the Springfield Metro area.

W.D. Cowls, Beacon Communities to Partner on Third Phase of Mill District

NORTH AMHERST — W.D. Cowls Inc. announced the start of phase three of its Mill District development, with a preliminarily agreement with Beacon Communities, a multi-family housing development, management, and investment company based in Boston.
Mollye Lockwood, W.D. Cowls’ vice president for Real Estate and Community Development, initiated a relationship with Beacon Communities for what she expects will be the next phase of the Mill District.
Beacon envisions a development that will feature mixed-income rental housing and first-floor commercial/retail space for lease, all to be located on the south side of Cowls Road, across the street from the Trolley Barn, between Atkins Farms and Cowls Building Supply. The project is still in its initial stages of site due diligence, community engagement, and concept brainstorming.
With the redevelopment of the Mill District, Cowls seeks to bring back community in this less-personally connected Internet age. “So many people today don’t belong to sporting clubs, fraternal organizations, or churches like they used to. Shopping malls and huge grocery emporiums on highways have taken away community interactions that were once naturally organic,” said Lockwood. “The Mill District seeks to bring back community by creating a sense of place through a mixed-use destination, where people live, dine, recreate, buy things better bought at a store rather than on the Internet, and enjoy services such as salons and health clubs.”
For several years, Cowls has been looking for the opportunity to create a mixed-income rental community in the Mill District and has heard from its neighbors and the Amherst community that this much-needed housing would be welcomed.
“I’ve worked with the impressive principals of Beacon Communities in the past,” Lockwood said, “and the town of Amherst has admired this Massachusetts company for stepping forward to protect the town’s affordable-housing inventory by purchasing and soundly managing Rolling Green Apartments.
“We have heard and responded to the wishes of our neighbors,” she added. “Our goal is to create a high-quality community that serves a diverse income range and offers housing options that will appeal to young professionals, young families, and those who are downsizing their homes.”
While Beacon will own and professionally manage all apartments, as it does with all of its properties, the first-floor commercial/retail space will be controlled by Cowls in order to provide and ensure a diverse community gathering space with a balanced mix of restaurants, shops, and services.

Company Notebook Departments

Westfield Bank, Chicopee Savings Bank to Merge

WESTFIELD — Westfield Financial Inc., the holding company for Westfield Bank, and Chicopee Bancorp Inc., the holding company for Chicopee Savings Bank, announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement. The merger will create the largest locally managed bank in Hampden County and the second-largest bank in terms of deposit market share in the county. The combined company will have total assets of $2.1 billion, tangible equity of over $215 million, and 21 branch locations serving customers throughout Western Mass. and Northern Conn. “We are excited to combine with such a strong partner as Chicopee,” said James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank. “As we have gotten to know Bill Wagner and his team over time, we have been pleased at the commonality of our cultures, operating models, and the customer-service focus of our two institutions. Although headquartered in the same county, we currently serve two distinct customer bases, which, when combined, will complement each other tremendously. A merger of our two banks will be extremely favorable for the shareholders, customers, employees, and communities of both institutions.” Following completion of the transaction, Hagan will be president and CEO of the combined company, and Donald Williams will be chairman of the Board. William Wagner, chairman, president, and CEO of Chicopee, will join the executive management team of Westfield, and will become vice chairman of the board of directors. Four additional board members of Chicopee will also join the board of Westfield. Following closing, the combined bank will do business under the Westfield Bank name, with the holding company to be renamed Western New England Bancorp. The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation will remain in place with its original philanthropic mission in the Greater Chicopee area unchanged. “Westfield is the ideal partner for Chicopee,” Wagner said. “This is the first in-market merger our community has seen in over 25 years and, as such, will not result in a significant outflow of resources or shift the focus of our franchise elsewhere, but rather will intensify and strengthen our combined ability to serve our local markets, consumers, and businesses that make both Westfield and Chicopee successful. I look forward to our future together as a combined institution and to the substantial impact our bank will have in Western New England.” The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both Westfield and Chicopee. Closing is anticipated to occur during the fourth quarter of 2016, subject to approval by the shareholders of both companies, receipt of required regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions. “Westfield has a strong reputation in commercial business lending to large-scale customers that will enhance our lending platform and ability,” Wagner said. “Moreover, the larger lending limit, breadth of product mix, and deep and sophisticated support functions will allow our bank to be a major competitor in Western New England for years to come.”

UMass Amherst Joins Advanced Fibers Initiative

AMHERST — UMass Amherst is a research partner in Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA), a new, $317 million public-private partnership announced by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. UMass Amherst is the only public university in New England participating in the MIT-led partnership, which includes 31 universities, 16 industry partners, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators across 28 states. The partnership won a national competition for federal funding to create the nation’s eighth Manufacturing Innovation Institute. It is designed to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles. UMass Amherst’s involvement in AFFOA draws on research expertise in its departments of polymer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and the College of Information and Computer Sciences. “Through the combination of our polymer science, roll-to-roll nano-manufacturing, and electrical-engineering expertise, UMass Amherst is well-equipped to make important contributions to the development of new functional fabrics as part of the AFFOA team,” says Mike Malone, vice chancellor for Research and Engagement. “We expect to conduct research in a range of areas that have important military and commercial applications, including fiber-integrated sensors, energy generation and storage systems, thermal camouflage, optical and photonic components or fibers, fiber-integrated antennas, fiber/fabric surface modifications, and the incorporation of chemical, biological, and physical functionality onto woven fabrics and non-woven and flexible substrates.” As part of the initiative, the university is committing up to $1 million in matching funds to support AFFOA projects, process development, and education and workforce training over the first five years of operation.

Gove Law Office Relocates Northampton Office

NORTHAMPTON — Gove Law Office announced it has moved its Northampton office into larger space at the historic Old School Commons Building located at the corner of New South Street and Main Street in Northampton. “With this move to the Old School Commons, Gove Law gains an office identity that reflects our strong Hampshire County presence and accommodates our recent and future growth plans,” said Michael Gove, founder and owner of Gove Law Office. “Both geographically and architecturally, this stunning new space supports the firm’s leading practice areas.” Gove Law Office, with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, is a bilingual firm with attorneys who provide guidance to clients in the areas of business representation, commercial lending, residential and commercial real estate, estate planning, probate and family law, criminal and civil litigation, personal-injury law, and bankruptcy.  For more information, visit www.govelawoffice.com.

Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Opens at Elms

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the launch of its new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to expand business-education offerings at the college through a hands-on, real-world approach. “In this time of a rapidly emerging entrepreneurial society, we need to create a flexible structure to accommodate not only degree work but also certificate programs, workshops, consulting services, and other assistance needed to make sure that entrepreneurs are equipped not only to start a business but, more importantly, to sustain it over time,” said Elms College President Sr. Mary Reap. The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership was developed with that goal in mind. Reap and Elms faculty have worked closely with focus groups comprised of area businesses and officials to assess the specific needs of the local business community. Amanda Garcia, assistant professor of Accounting, was appointed director of the CEL in January. “We have an opportunity to provide hands-on learning experience,” Garcia said. “That was one of the major things that came out of the focus groups: ‘we need it to be real, and we need it to be hands-on.’” To that end, the CEL will incorporate Lean Launchpad, a startup methodology in which new businesses receive immediate feedback from customers in the marketplace during the business launch. “We know that the majority of businesses fail in the first five years, and a big cause of that is due to not understanding specific core business concepts or the marketplace needs,” Garcia noted. The Lean Launchpad model allows startup owners to learn as they grow their businesses and react to market demands. The CEL’s academic offerings will include an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship, which will launch this fall. “We also plan to integrate it into an entrepreneurship track in our MBA,” Garcia said, “and we will explore the needs in the marketplace around business-growth strategies and programming related to business growth and mergers and acquisitions.” The entrepreneurship track will join existing accounting, healthcare leadership, and management tracks in the Elms MBA program. “Elms College also has a mission to give back to the community,” Garcia said. “We know that economic development and entrepreneurship is a big part of making our community better, so we’re planning to offer workshops and Lean Launchpad boot camps on weekends, to help people flesh out their ideas. We are also planning programming to help them learn what to do once they flesh out those ideas.” The CEL will also partner with the college’s nursing and science programs. “I see great opportunity in collaborating with the Elms Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the development of an interdisciplinary healthcare leadership program for master’s-prepared and certified nurse practitioners, as well as master’s-prepared clinical nurse leaders who seek the doctor of nursing practice,” said Dr. Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing. “We believe that the Lean Launchpad is an excellent methodology, well-matched for nursing and healthcare, and an extraordinary learning opportunity for these advanced nursing students.” Added Garcia, “for our biomedical technology program, we’re looking to incorporate Lean Launchpad in bringing research to commercialization. It’s one thing to have research, and it’s another thing to commercialize it and make money off of it.”

Tighe & Bond Secures Award for Excellence

WESTFIELD — The American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts presented Tighe & Bond and Borrego Solar Systems with a Silver Award for the 3.5-megawatt North Adams E Street solar photovoltaic (PV) system during its 2016 Engineering Excellence and Awards Gala. Held on March 16 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, this annual competition and event recognizes recent engineering achievements that demonstrate the highest degree of merit, ingenuity, complexity, and client satisfaction. Tighe & Bond, a New England leader in civil and environmental engineering, teamed with Borrego Solar Systems to develop a solar PV system on top of the closed E Street landfill in North Adams. Completed last year, the new solar system is one of the largest of its kind in Western Mass. Its output, when combined with power being purchased from two other nearby PV sites, makes the city 100% solar-powered. All of its municipal buildings and facilities are running on clean, renewable energy. Borrego Solar Systems estimates that the array offsets 2,989 tons of carbon annually, the equivalent of removing 630 cars from the road or the amount sequestered by 2,450 acres of U.S. forests in a year. Tighe & Bond provided site design, permitting, and construction administration for this project that sits on approximately 11.7 acres of the 31-acre capped landfill. Additional project features included the construction of access roads and the installation of ballast trays with concrete blocks to support the photovoltaic panel racks and solar panels. It also included equipment pads for the inverters and transformers, as well as a variety of other electrical infrastructure and support features. Borrego Solar Systems was the developer of the solar system, and Syncarpha Capital is the system owner.

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